Twelve Teachers

Twelve Teachers

Top Row (L to R): My mom, my older brothers Bob and John Second Row: My sister Betsy, Bill Anderson, Steve Fisher Third Row: Dale Willman, Mark Gravel, Tim Fletcher Bottom Row: My elder daughter Rachel, my younger daughter Emily, and my wife and soulmate, Michele

Top Row (L to R): My mom, my older brothers Bob and John; Second Row: My sister Betsy, Bill Anderson, Steve Fisher; Third Row: Dale Willman, Mark Gravel, Tim Fletcher
Bottom Row: My elder daughter Rachel, my younger daughter Emily, and my wife and soulmate, Michele

Growing up, I had many dedicated teachers. A decades-belated thank you to Mrs. Perkins (4th grade), Mr. Nash (English), and General Verbeck (biology), and Mr. Vandenberg (Latin I, 2 and, thanks to my friend Steve Fisher, who knows what he did, Latin 3). My learning, however, did not end with my formal education. I have been blessed to have had many capable managers and mentors throughout my career. Thank you, Alan Horton, Jerry Parichy, Valerie Sanford, Chris Noble, and Cynthia Clay, to name a few.

As I look back over the past 65 years, I realize that some of the most impactful educators I’ve had have been family members and friends. There are twelve individuals who stand out as the most influential teachers in my life. This week’s column is about them.

My mom, Betty Clark (she remarried). At one month shy of turning 100 years old, she is, amazingly, still with us. A WW II veteran and mother of five, she endured a difficult marriage to a husband who suffered from serious, untreated mental illness and chronic anger management issues. She had the courage to leave this situation in an era when women did not seek divorce. Having not worked outside the home in 28 years, she set out to get a job and became a dietician at the VA. She reclaimed life by traveling to many countries, her favorite being Israel. Now in a nursing home, she rallies on, showing all around her that she still has a wit. She is always game for a good laugh – just check out her photo above, taken at age 97. People ask me, “Tim, why is it that you smile so much?” That’s simple. Thanks, mom.

Bob Jones. Our nine year age gap kept me from getting to know my oldest brother when I was young. But as I entered my career, we became re-acquainted by discussing career and life challenges. Bob became a “big brother” mentor to me and taught me the importance of understanding myself and my impact on others. From Bob, I learned to look for the positive in situations and people. As a result, throughout my career, I posted on my wall these words: “Catch them doing something right.”

John Jones. My second oldest brother, five years my senior, John was the All-American boy. Growing up, he was my role model. I wanted to be just like him. I still do. He is modest to a fault and has always been the rock of our family. When there was a crisis, John was the steady hand willing to intervene to calm the waters. Over time, I have come to appreciate how kind and caring a person John is – and funny. And he taught me to love sports and playing board games – I can’t forget about that!

Betsy Jones. I could write a book about my younger sister. She has been the editor of my blog these past 11 years. (I’ll be curious to see how she edits this description of her.) When we were little, because we were the two youngest, we became very close. She is the historian of my childhood, with a memory of details I had long forgotten. Nobody I know has endured more hardship and heartbreak than my sister. But every time she has been knocked down, she gets back up. Betsy is the most resilient person I have ever known – and one of funniest. She has an expanding universe of friends because like me, they see in her one of the most giving, selfless people you will ever find. [No edits. Thanks – Your editor] 

Bill Anderson. If you want to know why I sometimes (okay, usually) act like an 11-year-old, blame Bill. Bill is my oldest friend. We met in 4th grade because our dads were best friends. For the past five decades, Bill has reminded me of the importance of staying young at heart and not taking life too seriously. When we get together, we revert to high schoolers. Bill is a person of deep faith, and one of the most high-integrity people I have ever known. He has taught me, better than just about anyone else, the importance of working to maintain a close friendship, despite the physical distance between us most of our lives.

Steve Fisher. Some may ask where I developed my warped sense of humor. Look no further. Steve is the funniest person I have ever met. I launched this humor blog, in part, to honor him for teaching me how to make others laugh. We met in 7th grade and he has kept me howling with laughter ever since. Steve also taught me the meaning of courage. Ten years ago, he almost died from a devastating illness that left him with life-altering physical injuries. But through it all, he has demonstrated enormous courage and self-deprecating humor. Steve is my hero.

Dale Willman. Dale and I met early in our modeling careers. Yes, we were models, for a one-off fashion shoot, hired by a  mutual friend, for reasons neither of us will ever understand. Shortly after we met, my father died quite unexpectedly. Dale responded in a way that sealed our lifelong friendship: he came to the funeral. He turned out to be an unexpected source of strength that I leaned on in my time of grief. A journalist, Dale has worked and taught all over the world, and instilled in me the value of broadening my worldview. Like me, Dale has a small teddy bear called Grumpy that he takes to exotic places, although only my Grumpy has been to the North Pole (get over it, Dale).

