More Complicated?

Was Christmas less complicated when we were kids?  I mean pretty much all you did was agonizingly count down the days before Christmas Break, watch the Bob Hope Christmas Special and wait for Santa to deliver the loot.  Now it seems we either get overwhelmed or it sneaks up on us.  Although to be honest, if Christmas sneaks up on you there is really no one to blame but yourself.  C’mon the decorations are up in October.  It’s not like Christmas arrives all stealthy.  The songs have been on the radio since before Thanksgiving and the decorations are up in all the stores minutes after Halloween is over.

I think what really happens is we let it overwhelm us.  Every year we vow to shop earlier, get the Christmas cards done over Thanksgiving and to help Mom wrap the presents.  Well, that last part is a complete falsehood.  I’ve never done that.  I stick the labels on the gifts.  That is extent to which Mom trusts my wrapping skills.  I’m a strong proponent of the widespread use of gift bags.

Now I’m must spitballin’ here but I’m pretty sure my appreciation for gift bag usage is based in the Christmas story.  And I’m not talking about the 1983 movie in which Ralphie told us, “”Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.”  No, I’m talking about the traditional telling of the actual Christmas story…updated for levity during this busy time of year.

Feel free to let me know if you remember it a bit differently.

According to yuletide folklore, Mary and Joseph traveled a long way to Bethlehem, inadvertently obligating couples from thenceforth to the customary holiday journey to visit family and friends while dealing with delayed flights, snowy roads and impatient whining children.  Or, depending on your current parental situation, know-it-all, eye-rolling teenagers.  Nary a mention of wrapping gifts.  Also no condemnation of the rampant use of gift bags in place of traditional wrapping.  Go back and look.  Pretty sure the Biblical scholars are going to back me up on this.   Mary made a list of what they needed and Joseph stupidly viewed the list as suggestions and instead only brought egg nog, chips and a list of where all the rest areas were located.  Thankfully he was smart enough to observe a star in the sky which guided them to the Inn where they were told their reservations had somehow been lost and had been “upgraded” to the stable.

Anyway, Mary and Joseph, settled in next to the manger in which they placed the baby Jesus.  Next to the manager was a small conifer.  In this case, a fir.  Possibly a spruce.  Biblical arborists disagree.  Regardless, Joseph, having driven the cart all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, suggested that they just put all Christmas gifts for family and friends in gift bags.  After all it would be quicker and the important thing is the gift not the wrapping paper.

Thankfully, the three Wise Men also saw the star and began their trek to see the baby Jesus.  Lesser known is the story of the Wise Men.  They saw a star and began a trek to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.  This, of course, began the age-old practice of dudes everywhere driving aimlessly through mall parking lots searching for open spots whilst their wives and girlfriends incessantly sent them pics asking which gifts they should buy.  Unbeknownst to them at the time, the three Wise Men doomed husbands and boyfriends throughout the ages to consistent criticism for the gift decisions because of their weird gifts choice of gold, frankincense and myrrh .  Maybe some 0-6 month onesies or some diapers?  Or even a gift card to Rock Bottom for Mary and Joseph would’ve been nice.  I mean they are going to want to get out of the stable for a few hours here and there.

Anyway, key thing to remember is the story does not include anything about:  1) wrapping gifts, and 2) saving Christmas cookies for some unnamed post-holiday reason.

So, feel free to use gifts bags for any type of gift and don’t worry about saving any Christmas cookies for later.  Nobody makes New Year’s cookies…unless they help with hangovers…

 

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Required Volunteering

Yeah so I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.   Your kid plays on this team and this team is supposed to provide a certain number of volunteers to man the concessions, or clean up the stadium or do some other crappy task that nobody really wants to do.  So who ya gonna call?  Parent volunteers.

So there are at least two kinds of required volunteering.  The kind you do because somebody at the booster club is somehow in charge of making sure the dance team parents or softball team parents provide a certain number of volunteers to man the concessions.  Then there is the kind of volunteers who do something, like clean up the stadium after home games, as a way to raise money for the team so they can compete in regional competitions or pay for uniforms, etc.

Mom and I are both.  Not by choice though.  Nobody shares this eventual responsibility with you when you decide to have kids.  Other things nobody tells you when you decide to have kids?  That teenagers are, without question, God’s way of payback.  And this isn’t a theory.  Its a stone cold freaking fact.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few observations should you ever find yourself in these kind of crappy volunteer situations.  Here’s what I learned doing the concessions:

If there is a choice between working the concessions for your school or the local Catholic school, go with the Catholics.  This isn’t because of some sort of religious favoritism.  Its a pure numbers game.  There are just fewer people.  And, as I found out, they don’t really like to buy too much at the concessions because the public school gets to keep the cash.  Less work for me.

Second thing I learned is that if you are presented with the option of working the front counter taking orders and money or working in the back getting the food, preparing the orders – pick the front.  Why?  Because nobody wants to deal with the freaking liquid cheese nacho dispenser.  The rate of dispersal is unpredictable.  The shut off valve doesn’t fully close.  The density of the cheese is variable.  And nobody wants to deliver a customer nachos with loose cheese.

