Monthly Archives: August 2012



Well, I’m glad that’s over with.  At least the first part is over.  The rest should be enjoyable.  No, I didn’t have dental surgery or climb Mount Everest.  My youngest daughter just went through sorority rush.  She is now sister to a group of wonderful girls.  But what an ordeal!  And not just for her.  Her mother was going nuts, and in the process, making me nuts too. 

I didn’t do the fraternity thing in college so all of this is a little foreign to me.  But here’s how I understand it.  It’s all about having fun.  Or is it?  Before school actually starts, the girls who are interested in being sorority sisters report to their school for a week of the selection process.  A process that is a double-edged sword.  

There are lots of parties to go to.  Several every day as each sorority hosts the candidates daily.  You get to dress up and spend all day on your feet in uncomfortable shoes.  All the while trying to keep a smile glued to your face, not sweat in the sweltering summer heat of the Deep South, and make meaningful small talk.  All of this to make an impression.  Mainly it’s the hopefuls trying to impress those who are already in.

If you fail to make a good impression because maybe you’re a nerd, or you don’t wear the latest fashion trends, or you’re a little shy, not supermodel gorgeous or not peppy enough, well, then a fate that to some is almost worse than death.  You get cut.  You’re no longer under consideration.  Each sorority makes their own decisions so you may not impress one, but another thinks you’re swell.  

Bear in mind, that some of these young ladies, at the ripe old age of eighteen, have spent some significant portion of their life just waiting to be sister in ABC sorority.  No other one will do.  Grandmother and mother were both in ABC so the young lady is a legacy.  That improves your chances of being in ABC.  But it’s not a guarantee.  Amazingly, it can even be a detriment.

All this dicing and slicing is done at night, behind the closed doors of the sororities.  They go through the list of names of those girls who attended their party that day and vote yea or neigh.  Yeah means you’re invited back for another party.  Nay means you’re not invited.  

It’s a winnowing process.  Day one everyone goes to all the parties.  Very tense.  And intense.  The sororities make their lists and in the morning the girls get the rundown of how many sororities want them back for a second look. Some are invited back to a lot of parties.  Others not so many.  Some will be distraught that ABC didn’t want them back and drop out of the process at this point.  Others will drop out for other reasons.  Just not for them.  

This goes on for several days.  The candidate pool shrinking each day.  At the same time the girls actually get to decide which parties they want to go back for.  Maybe they thought ABC was a bunch of geeks.  Works both ways.  But in the end, the sorority gets to say to those lucky few they have selected, “we’d like you to join us, please accept our bid.”  

My wife tells me that there is a possibility that you can go through the whole thing, invited back to parties everyday, but somehow still not receive a bid.  And therefor left to be an independent.   Lumped with those who didn’t make it through the process at all.  Believe me, there is a lot of crying that goes on during this endless series of parties.  

Now I remember why I wasn’t in a fraternity- I thought parties were supposed to be fun.  They say it’s worth it in the end though.  All those new sisters, the opportunity to do service to the community and to gain leadership experience.  And the parties get to be more fun.  Everyone has their thing, and that’s cool with me.

My daughter was thrilled to get her bid.  She texted to her mother and me, “I AM AN ABC!  All caps.  I’m very happy for her.  She wanted to do this and worked hard to succeed.  You go girl!  That’s part of her personal history, and mine.  Mainly hers.  What’s your story?  Write it down for the future.                                                                                     


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Mid-day Snack

Amelia Island, Florida is one of my favorite summertime destinations.  Great beach.  Not crowded.  And plenty to do in the quaint village of Fernandina Beach.  Which actually has a great historic district, antique shops and restaurants.  Lots, and I mean lots, of golf.  As long as I can stay in a place where I can see the water I’m happy, but the best place, for me, is at the Plantation.  And there, I prefer a spot called Turtle Dunes.  Has a lot of memories for me.

