Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speaker for the Dead...

I first came across this concept from the book titled "Speaker for the Dead" by Orson Scott Card. The concept as I recall it (my memory is way corrupted these days) is that after someone dies, a person interviews people and compiles a more or less true portrait of that person, good and bad, and then presents the compilation publicly. I want to do something here that is similar for our Cockatiel, Choker, who died on May 19, 2009.

In 1991, a Cockatiel was hatched to a breeder in Tampa, FL. This Cockatiel was hand-fed. A short time later, my brother Brian and his girlfriend Rocquel went to this breeder to purchase a Cockatiel. They chose this particular Cockatiel.

A short time after they brought the bird home, Rocquel was very concerned when she saw the bird was opening it's beak wide repetitively. She called to get Brian out of class because she thought the bird was choking. Thereafter, they called the bird Choker.

Living with a couple of college students can be dangerous. Choker's middle name must have been Danger though. Choker lived through a small fire and various other potentially life threatening events.

It was during this time period that I first made my acquaintance with Choker. I was in the Navy and visiting my brother while my submarine was temporarily in Port Canaveral. Choker and I got along pretty well at our first meeting.

I met Choker again when I attended my brother's graduation from the University of Southern Florida in 1993. Soon after Brian and Rocquel moved to North Carolina so that Brian could pursue his Master's degree at UNC (He never said, but I guess he couldn't get into Duke...just kidding!).

Brian, Rocquel, Choker, and their dog Zaney lived in NC up until December 2006. During that time Brian and Rocquel got married, moved within NC, went on many adventures, and eventually had two children. When I would visit, I would always take some time to whistle with Choker, hold him, and scratch his neck. Rocquel would make the comment that the bird really loved me as he really didn't take to many people. Brian would say that they sometimes forget they have a bird until I come over.

Choker was very well taken care of. He still had some mishaps though. Once or twice his cage was left outside when it got a bit colder than anyone expected it to get. I was there one time when we had to pull the cage out of the bushes where it either fell or was pushed by a cat.

Choker learned to whistle the Adam's Family theme song, the "Charge" tune, and various other things. Sometimes he could immediately imitate something, and sometimes it took repetition. Choker really liked to greet the morning with a series of shrill whistles. :-) The reality is that he was probably looking for Brian. Cockatiels tend to bond with an owner and often shrilly whistle when they cannot see that person.

In December 2006, after the birth of their second child, they asked if I wanted to keep Choker. Trying to take care of two pets and two children was a little much for them. I instantly agreed. My son was ecstatic.

So, for two and a half years Choker lived with us in Virginia Beach. Every day I would come home and Choker would start squawking as soon as my key went in the door. As I ambled about the house, I would whistle and Choker would answer. Occasionally the bird would break out into song. One night when I was up fairly late, a car alarm was set off in the neighborhood. Choker immediately started mimicking it and I couldn't stop laughing.

In December 2007, Brandon and I got a much bigger cage for Choker, and then he really started singing. I was teaching myself how to play piano and Choker learned The Entertainer from that. Often, Brandon would be sitting quietly after school doing his homework and I would be in another room working on something else. Choker would just start belting out The Entertainer and both Brandon and I would start laughing. When I would leave the room, Choker would start chirping, I would answer, and it was like our own version of Marco Polo.

One time I set him out on our patio, with the umbrella up to cover him. He would squawk every time I walked away. Then he started squawking and wouldn't stop. I looked over to see what was wrong and realized that there was a wasp nest under the umbrella. A big one. The wasps weren't bothering him, but I rushed over to grab the cage and take him back inside.

Choker loved to have his neck scratched. I would pick him up, and scratch his neck, picking off the sheaths over his feathers until I was covered in that and dander. He would perch on my shoulder pulling at the hairs on my neck. He would submit to having other people pick him up and scratch his neck, but only if I wasn't in the room. If I were there, he pretty much wouldn't have anyone else pick him up, and he would flap, claw, nibble, and climb to get to me.

On the afternoon of May 19th, 2009, we found Choker dead in his cage. He was about 18 years old. He had been through a lot with our two families. Even now I still whistle out, expecting a reply, but one doesn't come.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writing....last hurrahs...etc

My favorite museum in DC is the National Archives. One of the first times I went in there when I had moved to Maryland in 2004 I was completely overcome. There is something about seeing a memo penned by a Senator from the early 1800's. There is something about being so close to history, about being near a piece of paper and ink that was written by a person that has helped shape the course of history. I'm not even talking about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Magna Carta that were on display. It is the little things, the memos, the letters, and other bits. The grandiose pieces mentioned are amazing, but I feel more connected to the smaller things...the things that the people that wrote them probably never thought may be on display somewhere. It almost feels as if you could get to know these people that are long gone.

