Frank’s Place: Best of 2016!

Posts With the Most

Posts With the Most

Another year come and gone. Not a particularly banner year at Frank’s Place. Of course that had nothing to do with the year that was 2016 a now popular lament as aging Hollywood stars cast off their earthly mores. Although I will say losing Princess Leia was a bit of a gut punch.

No 2016 was only a tough year for me because I struggled to manage my time. I landed a great job at the end of 2015 but the hours were so incredibly foreign, making time to handle my three main hobbies was tough. Yeah I know, cry me a river.

The work schedule actually lent itself to golf, my main hobby, as I had every Friday off. But finding time to blog here and get to the political podcast I do every week with my longtime buddy and comrade in arms was a struggle indeed. Go here: Unfiltered/Unfettered to hear two, old, fat Air Force retirees wax less than poetic about politics and society in general. There wasn’t enough Diet Coke to keep me going I’ll tell you that much.

The irony there is golf takes the longest and I’ve been able to do that the most. Blogging and podcasting might take 3 hours total a week, all after the kids go to bed. As you might imagine, one round of golf can take a bit longer and then there’s the lunch afterward. Of all three things my time with my playing partner/minister/counselor/mentor is more valuable to me than almost anything.

All that aside, it was a good year. The kids began to find their groove in their respective schools. I found my stride at my new job, and 4:30 am wake up really did get a tad easier as the year rolled on. My saint of a mother in law got married after a quarter century of being a faithful widow. We settled  an old score with a certain unnamed bully. And as you might have heard, we got a mutt. Milo Dog to be exact.

Anyway, enough of my gum flapping. I actually managed to get enough posts up to qualify for a “Best Of” this year. So from worst to first, that’s by number of views not quality of course. Although I guess you could make the case views are directly tied to quality, but I think we all know I way too lazy and no where near smart enough to analyze all that.

Here they are, on the cusp of this new year, number 10 to number 1, the best of Frank’s Place for 2016. Click each title link if you want to read the actual story.

10 – Snowmageddon: Aunt Jemimah, Golf, and Pat Summit to the rescue!

Ain't your daddy's tow truck.

Tow truck in front of me couldn’t even hold the road.

We don’t get snow that often in East Tennessee, well not in the Knoxville portion of East Tennessee anyway. But when we do git it, buckle up, cause it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Think of a death defying stunt that should only be tried by professionals. Then picture some hick named Earl easing up outta his busted lawn chair on a half covered porch he ain’t got round to finishing yet, telling his buddy Clem to hold his beer so he can show the pro how it’s done. That’s driving in Knoxville during a snow fall.

 

9 – War on Christmas: My wife wont let me use the laser!

Christmastime, the air is cold, the cards fill the mail box, and the house is bathed in the warm hues of the red and green season. All powered by a futuristic laser device I bought at The Kroger. What’s not to love. Even the Grinch couldn’t hate on that. Well maybe he couldn’t, but my wife could. What’s next; outlawing the Yule Log?

 

8 – Back to Work: Three stall monty.

Man y’all are weird. This only got the third best response as far a views, but the response through e-mail and random people stopping me at work and home to tell me about some jag-off who sat right next to them when there were plenty of stalls down the line was crazy. The old potty story, and the breaking of the unwritten rules there-in, really caught people’s attention.

 

7 – Tales from the Tall Grass: A tree falls in Knoxville

No trees were harmed in the writing of this blog post, Well except that one. (John Stone for scale)

No trees were harmed in the writing of this blog post, Well except that one. (John Stone for scale)

This is from a new series I tried earlier in the year. Merging two of my hobbies didn’t really seem like a great idea but I was in a huge rut/writers block place so I decided to shake it up a bit. When me and John (a fore mentioned friend/golfer/preacher/sounding board and pictured left) ran into a dude on the golf course using a golf ball with the Frank’s Place logo and web site on it I knew we might be on to something. This story about a tree that terrorized me for a decade was the second installment. Again hitting trees really struck a nerve. Lot’s of response to this. And I can say it’s an area I will pursue more as I’ve finally got my time managing feet under me I think.