Also do 2nd shift.  Yeah, I know logic dictates the opposite.  Everybody knows set up is easier than clean up.  Well who knew concessions work is counter-intuitive.  Like Facebook political activism.  You’d think the more you condescending preach to your friends across your social media platforms the more it would persuade them.  Anyway, turns out that clean up really only entails sweeping the floor and pulling down the garage-like door thereby separating you from the public.  Pretty sweet.

Finally, volunteer for last game of the season.  If you’re lucky, it’ll be freaking freezing.  Drives down attendance and the only thing anybody wants is hot chocolate.  You only have to memorize the price of one item and their is always a heater in the concessions.  That’s called winning.

Sometimes the coach of your kids’ team will be presented with the opportunity to clean the stadium after home football games as a way to raise money.  I’m only going to say this once and its going to be fast so pay attention.  Do it.  Do it every chance you get.  Easy money.  Nobody bothers you.  Takes about 20 minutes.  Stop at the gas station on the way home and pick up some beers.

Seriously.  Easiest involuntary volunteering you’ll ever do.  But here’s the catch.  Only do it if it is the high school football stadium.  If they want you to do the local Triple A baseball team, don’t do it.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Got it?

Now you know what I know.  Use this knowledge wisely.

So I have a question…

When is it appropriate to call a meeting with a high school teacher and how is it done as to avoid any negative blowback on the student in question?

High school is different than junior high.  Junior high is different than grade school.  In grade school it was easy.  Junior high also pretty straight forward.  If there is a problem, whatever that problem may be, you send an email and set up a meeting.  Situation is addressed and everybody moves on.  Teachers expect, and sometimes even welcome, parents to be involved and keep track of their kids’ academic and social progress.

I don’t want to offend any teachers out there who might think it is belittling or maybe flat out preposterous to suggest a teacher would be so unprofessional as to retaliate against a student whose parents choose to disagree with the teacher on a particular matter.

Columbus Day for example.  Or Thanksgiving since I’m sure we’ll be engaged in that annual battle with the PC illuminati.

We’re sitting in church last month and I mention that Monday is Columbus Day and that the girls don’t have school so they can sleep in.  Bails responds with, “Columbus Day?  Gross.”

“Gross?  Why?  No school!”

She responds, “After Columbus got here millions of native Americans died because of disease and other bad things.”

Bails’ social studies is a Bernie supporter.  Good teacher and otherwise good dude.  But he’s a gullibly idealistic millennial.  Last fall her social studies teacher, different guy but also a naive lefty millennial, barely could teach the class the day after the election.  Still makes me smile.  Anyway, her teacher this year has evidently “taught” the class – and by “taught” I mean deconstructing American history through a PC disinfectant – that Columbus’ intent upon sailing from Spain was to enslave and infect any indigenous peoples he might need to overrun while he was stealing land for the rich oppressive elites in the super white European aristocracy.  And that any of the current flaws America currently suffers from are, in fact, the fault of Columbus.

This shallow misunderstanding of basic American history conveniently forgets that Columbus himself was an Italian Catholic.  Italian Catholics, if you recall, weren’t exactly popular with the Anglo-Saxon nativists during their emigration to America in the late 1800’s.  Columbus was a source of pride for this persecuted minority.  And, in an ironic and confusing twist to modern PC stormtroopers, an article in The Atlantic pointed out that Columbus Day parades in the early 20th century were a way to advance the goal of assimilating immigrants into a single American identity.  Local newspapers even “celebrated it as an important step in combating prejudice and bigotry, but it was much more. It served as a formal acknowledgment that immigrants could preserve their own ethnic identities and simultaneously embrace their new nation.”

Weird how a lack of historical perspective leads to a lack of, well, perspective.

Of course my on-going frustrations with millennial PC snowflakery aren’t the only source of consternation in relation to contacting high school teachers.  What about a biology teacher who only teaches biology in a way which makes it literally, not virtually, impossible for anyone to get better than a C.

How is that teaching?  I mean, and I’m just spitballin’ here, I thought the point of teaching was to impart knowledge.  Knowledge that the pupil will be able to recall and use.  Knowledge that helps them become a functioning and contributing part of American society.  Knowledge which makes them a well rounded citizen while also helping the pupil slowly but surely narrow down their academic interests in such a way that it allows them to decide which way to take their future education thereby determining the direction of the professional lives.

Nowhere do I remember in either the formal or informal definitions of teaching making the pupil hate the subject in question with same intensity Jack Lambert hated quarterbacks in the 70’s.  Nowhere do I remember the teacher purposely putting things on tests that were deliberately glossed over in the class in order to give the teacher the pleasure of abundant red pen usage.

But that’s is what is happening.  So we’re put in a position of having to challenge the teacher.  Gotta admit I kinda resent it.  So instead of going all Beverly Goldberg on the teachers, I’m writing about it here.

And yes I realize this blog post solves nothing.  Whatever…

Well Played 47, Well Played…

Birthdays mean things.  At 16 you get your driver’s license.  And for awhile, and also for the only time in your life – you think its cool to drive a ’81 Volkswagen Rabbit.  A beige one with a stick shift that only takes diesel.  Bad ass, I know.  At 21 you get to over pay for beers at the bar. And nothing says adulthood like paying more for something you could have done on your own with a little patience and planning.  Nothing really special happened on my 30th. I was already married and had a kid so turning 30 just seemed like a day.  On my 40th Mom and I had a party since we both turned 40 within a month of each other. We had a local place make us a couple big trays of barbecue while one of our friends brought over burnt ends.  And listen, after several beers, that stuff is quite possibly the greatest food you’ve ever tasted.

