Ring Ring

When I was younger, it was very exciting to get a phone call.  In fact, other than my birthday, I rarely received phone calls.  At times, the phone was intimidating. I remember a Wonder Years episode where Kevin, the protagonist, is intensely deliberating calling a girl while he is staring at the phone.  It seems to go on for hours, and is suddenly interrupted when the phone rings.

These days, email, text, and Facebook are many individuals’ preferred way of communication.  People don’t want to talk on the phone. When the phone rings in my house, nary a move is made. Ultimately, we check the caller id and a decision is made as to whether or not to pick it up.  I am convinced this reaction is typical.  Yes, the phone call has gone out of vogue, its romance faded. In this, I am a throwback. I get a real high from a good conversation, enjoy hearing someone’s voice who I haven’t heard from in a while or who has something to share.  However, sometimes what they have to share is not something I want to hear.

By this point the school year is two months old and the classes are developing a rhythm. Problems that were looked upon as adjustment issues are now seen as something more. If that’s the case, phone calls are made to parents to discuss. We parents hold our breath – no phone calls please. Well, this week we received the call, one we did not want to hear. We knew it was coming – the email announced it was coming. My wife waited for the caller id to announce the school official was calling. She took a deep breath before picking up the phone.  I saw her smiling at the beginning of the conversation. You might think this would put me at ease, but it didn’t.  It seems that $15,000 plus tuition for my son’s school ensures that school officials tell parents how much they love their kids as the first part of the phone call. I am convinced that the first thing new hires learn is that whenever communicating with parents, tell them how much they love having their kids as students.   Well, the call went on for some time, and when my wife finally hung it up, she felt a sense of relief.  Maybe, the phone call is making a comeback.  However, I’m still reserving judgment.

Irrevocably Damaged

My topic today is not something I really want to talk about. However I feel compelled to as it is very much on my mind. It is disturbing and upsetting. I wish I could go to sleep, wake up, and have it not exist.

I attended and received my undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University. It wasn’t a tough decision to go there.  My finances were limited and my grades were good not great so attending a state school was a certainty.  I knew I wanted to go away and PSU offered me the opportunity to live at home for two years and save money and then go away for two years.  Besides, I had family members go there, friends were going there, and they had a great football team.

I didn’t love college – not by a long shot.  Part of it was the school’s fault. Or to be more clear my inability to take advantage of what the school had to offer. In retrospect, a smaller school would have been more appropriate for me. I was a shy kid who needed guidance. The school is tremendous with over 40,000 students at the main campus, Happy Valley.  So, unless a student is aggressive or determined, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle. Too often, I was lost and ultimately did not gain as much as I would have liked from my college experience.

However, there were a few days in particular that made the college experience rich.  Football weekends were a spectacle. The town and the bars would start filling up on Thursday nights with alumni and others returning to old glory.  The energy would continue through Friday and then Saturdays were even more energized. Getting to the stadium meant going through the parking lot and the fans — who are regularly voted number one in terms of tailgating.  The game was a constant barrage of cheers and chants. By the time, Saturday night rolled around, especially if the team won, the town could have been lit up by the energy the fans gave off.

While the team was good when I attended, they were not number one, but that didn’t matter. They were a source of pride. Joe Paterno, legendary coach, was like the wise old grandfather who everyone loved.  They were winners, and they did it the right way. Success with Honor was their motto.  I believed it. We believed it.

When I graduated from Penn State, Jerry Sandusky was regarded as a top notch defensive coach who might have someday succeeded Paterno and become the head coach. What was he doing then when not on the sidelines?  Was he unsuccessfully fighting his demons?  It was only a little while later that he begun harming kids.  These kids are not children anymore. What has become of them? What are their lives like now?  How many more joined them as victims because the abuse was not reported? Maybe those who knew did not know the details or the extent of the problem, but they knew something had happened.  They knew and did nothing.  The famous Edmund Burke quote comes to mind, “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.”

I hope that the school I attended can handle this terrible scandal in the most professional, humble way possible as they start to make amends. Yes, this news story too shall pass but for me and others who were “Penn State Proud” something has been irrevocably damaged.

