Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom

Tomorrow, Oct. 30, is my mom's birthday. I won't say which birthday exactly, because I don't want to get whacked with a wooden spoon! Let's just say she's been around long enough to well deserve the title of family matriarch.

My mom has what I believe to be a diagnosable disorder in which she feels the need to feed people, and to make sure they have a jacket (even when it's 105 degrees, her kids will say.) Long before Subarus and hybrids sported bumper stickers instructing people to Commit Random Acts of Kindness, Mom was living that advice.

When I was a kid, my sister sold her car.  A young couple, barely out of their teens, had been lured to Utah with the promise of jobs, which never materialized. Now broke, expecting their first baby in a couple of weeks, and all alone in a strange place, all they wanted was a car to get them home to Tennessee, where his uncle had a job for him. It didn't matter how many other people expressed interest in the car, we all knew my mom was going to make sure they got it.

When they came to pick it up, the young man mustered all the courage he had, meekly looked at my dad and almost whispered that they were short the full amount.  Now, my dad is a good and decent man. The best, actually. But business is business and there were other buyers, who did have the full amount. Nevertheless, without uttering a single word, mom just looked at him, and he told them they could send the rest of the money when they got back to Tennessee. As they were leaving, Mom gave them a sack fill of food, and a baby present. My dad just laughed. (Oh, my sister is still waiting for the $10!)

Flash forward a decade to a time when Vietnamese "boat people" refugees were settling in Utah. Every day about the same time, Mom saw a family with a couple of young kids walking by the dentist officer where she worked. As winter approached and it grew colder, she noticed the kids weren't wearing coats. So one day, Mom followed them home. She knocked on the door and asked if the kids had coats. She discovered that the sweaters they wore were what they had. That was it. She put the mom and kids in the car, took them to Grand Central, and bought them all coats.

She's just that kind of person, and in my oh-so-humble opinion, everyone who knows her is the better for it.

Happy birthday to honestly, one of the most inspiring, unassuming, loving and kind women I've ever known: my mom.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lucky 7

Today's Niko's birthday. He's 7 now.

Last night, after I read to him, I told him about the first time we met him. Kelly and I flew to the Bay Area and went to his foster mom's house. I had forgotten how little a 4-month old weighs, and used way too much torque when lifting him. But Kelly failed to remember that at that age he couldn't lift his own neck, and nearly popped the kid's head off. (That image made Niko burst out laughing.)

I told him about picking him up from the airport, and how he saw Gus and immediately reached out for him. And how he spent his first night in our home sleeping in an arm chair, nestled up against his visiting yia yia's chest.

As I told about his very early life with us, he kept nudging closer and closer to me. By the time I talked about the judge declaring we were a family, he had his arms wrapped around me in a full bear hug.

Happy birthday, "Bubba."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Call Me

Admittedly, as a kid I loved the phone. I would literally spend hours talking with my best friend, Greg, when we were teenagers.  And since the advent of smart phones I'm constantly texting or emailing. It's a terrible habit, I admit.

Well, Gus had been asking for a phone for quite some time, but we always told him we didn't think he was old enough.  At first, that seemed like a legitimate argument. Then, increasingly, his friends started sporting phones, and we began to see how other parents used them to keep tabs on kids.

So when Kelly got a new (gigantic) phone, we ended up with an extra phone on our preexisting plan. Guess who talked his way into it? Actually, it has proven to be convenient to text Gus a message to come home, or for him to be able to call us when he needs.

The downside is he'd be in constant phone contact with his buddies if we let him...even when it's not necessary. The other day we were at my cousin's house celebrating her son's birthday, and I discovered Gus and his buddy, Zach, texting each other...sitting less than a foot apart.

God help us when he becomes a teenager.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Autumn Bumming

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year -  the weather is perfect, the landscape is painted in vivid reds, oranges, yellows and rust, and the tops of the mountains are tipped with snow. I've just always really enjoyed this season.

