Always play your best and Ireland…


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I was on a swim team once I learned how to swim. Either my mom or my dad had to get me to practice all the time at Bryan Pool which was a good bit away from the house. They never complained they just got me there. It’s a part of parenting you never get kudos for until your kids have kids and then they realize what a pain that was. Thanks mom and dad.

My father had a rule that I live by with my kids. He always played 100%. If you beat dad at something then you beat him at his best. Swimming wasn’t his strong suit and I was actually a better swimmer than him by age 12. But I knew when I pulled back him that day that I was beating the best he could do. It made that so much better when he patted me on the shoulder and congratulated me for winning. He wasn’t sad he was happy that I was a good swimmer. Mom and dad were always that way.

When I was 11 years old we went to Ireland on the way to Paris and then eventually Bangkok Thailand. We landed at Shannon International airport and rented a car. We hadn’t gone more than 50 miles on the opposite side of the road when we side swiped a police car. The policeman was sitting at the local pub and his car was parked. If you think about it, its really hard to drive on one side of the road for 20 years and then switch without issue to driving on the other side of the road. That little incident is why in all my years of international travel I never rented a car. By the end of that day we were in a magical cabin near Galway. It had a loft and was in Ireland. My suitcase had decided to go on to Prague so it wasn’t with us initially. I got a great Irish sweater out of that deal.

Dad wanted to take pictures while we were there and he did. He approached a flock of Geese to snap a pictures. He climbed over the low tide rocks covered with various plants and animals. I am not sure why the Geese didn’t like that. Perhaps it was that he was an American. Or perhaps it was that he had a camera. Anyway they charged at dad. He very nimbly tried to run, dodge Geese, and maintain his footing on the slippery rocks. In the end the Geese stopped my sister and I however continued laughing for a bit after.

When we were in Ireland we went to a pub.They offered me a beer (at 11) “The lad will have a stout” they said to my dad. He said no he will not.

Mom wanted scallops so dad went to the fisherman’s wharf and got scallops fresh from the hold of the fishing vessel. Mom made them with just a little butter and salt in an old iron frying pan. It was my first introduction to fresh seafood. I fell in love with the taste that night. My mother is an amazing cook but the thing that can best be said about mom is that she taught all three of us to cook. I love cooking. My mother taught me to be a fearless cook. I am willing to try anything once. Sure I’ve made a few out there stinkers. But sometimes you get something wonderful.

.your loving son.

Man did I need stitches…


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This is the story of the sled, the tree and finally the faint.

My grandparents had a house by a lake in Wisconsin. I loved spending summers there and for most of my childhood I spent two or more weeks with my grandparents. In the summer I would spend hours in the lake. I helped my grandfather in the spring when I was there put in the dock and get the boats cleaned and ready. One summer I helped paint all the cabins well I helped paint two of the cabins. In the winter there was the most fantastic hill for sledding.

As a youngster probably 5 or 6 years old I went out sledding one day. Somehow I didn’t either pay attention or I drifted off the regular track and I ended up slamming into a tree head first. I realize for many of you that explains a lot – it in the end probably does. I hit the tree at probably 15 miles per hour or so and smashed my forehead into the tree. My grandfather was the first one there, my dad was the second one there. At the time there was something I didn’t know about my father that I would learn later. Mom quickly covered the wound and we headed to Old Doc Nemic to get me fixed up. (spelling on the doctors name I am not sure about). It ended up being a ridiculous number of stitches and because it was to my head a lot of blood.

I learned at the Dr’s office that day that my father could have blood pouring out of himself and it didn’t bother him at all. My mother and grandfather were calm and collected. My dad however took one look at my cleaned up head and fainted. Dad had a huge tender side that not every one saw. Many of his students did because that was the teacher part of him. He fainted there on the doctors floor so the nurse took care of him while the doctor finished stitching my head.

We went back home, I looked like the cover figure from Red Badge of Courage. Every time my dad changed the bandage he looked like he was going to be sick (it had to be changed once or twice a day for a few days0).

