As the holidays approach, we all give thanks for the things we have. Here at Zenith Homes, we are thankful for all our wonderful employees, the many talented contractors and skilled trades people that help make our homes so wonderful, and especially for our customers.
We recently came across a print of Norman Rockwell’s classic Saturday Evening Post painting, “Freedom from Want”. This picture is what we all want our holidays to look, smell, and feel like. In a way, it’s the inspiration behind what we do and what we build at Zenith Homes. Our designs start with a cozy kitchen in mind, or a roaring fire in the fireplace, or a lively and welcoming family meal. Then we build around that idea and make a home fitting of a Normal Rockwell painting.
May you and yours have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season.
I’ve often heard that a writer should read as much as he writes. I usually take this to mean a writer should we well versed in the works of Dickens, Chaucer, Twain, and various other standards. That would be classy, sure. And it would impress other writers. But, the extent of my reading these days comes in the form of reading Facebook status messages, Tweets, some of the articles linked in those Tweets, and random blogs. Hey …not my fault. If Charles Dickens and Mark Twain kept their blogs up to date, I’d read them.
I wonder what’s going to be the must-have, hot Christmas gift this year. And if I knew, would I buy a hundred of them and then start selling them for double their price on CraigsList? Yes …I would.
Every Monday I wake early to start my writing for the week, I press myself a cup of coffee, drink a large glass of water (a big glass of water drunken immediately upon waking is like WD40 for the human body …coffee without a big glass of water will get your brain going, but you’ll still feel sluggish …trust me), and I read the latest from Scott Westerman and then Aaron Karo (in that order). Their two colums couldn’t be more different. It’s like listening to NPR and reading a Bible passage and then chasing it with Weird Al’s Greatest Hits and an old issue of Mad Magazine. Along with the coffee, the massive high-brow to low-brow diametric shift I put my brain through readies me for writing – just as soon as I ‘Like’ a few more of my friends status updates and Foursquare check-ins.
I hope I used “diametric shift” correctly in that last paragraph. I wish there was a place I could look up useless facts like that.
Oh, and by the way, Scott Westerman wrote about the Penn State tragedy and the ethics involved in every aspect of the meltdown …Aaron Karo wrote about sports on a big screen v. at-the-stadium and about the black electrical tape he used to repair his couch. See?
And finally, because if I bore you for one more moment with nonsense I know you won’t get to this next part, as a non-hunter, non-outdoorsman, I still get a thrill from seeing animals up close – especially deer. My in-laws bought a house in the woods and when we have breakfast we’re often treated to wild animals (foxes, deer, geese, raccoons, squirrels, birds of all kinds, and more) doing what they do less than 50 yards from the window in the breakfast nook. It makes going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house pretty awesome for my kids …ok, and for me. Look …DEER!
It’s the simple things. Nice blog entry, Don. And I wonder why I only get 6 readers each week and 5 of those clicks are mine from different computers. Sigh. One of these days.
I like to blog about coffee. But not daily, or consistently, which is why this blog is silly and not widely read. If you are ever looking for tips for growing blog traffic, well, look no further than 100,000 other blogs. My blog is an example of what NOT to do. In fact, I think blogging experts should point to my blog as their “don’t do this” example.
I don’t have guest bloggers. I don’t anchor and keyword and tag things correctly. I don’t have a sole or singular focus. I don’t employ countless trackbacks. And, in fact, I don’t even know that anything in this paragraph is accurately representative of stuff bloggers say.
That said …
No, wait. On that topic. I suck at stuff. Like my salsa business. Yes, I have created a perfect, brilliant salsa – but what I’m going to do with such a great product, I don’t have the first idea. And with my writing …I write well (or so my friends tell me). I write alot. But I don’t actually write about any one thing, I don’t market myself enough, and there are probably countless writers who can barely spell who’ve made more money than me and have more web traffic on their blogs …but what am I gonna do? No …seriously …what am I gonna do? Anyone?
For now, I’ll just keep blogging and writing, and making salsa, and see what happens.
