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Thursday, April 28, 2011

WUMF: April Edition

End of April already?

WOW.  That means another Edition of WUMF is in order. For those of you just tuning in, smack yo selves!

I’ll wait. Make it a good one.

There. Better?

OK, like I said, for those of you just tuning in, WUMF stands for What’s Up My Friends. Basically, this is me just phoning in a post at the end of the month that ties up some loose stuff that happened which didn’t constitute a full post or at least didn’t happen because I was lazy.

1. Mother Nature Just Made the D-Bag Awards Ballot
This past month’s weather has been ridiculous and coupled with last month’s tornado here in my area, Mother Nature has secured her place on the D-Bag of the Year awards for 2011. Between the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the tornadoes that ripped through the south and especially the one mile wide EF5 Tornado that just engulfed Tuscaloosa Alabama there is mounting evidence that Mother Nature is pissed off this year.

2. Hooked on Phonics and Beer Works For My Kid
Last month my kid’s KinderCare teacher sent home a progress report stating that she has not been mastering such concepts like creativity or spelling. After putting aside the ‘My kid is a genius, you’re wrong!’ mentality, I began questioning my daughter on why she doesn’t seem to be showing how smart she is in school.

Her answers amounted to, “I don’t like answering the teacher when she asks me those questions.” That tells me that she knows the answers but just doesn’t want to be an organ grinder monkey and perform on cue.

First, her creativity and ability to solve problems in a creative manner shone through this Easter as she decorated the house, on her own using an empty Scooby-Doo Rohgurt box and a Silly Bandz to create a hanging decoration. She realized that the open flap of the box wouldn’t hang on the nail, so she attached the Silly Bandz as a way to hang on the nail.

Next we worked on letters and numbers. We’ve been working in a book that has all kinds of activities surrounding letters and numbers. She does a pretty mean connect the dots exercise, calling out all the letters and numbers by name. However, the most impressive feat of intelligence was being able to spell “Pittsburgh”, “Steelers”, and “Moosehead” from the various signs around the restaurant/bar that we often go to for dinner. We didn’t even have to prompt her. She willingly says, “That is spelled…” So, it’s not that she’s dumb. She would rather do it on her own time… at the bar.

3. Golf Season starts for the Penguins
Last night was a frustrating loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Considering how the Pens got to the playoffs after losing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries and Matt Cooke to stupidity I can say that they really did perform beyond expectations. This is a team that found a way to win during the regular season with so many issues. However, when you get to playoff hockey, you need a little more. They just didn’t have it. Haters will say, “Kovalev did nothing.” “Neal underperformed.” “Fleury fell apart.” “The fans lost faith.” And there is some truth to that. But the reality is that this team did way more than it should have done, given its makeup and they were playing with House Money.

Tampa Bay is not a Stanley Cup winning team, this year. They aren’t. But they were better than the Pens and managed to overcome a three game deficit and win. 

Game Sevens are notoriously bad luck for the Pens and yet it should never have come to that. Fleury shares some blame for that but the scoring was just not there. You cannot expect a team to go into a playoff run without having the ability to score on the Power Play. For as much blame as there is to be heaped on Fleury, who played awesomely during Game Seven, there is just as much blame to be placed on the offense. Now, Fleury did fall for that play behind the net leading to Tampa Bay’s only score of the game. We saw that in Game Si. But the defense should have picked up the blind spot and let Fleury try to follow the puck if they happened to not pull off that move and wrap around the front.

Finally, it was not meant to be. Believing this team could win a Stanley Cup was wishful thinking, at best. It is a better thing that they would not have had to face The Caps in round two, because the disappointment would have been all that much greater. There would have been hopes that Crosby would have come back to square off against Ovie and had he not, it would have crushed the city that much more. Let him take the off season to fully recover from the concussions and we’ll try again next year.   Just do me a favor, powers that be, do not schedule Pensguins' playoff hockey games on the same night as Pirates games.  It seems that every time the Pirates would win, the Pens would lose.  Pittsburgh has somehow fallen off its axis and PAT buses, all three of them have started sliding up the sides of skyscrapers, Inception style.

4.  Bailey, Pick Up Line One
Some outfit with the University of Chicago keeps calling my house to do a survey about kids. After the first couple of times of getting no messages on my machine I called them back. I asked them to take my number off the list and they said sure. They promptly called two more times the next week. I answered one of them and asked them again to remove my number from their list. They promptly called me two more times this week.

