Monday, December 27, 2010

The Drunken Angel

She sat on our tree every year, this angel in a plastic blue dress with white wings.  She even lasted longer than three artificial Christmas trees and a whole set of ornaments.  She was molded in one piece and even her hair was a plastic blond.  Stuck up inside of her was a small light that topped off the decorations, making her queen of the tree.  Well, of course that wasn't all that was crammed up under her rigid dress.  She also had a giant tree branch pinning her on her perch.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gift Matters

"It's the thought that counts," is what people say when they get a crappy gift, or a present that a two-year old picks out.  I mean, let's be honest.  How many team logo ties can one person own?  And those "Your #1" mugs that seem to go to distant relatives or to your boss are really false advertisements and given simply because you didn't want to spend the money on a real gift like Reese's Cups.  Not everybody can be #1 and when I get a shirt that says "#1 Dad" on it, I have to wonder how many others were in the running and why wasn't I even told there was a competition?  Were the boys taking applications and the others just sucked worse than me?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Stockings Aren't the Same

The boys have had the same stockings since they were born. They're traditional fare, a dark red sock with a white fluffy top.  Char, with glue and glitter, had placed each name in gold or silver centered neatly on the bed of fluff.  As I glance at them today, hanging from an eggshell wall, they’re the same stockings. They haven't changed and I doubt they ever will as long as we continue to put them up.

No, it's not the stockings that have changed as much as what goes inside.  Even though they may act it at times, our kids are not really kids.  They're men and women in their own right and Disney jigsaw puzzles may not bring the Christmas smile that it used to.  Sighs, I miss the days of cheap parenthood.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Auto Correct Feature

I love my iTouch, which I was recently told is called an iPod Touch.  It’s hard enough using the thing without remembering the proper term for it, so Touch works fine for me.  I like it because of its mobility.  Most of my essays are typed with my right thumb while skirting around town dodging overly safe drivers.  The part about it that drives me nuts is the auto-correct feature.  Don't get me wrong, it also has some good points - if I'm paying attention, that is.  Sometimes, it'll predict the word I'm trying to say and just offer it up so I can stop typing and move onto the next word.  It's quite a handy function that delays my thumbs being put into traction.  Still, if I'm not paying attention it causes utter confusion.  As I look back over some manuscripts my characters have yelled, "Shut the he'll up."  At first I thought it just didn't like the four letter words until I read, "Vie come to pick up the kids," and found myself wondering how Vie got into my story.  Furthermore, sometimes I question the programmer, like the time it corrected "think" into "thunk".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Gift Giving Rules

It starts in September, sometimes creeping out even in August, those subtle and quite often not-so-subtle hints that are uttered during the commercials you have to watch because you forgot to record your favorite show.  “Oh, look at that, honey.  It cuts little tomatoes into the shape of Mt. Rushmore.  Wouldn’t that just be so cute at parties?  If I got one of those for Christmas I would definitely start having parties.”  And so the holiday season begins.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Decorations of Nostalgia

It's that time again.  The turkey is safely secured in my stomach, pecan pie devoured and the kids have washed away the evidence.  That was a rule I made long ago.  The ladies had slaved over the Thanksgiving feast for hours and it was only right for the men to do clean up duty, and by men I mean the children, of course.  But all that is done and naps have been had.  It's now time for the storage tubs to be brought out and the Christmas decorations scattered around.  When I say tubs I am referring to all ten of the five feet long, two feet deep and two feet wide containers crammed full of Santa Clauses and snowmen.  It's my favorite time of year and our family goes all out.

I can't help it.  The lights, the bright colors and glistening decorations, a person can't help but feel the rush of excitement that comes with the holiday season.  Of course, it could also be attributed to the spiked eggnog, but that's our little secret.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garage Sale Junkies

The madness started when we discovered a flyer stuck to our mailbox, which is illegal I know but also don't care.  Neither did whoever put it on our mailbox obviously.  It was from a lady down our street wanting to put together a community yard sale. She had made some extra money last Spring and thought if we all got together and unloaded our junk on the unsuspecting we'd make some easy cash.  I'm all for trading my unwanted stuff for spendable currency so we decided to hop on board.

