Friday, June 12, 2015

Memories of Friends and Kisses

Like many people, my experiences in junior high were anything but pleasant. As if the awkward pre- and early-teen years aren't bad enough, I entered the hallowed halls of Midvale Junior High School in 1977, so I looked like this:
To give you an idea of the horror, on the 2nd or 3rd day of gym, I learned that one of the coaches had grown up with my dad. He informed me that growing up, "they" had called Dad, "Ribs" and my Uncle Chris, "Ribs, Jr."  Wouldn't it be a gas if he got the kids to call me, "Ribs, III?" Thankfully, my protests to the contrary worked.

Recently, I learned that the school is being demolished to make way for a new, modern school.
Lately, when I'm at my parents, I've taken my dog, Skeelo, to the school so he can run around. As I walked around the grounds, I tried to conjure up any positive memories of my two years there. I could only come up with meeting my buddies Danny and Greg, with whom I'm still friends nearly 40 years later.
Danny and I, grayer but still friends.
Then, after further reflection, I remembered two very significant experiences that took place at the school: I had my first kisses there.

The first was with a girl. She and I were both in the school's production of Carousel. During one rehearsal, we were in the hallway chatting, when she leaned in and kissed me. Then, seen by her friends, pushed me away and admonished me to never do that again.

The second was with a boy. By then I had left the hallowed halls and was already in high school. The young man and I frequently ran around the track circling the school's sports field. One summer evening, as we did our cool down lap, we stopped for a moment, and he took my head in his hands, leaned in and kissed me. It was magical.

No, I won't miss the old school. However, I'm glad I was finally able to salvage some fond memories - lifelong friends and first kisses.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I'm BrockStrong

Today was the BrockStrong 5K to raise funds for the BrockStrong Foundation, formed by our friends Lori and Roger in tribute to their son. The foundation serves the dual purposes of raising awareness about organ donations, and providing scholarships for gifted music students, who otherwise would not be able to afford the additional training they need to hone their craft.

It was a perfect day, and the venue was lovely.
Although I had originally intended to run the 5K, I decided instead to walk with my friends, chatting and visiting as we went - even if that meant my finishing time was just short of an hour.

 Laurel and Alex confer.
The whole gang plans a strategy.
The delightful Mitzi Wood-McIver
 My beard matches your hair, Debra Falvo!
I didn't know Brock, but considering my motivation, I have a feeling he would be very proud of my finishing time.

Learn more about the BrockStrong Foundation, here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Moving on Up

Today parents and well wishers gathered in the American International School of Utah's performing arts space to watch the "lower elementary" kids move up to their next grades.

I learned:

1. Your kid will look for you in the audience no matter what.
2. Hearing kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance in three languages (and American Sign Language) is better in theory than in practice.
3. People have no regard for their children's future - naming a kid Charlie Brown, seriously?
4. Kids get confused about what grade they're actually in when you hold the graduation a week before the end of classes.
5. My kid is absolutely great!
With his teacher, Kim Clark.
 Proudly moving to 3rd grade.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

That Certain Look

Yesterday was my parents' 66th anniversary. Their marriage has seen 12 presidents come and go. It's witnessed the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and the hula hoop. It's endured six kids, and delighted in 7 grand kids and thrilled with 7 great grand kids.

I don't know if they have a secret beyond being crazy about each other, but in a nation where, according to the American Psychological Association 40-50% of all marriages end in divorce (including unfortunately those of 4 of their sons), their relationship stands out.

In all the changes that their marriage has endured over the past 2/3 of a century, one aspect has remained constant. There's this certain look they give each other. I've seen it used to stop disagreements. I've seen it during happy times. It's a silent communication just between them.

And it's that look that has kept them going for 66 years.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Running for John is Worth the Pain

Two weeks ago the Cub Scouts had their annual sleep out behind the church - you may remember last year's hair raising adventure ( This year, I was better prepared. Besides the ridiculous, 8-person tent Gus chose, I brought an extra sleeping bag, my pillow and Skeelo to keep me company.

This year's challenge was the fact I was running in the Saint Sophia School 5K the next morning. It was my first 5K in two years, and I hadn't trained in the least.
When he saw my number, Gus opined at the disrespect of putting my age on my chest.
Rotten little punk.

