Friday, May 28, 2010


Hero: a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  

It seems there’s always a lot of chatter about heroes:  what constitutes a hero, who the heroes are (or should be) historically, whether or not actors or athletes are appropriate heroes, etc.  Rather than enter that debate, I want to call attention to three men who are heroes in my life:  my father and both of my grandfathers.  Not that there aren’t other men who I believe fall into this category, but these three men were in my life from the beginning.  Over the next several months I plan on highlighting each of them.  They may not reach the threshold of “hero” for anyone else, but for me they each modeled the character that fits the definition.  Although they’re all men who grew up in a manner typical of their generations, they modeled greatness in their lives, certainly to me.
Here’s a brief biography for each of these great men in my life:
Paul A. Harvey:  My father, born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1937.  He lived in Salt Lake City until his parents moved to Dallas, Texas.  As best he can remember, his first regular job was at the age of nine, throwing a paper route in Dallas consisting of 63 customers.  His parents also expected him to work at home in the yard every Saturday and Sunday unless he went to church.  As such, yard work on Sundays came to an end and he attributes this practical application of his parents’ work ethic to his decision to embrace the Christian faith at an early age at Saint Matthews Cathedral, (Episcopal).  He completed college and joined the U.S. Air Force for what was to be six years of service to his country, and to learn to fly.  His intent was to move to civilian life and fly for the airlines after a short term of service.  Thirty-two years later he retired as a major general, settling down in Mississippi after a full and successful military career.  He worked for the state government for a time, and continues to work full-time today in private industry.
Paul J. Harvey:  My paternal grandfather, born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1910, he was a direct descendant of the Mormon settlers who founded the city in 1847.  He married my Grandmother (also a descendant of the original settlers) when they were both 20 years old.  After two years of study at the University of Utah, he was hired by the American Chicle Company.  In 1941 he moved his family to Dallas, Texas and was promoted to a District Management position.  Shortly thereafter, he entered the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School at SMU in Dallas, Texas at the outbreak of World War 2, however, he came home in 1942 as the result of the onset of his mother’s blindness.  He eventually moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he spent the rest of his life.  In spite of not finishing college, he remained in management positions and  eventually retired in 1974 after 39 years of service with Warner-Lambert (who purchased American Chicle Company).  He never slowed down and after 85 years, he passed away in 1995.
Richard F. Bromiley:  My maternal grandfather, born Richard F. Hill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1916.  When his father (a medical doctor in the US Navy) passed away, his mother married a man named Walter Bromiley, who then adopted my grandfather and his younger sister.  With a desire to attend college and fly airplanes, he kept his grades up and applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He was accepted, graduated in 1938 and served a full career in the US military, including combat service through World War 2.  Days after graduation, he married my Grandmother, also from Philadelphia.  He retired from the United States Air Force as a Brigadier General in March 1967 and accepted a position with United Airlines as Vice President Maintenance.  In 2004 he passed away after 88 full years of life.
Hopefully I’ll do a good job honoring these men as I share the details of their lives in the months to come, and especially how each of them influenced me as a man.  All three have been and continue to be role models for me, and have shaped the kind of man I am.  If there’s any manly good in me, it’s their influence shining through; where I fall short, it’s in spite of them and their great influence.  As my son grows he’ll continue to enjoy my dad’s influence directly, and I hope he never stops seeing the indirect influences of his great grandfathers.  One of the very few measures of my own success as a father is seeing my son take everything he can from these other men and I, and raise the standard by being an even better man than the four of us.
It’s great to be a dad!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Living Well: Enjoying the Simple Pleasures

There are certainly prudent and reckless behaviors we can participate in throughout our lives.  As a result, there are currently groups of people on both sides of the political fence who endeavor to prevent others from enjoying many of what I believe are some of life’s simple pleasures.  This often results in pressure not to participate in and even condemn a variety of activities: drinking, smoking, spending time the sun (unless you’re wrapped like a mummy and slathered with the strongest sunscreen), and even eating grilled or fried foods or using salt.  In some cases laws are passed to prevent various activities.  In at least one state in the U.S., the state government is considering banning all smoking even on private property in the name of good health.
As a man, this strikes directly at the heart of sitting with other men to enjoy good company and conversation, accompanied by fine cigars or pipes of tobacco, and complemented by glasses of old scotch. 

