Monday, December 15, 2014

Receiving Ain't All That Bad: My 15 Best Christmas Gifts

     Christmas is the time of year- to be with the ones you love.  Factual statement.  It's better to give than receive.  Also, factual statement, but receiving ain't all that bad.  Right?  Is it wrong to have a child-like excitement when you rip open that wrapped present?  I don't think so, and I think it is all part of the magic of Christmas.  That's kind of the idea.  Everyone is and should be happy around Christmas for a variety of reasons, and one of those would be the giving and receiving of gifts.  Makes sense to me.  So, with this idea in mind I attempted to remember the best gifts that I have ever received.  This list will be limited to Christmas gifts,  and I narrowed it down to 15.  I enjoyed the nostalgia involved with this post, and I would recommend it.  It's tough to just name a few, but each gift contains some memories that are meaningful in so many ways.  I would recommend that Nat King Cole's classic "The Christmas Song" be played while reading this post, but that is my personal preference.  My Christmas song list will have to be saved for a later date.  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.....

#15- The Stretch Armstrong like Stretch Monster.  This stretchy green guy brought me much joy, but this gift also caused some issues for yours truly.  I didn't have Stretch Armstrong.  I had the green monster with the creative name Stretch Monster.  Imaginative lot that came up with that one.  I always wanted to have Stretch Armstrong, but I got Stretch Monster.  However, the stuff inside Stretch Monster was the same as that inside Stretch himself.  Memorable gift nonetheless.

#14- 2XL the Robot.  This guy was an interactive robot who I felt was really talking directly to me.  Put an 8 track tape in 2XL's belly, and you were off and running.  2XL was my friend, and I often wonder what ever happened to him.  Hopefully, he didn't end up living on the "farm" like those animals I lost track of.

#13- Truck tool box.  This was important to me not only because it looked really cool on my old GMC Sierra pick up truck, but it was one of the last things I remember my father giving me.  I know there were other gifts before he passed away, but this one sticks out.  He had it put on my truck while the family and I travelled to Wisconsin for Christmas.  I miss my Mother and Father very much, and Christmas is a time I really wish they were still around.  However, whether it is the passage of time or a guardian angel these days, instead of sadness I look back fondly on the great memories that we shared.

#12- A Barbie doll.  The first gift my daughter Maddie gave me.  Jesse got a pink sparkley ball.  Smart cookie that Maddie.

#11- Polo cologne.  The first time I received cologne as a gift, outside of an English Leather miniature gift set, was from a young lady.  This was a big deal to me back then, and that kind of thing releases teenager endorphins that should be bottled and sold.

#10- Money.  Doesn't really matter who it was from.  To quote Cyndi Lauper, "Money Changes Everything."  True dat, Cyndi.

#9- Honda XR 100 dirt bike.  Oh the problems I caused with this machine.  Terrorizing North Jefferson County like a boss.  Back when I-65 was dirt.  My bike and I experienced freedom that can't be described or duplicated.  Good times.

#8- CM Punk "Best in the World T-Shirt."  The back of the shirt is emblazoned with that exact phrase.  Best in the World is a personal challenge that my son, Jesse, and I have accepted.  We're working every day to achieve just that.  Thanks to my Mother and Father in Law (Arlene and Bob) in the great state of Wisconsin for this gift.  My philosophy on a T-Shirt is pretty cool, plus I am a big CM Punk fan.

#7- Tickets, air fare, and hotel accommodations to Pasadena, California for the 2009 BCS National Championship game to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide return to glory!  Wait, that's what I wanted, but I didn't get it.  I did get a really nice pair of retro Reebok high tops though.  Thanks to my lovely wife, Cheryl. 

#6- An iPad from my dear wife.  Not only was the gift an iPad, which is an Apple product- which I love, but it was an iPad that was inscribed with the following:  CJP  Best in the World- This was at the end of my first semester back in college, and followed a President's list all A's performance by yours truly.  The Best in the World thing has some merit.  Thank you darlin'!

#5- A jukebox style stereo system with disco lights!  Darn straight!  I was maybe, 9, possibly younger.  I came home from my Aunt Josephine's bar, (she ran a bar many moons ago) and dang if ole' Santa Claus hadn't already shown up at 1521 Bessie Ave. Fultondale, Al.  I walked in the living room, and found this unbelievable vehicle of Rock n Roll!  I cranked it, and did my best Chris Travolta.  You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man, no time to talk.  That's all I've got to say about that.

#4- Christmas notes from my both my children.  Jesse was the more eloquent writer, at least up till this point in time. He wrote of my awesomeness as a father, and how much he appreciated all that I have done for him.  Maddie, on the other hand, was more low key.  She kept it simple with a "Merry Christmas" and I love you, because you make me mac and cheese seashells.  She's got a way.

#3- The Led Zeppelin box set that was released in late summer of 1990.  These CD's were purchased by me with Christmas money (see #10) and I literally wore these things out.  Up and down the road in the old Blue Mustang.  Black Dog would drop and then Travelling Riverside Blues.  Whole Lotta Love and Over the Hills and Far Away weren't far behind.  Memories were made and to this day every time I hear any of those songs a smile immediately comes over my face, because I actually survived that phase of my life.  It was a heckuva ride.  I may have been Dazed and Confused, but I always would Ramble On.  Thank you Led Zeppelin for the Rock and Roll.

#2- A trip to New Orleans.  This one really happened!  My unbelievably cool wife actually bought us a trip to New Orleans when we were a young newly married couple.  Before dogs.  Before children.  Before serious living began.  I love Nawlins.  It is one of my favorite towns in the world, and we did it up right!  Pat O's, Bourbon Street, Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, Voodoo Museum, and many more.  I had my fortune told by the Chicken Man right there on Rue des Bourbon.  It was a great gift, and that is why it is so high on this list.  I love that woman.

#1- The greatest gift I have ever received is watching the magic of Christmas with my children.  The excitement and pure joy on their faces is the best thing around.  The happiness of a child is a special thing, and I've been very fortunate to see that happiness in my children's eyes.  They are the greatest gift, and the value of which cannot be measured.  I only hope that my wife and I can kick around this earth long enough to see our children's children experience that same magic.  My cup runneth over.

     Well there it is.  My 15 greatest gifts.  I'm sure when I sit down and read this over again I will think of 15 more that should have been on the list, but that tells me my life has been one that is definitely worth living.  Much worth.  Merry Christmas!




Monday, December 8, 2014

The Sick Days

     It starts as a whisper that rises faintly above normalcy.  It begins with, "Mom, I don't feel good."  It is never, "Dad, I don't feel good," because it is known what will follow.  Like my father before me, and most likely several generations before him the response would be the same.  Three words that sum up the situation.  "Suck it up."  That's right.  This world is tough, and we must adapt, adjust, improvise, and above all overcome.  However, that is why the statement is directed at the mother and not the father.  But, let's be honest here the mother is normally the tough one, and the father will give in and let the offspring stay home from school.  Yes, that's right- I'm speaking about sick days.  Whether we are referring to playing hooky or an actual malady that prevents the attendance of scholarly adventure.  Three days in the most recent version. A knew a man once who said, "Death smiles at us all, and all a man can do is smile back."  Sickness, especially child sickness, could fit into this philosophy.  I'm smiling though the pain.  Three days.

Day 1

The biggest fear that I have when it comes to a child being sick is the expulsion of stomach contents.  I can do swine flu (I've always liked bacon), I can do avian flu (I used to wear those shoes back in the day. Avia that is), and I can even do all the related cold weather illnesses that pop up every year (the cold never bothered me anyway.  See, I learned from Frozen.)  However, if the words "stomach virus" are mentioned it scares the beejeezus out of me.  I don't do stomach illnesses very well, because I'm not crazy about the process involved.  I won't go into details here, but we're all adults.  At least I hope we are, but I do know the spots where one would expel what you have eaten and I don't like them.  Not one bit.  My sole male heir was struck with the dreaded stomach virus, and he had to stay home from school with yours truly.  The lovely Miss Madison, my daughter, saw this as an opportunity.  She's a crafty grifter.  So, believe it or not as soon as Maddie found out that Jesse would be staying home from school she was stricken with a serious illness rivaling monkey pox.  The first day was deceptively simple, and outside of a lot of whining (by Jesse) and video game playing (by Maddie) all was well.  The silver lining was the rediscovery of Super Mario Bros., and a serious attempt by me to return to the glory days of 1985 and capturing the princess.  Those stupid hammer turtles got me on level 8.  No dice.  As the day progressed Jesse seemed to be getting worse, and this was concerning to everyone except Maddie.  She was living high on the hog and getting a free day off.

