Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Old Friends

Just before starting 7th grade, my family moved to a new town. On the first day of middle school, not knowing anyone in the town, I sat down in homeroom, nervous and uncertain. Almost immediately the kid next to me started talking to me. He didn't introduce himself. He didn't ask questions about who I was or from where I came. He just started a conversation as if we had known each other forever.

He became my best friend, my security, my confidant. Our friendship grew over the years. We went to the same middle school and high school. We attended the same church. We spent a lot of our free time together. He helped me with art projects and I helped him with math. We both hated PE but joined the choir. We traded albums and books. And then high school ended.

No problem. We were roommates all through college. We both were successful debaters. We both loved drama classes. We both worked for the local radio station to earn extra cash. I don't think we ever dated the same girl, but we certainly gave each other feedback about our choices in women.

College ended. He got married and moved to another town in the south. I got married and moved to New England. Initially, we wrote letters (yeah, I'm old enough there was no e-mail!) a few times a month. Then it dwindled to less. We called each other on our birthdays and Christmas. And then not so often. And little by little, our contact became nothing more than a card at Christmas with maybe a note that said "hey, we had a baby" or "notice the new address...we moved". But other than that, the person I was best friends with for a dozen years became barely even a connection.

A few weeks ago I decided to make more meaningful contact with my old friend. I had his e-mail address from the card that came this past Christmas. So I sat down to write a pretty lengthy letter. But what do you include in just one letter? It can't be everything. And our last real exchange of information was more than twenty years ago. He has never seen any of my kids. Had no idea that we had a kid with special needs. Doesn't know about my hobbies or my job. Do I talk about fun stuff or serious stuff? Politics? Spirituality? Or just what TV shows I like?

I did a summary of lots of different things and sent the note on its way.

A couple of days later, I got a great response. He had many questions about my life and shared a lot about his life. And he sent a link to his Facebook page so I could see some photos.

And that was a weird sensation. Even though we have not talked in years, I knew him so well in the past that I still had this feeling that we know each other. So I experienced this odd sense of my world shifting as I looked at photos of a life I've never known. Pictures of his kids that I've never met...who are now adults...some even have kids of their own. There was my middle school buddy holding his grandchild! Photos around the Christmas tree on Christmases I know nothing about in homes I've never visited. Pictures of his parents who I knew so well growing up - now old. It was almost startling to see his life spread out before me and realizing the person I once knew better than anyone else - now I barely know at all.

I wrote my friend about my feelings. The fun of seeing his photos and the weirdness and sadness of realizing I had missed so much of his life. He had similar feelings when viewing the photos I sent him. And we've swapped e-mail several times since then.

I'm not naive. I don't expect us to ever be friends in the way we were as kids. Family and work and paying bills and a million other things make it difficult to stay in touch with someone so far away. But I think we can do better than just being Christmas card buddies. Even at a distance, if we are committed to it, old friends can slowly grow older together.
Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.
Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

Thanks to Simon & Garfunkel for the lyrics.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I'm a hobnobber!!

My blogger friend CS over at another tangential thinker writes on her blog almost every day. And I read her blog every time she adds to it. Why? Because she shares such wonderful stories of her life and she takes awesome photos that bring her words to life. CS says her credo is "life is weird and unpredictable, but often in a good way." Well, CS isn't weird. But what she might choose to write about or photograph is often unpredictable. And always in a good way!

Why else do I read her? Cause she is a hobnobber, too! That's right, she won the Power Of Schmooze award. And then she turned right around and gave that award to me!

Much like CS, I always thought of schmoozing with a somewhat negative point of view. It seemed like someone being insincere and manipulative. And while some of the definitions of "schmooze" do include the fact that it can be done to flatter or manipulate, that certainly is not all it is meant to be. For example, CS quotes the definition that says "to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” And when I checked it out, I also found "to talk intimately and cozily" and "a long and intimate conversation".

I think that sums up blogging for me. My blog, and the many wonderful blogs I read, comprise a long and intimate conversation. Sure, the conversation gets broken up into pieces, shared bit by bit, growing and changing as life unfolds around us. But when I add up all the different things I've read about some of you, I've certainly gained a lot of insight into your lives. And I think I've shared enough that some of you can look right in my window and know whats going on in my house.

In CS' definition it mentions to talk casually "to make a social connection." I do feel connected to many of you. I read about you every day. I know more about some of you than about people I see every day in my life. And I love that about blogging.

So I accept this blogger schmooze award with pride...and thank you, CS!