As I’ve chewed on this over time, several years ago an interesting item caused a flurry in the news when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study suggesting the English are healthier than their American cousins.  A press release included the following: "Middle-aged to older U.S. residents have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer than their English counterparts, according to an article in the May 3 issue of JAMA." (See for a synopsis.)
I’m not suggesting JAMA is encouraging smoking or drinking.  This wasn’t the focus of the JAMA article, but it seems even though people in the UK eat the "wrong" things for breakfast, enjoy their pubs, and are more inclined to view beer as well as the first and second hand smoke associated with the pub environment as a matter-of-fact part of their lifestyle, they're healthier.  It appears the English don't suffer from as much stress as a part of their lifestyle. Somehow they deal with it better.  In an associated handful of reports that followed on the television news about the JAMA article, reporters discussed how Americans are too fat and how second hand smoke continues to plague us as a health issue. But the English eat worse, smoke more, drink more than we do and yet we Americans have sicker hearts and lungs.
When I was still in high school, I remember someone telling me "common sense isn't so common any more."  It was probably my dad.  The longer I live, the truer this seems to be.  Could the folks putting out the news, as well as many others who are like-minded, be missing the obvious?  It literally struck me as funny that JAMA published research that says our cousins in England are healthier than Americans even though the English smoke and drink more, with these activities being more entwined in their broad culture and lifestyle.  I’ve traveled through most of Europe, including parts of the Mediterranean.  It’s blatantly obvious that casual drinking is much more an integrated part of the cultures there, and a noticeably greater number of people smoke.  This is still true today.  I live in Europe and although smoking is on the decline, it’s still obvious that more people smoke here than in the U.S.  If you live in Europe and don’t smoke, you're still most likely a quality second-hand smoker.  Ironically, for years the European, and specifically the Mediterranean lifestyles have been touted in the U.S. as "healthy."
Again, I’m not suggesting, nor was AMA that smoking and drinking are healthy.  But I think we’re missing (or denying) a greater obvious point for the sake of another subtle one.  To use an old metaphor, we might be missing the forest for the trees.
Maybe living a healthy life is more than just having a physically healthy body.  Clearly, being physically fit and healthy is better than being unfit or sick.  But health is more than physical.  I hear arguments all the time that we’re to avoid certain activities, foods, or certain simple pleasures to add years to our lives--it’s stated like a guarantee.  I believe these people mean our physical lives will be longer.  Will they?  No doubt that minimizing or eliminating certain things that introduce physical risk will set the conditions for a longer physical life.  Potential illness aside though, if these theoretical extra years are added, will they be years we enjoy?  Will I avoid lung cancer only to discover some other unrelated illness brings down my body, or live into my 90s only to find I spent so much time “doing the right thing” that I never actually enjoyed the time I spent?
I'm not talking about or advocating smoking as a rule, or excessive drinking and certainly not a lifestyle of hedonism.  I’m a true champion of moderation and common sense.  When it comes to certain activities such as smoking, I'm also absolutely a champion of gentlemanly conduct and respect for others.  Activities like drinking, smoking, or eating certain foods regularly will certainly have some impact on the body, but we might have something to learn from our English cousins about living life, and what it means to set the entire stage of life to enjoy it from the early years into the sunset years.  In the end, life can't simply be about living a long time.  The quality of life beyond just the technical or scientific length of physical life, has to be a part of what were about.
Maybe it’s really about control.  The reasonable man doesn't want life to end, yet we grow old and our bodies begin to fail.  We end up wearing glasses and hearing aides.  We walk with canes and our minds slow down.  Even the most physically fit person will eventually suffer from age.  Perhaps we’re struggling with this.  Its understandable that we desire to cling to what is good and pleasant, but we’re not really in control--we all age.  The history of man proves as much.  To truly enjoy life we have to acknowledge this fact.  Otherwise we'll work in vain to preserve something we can't, and in the meantime miss out on an amazing number of life's most magnificent and simple pleasures.  It would be sadden me to realize in my sunset years that I spent so much time trying to prevent something out of my control that I never really enjoyed what living was about.
I hope to model this for my son.  I want him to grow up seeing a few genuine things about me as a man.  First, that I enjoy living a full life, one that involves lots of things woven in and balanced.  I want him to remember me as strong and busy, and never lazy.  I also want him to see that times of rest, relaxation and leisure are an acceptable and smart part of living a full life.
Related, I want him to see me enjoy time with fellow men, not just at work, but also socially; not in a manner that’s competitive with time I already jealously guard with Stephanie, but in a manner that adds richness and fullness to living life as a man.

On occasion, that time will involve sitting out back in a chair, quietly enjoying a good book, a glass of scotch and a pipe.  At other times it’ll also  involve sitting around a fireplace with other men to enjoy each other’s company and talk about any number of things, perhaps with our sons and even grandsons in attendance.  Don’t turn me in, but in these moments of relaxation and leisure, we just might enjoy a few drinks and a few cigars or pipes to accompany our manly conversation.  Life is a wonderful thing.  Living it fully is even more wonderful.
Guys, we must be men and enjoy manly thing: the things that add fullness to our lives and allow us to be happy and healthy men.  Some of these things introduce physical risk and so, we enjoy them in moderation and in the company of adults who accept that risk--not to make a political point, but to make our lives fuller.  We live.  After all, life is risky, and living risk-free isn’t really living.  We must enjoy the company of other men and model manhood in front of our sons and daughters.  It’s good to be a man.
And it’s great to be a dad!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Enduring childhood memories come in a variety of forms.  One of them for me revolves around my Grandma Harvey’s chili.  Her chili is among my earliest food memories, warming my heart and my belly even today.  In fact, as I write this, there’s a pot simmering on the stove, filling the early, Saturday morning air with the savory smell of my childhood.