I never knew why it was called turtle dunes.  I just figured it was a beachy sounding kind of name for a residential area on the water.  And turtles have been of great interest to people of many cultures for a very long time.  On other beach trips I’d seen the roped off little areas on the dunes that indicated a sea turtle nest, with hundreds of eggs buried.  But I’d never actually seen a turtle, or the little hatchlings scampering across the sand on their way back to the sea.  So, you can imagine my surprise when just after lunch I walked down the path from the condo, across the boardwalk spanning the dunes, and saw right there in front of me, right, a turtle.

It wasn’t a sea turtle.  The feet were clearly feet and not flippers.  And the shell had a high arch to it rather than the flattened shell of a sea turtle.  Don’t ask me for a scientific species identification.  I just know it was a turtle.  It wasn’t all curled up in its shell.  No, this dude was walking around.  Checking out the sights and looking for a little bit of grass to eat.  He took really little bites.   When he saw me he must have been curious: food or foe?  He came right at me, turning several times as I moved out of his way.  He must have gotten bored with that game as he soon went back to walking around  with an ocassional stop for a bite to eat.  He finally made his way to a hidden hole in the sand dune and disappeared into his home.  Enough sun and food for now.  I don’t know how long he was out there, or how much he ate, or how far he walked around, but what I saw him eat wouldn’t sustain a gnat.  But he looked like he’d been around for a while as he was rather large.  And I suspect “experienced.”

Big deal you say.  OK, it was a minor moment, but how often does a burb dad like me run into wild animals sharing the beach?  I guess in a way, he was allowing me to share his beach.  I’ve seen plenty of birds at the beach, and dolphins, and a shark or two, and fish in the water, and crabs scurrying around, and a skate once.  But never a turtle.  And I really like turtles.  Probably because we move at the same speed.  So, it was a big deal to me.  And part of my personal history.

What’s your story?  Have you seen a turtle?  Save your stories for the future.

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At the beach.  One of my favorite places.  It’s late August and the majority of the summer crowds are already gone.  School starts early here.  Family vacations are over.  There is bright sunshine, and an occasional cloud.  Typical Florida beach weather.

This morning the view from my balcony showed the ocean to be dead calm.  Wierd.  This is the Atlantic coast, but no waves.  I felt really stupid staring at my surfboard.  No surfing today.  Not in this swimming pool.

As the afternoon passes, lunch completed, the wind is picking up.  And with it, the surf.  My beach umbrella is uprooted and bounces down the wide sandy strip between dunes and water.  Me in hot pursuit.  Now there are whitecaps on the water as far in every direction as I can see, and the waves are growing taller.  Not surfable as they are short-lived, but more aggressive.  I can see a thick mud of sand and shells being tossed and tumbled by the waves.  Not long ago I was up to my neck in what was then a spa like sea.  Perhaps a storm is brewing somewhere past the horizon.

When the Navy had me stationed at sea I loved to be on the weather decks, outside, during my free time.  The water has so many colors and textures.  That practice nearly got me killed one night.

Somewhere near Italy the sea kicked up that night.  Can’t tell you the size of the swells, but I can say they were big enough to make a nine thousand ton warship rock and roll!  I made my way from the warm, dry and well-lit interior of the ship into the darkness of night on the fantail via the main deck starboard passageway.  There was a railing there and I held on.  I could see the churning water just a few feet below me, crashing into the side of the ship.  Suddenly a huge wave hit us at a funny angle and I saw the water coming up and up and up.  Then washing over my feet.  Underwater, my boots were slippery on the flooded deck and I felt my feet slipping out from under me.  I held on to the railing.

The ship bobbed, the wave subsided and once again I could see the water, once again churning below me.  The distance didn’t feel quite so safe now and I decided that it was time to head in.  After regaling the wardroom with the tale of my adventure, ship’s company, save for lookouts, was confined to interior spaces for the duration of the night.

That incident represent s less than ten minutes of my life.  Yet it is something I will always remember.  Makes for a pretty good story, even if the listener walks away thinking me a fool.  Not all stories show us at our best, but they are valuable.  And exciting.  What’s your story?  Save it for the future.