And I’ll make great coffee. Every morning I get up early and create a caffeinated work of art with my Aeropress, and I’ve gone almost exclusively to the upside down Aeropress technique. So good. So smooth. And I’ve added coffee links at the right, like Coffee Review. It’s way overboard, but that dude is a blogger who “gets it.” He found a passion, he writes about it, and writes about it alot. Studies it. Gets quoted in articles. Wrote a book. THAT is how you launch a writing career.
You know how you don’t start a writing career? By writing a blog entry like this. Anyway …I think I may have unstuck my writers block. I’m off …to fool around on Facebook for a while. Then …I’m totally going to write. And if you are meandering and wandering around avoiding the things you should be doing, try my best lines from Modern Family feature on spunkybean. It’ll kill another 5-minutes in your life.
See you tomorrow.
I’m a lucky guy. I raised my hand three years ago and said, “I’ll coach soccer,” and nobody told me to stay seated and be quiet, so three years later, I’m still coaching. This past Sunday marked the end of my third fall session of soccer and I’ve watched my third grade girls, my daughter among them, go from 6-year-olds who picked flowers and grass during games, to skilled and hard-working soccer players. In fact, at Sunday’s game, I heard them talking to each other asking for the pass, and two times in the game someone made a backwards pass in order to set-up something that resembled an attack.
We tied 1-1 on Sunday. We tied a team that I’ve never beaten in 2 1/2 years (yes, I made a mental note). We tied, and we had enough scoring opportunities, we should’ve won. We finished the season 5-2-1. We play in a rec league, so it’s theoretically “non competitive” and we don’t really keep score, we don’t have standings, and it’s just for fun …but, ahem, I kinda keep track. Oh, and before you get all “that’s the problem with our society – everyone gets a trophy” on me, there are PLENTY of competitive leagues all over Detroit. This league is fun. It allows a kid who maybe just moved to the area, or didn’t decide he or she wanted to play soccer until 3rd or 4th grade …it allows them to play and have fun. That’s a good thing. Life and sports get ultra competitive soon enough …it’s great to have rec leagues, still.
Anyway, soap box aside, and if I can get out my tissue box …coaching my daughter and her friends is a highlight of my life. Yes, it’s a major time commitment (a practice during the week, and games on Sundays …not to mention I also coach my son’s 1st Grade team). Yes, at times it feels like I’m missing something and it feels like everyone is looking at me and thinking, “Don doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing, does he?” But I know, many years from now, I’ll have nothing but fond memories of every minute of it – the good and bad.
I know this because it’s already happened. I can’t guarantee it’ll happen again, but I hope I’m making an impact – even if only a small impact. See, about 15 years ago when I was fresh out of college, my wife got a job teaching 2nd grade. I had an easy job and lots of time on my hands, so in order to network, meet people, and make friends, I volunteered to help coach 2nd grade soccer. Aside from being a 23-year-old running around helping the 40-something fathers, I had about 20 years worth of soccer experience to throw at these kids. But I tried to make it fun, show the kids proper footwork and technique, teach them some nuances of the game, but mostly …have fun. Sports and soccer can be serious, but there’s a time and place for that. I’m of the opinion, if kids have fun doing something, they’ll be more likely to want to do more of it. And soccer is a perfect example of that …in foreign countries, soccer is a religion. But it starts as something fun.
Anyway, way back then in the late 90s, though I didn’t actually know what I was doing, I tried and helped coach that team for 2 seasons. Then my career got more busy, I got a new job that didn’t let me skate out at 3pm, and I had to quit coaching.
That chapter was closed … until about 12 years later when a former player used the power of Facebook to reach out to my wife and write a note about how much fun he remembered having at soccer and having me as a coach. I can’t remember every detail of the note, but I think this kid was all grown up and about to graduate and become a teacher and he singled out his two seasons on my team as having a great impact on his life.
I know …nice note to write to a former teacher …“hey, thanks for teaching me to read and do math, but your husband doing pratfalls and slapstick at soccer practice and showing us the Brazilian Butt-trap …that was life-changing.” Maybe teachers should do more physical humor during class. Just a suggestion.