And I get the honor of passing it along to some folks who use their blogs in the best hobnob fashion by encouraging us to make social connections among the blogosphere and by sharing bits and pieces of their lives with us. So...I present to you...three schmoozers!

Jenster - who says her writing is just the mundane ramblings of a busy homemaker, but who, in reality, shares wonderful stories about her life.

Nancy - who seems like she is thoughtful and soft spoken and who tells us about her day and about her observations and reflections on the world around us.

Charlotta - who admits she has a lotta thoughts and she enjoys sharing them. She has even tried to answer that question that always vexes us males....why do women always go to the bathroom in groups. It just never seemed like something that would require audience participation.

Now in my best schmoozing style, lean over close so I can give you an air kiss on both cheeks, tell you that "you look lovely, dahling", and send you off to have a good weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Feel the vibe!

Some of you (okay, maybe only one or two) have noticed that I’ve become the not-so-good blogger lately. I post less often. I try to read your blogs pretty often, but I’m not very diligent about commenting. So what happened? Did I lose my blog lust? Did I run out of things to say? Did the kids put super glue on the keyboard?

Nay, nay, none of those things happened. Summer happened! And thus, camping and swimming and boating happened. And all of that leads me to the first part of this posting.

Big Brother from Life in the Twilight Zone (actually from Quebec) tagged me with the Good Vibrations meme. So here, in no special order, are five things that get my good vibes going, that make my chakras zing, that put a smile on my face, and make the day worthwhile.

1. Nature. I love doing things outdoors. I’m not a terribly athletic person. Okay, to be honest, I’m not at all athletic! So I’m not out there jogging 20 miles or rock climbing or anything so strenuous. But I do love to be out in the sun, to swim, to go boating. I love to walk at night and look at the moon and the stars. I love a full moon meditation or just sitting in the shade and reading a good book. In fact, if you read my last post, you got a glimpse of my summer. And this is all the fun stuff that has kept me from a lot of blogging lately.

2. My wife. Twenty-two years and I still think she is the best! No matter what we are doing we manage to have a great time doing it together. We talk and laugh a lot. We enjoy spending time together. She is my best friend. And I’m looking forward to at least twenty-two more years of waking up with her every day.

3. My kids. I’ve got three terrific kids. Oh I know, there was the time I tried to sell one of them on ebay. And there was that other time that I put the whole bunch of them out by the curb with the FREE sign. But all parents have those moments, right? But most days I just wouldn’t trade them for anything. Each in their own way they are funny and smart and compassionate and generous and fun to be around. I think I’ll keep ‘em. For now.

4. Books. I love books. Our house is filled with books. We have so many books we ran out of books shelves a long time ago so there are stacks on tables and on the floor. We trade used books. We listen to audio books. I love a good story and love to read. And almost any day that doesn’t seem to be going well can be turned around with a few minutes spent with a great book.

5. My job. I know, not what most people might list as one of their top five. But I love my job. It challenges me. It allows me to learn and to share what I’ve learned with others. I get to work with a lot of great folks. And I get to do a lot of fun, creative things. I enjoy a day off as much as the next person, but I never really mind when it is time to go back to work.

So there are five things that get me into a good vibe. And now I get to pass this along. I think many of you have already done this meme, so I'm only gonna tag a couple of folks. And if they did it and I missed it, I apologize. Feel free to torment me from afar. But for now, let's reach out and tag:
  • Rebecca at Circle of the Muses because I love her writing
  • Barb at My Crazy Life because she is also a great writer...and maybe we'll get an update on her desire for a tattoo
Okay folks, start vibrating!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How do you spell "Perfect"?

I've mentioned a few times that our family enjoys camping. We used to do the tent thing - even sleeping in the tents when Daughter13 was still in a portable crib. But eventually dodging the weather and dragging stuff for a family of five took it's toll. We saved up some money and bought a ten-year-old camper, parked it at a favorite campground, and we've been spending as much of every summer there as we can for the past eight years. My wife and some of the kids practically live there during the summer and I join them on weekends and commute back and forth two or three days a week.

This past weekend was one of those weekends. And it was gorgeous. The weather was absolutely perfect...sunny, warm days, seasonable evenings, no rain in sight. And on a weekend like that, there is time to squeeze in so many fun things with the family.

Both Daughter13 and Son17 enjoy fishing (never fear, we always catch and release!). And while they will gladly fish with a hook and some bait, they have mastered the art of throwing a fresh-water clam in a net and actually catching fish right in their net! It amazes the crowds!