Contribution to Greatness

I believe we all are endowed with certain gifts. Some of us are able to manifest those gifts and achieve greatness. There are also some who utilize those gifts but to means that are not quite so meaningful.

I heard the Adele song, Someone Like You, a couple of times today as I was driving clicking from radio station to radio station in search of entertainment.  I’ve heard the song many times at this point but always settle on it when I hear it playing. It’s brilliant! I don’t love the lyrics though I do like them. However, that voice – wow, that voice! The first time I heard the song, I turned my radio up and turned my face askance and said aloud, “Who is this?” The next time I heard the song I tried to remember the lyrics, so I could look up who wrote it. The next time I heard it, I literally scrounged around the car for paper and wrote down some of the lyrics, so I could confirm who it was with that voice.  Listening to that song makes me believe that Adele’s voice is an instrument, and she can do what ever she chooses to do with it.

I’ve written a number of times about my passion for sports. While I root wholeheartedly for my Philadelphia teams, I greatly enjoy seeing a gifted athlete ply his trade. Last week, while watching the Eagles – Cowboys game, I was left shaking my head. I saw Eagles running back, LeSean McCoy, make moves that were crazy. The level of body control and vision that were required to move as he did was amazing.

This afternoon my mom, who has been visiting with my family and I for a few days, was scheduled to take a 1:45 train. This morning was my younger son’s birthday party.  After the party, I needed to go food shopping.  Now, my mother is a bit of a nervous person and would be happy to wait at the train station for an extended period of time if the trade-off is cutting it close.  So, when it came time to go food shopping – the pressure was on. I felt a sense of urgency.  Well, it took me just 20 minutes from the time I got into the store till I was in line waiting to checkout. Remember, this is a weekly trip for a family of 4. Anyway, I smashed my record by a good 10 plus minutes. I got home, put the packages away, washed up, etc., and had plenty of time to get my ever nervous mother to the station 10 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive. This today was my contribution to greatness. I hope some day to have other such elevated moments. I also hope that the next time it will be duly noted on a wide scale level. However, if this sonic like shopping trip should be my sole brush with greatness, I think I will be okay.

Limited Time Information

At certain times, we become experts about topics which might not normally be so relevant. For example, you can hear people talking about the triple axle and whether a six was truly deserved during the Winter Olympics.  Then, there was the talk about the relationship between stress and gray hair.  Was the president dying his hair? 

As you may recall, I only half-heartedly follow the weather reports.  I had heard that it was going to be cold last weekend and that there was a possibility of snow, but I did not take it too seriously. Snow in October – nah!  Anyway, Friday night as I was walking home from synagogue, my friend told me they are predicting 2-4 inches tomorrow. I was shocked, “Really?”  I figured the earlier reports were just talk – snow in October?  So, I did not believe this storm would happen until the snow was actually falling.  Hey, it was snowing in October. Even then, I figured it was just a passing fluke. Sunday would be warmer, the snow would melt, and we would all busy about on our ways.

I was wrong – very wrong.  The snow came, and even more dramatically, tree limbs came down and power was lost (we did not lose power ourselves, just a flicker or two, but people all around us were not so lucky).  It took me a little while to realize the severity of this plague. Ultimately, it made me curious: Why did this minor snow event cause so much damage – more so, in my area at least, than Hurricane Irene?  Well, I did not have to look far, or even to Google, to get my answer. My friend, who lost power, explained that he had heard the reason why so many limbs broke is because the trees still had leaves on their branches and this weight combined with the heavy snow was the reason behind the massive amount of downed tree parts. I thanked him, always happy to receive new information, and hung up quickly to conserve his cell phone battery.

Over the course of two days, 5 more people conveyed the information to me about the weighty leaves. I tried to appreciate all of them for sharing.  Ultimately, I engaged them in conversation about the weight of leaves and the damage caused. When do you think that conversation will come up again?  Maybe tomorrow, we can all talk about quick celebrity marriages and divorces…