Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010 Part Two

My sources tell me that you were all good girls and boys this Halloween. If you remember, yesterday I promised that I would share a picture of our Jack O' Lantern with you. Before I do, I have to tell you that I had every intention of doing a goofy-faced pumpkin; but, the girls wanted a spooky one. They both think it was spooky, and from three and six year olds' perspective, I think it is. Without further adieu, here's Jack.

Today ended up being a Halloween-themed day in our house. Aside from carving the pumpkin, my wife made awesome Mummy Pizza's for lunch. She used English Muffins for the base, string cheese for the mummy wrappings, and black olives for the eyes. They were very cool looking and very tasty. The kids loved them too.

For dinner, Shannon made Mummy Dogs. She sliced a hot dog down the center and filled it with cheese. Then, she wrapped the hot dog in a crescent roll leaving an opening for the face. In that opening, she used a toothpick to poke two holes for eyes. To cook them, Shannon baked them in the oven. After they were cooked, she put two little drops of mustard where she had poked holes with the toothpick. They were awesome! You can see pictures of them at my wife's blog - "Molly's Lunchbox."

We finished the day Trick or Treating. The girls and I had a blast. (Coilin went to three houses near-by and then we dropped him back at home with my Mother-in-Law. Thank you Ma for watching him for us.) I have no idea how many houses we hit, but we have a boat load of candy that needs to be eaten. I have permission from my youngest daughter, Jillian, to have five pieces. She told me I was good while we were Trick or Treating, and I deserved them. She is such a sweet heart.

I hope that all of you had as great a day as I did. I am blessed to have such a wonderful family. Have a great night everyone.

"Devil's Playground" - A Movie Review

I just finished watching a short movie written, directed, and produced by my friend are her husband - "Devil's Playground." I'll be honest, I was skeptical at first; I did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. "Devil's Playground" is quite good.

It is a story about Nelson, a man trying to survive in a post-Armageddon world riddled with Zombies and the people they are trying to eat. He meets up with another survivor, Clyde, a man who is hiding more than just himself. These two refugees from a world gone dead hide together in the only safe place they can find. When Zombies are involved, no place stays safe for long though.

"Devil's Playground" has some real creepy moments in it. I am not just refering to the Zombies. Take the time to see for yourself. It is about ten minutes long and worth every minute.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween 2010

Halloween is tomorrow and so in "Trick-or-Treat" in our town.  I am not sure who is more excited - my wife and me or our children. It is probably my wife and me, and not because there will be a whole bunch of candy in the house. (Although that is a huge bonus. I mean, what kind of parents would we be if we let our children eat all of that candy?)

Shannon, my wife, loves Halloween. Tomorrow night she and my neighbor will sit out in front of our house and hand out treats. We actually post a sign at my neighbor's telling Tricker or Treaters that she is next door so that she does not get any unwanted tricks for not handing out candy.

For me, I cannot wait to walk around the neighborhood with the girls. It is a special time for us. Their costumes are all ready to go. In fact, they have both worn them twice already. Once for our town's Halloween parade and once each for their perspective school parties. I will again be wearing the scariest mask that I own - my face. I am not one of those parents who dresses up with the children. Well, at least not yet. Maybe I should though. I think Jillian would get a kick out of it, and Molly would be embarrassed. Both are good reasons to do it. (What? I am just trying to get my Molly to lighten up a bit. Like me, she gets so worked up about certain things. So much so, that I feel bad for her.)

Before we can even think about going out for candy though, we have to carve the pumpkin. No, we have not carved it yet. We had planned to do that today, but we ran out of time. So, tomorrow, I will lop off the top of the pumpkin and begin cleaning out the goo. I wonder if either of the girls will help this year. I think they will both be eager at first. That is until their little hands get all slimy. I cannot wait! I have to figure out what kind of face I want to do. The children are still little; so, definitely no spooky face. It will probably be just a smiling fool again. If you all are good boys and girls maybe I will share a picture of the Jack O' Lantern with you tomorrow.

If you have not done your Trick or Treating yet this year, be safe tomorrow

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stuck in the Driveway Part VI

It is Fiction Friday again. We are going to continue with our story from two weeks ago. 


Stuck in the Driveway Part V

Eddie sat back and looked at the tattoo on his forearm and was taken back to a different time and a different place. He and Stan had gotten matching tattoos the day after graduating high school. It was their way of honoring each other and proving to themselves, at least, that they were men. Even though they wouldn't reach true manhood until later that year.

Stan's girlfriend, Mary Ann, was about give birth to their first child, and Eddie was getting ready to leave for Boot Camp. By the end of the summer Stan would be a father learning how to change diapers and warm milk, and Eddie would be a Marine and shortly after, unbeknownst to Eddie, a Persian Gulf War Veteran.

Bev started to stir and tore Eddie from his reverie. He looked over at her and was taken back to the same period in time. There was a time when he and Bev were a couple. Bev thought Stan and Eddie were silly getting matching tattoos. "Macho Boys" is what she called them mostly out of jealousy. Eddie and Stan spent a great deal of time together in the weeks leading up to Eddie's departure for Boot Camp, time she felt he should have been spending with her. Eddie supposed that deep down they knew that their lives would never be the same - even if they swore fatherhood nor the military would change who they were at their core. Eddie and Stan had been friends since they were little boys, and they wanted to hang on to how things had been their entire lives as long as they could. Bev couldn't understand it at the time, and she began to pull away from Eddie.

"I remember when you idiots got those tattoos - Dragons curled around a sword," Bev said. Somehow she had awoken without Eddie knowing. I must be slipping, he thought. "That was the same night I asked you not join the Marines. I wanted you to run off to Canada with me. We were going to go live in Montreal - the Paris of North America."

"I remember Bev," Eddie sighed. "I remember."