Mark Gravel. I worked in the newspaper industry for 9 years and there is only one person I keep in touch with from that era: Mark. In addition to possessing a wickedly sharp sense of humor (he has co-written several of my humor articles), Mark loves doing surprises and practical jokes. But even more importantly, Mark exudes a genuineness, a kindness, and a deep desire to put the needs of others before himself. In the dictionary under the word “Gentleman” there should be a picture of Mark, for he truly is just that – even if he is Canadian, like my wife.

Tim Fletcher. I have always admired Tim’s first name. But beyond that, my soft-spoken friend is a remarkable dad. We became friends while working at an internet startup, When I was struggling with trying to unlock the mysteries of parenting my then teenage daughters, Tim repeatedly provided an understanding ear and wise counsel to help me become a better dad. For several years, Tim has grappled with a serious illness. But through it all, he has accepted his physical limitations with positivity, grace, and a stubborn refusal to be blocked from pursuing a full life.

Rachel Jones. From a young age, my elder daughter has demonstrated a strong independent streak. I will always remember when at four years of age, as I tried to help her, she insisted, “I do it myself, Daddy.” She became extremely self-reliant and responsible far beyond her age. Her sense of determination and her work ethic astound me, be it on the soccer field or pursuing her passion of becoming a nurse. Now 26 and a cardiology nurse, Rachel has matured into a confident, hardworking adult. Most inspiring is her deeply caring heart, for her patients, her family, and her cats (not sure in which order). She teaches me all the time what it means to put the needs of others before one’s own.

Emily Jones. When she was a teenager, she and her sister taught me the importance of patience in parenting. At 4’11” tall, Em has always been the shortest person in any group photo. But she’s never let that stop her from pursuing the highest of goals in life, and with a passion. She is fearless and doesn’t let obstacles deter her from her dreams. Extremely smart and resourceful, in college she once asked me, “Dad, do you know anybody at Space X?” Of course, I didn’t. Two days later, using just LinkedIn, she corralled an interview. A week later, Space X hired her in their elite intern program. Over the years, she has amazed me with her giving heart, often surprising my wife and me with the most extraordinary gifts out of the blue (including my very cool Space X shirt.)

Michele Rushworth. When we said our wedding vows, I told her, “I want to grow old with you.” Those words ring just as true 33 years later. I am proud of everything she has achieved with her art. She has helped to push me outside my comfort zone to try new things (even fish). A voracious reader, she has educated me about other cultures, history, and science. It was Michele who suggested we pursue international adoption. She had the idea for us to move to an island I had never heard of. And whatever I learned about being a caring, patient parent, I learned in great part from my best friend’s example. Our daughters could not have asked for a better mom. It has been a privilege and a joy to be growing old – that is, older – with my wife, Michele.

I have had many truly wonderful friends throughout my life, including many people who space constraints simply don’t permit me to mention. As I get older, I’ve learned that true wealth is measured not by the size of one’s bank account but by the number of meaningful friendships we have in life. On this scale, I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams. I owe a debt of gratitude I’ll never be able to repay to these twelve funny, kind, extraordinary teachers, and to others not mentioned (due to witness protection constraints). Thank you all.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones

My Wife Wants Me Recalled

My Wife Wants Me Recalled

Dear Ms. Jones,

Thank you for your recent letter to Husbands-R-Us regarding your purchase of a husband, specifically the Tim Jones BSE (“Basic Spousal Edition”) in April 1987. In your 12-page diatribe, you demand that we recall this “badly broken down jalopy” (your words) due to, as you put it, “innumerable product defects and previously hidden deficiencies” that you claim were not made known to you when you purchased this unit.

We at Husbands-R-Us appreciate your business, Ms. Jones, and under normal circumstances, we would gladly recall your model and provide you with a satisfactory replacement at no cost. Regrettably, these are not normal circumstances. Our 30-year marital protection plan is unmatched in the industry. Since you purchased your spousal unit in 1987 – over 33 years ago, your husband is now officially out of warranty.

It is not uncommon that the components of a husband of that vintage will start to wear out, which is why we always recommend regular upgrades – advice you did not heed. In fact, not many models last that long, so we don’t carry replacement parts for such old versions.

Even if we could make an exception and let you retroactively buy an extended warranty, it has also come to our attention that you recently took your husband in to get both its knees replaced. Your decision to have these repairs performed by a non-Husbands-R-Us mechanic would void your warranty anyway.