Day 2

After a long night of emptying mucho stomach contents my poor son was doomed to spend another day at home with dear old dad.  My wife assisted with the process by staying home in the morning hours, because Jesse requested it and I had to take the sick or is it slick Grifter Maddie to school.  She tried to run another con game on me, but just like George W. Bush said, "Fool me once shame on you, but fool my twice and I won't get fooled again."  I always liked The Who.  Once Maddie was in school, and Mama had left the house Jesse was in obvious gastrointestinal distress.  I felt really bad for him so I put my master plan into effect.  Operation Mario would commence.  Recently, I moved the Wii downstairs for Maddie to play since Jesse was more of an XboxOne and PlayStation kinda guy.  Maddie has staked claim to the device, but Jesse and I played a marathon of Super Mario Brothers adventure.  Mainly to keep Jesse's mind off the evil plague-like stomach virus.  New Super Mario Bros., Old Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Mario Sports, Mario Super Sluggers, and Mario Call of Duty.  He ate some Ritz crackers and drank Powerade to stay hydrated.  I thought he might be out of the woods, but I wasn't sure yet. 

Day 3

Still progressing but over night issues caused another off day.  On this day his mother, undoubtedly concerned with Operation Mario, decided to stay home with the sick boy.  What follows is the story of the Toaster Lesson.  Jesse needed food, because if the tank is empty it needs to be refilled.  The foodstuff of choice was toast.  Good old toast.  Easy on the stomach, and buttery seared bread is a delicacy.  Well it is with gravy and beef, but that wouldn't work for a stomach virus.  My beloved wife decided to teach young Jesse how to use a toaster.  This is the same boy who has made a living on having other people do stuff for him for quite some time, and need I mention he is a kind innocent soul who asked me the other day if the pets we once had, "Got excited about Christmas" and "Wondered who put the gifts in their stockings."  He's extremely intelligent, and he has a great way of looking at things.  Unfortunately, I think he lives in the land of Magic and Unicorns like his mother, but back to the toaster thing.  Is it difficult to make toast?  For Jesse, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!"  The Mom questions kept on coming.  Mom, is this the toaster?  Mom, do I put the bread in there?  Mom, what do I press down?  Mom, how do I know when it's done?  Mom, is it done yet?  Mom, I think it's done.  Mom, should I take it out now?  Mom, where's the butter.  Mom, how do you put butter on it?  As much as I want to say that I am exaggerating here, I'm not.  He was a sheltered child.  Heart of gold and a better young man you won't find, but man alive- It's just toast!!  It was becoming obvious that Toasty J, while not a bread cooking savant, was in fact getting better.  The stomach virus was relinquishing it's grip on my son, and he would be returning to school.  Whether he liked it or not.  Unfortunately, now the ever mindful young man began to overly concern himself with all the school work that he would have to make up upon his return.  I had to talk him off a ledge, and tell him that I was sure that no teachers would force him to take any tests that he was not ready for.  Well, they better not.  If  so, I'm climbing a clock tower.....just kidding.  As far as you know.

Conclusion

This too shall pass.  Sickness will end, but to quote Axl Rose, "I'd hate to look into those eyes, and see an ounce of pain."  True story.  I remember well the days when I would stay home from school, and my dear saint of a mother would care for me.  On occasion I had a true sickness, but I wasn't above faking it.  Those were days that I still think of fondly, because of how safe I felt with my mother there.  I always felt better.  I would lay in my bed and wait for an old rerun of Batman or The Brady Bunch.  The Price is Right was always a big hit too.  While times are much different now I still hope that at least in some ways they are the same.  I hope my children feel as safe with my wife and I as I did with my mother and father, although Drew Carey is no Bob Barker.  Come on down!






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Parenting Playoffs

     I am a self-described College Football fanatic.  No doubt about it.  I have loved the game since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  Of course, I do live in the state that is famous for such things.  The great state of Alabama, that is.  I am a devoted follower of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and whether I like it or not football has played a huge part of my life pretty much since the jump.  However, that is not the purpose of this blog post.  This year major college football will have a four team playoff for the first time in its history, and this has inspired me to construct a playoff bracket of my own.  Not just any playoff bracket, but one that would be defined as the "Parenting Playoffs."  That's right, the top 4 Parenting Problems if you will, pitted against one another.  This is a scientific process, and my results are top notch.  Win or go home.  There can be only one.

     Before we get to the final four let's look at some of the parenting problems that didn't make the cut.  Nick Saban often speaks of the need for and the prevention of "Explosive Plays."  How bout an Explosive Diaper.  Been there and cleaned that up.  We want to avoid that at all costs, but the Explosive Diaper didn't make the cut.  In the grand scheme of things, diaper changing is only a proverbial drop in the bucket as it relates to time spent parenting.  Maybe a bad analogy with the drop and the bucket, but you get the point.  Another problem that didn't make the final four is the ding dong ditch, by girls, all flippin' night long.  You see this happens to us on a regular basis, and I know the girls only want Jesse (my 11 year old son) to come outside and I understand that this is only youthful expression of some sort of love or like or something.  However, it gets a little irritating, but it can be fixed.  I was sort of able to nip it in the bud with one quote, yelled for all of Doss Ferry Residential to hear, "If I catch you, I'm going to hang you up by your toenails on the light down the street as a message to all other potential ding dong ditchers.  That is a promise.  Try me."  That kind of stuff worked for the Romans, so why not the Perrys.  The Ding Dong Ditch was knocked out early, and did not make the playoffs.  There was one more parenting problem that almost made the cut, and deserves an honorable mention.  Finger and toe nail cutting.  Tough to do, and it is like the child is being drawn and quartered.  Both of my children have had a cow every time that their nails get to Freddy Kreuger or better yet Edward Scissorhands stage, and need to be trimmed.  The constant pulling and whining make the task that much more difficult.  My fear is that a digit would be removed.  Accidentally, of course, but removed none the less.  Never happened, but if it would have finger and toe nail cutting would have made the top 4.

     Here we go.  Without any further ado - the Top 4 seeds in the Parenting Playoffs are as follows:

#1-  Helping your children understand that the world is not fair, and never will be.
        -this one is a tough sell, because conventional wisdom says, "if you work hard and are dedicated
         success will follow.  Good things happen to good/hard working people."  Sounds good, but
         unfortunately as we all know, it is not always the case.  It is hard for me to understand, so it
         would stand to reason that it would be hard to explain this to my children.

#2-  Broken hearts.  -sure we know it's coming, but it doesn't make it any easier.  I've told my son 
       that one day a little girl is going to rip his heart out and stomp all over it, but until it happens he 
       won't understand.  This can also cover those goals that come up a little short, and the 
       disappointment that will follow.  It's hard to mend a broken heart, especially if it is directly related 
       to the #1 seed.

#3-  The Empty Nest Syndrome.  -I haven't experienced this one yet, but from what I am told, it is a
       doozy.  When you've spent some 20 years of your life, (or maybe longer in some cases) devoted
       to the development of other human beings it can be tough.  Just like Boyz 2 Men said, "It's so
       hard to say Goodbye, to yesterday...."  Yep it is.  Some folks thrive when they are free from the
       children, but I would suspect that most people feel like a part of them is gone- and that is tough
       to deal with.

#4-  Being told, "I hate you!" by those who you brought into this world.  Gave life to.  Raised, fed,
       clothed, loved, prevented from meeting a horrible demise, etc., etc.  Nuff said.