Well, today after doing some chores, the boys and I went "bumming." After a trip to the bank and lunch at Chipotles, we drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon to hike around and enjoy the season. After we got home, we took Gracie for a walk along the canal (with low water levels you can see muskrat tracks and burrows), and to give apple treats to our friends Roger and Lori's horses. The boys even found a snake.

It's timed like these I hope the boys remember when I'm nothing but a memory to them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Common Sense

Probably since the beginning of our Republic, people have argued that the government needs to gain some common sense. Now, we all have different views about what common sense is, and your version may not jive with mine. But every now and then an example comes along that proves "commonsensical" isn't an adjective that could ever be used to describe our government.

This is one such example:  In August, I received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. I'd been "randomly" audited and they decided I owed them an additional $1,500.  A quick trip to my accountant, the information the IRS had missed was re-entered, and the amount I owed was reduced to the far more palatable $52. As I wrote the check, I was informed that they may ask for interest on that money, but since it was such a small amount it was doubtful.

Today I received another letter from the IRS. They do want the interest: $2.

Now, I don't have a problem paying the $2 - my tax return wasn't quite right and I owed the government a little extra, but how much did we as a nation lose coming after me for my $2? Maybe a little common sense could help us find our way out of the mess we're in.

You know, Thomas Jefferson once said, "I have great confidence in the common sense of mankind in general." Clearly, our third president never dealt with the IRS.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ya'll Want a Dwarf?

The boys, my sister and I are all attending Greek school twice a week. Not surprisingly, the classes are rather laid-back and lack the degree of organization one would expect in, say, a German class.

An adult beginning class probably isn't appropriate for me, but my goal is to increase my vocabulary, improve my grammar, and learn past tense, all of which can be accomplished while helping Sandra.

During our second class, we received a book (The Greek Language), which is clearly used by 6 or 7-year olds in Greece to learn to read and write. Our class is using it for the same purpose. 

Along with words like "ball," "tiger," "sun," and "telephone" was the word "nanos." From the picture, it appeared that the word  meant "elf."  Since I can already read Greek, our teacher often has me read and translate accompanying instructions. As one of my classmates sounded out nanos I looked at the instructions for the fun activity below the exercise.
 Color these seven nanos. Hmmm.

That's when someone said, "So nanos means elf?" And we were horrified to hear, "No. Dwarf. Or Midget. Same word in Greek."  So, yeah, there among "ball," "tiger" and "sun" is "dwarf." Our class erupted in laughter - a mixture of amusement and horror.

Well, the other night, Sandra came over to do our homework. It was to write sentences conjugating the verbs "to have" and "to want."  Thumbing through the book and her notes looking for vocabulary words to use for her sentence showing the "plural you" form for "to want," Sandra giggled and wrote her sentence. She passed her paper to me, and asked if it was correct.

Thelete ena nano? Grammatically, it was correct as far as I could tell. But did she really want to write, "Ya'll want a dwarf?"  She did.
Seriously, what would you think o nanos meant?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Brave New Adventure

I've decided to take my career in a slightly different direction.  Well, it's different for me, anyway. I've done public relations in one form or another for about 25 years now. 

My very first job right out of grad school was at Art Blum Public Relations in San Francisco. Art was a character. His obituary in The San Francisco Chronicle referred to him as the last of the "old-time" PR guys. I wouldn't have been surprised  to learn he wrote it himself!

Well, today, all those years later, I've started my own PR consultancy with a good friend of mine, Bob Henline. It's called Alethia Consulting Group.  Alethia is the Greek word for "truth."

I'd say it's the scariest endeavor that I've ever undertaken, but that's not true - becoming a father was. The knowledge that I am successfully accomplishing this most-frightening of all undertakings is helping me to push aside any doubts about my ability to make Alethia a success.

