Taking His Next Step Into a Larger World

Today, #2 of 5 continued his full fledged sprint towards independence and adulthood by jumping another one of life’s hurdles along the way.  Vehicle Ownership! 

5 Knowing full well that I had two teenaged males at (or approaching) driving age, not too long ago I upgraded my previous vehicle to something a little newer.  When I did that, I “handed down” my previous vehicle to my two teenaged drivers.  Since that time #2 of 5 and #3 of 5 have been sharing the hand–me-down 2000 Saturn SL-1 (my previous vehicle). 

I have been completely impressed with how well the two of them have cooperated and found a balance between each other’s needs, and how they helped each other out when it came to use of the car and cooperation with each other.  I cannot recall having heard even one argument over “who gets the car” during the time they have shared it. 

Understandably though, we expect #2 of 5’s vehicular needs to change drastically in June when he graduates high school and transitions into the life of a live-at-home college student.  Recently, he has been expressing his interest (and concerns) with obtaining his own “set of wheels”.  The Mother of Five and I have assured him that he is at just the right age and position in his life to start setting a goal for, and looking into options for “vehicle ownership”.  That’s when an opportunity presented itself. 

A friend of my father-in-law had a vehicle he was no longer using sitting in his garage.  When he mentioned to my Father-in-law that he felt it was time to sell the car, #2 of 5 came to mind.  #2 of 5’s grandfather made it a point to tell him about the possibility, and provided him the contact information.

New and Former owners - shaking hands!#2 of 5 got in contact with my Father in Law’s friend, arranged to see and test drive the vehicle, and agreed to purchase the vehicle.

“Technically”, #2 of 5 had enough funds to write a check right “then and there” for the car – but, I had other plans in mind.  Having never established ANY sort of credit, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to teach him about the importance of RESPONSIBLE use of credit, and how to build a strong foundation for a good credit rating in the future.  The Mother of Five and I have helped #2 of 5 (carefully) navigate the (sometimes treacherous) waters of obtaining his very first “personal loan”. 

 


Transfering ownership at the DMVOnce the financing was arranged, and a casher’s check was drafted, it was time to make it official!  #2 of 5 got back in touch with the seller, and arranged a date to transfer his money for the title of his very first car!

We met the seller at the Department of Motor Vehicles, paid him, transferred the title, and renewed the registration.

The previous owner handed my son the keys – and congratulated him on a job well done buying his very first vehicle!

My heart swelled with pride.

 


Who is that in the car behind me?
With the sale complete, we headed out to “show off” the new wheels.  (There he is, in the car behind me, on our way.)

Of course, being the “broker” of this deal, we had to stop off and Grandma and Grandpa’s house to thank them for pointing him in the right direction, and show them the fruit of his labors. 

I don’t totally know why, but on the way to my in-laws, I was VERY nervous about #2 of 5 driving his new car.  I was as worked up as I was the time he took MY car out (alone) for the very first time. 

 

Truthfully, I had nothing to worry about.  I have heard from several people what a good driver he has been, and now behind the wheel of his OWN car, bought with his OWN money – I have no doubt he will be even more careful – but sometimes the worry overpowers the common sense in my own brain.

Once we stopped off at my in-laws, we started heading home.  Between my in-laws home and our home is my parents home.  So, of course, we stopped by there too!   

Grandman and Grandpa Mémère and Grandpa

(The Mother of Five’s folks on the left and my folks on the right – both very proud of #2 of 5!)
Aren't grandparents the best things in the world?!?!


With the car purchased and now “shown off” to the grandparents, #2 of 5 was chomping at the bit to head out to do his OWN thing (in is OWN car) – but not before I “had to” take a few pictures of my young man and his new car! 


May I please introduce you to #2 of 5 with his very own
2000 Buick Century
V6 – 3.1L – 4 door – “Jasper Green Pearl” with 115XXX miles on it

Proud new owner Proud new owner!


Father and son - a PROUD fatherhood moment!

Yup, there is no doubt.  I sure am proud of the young man #2 of 5 is becoming more and more each and every day. 

I was told (and dismissed) just how much I would miss the early years while my children were growing up, and now that they are almost there – I truly wonder where the time went.

Don’t tell him so, but often – while thinking back to that little boy he once was brings tears to my eyes.  Tears mixed with joy and pride for who he has become, and with sorrow for wishing I could have the little boy back – even just for a few hours.

A Moment in Time - Captured

It was a Friday night.  I had just ended an extended overtime shift, and the Mother of Five had worked late.  The kids were all out working, at sporting events, or socializing with friends with the exception of #5 of 5, so we took advantage of only have one child and decided to make a run to McDonalds for take-home dinner and a Redbox movie. 

Once we placed our order, the Mother of Five and #5 of 5 headed over to the Redbox to peruse the theatric selections while I took up a position near the counter to watch for our order to be complete.  My position placed me in a vantage point that allowed me to oversee the full extent of the dining area (something I often find myself doing).   