Long story short …oh, wait …long story longer, being a coach is great. I’m not a “cool” 23-year-old dude anymore, but I hope I might still be having a small impact. I often look across the field at my daughter and her friends and wonder what lies ahead for all of them in their future. I don’t assume they’ll all stick with soccer, but whatever they do, sports or otherwise, they’ll do great things. They’ll grow up and get onto travel teams, other sports, or into other activities. They’ll likely all head off to different high-schools and do amazing things and I’ll read about them in the local paper, on The Patch, or in newsletters or church bulletins. I’ll run into their parents and hear amazing stories about what they’re up to, and I’ll smile big and bright because I’ll remember how they were “way back when” and I knew they were destined for great things.
Some scoff at the idea that it’s not whether you win or lose …but it’s true. Life is not about wins and losses. It really isn’t. It’s about playing the game. And if you play the game, you’re bound to experience the thrill of victory, and more than likely you’ll taste the bitterness of defeat. Hey, that’s sports. Heck …it’s life. Good and bad. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Sometimes you have more of one and less of the other, but it’s all part of the journey and the game. No matter how good you are at soccer, there’s someone better. No matter how fast you are, there’s someone faster. No matter how bad you lose, it could’ve been worse. No matter how bad you played during the game, someone could’ve played worse.
But I can guarantee this …nobody could’ve possibly had more fun than I did. Nobody could be more proud than I am. And nobody had a better September and October than I did. Nobody loves coaching more than I do. Nobody got to see and hear bigger belly laughs than I heard at soccer practices. Nobody heard more uproarious laughter from my daughter and her friends in the backseat of my car as we carpooled to and from practices, or as they all started calling me “Coach Mohawk” and then laughed uncontrollably while I pretended to be mad. Nobody. And if we had finished the season 0-8, I’d still be smiling. And if 8-0 meant less fun and laughter, I’d say “pass.”
So I’ll say it again …it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. But …
… I won.
I love the Internet 99% of the time, but I hate what it has done to Halloween pumpkin carving. With the invention of Google Images, now everybody thinks they need to be the Michelangelo (he was a sculptor, right?) of pumpkin carving. I blame Google Images and the internet because, prior to their intrusion on our lives, most people were perfectly happy to carve a pumpkin with a smiley or a scary face. Nothing more. In fact, a little less than a decade ago, I would sometimes carve a Spartan “S” or the word “B-O-O” into a pumpkin and people would trick-or-treat at my house and marvel at my work.
Now, such word play barely registers. Everyone nowadays seems to create elaborate landscapes and characters on their pumpkins with multiple levels of brightness and shading. It’s amazing. And what makes me most upset is I can’t do it.
I don’t have the patience. It takes too long. When I’m trying to carve out blades of grass or Harry Potter’s glasses, I shove pumpkin pieces right through and what was supposed to be a “scar and glasses” (if you are a Harry Potter fan, you know) becomes a giant hole in Harry’s forehead. I also found a pattern online to carve Disney’s Ariel (The Little Mermaid, see top-left) onto a pumpkin and it looks sort of like Ariel, but sort of like a cro-magnon woman (truthfully, it was a little closer to Neanderthal-woman because of its larger jaw). I guess I could say it was my pumpkin tribute to evolution, or something.
I’m mad because it makes me feel inferior. And soon, as my children start to get a little older, they’ll think of me as inferior in regards to pumpkin carving. In the old days a Dad could simply refuse to do dumb stuff like carve pumpkins and that father would be revered as “tough” and “workman-like.” Childish and silly things were not “his thing.” But modern fathers aren’t allowed to be aloof, distant, and they cannot adopt a “pumpkin carving is not becoming of a man my age” attitude. Oh, and don’t even get me started on how society frowns on allowing your 5, 7, and 8 year old to use your sharp kitchen knives to carve pumpkins.
No, modern fathering means you must be “into” all things. And I am – except pumpkin carving.
