Jun 052012

Share with others:


BOOKS about cars and motorsports can be very specific, zeroing in on a single model, a single innovator or a single racecourse. And they can be very broad, covering the automobile industry and its influence on American life. Here, in time for Father’s Day gift buying, is a selection of five recent titles that encompass just such a range.

Father's Day Greeting


The Authorized Biography

By Rinsey Mills

40 black-and white and 25 color photographs. 464 pages. Motorbooks. $35.


By Colin Comer. Foreword by

Carroll Shelby.

119 black-and-white and 309 color photographs. 256 pages. Motorbooks. $40.

Fifty years ago, Carroll Shelby caught on to the value of a simple idea: put a big American V-8 into a small car. He didn’t really invent the concept (the postwar Cadillac-powered Allard, for one, beat him to it). But he was the guy who became rich and famous by creating the Shelby Cobra.

These two books take sharply divergent approaches to the Cobra and its creator. Mr. Mills’s book is a very dense, very thorough look at Shelby’s life, which ended May 10 at age 89. Mr. Mills starts with Shelby’s early childhood and runs right through his time as an Army Air Forces instructor and failed chicken farmer — done in by a sleazy feed supplier. (Oh, how car nuts owe that guy a debt of gratitude.) Mr. Mills then moves on to Shelby’s exploits behind the wheel and his achievements as a car builder.

Mr. Mills doesn’t seem to spare many details; if anything, there’s an overabundance. It’s a thick, slow read. (The author relies more on personal recollections of Shelby associates, less on flamboyant prose.) Maybe that comes with an authorized biography, although this book could benefit from some unauthorized editing.

All the tiny points — childhood misbehavior, being shot at while snatching beer bottles for the deposit money — are the pixels that create the portrait, but a lower-resolution image would have been more inviting.

Still, given Shelby’s role in the history of American motorsports after World War II, it all belongs in a biography like this. Even if you confine yourself to those passages about the periods of his life that interest you most, the book is worth adding to a personal automotive library.

Anyone looking for abundant photos, and an easy read, will want “Shelby Cobra Fifty Years,” which focuses solely on the two-seat sports car. The prose is gee-whiz reverential. (In fact, the best reading is found in the sidebars: interviews with various Cobra collectors and profiles of people like Phil Remington and Pete Brock, indispensable figures in the creation of Shelby’s cars.)

The eye candy matters here: abundant photos that capture the racing history and mechanical details. For a model builder like me, the book answers almost every question about what goes where and how it is supposed to look. If you’re lucky enough (and rich enough) to find a real Cobra to restore, you can get a good head start from Mr. Comer’s book.



A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars

By Paul Ingrassia

64 black-and-white and color photographs. 395 pages. Simon Schuster. $30.

So it was the Chevrolet Corvair that gave the nation eight years of George W. Bush?

Paul Ingrassia suggests just that in “Engines of Change.” Then Mr. Ingrassia, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, offers a good case for it.

His evidence? Ralph Nader makes his name as the Corvair’s nemesis and becomes a consumer hero. As a presidential candidate in the 2000 election, Mr. Nader takes some 95,000 votes in Florida. As Mr. Ingrassia explains, “Bush lost the national popular vote to Al Gore, but prevailed in the Electoral College, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his tissue-thin victory in Florida.”

So it goes… (Sorry, I’m an old Vonnegut fan. )

The Corvair is just one of 15 vehicles that Mr. Ingrassia uses to trace the intertwining of cars and culture in the last century or so. He begins with Henry Ford’s Model T and finishes with Toyota’s Prius hybrid, along the way including such varied machines as the La Salle, the Jeep, the Chevrolet Corvette, the Ford Mustang, the Chrysler minivan and the BMW 3 Series.

We get some insight into the thinking of the creators of those vehicles, not just Ford, but men like Harley Earl, who was General Motors’ design guru; Lee A. Iacocca, who left his mark on Ford and Chrysler; and John Z. DeLorean, whose ill-fated automotive venture went bankrupt in the early 1980s. Among other things, we find out that Takeshi Uchiyamada, the father of the gas-sipping Prius, loved huge tail-finned Cadillacs as a child.

Mr. Ingrassia is quick with the back story. He explains the Volkswagen Beetle’s success in the United States, a success that was a result in large part of Doyle Dane Bernbach’s memorable advertising campaign.

Reading about the “civilizing” of the Jeep, we learn how Yvon Chouinard followed a similar path at Patagonia, which went from a little-known supplier of mountaineering equipment to become a household name as a maker of clothing for just about everybody to wear — not just up mountains, but to the mall.

In “Engines of Change,” Mr. Ingrassia arguably does for cars and culture what David Halberstam did for a decade in “The Fifties.” History well researched, made alive, relevant and eminently readable. One small complaint: While the photos in the book document Mr. Ingrassia’s copy, the story he tells begs for more. Sorry, traditionalists, but “Engines of Change” would be a terrific multimedia e-book.



The Bulldog Breed

By Jon Pressnell

50 black-and-white and 125 color illustrations. 160 pages. Haynes Publishing. $39.95.

First a warning. This book is going to be expensive. Beyond its cover price, you have to figure in what you’re going to spend on an Austin-Healey, because by the time you finish reading, you’re going to want one.

Austin-Healey was, of course, the British carmaker that after World War II produced classics like the startling 100, the sought-after 3000 and the Bugeye Sprite. Run by Donald Healey, a race driver with an enduring charm, the company that carried his name lasted 18 years. Mr. Pressnell’s history is a fascinating story of the brilliance, the battles and the happenstance that created one memorable car after another.

That story begins in a cement-mixer factory where the company assembled the chassis for its first cars. The war had created shortages of steel, forcing Healey to turn to aluminum, but there was plenty of wood around, including a surplus of coffin bottoms that Healey recycled into the cars.

The book is full of such details, although at times Mr. Pressnell seems to assume that readers have some previous knowledge of the events he’s writing about. But what is truly insightful is how Healey produced vehicles that were made from a little of this and a bit of that: engines from one company, body panels from another and paintwork from yet another. This kind of collaboration created the 100, but years later the same strategy resulted in the troubled Jensen-Healey.

The sidebars, in which the author takes readers on wonderful test drives of each Healey, are special treats. Mr. Pressnell also provides buying tips, noting, for example, that the 3000′s body and chassis are prone to rust severely. As I said, this illuminating book is going to be expensive.



20 Years of the United States

Grand Prix, 1961-1980

By Michael Argetsinger. Foreword by Mario Andretti.

91 black-and-white and 150 color photographs. 160 pages. David Bull Publishing. $49.95.

Watkins Glen is a sleepy town at the southern end of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. For motorsports fans, the town is best known for the road course at the edge of Seneca Lake, where, for two decades, the greatest legends in Formula One history competed.

Racing in Watkins Glen actually dates to 1948, when a local auto enthusiast, Cameron Argetsinger, organized grands prix in the manner of those in Europe — on public roads. In the 1950s, Mr. Argetsinger built a permanent track, which would eventually begin holding the United States Grand Prix in 1961.

In a beautifully designed book, “Formula One at Watkins Glen,” Mr. Argetsinger’s son Michael examines those Formula One years in detail. The publisher says that proceeds from the book’s sales will go to the International Motor Racing Research Center, a nonprofit historical archive at Watkins Glen.

