Month: August 2009

Life Stories – A new series

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As a rule, I don’t think people give a rat’s butt what my kids did today, or even what I did today for that matter. So, I generally try and refrain from blogging my day-to-day. But, I have had a few interesting times in my life. I’ve done a few things most people (relatively speaking) have not, and if nothing else, I think that long after I’m gone, all these things we’ve put on the Net, will still be out there and maybe my kids will read it and think, “Hey, my dad was pretty cool after all.” (note the “after all,” cuz I’m pretty sure they’re gonna hate me when they hit about 14).

So I thought I’d do something a bit different for a while. I’m going to blog about my life. A sort of poor-man’s memoirs, if you will. Sorry, old girlfriends are off limits (though that WOULD be some good reading); but most everything else is blog-fodder. And to kick it off, I thought I’d blog about “Boot Camp.” It’s fun—it’s raunchy—it’s a great way to start.

Air Force Boot Camp Part I

image My dad was in the Air Force for nearly eight years before he got out in order to take care of his ageing family and their farm in North Carolina. I’ve recently learned that he got screwed in the deal, but that’s ancient history and not pertinent. What IS pertinent, is the fact that my dad believed that a military tour of duty was what every young boy needed to make him a man. Growing up, it was silently implied that both my brother and I would go the military route and then IF we decided to go to college, then our Uncle Sam would take care of it. Looking back, I’m not sure whether or not I felt I had a choice. Certainly, my dad never pressured me in that direction, but he never had a, “Are you sure?” talk with me either.

When I was 17, I enrolled in what they called, “Early Enlistment” for the military. It’s kind of like a Letter of Intent. It’s not binding legally, but it’s the military’s way of getting its claws into you before some university does. And let’s be honest, most kids going straight into the military, aren’t Rhodes Scholars anyway, so it’s a gamble that paid off more often than not. But, for enrolling early, I was able to lock in my preference of career fields. I locked in “Electronics,” since I figured that was a career field with growth opportunities. It was one of the few good career moves I’ve made in my life.

Soon enough though, in the early summer of 1991, I graduated from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, AL. I notified my recruiter that I was officially out of school and I quickly received my “shipping out” orders. I had approximately one month after graduating before I was out of the house and into the world. I spent it as you might imagine an 18 year old boy might, but most of that will have to be covered another time.

The day I left was a typically hot July day in Alabama. My mom gave me a quick, though warm goodbye and quietly went in the house while my dad and I packed my few meager belongings into his truck. I was to learn later that my mom had never wanted me to go into the military, but she never said a word and I didn’t learn until later how much my leaving would affect the family.

What happens when you join the service is, that first you must go to a central processing facility called MEPS. MEPS stands for “Military Entrance Processing Station.” At the MEPS, they give you a fairly basic physical, you fill out some paperwork and you “officially” swear into the military. Nothing is “for sure” until that final swearing in. Our central station was a place in Montgomery, AL., so I had to catch the Greyhound bus there from Mobile. Dad and I arrived with time aplenty and as we sat waiting on the bus, we engaged in that same small talk that we’d been doing for ten years. He gave me some last-minute advice about just keeping my head down and plodding through it, and I nodded obediently and promised I’d write.

Soon enough the bus came and I stowed my luggage away and climbed aboard. I remember looking back at my dad and thinking how small he looked through the bus window. All my life I’d lived with him and though he’s not a large man, he has a quiet, solid presence that makes up for his short stature. But, looking at him at that moment, as I was emerging from beneath his shadow, I saw—perhaps for the first time—that he was just a man. He had a smile on his face, but it looked strained and right then, I felt a fondness for him that had been missing for some time. My dad was never much of a hugger growing up. He didn’t casually say, “I love you,” or outwardly express his emotions, but every now and then, you could see it in a gesture—or a smile.

It was a good “last thing to see” as the bus pulled away.

Now, though Montgomery is only about three hours (driving) from Mobile, by Greyhound, it takes about six hours thanks to the roundabout way the bus goes to a dozen or more small towns between the two cities. We didn’t arrive in Montgomery until late in the evening and when I did get to the bus station, I found the van-taxi that was to take me to my “hotel” for the evening before my processing in the morning. The hotel  the U.S. Government put us in (The Capitol Inn Hotel) might best be described as an old hotel that had been moderately kept up, and which catered entirely to those whose bills were paid—not by fat, corporate expense accounts—but by the slow, bureaucratic wheels of a government billing cycle. It wasn’t great, but I was only 18 and didn’t know much about these sorts of things. All I cared about was that the rooms were clean, if sparse. The food….the food was the worst part—by far; but, in its defense, it at least had an after hours bar down some stairs around the back where the lights were dim; the pinball machines were loud, and the music was aplenty.

