Tuesday, January 29, 2013

So, That's where we keep the Dixie cups.....

     It's one of those universal truths of  long term marriages, that each partner assumes the responsibility for different functions in the house.  Somehow, with no lists being made, or discussions to be had, each chore is split and everything that needs to get done, does, but sometimes, you might not have the implicit agreement in place that you think you do.

      I got a tour of a bathroom last week.  I've always wanted to go on the Canandaigua Tour of Homes, that will take you through 6-8 historical houses in the area and let you marvel at the architecture and furnishings, but that's not where my tour happened (Incidentally, when you see the next Tour advertised, let me know, I'd still like to attend), my tour happened in the downstairs bathroom of my own house.  "Honey", my wife said, interrupting my Saturday morning cartoons, "Do you know where we keep the Dixie cups?"   My spider sense was on high alert and judging from the body language of my wife, I wasn't really being asked a question here, "Um, in the bathroom?" I replied sheepishly and tried not to make direct eye contact.  "Really", she said, arms folded across her chest "Where?"   I answered with a combination of syllables that was meant to sound both like "cabinet" and "drawer" and I trailed it off getting softer and ending it in whispered mutterings.  "Nice Try", she said, "Come Here!".  Now, while I have just expressed my interest in driving 15 miles to tour other people's homes, I have to equally express my disinterest in touring my own that morning, but soon I found
I'd rather have toured this home.
myself standing with my wife in our cramped bathroom. "This", she said, neither muttering nor trailing off and whilst flinging open an overhead cabinet, "is where we keep them, and now that  you know that, maybe you could re-fill the container when you empty it (The punctuation is correct here, trust me, that was not a question at the end".  She stormed off, my tour abruptly ended, and I made a mental note to decline the offer from the historical folks if they ever called to add us to the tour list. 

     If you are thinking that was a lot of drama, having to show me where the Dixie cups were, I'd wholeheartedly agree, while at the same time admitting that in 25 years of marriage, I had never re-filled the container, not once.  Every wife in the world, who just read that, thought "Lazy" and every husband who read that, just thought "So?".  I wouldn't classify myself as lazy, I mean I work a lot, I volunteer at things, I work out regularly and help out irregularly, but I will admit an apathy to caring
Shhh, this is my secret way of drinking water...
whether the Dixie cup container is filled or not.  You see, I use them when they are there, but my dirty little secret is, that if they aren't, I just cup my hands under the faucet and drink my few ounces of water that way.  It's environmentally friendly (and not annoying like tubeless toilet paper rolls, what genius thought of those?), it's quick and effective, and I can hold more water in my hands than in our 3oz Dixies (Big hands ladies, wink wink).  I'd argue that it's probably less effort to do this, than to open the cupboard and the Dixie cup bag, and remove a stack, and put them in, and then replace the bag, and then close the cupboard.  I would argue that, but that would make me sound lazy, wouldn't it?  Yeah, probably.  This incident, and the fact that I wanted to write a blog on it, made me ponder if there were other things around the house that I took for granted that just appeared "refilled" without my effort, and amazingly there were.

      My cat's dry food fills itself.  I know it does, because I've never filled it and yet the bowl never empties.  I do take turns with my wife and son ripping open the wet food packets at dinnertime, but I've never done the other.  Sponges miraculously regenerate on our kitchen counter, toothbrushes
Does this pain in the ass, really save the planet?
replace themselves with some degree of regularity, bird-feeders fill up, candles get replaced, batteries get re-charged, and the laundry basket re-fills every other day with stacked laundry.  I actually know how the laundry gets done, and I related my discovery of this to some friends, while out a bar the other evening (Shout out to Val and Janine).  I had harbored silent resentment for years that my wife would wait until the very last hour of each night to start parading back and forth in front of my TV with her laundry.  From my view, I got exactly one hour of time each day, where I wasn't a parent, my kids would be in bed, and I'd settle in and watch whatever I wanted on TV, regardless of rating, and she would "choose" this time to start that chore.  It was kind of annoying.  Once, she had a chance to accompany my daughter on trip abroad for a week or so, and it was while she was away, that I discovered why she insisted on doing this to me.   Dinner was over, the dishes were done, the boys were washed and tucked into bed, and I grabbed a basket of clothes and headed for the living room to fold them, and I walked by the clock that read, 10:15.  The light bulb that went off above my head was probably visible to others, as it dawned on me that she didn't choose this time each night, it was the time that the chore fell, after doing all the others.  I never thought of this parade as being annoying, ever again. 