Since it was a Friday night, the lobby was noticeably busy.   There were several groups in the lobby - Groups of teens enjoying themselves in the typical “boisterous” manner, a couple of families with younger children fluttering about in semi-controlled chaos (something I am intimately familiar with), and a number of staff members buzzing about here and there like a drone of worker bees.  It was sort of what I would expect to see on a typical Friday night at McDonalds – with one exception…   

There, in a far corner of the lobby, I noticed a couple.  An elderly couple - preparing to leave.     

They were not just what I would call “elderly”.  If I had to put an estimate on their ages, I would (with confidence) put them well into their 80’s.  As this couple was preparing to leave I noticed the gentleman had put his winter coat on, and was now helping his wife (who appeared to be the noticeably older and much frailer of the two) put on her coat.  (Ok, I am making an assumption on their marital status.)

It’s the typical sort of “chivalrous” move – he held up her jacket by the shoulders from behind her as she daintily (actually, it was more like “frailly”) maneuvered herself backwards into the jacket.  If you looked close enough (as I did) you could see the pain and discomfort this simple act was causing her.  Then, without speaking a word, the man came around and faced the woman.  He gingerly zipped and buttoned up her coat and then carefully wrapped her scarf around her neck to prepare her for the harsh Minnesota weather awaiting them outside. 

This was such a remarkable scene to observe.  The loving care and compassion in his eyes and the complete trust and gratitude in her eyes were simply beyond my ability to describe.   I was nearly hypnotized standing there, just watching the wordless interaction between these two. 

I don’t know if it was out of sadness I felt for this couple in the sunset of their lives, the heart melting warmth I felt for the display of love between these two, or for the much needed reminder that there are still many good people doing small but meaningful acts for one another that caused tears to well in my eyes.  What I do know is that this whole incident (which lasted for only a short moment in time) will remain a moment captured in my memory for much, much longer.  

To Diploma, or not to Diploma?

The other day, a “viral” link showed up in my Facebook feed.  Quite honestly, I pass most of these “viral links” by, but given my (Catholic School) educational upbringing, this one intrigued me.

The viral link??  20 Signs You Grew-up in a Catholic School

It is well known to my regular readers (and those that know me well) that I did grow up in a Catholic School.  Twelve years of Catholic School (to be exact).  So, naturally I visited the link.

I found myself laughing at several of the “signs”!  I would say (other than the ones that spoke specific to the female gender) that most of the observations were familiar to me in some way, shape, or form.  They took me back to a different time and place and I must admit - I TRULY enjoyed reading through these observations.  Once I finished reading through the actual content, I started perusing the comments left by others.

One comment in particular resonated with me.  “Lisa” left a comment about a particular “Catholic School” experience that insulted her and her parents.

I don’t know this commenter whatsoever, and in no way do I wish to diminish or belittle her personal experience.  She is certainly entitled to feel and react to her circumstance in her own way and I feel badly for how her story ended.  The reason her comment resonated so much with me was that I had a nearly identical experience!


Let me take you back…

Academey of the Holy Angels, Richfield Minnesota - Front LawnIt was a warm summer afternoon in June of 1987 on the stunningly beautiful front lawn of the Academy of the Holy Angeles campus in Richfield, Minnesota. 

I was surrounded by my some of my closest friends and classmates – folks I had spent the better part of the past four years with.  We were on full formal display in front of our beloved family, friends, and the school staff who invested so much of their lives trying to educate us. 

This day represented the culmination of four years of hard work.  The finally to what we were repeatedly told were the “best years of our lives”.  

It was all about pomp, circumstance, and tradition.  Alphabetically, we were each called the front podium to be congratulated by a “receiving line” of school administration.  After a couple of handshakes and congratulations we were all handed a decorative blue binder that would “eventually” contain the physical manifestation, proof, and recognition for all that we have accomplished. 

Our HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS!     

Knowing full well that they had little left to use as consequences against us, in order to ensure our compliance, cooperation, and behavior at the graduation ceremony the school kept our diplomas in the office until after the ceremony.  Upon successful completion of the ceremony (without incident) we were told we could exchange our caps and gowns for our diplomas.

Once the ceremony was complete (and with only a minor act of civil disobedience – the obligatory ”tossing of the caps” which we were asked us not to do) we reunited with our families in the audience as High School Graduates, and began saying farewell to our friends and fellow classmates (now, officially “fellow alumni”).
 

Just a few of the actual photos of friends and family from that day!


FoF and Lisa FoF and Tony FoF and Grandma Betty FoF and Joe


Having fulfilled my obligations to family and friends, I climbed the front steps of the school, and made my way down that hallowed hall to the office (the same hall had walked so many times as a student – but now with high hopes that this would be my final trip). I finally reached the office - eager to FINALLY get my hands on my big pay-off.  I gave the office staff my cap and gown – and in exchange, they handed me a manila envelope with my name on it!

It’s here!  It’s finally here!!

Unpaid Tuition NoticeIn what could only be described as a “Gollum’esque” move, I squirreled my way out of the office with “my precious” in hand, clumsily opening the envelope.  Then, in a moment of shock, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I thought my eyes were deceiving me. 

There was NO DIPLOMA in the envelope!!

