Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"They" Said It Would Happen

I do not want to write this particular blog post, but I suppose I must.  I'm afraid something is happening to me that I was not prepared for.  Before we begin, I would like to address this to the proverbial "they" who say "things" that involve everyday life.  I'm sure you are familiar with them.  You know, "They" say if you swallow chewing gum it will never digest.  "They" say when you floss your teeth you will have fewer cavities.  "They" say you should throw away leftover turkey after 2 days or you run the risk of food poisoning.  Yes, "they" are wise beyond their years.  Unfortunately for me, "they" also say that I would eventually start to grow up.

I'm not particularly happy about it but, apparently, I am becoming more mature.  Don't get me wrong, if someone laughs at the dinner table so hard that snorts fill the air, I will imitate the sound for the next five minutes!  Guaranteed!  When making our bed I will still arrange our stuffed animal mascots in compromising positions.  I still take great delight in doing things that make Sylvia say my name so that "Jeff" sounds like it has two syllables.  "Jeh-eff did you draw smiley faces on all the eggs?"  "Jeh-eff stop playing with the remote control fart machine?"  "Jeh-eff don't teach the kids that!"  Most of these types of things are followed by, "You goof."  It's kinda my thing.

Now, I am finding an area in my life that is completely foreign to me...and it is freaking me out!  The approaching date is merely coincidental.  I'm not one to pick New Year's Eve as the time to pause, reflect, and evaluate where I am going and then make a resolution about something I need to change.  To me, the new year is just an arbitrary date and if people wait until then to do all of the things they should, well, a lot of things won't happen during the year while waiting for the mythical January first.  What I am saying is that I did not "resolve" to change this attitude of mine.  And yet it's changing all the same.

It all started when I had a daughter.  I realize that I've had a daughter for many years.  I didn't say that I was growing up at blazing speed!  "They" just said it would happen eventually.  When Kristiana was old enough to talk and older than the "I'm gonna marry Daddy" phase.  She asked Sylvia and I, "When can I get married?"  My answer has always been, "Ten years after Daddy is gone, honey" or "When you are 132."  When she figured out that this was unrealistic on my part, she would say, "I'm going to go out on dates sometime you know."  I would tell her that I, of course, knew this.  I would then say that all of her dates would need to meet me and that I would be sitting at the kitchen my shotgun...seriously.

Well this has been the conversation for years...and now I am feeling an attitude shift.  I am not ready for dating and I am centuries away from considering walking her down the aisle, but lately there have been signals that make me think, "I may be ready for this...someday."

I have been blessed with a very smart daughter.  I have also been "blessed" (said through clenched teeth) with a strong willed daughter.  It makes for some difficult situations while growing up and the balance of power in the household, but Sylvia and I agree that being a strong adult will be a wonderful thing.  Very few people can "put one over" on her.  She has demonstrated time and again that her moral compass is stuck directly on North and she has a highly developed sense of right and wrong.  Perhaps this is why I am making an adaptation without needing to be institutionalized.

I would never want to embarrass anyone, ever, so I will try to tread lightly here.  The other day a young man figured out a clever way to get her phone number...and I didn't head for the weapons safe.  Another young man asked her to ice skate together when they were on a field trip...and they held hands.  I, the person who is growing up, did not dress in all camouflage and paint my face with green and black grease paint.  Boys call to talk to her on the phone...I do not start sharpening battle axes on the large spinning stone wheel we have in the garage.  She goes to Starbucks with a group of friends...some of whom are boys...and I do not follow them while wearing the ammunition belts, loaded with bullets, criss-crossed across my chest!  I think about it!...but I don't do it...anymore.  I think there is real progress happening here. 

Why just two days ago we all went to the mall, and while Jake and I were looking at the sporting goods store and talking to the manager about the pros and cons of crossbows versus pellet guns, Sylvia and Kristiana were trying on dresses...for prom!  I did not try to bite a barbell in half...and they were right within reach!  I tried to stall, I tried to stay in the sporting goods store long enough for them to need to find us rather than us having to go to the land of lace and ribbon. 

When Jake and I had boosted our testosterone levels to near neanderthal level we ventured out...grunting and scraping our knuckles on the ground.  We found the women-folk in a store that had seats outside the dressing rooms.  Speaking as a man, that's never a good sign.  And then Kristiana came out of the dressing room.  Let's just say, I can see why all of these young men are starting to hang around...and it's not because she had the good sense to pick a dress that was on sale, which she did.  What a beautiful young woman.  I did not lie on the ground in the fetal position and suck my thumb...for very long.

So while I am really not ready for all of this to start happening, I suppose it is going to happen whether I like it or not.  I am getting used to it slowly but surely...anyone like to purchase a couple of slightly used bullet filled criss-crossed belts?  "They" said I wouldn't need them anymore.

Monday, December 27, 2010

If You Write It, They Will Read

That's right readers!  In order to keep things fresh I pulled up a quote from a 20 year old movie to use it as my title.  It's just a guess, but most of you probably didn't need me to say that was from the Costner movie, Fields of Dreams.  If you didn't know the quote, I'm guessing you are probably a farmer in the Slovenian wilderness.  Depending on the response to this post, I could come up with other really famous quotes to write about. 

Reader, I Am Your Father.  (this one wouldn't work...mostly because my own kids don't even read my blog)

A Blog is Like a Box of Chocolates.  (Oh yeah!  This one is right up my alley.  You never know where this blog is going...especially me...and I'm writing it!)

Let's Read it For Johnny!  (I think this movie and quote may be too obscure.  The Outsiders.  No?  Well I can tell you that my three friends from high school are laughing their heads off right now)

Frankly Reader, I don't give....(well that would be a nice choice wouldn't it!  It's not good to alienate your readers.  Telling them you don't care?  Bad idea.  Besides, how many people read blogs while walking down curving staircases?  6? 7 tops?    Of course the number of people who read the blog while standing in a corn field is exactly one...the Slovenian farmer I was talking about...and he hasn't seen the movie!  Come on Jeff, pull it together!)

Actually, I am beyond grateful that there are actually people who are willing to take time out of their busy days and read my little corner of the internet.  Recently I added a feature onto my site that tells how many people visit it over time.  The last time I looked there were 4,176 people who have visited my site.  (Actually I hover over it like it's the light on the waffle maker!)  People have stumbled onto my blog from all over the world and I am awed at this.  Of course there is also a place that tells me the words people are "googling" when they click over to my sitcom website, and frankly, some of you should be ashamed of yourselves.  I'm kidding of course but there was one time that someone searched..."she little naked" and they were directed to my blog.  Way to go google!  That's exactly the demographic I'm looking for...not!  (I figured as long as I'm dragging out old movies to quote it'd be hilarious to drag out an old expression too...not!)

I probably haven't even met four thousand people in my life and there are 4000 looking at my site!  I truly am blessed.  Well ok, the counter doesn't really count the number of counts the number of times people click on my site.  It could be that someone is sitting there and clicking and exiting and clicking and exiting so it appears that more people are coming to my site, to build my self esteem.  Come to think of it, I wondered why my mom wasn't at Christmas dinner.  I have to say, it does feel nice when I look at the number and it has grown since the last time...fifteen minutes ago.   Just a moment...just as I suspected, 4,191!  Thanks Mom!

It isn't sophisticated enough (as far as I know) to tell me how long someone stays, it doesn't tell me if they like it or if they got mad and clicked away angrily when "she little naked" referred to how people feel when going through airport security.  Every once in a while someone will write a comment to tell me what they were doing when they happened to find my blog, and that is very interesting!  There was one person who had shingles on their esophagus like I did last month (memories...ouch!) and my kids still talk about the time that I read the comment from Ray Orrock's daughter.  Apparently, I did a silly little happy dance when she said that her dad "would have liked it" and "you are a good writer."  (Click Yes if you want to read about it)I keep telling the kids, when they ask for extravagant things like food and clothes, that it won't be a problem as soon as I am paid for what I am doing here, for free.

Now I am over here getting jazzed over a few thousand people visiting my site since April while others are simply amazing in terms of numbers visited.  I held a "contest" recently where I essentially begged for comments and told people what to write.  I got seven replies.  I was thrilled!  That by far was the most comments I had ever received on a post.  I chose the winner and, even though the post office wouldn't allow me to insure my doodle for millions of dollars, I mailed the prize off to Canada! is the other part of your prize...I mentioned your name in a post.  Let me know when the original artwork arrives...and when you have installed the brass lamps (plural) to shine down upon it.  Or it could be just the right thickness to stick under the kitchen table leg to keep it from wobbling. 