Last night (speaking of letting children use sharp kitchen knives) my oldest daughter carved a pumpkin all by herself. Every single detail, hole, and gutting was the work of her hands, and her hands alone. Halfway through her pumpkin, she said, “Dad, I’m going to put a classic pumpkin face on this thing …you know, just a smile with silly teeth and triangle eyes,” and I nearly hugged her (except my hands were covered with pumpkin guts …it’s not because I’m a Dad “not into hugging”). So simple. Sooooo right. Without knowing it, she flipped the whole dynamic. I’m not carving eloborate city-scapes and multi-toned images onto my pumpkin because I can’t, I’m not doing it because it’s passe … it’s sooooooooo 2009. I’m carving classico Americana pumpkin imagery because it’s tradition. It’s what the Tea Party and Republicans think pumpkins should be …a face, and nothing more. No need for modern carving kits or a Rotozip.
Ah, the mind of a child. Now, I can just be a Dad who isn’t “into all that new-fangled pumpkin carving” and my kids can still have fun carving pumpkins with me and we’ll use my three tried-and-true classic patterns (shown below). And I’ll make pumpkin seeds and eat their candy.
I know the musical group Florence + The Machine is popular, but I don’t get it. This is the latest group I don’t understand. They’ve been added to a list with Radiohead. Everyone loves them, and yet I can’t force myself to enjoy listening to them. When I listen to their CDs, my mind wanders and I don’t hear anything. This must be what it was like to be pushing 40 when rock n’ roll music was invented – it just doesn’t make sense.
If Herman Cain becomes the Rebuplican Presidential nominee, and you still have a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on your car, you can cleverly cover up some letters and have a ready-made “Cain” bumper sticker. And Herman Cain would be smart to pick a running mate with some combination of the letters p-a-l-i-n and then sell a McCain/Palin bumper-sticker-upgrade kit. Oh, wait …I’m going to create the McCain bumper sticker upgrade kit.
Winter! It’ll be here soon. I’ve always been a big believer in winter, and I have oft proclaimed that I’d never live in a place without snow, without drastic seasons, and without the rejuvenating qualities that come with below zero temps and massive amounts of road salt. But I’m pushing 40, and these past two winters seemed to last forever and I might be changing my tune. I’m thinking more and more like Utah might be cool. It’s sorta west, it’s mostly moderate, and if I want snow, I can drive a few hours and enjoy really expensive and scenic snow …versus the blackish-grey stuff that snow becomes after a few days of being plowed, salted, driven on, and polluted.
Beavis & Butthead is back. It won’t be funny, right? But hey …good for Mike Judge. If MTV will pay him, more power to him.
Anyone out there thinking about their Christmas list? Ya know, before you know it, your local radio station will be playing Christmas music 24/7 and your kids will demand that you put that station on, the stores have already started putting out Christmas decorations, and you’ll be stuck making your list based on what advertisers say you should want. It’s true …men might have all sorts of great ideas in September or October, but some November and December and if you ask them what they want, they’ll all say “a tool set and a ShopVac.” That darn media. On my previous blogs, I was always very public with my Christmas wish-lists, but on my new blog …it’s going to be even bigger and better! I’m going to have begging/pleading videos, I’m going to take pictures of myself in stores enjoying the store display so that my gift-givers will see how happy they would make me with said gift. I’m saying …check back often …the Christmas wish-list goes public on November 1st.
Speaking of Christmas, I’m starting to see and hear people refer to fellow Justin Beiber fans as “true Beliebers” and its all stemming from his new song, “Mistletoe” and these people Tweet and post things like “Merry Christmas to the Beliebers.” OK …so now I’m completely on board with the concept of a war on Christmas. This must be stopped.
That’s all I have for this Wednesday. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog, to bookmark the Donnie Jalapeno blog, and speaking of Donnie Jalapeno, get your weekend salsa orders in. Today!
I know, I’m not alone and I ain’t sayin’ anything millions of geeks haven’t already said.
