Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Learners Permit

Oldest son turned 16 over the summer and of course that only means one thing in NJ - getting your learners permit to drive.

Here in the Garden State a 16 year old must take 6 hours of professional drivers training which must speak volumes about the environment around the young new driver. Our state government decided that professional training is required before you get behind the wheel of an automobile as a 16 year old.

Well $300 dollars and 3 months later that part of the experience was complete and Oldest Son was ready to start driving behind the wheel of cars that I owed. The permit arrived on a rainy Wednesday when we needed Bleu Cheese dressing for dinner. I didn't know it had arrived when I demanded that we had to have Bleu Cheese with the buffalo chicken. I was thinking that I would jump in the car and race over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G and has now gone downhill and we don't shop there any more except for Bleu Cheese Dressing right before dinner.

But I digress.

When I said I had to have Bleu Cheese Dressing, Mrs F suggested Oldest Son drive over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G.

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I don't think I was fully prepared for the moment. Wasn't just yesterday when She woke me up and said "the stick turned pink"? And now He was going to drive me over to the store.

I said "sure".

We went out to the the small car. My drive-to-the-train-station-car and he got in the drivers seat. I got in the passenger seat, a seat to which I am not accustomed. Ever.

He put on his seat belt and started the car. Actually he started the car once and then sprung the key into the starter position again making a grinding noise.

You have no idea what they don't know.

The state of New jersey only makes it worse by making them spend 6 hours in a "professional" setting because then you don't know what they know about driving and what they don't.

After the starter episode he turned on the lights to the first position, the "parking lights" (what the are these for anyway? In thirty years I have never driven anywhere with just these lights on).

Lesson one: These are the head lights. You need them to see.

I decided that a little refresher of all the switches and knobs was in order. Windshield wipers, emergency brakes, seat adjustment. Check, check and check.

We were ready and he drove off into our cul de sac. There is nothing more frightening then realizing that you have just turned over a 1500 lb automobile to someone whose skills as a driver are a complete unknown.

As he turned around in the dead end I tried not to show my panic. "You are doing great" I told him and he was, it was the truth. I just felt helpless.

As we drove off our street and through the development to the exit we talked about a strategy for approaching the Stop and Shop and parking the car. I realized there was another skill I had taken for granted: parking.

Over all he did great except for making a right without being able to see all the way up the street and we were back in 15 minutes.

Mrs F said that she would let him drive home all the way from the High School after she picked him up from Band the next day but I told her "you are not ready for this" .

Since that night I grown accustomed to letting him drive.
It's not easy but I am better at it. He was always fine - I had the problem.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pope abolishes limbo.

As I wrote last week, I read that the Pope was about to abolish limbo.

For the non-Catholic reader, limbo is described at newadvent.org:

In theological usage the name is applied to (a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ's triumphant ascension into Heaven (the "limbus patrum"); or (b) to the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone (the "limbus infantium" or "puerorum").

So basically it's where unbaptised babies or as I was taught "pagan babies", go if they die.

I think this is great - there are paid people whose job it is to wear large pointy hats and worry about where unbaptised babies go if they die and this says a lot about the society in which we live. Pondering such issues not very practical and doesn't really produce any economic value but at least we are not living in such dire conditions were we couldn't afford to have able bodied men consider the afterlife fate of the un-dunked. I'm sure this didn't happen during my Grandfather's time in the depression when men were busy trying to make ends meet by selling apples and pencils on street corners and deep thoughts on the subject of limbo was the farthest thing from their minds. So we should consider ourselves rich since we can afford to pay people to provide such services to our society.

Also, the whole topic of limbo just yet another divisive subject. It automatically divides people into one of two camps. Are you for limbo or against it? Are you a limbo-ist or an anti-limbo-ist? Like abortion, Iraq or this red state, blue state thing there is going to be clear line and you have to be on one side or the other. Why I am Pro-Limbo and Pro-life. Except for the fact that the Pope has made a stand on the "issue", it's just a bumper sticker and a catchy icon away from ripping this country in two.

So how did this dramatic decision come to be? It seems fishy to be Pope for a short time and to make such a dramatic move. Did Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lobby the college of cardinals before becoming Pope? Did he promise them "You boys put me in the big chair and I'll make sure that limbo is abolished in our lifetime"? Has he secretly been planning this for years while working his way up the ranks? Did he start as a small boy with a dream? Did he say to himself as a young man "I hope some day to abolish the silly concept of limbo and set pagan babies everywhere free"?

Or was it the other way around? Did a group of Cardinals promise to get Ratzinger the Big Pointy Hat if he abolished limbo? It just brings all kinds of questions doesn't it? Like I said, it seems fishy.

So before it was abolished, what was limbo like? After all, it sounds like a heavenly Lord of the Flies. First of all, the entire population of limbo is under the "age of reason" which most cultures believe is about 13 years old. Millions and millions of children under the age of 13 with zero supervision. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. Let alone how impractical it sounds as a very large percentage of the limbo population must be newborns who died at child birth. This brings up the whole question of care and feeding. Who is going to care for millions of babies? Do they grow? Are they stuck as babies forever? What of the toddlers, three year olds and pre-ks? Who is keeping them occupied with no Sesame Street, Barney or Tell-a-tubbies to lean on? If you are one of the unlucky 13 year olds this isn't limbo, it's hell because you are a babysitter with a lot of kids to look after.

So let's look for the news from the Vatican to see if they are successful!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How I spent my 17th Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was our 17th Wedding Anniversary and here is how I spent it.

