Monday, October 5, 2015

"My Way" | Not One to Compromise

Last spring, amid packing and cleaning, painting and stressing, my world in Texas ground to a halt when my Dad called to tell me that Uncle Chris had passed away. I can still feel the trivial worries fall away as a piece of my heart searched for itself in Dad's words.

He told me stories about Uncle Chris – the same old stories, only not the same way. This time, the stories were full of his feelings for his brother. I quickly typed away as Dad retold parts to add details so we could get it right.

After all, he wasn't going to let his brother down, especially now that he's not around to tell him how it should be done.

Here are a few tales that I had to share with the world because, as Bobby said, "Who's better than us. Our family is the best!"

Dad says ...
"It reminds me of how it’s been since we started caring for the graves.  
Leader of the Pack

In the early 1970's, we started taking care of the graves together – Chris took care of the graves since 1963. But when we got together, we met afterwards to fix everything that was wrong.

It was a collective argument that rehashed our week’s work – how our Dad did things, how uncle Butch did things, and how Joe was always better than Chris. But that didn’t matter because Chris always had to be right. 

At the cemetery, we never did anything until Chris arrived. The landscaping around the graves was usually his idea.

As younger brothers, Chris was our leader of the pack because Mom always made him set the example. It could be something as simple as Chris is wearing work uniforms, so Paul is wearing uniforms. Then, Joe and I couldn’t wait until we were wearing uniforms.
An Incredible Driver

Back in the day, when he got his first car, his 1950 Cadillac lost drive one day. He said, “I’ll get this home.”  

He put it in reverse, foot to the floor, and went 50 miles an hour up 1A all the way home. If there was a car in his way, he’d pass them. He was just an incredible driver.  

But this is all because somebody said he couldn’t do it.
He Had Style

Then there was his record collection of 45s – all the old Everly Brothers songs. But we couldn’t touch his records.  

Mom and Dad bought the stereo, but it was his because he had the record collection. And we didn’t cross the line because it was a big deal to hang out with our big brother.  

We didn’t want to do anything to mess that up because it didn’t happen often.
The Garage

Every Saturday, Mom brought Joe and I to the garage to say hi. It wasn’t often that the twins were allowed to stay because we got into a lot of trouble. Dad would usually have us washing tools. He’d lay out the wrenches from the toolbox and we’d dip ’em in fuel oil to scrub off the grease.  

At the garage, Chris would be changing lights on a truck. Paul would be changing oil. People were changing tires. But Chris was the lead guy there; right along with Uncle Butch.

Look at the trucks! The lights. The big Z on the grill. These were all Chris and Paul competing to dress up the trucks. These were the things that I saw about Chris. It was never good enough. He had to take things to another level.

If you were riding with dad, we would help hold the auxiliary going up the East Street hill so it wouldn’t pop. Chris installed a piece of metal so it wouldn’t come out of gear. He didn’t have to hold it. It would stay in over.      

When I was 9, we were at West Sand. The loader was parked. He said, “Do you think you can drive this truck down back?”

I said, “Yes.” So he put it in gear and hit the starter button. He jumped in the loader, and followed me down to the Bird pile. He jumped in the truck, backed it in, loaded the truck. I drove the truck back up front. And that was when he taught me how to drive an Autocar. I remember that he said, “Don’t tell Mom or Dad about this.” And I never did.

Chris taught me that I could do whatever I want to do, and do it to the limit.
Delivering Milk

When I went to get my commercial drivers license, I rode with him Friday nights after I got my permit.  

Chris wanted to meet Uncle Butch for breakfast at 8:30. The last stop was Stop N Shop on Walnut Hill, which wouldn’t receive deliveries before 7:00. So he would run 60 miles an hour on 1A all the way back to Walpole because breakfast was already lined up.

And that wasn’t the only thing he had lined up on that run. We had a 4:00 a.m. nap on Walnut Hill. That meant all seven previous stops had to be done like clockwork.  

There was two dollies, and you had to be timed with him because if you were in his way on the ramp, he'd tell you to park the dolly and sit in the truck.
 Taking On Apple

When Chris bought his first computer, an Apple, he was going to figure it out. He was never happy with the way it was.

It was amazing the kinds of things he took on.
Sweatin' in a Blizzard

In the blizzard of ’78, Chris said we should put the CAT 988 and the Michigan 275 side by side to clear the streets. No one else was doing this.

Sammy Lorusso put Chris in Loader 5, which had no heat. So Sammy said that he would take care of him. And he did.  

Sammy brought him hot chocolate every two hours. It wasn’t until his fourth Thermos of hot chocolate that he caught Chris in a T-Shirt. What Sammy didn’t know is that the heat was fixed before the loader left the shop.  

Chris bolted a fan to the floor to suck air through the heater core. But that’s how Chris was. He didn’t care if Sammy wanted to bring him hot chocolate.