Contained in the space that my diploma SHOULD HAVE BEEN was a small note.  The note served to inform me that since my parents had not completed paying my tuition for the school year, that I would NOT be receiving any diploma until such time that any outstanding balance is paid in full.

I remember being slightly confused and pondered what this really meant.

Did my lackluster efforts (and subsequent grades) really “earn” me a diploma, or (as a last ditch effort to get rid of me once and for all) did my parents just offer to “buy” one for me?  Did I really graduate with my classmates from the class of ’87 or am I now to be considered a graduate of the class of ‘88?  If I am to be a graduate of the class of ’88, can I still be an “honorary” member of the class of ’87?  Which reunion do I visit?

Yearbook photo - No DiplomaIt was all too overwhelming for me… I knew that I did not have all the answers, so I began “asking” (some might have even identified it as “joking” or “bragging”) about my unsubstantiated status as a graduate with my fellow classmates!  Quite a number of fellow classmates got a chuckle out of the situation.

Before long, while making my way back out to break the “news” to my family, someone who had heard of my predicament stopped me and asked for a photograph.  I smiled, opened my empty diploma holder, and struck a pose.  Little did I know where that photo would end up.

I suppose you can imagine my surprise when (several months later) the annual yearbook came out (they were delivered post-graduation in order to include all the graduation hoopla), and there it was, recorded forever in posterity – for any and all to view (enjoy?) – with my empty diploma holder in hand!    


Epilogue

Diploma with (saved) unpaid tuition notice! Several weeks after the graduation ceremony, I returned to those hallowed halls of my Alma Mater with my parents’ tuition check in hand.  Quite proudly, I marched in and presented payment to the office staff.  Upon payment, I was unceremoniously presented an envelope.  This one contained my official high school diploma (and, yes… I did check before leaving!)

Even if it felt as if I walked into school and “bought” my diploma, I was FINALLY (and triumphantly) able to proclaim that I was, indeed, a high school graduate!! (Even if I had to walk in an pay for it!)

The Christmas Altar

When I was a little boy my grandparents - Mémère & Pépère (well, actually I am pretty certain it was more Mémère) did some very specific holiday decorating.  One of the things she did each year that seemed so unique, was to decorate her windows.  Window decorating is not that uncommon, but the method Mémère used to decorate her windows was!  I don’t remember seeing anyone else doing it then, and I have not seen anyone do it since.  (Maybe advancements in window technology makes it no longer practical or even possible).

(BTW -  Mémère is pronounced "Mem-May” and Pépère is pronounced “Pep-Pay”)

My Mémère used to build mini Christmas villages between her sash windows and the storm windows.  She had miniature cardboard buildings, cotton “snow”, glitter, a Santa in his sleigh with reindeer, and even used lick-and-stick stars on the windows.  Basically, she created Dioramas of Christmas scenes between the windows. 

Quite interestingly, while researching this post, I was not able to locate any images that were similar to what Mémère used to do with her windows.  I am hoping maybe my mom has a few photos of Mémère’s windows… 

MOM?? 

One of the other Christmas decorating traditions she had was her “Christmas Altar”.

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

The Christmas Altar is a tiered ceramic “structure” with several holes in it.  The holes hold glass “candles”.  I call them “candles” because the interior of the altar contains a light source and the glass “candles” collect, defuse and project the light from inside.  The altar is topped with a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, and two guardian angels (one on his left and one on his right).  Each guardian angel also holds one of the glass candles. 

In the center of the altar, is a hand painted relief of the Holy Eucharist over a chalice.  Below that is a hand painted relief of the Last Supper.  On either side of the Last Supper are several hand painted pillars and a relief of a torch with a glass candle where the flame would normally be located. 

Often, while staying at Mémère’s house before Christmas, she would pull out and together we would set up her Christmas Altar.  I have many fond memories of being together while helping her set up the Altar.  At one point somewhere in my youth, Mémère told me that she wanted the altar to be mine one day.

Pépère passed away in 1981, and Mémère joined him two years later in 1983.  After Mémère passed (when I was 14 years old) the altar came to our house.  Between 1983 and 2013, the altar was set up only a handful of times.  Most of those years, the altar was kept in the solitude of my parent’s crawl space

This year, while decorating for Christmas, my parents brought the altar out and decided it was time to “officially” deliver to me.  It arrived in (and will remain in) the original packing box.  The info located on the box helped me track down what little info I could about the “Christmas Altar”.  Since I found so little info, I decided to share the knowledge I have learned (and a few images) with the world.   

Below, are a series of photographs of the Christmas Altar.  Packaging, clean up (and a minor “improvement”), and some close up photographs to document as much as I can about the altar.   


Here is how the altar arrived.  The box is marked Fragile.
(The contents are certainly all that – and more!

Noma Industries, Inc.  S.H.Clausin & Co Minneapolis, MN Noma Industries, Inc to S. H. Clausin & Co. Jewlers Minneapolis, MN

Daytons Christmas BoxThe Altar is still packed in the original box that Mémère (and subsequently) my parents kept it packed in.  Inside the box is the altar and a very old “Dayton’s” box that Mémère kept the glass candles in.

According to the package, the Altar was manufactured by Noma Industries, Inc – then shipped to S.H. Clausin & Co. – both located in Minneapolis.

