Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's time you met the Family....... Part 2

The continuation of the family primer, 6 of us in part 1, and 6 of us in part 2......

     It's ironic that the brother that I am closest to, I am actually closest to (he lives 5 miles from me) My brother Ace first appeared in October of last year in a blog about his twin's pig roast entitled "A Swine Time".  http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/10/swine-time.html
I didn't give Ace his nickname, his work buds did, but I think it fits him well.
Ace has less formal education than a lot of the family, he never went to college, but started immediately into the construction business.  If I told you that he didn't need it, and he was more "street wise" than my other siblings, you would think I was placating him, right up until you met Ace.  Ace could teach courses in relationship building, and he has a natural ability to get along in any crowd.  He has spent his life working in construction with the last decade plus centering on the environmental side of it, and he even had his own business, as a chimney sweep for a time.  This brother reminds me the most of my Dad, his flirtatiousness, his love of BBQing and parties, and his devotion to family, his siblings and his offspring.  Ace hosts the annual corn roast prior to our Family Reunion each year and has hosted a number of Thanksgiving family meals at his Firehouse (OK, admittedly it is weird to have a family corn roast the day prior to the big family reunion, but what can I say, we like each other that much).  As previously mentioned, my impressions of my siblings were formed early on, while growing up, and with Ace this is true too.  It seemed like he dated a lot in and after High School, and I remember a parade of girls coming through the house on the way to ski, go to the drive in, or to the disco.  He wrestled and was in track too, and one of the few things I didn't like about him then, was his cruel streak.  He would goad his younger brother, Aquaman, into a fight, by making him think he could be beaten, but then just pummel him into submission.  He did grow out of this, and is now protective over that same brother (As a matter if fact, he dislikes the Aquaman moniker, as he thinks that brother might get taken advantage of).  We talk almost daily, him first about his job and day, then me next about mine.  We both half listen, but you can do that when you are close, and frankly we tend to repeat ourselves, so we don't miss much.  Ace is happily married, in fact, for so long he often says of this marriage sentence, "If I had committed a murder, I'd be out by now. " He and his wife have raised two boys in their rural home, and I like the way they did it so well, I copied it.  The formula is Love, Scouts, Sports, Chores, Homework, Jobs, and Family.  I'll finish about this brother less I get accused of playing favorites, so this brother is rugged, family focused, a great cook, a husband and father, meet my brother Ace.

     Not everyone can claim a superhero as a brother, but I can.  It was only a couple of years ago that I learned that I had a superhero for a brother, and I outlined that story in "They Call My Brother Aquaman"
It's a great read, if I do say so myself.
This brother also spent some time in a branch of the military, and how fitting that it was the US Navy.  His first marriage did not survive the test of a separated family, but when he returned home, he started dating his High School sweetheart and married her.  She bore him a son (Aqualad?), and they currently live a few streets away from where we grew up.  When we were growing up, Aquaman worked at the same pizza place as I did, Papa Franks, and for me, he was defined by his generosity and hard work.  He ran a "candy business" for a while, where he would run to the candy store, purchase a lot of candy, and then re-sell it to his family and friends at the same prices he paid.  He'd also let you sample it.  He ran a landscaping business where he would mow a huge lawn for $5, or shovel a big driveway for the same price.  He was quite frugal too, and I distinctly remember one time when he wanted to bring the change he had saved to the bank, and he had to use a wheelbarrow to transport it all.  He took Home Economics with a friend of his one year, and each night they'd be at the house baking stuff, and each morning they'd be nothing at our house left to show for it, Aquaman would give her the baked goods each and every time.  He'd loan you his bank card if you asked him for it and you think I am kidding, but I'm not.  I had an Aquaman sighting just about a month ago.  I was sitting at the Sandbar with my wife and a few friends, and I had just finished telling them the story of Aquaman.  My back was to the water, but I suddenly heard a splash, Aquaman, had come out of the water, and was headed over to talk to a bartender.  He didn't see me, but I pointed him out to my friends, and was overheard by some kids at the table next to me.  I called him over, but he explained that he didn't have time to talk, that he had to retrieve a lost cell phone, and he dove into the water and under a boat at the adjacent marina.  Quicker than you could say "Holy Mackerel" he was back out of the water, with a black, wet, dead, cell phone in hand.  When he dove back into the water, and off into the sunset, his kid fans stood by the water and watched him until he disappeared, in true Aquaman style.  So this brother is generous to a fault, hard working, a terrific swimmer, and an entrepreneur, meet my brother, Aquaman.