Swimming? Of course! The kids love to swim. My wife and I prefer the more leisurely approach - we float! We grab a couple of tubes, paddle out past all the kids who are splashing and chasing frisbees, and just relax enjoying the water and the sun. And if my scintillating conversation isn't enough to keep her interested, my wife has mastered the art of carrying her book out into the middle of the lake, on the tube, and reading. Without ever getting the book wet!

We took the paddle boat out one day and cruised the lake. A nice, relaxing ride to enjoy the water plants and the water animals! Check out the baby turtle hiding on the lily pad!

I was even able to convince Daughter13 to jump in a kayak and the two of us went all around the lake the next day enjoying the beauty of an early Sunday morning.

And what weekend of camping would be complete without toasting - and in some cases burning - a bunch of marshmallows over a campfire?!? In this photo, the marshmallows actually are not on fire, the light is just reflection from a slower shutter speed. But we did have a couple of servings of Marshmallow Flambe'.

It was a pretty perfect weekend. How many days is it until next Friday???

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just eat it!

Your table manners are some cryin' shame
You're playin' with your food, this ain't some kind of game
Now, if you starve to death, you'll just have yourself to blame
Just eat it

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I love TV...and love a good reality show. Yeah, I know, "good reality" seems like an oxymoron. And even among those of us who just can't get enough, there isn't agreement about which ones to watch and which ones to avoid. But right now, I'm really happy cause the week is filled with reality shows about cooking!

You better listen, better do what you're told
You haven't even touched your tuna casserole

Just eat it

If you can tolerate the yelling and screaming, then you just can't have much more reality show fun than watching Hell's Kitchen. In this one, contestants compete to win a job as a chef in a resort restaurant. And the group of contestants is managed, coached, berated, yelled at, ridiculed, and eventually tossed one by one by Chef Gordon Ramsay. Chef Ramsay is a world-renowned cook with restaurants all over the world, cook books in the book store, and various TV shows in other countries. And he might just have an anger management issue. He throws food, breaks plates, calls people names, and forces the censors to bleep about half of what he says. And a viewer - one with a soft heart and an ounce of compassion - might feel sorry for these poor fools on the show. My heart isn't soft. They knew what they were getting in to. The payoff is huge. And when he humiliates them just one more time because they "can't cook the fucking risotto"...I can't help but laugh as the contestants make up lame excuses, blame each other, and cry for their mommies.

Have some more yogurt, have some more spam
It doesn't matter if it's fresh or canned
Just eat it

Want your cooking competitions to be a bit more civilized? Some high cuisine boiled down to some odd competitions? Take a shot at Top Chef. With a bus load of hosts/judges (Chef Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons from Food and Wine magazine, Padma Lakshmi, and Ted Allen from Queer Eye), this show takes the high road in cooking competitions. The contestants engage in individual and group challenges, usually cooking pretty high quality stuff. Of course, they don't hesitate to throw in the challenge involving snake and eel and cow tongue and other oddities. And there is always at least one standout contestant who just knows he/she is way better than everyone else there. It is such fun to watch that person lose!

Have a big dinner, have a light snack
If you don't like it, you can't send it back
Just eat it

Finally, for a twist on cooking and reality TV...a cooking show about being on a cooking show. The Next Food Network Star is a cooking competition but some of the challenges are more about dealing with the stress of cooking in front of a camera than the actual taste of the food. The fun is watching them not handle that stress very well! And the judges on this show include two staff from the Food Network who are so kind that I want them to be in my family! Very different from Chef Ramsay.

Have some more chicken, have some more pie
It doesn't matter if it's boiled or fried

Just eat it

By the time you watch all three of these each week, you'll be glad you aren't learning to be a chef. You might or might not be hungry, depending on what you've seen cooked. And if you are watching Hell's Kitchen, you might need to grab a beer and decompress.

Have a banana, have a whole bunch
It doesn't matter what you had for lunch

Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it

Lyrics from 'Just Eat It' by Weird Al Yankovic

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


My little blog has been recognized as a hot, rockin' blog. Hard to believe, I know. And yet, I present to you my brand new bit of bling - the Awesome Dude Blogger badge!

Wicked cool, eh?

But while I bask in the glow of the shiny new blogger award, let me give props to the man who passed it along to me, cause he really is the awesomest, dudiest blogger around. His daily writings on light bulbs, refrigerators, lawn sprinklers, and other seemingly mundane elements of life are turned into terrific stories every time he sits down at the keyboard. So my shout out of gratitude goes to Jonathan over at Dorky Dad. Thanks, dude!

