Sunday, June 27, 2010

Becoming an Important Part of the Eagle Trail

When I was asked by Chris, the Scout Troop Committee Chairman to give the Keynote Address at an Eagle Court of Honor one hot June afternoon I wanted to do something the Scouts and Parents would remember for the rest of their lives--in every good way. 

For every Eagle Scout Speaker who comes after, I recommend this--it's a physical way of involving almost every man and boy in the room in a memorable series of links.

"We live by symbols, I began. "Look at the flag that we just pledged allegiance to.  Did you ever think you might be called upon to defend that flag in time of war?  Y'know the symbol of the eagle on the resume of a World War II Recruit meant he could be promoted from enlisted to office--made a lieutenant and put in charge of a platoon.  What does the Eagle rank really the real world today?  It means you're a marked man--that people will expect great things of you!

"To help you all remember this night, I want to do a magic trick that you will always remember." I continued.  The eyes of the cubscouts and pre cubs got wide--maybe responding to my mysterious tone and this wizard- like beard.

"You six men sitting in the Eagles Next have all earned your eagle scout award.  Me too!  I brought my eagle badge still pinned to my Order of the Arrow sash and my collection of Merit Badges--and a special silk and painted leather Eagle Neckerchief that I haven't worn since I was awarded my Eagle in 1963--47 years ago.  I think this would be a good time to put it on.

"Now to the magic trick--will all men who are Eagle Scouts in the room stand up?"  I called on a friend, Kim Monson, one of the Eagles nest, to rearrange the standing line oldest to youngest-- then I called upon the two Eagle Scout Candidates and their parents (Scouting is a Team Sport, after all) to join the Eagle trail, then I called on all Life Scouts--boys and men who got stuck there along the Eagle trail to stand oldest to youngest--and so it went through the ranks down to tenderfoot. 

By then the line of men and boys stretched across the Relief Society Room.  Then we added the Silver Beaver award recipient and all the cub scouts from Webelos through Bear, Wolf and Bobcat--and all the pre-cub little boys.  (Older men stalled at Star or First Class came bounding up to take their place--as everyone, "got into the act".

With everyone in the line of the Eagle Trail, I asked everyone to hold hands.and look up and down the "trail".

To the little guys on one end, I said: "There it is--your future in Scouting.  Aspire to achieve your own Eagle Scout Rank so you can join the veterans in the Eagle Nest and reap the benefits of being an Eagle Scout-- the highest rank in Scouting."

To the new Eale Candidates and Veteran Nesters--"Look down the trail.  There is your challenge--encourage your fellow scouts to work to arrive where you are.    Let's have a round of  applause for all the Eagle Scouts and Eagle wannabes long the Eagle Trail--now you can all sit down--but I hope you'll remember who was next to you--and all the ways you can help each other up the Eagle Trail."  JWH

Grampa, your house is--too full!

One thing I can say in Joe's parent's favor--they're raising an honest kid--maybe a bit too honest.  On a trip down our dimly lit stairs into the basement to find baloons, Joe felt comfortable enough to say, "Grampa, you need another house!

When I asked why, the seven year old shot back without thinking of what he was REALLY saying, "Cuz you're house is too dirty!"  Then, likely thinking about what he REALLY meant to say, and not wanting to insult us, he reconsidered with, "Your house is too full of stuff!"  Ah, from the mouths of seven year old babes!

OK, so we're a work in progress--a kid doesn't know that.  Yes, we've got stacks of stuff we're sorta-kinda sorting--kinda.  I know we've got boxes in the halls that must seem like they're anchored to the spot for the rest of time--but Joe had a point and wasn't shy about sharing!

Joe, at seven has no patience for frills or fluffery.  Somewhere he's learned about "Yup" and "Sure" as his two survival words.  He's a pint sized version of Gary Cooper or the monosylabic Mike Mansfield--plain spoken Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate in the 60s and 70s who used to drive reporters wild with his simple "Yups" and "Nopes".  Joe is the tough guy of the family.  That's the protectorate he has carved out for himself as number 3 after two pretty good older siblings.  How I love him for it.

He's right!  Our house is too full!  In the same spirit of the Emperor's New Clothes, Joe has the guts to say what he sees, or as an old friend, Keith Robinson,  who ran the physical systems in the then new Provo City Building, used to say with uncommon hardbitten bluster, "I calls 'em like I sees em!" JWH

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grampa Applaud's Joe's Creation of Cheezy-Whips!

