Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

I have good reason to be thankful this year. You see, I had a stress test a week ago and it showed some abnormalities in my heart. The doctor wanted to do a heart cath on the spot.

I delayed it until Monday, but when the day came, it showed an artery that was 90 percent blocked. Why? I didn't smoke, I ran, played tennis, golf and rode my exercise bike.

I did have a strike or two against me. I didn't eat that well. I love sweets, and probably eat  more cookies, cakes and ice cream than I should. And then there is family history. My dad had his first heart attack when he was my age.

The doctors placed a stent in my artery on Monday, and 24 hours later I was out of the hospital. I feel good and the whole episode was a wakeup call to eat better.

I can't exercise until next week, but when I resume, I plan to give it all I can. I thank the doctors and nurses who gave me great care and to my family for their loving support.  This is one Thanksgiving I will always remember.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Non political ads that will never air

Picture an election season where negative ads didn’t exist, where candidates spoke of their own positive accomplishments, not sling mud at their opponent.

Forget it, it’s only a dream.

Now, picture businesses using the same tactics candidates use.

This ad slams an opposing pet care business:

“Little puppies have little chance at Patti’s Pet Care. The employees use the dogs for target practice during deer-hunting season. If they can hit the small pets, the shooters will have a much better chance to hit the deer. At Don’s Dog Center, we treat all animals with loving care. We don’t allow guns within 100 feet of our business. Now who do you trust, a pet center that uses dogs as target practice, or a shop that treats all animals with loving care? We think the choice is clear. Come in today where pets are treated like humans, maybe better. This ad was paid for by People against Guns but love Pets, Don Greyhound, chairman.”

Or what about this ad for a car dealership?

“Albert’s Auto Store has been around for 60 years. And in those six decades, the dealership has been sued more than 6,000 times. Albert and his car salesmen can’t be trusted to sell you a safe car. They sell cars that break down after two days. But there is a better way. At Chuck’s Car Lot we sell nothing but great new cars that last at least 500,000 miles. And if something ever goes wrong, we will pay you $230,000. You have our word on it. The ad was paid for People who will believe anything, George Gullible, chairman.”

These ads would never air because they are completely false. Lawsuits would be aplenty within minutes after they first aired.

So the moral of the story: Listen to the candidates ads, but believe at your own risk.

By the way, I have land for sale for only $2.50 an acre. Call 1-800-U-SUCKER if interested.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A busy day for dad

Some days I have to step aside from everything else I do, work, business, running and doing things around the house, and do things for, and with my kids. Friday was one of those days.

I started the day by going to Pittsburgh and picking up Erin, my 19-year-old daughter, from college. She wanted to come home to attend a Halloween party with her boyfriend. It was a refreshing trip because we talked for almost an hour on the way home.

And she did most of the talking. It was unlike previous trips when she hardly opened her mouth. Granted, she slept the second half of the trip home, but I was pleased.

I got home and only had about an hour before I had to meet son Justin and my ex-wife at his high school for senior band photos. Justin is quite the social butterfly, knowing all his bandmates and many of the parents. He was joking with them the entire time we were waiting to get our pictures taken.

Later, during halftime of the football game, I stood at the 50 yard line with Justin and his mother as we were introduced. At that moment, I realized how grown up he is. He will attend college in less than a year.  The years have flown by.

After the game, I came home and played with my toddler daughter, Katie while watching the baseball playoffs. It's great to experience fatherhood again with a child so innocent. She doesn't ask for much, just my time.

If you think about it, that's all most kids want, your time and love. It was a rare day I had time to spend with all three kids, at different stages of their lives. It was a day I will remember for a long time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life with Katie

When was the last time you had a good, hard laugh?  Maybe it's been awhile. And that's OK. We have been programed to be serious about life, that it's the way to get ahead, except for comedians, of course.

I bring this up now because our daughter Katie is into the "terrible twos", and she is only 22 months old. She must have a fondness for the number 2.

Wait. That didn't come out right. But you know what I mean.

She certainly could give a more serious person gray hair very quickly.

Katie has not met a furniture drawer she didn't want to explore, especially in our bedroom, especially on my side. She pulls out my assortment of junk and plays with old watches, booklets and such. You know, the stuff that should be thrown away, but you just can't part with.

That stuff may be junk to you and me, but to Katie it's pure gold.

