September 29, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #81 -Zoomobiling

I was lucky to have an awesome gig at the zoo.  I was paid quite handsomely to enjoy the sunshine and talk to zoo guests about the animals. I aimed to be informative and entertaining and loved the days where I could give a casual, detailed tour.  Busy, congested days and night events may have lessened the overall zoomobile experience, but I always aimed to do the best I could in every situation. While repeating the same speech can be robotic and boring, I tried to liven it up with corny jokes and focused on providing specific locations of the animals and commentary about specific things that the guests might see on that tour. In between tours, I had tons of fun with my fellow drivers, gained muscle mass transferring and filling propane tanks, and occasionally enjoyed behind the scenes tours with zookeepers. I learned about the Humboldt penguins, toured Winter Quarters, and got up close and personal with the polar bears. I miss being able to zoom around the grounds and see my favorite animals each and every day. I am glad I learned so much and am lucky to have such an awesome experience jam-packed with fun memories.

September 24, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #80 - Scrapeline

My first college job was at Pop's Club, a dormitory cafeteria. I would sign up for certain shifts that had specific duties. I stocked the snack area, cashiered (and regrettably gave discounts to pretty girls in a pathetic way to get their attention), and worked scrapeline, the term used to describe the workers handling the dirty dishes. The scrapeline was essentially the conveyor belt that workers lined up on as customers placed their trays of dirty dishes, half-eaten entrees, and wrappers. Typically, their were four scrapeliners who had specific tasks.  The first person pulled cups, the second grabbed silverware, the third grabbed trash, and the last one rinsed and sorted dishes for the massive dishwasher.  I remember being a scrapeline-4 on the Friday evening shift. I remember seeing one of my fellow scrapeliners enjoying some of the remnants others left behind while the same Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road, seemed to be on repeat the whole night. I was amazed at how much waste there was and how immature and irresponsible college students were.  Food was mashed together recklessly and many ID's and even keys were left on trays. The scrapeline was a disgusting, yet memorable place to be.

September 22, 2014

Just a Dream

Every child reaching their fullest potential is a dream of parents and teachers alike. However, children are not the same and fair is not always equal. What works for one child might actually be detrimental to another, even if implemented the same way. Teachers and parents doing the same thing each and every day to each and every child under their care would be a dream. And it would be a dream, because that is not reality. Figuring out what works best for each child is ongoing and ever-changing. Together, parents and teachers play vital roles in developing students and children into leaders for the next generation. It shouldn't be a power struggle or a competition. Parents need to parent and teachers need to teach if we want students to learn how to be successful individuals. Clear and consistent communication is crucial. Parents, teachers, and children need to understand their expectations. Likewise, everyone needs to know that all are adhering to them. Children will care to learn when adults learn to care.

Now, if the decision-makers in charge of molding the direction of our educational system would focus more on the crucial parent-teacher relationship rather than assessment scores, then maybe this dream could also become a reality.

September 18, 2014

DD #79 - Family Advice

My crazy uncle once said he was the best role model because all you have to do is the exact opposite of what he did. He gave quite graphic sexual advice to my cousins and I when we were about 10. He also professed his belief that both evolution and creation were true, depending on the race of the person. His ignorant beliefs weren't too hard to understand when you knew about his upbringing. My grandpa once scolded my cousin and I for liking Charles Barkley because he was the wrong color. That same grandfather loved the Cubs but wished certain players would "go back to their country". My angry uncle isn't happy unless he's complaining about heating the whole neighborhood, feeding everyone else, and having a "yellow" car when someone needs a ride. Many members have been known to be gossipy. Then still again others tends to take important details in stories and either share them inappropriately or add imaginary details to them to make the story more exciting and/or confusing. And believe it or not, this is the side of my family that I actually talk to regularly. Let's just say the communication techniques of my family are unique.

