Are We There Yet?

Ric Hallock blogs about being a family man dealing with life in and around Gig Harbor.
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Archive for June, 2009

Gig Harbor Scouts Safe After a River Scare

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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Some Gig Harbor Boy Scouts got more than they bargained for over the weekend while rafting in the Wenatchee area, as reported in the Wenatchee World.

Four members of a rafting party were thrown into the water as a rafting group crossed some turbulent water in the Wenatchee River last Saturday. Two members were able to make it to shore, but two others — one scout and a river guide — scrambled onto some rocks and had to await a rescue from the local sheriff’s deputies.

Let this serve as a reminder to parents whose children are now out of school and looking for activities to fill their time. Tubing and rafting on local area rivers and streams may seen a laconic and relaxing activity, but seemingly still waters can quickly turn treacherous. Always use caution — as no doubt these scouts did — so that even unexpected events can still have a happy ending — and those involved can bring home an extra story or two they call tell at the dinner table.

Have you had a close call with nature? Share your story with a post to this story so others can learn from your “mistakes” and help your friends and neighbors have a safer summer.


Being ‘Dad’ Is a Never-ending Role: Reflection of Being a Son and a Father

Friday, June 19th, 2009

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Father’s Day is Sunday and the pending date has gotten me to thinking about being both a son and a father.

My days of sending a Father’s Day card or making a phone call on the annual date are over as my dad passed away a few years back. We were never exceptionally close, nor were we estranged in any exceptional fashion. We got along well enough and quietly accepted our shared dysfunctions without making any ado about them or trying to fix them.

It’s far too late for me to do anything about any of that now, and I do live with a modicum of regret buried deep that I don’t bring out except for special occasions. But I do use the past I shared with my dad as a kind of road map to the mistakes we made in the past and to try and correct those errors he and I made — applying them to my role reversal from son to dad as I stumble on in my role as a dad to my own two sons (mirroring the life of my dad).

Unlike him (he became a father in his mid-20s), I didn’t become a dad until the ripe old age 39. But unlike the birth of a son to clearly delineate the day of becoming a dad, my entry into the club was more subtle, spread over a length of time, as I entered my oldest son’s life when he was 10 months old. As soon as his mother and I married, we began the adoption process, but it gave me time to hone my “dad” skills along the way — and honing was needed in a big way.

I knew nothing about how to calm a crying baby, was clumsy at spooning him food and diapers were like some three-dimensional Rubic’s Cube in trying to assemble. And that was just the physical nature of my new role. The mental aspects were far more troublesome as I had no guidance or counsel — no practical experience to differentiate right from wrong as I plowed my way into fatherhood.

Plowed is the proper verb, because although I had no clue what I was getting in to, I never had a doubt about wanting to do this. The little guy was (and still is) lovable in every way. He is my son and I could no better get along in life without him as get along without my heart. In our home the only steps are the ones in the stairway and on the porches. He is my son and I am his dad and we make no further distinction in either case.

In his later years, my dad took to telling me he loved me — which was odd to me only because growing up the word was never used in our home. To be sure it was present in non-verbal ways, but was never spoken nor was it ever outwardly expressed. So as I hastily developed the rules that would govern my “dadship,” I determined that was going to be one thing I did differently. Daily I tell my children I love them and hugs are a regular and routine gesture that is freely given by either party.

Even though the love in our family has always been easily expressed and I’ve never questioned my place in the family, I can still recall with clarity the moment I knew I had “arrived” as a bonafide, card-carrying dad. We were in our first home as a newly minted family and my oldest son had his own room as his brother was a newborn and we didn’t want either disturbing the sleep of the other.

The nights were troublesome enough because of the older one’s continuing bout with night terrors. Like clockwork he would scream in the middle of the night and though you could talk to him, he wasn’t really listening as he was still asleep. The best we could do was calm him, comfort him until he would lay back down and then we’d all head back to slumber.