"Eddie, where am I? And what I am doing here with you?"

"You don't remember the thug in the dark suit who cracked you over the head?" Eddie asked.


"You don't remember me carrying you through the woods? You regained consciousness for a brief moment."


"Yet, you wake up in a strange basement sitting next to me and you aren't the least bit concern. How is that?"

"It's because I know that I am always safe when I am with Eddie," Bev said as she turned away from him. "So what is going on?"

Eddie retold the story of how the dark sedan pull into 'Brogan's', how he saw Mr. Darksuit carrying her out of the office, and the lucky hit that knocked out Mr. Darksuit's driver. But he didn't tell her that he recognized Mr. Darksuit. Now wasn't the time for that. He was still always trying to protect her.

"Why would they be after you Bev? Did that husband of yours finally gamble away all of the money? Is the buffoon in some kind of trouble again?"

Bev looked at him. "Eddie, I am not going to fight with you about Tom.  He takes care of me the best he can. Better than you did when you left that summer." Bev wished she hadn't said it as soon as it left her lips. She saw him wince. Really, it wasn't fair to keep bringing it up. Eddie had gone off to serve his country. He didn't know when he signed up the first George Bush was going to send him off to war in Kuwait. "Eddie, I'm sorry..."

"You are right. I did leave. What about Mr. Darksuit back there?"

"I don't know why anyone would be after me. It's possible Tom got himself into trouble.  Maybe you're right, and his gambling has finally caught up with him. But, why would they be after me?"

"If they take him out, they aren't going to get their money. But, if they have you, it may give Tom the motivation he needs to pay them back. God knows he needs to be motivated."

"He tries his best, Eddie."

"Yeah," Eddie responded dryly.

"We need to get a hold of Stan," Bev said changing the subject. "That place was totally trashed on the inside."

"We do," Eddie agreed. "But, we ought to wait a bit. We are not going anywhere near 'Brogan's' for a while. Those guys won't be able to find us down here."

"I'll just call him on my cell phone," Bev said as she looked around for her purse. "Where's my purse Eddie?"

"You must have dropped in the office. You didn't have it when I grabbed you. I certainly don't have one of those damned things."

"Yeah, I know. Good old Eddie the Wanderer."

"Be glad I live in the woods across from 'Brogan's.' Otherwise, you would be Mr. Darksuit's trunk right now head for destinations unknown."

"Why do you keep calling him that?" Bev asked.

"Because he was wearing a Darksuit. What else should I call him?"

Bev just looked at him in the dim light of the basement and laughed. "You always were a master of the obvious." Eddie joined in the laughter. "We need to get a hold of Stan," Bev said again.

"Soon. Let's just stay here for a while."

"Where is here anyways?"

"You remember the old mill?" Eddie asked.

"Sure, I do. We spent a lot of time there," Bev smiled remembering a time long ago.

"You mean here," Eddie said.

"Did you bring me here to try and get fresh Eddie? Really?"

"No, I brought you hear because townies know how to get into this basement. Remember? The only entrance is in the side of the hill, and the hill is covered by wild bushes. You cannot get down here from the inside of the mill-." As Eddie was finishing, they heard a gun shot from upstairs followed by a thud. Somehow Bev stifled her shout.

"What was that?" Bev asked, but she already knew the answer. She had grown up around guns. As the only child of a hunter, she learned how to shoot before she learned to ride a bike.

Eddie just looked at her knowing that she knew the answer to her question. "Looks like somebody knows about the upstairs entrance to the mill."

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Team Work

Team work is one of the most important aspects in my life, and I would argue, everybody's lives. You can only do so much by yourself, and the greatest victories in life come when people work together. This is true in my personal and professional life. Since this blog is mainly about my life outside of work, we are going to talk about my personal team in this post.

My personal team consists of four people with a fifth member getting ready to take an active role within the next several months. I am talking about my wife and children. It is probably pretty obvious how important my wife is to our team. Shannon is a Stay-at-Home Mom. Yes, Virginia, that is a real job. She is with the children all day, every day. Shannon cooks for them, dresses them, changes diapers, wipes noses, and kisses boo-boos. Without her support at home, I could not function the way I do at work. Raising our children is the number one priority for both of us. Part of raising them is making sure that they have a role on our team.

Molly, the oldest at six years old, is an integral part of the team. When Shannon or I are in the middle of something and Jillian has to go to bathroom, Molly can help her sister. At dinner, she is able to set the table. There have even been times when she has made me a sandwich for lunch. (Do NOT tell my wife, but Molly made me the best sandwich I ever had.) Molly will even help me sweep the sidewalk after I cut the grass. Nine times out of ten, she is more than willing to help. Her little eyes light-up when I ask her for her help.

The middle child, Jillian, is only three and is somewhat limited in what she can help with. But, make no mistake, when she wants to help, she is an awesome helper. Jillian is great for throwing away dirty diapers for us while we are wrestling, I mean dressing Coilin. She is also able to help set the table. (NO KNIVES!) When reminded, she even puts her clothes in the dirty clothes basket. After dinner, she can clear her plate and the other children's plates as well.

With five people in this house, we have to have team work. There is no way one of us could do it all by ourself and remain sane and civil. Beyond that, making the children an integral part of the team makes them stronger and will make them more self-sufficient down the line. It helps to build their self-confidence, and that, you know, I am all about. Three of my last four blog posts have talked about it.

Maybe sometime I will talk about my team at work, a team we proudly call “Team Tech Pubs.” But, not yet. We are still gelling into the cohesive unit that I know we will become, and I want to wait to share that experience with you. So, for now, I leave you with brief overview of my personal team. I will definitely revisit this topic down the line; I have a great deal more to talk about how important they are to me, and I believe, I am to them.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Miracles Do Happen

I am in the mood to talk about my children tonight. Please bare with me. I was giving my son some milk before he went to bed tonight. I looked down at him and thought just how amazing it is that we have him. My wife and I thought that we were done having children after we had Molly and Jillian. In fact, we took steps to prevent another birth.

