Touch me I’m sick

“I am trying to be ill.”- Rik, The People’s Poet

 

I was born with strong bones and a healthy heart. Being born as nine pound plus baby, I can honestly say that I was never weak, nor malnourished. And based on the rapidly growing pile of jeans in my closet that no longer fit and my rapidly diminishing view of my toes, I can say that this situation has continued to be the case. I am grateful that I was born with such a sturdy body. I thank the Lord that he gave me many gifts. He gave me an excellent sense of hearing, strong bones that have never been broken, a remarkably handsome face and awesome muscle tone. He also gave me the ability to completely delude myself as regards my face and physique. It is sometimes a burden to have been born so blessed. However, in an effort to even out the score and ultimately prevent me from ruling the word, the Good Lord is his infinite wisdom decided to give me one pair of organs that frankly just don’t work that good. No, not that pair of organs, you pervert. Based on the two young people that resemble me and spend a good portion of the time calling me Dad, while asking for me to give them money, I would say those organs work just fine thank you very much.

No, the organs I am referring to are ones that have a far more important job and are about as effective as the Jaguars offense, my lungs. I hate my lungs because frankly they work about as hard as a government employee on a Friday afternoon. There was a time when my lungs weren’t consistently letting me down but apparently the factory warrantee on those bad boys expired after 18 months. For those of you who have never known the joy of taking a deep breath and feeling like you are inhaling through a wet sponge, let me enlighten you in on the joys you have missed.

  • ·         You have missed the joys of being up at three in the morning because you can’t breathe and you and your occasionally nodding off mother get to enjoy some late night TV. However, if you think that late night television is bad now with your 300 channels and your 54” HDTV then imagine what it was like back in the early 80s when there was only 3 channels on…during primetime.
  • ·         You missed the joy of being accused of being a smartass by every teacher because you made the critical mistake a taking your usual desperate gasp for air at the same moment that your teacher mentioned her age and/or weight.
  • ·         You missed knowing more about how to conduct a chest x-ray than the Technicians that spend 24 credit hours learning to do it at community college.
  • ·         You also missed the secrets of children’s medicine: If it tastes good, it doesn’t work. If it tastes bad, it still won’t work. And if it tastes really, really bad then it won’t work but the doctor will recommend that you drink a bottle every fifteen minutes.

I don’t want to pretend that I was sick throughout my entire childhood; there were some considerable periods of time when I was completely healthy. The fact was that as long as I didn’t get a cold, I was fine. However, as soon as I felt the first twinges of a sore throat, I was like a man leaping from an airplane without a parachute. Oh sure things were okay right now but the reality is that conditions were only going to get worse. My mom did do her best to make my periods of sickness as tolerable as possible. When the times came when my coughs got really bad she would occasionally deviate from the doctor prescribed medicines and go with some home remedies and they were so great. My favorite was a combination of warm honey and whiskey. I am not sure if it helped my cough, but it sure made the cartoons I was watching far more entertaining. The only problem with home remedies is that once you tell someone that you are open to using them then suddenly everyone that you know is an amateur physician and has their own little known medical secret that will make you well. There is also a simultaneous contest to see whose home remedy can be the weirdest. My rural south Georgian (the state where sanity is on permanent holiday) grandmother always won the title hands down.  My personal favorite recommendation from her was ,in response to my case of pneumonia( another benefit of being sick as a kid is the ability to spell “pneumonia” without using spell-check) , that my Mom render up a large amount of possum fat and the bathe me in it and follow that with wrapping me up in newspaper. Wow, just like it said in the New England Journal of Medicine. I hope this explains my dual hatred of both the opossum and the printed newspaper. The only thing worse than people offering up home remedies, is when they recommend their own doctors. Once again, I truly appreciate that there are people in the world that care enough about me and my health to offer free advice but sometimes it still sounds weird. The conversation is always the same,” Oh, you have a bad case of __________. Well my doctor, DR. ____________ can cure that right up. Just make sure you tell him that I sent you.”

Now, this although noble, is just plain odd. It’s not like there is a vast difference in doctors in this day and age. I mean I always presumed that there were professional guidelines that all doctors have to meet. I don’t think I have ever seen a lottery scratch off ticket that says,” Match the number to your lucky number and win a medical practice.” So since they are pretty much equal I don’t think shopping around would do my health much good. Secondly, your relationship with your doctor is like your relationship with your preacher: First of all, once you have started the relationship you are too committed to leave and secondly you won’t know if you made the wrong choice until after you are dead. But, the truly odd part of the doctor recommendation is the “mention my name” part. What are you working for commission? Did your doctor promise to knock 25% off that kidney transplant if you brought him 15 new patients?  That’s not medical referral, that’s a pyramid scheme.  And just once I want to hear a doctor say, “Oh, you know Steve? Well in that case I am going to give you the “real” medicine because I have been giving everybody else Flintstones Chewables.”

Now while I do have much respect for anyone that would rack the kind of student loan debt that is necessary to become a doctor lately, I must admit that the general level of medicinal professionalism has started to suffer lately. It’s not the doctors’ fault, with growing malpractice insurance premiums, prescription drug abuse on the rise and the fact that every numbskull with an internet connection thinks they can do the job of diagnosing their ailments better than you can. It’s no wonder that the number of doctors is on the decrease. Although there are many fine doctors still practicing medicine, there are a few charlatans operating in the medical field. Have you fallen prey to one of these bad doctors? Here are a few tips to know for sure:

  • ·         Your doctor’s office is an El Camino with no wheels that’s parked in the alley behind the pawn shop.
  • ·         Check out the health of the fish in the waiting room aquarium. If he can’t keep a 93 cent goldfish from Wal-mart alive, then odds are against him curing a human being. A note to you non-aquarium keepers: Fish don’t sleep belly up.
  • ·         The Time magazine in the waiting room refers to the 1880s as   ”The Future”.
  • ·         The receptionist desk consists of just a series of pallets stacked on top of each other.
  • ·         When the nurse calls you to come on back, she adds,  ”if you dare”.
  • ·         The door stop in the hallway is a cooler that reads,   ”Live Human Organs”.
  • ·         The floor in the treatment room has a chalk body outline on it.
  • ·         The back of the doctor’s lab coat has Jiffy Lube on it.
  • ·         When you hand the doctor a vial of your blood, he asks “what’s that red stuff”.
  • ·         The x-ray machine is just an Etch-a-Sketch bolted to the wall.
  • ·         The doctor keeps referring to when he took his Hippopotamus Oath.
  • ·         The office gives you the option of paying with livestock.