     I'll finish with the fact that this is a two-way street.  I'm not sure of all the things that I do that she is unaware of, but one jumps to mind immediately.  No matter how severe the threat of engine damage, my wife seems oblivious to the correlation between miles driven and the need to avoid
No way, does this guy refill the cups.
engine friction by regularly checking or replacing the oil in the car.  On countless occasions, I've given her a tour of the inside windshield of her van, and pointed out the nice little sticker that the oil change people put there, and then shown her the odometer which keeps track of the miles that she puts on that vehicle. She nods her head, seemingly getting the connection between the two, but inevitably it's me who discovers the 2,000 mile overage, the next time I get into the car.  Thinking that she might not know where to go to get this done, I've taken to pointing our these Quick Change places when we go through the surrounding towns, and I've even introduced her to our local garage mechanic down the street.  I'd better stop doing that though, I'm getting the sense that she's becoming annoyed. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Self Esteem, sure, but at what cost?

     The data in this mornings blog is pulled from the several articles and dissections of the College Freshman Survey.  This survey has been taken by over 9 million American College Freshman since it started in 1966 and asks a variety of basic skill questions meant as a self appraisal of each student.  The data is then frequently compared to the objective test scores of the same Freshman class and the disparity between the two has been widening now for decades. 

     "Angel", I inquired, "Did you see this BBC article about the College Freshman Survey?"   "No, Mr. B, I just watch CBS", she replied, filing her nails on my divan.  (Oh, I forgot to introduce a new character to the
Freshman class
blog, Angel is my new college intern.  She's a junior at a local university studying communications and will be working with me for this semester via an unpaid internship).  "Angel, you don't abbreviate the person's first name when you do that" I explain again, "It's Bill or Mr. Y, but the article is pretty interesting and it's about your peers at college and how they think they are better than they actually are"  She ponders and says "Oooh, is it about Megan? She's like that and she's not a Valedictorian like me"  I sigh and say "No, it's not about Megan, it's about how the Freshman classes over the last decade have increasingly rated themselves as above average in many areas like self confidence, academic and mathematics ability, and the drive to achieve, but how the objective test scores are proving
that they aren't nearly as good as they think and in fact are working and studying less than the prior classes, Wait, you were the Valedictorian?"   "Sure, Mr. B", she says, snapping her gum, but turning slightly blue while forgetting to breathe, "My whole class was, we were all above average that year, and very smart too... Are we almost done today, my head hurts from all this thinking?".  For once my intern and I are on the same page, my head hurts too, and we've only been working for an hour.  I shouldn't be surprised though, when I was in college in the 80's, half of the students surveyed said they studied for 6 or more hours each week and now that figure is a little more than 1/3.  The more startlingly fact is that the successive classes have each rated themselves as having a higher drive to succeed in spite of spending significantly less time actually studying or working to achieve their goals.  Why the disconnect?

     One theory puts the blame solely on the backs of the "Self Esteem" movement that had been prevalent in
both public education and parenting since the 1990's.  This is one of the first Freshman classes that likely were raised entirely in this environment, and is it coincidence that this class thinks higher of itself than any other freshman class in the last 47 years, but with less reason ever to do so?  Of course not, that was our goal, wasn't it?  The theory correlated that high self esteem would lead to high success because the traits were tied together, the majority of high achievers, did have high self esteem.  Too quickly discounted, however, was the fact that these high achievers had earned their high self esteem by outpacing their peers, by working harder, studying more, and being more intelligent and innovative than their peers.  The "Self Esteem" movement simply sought to give every child a high sense of self worth, and hoped it would lead to high success.  It didn't, it led to a generation of kids who hadn't earned their high self esteem, they simply were given it, making them narcissistic in the process and it fact the survey show a 30% tilt in that direction since 1979.   "Angel ?" I inquire again, somewhat reluctantly as she sits with a deer in the headlights look perusing an upside down magazine, "Were you an athlete in your high school?"   "Sure", she beams, "I was an award winning member of our swim team".  Impressed, I press further, "What was your best swimming event, Angel?"  "All of them", she states, "but I didn't like to get my hair wet so I didn't have to get in the pool at all, I just got the award for participating with the team, plus I looked great in my swimsuit!"  Once again my intern and I agree on something, I've seen her during our office's casual Fridays and she does look great in her swimsuit. 

