Good Riddance, 2013

Welp, it’s almost over. 2013 is quickly coming to a close and I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled. In fact, if I had my ‘druthers, I do a cut and paste on the whole year and forget to paste it.

Yeah, 2013 kinda sucked for the most part.

To be fair, however, 2013 did end on a positive note, so I’d prefer to just write off from say January up until November. The last two months were a vast improvement owing in no small way to getting hired after nearly two years of being out of work. That alone has made the whole of 2013 eminently redeemable.

I don’t mean to come across as cynical and sour, though many days I still feel that way. It’s going to take a while to erase some of the angst of looking for work and not finding it, disillusionment being the key word for all those months. And make no mistake; it’s hard to break the habit overnight of feeling like ten tons of crap. So I’m taking this step to help move away from the negativity and into a more positive place.

Here’s my list of things for which I am grateful. Now, these are in no particular order, nor is there any priority involved. Unless there’s something funny in there, which I don’t know ‘cause I haven’t written it yet. But funny stuff goes in where it works best.

Off we go. Things for which I am grateful:

–  My sense of humor. Lord knows I’d not have made it through this without one. Thank goodness mine came standard issue. Some think my sense of humor is… well, defective. Fine. You can think that. Sometimes I do too, but I hit more than I miss, so you naysayers can bite me. (See? Still cynical and sour. I’m working on that.)

–  Being hired. Of course, I am VERY grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the workforce and stop screaming at the radio every time the job numbers described people who have given up looking for jobs. I DID give up for a while when I was sick and didn’t realize it back in 2012, but in 2013, it just pissed me off to hear that. Being back in the workforce and being blessed to work for the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center is something really cool. While I’m still new here and learning the ropes, everyone here has welcomed me and made me feel at home. So to all of my new colleagues and bosses, thank you for hiring me and thank you for making me feel so at home.

DVR–  My DVR. Holy crap, my DVR has 3 TERABYTES of storage for high-definition TV shows alone! While much of that is consumed with reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and Seth MacFarlane’s animated shows, being able to watch “Person of Interest,” “Elementary,” or “American Horror Story” whenever I wanted to was a godsend. (On a related note, I just binge watched ten episodes of “Person of Interest” some from many, many months ago. I recommend the show. However, I do NOT recommend binge watching ten episodes.)

–  Credit card companies. Yes, while I was unemployed, I used my credit cards to pay bills. Far, far more than I should have, but hey, when your back’s against the wall and you’ve got kids for whom you’re responsible, you do your best with what you’ve got. So I’m grateful that no one cut me off. Of course, now 2014 will be the year of worrying about how the hell I pay this all off. But at least we’ll all be fed for the foreseeable future.

–  Speaking of kids, I’m grateful for them. All of ‘em. Jon and Andy, my two grown-up kids who are scattered across the continent. You can read more about them here. I’m immensely proud of them both and love them like crazy. Nate and Garrett are my significant other, Beth Geyer’s kidlings and they have made 2013 bearable. There’s no greater comfort than a small child’s hug or having them fall asleep next to you while watching TV. As heavy as they are, it’s never a chore to carry them upstairs, dead asleep and tuck them into bed. There’s no greater gratitude for me than knowing that circumstances I’ve tried to create permit their sleep unburdened by the things that keep me awake at night. That’s my job. Whatever it takes.

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–  The dog.

Nope. I lied about that.

–  I’m grateful to the online community for keeping me company when I can’t get out of the house, which is pretty much always. Thank you for entertaining me, engaging me and giving me an outlet for socialization even if it is virtual in nature. I recognize that you’re all real people on the other side of my screen, and I value your friendship, your candor and your confidence. I’m extra grateful that I DO get to see many of you in person from time to time. Thank you for being so welcoming and so supportive.

–  I’m grateful for politicians.

Nope. I lied about that, too.

beth–  Beth Geyer. She allows me to be a real parent to her children, and I try my best to do a good job. I’m grateful for your support when I succeed and for your kindness when I fail. I am grateful for your boundless beauty and your sense of humor. You are extraordinarily clever and your wit and impeccable comedic timing are the stuff of legend. Timing like that you can’t teach. (Nate’s got it, too.) I am grateful for your presence in my world. I’m also grateful for your Sub Divines – the singularly most delicious sandwich recipe ever brought to a relationship ever. Did I say “ever?” Oh, and for your love of beer.

