Category Archives: Family

Memorial Holyday

Memorial-Day

The word holiday was once just a different spelling for holyday, but has come to mean something quite different to many people. That’s unfortunate, because we tend to remember the specific meaning of our holydays; we do not confuse Passover with Christmas or Eid al Fitr. On the other hand, we do confuse holidays.

In the United States of America, today is Memorial Day. I observe Memorial Day, but do not celebrate it, since it is dedicated to those who gave their lives in the defense of our country. Veterans Day, on the other hand, recognizes all who served or are serving in the military.

It is an ancient custom to honor the dead by placing flowers on their grave. After the American Civil War, this practice became an annual ritual and was originally known as Decoration Day. There are a number of people and organizations who have been credited with initiating it from both the Union and Confederacy.

To me, Memorial Day, is when I remember when I was deployed and we lost someone. The theater–which was also used as a chapel–would have the inverted rifle, helmet, boots, and dog tags representing the lost warrior, and too many times it was not just one. The building was packed by men and women in camouflage uniforms; under the seats, the pre-staged boxes of tissue were intermingled with rifles. Friends paid tribute, and no one was too proud to cry.

Military rituals are often misunderstood, but the link provides a good explanation. One misunderstanding is that at a military funeral, the honor guard fires a 21-gun salute. Actually, they fire three volleys, a 21-gun salute is reserved for heads of state.

Except for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, “gave the last full measure,” are accorded the same honor as a head of state. On Memorial Day, the fallen are recognized with a 21-gun salute.

Us vs. Me

 

illustration-of-human-evolution-ending-with-smart-phone-resize

“Wait, I need to take a selfie!”

Far too many events today are due to decisions by people who think only of themselves.

This is unnatural.

The hermit, alone in his cave, has always been an idiosyncratic caricature. The word hermit is derived from the word for desert or desert dweller. Deserts are not particularly attractive to people who depend on hunting and gathering. Deserts are more successful as after the invention of are air-conditioned houses and refrigerated food trucks. (Casinos, although optional, seem inevitable.)

Humans from earliest times sought out one another.  Our ancestors, the Homo erectus, (stop thinking dirty thoughts–it refers to having the ability to stand upright) or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis  tended to keep their families together, eventually becoming tribes. Some believe that the reason that there are no identifiable descendants of the Neanderthals is because the two groups combined and interbred, ultimately resulting in us, Homo sapiens.

We belong together, but sometimes are reluctant to admit it. As such, in order to survive and prosper, we must look at things in terms of the common good. Life is not a zero-sum game (if I win, you lose). It is a life-or-death struggle in which WE win or lose.

I could wax poetic for another 300 pages, which I might enjoy, but WE, as a totality, would not, so I’ll stop.

* Links courtesy of Wikipedia. If you use Wikipedia, then use PayPal to send them a few bucks–better yet, a few bucks a month.

Thought for Today

At times I think I would prefer to be a gentleman, in the old English sense, born into wealth and privilege with lands and a stately old home with gardeners taking care of the outside and an entire staff keeping the inside neat and tidy (including my teenagers’ bedrooms and bathroom).

estate 1

Maybe a little over the top, but you know what I mean.

I’d have to juggle my tennis match with other elites and various social engagements in order to make time to sign important papers to increase my wealth or to meet with important peers awaiting my sage advise.

No such luck. That is not how my day will unfold.

However, today I will not hide behind a spoofed telephone number on your caller ID to try to sell you a time-share condominium. I will not go around my store and relabel all the appliances, automobiles, or canned goods with a higher “Regular Price” so the same old “Sale Price” looks like a better deal. Nor will I be sending you an email to steal your money, your password, or your identity. I won’t pretend I’m a Nigerian Prince who needs your help to rescue my fortune or try to convince you that, based on a single poorly performed experiment, I can cure you of your chronic ills.

I’ll just go to work, then come home to my family.

Not to bad, really.

