There may be no two words in the English language that bring more joy to a kid’s ears than Summer Break. Hey, I loved school, but I still salivated over the idea of weeks and weeks of sleeping in and goofing off.
But parents and teachers also talk about something known as the summer brain drain. The concern is that too much down time allows students to not only fritter away what they might have learned in the previous school year, but it also gets them out of learning mode.
What’s your favorite memory of your mom? It’s easy to pick out the mushy stuff, which is fine. But what about the quirky, odd memories? The ones that, in hindsight, remind you how much you take her for granted.
When I was in the third grade, our family lived in northern Italy. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were stationed near Lake Garda for a couple of years.
Our school was a small island of American military kids, clustered along a river running through Verona, Italy. Field trips are always fun, sure, but they really get interesting when you don’t speak the language.
As a housewarming gift in December my son and daughter-in-law gave me a turntable. I’m talking the old-fashioned device used to spin vinyl. I quickly ran to my storage room and dug out a couple of dust-covered boxes holding more than a hundred albums. Soon my house was bathed in a sound I hadn’t heard in decades: the crackling, popping beauty of a needle on old forgotten records.
Not long ago we were all told to toss those albums because vinyl was dead, gone the way of 8-tracks and cassettes. And then, for who knows what reason, they began a quiet comeback. Not a massive comeback, mind you, but a trendy one.
I’m ambidextrous, which is kinda fun. I write with my right hand, I shoot pool with my left. I play tennis and racquetball with my right, bowl with my left. I eat right-handed, kick left-footed. Drum right-handed, but strum a guitar with my left.
As one good friend said: Dude, make up your mind. You’re a goddamned mess.
I played a lot of baseball as a kid, and as a left-handed pitcher I did pretty well. By age 15 I led the summer leagues in ERA. I couldn’t hit for shit, but I struck out a lot of guys from the mound. Yet by my junior year of high school I walked away from the game because I was already working full-time in radio. My trusty mitt was put on a shelf in the garage.
On a vacation a few years ago we stumbled across a bar that truly kicked ass. It was outdoors, on gently-sloped property behind a restaurant, a rectangular bar overlooking a small river. Towering shade trees provided respite from the sun. The drinks were moderately priced, the service impeccable.
For what it’s worth, the bar was ergonomically perfect, too. Just the right depth to the tabletop (not too skinny, not too wide), at a comfortable height, and with foot rests positioned just where they needed to be. You may, or may not, understand exactly how all of that matters. Some of us happen to be "eat at the bar" people. It matters.
I like Christmas, but I love Thanksgiving. It’s got everything you want in a holiday: time off from work, a chance to hang with family and friends, a little bit of football, and the best food of all time. On top of that, while it might inject a little bit of stress, it doesn’t come close to the crushing pressures we associate with Christmas.
The only problem is that Thanksgiving comes at the wrong time. Let’s move it from late November to the fourth Thursday of October. Here’s why:
He was barely old enough to walk, but his dad thought it would be cool to introduce the little guy to airplanes. So off they went to an air show, where little Neil sat atop his father’s shoulders and watched the flying acrobats. Three years later, he took his first ride into the sky, aboard a small airplane affectionately known as the Tin Goose. It was July 20th, and he was five.
Thirty-three years later - to the day, strangely - he climbed out of a different flying machine and kicked up some lunar dust. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.
Thought-A-Day calendars are generally pretty cheesy. (Today’s thought: You CAN do it!) For years, though, I’d receive them as Christmas gifts, and I’d dutifully flip that page every single day. It usually produced an eye roll from me.
Until one day it didn’t. On a random Thursday in August I tore off the preceding page to find this Turkish proverb:
No matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong path, turn back.
An article recently caught my eye, and not because it involved a celebrity. (I personally find stories on celebrities to be mind-draining and borderline painful, but I suppose there are people who can’t go a day without reading about Taylor’s current love. People are different.)
This piece focused on a comment Reese Witherspoon made regarding life balance. Or, to be accurate, the lack of life balance when you choose to work while raising a family. The interview in the magazine Southern Living quoted her on work/home balance: “No one’s really doing it perfectly.”
I suspect she’s right, but I’ll go a step farther: I don’t think it’s even possible to have balance.
The bed-and-breakfast sits about a mile from the historic City Centre of Canterbury, tucked into the somewhat-modern suburbs of the British town. The perfect distance, as it turns out; one can find a peaceful night's sleep outside the hubbub of the action, but get in a good walk when it's time to explore.
With a backpack slung from one shoulder, I cross a pedestrian bridge over the A28 and approach the stark, gray stone walls encircling the city. They're about a thousand years old, and look it: forbidding, in a way, and yet softened over time by weather and distress.
After doing book signings for more than ten years, I wanted to offer up an explanation of how my signing events have changed - for the better - and why you might wanna drop by sometime.
If you’ve been to an author’s book signing event, chances are you found a writer sitting behind a table, staring up at people and holding a pen in his/her hand. Maybe there were people in line. Maybe you were the only person there.
My friends chuckled when they heard I was having a garage sale. I guess I’m not what you’d consider “garage sale material” - whatever that is. True, the last time I did it Reagan was in office, but I think that’s just about the right frequency. Everyone should have a garage sale once every thirty years.
Of course, now I’m an expert. Not because I’m so experienced in the ways of peddling and bartering, but because I’m a lifelong learner and first-class observer. While you may simply sell your junk and pocket the dollar bills, I study the process and the people.