Anyway, I recently turned 47.  Which really isn’t anything special.  Doesn’t feel any different from any of my other recent birthdays. Aside from Mel Blount wearing #47 and being responsible for the NFL rules changes that allow the modern passing game, it isn’t an especially great number.  I was, however, pretty damned determined to kick 47’s ass.

So we made some plans with some good friends.  They picked us up and we drove back to their house.  Why? The key advantage of the location of their house is that you can walk to the bar.  A place called Taco Hangover.  At 3:00 in the afternoon.  On a Friday.  So, two things:

1-I’d like a little appreciation for our mature decision to not drive.  To not even have a vehicle at the bar.

2-Taco Hangover puts a laxative in its tacos.

Not sure how that makes for repeat customers but somewhere in their business model is a flow chart on how to make tacos and it includes a laxative.  Soft flour tortilla, chicken, stool softener/bowel stimulant, shredded cheese, etc.  The catch is that their tacos are awesome.  Seriously.  Bacon, egg and cheese tacos.  Kansas City burnt ends tacos. Chorizo and crispy potato tacos.  They even have sloppy joe tacos.  And listen, the tacos need to be awesome because you can’t get Miller Lite Tall Boys on the patio.  I know, I’m sitting there wondering if we’re in communist Russia or a bar in red, white and blue middle America…that sells laxative laden tacos.  Regardless, you did read that correctly.  No Miller Lite tall boys.  How the hell does that happen?  Friday afternoon ice cold tall boys on the patio is about as midwest American as you can get.  The really infuriating thing was that if I wanted to – although I can’t imagine a scenario in which this would happen unless it gave me the power of invisibility – I could get Pabst Blue Ribbon in a tall boy. I’m just spit ballin’ here but nobody really wants extra PBR.  Nobody.  And that’s what you get in a PBR tall boy.  Because of the outright and inexcusable lack of proper fridge stocking, I was forced to consume Coors Light.  In a tall boy.  And by forced I mean I wasn’t.  I could have had a normal regulation size draw of Miller Lite in the typical plastic cup required on patios.  But everybody else, including Mom at one point, is drinking tall boys and I’m not sure if you realize this, but tall boys have more beer in them.  Again, just spit ballin’ here but you know who likes more beer?  Everybody.

So as the day wears on and we have various conversations, including my agreeing to go a Flo Rida concert with Mom, we order tacos.  And a continuing flow of beers.  And, I’m not necessarily proud – or ashamed – of this but we put those away faster than Billy Idol was pumping fists in the Flesh for Fantasy video.

Mom tapped out first.  Got ride home from a friend.  About an hour later, I was done. Was about ready to get in the same friend’s car as she had recently arrived back at the patio after dropping Mom off and the taco effect suddenly become apparent to me.

So I did what anybody else would have done.  I bombed the bathroom.

Then I went home.  Upon my arrival I ask Mom how she’s doing – and just for reference sake it was still light out – and Mom informs me that she bombed our bathroom.

While we both felt pretty damn good afterwards, the effect of the beers hadn’t been evicted from our systems.  It was about this time that Kinz comes into our room and asks if her friend – a boy – could come over for a few hours.  My answer?  “Sure.”

Her response?  “Ok, but you’re going to have to talk to his Dad when he drops him off.”

My response to that?  “Ummm…you should ask Mom to do that.”

From the bedroom we hear, “No she shouldn’t!”

So it’s up to me to somehow behave like a responsible parent so this kid isn’t banned from our house because I wanted to kick 47’s ass.

Short while later – and after another visit or two to the bathroom – the kid and his Dad are at our door.  We introduce ourselves.  And then…

“Hey so I need to go through my whole deal here since we haven’t been to your house before.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Any alcohol in the house?”

I sorta tilted my head slightly and said, “Yeah…but they’re not going to drink any of it.”

“Any firearms in the house?”

I’m thinking, sure okay, this is a legit question.  I guess I could be Bob Lee Swagger.  I might be slamming beers while I make my own ammo out back.

“Nope, no firearms.”

“Any explosives in the house?”

“You’ll have to be more specific.  Do you mean military, commercial or recreational?”

No I didn’t really say that.  But I’d never been asked – ever – if there were any explosives in my house.  Do people stock explosives?  I’m not counting fireworks.  Where do you even purchase them if you were to stock them?  Because if this is a thing, I kinda would like to know that too.

And listen I get the first question.  I’m not going to ask it because I’m assuming it to be true in nearly every house in America.  I also understand the second question.  And maybe I should be asking that too.  Maybe we all should.  Or maybe we shouldn’t. Alcohol and firearms aren’t illegal.  Often dangerous when used in concert but not illegal.

But even weirder than the questions was I’m answering them after spending the last 5 hours at the bar drinking Coors Light tall boys while eating laxative tacos talking about going to the Flo Rida concert.