     That would be my list, but your top 4 may be much different.  That's ok.  However, for the purpose of this blog post I had to pick 4.  So now the actual playoffs.  First, you have #2 taking on #3.   Broken Hearts got out to an early lead on The Empty Nest, but a late comeback helped put the underdog over.  The Empty Nest defeated Broken Hearts, and advanced to the championship round.  Next, you've got the top seed Life Ain't Fair taking on I hate you, and very quickly we observed just exactly why life is not fair.  Life Ain't Fair hammered I hate you, and it really wasn't even close.  Fitting really, when you think about it.  The Championship is set, Life Ain't Fair vs. The Empty Nest for all the marbles in the Parenting Playoffs.  Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!

     The two sides looked nervous, and maybe not ready for such a big stage.  You could cut the tension and energy surrounding this one with a knife.  Early mistakes by Life Ain't Fair led to an early lead by The Empty Nest.  Once both participants settled in to the contest it was a well fought affair, and nip and tuck throughout.  The lead would bounce back and forth, and it was clear that both involved truly wanted the win and the championship of the Parenting Playoffs.  When the smoke cleared, just like in the head chopping classic, "Highlander" their can be only one!!  The one left standing once it was all said and done was Life Ain't Fair.  The number one seed had done exactly what it set out to do,  Just win baby!  The Empty Nest was quoted as saying after the game, "That wasn't fair."  It wasn't, and that is why Life Ain't Fair won the day, and the championship.  This proves what we know very well-  Life Ain't Fair, and the sooner you can understand that the better off you will be.  Better luck next year, Empty Nest, but you probably won't be around for next year cause you're leaving and all.  The moral of the story is that no matter what we do as parents to prepare our children for what curve balls life will throw at them the bottom line still is that Life just is not fair.  You have to fail to learn how to succeed, and the cream will rise to the top if given the time to do so.  That's all I got.



    

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Elevator Music

     What is the exact moment when you know for sure that you are over the hill?  Getting old?  Preparing for a diet consisting of prunes and applesauce?  That moment is clear once you start to hear the music that once was kind of a big deal, and now it is being piped into an elevator.  Or even a Piggly Wiggly.  I recently realized this was the case as I entered the Pig the other day, and was greeted with the Richard Marx classic, "Endless Summer Nights."  I thought to myself, "What the heck is going on here?  This tune used to be a make-out classic.  The world has turned upside down."  I've also heard one of my favorite bands of all time, Bon Jovi, being played in a Doctor's office.  Doc, tell me it ain't so.  You can't be playing "I'll be There for you" in the waiting room.  Come on man.  I never liked it when I heard Francis Albert Sinatra and Dean Martin in an elevator, and I sure don't like it when you mess with my 80s music.  Leave it alone.  I should not have to hear Ratt rock out in an elevator, and Skid Row should never be played in a Sporting Goods store.  Give me a break.  Stop the Muzak!

     These young folks today listen to some odd stuff.  Trust me, I know.  My son, Jesse, is a big fan of the popular music of today.  He forces me to listen to that stuff.  Pretty much all I've learned from his music is that the players are gonna play, play, play and the haters are gonna hate, hate, hate.  Plus, I know the sound the trumpets make when they go....cue music.  Don't tell 'em, Don't tell em.  Most importantly in this line of thought is that it's all about the bass, no treble.  Don't you give me any treble, because all I want is bass.  I understand this way of thinking more than young Jesse knows, because after all my generation does like the cars, the cars that go boom.  Same thing.  See, I'm not an old fuddy duddy - I'm hip.  I've got the moves like Jagger, although I remember what Jagger really moved like and it wasn't all that special.  Love the music, but Mick wasn't exactly Dancing with the Stars quality or maybe he was- have you seen Tommy Chong.  Sorry, I digress.  Just don't start Mick up, because if you do he may never stop.

     Recently, as I have mentioned several times before, I've taken a turn as a 42 year old college senior.  However, now I am officially a 42 year old college graduate.  Which is cool, but I miss hanging with the younger set on the lovely campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  I was really able to learn a lot, and hopefully teach the young'uns about my brand of ancient history.  I had a discussion with a couple of young ladies concerning music, and the topic was how great Taylor Swift was at singing the revenge/break up type songs.  While, I'm no expert on Taylor Swift, I do believe I know a few things about break up songs.  I provided a thesis for what I thought was the greatest woman scorned song of all time.  My contention was that the bitter break up angst filled greatness of "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette was by far the best song in that particular genre.  The two twenty something young ladies looked at me and said almost in unison, "Who is Alanis Morissette?"  Then, I thought I could enlighten the younger set about what I thought was good music, so I played the song.  However, it had been a while since I had listened to Alanis belt out her revenge laced tirade.  So, it slipped my mind what happened in the theater, and what she did with her nails.  Bad idea for a middle aged guy, with good intentions mind you, to play such things for the youth of America.  They were rather shocked, but surely not that much - Miley Cyrus is a product of their generation.  What Alanis chooses to do in her song is her business, and while I would not promote such behavior it does make for a pretty good song.  I want you to know, that I'm happy for you...sure Alanis.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  That's a fact.

     We all have different taste in music, and that is really a good thing.  It definitely keeps different types of musicians employed.  I always knew there was a reason that Yanni had a job.  However, when it comes to the music I listen to when I work out there is no substitute for some good Rock 'n Roll.  I like to amp it up with a little AC/DC, Motley Crue, or even old school rock like Led Zeppelin and Rush.  It gets the blood pumping, and can help put your workout over the top with an added dose of adrenaline.  However, my wife and I share songs on my iPod and sometimes her songs pop up.  I love the Grateful Dead like the next guy, but Uncle John's Band doesn't exactly help me push and pull that extra weight.  You may disagree, but it is what it is.  Just the other day I was performing the bench press on chest day, and I was really getting into it.  I decided to up the ante a bit, and add some weight.  I was feeling really good and getting after it until all of a sudden Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" dropped on the ole' iPod, and it was a bench pressing buzzkill of epic proportion.  It's really a good song if you want to sit and watch grass grow or mellow out, but it doesn't do a whole lot while you're trying to push a bunch of weight off your chest.  At least it wasn't Barry Manilow.  Her name was Lola, She was a show girl....you know the rest.  I heard that in an elevator the other day too.  That's all I got.




    

Friday, October 24, 2014

Field Trippin'

     One of the most rewarding things a parent can do is to be involved with their children's school activities.  Whether it be joining the PTA or helping out during the Fall Festival.  Providing much needed assistance to the schools where our children are sent to learn is very important.  That being said, as a stay at home father and uber dad extraordinaire, the one event that can send chills down my spine is the field trip.  Sounds easy right?  Ride on a bus and go down to the old pumpkin patch and hang out with a plethora of 5 year olds for the day.  No problems there.  Not at all.  This will be fun.  Right?  That totally depends on what your definition of fun is, I suppose.  Field trips with young school age children can be an interesting study in not only human behavior, but continued sanity as a human being.  That is, of course, only my humble opinion.  It's almost as bad as trying to braid a 5 year old's hair, but that is another story for another time.  I love to try, but my skill set is limited, to say the least.  Is everybody in?  Is everybody in?  The ceremony is about to begin....commence the trip.

     The pumpkin patch- one of the last vestiges of the way things used to be.  A place where just for a moment one can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern day living and go and hunt you up a pumpkin.  Normally, these things are way out in the country anyway, and cell reception can be sketchy at best.  Throw in a combination of pumpkin patch and a fully functional farm with animals and all- then you've got a party.  Just don't get lost in the corn maze!  This particular story involves the following:  The aforementioned corn maze, pumpkins, farm, and animals on said farm.  Plus, pig races, big slides, packed out hay rides, and wild and wooly young'uns.  Yep, we've got it all covered.

     They say that half the fun is in the journey, and it can be even more important than the destination itself.  In this case "they" would be wrong.  Whether you ride the bus with a bunch of screaming 5 year olds or attempt the route to the farm itself it was a harrowing trip.  Way out in the country is an understatement.  I passed chicken coops, a pasture full of bulls (I really mean bulls here, with big ole horns and everything), various cow pastures (in fact there are probably more cows per capita in this area than any other living thing...true story), goats, pigs, and farmhouses aplenty.  Narrow roads led to the destination, but its exact location was not clearly defined.  It took everything that Google Maps and Siri had to find this place of fun and pig poop.  We did arrive, and hit the ground running.

