Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The things buried in my yard.....

     Parting is such sweet sorrow, or so they say, and in my house it's just the start of the ritual, especially when it comes to our "pets".  Somehow, it began, that after our pets would pass, we would permanently relocate them around the property.  Now don't picture the Ponderosa when I say that, we live on a 1/3 acre, corner lot in the middle of a small town. Nevertheless, for a small property, it seems like we have a lot of things buried here.....

     I honestly don't remember the first animal we interred on the property, but I'd lay book that it was a fish, and probably one of the carnival ilk, no wait, I think it was a frog.  Molly was just 5 and she was playing with a frog out at Grandma's house and of course wanted to bring it home with her. We told her no, but she thought she could do it anyway, and she quickly discovered two things that were not conducive to frog life.

Specifically they were a 40 minute ride from Bristol NY, and the pocket of a 5 year old's jeans.  Picture one flat, dead frog.  I'm pretty sure that we buried that one, on the south side of the house.  A little tip about burying small pets, you don't really have to go down six feet with them, but you do have to get them deep enough so they won't get dug up by other things. The life lesson here was, listen to your parents, or things die.

     We had a package deal on the next 2-3 burials. These were carnival fish that more than likely came from the Cheshire Fireman's carnival or the St. Mary's Festival.  I'll bet good money that we aren't the only suckers that let their kids play that goldfish game for a dollar and then had to spend $40 on an aquarium set up for the fish that they won.  We keep telling ourselves that we are teaching about the sanctity of all life, but truth be told, we are just suckers for carnival fish.  On this round we had 3, I think, and maybe they were named Mimi, George, and Dad Can't Remember (One of these is probably wrong, but I'll let the kids or wife correct the historical record).
All these fish died on the same day, and no it wasn't a 5 year old's pocket or a natural disaster that took them, (did some of you picture a suicide pact or a twister hitting the tank?), they were killed by cleanliness.  My wife, in her continuing effort to try and keep our house tidy, used a new germicidal sponge to clean the tank, and guess what else it kills besides germs?  I think we had a service for these guys, and a memorial stone was placed atop their graves.  We dug carefully (to avoid the frog) again on the south lawn and interred the fishes.  They might have even had little coffins, but I could just be imagining that.  For those keeping a body count, we are up to 4 and the lesson here is a clean house can be fatal to your pets.

     The next burial was a big one, a black lab, a family pet.  Interestingly enough though, it wasn't our family pet.  We pulled out of the driveway one morning on the way to a camping trip, and a black lab was splayed out in the road in front of our house.  We didn't need the CSI team n this one to figure out how it had been killed, we live on a busy road with some summer truck traffic. We picked it up, called a neighbor whose we thought it was, and left it in a box behind the garage.  When we came back 3 days later and it was still there, we knew we had to bury it, so it went behind our old garage.  We left another phone message for the family down the block telling them what we had done, in case they wanted the remains.
Tomb of the Unknown Dog

They were away for a week.  The surprise ending on this one was that later we walked by their house and heard their dog in their backyard.  I always envision the family coming home with their 4 kids racing to the answering machine to see who could push the button first, only to hear Mr Yarger down the block say " Um, your dog's dead".  I imagine them bursting into tears and going into hysterics until they check their yard and see that their dog is still there, and then thinking what a jerk I was to play such a mean trick.  They moved away shortly after that, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't the cause.  To this day, the black lab buried there is unknown to us.  The lesson here, no good deed goes unpunished.

     Moving on and up with the body count (now at 5), the next animals buried were both rescued birds.   I have their names on a post it here, I had asked my son to write them down.  Also on the post-it is " the Dog Dad hit".  I'll have to talk to that boy when he gets up this am, and remind him I found a dead dog, not created it.  The first bird he called Quasi-Moto, and of course was injured in some sort of accident, probably with it's own reflection in a window (Once again, don't keep your house too clean, it's cruel to the wildlife).  I think Quasi lived in our house for a few days being cared for, but eventually succumbed to his injuries, or it was the Sponge (he may have gotten a taste for killing after his 3 fish spree).