–  My Toyota Prius. It’s paid off.

photo–  Jeff Tobin. Jeff and I go back to 1972.  Last week after a server crash, I sadly lost a terrific essay I wrote about our long-standing disagreement about who’s the better drum major. He’s been a good dude for well over 40 years, and I have always valued our friendship, perspective and the rapport we’ve shared for a year or two now. Specifically, though, I am VERY grateful for you introducing me to single malt scotches. Yes, that was a 2013 thing. I was visiting Chateau Tobin in May near our birthdays this year (we were born 16 hours apart) and Jeff set us up with a scotch tasting. Changed my life. I am grateful for you and for your liquor cabinet.

–  HD Radio. Not satellite, but HD Radio. It’s a form of digital terrestrial radio that no one knows about except geeky guys like me. Living near a big city I can get a whole boatload (yes, it’s a large boat in case you were trying to quantify a boatload) of HD Radio stations you can’t receive on the regular FM band. Relatedly, thanks to Best Buy for having an open-box desktop HD Radio for $29.99 that was going for nearly $100.00 on Amazon.

That’s about it for now. I’ll have more later, I’m sure. Baby steps, you know.

Oh, and to you, my reader. Thank you for reading this. And thank you for commenting, liking it or whatever. Maybe you could think about the things in 2013 for which you are grateful. Tis the season and all that, right?

Jeff Tobin's Gingerbread House (Used shamelessly without permission.)

Jeff Tobin’s Gingerbread House (Used shamelessly without permission.)

 

P.S.  If you speak binary, you’ll get the message.

Gather Round, Children!

Long before Instagram…

Long before Picasa…

Long before Google+, Photobucket, Mashable, Tumbr…

…and long before the Internet had a capital “I”, there was WolfeScrapbook.com.

WolfeScrapbook.com was a web site that I started way, way back in the mid 1990’s.  You know, the Dark Ages of the internet.  (No capital. See?)  Back when seeing a Uniform Resource Locator on a TV commercial was rare.  Back when dial-up modems screamed at you every time you tried to connect and often didn’t.

The server on which it ran lived in my spare bedroom in California at first. It was built from spare parts gathered from all corners of my world.  For a time, the computer case in which WolfeScrapbook lived was from the computer that automated all of E! Entertainment Television’s programming for something close to a decade or so.  (To all of my former E! colleagues, remember TAS? I still have a 3 ½” disk with the TAS software on it that my friend and fellow surf tech, Ron Baer presented me with long ago.  It’s a cool souvenir.)  There were probably some other parts in there from the E! channel, but I only remember the case.

WofeScrapbook was my family web site on which I posted pictures, coded in HTML by yours truly, so that my family could access them from their computers up in Alaska.

So why am I telling you all this?

I post a lot of photos on Facebook and talk a lot about Nate and Garrett, my significant other, Beth’s kids. From all the attention they get, you’d think they were the only kidlings with whom I’ve had the opportunity to share space.

Well, this isn’t the case.

I have two boys of my very own who are now grown up and who I love and miss very much.   They don’t get a lot of Facebook time from me because of course, they’re not around for me to photograph and dote over as I would if they were in the same area code.  But they’re not, and they suffer from a temporal disparity that allows me to share my experiences with Nate and Garrett far more easily than when this whole Internet thing was still in its commercial infancy.

So anyway, I’m making this opportunity to tell you all about my older boys, and let all of you know that they are ridiculously awesome!  And they should be – they’ve been all sorts for awesome for nearly three decades now.

Jonathon Wolfe was born in Belgium while I was stationed there.  For a time during high school, he took to all things Japanese like a fish takes to water.  Toward the end of his high school career, he decided to go to culinary school and worked as a chef in Portland, Oregon for close to ten years.  He’s in the middle of a career switch and is studying Electrical Engineering enroute to a bachelor’s degree.  The dude can cook like crazy and the dude can fix PC’s almost as well as dear ol’ Dad can.

Andrew Wolfe was born in Anchorage, Alaska and has remained in his hometown.  He is largely self-taught, academically speaking, and writes splendidly about all sorts of thing.  He works in the Alaska film industry behind the scenes mostly, but occasionally appearing on camera.  His nickname is “Sauce,” and I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores of that name’s origin.  But if you address him as Sauce, he will answer.

