Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today's Music: A Rant

If this blog makes me sound like a grumpy old man, then so be it. But, some of the people who are allowed to be called musicians today really tick me off. When you need computer software to make you sound just okay, you probably should find a new profession. You do not deserve to be sold in the same store as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Buble' or Josh Groban. These people can sing and they do not need the help of Auto-Tune to do it.

These artists would not be caught dead lip syncing on live television like a certain Ashlee Simpson. In fact, I have a recording Frank Sinatra made in 1962. It is called “Live in Paris.” On this album you will hear something that I would say most of the popular artists today would try to have a sound engineer correct. Frank Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, misses a couple of notes and words. It is actually really cool to hear. Listen to any of his studio cuts and he is flawless. Listen to this live album and he is not; but that's what makes it great. I must confess, the album was not released until 1994; but, Sinatra was still alive and I have to believe he had some say in it being released.

Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, I challenge you to sing a concert without Auto-Tune. Take a listen to Christina Aguilera, she can actually sing girls. She does not need some one to engineer her voice to sell her music. But, this is the way the industry has become, and the people buying their music helps to perpetuate it.

I should tell you what got me fired-up about this to begin with. I was listening to “We Are the World,” the good one from 1985, on the way to work this morning. I got all nostalgic and wanted to watch the video. So, I did a search on YouTube. Yeah, “Were Are the World 25” displayed at the top. So, for some reason I watched this imitation. Now, it is not terrible, but in some places it is really obvious that you have a bunch of different singers. In the 1985 version, you can tell the difference between the artists, but it is not nearly as obvious. They made it sound like a more cohesive song. It seems like they checked their egos at the door. The 2010 version, not so much. But, I digress.

Maybe I am just old fashioned. I cannot help that I like the people on my Walkman, err I mean iPod, to be able to sing. I often think I was born about forty years too late. I feel like I should have been a teenager/young adult, during the big band era. That was a time when musicians had to be good because they were constantly putting on live performances whether in a concert hall or on the radio. I continue to hold out hope though when the Josh Grobans and Michael Bubles surface. For now, I can continue to listen to some contemporary music.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meatloaf, Forts, and Go Diego Go!

What could Meatloaf, Forts, and Go Diego Go! possible have in common? Surprisingly, it is something very important that none of us can live without. But I am not going to tell you straight away. You are going to have to read on and see if you can guess.


Two days ago my wife and were talking about dinner plans for Today. (Sometimes we are that organized.) I had suggested that she make her famous meatloaf for me, I mean us. Shannon graciously agreed. By the time today had rolled around though, I had actually forgotten that she was making me, I mean us, meatloaf for dinner. My excitement was barely containable when she reminded me.

When I get home my mood changed. I was shocked, stunned I say. She had made me, I mean us, Turkey Meatloaf with zucchini, carrots, and I think I saw spinach all mixed into the loaf. This was not ground beef. This was Thanksgiving dinner and my garden mixed together. Oh, the tragedy. Oh, the horror. But, my wife made dinner, and by gum, I would eat that dinner. Please do not tell her I said this, but it was really good. I cannot wait for leftovers for lunch. I will deny that I ever said it.


After dinner tonight, my two oldest, Molly and Jillian, wanted to build a fort in the dining room. They wanted to drape a blanket over two chairs and hide underneath. I had to nix that idea. Coilin would be running around too and a 17 month old and a fort constructed in that fashion was not going to work - at all. But, I am not a total meany-head. I told them to go upstairs and pretend that the bottom bunk was a fort. Apparently, that was an acceptable alternative because I think I saw little clouds of smoke shoot out from behind them as they ran up the stairs.

About five minutes later, I had to go upstairs for something, and I was barely on the landing when Molly comes running out of her room and says, “Daddy, look what we did!” Yes, I was scared to see what she wanted to show me. I put on brave face and walked into her room, and was ecstatic. They had hooked Molly's purple “Nana Blanket” onto the top bunk's railing, and the blanket was totally covering the entry way into the bottom bunk. They had modified their original design to fit the furniture they were allowed to use. I am not sure who was prouder, Molly and Jillian for their design, or me.

Go Diego Go!

At about 7:30, Coilin was winding down. He had played hard all day. Go Diego GO! was on the television and I was sitting on the floor watching it with Coilin and Jillian. Coilin was standing in front of me; so, I grabbed him and sat him in my lap. He snuggled into me as only a 17 month old can, and Coilin sat there totally calm and totally chill. Then about two minutes later, he got a burst of energy and was gone again. Man, that was an awesome two minutes though.


Have you guessed what Meatloaf, Forts, and Go Diego Go! have in common? All right, I will tell you. They all displayed signs of love. My wife made the meatloaf out of turkey and mixed in vegetables because she cares about what we put into our bodies. The fort, well, the girls constructed it with a blanket that my mom (Nana) had made for Molly. I think Go Diego Go! is the easy one. I was snuggling (yes, I snuggle) with my son.

It just goes to show you that love is all around us whether in the form of a meatloaf, a blanket used in a fort, or simply holding someone. So, the next time things are not going your way, or you are just down, look around and I bet you will find your own symbol of love that someone has left for you along the way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Molly versus Jillian

“Daddy, I mad at Mahwee [Molly]!”

“Daddy, I'm mad at Jillian!”

This is how I was greeted when I came upstairs into the kitchen to make dinner for my darling children. At that moment, I wished I had been able to go with Shannon to the gym. Alas, she, deservedly, went by herself. Normally, the girls fighting before dinner would drive me bonkers – especially, when I am hungry. Tonight, however, something soothed me. Perhaps, it was the hot pepper, Turkey Pastrami and Honey Ham sandwich I was about to eat. Regardless (not irregardless – that is not a WORD), a calm came over me and I simply told them not to talk to each other. I made one stand by the back door and the other near the doorway leading to the basement. Then, the strangest thing happened – they listened.

In fact, they wanted to make their own dinners, and ended up working side-by-side. Yes, Reader, a three year old and a six year old can work next to each other without killing one another. They did not talk to each other or look at one another; but I heard no arguing, and that is all daddy cares about when he is hungry.

What's that, you ask? What can a three year old possible make herself for dinner? Why Strawberry Frosted Mini-wheats (or Pink Cereal, as Jillian likes to call it). I am willing to let her eat cereal for dinner from time-to-time if it empowers her knowing she did something a “big girl” can do. My Molly is an expert sandwich maker; so, she made herself a Honey Ham and Pepper Jack cheese sandwich on whole wheat.

They were so hungry that they even sat next to each other during dinner without fighting. The truth be told, whatever transgression that had occurred was forgotten, and they started to play together again. They did not fight again until Jillian hit Molly with her toy camera. Hey, it was good while it lasted. At that point, it was pretty obvious that it was bed time. The funny thing is that they will not go to bed without giving each other a hug and kiss good night. Jillian is inconsolable if Molly goes to bed without doing so.

Now the house is quiet, and the little darlings are in bed. I am contentedly typing away on my iMac, and they are probably dreaming of life where they are the only child. Although, Jillian's dream world may include Coilin, her baby brother. Those two are like two peas in a pod. I feel badly for Molly because when the twins (as we like to call them) get a little older, they will really start to wreak havoc on her world. Until then, it is Molly versus Jillian.  

Oh, and I still do not know why they were mad at each other before dinner.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Mark

The world is circular,
and I don't mean its shape.
What goes around
does come around.

If you open your eyes,
you will see.

Life has its ebbs and flows;
its contractions and expansions.
We can't get caught in the middle
trying to do the best we can.

