Friday, June 30, 2006

How To Manage Stress

UPDATE: Here are the text answers to that question posed below--how to manage stress.

1. Exercise
2. Creating a calmer environment
3. Humor/Laughter (that's why I make sure I visit Hoss every day)
4. Pets
5. Just get away! (Deep breathing, meditation, a hobby, reading, taking a bath)

Though sex and yoga weren't mentioned specifically, both probably fall under the "deep breathing" category.

I blogged earlier about the tiff I had with my doctor over his treatment plan for my diabetes. His answer--as it usually is with anything--was drugs, drugs and more drugs. Meanwhile, I favored a more natural healing approach. Anyway, we had words there in the office which were probably loud and strong enough to startle the pharmaceutical sales representatives sitting in the waiting room next door.

My punishment for that uprising was to be referred to a diabetes education program. That was okay. I've already done two such courses. What's one more. But now it's over. My last class was this week. What was the upshot of my learning?

1. Drugs are good
2. Your doctor is god

Not that the four 2 1/2-hour classes were a waste of time. On the contrary, they were full of useful and fascinating information on nutrition, physiology and the effects of various medications. The nurse and the nutritionist who taught the classes did so without preaching nor using scare tactics.

Whether their message got through loud and clear to all of us is another matter. I mean, our last class was this week. By now, we should be all eating healthy, thinking healthy, living healthy. Right? So the program coordinator asks us how we plan to deal with stress, as stress can worsen the effects of diabetes.

"Have a smoke," this one middle-aged gentleman called out.

Not the answer the instructor was looking for. But rather than lecture on the evils of smoking, she commented that it was the deep breathing that smokers do when they inhale the cigarette that relaxes the smoker, rather than any drugs contained in the cigarette. So she asked for another stress reducer.

"Have a couple drinks," the same responder opined.

Again, not the right answer. The teacher explained that, though the initial dose of alcohol might have a relaxing effect, too much drinking can lead to depression, which is as bad as or worse than stress.

So, anyone out there think they have a right answer? And, no, yoga isn't one of the answers listed in the text we received.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meet The Swinger

The blog subject title doesn’t refer to some playboy type. It’s a tagline from a popular product from my youth. I can still recall the little jingle . . .

Meet the Swinger, Swinger
Poloroid Swinger, Swinger
Meet the Swinger, Swinger
Poloroid Swinger

Swing it up. It says “Yes” . . .um, actually that’s all I recall.

If you’re a member of my generation, you get it.

So the picture here was taken BY me with MY Swinger camera. Mmmmmmm, about 40 years ago. That’s the neighborhood gang. My older brother, the enforcer, is top row on the left, my sister is middle row right and my youngest bro’ is bottom left. My mother included this picture with the bunch sent to me for my birthday.

It was a fun bunch: kickball, baseball, ice skating at the fairgrounds, football, freeze tag, capture the flag, bike riding, jigsaw puzzles, collecting chestnuts, trading baseball cards, badminton, and just exploring the neighborhood.

Our idea of video entertainment, besides the Saturday morning cartoons, was going to the Sunday matinee at the local theatre. That was cool too because they often showed scary films like The Skull and The Vulture. It was during the showing of The Vulture that one of the local kids (not pictured) shouted out what I still believe to be the wittiest remark ever directed at the big screen.

It happened when this character in the movie stepped out at night onto the veranda. He lit a cigarette and checked his watch. Without warning, two huge talons dropped from above, grabbed the man at the shoulders and carried him off. Cut to the next day and the camera zooms in on a bloody, mangled arm dangling off an ocean cliff.

We know it’s the victim who was carried off the balcony because the arm still bears the same watch the man was checking the previous night. So this kid a couple seats down from me shouts out, “And his Timex watch is till ticking.” The theatre erupted in laughter.

If you’re a member of my generation, you get it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Enforcer Is Watching

My mother sent me some old photographs for my birthday last month. They included the above black-and- white. That's me on the right with my younger brother seated next to me.

If you read the comments here you might find an occasional comment from "the enforcer." That's my brother. So now you can put a face with that handle. But he doesn't look so tough here, does he.

In fact, my mother tells the story of how we both got tattoos (the water soluble transfer variety) when we were about this age. Being the older more worldly brother, I already knew something of higher mathemathetics and statistical probability.

So I said we couldn't both have tattoos. It was impossible. To make it right, I re-dubbed my brother's a tat-one. And from what I understand, he went along with it. I was the older, wiser brother afterall.

These days I probably couldn't get my way with him, certainly not with him playing competitive basketball and pumping iron. Meanwhile, I get a workout just trying to measure my waistline.