September 17, 2014

DD #78 - Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

Stealing money was as common to the zoo as animals were. I felt ashamed at the actions of my cohorts and frustrated that little seemed to be done to prevent the thievery. I just couldn't understand how others could be so blatantly deceitful. When the zoo attempted to start "fixing the problem," I was hopeful things would change. A new policy stated that if someone handling money was at least $2 off when counting out at the end of their day, they would get written up.  Multiple write-ups led to a loss of being scheduled at cash-handling positions and/or potential termination. Being a bit of a worrywart, I was very nervous when on the first day of the implementation of this policy, I was train's ticketseller and ended up being $2 short on a nearly $8,000 day. Not wanting to get written up on day 1, I did the unthinkable and took money out of my wallet and added it to the till to balance the cash. This policy ended up not really having teeth and the cash kept pouring out of our department, but I wonder what would happen if other employees followed my lead and sacrificed instead of stole?

September 16, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #76 - Mold-a-Rama Mania

People go nuts over mold-a-ramas. I know I did and kind of still do. While I don't have my own personal collection at home, I get them for my classroom. Working at the zoo, I got an inside look at how the whole mold-a-rama machines work. I loved those afternoons when I would take a golf cart for a ride, do a CP (cash pickup), fill the machines with the plastic pellets and shots of dye, and test them all to make sure they all worked properly. I would grab the precious (and only) set of mold keys, grab the money bags from the cashroom, and start the adventure. Even though I once left a money bag right on top of the machine and it happened to be discovered by the big boss, I earned back the trust of my boss and became a molds man before eventually moving on to zoomobile. I remember writing the numbers on the clipboard, troubleshooting maintenance issues,  and catching the fascination of guests who stopped to check out the inside of the machine or the wads of cash I collected from them. Molds was a unique task I'm thankful I had the opportunity to do.

September 15, 2014

DD #75 - Resident Evil

This zombie-slaughtering action adventure game inspired me to earn and save money. Once I discovered this game and the joys of Playstation, I aimed to become employed and acquire it as soon as humanly possible. My friends and I started playing this game one summer day and pretty much played continuously until we defeated it. Because we didn't own a memory card, we logged many hours repeating the same scenes over and over. The lows of dying and having to start over again were only overpowered by the giddy excitement we felt when opening a new door or discovering a new twist. I even went as far as purchasing a step-by-step guide book to ensure I could defeat the game. This game opened up a realm of exciting gaming options for my friends and I.  We got hyped for other similar type games such as Clock Tower and Disruptor.  We read reviews for upcoming games, including Resident Evil sequels.  We even bashed the movie version of the game since we felt it fell short of the drama and intensity the game provoked in us.Though just a game, it connected us and will always remind me of the times we spent together.

DD #74 - We Put the FUN in dysfunction

My father's side of the family definitely puts the fun in dysfunction. While we all do sincerely love each other, we tend to antagonize and drive each other crazy even more. This crazy dysfunction is no more evident than during the classic takeaway bingo extravaganzas hosted by my aunt and uncle. After a dinner full of conversations about the latest ailments and family gossip, it's time to play. We turn a simple game of BINGO into frustration, complaining, and utter confusion. Basically, for every BINGO called, the winner gets to pick a prize.  After revealing their prize, they are subject to having it being taken away with any subsequent BINGO.  The prizes are dollar store items, trinkets, and the grand prize: $5 gas or grocery cards. Every year, the same pattern repeats itself.  My father has a comment for every number called. My aunt needs directions explained over and over yet still manages to complain about things being unfair. My cousin's wife tends to win a gift card and quit the game, causing the ire of many other family members. The cousins all sit back, laugh, and pray to God we don't turn into our parents. Until next time. . .

September 14, 2014

DD #73 - Turtle Tragedies

I loved having aquatic turtles. They were fun to watch, but a great deal of work. They provided many memories, though some were forgettable. My collection started with a red-eared slider named Donk. He needed a friend so I got Dink. Shortly after Dink's arrival, Donk went to turtle heaven.  Not wanting Dink to be alone, I acquired two new hatchlings: Dunk and Doink. The three turtles lived together for some time before my wife found a painted turtle in the road, who I ended up adopting and naming Mojo. Eventually, he joined the others. Doink, renamed Big Mama, was an aggressive bully that nipped the others, leaving them with shortened tails. I  once found Big Mama nibbling on a deceased Dink. Dunk had a prolapsed rectum issue which led to an emotional release in an area pond. When Fred joined the turtle party, I had two painted turtles. They laid eggs, though I only found out when I discovered Doink consuming them. When I came home to find Mojo headless courtesy of Big Mama, my aquatic turtle career was over. Doink went to a local pet store and Fred was adopted by a student. I am a tortoise man now.