     I introduced my last brother in a blog in January of this year entitled "3 brothers, a Shopping Cart and a Very Steep Hill (http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/01/3-brothers-shopping-cart-and-very-steep.html)  That particular story was about a wild, careening ride down a path of possible self destruction, but also can be used as an a metaphor for my brother Redface's life.
I'll start with his early life like I did with the others.  Redface was academically near the top of the family, but struggled socially.  He participated in some of the same things as my other siblings, Columbian Squires, Altar Serving, Scouts, and Track (in fact he spent a lot of his life running to and from things), but never excelled in any of them.  He also did some things that no one else had done, like join the Civil Air Patrol. Unlike my brother Ace, he was awkward around the fairer sex, and this defined a lot of his High School experience for me.  I remember that he had a girl that clearly had defined their relationship as "friends" only and each and every day, he would walk out to her house a couple of miles from ours to go speed walking with her.  When he eventually tried to move that relationship to the next level, even the walking stopped. He ran away more often too, and this wanderlust continued in his life. We worked at the same pizza place, Moreys as adults, and when we showed back up on Mondays and asked each other where we went the last weekend, I'd say "The movies" and he'd say "Connecticut".  He'd leave with no plan, sleep in his car and just go somewhere, looking for that elusive something for him to define his life.  It wasn't the Army although he did a stint there, or his marriage that seemed troubled from the start and I can't say if it was fatherhood as he didn't have much of a chance at that before he self destructed.  I've promised to tell that story someday, but I need to do it when I can find deeper meaning in it, and that time is not this morning. I'll finish by saying that this brother was troubled, smart, active, adventurous, driven to find himself and that I miss him, Meet my brother, Redface.

     Although it's a lot like writing your own eulogy, I have to put myself in this blog somewhere, so at the very least my siblings can comment below and tell me if I got it right or not.  I use my family that way a lot, like a moral compass or to correct my steering if I get off track.  Now that isn't to say I've taken their advice easy or often, but I do take it, I just take it in my own time.  I hadn't realized that I had named myself in my blog until a few people had approached me and asked if I was "The Ongion", so I guess I am.
  I first appeared in the very first blog entitled " First Blog - a must read for new followers" (http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/07/first-blog-must-read-for-new-followers.html) which seems a little conceited cuz who was following me before I wrote a blog?  I think a little conceited is an apt description of me sometimes, and sure throw in narcissistic as well.   Let's start with my childhood too.  Being the youngest boy in the family, and the baby for a 4 year period, I got a lot of attention and a lot of resentment for that attention.  I know because when my sister was born after me I resented her stealing all my attention.  If brother Redface ran for finding meaning, I ran for the spotlight in the room.  It happened more after High School, but I was the class clown for a lot of my life, and I wasn't voted most talkative, because I was a shrinking violet.  I wasn't athletic in High School (I tried volleyball for a season), but I was industrious, and worked all the way through, mostly slinging wings at Papa Franks.  I valued my friendships highly then, and still do, but admittedly the group has changed over the years.  I am a family man.  I never miss our reunions and have helped to plan and generate a few of our events that thrust us together all year, the golf tournament, the progressive dinner, family camping trips, men's shopping night, Thanksgivings, and the occasional Yarger bar crawl (One time we did this in Geneva, in a bar with a predominantly Black clientele and just enjoyed the patrons walking in, and then back out again to check and see if the bar had sold)  I started a family web site over 12 years ago, Yarger World (that's not conceited, that's just factual) that is still very active today.   I learned how to be a Dad from mine and I hope when people see me parent, they see some of my Father in me.  I spent a lot of my life rebelling against rules and the establishment, whether this was at my jobs (sorry former bosses), at home (sorry Mom and Dad), or in organizations I joined (sorry everyone else).  I'm not saying I can't control this behavior, but every personality profile done on me has identified this trait, that I don't value order and discipline like most people.  Back to my description, I married my wife 24 years ago, and we both think we got the better part of the deal.  I have 3 children that have survived growing up with a Father like me and thrived in the environment. I'll describe myself as intelligent, family-focused, seeking God (but looking when convenient) an attention whore, a certified pain in the ass, a salesman, a decent father and husband and a faithful friend.  Oh, and I like to drink Sapphire gin and smoke cigars, meet me, The Ongion.  