8:00 AM - Woke up and turned on the oven to 325. Made coffee.
8:15 AM - Made Brownies for Bake Sale at Band Home Competition.
8:25 AM - Watched Spouse leave for first Columbus Day Soccer Tournament game of the day with Youngest Son after another episode of "why didn't you get your water ready".
8:30 AM - Make shopping list.
8:40 AM - Put Brownies in Oven for 50 Minutes and ate breakfast reading about TO (Terrel Owens) in the local TO news outlet the Philadelphia Inquirer. Read that the Pope has abolished limbo.
9:15 AM - Being that it is cold, I decide at the last minute to make Hot Chocolate for Spouse.
9:25 AM - Brownies are done. I remove from oven and set on rack to cool.
9:30 AM - I race over to the Soccer fields hoping to catch second half of first game.
9:35 AM - Don't remember which field they are playing on. I guess at field 2.
9:40 AM - I guess wrong and go back to car to find field 4.
9:45 AM - I find field 4 and bring chair, hat and thermos of boiling hot hot chocolate. I arrive as the whistle blows starting second half. They are winning 1-0 and Youngest Son missed a shot at the goal in the first half because it is wet.
9:50 AM - Spouse burns chin on piping hot hot chocolate.
10:30 AM - Game over - they win 2-0. Spouse stays to fulfill obligation to sell T-Shirts for Soccer Team.
10:40 AM - Drop off youngest son and race over to food market.
10:55 AM - Arrive at food market.
11:45 AM - Spend $173 in food having no idea what I bought.
11:48 AM - Receive call from spouse - buy burn cream.
12:00 PM - Arrive home. In a blur in the next fifteen minutes I will:
  • Put away all items needing refrigeration.
  • Instruct Oldest Son to make his mother a sandwich.
  • Cut and individually bag 30 Brownie squares into snack bags.
  • Instruct Oldest Son to put away non-perishable foods.
  • Mark cooler with our name in permanent marker and give to boys to put in car.
12:15 PM - After locking door, see two boys struggling to fit a 40 quart wheeled cooler in the trunk of '97 Civic. I tell them to throw it in the back seat, cram in next to it and we race to second soccer game.
12:25 PM - Drop off youngest son at soccer fields with the sandwich for his mom. I am 5 Minutes ahead of schedule.
12:40 PM - Arrive at high school Home Competition with Oldest Son. Drop off brownies and attempt to drop off cooler but the cooler is not required. Still 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
12:42 PM - Put cooler back in car and leave high school. Race 3.9 miles back to the soccer complex.
12:55 PM - Buy burn cream at CVS.
1:02 PM - Arrive at soccer game. They are running late.
1:03 PM - Mad at myself for unnecessarily worrying about "pagan babies" when I was young since the Pope has now abolished limbo.
2:25 PM - The soccer game is over. They lose 2-0 to a huge team from Delaware.
2:30 PM - Arrive home and make lunch of soup and sandwich.
3:00 Pm - Gather hat, gloves, walkie-talkies and batteries.
3:15 PM - Leave for High School home band competition.
3:30 PM - Arrive at High School. Change into fluorescent green safety vest for parking duties.
4 PM - 8:15 PM - Park incoming high school buses using only a flashlight and my vest.
8:30 PM - Eat a meatball sandwich standing among piles of unused coolers with the other "parking dads"
8:45 PM - Help assemble large red barn made from cloth and PVC pipe.
9:15 PM - Bring fragile red barn onto football field with other dads.
9:20 PM - Race to seats to watch band show.
9:45 PM - Disassemble large red barn.
10:00 PM - Find oldest son. He is going to coffee shop with girlfriend. I could really care less. I am exhausted and my legs hurt.
10:30 PM - Arrive home and crawl into bed. Pass out watching "Castaway".

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Temporary Homelessness Again

So at 8:30 this morning I was walking through Wildwood, NJ with a full backpack in the rain after sleeping on the beach.

It wasn't that I was homeless, I was part of Beach Jam and I was walking to my minivan.

Thousands of scouts and their families come twice a year to Wildwood to stay on the beach and ride rides, walk the boardwalk and hangout. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts come from as far away as Maryland and New York. It's a perfect example of a win-win. Wildwood needs people to come to the Summer beach resort in the Fall and Scouts from all over are looking for places to go and be in the outdoors.

This was our first time and we didn't really know what to expect so we came as early as possible and set up. It was a lot like being on a crowded beach on hot day. If you came early you were able to set where ever you wanted and if you came late - good luck. We spent a large amount of our time holding our ground against invading late comers.

At one point a Girl Scout leader came by and the conversation went like this:

Girl Scout Leader: Do you mind if we fill this area next you with girls?
Me: Are they pretty?
Girl Scout Leader: Well they are all pretty on the inside.

Later I found out that one of our boys, under their breath, said "that has not been my experience"

The Girl Scouts found a better spot.

Later a group of Boy Scouts from New York eventually moved in behind us and squeezed into every available crack of space between all of our tents towards the beach. We kept our real estate in front of our tents but behind us were the New Yorkers.

We experienced every kind of weather in 24 hours as well. Saturday during the day was sunny, in the afternoon the winds whipped up and today we had rain. During the wind the tents on the front lines near the water were nearly flat from the wind and tents all around us were overturned.

The rain on the beach was nasty too but at least the wind had stopped by that time.

The boys had a great time but what was not to like - it's not too often you go a camping trip where the fudgie-wudgie man comes by selling ice cream.

I don't think I've ate so much on a camping trip before either. There was just too much to pick on from the boardwalk stores.

All in all it was a good time and enjoyed by all.