Driving minivan full of kids no easy ride

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

April 26, 2012

I’ve always appreciated the way that guys riding motorcycles will wave to each other as they pass on the street in a show of knowing macho brotherliness.

I saw two people in Jeeps do the same thing the other day while zooming down Poplar. With the roofs off, wind in their hair, sun glinting off their smiles, they acknowledged each others’ carefree ways and devil-may-care attitudes.

You know who don’t wave to each other? People driving minivans. You know why? Because we’re too busy reaching back with our waving hand to snatch a sippy cup from our youngest as she threatens to pummel the oldest, or handing a bag of Cheerios put in the glove box during the second Bush administration back to a wailing son. Noses need to be wiped, carsickness tended to and shoes located.

Are we brothers and sisters, those of us who careen around town in minivans? Yes. More so even than the helmeted and anonymous and, dare I say, lonely dudes on motorcycles. The mother idling at the light next to me in her Honda Odyssey is just as likely as I am to be wondering what is that smell emanating from the far back seat (fermented chocolate milk) or what is the whirring from beneath the driver’s seat (a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy).

The dad in front of me will rest his elbow on the open window and try his best to appear coolly detached as a Barbie, thrown from behind, hits him in his head. No matter, I know from the sticker on the bumper of his Chrysler Town and Country that he’s proud of that young hurler.

The easy rider days have passed me by. Or, I should say, the possibility of such a day. I never had a motorcycle. I never had a convertible. Now I have four kids and a vehicle with doors that open at the push of a button on my key chain. I have a DVD player mounted in the ceiling and a commanding 360-degree view.

A car seat won’t even fit on a motorcycle, will it? I’ve never seen one other than in the film “Raising Arizona,” and even as a childless 17-year-old I knew that Leonard Smalls was being far too reckless with that baby.

When we were first married, Kristy and I had a two-door Toyota that we traded in for a four-door Nissan when Calvin was born just so we could get the car seat into the back. Not even four-door drivers wave to each other on the streets.

Parenthood, for all the people living in one house and riding in one car, is a lonely traveling companion.

Parents have been otherwise occupied since the earliest days of car travel when a baby was carried on its mother’s lap in Henry Ford’s first Model T as the father steered with his knee and unwrapped a granola bar for the kid in the backseat.

Perhaps it’s the innate need to protect our children that keeps us from waving to others in our tribe, the absolute imperative to keep both hands on the wheel and eyes forward as we navigate the Memphis traffic. It may be what I should do, but there are things within my vehicle that require immediate attention and leave me with precious little time to look cool, nod at passing motorists and imagine myself on a vehicle built for one.

Driving minivan full of kids no easy ride (4/26/12)


Low-impact landscaping

Centerpiece story for The Memphis Daily News

April 19, 2012

Companies fill latest green niche as homeowners turn to organic yards

For most people these days, the descriptive word “green” evokes thoughts on diminishing consumption and environmental chivalry, and not necessarily the lush colors of an early spring such as Memphis has seen this year.

For Kalki Winter, however, it means both.

As the owner of eScape, he has an eye toward the quality of backyard ornamentation, as well as his customers’ overall quality of life.

Winter began the organic landscape company last October after a 12-year stint in management with ServiceMaster Landscape.

He said the mission of eScape is to offer “sustainable, site-specific landscape design with a focus on using native and zone appropriate plant material, as well as refurbished, recycled and repurposed building materials.” … (read more)


4 years of writing, still not an expert on parenting

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

April 12, 2012

Four years ago this week, I began writing the “Because I Said So” column. In more than 100 columns, somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 words, I’ve written about anything from holidays to school days, from newborns to puberty to middle age. I’ve written about Memphis, movies, music, time travel, books and matters of familial and national security.

What have we learned?

Probably nothing. This isn’t an advice column. Oh, please don’t seek advice from me. I have been a parent for more than 14 years and have four children, yet every morning when I wake from blissful slumber to a world strewn with dirty socks and baby dolls, I wonder if I’ll be able to do it again; if I have the will to delude myself into the fantasy of being in charge for even one more day.

What I have expected on any of those days is for one of my children, most likely 5-year-old Genevieve, to turn her large brown eyes on me and say, “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

Of course I don’t. I know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I knew once how to hook up the Wii game console to the television and remove training wheels (and then put them back on for just a few more weeks). As a first-time father, however, I knew nothing at all of comforting a child late at night, colic and rashes, where Waldo was (or who Harry Potter was, for that matter), why bad things happen to good people, and explaining how the Internet, the Electoral College and combustion engines work.

As a father of 14 years, I still have only a cursory knowledge of very little, or any, of this, but what I have learned over the four years of writing this column is that neither do any of you. The common denominator in parenthood seems to be a sense of being overwhelmed much of the time and exhausted the rest. I’ve been stopped by readers in restaurants or the grocery store and told that their daughter also loses her mind when the seam of her sock rubs her toes the wrong way or that their son subsisted for three years on little more than frozen pizza and chocolate milk as well.

Are we bad parents? No, we’re just tired. Do we have difficult children? Mostly, yes, especially that little girl with such sensitive toes. But we’re doing our best to raise up children into adults who will have children who make them crazy.

I can attest that one of the biggest fans of this column is my own mother, who has gotten to see her revenge played out in public every two weeks for a hundred weeks running. This column is dedicated to her, and to the mother of my own children, and to all the parents out there who struggle and scream, encourage and laugh, day in and day out.

Four years goes by in the blink of an eye, just as childhoods will. Write down the funny stuff, remember the sad, and share it all with your children for years to come.

Link to original


‘Zero to a hundred': Cyclist adapts regimens to unique demands of clients’ lifestyles, abilities

Health & Fitness feature story for The Commercial Appeal

April 9, 2012

Leanna Tedford was athletic growing up in Clarksdale, Miss., where she played four sports in high school. In college, however, those active ways were pushed to the side and the weight gain that goes along with more sedentary days became inevitable and, seemingly, a way of life.

But then she began talking with personal trainer Clark Butcher.

Butcher, owner of Propel Endurance Training and co-owner of Victory Bicycle Studio, has been a competitive cyclist since he was 16. He’s been coaching for a dozen years, having gone into the business while a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., at age 18 when he was finally eligible for liability insurance.

The Cordova High School graduate has raced competitively in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is a certified USA Cycling coach (USA Cycling is the governing body of all cycling events in the country).

Butcher worked with Tedford to develop an exercise and diet program that would benefit her overall health while not being too obtrusive to the late-night lifestyle of the popular Memphis bartender for Jim’s Place East. He noted that “the idea came about over beers and fries at the Hi-Tone.” … (read more)



Rollin’ on the River

Cover story & photos for The Downtowner Magazine

April 2012

From the 21st floor of Downtown’s One Commerce Square, many of Memphis’s iconic structures are visible. To the north stand Morgan Keegan Tower, the Hernando-DeSoto “M” bridge, and The Pyramid beyond. To the south, there’s The Peabody hotel and Peabody Place office towers. And just across Main Street, where the trolleys rattle and clang, is historic Brinkley Plaza.

In mid April, a new icon begins working its way upriver from New Orleans to dock near the historic cobblestones at our city’s front door, changing the landscape, resetting the scene of when our ancestors arrived, and reminding us how we got here.

On April 26, the steamer American Queen, the signature ship of Great American Steamboat Co., will arrive for ceremonies befitting royalty … (read more)


April 2012