I’m really excited today about The Weather Channel’s new app. If it’s anywhere near as cool as it looks in this video, I’m going to be checking and doing all sorts of weather related things today. In fact, if this app is as cool as it looks, I’m thinking this is really going to jump start iPad sales among senior citizens …they LOVE obsessing about weather.
I’m pushing 40, so it’s about time I start taking my weather condition obsession more seriously.
My Friday is suddenly looking partly awesome with a 5 to 10mph geek blowing in from the west, and a 50% chance of time-wasting this evening.
Earlier this week I was sent a link about 50 things a father could do to make his daughters great people. It was 50 pieces of advice designed to ensure a man’s daughters are confident, strong, and prepared for life in this scary world.
Read it here:
And I thought, “oh, these are great ideas. I do some of these things and I’ll start doing some of the other things.”
And then I thought, “wait a minute! How are these the only 50 things? And where’s the fine print, here? Does this dude have some psych degree and is he willing to pay for a tattoo removal should any of these techniques fail?”
I feel like I’m a pretty good Dad. I give myself a B+ on most days. I try and take the wisdom from my Dad and watch how he raised his daughter (aka my sister), mix it with whatever my father-in-law did to create my awesome wife, and then I go over my notes from watching my uncles raise my girl cousins, and I think I’m on the right track. But I certainly don’t feel like I could write a definitive advice column on raising a great daughter who will then grow into a perfect teen, 20something, and grown-up woman/Mom/wife.
I know what yer saying …geez, Don. You certainly are over thinking this and pooping on a really nice blog entry by someone. Trust me …no poop was used in the writing of this blog.
The problem I have with lists like this is how they make me feel like I’m desperately behind the curve when I see 5, 6, or a dozen things I’ve never done with my daughters. Plus, such lists always say “tell your daughters they are beautiful.” But I read a book once that said DON’T tell your daughters they are beautiful, and instead tell ’em they’re smart. Because then we heap societies judgements on them and they will grow up thinking, ‘I must be beautiful’ when we want them to think ‘I am smart.’ So, that’s why I greet my daughters each morning with a hearty, “Good morning my beautiful, smart, confident, humble, prayerful, realistic, fun, nice, pretty, intelligent, forgiving, awesome, great, creative, angel!” It’s a mouthful, but I don’t want to pigeon hole her.
Or maybe I’m heaping too much on her.
Point is, I think lists are great, but if you read Tim Russert’s book “Wisdom of Our Fathers”, you’ll notice that every daughter and son in the book speaks glowingly of their own father. Some fathers were like friends, some fathers were distant and cold, and others were somewhere in the middle. I’ve determined it’s pretty hard to screw up being a father. But when you screw up, the damage can be catastrophic.
On the list linked above, here’s what I’m not doing. I’m not buying her Converse All-Stars (aka Chuck Taylors) because I think those shoes are ugly. I’ll never take her camping and I’ll tell her why camping is horrible. I’m already 8 letters behind on the “write her a letter every year on her birthday and give them to her someday”, and sorry …no puppy. So I guess I’m a bad father. But I do let her make me coffee (not like a helper monkey …she loves it). She is my official salsa taste tester. She fights with her mother and I always take my daughter’s side. I’m the bad guy at bedtimes on school nights. I cuddle with them at bedtime. I make my two daughters share a room and when they complain about wishing they could have their own rooms, I tell them they can …and it’ll happen 15 years from now when they graduate college and they get a job and don’t move back in with me. Then again …making them share a room NOW will prepare them for having roommates in college, after college, and then for marriage. Compromise, sharing, fighting, and making up are all part of it.
And finally, at this stage, with an 8 and 5 year old, I’m just hoping the moves I’m making now will pay dividends 10 years from now. I’m sure just about every father who’s had to deal with double pierced ears, tattoos, too much make-up, lies, sneaking out of the house, and being told “I hate you Dad and I wish I had never been born” …I bet at least a few of those Dads took their girls fishing and taught them to change a tire.
Here’s hoping I’m doing things right.
p.s. this video has nothing to do with this post. Just a song stuck in my head by Allison Krauss & Union Station.