Joe's dad, Chris came to fix the disposal and put a new window sill on our front window this afternoon.

By now, Joe is seven and exploring the world of our refridgerator, where he knows he has continuous access.  He'd had his regular sucker--but he was hungry for more and I suggested Choco-Cheese Sandwiches, like the ones he'd built for us the last time the whole tribe of brothers and sisters came over for a rainy day.

But alas, no chocolate syrup to be had--so Joe gathered the the individually wrapped cheese slices, we got some sliced potato bread and rummaged around for a topper.  In these experiences, I've learned to ask leading questions--but let the youngster take charge and anticipate the challenges that building these confections will take.

Suddenly, there it was--left over whipped cream in an areosol can we'd use to make strawberry shortcake.  We found a clear spot on the table and set up shop.   Leading questions are so much better than instructions.  It gives the child the impression that he is completely in charge.

An adult and maybe even an older child would have cut each of the two slices of bread in fourths, but not Joe--he was all about building before any cutting took place.  At each stage, it's important for Grampa to show no disapproval or label anything wrong.  We'd chosen a sharp knife together and he'd demonstrated that he knew how to handle it safely.

He got stuck unwrapping the cheese, because I let him--and he's growing up a little, because he kept at it after initial trys didn't produce results.   Using the conspiratorial tone we've developed as friends, I showed him the trick about unwrapping the tab first--and pretty soon two neatly unwrapped slices were in place--then it came to whipped cream.   Gramma Rosie showed him how to hold it..and it was all he could do to just hold it straight up and down--so I did that and he carefully pushed the nozzle sideways.  He had a surgeon's touch -- rare in one so young.  A bit came out--and then a little more.  By the time he got to the second batch he was pumping out whipped cream rosettes and laughing about how much fun he was having.

That's the key--food and fun and applause---Kit's of every age  love applause--someone to pay attention and signal approval.  It's what a psychologist called, "bid for approval"  (When our 34 year old now officially divorced "youngster" comes home, we turn off the TV and pay total attention to him.   Besides he's much more entertaining than anything Hollywood could dream up.)

After Joe had built and snarfed two batches of what we came to call Cheezy-Whips  (All told about four slices of bread and the same number of cheese with a little whipped cream) Joe was ready for some big muscle fun.  (Kids seem to know when it's time to shift gears.)

For years--since before Joe was born, the favorite indoor/outdoor toy of choice is ballons--that the kids can blow up with little pumps for approving adults to tie--and then use them in all kinds of outdoor or indoor games. 

Catch, Launch like a rocket, and Pseudo Soccer are Joe's favorites.  I tried to sit these out...but since he was the only kid and Gramma Rosie was doing sumpin' else--he called to me, and I went.  Good thing I was wearin' my pedometer.  I chaulked up a healthy half a mile playin' with Joe most all after noon.

Cooking builds confidence, depending on how the adult handles it.  If there's a bit of quiet and a leading question, it works most effectivley.   Give every opportunity for the kid to be in charge.

When our two were that age, they'd save up money (that's so important to satisfy the good training of delayed gratification--and we'd go to the store to get what they wanted to buy.  From the beginning I would act like I was browsing near the check stand--and very soon, Jeff and Sally knew they had to pump up the gumption to ask for what they wanted and deal with the clerk themselves.   Sally only begged me to "get it for her" once.  A gentle, matter of fact chat behind the toilet paper set her straight and she came to enjoy the challenge of "doing" for herself.

Today both kids Jeff, 34 and Sally, 32 are successfull professionals who deal with the public every day--gently professionally and still friendly.   Jeff may be a bit too effective--cuttin' deals and negotatiting like a pro.

Seven is a magical age.  Kids are developing a sense of self that is going to carry them through the rest of their lives, as long as the adults in their lives encourage them and hush up long enough to let them lead out and develop those inner "figure it out" muscles with food and fun,  balloons and lots of generous and sincere applaus! JWH

Friday, June 25, 2010

Princess' Pagoda Palace appears in puff of smoke--after 68 days of Fun!

When Princess Beth rang the bell to consult with her Wizardhowe, he had no idea that her request would consume the next two months in planning, building and anticipating the Princess' Pagoda Palace.

The whole experience became a wonderful experience as two families had fun working together to build a unique tent for the platform of the kid's swing set. This presentation is four minutes and 17 seconds of the highlights--written by a Wizard and his wfe to their beloved Princess and her family.