 

Louie vs Politicians

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I try to stay out of political discussions for a variety of reasons; my blood pressure, the effect of stress on other medical problems with my (rapidly) aging body, and the fact that most political stories–once the hyperbole is removed–are not interesting, and definitely not uplifting.

We adopted our dog Louie from the animal shelter about six years ago. We’ve been told that Louie is a “Walker Treeing Coon Hound,” whatever that means. To me it means that he has that distinctive combination of bark and howl that says, “Hound,” and he’s not afraid to use it.

He barks at squirrels, the garbage truck, the UPS truck, everyone walking down the street, and various imaginary threats. The doorbell immediately puts him into DEFCON ONE. He runs to the door, complete with cartoon-like running feet unaccompanied by forward motion.

He spends a lot of time in bed. In fact he has one on the back porch and one in the house just so it’s convenient for him.

He loves to eat, especially “forbidden fruit,” which has resulted in several (expensive) emergency surgeries to remove.

Nirvana, to him, is an open gate or door through which he launches like a rocket. Of course, he expects us to grab the car keys, follow him, and open the car door so that he also gets to go for a ride in the car.

In summary:

  • Louie makes a lot of noise for no good reason.
  • When he does move, most of it is for show, not action.
  • He spends a lot of time doing nothing.
  • He partakes of things that he should not.
  • He likes to travel without any particular reason.
  • He believes that we should clean up after all his mistakes.
  • When caught doing something he shouldn’t, he displays an amazing picture of innocence.

Why would I need to follow politics when I’ve got Louie?

Don’t be fooled by the innocent expression.

I’ve Been Busy—Not Ignoring You

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing the materials for an emergency communications course. It’s amazing that when someone else has prepared over 600 PowerPoint slides (with notes) that it would take so much time to update. Why? Because what we know today about dealing with disasters is more than what we knew before Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Personally, I believe that being better prepared for the future is a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m working on my short story—which has become at least a novelette (a short version of a short book? Huh?)—continues to develop. The more I learn about the characters (and more characters keep popping up), the more complex—but interesting—the story becomes. However, if a new character appears, a whole lot of the backstory changes. As a writer, I have a certain duty to the characters. Without me, they are doomed to shrivel away to nothingness, through no fault of their own. They deserve better, so I try to tell their stories. So far, the characters include a not-quite-dead aged business multi-multi-billionaire, several lawyers, most of whom are self-serving, but one of whom has a national security background, a distant relative who can see how the pieces fit, and someone (thing?) who seems to have many of the answers, but who is known as Zaznoz (sounds like a new drug or a new exercise routine to me).

Then I do need to devote time to the day job.

Not to mention that we celebrated Christmas with close friends, followed by my daughter-in-law and the grandchildren, who drove ten hours (I think she was being nice and understated the journey length) to visit us and to make for a wonderful time.

Oh, and my older son used his 3D printer to make my Christmas gift—a full size, accurate replica of Han Solo’s blaster. (Is that cool or what?)

Han Solo’s Blaster (Let’s me shoot first).

 

So, as you see, it’s not lack of interest in blogging, just lack of time.

Educational Cause and Effect

I realize that people in general, and Americans in particular, have never been genteel when it comes to discourse. Throughout history we attributed it to our pride in rugged individualism and the Protestant work ethic. Anyone can be president; I can achieve anything I set my mind out to do; we celebrate Edison, Bell, Fulton, because those individuals invented things to change the world.

We claimed territory, as our right under “Manifest Destiny,” without regard to who or what stood in our way. Passenger pigeons? Bison? Native Americans? Forests? These speed bumps were quickly removed.

We settled our differences by swordfights or pistol duels. Our politicians—those we elected to represent us—settled arguments by shouting, spreading lies, and even bludgeoning one another with walking sticks in the very halls of Congress.

Not much has changed. Today, if you disrespect me, there’s today’s version of a duel—I drive 60 miles per hour through the neighborhood blasting away and hope that you are one of the people I hit. It doesn’t matter that: a) the bullet most likely will hit someone other than the intended target, and b) there’s a high likelihood that one (or more) of the gazillion security cameras will catch me and be used to send me away for twenty-five-to-life.