My daughter got a tape recorder for Easter. My mother read a bunch of books and recorded her voice to tape for my kid to play and read along. While this may seem like a totally unrelated piece of useless information, I plan on putting a blank tape in the recorder and waiting until the next time the bastards call back. Then, I’ll let my kid answer the phone and record the call from the phone in the other room. Hilarity will ensue and maybe they’ll get the point.

Here’s to May.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Burbon, One Scotch, One Beer, and Three Sippie Cups

This post contains 43% sarcasm by volume.

Trends in life, like the movies, tend to happen in groups. In 1981, we had three movies about werewolves with The Howling, American Werewolf in London, and Wolfen. This was nearly three decades before Jacob Black was a thought in the minds of tweeners. Then, in 1989, we had three underwater disaster movies; The Abyss, Deep Star Six and Leviathan. While The Abyss was clearly the better of the three films, you see that Hollywood tries to mimic itself in order to up the returns. The same thing happened with other disaster movies in the 90s. We had Deep Impact and Armageddon. There was Volcano and Dante’s Peak. There was The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan, both featuring all star casts.

The same thing seems to happen in real life, especially this year. We’ve had multiple reports of air traffic controllers sleeping on the job and my personal favorite, neighborhood family friendly Americanized ethnic restaurants serving alcohol to kids.

Now, apart from Applebees being a more American based menu, the Olive Garden and Chili’s tend to lean towards Italian and Southwest Tex-Mex style cuisine, respectively. Yet, regardless of the menu, the servers seem to think that kids should be enjoying the over sized alcoholic drinks. If Chi-Chi’s was still around that would have been your ethnic food trifecta.

This is where I feel the need to take a stand. This is an outrage. Everyone needs to understand that giving alcohol to kids in restaurants is a serious offense. Giving alcohol to children begins in the home.

It starts on your daddy’s lap. I remember my dad giving me a sip of Budweiser while I was upon his knee at an early age. It was horrible. I think because of that experience, I never developed a taste for beer. Perhaps by exposing me at an early age, I was demystified by beer.  Maybe it was just that Budweiser tasted horrible.  I can't decide.

I tolerated it in college because it was cheaper than the whisky drink I would have preferred. My own child has had her share of sips from her pappy’s beer, Miller Light in this instance. But you see, today it’s OK for restaurants to ‘accidentally’ give alcohol to kids and get away with it.  If parents sue the restaurant for blatant mistakes, they are check chasers.  Yet, 40 years ago, you could be kicked out of establishments for giving your own kid a sip of your drink.

For once, I’m not talking about me. No, I wasn’t even a thought when my father got the family kicked out of Lum’s restaurant for giving my brother a sip of his beer. Just goes to show you how much things have changed and how more relaxed the drinking stigmas have gotten.

Soon, we’ll see a little league baseball team heading over to a T.G.I. Fridays for shots after they beat their division rivals at T-ball.

Drink up, kiddies.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Print Is Dead


That’s what Egon Spengler said to receptionist Janine Melnitz in Ghostbusters. This was 1984. It was almost a decade away from the age of the Internet. Yet, what Egon says is probably true. Print is dead.

It’s a bit sad, if you ask me. On one hand, I grew up despising the chore of reading. I read as little as possible. Whenever we would have to go to the library in grade school and check out a book, I would always check out a book about drawing or a Peanuts comic strip collection or I would continually check out the same juvenile books that involved anthropomorphic fruit or vegetables. I never read them. I was just going through the motions. Eventually, I was called on the carpet by the librarian, who asked why I continually checked out the same book. ‘What an invasion of privacy,’ I thought. From then on, I would pick random books to check out and then leave them in my book bag to be returned later. By junior high, I was dead set against reading and even made up a few book reports on what I thought the book should have been like. By high school, I had forgone reading unless I had to.

Sorry, but I was always a more visually inclined person. It’s kind of contradicting to my nature of wanting to be a writer, or even an actor, when I grew up. There’s plenty of reading to be done by actors and there is even more so to be done by writers, I imagine.

I ended up growing out of that aversion to reading and have done more reading in my 30s than I probably did during my school years. Still, I have to be in the mood to read. Meanwhile, my wife clips along through books, mostly paranormal romantic fiction, at a quickened pace.