In looking at your account profile, we discovered this is not the first time you’ve filed a complaint regarding your matrimonial purchase. Indeed, you have written us on at least nine prior occasions, including:

January 2007: “I noticed that my husband is losing its finish – especially on the roof. Is there any way to preserve what little protection is still remaining?”

March 2011: “My husband’s motor is making loud grinding noises at nighttime, making it impossible for me to sleep. Can you install a muffler to make it run more quietly?”

October 2015: “This model’s headlights appear to be dimming and have difficulty making out nearby objects in low light. Can these be replaced?”

August 2018: “This piece of crap you sold me routinely leaks gas. And its motor sputters and turns off after very short distances – often stalling out on the couch when I try to steer it towards mowing the lawn.”

And then there were those missives you sent bemoaning its declining performance in bed with each passing year. That’s really not covered by the warranty. Your owner’s manual clearly states, “Your mileage may vary.

We also appreciate the occasional correspondence from your offspring, arguing that their DAD Model TLP (“Totally Lame Parent”) was “unfair and a loser” for refusing to buy them cell phones when they were seven years old. We got a chuckle over their most recent lament regarding its styling and appearance – “It’s, like, so out of date, we’re, like, awesomely embarrassed to, like, be seen riding around in public with it, like.”

We understand your collective disappointment. Full disclosure, we’ve actually received scores of complaints lodged by other individuals about your particular Tim Jones BSE model – from former bosses, neighbors, and several of its middle school teachers.

Interestingly, most of the grievances were submitted by people who felt harassed by a systemic barrage of weekly sophomoric humor articles they received in what some described as this unit’s “desperate attempt to seek approval.” We have never heard of this glitch before. Apparently, this particular Tim Jones is no laughing matter.

Please understand, when your hubby was originally manufactured back in 1955, husband manufacturing technology was still in its infancy. Back then, the industry simply lacked the quality controls that are commonplace on today’s more intelligently designed, longer-lasting husband models. And the slimmer, sleeker body styles many women prefer would not become the norm until many years later.

Furthermore, please note that your purchase contract clearly specified that we are not liable for damage caused by reckless driving (or eating). The fact that your husband’s engine was routinely fueled by frosted cinnamon pop tarts and Mountain Dew for the last 40 years goes against all the maintenance recommendations found in your service manual.

Still, given you’ve been a longstanding customer, we at Husbands-R-Us would like make a one-time-only offer to compensate for your troubles. We will give you top value for your husband if you trade it in for a newer, more high-performance version. We have a wide selection including an exotic, luxury model just imported from Italy starting at $95,000.00. We estimate the worth of your Tim Jones BSE, based on its age and current condition, to be roughly $50 (we’ll make it $100 if you throw in its 60” flat screen man cave TV). But hurry. This offer expires at midnight.

It can be disheartening to discover one has unwittingly gotten locked into a long-term husband purchase contract with restrictive return policies and onerous payment terms lasting 20, 30 or even 40 years. If that describes you – and based on your voluminous correspondence over the years, it sounds like it might –we recommend you consider our attractive leasing program, BOTS (Boyfriend On The Side). We have an excellent inventory of new models – many with very low mileage and ample sized engines that really go the distance. You can even do a month-to-month lease – and trade them in for new BOTS for a small restocking fee.

Here at Husbands-R-Us, we look forward to serving you again when you’re in the market for a newer, more advanced husband or just to take one of our BOTS out for a test drive.

Or perhaps you’d like to forget about men altogether and buy a shiny red sports car instead. Many wives tell us, compared to their husbands, new cars are far less hassle, much more responsive, smell way better, and come with firmer, sexier rear ends.

Sincerely,

Brad Millington

Customer Relations Manager

Husbands-R-Us

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

A Letter to My Future Son-In-Law

A Letter to My Future Son-In-Law

So you want to marry my daughter? Have you totally thought this through? Let me tell you what you’re in for. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

So you want to marry my daughter? Have you totally thought this through? Let me tell you what you’re in for. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

[Author’s note: My daughter is in her mid-twenties and has a boyfriend. The days of “Will he ask me to the prom?” have evolved to “Will he ask me to marry him?” I thought I should prepare for that frightening eventuality by jotting down some notes for what I might want to say to her future husband when that important day approaches. This is just a first draft. Suggestions welcome. – TEJ]

Dear Possible-Future Son-in-Law,

So you want to marry my daughter? What on God’s green earth gives you the right to stomp on my heart and steal my little girl, you hateful, wretched son-of-a-b*tch? Have you met my close friend, Mr. Smith and his buddy, Mr. Wesson? If you think for one minute you’re going to swoop in out of nowhere and take my place after all I’ve done to raise her right, well, you’ll have to come through me. Ya’ hear me, fella?