I recently entered a contest on Ree Drummond's website, The Pioneer Woman (I'm not going to include the link, most of you probably have it bookmarked already).  It was a contest to win a printer, and all you had to do was tell what your favorite holiday recipe is.  Well around here, holiday and fudge are as interlinked as Europeans and Nutella (I can't say 'peanut butter and jelly' we're very allergic to peanuts over here).  So a friend, Faye, talked me into entering.  She said that maybe Ree "the blogging queen" would read, and like, my blog...and then I'd be famous!  Well I suppose so.  In order to enter the contest I had to submit my link as a comment on her site.  I think the contest had been going on for a month already and my comment was well over the fourteen thousandth.  That many comments...on one section of her a month...I'm going back to bed.  With that many readers if she happened to read my comment, and then go to my site, and then comment about it on her site...then I'd be famous!  Heck, she could even say something like, "I guess Jeff's site didn't suck too badly." and the number of readers here would quintuple!  Simply amazing!  If that happens, I'll have to have another contest!  Keep your fingers crossed!

Now, to shift gears to a completely serious mode, I would like to tell you about a friend of mine whose daughter is having serious health issues.  She and her husband have begun writing a blog about their experiences and what they, and their daughter Scarlett, are going through.  I would gladly reset my number of "clicks" to zero if each one could be turned into a prayer for this sweet two month old girl.  They have had a wonderful response, and the last time I talked to grandma, their site had gotten over seven thousand visitors in just under a week.  Their site is if you would like to get info, pray, and I think they are close to setting up a place for donations since they are having trouble with an insurance company.  I am sure they would appreciate it.  I thank you.

And because I think that laughter has magical healing powers...I am going to try to please everybody!  For the person who searched "she little naked"...
...this kitten is clearly not wearing any clothes!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"The Nutcracker Bit My Finger"

Is it a bad sign when you can't even outsmart a two year old?  I have the usual bag of tricks, for little kids, in my repertoire that includes pulling my thumb off my hand, getting your nose, and (my favorite)the tap on the head-turn around-I don't know who tapped you on the head-game.  It's a crowd pleaser to be sure. I have been doing these same routines for years and I always seem to be able to fool kids.  Not this year.

This year I have met my match in a two year old named Juliana.  She is my niece's daughter and, even though she's two, she's onto me.  We were standing around after the Christmas Eve service waiting for Kristiana to change out of her choir robes when I saw the perfect opportunity.  Juliana was being carried, she was turned the other way, I'm gonna do it.  For me it's a need.  Kind of like when someone does the beginning part of the "shave and a haircut" knock...I need to finish it with two of my own knocks.  (contemptible imagined ocd)  I reached over and tapped Juliana on the head with the bulletin from the service and quickly turned around to appear very interested in the cloudy sky.  She just looked at me with pity.  She said, "I know it was you."  Busted!

That would have been bad enough but she then said, "And before you embarrass both of us, I know that my nose is still on my face and your thumb is not removable as well.  Really Uncle Jeff, sir, if you wish to discuss the political and socioeconomic subtexts in Dickens' A Christmas Carol I would be willing to entertain you, but to debase myself in such a way as to pretend that I am not certain it was indeed you who tapped me on the head is really beneath us both.  Don't you think?"

Ok, so she didn't really say that last part...but she thought it!  I could see it in her smart-beyond-her-years eyes!  This little girl is sharp!  (and I'm related to her)  This is where I would include a text style smiley face, if this weren't a cutting edge, serious literature, blog.  :-) :-) :-)  Who am I kidding?  Certainly not a two year old!  Actually I have come to expect great things from the smart people in my family.  Juliana is just keeping up the tradition.  When many two year olds are still telling people what they need in one or maybe two words, "cookie"  "up"  "no"  "potty" (actually, I could probably get through most days with this set of words).  Juliana is having conversations.  It's great.

In fact, after we extinguished the candles on the tree.  Yes candles, yes real tree, yes, we are really really German.  After the candles were out and we had listened to Stille Nacht and the church bells on cd, we started opening the presents.  Juliana was Santa's little helper, everyone 'needed help' with their wrapping paper.  She even put the debris in the garbage bag (excuse me...the recycle bag).  She was roaming around the room "helping" everyone when she became very interested in a foot tall nutcracker that looked like it was from that famous ballet...the one they do at Christmas time...the name escapes me but there is a nutcracker in it.  Keep reading, I'll think of it.

All of a sudden, Juliana says, just as calm as can be, "the nutcracker bit my finger."  Really?  Five words?  No crying?  Amazing.  And then she said, "Uncle Jeff...the name of the ballet that escapes you is The Nutcracker.  It was created by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  It is a wonderful experience.  You really should try to broaden your horizons and experience life in a much deeper and much more meaningful way.  Also, on a side note, would you be willing to take a DNA test to see if we are really related?  No reason." 

OK, so she didn't really say the second part...but what two year old knows what a nutcracker is?!  I'm so proud.  She continued the rest of the night with me trying to trip her up.  If she opened something that she thought was great, I would say, "Oh!  I think that is for me!"  She would simply, calmly, say, "No this is mine."  When I tried to cuddle with her Pillow Pet (the hit of the evening) and say that I was going to keep "Ladybug" she just looked at me like, "I know that I am walking out of here with that mister.  Go ahead and cuddle if you must, but it's mine." 

Needless to say I really enjoyed this Christmas and have made some memories that will stay with me forever.  I know what some of you are thinking, If it was "needless to say" why did you say it?  Point well taken.  I love having smart readers.  We all had a great time of following the old traditions as well as starting some new ones.  I would like to thank all of you for spending the time to read my modest little blog.  I am blessed and I hope that you know how much I appreciate you all.  I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, Merry Christmas and may joy and peace fill your new year.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to print out the page that says I have earned three dollars and eleven cents from the ads on my blog.  I need to give a copy of it to Juliana....she's doing my taxes this year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Never Fail Fudge!! (most of the time)

I realize that I am confusing my regular readers (both of you) but this is a recipe post that is really about fudge.  It is not about Fudge, the Wunderhund! Actually, Fudge (dog) really enjoys fudge (chocolate) and hunts it down whenever he can. But honestly, this is about fudge (chocolate).  I am entering a contest on the Pioneer Woman's site for best holiday recipes.  Wish me luck!

I need to explain that in writing this particular post, I have put myself into harm's way on several levels. First, there are the people who would like to hurt me for allowing my dog to have chocolate. I must explain. Sylvia and I don't "allow" Fudge to have chocolate ...we know it can hurt him...he just sniffs it out of the unlikeliest places. To this group of harm-wishers, I sincerely apologize. We will try to be more diligent in our hiding of our treats in the future. But I swear, if we ever put up a hidden camera we will catch him picking locks with his paws...maybe even using a stethoscope!

The next level of danger rests, again, on the dog's shoulders.  Do you realize how many people would like to get their hands on Fudge, the chocolate locating chocolate lab?!  "Yes officer, I was attacked from hehind.  They left the piles of cash, (Yeah right!  I'm a teacher...piles of cash, Hah!) and all of the valuables.  They did take our dog who can locate chocolate." 

With a little more work I could train him to find the nearest chocolate. (Entschuldigen Sie bitte.  Wo bist der Naechste Schokolade?... **excuse me please.  Where is the nearest chocolate.** the first phrase I taught myself when I was courting my wife.) I teach kindergarten at a school with primarily women teachers. I can't even count how often the subject of "finding" some chocolate has come up. Note to the guide dog people about new breed...chocolate finders!

The final and most serious threat to my safety over telling this recipe comes from my mom. Her fudge is legendary! People travel from miles around to have a mere taste.  Death row prisoners have asked for her fudge as dessert in their last meals. Thirteen Baltic states use her fudge as currency. All right, I need to stop exaggerating. My daughter keeps saying, "stop exaggerating Daddy!" It's getting annoying. She tells me that a billion times a day!

Actually people love her fudge and they do ask for it. My mom did issue a warning about posting this. She said, "You'll have to have people watch over your shoulder as you make it or it they won't be able to make it."  As nice as I think you all are, I'm fairly certain Sylvia would be upset if there was a fudge academy going on in the kitchen while she was home-schooling the kids in the next room.  But I do have permission from my mom to put the recipe here on the internet. I suppose she could do it herself, but it's a little hard to access the internet via a rotary phone. I'm kidding, sort of. Yes to the rotary phone, but she recently bought a laptop so she could read my blog...she's so sweet. Which brings me back to the fudge.

Mom's warning aside, I dream about being paid to write...let me see if I'm up to the descriptive challenge involved in fudge finesse. You'll have to let me (and my mom) know how I did. I'll try to be semi-serious so you can have success...but I gotta tell you, even if it doesn't 'set', I'm eating it with a spoon.  The kids tease that I make one batch fail on purpose so we can't give it away.  (darned perceptive kids!)  I am a chocolate eating fool.  In fact I'll even eat white chocolate!...that used to be brown chocolate.

But I digress...

I also need to explain, before I write down the list of ingredients, that there is room for wiggling among most of the ingredients...except for one.  I'm not sure if I am supposed to mention brand names so using my keen vocabulary skills, plus your obvious intellect, I think we can work it out!  The ingredient in question is the marshmallow.  This particular marshmallow might be one that you would take if you were going to sit around a Camp Fire! (wink wink...get it?...I knew you were clever!)  But seriously, we (my mom and I) have tried with other brands and it just doesn't work.  If the Campfire people are so tickled with my endorsement that they send me a case of marshamllows...I'll have to tell you all about our favorite hopeful vacation spot in Hawaii, that we will fly to on United Airlines, and drive to the airport in a Mercedes.