The book has coffee-table dimensions (9 inches by 11 inches) and fills them with photographs, which are transporting. They present motor racing as it used to be — a very D.I.Y. endeavor without the sponsorships and the whitewashed contemporary architecture of today’s Formula One scene.

Back in the day, racecars were stored in garages around Watkins Glen and transported to the track by volunteers. There are many photos of racecar drivers milling among the masses. Especially revealing is a photo of Graham Hill, a three-time winner at Watkins Glen, working on the rear wheel of his own car.

Hill was only one of dozens of racing heroes to pass through Watkins Glen. Among the others were Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Jimmy Clark, Mario Andretti and Gilles Villeneuve, evidence that the 20 years of Formula One racing at Watkins Glen coincided with arguably the most exciting era in the sport.

In the end, the track fell into debt and then bankruptcy, and Formula One held its final race there in 1980. Today, under different ownership, the track is used for Nascar and other forms of motor racing, but after that last grand prix in 1980, Watkins Glen closed the book on its most memorable years — and in many ways on Formula One, which was already on its way to becoming the glossy commercial powerhouse it is today.




Article source: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/auto-news/fathers-day-reading-gentlemen-start-your-kindles-638655/

 Posted by at 9:14 am
Jun 052012

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift that can’t possibly be
seen as a term of endearment? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Here
are eight terrible gifts certain to give the right message -that you simply
don’t give a hoot about your old man.


Nothing says “I want you to have a great day….and drop
dead,” quite like a suit that allows you to soar through the air after jumping
from a plane without a parachute. Sure it’s a crazy extreme sport, but your
dad’s likely not all that crazy and he’s probably  too old for this sort of thing. That means
even if he does use the thing right, he’ll probably die of a heart attack in
the process.

Designated Driver Kooler Club

For the dad who lives for both booze and golf, this
“designated driver” is a great way to get drunk on the course without looking
like a complete lush. It might not help his game, but it will certainly make
him happier. And you can even give it to him with the UroClub so he’ll have
somewhere to “go” when he’s had a few too many and can’t make it back to the

Metal Baby Carriage

Perfect for the new, over-protective daddy, this machine-gun-equipped
baby carriage
can help keep the baby safe while letting daddy live out his
Rambo fantasies. If nothing else, it certainly looks manlier than a pink
carriage covered in ruffles.

George Foreman USB Grill

Is your dad a geek who can’t cook? Finally, someone has
solved the age-old problem of how to feed World of Warcraft dorks without ever
making them leave their computer. Nerds can now connect their George Forman
Grills into the USB
of their computers. Simply pull the steak from the USB
powered mini-fridge and grilling time is ready to go. Just don’t let the grease
drip on anything.

(It’s a gag product if you couldn’t tell already.)

Tailgate Companion

Sometimes the best gift for a man is actually something for
his best friend. In this case though, the dog tailgate will certainly benefit all
parties, your dad will love having access to grilling accessories, condiments
and a bottle opener wherever he wanders, Rover will love all the positive
attention he’s getting and everyone else will love having your dad leave them
alone asking people to get him beer.

Chocolate Guns and Ammo

Giving Dad chocolate is always a nice gesture, but it’s
still a little too feminine to make a great Father’s Day gift. But your
problems are now solved with the help of these delicious and intimidating
chocolate weapons
. Which would you choose a white chocolate grenade or the dark
chocolate M-16?

Of course, if you really hate your pops, you can always try
dipping a loaded gun in some chocolate and telling him it’s one of these.


Is your dad more proud of his sweet stache than his own
kids? Then celebrate his facial growths with this awesome carstache hood accessory.

Happy Father’s Day to all you kiddos out there and please,
don’t actually get your dad any of these gifts.

Article source: http://inventorspot.com/articles/8_fathers_day_gifts_dad_you_wish_was_just_sperm_donor

 Posted by at 9:12 am
Jun 052012

2. Dinner and a movie. Celebrate Father’s Day at the Enzian (1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland) with a screening of “Caddyshack” at 1 p.m. June 17; $8 admission, $5 for Enzian Film Society members; lunch and drink specials at the Eden Bar start at 11 a.m.

3.How sweet it is. On Father’s Day take Dad to any First Watch restaurant for breakfast or brunch and he will receive a free bottle of the eatery’s signature pure maple syrup.

4. Shake, rattle and roll with it. If Dad enjoys a potent libation, add a classic shaker to his bar. Shop for these at flea markets, antique dealers and gift stores. The shakers can cost as little as $20 and as much as $200.

5.Now you’re cooking. The best gift of all can be dinner at home and quality time at the table with Dad. Here are two recipes that are easy to prepare. Divide up the tasks and make mealtime a family experience. A spinach salad with sliced pears or mandarin orange segments is a good opener and a store-bought cake works well for dessert.

Seared Halibut With Herbs Pepper Relish

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or chives (or a combination)

4 pieces halibut fillet, each about 1-inch thick, about 2 pounds total

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Pepper relish:

1/2 cup each, thinly sliced: drained pickled jalapeno peppers, roasted red or green bell peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Place 1/2 cup of the herbs in a baking dish. Add fish; turn to coat the pieces on all sides with the herbs. Sprinkle fish with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cover; refrigerate 2 hours.

2. For pepper relish, mix sliced jalapenos, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of the herbs in small bowl. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.

3. Heat oven to 450F. Heat a large, heavy, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the fish, skin side down. Cook 3 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until the fish nearly flakes at the thickest portion, about 8 minutes.

4. Remove from oven; carefully transfer fish to a heated serving platter. Scrape any pan juices over the fish. Spoon the pepper relish around the fish.

Recipe note: Eliminate or reduce the amount of pickled jalapenos if you prefer a milder relish.

Steak and Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Yield: 6 servings

1 beef top round steak, cut 1 inch thick (about 1-1/2 pounds)

1 small eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices

Article source: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-06-04/features/os-fathers-day-food-20120604_1_pepper-relish-olive-oil-fish

 Posted by at 9:12 am
Jun 052012

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill., June 4, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
As consumers turn their shopping attention to Father’s Day gifts, Sears has proclaimed itself “Destination Dad,” featuring deals on a range of dad-centric brands, including Kenmore, Craftsman DieHard, Levi’s, Lee, NordicTrack, Casio, LG, Samsung and Sony. To assist customers in selecting from among the dozens of product categories and offers, Sears has simultaneously launched “Dial Destination Dad,” a hotline dedicated to helping customers take the guesswork out of finding a gift dad will love.

Starting today, Father’s Day shoppers can visit sears.com/destinationdad where one click connects them to a gifting expert via phone or live chat. Sears’ agents will explore gift ideas that fit any type of dad and savings to fit every budget. Shoppers can also call Dial Destination Dad directly at (800) 376-6953.

“Sears understands who dad is and what he loves,” said Ron Boire, Sears Holdings’ executive vice president, chief merchandising officer and president, Sears and Kmart formats. “We also know the process can be a challenge, which is why we’re featuring so many desirable items at such compelling prices this Father’s Day. Plus, we’re making it easier than ever to shop, whether online, in-store, or via a mobile device.”

Sears makes the shopping experience seamless with home delivery and in-store assembly on many items. Those looking to buy online can connect to their personal social network to find product information, comments and recommendations from friends through the Sears SHOP YOUR WAY community. Last-minute shoppers can skip the ship, buy online and pick up their purchase in store the same day, ready to take home in five minutes or less.