Can you imagine what it would be like to find personal writing from your grandparents, great grandparents, or beyond? I love talking to elderly people because they are so rich with the experience of living through history. There is so much about their past that will never be in a history book, but it is so pertinent to the times if you really want to understand them. Art can help to convey feelings and emotions, but to live their lives you really need to do it through reading their writing. That is how people live on, through their writing.

I had a surprise Friday morning in a blog I read. Oh the Joys put up a post Friday that was a memoir from her father, and thusly spawned this part of this post.

I had another surprise Friday as Rachel and Dr. Leah chose to feature me and several other single dads in their week long tribute to single fathers for Father's Day.

You should check out all these dads here, here, here, and here.

Also, the two blogs/forums Single Mom Seeking and are fantastic places for conversation, ideas, and help. If you are looking for inspiration, frank and open discussions about all kinds of things related to parenting and relationships, or you just need to know that you aren't the only one out there going through this these are two great places to go to. Rachel Sarah writes Single Mom Seeking and Rachel and Dr. Leah collaborate on While both of these women are amazing by themselves, each of the blogs are wonderfully enhanced by the comments of those that read. So go read and participate! You will not be sorry.

I'll also have to make some time today or this week to add the other single dad blogs they mention to my reader and my blog roll!

Friday my son and I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. I was all set in my BUS ZEN mindset, expecting traffic, big crowds, long hot lines...but was going to enjoy every minutiae of every minute just because I was there with just my son. We were going to have fun no matter what. While there were two accidents on the way there and lots of traffic, when we got in the park we received a gift. It was essentially EMPTY. The first roller coaster we went to, Loch Ness Monster, we walked right up to a car and sat down, no line at all. The Griffon, the best roller coaster I have ever ridden, had the shortest line I had seen there to date. About 5-10 minute wait. Apollo's chariot was another we just walked up to and sat down. In two hours we had ridden all the rides and eaten lunch. :-) We left not too long after that to get back home so he could spend some time with his friends in the neighborhood before he left for the summer Saturday.


Saturday we went to SGG's house for breakfast. I took my son and SGG's boys to see "Race to Witch Mountain" at Cinema Cafe. We ordered pizza, chicken fingers, sodas, and sundaes. They loved the moved and had a great time. Soon after I took Brandon to his mom and bid farewell for the summer. I will talk to him and email every couple of days to see how things are going. He is going to have a great summer!

SGG took her children to the airport where they flew to New York for six weeks with their dad. We are kid-free!!!

SGG hosted a dinner for her family for her mother's 75th birthday. Afterward we went to see world famous fiddle player Charlie Austin and a band he is currently playing with called Rock Star Parking. Unfortunately, the early twenty somethings in the club didn't really appreciate the band. :-) We did though.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Hope yours is a fantastic one!!

(GRRRRRR, thanks to a horrid MS Word 2007, it has taken me over an hour just get the formatting for this post correct. I often will cut and paste things in Word when blogger isn't exactly acting properly. I sometimes compose in Word and then paste into blogger. Now in 2007 and Vista, MS has made the piss-poor and unalterable assumption that I want all the formatting in HTML pasted with the text. Blogger chokes on this makes wild changes to font sizes and spacing...which would take me hours to sift through the HTML to weed out all the un-needed MS crud. I just need a simple word processor MS, not a wonderful wasteful way to wreck words. Sometimes more is less and it is obvious you haven't been listening to consumers or to governments around the world.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Poem....

It's the way you hold my hand when we are out,
It's the way we run, laugh, sing, and shout,
It's the day to day memories we make and do,
That I want for Father's day from you.

There is no gift or other token,
There is no nifty phrase that's spoken,
There is no tool or toy that I could use,
That's any better than the time I spend with you.

Day to day I get to see you grow,
Increasing all the things you know,
I pick you up when you fall out,
That's what fathers are all about.

And if I love and raise you well,
You'll have your own kids this to tell,
And I'm sure you will certainly agree,
That every day is Father's Day to me.

I wrote this poem for Father's Day last year and figured I would just post it again! :-)
It has been another eventful school year. My son has matured a lot the past nine months. He is now a seventh grader and 12 years old. I see so many differences in him. I'm working on trying to make him a bit more independent. Giving him more freedom, exposing him to more of the world. It isn't always very easy. Sometimes he doesn't want to let go of me, then sometimes he doesn't want to be near me. That is ok as I sort of feel the same way. In four more years he'll be driving. 48 months. 72 months he'll be 18. What once seemed like it was a long ways off now seems like just around the corner.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The Winds have changed, so has the tide,
I feel this draw, to be outside,
The Sun's energy warms my skin,
Emotions stir from deep within,
The air is hot, the sand is too,
The local bands play just for you,
Beach is nice, but friends are better,
Memories made last forever,
The cars are filling up with sand,
Lovers kiss and walk hand in hand,
As Summer dawns upon the land.