Today, there’s a lot of shouting, with nobody listening. It’s far more important that I get my position clearly stated—”I’m right and you’re not only wrong, but also an idiot—not to mention that your mother was ugly and you have terrible taste in clothes!”

Although I just clearly stated my position (the paragraph above, you buffoon!) you can’t tell me what it is. I can’t either, but that doesn’t matter, does it? The fact remains that I’m right and you’re wrong.

[Okay, let’s all take a deep breath, grab a cold one—if you like, and smoke ’em if you got ’em—assuming you can afford to pay eight dollars a pack.]

A theory—presented for you to think about and challenge in a professional, factual manner. Perhaps, when we began to focus on standardized testing, the school systems were forced to teach the correct answers, not how to arrive at a correct answer. What to think, not how to think. Ideas are no longer the raw material used for thinking; they are pre-packaged and ready to serve. No human interaction required.

There are parallels—in a world in which our youth do not know how to interact with others except via social media, we no longer teach etiquette or how to write a letter. They are not taught to introduce their friends to their parents or when a thank you note is appropriate. Civility is at the bottom of the required skills list.

Teachers didn’t make the rules and probably dislike them more than anyone although they have to abide by them.

But we all can teach. What if each of us added the following to our more contentious discussions:

  1. “Why?”
  2. “Tell me more.”
  3. “How would you solve it?”

Then listen—actively, intensively listen.

This just might prove interesting.

Elites

While we often talk about elites, we tend not to use that term. Elites are the people in any society who enjoy special privileges.

For a long time, elites were entitled to such status as a birthright, the most obvious example being royalty. If your father was King, it must be God’s will, and therefore the son must be qualified as well. Personally I don’t think God gets involved in politics, but you never know.

John Adams predicted that even though our constitution prohibited titles of royalty there would still be an elite class. He figured that those with educations would prosper, ensuring that their offspring would be afforded education and any wealth that the family had amassed, although in many cases the younger elites ended up with an education and the family debt. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the status.

The American dream is that we’re a meritocracy—anyone can achieve through ability and hard work, and sometimes this works. In fact, there have been periods in our history, such as the 1950s, when this was common, Nevertheless, it is not guaranteed.

Today, many of the elites once again obtain their status by birthright. There are many young men and women as, if not more talented, than the children of Tom Hanks, Will Smith, or the Barrymore family. However, it is the children of the elites who seem to land the acting roles. Is Eddie Van Halen’s son better than the band’s original bassist? Cheap Trick sold many albums with Bun E. Carlos as their drummer, but Rick Nielsen—the guitarist now has his son filling that spot.  Julian Lennon didn’t have to work his way up from playing wedding and bar mitzvah gigs. How many Fords have been senior executives at their namesake auto company?

Do we as a society get our best value from this practice?

Mayonnaise

As promised, in order to be completely politically correct, this blog is devoted to mayonnaise. Perhaps devoted is too strong a word, but it will be about mayonnaise—I don’t want anyone thinking I have some kind of mayonnaise fetish.

Wikipedia says that mayonnaise is, “a thick, creamy dressing often used as a condiment. It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices.”

I say that mayonnaise is politically correct, non-controversial and slightly bland.

Many of us grew up being told that the most dangerous thing at a picnic was not the poison ivy, the fire ants, or even hungry bears. We were warned to avoid any potato salad that had been out of the refrigerator for more than ten seconds because it would spoil, cause food poisoning,  and we’d die a slow, painful death. Some years later I heard on the radio that because mayonnaise contains vinegar and/or lemon juice—both acting as preservatives—this was unlikely. Of course the guy on the radio might have actually intended to be a mass murderer and slaughter thousands of gullible listeners,wielding spoiled potato salad like a deadly weapon.