     When one volunteers to be a chaperone of a field trip it normally comes with a few responsibilities.  In my case I was placed directly in charge of my daughter and another young lady.  This turned out to be more difficult than you would expect.  Almost immediately, Maddie's partner in crime took out running.  Fast.  Really fast.  I knew that I was responsible for her well being and safety so I yelled for her to stop.  No response.  Kept on truckin'.  She only broke stride when she heard a familiar voice tell her to.  That would have been the voice of the Kindergarten teacher.  Stopped her dead in her tracks.  I wish I had that kind of power, but I don't.  The teacher gave me a smile and went about her business.  Man, she was good.  I retrieved Madddie's buddy, and we were off to some jumping contraption deal that was obviously a pretty big deal with the 5 year old set. 

     We went down a big slide, attempted to traverse a corn maze- that almost saw a casualty or two and at least one meltdown, and finally ended up in a pig pen.  All the while I was holding two little girl hands, and doing my best to keep them happy.  Shouts of "I'm hungry," "I want to eat now," and I want this and I want that rang out from one side of the farm to the other.  Children, while all miracles in their own way, are not the same.  Demands were made and negotiations attempted during this arduous process.  Once upon a time I was tasked with catching criminals.  The dredge of society.  The bad guys.  However, I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Putting folks in jail was easy.  Taking care of kids every day is hard."  Factual statement.

      The hay ride beckoned.  Packed like sardines on a voyage of pumpkin retrieval was the setting for this adventure.  Bumpy ride it was, and I was surprised that everyone escaped without a head injury of some type.  Maddie was sitting on my right leg as I sat cross legged on the floor of a trailer being pulled by a John Deere.  Our friend and companion on the journey was on my left leg.  Two little girls sitting on top of my already packed in and smothered existence.  The joys of fatherhood are endless.  How did I get here?  Nevermind, I already know.  Pumpkins Ho!!!

     We survived lunch.  We survived the pumpkin patch.  We survived the slide.  Heck, we even survived the pig races.  All in all the day was a smashing success.  Fresh air, or mostly fresh, only a faint smell of animal waste.  Then as the day ended and I began to leave to start the trek back to civilization Maddie hugged my neck really hard, and said "I love you Daddy."  Then, to my surprise our friend looked at me and said, "Chris"- I told her to call me Chris, because if someone says Mr. Perry I turn around and look for my father.  "Chris, this was the best day of my life."  Mine too friend.  As far as you know.  We came we saw, we got a pumpkin.  That's all.





Thursday, October 16, 2014

The After School Special

     You remember those "After School Specials" right?  You know - the public service announcements that were geared to positively influence the youth of America.  Don't do drugs, don't drink, don't be a bully, don't take any wooden nickels.  That was the idea, and I saw quite a few of them back in the day.  Well, this post is a PSA for what not to do when performing the popular American pastime of yard rolling.  This story, while heartbreaking, may be helpful to those young people who decide that yard rolling is something that they would like to pursue in their future endeavors.  It's time we addressed this issue, and stopped ignoring the problem.  This "After School Special" is brought to you by the letter "Y," because "Y" would you do something like this in the first place.

     Dateline.  Second Saturday in October.  The man of the house is watching ESPN College Gameday right when Corso is going to put one of the mascot heads on, and make a fool out of himself.  It is a weekly ritual that all College Football fans should know well.  The spectacle is interrupted by a doorbell.  The doorbell has been a nuisance of late, and mostly this is due to the dreaded "ding dong ditch."  The ding dong ditch while important in the annals of youth activities is not the main point of focus in this story.  Another PSA for another time.  The boy was sent to answer the door, because that's normally why the doorbell rings.  They're looking for the boy, not for the man of the house.  Sad but true statement.  Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago when the doorbell rang the excitement level rose, but these days it is more of a nuisance.  The boy opened the door, and said "Dad, you need to come look at this."  Those are words that you never want to hear.

     The walk to the door to check what was undoubtedly quite an area of concern for the boy was a long one.  What could be waiting on the outside of that door?  What caused the young man to react so strongly?  What's for lunch?  Why is this happening to me?  All important questions that needed to be answered.  Upon arrival it became immediately obvious that someone had been busy.  Really busy.  Toilet paper littered the yard, but no one was anywhere to be found.  It was a combination ding dong ditch - toilet paper yard rolling double shot.  The culprit had fled the scene, and left their handiwork behind.  I began to pick up all the toilet paper, and I found a box underneath the tire of my Nissan Xterra parked in the driveway.  The box had a note attached that read, "Sorry for the prank.  Here's some candy."  The box was labeled with the ever familiar "Sour Patch Kids" logo.  I am a fan of the "Sour Patch Kids" candy, but the prankster did not leave candy.  The box contained rocks.  How thoughtful.  My son and I continued to rid the yard of its toilet papered state.

      As we were wrapping up our cleaning process I noticed a very familiar item laying in the driveway.  Steve Jobs greatest creation.  Normally stray iPhones don't just pop up in one's driveway, but on this day it happened.  Could it be that the culprit had left the iPhone?  I thought it was a very likely scenario.  Just as I picked up the device it began to ring.  Here we go.  I immediately said, "Hello."  No answer.  Click.  Hung up.  A few minutes later the phone rang once more.  I answered again, but this time a response was heard.  "I told her not to do it.  She was the one that rolled your yard."  Undoubtedly, it is en vogue to not only roll yards, but to perform the prank on boys that you like.  Back in the day a good old, "Check Yes or No" would do fine, but things are much different these days.  They knew that the gig was up, and that they were caught.  I agreed to give back the iPhone if the perpetrators returned to clean my yard of the toiletry debris.  They agreed.  As if they had a choice.  I had them right where I wanted them.

     The prankster paraphernalia was stacked up waiting when the young ladies walked up to the driveway.  A look of embarrassment combined with shame covered their faces.  The words "We're so sorry" kept falling from their lips, but their eyes told a different story.  The retrieval of the phone was the goal here, and I knew that.  I gave them a brief sermon on why they shouldn't do this sort of thing, but it probably went in one ear and out the other.  Finally, I extended my hand with the phone and said, "Do me a favor, the next time you go and roll somebody's yard - Don't leave your phone in the driveway."

     The moral of our story is simple.  Outside of the obvious, not leaving phones at the scene of a crime, one should never wear white after labor day.  Sorry, wrong moral.  I'm sure you could pick plenty of lessons from this story.  Don't roll yards, but if you do use good toilet paper, because bad/cheap toilet paper can be a handle to clean up.  Don't let your blonde hair-blue eyed son out in the daylight, because little girls are bound to come around.  Don't watch Lee Corso put on the stupid mascot head on a College Football Saturday.  I could go on and on, but I'll Just Say No!  That's all I got.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

The Case of the Shiny Shoes

     I'm a guy that finds things.  I'm a gumshoe of items misplaced by children.  My children to be exact.  Mysterious occurrences are not new to me, and I'm comfortable looking into the unknown.  The most recent case that this Daddy Detective had to investigate was a tough one, and involved missing shiny/light-up shoes.  You know the ones I'm talking about right?  The lights are triggered with every step.  Lighting up as if acting as a beacon of youthful exuberance seeking attention.  Could this old salty dog of a detective find the shoes?  The answer remains to be seen.  I'm ready, willing, and able.  I'm putting on my old school Humphrey Bogart raincoat and fedora.  "Out of all the houses in all of Kimberly, Alabama, she had to lose her shoes in mine."

     She was a pretty little girl.  The kind of fancy gal that always stood out no matter where she was or what she was doing.  I knew when she spoke that she meant business, and may be a tough nut to crack.  The reason for our interaction was lost shoes.  Not any lost shoes, but some really fancy shiny shoes.  She exclaimed, "I can't find my shoes!  I want my shoes!"  I tried to calm her uneasiness with the comforting tone of my voice and a reassurance that I would find her missing items, but it was a tough sell.  A good detective has to build trust with the victim to get the whole story, but I couldn't reach the clear blue eyes of this young lady.  Distressed and upset she blurted out, "Jesse must have took them!  He always does stuff like that to me!"  Who was this Jesse, and what was his connection to the missing shoes.  I decided I needed to talk to him, and find out what he knew.