     We did scatter the ashes of our family dog, Barney the Beagle, along the path that he used to run back and forth on each day.  We had a dog run connected to
a large maple and to our north side of our house.
We could never grow grass there while Barney was alive, and I could write a whole blog about Barney, which I will some day and it will be the funniest one I have ever written, so I'll just show a picture of the area where we scattered the ashes for now.  Barney didn't do many tricks, wasn't really trainable, barked incessantly, dug holes in the yard, wet on the floors and bit a few people in his day, but we miss him still.  The lesson in here is something about no matter how big a Pain in the Ass you are, there will always be people that will miss you when you are gone, or at least I hope it will be that way when I pass.
Barney's resting place

     The last burials took place just a few weeks ago and we were back to fish.  Now you wouldn't expect your independent daughter, who lives two hours away, to return home to bury her dead, but that is what just occurred.  I forget if it was one or two fish, but I think they got buried in a little box and joined their brethren on the south lawn.  That brings the total body count around the property to 10.  I am certain that I missed a few somewhere, and maybe the body count is higher, but the kids will likely remember more.  I struggled with how to end this blog on a positive note, but then remembered that I know a story of Goldfish Resurrection.  My brother, Ace, came home one day to find the family carnival goldfish, approximately 15 years old, lying on the floor outside of the tank.  It had likely jumped out of the tank and landed where it lay (our Sponge was questioned, but released).  He gave it the burial that a carnival goldfish deserves, said a few words, and then offered it up to the porcelain goddess.  As the water swirled counter clockwise in the bowl and was about to swallow the fish, Ace noticed that the goldfish was swimming clockwise, and quickly scooped him out and returned him to the tank.  That fish is still alive today, if you go in the summer, he gets breaks from the tank and swims in the family pool, no joke.

So, if you find yourself in Hall NY, and want to take the Yarger pet graveyard tour, feel free to walk among the dead, silently and reverently.  We don't charge admission, except to see the Sponge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm not Easy, but I can be had......

     I recently read the attached article about George Soros using his wealth to influence a variety of media outlets to take more liberal stances, and to slant their coverage. (Click to read about George Soros) Now, I could get upset and rail about how the press is supposed to be unbiased in their coverage, and just present the facts without their political opinions mixed into it, but I honestly think that, that ship has sailed a while ago, plus it makes me no scratch. 
Here, then,  is my solution.       Dear Mr. Soros, I write a blog with a few hundred hits each week, and below is my menu for selling out my beliefs.  You can pick one or we can do a combo special, and take 15% off if you pick two or more (even billionaires can't resist a sale).

$10,000 - I'll support the Theory of Global Warming What?  We don't call it Global Warming anymore, it's Climate Change now? OK, so I will support the Theory of Global Climate Change.  I'll even stop calling it what it is, a theory, and starting pretending it is proven fact.  I'll then pretend, that while no accurate climate model is even close to existing, nor has the theory been proven, that I have the absolute solution, which coincidentally coincides with most liberal platforms.

  I'll preach of the dangers of driving big cars, and eating beef, and using refrigerators to store our food.  I'll hamper "Big" business in every way possible, oh except if it's Chinese "Big" business, I'll give them a pass.  I'll overlook the ice flows that are growing, and post pictures on my blog of the ones that are shrinking.  I'll appear at any natural disaster near me, and claim that it certainly was caused by the Global Climate Change Crisis (see how I used "crisis" to make it appear like we have to act more quickly and not wait for the actual facts and data to support us? That's a freebie, no extra charge. ) I'll fudge the data too, Lord knows with the Crisis we are in, we have to steer the uneducated to the solution, so I can easily rationalize this, like most of the other supporting scientists have.  I'll coat birds with oil for photo shoots, I'll sell Carbon Credits to "Big" Business and boycott those who don't buy them, Hell I'll even support the use of ethanol from corn, even though we all know that makes no scientific sense at all and drives our food prices up.   I'll have to practice saying "profit" like it is a four letter word, but I can get it.  All this will cost a mere $10,000.

