Thursday, February 28, 2013

It’s Not Fair!

Zac and the 8-year old at Halloween

I feel sorry for the youngest child in any family.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There are perks to being the baby in the family, especially if it’s a large family.  I mean, the youngest is quite often spoiled.  The parents have gone through - I mean, raised - several kids already and are tired.  The fight sometimes gets beaten out of them as well as some of the excitement.  When that first child shows on the scene, Mom and Dad are pumped.  They’re reading all the books, listening to the advice of grandparents and child proofing the house.  Electric sockets are covered and corners cushioned.  When that first child scrapes a knee, they’re rushed to the hospital.  The baby of the family, however, is told to “stop the damn crying.  You’re not bleeding to death.”

The first child has their picture taken every three seconds.  They can’t move without someone clicking a snapshot to later be shoved into every poor soul’s face that comes along.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Telephone Game

In high school I took a psychology class with a teacher that looked like a miniature Mr. Kotter.  It was one of the few classes that I enjoyed.  He was always having us participate in fun experiments to reveal things about human nature.  One of those was about trust.  We had to fall back into other people’s arms hoping they would catch us.  It started with us just standing on the floor.  Then we stood on the desk and then from a chair on the desk.  I never made it up that high.  Not because I didn’t trust my classmates, but I didn’t trust the desk, the chair or my clumsiness.

One of the other games we played was Telephone.  He lined several of his students up in a row and he would then whisper something in the first person’s ear.  That person was to whisper it to the next and so it was to go on down the line.  The last person was to repeat what he had just heard to the class to see if it matched with the original statement.  It never did.   Something was either altered or left out completely.  It may have been close to the original statement, but it was never close enough to hold up in court.  The lesson revealed how fast our memory fades and how sometimes we only recall certain facts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I’ll Have a Cup

I’m not sure whether it was a wedding gift or we had bought it, but we had one.  A white 12-cup Mr. Coffee.  I pulled it out of the box, set it up and headed for the store.  Coffee filters didn’t require any major decision making skill.  However, what coffee was I supposed to buy?

“I’ve never seen you drink coffee,” Char said as we stared at the twenty different choices which came in regular and decaf.

“I haven’t,” I said.  “Well, there was that one time when my dad let me try his when I was little, but it was too hot and way too bitter.”

“So why are we buying coffee?”

“Because we’re married.  Married people drink coffee.”  And that was actually the reason I started to drink the dark liquid of the gods.  Char never even tried it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Social Media and Politics

I hated the last election.  Not because of the candidates, but because of what I saw it do to my friends and so many others on the social media sites.  It was brutal.  Derogatory comments were slung back and forth, vicious and slanderous pictures were posted and feelings were hurt.  Opinions brought about malicious remarks that made the politicians themselves look good and that’s saying something.  I began to hide several people and their posts until after the election.

However, just as I thought it was safe to come out of hiding, the debate of gun control breaks loose making the elections seem tame.  Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t have an opinion or shouldn’t be passionate about their positions.  However, I have always believed that the behavior of the messenger can overshadow the message and lose it in the shouting.  Valid points don’t need venom to have value.  You may be able to force people with a baseball bat, but you’ll win them with a soft argument and a respect of their opinions whether you agree with them or not.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gun Control

One of the hottest topics in the United States right now is gun control.  The word control, however, is a weak substitute for what the debate is really about, which is actually a matter of extremes.  It’s the way things of this nature go.  Soft middle-of-the-road words for polar opposite agendas.  No wants control.  They either want all out freedom to own any firearm or weapon of their choice or they want an all out ban on anything even closely resembling a gun.  It’s a pretty heated debate by those who are debating it while the rest of us have hidden these enthusiasts from our social media newsfeeds, preferring to see what people have had for dinner as opposed to the rude and obnoxious behavior of those fighting the fight.  I think before we worry about gun control, we should worry about mouth control.

I’ve only come in contact with guns three times in my life.  The first was after my grandfather passed away.  My dad received my grandfather’s .38 special, silver barrel, white handle and a box of bullets.  My uncle Von had several acres in Evergreen, Alabama and we took the gun out there to kill some cans.  Once everything was set up, Dad took aim.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Line in the Sand

It’s always been seen as a dare really.  They draw a line on the ground and then dare you to cross it.  Usually, it’s a prelude to a fistfight if the person being dared had the guts to cross it.  I wish I had been given this option growing up.  Then I could have just turned my back and walked away.  Instead, I just got punched without warning.

In our lives, we each have that line in the sand that we’ve placed there.  We’re safe on one side, going about our business, enjoying our lives; our family.  We may flirt with the line once in awhile; go right up to it until our toes are just barely scraping it.  Kids are notorious for doing this to lines their parents have put down for them not to cross.  They want to see how it feels near the line.  Most never cross it, however, because they know there’s pain on the other side of that line just as if they had been punched by the school bully.