We took one night and went through the garage sorting stuff to sell and stuff we had to keep.  The girls were pretty selective at this point and decided that the washer and dryer would not be sold.  I tried to reason with them.  After all, Laura Ingalls had clean clothes and she didn't have a washing machine.  It was true that we didn't live near a river but we did own a pool and isn't chlorine like bleach practically?  Soak them in the pool and hang them on the fence to dry and I bet we'd make at least thirty bucks per appliance.  Still, the selfish women refused to be inconvenienced so we sold the kid's stuff instead.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Every Day

Once a year in America, we gather around a burdened table with family and friends to stuff our stomachs to match the full feeling of our hearts.  It's a time where we try and show the abundance of blessings in our lives by an abundance of food on our tables.  It's always been this way.

Personally, I think one day a year for this is ridiculous.  Really, we should stuff ourselves at least once a week if not daily.  Why should this abundance of over-indulgence be reserved for the last Thursday of every November?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Night before Thanksgiving

Growing up, the holidays were always a big deal.  My parents threw everything they had into these special days and our home was jammed with celebrants.  Sometimes we would visit my relatives in Indianapolis but those were rare occasions.  When we did venture up, we would inevitably stay at my Aunt Laura's, which I always thought was fun because they had a basement divided into rooms that we would sleep in.  It was like having a house under a house.  Or I would stay on the front porch they had enclosed on a couch with lots of quilts.  Their house was right on West Washington Street, also known as Highway 40, and traffic could be heard all through the night.  Furthermore, a fire station was across the street and the engines would wake me up in the middle of the night as they raced to rescue some poor soul.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

There Should Be A License

I don't go fishing.  I've been invited, but I don't have a license and I refuse to buy one.
The whole concept for even needing one seems asinine to me.  I don't even own a pole.  I would have to borrow my son's who did spend money on a license to go stick a line in the public river to attract some freeloading puffer fish that someone else is going to have to take off the hook anyway and for that I need a license.  Gone are the days of simple family picnics at the river's edge where Dad spends all of his time baiting hooks and rescuing snagged fishing lines.  I won't do it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Really Hate Cars

There it goes, car number 24, attached to the back end of a tow truck, the stretcher in the automobile world.  My parents used to name their cars, but that always saddens me because mine tend to die before their time.  I'm not kidding, either.  The joke in our family was that if you wanted to find out if anything is wrong with your car, let Robbie drive it for five minutes.  Sure as the sunrise, it would break down.  I drove over a muffler backing up a car.  Anything can happen with me behind the wheel.  I shudder to think how many horses would have had to be put down if I had lived over a hundred years ago.  There would have been no shortage of glue.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Have a Stove?

The women have pulled a coup and men, we haven’t even realized it.  I bet most husbands won’t know what hit them until tonight when the ladies are sitting at the table wondering where dinner is.  It was a quiet revolution, probably sponsored by overpriced restaurants because they know men would rather purchase a meal out than cook one at home.  What am I talking about?  I knew you wouldn’t know, unless you’re a wife and then you’re laughing your apron off?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introducing Chip

With Halloween upon us, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce you to one of the residents of our otherwise normal home.  I know last month I wrote in The Final Box that our home has only five occupants, but this month I discovered that a member of the previous household did, indeed, follow us to our shiny new home.  I suppose that if I'm going to confess I must also add that I left him off the roster of the previous abode as well.  At least, he wasn’t mentioned by name.  I did share one of his antics without giving him due credit.  Perhaps that's why he's decided to make his presence known now.