Another "trick" she has learned is hiding objects. I gave her an old cell phone to play with last week, and a few days later, you guessed it, no where in sight. I asked her "Katie, where did you hide my cell phone?"

She responded, but in Katie-speak, as we like to call her talk when we can't understand her.

As for her career aspirations, at two-years old, Katie has no idea what the term means, but I hope being a stripper is not one of them. Yes, the dear girl likes to go around in her birthday suit. My wife and I hope that as fall turns to winter, the cold temperatures will prompt her to keep her clothes on.

One thing is certain: She keeps us on our toes, and keeps us laughing.

Stay tuned for more stories about Life with Katie.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A good role model

Many celebrities make the news for all the wrong reasons. Alcohol, drugs, sex, you name it. Entertainment, sports and political figures get their names in print and over the air for their bad acts.

And unfortunately, our kids are watching. These "heroes" get attention and youngsters may think it's OK to act that way.

So it's refreshing to read about a NFL star who is in the news for doing good off of the football field. His name is Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has had an impeccable career. He has two Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP award and leads the Steelers in most all-time receiving categories. He should be a strong candidate to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after he retires.

He is a football hero on the field, but it's what he is doing off the field that gets my admiration. Ward has been named to President Barack Obama's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The panel works to advise the president on ways to improve the lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Ward was born in Korea, the child of a black American father and an Asian mother, and has seen the discrimination that results when youngsters are biracial. To that end, he started the Hines Ward Hands Foundation to help such children. He used $1 million of his own money to launch the foundation.

Each off season he returns to Korea to advise biracial children and brings kids to the U.S. to get a taste of life in America.

Hines Ward is is fine example of the good celebrities can do. Unfortunately, many don't. If your kids are looking for a true sports hero, they need not look any further than Hines Ward.

Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Two words

As parents, we are our children's first teachers. They learn from us through example. They watch how we handle situations that occur each day.

Life throws each of us curves from time to time. Bad things happen to good people. It's how we handle those things that will define us and teach our kids how to handle similar situations when they happen. We can either handle them with grace and learn from them, or we can fall to pieces and point fingers.

Two words have helped me get through tough times: Stay positive. I think of all the good points in my life. I have a career, a loving wife and three great kids. I have a house, two cars and probably most importantly, we are all healthy. That's probably the biggest point of all. It's been said that if you have your health, you have everything.

Will I ever be rich? No. Drive a fancy car? No. Live in a mansion with servents? No. But I look at the glass as being half full, not half empty. I have to, or else I would not be happy.

So next time life drives you into a pot hole, stay positive and think positive. Your kids will be watching and learning from your positve attitude.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My dad

Sunday was the second Father's Day and couldn't give good wishes to my dad. You see, he died in 2008. I think of him often, his good nature, his ability to fix almost anything around the house and his way of taking life in stride.

Dad and I weren't very close when I was growing up. He wanted to make sure the house was as spotless as possible, especially outside, and I was into sports, big time. I didn't want to learn about tools and home repairs and he didn't want to play baseball or basketball with a sports crazy son.

Other dads coached their sons, or at least came to their games. Not my dad. He was too busy around the house. Looking back on it, that's just the way he was.

As I got into my 20s, we got closer, but we really grew close when I bought my first house. He taught me so much in those years before me died. He wasn't a good teacher, couldn't explain himself very well. But I watched and learned. I can't count the number of projects he helped me complete, or should I say, I helped him complete.

He taught me how to be a dad. A good dad. To me, that means being there for my kids whenever they need me, no matter in issue. I hope some day, Erin, Justin and Katie will say the same about me.

Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father's Day

What makes a great Father's Day? I guess it depends on the dad. Some dads might like to get a call from their kids, if they are on their own. Other dads might like lots of gifts to show the kids' appreciation for a job well done.

Me? I just wanted my three kids to be together and have some fun. So was it a great Father Day for me? You bet.

Erin, Justin and I played some basketball and I just happen to take those two teens to school, showing them dear old dad can still shoot the lights out of the roundball.

Katie and Mommy watched the play, and afterward, I filled Katie's baby pool and she went "swimming." And after Erin left for work, Justin and I played tennis. He's gotten too good.

And still later, Mommy, Katie, Grandma and Grandpa came down and the six of us went for a little walk.

Grilled hot dogs for dinner and a big, special "Father's Day cookie" to top it all off. By the way, I received a golf bag and electric razor as gifts.