My wife, Shannon, had her “Tubes Tied” in 2007. Correction, “Tube Tied” she only had one Ovary left when she had the procedure done. A cyst had grown on Shannon's left ovary during her pregnancy with Jillian and totally obliterated that ovary. The doctor took out a 2 cm section of the fallopian tubes connected to the one good ovary to perform the Tubal Ligation (that's the fancy term for getting your “Tubes Tied”). When I say we thought we were done, we really thought we were done. Apparently God had other plans.

Late in the Summer of 2008, my wife was not feeling like herself. She was convinced that she was pregnant. I told her she was crazy; but, like a dutiful husband, I went out that night and bought a home pregnancy test. It turned positive while I was still reading the directions to determine how to tell if the test was positive. Yes, we were very shocked, and concerned. You see if a woman gets pregnant after having a Tubal Ligation, it is possible that it could be a Ectopic pregnancy. That can be life threatening for the mother. The doctor wanted to see my wife the next day. They did a sonogram and confirmed that she was pregnant, and that the embryo was in the Uterus right where it needed to be.

Now, I look at him and I am stunned by what a miracle he is. All children are miracles, there is no doubt of that. For me and my wife though, there is no greater miracle than Coilin. (When I say that, I do not mean to take anything away from my two girls.) Friends all around us were trying to get pregnant and could not. And here we were expecting number three when we had taken dramatic measures to prevent a pregnancy. I am so happy that Medical Science failed us. Shannon and I are blessed with three awesome children, and a couple of our friends that were trying to get pregnant are pregnant now. Miracles do happen everyday, and I think the greatest miracle of them all is having a baby.

Age of Discovery

I had lunch with a coworker yesterday, a coworker who has a 16 month old son at home. My son is 18 months old, and we have that in common. We started talking about our families, and he asked me my favorite age. I have seven from which to choose starting at newborn and ending at six years old. It really should not be that hard to pick. As it turns out, it was impossible to decide.

I started to tell him how much I liked my son's age. He is walking and really gets around. Coilin is exploring the world around him as only an 18 month old can. Also, he is starting to talk and is able to communicate with us more. This is an awesome time. It is a time of discovery. That is when I got to thinking. All of childhood is a time of discovery. It is just a matter of what it is the child is learning.

My middle child, Jillian, is in her first year of Preschool. She is starting to discover friendships. Our town has a Halloween parade, and our children have participated every year that we have lived here. While at this parade, Jillian ran into a class mate. Her parents and my wife decided to walk together with the rest of the preschoolers. I was walking with my oldest with the First Graders. On our way back to the house, Jillian told me how she and her friend walked together, and that they held hands. She was so happy, and it was so sweet to hear her talk about the night. I knew that her new friend made the parade that much more special for my Jillian.

My oldest, Molly, is in First grade. She is discovering the most important thing of all – her self-confidence. I wrote a bit about this last week in “Give It a Try.” So, I will not rehash all of it here. Molly is trying new things all of the time. The same day of the sleep over I talk about in “Give It a Try” she had a bowling party. I dropped her off and ran some errands. Molly was totally fine with me leaving her by herself. She was hanging out with Second Graders. Granted, my neighbors, whom we trust implicitly, were in charge; but even so, last year she would never have stayed without me or Shannon.

For me it is amazing to be able experience so many different moments with my children. It does not matter whether I am there to witness the moment or if I hear about it from them. I would prefer to be there for everything, but I realize that is impossible. I do my very best to be there with them every chance I get. I know how quickly the first six years with Molly has flown by, and I hear from folks with older children that the time does not slow down any.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Weekend Away

I am back. I apologize for not posting anything new for a while. My wife and I went down the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Orlando this weekend. I spent most of the evenings the week and a half leading up to our mini-vacation completing a project for work. So, that left no time to work on my beloved blog.

This vacation was our first full weekend alone together since Molly was born in 2004. The Food and Wine Festival was awesome; but, spending some time alone with my wife was even better. We stopped at the “Rose and Crown” for some Fish and Chips, and we just sat there and ate for a bit. No talking. Just us enjoying each other's company. As I have written before, it is really nice to be able sit with someone you love and just enjoy their company. The best part was being able to enjoy a hot meal without having to cut-up anybody's food or running someone to the bathroom. We sat and ate together in peace. It was almost like we were dating again.

The whole weekend was like that. It was mostly just us. Sure, there were thousands of people at Epcot on Saturday. We tried to ignore them and focus on us. Of course we talked about the children a bit. They are our lives; how could we not? Though, we did make a concerted effort not to let them dominate our conversations.

The two and half days we were away from the children was just long enough. Towards the end of the day yesterday we were both ready to see them. We know that the time we have with them is limited, and each day seems to pass more quickly the older we get. That also means that we have a limited time with each other. Shannon and I need to balance that time so that we to spend some time as Husband and Wife, and not spend all of our time as Mommy and Daddy. I think that this is true for anybody with children. You cannot forgot about continuing to build your marriage. A strong marriage will undoubtedly benefit your children. Try to spend at least some time alone with your husband or wife. Whether it is a weekend away or a couple of hours on Tuesday night, it all makes a difference.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Give it a Try

You never how something is going to turn out until you give it a try. This weekend my daughter, Molly, gave me a new perspective on this old idea, as my children so often do. On Saturday, she had her first sleep over at a friend's house. She has stayed with her grandparents numerous times; but, this was something totally different for her.

