House on the Hill or the Shack in the Shade? Bungalows Depart from Suburbs with the Middle Class

Probably midway through junior high was when I finally put some kind of tie between the size of a house and the income-level of the dad who pulled up in the driveway at dinnertime.  I didn’t notice that one pal’s father was an executive at Ford and the other guy’s dad fixed transmissions (way cooler, by the way).  The most awesome dads coached little league or took us to Tiger games; the coolest moms were den-mothers for the cub scouts or didn’t mind us screaming “Marco Polo” for eleven straight hours in their above-ground pool. Clawson, Michigan remains a small town with hundreds of ranches on the 1960s “newer” north end of town and the bungalows and frame houses from the twenties when you cross Main street nearly one mile away.  24 years ago, I moved a full two miles away to Royal Oak an older cousin to Clawson with a cemetery that boasts… Read More…

Recipe for a Great Mom – Reflections from One Outnumbered Male

I was sifting through my students’ essays when I came across this undeniably true thesis statement… “If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” I resisted the urge to add to the margin in snarky red ink, “No kidding.”–maybe even with a little smiley face.  After 25 years, that line is still is one of my favorites along with “UFOs are possible” (which is true, they are unidentified) and “Mr. Walsh, you don’t really read these journal entries, do you?” (to which I added, “No”). But on Mother’s Day, I’ll borrow a bit from my student’s paper and tweak it a bit… “If it weren’t for the mothers in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” When my wife laughs that I’m often more of a feminist than she is–I observe it’s not from any noble ideal, it was simply self-preservation–growing up with my dad traveling 3 days a week… Read More…

“Let Jim Run His Own Funeral” – Irish Laughter Through Tears

At the end of the 98-hour day that my father died, it surprised me that the hardest part wasn’t hearing “He didn’t survive surgery,” but instead having to tell others–the slow pressing of numbers of the phone, knowing that someone’s life is going to be changed right after, “Hi Kev.  What’s up?” In a strange twist of fate that afternoon, my three sisters, Katie, Colleen and Maureen were all en route to Detroit Metro within an hour of one another.  When they had left Chicago and New York, after our call from the hospital, they knew only what we were told—“Dad’s been in a bad accident—he’s in surgery.”  By the time they were air-born, my mom and I were told of his passing and taken upstairs to see his body.  My mom’s friends Anne and Betty volunteered to drive us to the airport so we could meet the girls—we were cutting it close, so we just hopped… Read More…

The Consolidated States of America

This past summer the kids and I took our annual trip to the beach in North Carolina from Connecticut.  We decided to play the old license plate game along the way.  Of course, the kids added a new media twist to it using an app.  As we ventured down the east coast and tracked our states we started to question why there were so many states.  Why was Rhode Island an actual state?  No offense the Dakotas, you are awfully small. 3 teenagers and a preteen quickly reeducated me in the history of the United States, the colonies and how we came to be.  The capitalist and cost optimizer in me then challenged them with new thinking.  What if you had to start over today in 2014?  Would you have this many states and if so, why, and if not, what would you do.  As we checked the list of… Read More…

My Friends Call Me Tex Cobb: a Personal Contemplation of Bravery and Loyalty

Someone who knows me as well as anyone in the world–someone I’ve known since the playground–once told me he didn’t think I was someone who “had his back.” In a difficult time, I was not a guy he would turn to for help. The context of his comments is forgotten. Maybe it was just a mean thing someone says during an argument to get the last word. Maybe he was recalling a specific incident when he said it, although I can’t imagine what.  The comments hit me like a jab to the temple.  I believe this guy would always have my back. Whatever the context, when someone says something like that, you have to soul-search, you have to contemplate who you really are. Are you brave?  Loyal?  If a friend is in need, are you there? Here’s another thing the same guy said, although not to me. He said it to an… Read More…

Our Sanity Just Out of Rifle Range

Christina Taylor Green In the days after yet another school shooting, this time in Portland, let’s take a moment and reflect on how our attitude towards gun control and ownership has evolved in the past few years. The Sandy Hook tragedy took place on December 14, 2012, about a year and a half ago. Columbine was on April 20, 1999: 15 years ago. The Aurora movie theatre shootings, in which killed 12 people were shot and killed at the opening of the movie Dark Knight Rises, happened on July 20, 2012, almost two years ago. A friend of mine recently told me she was nervous about going to the movies; she was afraid of a gunman opening fire. Before 7/20/12, it probably never occurred to her that going to the movies could get you shot. Now, apparently, we should be afraid to leave our kids at school. It’s hard to… Read More…

All I Want for Christmas is Bronchitis: A Scrooge and Healthcare

I’m sure that Hell is a waiting room.  And I suspect that “Kelly and Michael” is on the TV there as well. I’d been hedging my bets, waiting for the really nasty cold from ten days ago to fade away.  Two days off work, leaving me just three in my sick-bank (after 17 months on the new job) combined with 17 hours sleep per day and I thought I had it licked. But the cough persisted through Day 6 and brought me to the real answer why Victorian homes had separate bedrooms for the husband and wife.  Antibiotics weren’t invented yet and the snoring/wheezing/coughing of one spouse would end in either exhaustion for the other–or murder charges.  So I moved down to our guest room (also known as the basement couch) to sequester my nasty hacking and keep only our cat wide awake–and she’s up anyway. The cough was practicing… Read More…

The Facebook Birthday Fix: Evidence for Defending Your Life

Today is my wife’s birthday and, like a true Facebook lurker, I can’t help but drift into her page and see the many greetings coming from all walks of her life. Patrice is one of those rare people whose default setting is funny, matter-of-fact, wise, generous, caring and, somehow, so modest she thinks she isn’t really any of these. Small wonder that she’s had the same girls in her scout troop for over ten years. Reading the posts of all the lives she’s touched, I’ve am impressed by how many agree with her wise husband. Facebook has made it incredibly easy for me to be considerate. It sends me nudges about my friends’ birthdays and has moved their big days to the top-right of my screen. When I first joined, it was late August 2008 and a month later when my birthday hit I was so surprised by not only… Read More…

“Gobble Gobble!” Thanksgiving, Northern Michigan and Family

Perhaps Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s front-loaded.  All the work is done on the first day and the rest of the weekend is comprised of football, avoiding the mall and general digestion. Throughout the late 1970s and into the early 1990s,when the above couch wasn’t full of random cousins it served as my bed.  In 1984, I was a college sophomore, stressed out completely, and couldn’t wait to drive with my family five hours north to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill’s cottage on Oden Island, just north of Petoskey, Michigan. We’d load up the station wagon, pray for no icy roads on Wednesday evening and get going on I-75, along with a couple thousand other travelers–some, like us, not wearing hunting orange and plaid. It was one of those fatigued moments of joy when we’d drive across the steep bridge to the island and down the road… Read More…