Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gag Me With a Spoon

Last night the boys' school had a mid-year fundraiser: it was a 1980s prom theme. The gym at Prophet Elias Church was filled with parents, friends, and supporters of the only Greek Orthodox school in the entire Mountain West each dressed up like an extra from Desperately Seeking Susan or Ghost Busters.

I remember the 1980s fondly. Back then, I was referred to as a "preppy." Come to think of it, 30 years later, I'm still referred to as a preppy. So for my costume, I really just needed to push the limits of tasteful a bit.


Hearing the music, seeing the costumes, took me back, and made me laugh. Kelly and I met in the 1980s, we became a couple during that time. Finding photos from that time really made me laugh.



Um, yes, Kelly does have a mullet! Like, gag me with a spoon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Forever Free

Early on in this blog, I wrote about the challenges we faced with Gus and reading. It didn't come easy to him. It didn't open doors for him like it had for me as a child. There was no enjoyment in it. I am delighted to report that his reading skills are now on par with his peers. And that's music to my ears. He even has a favorite series of books.



Now, I don't know if he's ever going to be the type of man, who turns off the TV in favor of a page-turner, but I do know he finally sees the potential. I hope laughing along with him, reflecting together on what he's read, will help him gain an understanding about the power of reading. Only time will tell.



"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free," Fredrick Douglass.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Color Me Red

At the beginning of the year, we instituted a monthly leadership training at work. It focuses on acknowledging the type of communicator you are, understanding how others communicate and need to be communicated with, and knowing how to recognize the communications style of others.

To discover the type of communicator each of us is, we took a rather long on-line assessment. We were then grouped by colors: yellow, green, blue or red. Yellows are engaged, inspiring people. Greens are supportive and empathetic. Blues are detailed and data-driven. And Reds are bossy jerks.

Guess what color I am?

Now as I looked around the room and saw a sea of social worker greens, I grew somewhat self conscious of my Redness. I wasn't alone, there were a couple of other Reds. A couple...out of 40 people.

So what does it mean to be a Red? Well, the analysis of my assessment described my management style as "Disregards certain opinions and ideas which differ from his own."

Hmmmm.

It goes on to suggest the best way to communicate with me includes:

- being ready to ignore my seemingly arrogant demeanor
- agreeing with me whenever possible.

It also suggested that if I were more humble and modest I'd recognize that I do have certain limitations.

Really? Since when?

I suppose it could be worse: One of my friends, and a fellow Red, was told to remember that not everyone thrives on arguing.

Although I joked around with the fantastic moderator about my Redness, and have taken plenty of good-natured kidding from my colleagues and friends, I'm actually OK with being Red.

What scares me is that without ever having been assessed, I can already tell you that I'm not the only Red at our house!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Get The Gun, George!

If you read my latest column in QSaltlake, you saw a line that to this day makes my family laugh, "Get the gun, George." Well, here's what really happened.

Growing up on Grant Street, the neighbors across the street from us were the Boskavitches. All these years later, all I remember about them is:

- they were Serbian immigrants
- at the time they seemed to be the oldest people on earth (though I imagine they were in their 60s)
- their only child, Peter, lived in France
- their little dog, Butch was just plain mean

And...

- they really disliked us kids.

I know, every kid tends to think the neighbors don't like him, but in this case it's actually true. Once, they insisted that we had broken their plate glass window by chucking crab apples at it. Now granted, that is something my brothers would've done, but this time our alibis were air-tight. They only halfheartedly accepted the fact that we were in Canada when it happened. My brother Mike always had a good arm, but not that good.

So with this backdrop, let the story unfold.

It was Valentine's night, circa 1971 or 72. And exhibiting traits of the future PR professional I would become, I suggested I give a Valentine's card to Mr. and Mrs. Boskavitch.



You know what makes delivering a Valentine's card even more enjoyable - at least according to my older brothers, Dan and John? If you tape a string to the card - snatching it just before the unsuspecting sucker went to pluck the card from their porch.



Now in my defense, I was young and very impressionable. If my older teenage and pre-teen brothers thought it was a cool idea, I was in! Which raises the question why my sister Sandra, the one with the commonsense, didn't talk us out of it.

So off we marched into the darkness and across the street. John and Dan positioned themselves behind the bushes on either side of the porch. Sandra and I placed the card on the welcome mat, rang the bell, and ran across the street to hide behind the tree in our parkway.

Mrs. Boskavitch opened the door.



She looked around, and then quickly closed the door. What the...

Sandra and I ran across the street again, rang the bell, and took off to the safety of our hiding place.

Again, Mrs. Boskavitch, opened the door, looked around and shut it without retrieving the heartfelt Valentine.

Clearly, as they hatched this plan, it never dawned on my brothers that an old Serbian couple might not have a clue about Valentine's Day.

So one last time Sandra and I marched across the street determinedly. But now she told me if they didn't pick the card up this time, we'd have to leave it on the porch for them to retrieve with the morning paper.

But this time, something different happened. When Sandra and I leaped onto the porch and rang the door, we heard Mrs. Boskavitch's shrill command, "GET THE GUN, GEORGE!"

And he did.



Sandra flew over the lawn and across the street, clenching my hand so tightly I lost all feeling in my arm. I'm not sure if I even touched the ground or if I dangled in the air behind her as she ran - betting that an old man couldn't hit two moving targets - until we reached the relative safety offered by our old sycamore tree.

Dan, risking his life, jumped out and very carefully said, "It's us, Mr. Boskavitch, the Katis kids. DON'T SHOOT!" John meekly appeared from his hiding place, his hands up in surrender.



I don't know how Dan did it, but he quietly told Mr. Boskavitch I had wanted to give them a Valentine's card, and handed it over...string and all.