Even if you have the good fortune to have selected a quality medical care provider, you will learn as I have that as bad as being sick as a kid was, being sick as an adult is even worse. When you were sick as a kid, Mom always gave me the best care. She let me keep my room a little messier than usual. She made me grilled cheese sandwiches and I got to drink root beer from a straw in my room, activities which were verboten when I was healthy.  She would bring me extra pillows if I wanted and was always trying to do the little things that made me feel better. To a kid suffering from pneumonia, these little things made all the difference in the world. Best of all, eventually I would fall asleep, and while a neighbor came over to watch me,  she would go to the store. It never failed that when I awoke there would be a new toy sitting on the pillow next to me. It may have been only a Matchbox Car, but that little gesture made all the difference to me. These memories made such an impact on me that I adopted my own  ”if you are sick you get a present” policy at my house. The kids love this so much that when we go visit a friend in the hospital I have to make sure they are not licking the doorknobs just to get something new. So as bad as I may have felt as a kid, the love that I received made it not seem so bad.

However, I know that being sick as an adult just plain sucks. There is no chance to stay home if you are sick, not in this economy. No one makes you grilled cheese. You just get to feel bad and yet still have to do all the things that you do when you are feeling well. No one brings you root beer with a straw in it and I haven’t seen a toy car on my bed yet. You also get to worry about how you are going to be able to get better before the deductible on your insurance resets and you have to shell out your Christmas money just to keep well enough to stay out of the hospital. It is sickening and depressing. I always make it worse for not letting anyone do things for me because I feel guilty for being sick. It all seems like just too much to handle. It was in the middle of my current bout with Bronchitis and self doubt that I fell asleep last night. Late in the night, I felt my wife put her hand on my back and checked the rattling in my lungs. It was just a little gesture but it made me happy that she cares enough about me to check on how I was doing, even late at night. It made all the difference in the world……………but I still would like some root beer.

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THNKS FR TH MMRS

“Thank you India, thank you terror, thank you disillusionment “-Alanis Morrisette

I was raised in a southern house. The food was generally fried and featured a meat product in every dish. It was a house where you cleaned your plate before you had dessert. You learned that you could live without a heater but not air conditioning.  You had grits instead of hash browns, you called them sweet potatoes not yams and the only tea was sweetened and iced. You never took yourself too seriously and you learned more lessons at home than you did at school.  The most important of these lessons was a rather simple one: Mind your manners.

You addressed adults as mister or misses. You blessed people when they sneezed. You patted them on the back when they coughed. You looked someone in the eye when you shook their hand. You wished them a good day. You said, ”Yes sir” or “No Ma’am” even if the person you were addressing was the same age as you. You said,  ”please”. But most of all, you showed your upbringing was proper by saying “thanks”. Thank the waiter who was just doing his job. Thank the stranger that said   ”God Bless you” after you sneezed. Thank you for not smoking. Thank you for your business. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  It becomes so routine to thank people that the actual concept of gratitude becomes lost in what become nothing more than empty words. I would like to think that I have a strength of character that the words mean something to me but know that the reality is that just are a vacant gesture. The question is how to put some gratitude back into my thank you’s. I guess Thanksgiving is a good day to start.  So here are the things I am grateful for:

·         I am grateful to my wife for not killing me in my sleep although I often deserve it.

·         I am grateful for having the patience to extend the same courtesy to my children.

·        I am grateful for friends that treat me like family and relatives that treat me like strangers because they both prove that it is the bonds of affection that bind us not genetics.

·        I am grateful for sci-fi and sports for giving me something to occupy my time with because otherwise I would be spending it making myself a more productive human being.

·        I am grateful for the bad job I no longer have and the good job I do.

·        I am grateful for free Wi-fi.

·        I am grateful for one hour lunches.

·        I am grateful for the cafe at work because it gives those lacking the culinary skills to work at a public school lunchroom gainful employment.

·        I am grateful that I have not yet eaten at that odd smelling Indian restaurant.

·        I am grateful for baseball games with my son and concerts with my daughter.

·        I am grateful for my wife giggling when she reads what I write.

·        I am grateful for Facebook for letting me see the psychotic ramblings of the people I know.

·        I am grateful that after 20 years, I sometimes still refer to her as my girlfriend.

·        I am grateful for kids that act their age and adults who don’t.

·        I am grateful for chocolate, marshmallows and gummi bears.

·        I am grateful that I live in a Navy town because when I talk about “the men in uniform” , they are real people.

·        I am grateful for Moon River and Dahlia’s.

·        I am grateful for good coffee and great beer.

·        I am grateful for Saturday mornings at Edgewood Bakery and Sunday afternoons at Dreamette.

·        I am grateful for my kids’ good public schools and the teachers that actually care.

·        I am grateful for the strength certain people show when faced with illness because it reminds me how easy I really have it.

·        I am grateful that the seventh grade girls on the bus like my boys hair.

·        I am grateful that the 20 year olds at FSCJ haven’t noticed my daughter’s.

·        I am grateful for Family Guy, Regular Show, and Walking Dead for proving that quality t.v. shows still exist.

·        I am grateful for the word “swag”, because it just sounds cool.

·        I am grateful that I still believe that things will get better.

·        I am grateful for Target for giving me somewhere to go when Wal-mart pisses me off.

·        I am grateful that the bruises healed.

·        I am grateful that our Krispy Kreme is coming back.

·        I am grateful that Krispy Kreme left because if not I would weigh 600 pounds.

·        I am grateful for the morally upstanding people I call my role models and the morally questionable ones that I call my friends.

·        I am grateful that they haven’t “Baker Acted” me, yet.

·        I am grateful that my bank doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement.

·        I am grateful for the people who give a damn.

·        I am grateful that I work for a company that gives to charity.

·        I am grateful that I have a job.

