Posts Tagged life lessons

Violence in Movies and Sex on TV…


Like any other day, son was his usual self. He went to school, played outside, and watched TV. When he explained to me that he wanted to stick something sharp into a fish to kill it, he alarmed me. I asked, “Why would you want to kill a fish?:

“So we can eat it…”

“Have you seen this?”

“When [daughter] caught a catfish Poppa hit something sharp in its head and it bleed”

Now, wife and I have been worried that perhaps the superhero TV shows and stories, even action figures, are giving son the wrong idea and creating an unhealthy, violent environment. How soon we forget that life is violent. If we lived on a farm, perhaps he would have a more intimate knowledge of death.

Is it a good idea? Well, it doesn’t matter. That’s life. Molly died..he dealt with it. I think perhaps we compare children and see that son is more “vigorous” than daughter and worry that he is headed toward psychological damage. Truth is, I think men are from Jupiter and women are from Saturn. As if I would repeat that stupid cliche…

As long as son still finds joy watching The Octonauts, I will rest assured he is still our little boy. Now, if he would just go to bed…

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The other side of the river

Every once in a while, something insightful crosses my path that I feel compelled to share. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, the main character asks a ferryman to carry him across a river. Symbolizing the escape from his previous life, He, like Odysseus returning from the underworld by way of the river, Styx, arrives on the other side at a new beginning; a new chapter in his life. I think we could all shed baggage that has been weighing us down for far too long; I would like to be a better me. I wrote this poem for an exercise in class today.

The river’s edge calls me softly to cross,
I cannot see the other side.
First my toe, cold- then my knees
The icy touch of the water cuts into my body
As I sink deeper.
Now at the waist, I feel the current;
It pulls me toward the middle.
My heart beats with trepidation as the bottom drops;
I am treading water.
I can go forward or retreat to what I know.
I begin to swim.


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The interstellar educational chili pepper

This week, I set sail on the Pequod towards the South Seas with my trusted friends, Ishmael and Queequeg. After a week of recovery, I set back to work on Monday morning where my students asked incessantly, “What did you do?” As if I didn’t tell them the week prior to surgery that I was having my ankle worked on?!?! Better yet, one student, commenting on my knee scooter, asked, “Did you buy that?”

“No…I leased it. It was $1,899 down, $189 a month for 72 months”

“Wow! You’re going to need that scooter for 72 months?!?!?”

Hmmm. These are the same students who are complaining about Moby Dick having too many pages and using big words. Perhaps I should lower my expectations for eleventh grade to include Highlights magazine. We could do word searches and read short stories with life lessons in them.

Seriously, though. Son is learning faster than we can teach him. He spelled his name yesterday at school without help or those little guide-dashes on handwriting worksheets. He can recognizes every letter in the alphabet. A few weeks ago, I was driving toward the gym (natch’) and son and I passed a national chain food restaurant. Son exclaimed with excitement, “Daddy, I know what ‘S’ starts with…a pepper.” Thanks, Chili’s, for the educational signage.

Yesterday, I participated in market research regarding pizza. I sat in a bleak room with a two-way mirror along one wall as women dressed in laboratory coats brought me several slices of pizza to evaluate. But, they didn’t just bring them out. First, we were told to examine the appearance. Out of a blank wall, a door appeared and a young woman brought out a pizza with a specified number atop. After five or so seconds she moved on to other participants and I set out to answer several questions about how appealing the pizza was. Seriously, of the three pies, I couldn’t tell you which was which were I asked to go back and compare. Maybe they were turning the oven hotter or cooking it longer; they seemed the same to me.

After the general appeal questions, we were told to cleanse our palettes with saltine crackers and spring water, making sure to thoroughly rinse the entire cracker from our mouths prior to tasting the pizza. We took two bites from the front, two from the crust, and, heck, one from the middle just for kicks. More questions; more pizza. Finally, when we left, we received some dough for our troubles.

Much needed money, mind you. Today, the computer repairman explained to me that both the battery and the hard drive failed on my Macbook Pro (mid 2009). For Christmas 2012, I will receive a brand new (used) computer with no data on it. I am concerned because our backup drive is the only thing separating me from meeting an untimely death were it to fail as well. 60,000 photos from 2002 until last week reside on two backup drives, a cloud-based storage system, and were on the laptop itself. The computer will be ready on Tuesday when I can then begin the laborious task of rebuilding the computer with its backup. One note, because I had to replace the drive anyway, I doubled the size for only $30 more. I thought the battery drained fast.