Mr. Boskavitch snatched the card and stormed back into the house. When Dan and John reached the perceived safety of our front yard, we let out a collective sigh of thanksgiving for just being alive, and quietly returned to the real safety of house.

Honestly, I don't remember how we told our parents what had happened, nor when or if they ever spoke to the Boskavitches about the incident. What I do know is that for the weeks immediately following, and over the 40 years since that night, the words, "Get the gun, George," still crack them up!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bam!

I think every kid has one activity they like to play more than any other. For me it was my Fischer Price farm set. No matter what new toys I got for Christmas or my birthday, I'd always return to the farm. I seriously never grew bored of playing with it.



Niko's not much for growing food: his thing is cooking it. Playing kitchen is his favorite activity in the world. He has a pantry of plastic foods, and not long ago, we picked him up a little cooking set from IKEA - it came with a frying pan, a pot, a steamer and a wok. He loves it. He can literally spend hours whipping up culinary creations. We've even thought about buying him a little kitchen set.



To me what's amazing is that he's thinking about flavors as he "cooks." Now, granted, some of them would be plain disgusting, but hey, people eat flan!


The pizza he made me - notice the swiss and cheddar cheese

Whether Niko pursues the culinary arts as a career or just gains some mad cooking skills doesn't matter. I'm just grateful that right now, I'm his best customer.


The chef and his favorite customer

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tom, We Hardly New Ye


Tom, the guinea pig, 2008-2012

Tom, the guinea pig, passed away after a short illness on February 8, 2012. Born sometime in 2008, he was a cute little bugger.

He enjoyed nibbling on lettuce, the tops and peels of carrots, and the feel of a kind hand petting his fur.

Arriving in our family along with his cage-mate, Jerry, whom Tom "married" after it was discovered he was a she (Jeri), he was the proud father of three guinea pig pups.

Preceded in death by his "wife," Jeri, and their daughter, he is survived by his sons, Speedy and Spotty.

He was buried in a private ceremony in the family backyard. He will not be replaced.

Thank you, Tommy, for being you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Keep Going

Recently, I wrote about taking Gus snowshoeing for the first time. Well, we made his sophomore trip this past Sunday. It was a perfect winter's day: blue skies, snow-covered mountains, and the solitude of nature.





At least that's how I will force myself to remember it. Because otherwise it was a snowshoeing trip where Gus alternated bursts of enthusiastic energy with fits of defeatism.





My desire not to leave him stranded in the snow was tempered only by my paternal instincts, my New Year's resolution to remember he's acting 8 because he is 8, and a very healthy fear of my mom's wrath if we actually did abandon him.

The good news is that progress was made: he forged on well past the first trip's stopping point, and made it to Willow Lake, where he traversed the frozen, snow-covered lake.



Next trip we've set a new goal: to reach the lake, and explore a little beyond.



And I know that each time we head out on our shoes, will teach Gus a deeper appreciation not only of being out in nature and its amazing beauty, but more importantly, he'll hopefully cherish the time spent with his dads.





Actually, he's already beginning to understand that. Driving back down into the Valley, as Kelly and I chatted, Gus' voice rose from the backseat, "Thanks for taking me snowshoeing, guys. It was AWESOME!"

video

Friday, February 3, 2012

See You Later, Aligator

One Sunday after dinner my dad was practicing possibly his most annoying habit - flipping though the channels - when he, Gus and Niko stumbled upon what has become the boys' favorite television program: Gator Boys. It's a reality show on Animal Planet, all about a couple guys, who capture and humanely relocate "nuisance" alligators in Florida.



Now I'm glad there are guys doing this to educate people about the American alligator, and to help preserve these prehistoric creatures. I know it's not something I could ever do. Heck, I don't like to jump into a swimming pool if I can't easily see the bottom - no way I could dive into a murky pond haunted by an alligator!

But my favorite part of watching this show isn't watching the tactics of how they're going to capture this gator or that one, nor is it seeing the unusual places that alligators show up. No, my favorite part is watching my boys watch this show.

Gator Boys simply keeps my guys spellbound. And while they're watching, they provide me with a running commentary on what's happening or offer helpful suggestions. For example, Gus thinks it'd be a good idea to bind a gator's mouth using duct tape. Niko would just jump on the gator's back.

I'm just glad neither of them has offered any ideas about kissing them!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Every Day I Write the Book

Recently, I've been helping my parents get some of their affairs in order. It's not an easy job, and comes with an awkward role reversal of the child guiding the parent.

Last night, while I was cooking dinner, the radio playing. As I chopped and thought about a meeting my parents and I had attended earlier in the day, the voice of the great Elvis Costello floated around the kitchen. He was singing "Everyday I Write the Book."

Instantly, I was transported back to the 80s, and the cheesy music video of the song I'd seen so many times on MTV - a Prince Charles look-a-like pathetically trying to woo a disinterested Princess Diana. Wow, that video didn't age well, did it?

But what struck me was how my parents' relationship epitomized that song: it's been a never-ending book being written each and every day.

Just 3 1/2 months away from their 63rd anniversary - sixty third people - they're still writing their book, which made think of Kelly and me - 6 months from our 24th. And just as the real events in Charles and Diana's life together didn't mimic Costello's vision, I doubt my parents' book is exactly what they thought it would be. Nor is ours.

But if my parents' life together really was a book, I'd reckon more than a few of the chapters would look awfully similar to the ones being written in Kelly's and my book right now.

I'd like to think that by nudging them into making these tough decisions, by coaxing them into some difficult discussions, I'm showing my parents how much I love them. I hope they realize I just want to help them write their book.