Monday, July 29, 2013

High Five Fifty


Wait, I 'm fifty? Whoa, I am fifty.

So did I hit fifty or did fifty hit me?

I would say that if one has been negligent and is sitting at fifty going where the hell did life go, then fifty hit him. But if at fifty, one is sitting around a bonfire with a cold drink, say a Crown and Coke, and has friends sitting with him, and has two good kids and a fun and spirited wife, then he hit fifty. He was living life and working hard and playing well with others so the journey had been good.

I am the latter of the two. I hit fifty, a milestone. And life is good.

Other milestones have come this summer. My son will be heading off into the college world, and my daughter will be entering the high school building (8th grade is in our high school) where I trek among curriculum, students and chaos. Heidi and I also celebrated 23 years of marriage. Good milestones on my journey. Yet, with them, I have many more to milestones to reach.

At the age of fifty, I have been in the classroom 19 years. I have had a good career, but I am not done yet. I still get excited about the beginning of the school year. I revel in the text, emails and posts I get from students. I received a ton of birthday wishes on Facebook. I was blessed with some personal notes of how I had made an impact on students' lives. One of the fun parts is the students who harass me about 2001: A Space Odyssey that we watched in my SciFi class. I get an occasional note about a recently seen reference to the movie (Muhaha). And over the summer, visits from students were rejuvenating to what I do. I love my job!

The writing? I am still engaged. Paul, my best friend and co-author, are in a final hard-copy edit of our book, Cry of the Eagle. It will be done soon. My blogs? I am struggling there a bit. As you may note, I have not been to Tarzan in a long time. I still crank out a poem or two. Did one for Brenda's retirement, my son's graduation, and one for Grace. As some may know, I give out personalized collections of poems to students at graduation time called Wordz.. What is cool is how many former students I see tell me they still have their copy. Plus, I have been playing on Twitter with short poems of 140 characters, a bit of a challenge. All part of playing with words.

And today, I am at my computer writing. I have work to do, some bills to pay and a messed up basement, but I am writing. I am enjoying putting these words on this post.

So, I would have to say. I did not hit fifty, nor did fifty hit me. It was more of a high five. A sign that things are good, but still still have more to do.

High Five! After all, it is a jungle out there.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Exercise (from 2010)

"P-zing!" The button shot off the waist of my pants, rocketed across the room, ricocheted off a vase and careened off the skull of the dozing cat. In the spastic flurry of pain and surprise, the cat did a double rollover and then laid in a semi-conscious state meowing pitifully. My increasing waistline almost killed. I now knew I had a problem.

After self-analysis, a shirtless fifteen minutes in front of the bathroom mirror sucking it in and then jiggling my belly which included whistling while making my belly-button appear as a tiny mouth, I decided that I needed to change my diet and exercise plan. Being that I have been known to close down a buffet, I took a look at my diet and concluded that my caloric intake suited my active lifestyle of teaching, coaching, marriage and children. After all, a busy sports car like myself burns up fuel. So that left exercise.

So, the first thing I did was sit up. After I caught my breath, I thought some Internet research would be the way to go. Yet, this led to the question, which -inizer device should I purchase. There was a abdominizer, the bunninizer, the flabanizer, the glutomaxinizer and something called a full womanizer; it sounded like something that would hurt, so I stayed away from it. All these devices "targeted" specialized muscles and would build a better body for 20 minutes a day. Reflecting back to my minutes in front of the mirror, I seemed that I would have to buy seven different devices and then work out 140 minutes a day. That seemed a bit extreme.

This was going to take some time. I decided to get a bag a chips and a large glass of cola while I searched for one of those complete gym set ups. I had not even started on the French onion dip when I had a heart attack. The darn things were expensive. I could exercise on my own without spending any money. All I had to do was recall what I did in gym class back in high school.

There were sit ups, pull ups, jumping jacks, windmills and toe touches. There were all those running games and dodge-ball. I could get some of the red rubber balls and have my kids chuck them at me. Of course, I would need a cup. I had too many days where a flying ball or sports apparatus interrupted my breathing pattern by hitting me in the groin. I wonder how many calories I could burn when I "walk it off."