 

 

6 – Growing Up: It sucks man.

This is just me whining about my kids getting old. Hence I’m getting old. Honestly, who uses the word Hence but old people. Obviously seeing Anne Marie grow up is bitter sweet. But this is what were hoping for when she was born at 25 weeks. Now, we want it to slow down. Same with Frank. As the cuteness ebbs and the know it all preteen grows we both are looking for the break pedal.

Also I put my reading fairy tales in German on display. Don’t miss it.

 

5 – Road Trip 2016 Part 2: Hotdogs, Presidential Waffles, and Good People.

I bet I can get through this daddy!

I bet I can get through this daddy!

We went to Jersey for a summer vacation. I finally listened to my wife and we took three-ish days on the way back to Tennessee and stayed in DC. Glad we did. It made for a great trip. The time in the homeland amongst my fellow Jersy-ites was great. The trip to our Nation’s Capital was even better. This story amounts to home movies in print with a twist. I did a bio on some of the interesting people we met in our few days on the ground in DC. Hint, none of them were in the government.

 

4 – Back to Work: Driving in Purgatory

Another work story another rant on driving in East Tennessee. This one has nothing to do with weather and everything to do with The Drive. Yes it’s the drive for which I lament. The 20 minute sled dog race with some of Knoxville’s finest motor vehicle operators that makes the 4:30am wake up such a joy. It’s no mystery why this one is in the top 5. I may be the only one ranting publicly about this but I’m not the only one who knows it’s an issue. I can almost guarantee you have a similar tale.

 

3 – One Year Gone: If I could make it to 30.

This one is a bit of therapy as I grieve the death of my father who passed in 2015. Mostly it’s about the rationalization I concocted for myself as an 11 year old on how I would deal with the death of my parents. Obviously it didn’t work out the way I planned it when I was 11. I made it to 30. In fact I made it to 48 before I lost a parent. Still hurts. Hard. Sad truths you can’t learn until you live through them. Life just blows the big one sometimes.

 

2 – Sometimes Words Fail

Why?

Why?

Speaking of the world just blowing sometimes. This is about Lucas, a boy from our neighborhood and Frank’s kindergarten class. It’s impossible to comprehend what must be happening to him and his family as they fight through this.

Be warned there is nothing but hard life in this post. However there is a link as well. this one to be exact : Lucas’ Fight Against Child Cancer. Click it here, click it there. No matter. If you feel led and you are able, do what you can.

I can tell you we are 9 months adrift from the diagnosis and Lucas is still battling. Still fighting the fight. The strength and courage of children is staggering.

 

1 – Yeah so we got a mutt.

Yeah that's cute. So what.

Yeah that’s cute. So what.

Well good lord was there any doubt this would be the number one post. Just can’t figure out if it’s because of Milo’s cuteness or the fact people know I’m not a dog lover or animal lover for that matter. And yes most people’s predictions have come true. I have bonded with the dog and he with me. My kitchen floor has never been cleaner and the little bastard is sleeping on the bed. Shut up.

 

Well that’s a wrap. The Top Ten decided by you, the faithful of Frank’s Place. I appreciate your clicks and hope to give you more to click on in 2017.

2016 was a decent year for us personally. Every year will have ups and downs but for my ledger we came out ahead. For that we are grateful.

Happy New Year from Frank's Place!

Happy New Year from Frank’s Place!

 

Yeah, so we got a mutt.

Who could hate that face? Well, not me. But cute or not it still poops.

Who could hate that face? Well, not me. But cute or not he still poops.

Before I go one sentence further let me say I do not hate animals. I do however hate the messes they leave behind and the aggravation they cause, the extra expense they incur, and the overall upheaval that ensues when you bring one of God’s creatures into the home.

Okay, with the PETA public service announcement out of the way let’s move on.

Meet Milo Dog. Absolutely the cutest damned dog I’ve ever seen. And as far as pets go I’m really a cat person. Never had a dog in my life. Always liked cats mainly due to their attitude.

Cats could really give a flying rat’s behind about you as long as the water and food bowls are full and the litter box is clean. Their aloofness resonates with me for some reason. I like the fact they are fairly low maintenance and they sometimes look at you with the “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire.” glare. Gotta respect that.