September 11, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #72 - Just a Little Kennel Cough

When my roommates and I were given permission to adopt a cat, we wasted little time and left for the Humane Society.  Though one roommate was reluctant, he was overruled.  Once again, majority ruled when choosing which cat to take home.  Josh wanted an older, long-haired cat. Mike and I had our eyes on a freshly turned one-year-old orange and white cat named Thorogood.  When we visited him and he made the cutest little sneeze, it was game over. Who knew that that tiny sneeze would be so expensive and emotional?  That first night, we renamed him Ozzie while reviewing characters from our movie collection. However, the honeymoon period was short-lived as Ozzie wasn't eating or drinking. It turns out what the Humane Society staff called "just a little kennel cough" was a respiratory infection that caused us great stress in our first few weeks together. We force-fed him one piece of food at a time and gave him water through an IV bag and a needle under his skin. I woke up every night  to check his condition, hoping to avoid the worst. It took some time, but Ozzie bounced back and has become one of the best kitties ever.

September 10, 2014

Picture Book Preview - Honesty Monster

Below is a idea I recently wrote up about a potential picture book.  I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Honesty Monster
 “It wasn’t me,” I cried, “It was the monster.”
“Tyler, I’ve had enough of your lies. I saw you grab that cookie. Stop being so rude and just be honest,” warned mom.
 “But Mom,” I moaned.
“But nothing,” said Mom. “Up to your room until you can be honest.”
I stomped angrily up the stairs to my room, with the monster right behind. Trying to fight back tears as I closed my door, my sadness turned into anger when we were alone. Just me and the monster. The monster I named Fib.
Fib showed up for the first time late last summer when I told a teeny tiny lie about losing my brother’s baseball. I hadn’t meant to lose it, but it happened. When my brother confronted me, Fib was there and gave me the words to say. Afterwards, when those words didn’t work, he was there to keep me company when my parents grounded me. He was such a cute little guy.
When Dad asked me about the missing Halloween candy, Fib whispered in my ear to blame it on my little sister. I did, but my dad didn’t believe me. I wish my dad listened to me like Fib did. It wasn’t even a big deal.  Fib agreed. I had only taken a few pieces. I think Fib might have eaten more candy than me. He was growing into a bigger monster.
When my little sister accused me of drinking Santa’s milk, eating his cookies, and opening the Christmas presents early, Fib comforted me and helped me figure a way to get my sister back. Now that her doll has a new haircut, I don’t think she’ll be tattling on me anymore. Much like my dog, Fib must have put on his winter coat because he was huge now. For some reason, he also wasn’t as cute anymore.
When Fib first started showing up, I loved having him around. My stomach felt a bit queasy having a monster at my side, and not because of all the extra cookies. Either way, it was worth it to have company when I needed it most.
As his visits became more and more frequent, my stomach didn’t hurt anymore when he was around. When Fib was with me, I could do whatever I wanted.
Before I knew it, Fib was with me all the time. At home. At school. Everywhere.
But having Fib with me wasn’t always the best thing.
Fib made me a different person. I was more worried about keeping Fib happy than I was about spending time with my friends. My friends told me I was acting like I was better than them. They didn’t like the person I was becoming. They stopped coming over.
Fib also acted up when I was with my family. My parents were worried. They told me I only cared about myself. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t accept Fib. He had practically moved in with us, though he only seemed to want to spend time with me.
The more time I spent with Fib, the more I realized he was scaring away my friends and family. When he was around, they weren’t.
I also noticed Fib got bigger and uglier each time I saw him. He was like a weed choking out the flowers. He was becoming too much. He had to go.
Then, an idea hit me. With every lie, Fib was growing bigger, growing uglier, and getting more and more control of MY life. What if I was honest? Would Fib leave? Only one way to find out.
I headed down to see my mom. Fib followed right behind. I found her in the middle of washing dishes.
“Mom, can I talk to you?” I asked.
“Well, if you’re going to tell me more nonsense, I’d rather you not,” she replied.
“No, Mom.  I wanted to say I’m sorry. Sorry for taking the cookie. I won’t do it again.”  As I apologized, I noticed a puzzled look on Fib’s face.
“I appreciate that Tyler, I really do.” she said with a cautious smile.  “Now, I only hope you mean it and show it with what you say and do.”
I understood what I had to do. I think Fib knew too. He kept on whispering words into my ears. As I refused to listen and tried to ignore him, I could see him getting frustrated. 
I told the truth to my brother about “borrowing” and losing his baseball. Fib was noticeably smaller.
I confessed to my dad about the candy. Fib got even smaller and weaker.
I even apologized to my sister about opening up the presents too soon, eating Santa’s treats, and giving her doll a haircut. Fib had a furious look on his face and seemed to be shouting, but I could barely hear him anymore. 
Seeing my plan working, I tried to be honest to everyone all the time. Fib worked hard to come visit, and I worked even harder to make sure he stayed away. His visits became less and less frequent, but when I turned him away, he just left. He was so tiny now, he didn’t even put up a fight. Fib wasn’t willing to give me a second chance like my family did. It’s almost as if he had given up on me. Maybe he had found someone new.
Even though he was practically out of my life, I wasn’t lonely. My friends wanted to spend more time with me. We swam in the lake, took bike rides down to the playground, and played video games on rainy days. My family trusted me again and we did more together besides argue.
Fib was gone.

