You Are Like A Hurricane: No “Over Hype” Here

“Can’t happen here, can’t happen here. All that fear they’re telling you, it can’t happen here” – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Once again, nature proves that, no matter what, she’s the boss. As I sat in my house Sunday morning looking out my window at the wind gusts and flooding rains that were Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Irene, I considered my family fortunate to still have electricity, and no tree damage like so many in more southern regions.

As a weather event, there is no finesse to a hurricane. She is pure power.

As an armchair witness to Irene making rain fall history, I’m having a surge of respect for people in the states of Florida and the Carolinas who deal with big time storms on a regular basis.

The only reason I left my house on Sunday was to plug in a lead cord for my next door neighbor to run his sump pump. He had lost power, and wanted to get the two inches of water out of his flooded basement.

Why do people venture outside during a hurricane? A tree can fall and crush you. Such events occurred on more than one occasion in Virginia over the weekend.

Why would you drive your car during a hurricane? If you’re not driving an emergency vehicle, chances are you would not know how to avoid a flooded road that could sweep you away to your end.

Why taunt the power of a lady named Irene? You put yourself in harm’s way without reason. The highways are shutting down, and the malls are closed. You have no reason to go out, really. Reacquaint yourself with the definition of the word

Mess with a hurricane and what she can bring – it’s an act that borders on sheer foolishness.

My dog is a great indicator of bad weather. Not the biggest fan of thunderstorms to begin with, you know if he doesn’t want to go on his “bathroom run” that something sinister is in the air. Dogs are good for this.

New York City was practically shut down by Irene. While residents of this state can be prone to hyperbole and the “worst case” scenario, they had it right by regarding Irene as the monster she had the potential to be.

As a resident of upstate New York, I have only seen the remnants of tropical storms in the past. This storm was an entirely different animal.

There are many that think that the coverage of Irene was overblown, and too excessive in the monies spent to protect.

For those that think this event was “over hyped,” feel free to witness the aftermath of Irene here in upstate New York: devastating flooding, with waters rising and rivers cresting. Roads and entire towns wiped from the map.

In my neck of the woods, they are many, many people suffering from loss of property.

In the right circumstance, fear and over preparation is a very positive thing.

Good riddance, Irene, and let all your sisters and cousins know that they are not welcome  in this part of the world anymore.

Black Belt Strong: How Kids Benefit from Martial Arts Training

Another candidate for post title: “How My Kids Can Now Kick Their Father’s Ass.”

Yeah, that’s funny. But the truth is, a martial arts black belt (in this case, tae kwon do) is less about “kicking ass” and more about self defense, discipline, focus, and the ability to have confidence and respect. Respect for yourself, and your peers.

Both my daughter and son are involved in the classes. Joey started practicing martial arts in 2007, and while advancing through some of the lower belts seemed easy for him, real challenges have come within the last year and a half.  It took an absolutely insane amount of effort on his part to finally finish and qualify for his first degree black belt.

My son is 11 years old. As part of his requirements, within a couple of months, he had to complete 1000 push ups, 2000 sit ups, 30 miles of running, and numerous sessions of jumping rope, forms practice, and self defense practice.

Black-Belt
Board breaking en route to the Black Belt!

What my son did in a 90 day period most sedentary Americans don’t do in a lifetime. The kid worked his butt off.

He also had to write an essay on why becoming a black belt was important to him. This is an excerpt:

“I became a Bodan black belt candidate in December of 2010. When I got my binder in January, I realized how much work and discipline it would take to be a black belt. My instructors have taught me many things besides tae kwon do. I have learned to be respectful of everyone, and made friends with many people.

My body has become stronger and my mind has too. I am a better listener, and can study better as well. Tae kwon do has made me a leader in my classroom and given me more confidence.”

Before he started tae kwon do, he was a quiet guy who was a little shy and had trouble focusing in the classroom. This training did boost his confidence as well as his focusing skills. I still don’t know how he remembers all the forms he’s had to learn over the years.

My daughter takes the classes as well, and she is even more naturally skilled at the sport with her length, height, and flexibility. Since tae kwon do emphasizes kicks from a mobile stance more than punching, she has an advantage here with her powerful legs. Just ask Dad…she packs a wallop!

There were adults as well as many kids going for a black belt at some level the last testing period. Some common themes ran through the essays of everyone;

  • The ability to do anything you set your mind to
  • Enhanced self esteem and confidence
  • Not giving up, no matter what
  • Going beyond your comfort level and pushing yourself
  • Smarter, stronger, more self confident
  • Becoming stronger not only in body, but in your mind
  • The thing you need most is effort

“A black belt is a white belt who never quits”

I’ll admit, tae kwon do classes are an expensive option for a kid’s (or adult) activity. But, if you have children who need lessons in discipline, persistence, and fending for themselves in a world that’s going to try to slap them down, I’ll say it’s well worth the coin.

What do you think? What tools do you use to instill a little discipline into your kids? Or better yet…yourself? Share this with your friends, tweet it…use the buttons below, thanks!

Not So Smart About Smart Phones

Presently, I don’t have a cell phone. That’s right, no cell phone. When I look around at my little world when I’m out and about, I feel like the only person without one. When people find out I don’t have a cell phone, they stare at me with that quizzical look as if to say “How do you get along without one?” Or the less likely “No cell phone? What…are you homeless?”

I get along just fine without a mobile phone. I work in an office, and there’s a phone right next to me on my desk. There’s a landline in my house when I get home from work. My wife has a cell phone, and my daughter does as well. I will, at times, use my wife’s phone to communicate. You can text on it very easily, and you can also make a call and actually talk to someone.

I’m currently convinced there is a wealth of phone power always within my general vicinity. Why be redundant and add one more?