We need to leave our mark,
and not just say “I've done Enough.”
We are all destined for greater things
than even we can imagine.

If we open up our hearts and minds,
we can see what God has given us,
and we will know
what we must do to help our fellow man.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pizza and Wings

I have a great many things on my mind tonight. However, if I start to talk about half of them, I will get fired-up and this blog will turn ugly really quickly. Some things are just better left off of the internet. After all, you know what they say – The Internet is Forever. Instead, I am going to switch gears and talk about my favorite food – Pizza and Wings.

Some of you may argue that Pizza and Wings are two foods. I disagree. To truly enjoy one, I must have the other. They are the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship. Without one, the other dies. So, they are one.

I am very spoiled. My in-laws are from Buffalo, NY, and we go to visit their families from time to time. As a result, I get to eat true Buffalo Wings. Not Buffalo-style Wings; but true Buffalo Wings. And brother, there is a difference. They really do taste better.

Tonight, my dear mother-in-law, on her way back from a visit in Buffalo, brought us – wait for it – Pizza and Wings from Pasquale's. As the late-Myron Cope would said, “Yoi and Double-Yoi.” I was that excited. Tonight we had Peperoni Pizza and BBQ Wings. I can still taste the wings two and half hours later. Typically, I am not a BBQ Wing fan. I prefer them hot. However, Pasquale's and Center Ave Slice, right here in Pittsburgh, are about the only BBQ wings I really enjoy.

This post is about my favorite, and that is Hot Wings and Pepperoni Pizza. They are the perfect compliment to one another. (Oh, and that Pepperoni better have some spice in it.) Here is how I like to eat it. First, you take a bite of the Hot Wing , and with a good Wing, you get a nice heat starting in your mouth with that very first bite. Next, comes a bite of the Pepperoni Pizza. The heat starts to build a little more. Go back to the wing, and the heat starts to intensify. That is when I dip the tip of my pizza into Ranch dressing, and take a small bite careful not to get any Pepperoni. I want to cool down that heat a bit; but not too much. Hence, the small bite sans Pepperoni. When the heat becomes too intense, the flavor balance is ruined. This dance on my palate goes on and on, until all the food is gone. This dance, like a dance with with my wife never lasts long enough though. So, I savor every moment.

Yes, you read my statement about Ranch correctly. Please keep that stinky Bleu Cheese away from my dance. That is like having an ex-girlfriend trying to cut in while I am dancing with my wife. No good, can come of that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Get to the Point

I have a problem. Sometimes I like to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. Somebody asks me a question and I just talk. I answer the question, but I give a lot of extraneous details that half the time are not that important. Now, as a Technical Writer that is a bad thing to have happen in my work. But, I think, perhaps, because I am a Technical Writer, it is part of the reason that it happens.

I have to be so concise in what I say in a manual for work that sometimes when people ask me a question I feel the need to expound upon a point. I have a lot of great ideas to share with the world, and I think it is an inherent need of mine to elaborate on those ideas for the first person to start up a conversation with me. The other contributing factor could be the fact that I am in a house with three women. It is hard to get a word in sometimes. I love the women in my life; but geeze maweeze, sometimes I just want to be heard.

Alas, I cannot blame my children, my wife, or my profession for my verbosity. If I blamed them for my faults, why, I would be no better than the growing contingent of folks in America that do not accept responsibility for their own actions. My family and job are not the reasons that I ramble. I ramble on, because, as I said, I like share my ideas. It is just that sometimes I have to remember that the other person(s) in the conversation may not be as into what I am saying. As soon as I forget that, I lose them.

It is at those times, and probably most times, that I need to get to the point. The person who compliments my shirt does not need to know the exact circumstances under which said shirt was purchased. It is okay to just say thank you and move on in the conversation. It is more than okay to get to the point.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stuck In the Driveway Part II

It is "Fiction Friday" here at Writing for Fun. Tonight we continue our story from last week. Enjoy this week's installment.

Stuck In the Driveway Part II

A yellow Pontiac Sunfire pulls into the parking lot of the “Brogan's Green Thumb.” A dark haired woman steps out of the car wearing jeans that are a half size too small and a too tight “Brogan's Green Thumb” shirt. Bev's pony tail flips up as she looks down to extinguish her cigarette. As she is twisting her foot to grind the cigarette butt into the ground, she starts coughing as only a smoker can in the morning. In her attempt to get her cough under control, she did not see the black sedan exiting at far end of the parking lot. Bev spits out the phlegm that she has coughed up. She quickly looks around to see if any one has seen her less than elegant act, and no one is around. The dull pain of her headache was a constant reminder of the beverages she consumed last night.

“What am I doing here on a Sunday at 8 a.m.?” Bev asked herslef. Last night at dinner, she had sensed that something was wrong with Stan. Her husband, Tom, and she got together with Stan and Mary Ann every Saturday night for the last 18 years. Ever since Stan and Mary Ann got married. Last night Stan seemed very preoccupied, and Bev knew that when he was preoccupied that nine times out of ten it had to do with work.

So, Bev took it upon herself, as she always felt she had to, to try and take care of him. She knew he would pretend to be mad at her; but, in the end he would thank Bev for her help, as he always did. Bev went to put her key in the door and realized that it was already unlocked. Briefly, she thought that she should call the police before going inside, but that thought was fleeting. Bev wasn't one to wait for help.

She gasped as she looked around the office. Manilla folders were strewn all over the floor, the papers that had been in them were scattered everywhere. Bev noticed that a few had gotten stuck in the Fica tree that was laying on its side. Most of the dirt that had been in the pot was now staining the carpet. Oh how she hated that tree.

Bev turned around to go outside and call the police from her cell phone when a man in a dark suit stepped into the office. Her scream was stifled as everything around her went black.

To be continued...Stuck in the Driveway Part III

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I Learned from Air Hockey

I witnessed an amazing comeback in an Air Hockey game. A friend of my was down 5 to 0, and she came back and won 9 to 8. It was a colossal collapse by her opponent. I think he scored at least 4 or 5 goals on himself, and I know exactly how. He over extended himself. When Ms. Victorious would take a shot, Mr. Collapse would try to meet the puck head-on to create a ricochet shot that would be hard to stop. Well, Mr. Collapse would just miss the puck, and he would be stretched out across the table – totally out of position to protect his goal. In his haste to get back to stop the puck from scoring, he would knock it in. He was infuriated. It was ugly to watch.

Mr. Collapse illustrated an excellent point though. In today's society we are all so rush, rush trying to get everything done at once because we have so much on our calendars. We try to stop the puck and redirect it before we should. We over extend ourselves, and if we are not careful, we may suffer a catastrophic failure too.

My wife and I have had something do just about every night since Labor Day. We have been running around like lunatics. Now, we are very organized people, and we have a family calendar on which everything is written. We know who is coming and who is going and when. Everything has run smoothly so far. But, I am worn down and, I know my wife has to be getting worn down too. She is on the PTA, she goes to the gym three nights a week, she is on the Board at my daughter's preschool, she writes a very good blog (Molly's Lunchbox) for which she has to do prep-work, she is my proof-reader, and she does all of this is on top of being a full-time Mom.

We both know that we need to be careful how far we stretch ourselves. If we do not take a break, even for one evening, other parts of our lives are going to be affected. In my case, my work could suffer. I have too much to do in the next 6 weeks and not a whole of time in which to do it. I will prevail though. I know my limits, and I know my priorities. As soon as I am doing writing this post, I will make lunch for tomorrow, and then hit the sack. Tonight is going to be an early night this tired little guy. I need to hit the ground running tomorrow.