So well played 47, well played…

After Prom

High School Prom.  You remember it.  I liked Prom.  Had a great time both times I went. Junior year 1987 theme was Bon Jovi’s I’ll Be There For You.  Top Gun had recently hit VHS and the Atomic Shakespeare episode of Moonlighting was the funniest thing anybody had ever seen.  Senior year, if you can believe it, was even more awesome.  The series finale of Magnum aired the same weekend as Prom.  Poison had just released Nothing But a Good Time and we had access to multiple 30 packs of Stroh’s and Stroh Light.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…how does any self-respecting high school senior pick Stroh’s over Milwaukee’s Best?  Well, it came in a 30 pack.  Just saying. Also next time you have the chance to crack a Stroh’s or an MB you’ll swear to the sweet baby Jesus that it smells exactly like high school.  And Prom…if you went to high school in the late 80’s with me.  Seriously, just for a second, you’ll feel like you’re wearing shredded jeans, listening to Just Like Paradise on your way to see Coming to America.

Now sure as as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti some of you are judging me right now.  How in the hell can I hold any high moral ground while talking to my oldest daughter about Prom while I’m writing about the venerable and sorely missed Stroh’s 30 pack?

Well, thStrohs30pack1988e truth is parenting teenagers is f’ing hard.  I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t have all the right answers.  I mean example #1, I miss the taste of Stroh’s.  Sure its mostly nostalgic but I still do.  Example #2, I have no freaking clue where the point of balance is between letting your teenage daughter do things and protecting her from things actually is.  Example #3, I really don’t have any idea how these kids can enjoy Prom without hair metal.  These morons are listening to Chance the Rapper and DJ Khaled.  But here’s the thing, I remember being a teenager.  So do you.  I remember my two proms.  I thought about two things my last couple years of high school – girls and beer. That’s it. Sometimes, during basketball practice, I thought about basketball.  But that was kinda hit and miss.  As was my playing time as a result.  So while I was pretty unhappy about Mom volunteering for the After Prom party at the high school, it did put me in a position to at least be in proximity to my 17 year-old daughter during a key high milestone.  Plus, we did have access to a truckload of free food.

First, if your high school doesn’t do an After Prom party, here’s the low down.  The school opens itself up, parents volunteer to staff various activities and other crap to occupy the Prom-goers from the end of Prom to the middle of the freaking night.  Ostensibly to keep them in a relatively safe environment instead of driving around slamming beers.   Which, as we all know, may or may not have happened to a few of us Gen Xers during our high school years.  Afterwards, since these kids do everything in groups, the groups assemble at somebody’s house and they all sleep there.  Then your kid shows up at home sometime Sunday morning.

Our adventure begins with us meeting some of the other parents downtown to take some Prom pics.  Here’s one of the group.

Prom 88 Matt Ladd Jeff Nick

Oh, wait that’s a pic of me and some of my friends at Senior Prom back in ’88.  Here’s Rye and her group.

Prom17

Two things become obvious – 1) the guys are more excited about the pics than the girls. 2) My own douchiness as a high school junior and senior became painfully clear to myself.   These guys were posing their asses off.  But I did get to meet Rye’s date for the first time. But it was a day late.  While I was at work Friday night, Rye brought him over to meet us. We’d made a pretty big deal out of the fact that he hadn’t been to the house and we hadn’t met him.  Rye and him spent a little time talking to Mom about Prom and what their plans were.  Mom was pleased.  I was not.  Mostly because I was stuck at work during that 23.5 hour marathon.  I explained to  a couple coworkers what was happening while lamenting the fact that none of my questions for him could be answered.

So I improvised and started texting Mom the aforementioned questions.  Here’s the list:

  • What is his parent’s debt to asset ratio?
  • Any history of felonies or involvement with organized crime?
  • Trump or Hillary?
  • Steelers or Ravens?
  • Who was the better president: Woodrow Wilson or Calvin Coolidge?
  • What kind of car does he drive?
  • Grunge or Hair Metal?
  • Skinny jeans or normal jeans?

Mom was no help.  All she told us was that he drives a white car.  Which is useless. Provides me with absolutely no actionable intel.  Might as well have told me Tom Cruise is coming out with an action movie this summer.  Or that Eric Dickerson had a pretty good rookie year in ’83.  Useless.

PromdonutsAnyway, we head home after the pics for a hour or so then head over to Jersey Mike’s to pick up 8 boxes of subs.  Local businesses were donating food or giving us a deal. Our job to pick up Jersey Mike’s.  We arrived and there was Subway, Jimmy John’s, Krispy Kremes, Scratch Cupcakes, mini blizzards from Dairy Queen, a truckload of Papa John’s pizza, and not nearly enough wings from Buffalo Wild Wings.  After getting everything set up, I volunteered to be in charge of ice.  It required me to get ice and dump it into the big coolers to keep the pop, water and Gatorade cold.  I spent most of my time sitting while marveling at the amount of food these kids can consume.  These kids just wasted the donuts.  They looked like the Terminator walking into the West Highland Police Station looking for Sarah Connor.

One kid took 6 donuts and built them into a small pyramid on top of his pizza.  6 donuts. Who eats 6 donuts at midnight before they eat half a pizza?

PromjerseymikesI ended up with some leftover Gatorade, a box of Jersey Mike’s and two cases of Diet Pepsi.  We got home about 3:15 am…and were up at 6 am for more softball.  But as luck would have it, Bails’ team lost their first two games of the day and we were home by 11:30 and I immediately went to sleep.  5 and a-half hours later, the girls woke me up so I could mow the lawn.  Because this is what Dads do.  We go to softball on a couple hours sleep for two days in a row, we volunteer at After Prom parties and then we come home and mow the lawn.

