Our Guardian Angels

I Feel The Need For Speed

Recently, I saw an amazing video of angels. However, these aren’t angels wearing white robes, wings, and halos. Well, they do have wings I guess.  The angels I’m referring to wear blue and gold and are part of an elite precision flight team. Of course, I’m talking about The Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s squadron of amazing aviators, who have been performing sensational aerial stunts since the 1940s. If you haven’t seen The Blue Angels in person, you are truly missing out on an incredible experience!

Just about every summer, there’s an airshow out at Selfridge Air National Guard base. From time to time, The Blue Angels will be the featured attraction. When they hit the sky, they are always guaranteed to have huge crowds. I had always wanted to see them in person, but the thought of spending all day in the broiling sun for a 20-minute show didn’t have the appeal it may have had in my younger days. However, when the weekend for the airshow would arrive, I would always listen hard to see if I could hear the Angels ripping apart the sky over Lake St. Clair.

About ten years ago, my wife and I began taking our spring vacation in beautiful Destin, Florida. In addition to the beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and tropical lifestyle, I was delighted that The Blue Angels home base was just down the road at Pensacola Naval Air Station. This is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum. Truly a dream come true for any fan of aviation. As an added bonus, every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11:30 am, The Blue Angels practice their latest maneuvers for airshows all over the country. It is completely free and usually last about 45 minutes. The admission to the museum is also free. For me, nothing sounds as sweet as an F/A-18 Hornet punching a hole in the sky. If you feel the same way, you have to get down there! Anchors Aweigh!

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Don’t Think Twice

Make A Deposit In Your Karma Bank

Have you ever felt a strong urge that comes out of nowhere?  That nagging feeling that you should call a friend, visit a family member, or make a donation to charity?  I am a firm believer that The Universe works in mysterious ways.  If you’re prompted to do good for someone, don’t think twice, just do it.  I have been guilty of this.  We all have.  An opportunity arises to help someone and we hesitate.  The moment passes without us taking action.  There was a commercial a couple of years ago that encouraged people to do nice things for each other.  It all started with a guy who picks up a dropped toy and returns it to a little girl in a stroller. That one act of kindness starts a chain reaction, that finishes with the same guy being helped in return.  What goes around, comes around.

When you find yourself in that situation, how many times do you say to yourself, “Yeah, I should help.”, but for whatever reason, you don’t follow through.  Last year I discovered an inspirational video on YouTube. It was Mel Robbins. She’s a real hoot, but it’s what she said at the end of her Ted Talk that has turned into a phenomenon.  I am referring to The 5 Second Rule.  The rule is simple.  If you feel the urge to do something, act on it immediately.  Don’t put it off.  Obviously, I’m not talking about robbing a bank or dropping your paycheck on the craps table.  The 5 Second Rule is about performing spur of the moment acts of kindness, or tasks you may have been putting off for a long time. It’s a great way to get off your butt and get stuff done.

A couple of weeks ago my son Jeff came home for the weekend.  Part of the reason for his visit, outside of getting his laundry done, was to pick out a new cell phone at Best Buy.  After about half an hour, we left the store with a new phone for Jeff and a new movie for me.  As we were walking to my car, I heard a clattering sound and then heard someone say, “Oh no.”  I was about to keep walking when I felt that familiar nudge.  I turned around and went back to check it out.  A rather large lady had dropped her cell phone and was contemplating un-wedging herself from her car to get it.  I jogged over and picked it up for her.  She thanked me and her passenger gave an “Awww”. It only took me a couple of seconds, but it just might have made that lady’s day.  Maybe that’s what life’s all about.  Adding a few more of those “Awww” moments to our lives whenever we can. It’s something to keep in mind.  Remember, when you feel that little push to do something good, don’t think twice.

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Why I Don’t Camp

Some Folks Aren’t Meant For The Great Outdoors

When you hear the word Camping, what does it bring to mind? Enjoying long weekends with your family and friends? Relaxing, recharging and communing with nature? For many campers, that’s exactly what it means. For me and my friends, camping will always be associated with a trip we took in the early 80s to The Pinery, in Ontario, Canada. It was a trip where us novice campers found out how little we really knew about roughing it in the woods. I think we had all seen too many beer commercials. Namely, where an attractive group of young ladies run out of beer, then join us at our campfire to share some of ours. Nature takes its course, and we all head home with sly grins on our faces.  Yeah, not so much.

Roy worked at a local butcher shop. So steaks, burgers, and hotdogs were packed in his cooler, ready for the grill. However, things started to go off the rails right away. Since Google Maps was over 30 years in the future, we severely miscalculated how long it would take us to get to the campsite and set up our tents. It also didn’t help that Roy’s MG (that only ran on high-octane airplane fuel for some reason) decided to conk out on the Bluewater Bridge. “Anything to declare? Yeah, my car is dead! Push it over there hoser!” After getting James Bond back on the road, we somehow managed to find the campsite and put up our tents in the fading light. Earlier that day, Joe and I had practiced putting up our tent, but the task proved difficult in the fast approaching darkness. However, with the assistance of some car headlights, we managed to get them all up. A celebration was in order, so we headed into town for some food and Canadian beer.