The one thing I do remember fondly, as a child, was that there was always a morning paper in our house. Actually, there were at least two; The Daily Courier and The Herald Standard. My parents would sit at breakfast and read the paper every day. Hell, for seven years, I delivered The Daily Courier. When I started my first real job out of college, I read the paper, too. Granted, it was the USA Today that was left outside the doors of the guests at the hotel, where I worked. Mostly, I read the Life section and a few of the front page stories, ending my morning bagel on the Crossword Puzzle, which I always did in pen.

However, nowadays, I don’t read the paper. I don’t even get a paper at my house. Yet, I realized that every morning I perform the same ritual as my parents did all those years ago. I sit, with my breakfast and read. I drink my coffee while I scan through stories and other news items. It just so happens that those bits of information are just that, bits, or perhaps bytes would be a more relevant term. I read blogs and my emails and news stories while I wait for everything else to load on my computer. I dig through shirt designs on other sites and check out my Facebook news feed. I look at analytics for my sites and jot down a few ideas for stuff to work on when I get home. I probably read the equivalent amount of words online that most people would read in a newspaper.

Print IS Dead. It’s all electronic and accessible through the Internet in today’s reality. Newspapers are going belly up or hiding their articles behind pay walls. Everyone is downloading eBooks for their Nooks and Kindles and Tablet PCS. The only benefit to this is that the need to cut down trees to make paper will lessen. The downside to that is that printers and binders and other jobs associated with the construction of printed material will shrink from existence.

The demise of Print is still sad to me, though. For someone who is visually stimulated, I also like to have something tangible in my hands. A book has a texture that adds to its value. When you pick up a book, the weight felt in your hands is history. The sound of a page sliding across one and flipping over to the other side of the book adds resonance to the material. The feeling of the pages, that heavy weighted stock, tingles in your hands. There is nothing more immersive than reading a book that is three dimensional and in your hands. Scrolling a mouse or sliding your finger across a screen will never give you the same experience that holding a book will. In the future we may lose the need to use our limbs, instead relying on audio or mind

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Memory Has Just Been Sold

There have been many times where I have been embarrassed. I’m sure there are many that I cannot remember or have suppressed. However, there are a few times you have that total brick in the pants experience that you will never, NEVER, forget no matter how many drugs or MIB memory wipe thingees you experience.

Entry number 413 in the “I’ve been embarrassed by…” logs show a quite memorable moment from my first freshman year of college. It was… yes I had two freshman years. Apparently, in 1994, unless you actually took the exact same classes that Pitt offered you could not transfer credits. I was reduced from 15 to seven and then let culture shock take care of the rest, dragging me into academic probation by the end of my first year.  Where was I? Oh, yes. It was the fall of 1993 and I had started attending Coastal Carolina University.  My one and only semester there led to the biggest embarrassment of my then 18 years.

Now, I apologize for rehashing this but the layout of the dorms went as this.   Four people lived in a dorm / apartment with a common area / kitchen.   A hallway led to the back where four bedrooms were located, a double vanity and then three additional doors contained a toilet, shower, and closet.    This meant that all four residents could be getting ready at the same time.  One could take a shower, one could shit, and two could shave.  The dorm / apartment units exited outside onto the floor and you could have neighbors of the opposite sex.  The apartment directly across from us held four girls.  It was our own version of friends.  We came and went into each other’s apartment, usually at will, usually with nefarious intentions.

One of those intentions was to recover an item of mail that we had deliberately delivered to them.   Since one of the girls had a first name that could be considered unisex, it was easy for my roommates to sign her up for a subscription to Playboy, asking to be billed later.  We simply went over to the apartment, stealthily grabbed the latest issue from their pile of mail and returned to our place.  To give you a frame of reference, one of the three issues we were able to get, before Playboy caught on to our ruse and canceled our subscription, contained a pre-implant version of Jenny McCarthy.   Personally, I think she looked better then.   This was before the Singled Out, belching, farting, and Jim Carrey days.

Anyway, eventually, one of my roommates would go through the magazine and pick out the better pictures to tack up to the inside of the bathroom door. Soon, the interior side of the bathroom door became a bulletin board of naked women. The regular light bulb was even replaced with a red one for added effect. My one roommate made mention that the next time he went home, he was going to get some more pictures from his personal collection and add them to the door.

Fast forward to Fall Break and I am spending some much needed time back home with my family. After wards, my parents drove me back 12 hours to my dorm.

I would just like to break up this statement by saying my parents are nuts and I love them. They drove nearly 24 hours straight, three separate times, to and from South Carolina; my first day, after Fall Break, and Christmas Break.  They were truly notappreciated by the asshole that was my 18 year old self.