·         I am grateful for my imperfect family at my messy house, on a lousy street, in a crappy neighborhood, in a boring town.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Just say nyet

“I want a new drug”- Huey Lewis

That egg always looked pretty tasty to me. You know the one I am talking about.That’s right, the one from the commercial. Yeah, that commercial. It was far too dramatic to forget. The stark white kitchen. The guy in the dress shirt with the rolled up sleeves, who happened to resemble the Dean of Boys at my junior high school. The pan. And the egg. “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Yeah I have a question. Are you gonna put some butter or oil in that cast iron pan or not? Because that egg is just going to get all stuck to the pan if you don’t and the whole breakfast is going to be ruined. Personally I always thought the fried egg analogy for drug abuse was just too obvious and not quite the deterrent that the lovely people at the Partnership for a Drug Free America thought it would be. First of all, not everybody really likes eggs. Personally, thanks to a specific bout with car sickness while riding through the wastelands of rural South Carolina back when I was 4 on the same morining that I had eaten an egg salad sandwich, I never really cared for eggs. And the first rule for a truly effective analogy is to strike a emotional cord when introducing your analogy. By the way, the second rule of using analogies is always avoid using the word “sphincter”.

Since I don’t like eggs, comparing my brain to one was really rather pointless. Secondly, if you really wanted to drive home the dangers of drugs, use a different cooking method. I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager and we were going out to challenge the amount of toxins our bodies could intake in a single Friday night, we usually talked about going out and getting “fried”. So Mr. Sansa-belt Slacks comes along in his public service announcement and uses a visual manifestation to prove our point. Thanks for that, my now deceased brain cells appreciate it. A far better and clearly more effective warning would be to scrap the whole egg image altogether. Instead, they should have played the bacon card. EVERYBODY LOVES BACON, except for the commies and yeah those guys from P.E.T.A. who never smile( see the connection?) Bacon is love personified in porcine form. And the whole way that bacon is produced and consumed says more about the dangers of drugs than a dozen sunny-side up chicken embryos do. First, while eggs are produced one at a time and are actually part of the reproduction of rather unsanitary creatures, bacon comes in a group. Its called a slab of bacon, look the term “slab” also works as a foreshadowing  of the ominiuos world of drugs. You peal off one slice of bacon away from his companions, like being the first guy tossed out of the bar, and he goes into the frying pan alone. But, he doesn’t quietly simmer like ole mr. egg. No sir, he hisses and pops and lets out little audible indications of the destructive power of the hot pan. He also begins to shrivel and brown until all that is left of him is something that resembles stringy leather. Personally, after many a Boys’ Night Out, I have looked and felt exactly the same way. Finally unlike eggs which are less than $2.00 per dozen, a good section of bacon can eat up a large part of your grocery budget.

Despite the weakness in the comparison, the fact that the “brain on drugs” ad was the first to openly identify the need to curtail the increasing intoxication of the youths of America, this warning did have an impact on me. No not back in my heyday when I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof, but years later as I retired my role as “partyboy” and took on a new one as “Dad”. I have previosly mentioned that i had fully intended on telling whatever kids I had all about my wild days and how if they just were honest with me, I would guide them through the mind altering pleasures of an alcohol and THC enriched experience. It was after I saw the delicate creature that was laid in my arms on that late May afternoon, that I saw the folly in thinking that way. And it was the “brain on drugs” ad, that creeped back into my consciousness. Whether it be bacon or eggs, I was not allowing any part of my daughter into that proverbial pan. So we advocated the abstaining from all drugs, including tobacco and alcohol for as long as my child resided under my roof. She is now 16 and we are quite proud of how she has maintained a toxin free life. My wife and I even congratulated ourselves on how well we had appleid the lessons that a public service announcement from our youth had helped us. But beware the mental high five as a parent, because it can cloud your vision.

My kid is drug free and doesn’t smoke and if those are the only things that you think you have to ward off, you are sadly mistaken. The dangers are everywhere and most are not as obvious as a joint or tab of LSD. Oh how I wish they were. There are the dangers of  low self esteem. The dangers of a  overly sexualized culture. A world where the technological advances have created a class of kids that don’t understand the differences between the online persona they present to strangers on the web and who they really are. Where terms like sexting and online Friends with benefits are a gateway to the kind of  behavior that can endanger not just a child’s future happiness but also jeopardize their very lives. It is a world where honesty is immaterial and trust is elusive. It is a world where they grow up too soon and yet mature far too slowly. It is also a world that has so much beauty and goodness and opportunities to excell that you don’t want to shut them off from the world, but are afraid of what one misstep could mean.

You love your kids and hope they love you. You care for them and hope they understand that, because you love them you will never stop snooping or prying or asking them how their day was. It is a world where you second guess every decision you make and are always fearful of that one time when you pushed them too far. You also realize that you are in a world that you cannot control and at times you are just as lost and confused as they are. But you are a parent so you don’t give up. While most of what you do are shots in the dark that you hope find their mark, your intentions are always simple. Keep them safe and keep them happy. But at times you have to sacrifice one of these goals and so you keep them safe. You also search the world for wisdom and guidance and so strongly desire a way to have the kind of clearly planned actions that your own parents did but soon you realize they did what you are doing. Hoping to make the right choices and in the end that’s all you can do. Except there is no end, no finish line, no curtain drawing upon this morality play. There is just today and tomorrow. One minute transforming into the next. So you love your kids and hope they understand……………….

that you are just trying to keep them out of the pan.

No Apologies

 

“Not this time.”

It’s usually just about low self-esteem. I don’t think I am really as good as I want to be. This feeling, this illness, this utter lack of belief in myself has found its way into almost everything I do. It is an illness with no known cause but it does have one very clear symptom. This symptom manifests itself on an almost daily basis. The condition has become come cancerous to my sense of self. I suffer from a terminal case of “I’m sorry.”

If you happen to spend more than a few minutes with me, you will hear it. I’m sorry that I’m late. I’m sorry that it’s raining. I’m sorry about that completely insensitive joke someone else just told. I’m sorry that I laughed at it.I’m sorry when we win and I’m sorry when we lose. I’m sorry that the waters too wet. I’m sorry that the sugar’s too sweet. I’m sorry. I’m sorry . I’m sorry. Hell, I just realized that I am even sorry that I am sorry…..Oh, wait that sounded stupid and I’m sorry for that too.