So, now I have a plan of the regular, day to day, no cost program from the old school day gym class. The next step is to find my gym shoes and the tube socks that went up to just below my knees with the colored strips. If I get up early, I can get to the sporting goods store and find a spot right by the front door. I hate walking from the back of any parking lot.

And as of 2012, I have gotten to the sporting good store several times to buy athletic shoes! Don't say congratulations. I keep buying them for my growing athletic kids. My plan is still not doing so well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Man Caves

            Saturday. Labor Day weekend. Storming, rainy day passing through. On the couch watching Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle (1955) and thinking about man caves.
            I have heard the expression for a few years now, and I even have a partially developed man cave in league with the basement family room. What I did not realize was that man caves has gone beyond being an expression.
DIY Network airs Man Caves, Sundays at 8pm. It is a thirty minute show in the vein of Trading Spaces, Yard Crashers and other home design shows, but, as the title suggests, it involves taking a room and other spaces and turning them into a space for the man of the house. Most of the converted rooms are basements, and they are turned into football or baseball themed rooms. These rooms revolve around sports paraphernalia, large screen television and a sports bar. There are some pretty cool looking layouts.
And as I researched on the Internet, I found websites dedicated to the concept, or should I say, reality, of the man cave. The “official” Man Cave site was, followed by, and All these sites had sections and photographs dedicated to that man space. These rooms are quite colorful and sturdy.
Now, the words man cave may have been a recent combination, but man caves have been around for a while. The Art of Manliness website has a historical perspective of “14 Famous Man Rooms.” Authors Brett and Kate McKay take us into the rooms of Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Earnest Hemingway and other men of history. There are some awesome photos with the article.
All man caves center around themes of guy stuff and activities where a man can be a man. The colors are bolder. The furniture is more rugged. The décor are, but not limited to, cars, sports, and/or hunting mostly. Man caves are not a He-Man’s Woman Haters Club where Spanky and the boys said, “No Girls Allowed.” They are a place where most men hang out with their friends. As mentioned above, man caves have some common elements with large television screens and bars, but must also include seating for friends and refrigeration for cold beverages.
My man cave, more of an alcove, includes things that are more my individual focus of being a science fiction and fantasy fan. Yes, Star Wars is featured, but a charcoal drawing of Worf is included and two paintings: the Dungeons and Dragons box cover of the early 80s and the 80s book cover of Thuvia, Maid of Mars. My friend, Scott, has a Batman collection that dominates his man cave. I guess we have Geek Caves.
Anyway, the only thing really new about man caves is the current expression itself; they have been around, well, since the man needed some space of his own back when Neanderthals first hunted, have evolved into “bachelor pads” and will continue way into the future (see Captain Kirk’s or Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ rooms).
Speaking of man caves and watching Tarzan, check out his place, a man cave in a tree. For him, it was a jungle out there.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Guy Kind of Show

The Deadliest Warrior television show has started season three with a head to head match up between George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. “Two Great Leaders Enter. One Leaves,” says Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior web page.

Christopher, my son, is into military history and had been bouncing around on the cable network for entertaining and instructional shows about military tactics and events for years. Last year, he told me about The Deadliest Warrior and how they would match up the Ming Warrior against the Musketeer, or the Spartan versus the Ninja. This reminded me of boyhood conversation about comic book heroes if Superman went against Batman. Of course, in later years, the conversations were about Star Wars versus Star Trek, and Predator versus Alien (Predator, of course). I also witnessed a conversation of Darth Vader going toe to toe with Gandolf.

It’s a part of a guy conversations. Matching up opponents to see who would fair.

Now, let’s throw in some guys with the resources and knowledge to investigate these questions. Richard “Mack” Machowicz, Geoff Desmoulin, and Dr. Armand Dorian are the primary hosts for the season. All are experts in their field. Machowicz is a combat expert (former Navy SEAL) with a long resume'. His job is to analyze the effectiveness of weapons. He also hosts a show called future Weapons. Geoff Desmoulin is a biomedical engineer. He sets up the testing situation to see what damage can be done with whatever particular weapon. And Dr. Armand Dorian assesses the damage after the experiment is complete.