I realize, with the help of my wife, when I am about to over extend myself in my personal life. This helps me to stop and evaluate my professional life too. I am fortunate to have such a wonderful support system. I just wish I could apply this methodology when I am playing air hockey. Yes, it is true, that I am the Mr. Collapse I spoke about above. It was I who was up 5 to 0 only to squander away my lead and finally lose 9 to 8. I can guarantee you that my wife will NOT tell me when I am over extending myself the next time we play Air Hockey – She enjoys whooping on me too much.

(In case you were wondering, it was not my wife who beat me in this particular game. She is far too good at Air Hockey to fall behind 5 to 0.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

She Had Fire in Her Eyes

I thought flames were going to shoot out of my wife's eyes at dinner tonight. All I could think was that my oldest daughter, Molly, would be vaporized while eating the lovely chicken dinner my wife had made. It really would have been ugly. After all, we have a wooden dining room set. First, Molly would have been burned to smithereens, then her chair would catch on fire, then the table, and then we would probably need to order take out because dinner was burnt to a crisp. The point is, it almost got ugly.

Allow me to set the scene: My wife had made really tasty chicken. She butterflied the breast, seasoned it, and baked it. We also had zucchini cooked in a little olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Shannon also baked an Acorn squash fresh from our garden. To finish the meal, she made Gnocchi, the girls' favorite. It was yummy, and she worked really hard.

So, we sat down to eat. Now, there are some days when the girls literally shovel the food into their mouths, and they are asking for seconds before Shan and I have had a chance to really settle in. That can be frustrating. We are hungry, and we want to eat too.

Tonight, Molly is about to finish her first helping when she starts to ask for more Gnocchi. My wife calmly tries to tell my dear sweet daughter that she needs to wait a minute until Mommy and Daddy eat a little first. And if she would wait a couple of minutes, one of us will take care of her. Well, Molly cuts Shannon off before she finishes her statement to ask Shannon a question about seconds. Shannon did not lose her temper though, but she clearly says: “Why do I even bother talking?” To which Molly replies, “What?”

I had to look down and away quickly and stifle a laugh. All that I am thinking is - “Molly just shut up. Do not say another word.” After the nanosecond it took to regain my composure, I looked up and saw a look in my beautiful wife's face that made me shiver. I was afraid to make eye contact lest she vaporize me or turn me to stone. I knew Molly was a goner; my next thought was to grab Jillian, the 3 year old instigator, and take her to the other room before she pushed that final Big Red button to launch the Nuclear Strike known as “Mommy's Wrath.”

Thankfully, no children were harmed in any fashion as my wife quickly calmed herself. I am not really sure what did it. But, I am not going to question it. Somehow, we went from a Code Red down to a Code Yellow. Shan was still ticked, and rightly so; yet, she managed to channel that anger elsewhere.

Please do not get get the wrong idea about my wife. Shannon is a great mother and a fantastic wife; but every so often, a child pushes a parent's buttons and everyone in the house holds their breath waiting for the impending destruction. I think just about every husband (and wives) would agree that A Happy Wife Means a Happy Life – and that is for husbands and children.

Author's Comment: No children or husband were harmed in the composition of this piece.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You Cannot Change That

People are the way they are and there is not a whole lot you can do to change them. In fact, I would venture to say that you or I cannot change anyone. It is up to that person to change. A very wise man once told me this. Of course, I did not listen to this advice.

I have had relationships that were far from perfect, and I thought that I could make that relationship work if only I could change one little thing here or there. Guess what? Those relationships did not last. Luckily, I have changed my thoughts on that subject and I now understand life a lot better. I do not understand everything; but, I have made some strides. From where I am now in my life, I can see two things wrong with me thinking I could change someone. One, it is egotistical of me to think I can change somebody. Two, who I am to tell someone they need to change?

It is a whole different story if a friend or loved one comes to you with an issue they are having or something that they would like to change in their life. Then, I believe you owe it to that person to give them whatever help you can to ensure that are able to make that change.

“The Biggest Loser” started tonight; so let us use weight loss as an example. If you have a friend who is grossly obese to the point where you fear for their life, you can talk until you are blue in the face about how unhealthy you think they are,. You can tell them that you think they should change the way they eat and start exercising. The key is, this is what YOU think, and maybe the doctors would agree. Perhaps the friend appeases you and nods in agreement. None of that matters though unless something inside them clicks and makes them want to change. It does not matter what you or I think. What matters is what THEIR actions. The same is true for alcoholics and drug addicts. I know these are extreme examples; but I think you get the point.

The same holds true for the little things as well, such as someone who is chronically late. No matter how much you batter that person, they will continue to be late until they make the choice to change. In fact, they may be purposefully late just to get under your skin. I have known people who have told a chronically late person that a party is scheduled to start 30 minutes before the actual start time just so Mr. Tardy will only be 30 minutes late instead of an hour late. You know what happens? That trick works once, and then Mr. Tardy is late for the next party. Plus, he is ticked at you for lying to them.

We can give people all of the information they want, but it is up to them to use it. Just like it is up to us to change ourselves if there is something we know we could do better. Change is a good thing. It is how we grow and become better human beings. Embrace change, but only if that change is necessary.

Oh yeah, the wise man I mentioned above was my Dad. I have since learned how truly wise he his, and I never outright ignore his advice. He always has some kernel of wisdom to share. You see, I changed. I realized that I do not know it all. That one is hard for people to accept. But, I am better for it, and so are the people are around me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Tailgaters

Dear Tailgater,

Please remove your foot from the gas pedal. You are not going to make me go any faster. In fact, I will more than likely start going just under the speed limit if you persist with your attempts to draft me. We are not at Texas Motor Speedway. We are driving through the streets of Millvale, Pennsylvania at 7:33 a.m. on Tuesday.

I am pretty sure that I should not be able to tell the color of your eyes by looking in my rearview mirror. Nor, should I be able to make out the shape of the birth mark on your check, and see that it is the shape of donkey. The fact that you wear a St. Christopher medal around your next should not be apparent to me. In short, you are too close.

I work a flexible schedule. If I am a few minutes late to work, my boss will not kill me. I can make up that time. I wonder, can you afford to go that slowly? Get a little closer so I can start going 30 mph in a 35 mph zone and let us see how your boss reacts to you being even later.


Your Fellow Commuter

I am sure that we all have been guilty of this most annoying breach of commuter etiquette. My only hope is that, before we become that guy or gal who is so close to the car in front of them that we can follow the directions on their GPS, we remember this little note and slow down.

Happy Commuting!

Author's Note: No tailgaters were harmed in the composition of this post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ode to a Ladybug

We are going to start this week off with some poetry. I wrote the original draft of this poem almost 13 years ago to the day. I have always been very fond of this piece; but, I always felt like something was missing in it. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and tried to clean it up a bit. 


Ode to a Lady Bug

Your shell is so delicately round and smooth
with a luscious red base coat
and miniature black accents.

Your tiny head protrudes
from your battle armor,
with white specks for eyes and
wafer thin antennae.

The ravenous aphid,
whose only goal is the destruction of my crop,
is no match for your deadly beauty.

You are the protector of my crop,
and the bringer of luck.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Horsehoes to Cornhole

I just got back from a family picnic in Cleveland. We were celebrating my uncle's 75th birthday. I always enjoy these big family picnics/gatherings. We usually only have two a year – a Christmas party and a Summer picnic.