Go Dads.

Next blog…An Awesome Time Machine.

 

Sleep and Other Stuff

I’ve never run a marathon.  Never been through Navy Seal training.  Never had to listen to a full speech from Elizabeth Warren.  All these things require endurance.  And in the case of the last example the ability to suppress audible laughter.  Staying awake also requires endurance.  Because staying awake can be hard.  It doesn’t matter if you’re watching golf, listening to Ed Sheeran, or staying at work for nearly 24 consecutive hours.

Stop me if this also happened to you a couple weeks ago.  You show up at work at 8 a.m. Friday morning.  With me so far?  Then you leave work at 7:15…a.m. Saturday morning. Sound fun?  How about this – starting Monday morning April 17 and ending Saturday morning April 22, I put in exactly 80 hours at work.  Which made me curious as to how many hours actually passed between the time I arrived that Monday morning and when I made it home alive the following Saturday.  There are only 119.25 hours in that time frame.  80 hours at work, 39ish hours for everything else.  That includes about 25 hours for sleep.

You may be asking yourself how dumb my job is.  Fair question.  April is normally my busiest month.  By the time we finish up the busy season I usually reset my personal bests for caffeine consumption use of the “f” word.  But lots of people have busy jobs, busy lives with kids’ activities and other assorted bullsh*t.  Mine all just happened on the same freaking day.

On my drive home I was trying to do some rudimentary math because I suck at it and because I had a pretty busy Saturday about to commence.  I’ll get home about 7:20, Bails softball schedule for Saturday is 8, 9:30, 2, 3:30.  Also happened to be Prom weekend for Rye.  Pics downtown at 5:30.  Then Mom stupidly volunteered for the After Prom Committee so we have to pick up subs from Jersey Mike’s at 8:45 and be at the high school at 9.  Then work the After Prom party until…wait for it…3 a.m.  Then be up at 6 a.m. Sunday to get to the softball fields by 7 a.m. for another set of games at 8 and 9:30. Once that’s done I needed to mow the lawn because it looked like Vietnam out there.

I walk into the house and two things are of the utmost importance.  1) I’m hungry.  2) I have never wanted out of a jacket and tie this much in my life. Not even when I went through first communion back in ’78 and I had one of those clip-on ties and those little blue sport coats that make every other Mom comment on your cuteness.  No boy wants comments on his cute mini-me grown up clothes.  Its uncomfortable.  Anyway, after eating what was easily the best two pieces of toast I’ve ever tasted in my life and shedding my work clothes I got in bed.

Now I’m sure there are some super Dads out there who in the name of proper parenting would’ve thrown on jeans and a sweatshirt and headed right out to the 8:00 softball game because nothing is more important than showing your kids that they are your #1 priority and you’d do anything for them.

Turns out I’m not that guy.  Adversity struck and I hit the sack faster than the donations to the Clinton Foundation dried up the day after the election.

Two things though  – 1) once you’ve missed your sleep window, its not that easy to force yourself into a peaceful slumber, and 2) the brightness of the morning sun spikes your aggravation levels to unhealthy heights.

So I, and I’m not exaggerating, totally buried myself under blankets and pillows in order to simulate darkness.  Worked for a couple hours until Mom, Bails and Kinz got home after the first two games with Chinese food for lunch.

eggrolldust

I made my way downstairs and without warning attacked the egg rolls.  I looked like a wood chipper clearing a street after a tornado.  Instead of sawdust it was remnants of egg rolls and fried rice.

Then it was out to the softball fields for the last two games of the day.  Its weird how Saturday feels when you really didn’t have a normal Friday.  My Fridays in the spring normally consist of me getting home, drinking more than one can of the variety of summer seasonal beers I like to populate my basement fridge with, watching Youtube videos of classic NFL games from the 70’s and 80’s and then waiting for Mom to get home.  Its a tried and true system that has consistently served me well.  So not only was I knocked off my routine but I was working on 2 hours of sleep fueled only by grocery store Chinese food.  I surprised myself with my coherence.  Didn’t have too much trouble speaking in complete sentences.  But eliminating the “f” word from your normal parlance is difficult after it becomes so culturally accepted in nearly every setting when you’re at work for 23.5 consecutive hours.  Normally walking into a room at work and asking, “Who is the asshat who called this f*&$ing meeting?” isn’t a thing that is heard without eliciting some kind of response.  But that’s what happens.  Unfortunately that doesn’t translate to a 14U softball game.  You can’t sit there behind home plate and comment in a conversational volume that, “this f*&$ing ump couldn’t find his ass with both hands, no chance he finds the strike zone.  He’s missed a f*&$load of calls already.”

So I decided to be silent with my feedback.  And I was able to stay awake…but the 5 or 6 Diet Pepsi’s probably had something to do with that.