In I Collect People, I told you how I collect the people I see for characters.  Well, in this case, we were the ones collected.  I know, you're probably thinking, "He's been in that house for four months and he just noticed someone else living there.  Not the sharpest knife in the drawer."  I understand.  It's odd, Real Genius odd, where the guy lived in a tunneled-out room under the dorm.  But this resident was easily hidden.  He didn't eat, never showered that I know of, and yet, never reeked of body odor.  You rarely knew he was ever there mainly, because Chip doesn't have a body.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Carving and Coffins

When it comes to pumpkin carving, I'm like Charlie Brown when he made his Halloween costume.  Instead of a ghost with two eyes, he resembled pale Swiss cheese.  I'm just not good with knives.  Whittling was a total catastrophe as I couldn’t even make toothpicks or sharpen pencils.  I can’t even use box cutters properly to open packages.  I shudder at the thought of malpractice suits if I had become a surgeon.  Of course, I get squeamish just watching Bones so playing doctor is as far as I will go in the medical field, but still, it's a nerve-racking thought.  Jack-O-Lanterns should be scary, though, so I suppose my lack of skill works in a Friday the 13th sort of way.

Yet, I envy those people who can carve the entire nativity scene on the face of a pumpkin.  I can't even accomplish a simple triangle.  Seriously.  It comes out half trapezoid and half pentagram, which is somewhat fitting for Halloween, I suppose.  At least, halfway.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Change Doesn't Scare Me

Change doesn't scare me.  For over twenty years I've been a part of churches where most members screamed if you changed the brand of toilet paper in the stalls.  However, I grabbed change by the horns moving forward and left the churches behind.  Change keeps you alive, breaths fresh air into a stagnant routine.  Change forces you to grow and stretch, which is why most probably avoid it at all costs.  "We never did it like that before," rings out in every church and business around the world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I've Found Him!

Some things just aren’t funny.  An Amber Alert is one of those things.  My gut clenches every time I hear one and my heart fills my throat as that droll monotone voice breaks into the music and describes the child.  It always starts the same, “Last seen wearing…” – hair, weight, eye color, clothing.  For way too many, those words, “Last seen”, are sadly prophetic.  It’s a parent’s worst nightmare - the thought of a child missing.

It happened to me one Sunday after the evening service. At the time I was the church’s custodian and usually the last to leave as it was my job to lock up.  My three boys would play on the playground or soccer field until it was time to take our exhausted bodies home.  The grounds were always swarmed with children as parents were absorbed in their own conversations.  No one really thought twice about the children running around.  It was church, after all, a safe place.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where'd That Body Come From?

The girls think I’m quirkier than normal and give me the looks that tell me so.  Like the other day when I left my study in total frustration, walked to the kitchen and dropped into the bar stool at the counter.  The girls looked at me wondering what idiot pissed me off in the webisvere where I spend way too much time as it is.

"I thought you were writing," Char ventured.  “Was I making toast too loud again?”

"I was.  Now, I'm not."

Teri stared at me cautiously.  "What happened?  You were by yourself."

I’m a writer.  I’m never by myself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Politically Incorrect

We are too damn sensitive!  That statement alone probably offended someone.  Truth is, however, we are. Everything has to be worded so as not to upset the gentle sensitivities of a weaker majority.  Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Personally, I say we speak out and hit them over the head anyway.  I'd kick a few in the seat of their pants except they wear them so low, I'd only hit air.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We Celebrate Everything

We have way too much time on our hands as is evidenced by Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I wasn't really sure what was going on until I saw people posting like Jack Sparrow online and my kids, who are all adults by the way, went around saying, "Argh, ya matey.”  Of course, it was quickly followed with "Yes, Mighty Father.” It was then I realized that as a people we will celebrate anything.  We just love to party.  We aren’t satisfied with Christmas, Easter and July 4th.  We need more to look forward to than Labor Day and Bosses Day.  We crave celebration as much as the companies who make streamers and glitter.