Joe and I had borrowed our tent from his brother Spike and we didn’t think that the busted zipper would be an issue. How wrong we were. After getting back to the campsite and crashing for the night, I woke up around 3 am to a strange feeling. I groggily asked, “Joe, what are you doing?” However, Joe was on the other side of the tent. I opened my eyes to find a full-grown raccoon standing on my chest! I screamed, the raccoon screamed, everybody was screaming! I tossed an empty beer bottled at the intruder as he waddled his way across the campsite. I thought that would be the end of our battle with nature, but I was wrong. The next day, he staged a counterattack with some friends and raided our food stash. Our steaks, burgers and hotdogs were all devoured, or grossly tainted with ‘coon slobber. So campers, enjoy your nice little weekend in the woods. I’ll stay at home, behind a double-locked door, safe and sound. As for you raccoons out there, keep it moving, ya filthy animals!

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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

What’s It Gonna Be, Bob?

Let me be perfectly clear, I’ve always considered myself a good neighbor. I don’t have loud parties that go on until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t leave trash and cigarette butts all over my neighbor’s lawn. I don’t hire contractors who use my neighbor’s yard as a dumping ground. And, if Skittles leaves a deposit on somebody’s grass, I clean it up immediately. I will admit to letting Mother Nature send my leaves onto my neighbors lawns from time to time, but that’s about it. In short, I have always tried to live by the motto, “Live, and Let Live”. That said, I get on well with all of my neighbors, save one. And of course, he lives next door. Thus illustrating the phrase, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your neighbors.”

Many years ago, my nightmare neighbor, who I will call Bob, moved in next door. He seemed like a nice enough young guy at the time. We would always stop and talk whenever we saw each other. However, Bob had the annoying habit of smoking in his driveway, then flicking his butts on my lawn. I have asked nicely, on more than one occasion, for him to use an ashtray. I even provided a Folgers can for this purpose. However, he ignored my requests and the butts continued flying. As his drinking became worse and worse, he would come home late from the bar, let his dog out for a pee, then pass out on the couch. This left the poor animal to freeze and bark for hours to be let in. In more recent years, he and his bar buddies have had late night garage parties that have carried on until the wee hours of the morning. Of course, this all goes on right next to our bedroom window.

Last summer, my Cold War with Bob heated up. He had done a lot of work on his house over the summer, including having his brick driveway power-washed. This resulted in the gravel bed from his driveway being sprayed all over my lawn. As I was cutting my grass one day, I had the audacity to turn my mower around on his driveway (not leaving any grass tracks). This caused Bob to launch into a drunken tirade and I found myself screaming back at him. This is very unlike me, but I was unleashing all of my frustration with his bad behavior over the years. That was the last time we spoke. However, in an effort to be the bigger man, I am going to reach out to him the next time I see him. If my apology is rebuffed, I will wait for his next drunken garage party, then unleash the boys in blue. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, but enough is enough. Even Mr. Rogers would have a problem with this guy. So what’s it gonna be, Bob? Won’t you be my (good) neighbor?

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O, How I Hate Spring!

She’s An Evil Little Witch

I have been asked before why I hate spring so much. Where do I begin? There are so many reasons to hate the most useless time of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the why of spring. The rebirth of nature and all that. I would just like to be somewhere else when it’s happening. Preferably on a beach, with an ice cold beer in my hand. One of the main reasons I despise it so much is my daily walk with my dog, Skittles. She’s not a big fan of spring either. From March through May, we suffer through some of the worse weather conditions you can imagine. It can be in the 30s, with wind, rain, snow, or freezing rain. Or, once it finally warms up a little, you’re still stuck with 55 degrees, sideways rain, fog, and mud. Always lots of mud. It makes you want to reach for your winter parka again. As I said, it sucks.

As any ‘Gander will tell you, in addition to our Great Lakes, Michigan is famous for its schizophrenic weather. However, when we get to spring, mother nature’s crazy kicks into a whole new gear. One day, it’s a beautiful afternoon with temperatures in the 70s. So nice, you are inspired to wash your car. However, that water coming out of the hose is still like liquid ice. Then, the next morning you wake up to find it’s snowed a couple of inches. I hope you didn’t leave your car out! That actually happened to me when I was in high school. I washed my Mom’s car in the driveway on a gorgeous afternoon and the next day it was covered in snow. Arrrrrgh! You can’t make this stuff up.

To me, spring is like a beautiful girl who’s a bit of a tease. One day, temperatures finally start to warm up, and she’s giggling and laughing at your jokes. As the thermometer climbs into the 70s, she might even show you a little leg to get your pulse racing. The next thing you know, the mercury nose-dives and she’s dressed like Randy from A Christmas Story. Any chance of seeing her in a bikini disappears like snowflake in the sun. Then she winks at you, flashes a little cleavage on a sunny day and you’re hooked again. This goes on all season long. Then the week before Memorial Day, summer shows up and kicks that evil little witch to the curb. Where ya been, baby? We’ve missed you!