Now, after driving 12 hours, the normal thing is to have to go to the bathroom. Once we arrived, I took a load of items up to my room along with my mother. She stayed behind while I went back to the car to retrieve more stuff. Upon returning to the apartment, I could not find her.  It’s not like the apartment was that big, so she couldn’t have gotten far.  I asked one of my roommates where she was and they said she needed to go to the bathroom.

My jaw immediately dropped to the floor.  ‘THE BATHROOM!’ The door, the red light, Oh My God, my Mother!?!?!

I raced into the back of the apartment where my mother was coming out of the bathroom. She had a look on her face that spoke volumes. Had I the opportunity to find out I would have removed the four pictures posted up inside the door or better yet, asked our female neighbors if she could use their bathroom, instead.

I felt that the damage was minimal, even though she had that look. As she got ready to leave for their 12 hour return trip, I made my own stop into the bathroom.  Apparently, my roommate was true to his word and had ‘added’ his own personal collection of magazine centerfolds.  The entire door was a lesson in female anatomy.

Now, Playboy pictures are somewhat demure when it comes to the portrayal of the human body. Those original four pictures were juxtaposed alongside the more graphic and shall we say, revealing pictures that were added. Whatever these girls had underneath their skirt was just too good to share with just their physician.

I, now, knew the extent of the damage that was dealt at the hands of my roommates. That look my mother had now spoke tomes. As I walked her back down to the car I apologized immensely, again and again, for what had happened. I can only imagine how the ride home was. Seeing as how my dad had a bladder of steel, he never got to see what she did. Oh, to be a fly on the windshield.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Emails Written That Will Never Be Sent

Today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of my mother-in-law. In true of our relationship, I’ll compose an email that will never get sent. We both worked for the same company up until her death and we usually communicated via email throughout the day.

Good morning,

Well, the bad news is that you’re still gone. That sucks. There’s been a ton of stuff that you would have gotten a kick out of over the last year. I’ll make sure to send another message with attached pictures. You’ll love them.

Yeah, not much to report here. April really sucked. The rest of the year sucked as well, but April was definitely the worst. Nice work with the tree by the way. A week after you go and a damn storm took out Moyer’s shed. What the hell was that all about? Was that a sign that he needed to get that tree out of there or get the shed redone? Well, it’s still there, even though my dad and uncle came over late in the year to help get rid of the tree. Hopefully, we can get it figured out once the year dries up.

Your grave site is very nice. It seems morbid to talk about that but you would have loved it. We will spend a lot of time visiting and taking Bailey to feed the ducks and the fish at the pond. Also, on another morbid note, I took the opportunity to get our own plots. It’s very unsettling to think I now have a final resting place. After all, I figured I would live forever. I mean that quite literally. I’m sure I’m wrong, given all the health issues I will probably face. It’s also unsettling to think that not only does your daughter have one; your granddaughter does, as well. I hope we never have to use any of them.

First of all, Mother’s Day really sucked, although, Bailey managed to keep us laughing with her little bits of cuteness. She made sure we sent some balloons to Kevin’s for you.

Moyer’s birthday had a little celebration to it. We did a dual birthday for him and Ronnie. Vail made an impression on Bailey and now she includes him in her prayers.

Oh yeah, and someone took your cell phone number. I know. Pisses me off, too. Because I have those meat hook banana hands I often find myself pushing your speed dial number when I try to call someone and it gives me a moment of sadness.

Well, at least you’d be happy with Moyer for breaking out the Wii. Sucks that it took your death to get us to do that. He and I spend most evenings shooting everything in sight on the games we play. Bailey loves the one we have, House of the Dead 2 and 3. I know it’s probably not good for a three year old to be seeing that but she understands the difference between games and real life and isn’t scared by it. She calls it the ‘booby guy game.’ There is a bit where a few, very large, shirtless zombie men come after you. Yes, the kid is nuts.

The trip to beach was bittersweet. You would have loved the house we had and cracked up at the sounds of gunshots that echoed through the neighborhood when we fired up the Wii with Cabela’s 2010 and forgot to check the volume knobs for the surround sound, outside of the house.

You also missed the cavalcade of steaks I cooked up. I know you’ve had this thing about meat, especially beef and I hope that you’ve learned, ironically, how short life is and to not worry about stuff like that. For all the concern over lemons and beef and other things, it was the stupid blood thinner that caused you the biggest problem. Still, the steaks were awesome and I would have made you eat one because we had so damn many of them leftover.