However, I did notice a different little monster stroll into my little sister’s room. I have a feeling she is going to need a lot of cookies.

DD # 71 -Heinkelisms

These are ACTUAL quotes from my high school baseball coach.  We didn't always see eye to eye, and not because he was quite short.

  • Be a leader, not Bill Clinton.
  • It's a tackhammer, not a sledgehammer.
  • Protect yourself from pickpocketing midgets.
  •  Keep your elbows straight. Eat the cracker.
  •  On your belly, like a reptile.
  • The bat and ball are connected. They're held together by an umbilical cord. They're siamese!
  • Hit the giant on the chin. 
  • When you field a ball, pretend it's a cookie. It's your favorite, chocalate chip. Don't let it crumble.
  • Don't just tie one leg of the doggy, tie 'em both. 
  •  Don't be a cowboy. Yahoo! The bow-legged Roy Rogers. 
  •  I don't watch millionaires. I love baseball, but I dont like banking. 
  •  Don't turn a pickle into a snowball fight.
  • Chinese fire drills won't win ballgames. 
  •  I'm sick and tired of your contagious bullshit
  •  Join the ballet. Pull down your pants and show your tutu. 
  •  Be a surgeon, cut it in half.
  • Don't stretch like a howdy doody doll.
  • Get some hair on your testicles, gonads, manhood, balls
  •  Whatcha gonna do? Sit back and get your jollies watching an old man work harder than you. 
  •  Dargatz references- nimrod, bozo, blowhard, turkey, numbskulls,doorknob, goofy, quacking sleepybrain

September 8, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #70- Canker Sore Callout

In grade school, I rarely got in trouble.  I was no angel, but paying attention and performing well to earn the respect of my teachers was something I took seriously. So, on the rare occasion that I was caught, I felt incredible guilt. Mr. Berg was a serious teacher who taught science, history and religion. He touted his degree from the University of Michigan, reported how many times he read The Bible, and showed us many, many videos. We watched Roots and The Last of the Mohicans (minus the sex scene) multiple times in 7th and 8th grade. I remember lessons on saturation bombing, watching film reels of WWII footage, and his cackle when we saw footage  of baby seals getting clubbed and his sarcasm aimed at students. Most of all, I remember his quick temper and his no-nonsense mentality. When I was caught making faces with a friend, I knew telling him the reason for the face was an attempt to soothe a canker sore would not suffice.  Instead, I waited until the end of the day, walked to his room, and apologized for my behavior and the disruption it caused. I needed to stay on his good side.