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Tropical Magic

Don’t Take It For Granted

If you take a lot of winter vacations, you’re likely aware of a bygone phenomenon. Years ago, you’d catch a plane, train, or automobile to the Sunshine State or some other exotic destination. Someplace where summer was already in full swing. Once you arrived, the very act of pulling on a pair of shorts in the middle of winter always used to carry with it a certain magic. Nowadays, it seems like the thrill is gone. You arrive at your tropical destination, schlep your bags to your room, do a quick-change, and you’re instantly in Beach Mode. That transformation used to be a sacred rite of winter vacationing. Nowadays, it seems to have lost its enchantment.

There is no better illustration of that lost magic than Spring Break. My buddies and I drove down to Daytona Beach in 1982 and again in 1983. We suffered through the 17-hour driving marathon with nothing to do but read, sleep, listen to music, and ask the driver, “Where the hell are we again?” The answer was always the same. Georgia, the never-ending state. There was no better feeling than finally arriving at your Daytona motel, shedding your salt-encrusted jeans, and pulling on your cut-off shorts.  Then storming the beach, in search of hot girls in bikinis. Summer was finally here! At least for one glorious week.

My wife and I recently took a two-week vacation to Hawaii. Of course, the first thing we did when we arrived in Maui, was to pull on a pair of shorts and hit the grocery store. About halfway through our shopping expedition, it hit me. What happened to the Shorts Magic? (Not trying to sound pervy.) Maybe it’s because we travel so much, that feeling of tropical exhilaration has faded over time. On our next trip, I am going to take a moment to relive that Spring Break feeling. The pure joy of being young and having a non-stop, seven-day party ahead of you. I’m sure I’ll snap back to reality when my wife asks if I’m ready to hit the Winn Dixie. However, I’ll take a little longer to pull on my cargo shorts as a salute to days gone by. Party on, dudes!

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The Unseen World

You Can See What You’ve Been Missing

Back on January 18th, we had our first snowfall of the winter that actually stuck to the sidewalk. Of course, we’ve had many more since. One thing I have always found interesting is the snowprints left behind by people and animals. I call this The Unseen World, but there’s nothing really supernatural about it. I just find it fascinating that all these people and animals are constantly coming and going every day without leaving any visible trace (if the owner picks up after Fluffy, that is). However, if you get a day with a little bit of snow, you can see how many people and pets have actually walked by.

Snow days like this allow me to see what my crazy dog Skittles is always sniffing at on our morning walks. I’m no Dan’l Boone, but I find it interesting to try to figure out which tracks belong to which animal. The differences between squirrels and rabbits are usually pretty obvious. Especially once you see Rocket J. Squirrel scampering up a tree, mystery solved. Our neighborhood has had a number of other wildlife species as well. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons and even turkeys, for crying out loud! I’ve always thought it would be hilarious to put on some Bigfoot Boots and go for a walk in our neighborhood. Then, sit back and wait for people to see the tracks in the snow and freak out! Especially if it looks like Bigfoot was out walking his dog!

One thing I have always wondered about is whether or not animals can actually see ghosts. When I see those footprints in the snow, it always makes me think about my Mom and Dad. Have they joined me unseen on my morning walks with Skittles from time to time? If so, it certainly would explain a lot. There are many times when that dang dog zig-zags all over the place for no apparent reason. I like to think my Dad is tossing her some invisible Milkbones, just to mess with me. Good one, Dad. Or, maybe Skittles is just playing with one of our family’s dogs that have passed over the Rainbow Bridge, Lady and Mindy. It could be that my dog’s not so crazy after all.

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Disorganized Sports

You’re Killing Me Smalls!

If you grew up at the tail end of the Baby Boomer Generation as I did, you probably remember sports being a little more disorganized. A group of neighborhood kids would get a game together, then spend the next couple hours knocking the ball, and sometimes each other, around the local playground. Not anymore. These days, it seems like kids are only allowed to participate in adult-sanctioned, adult-supervised, fully-padded sports activities. The little tykes have to be wrapped up tight in bubble wrap, looking like Randy in his snowsuit, before they are even allowed to play a game of four square. When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids playing a game of fast-pitch off a school wall? About 1972?

Nowadays, it seems like every minute of a kid’s day is scheduled and organized. And not just sports activities. The parents are in charge of getting their local gang of rugrats from Point A to Point B, and back again. Whatever happened to riding your bike up to the playground for a game of kickball, or God Forbid dodgeball? Now, there are all sorts of official leagues, with rules and uniforms. Are you kidding me? A couple of years ago when Pokemon Go was the big thing, parents everywhere collapsed in shock when little Ethan and Tristan actually went outside in search of Pikachu and his friends.

When my son Kevin was growing up, he played in a number of roller hockey leagues.  However, he refined his skills in our little elbow shaped cul-de-sac that became known as Hockeytown North. Countless games of street hockey were played out on the cracked and uneven cement in front of our house. Over the years, there were plenty of skinned knees, sore elbows, and broken sticks to go around. Now THAT’S how a kid is supposed to grow up! The neighborhood moms knew the score as well. I’m sure they all said a silent prayer whenever their kid headed down to the Lambert house for a game of street hockey. Praying for their little Timmy to return home with all of his teeth in his head. Maybe we need a little more of that and less bubble wrap.

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