You would have also gotten a kick out of crabbing. It was a bit pointless since we didn’t catch enough to eat but still, it was an interesting process. Damn things bit me. As soon as it happened, I could just faintly hear the snort and laugh that would have come out of you.

You also missed another great moment. Jeremy visited and brought along his girlfriend. She’s a keeper. I think you would have agreed. They’ll be with us this year. We took a trip up to the 4x4 section and you would have liked it. You’re probably a little pissed that you can’t go this year and see the house we’re getting. I know you are not a big fan of the pool temp when it’s not heated and it would have been a bit cold. However, we have a plan.

Lastly, you truly missed out on Captain George’s. You would have been knee deep in that flan. Looking forward to going there again, next year. Unfortunately, being in the four wheel drive section will limit us to probably one visit this time.

Oh, and you can blame me for your grave marker. I know, somewhere, your saying, “Asshole”, for my benefit. You’re welcome. Hey, they disregarded my first suggestion which was, “How am I doing?”

Like always, you have a way with throwing a party and you are probably upset that you can’t add your personal touch. Bailey had a wonderful birthday and even Fourth of July was fun for the most part. You would have liked the fireworks from our vantage point.

August and September
The only thing of note is seeing what has happened around here… work I mean. Yes, there is a bit of mass exodus. Doesn’t surprise me, considering. I’m still looking and getting tired of doing it. You know of my pursuit to find a better career and all I can say is, maybe you got lucky. I mean the early retirement not the permanent one… I’ve even expanded my search to start up companies. I know how you feel about that idea. Don’t think I haven’t completely thought about what that would mean. It could disintegrate in an instant. Believe me, your voice is in the back of my head harping about benefits and security and everything. Just know that for every start up that folds because they can’t hack it, there is probably another large, well established company that has just outsourced another sector of its workforce to save a buck. I may face the same reality that you did when we got bought. It’s coming. I don’t know when, but it’s a matter of time and you know as well as I do that I’d be on the chopping block. We’d both be, especially since you aren’t here to protect us.

I’m sorry about Woody. Well, at least, he’s with you, now, if you actually did make it somewhere. He was just too sick and it’s not like he was getting any younger. He was 24 years old. Unfortunately, your prediction that your mother and that cat would outlive you came true. She’s fine by the way. Anyway, it was just another stupid moment of 2010 that I wish we could have avoided. Poor little bastard. I was supposed to be there with your daughter for moral support and I was the one who came unglued. Too much death this year.

This is when it really sucks. It’s the beginning of the holiday season. I think you would have loved Bailey’s outfit, a little ladybug. She had her first real trick or treating adventure. The men toughed it out here, giving out treats as usual, but we had an added bonus. We used your gift from Christmas to keep us warm. I know it probably makes you go, “What the hell?”, when you realize that you gave us the fire pit 10 months ago and we finally used it, now. We did use it a couple of times over the summer but the real test was using it on Halloween. You would have been in there with a marshmallow, making your own smores. As usual, your little girl did you proud. I know that there is always that moment when she wishes she could ask you for help in cooking or putting together a party. I know we sort of suck at it, but she is her mother’s daughter. Genetics plays a huge roll and she’s taken the mantle very adeptly.

Also, I know you are probably a bit disappointed in us over dinners. Believe me, I show the biggest amount of collateral damage of your death. I’ve gained almost 30 pounds since April. When I saw the pictures of me as Thing 1 from Halloween, I realized how bad looked. I also realized how bad I felt after trying to carry Bailey up the steps after another fat filled dinner out at a restaurant or fast food joint. I’m going to start trying to lose weight. I mean seriously lose some weight.

It sucks because we never eat at your place anymore. Part of it is because it’s still too raw of a wound to poke at. The other is that we just simply don’t cook and we can’t expect Moyer to do it all. He’s still working, ya know. Yet, I think you’d be proud at how we’ve managed to cope and keep going.

Happy Birthday. : (

I’ll have you know that I was thoroughly impressed with your daughter’s first attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving Day turkey. Except for the fact that we all had the stomach flu, which happened prior to dinner, it was tasty. I pretty much ate leftover turkey for the next week. Well, that’s what happens when you die. You don’t get to partake in turkey sandwiches. Sucks to be you.