In everyday living, the line doesn’t represent a dare.  Instead, it symbolizes our boundaries.  It’s as far as we’ll allow ourselves to go in any given direction.  The line represents our standards; our rules to live by and we know to cross it means risking losing ourselves.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Erasing the Gap ~ An Article from the Past

She sits in her leather recliner staring at the television, which has been off for quite some time.  For the fourth time in a half hour she asks me if I want a drink or perhaps some peanuts.  Surrounding her trailer are those collectible dolls with the porcelain faces.  They fascinate my middle son, Chris.  We think he may be the next Jim Henson the way he creates things with stuffed animals and other toys.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reservations Please!

Valentine’s Day was here and as 95% of men across the globe, it had snuck up on me.  It doesn’t matter that it happens every year on the exact same day.  It also doesn’t matter that jewelers, greeting card companies, florists, and candy makers started warning us of its impending arrival as soon as they ceased pushing their Christmas goodies.  We’ve been warned and that’s probably the problem.  We have a month and a half to ignore the advertisements so we’re used to just walking by the prominent signs calling us to come and splurge.  In a last ditch effort to save face, we rummage through the leftover Christmas candy, pulling out all of the red-wrapped ones and create our own chocolate bouquet.  There’s nothing like the creative rush brought on by the clicking clock.

With no other plans in the works, I decide to take the girls out to dinner.  As an added bonus, I sweet talked Zac into babysitting the 8-year old.  Now we would have a quiet evening without twenty questions and crayons.  Next, I needed to pick a place and call for reservations.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Too Many Crying Wolf

When I was in elementary school, my best friend was a black boy named Mark.  His father owned a small store in his neighborhood and his family lived only a few blocks from mine.  Our parents had met while volunteering at our school and became great friends.  Mark was either at my house or I was at his most weekends as we rode bicycles, skateboards or just ran around being kids.  It didn’t matter that I was white or that he was black.  We knew nothing of racism at that age, only friendship.

During the early years of our marriage, Char and I were best friends with an interracial couple, David and Cathy.  Many weekends found us either playing cards around one kitchen table or the other, taking the kids camping, or just grilling out sharing stories and friendship.

For several years, most of my friends were Lebanese, Iranian, or Egyptian.   Together, we celebrated life and shared the varying aspects of our cultures as we worked alongside each other and hung out together when the clock was punched.  I’ve had friends who were Christian, atheist, Muslim, Pagan, and witches.  I’ve enjoyed the company of naturalists and nerds as well as the very loose and the very straight-laced, the narrow-minded and the very open.  I’ve been friends with a wide diversity of people and have loved every minute of every relationship.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Online Bully? Really?

Bullies are idiots and, sadly, they’re everywhere, not just the school yard.  You can find them in families, businesses, and nowadays even online, which is really confusing.  I can imagine being bullied by someone you see every day and the intimidation that comes with that.  You fear being punched or losing your job.  It’s sad, but it happens.  And now it’s progressed to the computer.  Since the boom of social media and online chats, people have reported being harassed via the internet, threatened and ridiculed by classmates and coworkers to the point that they are afraid to show up the next day.  I can understand this, as well.  You’re still facing your bully.  They may not be punching your chest with a finger at the time, but it could be a real possibility the following day.

I’m not demeaning that issue in any way, shape, or form.  It is very real and some people need a stick upside the head for being a gigantic ass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Television Is Not a Social Event

The girls hate watching television with me.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I actually want to watch the show that’s on.  Correction.  I want to hear whatever it is that we’re watching.  I treat my television viewing entertainment just as if I was at the movies and I had paid the equivalent of my mortgage for the big screen pleasure.  I even go through the same speech.

“Cell phones on vibrate?  Everyone have a drink? Does anyone need to go to the bathroom?  Okay, now settle in and no talking.  The show is about to start.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mardi Gras Messing

Downtown Cocoa, or Cocoa Village as it’s more commonly called, celebrates a few events each year where they block off a few blocks by the river and charge a fee to get in and celebrate.  Oktoberfest is one such celebration and the other we attended last night, Cocoa’s version of Mardi Gras.  Florida doesn’t like being left out of anything as we strive to be the tourist trap of the world, so we couldn’t allow the Gulf Coast States to keep the celebration of sensual excess to themselves.  We wanted in.

A friend noticed it was happening first and sent a text saying let’s do it.  Never one to turn down a good party or a chance to witness people being stupid, I agreed.  I had already been writing about Mardi Gras all week here at the Mess, so I figured it was a great way to end the series.  Of course, then I discovered I had to buy tickets and my alcohol money dwindled.  I was confused as to why we were purchasing tickets in the first place, but then again I wonder how Universal Studios Florida can charge $15 to park your car before paying to enter their parks.  We were earning out title Tourist Trap of the World. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Man vs Cat: Feline Interrogation, a Guest Post by David M. Brown

The Mess has been participating in the Raining Cats & Dogs Tour and today we are lucky enough to have my friend, David Brown with us.  I'm sure you're going to enjoy his Feline Interrogation and cat lovers around the world can relate to his Missing Objects.  Thanks, David for allowing The Mess to participate.