There’s phony mayo, labeled either “Salad Dressing” or “Phony Mayo.” Considering that a dab gets added to a sandwich filled with several kinds of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and jalapenos, I’m sure most people couldn’t tell which dab had been added to  the sandwich they were eating.

Spices are often added because mayonnaise is slightly bland. You must be careful, though since adding things to mayonnaise, changes it. Add mustard to mayo and you have remoulade. Add chopped cooked potatoes, eggs and celery and you have deadly potato salad.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s politically correct, non-controversial, and slightly bland blog. Please do not leave this blog outside in the summer sun as it may spoil and kill you.

Hermione! I Need Your Time-Turner!

Harold Lloyd Modern Times

Harold Lloyd
Modern Times

I’m having a problem with all the important things I’m supposed to do. You’re probably in the same boat, whether you realize it or not.

It takes me about an hour and 45 minutes to get up, shower, shave, dress, eat breakfast, and drive to work. I work an eight hour day and it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to get home. Most nights there’s practice, rehearsal, or something with one of the kids, which usually takes between two and three hours.

The “experts” (whoever they are) are recommending that I get between eight and nine hours sleep per night. In addition, I should work out at least half an hour every day. With changing into workout clothes (and don’t forget to stretch), showering and changing back it ends up being an hour.

Everyone should devote at least an hour praying, reading scripture, or meditating to satisfy their spiritual needs.

In order to eat properly, I really should avoid processed food, so preparing a proper home cooked meal from fresh, locally grown foodstuffs adds another two to three hours between stopping at the grocery for fresh ingredients, followed by cleaning, prepping, and cooking: grilled, not fried; steamed or raw vegetables (after rinsing, spraying with diluted vinegar, and rinsing again in hopes of killing the E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and the occasional frog. I tend to eat fast, so let’s add 30 minutes to eat and after dinner another half hour to clean up, followed by another half hour to put everything away.

Don’t forget, that we need to do what the church mouse said and feed our head; so add an hour of reading the newspaper plus another hour to concentrate on a good book, and maybe an hour to sit with my wife and watch television.

Finally, about an hour to write blog (assume no writers’ block); oops! I need to go online and pay some bills, for another half hour, and hopefully an hour or so to pursue my muse of gadgets and inventions, followed by another half hour to get ready for bed; teeth brushing, thoroughly flossing, taking all the correct medications, and attaching all of the required medical devices that make me feel like Darth Vader (“He’s more machine than man”).

So let’s see:

Task

Hours

Before work

1.75

Work

8.0

Drive home

0.5

Kids’ activities

2.5

Sleep

8.5

Workout

1.0

Spiritual

1.0

Cooking

2.5

Eating & cleanup

1.5

Newspaper

1.0

Book

1.0

Blog

1.0

Pay Bills

0.5

Gadgets

1.0

Prepare for bed

0.5

TOTAL

32.25

All I need is eight or nine more hours per day and I’ll be fine.

Happy 2016

First, I did not stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop, the groundhog, the meteor showers, the rain, or anything else.

Young people think, “Let’s party! Who needs sleep!”

As we age we begin to balance our decisions with, “Party, sleep, party, sleep? Let’s go to the party, but we can leave early and blame it on the babysitter.”

When you get to be my age it’s, “Hey! I can get to bed early, and sleep late—all the way until 7:00 AM!”

In other news, I have a January tradition of writing the wrong year on checks. At work we’ve been in fiscal year 2016 for a number of months so I started to think that we were headed to 2017. I now have two (2015 and 2017) possible wrong years to write on my checks! Fortunately, electronic bill paying helps alleviate this.

I spent today reconfiguring antennas on my car. This is the adult geek male equivalent of changing purses, only requiring more tools and getting dirtier. I’m almost done. Tomorrow I’ll test them and see if anything works better than it did before. Wish me luck!

All Right! I Confess!

I admit it. I’ve been trying to write blogs lately, but:

  • There was Christmas.
  • My son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren drove 12 hours to visit.
  • My daughter, who has started reading my blog, says all my blogs are the same.
  • I keep coming up with ideas that are incomplete—which got me thinking.