Merry Christmas : (

Yes, we threw out your love seat. Willow is breathing a sigh of relief.
That thing was a death trap for the cats and except for losing the extra seating, it opens up the room a bit more for Bailey’s toys.

I managed to convince your daughter to decorate for Christmas, even though she didn’t want to. It was for Bailey’s sake. Of course, that screws me because I have to help do the decorating. Yeah, and by the way, once again, ‘eff you for dying. That leaves a bunch of decorations for your daughter to inherit and believe me, I’m not happy about that. We have enough crap in this house, half of which we don’t use.

On a more positive note, I did get a new job, right before Christmas. Giving my two week notice right before I took the last two weeks of the year off for vacation would have gotten a ‘Good boy’ from you, I’m sure of it. Your old buddy at HQ told me that it was one of your secret wishes for us. It gave me a little sadness that you didn’t get to share in that conversation about getting the job. The fact that you secretly wished that both myself and your other daughter would get a better job, somewhere else, tells me I made the right decision. Of course, I am getting a bit of a raw deal. I have to go 45 days without benefits. Your advice would have been greatly appreciated in this matter.

On an even more positive note, I managed to lose the weight I gained after you died.  I can't promise that I'll keep losing the weight but I'm trying.

A new year hopefully brings a better one. What the hell is up with the cold and snow? Figures. I get a new job that takes me out towards the airport and two things happen. Hell freezes over and gas prices skyrocket. I spent the better part of two evenings stuck in traffic, trying to get home. I had to nearly miss your daughter’s birthday dinner because I had to drive all over Hell’s half acre trying to go visit my poor mother, who had a hip replacement up in Passavant UPMC. Priorities are a bitch. It just made better sense since I was already on this end of the world. Everything would have been fine but the doctors took forever to get her into her room. Thanks for being there, by the way. You know what I mean. You also know how I feel about that stuff, but I’m willing to accept that maybe I should at least be appreciative that it could be true.

Damn Steelers lost. Oh, by the way, your daughter stole your Polamalu jersey. I got my own, so don’t look at me. Valentine’s Day sucks, well for Moyer anyway. I know it’s not one of your bigger holidays but it’s still another excuse to be in a shitty mood because someone you love isn’t around.

You’re little fuzzy babies are soooo big, now. I know you probably miss them but I’m sure you at least have Woody and Lulu on your lap, somewhere, which makes you smile, or irate depending on how crowded it gets in that recliner you got.

Nothing much new, here. Yes, Bailey is coming up with some interesting things to say, all of which are not my fault.  I’m sure it will only get worse.

Your daughters need you more than ever, and by extension so do I.  I won’t give you the gory details but you understand.

Finally a break in the weather and the first year without you is finally over. Hopefully, this year will be a little better. There aren’t a lot of perennial events that you haven’t already missed by now, which means the worst part is over. It just really sucks because I think we’re finally starting to accept and move on, which means it will be harder to keep the memory as fresh.

Yes, we have pictures but not a lot of video so that Bailey can hear your voice and see you in motion. Of course she still remembers you and wishes you could be here. We all do. I just find myself unable to place you into a conversation as, ‘I know what she would say if she were here.’

It wasn’t that you were predictable. It was that you left that much of an impression that you were able to be utilized for any scenario. Whenever your daughter asks me for advice, I always say, ‘WWMD’. Of course, she didn’t listen you when you were alive, so I guess I’m doing it for my own benefit.

I’ll be sure and keep you update on the rest of year. Take care and keep us safe. And help us put a filter on Bailey. She doesn’t seem to understand that you shouldn’t always speak your mind. I blame you for that. : )

Friday, April 8, 2011

Double, Double, Bailey Is In Trouble

You want to believe your kids. You want to believe that when they say they saw the bogeyman in their closet with blood soaked fangs, a sharpened ridge of spines on their back and a thirst for child flesh. You know, however, that it’s simply a shirt or some other outfit hanging in their closet that takes on the grisly form they described. Yet, you know that they think they saw it and you believe that they believed it.


My three year old is finishing up her first full year of Kindercare in a couple of months and it’s been a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because she gets that socialization and structured learning that she’s going to need. It gives my wife and my father-in-law a much needed break from having to watch her while I’m at work. It also gives my wife the chance to go back to work as well. The downside is that you get the four months of chronic ear infections and a membership to the green mustache brigade. You also get the reality check that your kid is a hellion at school as well as at home. Sometimes, we can bribe the kid for good behavior. For this week, we promised that if she was a good girl, we’d go to McDonald’s on Thursday night.