Another reason I envy him is that he can retire, though I believe the deadline for taking the offered buy-out with GM is today (Friday). I don't know if he's decided to do that. Maybe he doesn't know what to do if he retired. He could spend more time bonding with his grandchildren. That's something he has that I don't.

I think I may send the enforcer after my sons. Hea bro, my boys laughed at our clothes in the picture above. Hmmmmm, they do seem a bit "early refugee" in style. Maybe there's an ethnic explanation for our garb. Have to ask mom.

By the way, that Legs Inn restaurant there still stands 49 years after the above picture was taken. It's located at the northwestern tip of lower Michigan. Polish fare is their specialty, so you can dine on bigos, pierogi and kabanosy. My wife and I did so last summer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Duck, Duck, GOOOOSE!!!!!

While browsing blogs this past weekend I noticed a few Father's Day blogs focused one way or another on dad as hero. I guess every dad's dream is to be hero. The interpreter of dreams himself, Sigmund Freud, opined that "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection."

So let me think--what have I done to protect my youngsters as they were growing up? I guess I never lived at a time when I could confront a live wolf at the threshhold. There was this goose, however . . .

When my oldest son Greg was about four, Wendy and I brought him to Carroll Park in Bay City to feed the ducks. For that we carried a grocery bag of lettuce and bread. As we neared the park pond, there was a line of ducks waddling about in the nearby grass.

Off toddled Greg with a leaf of lettuce clasped in his tiny fingers. The ducks scattered at his approach. Not so one large goose who hurried to confront the young interloper.

Greg offered his lettuce to the goose who stood as tall as he. The goose sniffed the lettuce, then snapped at Greg's hand several times in quick succession. When our youngster backed off, the goose lunged forward, repeatedly biting him in the mid-section until he fell.

Wendy and I rushed over as the goose continued to pummel Greg on the ground, biting at his leg and ankle. I confronted the upstart fowl, shooing him off with the grocery bag. The goose was not cowed, looking at me as if to say, "You want some of what I just gave to your son? Step up."

Some tense moments passed as I stared down our adversary who still stalked about while Wendy tended to her fallen son. Eventually the bird bully lost interest and drifted off.

For a few years afterwards, Greg vividly could recall, "the goose who bit my belly." And how I smacked that goose with a grocery bag. Okay, okay . . . not the stuff of fables. Maybe even Freud would scoff. But, hea, that goose was mean!

Friday, June 16, 2006

I'm Here For You, Bruce

Our family has been involved in soccer since our boys were in elementary school. You bet we’ll be watching TV to see if the United States national team under coach Bruce Arena can redeem themselves against Italy in the World Cup. I can empathize with Bruce. Youth soccer is the only sport I ever coached. And my teams didn’t win much either.

“You made it fun for the kids,” my wife would console me. True, I concocted some soccer tactics rarely seen in our co-ed recreational league.

I took my coaching role very seriously, though probably not as seriously as Benny, a middle-aged taskmaster with a thick Italian accent and a stern, dramatic approach. Once, when his goalie strayed too far from his mark resulting in an easy goal for the opposite team, Benny stormed the field in front of awed parents, spectators and the other pre-teen players.

“You stay between this post and that post,” he scolded loudly, pointing to each soccer goalpost. “And don’t come out of here unless it is an emergency.” I could see the poor kid was confused, as if thinking, “Does he mean a bathroom emergency?”

One of my innovations was introducing the position of “shadow defender” to the kids. We were playing against a team with a striker extraordinaire, the Pele of kid soccer in our league. I assigned one of our players, a girl actually, to do nothing but follow this kid around the field to make sure he didn’t get the ball.

It was a fairly successful strategy as this young lady followed the little stud here and there about the field. And she would occasionally dart in to kick the ball away from him. He seemed a bit unnerved by my tactics too. Of course, he did eventually score a goal or two and we were badly beaten again, but in my mind, point made.

Another innovative tactic was having two kids play the same position. Every time I made my line-up, kids would beg to play one of the favorite positions, usually center midfielder (England’s David Beckham plays a similar position). So I came up with the idea of having TWO center midfielders. Since we changed positions after every quarter, that meant eight kids, or over half my team would have the opportunity to play center midfielder. Great idea in concept.

In practice, it didn’t work well. It was like having two pitchers on the mound, or two goalies in the same net in hockey. The kids didn’t know which one of them was supposed to step in when the play came their way. Oh, well.

Lastly, I had my kids practice something often seen in hockey, but rarely seen in soccer: pulling the goalie. Not that I actually would pull the goalie out of the game as happens in hockey, but I would send him forward to the attack. What team wouldn’t be terrified to see the opposing team’s goalie dribbling forward in his brightly colored, flowing silk shirt.

Alas, I didn’t try this for real in a game, since my goalies seemed too reluctant to do this even in practice. I think they were all veterans of Benny’s team.

