Look Up! What Do You See?

Copyright 2020 – Terry C. Misfeldt

Look Up! What do you see?

Sometimes it is a clear blue sky

Fluffy white clouds floating by

Rainbows spreading colors

Beauty, peace, and tranquility

Trees holding up the heavens

Leaves and branches swaying in the wind

You see the invisible wind, too

Imagination taking you to deep space

Stars glittering the darkened night

Yellow moon slowly moving by

Birds. Birds. Birds. Cardinals, Wrens, Doves

Eagles soaring up above

Geese migrating in vee formation

Visions of life and goodness

Sunshine and rain provide God’s gifts

Faith in an almighty being.

Look Down. What do you see?

Dirt becoming mud in the rain

Reeking garbage at the curb

Fences. Fences. Fences. Chain Link, Privacy, Barbed

Grass and the need to mow…again

Pavement: Asphalt, concrete and steel machinery

Vehicles in traffic, congestion, noise, pollution

Undone chores, stress, problems, anxiety, mistakes

People hustling and bustling about

Houses, monstrous money pits

Filth, insects, ants, bees, mosquitoes…BUGS

Problems, nothing but irritations.

Moral of the story: Look Up!

Grandpa’s Report Card

Children attending school receive report cards to demonstrate the progress they make in the areas of their education. The cards serve to provide their parents with benchmarks on how their children perform and in which areas they may excel because of heightened interest.

Parents—and grandparents—however, are not graded on their performance as caretakers of their children and surrogate educators. Parents are the first teachers their children experience. A child’s grandparents do not have the responsibility for education that their parents do, and therefore earn passes for teaching…to a certain degree.

Grandpa's Quarantine Beard

Yet, I can’t help but wonder how I’m doing as a grandfather now that I have four and soon five grandchildren. I have the advantage of establishing my own criteria and grading myself accordingly over the last five-plus years of being a grandfather. Here’s my self-rated report card:

  1. Time spent with the grandchildren: C.
    1. The challenge has always been and will continue to be one of distance. My grandsons live with my daughter and son-in-law in Chicago which is at least a three-hour drive from home. My granddaughters live with my son and daughter-in-law near Milwaukee which is about a two-hour drive, depending on traffic. As a result, we generally see the grands on special occasions, when they venture north, or when we’re asked to watch them while their parents attend some event.
  2. Patience with their behavior: D.
    1. Both sets of parents have different philosophies on child discipline, both of which conflict with how my wife and I disciplined our children. Even though one grand exhibited “naughty” behavior, it is not for us to use that terminology with them. So, I have little patience with testing behavior in my belief children need discipline…and that, at times, requires corporal punishment such as spanking. Wrong in today’s parental culture, hence the D grade.
  3. Serving as a babysitter: B.
    1. I’m good at keeping an eye on my grandchildren when I’m in charge of their care. I let them have some rope but am close enough to prevent them from harming themselves. I’m better when they’ve been put to bed and are sleeping…for the most part. I can comfort a grand who has woken up crying and get them back to sleep easily. My magic touch and calming voice come in handy.
  4. Reading and teaching: A.
    1. My mother taught me to read and always emphasized characters and phrases. A skill I inherited to become an exceptional storyteller, or reader. I love it when one or more of my grandchildren sit on my lap and let me read a book to them. As they’ve gotten older, they like to read books by themselves, or at least look at the pictures. I still have opportunities to teach them when we visit museums or similar attractions.
  5. Playing and having fun: B.
    1. Opportunities to play with my grandchildren are fleeting, so I try to have fun and make games or other activities fun for them, too. One of the best times is when we get all four of them in a swimming pool and I can swim or dive and come up in front of or behind them. The youngest enjoys it when I ferry him around the pool in his water wings.
  6. Providing discipline or guidance: Incomplete
    1. I’ll refer this to #2 and leave it there since my children prefer that I keep my distance when it comes to discipline.
  7. Taking care of basic needs: A.
    1. Never had a problem with changing a dirty diaper, wiping a runny nose, or fixing a batch of macaroni and cheese or some hot dogs. And I’ve been able to tell when one of the grands has soiled a diaper. Some smells, to me, are easily recognized. I look forward to the day when diapers are only a memory.
  8. Sharing memories or life lessons: C.
    1. It’s easy to inject some history of our family, especially my parents, and the related life lesson when the opportunity presents itself. I just need to avoid usurping parental rights.
  9. Keeping them safe: B.
    1. As I get older, my reflexes are slowing down but I’m still as quick as ever when it comes to catching a grandkid seconds before a serious injury. One that stands out is saving my oldest granddaughter from running full speed into the downed tailgate of my pick-up. If something does happen and there are no serious injuries, I concentrate on letting the grands know they’re okay and that they’ll be fine…provided I’m confident of that.
  10. Admiration for their parents: A.
    1. Even though I may not show it or express it, I am proud of my children and their spouses and how well adjusted and smart their children have become. Kudos to them.