Once again, the boys are teaching me a lot about myself. Oh, for the record, they're very excited about all of this. They like the idea that I'm one of the bosses at our company.

Well, seeing how our only non-boss "employee" is Gracie the good dog, at least I know I don't need to worry about doing a bad performance review.
 Check us out: http://alethiaconsulting.com/

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rhymes with Radium

One day in high school, I showed up to my AP English class to find a substitute teacher. Sporting a platinum beehive and a sassy pant suit, she quickly wrote her name on the blackboard: Mrs. Wadium.

Then she chirped, "My name isn't Wah-dium, and it's not Wa-dee-um. It's Wadium. And if you can say radium and you can say stadium then you can say Wadium." A few polite chuckles followed. 

Then she did it. During roll she called, "Chris Cat-is." I couldn't help myself. I replied, "My name isn't Cat-is and it's not Kate-is. If you can say Matisse and you can say Baptiste, then you can say Katis." Now that got a laugh from my classmates.

Recently, I was telling my friend, Robert, about this escapade. All I said was, "My name isn't Wah-dium" and he said, "Oh my God! I know that woman."

And in a moment of truly brilliant one upmanship, Robert shared his own run in with Mrs. Wadium.

She was long-term subbing for a teacher out on maternity leave. One day, just before class started, Robert hatched a plan and passed a note around the room alerting his fellow students that at 10:40 he was going to have a fake seizure.

True to his word - and clearly paying more attention to the clock than to the day's lesson - at 10:40 he fell to the ground convulsing.  What he hadn't planned for (along with a way to end the prank) was that at the exact time of his premeditated seizure, the vice principal was walking by the room and saw the entire performance.

Rushing into the class, the vice principal sprung into action, making sure someone called 911.  This deep into the situation, Robert couldn't very well sit up and announce he was all better. And for some reason, none of his classmates felt it appropriate to alert the vice principal that it was all just some kid's shenanigans. Instead, an ambulance arrived, and he was whisked off to the emergency room.

A CT scan and MRI later, he was released from the hospital. The source of his seizures a medical mystery.

Jeez, all I did was teach the woman the correct pronunciation of my surname.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Years before I was born, my dad was a very accomplished bowler.  He's bowled a 300 game, and was even recruited to turn pro. Back in the 1960s he also owned a bowling store where serious bowlers could buy their own balls and get the holes drilled perfectly to fit their fingers.

By the time I came around, he was "just" a very good league bowler. On the rare occasions I didn't have school on Friday morning, I was allowed to tag along with him to his league. I'd sit in the fold down chairs throwing back Cokes, while watching him and his team hit strike after strike. These were men with names like Lefty, Earl, and Rusty, guys whose hairstyles were low and flat (for those with hair) and grossly out of style for the 1970s.

On our Saturday bumming mornings, the Junction Bowling Lanes was frequently a stop. He had a locker there to store his ball and shoes. Sometimes we'd eat breakfast at the grill - greasy eggs with thickly-cut fried ham - sitting at the counter, just the two of us.

Dad retired from bowling when his best friend, Earl, was forced to stop playing due to health issues. Dad retired purely out of solidarity.

The Junction Lanes is gone now, converted into an educational software company. I interviewed with them last year, and couldn't help but be awestruck at the transformation. The director's office was in the very place Dad and I would eat those artery-clogging breakfasts 40 years earlier.  His desk was actually a piece of one of the lanes.  Although I didn't ask, I did wonder if  the men's room stalls were still covered in graffiti and women's numbers.

My kids will never know the joys of such a blue-collar experience. Oh sure, we go bowling now and then, but today's alleys are high tech with retractable bumpers and electronic score keeping. Some even have noisy arcades attached to them.

But, you know, my kids couldn't ever have the same bowling alley experience as I did for entirely different reasons. I can't bowl.  When it comes to my dad and me the apple doesn't fall far from the tree on a lot of issues, but when it comes to bowling, I'm not even in the same orchard!