I’m at a real crossroads in my life. My son just turned seven and I love that he loves the things I love. He has a very kind heart and he wants to make me proud. I know, most sons are probably the exact same way, but it’s heartwarming beyond words when it’s your own son.
This is such a complicated thing …see …my son, 7, still believes that wins and losses by sports teams are the results of the efforts of the players on the field. For example, the Tigers playing down in Texas in the ALCS. My son loves sitting next to me and enjoys the drama of sport. He doesn’t understand that, in fact, the players have very little to do with the outcome of the game and it’s actually we fans, specifically me, who must wear the proper “lucky hat” while sitting in my “lucky chair”. And if my “not watching” the Tigers means they’ll win, then I can’t watch.
This Tiger season it’s been proven time and time again. I haven’t seen a single good thing the Tigers have done. I missed Verlander’s no-hitter. I almost missed his second no-hitter, which he took into the 8th inning, and then I put the game on TV and immediately, he allowed a hit. I didn’t watch a single game during their 12-game win streak. I watched the thirteenth game – they lost. I attended two Tigers games. Both were losses. Oh, and last year I turned on Galarraga’s “perfect game” in the 8th inning and one inning later, an umpire made a horrific call and there was no perfect game. So now it appears the only way the Tigers are getting to the World Series is if I don’t watch.
Still don’t believe me? Try this on for “crazy.” Last Thursday night was Game 5 v. the Yankees. It was my bowling night. The bowling alley is full of TVs and everyone was watching and cheering. Me? I was doodling on some paper and constantly checking Facebook and I dared not lay eyes on any of the TVs. I even forced my teammates to not give me updates, but instead ask me hypothetical questions that secretly revealed what was happening in the game. And the Tigers won.
Many fathers look forward to explaining baseball to their sons. They look forward to teaching them what a “double play” is, and explaining what RBI, ERA, and RISP mean. But I have the added responsibility of explaining the importance of a lucky shirt, the rally cap, and why I hold my breath during pop flies, why I hold a bat in my left hand when runners are on base, and why I never hang a flag supporting my sports teams on the front of my house – I’m 0-13 when a flag is flying on my house. I have a hat I wear when the Spartans are playing defense. I have a hat I switch to when they play offense. They went 11-2 last season …you can’t argue with logic and fact. The alternating hats work.
Some will think all this superstition is absurd. Some won’t.
I have a confession …
Last night, the Tigers and Rangers went into extra innings and my wife and son were watching the game on the big screen in HD and cheering and groaning along with all the magical sports moments while I, instead, pretended to make myself busy in the kitchen doing something silly, but really only trying to avoid the game, the stress, and jinxing them. But then something happened that made me feel like the Grinch when he heard the Who’s singing down in Whoville …my son came up and asked, “Dad, why won’t you come watch the game? It’s a really good game and I want to watch it with you.”
And the Who’s down in Superstition-ville say, that Don’s paranoid heart broke in three places that day.
So, seeing his face and thinking about how ridiculous most people think I might be, I said, “yes …let’s go watch.” And I walked with him, hand in hand, and plunked down on the couch knowing full well I was bringing doom to the Tigers, but I wouldn’t trade it for the smile I brought to my sons face.
Let the record show, less than 15 minutes later, Tiger reliever Brad Penny loaded the bases with three straight runners and then some dude hit a walk-off Grand Slam (and I got to explain to my son what a “grand slam” is), but my son wasn’t hardly bothered in the slightest. He said, “well, there’s three games back in Detroit, right? It’s OK.”
Again …dumb kid, but he has a point.
With apologies to all the Tiger fans I know, to Leyland and his spunky cats, and to all Tigers fans everywhere … I’m going to watch the games …with my son. I’m going to enjoy the moments and pop popcorn and I’m going to buy him a Tigers hat – lucky or otherwise.
Even if secretly I’ll be trying to figure out which spot on the couch is lucky and if there’s a lucky snack I should be eating, I’m done with superstition, or so my Magic 8 Ball said.
Thanks for reading.