The Christmas party and Summer picnic are special for different reasons. The Christmas party seems more intimate because everybody is huddled inside the house – it gets cold by the lake in December. There are only so many places to go in a house; so, everybody spends some time talking to each other. The Summer picnic is outside and therefore more spread out. I do not get to spend as much time with each cousin. It is still a lot of fun because we are enjoying the fresh air, sitting at a picnic table talking, and drinking ice-cold beer.

Today was especially fun. It reminded me of some of the picnics we had before I had children. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I love my children with all my heart and would NOT trade them for the world. With children, comes great responsibility.

At past picnics in the recent, my wife and I have had to keep a close eye the little ones. Now my girls are at an age where they can go and play with some of their older cousins without my wife and me having to worry. The older kids keep the younger kids occupied. That leaves just Coilin on whom we have to keep an eagle eye. Today, was a special treat. My wife, Shannon, graciously agreed to watch my son while I played Cornhole with my cousins, and this is what reminded of those picnics from years ago.

My cousin's husband, who is about 15 years older than me, loves to throw horseshoes, and he had a beautiful Horseshoe court at his house. (Yes, a Horseshoe court can be beautiful.) They only had the picnic a couple of times, but I remember the first time I played Horshoes there.

I think I was a teenager, around 15ish, the first time I played with the “adults.” I remember him showing me how to pitch (throw) a shoe properly and how points were scored. It was exhilarating the first time I got a ringer. A ringer makes a beautifully distinct TING! sound, and when you land one you feel like you are top of the world. Alas, no matter how well I threw, which was not great, I was never able to beat my cousin's husband.

Today, some 20 years later, I felt that same exhilaration; but, this time it was with Cornhole This was the first time I had played an official game. It is only fitting that I played against the same man who taught me how to play Horseshoes. Like that first time I played horseshoes with him all those years ago, he gave me some pointers on how to the more effectively throw the corn bags. He told me to stand up straight and to have more arc in my toss. I had been throwing more parallel to the ground. His tutelage helped again.

Before his advice, I was not getting any points. Afterwards, I still was not great, but I was much better, and I had thrown several bags in the hole. Getting a bag in the hole, for me, was a totally different feeling than getting a ringer in Horseshoes. Instead of the TING! of Horseshoe hitting the post, you get a dull thud followed by a short slide and then silence as your bag disappears down the hole.

It was a hard fought match that went back and forth. But in the end, he and his wife prevailed leaving me and another cousin's husband thinking about the victory we let slip away. I am not surprised he won. He never lost much at Horshoes, and certainly never to me. So why would Cornhole be any different? Maybe I can beat him at his 75th birthday. Somehow I doubt it though. He will find a way to win then too.

Author's Comment: For those of you who do not know what Cornhole is, check out this site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuck In the Driveway

Were are going to try something different at "Writing for Fun." It is a little something that I like to call: "Fiction Friday." This will give me the opportunity to share some of my fiction with you. I hope you enjoy. 

Stuck In The Driveway

“Are you kidding me?” Stan said as looked down the driveway. “Those stinkin' kids.” There was his modest Honda Civic trapped in the driveway behind four of his son's friends' cars. Of course, none of them were back yet from their night of carousing. You'd think they would be after all it was 6:00 am.
Stan needed to be at work in 30 minutes and he would be lucky to see them before mid-morning. Typical weekend. He walked down to the last car in line hoping against hope that keys would be in it. The idea wasn't that far-fetched, who was going to steal a 1983 pale blue Plymouth Horizon? He looked in the window and could see the keys in the ignition. Stan opened the door and jumped into the car. As he landed on the vinyl seat, he gagged. The car smelled like an old gym sock that hadn't been washed since the Horizon was new. He could taste the stench in his mouth; it was gritty on his tongue.

The only way Stan was going to keep his breakfast down during this ride was to roll down the windows. With the smell of sulfur slowly deteriorating his olfactory senses, Stan didn't care that it was raining. He could change his shirt when he got to the office if he got wet on the ride. Besides, this car was long over due for a good cleaning. He just couldn't believe how Bob's son treated this car. When Stan and Bob used to ride around town in her, there was a little bit of trash – burger wrappers and empty cups. This brought the idea of a little trash to a whole new level. The car looked like Bob Jr., B.J. to everybody who knew his dad, emptied the trash from the house in the car rather than taking it out to the street every week.

Stan didn't have much choice in vehicles though. He needed to be at the office in 28 minutes now. The Chinese investors would be there at eight o'clock, and he had work to do yet. They were never late. In fact, they would more than likely to be early.

He turned the key in the ignition and was shocked when the car actually started. Old “Blue Beauty” and Stan would ride again. “You never did fail us old girl.” Stan backed the car out of the driveway and headed to the office where he had built a modest landscaping business - “Brogan’s Green Thumb.” The rain started to come in through the window as he headed down Clover Avenue. At least he was moving. Unfortunately, this would be the best part of Stan's day.

To be continued...Stuck in the Driveway Part II

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Think My Wife is Trying to Hurt Me

I told you on Sunday how my wife held me accountable and strongly suggested that I exercise that evening, and like the dutiful husband that I am, I complied. Then, I worked out again Tuesday, Wednesday, and had plans to do so tonight (with out any coaxing from Shannon). So, I asked my wife if she wanted to do the “30 Day Shred” with me tonight. Shannon agreed adding the suggestion that we follow that up with “The Biggest Loser: The Workout – Weight Loss Yoga.” How could I say no to that?

The “30 Day Shred” is difficult by itself. “The Biggest Loser: The Workout – Weight Loss Yoga” is difficult by itself too. (Yes, Virginia, Yoga can give you a good workout.) When you combine these two workouts, well, it is downright hard. In fact, I am not sure if it is really me writing this post or my subconscious.

If you read my post “Held Accountable,” (which I know for a fact I was awake during composition of said piece) you know that I really like the “30 Day Shred.” Let me tell you, I love the “Weight Loss Yoga.” It really works your core (belly and mid and lower back) and also the rest of your body. The DVD is cool because you can customize your workout from the DVD menu. You can select a Warmup, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and a Cool Down.

When doing the “Weight Loss Yoga,” I highly recommend adding the Warmup and Cool Down to whatever level(s) you choose. My wife and I look forward to the Cool Down the most, and that is not because the workout is over. That Cool Down makes all of the hard work we just put in feel so good. We are so relaxed after exercising that we have hard time moving; we just want to sit and enjoy the moment.

Also, the Cool Down is the reason that I know my wife really is NOT trying to hurt me. Shannon knows how good I feel after doing both of the exercise routines; but, I feel especially good both physically and mentally after the Yoga. If you decide to give Yoga a try either using the Biggest Loser DVD, another Yoga DVD, or a live class, I think you will be happy with the results. I know I am.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Losing My Identity

I never thought that this day would come. My name has changed. Outside of work, I am no longer known by my first name. You, like so many people I now come in contact with, can call me – Molly's Dad, Shannon's Husband, and, the latest addition, Jillian's Dad.

This has been going on for at least three years – ever since my oldest started Preschool – so it should come as no surprise. It was within the last week, though, that really it hit me as to what was happening. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had attended a CPR class that was offered at my daughter's Preschool. This is the same Preschool that my oldest attended when she was four. So I know the two teachers who teach the four year olds. The one teacher and I share a mutual friend so she knows my real name and gets it right. The other teacher only knows me as Molly's Dad. Did I mention that my three year old is now attending this Preschool? I met the her two teachers. Yeah, well, now I am known as Jillian's Dad too.

It only gets better from there. I was at meeting for my church on Monday night and this woman walks up to me and says: “You're Shannon's Husband aren't you?” I was taken aback. I confirmed her suspicion; but I wasn't sure if I should also admit that my name was Molly's Dad and Jillian's Dad. I did not want to mislead her in any way. I am not sure what I will do when I become Coilin's Dad.