     My next sister I haven't really introduced yet, as I hadn't decided on a moniker for her completely, until now. This one is taken entirely from our childhood, and in my recollection it defined her to me and maybe others in my family.  I'll call her Tear-y (pronounced teery).  If I was the crybaby in the family up until then, when she came along, she brought that title to new, unseen before, levels.  She'd cry when I'd scare her, she'd cry about life and boyfriends, about being treated unfairly, about chores, and even about Birthday spankings.
One of the defining moments of our relationship was one year where she refused to come down to the table at dinner because she didn't want her Birthday spankings (now my wife thinks this was a cruel practice, but I wonder how many of my siblings feel they were scarred by a few playful swats on the softest part of their anatomy, once a year before you got cake and presents?).  She cried for so hard and long, that Dad gave in and she didn't get spanked that year, but got the cake and presents anyway.  My crying just got me spanked harder, so there seemed an inequity in that.  She seemed to lead a pretty normal life in High School, friends, boyfriends, track, National Honor Society, proms, etc.  It's interesting though, that if you talk to her now, she paints these years much darker than I recall them to be, maybe she lost the brighter colors on her palette later on or maybe I was unaware of her inner struggles?  If it wasn't bad enough that she stole all the attention from me, she then tried hanging around me and my friends. No one wants a bratty younger crybaby tagging along after them, I know because my older brothers told me so.  Tear-y has worked in a variety of places over the years, and she started her own home based business a few years ago.  She also went back to school to finish her Bachelors Degree while her and her husband raised their family (two daughters), a feat I have yet to accomplish.  On raising her children I will say only this, I am pretty sure the words "Suck It Up" have never been uttered in her house.  I've met people that try to protect their children from the pains, both physical and mental,  of the world, and if they are successful, they end up with children less prepared for the pains, both physical and mental that the world dishes out.  It seems an odd choice, but maybe not for someone who didn't take their Birthday spankings.  This same sister, however, did me and my family a huge service by re-purchasing our family home, and taking in our Mother. She requires around the clock care, and while some family members and aides help out, the brunt of this workload falls to her. There is not doubt in my mind that my Mother has been far better off in this situation than she would have been at any nursing home.  For this I am eternally grateful.  So this sister gets characterized as intelligent, able, emotion-ridden, and a caretaker, meet my sister, Tear-y.

     I'm going to have some fun with naming or rather, not naming my last sister.  The best TV shows keep you guessing about certain characters, like why you never saw Wilson's face on Home Improvement or why it took so many years to name Kramer on Seinfeld, so for now I'm calling her She-who-shall not-be-named.  I'm mainly doing this because I can capitalize on all those kids searching the Internet for Harry Potter references and end up skewing the numbers of hits on this blog, but also because I'm not ready to name her yet.
She's my youngest sister, so she has time.  Think how this worked for the Unknown Comic (remember him?)  This sister was pretty tough growing up.  I remember one time at Sonnenberg Park, she tried to jump off the Merry-Go-Round and caught her foot as she exited.  She fell face first and was dragged on her hands over the rocks and sand, until we could stop it (it was kind of funny cuz we had to jump over her each time she went by, like timing a jump rope).  She came up with open wounds on her arms, knees and hands, but she didn't cry (Maybe I'll call her Toughy) She was spoiled of course, because she was the youngest (What! you got to go to dinner with Mom and Dad?), and the household she grew up in was different then mine and probably unrecognizable to my brother the Sergeant-Major, but I'll bet that happens in my house too.  She had great friends growing up in school and kept her best friend all the way through.  Every time she introduces me to her friends I want to steal them, I have a better record of doing this with my brother Ace's friends, but She-who-shall-not-be named hangs out with a better class of people.  She married her college boyfriend and plunked herself smack in between mine and Ace's house.  I think family is important to her, well at least more important than house cleaning.  I had to throw that line in because she thinks I judge her on her clutter, I really don't because I grew up with clutter, but I do recognize a good source for stories when I see one (She once left a pair of jeans on the line so long, that her husband got stung by the bees that had built a nest in them when he went to put them on, crotch humor, gotta love it).  I think they run a tougher household than we grew up in, they have church, chores, yard work, and limited TV (they might be the last house out here without cable or dish, maybe I'll name her Sister Flintstone)  One of her kids acted up on the bus last year, so she made him walk home from school and followed him in her van, you gotta love it, or report her to Social Services.  Her living so close has made our parenting easier, cuz if our kids act up, we just have to threaten sending them to her house.  I can't finish without mentioning her spirituality as she makes it look easy, but prioritizes it so well.  My wife wants me to name her after a Saint, but my parents already did that, so it seems redundant to me.  So this sister is spiritual, tough, an errant housekeeper, living in the stone age and a great mother, meet my sister She-who-shall-not-be-named. (Author's note: About a year after this was written, I actually spent a little time trying to assign this sister a better name, and an anonymous reader suggested Wilson, and it stuck) 