One night he awoke, but instead of screams, he was moaning. I went to his room to sit with him and as he sat up, he complained about his tummy hurting. And the next thing to pass his lips were not words, but his dinner. Without thinking, in a reflexive action I “caught” his now mostly liquid dinner in my hands.

I didn’t know it at that moment, but later, I realized — as a dad, I had arrived.

Many years later, as my children have grown older (currently 11 and about to be 9) I still find myself being challenged by new and perplexing demands of being a dad, I can’t help but see my own dad — his actions and just as often his words — coming from me, as if his spirit lives on. But even putting it that particular way is misleading, because to invoke his spirit is to insinuate his presence — like a haunting. But a haunting conjures unsettling and disturbing thoughts, and when I see a bit of himself in me it produces the opposite effect: I am sometimes amazed, but ultimately comforted by the thought that the time-worn adage of an acorn not falling far from a tree rings true.

It’s as if I’m being given the guidance of being a dad after all. When I thought I had no clue in how to proceed in this role, the information I needed was right there for me to find all along, laid down all those years ago by my dad. I just couldn’t see it for all the barriers I had placed between us through the years and it took his absence for me to recognize his legacy.

Am I doing things right? I still have my doubts. I know there are a number of things I still need to learn. And the true legacy of my time as a dad will quite likely not be finalized in my lifetime. One day, as one of my sons battles the complexities of being “dad,” and he finds guidance and comfort in a long-forgotten moment he had with me, maybe then I will know I did alright being dad.


Don’t Read This — It’s a Waste of Time

Friday, June 12th, 2009

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Hey, don’t say the headline didn’t warn you …

Wasting time — to some it’s a national past-time, for others, it’s a personal goal while a few (very few) see it as anathema to a productive life. (What’s wrong with you people?)

Even coming to this blog is a waste of time in it’s own fashion — but some of you still don’t seem to get it, even though I told you so in the very first posting.

But I digress (and waste time to boot … nothing like double tasking for no real purpose).

Time wasters can limit their habit to their personal time at home, save it for work or mix the two. (Me? I’m working on perfecting it during my “free” time — the entire concept of time being free is a whole other topic for a later date.) Depending on who you ask, time wasters can be a big productivity drain on the workforce or they can have just the opposite affect: boosting workplace productivity.

Disclosure note: The study (linked above) citing an annual waste of nearly $200 billion annually must be viewed with some skepticism, being that it was issued by a software firm that sells Web site blocking applications. Kinda like a former Halliburton exec sitting in the White House and declaring we need to send massive rebuilding aid to foreign territory, a Halliburton specialty … ah, but there I go again wasting your time on an irrelevant tangent.

Within the realm of time wasters, there are those who are truly professionals at the craft. Few of us can ever aspire to reach such heights. I would attribute such high honors to the likes of Tony Hawk, Dave Wolak and Antonio Bryant. Sure, an argument postulating the benefits of skateboarding, fishing and video gaming can be made, but c’mon now — we’re talking about skateboarding, fishing and playing video games, for Pete’s sake.

Most of us will never make a living at wasting time, but that doesn’t stop us from implementing tried and true methods while also incorporating new alternatives. The Internet provides a wealth of time wasting activities — both useful and useless. There are an untold number of sites that provide nearly any diversion imaginable, like Falling Sand, not prOn and Samorost, while others that specialize in highlighting such popular sites, such as StumbleUpon, Fark and MakeUseOf.

One need not go high-tech to find ways to uselessly burn time. Low-tech activities like pulling weeds, flying a kite and even thumb wrestling can be great ways to whittle away the hours.

The definition of “wasting time” is subject to personal opinion. what I might consider a big (but fun) waste of time you might see as culturally significant or personally uplifting. Few are likely to agree as the determination of useful or wasted time is defined largely by personal experience and taste. For example, I find watching football culturally significant, and to be far more a true representation of “Reality TV” than what the networks pawn off as reality, while my wife finds it a complete waste of time, but she enjoys contrived reality such as “American Idol.”