I may have to have all of these names tattooed on my hand so that I can remember them. But, then I start to think about it, and as the sweat begins to form on my brow, I realize that I am somebody's brother, somebody's son, somebody's son-in-law, and somebody's something. I am going to have to move the list from my hand to my forearm.

Maybe I will just wear a “Hello My Name is” tag around. Perhaps that will help reintroduce to the world the name that my mother gave to me. It is a nice name after all, and I know the she and my father worked very hard to come up with it. Alas, it is a name with two spellings, and many, many people (even some members of my own family) misspell it. I guess I am destined to be called whatever the people of the world want to call me. Of course, I am very careful not to ask certain people what they would like to call me...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Have You Thanked a Soldier Today?

I watched a little bit of “Minute To Win It” tonight on television. I never thought that show would bring tears to my eyes. Tonight's contestants were two Iraq War Heroes. These soldiers were in the same squad and each lost one of their legs in the same attack.

I listened to these two heroes talk about how they depended on each other so much during their recovery, and how much they still do to this day. It is amazing how strong people can be. The best part of the show (at least of what I saw) was when they had the doctor who worked on them in the field come out. It was awesome. If you can find it on or YouTube, you need to watch it. I am not able to do it justice here. This was first time they had seen the man who had saved their lives since the day he had worked on them. I was choked-up.

It may be cliched to say this, but it really does make me think about life and how lucky we are in this country. No doubt, we Americans have our issues – every family does. But, we also have Greatness. We have women and men who willing sacrifice life and limb to protect us and others around the world. It does not matter whether you agree with the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or any other mission on which these heroes are sent. They pledged oaths to follow the orders that they were given. So please do not forget how much these heroes and their families are giving up for us.

These two men in particular gave up their legs and the lives they knew when they left for Iraq. They will never be the same, and their families will never be the same. The lives of the people they have touched will never be the same - I hope in a positive way. I know I think differently every time I hear a story from a Veteran. So, next time you see a Veteran, say thank you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Does He Do That?

I have several ideas rolling around in my head tonight; but none of them really are speaking to me. So, I think tonight is good night to write my first piece on how I write.
How I write, greatly depends on what I am writing. My process for writing Technical Manuals at work is different than what I do for this blog. Since this blog is a break from work, we should talk about how I write my posts for this blog. I have four phases of writing – Idea, Draft, Revise, and Final.
I have two techniques that I use to go from the Idea phase to the Draft phase. The techniques are relatively the same. The difference is in the tools that I use, and the tool used depends upon my location when I thinking through my idea.
The first method, and the one I use the majority of the time, is to use a Digital Voice Recorder and talk through my idea. My commute takes me anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. That's a lot of time in the car to sit and think. I get a lot of ideas in the morning; so it is the perfect time to work through fledgling ideas. Incidentally, it is the method I used to work through main idea of this post.
The second method, which is the one I used for my “How I Spent September 11th” post, is to sit at the keyboard and just write what comes to mind. This process takes up more of my time in the evening, but is just as effective. Technically, it partially encompasses the Draft phase.
The Draft phase is where I put my head around the idea and turn it into a concrete piece of writing. I try not to go back and make too many corrections while I am in this phase. I want to get the idea out on paper before I lose too much of it. I find that if I go back and make edits while drafting, I tend to lose my train of thought and it takes me a while to get back on track.
I save the edits for the Revise phase. This is where I go back and reread the piece and make any of the necessary corrections. I may revise a piece several times before I am satisfied. This is where the piece goes from a rough piece of coal to a diamond. (Well, I think of my work as diamonds – at least diamonds in the rough.)
The Final phase, well, that is what you are reading now. After I have revised to my heart's content and tried to find all of the spelling and grammatical errors, I post my blog for your reading pleasure. But, it almost never fails, that my lovely wife Shannon will read my post and point out an error or two (or three).
That is an important lesson for any writer to learn. Some times you get too close to a piece. You know what you want to say and how you want to say it; but, as you are rereading the piece you read words that are not there or read the sentence how you think it should sound and not how it is actually written. Even as a professional writer, somebody reads my work before it goes out to the customer.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Held Accountable

I have a confession to make. Even though I feel really good after I exercise, I have a hard time getting motivated to do it. Fortunately, I have my wife, Shannon, around to keep me accountable and to remind me of the pledge I made in last Wednesday's post, “Goodbye Diet Vacation.

Tonight's workout was a good one for a couple of reasons. First, my wife and I worked out together, and for me, anytime that I can spend time with my wife is time well spent. (No, I am not just saying that because she reads my blog.) Second, we had a really good workout.

In our quest for achieving a healthy lifestyle, Shannon and I have purchased a few DVDs and Wii games so that we can workout at home. One of my favorite purchases is Jillian Michaels' “30 Day Shred.” It is a hard workout which makes it all the better, and it only takes about 30 minutes. Jillian says on the DVD that it is only a 20 minute workout, but that is not entirely true.

You start off with a 2 minute warm-up, then you go to three 6 minute circuits, and end with a 2 minute cool down. Yes, I know that only adds up to 22 minutes. (I am not that bad at math.) By the time you get set up, load and start the DVD, exercise, and cleanup, the time adds up to about 30 minutes. It is 30 minutes well spent.

Apart from the DVD, you only need hand weights and a mat. You really only need the mat if you are exercising on a hard surface. We have hard wood floors; so, I need a mat. If you do not have hand weights and do not want to buy them right away, you can use two cans of soup, or gallon milk jugs. I would advise using the milk jugs after all the milk is gone. That could get stinky. You can fill them up with water or sand to a maximum weight of about 8.35 lbs when using water and between 10.7 lbs and 16.71 lbs for the sand. Either would be more than enough weight. I would start with 3 lbs. Laugh at me all you want, but I want you to post a comment after you have tried the workout to tell me if you are still laughing.

I love the “30 Day Shred” even if I tend curse Jillian when she has us perform certain exercises. I also love the fact that my wife holds me accountable, and that she and I exercise together. I will tell you the honest truth that I had no intention of exercising tonight until she told me that I needed to do it. She can be very persuasive when she wants to be.  

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How I Have Spent September 11th

I am not going to talk about what I was doing on September 11th 2001 in this post. Tonight, I would rather talk about a couple of things that I have done on this date since that terrible day, things that have helped to make me a better person.

Today, I spent my morning in an American Heart Association CPR class. I had signed-up for this class through my daughter's preschool without really considering that it was the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It was not until I wrote the class time on the calendar that I fully realized on what day the class was going to be held. For me, I thought it was pretty cool that it was going to be on September 11th. What better way to spend this day than learning how to save lives? Especially considering how many First Responders sacrificed their lives that day trying to save others.

On another September 11th eight years ago, I attended my first Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) class. RCIA prepares adults who want to join the Catholic Church for Baptism, if you have not been baptized, First Communion, and Confirmation. Then during Easter Vigil, you receive those Sacraments. I did not start RCIA as a result of the September 11th attacks. This was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time. It just so happened the year I decided to make this journey the first class for the RCIA program at St. Ferdinand Church was on September 11th. I thought that was pretty awesome, and for me it was a wonderful way to spend that day.