But back to Milo Dog. He was left at a shelter when he was a few weeks old by some dude who obviously didn’t want him. The shelter named him Milo and my kids didn’t want to change his name. Milo comes to us by way of deception and guile.

I did not want Milo. I did not want any animal. I made my objections clear; money, time, effort, poop. All sound arguments punctuated with the putting of my foot down. As you can now tell my word and the weight of my foot have no meaning what so ever. My foot being put down means so little I actually took a break from typing this very sentence to take Milo out for one of his many pee breaks.

So the guile first. For months my wife has been texting me pictures of dogs left at an animal shelter. Sometimes she would make her supplication with the written word. Most of the time she would just text me the shelter mug shots of these lost mutts. However, once she realized I was too strong willed to be worn down in that fashion, she sent in the kids.

Out of the blue one or two of my midgets would come at me about getting a dog. One day I called their bluff. Go a week without me having to tell you to clean your room and we can get a dog. That was easy money. They never got close to a week. Barely made two days. No mutt for them.

Then the littles tried to guilt me. “We’re the only house on the street without a dog daddy.” Insert sad face and use whiny voice. Just to get a little fun out of it I responded in my best mocking voice, “Well Frank that makes us unique. I like unique.”  Quick aside, we were soon not the only house without a dog. RIP Khaki. Still no mutt for them.

Really? That's all he does? Besides poop I mean.

Really? That’s all he does? Besides poop I mean.

On their last attempt I sent them packing before they opened their cake holes. Still the kids made one more push. My reply, “Tell mommy to get a job and she can pay for the dog.” Somehow they interpreted that as me saying if we could get more money they could get a dog. So my well meaning albeit comprehensively impaired kids ran to their rooms.

Two piggy banks smashed later they were asking if they had enough. Then I fired off a terse text to the master mind herself explaining the hazards of using the kids as emotional pawns in her little game. Still no mutt for them. Daddy – 1 Kids – 0 Piggy Banks – (-2)

Then a deal was presented. She would no longer use the kids as human shields if she could check on the availability of one dog they all liked. If he was no longer up for adoption she promised she would stop damaging our children in her quest for another mouth to feed.

And que the deception.

As she is laying out this silly plan she literally gets a call from the shelter. Her application for Milo has been processed and approved. The mutt was ours if we wanted him. For anyone trailing behind, she had applied to adopt Milo long before she ever mentioned the deal. Trump isn’t even that deceptive.

Well as you can obliviously tell we adopted Milo Dog. Yeah, no. He will not have our last name. If you question the veracity of that claim, just dial up the animal hospital a mile up the street from our house and ask the vet what Milo’s last name is. Her answer will be Dog or NLM. (No Last Name). And I would bet her voice cracks a bit when she tries to answer. Let’s just say me and the vet will not be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon.

Me and Milo Dog.

Me and Milo Dog.

Yeah Milo has grown on me. He listens to me almost without hesitation thanks to a few tips from our neighbor’s JB and Becky who have a similar dog. He nipped at me one time and another solid piece of advice from JB cured that instantly. He wags his tail so hard when I get home from work his whole little dog ass moves back and forth.

And yeah he sleeps on the bed on Mrs Frank’s Place side now that he can sleep through the night without getting up to pee. Our kitchen floors have never been cleaner. He obeyed even when I started calling him No Nuts Milo after he’d been neutered. He’s sitting at my feet right now as I type about him. But he’s not one of our kids. He’s still just a dog.

He’s Milo Dog. And he’s all ours.

 

Lisa Haffner: Mother, Nurse, Badass.

I wrote about Lisa in March of 2013. She is a remarkable person. If you remember that story you’ve probably figured out why I’m writing today.

Lisa Haffner, who blogs as Little Lisa Lollipop, a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who beat cancer once as a kid and twice as an adult losing her leg along the way, went to meet her Jesus this past Thursday.

Lisa has laid her burden down. She has run her race, she has fought the fight. Little Lisa Lollipop has kept the faith. And so many patients, co-workers, and people are better because of her.