     The boy was nervous when I walked toward him.  Kind of like he had something to hide, but didn't want to let on.  I could sense his concern and smell the fear in the air as I walked right into his personal space.  Sometimes if you make the person uncomfortable you can find out a little more information.  I asked the young man, "Where were you this morning when these shoes first went missing?"  He fidgeted a little in his seat and said nervously, "I don't know."  I continued, "Well, why don't you know?"  He looked at me and swallowed really hard, like he was trying to swallow a concrete block, and said, "I just don't know."  He was clearly being intentionally obstinate, so I threw out a vague threat.  "It would be a shame if one of these baseball bats here went missing wouldn't it?  It would upset you quite a bit I would imagine.  Isn't that right Jesse?"  His eyes lit up and got as big as saucers, and he said, "Don't mess around with my bats!"  Now, I knew his weakness.  The boy's love for baseball would be my ace in the hole.  I picked up his bag full of baseball items, and started to walk out the door.  He jumped up quickly and grabbed my shirt, "Please, no!" he yelled, "I didn't have anything to do with the shoes I promise!  I know that I may have hidden some of her stuff in the past, but I swear this wasn't me!  I didn't do it!  Please give me my baseball bag!"  I believed him.  He was telling the truth.  I handed him the bag full of baseball tools and then asked him one last thing, "Well, if you didn't do it.  Who did?"  He didn't hesitate with his answer, "I bet it was Mom.  She moves stuff all the time."  He was right.  She does.

     I had dealt with this "Mom" many times.  She was a regular suspect in my investigations, and I had my suspicions that she was responsible for many unsolved crimes that were in my cold case file.  She's a crafty one, though, and always seems to be one step ahead.  I approached her and said, "So, Mom, we meet again.  What do you know about these shoes?"  She gave me what I like to call, "that look," and didn't acknowledge my question.  I'd been down this road before with this woman, but I really needed her information to help me find these shoes.  I turned on the charm.  A good detective needs to be half Rudolph Valentino and half Brad Pitt.  I looked her in the eye and said, "How you doin?"  Her immediate look of disgust spoke volumes, and I realized rather quickly that this wasn't going to be easy.  She finally spoke, "Why are you bothering me again with this stuff.  Why don't you go blog or something, and leave me alone."  She was speaking gibberish now, and I began to consider the potential that she had a mental illness.  No matter, I still needed info on these shoes.  Time was of the essence here, because school would be starting soon.  I threatened her the best way I could and said, "If you don't tell me what you know about these shoes, I'm going to send the victim up here to talk to you!"  Her eyes narrowed and she stood up and moved toward me with a sense of urgency that was rather concerning.  I was immediately concerned for my personal safety, and I did not have a sufficient reactionary gap to fend off her aggressive movement.  I backpedalled, and asked again, "Just tell me what you know about her shoes?"  Her response was chilling, "I always put them back where they are supposed to be.  I only put things back.  Back where they belong, and should be in the first place.  Things in this house have a home, and that's where they should live.  You can't just leave things laying around everywhere and then wonder what happened to the stuff.  Put things away, and you won't have to wonder."  I really didn't understand any of the rant that Mom was putting out there.  It didn't make any sense to me. I decided to leave well enough alone, and move on.

     I was out of witnesses and suspects so I turned back to the victim, Maddie.  Tears flowing down her face, because of the stress she tried to talk.  "Did you find them?" she said with a trembling voice.  Frustrated by my inability to find the shoes I said, "No sweet girl, not yet, but I'm not giving up."  At that exact moment I caught a glimpse of what looked like a light show coming from the darkened kitchen area.  What was this?  I thought to myself.  I walked in the direction of where the lights were coming from, and I noticed in the space between the kitchen and the dining room that two small shoes were sitting by the door to the pantry as pretty as you please.  I picked up the shoes, and took them to the sad little girl.  Her eyes lit up when I handed her the shoes, and she was genuinely thankful.  That's why I do the job.  Not for the glory, and definitely not for the money.  The one thing I couldn't figure out was why the shoes appeared to light up when no one was wearing them.  It must have been a helping hand from above to assist us in getting to school on time or maybe the shoes were defective.  Who knows?  Whatever it was, it sure helped.

     We were finally ready, and leaving the house after the mystery was solved.  I was proud of all the hard work that had led to the discovery of the shoes.  At this exact moment Mom came down the steps, and asked what the result was of my investigation.  I apologized for considering her a suspect, but I only go where the evidence leads me.  She then asked, "Where did you find them?"  I responded, "That area between the kitchen and the dining room."  She looked at me and said, "The Butler's Pantry."  As we walked out the door I looked at Maddie and said, "How about that.  The Butler did it."



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Walk Off Miracle

     This post is directly inspired by a recent middle school writing project for my son Jesse.  He was asked to write about a memorable event in his life, and he chose a game winning inside the park homerun that he hit in a baseball game a few years back.  I would have to agree that it was definitely a memorable event, and the excitement level reached an all time high for yours truly.  It was a clutch at bat, and while he has come a long way in his baseball journey since then it's nice to look back.  This is my interpretation of the events that occurred.  All that follows is true.

     The night was hot and the air was heavy with an unusually high humidity for April in Alabama.  As we arrived at the park we saw the fields of green and the nice chalk lines over red dirt that can stir so many positive emotions from those of us who love the game.  The familiar "ping" sound reverberated throughout the park, and it is a distinct sound that can only come from an aluminum bat.  Children wearing bright colors of all kinds were running everywhere.  Their names printed solidly on the back of those jerseys with numbers underneath.  Important numbers, no doubt.  Numbers are important.  Through the sea of baseball caps and uniforms we made our way to the batting cages to properly warm up for the athletic contest that would occur within the hour.

     The hero stepped into the cage as if a gladiator of old entering the arena.  His blonde bangs fell out from under his hat almost hiding eyes of blue.  He pulled his weapon of choice out of a bag full of the tools of the trade.  Steely eyed he stepped into the cage with malicious intent on his mind.  The baseball would bear the brunt of his extreme prejudice and force.  The smell of fried food was intoxicating, and all seemed right with the world at this very moment.  Nothing other than the present seemed to matter to anyone.  All of life's stressors melted away at this oasis of grass, dirt, and metal fences.  A certain comfort was brought to all, and it was accepted that this was good.  The young man took his swings and gave way to another wanting to do the same.

     The team gathered together as they walked toward the field where the game would be played.  Loud pops from leather gloves being struck by baseballs was the music for their entrance, and the music was good.  Preparation for the contest continued, more "pings" and "pops" were heard clearly, and a stray yell of, "You missed that one Blue!" provided the background noise.  The combatants may be small in stature, but the heart and desire was far from diminutive.  This would be one for the ages.  The hero and his fellow ballplayers were properly fired up by a post game fire and brimstone speech by the coach.  His eyes on fire with the passion that was surely shown many years ago in the same setting, and his voice erupted with a sense of urgency that was delivered honestly.  Game time had come.

     A run here a run there, nice plays on both sides kept the game even throughout the early stages, but a massive blow to the baseball by the opposing team had caused our hero and his band of merry baseballers to temporarily hang their heads.  The deficit was challenging, but not an impossible task.  The team leaders stepped up for motivation, and the coach did the same.  Time was not on their side as the game continued, and it seemed that victory may be slipping away.  Then great plays in the field breathed new life into the downtrodden warriors, and a diving catch inspired the crowd.  A fever pitch of hope began to rise, and the tension in the air, already thickened by the humidity, was suffocating.  One last chance remained.