Some of the Beatles songs, including much of Abbey Road were actually the parts of songs that had never fully developed. Therefore I tried to piece together ideas:

My New Year’s resolutions. After “I will never be a staffer for Donald Trump,” I got stuck.

I tried to write about the era of Downton Abbey and how people were once born into wealth and/or married into it, and how that is rare today.

Then I thought of:

  • The Bushes
  • The Clintons
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Jaden Smith
  • Colin Hanks
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Prince Charles

Which brought me back to square one, so, attempting to steal from the Beatles, using the tune from “She Came in through the Bathroom Window”:

My son and daughter trashed the bathroom,
I think they lost my silver spoon,
So I sat there and I pondered,
I should not get mad so soon.

My kids have always been expensive,
Cost me more than I could know,
But I wouldn’t change a minute,
So now I have these joys to show

Is it any wonder?

Let me close this year with my thanks to God for my NORMAL family (the emphasis is there to remind me that despite the condition of their bedrooms and bathroom, my kids are normal; on the other hand, given their outstanding academic, athletic, and musical accomplishments, I owe it to them to differentiate between normal and average).

For you, may 2015 be the year that was just before when everything became wonderful.

The Night Before—the Night Before Christmas

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Twas the night before — the night before — Christmas and chaos persists,

There’s wrapping paper everywhere and six missing gifts.

We tear the house apart, looking for tape,

Not to mention all the bows, which made an escape.

The stocking are hung just as they say,

But the hooks are too weak to last till Christmas day.

The only old fat man around here is me,

So we gather the gifts to put under the tree.

My wife, who has done the most, heads up to bed,

And seeing all she’s done, “I love you,” I said.

Time Travel

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones

Suddenly my entire family was transported—thrown, really—into the mid twentieth century.

The internet connectivity to our house was lost. We still had cable television—just like 1975—but no computer connectivity. The telephones went out, too, but that happened in the twentieth century as well.

Of course the DVR, which is part of the cable service was not working, so we couldn’t watch the TV shows from earlier in the week, just like in 1975, before everyone had a VHS video recorder.

It was traumatic. When we called the cable company on a cell phone, they tried resetting everything from their master control center, but failed. They told us that a technician would have to come out and Monday was the earliest possibility. That would mean three days without internet! Three days! No breaking news surrounded by ads and “Sponsored Stories.” Someone could have rocked a dress or a bikini, and we wouldn’t have known. What if that Nigerian prince had tried to contact me by e-mail?

I carefully peeked in my teenagers’ rooms, expecting to find them in a fetal position, clutching their smartphones as their only lifeline to the present, but they proved to be made of stronger stuff. They weathered almost all of Saturday, trapped in the past.

Fortunately, today when we woke up, it had been repaired.

It’s amazing how the internet has become so intertwined in our lives. The silver lining is that it gave me an excuse for not writing a blog yesterday and a topic for today’s blog.

Counting Down to Christmas

stamp

Parents count the days until Christmas differently than regular people. Are no golden rings, calling birds, pipers, or even a pear tree (sans leaves, since it is winter). Instead, parents way fo counting down to Christmas includes:

Days needed to get a personalized Christmas stocking from (name of mail order retailer here).

The day for the Christmas band/orchestra/choir concert.

The day that the kids need to bring canned food for the needy or a gift for Toys for Tots.

The day you panic and run to the corner drugstore to print out family pictures to send with the Christmas cards.

The day you should have gotten the photos.

The day you should have sent out Christmas cards.

The day you panic and run to the post office to get stamps for the Christmas cards. (And out of 47 styles of special Christmas stamps, they have only one left—the one you used last year, and the year before that, and—you know).

The day you make a list for next year, which you promptly misplace.

Parents—people with strength, courage, humor–and a totally warped perception of reality, which is how they survive.

Wow!

NCIS (But you knew that!)

NCIS
(But you knew that!)