I have done a bit of internet research on both Noma and S.H. Clausin. 

Noma is no longer a “business” but is still considered a registered trademark for holiday lighting products.   The Jewlers Circular

S.H. Clausin & Co. appears to have been a jewelry (and gift?) shop.  I did not find a lot of info available on the shop, but I did locate a help wanted ad to fill an open “Material and Tool Man” position from the April 30th 1919 edition of “The Jewelers’ Circular”  






Since I was already researching Noma and S.H. Clausin – I turned my focus to the actual altar.  I started searching terms like Noma and Ceramic and Altar – and over time (and a number of search combinations) I was able to piece together some tidbits of additional info about the Altar.

In addition to Holiday lighting, Noma made several other items. 
Of interest – it seems that they had a large production of “Chalkware” items. 

According to Wikipedia - Chalkware is items either made of sculpted gypsum or cast from plaster moulds and painted with watercolors - most typically made in one of two periods: the first beginning in the late 18th century and ending by the beginning of the 20th century, the second being during the Great Depression.

If you do a few internet searches, you will find links and photos to several Noma chalkware figurines, music boxes, statutes, and the like – including a few (very few) of these religious “altars”!

What little info I did find was that it appears Noma made these altars between the 1920’s-1930’s through the 1950’s.  I wish I had a specific date on MY altar, but alas – I do not.

I have also found them referred to as a Noma Glolite Altar, Noma Glolite Chalkware, Glolite Altar, Glolite Last Supper Altar and similar combinations of those key words.  

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

 Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

So far, I have seen a couple of different versions – some have the extended sides (and angel figurines) like mine does, but most other ones are a bit smaller.  These versions are missing the side extensions (where the torches and guardian angels are located).


Examples below were located on Ebay and Etsy.

il_570xN.413378371_sp6p  il_570xN.386991931_clh3 $(KGrHqV,!mEFJLwftozrBSWHrRPMO!~~60_57


I have yet to see a photograph of a Noma Chalkware Altar with the red tipped glass candles like mine has.  I do not know if that is original, or if the red tips are something Mémère did to modify (improve?) the original design of the altar.

Here you can see a close up of the solid glass “candles”.  The first set are shorter and thicker.  These are the candles that fill the holes in the bottom and second to bottom tiers.  Then, the four thinner and taller candles (with the cork spacers) fill the top tier.  Finally, the two longest and thinnest candles (these are about 6” in length) go through the guardian angel figurines and then down through the alter into the light chamber.  

20131211_142038 20131211_142057 20131211_142103


  

One of the things I also remember was Mémère never wanting it lit for extended periods.  If my memory serves me right (and that is often “questionable, at best”) she was worried about the altar overheating or being a fire hazard.

I looked very carefully at the altar and decided I was going to “upgrade” the traditional incandescent bulb (and all the heat it generates) with a newer (and slightly brighter) CFL (curly) light bulb.  CFL’s run much cooler.  While I had it apart, I took the time to give the alter a deep cleaning (with all the TLC I could give).    

20131211_141850 20131211_141818

(Above Left) – The base bolts are sunk right into the chalkware of the altar. 
(Above Right) – The number 334 was written inside of the altar.  Is that a model number?  A serial number?

20131211_141840 20131211_141921 

(Above Left) The old 25w incandescent bulb.  I did not get a photo, but this bulb was replaced by a CFL bulb.  CFL’s are know to run much cooler than their incandescent counterparts.
 
(Above Right) – Just a view looking up to the top of the altar from underneath (with the base removed) 


Here is the assembled Altar, both unlit in the daylight and with the new and improved lighting in the dark.

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar  Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar


And finally, here are some additional photos (close up) of the Altar lit up in the dark…

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar  Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper AltarNoma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

While cleaning and setting up the “Christmas Altar”, I was able to feel Mémère’s presence with me.  It was so comforting.  Just handling the altar again, flooded me with many fond memories.

Mémère’s “Christmas Altar” has joined a very specific version of A Christmas Carol as being my most cherished Christmas treasures of all time – and as long as I am able to, I will set it up and and enjoy knowing that Mémère is watching over me and my family!

Who?

This weekend I was completely flabbergasted by what I can only describe as a phenomena that I would have never (in a million years) have expected.  Unless you are sleeping under a rock, there is little doubt that you heard at least a little something about the 50th Anniversary of the first airing of Doctor Who. 

THE ELEVEN DOCTORS

Doctorwho_50th-anniversary-thumbnail_01

Who is Doctor Who (pardon the pun) you ask

Doctor Who is a [fictional character known as a] “time lord” from the planet Gallifrey who can regenerate his life, and travels through space and time in a transportation device known as the TARDIS.  (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space).  Besides space and time travel, one of the most notable attributes of the TARDIS is it’s dimensional transcendentality.  Simply put, “it’s bigger on the inside”.

I could go on and on and on explaining the world of Doctor Who for the unfamiliar, but it would be an overwhelming task which is readily available with a simple search of the world wide web. 

I am not here to explain the world of Doctor Who.  Nope, I am here to expound upon by level of complete and utter flabbergastery (as noted above). 