     This brings the family primer to a close.  I am sure there will be some discussion on how I've characterized by siblings, I can hardly expect everyone to share my opinions, how could they, they haven't had the same experiences with and around them that I have. Many years ago I heard a great story from a former Catholic priest Father Jim Callan.  It was about a priest in Maryland who made sandwiches each day and distributed them to the homeless in a local park.  On a slow news day, his story got picked up by the news wires and people started sending in unsolicited donations. Father Callan said each check was sent back with the same unapologetic note that simply read "Make Your Own Damn Sandwiches"  So, to my critics, I simply offer the same advice, write your own damn blog...... so says the Ongion.. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's time you met the Family....... Part 1

     For those regular readers of the blog, you know that many of my themes and stories come from my adventures growing up in Canandaigua NY in a family of 14.  We did it the traditional way, 2 parents of different sexes, and then 12 kids (Wait, that's not the traditional way?, go figure)  I started the practice of nicknaming them in the blog, with "They Call My Brother Aquaman", and it stuck from there.  It gives them anonymity, protects me from lawsuits, cuts them out of future book and movie deals and is fun too.   To date I've introduced only half of them, so I thought I'd finish the job here and create a primer of sorts, for reference.  The blog celebrated it's first full year earlier this month so I felt it was time you met the family.  In no particular order......

     The Sergeant-Major is an older brother of mine, in fact all of my brothers are older, so that doesn't really separate him from the rest.   This brother will always be defined by his military service, at least to me.
He was old enough that he was headed off to college and the ROTC program when I was still young.  His service also directed a lot of our family vacations, as my folks wanted to visit him often.  I hate him for that.  You check the top family vacation spots and tell me which falls above the other, Fort Campbell Kentucky, or Disney World? (I'll give you a hint, it's the one with the Mouse, not the Uncle in red, white and blue).  On one trip I woke up just in time to see a sign pointing to the log cabin that Abe Lincoln grew up in, 2 miles down the road.  We couldn't go though, we had to get to the base with the rows of identical houses, and hunker down there for the entire week, Weeeee!  The Sergeant-Major had a distinguished career in the Army, and served in both Germany and Korea.  He was promoted early, and often, and left the service with a high rank. He and his wife raised their family while traveling the world, and still to this day hold the record in the family for moving and staying farthest from our home town. They always make it a priority to travel back here for big events though, and their record of attendance rivals some of my siblings that live within a hour and a half, amazing ! The SM is also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, if you check his office, he has more certifications than you would think possible. I think he took classes every year he was in the military, and for all sorts of things.  He continued this habit as he exited to work in civilian life.  I will always see him as smart, patriotic, strong, and disciplined as these were my first impressions of him growing up (Now, I don't work with him, so if he became that annoying guy at the office later, that's not my fault).  I am sure he has his faults and foibles, but since I was further removed form him, I just grew up with the facade.  He has 3 children, is married, and currently lives in a state that starts and ends with the same letter.  Meet my brother, the Sergeant -Major. 

    Some of my nicknames for my siblings are admittedly better than others, but when I named my next sister Nightingale, I knew I had nailed it.  Consider the similarities to the bird first, the Nightingale is migratory,
so is my sister, she has migrated back and forth from home to Buffalo most of her life.  The Nightingale is one of the few birds that sing/work at night.  My sister has almost always worked the overnight shifts in her nursing career.  The Nightingale belongs to a family of birds commonly called chats (You've met some of the other Yargers, right?).  Then, let's compare her to Florence Nightingale.  Florence, never married, dedicated her life to nursing, sister Nightingale, the same.  Florence enjoyed a wide variety of close friends throughout her life, both male and female, sister Nightingale, ditto.  Florence rejected her parents wishes early on, and pursued her dreams independently, sister Nightingale had a very similar start to her life in Buffalo, raising a son, independently.  Florence earned the nickname "the Lady of the Lamp" during her time in the Crimean War as she made bed checks well into the evening.  My sister Nightingale has had one of the longest relationships in our family, but hers is a platonic one with a male patient that she has been the night duty nurse for, for a couple of decades.  A little know historical fact about Florence, is that she collected refrigerator magnets, and coincidentally, so does my sister Nightingale.  So in a nutshell, this sister is fiercely independent, a caregiver, a night owl, an avid reader, a mother and now grandmother, and a great friend to those around her.  Meet my sister, Nightingale. 