And this is where most of us flocked to spend our last night as free men and women.

To be continued…

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Kennedy’s Death

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Eh…I imagine this is how liberals felt when Reagan died.

If you’re gonna help a kid with his homework, at least pay attention

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Last night at our house:

(CareerMom is helping MLI with his homework. The assignment: paste pictures beginning with the letter “E” on a piece of paper.)

I come in from being outside playing with MLE and picked up the homework that MLI and CareerMom have just completed.

Me: Honey, why is there a picture of two elephants “doing it” on MLI’s homework:

Ethan Homework

CareerMom: What, WHat WHAT?!!!

She swears it was a complete oversight.

Counting down the hours

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image On the eve of the birth of my third (and last) child, I’m feeling a lot of different things. Strangely, what I’m NOT feeling is excitement. And I feel bad about that. I’m not sure if the lack of anxiety is causing me to feel that I’m more “whatever” about this child, or if I’m genuinely NOT looking forward to the forseeable future. It’s true though; I can’t imagine how we’re going to juggle a third child. Not financially. Not from a scheduling standpoint. Not any way actually.

People do it I know and we’ll figure it out too, but I feel that I’ve come to a turning point in my life. Up until now I’ve been able to pretty much juggle things well enough to still do the things that I want to do—the gym, going into and getting out of work early, etc. But now, I think it’s decision time. Lately I’ve been really asking myself if I’m ready to be “average guy Joe.” Am I ready to give up trying to keep myself fit and trim in order to be able to meet the scheduling demands of three kids? Am I prepared to work 9-5 so that I can help my wife get the kids to school in the morning? Am I prepared to stop having ANY free time at all so I can give my kids all the things they need to succeed in this world?

It’s a lot to come to grips with. And I’m not sure that I have, which might explain this…lack of feeling I have. Maybe it’ll hit me tomorrow at the hospital, or maybe it’ll hit me in several months when my little girl locks eyes with me in an unexpected moment of baby clarity. We’ll see.

The silver lining to waking up way too early

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There’s a 99% chance  that Best Buy will kill this order.

Share and share alike

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popsicle

popsicle

There’s been a lot of talk about race relations lately, and here in Atlanta, you can’t turn on the television without being reminded of how unfairly certain segments of the population feel they’re being treated. Right or wrong, it’s a fact of life and one that I doubt we’ll ever see settled in my lifetime.

Regardless, there appears to be no end to the number of "experts" who have an opinion on what this group should do, or what that group should get as recompense, but it seems to me that society is overlooking perhaps THE most valuable resource we have when it comes to equality and living together peacefully — Parents.

Most notably, parents of similarly-aged, same sex children.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, the next time you’re out in public around families, I invite you to pull up a chair and watch the wonderment that is an intelligent parent successfully negotiating toys, snacks and general sharing with two little boys or girls:

Parent: "Here Mikey, here’s YOU a purple popsicle…"
Little Tommy: "But I wanted the purple popsicle!"
Parent: "Don’t worry Tommy, I have a purple popsicle for YOU too. See, you BOTH have a purple popsicle."

You could remove "popsicle" and insert any number of nouns here–car, toothbrush, goldfish, you name it–and the scenario would similarly play out. Now true, not every parent is adept at this sort of negotiating, but just about any parent who runs a house based on discipline AND love, could show some of our nation’s negotiators a thing or two.

However, there are times when a parent has to tell one child or the other a simple, "No." Maybe it’s because the child isn’t old enough, or mature enough for whatever it is his or her other sibling has, and that’s part of life too. Physically we may be all created equally, but we don’t mature equally and our life experiences don’t render us all equal at all moments of our lives. Just because a child thinks he’s ready for a slushy, doesn’t mean it won’t slip out of his little hands and end up a disasterous sticky mess on the floorboard of the car. And isn’t it better to just tell them "no" up-front rather than tan their hide later for something we shouldn’t have let them do in the first place?

There’s a lot of wisdom in good parenting. It’s a shame that such simple and straightforward dealing isn’t possible with adults. In many ways, petulant adults can be worse than kids when they don’t get their way. (And YES Lord, I realize you MAY be talking to me here too…)