Here goes:

60 large Campfire marshmallows (you have to count!  Not the whole bag!)
4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups evaporated milk (again, not the whole can)

2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cubes butter
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Look outside.  If it is raining, pour yourself a cup of coffee and go read 

You cannot make fudge when it is raining or even very humid.  If you want to try, be my guest, just plan on eating it with a spoon.  If you figure out how to do it, however, I'd appreciate you letting me know.  Seriously.

Before you begin dress in long sleeves and have an oven mitt on (possibly both hands).
Set an electronic timer for 6' minutes 20" seconds but do not start it.  (wait a can't set a timer with oven mitts on...timer first, then mitts)  If you like a little wetter fudge, 6' 10" if you want to chew it, 6' 30".
Line a 9 X 13 pan with aluminum foil.  This makes taking the fudge out, and cutting it, easier.  It also makes one less pan to wash and you can do another batch when this one is partially set.  (Come to think of it, timer, then foil, then mitts!...seriously, I've done this before)
In a large 10 quart soup pot place the eveporated milk, sugar, and marshmallows.  Start the burner on high!
Stir constantly!  Making fudge is not for wimps in the arm strength department. 
It will start to melt and grow in volume.  Continue stirring!  You should see the color darken slightly as it cooks.  Maybe little dark flecks will start appearing.  Don't worry! 
When it comes to a steady boil, start the timer and turn down the heat so it is a medium boil.  Keep stirring!  And watch out, boiling, bubbling marshmallows and sugar are vicious when they're angry. (aren't you glad I told you to wear long sleeves!)
When the timer goes off remove it from the heat.  Immediately add the butter, the vanilla (I like when it sizzles in the heated mixture), and the chips with the nuts.

Stir until it is all mixed together and you almost can't stand not being able to taste it!  Pour it into the aluminum lined pan and scrape out as much as you can out of the pot.  Resist the urge to sample it with your hands (just call me band-aid fingers).  It should set well enough to take the foil out in an hour or so.  I usually wait a few hours to cut it.  Enjoy!

Once you have cut it, and this is very important, write to me!  I will give you the P.O. Box where you should mail 10% of your fudge.  For quality control purposes only, I assure you.  I will not give it to my dog!

Thank you very much,
I've had fun writing this and I hope you've had fun reading this.  Now get out there and make some fudge!  (You can keep it all...promise.)

Jeff Garrett

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Just Kidding...

So yesterday I wrote about my impending surgery and the hyperventilation inducing fear I have of getting shots, in my toe, that everyone says, "Is the worst part!"  Today, I sit here unshot, and that's fine by me! 

Sylvia and I got to the doctor's office and were led to the "trauma room" to sit down.  I told the nurse that I should probably lay down to be safe.  She thought I was kidding.  Nope!  She got out all sorts of modern day torture devices, bottles of clear liquid, long metal scissors, a chainsaw, a hockey mask, gauze, bottles of red liquid, "sclapels" (on a side note...are you inspired by going to a doctor who doesn't know how to spell? I am not!), absorbent mats, bandages, pliers (but those may have been left over by the guy working on the air-conditioning) and finally needles (and even though it's the Christmas season...the needles were not of the pine variety!) 

I was instructed to remove my shoe and sock and Sylvia gave me one of "those" looks.  Apparently I had used my Sunday socks to go to the doctor on a Tuesday.  You know, they were holey.  Good thing the nurse didn't see.  It would be awful if anyone besides our family realized that I didn't have the judgement needed to know when it was time to retire a pair of socks.  According to Sylvia, this is especially troubling considering I "Just got new socks for [my] birthday!"  It's probably best that nobody knows but Sylvia and me. 

The nurse took a look at my toe and said, "Well this isn't the worst I've seen.  The doctor usually doesn't do anything when the toe looks like this."  Are those clouds parting?  Do you hear an angel chorus singing?  Why is she touching the wrong toe?  Then she says, "We'll see, he may want to take care of it for you." 
"umm, nurse, that's not the one I'm worried about.  That other one is what my regular doc wanted fixed."
"Oh yeah, well the doc will take a look but he may not do anything."
"I'll hold you to it!"
"I said may not.  Just relax."

Oh great, now I am thinking that not only will he want to fix the one I came in for, the other one is starting up as well!  He'll probably say that since I am here, and since I have two weeks off, and since I paid him a lot of money so that I could sit on the couch all day...and possibly stretch it into two or three (since I heal slowly...cough cough) let's just do all the toes on both feet!  This is the mania that revolves around a needle phobic while sitting on the bed of trauma! 

After the chainsaw sounds from the next room stopped, and the screams quieted to a resigned whimper, the doctor walked into my room.  He said something like, "Hi, I'm Dr. Kevorkian.  Would you like 'the special'?"  and then he raised both fists like he was lifting a barbell and laughed maniacally at the ceiling!  The room was spinning pretty badly at this point.  For some reason Sylvia was singing "You'll shoot your eye out!  You'll shoot your eye out!" like the mom on A Christmas Story...but I swear it isn't because I have jammies from that movie.  And while I'm on that subject...I also do not have Iron Man jammies as well.  I only write the blog while wearing my tuxedo.  I think it classes the place up a bit.

The doctor donned the hockey mask, reached for the chainsaw, and looked at my toe.  "Hmm, well this isn't good at all.  Nurse call down to maintenance and tell them we won't need the shop vac to clean up the gore after all...I can't chop anything off these toes.  Drat."  Then the mask came off and he started to come into focus.  He was my newest bestest friend!  He then explained that the nail that is ingrowing isn't far enough along to "fix" and that the other one isn't ingrown at all.  Apparently I have an infection that causes nails to grow like they are trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.  "Slather on this medicine for the next three months and you should be fine." 
"Did you just say 'slather'?  and "Three months!?"
"Yes, there are three ways to deal with this.  One, slather.  Two, take very expensive pills for three months that will make your liver and kidneys look for new residency..."
"...and three doc?"
"well, we could declaw you, like a cat!"  Then he did the whole laugh at the ceiling thing again! 
He didn't actually say that, but he did describe a fairly involved procedure in fairly gory detail.  I really hope he doesn't have a side business of writing greeting cards.

So the doc gave Sylvia and I the instructions of what to do for the next 3 to 6 months and said, "So Sylvia, he's fine and I see no reason why he can't go shopping, with you, ALL DAY LONG!"

And then Sylvia did the whole laugh at the ceiling thing! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This Widdle Piggy

It was a rough year for Santa. Christmas cheer was at an all time low. The reindeer were discontented with the notoriety "that freak" Rudolph was getting. Explorers had come close to leading their dog sled teams right into the workshop...twice! He was almost picked up on some sort of new-fangled radar last year. The elves wanted better working conditions and were threatening to go on strike. And to top it all off, he still needed to pick the symbol of Christmas decorations.

The angels started bringing the hopeful symbols to him and were waiting in line to see the big man. Santa passed by the horn, the drum, and the cactus quickly enough. "Really? A cactus?"  He kept walking down the line of angels holding items for him to see. "No, no, no, no...none of these are right." Just as he got close to the evergreen tree, the head elf burst in and told Santa that the sleigh distributor had just repossessed his Arctic Flyer 5, Super Sport.

"That's it! I can't take it! Enough! You there. The one with the pointy tree. You win. You brought the symbol of Christmas. Hoorah. I need a Nog!" And just as Santa was storming out of the room, the angel with the tree said, "Well, Where do you expect me to put this!?"

As writer of this blog...I apologize.

Finally knowing the reason that angels are atop Christmas trees aside, please allow me to begin today's blog.  I have always heard that when something difficult is about to happen, start with a joke.  Today I need to confront a fear.  It is a long held fear.  In the grand scheme of things it is but a pebble in the cool still pond of my life...but today I must get a shot.  I am not sure if I have mentioned in previous posts whether or not I have a fear of needles, if you would all be so kind as to go back and reread all 100 or so of my posts to let me know, that would be great.  Actually, we have a new "follower," Rachael (lucky number 26...not for me...but somebody probably has 26 as a lucky number), I think this would be a perfect job for her...don't you agree?  Go ahead Rachael, we'll wait...  And along those lines, I have noticed that someone in Slovenia is checking in on a daily basis!  Rock on you Slovenian reader you!  Drop me a note tell me your story...we should hang out...but I digress.

While we're waiting for Rachael, I should probably tell you what is going on today.  This morning, alas, I need to have an ingrown toenail fixed.  Now this is not what I have been telling people, even though it's the truth, because it just doesn't seem manly enough.  According to the unknowing medical advisor for my blog, my sister Susan, anything that "penetrates the subcutaneous layer of the epidermis to affect a fundamental change in the body system or structure" should be considered surgery.  (seriously, I have no idea if those words are even supposed to go together in a sentence, but we won't tell)  Besides, if I tell people that I have to get surgery...I get a little sympathy.  If I tell them that my widdle toesies hurwt...I get laughter!  Laughter?, sympathy?, laughter?, sympathy?...tough call.  Laughter makes me feel good.  With sympathy, people may bring me food.  And we have a winner! 