    My sister, Peppermint, I first introduced in a blog about my Bucket List, see the link here....(http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-bucket-list.html)   She, like Nightingale, is unmarried, and has been migratory in her life at times too.
I recall a stint in the Army, a few years living in San Fransisco, and Philadelphia, but eventually came home to roost near Canandaigua.  She is the favorite Aunt of all the kids in the family and the kind of babysitter that makes you feel guilty about not doing more creative things with your kids (Now she doesn't have to live with the little urchins all month, she just gets to see them for a night or two, so any comparison is patently unfair, but that's what all of us slacker parents say...) She has had an interesting variety of jobs in her life, including everything from insurance sales to food taster.  She is, without question, the most frugal person I have ever met.  She has gone through periods of unemployment, and underemployment in her life, like recently when she chose a part time position to help care-take my Mom, but always managed to not only survive, but thrive.  One year, she shared her yearly budget with me, and I had spent more on alcoholic beverages that year than she had spent in total (Allright, knock off the laughing, it was still impressive).  So, she is kind, caring, thrifty, and a great babysitter.  Meet my sister, Peppermint.

    Another brother of mine, I'll name Socrates.   If you look hard enough you can find similarities between my brother and this historical Greek figure.  The very first one, is that Socrates was defined less by himself and his writings, but more by his contemporaries. That seems to fit my brother.   Our relationship while growing up was rocky. There was no doubting his intelligence, but it was his actions
that defined him more for me.   If I was a bad older brother to my younger sisters, I know I learned this from my brother Socrates. After my bedtime, if I read in bed, I would always have to fear my brother Socrates bursting into my room, and taking my reading material.  What was up with that?  I'd check the chore list that was posted on the side of our fridge, and I never did find the chore "Make Bill's Life Miserable" or "Bedtime Monitor" assigned to him, yet he seemed to relish the chore just the same.  Like my brother, the Sergent Major, my early impressions of him were based on his activities while we lived under the same roof.  I remembered that we worked with my Dad for a while, but it didn't last (So did Socrates), he had a very brief stint in the Navy, and then went to school in Rochester and studied theology.  He brought some interesting discussions back to the dinner table, and I shall never forget pondering, "Cogito Ergo Sum" (I think therefore I am ) over that evening's meal of mackerel loaf (My dearest Mother once substituted Mackerel for Salmon in a loaf recipe she found.  For future reference, Mackerel should not be substituted for Salmon in recipes).  This brother married a Greek woman with whom he had a considerable age difference and raised 3 children with her (just like Socrates).  After his marriage he immersed himself so well into the Greek community, that I once passed him at a Greek festival in Rochester, and found him indistinguishable among the Greek men at the table.  He has dabbled in a few professions in his life, and I honestly can't tell you what his business card would read today if he handed it to me.  He has traveled extensively (like Socrates), run afoul of local politics (like Socrates), and lived his life based on his code of logic and ethics (again like Socrates).  Our relationship has certainly improved from the Bedtime Monitor/Spoiled Younger Sibling days, but I still have less in common with this brother,than others, or so I think.  So he is well traveled, intelligent, an entrepreneur, a husband and father, Meet my brother, Socrates.