It’s not that I don’t believe in myself at all. It’s just that I get so tired of living in a world where far too many people only care about themselves. I know I am not the only one who sees it. There are those of us who try to quietly live our lives in a way that tries to show that we value the goodness in others and try our best to make the world just a bit better by the help we offer, the smiles we give and the feeling that everybody deserves a better life than the one they now live. And far too often we feel outnumbered by the bastards in our midst. The guy who thinks he doesn’t have to wait for the traffic to clear so he drives around us on the sidewalk. The lady who thinks the “ten items or less” doesn’t apply to her. The teenager who thinks that we really want to hear the music from his car blasting away at the stoplight. They are everywhere and are a function of a society where it’s about “me getting mine” instead of  “let’s do what’s right”.

Those of us on the other side of the selfish divide then have to make a choice. It’s the ultimate fight or flight reflex and it happens on an almost subconscious level.  Do we want to turn our heads and ignore the self-centered? Is it o.k. to just pretend that those who crush any who are between them and whatever primal or monetary need they wish to fill at the time are just misguided souls having a moment of weakness and if we give them the opportunity that they will do the right thing? Sometimes that is the best way. God knows that I believe in second chances and in the potential goodness of all . I often just play the wait and see game when it comes to whether a jerk is a jerk, or is he just one that does jerky things.

However sometimes relying on the goodness of others is too big a price to pay, particularly when you see the collateral damages that the evil can do.Sometimes it takes something more. There are times when we run out of cheeks to turn. There comes the rare opportunity when we decide to, if not give Karma a push, to at least show her the direction she needs to go. Once in a while, we are our own Gandalf. We decide to strike our staffs upon the earth and declare to the selfish and the profane,”YOU SHALL NOT PASS.” And sometimes, that even works.

But, sadly, more often than not the “angels of our better nature” as Lincoln called them tell us to just let it go. We are not the angry type. We see the drama of the world and decide not to add any more performances to the playbill. And deep down, if we really care about others and doing right, we know that taking a bad path to do a good deed is still the wrong road to take. So we acquiesce. No, we don’t surrender our values but rather choose to exemplify them by doing good and helping others instead of a constant state of confrontation with the d.b. people we see.

Not that we don’t all have moments when we just want to be a “Me First”-er. We all have moments when we don’t want to surrender the remote. Where we want to pick the restaurant. When we just want to be pampered and coddled too. Then, it rises up. That feeling of guilt that says that the last thing this world needs is for one of the givers to change teams. So we apologize. WE are sorry for the selfishness in ourselves as much as that in others. We may be branded patsies and fools, but we shall not be labeled hypocrites. So we keep saying  that we are sorry, day after day.

It was just one of those days of apologies that I saw this news story.

Boy dies in freak playground accident.( Right click to open)

Not that it matters, but I just happened to know this father, although briefly. He spend one season as a coach at the youth baseball park that I have coached for these last 6 years. He was there only a season but  both the father and the boy were genuinely nice people. He had a great team but more than that he had a great perspective on life and treated all with class and dignity. My heart goes out to him and I will be sad in knowing that the world has been robbed of another fine young man. And I am sorry for his loss..

And then I started thinking about it. And I don’t think sorry is the right word. I would like to tell this dad that  I sincerely hope  in time his pain will lessen. That in the fraternity of those who have had their children taken away too soon, there will be those that understand and can help you heal .  Most of all I want to tell him, that I am honored to have met his son if even for a moment and I pray that God, whatever God you happen to prescribe to, will send him his comfort and love.
No, I can’t be sorry this time because being sorry just doesn’t cut it.

The more I pondered this , the more it unnerved me and made me analyze my way of living. I am really looking at myself and realize that there are a lot of things that I am not sorry about too.

I am not sorry that I took a few months off to spend with my kids.

I am not sorry that it means that the credit score is a little lower and the bank account a little lighter but being here when they needed me was worth it.

I am not sorry that I laugh too much.

I am not sorry that I try to help others.

I am not sorry that I have to go with less sleep in order to do the things necessary to care for others.

I am not sorry that I make decisions based on what is right instead of what is easy.

I am not sorry that my family is the most important thing in my life.

I am not sorry that I spend hours at a baseball field with a group of kids that are genuinely good people.

I am not sorry that education is important to me.

I am not sorry that my friends matter to me.

I am not sorry that I am honest with my kids about what I know and what I don’t know.

I am not sorry that I  to play video games with my son and go to concerts with my daughter.

I am not sorry that I enjoy my life.

I am not sorry that I wait in line, say “thank you” and hold doors open for strangers.

I am not sorry that my mom taught me manners.

I am not sorry that sometimes the right answer is no.

I am not sorry that I still want to make a difference.

I am not sorry that other people’s kids are important to me too.

I am not sorry that I want to do better.

I am not sorry that I tell my kids that I love them…………….

And I know that they are not sorry too.

 

In full Pollyanna mode

“Going to the well one to many times”

Since desecrating the positive feelings that millions of people have developed from  enjoying The Sound of Music over the years just wasn’t enough to me,  I have decided to rip off the premise of its most beloved songs. So here is my “the things I have learned” version  of My Favorite Things.

Oh yeah, since my cat has decided to wake me up at 5a.m. every freaking morning, whiskers on kittens ain’t one of them.