None of us can bring back those people whose lives were taken or those who gave their lives to save others that day. No one can heal the hurt that those who lost someone as a result of the attacks suffer. But, we can remember them and, I think, honor them by participating in events that can make a positive difference in our lives and in the lives of other people. But, I also think that this is a day that any American who is old enough to remember the attacks should spend how they see fit. It is not for me or anyone else to tell you what you should be doing today. Every American suffered in some way that horrific day in 2001 – some more than others – it is okay if we grieve differently from one another.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Leaves on the Ground

We are approaching one of my favorite times of the year – Fall. We still have 13 days before the autumnal equinox, but here in Pittsburgh we are experiencing Fall-like temperatures and I love it. I don't know what it is about this time of year that I love so much. As soon as the weather starts to cool down and the leaves start to change colors and fall to the ground, I begin to wax nostalgic. I remember all of the wonderful times I had growing up, and I long for my children to have the same fond memories. This evening, I hope that I helped to create that environment for them.

After dinner, the girls wanted to go out and play. They put on their shoes and were out the back door as soon as they were done with their dinner. In fact, Molly only had on one shoe and was holding the other in her hand when she hit the back porch. I was finishing up the dishes in the kitchen; so I was able to watch them from a distance without them really noticing me or modifying their play because I was around.

Their toy of choice this Autumn-like day was a bat and ball. Not my first choice for this type of weather, but they were playing nicely together, and I was not about to interrupt and suggest that they play football. I have learned that when two little girls are playing nicely together, you are best to leave well enough alone. Especially since one of the girls from next door came up to join them. Three girls getting along is like a miracle to me. It was awesome. They were running around playing baseball and giggling. It was pure unadulterated fun. I remember having times like this when I was growing up.

As soon as school started, you had a limited amount of time to play with your friends before it started to get dark. You had to use your time wisely. There was no time to bicker and argue. You had to have your game plan set before you headed out to play. As I remember it, we played a lot of football in the form of actual games or just lining up and running plays.

“Head to the tree and hook left.”

“Run a post route.”

“Go Long!”

It didn't matter how many of us there were, as long as we had two guys – one to throw the ball and one to catch it. On good days, we had a third or even fourth guy to play defense – one to cover the quarterback and one to cover the receiver. Inevitably, someone got dirt stains or grass stains on their pants. Those were the best of times.

Tonight, I saw a glimpse of what I loved so much as a child in the way my children were playing, and I was happy for them. I do not even care if they got grass stains on their clothes. As my wife says, “That's what they make Oxyclean for.” I hope for their sake and, maybe a bit selfishly, mine that they have many more days like this. These are the things children are supposed to do when there are leaves on the ground.

Author's Note: I am happy to report that the girls did get out the football, unprovoked mind you, before they came in for the night.

Author's Comment: Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wrestling a Greased Pig

For those of you who have children, you will probably relate to this post. For those of you who have do not have children yet, well...good luck.

As I have stated in previous posts, I have three children. My youngest is 16 months old, and he is, as they say, all boy. Dressing this child is a challenge. He wiggles and he squirms. The boy just wants to get moving. I can respect that. But, Coilin, my boy, you have to give daddy a break.

You cannot run around with one cheek hanging out of your diaper, or worse with no diaper at all. You have not learned to control your bladder yet and I do not need you washing the floors and the walls, if you catch my drift. By the way you giggle when you run away from me, I think you do.

Sometimes, he is so squirmy that I have to lay him on the floor so that I can pin him down with my legs. Before you get concerned, he is no danger of getting hurt. Allow me to explain. I sit with my legs apart. I lay Coilin so that his head is lying towards my feet. (Yes, I understand the peril of having an active 16 months old's feet that close to my crotch.) Then, I take his arms and open them so that his body forms a “T”. Finally, I gently put my legs over his arms applying only enough pressure to keep him from rolling which is surprising little pressure. With that method, I can usally get his diaper changed, his onesie snapped closed, and his pants back on. The shirt goes back on if we can get it on. You have to pick your battles.

As you see, dressing him is difficult; but, what would parenthood be if everything were the same all of the time? We should add another wrinkle. How about we give this boy a bath. That's always a treat. When porcelain is wet, it becomes slippery (or slippy if you are from Pittsburgh). When you set an active baby, who does not have full control of his fine motor skills, on said wet porcelain, you have your very own “Slip N Slide” in the bathroom. You quickly learn to wash with one hand while holding on very tightly with the other. But, that is the easy part. You cannot just take a baby out of the bathtub, dry him off, and then dress him. No, you must lotion this child. We cannot let our Coilin get dry skin. Can you see where this is headed?

Now we have a baby covered in lotion, kind of like a greased pig. The method of holding him down with my legs does not work any longer because now his little arms are lubricated to the point where he could get out of things Houdini only dreamed of. I have no idea how I get his clothes on after his bath. My only explanation is that I some how channel the workers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, and I am able to grip slippery children in a single hand. I have no other explanation. So, I say Thank You fish throwing gods for helping me in my time of need.

Author's Comment: For those of you do not know, the workers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle throw and catch fish. It is pretty amazing to watch. I found this snippet on YouTube: “pike place market fish tossin


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Terry Jones Annoys Me

I am extremely annoyed by the Pastor down in Florida, Terry Jones, who is planning to burn thousands of Korans on Saturday. What annoys me most is the fact that I feel compelled to write about him. My goal is to use this blog for fun; I do not want to write whole bunch of serious stuff. But, this situation is driving me crazy, and I have to get it out.

What does he think he is doing? What is tyring to gain by this? A few possible answers come to mind: He really thinks he is doing God's will; He is trying to attract attention to his church to bolster membership; or He has so much hate for Islam that he isn't thinking.

I know one thing for sure that he is doing, and that is boosting sales of the Koran in the Gainesville area. If you think about it, how many of his members have Korans lying around their houses? In a perverse way, the booksellers and publishing houses are going to be benefitting. Especially since Jones & Co. plan to burn thousands of copies. At around $10 a pop, that is a nice chunk of change.

This Jones character is also creating more hate which is exactly what we do not need right now. He is not acting Christ-like. I am pretty sure Jesus would not condone this. I cannot say for sure, because I have never had a face-to-face meeting with him. But from what I have heard and read, this is not how Jesus rolls.

He is acting a whole lot more like Hitler. Mr. Bookburner himself. The Nazis burned any books in Germany that did not live-up to the Nazi ideology. Jones is burning the Koran in part because he doesn't agree with its teachings. Sounds more Hitler-like.

If he is trying to convert people, again, he is not going about it the way his pastor, Jesus, would have done. Jesus taught people about love and helping your neighbors. He did not go around burning Torahs to get people to follow him. No, Jesus performed miracles and healed people. His following grew from his works and has continued to grow for over 2,000 years. Maybe Jones should take a lesson out of the book he puts so much faith in and help others by doing them a service rather than burning someone else's holy book.

I say to you, Terry Jones, if you want to get people to pay attention and not think you are off your rocker, be like Jesus and not like Hitler. Help people. Head north to Shanksville, Pennsylvania and work on the memorial that they are building to honor those that died on Flight 93. Or go to the local VA hospital and help the soldiers who have been injured serving our country. Or if you are dead set on a bonfire, go get some pallets to burn and have a nice prayer service.

Remember, Mr. Jones, channel Jesus; not Hitler.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Goodbye Diet Vacation

My wife is participating in a “Biggest Loser” style challenge at a local gym – Team AMS. It is an 8-week challenge that includes a cardio-kickboxing class (3 times per week), strength and conditioning class (3 times per week immediately following the cardio class), one private session per week with the instructor, Hank Hanasik, and he will address diet and lifestyle issues. The top two winners win money. More importantly, people are going to lose weight and learn how to live a healthy life.