Now she rests.

She leaves behind her Husband and two year old son Owen.

Go read: http://littlelisalollipop.blogspot.com/2016/12/in-memoriam.html

If you are inspired, hit the tip jar one time for Owen. No matter either way.

Amazing people pass though the world all the time. And I feel like the world should know about it. This is my small part of that endeavor.

                                                      Lisa Joan Haffner Dorantes
                                            December 21, 1974 – December 15, 2016
Lisa and Owen

Lisa and Owen

War On Christmas: My wife won’t let me use the laser.

A little Christmas Eve eve post to lighten your night and bolster you against the enemy. Who’s the enemy? Well all those godless heathens who who claim to love Jesus but hate Jesusy things, like America and cool lasers that cover your house with Christmas lights, that’s who. I mean how much coal do you have to have in your heart to not like laser beams that make your house a green and red field of Christmas cheer?

Now I am a guy who leans traditional at the holidays. I like Como, Bing, and Burl Ives. And I like putting up the old timey glass bulb lights like we used to do when I was a kid in Jersey. They were big, they were colorful, they were gaudy. In other words, they were perfect. The installation of the lights left a little bit to be desired.

We may have bent a few safety regulations putting them up. And by we I mean me, with my dad at the bottom of the 20 foot extension ladder that had already seen better days, yelling at me to be careful and don’t rip the gutters off the house as I dangled from the second story roof, some 25 feet above the ground. I am honestly misting up just thinking about it. Amazing what you miss sometimes. But man we laid down maximum effort at Christmas.

I recently went to a fall protection class at my current place of employment. Ladder safety was a huge topic obviously. The instructor probably had a complex by the end of the class because I could not stop giggling to myself as we went over all the OSHA, DOD, and DOE rules and regs governing the safe use of ladders. If any of those agencies had appeared on our lawn in the winters of 1975 through 90ish, they probably would have hauled us both off.

I don’t really have that issue here in Knoxville because the various roof sections are way too steep and I’m way too much of a coward now. Much more so than I was back in the 70s when men were men. But still I string my big bulb lights around the garage doors and the front door. I festoon the deck railing in back with my gaudy, go to hell 70s colored light bulbs. I even manage a few strands in the hedges out front.

It’s really a lot of fun, but that fun doesn’t come without effort. As it turns out age is directly proportional to effort. The older I get the less effort I feel like giving. Consequently the less effort I actual do give. But I dig Christmas so I was in need of a Christmas miracle of lights as it were. In steps my Neighbor Mike. Whilst curbing our new mutt, (to be covered in a later post), in the freezing cold of night, I glance up and see Mike’s house lit with a strange pattern of small red and green lights. I knew I was tired but it then appeared the lights changed pattern and then swirled around.

In between cusing and then admonishing the puppy/mutt to get on with his business, I ascertain Mike must have some sort of futuristic device generating his Christmas display. I must have this. After a quick text, he informs me the Kroger has them on the cheap. Well damn-it, I’ll be carrying myself down there the next day.

Can you not feel the Christmas in those lights?

Can you not feel the Christmas in those lights?

He was right. The Kroger had them. I went more on the cheap and got the stationary type. No patterns or motion, just straight up old fashion laser generated Christmas lights. And damn if they weren’t festive all to heck. Once more, it only required un-boxing them, jamming the steak in the ground at the desired position and plugging them in. That’s it. Done. In ten minutes I was lasering Christmas all over my house. And God said it was good.

Mrs Frank’s Place on the other hand…

She loathes it. With the passion and heat of a thousand Christmas candles does she hate it. My somewhat snarky, somewhat actual suggestion that she just avert her eyes while she was outside with the mutt in the freezing cold night went over like a fart in church. So, much like my parents who battled non-stop over the position of the thermostat, me and my betrothed duke it out over the plug, that’s right singular plug, required to power the two lasers in my front yard. One freaking plug, how can you not like that? It’s a Christmas mystery.