  • Bacon
  • Bacon
  • Bacon…I really like bacon
  • Finding a 5 dollar bill in jeans you just washed
  • That first spoonful of peanut butter from a just opened jar
  • Water slides
  • Really broken in athletic shoes
  • The Colbert Report
  • The sound of grass being cut on a Summer Saturday morning
  • Looney Tunes
  • Waking up on a Monday morning and suddenly realizing that it is still Sunday
  • A 3-2 fastball
  • Star Wars
  • Tropical Punch Kool-aid
  • Birthday Cake
  • When high school friends you haven’t talked to in a while send you a message out of the blue
  • My Galaxy S III
  • Fake Punts
  • A  phenomenal cup of coffee
  • An average cup of coffee
  • Any cup of coffee
  • When the kids sleep in on a weekend
  • The moment your feet first feel the water at the beach
  • Disney World
  • A Football Game Flyover
  • A Cold Draft Beer
  • When a politician references a historical event…and actually gets it right
  • When my kids and I randomly start citing lines from Spaceballs
  • When the laptops is fully charged
  • When the phone doesn’t ring
  • A cool Saturday morning spent on a Baseball field
  • People who LIKE to do things for others without being asked
  • When the dishes in the dishwasher are clean
  • The smell of Play-dough
  • Chili when it is cold outside
  • Ice cream when it is warm outside
  • When people spell my name right
  • Realizing that I can still speak Spanish a little
  • Any Mark Twain book
  •  Hearing an old song that happened to be playing at a great moment in your life
  • Gummi Bears
  • The Jungle Book
  • The feeling that your friends don’t take you for granted
  • When the kids ask how your day was
  • When the writing is easy
  • Learning something new
  • Playing Madden
  • The sound of a vinyl record
  • A good meal served by a great waiter
  • Inside jokes
  • When the closet still smells like fabric softener
  • Used book stores
  • Feeling like you are making a difference
  • Neighbors who are friends and friends who are family
  • The holidays at the in-laws house
  • Toys R’ Us
  • Tallahassee on an Autumn Saturday
  • Appetizers
  • Just being myself and not feeling bad about it

This is just the start of my list………..

What’s yours?

 

You gotta have friends…..

 

I have enough friends.

It inevitably happens.When ever my  friends and I get together  and the liquid libations start flowing it is only a matter of time that we start discussing the bigger issues in life. This usually disintegrates into just a venue for each of us to hurl insults, make jokes and generally say strange things for entertainment purposes only. These usually begin with a question. Chicken or the egg?  Democrat or republican? Tastes great or less filling? Paper or plastic?Butter pecan?(I choose pecan) However, every once in a while one of these conversations turns into one of those unanswerable questions that are really fun to discuss in that depending on how you answer it reveals , at least for a moment,  who you really are and what do you believe in.  And since every one of us are parents in some way or another, the question arises,” Are you your child’s friend or are you their parent?”

This question has always perplexed me and as I grow older it is still no easier to decipher.  My parents, however, faced no such doubt as to their answer. They were my parents first, last and always. Maybe it was just the generational differences. I have often heard that each generation is twice as smart and half as strong as the one that preceded them and I cannot argue with that statement. When I was a kid, there was absolutely no doubt as to who was calling the shots. As my mom was a stay at home mother she had the misfortune to have to spend her every waking hour with me and I understand how miserable that can be. Hell, I only spend half my time with me and I want to kick my ass. Mom also grew up in the era of discipline. She was never abusive but did believe in the biblical adage,”Spare the rod, spoil the child”. She believed in it so strongly that she actually had a “spare” rod in case the one she was using broke. Now mom never used corporal punishment in a way that was cruel nor inhumane and it was necessary to use something other than just words with me, because as my wife can fully confirm, I’m not real good with the whole “listening” thing. It was always surprising to my childhood friends…er…hoodlums… that such a small woman could be so good at keeping my Jethro Bodine sized self in line. How? The answer was simple. Hand speed.

My mom was a little 5 foot 2 woman from the mill towns of North Carolina but she could move her like Sugar Ray Leonard. If every house is like a baseball team, my mom was definitely the Designated Hitter.  My mom could be driving down the street in that aircraft carrier on wheels that they called a ’75  Chevy Impala, while my sister and I were riding in that backseat begin enough to run a 5k in and the minute my sister and I begin to fight, and we always fought, mom could reach back and smack us both so fast that we never saw her hands leave the steering wheel. She took these skills outside the car also. When I was in elementary school, she was the neighborhood champ in both “pencil-break” and “slaps” four years running. She was a lot of fun to grow up with and she kept me from becoming that wild little animal that every young boy can be. She was strict and fair but had one flaw. My mom was really naïve.

For the adults   out there that grew up in homes with strict but naïve parents you know that means. It means do whatever you want to, just don’t get caught. And boy, did I do some stuff. Since the statute of limitations has not expired on some of my more reckless adventures and due to the fact that I would rather not record my activities for fear of losing future job opportunities, let’s just say that my (frequently bloodshot eyes) chronic “Pink-eye” condition that I developed while in high school was not viral in nature. My need to not get caught also created a certain need for me to be,shall we say, flexible with the truth. Let’s face it. I was a one man Thespian association. While my actor friends at school were rehearsing their lines from Grease and Death by Chocolate, I was at the house successfully explaining how the 125 cigarette butts in the yard were not the result of a party but rather the left over evidence of an extremely pushy door-to-door salesman.

The basic picture that I am trying to portray is that my parents were parents. They were in charge. They had all the answers and they already knew all the questions. They had mom and dad tattooed on their souls. So,why do I always feel that any time I have to make a parenting decision for my own kids that I should be wearing a paper hat and a name tag that says,”Trainee”? I know that I say “I don’t know” so much that until the age of three my daughter thought that was my first name. I want to raise my kids and guide them through life with authority and conviction but the truth is that everyday there is some situation that arises that is too complex and too life changing to just make on the basis of “cause I said so.” Not that I want to be my kids’ buddy, but I want them to understand that I am just as imperfect as they are and if I make a wrong decision that I need the same kind of forgiveness that they get when they make a mistake.

This complexity is not constant. I do have a defined sense of what is right and wrong, what works in our house and what doesn’t and how the decisions that everyone makes defines ,not only who they become, but also has a lasting effect on all the people in their lives. I don’t accept disrespect from my kids. I don’t allow my kids to harm themselves or others. My kids will not be “fighters” nor “bullies”. They will do and say the right things regardless of the popularity of it. I am in control and I give my kids guidelines but it is just so hard to see myself in the classic dad role that to me should be reserved for my and my friends’ fathers and the dad on any sitcom filmed in black-and-white.  This continually bouncing between the two roles of friend and parent seem to be just a natural progression of how my ideas and ideals have changed throughout the years. If life is a football game, then I unfortunately go to the replay every chance I get to make sure I made the right call and all too often,” After further review, the play on the field is overturned and Tearle will be charged with a time out.”