$15,000 - I'll promote the necessity of a larger government with more control and power.  I'll ignore all the history that shows how a society like this cannot prevail, and the numerous warnings against it from our forefathers.  I'll come up with catchy phrases to promote it like a BOGO (buy one get one) sale.

New Govt building under construction
 Hire one new government employee, and you'll get the second one for free, or at least they'll be "free" for the first year with a "grant" or something, but added to the payroll later. I'll use my best scare tactics so people will actually be afraid to not vote for a bigger government.  I may put in to make myself one of the employees, it will have to be a no-show job though, as I need the time to blog. 

$25,000 -  I'll support Obamacare.  Even though we have laws in existence that makes sure no one is denied services at hospitals, I'll jump on the band wagon and insist that everyone (except those 1000 companies among his supporters that have waivers), purchase health insurance that they might not need, want, or can afford.  I'll strongly argue that this one size fits all plan is the true one, even if it does ignore all the costs associated with healthcare litigation.  In particular, I'll tout the Free Canadian Healthcare plan as a workable model even knowing that it is far from free, and is co-dependent on the worlds best health care system, the US.  (The fact is that 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of a US border and use our system to save themselves when they would otherwise perish due to inefficiencies in their own.) Can I get this one in cash?

$50,000 -I'll wage Class Warfare convincing all that the rich didn't earn their money, have no claim to it, and have an obligation to give it away to those we deem as less fortunate.  Instead of recognizing the welfare cheats, addicts, and ne'er do wells that help to populate the system, I'll find an example of someone who is down on their luck that everyone can relate to, and put them up as the face of the poor and downtrodden.
Statistically this will be harder to find but even a conservative like me knows that they exist.  I'll help to define who is "rich" too, drive an SUV? Rich, Send your kid to private school?, Rich, Have a great health plan? Rich, Own your family home? Rich,  Can afford to get a full tank of gas? Rich.  This is actually kind of fun, now I know what God, whoops, I mean President Obama feels like.


I'll help lobby to remove the incentives for employees that do find better ways to improve, so that everyone is equal, well, mediocre, but equal.  I'll replace Teacher of the Year with participation awards for everyone.  I'll chase the volunteers out of firefighting by lobbying for laws that attach a ridiculous amount of training to the jobs that they volunteer for, part time, so that every small town firehouse will have paid fireman and supervisors living there, 24 hours a day.   I'll put policemen in every school, ooh let's call them Resource Officers, and fund them for free for a few years too (Wait, what? Man, every time I get a good idea....)  When the school, fire and police stations operate and serve the public as efficiently as the DMV, I'll know my work is done.

$5,250,000 - I will agree that the path to making the US work is to open wide our borders, tax half of the populace more and the other half not at all (maybe even give them rebates when they haven't paid taxes, What? Dammit!  I'm going to stop trying to think of new things....) and to remove God from our money, public buildings, and our lives.  Sorry for the large price tag on the last one, but if successful I'll have enough money to move to a more democratic country, like Canada.  Don't worry though, I'll still visit, when I need medical care. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Save the Drama for your Mama.....