My cute niece, Megan Curtice, my cousin Sophia's daughter, ran too!

I admit that it was a tough run, and my body isn't quite as resilient as it was at 25. But I finished the race.
And to my surprise, holy cow, I somehow won my age bracket!
For the next 3 days, I couldn't take a step without a painful reminder jolting my thighs.

But the race inspired me to keep running. I'll be running in the the BrockStrong 5K on May 30. This organization was created by my friends Lori and Roger in honor of their son, Brock, who passed away waiting for an organ transplant. The dual goals of this great organization are to increase awareness about the need for organ donations, and to provide music scholarships for kids, who otherwise wouldn't be able to take the private lessons needed to hone their gift.

Earlier this week I learned that I have been disqualified to be a kidney donor for my big brother, John, because of my own history of elevated glucose levels. The news felt like I was repeatedly punched in the stomach by Muhammad Ali at the height of his career. I knew in my heart I would be a match. I still believe I am, but those with more knowledge than I believe the risk to me would be too great.

So I need to do something else. Running the BrockStrong 5K is my first step. If you'd like to join me at this 5K and support this great cause, register here.

My brother John wasn't ever much of a runner, running it in his honor is the least I can do.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lessons of Skeelo

So it's been two full weeks since Skeelo came to live with us.
In that short period of time, I've learned 10 very important lessons.

10 -     Meeting my 10,000 steps goal isn't a problem. He needs a lot of exercise.We go for four or five long walks a day!

9 -       He can climb trees.
8 -      The cats are beginning to speak to us they've discovered he's afraid of them.
7 -      He's quick to pick up Greek.

6 -      He loves to snuggle up in his crate.
5 -      He charmed Papou immediately (he has special treats at the grandparents'), who calls him Chauncey.
4 -      He has me wrapped around his little finger.
3 -      He's far better at waking the boys up by licking them than is any alarm clock.
2 -      He listens far better than the boys!

1 -     Every boy really does need a dog!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Just Plain Stupid

It's finally happened. A boy told Gus that he's not allowed to come to our house because Gus has two dads. Gus could go to the kid's house, but not the other way around. The kid (parroting his parents) cited their religious beliefs.

I, of course, was furious. Crazy angry. I wanted to call the mom and tell her that Gus was no longer allowed at her house because our religious beliefs prevent our child from being exposed to un-Christian actions of bigotry and ignorance.

Kelly, of course, was more level-headed and reminded me that I needed to be "better" than the women, that I shouldn't stoop to her level. I hate it when he's right.

Although disappointed, Gus showed an amazing maturity about the whole affair. His comment: "That's just plain stupid."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Every Dog Has His Day - Thanks Gracie

After Gracie went to chase squirrels in the great beyond, our sweet friend, Ann Flower, told me that when the time was right Gracie would lead us to another dog.

Recently, the boys and Kelly went to the Humane Society and found a dog. She had kennel cough, so was quarantined until her medications had run their course. Almost daily, the boys asked about the dog. And on the day after she popped her last pill, Kelly and I went to bring her home.

"Prancer," proved to be a whole lotta dog. Apparently having cheated on her "Good With Cats" test, she sent Athena and Apollo fleeing. At seeing the chickens, she immediately concocted various ways of busting in the coop. But it was on her second day with us, when she took off out of the door, saw an innocent Thalia and snapped the poor bird's neck, that we said enough is enough. (And yes, that Thalia, my favorite.) "Prancer" had to go.
Good bye, Thalia
While returning Prancer to the Human Society - and providing them with some heretofore unknown information about her behavior and personality - we decided to take a look at some of the other dogs waiting to be adopted.

That's when I saw him: a young border collie mix, with soulful eyes and a mellow temperament. We took him for a walk - no aggression toward other dogs - well mannered, docile (maybe a bit too docile), sweet. We sat in on his "Good With Cats" test. He was totally uninterested in the poor test subject, and when she hissed at him, he fled.  He felt right.