     To be clear, I'm not blaming the public education system solely for the spot that we are in.  Parenting styles, social media, and celebrity culture are equally to blame and more time is likely spent in these forums than in school.  Do our pop culture heroes exhibit the traits that would be ideal for likely success in the new world order?  Hardly.  Lindsay Lohan, Kate Upton, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and even, shudder, Honey Boo-Boo?  We are bombarded with examples of people who neither worked hard, nor played fair to get to their levels of success, but yet have "succeeded", but devoid are the stories of the hard working, industrious and studious types.   Can you name last year's American Idol winner?  How about last year's National Spelling Bee champ?  Do you get my point?  Incidentally the top 3 finishers were Snigdha Nandipati, Stuti Mishra, and Arvind Mahnkali.  Is it any wonder why our kids don't relate hard work and effort to eventual success?  I'd ask Angel's opinion on this but my head still hurts from explaining the difference between Stretch Armstrong and Lance Armstrong to her yesterday.  Society propagates the myth that we don't need to work hard to be successful or at least appear successful.  We gave loans for homes for people that didn't have the income to support them, we give easy credit to college students and to new workers, and encourage them to spend what they make, and more.  When my wife and I were first married, we got our furniture from thrift stores and garage sales, not on credit or from a department store.  We bought what we could afford and no more.  When's the last time you walked into a young person's house and saw examples of this kind of thrift?  Yeah, me neither and it's sad.  So what to do?

     I've got no easy answers except to going back to the way we were raised.  Enforce the values of hard work, effort, humility, charity, and thrift in your homes and with the youth that you influence.  The adults too, for that matter.  It's never too late to change and unfortunately this Freshman class has a rude awakening coming when they enter the real world and they don't succeed in spite of their feelings that they are head and shoulders above their peers. Could this be part of the reason for the increased instances of depression in young adults?  Sure.  Reward real effort and achievement, not participation.  Stop celebrating celebrity in your homes.  These are hard changes but ultimately worth it.  I'd ask Angel her opinion again, but she's napping now and she's so cute when she's sleeping. 

Angel, sleeping.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Repost from 8-22-10 - Of Beards and Men

On a whim last week, at the end of a trip to Vegas, when I knew I had some home time coming up, I started a beard.  No particular reason, just felt it was time again to try and sport some hair on my face.  It wasn't No-Shave-November, the date on the calendar was meaningless, yet my testosterone timeclock said it was time again to try.  The following week, I swung by to pick up my brother Ace to attend calling hours for a family friend, and when he got into my car, lo and behold, he was sporting a 5 day old beard too !  We hadn't had breakfast together that last Saturday, like we normally do, but it was likely that day, while I was in Vegas that we both started our beards, having never spoke to each other about it.  I'm not claiming some upspoken beard physic power, but was it conincidence that we both just knew it was time to do this, or something buried deep in our genes that compelled us to whisker up? 

As I write this I am sporting a 3 day old beard. I took a few days off last week at a cottage and on a whim, I started the beard. For most of my adult life, my face has been devoid of hair. My forays into facial hair have all been short-lived and widely spaced. It's not because I can't grow a beard, I grow a great beard. In my youth I could go from clean shaven to full beard in about a week. I had a full mustache by the middle of the 8th grade (Any St. Mary's girls want to back up this claim of mine?). I always attributed it to the enormous amount of testosterone that must flow through my body (I blame this for a lot of my actions). It will be interesting to see this time, how long it takes, and honestly how much comes out gray. I normally keep my face clean shaven, for my wife, my job, and because I look younger without facial hair. This week, however, screw the job, screw looking older, and with apologies to my wife, but I am growing a beard.
The question that now begs to be asked is what kind of beard to grow? Full on fully bearded? Chin Strap? Goatee or Van Dyke? Burnsides? While they each have their individual merits, for me, I always default to a chin strap style ala James Brolin in Hotel. It says "Classy" to me, and for those of you who remember the TV show, he went out with Connie Sellecca every night, so it must be a rocking beard. It's more maintenance than most beards, and you have to get the trimming right, but I think it's worth it.