Life is funny, and it sure gets in the way.

I’ve been so busy with my day job, my kids…

My kids—two are already grown up and the other two are suddenly almost there. My younger son just got his acceptance letter from his first choice college—and an early admission at that. Now, it’s kind of hard to chastise him for not taking out the recycling.

My daughter is a few years younger, but also a great student (My grades were never that god), musician (I was never first chair bassoon), and athlete (let’s not even go there). However, after her last birthday she seems to believe it’s necessary to remind me every 15 minutes or so that in in a few months she’ll start driving.

Naturally I’m proud of both of them, but I wonder, if I hadn’t blinked would they have grown up so fast?

Thankfully I have a Sherpa guide who has looked out for the kids and advised me. I’m speaking of my wife, of course. This is a challenge for her, I’m sure. She hasn’t had to resort to the Gibb’s slap on the back of DiNozzo’s head yet (for the benefit of NCIS fans) but it’s not because I don’t need a >HINT< from time to time.

So, thanks to her, even though I’m sports impaired, I’ve been a soccer dad, in spite of myself, which makes a world of difference to my kids.

However, in all fairness, I’ve done just fine as the science, music and school project parent.

If I haven’t been blogging as much as I should, lately, it’s because life has gotten in the way, and the people who are special to me—well, you know.

Cross-contaminated Art

Bay Youth Orchestra of Virginia, Wind Ensemble

Bay Youth Orchestra of Virginia, Wind Ensemble

My daughter played in a symphonic concert this weekend, and I was the designated (volunteer) photographer. I used to do a lot of photography in my younger days and still remember a thing or two. Of course that pales in comparison to what I’ve forgotten (e.g. if you own multiple digital cameras, put different lenses on them rather than trying to juggle two lenses at the same time).

Taking the pictures is the easier part, and while darkrooms are rare, many of the darkroom techniques have migrated to computer. So, when I got home, I sorted the photos. I then dodged and burned images, adjusted framing just like the old days, but without getting my hands wet. I’ve gotten used to this by taking the pictures at my kids’ soccer games. However, I began to think (always dangerous) that while sports photos are an American tradition requirement, photos of a concert are a bit different.

When you think about it, it just seems odd to use one artistic medium to share another. It’s true that music can reflect other arts—Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is an excellent example. However, it seems more difficult to work in the opposite direction. I don’t think that even a masterpiece painting could reflect a particular piece of music such that the viewer would recognize the melody. I suspect even the greatest choreographer could not create a dance that causes the audience to taste peanut butter. Mixing media is like writing a haiku explaining hockey—it just doesn’t work.*

So, my photos may not transmit, explain, or even reflect the melody, the harmony, the counterpoint, or even the thematic chords that were performed, but it does give the parents a chance to see their kids on stage.

Sometimes that’s enough.

* Although my son wrote his college entrance essay on soccer and its comparison to international relations.

Does It Ever Get Easier?

It’s funny, or maybe just a sign of the times that a number of people—including myself—have asked this very question. You work hard, you try to play by the rules, and you try to treat others fairly, but it just doesn’t seem to get any easier. Why?

What would easier be like, anyway? I suppose my job could be easier—like the guys working on an assembly line fifty years ago; there’d be no need to think, just repeat the same motions over and over. Boooring!

Maybe easier means that I’d make more money and could afford to buy the boat I’ve always wanted. But is there ever enough money? I read about the billionaires do all kinds of outrageous things to make even more or to pay less taxes. Even when you have billions, it still isn’t enough.

Maybe easier means that I’d have more free time in the evening and on weekends so I could—what? I’m not the type to sit still and watch a lot of television. Maybe I would putter around with my various projects, like when my dad retired. He puttered around the house, eventually got everything just the way he wanted, then he and mom would sell the house and move so he could start over. I don’t like to putter that much.

The problem is that easier doesn’t really exist. Things change but we never see it as easier. When we were young we couldn’t wait to be adults, because we knew life would be better. It wasn’t, in fact, we’re paralleling the much of what we experienced back then.