My daughter does not sleep well in “strange” places. She gets nervous, and I totally understand that. It is hard for me to fall asleep sometimes in a bed that is not my own. When I first heard about the sleep over, I thought it would be a lot of fun. But, I did not think she would do it. (I never told her that. That is a cardinal sin in parenting. If you tell your child they are unable to do something, they will believe you.)

Molly would be staying with a friend whose mom we trust and she trusts completely. Prior to the big night, Molly had several talks about the sleep over with my wife and me. She needed reassurance that everything would be fine. Then, the big night arrived. I dropped her off, and that is when we realized that her two stuffed animals were Missing In Action. I know, without a doubt, that I would be getting a call at bed time to come and get her if she did not have those animals. I told her I would bring them back before bedtime. That was good enough for her as her friend whisked her away to go have fun.

Of course, I returned with the stuffed animals and dropped them off without letting Molly know I was there. I pulled up to the house and jumped out. I had my three year old go up to the door, ring the doorbell, and deliver the payload. It was sweet. Jillian actually volunteered to do it.

The only call we received that night was from the friend's mom asking if it was okay for Molly to put on some make-up if she promised to take it off right away. The wonderful thing was that Molly asked the mom to call because she knew she needed permission. You see, she has very sensitive skin and we really monitor what products she uses. She knows this, and Molly did not want to get a rash.

In the end, Molly made it all night (and did not get a rash from the makeup). She got a little nervous before going to sleep; but the mom told Molly that they would be in the next room if she needed anything. She was reassured and did not need a thing. Molly was brave and tried something new. The success of her trying has built up her self-confidence so much so that she was ready to go back next weekend. It is amazing what can happen to you when you try something new. Just ask my Molly.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What a Day!

My three year old woke me up this morning at 6:30 am in about the only way that is acceptable to be awakened that early on Saturday. She craned her little head up over my mattress and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then she proceed to climb in bed with me and my wife; but, she refused to fall back to sleep. Twenty minutes later we were downstairs. I was pouring her juice and grinding beans for coffee.

Twenty minutes after that we were in the basement. I was doing laundry, and she was playing in the play room. And, I have been going pretty much non-stop since then. I have played the roles of Domestic Goddess, Lawn Care Professional, Taxi Driver, and Grocery Store Runner. It is now 9:01 pm. I am tired. I am hungry. The children are in bed. (Well, two of them are in bed. One is at sleepover; so, I doubt she is in bed already.) I have almost finished my blog post for the evening.

I think you know what is coming next based on last Saturday's post - “The House North of Pittsburgh.” That's right. I am going to have an adult beverage with my wife. It may be a Mojito, a Stoudt's Brewery “Scarlet Lady,” or a Troegs' Brewery “Troegenator: Double Bock.” While I am enjoying said beverage inside, (the weather has gotten cold) I plan on catching up some shows I DVRed. Perhaps it will be “Castle,” “Glee,” or “WipeOut!” I cannot say for sure.

All that I know is that there are two empty spots on my couch. One is for me, and one is for my wife. So, I say to you, my dear friends, Good Night and God Bless.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stuck in the Driveway Part V

It is Fiction Friday again. We are going to continue with our story from last week. 


Stuck in the Driveway Part V

The man hears the footsteps as they get closer.

“Hey,” the walking man yells, “the Princess and the pea is awake.”

“Princess and the pea,” the man on the floor croaks his voice dry from sleeping.

“Yeah, you've been out for a while now. And you know, you were sleeping”

“Ok, but the “Princess and the Pea” is a story a princess who takes refuge in a castle on a stormy night. It is not stormy, nor is raining, nor do I imagine, I am in a castle,” his voices begins to get stronger the more he talks.

“You know what buddy?” walking man says, “You better keep quiet.”

“I'm just saying you would have been better to be cliched and call me Sleeping Beauty. At least that would have been accurate.”


The man hears a second man walk in. “I see our guest has awakened.”

“Guest? What is it with you guys and using words wrong?" the man ask "Guest implies that I want to be here. You guys probably use your and you're or to, two, and too wrong.”

“What are you talking about?” the second walking man asks.

“Otto, this guy has been rambling since he woke up. Go get the boss, he wanted to know as soon as he woke up.”

“All right Jorge. I'll get him. You better watch it Sport!”

“Sport? What, are you my coach?”

“Shut up!” Jorge and Otto yell.

Otto returns with The Boss. “Pick him up and put him in that chair.”

“Wouldn't be easier if you untied me and took off my blindfold? Then I could walk.”

“Quiet,” The Boss says. Jorge and Otto and put the man in the chair. “Mr. Brogan...," The Boss continues.

“Mr. Brorgan. Who's Mr. Brogan?” the man now seated in the chair asks.

“Fine, let me guess," The Boss says. "You are going to tell us that Mr. Brogan was your dad. Otto tells me you are quite the comedian. Fine then, we will go by first names, Stanley.”

You're right, Mr. Brogan was my dad. But, that's not where I was going. I'm not Stanley either.” The man in the chair suddenly feels a hard circular object being pushed into the back of his head.

Enough of your talking. Now is the time for you to listen.”


ENOUGH! If you speak one more time other than direct responses to my questions, Otto is going to going to silence you. I suggest you cooperate.”

The man in the chair finds it very hard not to make a comment. My goodness, what is going on? I am being held by two guys named Jorge and Otto, who don't have European accents, and being grilled by some guy they call THE BOSS.  It's like Skip McClure's Comedy Hour. I am waiting for Allen Funt to jump and say “SMILE, You're on Candid Camera.”

Do you understand, Mr. Brogan?” The Boss asks.


“Good. Mr. Brogan, you have been under surveillance for month's We know that you are scheduled to meet your investors today, or the people you think are your investors. And this is what we want to talk to you about.”

Ok,” the man in the chair responds.

That's much better. No more of your rants. We are running short on time, and I am running short on patience.”