Not sure what to get Dad this Father’s Day? Sears’ Dial Destination Dad service is available June 4-17, from 6 a.m. – midnight seven days a week with Spanish-speaking agents available. Experts are standing by to offer gift recommendations for a range of dad personalities and interests, including:

Mr. Fixit – Sears has Craftsman® power tools, toolsets and tool organizers on sale for the serious DIY Dad.

Yard Master – Help Dad create the backyard of his dreams with mowers, trimmers and gardening tools on sale at Sears.

Tech Geek – For the Dad who is always plugged in, Sears has Father’s Day sales on smart technology for the mobile Dad.

Gourmet Guy – Indulge Dad’s epicurean side with Kenmore kitchen appliances and grills on sale just for Father’s Day. Sears is featuring free grill assembly on any gas grill purchased in-store.

Style Seeker – Dress up dad in classic summer styles with deals on watches, clothes and separates from Sears, and celebrate Father’s Day in style.

Smart Savers – SHOP YOUR WAY REWARDS Members get the best deals on Father’s day sales. Shoppers can sign up for free at
www.shopyourway.com .

To learn more visit sears.com/destinationdad or call 800-376-6953.

About Sears Holdings CorporationSears Holdings Corporation is a leading integrated retailer with over 3,900 full-line and specialty retail stores in the United States and Canada and the home of ShopYourWay, a social shopping experience where members have the ability to earn points and receive benefits across a wide variety of physical and digital formats through ShopYourWay.com. Sears Holdings is the leading home appliance retailer as well as a leader in tools, lawn and garden, fitness equipment and automotive repair and maintenance. Key proprietary brands include Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard, with a broad apparel offering, including such well-known labels as Lands’ End, the Kardashian Kollection, Jaclyn Smith and Joe Boxer, as well as Sofia by Sofia Vergara and The Country Living Home Collection. We are the nation’s largest provider of home services, with more than 11 million service calls made annually and have a long-established commitment to those who serve in the military through initiatives like the Heroes at Home program. We have been named the 2011 Mobile Retailer of the Year, Recipient of the 2012 ENERGY STAR® “Corporate Commitment Award” for Product Retailing and Energy Management and one of Top 20 Best Places to Work for Recent Grads. Sears Holdings Corporation operates through its subsidiaries, including Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Corporation. For more information, visit Sears Holdings’ website at
www.searsholdings.com . Twitter: @searsholdings | |Facebook:


Contact Information:Brian HanoverSears Holdings Corp.(847) 286-6080Brian.Hanover@searshc.com

Lisa BeachyZeno Group(312) 396-9719 Lisa.Beachy@zenogroup.com

SOURCE Sears Holdings Corporation

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Article source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sears-becomes-destination-dad-for-fathers-day-gift-shoppers-2012-06-04

 Posted by at 9:11 am
May 232012

Your parents spill a few secrets as they get older.

One night at dinner with my mom, I ventured that the rhythm method had worked well for her, given that there were six years between my sister Peggy and my brother Kevin, and six more between Kevin and me. She arched an eyebrow. “Well, sometimes your father used something,” she said.

My parents were the most devout Catholics I’ve ever known. But my dad came from a family of 16 in County Clare in Ireland, and my mom’s mother came from a family of 13 in County Mayo. So they balanced their faith with a dose of practicality.

After their first three kids, they sagely decided family planning was not soul-staining. So I wasn’t surprised to see the Gallup poll Tuesday showing that 82 percent of U.S. Catholics say birth control is morally acceptable. (Eighty-nine percent of all Americans and 90 percent of non-Catholics agreed.) Gallup tested the morality of 18 issues, and birth control came out on top as the most acceptable, beating divorce, which garnered 67 percent approval, and “buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur,” which got a 60 percent thumbs-up (more from Republicans, naturally, than Democrats).

Polygamy, cloning humans and having an affair took the most morally offensive spots on the list. “Gay or lesbian relations” tied “having a baby outside of marriage,” with 54 percent approving. That’s in the middle of the list, above a 38 percent score for abortion and below a 59 percent score for “sex between an unmarried man and woman.”

The poll appeared on the same day as headlines about Catholic Church leaders fighting President Obama’s attempt to get insurance coverage for contraception for women who work or go to college at Catholic institutions. The church insists it’s an argument about religious freedom, not birth control. But, really, it’s about birth control, and women’s lower caste in the church. It’s about conservative bishops targeting Democratic candidates who support contraception and abortion rights as a matter of public policy. And it’s about a church that is obsessed with sex in ways it shouldn’t be, and not obsessed with sex in ways it should be.

The bishops and the Vatican care passionately about putting women in chastity belts. Yet they let unchaste priests run wild for decades, unconcerned about the generations of children who were violated and raped and passed around like communion wine.

They still have not done a proper reckoning, and the acrid scandal never ends. In the midst of a landmark trial in Philadelphia charging Msgr. William Lynn with covering up sexual abuse by priests and then recirculating the perverts, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Sunday that two priests in their 70s who worked in parishes and hospitals had abused minors at some point and were unfit for ministry.

This follows five priests sidelined earlier this month because of substantiated claims of sexual abuse or other violations, plus 17 others suspended after last year’s sickening grand jury report on rampant sexual abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Some leading Catholic groups endorsed the compromise struck by the Obama administration that put the responsibility for providing the contraceptives on the insurance companies, not religious institutions. But others wanted to salute the Vatican flag and keep fighting. On “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday, the pugnacious Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York rejected the compromise and charged that the White House is “strangling” the church.

Interpreting the rule in the most extreme way to scare Catholics, he said: “They tell us if you’re really going to be considered a church, if you’re going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything you do, you can serve only Catholics and employ only Catholics.”

The Archdiocese of Washington put an equally alarmist message in the church bulletins at Sunday’s Masses, warning of apocalyptic risk:

“1. Our more than 600 hospitals nationwide, which will need to stop non-Catholics at the emergency room door and say, ‘We are only allowed by the government to heal Catholics.’

“2. Our schools, which will be required to say to non-Catholic parents, ‘We are only allowed by the government to educate Catholics.’

“3. Our shelters, on cold nights, which will be required to say to the homeless who are non-Catholics, ‘We are only allowed by the government to shelter Catholics.’

“4. Our food pantries, which will be forced to say to non-Catholics, ‘the government allows us only to satisfy the hunger of Catholics.’ ”

The church leaders headed to court hope to undermine the president, but they may help him. Voters who think sex is only for procreation were not going to vote for Obama anyway. And the lawsuit reminds the rest that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/opinion/dowd-father-doesnt-know-best.html

 Posted by at 11:53 pm
May 232012

LOS ANGELES, May 22, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
The Quik Pod®, by Fromm Works Inc., allows Dad to be included in every photo and video without asking strangers for help.

Just in time for Father’s Day, get the man in your life the world’s first handheld extendable monopod for smartphones (
www.quikpod.com/iphone.html ). Your family will cherish photos taken with the Quik Pod generations from now. No more missed shots or awkward raised arms in the photo.

Quik Pod Inventor Wayne Fromm says, “I first invented this for myself, for when I travel with my family. Since then it’s been on Oprah’s O List, The Today Show and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I’m proud to keep all dads in their family photos!”