In order to do this, I need you to jump into the TARDIS, and I’ll take you back to 1980-1983.
(Push play on the YouTube play button)


FOFAhh, here we are!  Welcome to the early 1980’s! 

The Father of Five (as you know him) is now a geeky, chubby husky not-so-little 5th (6th, 7th or 8th grade) misfit attending Nativity of Mary Catholic School in a moderately isolated (and fairly “prestigious”) bubble of American Suburbia. 

He doesn’t fit in with the athletic kids at all.  His primary friends (Tom, Tim, Dan and Jim) are four of the most academically endowed boys in the class who (I honestly suspect) felt a little sorry for the young father-of-five-to-be misfit, and accepted him into their group (despite his mediocre (at best) academic performance).  While he may not have been at the same level academically, he shared many of the same interests with these young lads and many fond memories were created through these outlets! 

Things like…   Early computing (Commodore, TI-99, Timex-Sinclair, etc), Dungeons & Dragons (and other role playing games), Risk, Chess, Star Wars (and other science fiction – like… Doctor Who)

Back then, Doctor Who was predominantly an underground phenomenon (even within the SciFi culture), and held a small but loyal “cult like” following known as “Whovians”. 

If you openly talked about Doctor Who outside your Whovian circles, you were (at best) met with a blank stare followed by a raised eyebrow, and a “Who…” or “What… are you talking about?”.  The subsequent explanation would often result in a completely uninterested blank stare. 

If, on the other hand, you were not so lucky - you would find yourself teased unmercifully and your standing in the school-yard hierarchy would take an irreparable beating.  

tom baker_doctor_who I admit.  Back in the early 1980’s I was a Whovian.  I really really enjoyed Doctor Who.  Many times I would daydream that my bedroom door was a door to my own TARDIS.  Picturing the space beyond the door as much larger that it really was.  I often drifted off to sleep with the imagery of a TARDIS (MY TARDIS) whirling about in space, or traveling through a conduit of time – wondering just where I would wake up.

I wrote my own computer program (in TI-99 BASIC) that drew the TARDIS on the screen.  The light on top of the TARDIS would flash a couple of times, then the whole TARDIS would flash a couple of times, and then the TARDIS disappear, leaving the computer screen blank.  I spent a LOT of time writing that program! 

Completing the full “ensemble” of my Whovian fanaticism (literally) – was the last year I went out trick-or-treating (circa 6th – 7th grade). 

I dressed up as Doctor Who. 

This was Tom Baker (4th incarnation) era.  I wore a wool trench coat.  I took three scarves and pinned them together in order to recreate the infamous oversized scarf.  I donned a camouflaged “bucket hat” (which was the closest thing I had to the Doctor’s felt fedora) and carried my dad’s tire pressure gauge as my sonic screwdriver.  I lost count of how many houses asked me who I was dressed as (and how many blank stares I got in return.)

Somewhere, in the farthest reaches of my parent’s home, there is a photo of me dressed as Doctor Who that Halloween.  I will do my best to find it and post it for all to see embarrass myself by sharing it with you. 

Speaking of the farthest reaches of my parents home – who here remembers my “Amateur Archeology” post (link provided)?  Click on through, and scroll down.  Pay attention to the 5th and 6th photos down, and even CLOSER attention to the 8th and 9th photos! 

Over the years, my connection with my Whovian past has dwindled.  At one point “Doctor Who” was not much more than a distant (pleasant, but distant) memory.  That was until a few years back.  The BBC decided it was time to breath some new life into the old series and “regenerated” it (see what I did there fellow Whovians??  “Regenerated it”?!?!)

The series was brought up to speed, polished, decorated, and repackaged – and to be honest with you, they did one helluva job on it!!  When I first got wind of the update, I caught up with my old friend the Doctor.  Over several months, I watched the first 2 1/2 seasons – and really liked what they did!

Alas, the Life of a Father of Five (chaos in paradise) does not allow for much leisure television viewing – and I quickly fell behind and then (once again) lost focus on Doctor Who.     

This all brings me to last weekend. 
The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. 

The aforementioned update has really created a resurgence in the show… No, it’s even more that that.   The update has created a truly unbelievable level of popularity (world wide) for my beloved Doctor.  I can not believe how mainstream the series has become – even in the past couple of years! 

I was ASTONISHED to see SO MANY Facebook posts about Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary.  I saw postings about Doctor Who parties.  I saw photos (plural) of TARDIS cakes, and SciFi themed snacks and decorations for said parties.  I saw cover photos and profile photos of the TARDIS, users’ favorite Doctor, and even a Dalek or two.  I saw links to articles, and to videos of all things Doctor Who.  I saw photos of groups of kids gathered together for a Doctor Who marathons.  I saw parents (some I knew where Whovians, and others I had no idea) participating in the Whovian festivities!

It was off my radar.  I had NO IDEA how popular and mainstream Doctor Who had become.
Even MY MOTHER called me up and started sharing some Doctor Who trivia she picked up!!

I have mixed feelings about all of this. 