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Off to College

Good thing you can’t see me when I write.  Right now my keyboard is damp from a flood of tears.  Yes, I can be sensitive.  You would be too.

My oldest daughter went back to college on Thursday.  She is a senior.  With her, it’s no big deal.  We are used to her coming and going.  Doing her own thing.  But today, today is a different story.  You see, today my youngest went off to begin her college career as a freshman.

It’s hard letting go of the last one.  When I was in school my parents never expected to hear from me.  I was three hundred miles away and even with the newly invented push button phone you still had to pay the long distance charges.  I was a boy. But in this day of cell phones, Facebook, twitter, and an extensive national highway system, we still rarely hear from my oldest daughter.  My younger one, I think, will text us until her thumbs fall off.  They are just different like that.

Even after weeks of shopping, days of packing and years of knowing this day would come, I was not ready.  She’s too young.  Now what do I do?

We spent the day travelling to her new school and unpacking the car.  We moved all of her stuff into the dorm and set up the room the way she wanted her new home to be.  Good thing the van has a lot of cargo space because her car doesn’t.  And she had a lot of stuff.  Made the bed, set up the TV hung a few pictures on the wall.  Got the bathroom towels out as well as a bathmat.  Pillows put in place.  Every pencil arranged in the desk.  The plant watered.  Her mother and I looked for anything else to do.  Some way to hold on one more minute. Finally, there was no escaping it.  It was time for mom and dad to leave.

We all walked out to the parking lot.  A sudden burst of tears from mom and daughter, stemmed by a smile from dad as I said, “It’s gonna be fine.”  Everyone hugged and smiled and off she went.  I told myself she wouldn’t look back before going into the dorm, hoping, maybe, that I was wrong.  Sure enough, she didn’t turn as she went straight ahead into the building.  Off to her new life.  She was ready.  And excited.

That is part of our family personal history.  She and I are both writing new chapters everyday.  She as college student.  Me, well, I’m an empty nester for the first time in, how many years?  Just know that it’s a lot.  What’s your personal history?  Capture these moments so all will remember in the future.

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Brown Excitement

Brown is such a blah color.  Sure, there are a lot of variations on brown that make it more interesting.  As a matter of fact, there is a certain shade of brown ink that fills my favorite fountain pen.  What I’m talking about is fudge brownie brown.  Hmmm, that actually sounds pretty good.  OK, let me be real specific here.  I’m talking about the brown color that United Parcel Service paints its delivery trucks.  Brown.  Even they call it brown.  It may even be a trademarked color.  
When UPS pulls up at the office, they deliver brown boxes.  And looking into the truck, I see lots of other brown boxes.  Why are cardboard boxes brown?  But sometimes, tucked away in all that brown , is a little bit of color.  And truth be told, you never know what is inside those brown boxes. Those brown trucks can bring the brightest smiles to peoples faces.  Not because people like brown trucks but because those trucks are filled with all sorts of wonderful things.
The other day my daughter and I were pulling up to the house form an excursion somewhere and there in the street, right in form of our house, was that brown truck.  My daughter got all lit up and was excitedly saying, “maybe that’s my package, I hope that’s my package.  It must be my package>”  when we pulled into the driveway, the driver of the brown truck waved and drove off.  That seemed like a good sign to me, but I don’t think my daughter was paying attention to that.  You see, she had spotted the brown box at the garage door.  Up went the roar.  “That’s my package!”
Let me explain that my daughter is going to be a freshman in college this year.  She has been buying all sorts of goodies to outfit her dorm room.  Most of it at the local store, but this was special.  Target Online.  A bedspread.  With lots of colors.  She’s very excited about all of this.  Not just the bedspread, but the whole thing of going off to college.  And she should be.  It’s a big deal.  A huge moment in HER personal history.  And mine.  What’s coming up in the personal history of your family members?  What’s in their past personal history?  Write it down for them.  They will thank you.

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