And, by doing so, I’ve developed: Seven Iron-Clad Laws of The American Garage Sale
My goal was simple: Give away 1500 books - written under one of my pen names, Buster Blank - to elementary schools. This would be a slam dunk. Dozens of schools signed up for the giveaway, ten were selected, and the congratulatory emails were sent. Next stop? Happily delivering boxes of free books to schools that too often have to scrape together funds to purchase library materials.
But wait, not so fast; something strange happened on the way to Littleton, Colorado. One of the winning schools, in the course of ten days, shifted from accepting $850 worth of books to BANNING the book entirely from their campus.
was a teenager when Paul McCartney released a single called Let ‘Em In. I was a huge Beatles fan, and enjoyed Paul’s solo work, too - but I hated that song. At the risk of sounding like some intellectual snob, the song was just plain dumb. Consider the lyric: “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door, and let ‘em in.”
C’mon, man. I know Macca wrote some silly tunes in his day (the guy actually released a version of Mary Had A Little Lamb, for chrissakes) but my initial reaction was that he was using his superstardom to just put out anything - really, anything - and his name would sell it.
Oh goody, there’s a new entry in the Superman/Batman movie series. The third Divergent film debuted last week. The seventh Star Wars movie splashed in December.
Scan the top twelve box office hits of 2015 and you’ll see that nine of them were sequels, reboots, or retreads. Two others were animated hits aimed at kids. That leaves one - one! - non-cartoon film in the top dozen that was an original idea (The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s fantastic and fun novel).
This likely will launch a new round of complaints that there are no new ideas coming out of Hollywood.
There are few things that make me cringe more than receiving notice of an upcoming “brainstorming” meeting. What the notice should say is, “Please join our group as we stare at each other and accomplish little.”
I’m sure there have been some great ideas that have sprung from these sessions, and there likely are constructive ways to collectively dream up a winner. But I’m an advocate for getting away from the group in order to truly stimulate creativity.
We live in an age where promotional hype outshines almost everything else. It has trickled down from national television programs to just about every creative outlet in the country. And, with the explosion - and undeniable power - of social media, it’s now easier than ever to hype a message to thousands - sometimes even millions - with a click or two.
But an important ingredient is often left out of the cake that eager artists are trying to bake: Good content.
He’s a giant in the music business, the second-wealthiest entertainer in the world, worth more than half-a-billion dollars. His songs are adored and downloaded by people on every continent, from age 10 to 110. He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest composers of all time.
And yet, in a recent interview, he said he suffers from the same insecurity that many others admit to. Specifically, as he put it, he’s afraid of “being found out.” In other words, someday people will perhaps share the same doubts about his work that linger in his own mind and the game will be up. He won’t be able to fool anyone any longer.
Many years ago Bruce Springsteen released a song called “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” It was a rare flop for the Jersey rocker, perhaps because it was a little too obvious. He wasn’t telling us anything we didn’t know.
Television at that time seemed like nothing more than a wasteland of poor writing and even worse acting, a sludge pot of desperation, trying every trick and gimmick to lure a potential audience of millions, an audience made up mostly of adults exhausted after another dreary day at work, along with millions of teenagers open to almost anything that moved and spoke.
Not long ago some family members took me to Sea World, which is required by law for tourists on their first visit to San Diego or San Antonio. (In Orlando you’re allowed an exemption only if you can prove you spent $1000 at Disney World.)
During the dolphin show, we gasped at the remarkable skills displayed by these gorgeous animals, marveled at the incredible training which must go into every production, and fought off dehydration with oversized sodas.
I was asked to re-post this article, a piece that I penned about two years ago. It's just as timely today - and hopefully just as helpful. - Dom
Brian had an argument with his wife one morning, just before going to work. By the time he arrived at the office his feelings had already meandered this way and that, alternating between anger, frustration, and - finally - regret.
Sitting at his desk, he logged on to his computer and stared at the screen. Like many companies, security demanded that employees change their password every 45 days, and the pop-up notice informed him that today was the day.
n their song “Child of Vision,” the band Supertramp rattled off a quick line that is simple in structure, but profound in its message.
You watch the television, because it tells you that you should.
I used to laugh when I found myself, glassy-eyed, scrolling through an endless assortment of satellite TV channels, the guide spinning through line after line of options. Like most people, I’d been fooled into thinking that this continuous string of networks represented a bounty of choices for me. But, in reality, the choice began and ended when I hit POWER.
Sneaking out of town for a weekend is a treat that most of us don’t indulge in often enough. It sounds like a grand plan, but it’s usually scrapped in favor of kid stuff, or house stuff, or the fact that we’re just too miserly. And that’s a shame, because it’s easily one of the most rejuvenating gifts we can give to ourselves, and I mean that in both a physical and spiritual sense.
During a recent road trip along the backroads of eastern Colorado, I encountered a tiny, somewhat-deserted town every twenty to thirty miles. Slowing to pass through them - sometimes turning off the main road to meander the back streets - a sobering thought confronted me:
Are these towns simply being deserted, or are they decaying?
There are many people who, as adults, look back and express regret that they didn’t follow their passion. There are several reasons why: a fear of failure, a lack of courage, the inability to gather the right tools or knowledge. Maybe it was doubt that they could ever support themselves in that field.
There are others, however, who cite one specific reason for not pursuing their dream: They didn’t want to disappoint their parents.
But what if you could disappoint your parents in a good way? In a way that would ultimately bring them joy and make them proud?