Guest Post: Feline Interrogation  

I’ve been in this room with no windows for at least 48 hours. I’m not alone. In the corner is a rotund ginger cat, standing on its back legs, its front legs folded, its expression a combination of malevolence and arrogance. He studies me carefully, practicing that “I’m very annoyed” look that only a cat can pull off.

The door suddenly opens and in walks a feline detective. He dismisses his colleague, sending him to cateteria for a bowl of milk and a cold fish supper. Mention of food makes my stomach rumble, even cat food, that’s how desperate my situation is. The detective is named Catalumbo and informs me he’s filling in for his colleague – Furrlock Holmes. I managed to stifle a snigger at these names but it still looks like I’m having an involuntary spasm. Catalumbo fixes me with his best, “Silence is recommended at this juncture” stare before opening a pink file he has on the desk.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I’m going to Cat City... A Guest Post By Vickie Johnstone

Over the next two days, The Mess is participating in  the Raining Cats & Dogs Tour with Vickie Johnstone and David M. Brown.  Today we are visited by Vickie to discuss her book, Kiwi in Cat City.  I hope you show your love and support to our guests.

I’m going to Cat City...By Vickie Johnstone

Today, I’ve asked Kiwi the cat to take me to her other home when she’s not here in the human world - Cat City. I’m so excited as I’ve been writing about her adventures in six books now, and I’m especially thrilled because she is going to have to turn me into a cat first. I’m ready to earn my feline stripes!!

“Come on,” says the little black cat, stopping to glance at me. “We’re nearly there.”

“Okay,” I reply, quickening my pace. This feline can really run!

I’ve always known that Kiwi could speak, but it still throws me every time. Whenever I go home after hearing her tell me of her latest adventure, I try to talk to Moggie, my own cat (I named her after Kiwi’s mum!), but she just gazes at me with bored eyes and walks away after a while.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mardi Gras Is Born

Fifteen years ago, my sister wanted us to join her on a trip to Mobile, Alabama and attend a Mardi Gras parade.  I really wasn’t eager to drive ten hours to see a thirty minute parade.  Besides, Mardi Gras was in New Orleans with beads and boobs.  She wasn’t tricking me.

“Actually,” Laurie said. “Mardi Gras was born in Mobile.  And they don’t do it like New Orleans.  This one is more family friendly.”

“You want me to drive ten hours for a family friendly parade?  What’s the fun in that?”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mardi Gras Take Two

“Just give it one more shot,” Laurie had said.  “I promise you’ll enjoy the Mardi Gras parade in Mobile.”  Char and I had already survived the one in Pascagoula and I had come away battered and bruised.  I had not been impressed.  Still, my sister was adamant, so I decided to give Mardi Gras one more chance.

The parade in Mobile took place on a Sunday afternoon beginning at the Civic Center and looping around a few blocks in a figure eight.  It was put on by the Order of Pharaohs and upon our arrival I could already tell it was going to be a different experience.  The day was overcast with a slight chill, but that didn’t deter me from still getting there an hour early.  If I was going to experience it, I wanted to feel every minute of it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Throw Me Somethin’, Mistah!

At the age of 46 - which came as a surprise to me last week, because I honestly thought I was only 45 - I have seen and participated in more parades than I have the holidays they are supposed to represent.  As a young child I rode on floats tossing candy and waving, whether it was with my elementary school, the Boy Scouts or the Indian Guides.  As a teenager, I walked alongside horses or other various organizations, waving at those seated on the hard curb that refused to wave back.  As I became a parent I was either drafted as a chaperone or was organizing a float to participate.  A few years ago, I even organized a float for the pizza business I was marketing for, passing out candy and coupons.  I’ve seen quite a few parades. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Son Is a Twitter Follower

I received a notification the other day about a new follower on twitter and the name brought me up short.  Not because it was weird, because there are a myriad of odd names people are choosing to be labeled by on social media sites.  No, this one caused me to pause because I recognized the first portion of the name.  Topher.  That’s my son.  We didn’t name him that, mind you.  Well, we didn’t completely name him that.  We chose Christopher and a couple of years ago he chopped the name in half and chose the back end.  Chris was too common and mundane a name for him, I suppose.

Now, at first, I didn’t recognize it was him.  Up to this point he had kept his Twitter profile as his own private world.  We were on his MySpace when that was popular and are on his Facebook now.  Twitter was his.  I understood.  I’m on some sites I don’t want him on, but that’s another conversation.  I had to look harder at the rest of the Twitter name to realize that it was him.  He had just put the front half of his name behind the back half and inverted it.  I didn’t even want to attempt to pronounce it.  It didn’t matter if I could or not because I was just happy he had opened up that part of himself to me.