Also, these three guys are guys. When the cannon ball hits and the text dummies splatter, you see these guys yelling “O-oh!” But get this, so am I. With controlled firing situations, there is blood spatter and destruction of the text dummies that simulate wounds. The science of war is being tested.
The show also brings in experts who demonstrate, explain and teach the hosts about the weapon or warfare of whoever is being analyzed. There is some good-natured ribbing between the experts as they show how their warrior is the best. It is quite interesting how weapons are made, and their use and effectiveness are explained. Furthermore, with Washington and Bonaparte, there was discussion of battle strategy, supply issues, moral and leadership. These were figured into what the show called an X factor.

At the end of the show they run computer simulations based on all the factors they have studied, witnesses and discussed. Then, the computer spits out a ratio. While they run the results, they do a re-enactment of how the battle would go if the two should meet. Weapons and tactics are demonstrated. Washington and Bonaparte came out really close.

The show is entertaining and educational, which is a great combination for a guy show that also has the “did you see that?” factor. If you are curious, stop by Spike TV, 10pm on Wednesdays. Next up in the duel is Joan of Arc versus William the Conqueror.

The Deadliest Warrior shows that it has been a jungle out there for a long time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 Barbaric Yawp of the Year

Being that a yawp is a “loud, harsh cry,” and that Tarzan had his loud cry resound over the jungle, and that Walt Whitman wrote, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world, and being that this is my blog, I have created the Barbaric Yawp of the Year. This award recognizes a person’s yawp (voice, work, actions, life), and how it was heard “over the roofs of the world” (affect on others).

But first a few things as to the why. I like award shows that recognize the accomplishments of the past year. I like Time magazine’s Person of the Year. I like those American Film Institute’s Top 100 Lists. I like heroes and heroic stories of literature and of real life.  And I like those moments where the time is taken to say “Thank you.” So it boils down to, I like recognizing those people, movies, books, stories, pictures and moments that show excellence, heroism, courage and humanity that inspire us to achieve more.

For example, I give a Barbaric Yawp to the movie Dead Poets Society that illustrates the barbaric yawp. I give another Yawp to To Kill A Mockingbird for it is a great work of literature and gave us the noble and courageous Atticus Finch who was also named American Film Institute’s number one movie hero. I give a Barbaric Yawp to veterans and soldiers. I give a Barbaric Yawp to my brothers and sisters for they each have earned one through their lives and individual stories. I give a Barbaric Yawp to the student who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square, the fireman who cradled the body of a two year child after the Oklahoma City Bombing, the “Man in the Water” from the Air Florida plane crash in DC, and to New York firemen who’s first day on the job was 9/11. The list of Barbaric Yawps is long and overdue, and I will share more of these stories later.

Anyway, now to the 2010 Barbaric Yawp of Year.

Rob Kunik.

It will be almost a year since we lost Rob. His influence on students, peers and family was and is still present. He was a good teacher, husband and friend. His yawp was heard by many. He challenged students with reading diverse text. He stubbornly held them to high standards. He loved his kids and family passionately. He fueled dreams and caused laughter. He had the courage to confront. He was a man of books and sports, a good example of a renaissance man, a Tarzan. His yawp was heard over the rooftops of the world. I would say more, but knowing Rob, he wouldn’t want me to prattle on.

The yawp that some of his students return to him is, “O Captain, My Captain.” Yeah, he liked Whitman and was a fan of Dead Poets Society. So, stand on a desk and give a yell.

It’s a jungle out there. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some of My Boys

“I want to be a marine,” said my son after this year’s Veteran’s Day Assembly hosted by our high school. He looked me in the eye when he said it. He’s been looking me in the eye a lot lately, since he is officially taller than me.

Christopher always had an interest in soldiers and military history. I remember he read a story out of the American Diary series about a soldier and his time in war. Christopher cried when the main character buddy died. He shows me videos that various performers have done in support of our troops (Letters from War; Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue; and American Soldier are just a few). He and I have watched Band of Brothers, Windtalkers, and Flags of Our Fathers. But more than all that, he sees heroes in the kids from our school who enlist and serve. So, after seeing the presentation of faces of former students who have served and who are serving, I found his statement not surprising.

Before I could respond, he said, “I know. I have to go through college and ROTC so I start as an officer.” I laugh. We have had a few family discussions on this topic too. From one of those conversations last spring, I wrote this poem.