Greatest April Fool’s Prank

Although I’m not much of an idiot when it comes to attempting April Fool’s pranks that are lame or go unnoticed, I do believe the greatest April Fool’s prank I ever pulled off was on my father. When you read the story, you’ll understand why I don’t attempt many any more.

Here’s the background: My parents had two large shakers for salt and pepper that were always available for meals. They had a white ceramic base or storage compartment that would easily fill the palm of your hand. Yes, they were that large! The tops were metal and screwed onto the ceramic base. Getting a hint where this is going?

Dad, having grown up on a farm, loved eggs for breakfast every morning. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. When we lived in Tulsa and he came from Wisconsin to visit, we took him to a fancy restaurant for brunch. They served quiche and other delicacies on the buffet but Dad’s comment was: “Where’s the meat?”

Back to the story. Long before breakfast was served that April 1st morning, I slipped into the kitchen and surreptitiously loosened the cap on the pepper shaker. Then I resumed normal activities and played the innocent son as breakfast was served.

When my father grabbed the pepper shaker to season his eggs, my heart raced a bit but I tried to remain calm and not give away my secret. The lid came off and pepper doused Dad’s eggs in the black condiment to his visible astonishment. I recall his comment starting with something like, “What the?” but I had to bite my lip and remain as stunned as everyone else.

I didn’t have the nerve to exclaim: “April Fool’s!”

Dad likely went to his grave assuming it was a freak accident while I consider it my greatest April Fool’s prank…and don’t do those any more.

Day 7 of Self-Isolation

It’s Sunday, the 29th of March. Day seven of Corona (Chinese) virus self-isolation (quarantine). I have not been in a public place since last Sunday when I ventured out for some basic groceries. Fortunately my spouse and I had a decent stockpile of necessities before entering this period of insulation from other human beings.

We have communicated with our children and grandchildren via electronic channels, but this scary pandemic and self-isolation strip us of being able to hug family members or share a meal with them. Distance also separates us.

We have gone for walks, taking care to avoid close contact with other people. I have visited with my neighbor briefly in his driveway, keeping the requisite six feet of social distancing between us. We’ve had basic groceries delivered, thanks to our daughters.

So…here I am at day 7 of self-isolation. Closets have been cleaned out. Papers have been filed or recycled. All the laundry has been done, including outside clothng several times now. Trying to follow the guidelines. Washing hands according to the CDC. Drinking lots of spring water. Resting.

The bad part is there are no sports to watch on television. Odds are that high school spring sports programs are likely to be cancelled since school’s are closed indefinitely. That eliminates my soccer official’s contracts if it happens…and the accompanying compensation. In my mind, soccer is one of those sports that enables athletes to keep a distance from most of the other players on the pitch and the fans…most parents…able to socially distance themselves as well. But, with no school, there’s no athletics.

I am thankful for my faith, my ability to write, the family tree I’m trying to build online, and my therapy pet, Charley. He’s a rescue cat that I’ve trained fairly well. He enjoys chasing a toy mouse that I throw and he retrieves. He follows me to the basement to do laundry and comes back up when I call him…or when he gets out in the garage. Besides my wife, Charley’s a good companion.