Edited to add:
Summer is here. My son leaves to go spend it with his mom on Saturday. The transition is hard for me. Each year I'm the only care giver for him from the end of August until the middle of June. Along the way we get a bit tired of each other. So, it isn't so much that I'm sad to see him go. I'm actually pretty happy that he gets a little adventure and gets to spend some quality time with his mom. It is a different home, different rules, etc.

What is hard is me making the transition from care giver dad to soloist. I'm ready for it, but it takes a while to break my parenting routines....and by then it is nearly time to implement them again! :-) SGG is kind of the same way...and she will be without her kids for about six weeks, the longest she has ever gone without seeing them.

Today was the last day of school, finally. I'm not sure why Virginia Beach seems to keep adding days to the calendar. There really is no need and they don't really do anything in class the last week or two of school anyway.

I took off from work today to deal with my son's abbreviated schedule and early dismissal. While he was in school this morning I went surfing. I'm finally actually up and riding waves. Today was pretty rough. The waves were bigger than normal and there were more of them. I got a couple of rides in, but my arms soon gave out. Paddling out into the non-stop barrage of waves can tire you out quickly. It can be hard getting through the break and into position.

Regardless, I had a great time.

I'm playing volleyball again on Monday nights. A great sport, on the beach, with great friends. Softball has been in swing again since the beginning of May. I might pickup soccer again in July, we'll see. No dodgeball this kills my arm.

It's SUMMER!!! So get outside, enjoy the weather! More to come!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ugggghhhhhh.....A Month!

Hmmmmm....I've been busy. We have been busy. All of us have been busy.

Here we go...the Reverse.....

Tonight, 6/16/09, my son had his piano recital. He did fantastic! The pictures, and video, are here. Since he leaves to go to his mom's on Saturday, I will pick up his lessons like I did last year. All the students tonight did a great job, and since the piano is my favorite instrument, I could have sat there all day to listen to the children play.

This past weekend was not great. It would be a stretch to say it was even fun, but some parts of it were. Friday afternoon was very interesting for the SGG and I. SGG is my girlfriend. Her name is Chris. I would bet that in a million years you could not guess what SGG stood for! :-) So, on Friday SGG was hosting a gaggle of cub scouts for a backyard tent bonanza. I went to do my upper body workout and then went on to surf for about 2 hours. My goal this summer is to get up and surfing and I put in a honest effort Friday. After surfing I took my son out for sushi and then we went to keep SGG company for a bit. Saturday morning I got up and did another hour and half of surfing. I actually got up and road about six waves for more than 5 seconds. It is actually sort of like a rodeo. It wasn't a great idea because I was still physically recovering from Friday evening. SGG also got up early and took the cub scouts out for a hike at Seashore State Park here in VA Beach. I think she deserves a medal for what she did Friday night and Saturday.

About 2pm Saturday we finish packing for an overnight camp at Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's eastern shore. We have four kids (still trying to figure out where the fourth came from), a canoe, three tents, fishing poles, crab nets, boogie boards, skim boards, sleeping bags, bug spray, sun block, and much more. SGG and I started setting up the tents. By some freakishly strange alignment of the planets, I managed to trap a bee between my sandal and my middle left toe. That bee stung the snot out of me. I haven't been stung by a bee since I was 9. GRRRRRRR. Now my foot was hurting and swollen. We finished the tents and then I went to the store to get some Benadryl, compresses, band aids, baking soda, and some Coke for the Rum I was going to buy at Liquor store next door. As it turns out, I got Children's Benadryl by mistake, so I chewed up four of those things right away.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and swimming at the beach...though I really mostly slept. SGG has some friends there and we hung out with them for dinner and conversation until 10pm. I can tell SGG needs some time away from her children...every time she left camp for something she was gone for an hour and a half! :-)

While Rachel and Dr. Leah of would espouse the benefits of dating people without kids....if you are not a parent you might not fully appreciate the next part of this story....