Apparently it is "such a routine occurence" that it is not even done in the hospital.  In fact I saw the janitor, the receptionist, and the doctor in the hallway doing rock, paper, scissors to see who was going to do it.  (luckily the doctor won...even though he kept saying, "best two out of 3, best 3 out of 5, best 5 out of...")  The doctor came back into the office and scheduled the appointment.  "It's simple.  You get a shot to numb the toe....It hurts, but then you don't feel anything."  and then all I could hear was "wuuuh wuuuuuh wuuhwuuuuh" like Charlie Brown's teacher.  Actually I only heard "....shot....hurts...." and then I wondered aloud if they offered the ride in a wheelchair out to the curb for people scheduling appointments as well as recovering from surgery. 

So here I am a mere two and a half hours from (major) surgery and I am not panicking...I am not updating my will...and I am not sweating up a storm...which would ruin the tuxedo that I always wear when I am writing my blog.   Some of my readers have told me that they picture me writing in my underwear.  Not true.  Only my mom and Sylvia have ever written in my underwear...Mom wrote my name and Sylvia writes "This is the front!"  Other readers have said they pictured me wearing bright red jammies with pictures of Ralphie from A Christmas Story and Red Ryder BB guns, with the words, "You'll shoot your eye out" written all over the place.  Boy, would that be embarrasing!  Nope it's the tuxedo or nothing...wait...cancel that.  (Not to worry, they'll fix all this in editing...right?)

I don't want to give the impression that I am a total wimp!  Scared of a teeny tiny little needle.  Nope, I can take it.  Even though, when I was in with Sylvia and her doctor's appointment yesterday, I had to close my eyes when they gave her several shots.  In my defense, the needle the doctor pulled out was roughly the size of the water supply tube for the greater bay area.  No, I am not a weakling.  In fact, let me tell you that even my teddy bear wears a leather seriously!  And I haven't ever checked, but I am almost positive that he has a tattoo...underneath all that cute and fuzzy cuddly wuddly fur!  Isn't that right Mr. Snookums...yes it is!  Who's a tough bear?  That's right you are!  Yes you are!  Goochy goochy goo!  So, my point is, I am a tough guy with a little thing for needles.  Is that so wrong?

I have a theory that it all stems from when I was a kid and I stepped into a beehive while hiking in the forest.  No, seriously, the bees attacked my brother and I and we both got stung...a lot.  By the way, I also have a little thing about bees.  Add to this that some genius nurse who subsequently gave me a shot said, as she was poised to jab the needle into me, "OK, Just like a bee sting."   "Wait!  What?!!  OWW!!!"  Thank you all for listening.  I no longer feel the need to go to counseling.  I've probably even gotten over the fact that my dad kept several beehives in front of our house even though I had a phobia about...and I begged him to...what do you say I meet you back here in a little while Dr. Readers?

Wish me I'm gonna go shave my teddy bear and prove that he has a tattoo!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Tanenbaum, O Tanenbaum

Let's begin class, tanenbaum is German for:  incendiary device of brownish hue.  This concludes the educational portion of our day.  There will be a test. 

Germans are known for putting candles on Christmas trees, so you can understand where the song comes from.  I, a man of German and Italian heritage mixed with a little something we like to call "mutt", married a woman who is German through and through.  We have always had candles on our tree.  After the rough start we have had this year, we may need to re-evaluate the need for candles on this particular tree.

We have a very nice, very flame resistant, artificial tree.  It is so nice that every year people come over and have to ask if it is real or not.  It stands the perfect height for our house, is really sturdy, and is relatively easy to put up!...It is also resting comfortably in its box under the pool table.  You see, artificial trees do not smell.  (well ours's been sitting in the box for a couple of years now)  In our house it has been decided by 3/4 of the population (4/6 if you include the dog and cat but honestly the cat abstains from most of the voting) that if it doesn't smell like a Christmas tree, it isn't really Christmas.  I have, in years when the artificial tree was up, tried to explain to the credit card companies that it wasn't "really Christmas" and I shouldn't have to pay for all of these things that aren't "really" on the bill.  They were not amused.

I have even bought pine scented candles, real wreaths, and those hanging car fresheners.  "No kids!  Those are ornaments you made in Kindergarten...don't you remember?"  Nothing worked.  A few years ago we marched into the woods and hunted down our own tree.  Well, we marched into someone's lot of land in the Santa Cruz mountains and paid them the cost of a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant to be able to cut down our own tree.  We had pictures of the kids "cutting it down."  We had mud on our boots and rain on our heads.  We also had tears rolling down the face of my wife.  It was too much.  She was sad that we were taking a majestic tree and stopping it from growing just so we could have a decoration for a while.  This would be our last real tree!

And then she got over it.  Now we charge into the tree lots, full of energy, with the saw raised over our heads like that painting of the French lady leading the charge in the revolution.  You know the one, her blouse is half off.  I'm just guessing that she's French.  Americans don't go in for that sort of brazen nudity.

We now have pictures of Jake with a crazed look in his eyes getting ready to hack the snot out of a poor eight-footer.  The difference with the pictures now is that the kids actually do cut it down.  To them, my back would like to say, "Thank You."  Oh wait, I have to carry it up the muddy, slippery hill to the truck?  "Never-mind." 

The selection process is always...I'm gonna go with "fun".  We storm off and look, look, look, and then BAM!  "That one is nice!  It's the right height.  It doesn't have any bare spots.  It's really nice!"  In my head, I always...foolishly...think, "YES!  We did it!  Start sawing!"  And then, someone says, "Let's see if we can find a better one."  (Sylvia and I had the same conversations while registering for towels and butter dishes before we got married...but that is a different blog)  On the muddy hill we start searching for a better tree.  Jake invariably points out the nicest tree on the land...but cannot explain how we will get all hundred and twenty feet into the house.  Kristiana is much more interested in the wildlife on the hillside...primarily spiders that are "HUGE!  We can't get that one!"  After about an hour of searching, trudging, and diminishing many a poor tree's self esteem (by pointing out the premature arboreal-pattern-baldness) we eventually end up where?  Say it with me...the first tree!  We all knew it would happen.  We go through the process anyway.

When we took our prize home we decided to set it up in the garage for a little bit.  Someone (me) heard a story about an aunt who took the tree home from the forest, set it up in the house, and introduced a squirrel into the living room in the process.  I may have seen it in a Chevy Chase movie, but I think it was a valid plan.  I set it into the stand without any fuss, adjustments, or planning, and it stayed up for an entire day.  24 hours.  Round the clock.  No problem.  No hay problemo. (for our Spanish speaking guests)  And then we brought it into the house.  dun dun dun dunnnnnnn (that there is called foreshadowing extra charge!)

At this point I would like to explain that I have heard about people, families, spouses that have had trouble with the whole setting up the tree in the stand business.  A friend of mine, who is also a fellow blog writer...and a darned good one I might add (if I was technically adept at all, this is where I would have a link that would take you over to Kim's page  I'm so impressed with myself!) ...once told of a feeling of dread when the newlywed couple brought a live tree into the house.  Her past experiences had shaped her feelings about future attempts involving real trees...and their stands.  They worked it out, her fears were unfounded, and by gum...we could work it out too!  In fairness to all the people who cannot seem to "work it out" I want to say that I understand!  While laying on the ground holding the tree with one sappy hand and trying to adjust the fasteners with another, you just never know when the next verbal exchange can cause stress.
"Is this good?"
"It's crooked."
"Which way?"
"Turn it around."
"Which way?"
"Up?!  What does that mean?"
"The top needs to go up."
"Away from the wall?  Toward the wall?  Help arm's falling asleep."
"Ooh!  I love this commercial!"
"Commercial!?  Can someone bring me a spiked eggnog...without the eggnog!"
(In the interest of marital harmony and honesty, Sylvia and I are much more skilled than that...and I do have a vivid imagination)

So now the tree is standing much like it did in the garage.  Except now it is "secured' with four bolts that screw in from the side.  It is not going anywhere!  We thought.  When we came out the next morning Sylvia noticed that there was water around the stand.  Towel!  Is the dog smirking?  Hmmm?  No, he's never done anything like that before.  But there were a few dogs roaming the tree lot...maybe Fudge is marking his territory.  I do the same thing when we buy a used car.

Then I got a text, from Sylvia, while I was at work..."The tree fell over.  Jake and I put it back up."  Exactly a third of the time it spent in the garage unsecured and it has been peed on, and fallen over.  Luckily, we have towels and we hadn't had a chance to decorate it with our irreplaceable, delicate, ornaments yet.   I'm going to say that subconsciously, we knew. 