My constant reevaluations are most pronounced in the way I view myself as a parent. My wife and I started dating at age 18 and even after we became serious we swore that we would never get married but we did. We swore that we would never have kids but we did. Once we found out that we were to be parents we talked seriously about how we were going to raise them. We decided we were not going to be the authoritarian parents both of us had. We were going to be the cool parents. No rules. Just do what feels right. Give the kids all the freedom they want and they will be happy and never have a single care. We were going to let our kids drink at the house(just no driving, OK?) let them smoke weed if the wanted to( its no worse than tobacco right?) date whoever they want and if they wanted to have sex, no problem just do it at home so at least we would know they were safe. This was a solid plan and we were quite proud of how open-minded our plan was. Then one tiny event happened that side tracked the whole affair. It was called my eldest child’s birth. From the moment we saw how fragile this wonderful human being could be , and likewise her brother who came a few years later, our open-minded plan was treated like that sixth grade photo of me in the clogging club outfit, it was buried behind the garage and never mentioned again.

It’s not that we became those typical straight-laced ’cause I said so ‘ parents but just that we understood the value of having guidelines to keep the kids safe and freedoms to keep the kids happy. I have never quite understood why the whole parent or friend thing has to be so black and white. We make the rules in our house, but we do so with the understanding that kids need to have the room to grow and live and experience life without unnecessary limitations. That is the principle difference. My parents and other strict parents wanted their kids to fear doing wrong but we want our kids to love doing right. Every holier than thou parent that tells you about “spare the rod” also needs to remember the verse about “fathers not provoking their children to anger”. It’s a slippery slope but one we as parents must ascend every day.

Some people of a more conservative nature may wonder why just being a parent isn’t enough. The question is simple but the feelings involved are complex. The way I see it, we are raising our kids to be free thinking human beings who use rational thought and reasoning to guide their lives. When I  tell my kid to look both ways before crossing the street because I have the experience of knowing what could happen when they don’t,  they need to trust my authority as their parent. However when I recommend pursuing a certain crush they have or guide them into an experience they are nervous about I want them t0 realize that as their friend I want them to be happy. That balance between keeping them safe and keeping them happy is why I have such a hard time figuring out which role I actually am.There are two more reasons to let your kids know you like them. First of all, they are the ones that will be picking out your nursing home when you get old, so you might want to make sure they don’t have any axes to grind from the time you wouldn’t buy them the My Little Pony they wanted when they were 6. Secondly, and most importantly, if your kids know that you love them not because you gave birth to them but rather because you value the type of person that they are and honor their interests and personal likes and dislikes, you will open yourself up to sharing a world of experiences which is better than any dream you could have.

So which is it? Am I their friend or am I their parent? Can I like my kids even when they disappoint me? Can I have fun with them even though I have to be the responsible one? Does my experience make me their ally or their authority? I guess the answer is that I am not really sure and it would take years to actually reason the correct answer out. Unfortunately it’s almost 3 o’clock……..

And I have to go pick up “my friends” from school.

 

Hey Kids: Time to get yer learn on

It must be the holiday.

I have noticed something very peculiar about today. There is a almost reverent silence enveloping the neighborhood. Every adult , and especially parents, seem to have a smile on their faces and a skip to their step. The traffic is far worse than it was last Monday and yet I don’t hear anyone complaining. It can’t be the weather, it’s a humid rainy day. There was hardly a line at the Starbucks this morning and I have yet to run into a single insolent teenager all day. The incompetent employees at the local grocery store that I have seen since June, are no longer there. Maybe it’s because it’s National Lemonade Day. That must be it. That would explain the sour faces on all the kids I saw hanging out on the corner this morning. Yes that’s definitely it……..unless………It just might have something to do with today being the first day of school. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it is probably not the lemonade.

I used to love the first day of school and now even though I haven’t been to school in over a decade and a half, I am not counting Driving School and that Anger Management class, I still love the first day of school. The first day of school used to mean that I had on new school clothes and some kicking shoes. I usually had a brand new haircut and a feeling of superiority that came from the piles of clean notebook paper as of yet unchewed pencils. But I have to admit that now that I have kids, I love the first day of school even more. For those kids out there: #1 why aren’t you in school and #2 I must inform you something that your parents probably never told you.

Your parents don’t like you during the summer. Yes they love you year round and they provide for you in the month of July as well as they do in October but the truth of the matter is that you are very unlikeable creatures during the Summer months. When a parent has to leave for work at 6 am and sees you in your room snoring away, they don’t like you. When you tell them how you spent all day playing video games and texting your friends while they were busting their butts working for some a*hole boss so they could pay for the electricity that you are sucking up at an alarming rate, they don’t like you. When you tell them how bored you are, they don’t like you. When you are still wearing your pajamas at 4 in the afternoon, they don’t like you. Most of all, when the living room is a wasteland of opened video game disk containers, crumpled chip bags and half-drunken soda cans, they really don’t like you. And when they come home and they first words out of your mouth are, “I am glad you are home because I am hungry”, they are dangerously close to telling you how much they don’t  like you. But they suddenly it happens, they look at the calendar and realize it is time for school to start and the parents know that all is going to be o.k.

I know that some kids don’t believe that their parents like them more when they are at school than during the summer. However, consider the following:

  • When do you get new shoes, when school lets out or when it starts?
  • When during the Summer did your parents insist on taking you to buy you new clothes? Just a guess, it wasn’t July 4th.
  • Do your parents buy you new backpacks, lunchboxes and calculators in June or in August?
  • If your birthday is at the end of summer, why do your parents have a party? Because they have gone the entire Summer without killing you.

Kids need to understand the complex sociological reasoning behind why they send you to school. Yes, they do want you to learn and be active participators in our democracy. They also want you to use your bedroom at some point in their lives and if your illiterate ass is still living there at age 42, that makes this highly unlikely. But, it’s much more than that. You see, having kids is not that different than having a dog. You are both are helpless when little, make a mess everywhere you go, and are far too noisy for our liking. The principle difference is that if the raising of a dog goes awry, almost anyone will step in to take them off your hands and take care of them whereas with a child it is basically a “no refund or exchanges” situation. So knowing this you have to understand that school is basically a sort of Westminster Dog Show for human beings. We take the kids. Give them the best bloodline we can. Get them clean and presentable. Teach them a trick or two and just hope to God that they don’t humiliate themselves or us. Saying your kid is an honor student and well-liked by his peers is pretty much saying he won “Best in Show”.