It would be easy to make all kinds of Christmas villain comparisons here, like the Grinch or Scrooge or the Heat Miser, but it is Christmas after all. So let us just say Mrs Frank’s place lacks the vision and desire for a better society when it comes to Christmas technology. Even the mutt liked the lasers. He only tried to pee on them once. And frankly the lights look good on him.

Christmas Milo rocking the

Christmas Milo rocking the “Laser”.

As I have explained, I am as old timey as they come when Christmas is involved. But I’m way more lazy than I am committed to tradition. One extension cord instead of my life flashing before my eyes as I hang helplessly from a ladder and gutters made in 1967?

Yeah I’m good with new and sexy over old and traditional.

Merry Christmas Eve eve people!

Swim Team: Really?

So swim team. Yeah. Swim team. I’m just at a loss here. It’s a great thing but I just did not see that coming. Sure the kids love the pool, they like “swimming” if you can call it that. But swim team sounds so official, and hard, and ya know might require some ability.

Let’s just face some facts here. Or at least let’s face one very important fact; the freaking kids can’t swim. There I said it. They can not swim. So swim team seemed a bit ambitious. Swim lessons sounded more reasonable. But as usual Mrs Frank’s Place would not be swayed. She was on swim team as a kid so our kids will be on swim team. End of discussion. Ok then. Great dear. Good talk.

Off to swim team we go. Oh no not Mrs Frank’s Place. No, I took the day off from keeping the world safe for democracy (not really) to schlep the kids down to the community pool for their first day of swim team. One thing is clear from the outset. My absence since returning to work has had a profound affect on the timeliness of my children’s arrival at various events. That is to say they went from being 5 minutes early to being late a lot. So much so that they were a bit flustered when we arrived at the community center 10 minutes early.

What do we do now? Why are we so early? How long till we can get in the pool? Those were just a few of the whinny supplications raining down from the back seat of my car as we sat in the parking lot. Funny thing, I didn’t get mad. I started to miss being home. When we finally dismounted and headed into the pool area and the other moms started showing up I saw a few old friends from my days of toting the kids around to school, soccer practice, the Kroger, etc… Then I really missed being home.

No time to get misty. A very hip looking dude, about 14 years old if he was a day, sauntered up and introduced himself. Not to me, but to Frank. That impressed me right away. Coach Joe, a stately 3o-somthing years old, turned out to be an impressive character. I didn’t know it then but the kids were in good hands. He showed Frank where to stand to warm up and off they went. I took my seat and watched nervously. We were at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center and this joint was big. The pool was big, the school was big. It was all big and my Frank is small.

It also appeared like there was no spot for beginners. It looked like Frank was going to be tossed into the deep end with everyone else. And by the way, Frank was the only newbie. All the other kids were returning from last year. I’m not feeling it at this point I don’t mind telling you if he had walked over and said he wanted to quit, I would have said OK lets go play some golf. I even stuck his golf stuff in the trunk for just such a contingency.

As it turned out he did get tossed in the deep end. Lane 1, 12 feet of water, everyone 6/7 years old into the water and swim a lap. For you land lubbers a lap is up and back. It’s an Olympic size pool. Did I mention Frank can’t swim? Not a stroke. Although I’m having enough of those for both of us. I quick like leave my mom friends and hustle to the lane 1 side of the pool. I’m half way there as I see my very timid 7 year old just jump in, no swimmies, no nothing, and no mention to coach Joe that he can’t swim. Just jumps in and starts to paddle.

Kid can always find the camera. Gettin work done in Lane 1.

Kid can always find the camera. Gettin work done in Lane 1.

Like an old Corsair coming off the deck of the USS Hornet circa 1942, Frank disappears below the horizon and I freeze, waiting for him to rise up into the sunlight as he gains altitude. No such grandeur. A few paralyzing seconds later as I’m really moving now, his head pops up and he is moving his arms fast enough to fly, but it’s just keeping his head above water. Not a soul is freaking out about this except me. Plenty of people can see him but no one is reacting.

So I sit down and watch. His head is staying above water and he is giving maximum effort. He has moved about a quarter of the way down the lane. The other kids are sitting at the other end waiting for him. They all glided down there like they had fins. I’m really close to shutting this all down and then I see the pic above.