     This post could well be about all the dramatics I have witnessed with my 3 children, currently ages 20, 17 and 11, but it's not.  This blog deals with their draw to the Drama Club and the many plays that they have acted in, and the bigger picture as it pertains to life choices.
     It all started with a Munchkin.  Our daughter Molly came home from school one day and told us she had an interest in acting in the upcoming High School's rendition of the Wizard of OZ.  She was selected to be a Munchkin.  She was the right height (she kinda still is).
 She was in the 6th grade, and my wife and I couldn't see the harm in her participating, so we agreed (gotta round that kid out, after all)   As a proud parent, I will say, it started a very successful run for her with her future appearances on stage.  She later acted in Annie, did many more chorus concerts full of solo's and duet's and sang the National Anthem at a plethora of sporting events and parades.  My favorites were the Christmas Chorus concerts.  Her rendition of Merry Christmas Baby instantly makes me tear up as I hear her throaty, soulful singing of that particular song, but it all started with a Munchkin. She was bitten by the "acting" or "stage" bug and she still likes to get up and perform today.  She shares this trait with her Dad and siblings.  Just a few weeks ago, Molly and I got up and did a song or two on Karaoke Night at a bar in Buffalo.  It was fun, and she made me tear up there too, but it also got me to thinking whether we were doing a disservice to our kids in supporting their love of all things theatrical. 

    Without question the effort that my children have put into the theater has gained them benefit, not the least of which is the ability to be comfortable in unfamiliar settings.  In my opinion, this is a rare gift, especially when you have to present to large groups, so if you excel at it, you have a leg up on your peers.
Molly (on right) with friend singing
  I have no doubt that this skill will continue to serve my children in the future, and already we receive a lot of compliments on how our children present themselves.  There are, however, costs to the participation in the theater, especially in the High School years, and they need to be considered. I have noticed that with some kids, the amount of work that is needed to put on a production can be overwhelming and can have a deleterious effect on their school work.  There are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes, the homework doesn't get done, or more probably gets done but not with the effort it deserved, put towards it.  I have loved watching my children during each of the performances, but I have not loved watching their grades suffer for the art. Those consequences come up quickly and in a highly competitive academic world, the points lost on GPA due to Drama, can be the difference in being accepted into the college of your choice, or getting the better scholarship to your chosen school to make it affordable.  Those are not fun conversations to have with a teen, but oh how those bright lights beckon.

      My son Dan started acting in High School and he logged countless hours rehearsing and acting in productions.  I recall Les Miserables, The Crucible, Crazy For You, and coming soon to a High School near you, Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced. 

Dan, in white, in The Sound of Music
 We found out that he could sing when he acted in Les Mis, which we honestly didn't know until he started rehearsals.  I don't think we are bad parents, but I do think that having a singing sister (that was her thing)  in the house, kept Dan from showcasing his talent until she went off to college.  He did pretty well with it, and that production remains my favorite of all he has done.  He got typecast though and repeatedly has been cast as a bishop, a priest, and a minister. I like the clergy and all, but I have to admit I'm looking forward to him stepping out of those roles to play an inspector.  With that role he will end his High School drama participation, and head off for bigger and better things.  Dan has an interest in law and politics, and the ability to appear in front of groups will serve him well in either career, but I still wonder if we let him spend too much time on this hobby, at the expense of his grades. I think Dan will be successful in whatever path he chooses, and there is something to be said about allowing your children to follow their passions, but the pragmatist in me will always ponder the true costs of doing that.

     Our youngest, Nolan,  just appeared in his first Middle School production, entitled The Man of Steel. It was a parody of the Superman comics, and it was really entertaining.  Nolan shared the role of Bobby Benson (Jimmy Olsen in the comics), and I thought he did a great job with it.
Nolan, on left, with the Man of Steel
His singing lacked confidence as did most of the cast's, but I could hear most of his lines clearly, and he delivered them with panache.  Nolan has a minor issue with projecting while speaking, and I suspect if he continues in drama that he will overcome this.  I have already seen this change in my niece, Sam, who was also in the play.  I watched her both in the play and as an emcee in a recent steel drum concert that we attended.  She went from a very shy and nervous performer to an ad-libbing actor with a comfortable ease in just a few short years.  She has already received benefits from this new found skill.  Nolan will also, but we may give him a shorter leash on the amount of time spent on Drama. Sometimes, by the time you know that the grades are suffering, you are too committed to drop out, and all you can do is threaten non-participation in the future, but the grades are permanent by then.  It's not as easy decision for either parent or child, and it is not only Drama that can do this, sports, clubs, Scouts, and other outside activities can have the same effect, so where do you draw the line?  If I had the definitive answer, I wouldn't be blogging for free, I'd be selling my secrets to all the parents out there suffering the same angst, and making millions from it.  We all want our kids to do well, but the path isn't always clear to that goal.