Last game ends and we head for home for about 30 minutes to be there in time for Rye’s date to pick her up before we head downtown for Prom pics…

Next blog…After Prom…

 

There’s No Diet Pepsi

There are some things that are omens, they portend bad things.  In late 1991 Nirvana hit the charts with Smells Like Teen Spirit.  It seemed like a pretty cool song from a band of stinky homeless guys.  But it was just the bugle call signaling the end of hair metal.  In the 1990 the FCC implemented the educational/informational mandate and unfortunately killed Scooby Doo, Thundarr the Barbarian and Spiderman & His Amazing friends along with the rest of Saturday morning cartoons.  In week 6 of the 1980 NFL season the 1-4 Bengals came into Three Rivers Stadium to play the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers.  The Bengals lone win and the Steelers lone loss was the result the first meeting between the teams in week 3.  The Bengals won again and it seemed like an unfortunate upset but it was really the beginning of the end for the 70’s Steelers Dynasty.

I show up at the gas station Wednesday morning as I normally do on my way to work.  I head over to the fountain pop and grab the big 44 oz. styrofoam cup.  If I have the option, I always pick styrofoam and 44 oz.  52 oz is too much and 32 is too little.  One place has a 42 oz and I’ll go with that when I stop there.  But it’s always styrofoam.  It keeps the pop colder than plastic.  Plus, and I’m just going by some extremely lazy research, styrofoam is not biodegradable or recyclable while plastic is recyclable.  So I figure walking around with a big styrofoam cup makes the PC enviro crowd irritated.  Good enough for me.

Aside from that small and extremely petty victory, I just like cold fountain pop in a big cup.  Irritating the left is really just a unintentional bonus.  Not that I’m dismissing lefty irritation but if we’re all being honest with ourselves, irritating the left isn’t especially difficult.  They’re offended by almost everything.  And if somehow you come to a non-offended conclusion, they will explain why you should be and twitter shame you into being offended.  Regardless, I really like Diet Pepsi in the big cup.  It’s the official soft drink of the NFL.  Plus fountain pop tastes different the can pop.  Not that I’m against can pop.  If I’m ranking them, can pop is a solid second to fountain pop.  Plastic bottle pop is last.  I’m not drinking that if I can avoid it.  It’s like Bud Light.  I’m not avoiding it at all costs, but I’m grabbing can of something else first.

But on this particular Wednesday morning, as I fill up my big Styrofoam cup, the liquid coming out of the Diet Pepsi dispenser is alarmingly clear.  Like it could be Sprite.  Nobody wants Sprite in the morning.  But I don’t have a lot of options.  There’s only one Diet Pepsi dispenser.  So here’s the situation…I can leave the gas station and drive to another gas station which really isn’t that close and is in the opposite direction of my office.  I can get a crappy plastic bottled Diet Pepsi.  Or I can bite the bullet and fill up with…Diet Coke.  I know.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  Probably a lot like the Democrat’s presidential primary choice.  Luckily for me I’ve faced this situation before and I went with the driving to another gas station option.  But that was on a Saturday morning and I still have to get to work.  So I filled up Diet Coke.  I wasn’t happy about it.  I got to work and yeah, I drink the whole thing.  But as soon as I finished it, I went down and got a can of Diet Pepsi to wash the taste out of my mouth.  And then I get my arse kicked for about 6 hours in meetings.  Clear liquid outta the Diet Pepsi dispenser…bad omen…

Hello Christmas My Old Friend

I like Santa.  He’s a jolly old fat man with a snowy white beard.  He’s about giving, hope and faith.  He represents the best in all of us and asks nothing in return.  He shows up regardless of the weather, regardless of how you voted in November and regardless of whether you believe in him or not.

Christmas is the season, to paraphrase Frank Cross, when we’re all a little nicer.

Theoretically anyway.

Mom was in Omaha and Lincoln for most of last week. And her side of the family came to the house over the weekend to celebrate an early Christmas.  Plus Rogue One came out Friday.  Yeah, so Friday morning was pretty much shot when it came to cleaning up the house and making food along with all the other related holiday preparedness chores necessary to accomplish when family is about to arrive.

So that means it fell upon me to get the place ready.  I unilaterally modified that task to mostly ready.  Why?  Because I’m a simple dude.  And a lot of stuff that some people think are necessary, I don’t.  But listen, we kicked Christmas’ ass decorating this place.  It looks freaking awesome.  Our family room looks like HG-freaking-TV was here.  Chip and Joanna, when they’re not fighting off the leftwing twitter lynch mob, would be proud.  The house smells like a yuletide log filled with mistletoe and sugarplums, delivered to the house by a one-horse open sleigh driven by eleven lords-a-leaping, exploded leaving an exquisite ensemble of poinsettias, silver bells and a sea of swirly twirly gum drops.   It’s like Santa himself detailed the Seal Team 6 of elves to come get the place ready for the holidays.  So I figured as long as the house is clean, the beer is cold and there is enough food to prevent starvation, we’d be set.

Yes, there were a few things left to clean up after we got home from watching Rogue One.  But it was Rogue One.  What the hell were we supposed to do?  Wait until next weekend to see it?  Here’s a pic of me getting ready to watch.

theaterrogueone

First one in the theater baby!

Regardless, I was on top of making sure the house was ready.  Thursday night, whilst cleaning up the basement, I thought I’d get all the laundry done too.  Seemed reasonable.  However, there are three teenage girls in the house.  Things which are of deathly importance to them do not always rise to that same level with me.

So, I’m doing the laundry and various clean up related tasks.  I’m about done and getting ready to call the evening’s prep work a win and just go to bed when Rye comes into the bedroom.

“Dad, when you were doing laundry did you go into my room and take anything?”