So far we’ve avoided any viral infection. We’ll see what day 8 brings.

Stay well and practice safe distancing.

Corona Quarantine Activities

Most Americans are self-imposing themselves in a Corona quarantine, and I don’t mean drinking a lot of that beer brand. Here are three Corona quarantine activities to while away the time stuck in your place of residence.

  1. Read. Find the books you’ve been wanting to read, turn off the television, find a comfortable place, and read. Most libraries will still let you come in, browse the aisles and choose some reading material if you’ve read every book on your shelves. Check first to make sure your library is still open to the public. Ours are closed! Read magazines if nothing else strikes your fancy.
  2. Write. Sit down with some paper and a pen. Write a letter to a loved one, a lost relative, or a pen pal (remember what those were? I had one who lived in France and I had to have every letter translated). Work on the family memoirs or write the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Take a break every now and then to enjoy the weather and get some exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  3. Catch up. Clean out the basement or garage you’ve been meaning to de-clutter. Nap or get some extra sleep you’ve been denying yourself. Call a friend and see how they’re doing, especially if you haven’t talked to them in a few months…or years. Make use of this bonus time…and leave the television off. This too shall pass, but remember to wash your hands and get tested if you have any symptoms.

Solitude

There is no better way to experience solitude than in the forest, especially if it is in near wilderness. That’s one of the side benefits of deer hunting in Wisconsin. Solitude.

Enjoying the solitude of hunting.

Where I hunt is known specifically only to those who also hunt the property. That gives every hunter the solitude of their won “territory” where being able to harvest a deer can be done safely. High-powered deer rifles are designed to be deadly. Extreme caution is required to avoid accidents.

Being safe is critical to feeling a sense of solitude.

Sitting in a collapsible blind still requires a minimum of movement to avoid spooking deer that may come near during hunting hours. It also isolates the hunter from the elements and observation by other humans. Solitude.

Solitude is precious. It takes a being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the pressure of city living, and the stress of whatever curves life throws your way. Solitude gives you time to think, time to reflect, time to consider options. It is peaceful. It is quiet. It is energizing. It is refreshing.

The camaraderie of deer camp is special. Shared meals. Hunting stories. Work projects. Cards. Alcohol. Friendship. That’s rifle season; 9 days in late November in Wisconsin.

I also bow hunt and that gives me even more opportunities to enjoy the solitude of the forest…by myself. Whether I harvest an animal is less important than being able to rejuvenate my spirit and deepen my faith.

Solitude.

Rut Monster

Many years ago when my friend and long-time hunting partner, Rick LaJeunesse, was with me, I shot a 9-point buck on public land. That deer was in rut at the time. I knew because of his neck size. Now there’s another Rut Monster to tell stories about.

Rick has unfortunately gone to the bigger hunting ground and I no longer hunt in our old stomping grounds…except for when I want to stay close to home. The new location is a two-hour drive to a wilderness area of northern Wisconsin. It’s private property that we’ve been cultivating to provide areas where deer are likely to visit.

We’ve put trail cameras out in several locations on the 40-acre parcel. They’re checked when we get a chance and most show does wandering by but we have captured a wolf and several bears on the cameras. Some bucks, too, but none like the one we’re now calling the Rut Monster (below).

Crocker Hills Grandpa
At 11L10 a.m. on November 6th, this bad boy posed for the camera to show off his prowess.

This monster was captured during daylight, which is one sign that it was during the rut. Another indication is the size of his neck…distended to almost double its normal size. As far as we know, he’s still roaming the north woods. We’re anxious to see what his offspring will look like!

Penalty Kicks

Soccer officials generally like to avoid having penalty kicks decide the outcome of a soccer match. For the uninitiated, a penalty kick is warranted when a defending player denies a goal scoring opportunity to the attacking team within the penalty area.

Soccer Penalty Area
Soccer penalty area extends to 18 yards into pitch from goal line. Penalty kicks are taken from the penalty mark and players must stay 10 yards from the mark defined by penalty arc.