Later in the day I got a call from the kids who said, "Dad, the tree fell onto the couch."  But what I heard was, "Dad the sap laden tree is oozing all over the leather couches that your dad bought for us at a garage sale, but really aren't our style so we are going to try to sell them on Craigslist after the holidays unless we get sticky sap all over them." 
"Well get the tree off the couch.  Lean it against the washable wall."
"I can't.  It's heavy."
"Yes you can Hon.  Just leave the bottom on the ground and tilt it off the couch.  You don't need to pick it up.  It's physics.  You're learning!"
"No!  I can't.  It's gigantic!"
"Ok, first of all, our house won't fit "gigantic" trees.  Just reach to the middle and push it off the couch."
"The middle!? There are spiders in there!"
Luckily my dad sensed that his couch was in peril.  He stopped by for a visit while I was on the phone.  Problem delayed.

When I came home I "secured" it again.  Except this time I really, really turned those four screws into the trunk.  Not only did it stand nice and straight, it started to tell me information about a secret revolution that the other trees were plotting!  It was a beautiful thing...until Sylvia started to decorate it.  When she got about a dozen ornaments on, the tree just lay down on the ground.  Luckily the stand was perfectly secured to the bottom of the tree.  Unluckily, the stand was not perfectly secured to the floor.  "Dirty Word!"  (that's my favorite swear)  I jumped up, put the tree back upright, and held it there while dreaming of being on a beach in Hawaii, Sylvia at my side, sitting in the shade of our beautifully engineered artificial tree.  Exasperated Sylvia took Jake on a quest...a quest for a tree stand, at 9:30 at night, a week and a half before Christmas,  while I stand holding the tree...and its twelve ornaments.  Standing there, alternating arms, I looked and thought, "I wonder if these ornaments are just too heavy?"  I took off about half of them the tree righted itself and actually stood on its own.  I had visions of being in a bad sitcom episode where the family needed to coordinate where and when the ornaments were put on the tree. 

"1, 2, 3, go!"
"1, 2, 3, go!"
"ooh ohh...what are you doing!?  You know we can't have the Harry Potter across from the Norman Rockwell mini plate....We need the Jamaican cone shaped tree or the painting teddy bear!"
(actually, those are real ornaments on our tree.  The Jamaican one is the first ornament we bought together as man and wife and the teddy bear is the first one Sylvia gave to me when we were dating)

After a little while Sylvia and Jake came home with last tree stand in the tri-cities area...but not before Jake decided to call his dear old dad, who as far as he knows is still holding onto a tree that's about to fall down, until they come home.  He explained that they wouldn't be able to come home for about 45 more minutes because "mom got a flat tire by driving over a pothole.  Mom is talking to the guy who's going to fix it now."  He is telling me this completely believable story and then I heard the garage door open.  In they walked, laughing!  Honestly I don't know where he gets this stuff!

We now have a brand new stand complete with FIVE very secure, very tightly screwed bolts so we should be safe enough for the candles...and the tree revolution begins January 4th.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blog of Note...not me, someone else.

I have been looking at the "Blogs of Note" on and I noticed a few things.  The Blogs of Note are blogs, like mine, that are selected for their merit and highlighted on the website so that others might be able to see them, readership might increase, and (if they have ads) they might make a little money in the meantime.    The blogs can be chosen due to their uniqueness, their cool title, or there could be a giant blog dartboard in the's virtual office where they zip a little electronic projectile into the air and, voila, we have a new blog of the day.  For the record, I have no problem with how they choose their blogs...and I am certainly not complaining that I haven't been hit with a dart yet.  I appreciate being able to have people say that I "have a gift for writing."  And that I can write...for free.  I have, however, noticed a few things about these chosen blogs and I would like to talk about them today.

First of all, I notice that the chosen ones all seem to have a plethora of pictures.  This is a visually stimulating media. I get it.  But when 'they' say, "A picture is worth a thousand words" I just get tired.  I mean there is no way I can keep up with that!  Some of these people have ten or fifteen pictures per post.  I do not have that many pictures and I really don't have that kind of time.  If I was to try to keep up with the picture-to-words ratio I would need to start adding superfluous words to my blog.  I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, don't want to do that.

Second, the blogs of note that I have 'leafed' through seem to have a bit of the salty language.  Again, I am not complaining.  People are free to choose their own style of writing.  First ammendment and all that.  It is purely an observation.  I used to tell my high school students (I have taught all over the map grade wise) that swearing is the sign of a lazy response.  There are so many words in the English language, I would tell them, that surely they could pick another adjective, verb, preposition, or adverb than the "F" word.  I plan on doing an entire blog on swearing and the silly things that kids have said to me while I was teaching, but I can't figure out how to do it and not offend everyone who has come to expect a certain level of mediocrity from me.  BUT...if swearing gets me into the running to be a blog of note, I'll have to consider it.  By jiggity! (ooh, I feel like such a rebel)

Third (are you liking these transition words...that's a sign of a true writer), all of these blogs of note have multiple hundreds of "followers."  I recently found out that I could get into this computer program and re-name that particular section of the blog.  Good!  (As a side note, I really do not want people "following me"...I know who to follow if you want to know, but I have not chosen this forum to talk about Him)  Check out how I have renamed my "followers"...that section looks like a little police line up of pictures on the side of the blog.  It should be a little below the ads on the left. (the ads that I am encouraging you to check out as per my agreement with Google...keep it up people!  I made 0.02 cents yesterday! Daddy needs new sheetrock for his ceiling!)  I have many people who tell me that they read my blog but are not signed in as followers.  That is ok.  To each his own.   I am not sure, in a blog/Blog of Note sort of way, which came first...the chicken or the egg, the followers or being selected, or (as my odd mind likes to view it) the rubber chicken or the hard-boiled egg.  Let me just say this...if you follow mine, I'll follow yours!

Last, each of these chosen blogs have this exciting thing in common.  They all have dozens of comments per post!  I, on the other hand, can go for weeks without someone commenting on mine.  As my sister (the catalyst for my writing a blog) says, "I don't have something funny to say for every blog."  I get it.  That's fine.  But let me tell you this.  I have read a book called, The Five Love Languages and it is wonderful.  Ok, so I took the little quiz at the end that tells you what you and your partner like.  Without getting into too much detail, I would like to reccommend this book.  If nothing else it will tell you how you can make your partner happy.  If you build her a mansion and she would rather have you hold her hand, you have just built a mansion for no reason...(if that is the case, I would be willing to take it off your hands...our ceiling needs replacing over here).  I also found out a little about myself...I like to hear that I am doing a good job.  Words of affirmation is what the book calls them. 

Do not imagine that I am begging for're not imagining anything.  Give me comments!  Yeah right.  I can't even get Sylvia to sign in and give me comments...and I know what her love language is!

It is one of my comments that finally gets me to the point of today's blog.  One, L. Babyak sent me a message on Facebook suggesting that he, "Smells a blog post coming."  I have no idea what sort of super power involves being able to smell ideas, but it must be why he lives about as far away from Washington DC as possible.  There are some pretty crappy ideas coming from the government and they must smell awful.  Mr. Babyak, I feel your pain.  Mr. Babyak also came in second place in my first blog contest (it was a six way tie) and I wanted to honor him by using his name in my blog.  I'm sure you can contact to get enough information so that the court officers can serve me the papers. 

I would also like to say, Mr. Babyak, (if that is your real name) that I come up with my own blog ideas and I refuse to be pushed around by "the man!"  Thank you Very Much!  It just so happens that I was planning to write about our Christmas tree for tomorrow, so I guess you are off the hook, this time

Did you notice that I swore a couple of paragraphs ago?  (I said cra**y!)  I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, don't want to use too much swearing and get pulled by the FCC for being obscene.  I am just experimenting with trying to get into the Blog of Note category.  Now, let's see if this works...
That's right.  A picture!  Blog of Note here I come!  Dagnabbit!

Friday, December 17, 2010

She Said Yes!

I realize that I kind of give away the outcome when I talk about Sylvia being my wife. Not too much mystery there, but there are still some things that I haven't mentioned about our meeting.  If you'll bear with me, I will tell you about them now. It started with hello...

I'm sure if anyone beside Sylvia answered I would have passed out, hit my head on the desk, and slipped quietly into opposed to the world renowned blogger you have before you. Sylvia answered with "hello."

"Umm, hello. You don't know me but I'm Jeff Garrett. My mom is Jeane Garrett. She told me you were looking for something to do on New Years. I don't know if this is something you'd like to do but I was going to a friend's house and you are welcome to come if you like."


"Its low key, just hanging out, there will be food. Music too.  We'll watch the ball drop from Dick Clark's Rockin Eve."

"Which brother are you? Do you drive the red and white car?"

"YES!" (She knew who I was...and she was secretly waiting for me to call....not really but I hoped)

"Where is their house?"

"In Fremont near the lake."


(I'm losing it! Talk more! ...yeah that'll help) "It's not a big thing. It isn't even important to
me that we stay til midnight. I'm easy.  If you're ready to leave at ten, we go. No big deal."