September 7, 2014

Book Look - Books that Hold a Special Place in My Heart

In a similar style of the AL Ice Bucket Challenge, a new phenomena is taking over the social media world. My good friend challenged me to list 10 influential books. I was excited for the challenge until I started putting books sown on paper.  Then, it became very difficult. Whittling it down to 10 was a arduous task, one which I still haven't accomplished. Though I wanted to include some of the paperback comics I have in a huge collection in my basement, I felt Charlie Brown, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, and all of my other other funny friends could make a different list someday. I did narrow it down to 12, so here you go. . . .in a particular order.

12.  Not sure of this really counts as a book, since it is more of a collection but I couldn't keep it out. This collection of tales and poems is definitely unexpected if you know my personality. I tend to be a  fun-loving, laid back and silly guy. . .or basically the complete opposite of this author. Either way, the dark side that he shows off in his tales and poems always have intrigued me. 

11. Yes, I am not a fan of the baseball personality this book shadows. Yes, I am aware the team that is the center of this book is an arch rival of my beloved Brewers. Yes, I know that by reading this book, I looked onto this manager's inner thoughts and sort of got to know him as a baseball strategist (though I still dislike him). Regardless, this book looked at the heat of a pennant chase in a very detailed and mesmerizing way.  All baseball enthusiasts should take a look.

10. I highly doubt anyone reading this has even read this book, but having been an employee at a zoo, for upwards of a decade, this behind-the-scenes look at how a zoo is run from all aspects is close to my heart and despite being in a different zoo in a different part of the country, it is also true to my experience.

9. I didn't read this book until I became a teacher. In fact, I didn't read any of the amazing stories told by this author until I was planning a 4th grade author study on him. Though many are excellent and unique, the fact that I was able to create many voices and personalities because of this book made this one most memorable. Plus, whizzpopping can be fun. :)

8. To be honest, I didn't really realize this was a book until I saw the movie. As the old adage says, the book is always better. This is true, and I LOVE this movie. This book also increased my interest in history, especially the fur trade era. Gosh, I am a geek.

7. A simple story with a huge lesson that both kids and adults can be reminded of every once in a  while.

6. As I just mentioned, the book is usually better than the movie. It's ridiculous how true this is for this book.  The movie was awful.  I was so excited for the film because of my joy in reading this 4-book series (though the third book was actually an unnecessary prequel). This book has a mixture of elements from the classic The Giver and the present-day Divergent trilogy. The way my students got hooked on it made it even more fun to read again and again.

5. This book has stood the test of time. Having been written in the 1950's along with a few sequels, this series was hard to put down. This book involves things I love to read about, nature, survival, and friendship. Being a very involved nature-enthusiast now, I can honestly thank this story for inspiring and maintaining my love of the outdoors.

4. A thrilling story about an amazing baseball player and even more fantastic person. For chronicling his inspirational life, outstanding accomplishments on the diamond, and truly motivating experience chasing a storied record, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone.

3. Books can say a lot without having many words. This book has many amazing features that I love. Awesome alliteration. Powerful poetry. Incredible illustrations. Hidden images and never-ending surprises. If you ever want to learn about some of the secrets I have uncovered so far, don't hesitate to ask.

2. One of my favorite chapter books I read as a child is my absolute favorite chapter book to read as a teacher. Though the first book's vocabulary, description, and voice stands out, the remaining books in this survival adventure series are remarkable.

1. This might be an odd choice for my most influential book, but as far as I can remember, falling in love with this book was a huge factor in me becoming a regular visitor to the library and bookstores. It technically isn't a reading book, but regardless, I still enjoy it to this day and look forward to sharing the joy it provides with my daughter.

September 5, 2014

DD # 69 - One Man's Trash is another Man's Treasure. . . I guess.