I could go full on bearded, I've got the genes to do it. My facial hair comes in fully everywhere. I had a
brother who used to try and grow a beard, but it would come in, in patches, like a badly seeded lawn. Not a good look on anyone. He eventually opted for just a mustache, which didn't look half bad. The best quote I have ever heard on growing mustaches came from my Father. I asked him one day why he he didn't grow a mustache, because presumably he could grow a great one (That's where I got my testosterone from). His reply was this... "Willie", he said "I never saw the need to cultivate over my lip, that which grew wild in the crack of my ass! ". I miss my Dad, he was one of a kind.
So why not go fully bearded? For me, it's because I know too soon, I would start to resemble another TV star from my youth, Grizzly Adams. Now Dan Haggerty was a helluva guy, I mean he lived with a bear!! He chopped his own wood, caught his own food,
loved the land and all, but he was missing a key piece. I haven't met the bear yet that can hold a candle to Connie Sellecca. Done deal, can't do it. Given time I could see myself fully bearded ala Papa Hemingway, but I think I am a few years away from being able to pull it off. I do spend a lot of time practicing the drinking part of being Papa Hemingway, or so say a lot of my friends. So no full beard for me for now.  I have no comment on Burnsides, but I do have a severe opinion on Goatee's and Van Dyke's. I have lived 43 years and I have found only one single advantage of having this type of beard. It certainly isn't for attracting women, or to look more intelligent. The single use of this type of beard is to instantly distinguish yourself from your evil counterpart, if you are ever transported to an alternate universe by an ion surge during a space storm (Star Trek episode # 33 Mirror, Mirror).

That's the only one. Trust me. I hope you get the opportunity to see me when I can still pull off the beard,
but as I said when I started, these whims are usually short-lived. You may end up having to wait for the Hemingway phase of my life, or who knows, maybe I'll follow my old man's advice. It's done well for me for so long now.

5 original comments follow:

Scott Carey, RGG said...

It has been several months since I succumbed to the swine flu. I was an early statistic to this bug that terrorized the world and pre-occupied the media for months. Eventually, I conquered that nasty bug, but for awhile I wasn't so sure. And as I lay there thinking about what I wanted to wear as the passers by paid their respects and offered their condolences to my family... I pictured them asking "Did he always have a beard"? That bug kicked my butt. And while I found the strength for an occasional shower, there was no way I would be trusting my hands with the triple-blades of death. For the better part of a week, what started as stubble quickly turned to forest. And as I ran my hands across my face, it went from harsh/scratchy to soft and comfortable. But no comments came from the peanut crowd. Each day, my enthusiasm was met with indifference. Upon feeling 'human' again, I decided it was time to return to the living and shave... which meant I needed to find my glasses. It was then that I discovered why the comments had been so few. SALT. It was salt. What had for years been only pepper and for awhile had been salt and pepper, was now just salt. Not particularly noticeable. Not particularly distinguishing. And not particularly welcome!
August 22, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Ben Wickham said...

Billy this post couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have been recently throwing around the idea of growing out my beard and hair while I am in Morocco, just to see what would happen. And I think after reading your post, I have decided to go through with it. Decision isn't final yet, but thanks to you it is leaning much closer to a yes.

August 23, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Bill said...

No better time Benny, and remember this kind of mistake (if you find it to be one)can be removed with a few strokes of a sharp blade. Send pics!!
August 24, 2010 at 6:31 AM

Anonymous said...

From a girl's point of view...even if I am a sister/ No burdock pricks and yes the goatee is named for an obvious reason. I had a goat named Annie that would of won hands down for the salt and pepper goatee contest. Grizzly could be attractive if you were the last man on earth, or practical if you nest in a wooded, woodchuck, cold territory. Maybe for bug catching if you are thinking of buying a Harley. If you must I am inclined to agree with your chin strap, purely for selfish reasons though. We are related and may wind up being seen in public together or in a famiy pic that is indestructable and hanging in at least 10 other homes. Besides I bit the bullet, and have sacrificed painfully I might add, to disguise this upper lip testosterone genetic trait for you brother Bill.