Anyway, today I had the stitches removed from my ankle where three, 1 inch incisions barely stand out upon examination. I am not completely recovered, though, so my wife will still have to get my beers for me. Tomorrow during the Bulldogs game, maybe I’ll ask for wings as well. I better get something, though, because she and several friends are sharing a limousine to the Madonna concert  (Must. Count. Blessings. Not. Asked. To Go.) tomorrow night. She deserves a night out, but did she have to do it with such style?

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Embracing the suck of an intergalactic fracture

Stardate: 58365.1 Sector 001, Atlanta. It was 4 degrees Celsius and I was dressed in shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt, and Mizuno running shoes. It was the Atlanta Marathon and I knew I could run the distance. As I started from Turner Field, I paced myself- not running too quickly with the lead pack. I’d been in that situation before, but 26.2 miles meant careful planning. At mile fifteen, a monkey jumped on my back but I had enough energy to run over and hug daughter, 9.2 to go. When I hit “Cardiac Hill” (for those of you familiar with the Peachtree Road Race) I slowed to a crawl. Then, cramps… I had to make it. As I rounded Capitol Avenue to see the Olympic Rings, I told my running companion, “Let’s make this count…,” and sped across the finish line with family cheering. That’s what a race feels like. That’s why we do it.

With training, setbacks come and go; each one seems like it’ll be the end of the road. You take two steps back for every one forward. Then the next race appears on the horizon and you know it is a goal worth reaching. Whether it is a fun run or an Ironman, each runner takes a challenge to push themselves farther and faster than before to earn the intrinsic reward of achievement. You spend hours in the pool, miles on the road, and days of recovery only to be sidelined by an insidious, barely visible crack that runs through your tibia and the doctor suggests surgery.

This is not my first rodeo, daughter and son barely know the “healthy” me, having seen me undergo surgery after surgery to repair the “blue light special” fracture of the day. Health is not a goal, it is a drive to meet the needs of my family; but I do not train to become healthy. It may be a side-effect, a good one; but, I train to embrace the suck. To prove to myself I can be stronger, faster, smarter.

Wife is the real victim; she works harder to help the kids, care for me, and perform well at work.  She is my Lt. Commander Nella Doran to my Captain Picard. Picard opened his heart up once and it was worth it; my wife is worth every moment we spend together.

Today is Halloween, and I am going to dress as wife’s husband, and son and daughter’s father. You don’t need a costume to make that look good. Sometimes, you just need to show up. The next race is the May 11, 2013 11Global Olympic Triathlon at Lake Oconee. I’ll be there because sometimes you just need to show up.

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Molly Morningstar and the Peanut M&M

  Has your dog ever eaten a 2lb bag of M&M’s (peanut)? Mine did. During the winter of 1999, Wife and I lived in Wisconsin. Wife had put out a huge bowl of pink and white candies in a bowl on the living room table. On a crisp Saturday morning, we come downstairs and found the bowl empty. You probably know chocolate can be dangerous for a dog, but two pounds for a 19lb dog would cause a heart attack. Deftly, we call the vet and he says to mix a solution of salt water and hydrogen peroxide and pour it down her throat to induce vomiting. We head outside; I am holding Molly and wife has the “solution”. After a few minutes, we have a steaming pile of freshly regurgitated candy on the frozen tundra we called our backyard. Well, it stayed there, frozen, until the Spring thaw as a constant reminder of what NOT to do.

All dogs go to heaven; for a while, though, I thought Molly was possessed. I am not a bible-thumping Baptist who runs at the first sight of devilish behavior, but I have a healthy respect for religion. See, the dog kept eating our bibles. Seriously, why would a normal dog eat a bible? This was piggy-backed by rugs, shoes and anything left without supervision. The dog could eat. Anything. Anytime. One time more recently after moving to the ’05, she ate an entire loaf of Nature’s Own whole wheat bread. I thought to myself…”At least she went with the wheat and not the white…” To say the least, wife and I felt Molly had an eating disorder.

Since daughter was born, Molly never snipped or snapped at her, always licking her and well, just being sweet. Son, of course, used to chase her around with any blunt object. Molly underwent a campaign of shock and awe while she tried to duck and cover. Son still hasn’t noticed she’s gone. Last night, he helped my by closing the door so Molly would not get out. See, he’s like that M&M, tough shell on the outside, and sweet on the inside. Maybe; only time will tell. Parents, warn your daughters.