     The home team came to bat with it all on the line, and three runs were needed to tie and four to win.  The first batter up struck out, and the second popped up to the third base- producing two outs.  The game seemed to be slipping away, but a walk was issued to the next player and a runner was on base.  Then a base hit, and another walk filled the bases and the hearts of the players and fans.  Who was it that began the long walk to the plate, but our hero his blue eyes on fire with determination and his hair drenched with sweat.  A calm confidence was with him, although his hands were shaking with nerves.  As he walked he heard the words, "It's all up to you!  Go out there and win the game!"  He shrugged his tiny shoulders and said, "Ok."  His hands tightened on the bat as he stepped in close to the plate, and it felt as if his heart would leap from his chest as the pitcher took his wind up.  From the soles of his feet to the tip of his cap he gave it all his little body had, and clenched his teeth as the fast ball came hurling toward him.  His eyes followed the ball all the way to the bat as it was met with a mighty blow.  He sent the ball travelling with a blistering line drive that found its way between the 2nd Baseman and Shortstop.  Then the ball was past the center fielder heading to the fence.  One run scored, and then two, and our hero ran with a speed that he summoned from a place he didn't know he had.  Three runs scored and the game was tied.  The Centerfielder caught up to the ball, and threw with all his might as the little blue eyed boy approached third, and was waved home.  Dirt flying from underneath his cleated feet, and arms churning with the sheer force of his determined legs.  The ball headed toward the catcher and so did our hero, and the outcome to the game would be at the plate.  He sacrificed his body and slid with all he could as the catcher caught the ball.  His feet slid over the tip of the plate, and he looked up to the umpire for a signal of the result, and with arms waving and in a loud voice the official yelled, "Safe!"  "Safe!"  The young man was mobbed by team, coaches, and parents alike.  The eruption of cheers was deafening and seemed to shake the ground.  The boy stood up took off his helmet and took a deep breath as if he hadn't done so during the entire event.  A huge smile covered his face, and his blue eyes lit up like Christmas morning.  It was a good day.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Themistocles or Leonidas?


“Spartans!  Ready your Breakfast and eat hearty for tonight we dine in hell!”  Well, not quite.  If you were a fan of the original 300, and were seeking more Spartan awesomeness, then the sequel may not be your cup of tea.  However, if you are a fan of all things Ancient Greece and really enjoy action-packed sequences with great special effects you are definitely in the right place.  Throw in a little nudity and sex, and you have the recipe for 300:  Rise of an Empire.  What the movie lacks in historical accuracy, it more than makes up for in pure violent entertainment for the masses.  I would give the movie two big thumbs up, to borrow from Siskel and Ebert, mainly due to the dynamic between Themistocles and Artemisia and the very well-done action sequences.  Leonidas is present, but we all know what happened to him, right?

            The movie begins by revisiting Leonidas and the brave 300 at the “hot gates” or Thermopylae pass just in time to see Xerxes take the head of the brave king of Sparta.  However, this is misleading because the entire movie is basically a companion piece to the original.  The naval battle of Artemisium takes places simultaneously with the events at Thermopylae.  We are introduced to Themistocles as the main protagonist, who is painted as the source of all Persian/Greek animosity.  This is due to the events that took place at the Battle of Marathon some ten years earlier.  According to the movie, Themistocles shot King Darius of Persia with an arrow during the battle, which resulted in his untimely demise.  Unfortunately for Themistocles (and basically all of Greece) he shot the wrong guy.  Darius’ son Xerxes was with his father, and the movie makes mention of this as a missed opportunity to do away with the young man who would become the god king of the Persian Empire.  This is one of many historical inaccuracies in the film, and as any competent historian would know Darius was planning another invasion of Greece after the Battle of Marathon, but died due to poor health.  Sorry Themistocles fans, but he didn’t kill Darius.  He may have helped plan the Battle of Marathon as an Athenian “strategoi” or general, but he did not have an opportunity to shoot an arrow at Darius or Xerxes for that matter.  In fact, if that didn’t ruin good old Themistocles for you this will: he later joins the Persians.  Yes, it’s true.  Hollywood is not known for letting truth get in the way of a good story, however, so no one should be surprised.  The idea that Themistocles is trying desperately to make up for a missed opportunity fits the theme of the movie.  300: Rise of an Empire also contains elements of those freedom-loving Greeks battling the evil Persians.  Sound familiar?  In a post 9/11 world, movies like this continue to reflect the struggle for freedom against those who wish to repress it.  However, we must remember that the idea of democracy in Themistocles’ Athens does not resemble the democracy of today in any form or fashion.  That fact doesn’t add to the entertainment value, so it has been omitted – as maybe it should be, because this is entertainment, and not social commentary.

            The director of the film, Noam Murro, described the action as “operatic” in a recent Los Angeles Times interview, and he said he hoped the film was not a sequel or a prequel to the original but an “equal.”  This is a departure for Murro who is best known for directing offbeat feature films like the 2007 comedy Smart People.  A native of Jerusalem, New York, he made a name for himself doing promotional films for companies like E*Trade with his own production company, Biscuit Films.  Murro was able to capture the spirit of the original without venturing too far from the swords and sandals blueprint.  Though he took some creative license, the overall direction was very good.

            One of the main elements that makes this movie so appealing, besides the obvious violence, is the dynamic that forms between our hero Themistocles and his enemy – the beautiful but deadly Artemisia.  Most of what we know about Artemisia comes from Herodotus, and, while she was a female naval commander and an ally of Xerxes, she probably didn’t set the stage for the emergence of Xerxes as the King of Kings and she probably wasn’t nearly as cool as the character in the movie.  Artemisia is deliciously evil.  She will defeat you and you will like it.  Our boy Themistocles gets wrapped up in a love affair with her and fireworks ignite.  The mixture of sex and violence that occurs between the two would make Freud do a double-take.  What does it all mean?  It’s Hollywood telling a pretty good story, and throwing in ribbons of truth to keep it interesting.   I’m not saying that Themistocles couldn’t have hooked up with Artemisia while they were fighting on opposite sides of the Greco-Persian Wars, but the odds are definitely against it.  Though a real-life longshot, the movie wouldn’t have been the same without this plot enhancement.  Chalk one up for Hollywood imagination over authenticity. 

            The crescendo of the movie reaches its peak with the Battle of Salamis.  This is where, historically, the Greek forces led by Themistocles turn away Xerxes and the Persians.  Themistocles retreats to the Bay of Salamis and lays in wait for the Persian Navy.  The big screen depiction is a triumph of Hollywood movie making.  There are flying horses which seemingly appear out of thin air, people dying everywhere, scary looking Persians, and a rousing speech by Spartan Queen Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas, who is leading the Spartan naval forces into battle to assist Themistocles and avenge the death of her husband.  Don’t get me wrong, this was goose-bump inducing coolness, but Spartan women – while truly unique in the Ancient world – never commanded a naval unit of any kind.  If you have even a rudimentary knowledge of history, something like this is kind of hard to get past.  Does it play well on the screen?  You bet your sweet bottom it does.  Not only was this a Spartan queen, but Leonidas’ wife who had come to kick some Persian butt.  Not to mention the fact that Lena Headey, the actress who plays Queen Gorgo, has a huge following from her other gig as Cersei on Game of Thrones.  The stars align nicely for the conclusion, but it was difficult to tell what was happening.  This may have been fairly accurate, because it would have been very hard for an observer to follow what was happening at the actual Battle of Salamis.  The great special effects and musical score, coupled with the arrival of the second and third waves of Greek back-up, made the sequence eventful and exciting.

            The biggest disappointment of 300:  Rise of an Empire was the diminished role of Xerxes.  He’s present in all of his gilded, god-like glory, but there seemed to be much less of him this time around.  I felt like Will Ferrell from those Saturday Night Live skits, and I wanted more Xerxes.  I need more Xerxes.  There may have been a reason for less Xerxes, and my hypothesis would be that the negative depiction of the character resulted in a downplayed role.  In the original 300, Xerxes was the poster boy for Orientalism, and maybe the filmmakers caught on to this.  Then again, maybe not.  In this film there was a huge oil spewing barge resembling a “suicide bomber,” heading back down that slippery slope.  Either way, Xerxes was one of my favorite characters from the original movie and I had hoped to see much more of his ostentatious display of Persian dominance, but it was not to be.