“Are you asking did I pick up any of the clothes that were strewn about your floor?  No, I didn’t.  I asked if you had any laundry you wanted done and you specifically said no.  I chose to believe you.”

“Ok, well it was Kinsey then.”

“Wait, what was Kinsey?”

“Well, my Lulu Lemon tights got washed in the washer and they are only supposed to be hand washed.”

Quick point of context – Lulu Lemon is the brand that sells tights/leggings that are about $700.  I’m kidding but Rye did save up a bunch of money this summer specifically to buy leggings that were about $100.  Yes, $100 American dollars.  They are so precious but also evidently constructed so poorly that they can’t cannot survive a routine cycle in a washing machine and instead can only endure 19th century clothes washing technology.

“Sorry about that kiddo but I just put whatever whatever was in the darks pile into the washing machine.  I didn’t look to see what was in the pile because I figure if you guys made the rare decision to put your own dirty laundry in the laundry room I was just going to go ahead assume you were serious about that stuff getting washed.  I just unloaded the washer and hung up 3 or 4 pairs of black tights or leggings or whatever.  Nothing like that got put in the dryer.”

“Okay, well, Kinsey must have put them in the laundry on purpose.  I hate her.”

Then she went into Kinsey’s room, blamed her, and then went back into her room and started crying.

So much for there being a feeling of Christmas in the air.  But that is how the mind of 17 year-old upset about her ridiculously expensive black leggings being washed glitches when upset.  She doesn’t think that she may have inadvertently put them in the wrong pile, or absent mindedly picked them up with something else off her floor, instead she tried to pin the blame on me.  When it was obvious that wouldn’t work, she seamlessly transitioned to blaming her sister, for no other reason than malice, for trying to purposely ruin them.

I mean what was Kinsey’s motive?  What did she have to gain by going into Rye’s room, searching for the Lulu Lemon leggings and then sneakily placing them in the pile of dirty laundry in the laundry room.  Where’s the payoff?

After getting blamed, Kinsey comes into my room looking like the media on election night.  She confusedly asks me if I knew what Rye was talking about.  We went through a quick recap and Kinz says, “Why would I do that? That literally makes no sense.”  Aside from acknowledging her use of “literally” in a relatively appropriate way, I just told her to ignore Rye and go to bed.

Which, if I’m being honest, is my go to strategy when dealing with the three teenage girls in my house…

He’s Nothing Without His Choppers

Remember that story I told you about my two front teeth getting knocked out by a line drive off my daughter’s bat about 16 months ago?  Not really?  Okay, quick refresher – took a line drive directly to my face, just below my nose and just above my front teeth.  I assume what I felt was similar to what Hollywood felt when they called Pennsylvania for Trump.

No bone fractures, no cracked teeth, just quite a bit of blood.  And swelling.  Pretty gross.  Also my face is evidently made out of high grade steel.  Not that I’m bragging or daring you to test that conclusion but its pretty amazing that my teeth were fully intact along with the rest of my face.  Anyway, went to the ER and then to the dentist.  After their unexpected exit from my mouth the fugitive teeth were transported to the ER in my pocket and then to the dentist in a cup of milk.  For teeth, milk is apparently like a defibrillator.  After about an hour of being as toothless as Hillary’s appeal in the upper Midwest, the dentist replanted the teeth using sheer brute force.  Afterwards it was clearly explained to me that they had no idea if the replanting would work.  Replanting normally only works in teenagers.  Dudes in their mid-40’s eventually come back in to get permanent replacement teeth because we do not have the bloodflow necessary in our gums for a complete healing process to succeed.

Yeah, so here’s the update.  I had a dentist appointment last week and it was time for x-rays.  By the way, does it cause anyone even the slightest bit of concern that your protection against multiple invisible radioactive x-rays is a flimsy apron infused with lead or a lead equivalent?  Or that the lead apron covers you from mid-thigh to your neck…but they are aiming the radiation at your mouth which is unprotected and, if I remember human anatomy correctly, is really damn close to your brain.

Anyway, I had a new hygienist working on my teeth.  She didn’t know the whole backstory.  I suggested she read my dental history before working on my teeth.  I think she took the comment as skepticism of her ability to her job.  Which, in retrospect, is silly.  If you’re going to pick a fight with someone, it sure as hell isn’t going to be a person armed with sharp pokey things and the legal protection to cause significant dental related pain.  But she still looked at me the same way I looked when the Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention in 1980.  Then she went back to the chart and after about 30 seconds, she turns toward me and says, “So, those are your real teeth back in there, huh?”

Is Samantha Bee a hypocritical condescending douchelord?

After she’s done cleaning my teeth, she grabs the x-rays and calls for the dentist to take a look.  They’re laughing as they come back to my chair.  Dentist says, “I was just going over our, um, history.”  Turns out getting your teeth knocked out by a softball moving faster than the Milennium Falcon making the Kessel Run then salvaging them quickly enough that they can be shoved back into your sockets isn’t something most hygenists are taught to deal with in school.

Dentist holds up the x-ray of my front teeth and describes that inexplicably the gum tissue surrounding my teeth is not only healthy but it appears as if nothing ever happened.  Additionally, the ligaments appear to have reattached.  But mostly importantly it looks as if the roots of the teeth and the bone are fusing.  This is a condition called ankylosis .