     In closing, I'll offer you an invitation to Dan's last performance this weekend. If you want to see Dan Yarger as Inspector Craddock, there are performances both Friday and Saturday nights this week at the Marcus Whitman High School on Baldwin Road in Rushville NY at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available at the door for $8.  If you come, let me know your opinion on the time spent, and the benefits gained, and maybe I'll have a little less parental angst, after all the Munchkin is doing fine now....


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dedicated to my son Dan, the Eagle Scout.

    This week's blog is simply the speech I delivered as Scoutmaster at my son's Eagle Court of Honor on Sunday.  It was an intimate affair with close family and friends, and I only wish I had taped my son's own remarks, because they were incredible. 

     Humble.  No, not me, but this Scout and these proceedings.  Humble.  As Scoutmaster of Troop 68 in Hall, I've had the privilege of attending 4 Eagle Courts of Honor for members of this Troop. 

Each one was different in its own right, but this one, by far is the most humble.  Dan hand selected each of you to be here today, to take part in this simple ceremony, because each and every one of you contributed in some way to either his project, or to his development as a Scout and a citizen. As his Scoutmaster, and as his father, I thank you for that.  It's my task now, to take what you have heard about the Eagle Rank and apply it this humble Scout, Dan Yarger.  

      If I started too far back in Dan's Scouting career, I am not sure I could get through a talk like this, but I do remember Dan and his friends as they joined the Tiger Cubs so many years ago.  Those times while precious, paled in comparison to watching their growth and development as they advanced through the ranks, first in Cub Scouting and then in Boy Scouts.  Today, I will watch this Scout be awarded the highest rank in Scouting, the Eagle Rank, but what did Dan do, in particular, to earn this rank? Well, that's a story in itself....

     In order to be eligible for the rank, Dan had to earn 21 or more Merit Badges, 11 of which are specific to learning about things like our Community, Personal Finances, and Physical Fitness.  Dan earned some of these in Troop with our own parents taking on the role of Merit Badge Counselor, and some while away at camp each year. 
Mom pinning the Eagle

While earning these, he advanced through the ranks of Boy Scout, Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, 1st Class, Star Scout, and Life Scout.  Only then after 6 years worth of community service, weekly Troop meetings, campouts, merit badge sessions, and yes fundraising, was Dan eligible to develop his Eagle Scout project to attain this rank.  His hard work brought him to that point, but I suspect that he never had a clue to the hard work that still awaited him in planning, documenting, leading and accomplishing this huge undertaking. 

     Dan's project was to expand a set of existing trails at the Town of Seneca Park in Flint. He noticed, on a visit to the park, that the existing trail was small, and didn't advance very far into the beautiful woods , and set his goal on making it a more pleasant experience for all those who walked there.  
From the planning stage to the final completion of the trail, it was a 2 year endeavor, and put all of Dan's skills to the test.  Dan appeared in front of the Town Board to gain approval for his plan.  He walked the trails, and plotted out the 2 new loops, he measured them and tried to keep the environmental impact to a minimum.  Several months after the start of the project, he planned clearing days, and organized large groups to remove the debris, and small wood.  He named Scouts to lead each group, and he learned how to delegate tasks, like the chainsaw work and how to give leadership opportunities to others.  When the trails were mapped and cleared, Dan set his sights on the next part of the project, fundraising to place 2 granite benches on each loop.  The fundraiser he planned was one of the most unique and successful fundraisers that I have seen in the history of the Troop.  