            The verdict on 300 part deux?  I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.  It was fun, sexy, violent, cool, and even comical.  What else could you ask for?  Well, maybe lines like, “Spartans!  What is your profession!” or “This is where we hold them, this is where we fight.  This is where they die!”  I actually believe that from a Spartan point of view a lot of the first 300 was accurate, but then again I am an undeniable Spartan fan.  Bottom line is that while this movie disregarded the accepted history of events it was very entertaining.  I found myself rooting for Themistocles and on the edge of my seat when Queen Gorgo and the Spartans arrived.  I loved to hate Artemisia, and was oddly attracted to her brutal brand of sexy.  Go ahead and pay the money to see it.  Just don’t let the kids go or use any of this stuff for a history lesson.
 
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Friday, September 12, 2014

The Road Not Taken

     The alarm sounds with the normal high intensity shrill that I have become accustomed to, and with one leap my feet hit the floor.  As is normally the case my foot finds the lone lego piece, undoubtedly left behind by one of the offspring.  It feels like Neptune's trident has pierced the bottom of my foot, but like Jesse Ventura in the first Predator movie, "I ain't got time to bleed."  The life that has chosen me awaits. Up and at 'em.  Coffee drank and kids woke.  Baths.  Teeth brushed.  Clothes picked (or at least attempted to be picked, because Maddie is the free spirit type.)  You haven't lived until you have a naked 5 year old scream at you at 6 am about a twirly skirt.  That is a fact.  My excitement is peaked in car pool lanes and birthday parties at the Chuckie Cheese.  I am a master of the art of Macaroni and Cheese preparation, and I make a mean milk.  I am dad hear me roar...or growl.  I could have been somebody.  I could have been a contender (shout out to Marlon Brando.)  I could have been President of the United States...strike that.  I inhaled.  That's out.  Hold on a minute here.  I've got the best job in the whole wide world.  I get to be a father and a trophy husband full time!  I'm the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world!!!!  Hold on, I have to pick up little girl underwear and clean toothpaste out of the sink.  This is the Glamorous life.  Sheila E ain't got nothing on me. 

     It wasn't that long ago that putting folks in jail and teaching the art of the Redneck Jedi (Defensive Tactics/Expandable baton) was the calling card.  However, in the recent past its been changing diapers, head bottle washer, child coach and counselor, and all around cleaner/fixer/toenail clipper/snot and butt wiper/ and so on and so forth.  Both jobs had there ups and downs, and one was paid and the other is not.  If you ask him which one made him feel wealthy....well that question should answer itself.  The man is fortunate for the road he is on, and the one he decided not to take.

      The first child was a sweet blond haired blue eyed boy who would turn into a pretty smart cookie who moonlighted as quite a baller (that's young person speak for good athlete...at least I think it is.)  The boy was absolutely perfect as far as he was concerned, and watching him grow into the young man that he will become was of the utmost importance.  This boy's life would mean more than anything to the father, that is until an equally important miracle occurred.  A daughter.  A little girl with all the light of the world in her eyes, and a true gift for joy and happiness.  Sure, she turned out to be a hardcore legend that was as tough as they come, but a happier child I don't think exists in this world.

     What is that they say about the woman behind a man?  Is it that behind every great man is an equally great woman?  I've tried to research that phrase a little, and the origin is uncertain.  Some believe that it originated from the movements of the 60s and 70s involving women's rights.  I've got my own slant on that.  Behind every man is a woman that has influenced his life and helped to shape him.  First it is his mother and then his wife.  The two most important woman in the shaping of a man, and who he will be.  It's a fact.  Could the male species survive on this earth without women?  I would like to think so, but it sure would be a boring place.  The road that I took when it came to a soul mate was definitely the road less traveled.  I'm not trying to be Robert Frost here, but its true.  Total opposites.  She's a yankee and I'm a good ol' boy.  She's a democrat and I'm a republican.  She's a vegetarian and I am purveyor of eating seared animal flesh.  She drives a Prius and I don't.  I could go on, but you get the point.  Bottom line is this:  the luckiest day of my life was when I met her.

     This tribe.  This family unit.  These people that I would not hesitate to lay everything on the line for...well they are what it is all about.  They are my company on the road that I have chosen.  They are what sustains me throughout everything.  Mi Familia.  My Family.  My Loved Ones.  The four of us make up quite a team, and we're hard to beat.  There are a lot of teams just like ours out there, and lets hope that we're all doing something right for the future.  Sometimes I think about what would have happened if different decisions had been made, but I believe that things turn out like they're supposed to.  I believe that we are given a mind and a brain to think for ourselves and the decisions we make definitely effect what happens in our lives, but no matter what there is a destination that has been set forth beforehand.  It is up to us to find it.  I've found mine, and now as I enter the next phase of this life my eyes are open to all the possibilities.

     My life my rules.  The code I've lived by since my youth.  Sometimes it didn't exactly work out like I wanted, but overall I think I did pretty good.  The Road Not Taken has been pretty good to me, but that's probably how it was supposed to be all along.  I took the right road.






Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Manifesto of the 5th Dentist

     You've heard it before, "4 out of 5 dentists recommend Crest Gobbedly Gook Flavor Toothpaste."  Well, I for one admire the 5th dentist.  That's right, this guy (or girl) stood up for what they believed in and took a walk on the wild side.  I have always been a non-conformist by nature, and I normally travel on the road with all the bumps.  Look no further than the direction my life has taken since the kids were born.  From putting folks in jail to changing diapers like a boss.  Then rockin' the main stage as a 42 year old college senior, and trying to be a 43 year old grad student.  I may end up pursuing my life long dream of carnival work.  I hear they need a weight guesser.  When opportunity knocks, you've got to answer the door!  Carnival folk are the backbone of our society.  But, you knew that already.  The following diatribe is about why it doesn't matter what your job is or how different you are.  This is frustration boiling over with the stroke of every key.  Some folks meditate, but I write, and yell from time to time. 

     I met a guy once whose occupation was an Egg Tumbler.  True story.  Different strokes for different folks, and if tumbling eggs is your game then who am I to say it's odd.  You may want to go into the Yard Sale Sciences like my brother once pursued.  He was good at it too, but he also was one that did some dumpster diving on the side.  I went with him once.  Once was enough.  It was not my bag, and that's OK.  You may even want to be a pizza guy.  I had a pizza guy go above and beyond the other day, after a generous tip from yours truly, and warn me about fluid leaking from a vehicle.  I walked outside with the young man and he squatted on the ground and touched the fluid.  I asked him, "Does it smell like anything?"  His response was "No," but then he proceeded to place his finger in his mouth.  He looked at me and said, "Tastes funny, but it may just be your driveway I'm tasting."  Thanks pizza dude, but the tasting of the suspicious fluid was not necessary.  We try and teach our kids that everyone is different, and a place in society can be carved out with hard work and dedication to your craft.  Obviously, I want the best for my kids, and I hope one day if Maddie comes home and says, "Dad, I want to be a professional wrestler!" that I take this in stride, but it could be a difficult adjustment.  She would be a great Masked Marauder though.

     We're all created equal, right?  That's what the founding fathers said, and I would not disagree.  However, it seems that more and more people think that they may be just a little bit better than you are these days.  My house is better than your house, and my dog can beat up your dog.  Stuff like that, and even worse.  My kids are better athletes than yours are, better students, better everything, and you should just accept that you're just taking up air and move on.  These people are everywhere.  You've seen them, and they've made you so mad you want to spit.  This elitist mentality seems to be what I would call a "First World Problem."  We here in the United States may have our struggles, but we don't exactly have bombs blowing up all around us and people trying to kill us just because of our ethnic background or religious beliefs. At least not on a regular basis. Thanks to our fabulous military and the fine men and women who serve our great country we can lay our heads down at night and rest easy.  So, how far my kids can hit a baseball really doesn't matter all that much, although my son Jesse may disagree.  How my kids turn out in a few years does.  Are they productive members of society?  Do they have strong moral character?  Do they work hard to accomplish the goals that they set for themselves?  Do they understand the importance of family?  Country?  Our place in this world and what we can do to improve the future?  I hope when the time comes I can answer "Yes" to all these questions.  That is what is important to me.