(Okay, I’m feeling a little cranky. I haven’t eaten in hours, so that opening was a little hangry. Sorry. Let me try this again.)

Son, my daughter has informed me that you would like to marry her. How exciting! I could not be happier for you both. This is a very important decision, so, I hope you’ve thoroughly thought it through.

My daughter is a very special young woman. In the remote chance you’re not quite as familiar with her charming quirks as I have come to be, perhaps I might share a few words of counsel, to help ensure smooth sailing as you embark on your new life together.

You may have noticed by now that my precious little angel is rather, um, strong-willed. She’s been that way forever. When she turned two, she insisted on baking her birthday cake all by herself, proclaiming, “I DO IT MYSELF, DADDY!” I still can recall the proud look on her face as she diligently mixed the cake batter, added the rainbow sprinkles, Frosted Flakes, and bananas, and then poured the entire concoction into what she called “the blender,” but which we adults usually refer to as “the toilet.” The plumber and I sure had a hearty laugh about that, up until the moment he presented me with his $575 bill.

I also hope you’re not terribly concerned with a particularly tidy home. My little Entropy Engine, as I like to call her, is more of a free spirit in that regard. As far back as I can remember, her room always has looked like a Category 5 hurricane had just swept through. I wouldn’t waste your breath asking her to load the dishwasher, or make the bed, or clean up after herself. She’ll no doubt remind you: that’s what maids are for. Hope you earn a good paycheck, young man.

Oh, and a word about pets: DON’T – unless you like getting up at 3am to let the dog out. Because there’s no way you’ll be able to nudge her out of bed. After all, she needs her nightly uninterrupted ten-hour beauty rest. No, when it comes to pets, her job is to cuddle them. Don’t get me wrong. My daughter loves animals – or more accurately, YouTube videos of them, especially fuzzy hedgehogs and baby penguins. If you’re really serious about pets, might I suggest starting with baby steps, say, a bowl of fish? On second thought, scratch that suggestion. It might end badly.

You’ve probably noticed by now that my daughter is remarkably independent. We raised her to be that way. And you may notice she has a slightly elevated need to be right a fair amount of the time – but only when she’s conscious. She will be quick to point out when you’re wrong about say, your taste in men’s fashion or perhaps the latest Star Wars film or where you both should go out to dinner tonight. But she will overrule you with the cutest expression on her face, so you won’t even notice. My Little Miss Sunshine is absolutely willing to listen to your point of view on a wide variety of issues – just so long as your point of view happens to be the same as hers. Just practice saying, “That’s a great idea, dear.” You’ll do just fine.

If my precious jewel has decided that you’re Mr. Right, that says a lot about you. You are clearly a wonderful young man, hardworking, smart, sensitive and a devoted companion, who has compiled at least a six-figure 401K by now. Well done. Oh, on that last point, I’m not saying that my daughter just wants you for your money. Let me be clear. I just want you for your money.

Your future mother-in-law and I plan to move in with you guys when our retirement nest egg runs out. Not to worry. That won’t be for at least another three years. Be sure to buy a large enough house so we can have plenty of privacy – and a view of the ocean and a very large en suite… with a Jacuzzi and a 65” flat screen TV. You’re going to make such a good son.

I hope this will help you feel more comfortable as you contemplate spending the rest of your life married to this incredible young woman, who for the first 18 years of her life I affectionately called my Prima Donna Angel Monster Princess. Welcome to the family.

Remember, in the long run, you needn’t worry about us. Worry about yourself – um, perhaps I phrased that poorly. I mean, life is short. In the end, all that matters is your and my baby girl’s happiness (albeit not necessarily in that order). Make a point to laugh together, love and support each other, and never forget what’s really important in the life you create together: Grandchildren. I really don’t feel I should have to explain this to you. Don’t disappoint me, son.

Signed,

Your soon-to-be “Dad”

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

A Story of Sex and Debauchery from My Youth

A Story of Sex and Debauchery from My Youth

This is the steamy story of Leonardo – and his many romantic conquests. His sexual desire was insatiable. The fairer sex was no match for his animal magnetism.

This is the steamy story of Leonardo – and his many romantic conquests. His sexual desire was insatiable. The fairer sex was no match for his animal magnetism.

When I was a young child, I had a very unusual friend who, how should I put this delicately – had some rather strong urges. His name was Leonardo. I met him when I was in seventh grade. Leonardo was the unemotional, quiet type. But there was one thing I noticed that was a bit odd about Leonardo. He seemed to have an unusual sexual appetite, particularly for someone so young. He fooled around a lot. When it came to romance, Leonardo was an animal.