      Some of My Boys

Goofy, gangly and grinning,
some of my boys that sat in my classes
have not only enlisted,
but have been sent overseas
into the war, into harm’s way.

I see them on leave
or on a digital picture
grinning, maybe gangly still,
but goofy no more
due to the war, due to harm’s way.

“Hey, Mr. Sura,” they say,
“remember when..”
“…and you smiled and said...”
We were a brotherhood of goofy and grinning
before the war, before harm’s way.

My son reads and watches
about soldiers, brotherhood, honor and death
while he is goofy, gangly and grinning in life.
He has heroes, the boys I know,
in the war, in harm’s way.

He makes me proud that he cares.
He respects their call and their risk
while he and his high school buds
stumble around goofy and grinning,
away from war, away from harm.

And my goofy, gangly, grinning boys
stand watch afar and keep my son safe.
They say, “We got him covered, Mr. Sura.
“Your wife and daughter too.
For them, no war, nor harm’s way.”

All I am left to say is
“Love you guys,”
in my goofy, gangly, grinning way.
“Come home safe
from the war, from harm’s way.”

“I want to be a marine,” he said. I think of the faces that had flash on the screen. I know a lot of them, and I know more each year. I am proud of each every one of the men and women on that screen. Two of the faces are in memoriam.

I think of my son’s face on that screen.

Our guest speaker was a mother telling her story of her son’s enlistment, training, serving in Afghanistan and returning home. She spoke of her journey as a parent and how it involved pride, joy, honor and fear. Her words hit close to home.

“I want to be a marine,” my son had said.

My emotions and thoughts tumble about. It’s a jungle out there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Breakfast Dates

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And I could not agree more.

Yes, it is the meal that gets the day started. It is breaking your fasting from the night before. Scientifically, it gets the metabolism revved up for the day. And because of that, I have heard that eating breakfast helps one lose weight.

I think that may be a theory though. Yesterday, I went to a “King’s Men” Breakfast at a local church. We had stuffed (blueberries and cream cheese) French toast, sausage and hard-boiled eggs. It was fantastic. I thought it would be dangerous to eat like that then have a meeting, but the meal truly started us on a productive day.  I got things done.

Of course, part of it could have been the fellowship with the other men.  There were little jokes about being married that guys say, not in being mean or anything, but just being guys with a common ground. My favorite was the joke about the husband who had not spoken for seven years in his marriage. When asked why, he said, “I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt.” I had to chuckle at that one. And as not to accidently break any guy code, I will conclude by saying that guys getting together is good.

It’s the getting together over breakfast I like. Heidi and I have started having “Breakfast Dates.” All over Houghton Lake there are little diners with friendly, yet quiet, morning servers. I mention quiet because not everyone out for breakfast can deal with the really perky people. At least I can’t, I am not a morning person until after breakfast.

Anyway, we have breakfast. We, depending on what day it may be, plan the week, the weekend or that particular day.  For example, on Sundays, we pretty much know our routine for the day of family time, watching the Lions (in the fall), and computer work for the online classes we both teach. So, we will run through the week: meetings, appointments and things for the kids. This strategy meeting usually happens between ordering and getting our food. During the rest of breakfast, we chat about little, casual things from the weather to how to raise our children without causing serious physical harm or emotional damage to them or ourselves.

The neat thing about breakfast, even with the options, is that the choices are simple. “Do you want white, wheat or sourdough toast?” One has a certain amount of control and empowerment went ordering eggs to one’s liking, and it is not high maintenance for the server or the cook; there is no guilt or inconvenience when responding to “How do you want your eggs?” The server asked, and you respond.
Economy wise, breakfast is inexpensive if you, the consumer, allow it to be. For the price of a dinner entrée, I can get Heidi and I a breakfast we both will enjoy.

Lately, my kids want in on the Breakfast thing too. We have done them as a family, as parents with child, as father and son, mother and daughter and the various combinations that can happen. It is a quieter moment and easy to do. And, like most things, there is the Home Version, where we make that meal at home and enjoy it as a family. Dinner does not have to be the only family meal.

Earlier today, we had a sunny booth, a courteous waitress with a bright smile, two omelets and a nice conversation about the week and holiday plans. We had time with each other. No interruptions.

Yes, breakfast is the most important meal. After all, it is a jungle out there.