And now I get the fun of declaring another guy as a totally Awesome Dude Blogger. And that's easy to do. This guy lives just a short drive north of me. And though we've never met, I've gotten to know him quite a bit through his writings. He entertains with his stories of putting his mechanic's kids through Harvard with his car repairs and his secret interest in Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business. But mostly he shares stories of his two great kids (Peanut and The Champ) and his lovely bride, Mrs. Joe. Plus he is a fan of the Patriots and the Red Sox - what could be more awesome than that?!?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Above Average Joe. It is an honor to slap this award on him.

And by the way, you can actually choose your bling. You can grab the button above, or you can try the more subtle and dignified style and use this button:

Either way, you also get the chance now to pass along the props and recognize another Awesome Dude Blogger.

Spread the love.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm not so weird

It seems like every blogger has been tagged with the "8 Weird Things About Me" meme. And now, my new blogger friend Gretchen over at Quantum Leap has tagged me. And I'm more than happy to fess up to a few oddities about myself, but first I want to give a nod to Gretchen. She is a pretty new blogger - just got started in April. And I'm glad I found her pretty quickly. She is a smart and funny mom of two who shares stories of her day along with some inspirational thoughts. She also happens to be addicted to coffee - or the "elixir of the gods" as she calls it. I can certainly identify with that addiction!

So the first rule of the meme is that I must share eight weird things about myself. I don't think of myself as being very weird, but I'm quite certain those who know me would disagree. But they aren't here, so you have to go with what I come up with!

1. I totally love movies - and rarely ever go. There is nothing that compares with settling into a comfy seat in the theater, popcorn and soda in hand, and enjoying a movie. I love the darkness. I love the previews of coming attractions. I love the stupid trivia questions on the screen before the movie begins. And I love the movies. But I just can't justify spending that much money to watch a movie! For my wife and I to attend one movie, we pay more than a full month of Netflix membership in which time we can easily watch a dozen or so movies. And microwave popcorn is so much less expensive.

2. There is at least some part of my body every day that is hard to feel. Or if I do feel it, it is mostly tingly. Never normal. That part might be a toe. A bunch of toes. Even a whole foot. I first wrote about this last November, and I've had a few doctor visits and tests since then. Nothing is better, nothing is worse. What they call idiopathic neuropathy. That basically means it is something to do with my nerves and they don't have a clue. How comforting.

3. I hate being cold. I don't like to swim in water that is even remotely chilly. I don't really enjoy playing in the snow. I went snow skiing once and decided that was an activity for masochists. I DO NOT LIKE COLD. And yet, I love living in New England. And I think winter is a really beautiful season. I like seeing the snow. I just don't want to go outdoors between Halloween and April Fool's Day.

4. I do my own laundry. Okay, that's not so weird. But I do the laundry for the entire family. And not because I find it somehow therapeutic to do laundry. Nope, not at all. But I have very precise rules about how I like it to be done. I'm very particular about the sorting. I have clearly defined ideas about what gets washed in hot, warm and cold. And what gets dried at high, medium, and low. And then there is the folding and hanging. Definite rules about that. Shirts get hung with the second button from the top being done. And for folding....

Ya know, this is sounding less weird and more obsessive compulsive, so we'll leave the laundry for now. :)

5. I like to sleep with the TV on. Not like a nap on the couch. I mean all night. In bed. Listening to the TV. I drift off to sleep listening to The Colbert Report or some other late night show. If I wake up in the night, I can roll over and go back to sleep listening to a re-run of CSI or Star Trek. And as I wake up in the morning, I can flip over to the morning weather or Mike and Mike on ESPN to kick off my day. Now, some readers may be wondering if my wife has filed for divorce after putting up with this stuff? Nay, dear reader. She is the one who got me hooked on it!

6. I collect quotes. I don't have anything to do with them. I don't put them on my blog. I don't print them out and hang them anywhere. But I love a good quote.

7. I'm very competitive. I love games of all sorts...volleyball, Uno, chess, badminton, tennis, poker, dominoes, etc, etc. And I love to win. Oh sure, I've got three kids so I've had to throw a game of Chutes and Ladders now and then. But not too often. Can't go soft on the kids. They had to learn to step it up or get their Garanimal-covered buttocks kicked.

8. I love rules. I live a rule-governed life. It provides order. Reduces anxiety. Allows for accurate predictions. Which is why, it pains me to break the second rule of this meme. I'm supposed to now tag eight people. I just can't. Not because I don't know eight wonderful and weird bloggers. I've read your blogs. I know who you are! But the problem is, most of you have already done this meme. And there is no way any of you have sixteen weird things to share. Well, okay, you do. And maybe you. But that might be all.

So there ya have it. Eight oddities about me, spread out for public viewing and ridicule. All I ask is that you be gentle.