    Another sister I have and that has already been mentioned in the blog, is my sister Hummingbird.  I first mentioned her in my blog "Sometimes They Call Me Willie" http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/01/sometimes-they-call-me-willie.html
I described her there, as being always busy and smelling like Windex.  She still talks to me.  Hummingbird has a daughter and is married now for the second time.
 He's a fireman and a lot of fun to be around.  Like my brother Socrates, my sister Hummingbird immersed herself in another culture during her first marriage and it would be hard to tell her apart from a "true" Italian, especially when she cooks.  I like it when she cooks.  This sister shares a passion for good eats with me, and has been known to take the "medicinal" glass of wine with it.  It is rare that, when I call her to have a Happy Hour drink with me, she does not attend.  I like that in a sister.  She's kind of a Renaissance person as she works, knows parenting, cleaning, fashion and floral arranging, cooking, wine, and is an integral part of our family golf tournament.  Like I said, she likes to keep busy.  We were really close when we were lived at my parents, and she, in fact, invited me to live with her when we both decided to leave home. (OK, I really didn't "decide" to leave home, as much as was thrown out unceremoniously by my Dad for not obeying any of the house rules, Sheesh, parents can be so sensitive about those).  I still have some letters Hummingbird wrote to me when she was away working in a Jewish camp in Lake George.  I don't really know why I keep those, it's not my nature, but maybe they remind me of a time when we were closer. She's still in the top 6 of my favorite sisters though, so meet my sister, Hummingbird

     I introduced my sister Meter Maid in a blog about her annual pig roast entitled " A Swine Time".  The link is http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/10/swine-time.html   Now, I have to admit, I didn't put a lot of thought into this nickname, and it's kind of an inside joke, but not too hard to get either.
 She does not work in law enforcement, but she does work in local government.  She is a simple, hard working person that has always valued having her family around, yes even me.  To be fair on her marital status, I have to admit she has had more husbands than she owns shoes.  No, it's true, she only has 2 pairs of shoes.  Her current husband is a lot like her, a hard worker, that values family.  She'll probably kick my ass for saying some of this, and she's done it before.  You can read that story in "Of fisticuffs and loose teeth"  The link is
http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/11/youthful-adventures-of-fisticuffs-and.html   My memories of her growing up were of her working at Burger King, and of upsetting my Dad with her choices of boyfriends.  She helped to teach me how to drive.  She lives in the Ithaca area, and like my Dad did, she never turns down family or friends if they need a place to stay or a meal.  I like to go to her place for Easter, but haven't done it for years now.  She raised 3 children of her own, and still frequently hosts them back at her place for Sunday dinners.  One of these days, I am going to crash that party, but it's tough to crash a party that you have an open invitation to.  Oh, she is a twin to my brother Ace.  She is hard working, compassionate, funny, and generous, so meet my sister, Meter Maid.

     If I counted right, I should be halfway done with introducing my family.  I think I'll save the rest for next week, and then the lynch mob will be split into two factions.  It's natural for family members, even ones that love each other as much as we do, to disagree or quarrel occasionally, because after all, you don't pick your siblings, like you do your friends.  I can say, for me, I got awfully lucky having the ones I do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I went to a Yarger Party and everyone was there......

    I'm stealing a page from my friend Daphne this week, who uses more pictures than words in her blog to tell her stories. Now, she lives in a gorgeous area of Alaska, and I live in a sleepy little hamlet in Western NY, but you get the picture, or you will.

The Graduate and his cousin the photographer
     In my head, the title is sung like Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party", sans Yoko and the Walrus. We had a party this last weekend.  I know, shock and awe, What? The Yargers, Party? but truly we did.  My son Dan graduated from High School a few weeks ago, and it was our turn to do the send off with 140 of our closest friends.  We did it in true Yarger style.  The first pic is my niece Kelsey, whom I stole all these pictures from, because we were too busy running a party to take them.  Thanks Kels!!! 