He pursued sexual relationships with too many partners to recall. There were Lucy, Angel, Daisy, Chloe and Pepper, to name a few. But Leonardo didn’t always stay in his own lane. There were also Charlie, Toby and Max, and many others. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up with Leonardo’s endless series of objet’s d’amour.

His relationships never seemed to last very long. As soon as he got bored with one partner, Leo, as I called him, was off to his next roll in the hay. This went on for years. From what I could tell, he never gave these dalliances a moment’s reflection. Before long, Leonardo was off in search of his next Mona Lisa.

To be honest, I never said anything to Leo about my disapproval. I had no idea what his appeal was. What was his magnetic power over all these girls – and guys? What exactly did they see in him? Even at his youthful age, it was obvious to me that Leo had no discernable skills of any kind – other than his apparent sexual prowess. Not to be judgmental, he never came across to me as being very smart. It was not like he had six-pack abs or a killer smile. And he never cleaned up his place. It was always a total pigpen. But none of that seemed to matter in his relentless pursuit of sexual partners.

Then one day, a few years into our friendship, I introduced Leo to a new friend – Alexander. I thought they might hit it off as buddies. When I first saw them interact, I noticed that they just stared at each other, completely speechless, almost like they knew each other from somewhere but couldn’t place it. Then Leo whistled at Alexander. I have no idea why. But I could tell that they seemed to connect in some odd, almost intimate way.

As time went on, Alexander and Leo hung out together every day. They were almost inseparable. I never could quite figure out the nature of their friendship. Leo never talked about it – at least not with me. But it became clear that he had feelings for Alexander.

Then one day, I stopped by to find Leo and Alexander lying together – with a baby. And not just any baby. It turned out to be Leo’s baby! That’s when, to my shock, I discovered that Alexander was in fact Alexandra – a girl!  But she had never once corrected me when I called her Alexander. I had no idea. Leo was way too young to be a dad, I thought.

I am not one to judge, so I tried to be happy for Leo and Alexander, er, I mean Alexandra. But I wondered quietly, how long would it be before Leo abandoned Alexandra and their offspring? I was 18 when this happened. And it was time for me to head off to college.

I remember the day I finally said goodbye to Leo. I was at a loss for words. He couldn’t speak either. As I headed out the door, Leo just looked back at me, silently, with those impenetrable dark eyes. He too must have been sad because he couldn’t even muster up a smile. He just whistled and turned away. Then he started eating a carrot, something he always liked to do. Because Leo loved carrots, just like any other guinea pig.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Note: This is a true story. Leonardo was my guinea pig. I got him for my birthday in seventh grade. He routinely had sex with any guinea pig placed in the same cage with him, including Alexander, who I purchased (thinking it was a male) at the pet store to keep Leonardo company.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Breaking up with an English Teacher

Breaking up with an English Teacher

[The following text exchange took place between a female business executive named Roxanne and her boyfriend of four years, Virgil, a high school English teacher.] 

Roxanne: Dear Virgil, I gotta tell you something and it’s been on my mind for a long time.

Virgil: Good evening, Roxanne. Thank you for your text. By the way, “gotta” is not proper English. I believe you meant to say, “I must” or “I have to.” What’s up?

Roxanne:  We need 2 talk. 

Virgil: You errantly used the digit “2” as in one more than one. So, you’ve lost me. We need “one plus one talk?” That makes no sense. Please clarify. 

Roxanne: Oh, for God’s sake, Virgil. 2 is short for “to.” We need TO talk. I cant wait any longer. 

Virgil: Sorry, still not clear on what you’re trying to convey – unless you mean “no, I can’t” in which case, don’t forget the apostrophe since it’s a contraction.   

Roxanne: Geez. Okay. Got it. 

Virgil: Who’s got what? “Got it” is missing a subject. Who has it? A policeman? The Queen of England? My schnauzer? My brain buzzes with possibilities. Could you clarify who it is that has it and what specifically does he or she have? 

Roxanne: Jesus, Virgil. I’m talking about US. We need to talk about US. 

Virgil: Capitalizing the letters US only makes sense if you’re referring to our country. But even then, technically you should put periods after the letters since it’s an abbreviation for United States. 

Roxanne: Virgil, focus. For the millionth time, I don’t need another syntax lesson. 

Virgil:  I believe you mean “another grammar” lesson. Syntax is about word order. Your mistake was – 

Roxanne: My MISTAKE was taking four freakin’ years to tell you what I should have told you four years ago. It’s over.  Continue reading “Breaking up with an English Teacher” »