Fits smartphones, all compact cameras, DSLR and GOPRO cameras.

Prices for the Quik Pod start at $19.95. Available online at
www.quikpod.com – and at Amazon, BH Photo, JR Computer World, Adorama, Henrys Camera and Kaiser Fototechnik (Europe).

U.S. Patent No.: 7,684,694.

Fromm Works, Inc. is an invention and design company that has marketed nearly fifty successful commercial products including Quik Pod, Disney’s Snow White Magic Talking Mirror and Nesquik’s Magic Milkshake Maker. A supporter of Starlight Children’s Foundation. Member of DEMA and PMA.

Learn more at:
http://www.quikpod.com or follow on Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/quikpod .

To view a VNR (video news release) for this story, visit:


PHOTO 1 72dpi: Send2Press.com/mediaboom/12-0522-qpod1_72dpi.jpg

Caption: Take your own photo without asking a stranger for help!

PHOTO 2 72dpi: Send2Press.com/mediaboom/12-0522-qpod2_72dpi.jpg

Caption: Never ask a stranger for help while you travel.

ContactWayne FrommFromm Works, Inc.(800) 567-0878wayne@frommworks.com

This release was issued on behalf of the above organization by Send2Press(R), a unit of Neotrope(R).


SOURCE Fromm Works Inc.

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Article source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fathers-day-gift-your-family-will-remember-30-years-from-now-2012-05-22

 Posted by at 11:52 pm
Jun 182011

President Obama talked about the rewards and responsibilities of being a dad in his weekly radio address on Saturday. Do you think maybe he wanted to make sure Sasha and Malia don’t forget that Sunday is Father’s Day?

Skip to next paragraph

Anyway, he said our children need our time, our unconditional love, and the structure that only parents can provide. As in, “No, you can’t use the Situation Room computers to log into ‘Poptropica!’ and “You are not wearing that T-shirt to dinner with Prime Minister Merkel. Its holes have holes.”

Mr. Obama noted that, growing up, he felt keenly the absence of his own father, who left the family when the young Barack was only two. That’s one reason he recently served as an assistant coach on Sasha’s basketball team, he said.

Father’s Day gifts: Top 5 unusual gifts for under $25

“On Sundays, we’d get the team together to practice, and a couple of times, I’d help coach the games,” Obama said in his weekly. “It was a lot of fun – even if Sash rolled her eyes when her dad voiced his displeasure with the refs.”

Hmmm – the nation’s commander-in-chief as assistant coach of a sports team for 10-year olds. How did that work?

True, Obama does play basketball, so he might know what’s doing. But in our experience, being an assistant coach in that situation does not mean drilling a squad of intense athletes in the finer points of the pick-and-roll.

No, the assistant coach of kid teams is responsible for two things: bringing snacks and providing adult supervision if the head coach can’t make it.

A president might do OK on the former. That’s something that can be planned in advance. The White House staff might even convene meetings as to which option is more politically acceptable: chips or orange slices.

But as to covering for the real coach, that’s tougher. Imagine the scene: Obama is in the midst of a tense Oval Office meeting with House Speaker John Boehner. They’re talking about how many trillions they’re going to have to cut from the national budget. The hot line rings, with this message: “Bert’s under the weather. Can you handle the game with Holton-Arms today?”

And one last thing: Obama noted that he embarrassed his daughter by yelling at the refs. She is 10. When the players are that age it is generally unacceptable for parents to get mad at refs, umps, or opposing coaches.

Not that they don’t. Every game has that one parent who is really competitive and points out the slightest perceived infraction, to the embarrassment of everyone else.

But in Washington, in our experience, most of those people are just lawyers – not lawyers who happen to be president of the United States.

Take the Monitor’s weekly news quiz! June 13-17

Article source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/The-Vote/2011/0618/Obama-talks-fatherhood-and-why-he-helps-coach-Sasha-s-basketball-team

 Posted by at 10:34 pm
Jun 182011

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dwyane Wade is getting used to being a father. And a son.

This is a Father’s Day weekend like none other for the Miami Heat star. Instead of lamenting over the NBA finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks — yes, it still hurts, to the point where he’s still avoiding television in case replays pop up — he was spending Saturday flanked by his two sons and their once-estranged grandfather at a jam-packed South Florida water park, enduring long lines because it’s what his kids wanted.

Three generations of family, together.

It wasn’t long ago when Wade feared he wouldn’t have any of them as mainstays in his life. Not anymore.

“It makes me feel whole,” Wade said.

This is the Heat star’s new normal: 6:45 a.m. alarm clocks in the house because his kids like to rise early, schedules posted everywhere to coordinate where everyone is, reviewing daily logs from the nanny when he’s traveling, karate lessons and Spanish classes and carpooling and video games and birthday parties.

He could have spent his days in clubs surrounded by bottles of bubbly; instead, on his kitchen counter these days, there’s a bottle of bubbles.

He’s never been happier.

The financial aspects of his divorce from Siohvaughn Funches Wade may not be complete until fall, but the marriage is officially dissolved and he now controls custody of his children — 9-year-old Zaire and 4-year-old Zion. On Father’s Day, that’s enough to at least soothe the small matter of getting to the NBA finals and seeing someone else hoist the trophy.

“Every day, I’m constantly learning how different they are, which is crazy,” Wade said during in an interview with The Associated Press at his gated home. “Zaire, his personality is starting to come out. He’s always on the move. He’s into girls now. He’s always busy. He’s into everything. Zion is all about him. Zaire will share. Zion, he knows everything’s about him. I learn more every day.”

As he’s saying this, Wade is sitting in a room with a U-shaped couch that could probably sit 20 people comfortably, with a dark hardwood floor and view of his backyard pool. Among the many pieces of artwork on the walls is a signed photo of himself and Heat teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which isn’t far from a painting of Wade in his Marquette uniform.

Yet on the television, in a constant loop? Alvin and The Chipmunks.

“That’s Zion,” Wade said, just shaking his head and laughing as he reaches for the mute button on the remote.

The kids seem completely comfortable in their surroundings. Zaire answered the door for a visitor on Friday, hand outstretched with a big “How are you?” Zion nodded and waved, then went back to playing immediately, undeterred by the half-dozen or so adults milling about in the family kitchen. The adjustment of moving in with their dad has been relatively seamless.

Dwyane Wade is quick to point out that as a father, he’s still learning many things and needs plenty of help — a nanny, his mother Jolinda, his sister Tragil and others — to make sure there’s no missteps. But his efforts are getting noticed. Wade recently was honored by the National Fatherhood Initiative, for “his dedication to his two sons” given the demands of being a professional athlete and single father.

“He gives dads everywhere a great example,” said NFI President Roland C. Warren.

In Wade’s mind, one of the most interesting aspects of getting custody of his sons is that parts of their stories are incredibly similar to his own.

There are wild differences, of course: Instead of growing up in rundown apartments and always being broke in Chicago, Wade’s sons are getting settled into posh new South Florida digs, with a dad who makes, by some estimates, around $40 million annually.

Take all that away, and the fundamental roots are evident.

— Dwyane Wade was 9 when he starting living with his father after a divorce. Zaire is 9.

— Dwyane was about 4 months old when his parents split up. Zion was about 4 months old when his parents split up.

“It’s crazy when you think about it,” Wade said.