We did this because we had a bit of an issue with the little one drawing on chalkboards with unapproved writing tools. I picked her up on Tuesday and saw a chalkboard in her cubby. I have no idea why it was there, nor do I know why it had appeared to have been scribbled on with a marker. I gathered my kid from the next room and off we went. She immediately apologized to me for something. I asked why she was saying she was sorry. “I didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident. Are you mad at me?” I still have no idea what she had done. It was almost as if she was trying to get me to absolve her of any wrong doing before knowing what she had done. I asked her what happened. She rattled off a story about a chalkboard. I pieced together the fragments and figured out that she drew on the chalkboard with something other than chalk and got in trouble for it. The teachers did not tell me what happened and I didn’t ask. Putting a chalk board in the cubby doesn’t tell me much and there was nothing on her report that indicated there was a problem.

I asked my wife to inquire on Thursday when she dropped her off in the morning. When I talked to my wife that afternoon and remembered about the chalkboard, I asked if she had talked to the teacher but it was already too late to discuss it. I figured I would ask when I picked her up. When I went into her room at the end of the day, I saw the chalkboard in her cubby. It looked like it was still there from the other day. I gathered up all my kid’s things and went to go collect her, outside. I asked about the chalkboard and her teacher said she drew on it with marker before and then did it again, today. Now, I was upset. I had just had this heartfelt apology on Tuesday about the chalkboard with a promise that she’d never do it again and now I find out that she broke that promise.

Once we got in the car, I asked her why she drew on the chalkboard with marker.

She said, “I didn’t do that today.”
I said, “Your teacher told me you did it.”
“But I didn’t do that today.”

At this point, I noticed a difference in her voice. At anytime when she is lying about something she has a certain tone to her voice. This particular instance was different and it sounded totally sincere. But, I didn’t let her know that. I wanted to draw more information out of her and see if she really was telling the truth.

“Honey, why would the teacher lie? She has no reason to lie to me. You run the risk of losing McDonald’s.”
“Daddy, I didn’t do that today.”
“Ok, well, I want to really believe you.”
“I love McDonald’s and I want to go there.”
“I know. It’s just that I need to discuss this with your Mommy and decide if you deserve to go.”
“Daddy, I deserve to go.”
“Why do you deserve to go?”
“Because I want to go and I love McDonald’s.”
“OK, but I still plan on telling Mommy about the chalkboard and we’ll see.”


“You know what, Daddy?”
“Snitches are witches.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Say it with me.  Suprural.

I just made that word up. As far as I know, or at least as far as Google is able to tell me, it doesn’t exist in the English language. It’s not in the dictionary, which surprises me. Even after adding words like 'Muffin Top' and 'OMG' to the Oxford Dictionary, the word suprural is nowhere to be found. Spell Check is even yelling at me for this one. I’m sure someone else may have said the word suprural, before. They may have even used it the way I am. But no one has officially coined the term as far as I know.

But what does it mean?

Over the years, I’ve written about growing up in my hometown and I’ve struggled to classify it among the available words for residential communities. This is a city of less than 10,000 people, according to the 2000 census. It was around 13,000 in 1940. Estimated population in 1909 was 22,000. The peak came during the coal days. Even in the 1970s there was still a substantial amount of business being done in the city thanks to the glass plant on the outskirts of the Southern part of the city. But that ended years ago and the city has sort of stagnated.

But what is the exact type of classification of where I grew up? The downtown areas and the residential areas bleed into each other with no clear definition. I can’t call it suburban because we lived on the main street.

When we built the house that my parents live in now, we moved out of the actual city limits and into a township. The residential sprawl had a patch work of houses and housing plans dotting the landscape primarily filled with farms and pastures. Over time, newer developments overtook the farms and the once rural area became more like the suburbs but not quite.

It was nice to be able to stand out in my yard on a full moon night and not need a flashlight and to be able to hear total silence in the crisp winter air. I could climb out onto the roof right outside my window and see the lights of downtown and or the various moving tail lights heading up the hill a mile away. It was a huge contrast to my college years of in the urban setting of tall buildings, hospitals, hospital transport helicopters flying over my dorm.

So, it wasn’t exactly suburban because it was more rural in nature, yet it wasn’t rural because of all the houses in the area. That’s why I thought of suprural. If suburban is a smaller classification of an urban area, usually residential, then suprural is a larger classification of an area that is more developed than a rural area.