     As many of you will remember it was an Italian dinner at Biaggi's in Victor, and once again, I watched Dan shine.  He approached the restaurant and negotiated the meal and costs.  He contacted a local band, Meyer and MacGuire, and solicited a donation of their time to provide entertainment for his guests.  He worked with a family friend to print the tickets, and he filled the room to capacity that night, and he exceeded his fundraising goal by so much, he was able to purchase a permanent sign for a map to be placed at the front of the trail.  There were 2 moments that evening, where it became evident to me that my duties as   Scoutmaster for this Scout were quickly coming to a close.  He was heckled slightly during his presentation, and I was astounded when he, unflustered, retorted the remark, and continued on with his talk.  This skill he had certainly picked up doing the many presentations to the Troop and at summer camps, and he learned it well. 
I also watched him power through his dinner, and then stand up and walk around to each and every table at the fundraiser to insure each of his guests were having a good time.  No one had asked him to do it, it was quickly becoming instinct for Dan to do the right thing, unprompted.  The mark of an Eagle Scout.  He showed this same temerity several months later as the town started to do the rest of the work on the trail.  Dan had no obligation to help with this work, he had more than the requisite number of hours to earn the badge and rank, but for those 2 days, Dan worked side by side with the Town to lay down the fabric, rake the stone, and even to drive the Skidsteer to help complete the project....his project.  Dan did an excellent job negotiating the purchase of the sign and benches too, and one of his last duties was to mark the spot on each trail for their placement on the trail.  They are there now, and conveniently placed, so you don't have to walk for more than a quarter of a mile before you have a place to sit.  The project in total had over 250 man hours invested in it. 
     "A truly remarkable project, and one of the most significant projects I have seen in my Scouting career".  Oh, those aren't my words, those were our Council's Advancement Chair for Eagles.  He was so impressed with the scope of Dan's project, that he nominated it for the Eagle Scout project of the year.  Dan, this winter, attended that dinner and while he lost to another project in the Rochester area, he gained another benefit, a mentor assigned to him who is a full partner in one of the most recognized law firms in Rochester.  I suspect this may be of great benefit to Dan as he pursues his interest in law and politics in college over the next 7 years, but the Scoutmaster in me, wonders if Dan's mentor, might learn from Dan too?  Time will tell.  

      If Dan continues in law, the path is unrestricted to the top of that field, in fact several of our current Supreme Court Justices were Boy Scouts, and Stephen Breyer, is an Eagle.  

     If Dan choose politics, there are too many Scouts and Eagles to name, but if he aspires to the highest office, he'll join the ranks of Scouts, John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barak Obama, and Gerald Ford who was an Eagle. 

     If Dan chooses a career in business, he'll be following the paths of Scouts like, Sam Walton, Steve Fossett, Richard Branson, Ross Perot, Steven Spielberg and even Bill Gates.  Bill Gates, father was an Eagle and his son, the Microsoft founder, was a Life Scout. 

     If Dan chooses to sit on the couch and watch TV, two of his favorite TV personalities will remind him of his Scout and Eagle obligations, Bear Grylls and Mike Rowe.  It's tough to escape your destiny as an Eagle Scout.  Mike Rowe, an Eagle himself, was once asked to write to a potential Eagle to help inspire him, and this is what he said (read Mike's comment's the link is here) http://meritbadge.org/wiki/images/3/30/Mike_Rowe-Dirty_Jobs_Eagle_Letter.pdf

     Lastly if you doubt that the sky is literally the limit for this Eagle, ponder for a moment that 11 of the 12 sets of footprints on the moon were made by Scouts, including the first set made by Neil Armstrong who was an Eagle.

     In closing, I admit that I do not know the path that lays in front of this new Eagle.  Remember, it's not the  Award that makes an Eagle, it's all the experiences, and hard work attached to it, and what the Scout learns from them, that makes an Eagle.  As his Scoutmaster, I can tell you Dan has done the work, and he has learned from it.  

The Eagle has landed.