I'll answer what I can.” His usual self-confidence was starting to dissipate. The more The Boss talked, the more nervous he got. The gun didn't help, and he begins to think, If Otto there sneezes and causes his body to convulse, I am dead meat. Brings a whole new meaning to the term snot rocket. Joking to himself helped ease his nerves.

We know that your lawn care business is being funded by international Investors," the boss says. "We also know that you were rejected for a good many government contracts handed out as a result of the government bail out. You couldn't earn enough points in the bids because you weren’t Minority or Woman Owned Business. That is what made you take money from your foreign investors. Did you know that the fertilizer feeds more than the grass?”

“Ah, no,” the man in the chair responds.

That fertilizer leeches into soil and gets into the water supply.”

Sounds like normal fertilizer to me.”

It does, doesn't it. But, it is stronger than anything else available in the U.S. It is a special blend,” says The Boss.

Ok, enlighten me.”

Mr. Brogan, your fertilizer is killing your town. And other foreign investors are 'helping' other small landscape businesses all over the country. The fertilizer all of these companies are using is poisoning this nation!”


“NO! You listen to me, Mr. Brogan. The investors chose to back companies they knew couldn't turn down there help or they would risk closing up shop. I believe your investors are Chinese. There are also investors from Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries. Do you see the pattern?

Hey, this is a great story and all. But, I am not Stanley,” he felt the gun being pressed harder against his head. “Let me finish. I understand the confusion. I do look an awful lot like Stanley. I'm Stanley's twin brother Michael.”

“I grow weary of your denials and your talking. You have been under surveillance for months. You were at the
Brogan's this morning. You are Stanley Brogan, and I will not sit here and have you make me into a fool. Stanley Brogan does not have any brothers.”

But he does. Stanley doesn't even know about me. Our mom and dad were still in high school when they had us. She had to give one of us for adoption. Stanley was the one she kept. I just found out about Stanley last year.”

Let me get this straight – Michael, you said your name was?” Michael nodded. “You expect me to believe this cockamamie story about a long, lost twin brother who has come home at last. Spare me the prodigal son story. I am done with you. Otto!”

Wait! Stanley has a tattoo on his right fore arm,” the man spat out quickly. “I don't have one. Look at my Driver's License in my wallet. Have Hans and Franz check.”

Um, boss,” Otto starts, “his Driver's License says he is Michael Dauson from South Bend, Indiana.”

No tattoo either boss,” Jorge says.

Give me that!” The Boss yells. “Jorge and Otto, you grabbed the wrong guy!"

I don't mean to be critical, but the story of the Prodigal Son isn't about a long, lost twin brother...” before Michael could finish correcting The Boss, Otto sneezes and the gun goes off.

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I think that we are all called on in life to do something greater than what we think is possible. It is up to us to answer that call. Allow me to give you an example from my own life.

For years people have been telling me that I would make an excellent teacher. When I first started out in college, I majored in Elementary Education. After bouncing around two other Education based degrees, I decided I did not want to teach. One of the reasons was, I did not want to deal with the parents. So, I earned my degree in English – just plain old English. I have been using that degree professionally since graduation in some form or another.

Part of me has always wondered what if I had followed that initial path. I really enjoy sharing knowledge with other people. Maybe that is why I enjoy Technical Writing as my profession and this blog as my hobby. But, part of me does wonder if I was ignoring a calling for something different.

About two months ago, I heard that Call to teach again. This time I listened, but not right away. We received a registration packet for Faith Formation (CCD) at our church. It was time for our daughter to start learning about our faith outside of the home. That packet had other information in it for the parents. One of those pieces of information was request for volunteers to teach Faith Formation classes. When I initially read the advertisement, I thought that would be a lot of fun, but did not give it much more thought. That was before my wife mentioned something about it to me. Mind you, she did not know I had even considered volunteering to teach at our church. Here is a summation of what she said:

The church is looking for Faith Formation teachers. You have always wanted to teach. It would be something that you and Molly could do together.

She is so smart. I listened and answered the Call. I am glad I did. Had Shannon not mentioned the Call to teach, I probably would have ignored it. We have been in class for three weeks, and I am having a great time. The kids, for the most part, seem to be enjoying it too.

The Call is not always something as involved as teaching Faith Formation. Sometimes we are called to do smaller tasks that are every bit as important.

Have you ever gotten that feeling that you should call and check up on a good friend. Then, when you do, you find out that she has been hurting and looking for someone in which to confide her troubles. Or what about the person on crutches who is trying to open a door, but cannot do it without falling over? By opening that door for them, you are answering a Call. You may think that is what any decent person would do, but many people would walk by without lending a hand.

Sometimes the Call is loud and clear, like my wife, and sometimes it is very subtle, such as an intuition. You just have to be willing to listen and answer. Otherwise, the Call becomes nothing more than a missed opportunity to make this world a better place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Something Wonderful

Something really strange happened in my house the other night. After I put the children to bed, wrote my blog, and packed my lunch, I sat down on the couch to read. My wife had finished her blog Molly's Lunchbox and sat down in the chair. Neither one of us reached for the remote. The television remained silent.

Now, we are not people who watch a lot of television even if it is on quite a bit – sometimes we just use it as background noise. But this night, last Wednesday I think it was, it never made it on. It was nice. I sat couch, had a snack and read a book. My wife sat in the chair and did some research on the internet. Occasionally, we would share something that we had read.

It is really nice when you can spend time with someone you love. In my opinion, it is okay that we were not 100% engaged in conversation; that we were doing our own thing. We still spent time together. I am not ashamed to admit that I would look up at my wife and watch for a moment or two and admire her and relish her beauty.