As my kids in adult bodies swashbuckled their way through the house, I grew curious as to what other events cause our party hats to be put on.  So, I opened up my web browser and prayed to the god of Google to reveal its infinite wisdom to me.  I was amazed at the various causes and celebrations listed.  Some even made sense to this twisted mind.  Since it is October, I focused there and was dazzled and baffled by the subject of such jubilees.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It All Started With Squirrels

He's staring at me, his tiny sharp claws gripping my porch screen as his fluffed out tail shakes like a silent tambourine.   A few days ago I discovered that when their tails do that it's their way of sending a warning.  He did a 180 on my screen, tail now up in the air, his head cocked and staring.  He was definitely sending out his warning.

"Hey, Moron, put food in the bird feeder or the pool float gets shredded,"

I know he's not joking.  He'll do it.  The noodle is proof of that.

When we moved into the house awhile back, I hung a small, yellow bird feeder on a two-foot shepherd's hook and filled it with the best Wal Mart had to offer.  I, then, lounged on my back porch, sipping coffee and awaited the arrival of grateful feathery fowls rejoicing in the abundance of free food on a mesh platter and chirping my praises.  Not one bird flew in.  I had even added a birdbath in the guise of a giant sunflower so they could splash and drink to their tiny hearts’ content.  Still, no takers.  However, a pack of squirrels swarmed the free buffet faster than senior citizens at a church potluck.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Body Possession

I used to believe the paranormal was pure science fiction, the stuff of authors like Terry Pratchet and Laurell K. Hamilton or television shows such as Supernatural.  At least, I thought that until I had children.  It was then that I discovered that the paranormal ran deep within my family - especially my mother!

The first time it happened, my eldest was perhaps three or four.  We were at a department store rushing as usual to get what we needed and get out of there because the longer we stay the more Char spends.  Nathaniel had not napped and my patience level was nil.  Turning down an aisle some toy grabbed his attention and the pleading started in earnest.  A very quiet and gentle, “I’m sorry, honey, but not today” sent him into a teary fit.  It was at that moment it happened, right there in the middle of the toy section at Wal Mart, surrounded by strangers.  My mother possessed my body and screamed at my child, “Do you want a reason to cry?  I’ll give you a reason to cry!”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Tradition of Traditions

My favorite three months of the year are right around the corner.  I become like a kid at Disney World as the change of weather accompanies the changing of the leaves and the earlier nights.  Everything just feels different.  The air has a different bite to it.  The beach seems to be blanketed with a winter haze and the morning’s demand you stay in bed longer, and I try never to argue with my bed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Season of My Ignorance

It's that time of year again.  You know what I'm talking about, that time where ordinary people lose their sense of normalcy, when grown men paint their bodies with wild colors and large numbers and root for men shaped like mountains to pulverize each other for a dried-out pigskin.  Football American-style, which is not to be confused with the English-style football, which we've named soccer.  I wonder how much confusion that produces.  I imagine a young boy in England, whose parents have been pushing him towards football, sitting down at the computer and researching the lifelong dreams of his parents.  The unsuspecting youth clicks on a video clip and is assaulted by an American NFL rivalry that has a dozen men piling on top of a receiver clearly under matched.  I can see his wide eyes and open mouth, hear the shock in his voice.  "What the bloody hell.  They want to kill me."  He then runs off to be a male stripper.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Age of the Impersonal

Sitting in my study the other day, I overheard my youngest son, Zachariah, trying his best to get assistance from his cell phone provider.  I’ll withhold the company’s name as they are all basically the same and the problem is universal.  It seemed he was having problems accessing the Internet on his microscopic phone.  I guess he became tired of waiting in line to go online.  More than likely, he was annoyed at me for pulling the Dad card and kicking him off of the computer.  Whatever it was, it freed up my desk and for that I can only say, “Amen!”