If I had to write a book about Chris, I would definitely title it, My Way. He wasn’t one to compromise."      
We will always miss Uncle Chris, and we will always love him and be thankful for the impact he's had on our lives.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Looking Back on the Icepocalypse Texas 2013

New England boast some endurance when it comes to winter weather. It can also put a feather in its cap for the ability to manage massive amounts of snow. But it cannot poke fun at North Texas when it was shut down for six days in December 2013.

A lot of good things came out of that winter. I started this blog and a Twitter account. Here's the Tweet that started it all.

I remember that it took three and a half hours to drive for milk. It was normally a 20-minute round trip.

These were essential for making it home. I actually helped a guy push his vehicle out of the street. He was thrilled to have help, and I was happy to be one of the cars that made it down the holler in and up the hill. That only happened after my New Englander sense kicked in when I convinced everyone that we had to get speed and stay off the breaks -- to trust the steering wheel. 

I don't know if everyone made it because I did and didn't look back.

This is the gas station outside Karen's workplace. It was the worst I had ever seen. But I wasn't worried. I remember feeling adventurous. 

Day five meant that the stores were once again stocked. But if I remember correctly, the schools were closed another day because the ice was still everywhere, including the roof where it did some damage. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Same Page, Different Book

I recently reunited with my wife and kids after a 10-day excursion to Texas and Massachusetts – the details of which are not important for this post. It was hard being away so long, but oh does distance make the heart grow fonder.

... Or so I thought.

In anticipation of my arrival, I missed my family more than ever. I envisioned seeing them pull up to the airport with smiles and hugs, which is exactly what I got. Only, something was different.

The feeling of reconnecting was not sustained. I felt like it was right back to the honey-do list and kids screaming and fighting. The blues set in.

Why did this happen?

I looked around and realized that while I was gone, everything continued as usual. The kids enjoyed splash pads and playgrounds. Karen made preparations for moving to Massachusetts and visited with her family. We were all happy to be reunited, but our emotional journey over the last 10 days was very different.

I was on the same page, yet it was a different book. This is only significant now – as opposed to the many times I've traveled in the past – because, unlike the past, I am more so living in the same book as Karen and the kids than ever before.

It's one thing to be physically present, and it's a whole new level of being-there when you are emotionally immersed in each moment as your family grows and you fall more deeply in love with your wife. That's being in the same book.

For some, this is not hard. Their minds turn on and off as the work days begin and end. That's not me. It never stops, and the same goes for my family while I'm at work. I think about them, talk about them, and dream about what comes next.

This sounds all well, but it comes with struggle. I've worked hard to pay attention to the feedback from those closest to me, especially Karen. I've reflected, tested, and even prayed to become more mentally present with my family.

Here's what I've learned.
  1. I travel sometimes and therefore need to be involved with what is happening at home while I'm away.
  2. Connected devices are awesome and make our lives easier. This is not without consequence, however. Psychologists are seeing similar symptoms that resemble those of sibling rivalry. It can stress a relationship.  
  3. Most importantly, to strengthen a connection with your family (when your work takes you away) takes practice. Start with one event at a time and reflect on it. 
  4. Inquire before you comment. I still haven't mastered this one (ask Karen), but I keep trying and it's getting better.  
This was my big emotional lesson of the summer. Stay tuned for a post on mileage and the culture shock of talk.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Taking a Few Steps Back

I'm often accused of trying to control too many situations. The fact is, I'm good at a lot of things, but one of them is not letting someone else take the reins when I have a lot to risk. It's about time I fix this issue.

White Picket Fence at Brigham Young's Winter Home

Driving Me Crazy

We learn about our flaws at different points in our lives. The lesson I'm sharing started when Karen said she would drive her and the kids to Utah for her brother's wedding without me – if need be. My reaction was inappropriate. I said something like, "You really think you can drive to Utah by yourself."

Sure, it's a tough drive. I didn't want to even think about my family stuck on the side of the road in the desert or driving off a mountain road. But I didn't need to act the way I did. That was a display of low emotional intelligence.

It's three years later and I've done some growing up. We sold our house and Karen drove to Utah while I drove to Massachusetts. The thought crossed my mind that something bad could happen, but this time it was the faith I have in Karen that made the difference.

I was the one to have trouble.

Since our summer adventures started, I've taken a step back and checked my attitude on several occasions. Sometimes things went well, and sometimes they didn't. In the end, we will only remember how we're treated. Above all, we are emotional beings.   

Camping with Bears

As I wrote this post, we were on a camping trip with Bethany and Clarke in the Grand Tetons. The creek was rushing and the meals were cooked on the fire. It wasn't roughing it, but we were sharing the woods with bears. Close enough.

Michael had his issues with sticky hands (like I do), so we deal with it. He doesn't like the bugs and wants to go back to Massachusetts to get his robots, but we're here, now. And it's good for him. 