Card box, and cake gift from my sister, it's made of towels and really cool.
Dan's Eagle Project Board
Another Board, my niece Elizabeth put together for us.
The planning for the party started about 8 months ago, and we actually had 2 "practice" parties to make sure this one went smoothly. I learned how to cook Texas Beef Brisket for it, as Dan and I wanted something different at the party, and that's not a piece of meat you just get right the first time.  We cooked and carved 7 Briskets weighing a total of 75 lbs and ran out after 11 pm (the party started at 3 pm)  We served them on fresh tortillas, and crusty Pain de Champagne Rolls from Wegmans, and with sauce from the Dinosaur BBQ.  We bought 12 cases of beer and wine coolers, and had tubs of pop and water too.  We made 35 lbs of Potato Salad, did 30 plus lbs of Hash Browns on the grill, and a very creative homemade fruit salad.  My girlfriend Stretch did a big broccoli salad for us, Char's sister did their famous baked bean dish, and we grabbed two cakes from Bagels and Cakes in Geneva.   A special thanks to Jon Murphy and his girlfriend Molly for all the cleaning, running, and preparing for the party that they did.  Part of throwing a good party is letting go of some things, and taking some of the many offers of help that come your way, so we did.  No offense intended to those offers we didn't take, we'll catch you for the next one.
Ace stoking and me flipping the hash browns
Is it safe to go back in the fruit salad yet? 
What the brisket looked like
Brother Ace making fresh tortillas
Seasoning the Hash Browns
We had both Sharks and Whales at the party
  The next part of throwing a great party is whom to invite.  Dan has a lot of good friends and he learned that from us.  Throw that in with some great neighbors, close families on both sides, and the assorted others, and you have all the mixin's for a great crowd.  We put everyone under a tent in the yard that we rented from our friend Randy Weigert.  I can't remember what he calls his party rental business, cuz I just call it "Call Randy and he'll do it for you, really reasonable, and have a beer ready for him"  I'm pretty sure that is not the name of the business, it would look ridiculous on a card, but if you need tents or a dance floor, or tables and chairs, let me know and I'll give you his number. 
Char and her best buddy, the yet unnamed sister.
Some of my favorite Bros in Law, in front of the Garaj-Mahal
Our new neighbors playing Can Jam with the volleyball net in the background
Crowd shot under the tent, early on in the party.
My sister Hummingbird, and another. She broke her toe later, but she's having fun here.
Molly and a family friend, guess which one is the Yarger? Hint: We love food.
A rare shot of my sister Peppermint and her sister Meter Maid
Another tent shot with all the cars in the background
My unnamed camera hog sister, with "don't even ask what's on her face"and why are they pointing and laughing at her?
So that was the crowd, there's not a lot of pictures of Char's family here, as my side took these pictures and she said she was nervous about "creeping" on people, but they were all there, all night, and it wouldn't have been the same without them.  We have great families and friends.  They spontaneously would help on the grill (Thanks Rob Carey), clean up the tables (Thanks Des and all), break down the tables and chairs (Thanks Donn, Rich and Frank), refill the beer (Thanks Jay and Jim), Drink the beer (Thanks Jim K.) and do anything else that was asked or even not asked of them.  It's nice to be able to count on so many people.  I'm going to close this blog by talking about the entertainment.  At most Yarger parties, the Yargers are the entertainment, but in this case, we did hire a band.  A big shout out to Brent Turetsky and his band " A Little Less Than Lonely"  They played on the upper deck of the Garaj-Mahal (yes it has a balcony, don't be haters, just make your own).  They played from 6 til 11 when I finally made the crowd stop asking for more songs. They rocked the house with tunes from Sublime, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffet, and a lot of others.  If there is a type of music they couldn't play, I don't know it.  They even let Nolan jam with them and Molly sing a few tunes.  They were a last minute hire, and suggested by Paul Chapman, but we more than got our money's worth.  There were over 50 guests still at the party at midnight, and the last ones went home around 1:30.  I think we gave Dan a nice send off, Yarger Style.
A couple of the members of "A Little Less than Lonely" Matt left and Joe front
Nolan jammin with the band, he did bongos and then drums

Here's to you son, Congratulations !

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Awesome! 26 cents.

     This story goes back a few years ago when my youngest, Nolan, was even younger. He captured that enthusiasm that morning that can only come with being 4 or 5 and unencumbered with the world's problems.  

     I get up early every day.  Now that's not to say I beat my wife up, she gets up before me about 5/7 days, but I have always found little value in sleep, so I still get up early on the weekends too.  (To clarify, I don't beat my wife up, I just get out of bed sometimes before her).  On this particular Saturday morning, I was watching the beginning of the Today show, in my Lazy Boy, coffee in hand, when Nolan, covered from head to toe in his Sponge Bob pajamas, came bounding down the stairs. He launched himself up into the air and landed on the couch, legs bent beneath him.  When he landed, he heard a small jingling sound, and he reached in between the cushions to feel what it could be.
I caught this guy in my backyard with one of my ancient Grecian urns.

  When his tiny hand came back out, it was clutching a few items and had a harder time coming out of the cushions, than it did going in (A small aside, I've heard they catch monkeys this way, by boring a small hole in a tree, and placing large nuts inside A big jug with a small opening can work too.  The monkey can't get their paws out, while they are wrapped around the nut, and they are slow to release the nut, hence they are trapped).  Nolan's hand that morning held exactly two coins, a quarter, and a penny.