About five years ago, Wade was entering the realm of NBA superstardom after Miami won the 2006 title, with him the finals MVP. Around the same time, Wade and his father began mending their fences, after years of strained relations. His father remains largely out of the public eye, though he’s been in Miami for much of the past half-decade.

Having his dad around, Wade said, is helping him be a better father for his own boys.

“A lot of things that happened in my life are some of the same steps that he went through,” Wade said. “A lot of steps I’ve taken in my life are like my dad’s, and I tried so hard not to be like him growing up.”

The one thing Wade has learned since gaining custody: His kids really don’t care if the Heat win or lose.

The day after Miami’s season ended with the Game 6 loss in the finals to Dallas, Wade was ill and ailing. Everything ached, and he remained hidden from the world and in his bedroom until nearly 6 p.m. Monday, one day after the loss to the Mavericks.

Then he heard the kids downstairs.

“Carrying on like nothing happened,” Wade said. “So I got up. I went outside with them. Shot a few baskets. It still hurts. But I had to be out there for them.”

His entire offseason is built around the kids’ schedules. While he controls custody, part of that court-ordered agreement stipulates that the boys will spend two weeks with their father, then two with their mother, and repeating until school resumes in late summer.

So during the times when Zaire and Zion are in Chicago, their father goes to work.

He leaves Sunday night for Europe, a trip built mainly around his interests in the fashion world. When the kids return in early July, he’ll host a basketball camp for kids in Miami for a few days. When the boys go back to Chicago later that month, Wade will depart on a nearly two-week trip to China for countless meetings involving his work with Jordan Brand, Gatorade, Hublot watches and other deals.

“There’s a lot to do this summer, me trying to keep building my brand,” Wade said. “We’re using the time wisely. I’m doing it for them.”

Wade pauses for a moment, listening to the chatter from the other room, where his kids are enthralled by a basketball video game — starring, of course, himself.

“You have a choice to make,” Wade said. “You’re either going to be in your kids’ lives or not. At the end of the day, this is what I wanted. I chose to fight to be in my kids’ lives.”

Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gU8Si3VfixJJVIvn9_rusR_1D1Pw?docId=35e77baeae174e15858e250b6717b493

 Posted by at 10:33 pm
Jun 182011

Father’s Day is coming up Sunday, so each day this week we’re offering some gift ideas that might inspire you when you’re looking for something to please the No. 1 man in your life. Today:

If Dad’s a splashy, sun-and-fun kind of guy, we suggest these fun swim trunks and flip-flops — loaded with Martha’s Vineyard-style charm. (Junior is sure to follow in his footsteps, decked out in a matching mini ensemble.) Vineyard Vines men’s and boys floral shell chappy trunks, $79.50 and $55; men’s and boys grosgrain flip-flops, $45 and $30. All at vineyardvines.com.

G-Form-iPadCase-1 (Medium)
For the plugged-in outdoorsman, here’s the laptop or iPad/iPad2 case of his dreams. G-Form’s Extreme Sleeve is lightweight and flexible, yet waterproof, abrasion-resistant and beyond durable. Specially designed to withstand maximum impact, it absorbs more than 90% of energy upon high-speed collision. The company demos it surviving being hit by a bowling ball and tossed off a 20-foot balcony. (We’re confident that it can bungee jump and cliff-hang, too, but gotta be clear that this gift is no license for extreme antics.) An  11-inch laptop or iPad cover costs $69.95;  it’s $79.95 for a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop cover, at www.g-form.com

–Ingrid Schmidt

Photos: From top, swim trunks and flipflops from Vineyard Vines (credit: Vineyard Vines); G-Form Extreme Sleeve (credit: G-Form).


Cheers to Pops

A watch for every kind of dad

It’s all about beer and sports

Article source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2011/06/fathers-day-gifts-outdoor-fun.html

 Posted by at 1:14 pm
Jun 182011

Every year on Father’s Day I watch the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As a young dad it was an agonizing exercise.
The character Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, is the perfect father. He’s strong, a pillar of courage, brimming with dignity, yet a gentle and attentive single parent to his two children.

If that weren’t enough Atticus always knows what to say at precisely the right moment.

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand,” he says to his 10 year-old son Jem. “It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Ever come up with a pearl of wisdom like that while driving a mini-van crammed with screaming and hygienically challenged boys to a Little League game? I think not.

This year things are different. I turned 50 and I’ve learned to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird” without judging my performance as a father against the Atticus Finch Gold Standard.

For me fatherhood isn’t about perfection anymore. Fatherhood is about remembering the promise I whispered in a delivery room to God and myself as I watched each of my three children come into the world, that I would love them and their mother with everything I could muster, and as Atticus said, see it through no matter what. Most of all fatherhood for me is about asking God every morning before my feet hit the floor to supply me with the grace to keep that promise for another twenty-four hours.

It reminds me of a fatherhood moment a few years back with my son in Vermont. It is about one of those blessed days when you realize just how glorious and sacred the vocation of fatherhood really is, even if you aren’t Atticus Finch.

In 1735, an enterprising New Englander named Isaac Underhill opened the first marble quarry in the United States. It’s nestled on Route 30 in Dorset, Vermont, two miles from our summer home. Before it shut down operations in 1917, it provided the marble that was used to build the New York Public Library, the Harvard Medical School, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and other equally impressive places. After the quarry was abandoned, it filled up with cold, spring-fed water and became the world’s finest swimming hole, bar none. Did I mention that it’s cold? You have no idea how far a man’s testicles can recede into his body until you have jumped into the Dorset Quarry. Mine once retreated behind my pancreas and refused to come down until I promised them I would never go into the quarry again, unless I did so gradually and with ample warning.

On a hot day, the quarry is like a “Where’s Waldo” poster. All of humanity is on display. I have seen hundreds of people wandering the grounds at the same time—boarding-school kids wearing J. Crew swim trunks and Vineyard Vine polo shirts; men with no front teeth throwing back Bud Lights and hugging their cackling girlfriends, who wear cutoff jeans and smoke Newports; local toughies with more tattoos on their bodies than a passel of Hindu gods; grandmas in stretch pants and flip-flops, sitting in old beach chairs with bent aluminum frames, telling their blue-lipped grandchildren to come and wrap themselves in towels; and stick-skinny kids whose complexions are so white you can almost see their central nervous systems with the naked eye. Every so often a group of adults with Down Syndrome come and sit on the grass to eat PBJs for lunch, getting grape jelly all over their faces. Packs of cyclists from Europe in yellow and-black spandex biking outfits stop to cool off before they continue on their cross country trek, and a few African- American Fresh Air Fund kids from the Bronx stand at a distance and wonder how in the world they ended up spending their summer break in the second-whitest state in the country. Heck, I once saw a group of Buddhist monks from Tibet wearing maroon robes, sitting and cooling their feet along the bank of the oblong-shaped quarry.

U.C. Berkeley can’t rival this kind of diversity.

The only place to sit and watch the goings-on is a small grassy knoll on which giant slabs of white marble lay willy-nilly on the grass. Some are freestanding, and some are sloppily stacked on each other, like the artist Andy Goldsworthy and a group of drunk trolls placed them there. Otherwise the water is surrounded by an almost uninterrupted white-and-gray marble wall that changes heights depending on where you are on the perimeter. The owner of the nearly two-hundred-year-old Dorset Union General Store told me that that the water is eighty feet deep in the center. Well-worn paths wind all the way around the edge of the wall, making it possible for you to get to the different heighted ledges from which you can leap into the water.