On one hand I somehow feel as if I lost a “badge” I once wore.  A “badge” I once EARNED!  The badge was part of being associated with a “less than popular” subculture.  It was quiet.  It was unique.  It was different.  It was something special.  On the other hand, I am ecstatic to see just how much the series has taken on a life of it’s own!  Doctor Who is part of many of so many of my cherished childhood memories – and I am delighted to think that another generation of Whovians will grow up fueled by the stories of The Doctor and his adventures through space and time!

With this resurgence one thing is certain.  I am looking forward to once again reconnecting with my old friend…   The Doctor.

30 Days of Thankfulness – The First Seven

In an attempt to breath a little life back into The Life of a Father of Five, I am stealing 30 Facebook statuses and putting them together here in smaller chunks. 

The statuses??  “30 Days of Thankfulness”

I first noticed this “trend” when one of my former Youth Group chaperones updated her Facebook status with one of her “days of thankfulness”.  I immediately fell in love with the idea.   During November (the month that Thanksgiving falls within) simply post one thing you are thankful for each day.  That’s when it hit me..  These items would make great content here.  After all, the primary reason for this blog is… 

I am keeping this blog as a collection of thoughts for my children (but others are welcome to enjoy too). Someday I hope they have they chance to read this and get just a small glimpse into the mind of their father.

These first seven are more “grandiose” (and “obvious”) concepts.  They have much more detail, and explanation included, and are much more lengthy than the others that follow.  I hope  these offer a little more glimpse into what it is like to be a “father of five”.
     


#1 - I am thankful for my AMAZING wife – The Mother of Five.

I could not have asked for a better partner in life. She has never been anything but loving, caring, and supportive – even when I have been less than perfect. She is beautiful – both inside and outside. Together we have built a astonishing family, and a wonderful place to call “home”. I can not even begin to imagine what my life would be without her by my side.


#2 - I am thankful for my wonderful children…

All of them. They each bring a different characteristic and element of joy (and challenge) to my life. From the first moment I met each of them up to (and including) this very minute - they have all surprised me with their unique sense of humor, intelligence, thoughtfulness, caring and compassion for others, athletic abilities, artistic talents, and ability to "push my buttons" (each in their own special sort of way).

These kids of mine have made every day of my life since their birth just a little bit better than the last - and I look forward to watching them grow into amazing adults!

#1 of 5, #2 of 5, #3 of 5, #4 of 5, and #5 of 5.

I would not be living a delightful live as The Life of a Father of Five without each and every one of them!


#3 - I am thankful for my faith in God.

Faith comes in as many shapes and forms as the name of God does (God, Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, Elohim, Vishnu, just to name a few). Some people believe that (which I have been personally accused of) a faith in God is for the “weak minded” - but in my life I have been fortunate enough to personally feel (and benefit from) the tremendous presence of God – many times over. The knowledge that there is a power greater than “us”, responsible for the creation of all as we know it comforts me in ways I am not fully able to articulate.

Not only am I am grateful for my own faith, I am grateful for a faith strong enough to have a healthy curiosity and interest in beliefs beyond those of my own and the ability to recognize that not everyone must believe in the same way I believe. I have learned that by educating myself about other’s beliefs (include a lack thereof) – I further strengthen my own.
 


#4 - I am thankful for my parents.

I was raised by two very loving and very caring parents. They created (and provided) my sister and I a wonderful home and nurturing environment in which to thrive in. They made many sacrifices so that our lives were comfortable. It was through their sacrifice that I can say I was never in "need" of anything, and very few "wants" went unfulfilled. I have become the man (and father) I am today as a result of the example my father has shown me through his life, and I can see many of my mother's best traits within my wife. I have no doubt that the example she has shown me on what being an amazing mother is all about has helped guide me to finding someone just as wonderful to help me raise my family! I could not have asked for two more wonderful parents! It is just simply not possible to express my level of gratitude for ALL they have done for me throughout my life.

I am not only grateful for my parents, I am grateful for my in-laws. I know the running joke is for a man to not get along with his mother-in-law and to tolerate his father-in-law. In my case nothing could be further from the truth. My in laws have been accepting of me from the moment I met them. As with my parents, my in-laws raised my wife to be the wonderful person she is by their example. My wife is an amazing mother, and (I like to think) she selected a wonderful husband based on the traits she saw in her parents. Let's also not forget that they have entrusted me with one of their most precious gifts. Their daughter. I am a better man, a better husband, and a better father because of them. I will be forever grateful for having these two wonderful people in my life.

I will take it one step further.. My Grandparents. Those of you who know me best know just how much my grandparents meant to me. Not a day or two can go by without one of them popping up in my head for one reason or another. I have often felt their presence with me at various moments throughout my life, and I can still feel their influence in my life to this day. Many fond childhood memories are based on times spent with my grandparents, and I miss them all so much. I would give almost anything to spend just one more day with each of them.
 


#5 - I am thankful for my friends.

True friendship is a very powerful thing. Not many are aware of the internal struggles I deal with that interfere with fostering the bonds of friendship.

That being said, I wish to share how very grateful I am having made a number of significant and long lasting friendships I have throughout my life.