Times like those remind me how lucky I am to have found Shannon. We are a good compliment to each other. Our relationship is such, that we can sit in the same room and do separate things and enjoy each others company. Or we can go out and have a good time (not that happens often, with three kids.) I have been blessed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pleasant Surprise

I participated in the Start! Heart Walk in Pittsburgh today, and I experienced something wonderful. Having suffered from a Heart Attack myself, this walk had special meaning to me already. The thing that affected me the most today took me by surprise.

The walkers were all lined-up and ready to start. We just had to wait for the open ceremonies to finish. They had two or three people speaking, and if you offered me a million dollars, I could not tell what they were talking about. These folks were using a public address system, but the walkers were making so much noise that it was hard to hear.

Then, through the cacophony of sound, you clearly heard, “Oh, say can you see...,” and the crowd went completely silent. I have never experienced that. Even at baseball games and football games, people are still talking. Not today. It was totally awesome, and that moment was another brilliant example of why I love this country.

We may bicker and argue over politics and global warming and race and creed. When the Star Spangled Banner begins, 99% of people shut up. That respect, to me, is phenomenal. Somethings still remain sacred, and it appears that our National Anthem is one of them.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The House North of Pittsburgh

Today, I cooked up a few verses of alternate lyrics to the Animal's "House of the Rising Sun." Let me know what you think. Maybe I can add some more if you like it.

The House North of Pittsburgh

There is a house North of Pittsburgh,

where a family of five does live,
with a mother, a father and three children
that range from 6 to 1.

Well it's been a long, long week for mom,
changing diapers, making lunches, chauffeuring
and for dad he thought this week wouldn't end
but mercifully saturday has come.

Those dear sweet children have gone to sleep,
mom and dad will drink Mojitos.
On the front porch, while the weather is still nice
before old man winter comes.

There is a house North of Pittsburgh,
where a family of five does live,
with a mother, a father and three children
that range from 6 to 1.

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stuck in the Driveway Part IV

It is Fiction Friday again. We are going to continue with our story from last week. 


Stuck in the Driveway Part IV

At the same time that Bev met Mr. Darksuit, a man, somewhere in the same town, begins to awaken.

“ahh...oohh...whaa...where am?”

It felt as though an entire cotton field was growing in his mouth.

“i can't see.” The man tries to rub his eyes and realizes that his hands are bound behind his back. He tries to stretch his legs and feels a shooting pain in his wrists. “what the?” Someone has tied his feet together at the ankles and connected the two bindings with a strand of rope.

“what is going on?”

He can hear the muffled, indistinguishable voices of two men. A sliver of light appears in one of the walls, but the man doesn't see it. He only hears footsteps as they approach him.

An hour earlier

Stan is driving B.J.'s pale blue Plymouth Horizon. The smell has gotten so bad that he is now driving with his head out of the window. “I thought you were supposed to get used to smells the longer you were around them,” he said to himself. Stan's hair was matted to his face from the rain. The rain was more tolerable than the stench emanating from the Horizon. At least with his head hanging out of the window, he didn't feel the urge to retch. “Ugh, he is so much like his dad, it isn't even funny.”

Stan was beginning to believe he might actually make it in time to meet the investors. That was when the car started to lurch and bounce. “no, No, NO!” The engine dies. He gets out of the car and raises the hood. It is nothing more than a obligatory hood raise. The kind of thing that motorists who breakdown feel that they should do – hoping that it is something easily fixed. He grabs the battery cables to see if they are loose, They are secure. He touches a couple of other wires, comes close to burning his hand on the radiator cap; but, deep in his heart he knows that there is nothing that he can do to fix it anyhow. B.J. was just like his old man in many ways, and he has Bob's inability to fix anything mechanical. As a result, there was no way that he was going to have tools in the car. Stan got back in to the car and tried the ignition. “Come on, Blue Beauty. Don't fail me now.” The car just whined back him – wah na na na, wha na na na. She wanted to start; but couldn't. Stan looked down and realized why. Blue Beauty was out of gas. “Great! This day just keeps getting better and better.”

“You have two choices Stan,” he says to himself. “You can go down Pleasantville Avenue out to Route 73 and walk the three and half miles to the business, or you can go three blocks east and then cut through the Sherwood Forest and be at Brogan's in a half hour.” The path through Sherwood Forest was one he knew well. Until a few months ago, he was an avid runner, and Stan would often run to work. Things had changed since his last run, and he hadn't been jogging since early April. “Well, Stan my boy, you have been wanting to get back to jogging. Now is as good a time as any. Especially,” he said defaltedly, “if you want to save the business.” He grabbed his backpack, Stan never could bring himself to carry a brief case, and started to jog.

Stan was two blocks into his journey when his feet started to ache. “Ack, these wing-tips were not meant for running,” he moaned. He stopped to take his shoes and socks off, and as Stan was putting his shoes and socks into his backpack, he heard a gravely voice.

“What are you doing boy?” Jasper McCletus shouted. Jasper called anyone younger than him boy, and that accounted for just about everyone in town except for his own brother. The two of them were miserable pair.
“Just going for a jog Mr. McCletus.”
“In your bare feet?”
“It's a long story Mr. McCletus and I am already running late for an appointment,” and Stan started running again.
“Is that supposed to be some kind of pun?” But, Stan didn't answer, he just kept running. “I don't know what's wrong with people. No one knows how to show someone common courtesy anymore,” Japser grumbled.

Stan had run the last block and was standing at the mouth of the trail. “Maybe going barefoot wasn't such a bright idea.” He resigned himself to continuing on when saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned just in time to see the three figures running at him. They were on top of him before he could react, the world went dark, and Stan's day got a little worse.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Focus on the Positive

My oldest daughter some how got a cut in her mouth. It is not a big one; but it hurts her. I can sympathize. I have one too. I bit the inside of my cheek. Poor Molly, even before she went up to brush her teeth, she asked if she would have to use mouth wash. She knew it would make it hurt worse. I told her she had to. She started to cry a little. I tried to comfort her and tell her it would help heal it by killing the bacteria. Molly did not want to hear that.