In a way, I'm not the only one taking a step back. Big Mike is doing great under many stressors for his young brain.

Andrew and Arielle? They were made for this life. They rock it hard – stepping forward as long as I'm not in the way.

My Promise

I'll take a step back and take a pic. Take a step back and watch my family grow. I'll take a step back and let everyone be who they become, including me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

PBJ Haiku

Once a food of the upper class, peanut butter and jelly gained widespread consumption during the depression. I guess this post will more about capitalism than democracy. But first, a haiku.

Turn the century 
Super protein carbs sandwhich 
Adults eat two thirds

 ... That's all I have.

Mike's Big Adventure!

With the car and van loaded – one going to Utah, the other to Massachusetts – Mike and I were ready for our big adventure. Little did we know, it would be bigger than we thought.

My goal was to drive the car to Massachusetts (so it's there) and to shake hands and show my face in hopes of more luck getting a job.

Day 1

After a stop for breakfast and one at Best Buy for supplies, we were off to Arkansas  before crossing the Mississippi into Tennessee. Like always, we spent our first night in Nashville.

Day 2 

This was when things got exciting, so I'll get right to it. 

A truck spit out a chunk of concrete from its trailer axles and it shot right under our car. We had no place to go. All we could do is take it like a champ. And we did.

The gas was leaking out and the gauge running down, but we managed to get off the highway to lick out wounds. Michael was scared at first, which was when I realized that cool heads would prevail – and they did.

I skipped roadside assistance and called a tow truck. The driver recommended a garage where we learned about the extent of the damage. 

Luckily, my insurance company had a guaranteed garage down the street from the first garage. A few days later, we learned that the car could be fixed and all we had to pay was the deductible. 

Auntie Diane and Uncle Mark came to the rescue and the rest was fun and family, the way it should be.

Day 3 

Auntie Diane had an extra vehicle, so we set off to Massachusetts. 

We saw a lot of things along the way, like this block wall that looked like something from Minecraft. We also saw the aftermath of a high-speed motorcycle accident but didn't stop to take any pictures.

Trains, Plains, and Automobiles 

After a week in Massachusetts – hunting for a job and housing – Michael and I flew to Salt Lake City. It took a ride to the bus from Uncle Joe, a plane ride, a train at DFW, and another plane ride to reunite with Arielle, Andrew, and Karen. 

Mission accomplished! 

One of the highlights was the view of the Kennecott Mine as we approached for landing. The lake looked awesome, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Texas Tornado

Dear Tornado:

You caught us by surprise and got too close for comfort. I know you’re not Google, so you don’t know everything I do. But you could have really messed up our plans.
As Google already knows, Karen and I are selling the house and I’m applying for jobs in Massachusetts. We haven’t told everyone, yet, but I guess I’ll learn about my blog readership after this post.

This is a crazy tornado season in our area, so please hold off until we close on the house. I know you can do it. In fact, you could stop all of this craziness, but we know that’s not going to happen, right?

What’s more, a super tornado, or whatever they call it, will likely move East through Dallas. That disaster will hurt our country in huge ways.

POTUS will probably have to declare martial law and use Wal-Mart as FEMA camps. If it’s not you, tornado, it will be a nuclear weapon made by Iran.

There you have it – the Springtime News all because of a reflection on tornados.

Moving soon,

- Kevin Zahner

PS: Legend has it, there’s an Indian burial ground protecting Denton from tornados. ;)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Arielle's Dumplings

Arielle and I made dumplings to go with some chicken soup. She took the initiative, asked me to look up a recipe, she ran the kitchen well.

We steamed them in a bamboo steamer. I’ve never made dumplings before, but not much can go wrong with a few ingredients and plenty of love.

They were great!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Arielle's First Hockey Practice

Arielle started playing hockey, today. She’ll go to practices and take some private lessons before jumping into the middle of the season.

She’s worked hard to get to this point, and we’re proud of her. Arielle saved the money to rent the gear and worked on nutritional goals to be healthy and strong on the rink.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

An Open Letter to My Grey Hair

Listen Grey,

You’re not bothering me much, so don’t give me that look. I’ve been around a lot longer than you. If you keep it up, you might regrow in my ear, nose, or worse – better hope it's not taco night.

Your master,

- Kevin

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Workout

Arielle is moving sand this winter. She’s quite the material handler. All of the product is clean on the delivery end.

She’s a big help getting the garden ready for an early plant.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Texas Green, Icy January

It’s green and icy in January, Texas. Yes, that is ice on the trees and chlorophyll reflecting lots of green light. I think Texas is having a seasonal identity crisis. 
Maybe it’s had enough of people saying that it only has two seasons, summer and not summer. I’m not sure this past summer was a Texas summer nor can I even begin to describe the scene outside. It is pretty.