When teams have played the regular time allotted for a match and remain tied, the match goes to overtime periods for most high school competition. If no winner is decided but a winner must be determined for one team to advance, a penalty kick shoot-out is in order. In the shoot-out, each team has five players take penalty kicks against the opposing goalkeeper.

Referee signals for penalty kick.

Whichever team scores the most wins. If it’s still tied after the first five, the shoot-out continues with single players from each team until there’s a winner.

From this explanation you can hopefully understand why officials prefer to avoid penalty kicks to determine a winner…but that does not mean referees give an unfair advantage to one team or another to avoid a shoot-out.

During a recent tournament for high school varsity teams, it was imperative that a winner be chosen to advance to the championship bracket or be relegated to the consolation bracket. Two of the three matches we officiated required a shoot-out to determine a winner. They were tied after regulation and went direct to penalty kicks as the rules didn’t allow overtime periods.

It is rather common for officials to award a direct free kick from just outside the penalty area instead of signalling a penalty kick to influence the outcome of a close match.

In three successive matches–two junior varsity and one varsity game–I awarded five penalty kicks. In both sub-varsity matches the penalty kicks (PKs) influenced the final result because the kickers scored goals against their opponent. In the varsity competition, the keeper stopped both shots but the opponent still won the match by making other shots on goal.

Standard Transmissions

First, allow a definition. Standard transmissions enable a driver to shift gears in a vehicle by depressing a clutch before changing from one gear to the next. This is in opposition to the standard in most vehicles on the road today: Automatic transmissions. Avoid confusing “standard issue” automatic transmissions with standard or manual transmissions. I know, we can’t call it a manual transmission because it implies only males can operate them. Malarkey!

It is my firm belief that driver education vehicles should only be equipped with manually shifted standard transmissions. Anyone learning with a manual transmission should be able to drive anything.

The tricky part was going from low to high range. You had to coordinate pulling up the low/high lever on the gear shift correctly as you changed during clutch depression. Many times, double clutching was required to properly engage gears. Going down from sixth to fifth was also a slowing down challenge.

Gear Shift Pattern
N is neutral with R signifying reverse.

I learned to drive a farm tractor when I was 12 years old. Knowing how to drive a standard enabled me to get a job driving flat bed trucks for a lumber yard when I earned my driver’s license at 16. The trucks were 10-speeds (not counting reverse or neutral) requiring you to start in first gear, low range, and work your way up to fifth gear, then shift to high range and work your way up from 6th to 10th gear to increase speed.

Technical stuff, I know, but learning to drive with a standard transmission teaches you how to keep proper distances from vehicles in front of you, especially on hills, and how to ensure you have enough room to slow down and avoid collisions. The coordination to stop involves clutch, shifting to neutral to disengage gears, and braking; all requiring conscious thought. Most passenger vehicles with standard transmissions only have five speeds and the shift pattern is tight compared to a larger truck’s gear shift. There’s also a reverse gear set slightly apart from the shift pattern to avoid accidentally shifting into reverse; that’s hard on the transmission.

Learning to drive with a standard transmission usually involves the grinding of a few gears as you get the hang of the pattern, clutch smoothness, and shift requirements. Try it sometime; some place safe.

Behind the Stripes

For more than 20 years I have officiated high school soccer matches for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). My officiating career started while I was coaching my children when they played soccer.

Two of them played at the competitive or select level and it was important that there be at least one licensed official among the team’s parents. The reason: Too often there were not enough referees to conduct a match.

Yes, there was a shortage of officials 25 or more years ago, and today the problem is exacerbated by rude treatment. When players, coaches, and fans disrespect officials they risk the potential of shortages. Young (and older) referees only tolerate abuse for so long before quitting.

State associations are pleading for schools to tone it down and control unsporting behavior so more officials can be recruited.

What players, coaches, and soccer fans may fail to realize is the role of soccer referees.

The job is three-fold:

  1. Make sure the game is played fair;
  2. Make sure the game is played safe; and,
  3. Respect the spirit of the game and keep it moving.

Lord knows I’ve considered hanging up the cleats several times, but the camaraderie of the pitch keeps me going…now more than 700 matches.