Fast forward to after Molly had brushed her teeth. I did not have to ask her if it hurt because I knew it would, and I did not want to bring it up. Never fear! Molly made sure that she let me know that it hurt. I told her to focus on the positive – that even though it hurt – it would help. My “lecture” to her started to make me think about some things too, and I am in no mood to think tonight. I am far too tired. But, once the machine starts, the machine has to finish.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of anything in this world that does not come without a cost. Someone cleans out a wound to get rid of the bacteria, and that hurts. You work extra hours to make a few extra bucks, and you are giving up your free time, time that you usually spent drinking with your buddies. If you want to lose weight, you have to start eating healthier and start exercising. Maybe, as in my case, I wanted to start a blog and the only time I had left was my television time.

All of these things come at some cost. The cost for some is higher than others. We have to decide exactly what we are willing to pay to achieve the desired outcome. You have to give in order to receive.

In reality, life really is not that much different than a cut in a little girl's mouth. You will suffer for a bit while you swish around the mouthwash; but eventually, the pain turns into a reward that is a healed mouth. You may notice that things taste a little better than did while the cut was still there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Show Some Restraint

I listen to NPR every morning for the first five or ten minutes of my commute. This morning, on “Morning Edition,” I heard a very disturbing story. A Baptist Minister, Rev. Fred Phelps, from Topeka, Kansas and six members of his church picketed the funeral of soldier, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. This incident happened in 2006, but they are reporting on it now because the father has a law suit against the minister that will be heard before the Supreme Court.

What was Rev. Phelps and his flock protesting? Homosexuals in the military. They held up signs that read “God Hates Fags” and “You're Going to Hell.” There is no evidence to suggest that Lance Cpl. Snyder was gay. In fact, Rev. Phelps protests many military funerals all over the country. You can read all about the story here. I am not going to spend time rehashing it here.

The point of this blog entry is to try and understand what Phelps and his people were thinking. Let us strip the story of some facts. I do not care what denomination Phelps was. For my purposes, it does not matter that it was a military funeral. Here is what matters: A man lost his son, a man was trying to pay final respects to his son, seven people held up signs that had nothing to do with how this man's son died, and seven people protested at a man's funeral.

I am a defender of the Constitution of this great country. The First Amendment allows these protesters to do what they did. BUT, there comes a time when you have to use a little common sense and show a little human decency. If you disagree with something, fine. There is a time and a place to express your feelings. That time or place is not at someone's funeral.

Time to bring some facts back into this piece. We all know why Phelps chooses the time and place that he does. He knows there will be press. The man sends out flyers telling people about the planned events. He is exploiting the fact that a solider has died serving his country.

I wish people would use some restraint. Just because you have a right to do something, does NOT mean that you should do it. There are times when you should consider ALL of the consequences of your actions, and then, reconsider your course of action.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cellphone Abusers

Dear Cellphone Abusers:

If you are talking on the phone when you are in the checkout line, please hang up, and call the person back. Your conversation is not so important that you need to hold everyone else up.

Furthermore, the cashier and we, your fellow shoppers, do not need to know that you had a boil lanced last week, and we certainly do NOT want to know the location of said skin infection. What Johnny did to Patty is none of my business; so PLEASE, do not make me listen to the story.

I understand that life is busy. Believe me, I get it. I have three children under six. I work a full time job. I have other commitments outside of work. My time is just as valuable as yours. If your really need to finish your conversation about Timmy's athletes foot, wait until you get out of the checkout line.

Thank you for kind attention. Oh, what? Oh, you need me to hang on while you finish your call? Oh, o-okay, I can wait.

Monday, October 4, 2010


A friend of mine and reader of this blog told me that he feels I am inconsistent. Specifically, when I talk about eating healthy in one blog and then talk about eating Pizza and Wings in another. He feels that these opposing views paint a fuzzy picture. I totally get what he is driving at, and can see where he might think that. So, please allow me to clear the air.

I make no qualms in saying that I LOVE Pizza and Wings. I also love Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and Burger King. You know what else? I know that if I were to eat this stuff all of the time I would be severely limiting my time here on earth. I limit my intake of this type of food to one or sometimes two meals a week. Everything in moderation my friend.

I can sit down an eat and entire bag of Snyder's of Berlin BBQ Potato Chips in one night. But, I do not put myself into a situation to allow that to happen. We buy those heavenly chips maybe once of month. There are certain foods that once I get my mitts on them – forget about it. I turn into an Alaskan Brown Bear who is gobbling up all of that delicious Alaskan salmon. You will lose an arm if you get in my way. Consider yourself warned.

There is no reason I should not enjoy that kind of food from time to time. I know how terrible it is for me; but sometimes it just tastes good. I do not deprive myself of it completely, and nor should you if you enjoy it. Just be smart about it. If you like full fat ice cream and you know you will eat the whole half gallon in one sitting, buy just a pint every month or two as a treat. Then do not grab the whole pint, put some in a bowl and limit yourself. Ask a friend or loved one to hold you accountable. 

So, dear friend, think me not inconsistent. I just know what my limits are and try to stick to them. Plus, I cannot help that the “bad” food is the food that I love the most. As my favorite Spinach-eater so eloquently put: “I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Family Fun Day

Yesterday was a “Family Fun Day” from the time we woke up until we all went to bed. It was a day that we anticipate all year. It is the day that we go to McConnell's Mill State Park. Living in Pennsylvania is a blessing. There are so many wonderful places to go and view nature in all her beauty, and McConnell's Mill is the place my family loves to go every year between October and Early November to see the Autumn foliage.