"I think I could go."

"Ok!  Well I can pick you up or you could drive so you don't feel stuck if you hate it."

"No that's ok, you can drive."

"All right, . just tell me ... " (the usual info portion goes here) I hang up, exhale, and bump my head on the ceiling... from floating!

Then the panic set in. What would I wear? How will she like riding in the "Zebra" (my name for my car)? Is she sure I'm the guy she thought she was talking to? Is she allergic to country music?  Will I be able to not shout..."I've got a date!" when my coworkers come back from lunch...and give away the fact that I am not as cool, calm, and collected as I think they think I am?  No time for this...I've got to get ready...mentally!

Let's jump ahead to that night when I pick her up.  I had found a penny that day.  While I don't believe in "luck," I am terribly cheap.  I picked it up.  (and then I said the 'luck' rhyme just in case)  When I knocked at the door to her parents' house I thought, "Holy cow!  I am meeting her parents on our first date!  This is like I'm a teenager!"  When the fact of the matter is, I was a twenty-ager.  I was nervous, scared, worried, excited, hopeful, worried again, and then thought, "I set this up to be a place she could hang out with people...maybe she doesn't think this is a date and just wants to be friends."  (the story of my life) 

The door opened and there was Sylvia.  Wearing her European outfit that was off-white, stylish, and had buckles going down either side.  (I do realize that a large portion of my readers just said, "Awwwww, he remembers."  That's nice.  Sylvia, on the other hand...doesn't remember.  That's ok Hon, I remember enough for the both of us.  I met her mom, nice.  German accent (but don't try to tell her she has one) and her dad...the gruffest man I had met to date.  I have no idea if he had an accent...I think his part of the conversation was, "Hmmph."

We scooted over to my friends' house and walked in.  As we turn the corner to join the majority of the people, John says, (I swear!) "Jeez Jeff, Another girl?!  Do you bring a different one every time you come here?" 

Allow me to explain...I had a car.  I had a lot of friends from church, who were girls, who did not have a car.  I also had (I suspected) "JUST FRIENDS" permanently branded somewhere on my hide, that I couldn't see but was obvious to every female on the planet.  I was mortified.  Sylvia was intrigued.  I didn't find out until much later that this actually helped me!  She thought I was hot property!  (She would have gotten that wrong on final Jeopardy) 

After the usual intros and snack foods, Sandy (my friend) says, "Sylvia, did you bring your suit?  We're going in the hot tub."  This was the first time Sylvia was upset with me. (sort of)  I hadn't told her they had a hot tub.  I told her I didn't think she would want to go in a hot tub, at a stranger's house, on a first date.  Wrong. 

So here we are on our first date, in the hot tub, in borrowed suits.  I thought, this girl is kind of exciting!  I had never assumed that anyone could be so self assured and confident.  I wish to know her better.  And by the way, Hubba Hubba! (Sorry to get so graphic...I know I should have warned the younger readers)

We are out of the hot tub, dry, and we have moved way past my mythical escape time of ten o'clock.  In fact we are counting down with about a million people in Times Square 10...9... I moved closer to Sylvia because, wasn't there something that happened around midnight on New Years?  3...2...1!  I leaned closer, we were face to face, and I whispered "Happy New Year."  What?  It was our first reality it was my first real date.  I wasn't going to kiss her!  Later in life she told me that she would have kissed me...I blew it!

When I brought her home we sat in my car in the driveway for hours talking, laughing, getting to know each other.  Then we made plans to go to a movie tomorrow.  As she got out of the car I said, "You know...technically it is tomorrow."  She said, "OK, call me later today."

And I floated home.
Love You Sylvia, Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Someone Owes Me A Goat!

The final and awesome truth is that Sylvia and I are the product of an arranged marriage.  And her family has never given my family the goat they owe us!  Well, that's what I tell people anyway.  Allow me to back up.  No, seriously, move aside, I want to back up...beeep beeeep beeep beeeep...Now, I will tell you...on the day before our anniversary...the real story.

I will start from the beginning.  I owe you that much.  I mean my wonderful readers have very nearly paid for the entire gag gift that I brought to my Christmas party last night.  (Well, the ad place doesn't send checks for less than 10 dollars so...still crossing my fingers!).

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was just after Christmas and my brother and I were both at my mom's house when Mom walked in.  The conversation is between Mom and I.  Dan was a semi-uninterested bystander.

My mom said something like, "Oh good.  You are both here.  I was wondering what you guys were doing for New Years."
"Going over to the Hardy's.  Nothing big.  Why?"  (I was a little mom has been known to ask questions that were precursors to other questions.)  Here it came.
"I have a friend who is looking for something to do."
"Sorry Mom.  You still have a friend who is looking for something to do."  (I was a little snarky..even back then.)
"No!  I mean Sylvia."
"......blank stare......."
"Sylvia" and then she said the magic words that would forever change my life... for the better..."The girl who works in the nursery with Pia." 

It turns out Sylvia, my mom explained, had just broken up with her boyfriend (Let's call him, "The moron who let Sylvia get away") and did not want to be alone on New Years. 

I also need to explain that Sylvia, and this is important, was being paid to work in the my mom!  You see, money did change hands in order for me to get married.  I think the dowry usually goes the other way but my mom was desperate to have a son not live in a cave.

I had to act fast.  I always knew that my brother Dan, who was younger than me, was a little smoother than me around the fairer sex.  I glanced at him to see if he was charging toward my mom to get this secret information. I expected a brother/brother wrestling match.  He was lost at, "one of my friends..." and didn't have the funny reply skills I did.  (That was my edge)   I was in perfect position.  He was farther away and wasn't looking over at Mom.  I nonchalantly said, "Oh, I guess I could give her a call and see if she wanted to go too."  Inside, I was doing the happy dance and shouting "goody goody goody!"  I was not very smooth back then.  Ask anybody.  No seriously, ANYBODY!  I had no skill set other than, I was a nice guy who people could talk to. 

Back to the impending, unbelievable date.

In my head I was thinking, there's no way on God's green Earth that she would want to go to a party like that.  It was a large collection of my friends, to a stranger's house, on New Year's way!  (but what I meant was, there's no way I would ever go to something like this so of course no one else would either)  I took the phone number to work the next day.  I had to work up the courage to call her.  I was also petrified that she would, because she's awesome, find something to do in the time that it took me to develop a backbone.  The problem was, I worked in a warehouse.  With warehouse workers.  Guys who come to work and say, "Not sure where this tattoo came from." (seriously) and "I was gonna stab her but didn't want to go to jail so I stabbed the table...that's when my hand slipped and I had to get stitches." (Again, seriously)  I tried to pretend that I was a man (ahem) of the world.  I was fooling no one of course but they let it slide.  If any of them heard my stumbling attempts to talk to a girl on the phone, I would have had to quit, change my name, and move to Abu Dhabi. 

That day I volunteered to work the lunch shift at the parts counter.  It could be hectic or it could be boring but it was always devoid of other workers (and their tattoos).  If it was slow, I figured I would be able to sneak a call to have Sylvia say, "Yeah, I know who you  Hummmmmmmm" and then I could go back to my Cave Digest magazine to see about new decorating tips.

Slow day...not a soul in the place...the phones were pounding heart was not.  I had planned out everything I was going to say, unlike when I write the blog, and I went into my boss's office to make the call.  His was the only private room in the place.  Dial, sweat, dial some more, ring...if I have to leave a message I'll die...


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She Said What?!

Who's that new girl?  Pia was the icon in the church nursery for years.  Now there was someone new?   She was exceptionally cute and I had a smallish crush on her from the first time I saw her.  I would wave and smile at her when I walked by the wall of windows.  I was always thrilled when she would smile and wave back.  And she did!  Every week!  The whole exchange took about 5 seconds.  Honestly, it was the highlight of each and every of my uneventful weeks. 

Occasionally, while I was teaching the kindergarten level Sunday school (imagine that) she would take one of the little ones out for a stroll and would pop into my classroom for visit.   She wanted to get to know me better.  I say this, now, because she told me that's what she was doing.  I, of course, (guy...clueless!) had no idea.  I seriously thought the kids in the nursery needed to stretch their legs...even though Sylvia was carrying them. (Have I mentioned in the last five minutes that I was/am pathetic?)  I had no idea that she was trying to talk to me...or to get me to talk to her.  I would get nervous whenever she came in.  I would turn beet red.  And after a while, she would take the little guy or girl back to the nursery to wait for the parents to get out of church.  As a side note...some of those little guys and girls now have little guys or girls of their own.  My kindergarteners too!

I found out (later) that when I would bring my mountain bike on the rack on top of my car she would try to think of a way to tell me that she also liked to ride bikes.  She never did.  I would change, in the bathroom, into my embarrassingly clingy bike outfit, it had an extra amount of padding in the seat, and then take off into the sun.  Never once did I say, "Hey, you like riding too?  Let's go for a ride."  Not once! 