But, hea, Bruce! If you need some ideas on your match-up with Italy, I’m here for you. I’ll have the phone on my lap, awaiting your call.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Trouble In Hell

As a dabbler in the macabre, I’ve always been tempted to go to Hell. It’s not that far--probably 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. It’s a very small dot on the map, just west of Pinckney. Just think. I could brag to everyone that I’ve been to Hell and back.

I’ve heard they sell a few souvenirs in Hell. Like the post card that shows an elderly man and woman driving in their car, approaching the road sign that says “Entering Hell” or something like that. The post card shows the exasperated woman shouting at her lost husband, “Now will you check the map???”

A business owner in Hell decided to throw a party last week on Tuesday, 06/06/06, a number associated with Satan. The entrepreneur didn’t know if anyone would show up for his party since he didn’t advertise. And word of mouth can only go so far in this hamlet of about a hundred people.

Well, word got out to the media. Between eight and twelve thousand people arrived to celebrate. Extra police had to be called. And the residents of Hell? Well, Hell never hath (hadeth) such fury.

Complained one local resident, “People move out here to get away from it all. It's really nowhere. So what if it just happens to be called Hell? Three or four people use it as an excuse to get rich, but it's at the expense of everyone who lives there. It's just inconsiderate.”

Inconsiderate? I never thought of Hell as someplace to get away from it all. You would think that if people wanted to raise a little Hell in Hell, well, what the Hell? But I guess if you do, there’ll be Hell to pay. The township supervisor says if they’re billed for the extra police protection required of the Sheriff’s department on 06/06/06, they’ll send the bill to the business owner who thought a party in Hell was a Hell of an idea.

Anyway, I have to tell this story about the bar in Hell called the Dam Site Inn. I haven’t been there, but a significant other in my life has (I won’t name names since she thinks I pick on her too much already). But this lady was cut off/refused service there for her rowdy behavior one night many, many years ago.

One offense was to publicly point out a man in the bar who she said resembled Jesus. That was enough to spook the locals. “No more beer for you, dearie.” Getting kicked out of a bar in Hell is probably not something one would want on his or her resume when they arrive at the Pearly Gates.

But let this be a lesson to all of you. If you go to Hell, you’d better behave.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Handyman Can

A handyman I’m not. Though men generally have that gene that allows them to repair and troubleshoot inanimate objects around the house, I’m missing that gene. Cars run away when I approach with a wrench. God plugs his ears when I tackle a plumbing job.

This past week I swapped out an over-the-range microwave oven. Though I noted to my wife Wendy that the 25-year-old antique brown-colored microwave still worked, she said it only had one cooking temperature: incinerate.

First, I dismantled the old microwave. For an experienced handyman, that would have been unnecessary. But loosening the two bolts that I thought kept the microwave from crashing to the range below didn’t free the beast from its perch. So I took it all apart, screw by screw, bolt by bolt. This drew a guffaw from my older son Greg. I wonder if he knows that he likely has the same genes I do when it comes to fixing things. But this time, number two son Scott was my assistant because of his football lineman strength.

I anchored the microwave frame to the wall. Then came the quandary. I needed to screw two bolts through the upper cabinet into two eency weency screw holes in the top of the microwave to keep it level and upright over the range. I had to drill the holes in the upper cabinet in just the right spots for the bolts to line up with the holes in the microwave.

There was a paper template provided with the instructions. That got me nowhere. In true Red Green fashion--Red Green being the mechanic extraordinaire on Canadian television—I came up with a plan. I screwed the bolts into the microwave, then lined the appliance up with the underside of the cabinet. Then I put a little Elmer’s glue on the tops of the bolts, so that when they touched the underside of the cabinet, they would leave a bit of glue where the holes should be drilled. Scott was impressed with my creativity, I could tell.

That worked pretty well for one bolt anyway. I drilled the hole, put the bolt through the cabinet and it attached nicely with the microwave on the other side. But the second bolt was more problematic. One hole drilled was about an inch off. So I decided to drill a pilot hole with a smaller bit before I turn my cabinet underside into swiss cheese.

After I drilled a pilot hole in what I thought was the correct spot, we checked the alignment by putting a nail down the hole to see if it could find the screw hole in the top of the microwave. The nail was too short and disappeared down the hole. We didn’t know if it also dropped down the screw hole. After failing to extract the nail, I decided to drill a bigger hole to get it out. Bingo! Success. And it appeared that the hole was in the right spot.

We started screwing in the bolt when I heard the gentle tap of some part falling deep into the bowels of the microwave. It was the cap that held the bolt secure. Trying to retrieve the tiny cap would be futile. We could reverse course, take the microwave down and return it to the store. Or, we could just fasten the second bolt the best we could and make do with that.