Both of them are talented gamers and know their way around their computers.  They get that technical stuff from me, I suppose.  Then again, some degree of technical savvy is necessary these days just to navigate life, so they are well prepared for that.

Jon is Android.  Andy is iPhone.

Jon is a little bit country.  Andy’s a little bit rock ‘n roll.

(That’s not true.  I just thought it was funny.)

They are as close as brothers can be and I think that’s the thing I love most about them.  Even though Jon’s been living in Portland for many years now, they still stay in touch almost every day using Skype.  They regularly play together online MMO’s and FPS’s (Massively Multiplayer Online & First Person Shooter for the uninitiated.)  And they help each other when their computers malfunction.  (They only call me for tech support when things get really bad.)

The bottom line on all of this is that Facebook has given me the opportunity to share fun moments with Nate and Garrett.  But I’ve been sharing far more fun moments with Jon and Andy over the years, but without Facebook, y’all never saw it.

To Jon and Andy:  You guys rock!  You’ve always made me proud.  You’ve always kept me laughing.  And you’ve always been there when I needed to lean on you – even when you were far too young to be leaned on.

Thank you for all of that.  And thank you for being exactly who you are.

I’m so proud to be your Dad.

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Today I deserve Kudos

I’m going to kill Nate.

(And before you NSA guys and Child Services get involved, no, I don’t really mean it. Of course I don’t mean I’d actually take his life. He’s a great kid. But If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. What I mean is that I’m really mad at him, but I love him dearly and I’d never do anything to hurt him. So by “kill” I mean I’m just mad at him. Ok? Fair enough? Did I make that clear enough? Thanks! Enjoy the day, NSA dudes!)

I’m going to kill the little shit five year old.

We have a snack bucket, as I call it. It’s a large canvas container stored at ground level in which are all sorts of snack foods that they can munch on in between meals. (Nate especially since he’s a bit underweight.) Most of the time, they’ll ask “Dan, can I have something from the snack bucket?” If it’s not too close to meal time, then sure, no sweat. Sometimes if they’re really hungry, they can have their choice of two items as long as they eat it at the table. 

Since they often wake up and get out of bed early, there’s usually no problem with them picking out something for themselves as a mini-breakfast to hold ’em over until a proper breakfast can be prepared for them. Anyway, they are usually pretty judicious about snacking from it and they don’t abuse the privilege.

Until today.

First thing this morning. No caffeine. No breakfast. I hadn’t even stretched and scratched my nuts before I opened the garbage can to toss out something I picked up coming down the stairs. Mixed in with the banana peels and coffee grounds, I found about 10-12 open, uneaten Kudos snack bars. Opened. Uneaten. Untouched by human hands. Not even licked. All of them in with the garbage. May as well have just thrown a five dollar bill in the trash. 

One by one, I sorted through the wrappers both empty and full, trying not to get any of last night’s pork chop fat and baked potato with butter, bacon bits and sour cream on my fingers. The smell was enough to knock a buzzard off a manure wagon at fifty paces, but the more I counted, the less I could believe it. And the madder I got.

“Who opened all these snacks and didn’t eat them?” turning to ask sternly, the first words out of my mouth after the customary greeting of the day. “Nate? Did you do this?” 

I suspected Nate because this is just his style. Nate’s misbehaviors are usually more creative than older brother Garrett’s. When something happens, Nate is the go-to guy for the guilt. 

“Nate, Did you open all these and just throw them away?”

“Now Dan,” Nate starts to explain tilting his head slightly as if I’m too stupid to immediately understand. “Yes, because I was trying to find one of the M&M ones and it took me awhile to find it.”

At least he had a reason.

My blood pressure shot up past normal to patent pending. (If you’re not a nurse, next time you get your BP checked at the doc, look at the sphygmomanometer scale and this line will become instantly funny. And, hey, I just got to use the word “sphygmomanometer” casually in a sentence!)

I sat him firmly in his chair — I didn’t lose my temper, though I was VERY close. I put on my best Dad face and said “Nate, that’s about five bucks worth of food you threw in the trash. Do you understand that you’re not supposed to do that?”

“But Dan…”

“NO BUT’S!” I shouted, livid. “That’s unacceptable! You just lost free access to the snack bucket!”