It was not until many years later that I fully realized and comprehend the friendships I was making through my elementary and junior high school years at Nativity of Mary, and during my high school years at The Academy of the Holy Angels. My college years were made truly unforgettable by the almost family-like-bond I developed with a small group of very close friends.

As life progressed and my family grew, the spare time I had to spend with my friends had all but dwindled. Despite the lack of time I have to invest in my friends, a select few significant friendships have endured the test of time (and / or the lack thereof). I am able to sit right down with these very special friends and pick up right where we left off as if nary a day had passed. I am not able to fully express just how much these friends mean to me. Their dedication to our friendship seemingly knows no bounds – and I will be forever indebted to them.

Time limitations and technological advances sent me in an unexpected direction. Little did I know some seven (plus) years ago what the wonderful world of blogging would open up to me. Through my blog I have made some amazing connections. Most of these folks I may never have the privilege of actually meeting. A few of these connections I have been fortunate enough to meet, a couple others I am looking forward to meeting one day. Meet, yet to meet, or never will meet matters not. Categorizing the folks I have connected to through blogging (and other various social media technology) as anything less than REAL and TRUE friends would be shameful on my part. These “virtual” friends (and I HATE using that term) have been there for me in ways that supported me others cannot. They have provided me an alternate method to circumvent some of my internal struggles, and have provided me confidence in areas that I did not even imagine they could.

Just know that by the mere fact that YOU are reading this status update, that YOU are considered a friend – and I will forever be grateful for the friend you have been, remain, or will be to me now and into the future!


#6 - I am thankful for a career that I enjoy and leaves me feeling like I make a difference.

Most of you know I am a 9-1-1 / Police / Fire Dispatcher. I never INTENDED that be my career. I obtained an A.S. Degree in Law Enforcement, attended Skills (a generic basic "Police Academy" required for all Police Officers in Minnesota) and past my P.O.S.T. exam (Peace Officers Standard in Training), and while working in the security field, stumbled into "dispatching" quite by accident.

With a background in computers, radio, electronics, and all things "geeky" - I quickly discovered that Dispatching may be the "niche" in the Law Enforcement world that fit me best. I spent a few years honing my skills in a very large (one may even call it "mega") mall. I applied to several 9-1-1 centers, was offered a couple of jobs (that I had to turn down due to residency requirements) before finally being hired. Then, only one month after my first 9-1-1 job began, I was offered a position at my "dream department".

January will mark my 19th year working for the same department. I consider myself very fortunate, and (daily) grateful for the opportunity to do what I do, for the city I do it for. While there is no "perfect" job, I can not begin to express how thankful I am that (after 19 years) I do not hate going to work. Each day brings something new, and affords me another opportunity to help someone in need or to do something good for the community at large. At the same time, I do my part in helping make sure that those who wish interfere in the lives of others (for less than noble reasons) face the consequences of their actions. It's truly rewarding!

I am also thankful for the opportunity to work side by side with an amazing group of people. Fellow dispatchers, police officers, administration, supervisory staff - all come together to make a exemplary team. Each member bringing their best attributes to the team. I am proud (and very thankful) to be part of that team!


#7 – I am thankful for my siblings

I have previously spoke of my mother and father, grandparents, and my in-laws – but I could not forgive myself if I did not take a moment to mention how thankful I am of my sister.  My sister and I are very different, and yet very similar in many ways. I actually enjoy both the similarities and difference between us!  My sister is just slightly younger than I am – and therefore she has always been my “little sister” to me.  Like some “big brothers” – I sometimes (even now as adults) feel a little protective of her.  I have in the past, and still would take “whatever means necessary” to protect my little sis.  As life progressed, my sister and I have dealt with a challenges in “geographic proximity”.  We have (for all of our adult lives) lived across country from each other – but I am very grateful that we have been able to remain as close as we have across the miles.

My sister married a wonderful man whom I TRULY enjoy spending time with.  He (and his family) have been a gift to our family.  They have also provided me with two twin nephews which I simply adore.  When I get to spend time with them, I am in another world.  I get to do things / be someone very different with them than with my own kids, and in a “slightly devious” way, I LOVE IT!  Every time I take a moment to look at what my little sister has grown into – I am nothing less than humbled and amazed!

I only have one BIOLOGICAL sister, but through my marriage – I quadrupled that number.  Just like with my Mother and Father in-law, my Sisters and Brothers-in law have also blessed my life in many ways.  I was accepted into the family from the first time I have met them – and have been rewarded by their trust, generosity, and friendship.  Like my sister, we deal with “geographic proximity” challenges with most of my brothers and sisters in laws.  Earlier this year, my wife and her siblings (and us spouses) had an opportunity to get together.  We sat around my in-laws deck “shootin the breeze” till the wee hours of the morning.  It’s one of the more  enjoyable evenings of the entire summer!

Like with my sister, I also have two nephews through my in-laws – and I love getting spend time with them!  Through the time I spend with them, I am also allowed to play the role of “crazy uncle”!

I am thankful for such wonderful “brothers and sisters” (bio or in-law)!  

Where’s the Beef?