But that's a minor point. Having all three kids with me on Father's Day was the best present of all. Thanks, kids. You are the best.

Monday, June 14, 2010

College Cash

Hey parents, do you dream of your kids going to college? Better start saving now. Better yet, parents should start saving before their child is born. Sounds silly? It's not, really.

That's because the sooner you start saving for their education after high school, the more money they will have saved. It doesn't have to be a lot. Whatever you can afford. But you must make it a priority.

What? You say you don't have any extra cash to spare? Come on, of course you do. And if you don't, you are living beyond your means. Eat more meals at home instead of going out. Clip coupons. Buy off-brands. Drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle. There are lots of ways to save. But you must make the effort.

I was lucky. My parents had enough money saved to pay for most of my college education. They were from "The Greatest Generation," that saved before they made a big purchase. They lived through the Depression and before credit cards and 12-months-same-as cash promotions. I guess I learned from them. They owned four houses in their lifetime and never paid a mortgage. I have not been as lucky, but I did get my money-management skills from them.

As you may know, my oldest daughter has just finished her first year of college and it appears we will be able to pay for all four years, stock market permitting.

My son, has one more year before college and I think we have enough for at least three years of college.

And my toddler daughter, well she has a good start on her college fund.

Has it been easy? NO. But in the long run it is worth it for two reasons; 1, they will enter the working world almost debt free, and 2, you will be teaching them money-management skills that they will hopefully then pass down to their children.

So the way I look at it, it's a win-win situation for everyone. And it's nice when plans come together.

Good luck, and start saving. Your kids some day will thank you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good kids

How do you know if you are or were a good parent?

Well, in my mind, it takes years to tell. Not until your children are teenagers or out of high school or college and employed can you tell for sure. And maybe not even then.

For me, looking at who my two older kids, Erin, 19, and Justin, 17, have become, make me feel I have done a good job, so far.

Erin just finished her freshman year in college with good grades and has a summer job. I met her latest boyfriend this week and he seems like a nice guy.

And as I was jogging this morning, who do I see at the tennis courts but Justin and two of his band mates. It was great to see them getting exercise on a late spring day. And Justin has become a fairly good tennis player.

We exchanged hellos and I continued my run.

Are they perfect kids? No. But we are all flawed individuals. I just try to give them unconditional love and hope they learn from their mistakes. I'm lucky to have two good teens.

As for my third child, Katie, she is only 18 months, but she has already gotten into lots of "toddler trouble." And that's OK. She's learning the difference between right and wrong.

What kind of teen will she be? Only time will tell. I will try to lead her in the right direction. But no matter what, I will give her unconditional love.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Technology: Where will it takes us next?

A lot can happen in 18 years. I should know. That's the age difference between my oldest child, Erin, and my youngest, Katie.

Erin will be 20 in November, and Katie will be 2. That's a big age difference.

I point this out to demonstrate how much technology has changed since 1990, the year Erin was born. In that year, who had a cell phone? Maybe a better question would have been "what IS a cell phone?"

Now the vast majority of Americans feel naked if they don't carry their cell phones 24/7. My 80 year old mother even has one. And if she has one, you know they have reached most of us.

What about cable TV? Sure it was around in 1990, but the number of channels has exploded over the past decade. There is now a channel for almost every interest, from sports and food channels, to music and home channels. And lets not forget History.

Probably the biggest change has come with the personal computer and the Internet. We all have them, desktops and laptops. In fact, without computer and the Internet, I would not be able to communicate with you in this format. The computer and Internet have changed our lives so much, many of us wonder how we got by without them.

My point is what will technology bring our way in 18 years, when Katie is ready to celebrate her 20th birthday. All I can say is stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being a dad is an awesome responsibility

I love being a dad. It comes with much responsibility, but if done right, the rewards are even greater.
As parents, we really have only a small window of time to help our kids grow to be good, productive adults. After that, we have to sit back and see if our lessons have taken hold.
The best way to lead your children into adulthood is to be involved in their lives each step of the way; from the time they come home as infants to the day they graduate from college. Teach them that life is full of twists and turns, that even in down times to stay positive, that with hard work, things will turn around.
Volunteer in the groups they are in, whether it be Scouts, sports, music, theater, or something else.
When my two older kids were in preschool, I volunteered to help out. When Erin played softball in grade school, I was one of the coaches. Likewise for Justin, I helped coach his baseball team in first grade, and later, when in fourth grade, I was the head coach. And I was the head coach of his soccer team from first through sixth grade. I didn't know anything about soccer, but I learned quickly.
How many times did I drive Erin the dance classes and Justin to piano lessons? I can't count that high.
And now with Katie, who is still a toddler, I will do the same. I will be there every step of the way. I describe myself as a hands-on dad. If you are going to be a good parent, that's the only way to be.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Down with Reality TV

Maybe it's just me, but what is the allure with reality TV? I don't get it. It started with shows like "Survivor" and has taken off so much that it's difficult to channel surf through even three stations without finding one.