Many years later some friends and I decided to have a haunted house on the front porch of our house in Sycamore Knolls. For any number of stupid reasons my sister decided she had to be on the front porch. I of course stupidly didn’t want her to and held the door shut. The result was that my left hand slipped and I learned the sad reality of non-safety glass. I cut the heck out of my wrist. Enough so that our neighbors took me to the emergency room. I was scared, holding a cloth on my wrist and well really really scared (and in pain). My mom got there to the emergency room and for some reason I was no longer scared. She talked to me about what was going to happen. I ended up getting another ridiculous number of stitches. Many years later part of my left hand (the base and side of my thumb) remains numb. But mom was there and it was ok.

.Your loving son

Yam Neua and dark days…


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When we first arrived in Bangkok we lived in a hotel. I don’t recall the name of that hotel. Around the corner from the hotel was the New Lite Café American. As part of our settling in we ate there a few nights in a row. My dad was teasing me one day about my not trying Thai food. So I decided one night to try the Thai menu at the New Lite. I selected  Yam Neua. Now I grew up in the Midwest and the spiciest thing I had eat at that point in my life was my father’s chili. Dad’s chili would bubble away on the stove after eating the pan. Suspended in the air out of respect for the heat coming. I ordered the dish and the waiter/waitress asked how hot. You know food in Thailand is hot they have a word for temperature hot (Lawn) and a word for spicy or not spicy hot (pet). I went all out that night instead of my usual pet nit noy (the phrase means hot a little bit). My father said are you sure that’s going to be really hot. He said that twice to me. But I was all in. The dish was simply amazing. The quality and flavor was fantastic and it was so hot I was dying. But I wasn’t going to let my father see that so I walked over and took the bottled water pitcher for our table and drained it. I survived – and I love Yam Neua but it was painful for a bit.

My mother was very excited when she found out her last grandchild was coming. (we are the odd family in our family group we have the first and last child my sister has the oldest boy and we have the oldest girl). We found out Barb was pregnant near the end of 1997. We later found out it was twins. I remember calling my mother about twins and she was excited. The due date the doctor gave us was May 20th 1998. My mother immediately changed that to May 14th which is her birthday and announced that the twins would be coming that day. Interesting thing is my father never said anything about that. Not a single scientific based statement about the improbability of any single specific day being the ones the boys would arrive on.

At 5:45 am on March 30th 1998 I called my Dad and Mom to let them know the boys had arrived. My mother had wanted the boys to be born on her birthday but that was not to happen. The most funny thing is that I was born on my parents 4th anniversary (a great guarantee of being legitimate) my sons, my parents last grandchildren were born on my father’s birthday. I think next year in March that is going to be tough. But for many years dad called them his twins. That shared birthday was a big deal in our family.

My divorce was touch on me – and on my mother’s side the first divorce. It was a long time for me to recover. Without the love and support of my parents it would have taken me many more years to recover. As it was there were dark times for a couple of years. They were the beacon that let me know the harbor was near and all would be ok eventually. That is truly a parents gift. To be there when life comes crashing down on their child and say it is going to be ok.

.your loving son.

Natrix and Carrot cake…


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My father had an undergraduate degree in Biology and my mother has an RN and Bachelors but I don’t remember what her actual bachelors is in (maybe nursing I am not quite sure). The reality of our house was the use of proper scientific terminology when things happened. Natrix Americanus was the first and only snake that ever bit me. I learned very quickly that the common Northern Water Snake (Natrix) has a bad temper and isn’t one to be trifled with. My dad never called them the Common Northern Water Snake he always called them Natrix. If you had a bruise or in my case a small puncture wound I treated because if I had shown my mother I would have gotten in trouble when I got bitten, it was a Hematoma or Ekimosis.

We would take walks as a family and dad would share the scientific names of all the plants we encountered. He loved the forest. I think he was happier outdoors than he was indoors ever. He had an expansive garden that he built over the years. My dad didn’t like to mow the lawn as much however. So on my 11th birthday I started mowing the front lawn in Sherwood Oaks (Dunstan Drive). I mowed the front yard under light supervision the first year and then on my 12th birthday I picked up mowing the backyard as well. At some point before we went to Bangkok or right after we went to Bangkok dad bought a Craftsman riding mower. The only reason I remember that is it cut a tremendous amount of time from the mowing process and dad encouraged my sister to drive the tractor. Grandpa had encouraged her to drive the golf cart when we were on the driving range in Cambridge. We used to ride up and down the driving range when there was no one hitting. Lynne hopped on the riding mower and promptly drove it into the fence. I started laughing and dad glared at me. Lynne was mad as well. Dad’s glare was more I think that he couldn’t laugh at the time.