The first time we went to the quarry, my daughters, Cailey and Maddie, were fourteen and eleven, and my son, Aidan, was eight. I worry about my kids. A lot. They have an incredible mother who was raised in a pretty normal family (whatever that means). Anne has a sense of what she’s doing with kids and making a family. She knows when kids need to get to dentists and doctors, when she needs to go down to the local rec center to sign them up for soccer, and what level of propulsive bleeding warrants a trip to the emergency room. Their father, on the other hand, learned about responsible parenting from watching Modern Family and from the occasional reruns of “Eight Is Enough” on late-night cable.

Our first summer in Vermont, the focus of my anxiety was my son, Aidan. He seemed so fearful and uncertain. Like me at eight, he was small and not very athletic. We once signed him to play in a little-kid soccer league when he was five.

Instead of jumping into the fray and chasing the ball in one of those huge amoeba-shaped scrums that five-year-olds form when playing soccer, he stood in the middle of the field, holding the coach’s hand and sucking his thumb. If he did play, he would sometimes stop altogether and begin looking up at the sky and the wind blowing through the trees like he was having a mystical religious experience.

My self-referential narcissism told me that this was all a sign of my utter failure as a dad. The problem with growing up with a crappy father is that it makes you neurotic as heck about raising your own kids. I have no model of what a father is supposed to do or be. I had the anti-father. How can I give something to a son that I myself never received?

I want my son to know how to be in the world; how to love himself; how not to settle for too little; how to walk with God with humility, compassion, and a heart that makes room for everybody; how to never hide his true self because he’s afraid. In other words, I want to give him an absolutely perfect childhood.

Is that too much to ask?

Whenever I make a mistake with him or my daughters, I excoriate myself. One time I got stuck in traffic and missed one of Aidan’s choral concerts. Guilt oozed from every orifice. I apolo – gized so many times he finally told me to shut up.

He was six.

To complicate matters, he has untraditional parents. I love fourteenth-century choral music and poetry. I don’t know the rules to football or baseball and couldn’t care less about having a television so I can sit on the couch and watch ESPN on Saturdays. I tried golf once but broke a car windshield in the country club parking lot driving off the first tee.

My wife, on the other hand, was, in high school and college, a downhill ski racer and a star in lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey. She runs marathons and at forty-six still has six-pack abs. What makes it worse is that she is genuinely humble about it. Jealous twenty-five year olds have keyed her car in the fitness club parking lot. Do I do the “dad thing” and coach my son’s teams? No, my wife does. I bring orange wedges, juice packs, and a well-highlighted copy of “Soccer for Dummies.” Shame, shame, so much shame.

Our family made our first visit to the quarry on a hot Fourth of July. The place was packed. So many people were jumping into the water from all the different ledges that it looked like lemmings committing suicide en masse. All the locals know that there are four jumps at the quarry—the ten-footer, the eighteen-footer, the twenty-three-footer, and the mother of all jumps, “the Forty.” There is also a three-foot jump that no one bothered to name until my son Aidan drew people’s attention to it. Until then it had simply been a few rocks one stepped on when approaching the water.

“Dad, I want to jump in, but my instincts won’t let me,” Aidan said, standing on the recently named three footer.

I nearly burst out laughing. “Aidan, jumping off your bed would be more dangerous, and you do that all the time. Just jump,” I said, standing in the water up to my waist.

“What if there are snapping turtles or big fish down there?” he asked, peering over the side and shivering.
“Then they’ll bite you,” his sister Cailey said, frowning impatiently.

I gave her the death-ray look. “Thanks, Cailey. That’s really helpful.” I turned back to Aidan. “Buddy, Dad will be standing right here in the water when you jump in. Nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

An hour later I was still standing in the freezing water.

My testicles were very, very angry.

Maddie and Cailey are more like their mom. I once had to beg Anne not to bungee jump off the bridge over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

“Honey, this is 365 feet,” I pleaded, looking over the side while she counted her money to pay for the jump.

“It’ll be awesome,” she said.

“Listen, Anne,” I said, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. “My parenting skills are only slightly better than Nicholas Cage’s in Raising Arizona. If you get killed and I have to raise our kids alone, they’ll all end up as ax murderers.”

She relented.

Like their mom, Maddie and Cailey are fearless. They would jump into the quarry even if it didn’t have water in it. The cool thing is that my kids really love each other. Yes, there are the periodic battles over who would get what if Mom and I died, but on the whole they are tight. Maddie and Cailey worked for hours with Aidan, trying to get him to make this three-foot jump into the water. I eventually wandered off to read a copy of The Drama of the Gifted Child so I could figure out where I had failed him.

After nearly a full day at the quarry, Aidan still hadn’t jumped, and he was crestfallen. Finally his sisters, his mom, and I all got into the water and formed the equivalent of one of those booms they use to contain oil spills around the place where he would splash down. The only way he could have gotten hurt is if all four of us had simultaneously died of heart attacks while he was in midair. With only moments to spare before we went home, he closed his eyes and leaped. The muscles in his neck were so taut that they could have snapped. It was not a bold, joyous, or soaring leap—it was more like he slithered down the side of the rocks—but we called it a jump and cheered like he had performed a perfect triple-gainer at the Olympics. Even a few grandmothers in beach chairs held up their bottles of Snapple iced tea with NASCAR foam holders and cried, “Way to go, kid!”

On the ride home, Aidan couldn’t stop talking about coming back the next day so he could jump off the ten-footer.
“Thank you, Jesus,” I whispered under my breath.

The next morning Aidan jumped into our bed in his damp bathing suit and insisted we get up so we could go to the quarry. I told him that we should wait until it was light out. By the time breakfast was finished, the weather was as beautiful as it had been the day before. We packed our lunch, leashed our Portuguese water dog Hobbes, and got to the quarry by 9 a.m.

This time it only took Aidan a few minutes to make the threefoot jump into the water, which he did several dozen times to be sure he really had it down. There was only one condition: I had to be close by when he jumped.

“I think I’m ready for the ten-footer,” he announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked. My wife glared at me. This response wasn’t a confidence builder.

The five of us swam across the quarry and scrambled up the marble wall to the ten-footer. Anne jumped. Cailey jumped. Maddie jumped. Aidan stood on the ledge and quaked.

“Dad, you have to go in and wait for me at the bottom. I won’t jump unless you do,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll be waiting for you,” I said, leaping in.

There was a line of kids behind Aidan, waiting for him to jump. So he let a few others go ahead of him while I treaded water, waiting for him to leap.

“Aidan, Dad can’t do this forever,” I said through chattering teeth.

This time Aidan didn’t close his eyes, nor did he limply dribble down the side of the wall halfheartedly. He made a full-blown jump, a screaming, leg-pedaling, arm-flailing jump. When he came up, he was more than a little pleased with himself.

“Woo-hoo!” we all yelled.

“Aidan, are you ready for the eighteen-footer?” Maddie asked.