So we send the kids off to be with other people. We have taught them to close their mouths when they eat, to say “please” and “thank you” and just hope that they have listened at least once out of the thousand of times that we have told them that we love them and hope they make good decisions. The hardest part of kids growing older is that we are forced to abdicate so much of the control we had on the first day of school when they were younger. We used to be able to walk them to their class on that first day, scope out which of the paste eating nose pickers we wanted our child to avoid and care fully introduce our kid to their teacher as we silently gave the teacher a look that says,”This little human being is the most important thing in my world. Because of him, I went through 28 hours of labor, have cleaned up vomit and other assorted messes at 2 in the morning and have not had a good night’s sleep since George W. Bush’s first term. If you make him cry, I will kill you.” But as the kids get older, you are basically a money dispensing taxi driver. You role is to deliver the child to school and avoid being seen by any one under the age of 18.

So, the first day comes and it always brings such excitement. That afternoon the kids are a bubbling fountain of how great the teachers are and how weird all the other kids are. They tell you how this year is going to be the greatest ever and how they can’t wait to go back tomorrow. Quietly you chuckle to yourself how this story will change once actual schoolwork begins but for now you let them enjoy your day. Their first day is happy and so is yours but then……somewhere in the back of your mind you feel it. That ominous sense that this won’t last forever. The time will come when there will be no more first days of school for you. A time when they will drive themselves to school or the morning when that breakfast on the first day will be in a dorm in some faraway city. Today was my twelfth first day of school as a parent and I know that I don’t have too many more left. But, I will keep enjoying them while they last. And even when there are no more first days of school with my kids……..

I am going to buy them new pencils anyway.

The Rabbit Died

Everybody has a calling. No matter how many “joe-Jobs” one must endure in life, there  is always that one occupation or volunteer assignment that is absolutely tailor-made for you.  Hollywood is full of stories of waiters and busboys that toiled in anonymity until that one moment when the stars aligned and they were thrust into the national spotlight due to a movie or television role that was just right for them. There are, unfortunately, just as many stories of starlets and wannabes who jumped at the wrong opportunity and these are the stories of drug addiction and despair that the Lifetime Network loves to make movies about.

It would be great if these stories of trying to find one’s perfect fit in an occupational sense were limited to the tales of Lalaland, but everyday people also have to struggle to find the exact role in life that they are to play. Today while listening to Sports Radio, which is a great way to reinforce the fact that there are bigger losers in the world than me, I heard an ad that spoke to me. I didn’t know that the job it described even existed, but now that I know it does, it seems a perfect fit for me. No, I am not going to travel the country buying back broken gold chains from penniless widows in seedy hotel banquet rooms. Nor, am I going to travel this far land selling products for “male enhancement”. The job I heard described is perfect. It is called a parenthood advisor. These people serve as a kind of Nepali guide to those about to climb the Mount Everest that is raising a child. The ad mentioned that these people guide you through the whole experience from pregnancy through the toddler years. Apparently, no one has ever thought to actually write down their ideas about raising children and this business has arisen to fill the void.

This is perfect. I have two kids, one boy and one girl so I have a varied knowledge base from which to operate. I also haven’t killed either of these kids nor the other kids I come in contact with, so I believe that makes me an expert. I don’t wish to be bothered by some newbie parent who doesn’t know which end of their baby is the food hole at 3 in the morning. Therefore, I am going to layout my painstakingly researched expertise for you here. So get out your notepads, cause here we go:

Eligibility

Before you decide to  bring another living creature into the world you must first decide if you and your mate, and any potential surrogate, are qualified for this endeavor. There is a rigorous licensing procedure  that one must pass in order to procreate. Oh, wait that’s driving a car. And based on the line at Wal-mart anybody can have a kid. However in order to make sure neither you, nor your partner end up on The Maury Povich Show there is a short quiz that I think you should pass.

  1. Are you between the ages of 18-35? I understand that you can reproduce at ages both before and after this date range but you must be sure that you never can be asked the questions,”Are you on Teen Mom?’ nor “Are you (your child name)’s grandma?”
  2. Do you have money? Even if you have lots of money, you can’t afford a kid so buy a dog. If you have no money, you also can’t afford a kid but since the U.S. outlawed debtor prisons in the 1790s, go ahead and reproduce like a hopped up Xerox machine.
  3. Are you insane? If yes, you are qualified to be a parent. If no, you will be as soon as you have a child.
  4. Do you and your partner have the same religious beliefs? If no, you are qualified to have a baby that gets two different sets of holidays, lucky little bastard.
  5. Did your parents raise you in a way that was healthy and wholesome resulting in you being a well-balanced human being? If yes, you are not qualified due to the fact that you have no reason to try to use a child to get revenge on your parents.

Note: Please be aware that preceding questionnaire and any directives that it containing shall be ruled null and void if either you or your partner had that extra round of margaritas with your chimichangas.

Pre-Natal Care

Did you wake up hung over and utterly regretful and can’t find your pants? Congratulations you may be pregnant. But to be sure you must have your partner pass a simple test. Have her watch a few hours of random television with you. If she cries at any inappropriate time, she is either not pregnant and a  complete psycho bitch or she is pregnant and will be one for the next 9  months. As the pregnancy progresses nothing will bring a couple closer together than those early visits to the doctor together because there is nothing more romantic than watching the father-to-be be completely and totally mortified from embarrassment by witnessing what goes on in an O.B.G.Y.N’s office. I swear that the first time I accompanied my wife to her women’s health professional I realized that I was a pilgrim in an unholy land. When my wife got on the table, I was o.k. but when they started bringing out a collection of tools that looked like what my mechanic uses to change the distributor cap on an 84 Buick, I knew I was in a place I didn’t belong. I also learned that the Obstetrics office has some iron-clad rules. No food. No drinks. And if you have a y-chromosome, keep your damn mouth shut. While it may sound hilarious to you to ask the doctor during the pelvic exam if he found your keys and/or the remote, unless you have a really comfortable couch, you best keep them jokes to yourself. However, the best part of the doctor’s visits is that you get free samples of pregnancy related medical supplies. The bad news is that you have to actually thank a complete stranger for ‘”the nipple guards” and the “udder cream”.