Even though my wife has a great deal of knowledge when it comes to nutrition, eating right, and exercising, I know that the Team AMS challenge is going to help her out. Being able to work with Hank one on one at least once a week is not going to hurt either. I would love to join the challenge myself, but we both cannot do it. Someone needs to watch the children, and besides, my wife is a Stay-at-Home mom. She needs to get out with adults way more than I do, and she deserves to do it. Not to mention, I know that she will inspire me to eat healthier and start exercising again. She is very motivational that way.

I was following a very healthy life-style from April until about mid-July, and it was all because she started taking a cardio-kickboxing class at Team AMS in March. I was eating really healthy, watching my portions, and employing some self control. Then at the end of July, I just became weak and I got lazy. I started eating garbage like hot dogs and chips and ice cream. I totally stopped exercising. It was shameful.

The Team AMS challenge starts tomorrow (9/08). My healthy life-style and exercise regime starts again too. When I am doing things right, I try to eat well balanced meals that are lower in fat and high in protein. I include a lean protein, vegetables, and a starch – Yes, I eat carbs. I should qualify my food plan by saying that I am not trying to lose any weight. I am trying to get fit.

I also allow myself one cheat meal a week. This meal has no limits. I can eat whatever I want and as much of it as I want. The funny thing is that I usually end up controlling myself during my cheat meal just because I realize how hard I have been working and I feel guilty gorging myself. The guilt isn't a bad guilt like when your mom makes you feel bad about not calling her more often. No, this guilt is the “I cannot let my team down” kind of guilt.

I just feel better when I eat healthy. I have more energy which creates a positive cycle. I cannot really figure out what caused me to become so lazy for a month and half. No matter, tomorrow I start back on my healthy path and say Goodbye Diet Vacation.

I also wish my wife and the rest of folks taking the Team AMS challenge good luck.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Laboring on Labor Day

Labor Day is supposed to be a day that Americans take to time to relax. That was precisely what I set out to do when I was roused from my slumber by a grinning three year old asking me if it was time to get up. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the day did not start out the way I had planned. I had every intention of feeding the girls cold cereal and juice for breakfast. Molly, my six year old, had other plans.

She asked for pancakes to which the three year old, Jillian, wanted to add chocolate chips. To be honest, I did not have the energy to make pancakes. I was tired and just wanted to drink my coffee; but, how could I say no to Molly on her last day of summer vacation. This was one of her last meals before her nine month sentence, also known as school, began. So, the three of us headed into the kitchen and donned our aprons. (Molly informed me yesterday that you do not look very “chefy” without an apron.) I mean really, how hard was it to throw some pancake mix into a bowl with milk, eggs, and oil. The girls would do all of the mixing, and I could drink all of the coffee I wanted while cooking the pancakes. You probably already guessed that this is not how happened.

I opened the pancake mix box only to find that there was less than the required two cups of pancake mix left in the box. No problem. My wife always keeps an extra box of pancake mix lying around. She is good like that. I ran down to the basement pantry to grab this breakfast-saving box of mix; but, it was nowhere to be found. Curse you understocked pantry! How could my wife have failed me so?

On my way back to the kitchen to break the news to the girls, a solution presented itself. There, sitting on the bookshelf, was this thing called a Cook Book. You may have heard of this marvel of publishing. In between hard covers, are sheets of papers with recipes that tell you how to take individual ingredients, mix them together, and create tasty vittles. I could not believe my luck. It was as if God and Betty Crocker had intervened to spare me from breaking my children's hearts. I quickly grabbed the “Betty Crocker 75th Anniversary Cook Book” and flipped to the index. My hands were shaking. Please, please let there be a recipe for pancakes. There on page 128 was the answer to my prays. I scanned the recipe making a mental checklist to confirm that we had the ingredients on-hand. Flour (check), sugar (check), egg (check), milk (check), baking power (check), salt (check), and cooking oil (CHECK!). OH what luck! Breakfast was saved!

Now, making pancakes from scratch is not the world's most difficult task. It does not involve that many more ingredients that the box mix does. I think it is the idea of gathering together all of the ingredients and the measuring vessels that makes is seem so impossible. What? I am being overly dramatic? They are just pancakes you say?

This is bigger than pancakes. Pancakes from scratch flies in the face of modern convenience. Why, it is an assault on what our “Have it Now” society has become. I had to use measuring cups and measuring spoons. You know what though? We have not had pancakes that good in a long time. Maybe it was the fact that we had to take the extra time to make the pancakes. Or maybe it was the fact that I made breakfast with my girls. I do not know. All that I know is that they were yummy! (Even the burnt bacon was tasty.)

In the end, I am glad that there wasn't enough mix. Making something from scratch, even if it is something simple like pancakes, makes life a little more rewarding. Especially on Labor Day.

Author's confession: Later in the morning, I was informed by my wife that she did just by a new box pancake mix. It was sitting in the shopping bag on the floor of the basement where I left it. It was my turn to put the dry goods away. (Whoops!)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Special Moments in Time

There are days in your life that, as they happen, you realize you will be remembering them for a long time. Today was one of those days. It wasn't a day where we went to Disney World or to someone's house for a party. It was just a day filled with special moments.

The day started off special. My wife was nice enough to let me sleep in a bit this morning, and when I finally went down stairs at 9:30, the girls were very excited to see me. They had actually just started to eat their breakfast. That was when my three year old daughter, Jillian, pleaded with me to sit next to her on the floor. She was so darn cute about it, I couldn't say no to her no matter how stiff my body was. After breakfast, she drew a portrait of me. Well, it was me as monster I was told. I am not quite sure how to take that one...(I promise that I had not yelled at anyone at that point in the morning.)

The next moments came in church. Both girls genuflected upon entering the pew. Catholics do this as a sign of reverence to the altar. My Jillian certainly doesn't understand our customs yet, but the six year old, Molly, is starting to understand. Regardless, the fact that they are cognizant enough to realize that what I am doing in church is the same thing that they should be doing is awesome in and of itself. Later on in Mass, the three of us held hands and said the “Our Father” (also known as the “Lord's Prayer”) with the rest of the congregation. The wonderful part was they held the other's hand without complaint as we prayed. Some times they really make me believe they like each other.

I am not going to sit here and run through the rest of todays wonderful moments; but, I will mention two more. After Jillian's nap, Molly, Jillian, and I cuddled on the couch watching “Aarti Parti” on DVR. (Yes, dads are allowed to cuddle with their children. In fact, I encourage it. It is a wonderful experience for all involved.) It is an indescribable feeling to have two children that you have helped to create and raise nuzzle in to you, even if it only lasts about five minutes. They got hungry and wanted a snack – they are my children after all.

How can I leave out my son on this day of special moments? He and I did one of the things that many dads and sons love to do – wrestle. Well, it wasn't technically wrestling. Coilin just kept crawling on me and sitting on my chest. Hey, give him a break. he is only 16 months old.

The chances are that he and the girls will not remember this day, but I will, and that is all that really matters. As long as one person remembers, that moment remains something more than just an evening at home with the family that passes on into oblivion.

Maybe, if this blog is still around when my children are old enough to fully understand these things, this article could help to trigger a special day long forgotten and turn my cherished memory into something that my wife, children, and I will be able to share forever.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I was trying think about what write for a blog entry while driving to work the other day when lo and behold the answer appeared to me in the form of my archenemy of the roadways – The Rubbernecker! This is a type of person that I don't understand. Why, oh Why do you need to slow down whenever you see an accident? I am not talking about a courteous or necessary slowdown when the accident is in your lane and going the speed limit may injure someone or cause another accident.