I'll tell you why these shows are on: One, because they are "cheap" to produce and two, because many Americans love watching fellow countrymen making idiots of themselves.

The networks must have hooked some of the Y generation, and the rating are good or else these programs wouldn't be on the air. And don't tell me they are really reality.

You want reality? For the most part it's a lot of hard work and boring. Get up in the morning, go to work and come home at night to kids and housework. Talk about boring. But that's reality for the lucky Americans, the ones who have jobs.

More reality: Having the same job for 25 years and then being told the company is downsizing and you have been let go. How about a reality show following a middle-age man with a wife and three kids trying to make ends meet on unemployment while looking for another job. That's reality, not the reality junk networks dish out.

Would the rating be good? No, but that is the real reality TV.

If the networks want to continue running these reality shows, that's fine, just change the name to fake reality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New generation wins

I have always been interested in sports. I guess I got that interest from my dad's dad. I was always watching sports on TV. My dad, on the other hand, was never interested in sports.

When my son, Justin, was born almost 17 years ago, I vowed to do what I could to get him into sports as much as I was as a kid. Guess what? He had no interest.

Sure, I coached his soccer and baseball teams while he was in grade school, but he was into the social aspect more than anything else. A small part of me was sad, but Justin had other interests, such as music. He is a great piano player and plays the trumpet in the high school band.

Several years ago, he started to watch tennis on TV. You have to know Justin. When he gets into something, he goes 100 percent. I heard more than I care to about all the world's top players. And he began to learn the sport by watching it on the tube.

And yet, he had never picked up a racket. Then last year, for his 16th birthday, I bought two cheap rackets and some tennis balls. He and I hit the court down the street.

Justin had never been a great athlete. The desire has never been there. I, on the other hand, loved and played them all. Baseball, football, basketball, and yes, even hockey. I tried tennis a few times, but never really enjoyed it. I was more into team sports.

So Justin and I hit the court, and as expected, I whipped him pretty badly. And yes, he got discouraged quickly, but I gave him some tips and told him not to give up. By fall, we were having some very competitive matches.

The last time we played in the fall, I had the match won, but let it slip away. He had beaten Dad. I was so happy for him. He had shown determination in wanting to get better. And improve he did.

We have played four times already this spring and I have yet to beat him. Now he is the one giving me tips. I knew eventually he would beat me. I didn't know it would be so soon.

And that's OK. It's a combination of him improving and me slowing down a tad. We have always been close, but playing tennis has brought us even closer.

The point is you can try to lead your kids in one direction, but never push. Let them find their own way. You never know where it will lead. It may lead to an activity that interests both of you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kids are all different

Hi, and thanks for logging on to my blog. In my blog I will be telling stories about my three kids. They are all great, but oh so different. Here is a little bit about them.

Erin is a freshman in college. I love her to pieces, but we have never been able to talk. Or rather, she will not talk. I ask questions, and she answers, but usually in one-word answers. It's like she's paying by the word. The more words in the answer, the more she owes.

"How was your day?" I would ask. Of course the answer would be "good". "And what was good about it?" And her answer: "I don't know."

She has always gotten good grade, so I can't complain too much. And she hangs out with good kids.

For every word that Erin utters, Justin says 1,000. You can't keep him quiet. He's a high school junior and has always had something to say. I remember when he was in grade school. Me: "How was your day at school." Justin: I first came in a hung up my coat. Then I sat down at my desk and got out my books."

Well you get the picture. Twenty minutes later he would come up for air, finished describing his day.

Katie may be taking after Justin, but it's too early to tell. She's 16-months old and talking up a storm. The only problem is my wife and I can't understand a word she's say. But give her time. I hope she is somewhere in the middle, talking more than Erin, but maybe not quite as much as Justin.

We have been blessed with three great kids. I know many of you dads will be able to relate.