I also found out (later) that she had wondered, aloud, if she should talk to me first.  Pia, the elderly matriarch of the nursery, would immediately say, "NO!  He is ze boy.  He should talk to you.!"  (Me, now, She said WHAT!?)  She had an awesome accent but, I think it may have been helpful if she had allowed Sylvia to come over to talk to me.  It was not my style (who am I kidding, I had no style...and very little now).  My friends would try to help me.  "TALK TO HER!"  Uh uh.  Not gonna happen.  What good comes from me turning red, feeling like passing out, and then running away making reference to some obscure fact that had nothing to do with anything!  None, that's what!  Besides, if I never talk to her then I can remain alone and then I can show my friends that I was meant to be a cave...with my Togo's sandwiches (hot #7 with mustard and lettuce in case you were wondering) and Dr Pepper.  See!!?

I even got a fortune cookie once when I went out to Chinese food with my roommate Craig.  I am sad to say that the actual slip of paper has been lost in numerous moves but the sentiment was, "Someone you know of, likes you."  At the restaurant I said, "Wouldn't it be great if it was Sylvia from the nursery at my church!"  Craig then said something like, "Maybe it to her!!"  He was always annoyingly accurate in what should be done and I was aggravatingly stubborn telling what I could do.  So there I was, not going to mention anything to anyone (especially not Sylvia) and me, with a fortune cookie slip under a magnet on the upper right hand corner of our fridge...mocking me.

I am sad to say that it went on like this for a while.  Actually it was quite a while.  Go ahead and guess how long.  No really, I'll wait.

Theme to Jeopardy here....

Did I mention that it was quite a while?  I meant to say that it was a ridiculously long time!

Jeopardy finishing up...doot doot dun!

7 years!  Yup, that's right, 7 years.  I am deliriously happy with how everything worked out, but I wouldn't recommend this strategy if I was writing a book on how to meet women.  (Although I might if that's what it would take to finally get published...kidding)  Yup, seven pathetic years (on my part).  Sylvia went on with her life of course and I had a fortune cookie paper on my fridge. 

So, unfortunately. this is also not "how we met" and I am afraid that for that you will need to keep tuning in.  Aren't I deceptively sneaky!  Come on!  Our anniversary isn't until Friday!  I feel that I should tell you, because I am having guilt over lying...not really.  In the Chinese restaurant with Craig, I never said, "Wouldn't it be great if it was Sylvia from the nursery at my church!"  I said, "Wouldn't it be great if it was that girl from the nursery at my church!"  Seven years and I never even knew her name!  True story!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chet? You Ok?

Who is Chet?  And what on Earth did he do to deserve that!?

Nothing says "Christmas" quite like your favorite carols.  (When I was a teenager it was Carols Aubin, Cherry, and Alt, a classmate, a leader of my youth group, and supermodel...but I digress.)  And for me, and my ever misfiring brain, there is nothing like the songs that you can change the words to.  Most have heard to stirring rendition of, "Batman Smells" by one, Bart Simpson.  When the Batmobile loses a wheel and Robin lays an egg...tears!  That song is a little out of my baritone range however so I am resigned to sing about poor, poor Chet and the unfortunate incidents in his life that led him up to that fateful night, and an open fire.  Tragic!  (and to add Jack Frost nipping at your nose...well that is just sadistic)

I apologize to the good people of Malaysia who are reading this to perhaps strengthen their English skills...but there is just too much to explain.

I actually do have a little experience with chestnuts, chessstnuuuts, and can say with certainty that if you choose to involve them in your next open fire, I hope your insurance is paid up!  For me, chestnuts rest in the category of "don't need to try them" for one simple reason. 

When chestnut experts talk about them they say, "You know, there are two main types.  One type is poisonous." 
"That's fine.  Pass the macaroni and cheese.  And someone start working on a Christmas song about Lasagna!"

As most newly married men will tell you, the rules you thought you knew. do not apply.  Our first Christmas together, Sylvia and I happened across some chestnuts in a store.  I started to say, "You know, there are two typ..." and then I was in line at the register paying for my bag of chestnuts!  Sylvia comforted me by saying, "It'll be great!  Just like the song!"  The only problem was that there is an "open fire" in the song, and while the thermostat on our oven was malfunctioning, the chances of an open fire were slim and none.  (well, fair to moderate)

The kind lady at the register did offer a little help.  She said, "You know, you need to cut a cross into one side of them.  That is why they became associated with Christmas."  She didn't say it with a sense of foreboding...but she could have. 

We walked home, we "fire"d up the oven, we cut little crosses into the sides, and sat down to watch, It's a Wonderful Life.  We were probably sampling the homemade German eggnog that doubled as a degreaser and high powered jet fuel, but that part is a little fuzzy.  We got about to the part where George is threatening to make Mary walk home without her robe (that part always makes me laugh) when I heard..."poom!" in the kitchen.  It sounded exactly like a tiny little hand grenade going off in an oven...that has a faulty thermostat.  Against my better judgment I opened the door to see the rest of our "treats" squirming and sizzling like gigantic Mexican Jumping beans on a skillet!  They, and every surface of the oven, were covered with the remnants of their comrade in arms.  The poor guy never had a chance. 

Apparently there is a membrane inside these tiny little explosive charges that you need to cut when you cut the cross into them.  We managed to accomplish that!...on all but one.  I can now tell you, as the exploding chestnut expert. that it takes approximately four hours to de-chestnut an oven that held partially de-membraned Christmas treats.  In that time you can jokingly ask 47 times, "Whose idea was it to roast chestnuts again?" That's ok, I would do it again.  Not that I liked the taste all that much.  I am just a sucker for making the season bright...sometimes.  And this time I will stab the little crosses into them like I am Jason, and chestnuts are coeds in the forest.  (Now there's a nice little Christmas image!)

As some of you may have realized, I started to write about how Sylvia and I met since our anniversary is only a few days away...Friday, to be exact.  You may be saying, "Jeff!  What are you doing man!?  You need to let us know the real story!  You shouldn't be talking about exploding food!"  Well this was just too important a topic to pass up.  Think of it as a PSA (public service announcement) not to be confused with a TSA (which involves removing most of your clothes...and various body parts).  I am going to be fine.  I will be able to write about how we met soon.  But first I need to try to fix my roof leak issue.  Apparently our roofer was a crook and forged permits and stole materials.  Warranty?  Hah!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to try to find my roofer...I think his name was Chet!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How We Met?

I could go backwards.  I was faster forward!  I could limbo.  I could even Shoot the Duck!  But I never won a free coke.  Considering how often we were there, I should have bought my own equipment, but I never did.  Sylvia did.  I didn't.  I was 14 turning 15, Sylvia was 13 turning 14, and we were with each other often!  Every Saturday night, and most Fridays, Sylvia and I were together at a memory making palace called Roller World!  Roller World was the place to be back then in Fremont and Newark.  It was a lot of fun.  It was a place to see and be seen (teenager style) and we had a blast!  Of course we did or we wouldn't have kept coming back! (it wasn't like high heels and some women, where they keep going back to them even though they are awful...but that is another blog)

As we roll ever closer to our anniversary (pun intended), I decided to talk about the young Sylvia and Jeff.  This is the kind of thing they will put in the movie they make out of my blog.  Brooke Shields would have played Sylvia, Marc Price would play me.  Before you say, "Who?"  To which I say, "exactly my point."  Let me tell you that he was the dorky kid who played Alex Keaton's friend "Skippy"on Family Ties.  Except his glasses weren't coke bottles and he wasn't overweight. 

It was rare that either one of us would not go skating on the weekend.  A birthday, a recital, something going on at church (for me, Sylvia didn't go yet), or a family outing might keep us away.  It was always Roller World and anything that kept us from it would be met with resistance and a little grumbling...or a lot of grumbling.  I mean, there wasn't much that I would tolerate that would keep me away from teen "romance" especially when the lights went down and they announced "couples skate."  Holding hands?  Me?  I was just a dorky kid.  I mean really dorky!  I couldn't believe that anyone was willing to hold my hand while we skated around the rink...but it happened!

Now Sylvia and I were not "together together."  She had her friends, I had my friends, our parents dropped us off separately, but it was still a lot of fun.  We would do our own things.  I really liked speed skating.  Being able to figure out how to go fast enough to be fun but still not get kicked out for being too dangerous was my thing.  Sylvia skated backwards and was way more comfortable at it than me.  I could do it but it wasn't my thing.  And even though "shooting the duck" wasn't my thing either, I could do it.  If you don't know, that was where you skate, bend down on one leg, and hold the other leg in front of you like a rifle.  Thus the shooting part.  If you did it the best, fastest, farthest, least wobbly, you won a free Coke from the snack bar.  I never won but in my mind I looked cool being able to do that trick...and then I went and bought a Coke anyway. 

It was a time before there were a lot of fights and gangs and we were there minus our parents.  To keep everyone safe Roller World had a "no return" policy.  If you went outside, you stayed outside.  We would call home when we were ready to be picked up and lucky for us our parents were close.  In fact, if you measured it, I think Roller World was the exact mid point between our two houses.   