I remember eating this chili at my grandparent’s house, and more often, at home as I grew up.  My mom or dad would make a large pot using my grandmother’s recipe, we’d have it for dinner that night.  The rest would end up divided up, leaving some in a pot in the refrigerator for a few upcoming lunches; the rest going into other single serving sized containers in the freezer to enjoy in the weeks to come.
I still have that original recipe, but have modified it to suit my own tastes.  If you like chili, feel free to give this basic chili recipe a try, and modify it for yourself.  Serve up a generous bowl with a side of fresh, crusty bread, then sit down and enjoy.
JP’s Basic Chili
1 lb ground beef or bison - brown in a little oil
1 large onion - chopped
1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper - chopped
3 red chili peppers - chopped
4-5 Tbs Chili Powder (to taste)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic - crushed
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs caraway seed
1 can tomato soup + 1 can tomato juice (same size)
2 cans of beans for chili
Salt to taste
- Saute the beef, onion; green, red and yellow bell peppers in oil for a few minutes
- Add the seasonings, chili peppers, tomato soup and tomato juice
- Simmer for 45 minutes uncovered (You may have to add a little more tomato juice.)
- Add the beans - don’t drain them, just pour it all into the pot
- Simmer until heated through and serve with a little shredded cheddar on top

So the family tradition continues as I cook the family chili and raise my son on one of the same foods I fondly remember from my own youth.  As it is with me, hopefully it’s one of the smells and tastes Paul will always identify with growing up, and with me.  By extension, something as simple as chili will also serve to connect him to the stories and lives of his grandparents and great grandparents.
It’s great to be a dad!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baby Talk

My son’s vocabulary is growing at full speed.  Not just the words he’s mastered, but he’s also using those words in sentences he’s put together himself; essentially, original thoughts for a three year old.  What an amazing pleasure to hear him use new words and especially watching him work through good articulation and proper pronunciation.  When it comes to sentences it’s incredible to watch his young mind work to put words together correctly to ask questions, describe things or answer questions.  I don’t think this is anything unique for my wife and I; this pleasure is shared by all parents as they see their kids grow and develop.  What strikes me as unique with our son is the volume of comments we regularly receive about how well he speaks.  Steph and I have heard this often enough that it’s caused us to pay closer attention to other parents with kids the same age as Paul, and how they relate to their children.  We’ve decided we’ve noticed two related things that we’ve done differently than many of our peers.  I don’t know that they’re better things; they’re just different.
Baby Talk
Long before we had Paul, we didn’t have to look far or hard to find parents using “baby talk.”  What I mean by baby talk is adults using a different voice and/or tone when speaking to their child than they do when they talk to older kids or adults.  I’m not talking about the content of the conversation.  Rather, I’m talking about how the words are communicated.  Maybe it’s out of some sort of laziness, but Steph and I have always talked to our son the same way we talk to each other.  We’re adults and Paul always hears us talking like adults, even when we’re talking to him about the things that matter to him as a toddler.
When we read to him it’s in our own voices whether we’re reading Dr. Seuss, Grimm’s Fairytales or any other book to him.  Even if we’ve done this out of laziness, the consequence is we have a toddler who tries to speak words and sentences like he hears them: like an adult would speak.

Baby Words
The other difference we’ve become aware of is that we’ve never used “baby words” with Paul.  By baby words I’m talking about the words that we hear parents make up and use in place of an actual word.  It seems to us parents do this for two reasons: the replacement words they’re using with their child just sound cute; and they’re often easier for the child to say.  For us, it’s probably for the same reason I mentioned earlier (laziness) that we simply just call things what they are.  Paul’s blanket is not a “blankie,” his pacifier was never a “woobie” or “binkie,” and when he needs to go to the bathroom, he doesn’t need to “tinkle” or “wee-wee.”  When he struggles with a word we simply repeat the correct word to him, pronounced correctly.  It’s been an easy path and now we’re hearing from our friends that it’s had an effect on Paul’s vocabulary and speech.
So What?
I’ve never met an adult that didn’t get past the baby words they spoke as a child, so I’m definitely not being critical of other’s and how they parent in this regard.  And I'm not saying Paul is smarter than the average child his age.  Like any parents, we hope our son excels in things, but we don’t know enough to know anything other than he speaks more clearly, with a stronger vocabulary, and in sentences that are more correct and complete than many of the kids his age.  It’s not better and I don’t believe we’re better parents for it, but it’s noticeably different.  I’m honestly not sure Steph and I have had anything to do with this, or at best we might have unknowingly encouraged what would have been the case anyway.  Thankfully, others have pointed this out to us and we’ve taken notice, driving us to give some thought to why the difference is evident.  In the end I believe we’re somewhere in the normal or average lane with regards to this part of how we’re raising Paul.  Better?  Some may think so.  Some may not.  For us though, it’s definitely an interesting and exciting difference and it’s given us just one more reason to be the proud parents of our son.
It’s great to be a dad!