NO! I am talking about the accident that has occurred in the opposing lane of traffic where there is, at the very least, a substantial barrier between your car and the car(s) involved. A substantial barrier to me is any form of median strip whether that is a Jersey Barrier or 30 foot strip of grass. There is no reason for you to slow down. You are not going to hurt anyone or cause another accident if you maintain your speed. I can even understand slowing down a little bit under the posted speed limit to be sure that no emergency personnel are going to cross into your lane to reach the victims.

But that isn't what happens. The Rubbernecker has to slow down to a crawl to see what is going on. I have never, ever understood this, and I have tried and tried to put myself in their shoes. Are you looking to see if it is someone that you know? Are you an ambulance chaser working for a personal injury lawyer? Or, is it just morbid curiosity and you want to see the carnage of an automobile accident? I am going to go with 99% of the time it is morbid curiosity.

Now, the accident that spurred this entry did not appear to be the blood and guts kind. How do I know you ask? Was I Rubbernecking? No, I was not. The Rubbernecker in front of me was going 5 miles-per-hour – 5. At that speed, I could tell by glancing out of the corner of my eye that there was a flatbed tow truck loading a pickup truck. At this point in the accident cleanup, if there was another vehicle involved, it was gone. The only car attending to the accident was a police officer with his red and blue lights flashing in the early morning light. Acting as a beacon to Rubberneckers in the area to come and see the accident.

Why people! Why must you Rubberneck? Just drive! Drive On!

The kicker is what happens as as soon as the Rubbernecker clears the accident. (This really drives me bonkers!) The same people who are going 5 miles-per-hour to Rubberneck immediately accelerate to cruising speed or above. In the case of my Rubbernecker, he had decided to go above crusing speed. He had put significant distance between himself and me. Even when I reached the speed limit, he was still putting some separation between us. He probably felt like he needed to make up for lost time so that he was not late for work. That Rubbernecking is a time consuming activity.

So, I say to you Mr. and Mrs. Rubbernecker if you feel you need to get your fill of carnage everyday, watch the news or go on YouTube and search for accidents. Just stop Rubbernecking. Let me get to work. I need to get to work. I want to get to work. I don't want to sit in molasses traffic, because somebody needs to look at an accident. I ask you again, Drive On!

In closing I want to pose a question to any of you Rubberneckers out there: Why do you Rubberneck? I promise I won't hold it against any of you that answer. I promise you dispensation from the sin of your past Rubbernecking transgressions. I need to know. This question has been bothering me for a long time. Think of it this way, dear Rubbernecker – you will help me to become a better person if I understand why you Rubberneck. Consider it your good deed for the day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Father's Expectations

There are certain things in life that I, as a father, expect of my children. Some of these, I know, are going to come across as chauvinistic or possibly sexist. I am totally fine with that. The bottom line is that there are certain things that I expect. For my son who is only 16 months old, the expectations are few at this point.

He is old enough now to play in the sandbox and therefore old enough to be subjected to one of my first expectations. He must play with a truck in the sandbox. The truck should be sturdy with thick, chunky wheels that have a proper tread for making trails in the sand. To my great pleasure, my son passed this test. (Author's note: There is a tear rolling down my cheek as I am writing this.) It is a proud, proud moment in my life as a father. A truck in the sandbox – it is like Peanut Butter & Jelly or Pizza and Wings – it is the perfect combination.

Now, let it not be said that I am total male chauvinist. If it had not worked out and he wanted to play with Dora the Explorer or Tinker Bell or whatever “girl” toys my daughters have in the sandbox, I would have been totally fine with that. The point is, he had to give the truck a try. Playing with trucks is a rite of passage for boys. In the future, if he leans towards playing my daughters' toys, so be it. So long as he is given ample opportunity to play with toys geared for his gender, I will be satisfied.

When he gets older, he will have to give Lincoln Logs a try. It is important that boys learn how to build something. I think that he will have some competition with my second daughter though. She may end up with the Lincoln Logs first. She definitely leans towards being a builder/engineer. If I had to guess , I would say one of her first projects would be building a crib for one of her baby dolls. She loves to work with her hands and stack things; but, she loves to play with baby dolls too.

I will not apologize for having expectations for what I think my children should try, and as long as they give whatever that expectation may be a try, I will be satisfied. I am not one of those parents who raises their children in a box, or according to a strict paradigm, forcing them into being something that they are not. I am going to guide my children towards what I think is right. I am going to give them every tool I can to help them succeed. But, the ultimate and final decision will end up being theirs. And so, this guidance for my son begins with him playing with a truck in a sandbox. What becomes of the truck, is up to him.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fantasy Football

I just returned from a Fantasy Football draft. I was helping a buddy pick his team. He is in a decent sized league. Sixteen teams with sixteen rounds. It took forever! They should have a had a timer to limit how long each person had to make the their pick. Some of those guys were taking too long. Despite the length of time it took. It was fun.

Although there was one frustrating moment. One of my buddy's co-workers was sitting next to us. My buddy mentioned how surprised he was the Steve Breaston from the Arizona Cardinals was still available in the 6th or 7th round. The other guy was all, "Yeah, I am not interested." Then the dirt ball picks him. What the...

I have to say it was a good pick. I probably would have done the same. My buddy should have kept his mouth shut. Then Mr. Pick-stealer wouldn't have realized Breaston was still available. But, like I said, it was fun. We picked a good team. We got Manning in the first round - Peyton that is. You can't go wrong with him. And the Ravens' defense was available late. Again, you can't go wrong there. Although, as a Steeler fan, it did hurt a little to pick them.

Well, I am off to have a late night snack. So, good night Dear Reader.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Challenge to Myself

I rented the movie “Julie & Julia” this weekend for my wife. Being the dutiful husband that I am, I watched it with her. It was a cute movie, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a bit inspiring. Fine, it was really inspiring. I am sucker for a movie that has someone who puts a lot of hard work into something and is then rewarded at the end. That’s what this country is supposed to be about, right? Work hard and get your big, fat reward.

I think sometimes though we miss the boat about what that reward actually is. Maybe we get so hung up on the living the perfect movie ending that we do not realize that we aren’t always going to get a book deal after all of our hard work is done. Perhaps it is true that part of the reward, and arguably the most valuable part, is what you become while pursuing that prize. I buy that philosophy.

To that end, I have decided, probably like a million other bloggers who either followed the Julie/Julia Project or saw “Julie & Julia”, to set a goal for myself. By August 31, 2011, I will have 365 blog postings. This is not to get a book deal or to have the most popular blog in the Universe. This challenge is for me and to see what I become in the process. Note: Any book publishers who would like to offer me a book deal are more than welcome to contact me. J (Yes, I know that Lance Armstrong would be very disappointed in my use of an emoticon.)

Forgive me if you think I am pulling a stunt or being a copycat, I am not. I merely using a movie that I saw as the inspiration the Producers meant it to be. I started this blog in June 2010 and have published three posts – THREE! That’s very, very sad. When I started this blog, my goal was to give myself some place to “unwind my mind.” What I ended up doing is giving myself writer’s block. I was so worried about trying to create the perfect post that I ended up being too scared to write anything. The result was a dried-up little brain.

With my challenge to myself, I also give myself permission to write an imperfect post from time to time. (Although, I bet if I asked my mom, she would tell me they are all perfect. No matter how old I get, I know I can count on my mom to tell me how wonderful I am.) Lest you think I am disrespecting my wife, I am not. She tells me how wonderful I am when I deserve it – which is quite often. All other times, she tells me the truth about things, which I greatly appreciate.

So I end the first of 365 posts with this thought. It really doesn’t matter what the end result of this exercise, so long as I follow through. Stay tuned…