We’ll miss you, Molly Morningstar; February, 1998 – August, 2012.

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Be the Warrior You Already Are

Just under one year ago, I took my first step outside towards running a mile. All I wanted was to run a mile. After life-changing surgery in March, 2011, I knew I could only go forward. There would be no looking in the rear view mirror. In one year, I swam, rode, and ran 1,500 miles. Not an ironman, but when one starts at zero…

My daughter, the warrior

This past week, daughter and wife have been at a dancing competition where daughter’s team won her age group and overall. Sometimes when wife and I make a huge accomplishment we are reminded that it is our children that will beckon greatness.

Meanwhile in the ’05, son and I have been busy. Everyday, we get up at 7:30 (sounds nice, doesn’t it?) and hit the gym by 10am, then errands, then Sir No Nap plays in his room for two hours. I didn’t even try today. We went to the neighborhood pool and lasted an hour. Son refused to go potty at the pool so he said he wanted to go home. Once home, he decided that the back deck would be more fun than our finely decorated half bath.

Summer is half over, and school will be arriving for all of us too soon. As a teacher, I am often berated for how much free time I have. I won’t complain that people would also like to have their summers off. Truth is, I know how lucky I am. If you’re not sure how I feel, read the previous paragraph.

I seem to remember that summers lasted forever… I don’t know when that changed. Was it my new perception of duty and responsibilities that now saw life didn’t slow down just because bedtime was extended and a month at the beach was exciting? Or was it simply that someone, somewhere said kids forgot too much during summer? This always confused me…I can still remember what we did in ninth grade Geology. The first month of my school year WAS NOT spent reviewing material from the previous year. We were just expected to know it…Ahhh, kids today…

When a goal starts small, it can grow into something great. We all have an inner “warrior” that can lead us to success, whether you want the next promotion or want your kids to win the soccer scholarship or a dance competition. Reaching for the stars seems awful high sometimes. Perhaps, if we realized that only through hard work, could we even leave the ground, we’d be more, well, grounded. Son and daughter, good luck.

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Syfy: The Good, the Bad & the Really Ugly

Last night while I was watching TV, wife wanted to talk so I tilted my head around her as the scene was coming to a climactic point. She turned to look at the screen and asked, “Is this Bablyon 5, again?” I then had to explain to her that no, in fact it was Battlestar Galactica and that the former show had a decent few episodes, but because of poor writing, unrealistic CGI, and cast changes, never really had more than a small cult following. Cast changes are the death knell of television series. ER began with seven characters and finished with ten different ones. Or, television shows with young adults who grow up like Beverly Hills, 9021-oh so bad.

Syfy shows, though, fall into traps that other shows can get away with. The first requirement is realistic yet futuristic; Start Trek: TNG never really stood a chance because everything was too easy. The replicator could make anything from matter using anti-matter energy from the warp core. And, they never had to deal with money because The Federation had done away with it. Done away with money?!?!? As if. Money is the driving force of the human existence. People often state that it doesn’t really matter how much they have; it can’t buy love; or, my favorite, they can’t take it with them (hint: mom & dad).

The second rule of syfy shows state that there must be continuity. Star Trek: TNG also fails this test because half way through the series, Dr. Crusher is replaced by a rather unpleasant character named, Dr. Pulaski. Gates McFadden did return in her penultimate role later when people got tired of her replacement. I love the excuses they give on shows when a character disappears and then returns later. Soaps are the best! The kill off a popular character and then re-introduce the actor in a different role as the deceased’ twin.

The Final rule of syfy states that the series cannot be cancelled before it answers key questions. Battlestar Galactica performed this beautifully when they (SPOILER ALERT! – Skip below) find a habitable planet which happens to be our Earth, 25,000 BC. So many shows leave questions unanswered. Lost had the worst ending in television history. Every viewer figured they were dead after episode 2. The biggest alert came when a book on the shelf inside the hatch was The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brian where the main character is dead but doesn’t know it. Hello, Sixth Sense, anyone?

Whether a show is high-quality or simply dreck, if you are entertained then, ultimately, it is doing its job. One key lesson, though, if your wife wants to speak to you during an episode of your current fave show, hit the pause. It’s much easier to re-start the show then re-start the cold ember that your love will dwindle into. Trust me.

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