I was sitting with a friend recently who was showing me the wide range of things his phone could do for him. He has a new breed of SmartPhone that could instantly grab some NCAA basketball scores, look at the weather report, update his Facebook status, and play some on-line games. I was thoroughly confused.

As I’ve stated before, I love some forms of technology and how much easier they can make our lives. My wife and I just joined the flat screen TV revolution, and we’re very happy we’ve been finally able to join this exclusive club. Of course, we had to join because our current television had finally kicked the bucket. It was a wedding gift from my sister and my brother in law, meaning it was just about 18 years old. I think that’s much older in “TV years”, however.

As I enjoy baseball and basketball games in all their high definition brilliance with our new television, and my appreciation of all things new increases, I have to ask myself: Well, what do you think? How about getting a cell phone?

I just can’t pull that trigger. I do love talking to people, and I love new toys as well. But for me, a cell phone is akin to a colossal waste of my dollars. I know I could probably use such a phone in an emergency situation…but everybody else has a cell phone. And I’m a sociable and brazen individual at times.

If my car ever breaks down, the conversation could go like this:

“Hey buddy…can I borrow your phone?”

That’s not all there is to it. Phones aren’t just phones now, they are status symbols. If you’re caught outside of your residence without the right phone…well, what’s a neighbor to say? What, no IPhone? No Android? You just make calls from your phone? Really? That question would come up again. How do you get along without one?

You know the answer. Just fine, thank you.

Kids, just remember: The “Old School” principles aren’t just about paying homage to the previous generations. No, it’s also about realizing what’s necessary in your life, focusing on that, and doing away with (or not even bothering with) the rest of the crap that everybody else is doing.

500 Words On the Power of Music

I used to have coffee with my Nonna and my father on a regular basis, but now that my grandmother is gone, I still go to my Dad’s house to have coffee with him. Driving over there the other night, I was surprised to see a Cars CD in the player that my wife was listening to.guitar_neck2-922x883

I’ve gotta tell you, listening to certain bands just gets me all fired up.

The Cars were one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager, and now that I’m in my forties, I’m still impressed with their sound. I’m even more impressed with the way the music makes me feel. That night, when I heard songs like Magic or Heartbeat City, I felt a surge of adrenaline and energy that made me feel like a teenager all over again.

Music has never been just music to me. I consider certain songs and artists to be the soundtrack of my life. Bruce Springsteen has been my background music for nearly thirty five years.  To me, there has not been another rock musician that plays with the passion and intensity that Bruce does. And I’ve loved every minute of listening to it.

Whenever I hear a song by Rush, I think of hanging with my childhood friend Mike. Any song by the Clash reminds me of my buddy Chris from military school, who turned me on to the punk and new wave scenes when they were starting to gain musical ground.

Say the name “Tom Petty” to me, and I think of outdoor concerts in scenic Saratoga Springs, with torrential rain always greeting the concert goers.

I could never listen to Bob Marley without thinking of my wife Suzanne, who opened my eyes to the sweet sounds of reggae.

At the other end of the spectrum, whenever I hear Jerry Vale or Al Martino or Frank Sinatra, I will always think of my grandmother, who loved music and used to turn the volume up on the little transistor radio in her kitchen as far as it would go whenever she heard a favorite song. More times than not those sounds were accompanied by the fragrant smells of freshly fried meatballs or soup cooking on the stove.

And she would sing too. Giving in to the power of her favorite sounds.

I’m just like her. Few things inspire or motivate me more than music. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing during the course of the day, it has to be accompanied by m-u-s-i-c. My teenage daughter is the same way. And thankfully she likes a lot of the stuff that Mom and Dad are fond of, like Coldplay and the Beatles. So we can listen too…

Only she listens on her iPod now, not stereos or tape decks like her parents used to. Music in an instant. Just like the instant it takes for all my great music to take me back in time, to when life was a little different, but no less sweet.

“Music takes you back. There are some songs I avoid, since they depress me or make me feel the unwanted tug of lifestyle choices I gratefully abandoned nearly 40 years ago. They want to take me back to places I never want to see again. But most of the playlist of my youth recreates all the positive feelings and joy I felt the first time I hear it.

A culture, an era, a whole world. It’s all reflected in the music.” – Bill Davis

OK, the post is a little longer than 500 words. So, what’s your story? Do you love a certain artist or style of music? Does it get you pumped? Or do you take it or leave it? When it comes to music, who do you love?

ItalianAmerican: Sylvester Stallone

88th Annual Academy Awards -Arrivals
The 88th Annual Academy Awards Arrivals Featuring: Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Flavin Where: Los Angeles, California, United States When: 28 Feb 2016 Credit: Apega/WENN.com

Since the mid 1970’s, Sylvester Stallone has been my definition of the term American Idol.  As writer, actor, and director of some of the most famous franchises in the film industry, he has been nothing less than an Italian American inspiration.

He has inspired me for many years. In a previous post, I wrote how the original Rocky, the movie that was his breakthrough project, was also important in the life of  a particular socially awkward pre-teen.

With this inspirational movie as my training catalyst, I went from an overweight introvert destined for a life of sloth and obesity, to a young man that could do miles of running with ease, and, if needed,  physically eject uncooperative patrons from my family’s bar/restaurant.

Stallone kicked ass, and he showed me how to do it, too.

Again…thank you Mr. Stallone.

“I think everyone has a certain kind of formula in their life. When you deviate from that formula, you’re going to fail big or you’re gonna win big.”

“I believe there’s an inner power that makes winners or losers. And the winners are the ones who really listen to the truth of their hearts.”

“I have great expectations for the future, because the past was highly overrated.”

“Once in one’s life, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality; if not, one has not lived.”

“Success is usually the culmination of controlling failure.”