Get Oxford on the phone. Hopefully, they won’t refudiate my submission.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chekov's Garage

My wife hates my inability to throw away seemingly useless items. My garage is filled with these things. There’s a 4x8 piece of cardboard that covered our patio table while it was in the box. There are various curtain rods that serve no purpose. From the standpoint of an outside observer, these items are clutter, junk, refuse, or signs that I may be a hoarder. All of these are true but, though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.

Now, I am a product of my upbringing. My father is famous for repurposing useless items into ‘wonderful things’. He built an entire charcoal grill out of an old lawnmower, 55 gallon drum, swing set, and countertops. To that point, he also built a forge out of an old charcoal grill and a ShopVac.  I may have mentioned it before.

Additionally, I spent a great deal of my childhood playing old school text adventure games where you would acquire items, that held no obvious value, only to use them later on in a crucial part of a quest. A more up to date example would be the envelope of items that Ben Affleck receives in the movie Paycheck.

Still, regardless of the value of an item, I can eventually find a use for it. It may not be pretty or ideal, but it does the trick. I often find myself wishing I had something that I had already thrown away whenever I’m trying to patch something in the house. “If we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.”

And so the torch gets passed to another generation, as I found my three year old doing some decorating for Easter. She felt the need to hang her own decorations, such as hanging a triangle (musical instrument) on the handles of our hutch and a square of toilet paper (unused, thankfully) on a nail in our living room wall.

But what impressed me most was an empty Rogurt box hanging from another nail. It was slated to be put into the trash, once I actually replaced the full trash bag with an empty one, that is. But, sitting on the counter, she eyed it and saw a purpose for it. Unfortunately, it had no way of being hung on the nail, so she found a way to make it work. She took a Silly Bandz, wrapped it around the cardboard lid flap and then hung the entire box on the nail, using the Silly Bandz to hang it on the nail.

My wife was prepared to throw it away until she noticed how my daughter had managed to hang it. She neither intervened nor helped out daughter figure out how to solve the hanging problem.

Simply left to her own devices, a three year old solved a design problem. She’s either destined to pursue a career in engineering or be a useful hoarder like her father and grandfather.

Friday, April 1, 2011


My last name is not exactly a common one like Smith or Jones. However, it seems to be a topic of conversation whenever I meet someone for the first time.

“Oh are you related to so and so?”


They aren’t even suggesting anyone famous. In fact, there are no famous people with my last name… other than me.  :)

Actually, there is a stadium about forty five minutes from Pittsburgh that bears my last name. That’s all I’m giving you.

It’s just that because my last name is so ‘uncommon’, one would think that anyone with that last name had to be related to me. But they aren’t. It has become such a reflexive response that whenever I hear the “Are you related to…” question, I say no before they even say the name.

However, some people won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. They happen to be debt collectors and constables.

About ten years ago, I was unmarried and living in a townhouse. My only roommate was my cat. Yes, my then girlfriend spent a lot of time and ended up moving in after we got engaged but for the most part, she still maintained a residence at her parents’ house and had her maiden name.

Yet, for some reason I began getting phone calls from credit card companies looking to find her, using my last name, because she owed a substantial amount of money and had become delinquent.

I informed the CSR that they had the wrong person and whenever they told me the address, which was in Latrobe, I told them, again, “You have the wrong person.” After about a week, the phone calls stopped.

Then, in 2004, after I had bought my first home and moved in with my fiancĂ©e, the phone calls started again, this time, from a state constable. I informed him that my wife will have that name but not until November and she’s never maintained an address in Latrobe. I even went one step further and did an Internet search and found the address and phone number of the right person and gave it to the constable. He thanked me for doing his job and promised not to bother us again with this matter.

Flash forward to yesterday and my wife received a phone call from her work. The receptionist said that she received a call for my wife from a company called First Source. I immediately knew what this was about. Unfortunately, I read a lot of Consumerist and went into assault mode, thinking that this was some weird phantom debt but quickly remembered the whole debacle from ten years ago.

I called up the number and, of course, had a CSR with a heavy foreign accent answer the phone. As soon as he rattled off the Latrobe address I stopped him right there and explained the whole situation. I asked him to remove whatever phone number they called from their database. Hopefully, this fixes the problem. Of course, the damage is done. My wife’s employer gets this wonderful perception that their employee is a dead beat and even her father gets a phone call from the same collection agency.

These people suck at searches as much as they do speaking English.

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