August 25, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Bill said...

Nice comments all. I just realized that I probably just posted my personal mug shot on Facebook. Tell me that if I was involved in a balloon hoax with my kid, or arrested for a drunk and disorderly, that, that isn't the picture everyone would put up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I met a girl in Philly, whose story was a Dilly......

     I could easily start a hundred different blogs with the opening line, "I met a girl in a bar this time..." but could I write one that was inspirational and that started like that?  I think so.  You be the judge. 

     I met a girl in a bar in Philadelphia a few months ago.  As aforementioned, this is not an uncommon occurrence for me, however, meeting one with an inspirational story, now that is something else. It was happy hour and a work colleague and I were standing at an upscale martini type bar that was 3 deep with patrons.  It was loud and bustling and the crowd ran more white collar than blue and we were chatting with each other, but also introduced ourselves to a few ladies that were within shouting distance of us.  We became immediate friends with 2 women, fresh from a real estate seminar, seated at the bar, between us and the bartender, and formed a strategic alliance to keep our drinks flowing.  I then turned to my left, which was when I spotted Melissa. She was easy to spot at happy hour, because unlike most of the crowd at a bar after work, she truly looked happy, which was evidenced by the wide smile that was spread across her face.  I think she was there to pick up a takeout order before heading for home.  It would have been easy to start a conversation with her based solely on her smile, but then I noticed a dog eared piece of cardboard or picture stock, rectangular in shape, sticking oddly out of her purse.  I'm a curious guy, so I introduced myself and after exchanging pleasantries, I inquired about the item, and that's when I got to meet Sean. 

     "He's my Lifesaver" she said as she pulled the piece out and turned it over to reveal a picture of a handsome 14 year old boy in a baseball uniform. The picture had been laminated, but showed years of wear on it, and I got the impression immediately that Sean had done some traveling.   I was reminded of my
Flat Stanley meeting the President
kid's elementary school experiences with the "Flat Stanley" project.  Flat Stanley was a series of books that outlined the travels of a kid that was flattened accidentally by a bulletin board and the project was to print a copy of Flat Stanley, color him, and travel places with him and to document your travel with logs and pictures.  I have a work friend that tells a hilarious story of traveling with Flat Stanley one time when her plane had engine difficulties, and had to return to the airport.  He handled the situation much better than she did, and as a matter of fact Flat Stanley was aboard the US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson river a few years ago, but I digress, Melissa carried her picture of her lifesaver, Sean wherever she went just like Flat Stanley, but admittedly, her back story was far more touching than Flat Stanley's. 

Melissa year 1 of her transplant
     Sixteen years ago Melissa had gone to volunteer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and during the screening process, it was discovered that she had a chronic kidney illness that was undiagnosed at that time.  She underwent a myriad of tests, treatments and surgeries, but eventually, after 8 years,  her Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), caused her to need dialysis.  She chose to do it home and for the next 4 years, she did 10 hour nightly treatments, logging 15,000 hours of dialysis in that time.  She describes her life then,  as having 2 full time jobs, one of which was saving her life each and every night.  She was actually on vacation 4 years later when she got the call about Sean's untimely bicycle accident and death, and of his family's amazing gift of life.  They chose to donate Sean's organs and one of his kidneys had been designated for Melissa.  In total, at least 17 people were impacted by Sean's family's actions and each of them became like instant family to his folks, Andy and Gail.  I've not met any of the others, but I can speak for Melissa's gratitude and appreciation for the gift of life that she received from Sean and his family, and she does a fantastic job of keeping Sean's memory alive by traveling with him and re-telling the story of how Sean became her Hero and saved her life.  She actually does that and a whole lot more.