Labor

Despite what you may have learned from every single sitcom since the dawn of television, there is absolutely nothing wacky or humorous about the entire delivery process. Any attempt to insert any levity into the drive to the hospital on that fatal day is likely to result in you experiencing as much physical pain as a woman in labor can administer.Once you arrive at the hospital, the non-pregnant member of the equation must be given the same advice a promoter would give a local band opening for The Rolling Stones, “You did your act, now just stay out of the damn way.” First time fathers frequently make some rookie mistakes, so here are a few pointers:

  • Don’t talk about what “we” decided that “we” would do during the birthing process. There will be no “we” until you hop up in the stir-ups and have probes shoved in your nether regions.
  • Avoid natural childbirth. Actually encourage the administration of morphine and even pentothal if they have it. When her pain threshold starts to fall and the amount of drugs in her system starts to rise, there is the greatest opportunity to find out the actual paternity of the baby about  to arrive. This will just give you a couple of hours to make up a convincing reason for the amazing similarity between your son and the guy who comes by and sells meat out of the back of his pick-up.
  • Remind yourself that your job at the hospital is to call relatives and keep them up-to date and to keep the ice chips coming. Odds are that you will screw up either one or both of those jobs.
  • Hey Knute Rockne, leave the stopwatch and “birthing class” flow chart at the house. If you want to keep track of time, just count how many of your habits she has told you she hates since you arrived at the hospital.
  • Telling her,” that it’s going to be o.k.” is about as effective as the pilot of the Enola Gay shouting out ,”Heads up” as he flew over Hiroshima.

The Baby

Behold your little bundle of joy. Enjoy your first few hours together. You know, those hours when you can just press a button and some medical professional will come get the baby and take care of it for a couple of hours, but don’t get used to it. Once you get home you will not get that same luxury. You will learn that your beautiful baby, that shiny golden child that warmed your heart as you looked upon them in the nursery is now some sort of sleep-sucking soulless creature of the night that finds pleasure in making bodily fluid messes for you to clean up. But that comes later , for now just enjoy the blissful ride, similar to what one feels before they are thrown from an airplane sans parachute.

Names.

It is a weighty responsibility to assign that perfect moniker for this child to carry through his life, or at least until he can avoid a good lawyer to change it. One must be very careful in the naming process. It is kind of like walking on slippery river rocks. One wrong step, and you will drown in a sea of your child’s contempt and scorn. Be careful to not get too cutesy with the name. I don’t care how many silent “p”s you want to put in little PPPPhank’s name, you must resist the urge. Also remember that at some point your child will enter middle school so don’t make it too easy on their future bullies. Avoid all verbs( Ben, Neil,Bob) and definitely never combine any two verbs. If your surname is Futch or Johnson, you are legally restricted from using the first names of Hugh or Anita. Also remember that we don’t live in Petticoat Junction so just go with one first name. Finally, the world is also in the need of strippers and porn stars, so feel free to name your daughter Cinnamon or your son Rod Steele.

The trip home

You have  been released from the hospital and have arrived home. Isn’t it great to be home, but don’t get too comfortable because you need to return to the hospital and pick up the baby that you left in the car seat siting on the curb at the hospital. Once you return back home, this time with the child, the true adventure begins.

This concludes part one of the lesson. Part 2 is coming tomorrow. In the mean time highlight all the great things you have learned and why don’t you spend this evening practicing the whole process  until you get it right.

Listologeography

It’s a lie. I know it’s a lie. It felt like the truth when I said it and yet within moments it became a lie . It’s not the first time I have told this lie and it will not be the last. In fact, I seem to tell this lie more often every year. They say that confession is good for the soul, so here it goes. The lie I tell is,”I will get more organized” But the stark truth is that I probably won’t ever. Oh, I have bought the calendars and planners, down loaded the apps and formatted the word documents, and  have enough legal pads at my house to qualify for the Florida Bar Association but none of it seems to help. Sure I make the lists, but I never seem to follow them. I like to be organized, I just can’t seem to be organized enough to get organized.

I envy the “planners” out there. They never know the pain of loading the dishwasher and being out of those little tablet-thingies. They don’t understand the feeling of total ineptitude of having to pass off that devil’s brew that is unsweetened tea because you forgot to buy sugar. They don’t know the mental strain of having to figure the proper ratio to mix the heavy cream and skim milk in order to concoct some thing resembling half-and-half. The will never know that feeling of abject terror when you see the utility truck drive down the street and you are not really sure if you paid the light bill this month…or was that last month.

However frustrating it is to let my addiction to chaos mean that we run out of stuff occasionally, it is worse when the lack of organization starts to lead to an abundance of things you don’t need.  Now, the cast and crew of Hoarders haven’t shown up yet but I am afraid they may be on the way.

Not my kitchen…my fridge is white

Due to my lack of  “getting my bleep together”, before I head to the store, I currently have 6 bottles of shampoo in my bathroom. The only problem is that we have a total of only 4 human heads residing in our home.So, I need to either adopt another two heads, or find a use for Pantene that their corporation did not intend. And while it does have a lovely fruity smell, it does not make a suitable apéritif.

The kitchen seems to be where my lack of pre-shopping preparation does the most damage. I have possession of 3 chars of chopped parsley. I hate chopped parsley as it is the most useless of the broad leaf herbs. I had contemplated bagging it up and trying to make a few bucks down at the local community college  but my wife reminded me about The Oregano Incident of 2002.  I guess that means I will just have to use it as garnish. “Stop complaining about the green stuff. Just set it aside and finish your Cocoa Puffs”.

Cocoa Puffs

I wish there was an easier way. Maybe when the lawnmower is out of gas, we could buy a goat or I could remind the kids that the asked for peanut butter and jelly, not peanut butter, jelly, and bread. But I have to face the truth. I have to get organized. I will get organized. I am starting right now. I am going to make a list of the things we need from the store. What do you mean we don’t have any pens?