The kid is ecstatic. I’ve not seem him smile that broadly since the day his sister finally came home from the hospital. No way I can stop it now. So I wait and he makes it to the other end. While Frank was giving all he had, the other kids were conspiring. They had decided they were not making the return trip. When one of the assistant coaches, wearing her college swim team pullover and dark shades, went to administer a beat down, a young lad got in the first lick.

Hey lady can we get some noodles over here?!? We’re just kids ya know! If that wasn’t enough to make this kid my best friend, his follow up question as he paddled to the other end leaning on a noodle he just received cinched the deal. Hey lady, is there a chik-fil-a around here anywhere. This is my new favorite kid. No contest. However, college swim team coach didn’t get the joke and gave him the community center policy of no food in the pool area. No sense of humor in college anymore I guess. But he wasn’t done. As he swims past where I’m sitting he looks over at me and moans, This is the worst day of my life. Ever! I swear to you had I known swim team was an hour long I would have run out and got that kid some chik-fil-a.

Still the kid appeared to be gliding through the water while Frank was barely staying alive. Then one of them got out of the water. They were, in fact, wearing swim fins on their feet. Frank’s mom is old school so I knew there was no way he would be allowed to wear them. But it really didn’t matter. He had a noodle and and then a kick board. He plodded along, up and back, up and back. He swam 20 full  laps in an hour. I was stunned and extremely proud. He was dead last the entire time but he never stopped. That was huge.

I was exhausted watching him. But he never stopped. By the end of swim practice he was hooked. Unlike soccer or baseball, swim team was every day. Plus you could come at night as well. Add to that the bonus of two nights a week practice was held at the University of Tennessee Aquatic Center on campus, where the 2012 Olympic swim team practiced leading up to the London games. Pretty cool stuff. Kid even got to swim in a meet there. Yeah I said swim in a meet.

By mid summer he was competing with his team, the Smokin Salmon, (not kidding). And by competing I mean actually swimming in meets against actual opponents. One of his first meets was in the a fore mentioned pool at the University of Tennessee. I mean hell, that ain’t bad for a kid who can’t, or should I say couldn’t swim.

Hard to say enough about Coach Joe and his gang. Just an impressive dude who got maximum effort out of my kid. To see Frank swim laps for an hour and then be ready to go do it again the next day was just astounding. It’s also a testament to the way Coach Joe can motivate these kids. He’s just a kid himself for goodness sake but the proof is in the pudding.

He believes he can fly.

He believes he can fly.

The pic to the left is the icing on the cake. Frank is a kid so scared of heights I can’t give him a piggy back ride without putting him in a climbers harness and employing two spotters. Safety first. But just peep that shot. He’s jumping off the diving board without assistance or me throwing him off.

I was standing near Coach Joe and one of his assistants and they were marveling about two things. One, how far Frank had come from his first practice. The second? They were amazed how Frank could even jump from the board and still managed to keep his hair from going under water. Apparently Frank would swim the whole practice without getting his hair wet. I could have sworn his head went under the water when he jumped off the board. But when he climbed from the pool he had huge smile on his face and his hair was barely wet. Not sure how he was doing it but he was clearly intent on keeping his rug dry.

 

She can fly.

She can fly.

Here is a little more proof of Coach Joe’s inspiration. This is my then 3 year old. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then you’re probably aware of her situation. Born at 25 weeks, weighing in at 1lb 9oz, she didn’t have much of a chance. In fact her twin sister, Linda Claire, died the day they were born. So it might have seemed a little overly dramatic to most people there watching, but I made a bit of a weeping ass of myself when Anne Marie jumped from the diving board into the deep end. Someone was apparently cutting onions near by.

 

Small victories people, small victories. And in the end swim team was a big victory. They both loved it, they both got serious exercise for over an hour five days a week during the summer, and they both competed against and with serious competition. The best part, there wasn’t a participation trophy in sight, just hard work.

Well hard work and the occasional post night practice ice cream. But that was more for me than it was them.

A little Menchie's after swim practice.

A little Menchie’s after swim practice.

 

TEAM SMOKIN SALMON!