Regardless of how you define wasted time, experts by and large agree that some down time is good for the soul and important for rejuvenating our creative juices.

What are your favorite ways to waste time? What do you consider a negative waste of time (other than reading this blog …)? Share your thoughts and maybe we can all discover some new ways to while away the hours. If you’ve read this far, then you’ve wasted a nice chunk of time and if you actually took the time to look at the several links provided then you do indeed have a lot of expendable time to waste. Good for you.


Diving Into the Deep End of the Internet

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

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Grabbed my nose, jumped off the ledge and pulled my knees tightly to my chest … If you listened carefully, you could have heard my scream as I descended rapidly into unknown and dangerous (at least for me) waters.

I added this column to the ever-growing world of Twitter and you can now follow my sporadic postings by following GigHarborAWTY on the social network. But, of course, I gotta remember to tweet whenever I post. (Feel like I’m talking to a 2-year-old using this language — yet feel like a 2-year-old when it comes to understanding its usefulness.) Spent way too much time trying to figure out how it works and came away will little real-time answers.

Stuff about @replies, twits, retweets, twitter badges — it’s enough to make me turn the computer off with a sledgehammer. I’m not sure how to get anyone to “follow” me via Twitter, so figured I’d just use the old-fashioned Internet and post this whole bit of nonsense on the blog. Seems as though leaving a trail of breadcrumbs might work better.

If you can figure out how to connect to this via Twitter — good for you. Should you even want to — then you get bonus points.

I fully admit to being permanently left behind, probably somewhere in the mid 1970s, though I didn’t know it way back then. We all try at varying degrees of involvement to stay abreast with technology and the general pace of life, but the combination of advancement of age and the advancement of new technology eventually catches up to us all (like the inevitability of mortality itself) and one day we wake up and realize we have joined the ever-growing rank of dinosaurs — technologically challenged relics doomed to be left in the ionized dust of the savvy and the young.

Yes, horrid as it sounds to you technophiles, I have no myspace or Facebook account, have never posted to YouTube, use my cell phone only to make and receive phone calls and have never texted anyone (wouldn’t even know how). We do not own a satellite or cable DVD-R receiver, still watch movies on VHS, only last year ditched the dial-up for high speed Internet and — gasp! — have a PlayStation2 (not a PS3, PSP, Xbox or Wii in sight).

I can just barely manage to Google while Bing just leaves me dazed and confused. I steer clear of sites like eBay and Craigslist like they carried Hanta virus.

And I admit my confusion over the popularity of social Web sites like Facebook and Twitter. I know this is dinosuarspeak, but didn’t we used to use the phone or — another gasp! — letters when we felt the need to tell someone we are eating a PBJ sandwich or to share a joke we heard at work?

It seems a strange dichotomy to me that people seem so driven to protect their privacy and then turn around and share the most intimate and trivial information about themselves for the whole world to discover. In the interests of serving both the technophiles and technophobes who are reading this — technophiles read on; technophobes skip the next paragraph.

I just finished eating my pretzels for lunch, washed down by a Dixie cup of water I nabbed from the office water cooler because I’m too cheap to spend a buck to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine.

The above information took 208 characters to announce, exactly 68 more than is allowed in a Tweet, so I wouldn’t have been able to share such a rich amount of info with you had I tweeted or twitted or flitted or fluttered.

But whether you are a phile or a phobe, please take a moment to follow me on Twitter. It seems so lonely with no one following me and I don’t have the slightest clue on how to set it up to follow myself …


Definition of Class Depends on Your Classification

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

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An emeritus professor of geography at the University of Washington has posited an interesting look at “class” in the greater Puget Sound region, sectioning off whole communities as upper, middle or lower class, in a recent blog posting on Crosscut.

Regardless of any potential egalitarian notions you may have about living in a classless society, the truth is humans have a long and storied history of class in our varied cultures that is impossible to deny. When you consider yourself “rich” or “poor” or somewhere in between, you have just categorized yourself into a class.