Still, listening to him on the phone with his provider would have been funny had it not been so painful.  His call had been answered by the cold simulated voice of customer service, which at best is a monotone monotony.  At first, the conversation was all right as it required only a series of single syllable answers. 

"Yes....No......No.....Yes......Phone.....No." It escalated from there.

"Assistance."  A pause.  "Assistance!"  Another pause.  "A...ssis....tance!"  I don't blame his tone.  "Help!"  He yells into the phone.  "I need help!"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Collect People

I watched as a gnome of a man climbed two levels of theater seats, his sweater draped over his trembling arm.  He eased his body forward, almost afraid of leaning too far and falling over.  His eyes squinted as he looked down his nose at the brass plate with the seat number.  It’s what I would have done had I been looking at it even with my glasses.

Teri smiled at him, pointed to the seat and said, “It’s number eight.”

He continued to glance at the back of the chair a moment more, and then glanced at Teri, then, back at the number plate.  He looked at the next seat, staring as hard as he could without falling into it.  Then, he went back to the first seat and stared some more.

Again, a little louder, Teri said, “It’s number eight.”

He tried to lean forward but caught himself falling and stopped.  His eyes went wide then narrowed again.  I understood how he felt.  It was dark.  I could barely see the floor, nevertheless, those two-inch number plates.  Char had found our seats for us.  Teri shook her head as she settled back into fold-up chair.  She had tried to help

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mom, Technology and the English Language

Whenever my mom needs her DVD player or stereo hooked up, she always calls me.  Where my dad is in these situations I will never know.  More than likely, he’s in the back bedroom watching Jeopardy on a television set he’s had since the fifties.  Still, it's the natural progression of life.  Mom probably started with Dad until she got so frustrated at him that she called me, which she wanted to do in the first place.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

They Say I'm Quirky

They say I’m quirky, whatever that means.  When I think quirky, I tend to think of older people who are starting to lose their anchor to reality by wearing bedroom slippers with their shirt and ties to Olive Garden for dinner.  Not that wearing slippers is bad.  I wear mine in the morning when I take the kids to school, but I’m not getting out of the car and I’m heading straight back to the house.  I mean, it’s not like I’m Mrs. Bryant who wears a terry-cloth bathrobe and curlers into the 7-11 for her morning newspaper and a chili dog.  Furthermore, I don’t wear slippers and ties at the same time or when I go grocery shopping.

But they say I am quirky anyway.

It all started when a friend of ours saw a picture of me – several actually – with a bright yellow highlighter in my shirt pocket.  “You’re not in high school anymore.  What’s with the highlighter?  You’re such a nerd.”  I’m a nerd because I carry a highlighter in my pocket?  I also always have a small notebook that fits in my pocket and a black gel pen.  These, however, don’t make me nerdy.  It’s the highlighter that does that.  One friend always saw me with a shirt pocket weighted down with pens and assumed I had a pocket protector.  Now, that would be nerdy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Final Box

I hate moving.  Dread it actually.  How people swap from one home to another for long periods of time I will never understand.  It would give me ulcers.  It’s one of the reasons I never went into the military.  Okay, there are several reasons I didn’t enlist, the idea of physical strain and being told what to do at the top of that list, but the idea of packing all of my stuff into boxes and moving at the whim of higher ranking officials was somewhere on there as well.

As I said, I hate moving, but moving I am.  I liked this house, too, which makes it kind of sad.  It had been two years of transitions.  The beachside home started with five residents, and then went to eight.  At one point, three moved out and two moved in and a short while later another moved out.  By the time we reached the new home back on the other side of the bridge another had ventured out on his own and I surmise by the end of the year another will leave the nest in order to make his mark on the world as well.  Soon, I’ll never have to fight for the television, the computer will always be available and the Coke will not disappear over night with no one taking blame for the sudden disappearance. I’ll always have a quiet place to sit and read and ponder on how much I miss fighting for the television.  But, for now it’s back to five.