I am a carnivore.  I make no qualms about it, nor do I apologize for it. I am perhaps what you would call a “biblical eater”.  To quote the bible (slightly out of context) “The fishes of the sea, the fowls of the heaven, the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth…” (Ezekiel 38:20) - It’s all good (tasty?) in my book…  Well, depending on how it’s prepared, and the choice of seasonings, of course!    

When we first moved out of the metropolis, and out on the furthest edges of the urban/rural boundaries – some of the first friends we met were through our church and its associated school#3 of 5 was starting preschool, and became pretty close friends with a young lad whose parents were honest-to-goodness farmers.  I simply loved the fact that my son was able to spend time at their family farm, and over the years we got to know the family pretty good. 

The farming family (like many around us at the time) watched as the “father of three” (when we first moved) progress into the “father of four” and finally landing on the now-all-too-famous “father of five” persona.  Somewhere along the line, there was talk between the families of the possibility of buying a half of a cow or a quarter of a cow to aid in the herculean task of feeding this ever growing mob stock our freezer up with beef.

Throughout the years (those preschool boys are high school juniors now) the idea would pop up from time to time.  The farm is a dairy farm, and not set up to produce beef, so they did not have a “readily available” supply.  Sometimes they would ask us if we were still interested.  Sometimes we would remind them that we were still interested. 

Well, it finally happened!!  A couple of weeks ago, we were contacted by those friends. 

As luck would have it, they were bringing one of their Black Angus Steers “to market” – and one of their “quarter-share” customers (typically a family member) had to pull out.  The farmers, recalling our previous interest, gave us a call.  They went over the basic details of the sale (approximate weight, approximate price, approximate cost to process) and asked us if we would be interested. 

I was a little nervous.  This was all a new experience for us.  Although we had talked about it for years, we never FULLY explored the possibility of a quarter share of beef.  The full details of the sale were still just an approximation (the steer was still in his stall on the farm so the weight had to be estimated - as well as the cost of processing).  We had no idea what the final price would be.

half I am (by nature) a worry wart (the Mother of Five will CERTIANLY attest to that).  I will admit I was a little nervous at first.  Buying a quarter of beef requires an upfront investment.  No two ways around that.  The only thing we knew for certain was that the folks selling us the beef are good and conscientious folks – and we trusted them.  After a brief discussion with the Mother of Five we decided to take that leap of faith, and jump in FEET FIRST! 

The more I thought about it the more excited I became!

Our friends sent us an email with some information on examples of what to expect from a 1/2 side of beef, and some instructions on how to contact the processor to let them know what we were looking for as far as the “final product”.  A couple of days later, I contacted the staff at A & M Processing who were very friendly, more than helpful, and beyond patient with my inexperience.  They walked me (step by step) through the process, and about a week later A & M Processing called me back to let me know that my quarter share was ready!!  The following day #5 of 5 and I drove out and picked up our beef, and by this time I was practically giddy with excitement!   

When I arrived, I gave the staff my name.  They knew exactly what my order was and where it was in the freezer.  They were great to work with – so personal.  Just like that, an employee came out of the back with a two-wheeler loaded with  three boxes.  He came out and helped me load up my car, and we headed home.  I could hardly wait to get home and unpack my bounty!

Have you ever wondered what a quarter share of beef looks like?  (I sure did!)  Working through the pain of frozen fingers (from having handled all this frozen beef) I laid it out on my counter for all to see! 

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I started with 234 lbs (“hanging weight”) of beef.  Hanging weight is the weight of the beef before processing.  Processing the beef removes (most of) the bones, sinew, and some of the unnecessary fat (although I suspect some of it is recycled into the ground beef). 

So, after snapping the photos above, I organized and took inventory of what I ended up with.   I then brought it all down to my recently defrosted and “ready to be filled” freezer. 

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                                  (Before)                                                     (After)


The processor does not weigh each individual cut.  Instead, they just package the number of cuts you wish into each package.  (Remember, it’s not being sold by the individual steak / roast / rib like a grocery store.)  Because of that, I do not have an actual “WEIGHT” of what went into my freezer (although I can estimate that the total is easily 150+ lbs).  What I can tell you is what cuts (and the quantity of the cuts) that went into my freezer.  The inventory of my “quarter share” included… 

36 1.5 lb tubes of ground beef.
2 packages of T-Bone steaks (4 steaks per package).
2.5 packages of Sirloin steaks (2 steaks per package).
2.5 packages of Ribeye steaks (2 steaks per package).
8 packages of round steaks (2 steaks per package).
1 (very large) package of Texas ribs (unkn quantity in package).
3 packages of beef short ribs (unkn quantity in package).
1 package of arm roast.
1 package of rump roast.
2 packages of sirloin tip roasts.
8 packages of beef roasts.
4 packages of all beef wieners.

I was given an option for (but VERY graciously declined) the organs, and the option for a couple scrap “soup bones” (although, since I completed the order without her there, I wonder if the Mother of Five would have wanted them). 

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As of the writing of this post, I have yet to “sample” the beef.  My work schedule, and a refrigerator full over leftovers (or previously thawed meat) interfered.  I am looking forward to next week, when I can fire up THE GRILL!!  

I’ll be sure to post an update!  

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