It is an awesome time. My wife packs a picnic lunch, we grab a couple of blankets, load the kiddies into the car, and head to the Mill. For the last few years, we have been going to the same open field. It is perfect to eat and then let the little ones run around and collect leaves. That is their favorite part. Then we load them back into the car and ride around the park looking at all of the leaves. That is mommy and daddy's favorite part.

After we leave the McConnell's Mill, phase II begins. We head to Brown's Country Kitchen for the best pie ever! Brown's is about 2 miles from the park and I am glad it is as far away from our house as it is. I would get very fat, very quickly if it wasn't.

Our final stop, phase III, is a candy store that still sells penny candy. It is a mecca for all adults who frequented this heavenly place as children. It is Baldinger's. I remember going there as a child and getting a bag full of candy and being the happiest kid on earth. My mom was probably happy too because it was so cheap. One hundred pieces of candy for dollar – you can't beat that with a stick. The selections for the penny candy have decreased dramatically, but it is still available. The entire family loves to go there. It is the perfect end to our family outing.

I think it is imperative that parents set aside a “Family Fun Day.” I know that my children will remember this day. In fact as soon as we got to McConnells Mill, Molly knew where our next two stops would be. They are the same every year. The children, Shannon, and I all look forward to this day. This year, Shannon and I made it even better. We extended the day after the children went to bed. We spent one on one time together. It was like we were dating again. We order wings, drank beer, watched “Wipeout!” and “Glee.” The perfect end to a perfect day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stuck In the Driveway Part III

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 III

Eddie had hunkered to the back of his shelter as soon as it had started to drizzle. When he sat in his current position, anybody passing by saw only the trees. That is of course, unless they knew to look for him. His shelter sat back from the road about twenty feet. One long side of the brown tarp was connected to two saplings, and the other long side was tied to stakes in the ground. The front of the tarp was about three feet off of the ground and the back was about six inches off the ground. The shelter wasn't much, but it keep him dry.

Most of the people in town knew that Eddie lived in the woods; but few really cared. The most trouble he got was from the new people that moved to town. They didn't like the idea of homeless person living free in the woods. The newbies would complain to the police, and if the police couldn't get the complainant to understand that Eddie was harmless, the police would go talk to Eddie. The police all knew Eddie, most of them had grown up with him, but their salaries came from the tax payers, and they hated to tell him he had to move, but they were duty bound to do so. Eddie never wanted to cause trouble, and he would take down his shelter and move it farther away from town.

When he first moved back to town, Eddie was sleeping in the park. Since then, he had been evicted, so to speak, several times. After the Hendersons, who had moved in from Boston had complained, Eddie had taken up living three miles outside of town and right across the road from Brogan's Green Thumb. It was because he had hunkered back that he was able to watch as the black sedan pulled into the parking lot about 45 minutes ago. Eddie then watch while the black sedan pulled out as Bev's yellow Sunfire pulled in.

That was always the highlight of his day, watching as Bev pulled into work and got out of her car. He didn't care that she had gained 30lbs since high school. To Eddie, Bev would always be the first girl he kissed, and the first girl with whom he had done a great many things. That was a long time ago though; before he had left town.

Now, he was back, and they were both different people. Bev knew that Eddie watched as she would get out of her car. Most people would think that his watching was creepy. Not Bev, she knew what had happened to Eddie and felt partially responsible. Often, she would give him a little wave; but not today. Today she was preoccupied. Eddie was preoccupied too, only his preoccupation was with the brunette exiting the Sunfire. She coughed as she put out her cigarette. Eddie hated that Bev smoked, he knew that one day it would kill her.

Eddie watched as the black sedan pulled back into Brogan's. This was the same sedan that had just left, and Eddie knew something wasn't right. He tried to call out to warn her; but his voice, from lack of use, only croaked. He watched with a growing alarm as a man in a dark suit slowly got out of the black sedan and entered right behind Bev. It was odd, thought Eddie, that he had not heard Mr. Darksuit's footsteps as he had crossed the gravel parking lot. Even from his vantage point, Eddie had clearly heard Bev as she put out her cigarette and walked to the front door. Something obviously wasn’t right.

Faster than anyone in town had seen Eddie move since he made the game saving tackle against Southwest High in what seemed like a lifetime ago, he was in Brogan's parking lot. Eddie moved with the same quiet stealthiness as Mr. Darksuit. He hid behind the car out of the driver's view. Mr. Darksuit came out of Brogan's carrying Bev's limp body in his arms, and headed for the trunk. Eddie caught him by surprise and knocked him out cold before Mr. Darksuit had a chance to get around the back of the sedan. Somehow, Eddie was able to grab onto Bev before she was crushed under Mr. Darksuit's massive frame.

As Eddie was repositioning Bev in his arms, the driver got out of the black sedan with his gun drawn. With training that he thought was long forgotten, Eddie kicked the gun out of the driver's hand with his right foot. No sooner had his right touched the ground than his left foot tagged the driver in the jaw. The driver slipped on the gravel hitting his head on the side view mirror and fell silently to the ground.

Eddie repositioned Bev one more time. As he did so, he looked down and nearly dropped Bev. Mr. Darksuit, Eddie realized, was someone he hadn't seen since before he came back to town, and he was someone Eddie could have lived his whole life without seeing again. Eddie recovered from his temporary paralysis and ran into the woods carrying Bev with even more determination. As they were running, Bev started to regain consciousness.

“Eddie? Is that you?”

“Relax Bevy, I've got you. I don't know how or what They are doing here. But, you are safe now.”

“nnn....” Bev eyes closed again, and Eddie continued to run deep into the woods. There was only one place he could take her where she would be safe. Eddie only hoped he could get there before Mr. Darksuit regained consciousness and started to track him.

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

Copyright © 2010 Writing for Fun