     "Awesome, 26 cents1" he exclaimed, and he immediately ran back upstairs to deposit it into his bank. He had been up for all of 2 minutes on that lazy Saturday morning, and he already had his first adventure in the bank, oh and 26 cents too.  He bounded down the stairs again, but bypassed the living room this time, and went into the kitchen.

"Dad, do we have a flashlight ?" he inquired. I paused my show, and I showed him where to find it, but now my curiosity was peaked, so I hung around to see where this might be heading. He bent over and started shining the light through the 3 holes cut into our cupboard base, for a heat run.  He found a marble, a dusty army man, and then exclaimed, "Dad, I think I see Dinosaur Bones !"  Well, I am no anthropologist, but I am pretty sure that my house was built well after there was any chance of dinosaurs coming in, hiding in my cupboard base and expiring there.  It's not my job to burst his bubble, so a second later, I was on the floor peering into the back of the cupboard, and sure enough there were dinosaur bones there.  They were small, resembling more of a rodent than a stegosaurus, but they did look pretty authentic to my untrained eye. It was at this point, we both heard my wife stirring upstairs.  We must have woken her with all the activity that morning.  Oh, this was going to be good.....

     A little background on my wife's morning habits is in order.  We don't talk to my wife ..... until she has her second cup of coffee.  She does not approach the sunrise with the same unbridled enthusiasm that my son exhibits, for her, it's more like the seven stages of grief, when she wakes.
  There is Denial "What time is it? No it can't be that late."  Then there is Anger, "Why do i have to get up this early!"  There is Bargaining "Can't you go to work for me?"  Depression is next, " WHHYYYY?"  She eventually gets around to the Acceptance and Hope, but the journey isn't a pretty one, and she rarely does it before the second injection of Java.  I knew that Nolan wasn't going to be able to hold his news until the required time, and as a matter of fact, before I could stop him he yelled upstairs "Mom, come quick, you GOTTA see this"  We have an expression in our house about not poking the bear, but unfortunately for Nolan, I hadn't taught this to him yet.  Heretofore, I didn't know how many steps there were coming down from my upstairs, but that morning, I heard every one of them, and counted them like it was a gallows walk.  Dean Man Walking.  In my fear, I was slow to react when Nolan scooted around me to go greet his Mother.  I learned that morning, that some parents have that natural instinct to throw themselves in front of a grenade that is hurled at their kids, but then some don't.  I stood where I was, and awaited the explosion.

     When my wife came around the corner, with a smile on her face, I couldn't hide my surprise.  I learned immediately of the power of  an "Awesome, 26 cents" kinda morning, and how contagious it could be.  A moment later, my wife was bent over peering into the vent holes looking for our dinosaur (I know she bent over because I watched her).
Not the actual Yarger Dinosaur, but it's close
Nolan told her of his monetary gain as well, and she politely listened to the story of the find.  The TV remained paused, so many times, that eventually I lost my place and that morning's news was lost entirely.  That lazy, predictable, Saturday had suddenly turned into an adventure filled morning, and our expedition leader had swapped out his Indiana Jones hat for a Sponge Bob butt flap.  It remains to this day, one of my most memorable mornings, thanks to Nolan and his passion and his imagination.  It's not every morning, after all, that you excavate a dinosaur, and tame a bear, all before 7:30. 

      I'll wrap this up with a question or two of my own.  What prevents us from waking up each morning to an "Awesome, 26 cents" kinda feeling?  Do we lose this ability as we age, or do we learn to push it down, and stifle it?  Do we become what we used to hate, someone who has to look at the down side of everything, and point out just have awful each morning is?  I don't really have the answers myself, but I have experienced an "Awesome, 26 cents" kinda day, and seen it's effects, so I am a believer.  We each have the ability in us, to have that kind of morning, each morning, but like all muscles that don't get used often, you may have to exercise it.  Start slow, with some stretching, I hear that helps.  If this were my friend Tor's blog, he'd certainly have connected the story with God by this point   I can clearly hear him saying, "It's a lesson in appreciating the smallest of gifts that a loving God can give us each morning" or he'd tie it into the story of the children coming to Jesus, and the crowd trying to turn them away, but being rebuffed by Jesus.  Jesus knew the value that a small child can have, to your soul, your attitude, and your well being.  Tor would say all that, me, the other hand, am just going to close with, it's okay if you don't clean out your couch cushions that often, and get that vacuum into every nook and cranny in the house, cuz if you did, you might not have an "Awesome, 26 cents" kinda day.