So as of today, the snack bucket gets put out of reach. 

Afterwards, I made both the perpetrator and the innocent bystander, i.e.: Nate and Garrett respectively, a breakfast of cheese omelets. 

What a great guy, huh?

I’m such a good guy, I deserve a reward. I’d go have a tasty Kudos bar as a well-deserved reward for not killing Nate, but I can’t ’cause the little shit opened ’em all and put ’em in the garbage can!

 
Now I’m mad, hungry AND unrewarded.
 
 

2:55 am

Woke up a bit ago cause I was hungry. Got a small snack and I’m listening to the nearby freight trains doing their switching or whatever it is they do. Fostoria is still a big railroad town as I think I mentioned before. Even after all the years living elsewhere, hearing the trains at night is like a comfort to me. It’s how I know I’m home.

Even in Virginia. On those nights when the humidity seems oppressive, I can sometimes hear the trains there too. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it brings me right back here to this town and this house.

Mom and Dad moved here in 1970 and lived here ever since. It saddens me to think about someone else living here someday and that I won’t have access to the comfort of moments like these anymore. But I guess I’ve been fortunate enough to have this available to me for the last forty plus years. I’ve always appreciated it when I’m here. I just know I’ll miss it someday. But not tonight.

Some Dad Stuff

As my regular reader knows, (yes, just one and it’s me, thank you very much) I don’t post here as much as I should, but I think it’s time I buckle down, throttle up and post a little more often.

Since it’s just past the anniversary of my Dad, Lt. Col. (Retired) Robert D. Wolfe’s passing, I thought I’d post a photo of Lieutenant Bob (doesn’t have the same notoriety as “Lieutenant Dan” does) from my Facebook photo collection.

So here’s Lieutenant Bob, or as I like to call him, Lieutenant Dad:

A Letter to my Father

Dear Dad,

A month ago today, when last we spoke, we exchanged handshakes and snappy salutes. I noticed again that afternoon, as I always do, your silver U.S. Army Infantry ring, worn and smooth from the decades of wear, never imagining the next time I saw it, it would be surrendering it to accompany you in your urn.

Supporting Mom during those first days after our last salute kept me busy. Just as our family always has, we took care of business first. Mom and I went through your briefcase and pulled out the important legal documents and tried to figure out which bills would be coming due and when. Don’t worry, though – all of us got Mom squared away so that she’d continue to have income without interruption. Really, you saw to all of that through your prior planning and dedication. For me, it was just phone calls to the Army and the Railroad Retirement Board. No sweat. Gotcha covered.

The hardest thing I had to do – ever – was to leave you behind in that beautiful place you chose for you and Mom down in Dayton. I was fine through it all up until I had to leave. I rode out with the family to the entrance, saw them off, and got back in your car (which I’d been using, and yes, I filled up the tank when I was done) and went back up to see you again. I walked up, perfectly composed and stood near the temporary marker. Yeah, it was cliché, but I came to the position of attention and saluted you one more time and started walking back to the car for the two hour trip back home.

Yeah, I lost it then. Pretty badly, too. I sat in the car for a time and struggled with the understanding that I had to leave and the anguish of leaving you behind. But what’s done is done, I suppose. I finally put the car in gear, took one last trip around the grounds and headed home in silence, except for the few phone calls I made to let people know that it was done.

I’m lucky that we got to talk in the hospital, albeit briefly, and even luckier that at various points in my life, I’ve stopped to tell you that you’d raised all three of us right. That I was proud of you. And I admired you. All three of we offspring feel that way, you know. Just sayin’.

You’d be horrified to know that I’ve been posting photos of you throughout your life on the Internet. Yeah, that computer thing you keep hearing about that you wanted no part of. So yeah, you’re getting your dose of the internet now in spite of your revulsion for computers and technology.

I’m doing it anyway because I’m still proud of you.

Even with all the accomplishments I’ve enjoyed, the one thing I will never be is as good of a man – as good of a person as you were. You wrote the book on leading by example, not by intimidation. Cooperation, not confrontation. Thanks. I ‘preciate that. Your sterling example has served me well over the years, even though I know I still fall way short.

I have been telling people for years that when I look in the mirror or hear your words escaping my mouth unexpectedly, that I’m turning into my father.

Just so you know, I’m perfectly OK with that.

Miss you,

Dan