“Skip the eighteener. Let’s go to the twenty-three-footer!” he said like a man filled with a double dose of the Holy Ghost. When we arrived at the twenty-three-foot ledge, however, Aidan’s courage quotient diminished significantly. So did mine. Jump ing twenty-three feet sounds doable in the abstract. Heck, my adjoining living room and dining room are twenty-three feet long. Of course, I have never stood them on end and jumped off them. Even my daredevils Maddie and Cailey were hesitant at first. Their mother was the one who broke the impasse. She walked over to the ledge and without fanfare performed a full forward flip and finished with a headfirst dive. This inspired her daughters to jump in after her. I vowed to key her car.

Aidan was biting his nails. Half his hand was in his mouth. “Dad, you jump and wait for me at the bottom,” he said.

If my wife hadn’t smacked me down by performing this perfect flip in front of my kids and half of Vermont, I might have opted out, but I had to jump just to save face. So off I went. Maddie, Cailey, Anne, and I treaded water and waited for Aidan.

He wasn’t the only person thinking twice about the wisdom of jumping the twenty-three-footer. People of all ages were mulling around, eyes furrowed and pacing. My favorites are the guys who tell people they’ve done it a million times before, but “just don’t feel like it today.”

Then there are the kids who announce that this time they are going to do it for sure. They lurch forward but at the last second pull back and scream, “I can’t do it.” Then their brother or sister comes up and says, “Let’s hold hands, count to three, and do it together.” Sometimes this strategy works, but more often than not the kindly sister or brother ends up betrayed. They count to three and leap, but Judas shakes his hand free and doesn’t jump. I feared Aidan would end up in this camp. He had been afraid to jump three feet the day before; where on earth would he find the courage to jump
twenty-three feet only one day later?

Aidan pulled away from the ledge and disappeared. I thought he was tossing in the towel.

Hey, the kid is eight years old, and this is twenty-three feet. He should be proud of jumping the ten-footer, I told myself. Just because there are eight-year-old girls jumping off the twenty-threefooter doesn’t mean he’s a failure. It doesn’t mean that a mob of angry child psychologists should stone me to death for being a loser as a father. Just as I was wondering if my Greenwich, Conn. therapist could do a phone appointment with me, I looked up. I found out why he had disappeared. He had decided to make a running start before jumping. Aidan came off that ledge like Evel Knievel flying his motorcycle across the Snake River Canyon. He screamed triumphantly all the way down. Or at least he screamed.

As we pulled ourselves out of the water to go off the twentythree-footer again, Maddie asked, “Dad, can we do the Forty?”

I looked across the quarry at the Forty. Just looking at it gave me that lower intestinal cramp feeling. “Not on my watch,” I said.

“But Dad—”

“Not another word, Maddie. Besides, it’s time to go home,” I lied, diving in to head back to shore.
I thought the conversation about jumping the Forty was behind us. Until Anne and I were doing the dishes that night.
“Honey, you should let the kids jump the Forty,” she said.

This suggestion came out of left field. I hung the dish towel over my shoulder, crossed my arms, and leaned against the counter, watching her wipe down the countertop and rinse out the sink.

“Not a prayer,” I said, finally.

“Why not?” she asked, turning her attention to scrubbing off something stuck to the stovetop.

I sighed and ran both my hands through my hair. “I don’t know. Maybe they can do it next year when they’re a little bigger. Jumping twenty-three feet is plenty of accomplishment for one summer.”

Anne stared at me. “Ian, what’s really going on here?”

I tossed my dish towel onto the counter.

“Look, kids get hurt doing crap like this; that’s what’s going on here. Forty feet is a long way to fall,” I said.

Anne’s face softened, and she placed her hand on my cheek. “Ian, they’re not falling; they’re jumping.”

I had trouble sleeping that night. I couldn’t help thinking about what Anne had said about the difference between the kids jumping and falling. My childhood had been an emotional and spiritual free fall. Often there was no net, no soft landing in the water with a parent waiting, and I got hurt. Some of that hurt came at the hands of others who should have known better, and some of it came because I made my own self-destructive mistakes. Regardless, I didn’t want my kids to know what it meant to fall from a cliff or from anything else, for that matter.


But Anne was right. There is a big difference in life between a jump and a fall. A jump is about courage and faith, something the world is in short supply of these days. A fall is, well, a fall. Maybe I was supposed to teach Maddie, Aidan, and Cailey about how to do both well. Maybe that’s what parents do. Still, I wasn’t sure I could let them jump the Forty. Waiting till next summer seemed the more responsible thing to do.

I had hoped for rain the next day so we could hang out at the Dorset Library and read instead of going to the quarry. Unfortunately, it was another perfect day. God and my wife were conspiring against me.

We hadn’t been at the quarry long before we had already made our jumps off the ten- and twenty-three-footers. I knew what was coming.

“Dad, please let’s jump off the big one,” Maddie said, pointing to a group of college boys wending their way down the brushy path to the Forty. Maddie is my mellow, go-with-the-flow middle child. The problem is, she doesn’t believe in mortality.

“Maddie Cron, this is the tenth time you’ve asked me if you can jump off the Forty, and I’ve told you I’m not comfortable with it. I told Mom last night you can do it next year.”

Maddie put her hands on her hips and stuck out her lower lip. “Why not?” she asked.

“Because I don’t want to push you around in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, that’s why,” I said. I’m not Jewish, but I am the archetypal hovering Jewish father. I make Woody Allen look like a wingsuit diver.

Maddie rolled her eyes and looked at the line of tan, shirtless boys in cutoffs walking through the brush like extras from the movie The Last of the Mohicans. She was itching to join them.

“Can’t we at least go see it?” she asked, twirling the ends of her hair with her fingers. She all but batted her eyes. I have seen her pull this I’m intolerably cute, so do whatever I ask act before.

It works.

Everything in me said walking over to “just see” the Forty was a bad idea, but the kids and their mother had worn me down. Besides, part of me was annoyed and wanted to see this jump. Every one spoke about it the way climbers talk about K2. It couldn’t possibly be that imposing.

I sighed. “Aidan, do you want to come?”

“Sure, but I’m not jumping,” he said.

I put my arm around his tanned bare shoulder. “Trust me. I ain’t jumping either, pal.”

When the five of us got to the Forty, there was a group of ten college-aged boys peering over the ledge, debating whether to jump. Apparently, they had been having this debate for a long time. Forty feet is equivalent to the height of a four-story building. Falling forty feet onto pavement would leave a big wet mark at the point of impact. For me to even think about jumping off a forty-foot cliff would require two milligrams of Xanax and a diaper.

“You go first,” one of the college boys said to one of his pals.

“I’m not going first; you go first,” his friend replied.

“It’s not that high,” another kid chimed in, peeking over the side.

“Then you do it,” a tall kid said, pretending he was going to push his friend in. The kid quickly jumped backed from the edge.

There were four boys below, sitting across from the Forty on a small island made up of large marble blocks stacked on top of each other. They were taunting their friends. They had already made the leap and were trying to shame the guys at the top into joining them.

“Jump, for crying out loud,” one yelled, taking a swig of beer.

“Once you step off, it’s nothing,” the guy sitting next to him added.

“How many times do your arms go round in a circle before you hit the water?” a kid on the cliff called down through cupped hands. Apparently this data point provides an accurate measure of how high a jump is.

“Maybe three times and then you’re in. No big deal,” said the kid drinking beer.

“Three arm rotations? That’s pretty far,” someone whispered behind us.