     Politics.  One word never covered such a broad spectrum of our lives.  From the President of the United States all the way down to T-Ball.  That's right, I said T-Ball.  But, Mr. Uber Dad, Politics doesn't belong in T-Ball or Elementary School or Tiddly Winks...right?  Well, that would be a correct statement, but sometimes who you know or what you can do undoubtedly pays off for some people.  I recently was able to participate in the Athenian assembly.  Ancient Athens that is.  Yep, I went by the name Cristos the Great, and I was a Moderate Democrat.  That was the role I was given for a Reacting to the Past game at UAB.  What am I getting at?  Rhetoric is as important today as it was 2000 years ago.  If you can talk a good game, and bribe the right people you're good to go!  That is an unfortunate fact of a political system.  Personally, I like to allow for my kids to be successful on their own merit not by who I may know (although, I don't really know anybody, undoubtedly) or what I may have (again I ain't really got nothing, so I'm out of luck.)  It is what it is, I suppose.  By the way my team of Moderate Democrats won the game.  We had to lie, cheat, and steal to do it.  I actually betrayed my entire faction, and helped to install a tyrant.  In return for my lack of loyalty and deceit, I was given the title of "General and Commander of the Military."  Things haven't changed that much it doesn't seem, and if the game would have gone on a little longer I probably would have staged a coup.  I had the power of the military so why not? 

     One more thing before I go.  I know I have mentioned from time to time that I am a student of History.  When you do enough research and look at the past very closely you can start to see patterns.  Patterns of occurrences or even outcomes.  Most of the time when these outcomes are negative you can directly link them to one thing.  Hubris.  For those who don't know what that word means I will enlighten you.  It means excessive pride, self-confidence, or arrogance to a detriment.  In Greek tragedies and real history, this hubris has led to the downfall of some pretty important folks.  This loss of contact with reality for selfish reasons seems to be all over the place these days.  Look no further than the Good Book.  I'm not being preachy here, but I like to call things like I see them.  Proverbs 16:18 says, I'm paraphrasing here, "pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."  Makes sense to me.  The Greeks sometimes put hubris in the backyard of the goddess Nemesis.  Nemesis didn't play around.  If you've ever heard of Narcissus you already know this.  He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and long story short he died because he couldn't leave his sexy self.  Loved himself to death, I reckon.  That is a myth, but it sounds all too real and current.  Just food for thought.  It is my Manifesto, even if I'm not a Dentist.






Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Day of the Bed

     The sweat flowed like lava from their skin.  The black top was a hot skillet ready for morning breakfast.  The taste of salt from the sweat produced an unquenchable thirst and the banshee-like screeches, coming from the little ones on the sidewalk on the Southside of Birmingham, was deafening.  Two objects were hanging precariously from the top of the vehicle, and the fear of these devices of torture falling was always present in their minds.  Twine and ropes hung as if to represent a type of gallows that awaited, and would ensure their fate.  The ancient Greeks described a world ruled by Hades in similar terms, but this was only a family of four trying to move a mattress and box springs on the luggage rack of a Nissan Xterra.  Maybe, the Greeks had trouble moving beds too.  How did we get to this point?  It was a Journey into Darkness that began innocently...

     The day started with a plan.  A plan to go to yard sales.  These yard sales were chosen by my wife, and we would abide and find them.  A detour for hat shopping occurred en route.  An Alabama Crimson Tide football hat to be specific, because toe will be hitting leather very soon.  Unfortunately, my old BAMA hat had been thrown to Parts Unknown after the somewhat chilling ending to last years Iron Bowl vs. Auburn, but that shan't be spoke of here.  The hat shopping turned into baseball glove and Ring Pop shopping, and no hat was purchased. 

     Next, was the hair cutting of a young hippie.  No more skate boarder/bangs in the eyes type hair.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but if you want to get a job and impress someone's father one day that's not the way to go.  Hair cut and yard sales await.  Yard sales were a bust, and lunch at Golden Corral was called for by the wife and children.  I've been through the hell of getting into a bad chocolate fountain at the Golden Corral, and it has historically been a big hit or a huge miss as far as eating goes.  Took a chance.  Bad chance it was.  First off, the Bathroom area smelled like a circus.  That is never a good sign.  Even animals don't crap where they eat, so to speak.  Food was cold, and the only redeemable food item was the corn pudding.  Corn pudding?  I don't know, but it was good.  Even the desserts were horrible, and that in itself should be a crime.  Buffets should have good desserts or you should face prosecution from the authorities.  Quantity over quality I suppose.

     Then came the mattress store in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.  Why Vestavia Hills, Alabama?  Swimming Pools?  Movie Stars?  Nope, just luck of the draw.  It was a fluke that we were even in this place to begin with.  Life deals the cards, we just play them.  Long story short, nice lady with a good priced mattress and we made the purchase.  I would like to take this time to say something sort of unrelated, but I need to say it.  My wife would have bought a mattress from the store in Gardendale, Alabama, but the lady was extremely rude and unprofessional when she came in the store asking questions with the kids in tow.  We don't tolerate idiots around here very well, so no sale was made by this mattress store saleswoman.  Two words come to mind, as described by my wife, "Female Dog."  To quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I've got to say about that."

     The nice lady, not the one in Gardendale, told us that we could save $80 by loading it up and taking it home today.  She spoke of her renowned prowess for knot tying, and that the luggage rack of an Xterra would do fine.  Cheryl, filled with visions of dollar signs saved in her eyes, said "Sounds good."  I on the other hand was skeptical.  I have moved many things over the years, and I have had many things scattered all over the interstate.  Mainly, because I believed I could tie it down effectively.  I knew we were in trouble when the nice lady's hands were shaking as she tied these "knots," and she reference the You Tube instructional video that she had just watched.  Eyebrows raised.  They were raised even further when she said, "I prayed about this really hard before I came out here."  Not faulting her for praying by no means, but I was under the impression that she was an expert of the knot tying variety.  We left Vestavia Hills with a box springs and mattress, and my first words to Cheryl were, "Fasten your seat belts, this is going to get interesting."  It did.

    First moment of concern came with the shifting of our bedding from the top of the Xterra on the Highway.  We were forced to remove ourselves from the road, and this is where we pick up the story from the opening.  Luckily, I had some rope.  The expert knot tying from You Tube had come loose, and we were stuck on the Southside of Birmingham.  The children were hot and irritating.  Not irritated, but irritating.  I almost sold them to a homeless man named Romeo, but I thought better of it.  I also had an idea that the kids could ride on top of the mattress and box springs, thus holding them down while we traveled.  My father put me in the back of a pick up truck many times to "hold" stuff down.  I'm still living, with all my limbs.  I knew that Cheryl wouldn't go for this idea so we moved on.  We thought we had it tied down enough, and the journey continued.

     Stopped once at the Jazz Fest on the North side of town to adjust the load, and almost got a hot dog.  Stopped again at a car wash across the street from the Jehovah's Witnesses place.  A guy named Alphonso was very friendly, and offered a car wash, but I told him that we had to be moving on.  This mattress ain't gonna set itself up!  Stopped in Fultondale to wipe Maddie's nose, and adjust the ropes.  I told Cheryl, "If we make it past Gardendale we've got a punchers chance to make it."  She was skeptical.  Stopped once more in K-Mart parking lot by a woman selling tomatoes, and I had to yell at Jesse for teasing his sister.  She may have been teasing him I can't be sure, but hot, tired, irritated, and transporting a mattress and box springs adds up to  a bad mood.  That is a fact.  We came into Morris at the mile stretch that I call the Autobahn.  The speed limit goes up from 50 to 65 for about a mile or so, and its every car for themselves.  It's like the Wild West out there.  We were so close to home we could feel it.

     Somewhere people are laughing, and having a good time.  Joy is everywhere and flowers are basking in the sun.  Smiles are contagious, and no one is sick, not even a cough.  There is joy in Kimberly, Alabama too, because the mattress and box springs didn't fall off.