My parents loved to entertain. I remember parties held at the house over the years that were simply magical. I spent hours talking to professors as a teenager that were well beyond my years. I spent time with great mathematicians and literature professors discussing what was going on in theoretical mathematics and world literature. One time my mother had purchased a beautiful carrot cake from the Dao in Bloomington. She carefully placed it on the top of the breakfront and told my sisters and I that touching the cake would result in the death of the person who touched the cake. It was a good 4.5 feet off the ground if not a little more. Someone Phoebe got to the back of that cake. Only the back. The front was undistributed. When mom went to serve the cake the entire back half was eaten. You can imagine the look on her face. Luckily there were other deserts but the carrot cake was the crown jewel.

Phoebe just sat there looking at mom the whole time. The two of them had an interesting relationship.

The dog I remember as my dad’s was MacGregor. I wrote a piece about MacGregor in my book The Thoughts of Sandler Boggs that you can get on Amazon here.

.your loving son

Christmas, MS Office and books…


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I got to flip the transparency’s for my dad once as he gave a talk at a convention in Indianapolis Indiana. My favorite line he used that day was “my son worked hard to save me money in High School, every year he returned books in the same or better unopened condition.” The audience laughed and so did I. He was a fantastic speaker. I got to see him speak formally only a few times (our path’s were very different after I left teaching). I will say it meant a lot to me when he joined the Society of Dead Teachers. I founded the DTS early in my teaching career struggling to find a way to make myself relevant as a teacher.

Dad used to always give me books. He never steered me wrong with any of the books he gave me. They always had a message or value to them. Have of them I only recognize when I see them but I remember him giving them to me.

It’s a funny story next that to this day makes me laugh. I started working for Microsoft corporation in 1996. I was passionate about Microsoft and dad would always ask me “what’s new with Microsoft.” But he continued to only use WordPerfect on his computer well past 1996. Even though every time there was a new version of Office I gave him that for Christmas. Every time I would load it on his computer. But he loved that blue screen of word perfect. He did finally switch but it wasn’t until 2001 that he finally took WordPerfect off his computer. It was never about me and Office it was always about his comfort level with the program.

My mother on the other hand embraced MS Office and never really used WordPerfect. Mom wasn’t much of a computer user in the beginning. Back then dad was slowly converting his slides, notes and secret recipes onto the computer. Mom started fresh into the world so it was a little easier to convert her to an office user.

My mother loves Christmas. Its her favorite holiday I think. Her anniversary, my birthday, both Barb’s birthdays and Courtney all fall with the 30 day window of the Christmas holiday. My grandparents (her mom and dad) loved Christmas as well. I think she got that love from them. Mom always does a wonderful tree and my sister Barb always makes the best cookies and the house is holiday ready. I think my favorite Christmas was one of the last we spent as a family out on the mini-farm my dad had built. Becca was probably 7 and Jaki had just been born. She was such a good baby all of us in the living room of the house out in the country. Lynne and Gary had Matt, we had Becca and Jaki and Barb and Dana were just preparing to get married that spring. Its an image frozen in my head of the whole family there. Jaki in her car seat/rocking seat that we carried her around in pre walking (once Dangerous Dan got to walking look out world) quietly sleeping there in the midst of all the chaos of Christmas. That moment is the moment I will always cherish.

.your loving son

Fishing and slices of life…


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I’ve been jumping all around the place with favorite slices of time from the past years with my dad and my mom. There are so many to use. When I was 14 I was really into fishing. My grandfather used to take me when I stayed at his house. My dad would get up early Saturday morning, load us into the old car and drive down to lake Monroe with the canoe strapped to the top of the car. My friend and I (the canoe only fit three of us) would be sitting in the back probably asleep while we drove. Then we would fish from 6 in the morning until 8 in the morning and my dad paddled the canoe around the lake. We went to different spots and frankly I love fishing but I am not a good fisherman. We never really caught dinner although my mom would always say that she wasn’t making dinner the next night the night before. Because she would say we are having fish. We never had fish. Dad got a lot of great pictures from the back of the canoe and we had fun but fish never bothered to take our bait.