The guys at the ledge were not effete choirboys. I learned that the group was made up of Division I lacrosse players from a nationally ranked college team. They were buff, as my daughters would say. Given their physical prowess and toughness, I would’ve thought they would be doing double-gainers off this thing by now.

“How long have you guys been up here debating this?” I asked.

“About half an hour,” they said.

My eyes widened. “And you still haven’t jumped?”

The kids folded their arms and stared me down. “Take a look,” they said.

I moved through their huddled group and peeked over the edge.

It was K2.

I immediately stepped back two feet, afraid that some smartaleck college kid would shove me in as a beta test, the logic being, “Let’s see if a middle-aged man can survive the plummet. If he does, then we’ll do it.”

I crept slowly forward and looked over the ledge again. It looked even higher than I had anticipated. It was seventeen feet taller than the twenty-three-footer we had been jumping off of twenty minutes ago, but it might as well have been a mile. A breeze moved across the water below, gently roughing its surface. Sun light danced on the crests of the tiny swells.

“Yeah, that’s pretty far,” I said.

“Ya think?” one of the offended lacrosse players said.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maddie walking forward. She comported herself with the proud and sure stride of a Masai tribeswoman with a fruit-laden basket on her head. She held her head high; the motion of her brown legs was fluid and strong. She was the embodiment of Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Joan of Arc, and Sacagawea.

“Maddie, don’t you dare—” I said, but it was too late. As calm as a bird taking flight, she leaped off the Forty without one iota of hesitation. She descended like a pencil weighted at the tip, her body rigid and straight; her arms tight to her sides to minimize impact and limit the possibility of a belly-flopping rotation. She barely made a splash. When she came up out of the water, she was smiling from ear to ear.

“Dad, it’s awesome! You have to do it!” she yelled up, swimming a backstroke toward the island where the other jumpers were sitting.

I snorted. “Not a prayer,” I yelled. “And by the way, you’re freaking grounded until you go to college.”

Maddie giggled. Then she squealed with laughter when her sister Cailey made the jump while my back was turned. I’d lost authority. It was mob rule.

It was then that I felt someone tugging at my swim trunks. It was my eight-year-old son, Aidan. He looked up at me with brown, doelike eyes and said, “Dad, if you do it, I’ll do it.”

There are moments in a father’s life when he realizes that he is facing a decision of irreducible consequence. At first blush, the event might appear trivial, but in his gut the father knows that what he says or does next will determine whether his child will be going to Harvard or riding out his twenties working at the Gap to pay for therapy. This was one of those liminal moments. Even the college boys around us knew something sacred and momentous was happening. One of them shushed the others, while the rest of the group ogled me like a Greek chorus waiting for the hero’s decision.

I looked over the side and noticed that small shrubs and oak saplings were growing horizontally out of the cracks on the face of the cliff wall. You’d have to make a serious leap to clear the vegetation. “I don’t know, Aidan,” I said, my knees beginning to wobble.

Aidan looked over the side, took a deep breath, and blew out. Then he looked at me and said again, “I mean it, Dad. If you jump, so will I.”

The next thing that happened made me believe that maybe some of the more fantastic Bible stories are really true. Maybe the power of the Lord can embolden a kid to kill a giant with a slingshot. Maybe grace can make a rascal noble or a coward brave, even if it’s only for a moment.

I walked off the ledge.

The college kids were wrong. It was four full arm revolutions before I hit the water. The drop was high enough that the impact hurt the bottom of my feet. A belly flop from this height would liquefy your internal organs. But it was exhilarating as all getout. I was twelve again.

But then I remembered Aidan.

I looked up to see my eight-year-old boy, peering down at me. Around him was the Greek chorus of lacrosse players, fascinated by the family drama playing itself out in front of them. What I realized as I looked up at Aidan was just how high this jump really was and how letting him make the leap might be a really bad idea. He was so small. What if he landed wrong and did some serious damage to his neck or back? What if he accidentally hit a slab of marble no one knew was just below the surface? What if a condor snatched him midair and took him to its aerie to feed him to its condor babies? These are the kinds of things that go through my mind even now as an adult.

Aidan smiled at me, and I knew in my heart that everything in his life and in mine had always been leading up to this moment. He jokingly made the sign of the cross three times fast and then jumped. Like his sisters, he hit the water so perfectly that his entrance into the water barely disturbed the surface.

“Yes!” I cried, and waited for him to come up. But he didn’t. After three or four seconds of waiting, I looked over at Maddie and Cailey. The two college boys on the island peered into the water to see if they could see him any better from their angle than I could from mine. Nausea engulfed me. I imagined one of his feet caught in an angry crib of branches and crisscrossing logs that had long been waiting on the quarry bottom for a victim such as this. I visualized Aidan’s frightened eyes and felt his struggle to get free. I was just taking a deep breath to go down to search for him when, two feet in front of me, a sixty-five-pound blond rocket shot up out of the water. If his eyes had been any wider, they would have fallen out of their sockets. He’d lost a few baby teeth that summer, so when he smiled, he looked like a drunken pumpkin. He was laughing, coughing, and blowing water out of his nose all at once. The cowardly group of twenty-year-olds cheered, albeit ashamed of themselves for being shown up by an eight-year-old.

“Aidan! Aidan! Aidan!” Maddie and Cailey chanted and danced from the island.

Aidan and I looked into each other’s eyes, and a wonderful admixture of joy and grief arrested me. I had witnessed a death and a birth. Looking into his face, I knew that the boy who had gone into the water was not the boy who had come out. The old things had passed away; behold, all things were new.

He threw his arms around me while I treaded water to keep us afloat.

“Dad, I did it,” he said into my ear.

“I know,” I said, my throat knotting with joy.

All around us now were the screams and splashes of college kids jumping off the cliff, not to be outdone by the daring bravery of an eight-year-old.

“Hey, mister, is that your kid?” It was one of the college kids sitting on the island.

“He sure is,” I said.

“How old is he?” he asked, taking a swig of beer and wiping his mouth with his forearm.

When I told him, he shook his head and held his beer up to Aidan in a toast of respect. “Kid, you’ve got big balls.”
Aidan pulled away and looked at me, eyes afire like diamonds, his arms still around my neck. “Dad, did you hear him?” he asked.

I laughed. “Yeah.”

He hugged me again. I felt his wet, smooth cheek pressed against my own. “I’ve got big balls,” he whispered in my ear.

“Big brass ones,” I whispered back. And we laughed and laughed and laughed until it felt like the water and the marble cliffs and all of creation was laughing with us.

I commissioned a local artist to paint an oil of the quarry on a typical summer’s day, brimming with people of seemingly every tribe and nation. If you look closely in the left-hand corner of the canvas, there are three kids in midair, holding hands. They have just leaped off the Forty. One is blond, one is brunette, one a redhead. These are my children.

They have jumped, not fallen.

Editor’s note: This op-ed includes an excerpt from the author’s new book.

Ian Morgan Cron served for ten years as the Founding and Senior Pastor of Trinity Church in Greenwich, Conn., a non-denominational community committed to social justice as well as to communicating the Christian story through the arts. He is the author of “Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale.” His latest book “Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts” (Thomas Nelson) was released June 7. Follow him on Twitter @iancron For more visit his website: www.iancron.com.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/06/17/on-fathers-day-learning-to-let-go-atticus-finch-gold-standard/

 Posted by at 1:14 pm