"I think it’s good enough with just one bolt," commented Scott. Just what I would have said. Like father, like son? It’s all in the genes.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mrs. BigDaveT Hits FifT

I modifed a meme I found over at Bornfool's site so I could talk about the missus, who marks a milestone in her life this week.

She is 50, the BIG 50, on Friday

She said, “Don’t write about me.” I’m doing it anyway.

She wants the Who’s Next CD for her birthday. But she doesn’t give me a written list, only makes suggestions. So I said, “Are you sure you didn’t ask for an Abbott & Costello movie containing the routine, “Who’s on First?” She didn’t think that was funny.

She wishes I would pay better attention when she speaks.

She hates ants in the house

She misses her mother and her brother who both passed away within the past few years.

She fears really big bugs

She hears complaints all the time in her job as a customer service representative. That’s why I never complain to her myself :)

She wonders “what’s going to happen with us.” (Now that our kids are grown.)

She regrets she can’t spot deer as quickly as I can while we we’re driving through wooded areas. Whitetail spotting is among her very favorite pasttimes.

She is not the perfect mom. So she says. I think she is.

She dances the Cha Cha Slide, now that oldest son Greg taught her the moves.

She sings the praises of Frog Island Beer, brewed locally by an old chum from the neighborhood.

She cries at too many movies. She used to get teary-eyed watching those “reach out and touch someone” long distance commercials on TV.

She is not always visiting her sister Denise in Ann Arbor. It just seems like it

She made (makes) a great shoo fly pie, drawing on her Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

She writes very pretty. I still can’t find half the stuff on her list when I go to the store for her.

She confuses my good-natured teasing sometimes. Like when she asked if I knew what big day was coming up this Friday. Instead of recalling her birthday, I said, “That’s the day that Trucker Bob and his blog hit the road.” She didn’t think that was funny either.

She needs a hobby now that her kids are grown.

She should take the wheel more often if she doesn’t like how I drive.

She starts her day an hour earlier than the rest of us so she can take her shower, get dressed and make sack lunches for all of us to take to work.

She finishes her day with a good book, usually a novel written for women by women.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Day At The Flea Market

Among our family traditions up in Bay City is an annual pilgrimage to the Midland Flea Market, about twenty miles west of my home town. Wife Wendy, not being a big fan herself, stayed home so I went with my sister and my folks.

This market takes place three times during the summer, but this first one is most popular due to the cooler weather and the enthusiasm of the participants. Acres of vendors’ corrals abound with nearly every item imaginable: trading cards, old comic books, antique furniture, tools, old cars and car parts, crafts, coins, jewelry, china, glassware, and plenty of carnival food. Fresh cut fries, rggggghhlll (that Homer Simpson thing)

My father, who seemed in an ornier mood this weekend anyway, kinda stressed me out at first when he drove around the parking attendants trying to point him to a distant grassy area far from the fairgrounds where the action was taking place.

"I’m not walking that far," he said. So we drove to a large area that was reserved for handicapped. Now pretty much anyone with some joint pain and an accommodating doctor can get a handicapped sticker, but I could tell my 70-something parents felt it necessary to justify their disobedience. "My ankle is bad," my mother said. "My knee has been bothering me," my sister chimed in.

"I’m fine," I noted myself. They laughed.

We set up a time to meet back to eat the lunches my mother packed, my dad gave me a watch since I didn’t bring one myself, and we split up to hunt for bargains. I saw some old "Monsters of Filmland" magazines, several decades old, that piqued my interest. But even at half-price, $40, they were too pricey for me. There’s kinduva competition to see who can get the best deal.

So when we rendezvoused back at the car for some ground bologna sandwiches (my favorite sandwich), I pulled out a pair of sunglasses. One dollar.

My dad quickly retorted, "I bought sunglasses for a dollar. They were better than those and came with a case." Sheeeesh. I thought it was a pretty good deal. And they make me look Arnold Schwarzeneggerish.

Then I pulled out a saw I bought for two dollars.

"I’ve got all kinds of hacksaws like that at home," my dad said. Shot down again, I thought.

"Oh, but he wouldn’t have given you one," my mother added quickly. Gee, ma, that makes me feel better.

Well, anyway, it’s the hunt and shopping and excitement of finding something unique. Like the glass skull that excited my mother and sister, since they know I collect things Halloweenish. But when tbey took me back to the booth where they had found it so I could check it out myself, it had been sold.

That’s how it goes sometimes. But I’m not back home totally empty handed. When I got back, I checked my pockets and discovered I still had the watch that dad loaned me. Hea, he probably has all kinds of watches at home. He ain’t gonna miss this one. Muhahahahahaha!