     In the conversation that night and in subsequent e-mails, I've learned that telling Sean's story is only one part of what Melissa does to give back for her gift of life.  She went to work for the transplant department at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philly.  She keeps in regular contact with Sean's family, including Gail his
One of Melissa's awards
mom, and in fact they speak together to groups sometimes, each sharing their side of what a donation like this can mean for the donor family and the recipient.  She travels each day with Lifesavers and Sean and recounts her and Sean's story whenever she can (She shares her Lifesavers too).  She takes photos of her and Sean and sends them back to Andy and Gail to show them how their son is still living through her and that he allows her to live a normal active lifestyle.  It's been 4 years since she received this gift of life and her gratitude and appreciation for this family's sacrifice and gift has not diminished one iota.  She had competed several times as an athlete at the Transplant Games, representing Philadelphia and Sean and has won awards for her participation. She has done local Public Service announcements, in fact you can view hers for the 2012 Donate Life Month here (Melissa's PSA )   She speaks publicly often and tries to educate people to the value of organ donation.  She's been interviewed on local TV, appearing with Sean's mother Gail ( CBS Interview). Don't forget, however, Melissa's in only one of the recipients who continues to live each day, due to Sean.  The recipient who received Sean's heart, for example, became the first heart transplant patient to have twins, how incredible is that?  Gail says it best about my new friend Melissa, however, when she simply states that "She has Sean's energy".  I never met Sean, but I guarantee that, that evening, I met his energy.

     I was reluctant, years ago to sign an organ donation card.  It was my daughter Molly who convinced me to do it the last time that I renewed my license.  Here in NY, your choice is designated right under the class of license that you have with a red heart and organ donor printed under it.  It was Melissa and Sean's story that reaffirmed that decision and I would encourage you to consider giving this Gift of Life too.  With this blog, I hope I've given you a look at how powerful a difference that this simple decision can make in many people's lives.  Share this story, it's a good one and a reminder to live like Melissa.  Smile, appreciate each day that God gives us, be grateful for the gifts we are given, and try to make a difference in the world.    Do it for Sean too.

Melissa and Sean.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Our Progressive Dinner

     I often talk about our family get-togethers in this blog, but this is one of my favorites that I haven't blogged about before, our progressive dinner. It wasn't our original idea, but that doesn't mean we can't take it and run with it, and if you like it, feel free to do the same...

5 of my 6 sisters
     Do little sisters ever truly have good ideas that aren't products of their older siblings efforts?  Of course not, we older siblings know this to be true, and it was true in this case too.  The idea of the progressive dinner is said to have come from my youngest sibling, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but clearly I had friends who had this kind of event, prior to our family starting it, and I'm sure I shared it with her, but because she is younger, she can take advantage of my failing memory and claim the idea as hers.  Give it a couple of more years and you will be able to wrap things I already own and give them to me for Christmas.  Think I am kidding?  Last summer I went into my garage and before I went off to Lowes to buy a new hedge trimmer, I glanced up and saw a brand new one on my wall that I had purchased the year before, but I digress, they say it was her idea, so I have to believe them.  What is a progressive dinner?  In short, it's a full meal that is split between houses so that each house is responsible for a single course.  Our family moves between 5-6 houses in the Canandaigua and surrounding area and spends about an hour at each place. We always do it a few weeks before Christmas and I would guess that we have been doing it for 15 plus years.

     In order to have a successful progressive dinner, you have to have a reasonable travel time to each location, so early on we eliminated my siblings that live in Rochester, Ithaca, Buffalo and Ohio from the
Antlers aren't required for the event, but.....
planned route.  We generally start at noon on a Sunday prior to Christmas, and move hour by hour to the next sibling's house.  We've had as many as 6 stops in the past, but lately it's a consistent 5, but that's not to say that the other siblings are not involved, they just show up for the event and add to one of the planned stops.  The folks that I knew that did a dinner like this lived in the same neighborhood and it was a walking event in the summer.  Ours evolved to a pre-Christmas event, which I like because we don't gather as a family or exchange gifts for Christmas anymore, but we always have the Progressive Dinner to look forward to.  The 5 courses are normally, appetizers, soup, salad, entree, and desserts.  If we have a 6th stop we do Holiday themed drinks or something like that.  We choose what course each family is doing each year on our family website, and if it works smoothly each family rotates what they do.  You are responsible for feeding just the one course to the folks that come and we normally have 30-40 in attendance.  It's mostly siblings and their families, but it wouldn't be a Yarger event without a few Klingons, oops I mean Cling-ons, the folks who come along with a sibling, like in-laws, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends, and acquaintances.  This harkens back to my Dad and Mom's tradition of always having room at our dinner table for whomever was in the house that day.  I can't tell you the number of times I've been in a bar (stop guessing numbers I'm not done with the sentence yet, and incidentally you are guessing too low) and talked to someone that has had the pleasure of sitting at our dinner table.  Speaking of tables, let me talk next about what we put on them each year.