In his entry, regarding Gig Harbor proper he has this to say: A second set of upper class areas are waterfront and view neighborhoods, as on the Gig Harbor peninsula, Bainbridge Island, and on Puget Sound from Magnolia north to Mukilteo. And he goes on to identify the rural regions of Pierce County thus: “The second large zone of lower class settlement is the rural fringe, especially in Pierce and Snohomish counties.”

Obviously, one could take an individual area — such as Gig Harbor — and parse it down to specific neighborhoods and come up with a much more diverse picture of “class” ratings that would literally run the gamut from wealthy to poor. But I don’t believe it was Dr. Morrill’s intent to sub-classify individual cities so much as to grossly classify the greater Puget Sound region as a whole.

He places the waterfront and view sections of the harbor up there with the crusty likes of Bainbridge Island and Magnolia — heady, latte-driven, SUV-laden, individualist-minded communities indeed. What is slightly more unsettling is his take of the “rural fringe” of Pierce County as distinctly lower class. I don’t take exception with his assessment so much so because he clumsily lumps the decidedly upscale Canterwood in the fringe. I take exception because he includes my humble spread as definitively lower class.

A couple of parentheticals beg to be added here. First off, when moving to Gig Harbor in 2004 (and coming from the bovine rich region of Lynden — a forthrightly rural area of Whatcom County three hours to the north), many folks we knew remarked how we were going upscale, the reputation of Gig Harbor being what it is in comparison to our humble Lynden digs. By and large this was true. Yes, Lynden has its share of large, classy homes, but nothing to rival the looming opulence of the harbor’s many gated cul de sacs.

Secondly, when Morrill uses the phrase “rural fringe,” I picture him thinking more in terms of Monroe, Eatonville or Graham than the unincorporated county surrounding the Gig Harbor city limits. Even classifying Key Peninsula lower class is like using a chain saw to paint the Mona Lisa. There’s no doubt the KP has its fair share of backwoods trailers with blocked up 4x4s littering the yard, but it also boasts some exquisite homes and properties that defy any casual definition of the Key as lower class.

My first reaction to being labeled lower class was to sniff with indignation and cast immediate aspersions to Prof. Morrill’s Ravenna home (actually, I have no idea where he lives, but having once occupied a hovel in Ravenna, it is an easy target for me). But then it got me to thinking.

We don’t have anything near the income most of our GH friends and acquaintances do. Both of us working in the field of journalism, the combined salary of both my wife and I couldn’t even equal the same number of digits of those individuals who work in the Boeing and Microsoft worlds. While those we know routinely jet off to Cancun and Maui for Winter Break, Spring Break and Taking a Break Break, we spend our kids’ downtime around the house trying to keep their boredom from erupting into WWF affairs. We both drive high-mileage vehicles that threaten to explode at any given moment, a splurge for us is a family dinner at Spiros and we’ve only been to the Uptown Cinema once since it opened.

Hmm.

OK, so we’re lower class. So what? At least we don’t live in Roy

Post Script: Just for the record, Morrill takes a decidedly dim view of Tacoma, saying: “… Lower class areas include traditional zones of mixed housing, industry, and transport, as in south Seattle, Everett, Bremerton, Auburn, and especially Tacoma” (italics added). That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms unto itself, which, in the interests of staying on topic, I won’t tackle here.


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About This Blog

Gig Harbor, nestled in the northwest corner of Pierce County, snugly between Tacoma and Bremerton, is fast shedding its small-town demeanor as people seeking to escape the hectic pace, congested traffic and high cost of living in the big city continue to “discover” the fishing village in the harbor. With the influx of population, Gig Harbor continues to morph and develop, coming of age — as it were — as it defines its place among the many communities that dot the waters up and down Puget Sound. Kitsap Sun Special Sections Managing Editor Ric Hallock (whose responsibilities include Gig Harbor Life), lives in Gig Harbor and finds that reason enough to blog on living, breathing and spending money in the Maritime City.

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