My father loved canoe’s. At some point around the great fishing trips we used to go find small Indiana ponds and we would canoe around the pond. At that time we had Mom2 with us. Phoebe Kuma (Japanese for black bear and truly Phoebe was a bear) our Newfoundland would come with us in the car. That meant my sister Lynne and I were squished because Phoebe could do no wrong. I think she was the child mom and dad wished they had Smile (just kidding). Phoebe was very protective of Barb who then would have been maybe 6 or 7 years old. Dad and I would lift the canoe off the car and then we would take turns paddling around the lake. If Barb got into the canoe though, Phoebe would swim along right behind just in case her little girl fell into the water and needed to be saved. Now given an opportunity to hop into the water and just swim Phoebe would. But with Barb in the canoe she would be right behind the canoe every time.

If you read these stories you would assume that my parents and I always got along. We didn’t. Over the years we disagreed over any number of things. Some of them were incredibly stupid on my part (I once yelled at my mother for going to the play “The best little whorehouse in Texas.”) I think that tirade was more about missing my mother the week she was gone but I wasn’t mature enough then to understand that. Dad and I went toe to toe starting around the time I turned 14 until I was out of the house.

About a year ago Jaki went to spend some time with Grandpa and Grandma after we had moved to Maryland. Two years ago this June in fact. She was a counselor at her beloved Waycross camp – which is closed on the weekends so she spent the weekends with her grandparents. She brought home something my dad had kept for more than 20 years. A copy of the Hoosier Science Teacher (the organization was HASti Dad was heavily involved with the group for many years) journal. He had many copies of the articles he had written and the more satiric articles written by some guy named Nels Christensen (his nom de plume). This one however was interesting. I wrote 3 articles for the Hoosier Science teacher when I was a school teacher. My father had saved them. I think that makes a wonderful statement about the kind of person he was. Things that were important to me, important to my kids and in the end important to his family were critical to him.

My father was not a religious man in the broadest sense of the word. He did however tell me several times that when he would visit the Buddhist Temples of Thailand he would find an inner calm. Dad I want you to know whenever I was around you I found the same inner calm. Thanks for being a great dad!

.your loving son

Robespierre and Horse Radish…


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The first time Barb met my parents was a party at my parents house out in the country. My mother had met us for lunch earlier in the week just to scope out this new person in my life. I had gotten divorced 3 years before and neither of my parents had really liked my previous spouse. They had accepted her into the family and treated her exceptionally well, she was a very angry person however and it wasn’t the best possible fit for either her or I. But Barb was scaring my parents (and hers as well) because we met and were engaged in two weeks. Mom met us for lunch at the family’s favorite Chinese spot in Bloomington Indiana. At the time my mother actually thought Barb was someone else so it made the initial conversation a little difficult for my mother. She was awesome however and you would have never known she was struggling to figure out who this person was.

My father on the other hand was a scientist. He decided the best possible way to determine if in fact this new person was worthy of our family was to do a test. I didn’t know about the planned test to be honest. After the fact my dad denied that it was a test but I am pretty sure it was. When Barb and I made it to the farm (they were living on 15 acres that was a mini-farm dad tended to at the time) he was in the kitchen preparing something. He offered Barb some of his home grown fresh horse radish. Barb swallowed the painful fresh horse radish and then politely asked for water. From that point forward my Dad decided Barb was ok and she was officially someone he could tease – so tease her he did.

My parents spent time in Michigan before I was born. They told me stories of the Raccoon they adopted named Robespierre. My father the biologist and science educator had a minor in history and loved naming our family pets after some of the strangest and some of the most wonderful characters in human history. For years I thought it was cool my parents had a Raccoon named after a famous pirate. Until I found out who Robespierre actually was in terms of the French revolution. But that was my dad. Sometimes you woke up ten years later to realize he had been pulling your leg the entire time.

.your loving son