     The house that does the appetizers has the best opportunity to be creative.  You would think, that being
Just a few jokers
as the party goes 5 courses over 5 hours, that the host house for appetizers would do one or two dishes and be done with it, but if you do think that, you just failed the test to be a Yarger.  I've never know anyone that did less than 5.  We've had cheese and crackers, swedish meatballs, stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches, vegetables and dips, rye boats, shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, spanikopita, tortilla pinwheels, chicken wings, Italian sausage, cocktail franks, stuffed celery, and that was just last year's items from my sister Hummingbird's house !  Alright, I was kidding on that last part, but pick 5 or so of these and that's what the first course is like.  The soup course comes next and we've seen Italian wedding, chili, broccoli and cheese, corn chowder, chicken, beer cheese, minestrone, and one year I found the recipe for the Soup Nazi's crab bisque and made it.  It had to cook down all night, but it was fantastic, if I do say so myself.  That year we were contacted by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper and they asked if they could attend and do a story on the event, which they did.  You see it's not only Cling-ons that we draw, it's Paparazzi too. The salad course comes next and we've seen things offered like, home-made croutons, dressings, bacon bits, different greens and chopped vegetables, it's all fair game.  It's a little more difficult to get creative with this course, but each year, the family never disappoints.

     The entree course, by far, is the most difficult course to do.  Remember that whatever you make has to be done and ready 2-3 hours after you leave your house, so it has to be fully cooked and be able to be held
Bacon wrapped stuffed pork loin
well or be thrown together or reheated in 10 minutes of you arriving early to your house.  The appetizer people have it easy as they are home to cook and watch everything, but the entree people have to really plan this course and execute well.  We've seen chicken french, pulled pork, scalloped potatoes and ham, stuffed pork roll, ziti and meat sauce, ham, and chicken dishes.  I can't remember them all, but trust me, if you had to do this course, you remember exactly what you did and how you did it.  This year I tried an eggplant and chicken lasagna bake that didn't quite work as intended.  My sons and I prepped it the day before, so all the ingredients were cooked in it, but it could have had longer to bake and to set up.  It had great flavor, but truly it was more like lasagna soup than an entree.  As I said that day however, I have to throw my family a bone like that, every now and again, just to prove I'm human, just like them. 

     We finish the day with desserts and some coffee or specialty drinks.  This is one of those courses where
Meter Maid with her contribution this year
the out-of-towners can contribute.  If they didn't bring an appetizer or bread for the main entree, they can make a dessert or two and add it to the table or bring along a specialty drink.  This year my sister Meter Maid brought jars of apple moonshine in mason jars, as gifts for each family, but admittedly, some did get opened and tasted during the event.  My wife and I are suckers for one Aunt's baklava, which by itself keeps the Rochester butter market in the black each year.  We've seen cupcakes, cheesecakes, brownies, Holiday cookies, pies, pumpkin rolls, death by chocolate, candies and any other desserts that you could think up.  One year I made deep fried cheesecakes and that came out much better than my chicken-eggplant did this year.  Maybe I should stick to desserts, but as is, I tried to take this course 2 years in a row due to my failing memory (Did I mention that already?).  This course brings an end to the event and we all roll off, back to our homes.  I didn't mention one of the benefits of when we hold this event, and that is the ability to see everyone's house decorated for Christmas.  That part of the idea was likely She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named 's contribution, but I can't say if she stole it from another family member or not, but I can say that it didn't come from me, though I wish it had.  That's the recap of my family's take on a Progressive Dinner, as I said in the beginning, feel free to steal this idea for your family, you'll be glad that you did.
My wife and daughter at the progressive dinner