So we've brought him home, named him "Skeelo" (which means "Dog" in Greek) in homage to the border collie we had in California, and he's been nothing but a good boy.
Athena and Apollo, the cats, scare him. The coop certainly interests him but more in a, "I bed I could get those chickens to go anywhere the humans want them" way. Like all border collies, he's needy and has to show us how much he loves us already.
His last humans had brought him to the Human Society just the day before we adopted him. They said they didn't have the time to dedicate to him (border collies need lots and lots of exercise and stimulation.) From the way he cowers at brooms, anything raised about a head, and harsh voices, we think those humans may not have been so kind to him.

How could anyone not be kind to this furry guy?
I admit that I'm always going to miss Gracie. She was a great dog. But I'm grateful that she led me to another canine friend.

Even if I really only want to be his friend!

Friday, April 17, 2015

You're Going to Stick it WHERE?

At my last physical, my young doctor took note of my birthday and told me it was time for a colonoscopy. Oh joy. Oh rapture.

Being the kind of guy that usually does whatever his doctor suggests, as my big 5-0 approached, I scheduled what I consider to be the ultimate in invasive procedures.

On Wednesday, I dutifully reported to the gastroenterologist. Here's what I learned:

1. No matter how frequently it occurs, having someone mistake my sister for my wife never ceases to be creepy.
2. Even a nurse with over 20 years of experience can butcher an arm trying to stab an IV into it.
3. The "prep" really is the very worst part of the procedure.
4. Having a doctor describe your innards as being "sparklingly clean" is a moment of icky pride.
5. Going 38 hours without eating anything makes me dream about delicious-looking sandwiches.

Oh, and there's nothing to be concerned about. But I'm still not posting the photos!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's a Good Thing He's Cute

There's something charming about the honesty of children. That is until that honesty is directed at me.

Lately, Niko has been interested in sharing his thoughts about my body hair as I age. His insight isn't really welcome, but it does crack him up.

For example: the other day we were soaking in the hot tub when he told me there was a hair on my shoulder.

N: I'll get it.
C: Don't pull on it.
N: It's not attached, I think it's one of mine. I'll get it.
(Ignoring me, and pulling on said hair)
N: OHMYGOSH! It IS attached!

The idea of a stray hair growing out of his dad's shoulder was about the funniest thing he could imagine.

And this morning, he bounded onto my bed to wake me up. He ran his hand over my morning stubble on my cheek and asked why men have prickly hair on their faces. I replied that men just get hair, and added that some guys get it on their chests, and some even have it on their backs. That idea made him roar with laughter.

Then, caressing my earlobe between his finger and thumb, he added, "And some men get hair that grows out of their ears, and curls way down over their earlobes."

And with that he tugged it out of my ear cackling with delight.

It's a good thing he's cute...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Half Way to a Century!

As hard as it is to believe, last week I woke up and I was 50. In Greek we wish people na ta ektosteisis - may you live to be 100. Well, I'm half way there. And what better way to celebrate than with a house filled with loving family and friends? Here's just a small sampling of the fun we had, and the family and friends, who helped me celebrate.
 This is what 40+ years of friendship looks like.
 The girls with the Bieb.
 Ashley and Sky.
 Maria and Bob.
 Aimz and the Bieb.
 Two of my most favorite women in the world...and the Bieb.
 Sam has something for the Bieb!
 Watch out, Louis, Debra's smitten!
 Doreen raises a glass.
 Nina, Brian, Kali and Gary
 Jack and Doreen
 Cindy and John.
Chris and Kary, who has known me since 12!
 The "Ls" Laurel and Lori.
 The Nakamuras (Kerri's been a friend since 15!)
 Kali and Brian.
Sophia and Sundee.
Oh and I have no idea why the Bieb showed up, but taking a photo with him became more amusing as the night wore on and the wine flowed!

How a guy like me got so damn lucky to have such wonderful friends and family, I'll never understand. But I am grateful from the bottom of my hairy Greek toes to the top of my spikey hair.
 49 years earlier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


This past Sunday the Greek School children presented their Greek Independence Day program to their families and other members of the community. As always, Gus and Niko did a fantastic job.

I was incredibly proud of the boys, their commitment and dedication to learning their parts, songs and dances.

Somewhere in heaven there's a pro-yia yia (great grandmother) who was smiling from ear to ear.

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