Most kids might use weekends to play with their friends. Some might enjoy exploring the outdoors. Others might be preoccupied with their organized sports team or club.  Not me. I rummaged. This wasn't always my choice, but it was how I spent a good deal of my childhood "free time." Each rummage session had a familiar pattern. Scanning the ads in the newspaper was essential to finding the best deals and mapping out what geographic areas to hit up first. Residential rummages were the usual destination, but occasional neighborhood sales and thrift shops found their way onto the schedule. Early morning departures and evening arrivals were the norm. Special weekends were dedicated to the big flea markets, like the 7 Mile Fair, Rummage-o-Rama, or Maxwell Street Days. Occasionally, I looked to add to my own personal collections of baseball cards and paperback comics. However, once I was old enough to do my own rummaging, we shifted from being more than buyers, but sellers as well. Many hours were spent manning our own spot at these flea markets, selling stuff while purchasing even more, hoping to break even or at least find the newest treasure. . . at least for that day.

September 4, 2014

DD #68 - What the Puck?

I have been going to baseball games since I was a baby. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to catch a foul ball or snag a home run. I would bring my glove as a child, scout the people around me as an adolescent, and never once did I reach my goal. Hockey wasn't a game I watched much as a child. I rarely played it. I probably didn't go to my first game until I was about 13 or so. Yet, it seemed that whenever I went, a hockey puck found me. The first puck grab was not very exciting.  I was with my extended family and that frozen piece of rubber ricocheted this way and that before coming to a rest right under the seat in front of me. I grabbed it, held it high in celebration, and faced ridicule for years from my cousins who like to hyperbolize my puck-grabbing celebration. My second puck was more exciting as I plucked it from mid-air before it hit my girlfriend. I got some jumbotron screen time for that save. Despite my prowess for puck snatching, I am still pitching a shutout in the baseball-catching department.

September 2, 2014

Day One of Fun, Fun, Fun

Were there tears?  Yes.

Bloodshed?  Minimal.  

Laughter and smiles.  Without question.

The first day of school is always memorable, especially for kindergartners. Teachers however may choose to forget these days. :)

Though extremely exhausted and ready for bed as of about 5:45 (seriously), today was a great day! My new favorite "knuckleheads" are full of energy, but that energy tends to ooze into me, so I am sure I'll be high-kicking and singing throughout the year (sorry colleagues).

Despite it being day 1, it was relatively uneventful.  The only behavior issue was one little friend calling another friend a "boogerhead" while one little lady chose to dump her snack over the floor because it wasn't her favorite flavor.  Other than that, they smiled, they listened (as well as 5 year olds do on the first day of school), and they seemed to be happy.

I'll take it.  Only 179 to go.

September 1, 2014

The Annual Give and Take

The end of summer is always bittersweet. The beginning of the new school year is always exciting. This annual give and take is a ritual for educators and though summer ending can bring about feelings of sadness, a classroom full of anxious learners won't let you remember the past and instead help you build an incredible future. 

Summer gave me many things.

It gave me precious rest from the stresses and non-stop action of the kindergarten classroom.

It gave me time to work on things that are of interest to me, mainly writing and hiking.

It gave me time to recharge and refocus on the future.

But most importantly, it gave me the gift of time.  Time with my daughter.  Time to watch her grow and see her discover. Time to experience with her and see myself grow as a person because of her. Time that is more valuable than words could ever attempt to describe.

It was truly the Summer of Embry.

Summer also took from me.  Let me rephrase that, my daughter also took from me.

She took my boredom. Hard to be bored when every second of every day is filled with action. Trips to the zoo, hikes on the trails, and lazy days in the backyard.

She took my free time. Though she was an active and engaged passenger in many summer activities, any projects I had planned for home improvement or general maintenance had to approved by her schedule. I wrote during her naps. I planned for school with her on my lap on many occasions.  But when she was ready to move, those plans were pushed aside.

Above it all, she took my heart. Though she had already taken it when she was born, she has now taken it to a faraway land and has hidden it with no intentions of ever giving it back.

Though this give and take is expected, I will certainly miss it. This was the best summer of my life and I can't think of a way to top it. . . at least not until next summer. 
Classic smile.
I've waited 33 years for a foul ball.  She got one after about 14 months.
Daily reading was a priority.
She couldn't find the macaroni.
Our little champion!
Love this picture!