THEN: The school project that is coming due that I haven’t done or really even gotten started.

NOW: Income tax time

THEN: Agonizing over acne and waiting for that growth spurt that will make me tall and thin.

NOW: Agonizing over wrinkles and grey hair, and hoping I don’t gain any more weight or lose any more height.

THEN: Being overly concerned about how the other kids treat me.

NOW: Being overly concerned about how my own kids treat me.

Easy? No. Different? Yes. Better or worse? Whichever I choose.

Selfies

I confess, I don’t understand selfies. What’s the thrill about sending pictures of yourself to everyone you know? It’s tied for last place with pictures of the meal one is going to eat.

I hate having my picture taken, as I’m content to be on my side of my face and have no desire to contemplate the side most people view. I tolerate several minutes during the time I shave, but with the shaving cream and contorting my face and stretching my neck while shaving I do not see much resemble that others believe I look like. Pre-coffee vision also helps.

In my teen years and well into my twenties, I pursued photography so that I’d be on the other side of the camera. The added advantage was that not only was I not asked to be part of the wedding party—saving the expense of renting a tux, etc., but I made a few bucks even on the heavily discounted wedding albums I did for friends.

My kids are the same way. The only way they’ll tolerate having their picture taken is if the only other option is cleaning their bedrooms and bathrooms (which is too bad, because they look better than I ever did—or will). My son chastises me for even taking pictures.

So selfies? I polled the family, and this was the best offer I got.

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Metamorphosis

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

It’s hard not to be fascinated by insects. I will stop to look at a walking leaf or a praying mantis; butterflies always catch my attention, as do dragon flies. Perhaps the most fascinating insects are those that pupate and undergo metamorphosis. Imagine one day being a caterpillar, spinning a cocoon, taking a long nap and then emerging as a butterfly.

I recently realized that humans have a similar process. Babies are born, demand attention, like to be held, make noise and break things. They grow, start school, but the parents’ role stays pretty much the same.

Then, one day, that cute little kid becomes a teenager.

It’s unfair to expect teenagers to spin a cocoon, since they can’t even pick up their socks, but they are able to compensate. Teenagers’ cocoon is their bedroom into which they sequester themselves for several years. It’s not quite as constant as insect larvae; you can spot teenagers—or at least the backs of teenagers—as they root around in the refrigerator or the pantry. Occasionally you’ll see the front of a teenager, immediately behind the outstretched hand with the palm up.

I’ve examined cocoons, but really don’t know what it’s like in one, but I imagine it gets progressively less sanitary over time, just like teenagers’ rooms. The biggest difference is that teenagers’ cocoons have televisions, smartphones, computers or video games. However, the long sequestration is similar among the various species.

There is another similarity. Someday I know that my teenagers will emerge from their cocoons more resplendent than even the most beautiful butterfly. Then, like the butterfly, they’ll stretch their wings and fly away.

Oatmeal Boxes

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I guess most people get flavored instant oatmeal in the individual, instant packets these days. That’s a bit too sweet for me, so I use the “old fashioned” kind; it takes about the same time—45 seconds to one minute in the microwave, and I can add just a smidge of brown sugar.

We finished one box of oatmeal today, and I looked at the empty box. I felt just a little sorry for the current generation of juvenile oatmeal eaters. They have no idea what they’re missing.

In my grandfather’s and father’s time an oatmeal box was perfect for winding a coil when making your own radio. Such radios were often assembled on a piece of wood with the components screwed to the board; when the wooden breadboard split, this was an ideal base. To this day we refer to experimenting with a circuit on a temporary base as “bread boarding.”

When I was a child, for the preschooler, oatmeal boxes made great drums—and were much quieter than pots and pans. Later, when dioramas were a fact of life for students, oatmeal boxes were perfect for towers of a castle, a grain silo, the body of a steam locomotive, or one of the stages of the rocket used to launch Apollo and Gemini astronauts.

Today it’s just an empty box.