So sort of a double edged sword here according to my dentist.  Chances are, as long as things remain healthy, these teeth aren’t coming out again.  They are pretty damn secure.  Which, again, she can’t believe because dudes in the mid-40’s don’t have their teeth replanted, they have them replaced.  But the downside is that if they ever need to come out for some reason, it’s kind of a big deal.  The dentist’s conclusion?

“You’re are an amazing healer.  Your gums are as healthy as can be, the teeth look completely normal and they are really, really secure in there.”

My response?

wolverine“I might be off base here but what I’m hearing you say is that I’m Wolverine.  I have extraordinary healing powers but instead of retractable adamantium claws, I have beaver teeth.”

Dentist didn’t totally agree, but also didn’t completely reject it.  So I’m counting that as win.

Experience, Genetics and Relocation

As far as I can tell, we’re all a product of our experiences with a good dose of genetics mixed in there.  That combination creates the parameters of your particular personality.  What you like, what you’ll put up with and how you view the world.  For example, the entirety of my teen years was spent in the 80’s.  This means I like hair metal, John Hughes movies and judge all presidents against Ronald Reagan.  Although I do have a soft spot for some top 40 nuggets  like Heart & Soul by T’Pau, And We Danced by The Hooters and Dangerous from Roxette.  That being said, another thing I did a fair number of times growing up was move.  By the time I started my junior year of high school I’d moved four times, went to four different schools and went through all the stuff you do when you’re the new kid.  Before you start wondering, I think moving sucks.  Like the ’76 Buccaneers, Howard the Duck and the Big 10’s decision to add Rutgers and Maryland sucks.  I realize some people like it.  Not the Howard the Duck, that’s insane, but moving.  Some people, I’ve heard, even prefer it.  Those people are the ones who have an actual hometown.  Grew up in one place.  I’m not one of those people.  In fact, I’ve always kinda envied them.  Why?  I enjoy stability.  If I listed all the synonyms for stability, they would all sound appealing to me. Steadiness.  Permanence.  Longevity.  I like things you can count on.

Which brings us to right now.  We’re still in the house Mom and I purchased  about the time we were married almost 19 years ago.  I like where we live.  I like not moving.  We are, quite literally, close to just about everything.  And you get spoiled by that.  Especially when you can sit in your next door neighbor’s driveway/garage and drink beers and only have to stumble about 20 feet to your front door.  But, alas, things change.  Injuries pushed the Steelers out of the playoffs in 1980, Lee Majors got too old to play The Fall Guy, and we have almost 5 full grown humans living in the house.  This, for those of you keeping track, creates spacing issues within the house.

So we decided to move.  And by “we” I mean Mom and the girls.  I, as is the case in most major decisions in our family which involve me spending large amounts of money, was the last to agree.  Turns out all I was doing was an impression of the German retreat up the Italian peninsula in 1943 .  It was a delaying action with the outcome never in doubt.

Regardless, a few weeks ago, I stupidly agreed to go look at a few houses with Mom, Kinz and Bails.  Turns out one of the houses we looked at appealed to everybody.  The only reason I even agreed to see the place was because I was curious about what it looked like compared to the older places we’d looked at.  And I liked it.  Not enough to actually move, but I really did like it.  Result?  The part of my brain that governs financial decisions went into full lock down.  Seriously.  I could feel it stringing barbed wire, digging foxholes, throwing up sandbags while it built a perimeter around the decision making switch marked “yes/no.”

It was like my brain was hanging out, enjoying a normal Saturday morning, when suddenly it was invited into a house with a bigger garage, an additional bedroom, a big laundry room on the second floor and a drop zone directly inside the door from the garage to house.  Here’s video of the financial sector of my brain as it realizes what’s happening:

Our house doesn’t have a drop zone.  In fact, my only experience with drop zones was episode 2 of Band of Brothers when Easy Company missed theirs by hundreds of miles and were scattered all over northern France in June of ’44.  A drop zone is the area inside a house where everybody can drop their crap as they come in from the garage – shoes, coats, backpacks, frustration and whatever else you lug around during your day.  I’m joking about dropping your frustration there.  You obviously can’t leave that in the drop zone.  You leave that at the bar.  Ideally a drop zone has hooks, a spot for shoes and best of all, the drop zone is not the ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR of your house.  Which is how it works now.  Shoes go right in front of the door and stay there until they form a small mountain range.

We’re walking around this new house and while I’m thinking about property taxes and utility costs, Kinz and Bails are upstairs picking out rooms and taping off the floor to illustrate where their beds and furniture will go.  They even chose Rye’s room for her.

 

My brain’s reaction:

Then Bails starts showing me how simple and efficient her flow of movement will be on school day mornings as she moves effortlessly from the future location of her bed to the bathroom.  No wasted steps since the closet is conveniently located on the way plus the bathroom has two sinks so her and Kinz won’t fight over space.  While this has a certain degree of logic to it, I’m skeptical about that last part.   Replacing Bo and Luke with Vance and Coy also had a degree of logic and that was a complete disaster.

Meanwhile Mom is downstairs with the realtor talking about how nice the finishes in the kitchen are while mentioning now nicely the first floor flows between rooms.  Then she starts asking questions about how long the house has been listed, who the builder is and long does it typically take get your current house ready to sell.

My brain:

So, to quote myself a couple hours later after Mom let me know that she’d already talked to the bank: