mercredi, mars 14, 2012

second chances and service to others

This is the eulogy I gave at my father's funeral today.

When I think about my dad, many things come to mind. But what I remember most about him is that he believed in second chances and he also believed in service to others.

Dad was, to a fault, someone who would always turn the other cheek and who didn’t believe in giving up on someone. I like to think that is because second chances changed his life many times.
  • In high school, he was an average student who really only cared about his carpentry and shop classes and had no plans to go to college. His high school math/ carpentry teacher, Bill Davis, pulled him aside and gave him a second chance and the encouragement he needed to see life beyond Miami, Oklahoma.

     So he put in the work and spent years at junior college taking required classes and eventually double-majored in Industrial Arts and Mathematics at Oklahoma State University, finishing a bachelor’s education in six years instead of four.
  • Right after he finished college, dad got a draft notice from the US Army. On the advice of his uncle, he went to the Air Force recruiter and asked to have his enlistment backdated, because his odds were better in the sky than they were in the Vietnamese jungle. The recruiter agreed. Once in the Air Force, he earned an alternate slot to Officer Training School. Then he earned an alternate slot into flight school. Each of these second chances kept him Stateside and out of harm’s way for a bit longer. He did go on to serve in Vietnam, logging countless hours as the navigator in the F-4 Phantom.
  • Eventually, his fighter pilot lifestyle caught up with him and he got a DUI. He was given a second chance by his base commander and sent to Alcoholics Anonymous. He made the most of that chance at redemption – for himself and for others.

     Dad was always a friend to the underdog, to the person whom society had given up on long ago. AA was a place where dad would sponsor those who had ceased to believe in themselves, because he knew they needed someone to believe in them. It was also a place where he would gladly give his last dollar to someone who needed it more than him, helping many folks finish school and stay sober. Dad’s time in AA was defined by service to others. He spent many hours doing H&I work in schools and hospitals. And that is consistent with the man I knew.
Dad also believed in service to others.
  • He spent 24 years in uniform. While there, he took many Airmen under his wing, mentoring and counseling them on financial matters, family issues, and the job.
  • When it was time to retire from active duty, he went back to the career he’d planned before Vietnam intervened—he wanted to teach high school, not to the college-prep kids, but to the kids who’d been like him … smart enough to succeed if they worked hard and had a teacher who cared enough to help them along the way.

    After he died, I got a note from a friend who had gone to my high school. She told me of dad’s patience and countless extra hours with her, helping her get through ‘remedial’ math after she failed pre-algebra. His time spent with her made all the difference – she got back on track and went on to college. She now teaches high school, too.
  • Even when faced with a horrible cancer diagnosis, dad remained focused on serving others. Once he was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer, he chose a path of treatment that wasn’t just about him beating the disease. He underwent two brutal clinical trials because he firmly believed that if doctors had anything to learn about the disease, he wanted them to use what they learned from him to help others.
My dad was many things to many people. But when you think of him, I hope you’ll remember Gary A. as I do: he was someone who gave people the benefit of the doubt and who believed that with a little help, all of us can use a second chance to change our lives -- or the lives of others -- for the better.

jeudi, mars 08, 2012


"Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind." -Rick Steves b. 1955

fettuccine with pancetta and fennel

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into matchstick-size strips (I use applewood smoked bacon)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large fennel bulbs, fronds chopped, bulbs cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup whipping cream

1 pound fettuccine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and garlic; sauté until garlic is pale golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped fennel fronds, fennel wedges, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook until fennel wedges are soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add cream; cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook fettuccine in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Toss pasta with fennel mixture and enough reserved cooking water to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, passing Parmesan cheese separately.

yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Adapted from Fettuccine with Pancetta and Fennel

jeudi, mars 01, 2012

turkey meatballs

2 1/4 cups (6 oz) panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup milk)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 lbs ground turkey (or 2 lbs 85% lean ground beef + 1 lb ground pork)
6 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced and chopped fine
3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 TBSP minced fresh parsley leaves
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 TBSP)
1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin, dissolved in 3 TBSP cold water
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Place wire racks in 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions. Heat oven to 450F.
  2. Combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in a large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with a fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, ground meat, prosciutto, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, gelatin mixture, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper to bread crumb mixture. Using hands, gently mix until thoroughly combined. Lightly form about 1/4 cup mixture into 2-inch round meatball (about 2 oz); repeat with remaining mixture to form approximately 40 meatballs.
  4. Spray wire racks with nonstick cooking spray and place meatballs, evenly spaced, on racks; roast until browned, about 30 minutes, rotating trays from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.
  5. Remove meatballs from oven and lower oven temperature to 300F. Gently add meatballs to sauce, cover pot, and place in oven. Cook until meatballs are firm, about 1 hour.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Nov/Dec 2010.