While the narration is done in the voice of the Wizardhowe--with all the fantasy of a castle with turrets and a summer filled with the fun of anticipation, the joy of learning how to use tools and work side by side as part of the Princess' Pagoda Palace experience.

The little recipients of 68 days of love and fun together have moved away--but they're still close enough that we as Wizard-Planner-Builder and Gramma Rosie, Commander of the Sucker Patrol, are still invited for Sunday Lunch and a celebration every Spring as the Royal Family remount a favorite memory, our tent, "The Princess' Pagoda Palace" that we built together on the platform next to their beloved swings! JWH

Friday, June 18, 2010

What do you say to a Naked Gramma?

The Lion's Holladay Pool near our house opened a few years ago--and I was right there on the first day--anxious to get a little exercise and "chlorine therapy".  For several years, I've had an annual pass.  I love to swim--never mind that I'm "wasted" for the rest of the day.

Two days ago, one of those awkward moments when someone you know fully clothed shows up poolside and recognizes you.  Regardless of the mileage on the liver spots and wrinkles -- even a modest suit on both of you is barely enough to keep from making eye contact and disciplining yourself from glancing, below the "Mason Dixon" Line.

OK, in this case Gramma was a dear friend--and she wasn't naked--but our greeting was "tight" at best.   It's at those moments you work hard to say just the right thing--and "good to see you" just isn't one of them.

This morning I was sitting in the hot tub with five or six older women when someone came down the steps and began visiting with one of her neighbors.  Their conversation soon was animated and friendly--and I got up to climb out just as my friend from many years ago sat on the steps and blocked my exit.  I didn't say anything-- just stood there patiently waiting.  Her friend picked up on my need to leave and said as much to my friend.   She shifted her position in the warm tub and kept chatting away.

I could have left without saying anything, but I extended my hand and said, "Hello, Peggy!  Jon Howe."  She paused in mid sentence, instinctively grabbed my hand, smiled, nodded, "Oh, hello" in one of those "what do you say to a Naked Grampa?" moments and went right back to her conversation.   In the pool, with very little between you and your friends from the clothed existence, best be brief and be gone!

There is great value in shy.   Being too forward, especially in these swim suited moments casts you as an Insurance Salesman in a stalled elevator.  I've discovered that rather than proposing--I'd better react than act.

In the early morning, the exercise classes and gramkid swim lessons draws quite a crowd to the Lion's Pool. With my Santa beard, I fit right in.  I've noticed certain interesting behaviors--like the lady who is careful not to get into water over her collar bones--and is made up and coifed to the nth degree.  Maybe it's for self image, but I'm guessing she's out to snare an eligible fella swimmer.

One of my favorite personalities is a slight, older woman who teaches little ones to lose their fear of the water.  She has a collection of learning hula hoops, floating blocks, little foam fish.  I enjoy watching how good she is with these youngsters.

Then there's the Jewish tag team best friends swimming instructors.  They are all bluff and bluster--full of effusive compliments--keeping things rolling and their young charge's always moving.

One willowly gramma in sweat shirt and pendleton plaid proper collar is there to help Sissy with her support and a thirty towel.  She and her daughter support the troops--and she patiently lives for it.

An 80 something coctail olive on a couple of toothpicks with a smooshed in face walked and rolled his way to the dressing room.  His legs were so skinny--and his giant belly was encased in a floatation belt.

The cool teenage lifeguards have developed the sheik mystique of a greyhouse or perhaps giraffe.  They are "above it all" whether on their stainless steel tower or walking back and forth with giant salami-like floatation bouys under their arms--ever ready.   

Then there's the elegant Moms--who come to read paperback novels, always slender, snug slacks and big sunglasses in touseled sun streaked hair.  One of them took her place while a young daughter swam laps--and luckily I spotted her quickly.   The last thing I wanted to do was haul my blubber out of the drink in front of her and flash a shy smile.   Sometimes it's just easier to paddle around until she leaves.    No such luck.  She was there for the duration--and a waterlogged half hour drug by.   Finally I moved out of her eye line and hoisted myself quickly into the dressing room.

I wondered, why someone who has let himself go as I have in favor of whatever tasty morsels get packed in on forks and spoons over a lifetime of gastronomic enjoyment---why worry.    Don't know, but I tend to be a little self conscious. 

For swimming, I would rather enjoy the indifference of strangers than endure judgemental glances and tight little laughs of embarrassment.

What do you say to a Naked Gramma?  Absolutely nothing, if you can avoid it!  JWH