SGG and I get the kids in their tents and threaten them with eternal restriction from all electronics if they make a peep. We lay down in our tent, on an air mattress, and start watching a South Park episode on my ipod. We are both more or less instantly asleep. Deeply asleep. At some point in the night a shivering twelve year old boy is saying "Dad. Dad. Dad" in his most hurt and pained "i need help and sympathy right now" voice. He is on the verge of tears. He is very cold. His ear is killing him. His nose is stuffed up. SGG and I are now both out of the tent. I am not so patiently telling my son five time in a row to put his shirt on first. Then we walk down to the bathroom. Then SGG gives him Ibuprofen for his pain. I happen to have a fresh supply of children's benadryl, through my own unfortunate providence, and I give him some to help his allergies that were exacerbating the ear situation. It has the added bonus of helping him sleep. I also ask him if he would now like the sleeping bag he so adamantly stated he didn't need earlier. He does, is grateful, and soon warm and asleep.

Not too long after that, another child awakens our now not so restful slumber. This one is ten and his stomach hurts. The two adults are slow to respond, addled really, until the ten begins to vomit at the opening of our tent. SGG is barely not screaming at the ten to move away from the tent and to direct the unpleasant upheaval somewhere else. It takes the ten at least two heaves to comprehend and act on the instruction. Having lost my sanity, I lay back and just start laughing inside, because if I laugh out loud I was going to get hit. I am also thankful that the wind was blowing west to east and carrying the smell away from the tent. SGG gets the ten settled and we get situated again.

In the morning, SGG goes out for breakfast for everyone....and is gone for an hour and half. :-) We get our act together finally and get the crab nets and fishing poles situated for the boys. One of them, mine, has wandered off as he want to do, and SGG has gone to pay for the pier pass...and is gone for an hour and half. I finally find my son...who has been swimming at the beach, and he and I go to the beach to swim some more and then I lay down again. My foot is throbbing and swollen and I am really tired from all the joyful parental experiences I got to participate in during the night. About 1pm I figure I've had enough fun for the weekend and we pack up everything to head home.

Ok so that was kind of painful...but maybe it was needed to balance out the weekend of 6/5/09. On this weekend we were planning to drive to Charlottesville, VA for SGG's 20th college reunion at UVA. Friday night was a bust as we had intense thunderstorms come through and a tornado. We decided to leave in the morning. Leaving in the morning was the right choice. We made it into Charlottesville just in time to start meeting up with SGG's friends. We went through her old hangouts, had some drinks, and then attended the ROTC cocktail party. While I didn't know anyone there, turns out we knew some of the same people and I got to have a lot of interesting conversations. One of the people had a room on the UVA Lawn by the Rotunda so we went back there to have some more drinks and look out over the lawn. The evening was amazing. The weather was perfect, the company was great, and the band was The English Beat. We spent the night in Afton at a friend of SGG's. Some of the pictures below are from her friends house, and some are from out hike up Humpback Rock. Humpback rock is a truly remarkable hike and vista.


The weekend of May 29th was spent playing at the beach, surfing, and playing volleyball. :-)

Memorial day weekend was spent resting. Believe it or not.
The weekend of the 15th started off in an interesting way.

We were going to camp at Northwest River park for the monthly Astronomy Association demo night. We had a group of cub scouts with us. I was going to be late because I do my workouts in the afternoons after work. Brandon and I got packed up and were getting ready to head out when SGG calls and says she needs a favor. She wasn't expecting to 'Start', but did, and needed some 'supplies'. I say no problem and we detour for Target.

In the parking lot, Brandon is anxious to get to the campsite so he wants to know why we are going to Target.

I take a deep breath. We just had the 'Talk' a few weeks prior to this. He is actually mostly mortified about the whole thing and gets dreadfully embarrassed when I bring it up. But, he did ask why we were going to Target. He regrets it now. I begin asking him if he remembers our talk, and how we talked about women and menstruation. My son is at this point red from head to toe, and can't seem to look up from his feet. We are surrounded by women in the parking lot and it really isn't all that easy for me either. I tell him SGG needs some tampons and we are going to get them. We were also looking for a coffee press, but we never found that.

After giving up on the coffee press we headed to the tampons. This is where I become intrigued. What a variety. The specific request was a small box of regular tampons. If you have looked closely lately, that product line was obviously phased out some time ago. There are generic and name brand versions. Quantities start at "a lot" and go up to "a hell of a lot". There are a wide variety of different absorbency levels too. Some even have flushable applicators. They are stacked in Target over 6' high and extend down the row about 8'. 48' square feet of menstrual mecca. I'm not actually counting the pads either. My son is sulking and lurking about a few aisles over while I diligently read EVERYTHING in search of the specifics that SGG gave me. I had a few women come by to offer condolences and support...sort of. So, I settled on a variety pack that seemed to embody the quantity request while offering an assortment of absorbency capabilities for which I'm sure SGG could find a 'regular' in.

At the checkout counter, the woman clerk said "Awwww, you are a good guy aren't you?"

And then we were on our way to camping, geocaching, fishing, and tick pulling fun. :-)