Before I met Sylvia I never couple skated with anyone.  I keep trying to explain to you that I was (am) a dork!  Did I mention that I was overweight with crazy thick glasses?  Ok, honesty time, before I actually met Sylvia there was one time...a cute girl came up to me and said, "Want to couple skate?"  (I never would have asked anyone)  I managed to squeak out, "sure."  And when we got out there to skate she grabbed both my hands and started to skate backward.  She didn't want to stop skating and wanted to practice going backward.  I guess I looked safe enough.  I was thrilled!  (and my friends were amazed)  And Sylvia, well Sylvia, she didn't really have an opinion, you see...even though we were at Roller World, together, every weekend for most of two years, we never actually met. 

In my mind, I know she is the cute girl who asked me to couple skate.

(How we really met? Still to come!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Will Write For Food

I am on my way to fame and fortune! I have just signed on to allow ads on my blog. You can see them on the side and below the post. These ads are the key to my secret plan to become ridiculously wealthy. Since I am a "numbers" guy I started doing some calculations.

About a thousand people go to the blog each month. People need things like Android phones and creative writing courses. If everyone who goes to the blog buys a phone or signs up for a creative writing course, I should be able to fix the second leak in my roof in no time. If everyone buys a phone AND signs up for the writing course every month then I should be able to retire! I think I'll start looking at brochures for adult living condos in Boca Raton! (I didn't say I was a good numbers guy!)

I think I get a little money if enough people just click on the ads each month. It's not as much as when someone actually buys something, or signs up for something, but it helps. As of right now I have already earned zero point zero dollars!  I suspect it's like store coupons that actually say, "cash redemption value 1/20th of one cent."  Have you ever tried to take twenty coupons in to the store to get a penny? Trust me, they look at you funny and sometimes wonder (out loud) how you got out of the house without your helmet!  I suppose I should have reconsidered the plan to buy coupons at 1/40th of a cent only to turn around and double my money!  Live and learn...I suppose I could use all of these coupons to patch the hole in the roof.

Now, officially, I am not supposed to create a program that continually "clicks" the ads because that would be cheating. It actually said that. I wonder if they know that I needed to look up what "blog" stood for and that my experience with computers is limited to signing in and checking Facebook? I am not creating any program that does anything anytime soon.  When I bought the Commodore 64 lo these many years ago, it took me a book, my dad's help, and 2 hours to create a program that had a ball bounce up and down on the screen.  The program also disappeared as soon as I turned off the computer because I forgot to hit save.

I am also not supposed to encourage other people to creating automatic click programs. I only know of one person who would be able to do that...Mom, just don't! Hear me!? (For those of you who don't know my mom...that is about the funniest thing I've ever written ...if you don't believe me you could call her on her rotary phone and ask)  Seriously, I think I am safe in assuming that nobody will be doing that on my behalf.

I'm also supposed to encourage people to click on the ads in a legitimate way. . So here I am, asking you for 1/20 of a cent so I can fix my roof. I figure at the current rate of consumption I should be able to afford a coupon for Hefty bags to put all of my waterlogged things in.  It's only a matter of time before I am famous and rich...not necessarily in that order.

Speaking of rich, I have made a decision in my premiere contest!  I had many responses concerning the artwork in question.  Several people promised to hang the original masterpiece in a prominent place and bequeath it to their children.  One person even promised to give it to her children before she passed...I believe the technical term for that is Prequeath.  But one person said that it would be hung in a spot that people would see and then start requesting artwork of mine to hang in their own houses. This would then make me "famous and RICH!"  When I am staring at the business end of two kids in going through school activities, taking various music lessons, flying to New York for performances, and eventually wanting to go to college, added to a roof that is rapidly becoming a sieve, I just couldn't resist the word "RICH" in all capital letters.  Who can argue with that?  Plus the fact that the writer of that comment also happens to be the mom of my God-daughter.  So that didn't hurt her chances either.  The only problem is that she lives in Canada and the customs involved in shipping rare works of art is a little touchy.  There will be forms to fill out, officials to schmooze, bribes to be paid...I wouldn't count on seeing it for several months, Sophie.

For everyone else, I know it is disappointing to come in second place (honestly all of the other entries tied) especially when everyone seemed to instantly form such a strong bond to the masterpiece in question, but rest assured I promise to create other works of art for everyone who wants one.  Of course there will be a nominal fee.  This fee will be waived if you sign up for a creative writing course while using your newly purchased Android phone...or you could "legitimately" click on all of the ads in my blog several thousand times a day...wink wink!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ow! Ow! Ow!

Tis the season when I start to get a little happier, I smile a little more, if I could afford to go out to restaurants I might even give a little larger tip (well let's not get carried away)...and I finally sit down to watch some of my favorite movies.  "You'll shoot your eye out!" is toward the top of the list.  I enjoy all of the "Vacation" movies but "Christmas Vacation" has a special place in my spleen.  (the heart is reserved for my family...and Rocky Road ice cream)  "Scrooged" has a good message and who knew that Dickens' story could be humorous. 

Yes, those movies are nice but they lack the sincerity of "Miracle on 34th Street" and my favorite..."It's a Wonderful Life."  I consider it a failed Christmas season if I haven't seen those movies at least once.  I haven't "failed" in quite some time.

Remember the old Granville place in Wonderful Life?  When Mary and George walk by and end up throwing rocks to break glass and make a wish.  The porch was falling down.  The roof had very few shingles left.  When they ended up moving in it took them years of improvements to make it only drafty and rundown.  And then, remember, that George was tired of the things that kept falling apart including the newel post that always wobbled when he grabbed it on the way upstairs.  (don't feel bad if you didn't know what that banister cap thing was called...I did more research on that than on anything else I have done in the blog)  The point is, the house was in shambles! 

I wish my body was in that good of shape!  And I am not going to say, but I digress, because this is where I was going the whole time!  I am officially falling apart.  There's nothing left but for me to sit on a street somewhere and wait for young couples to come strolling along and throw rocks at me to make a football jersey and bathrobe.  OK, I might be done with the movie analogy (in case you are the one person in the universe who hasn't seen this movie...but don't feel bad, I've never seen any of the Godfather movies)

So yes, my body has taken another turn for the worse.  The official story is that I was driving home when I saw an overturned bus, burning, on top of a group of kids, did I say kids...I meant orphans and nuns, and they were burning too, and there was a Jessica Simpson movie playing (was that a little too much imagined tragedy?) and I lifted the bus, single-handedly saving everybody.  I'll pause in my writing to wait for you to get a tissue to dry your moistened eyes.  If you feel that you must do the 'golf clap' I need to request that you do that on your own time.   Ok, I'm back.  As I set the bus down...did I mention that it was burning?...I felt the slightest of twitches in my lower back.  I laughed as I adjusted my cape, took two steps, and flew off to fight crime or something equally heroic.  Dun dun dun Dahhhhhh!!!  (sound effects are nearly impossible to write down...give me a break)

So that is the story that I told everyone I hobbled around with a cane.  What really happened, and I am trusting that you won't repeat this, is I was trying to put the dog into the back yard.  Stop laughing!  That's manly.  Sort of.  Well at least it's kind of heroi...oh never mind.  I'm a wimp.  Yes, I, Jeff Garrett kindergarten teacher, can injure myself by trying to scoot the dog outside.  In my defense, he is a medium sized dog!  It's not like I hurt myself getting out of the car...this time.  It was a medium sized car!

Yes, that is the story.  We were trying to get out the door to take Jake to basketball practice and I decided to have Fudge out rather than in on this night.  That was my first mistake.  Fudge, unbeknownst to me, had decided that he would rather stay in since it was a little chilly out.  I reasoned that since he is the only one in the family with a form fitting fur coat, he could handle it.  So I urged him on.  You dog owners know the look I got from him..."Please sir, may I have but another moment in the house?  I promise I will never again root around in the garbage and then wait until 3:30 A.M. to regurgitate the plastic turkey bag onto the living room carpet."  (I said regurgitate because I am trying to be classy and I didn't want to write vomit...dodged a bullet there!)

Well I, with my opposable thumb superiority, decided that this night was to be declared "dog outside night" and I would make that happen, and get Jake to basketball on time as well.  You know those posters that show the proper way to bend?  Have you ever been to a half-day seminar that explains the way to keep from injuring yourself when lifting?  Have you ever heard the expression, "lift with your legs"?  Apparently, I haven't either.  My technique went something like this.  Stand completely straight, lock the knees, bend at the waist, and lift!...then scream out in pain, fall to the ground, writhe and squirm, practice Lamaze breathing, do a mental roll call of who is in the house to see if I can use the really good pain relieving words, remain motionless in between muscle spasms, cry, assure Jake that daddy is not going to the hospital again, think I may have to go to the hospital again, get really mad because the 29 hairless EKG spots are almost completely grown know, the usual Thursday evening at the Garrett's.

While Sylvia took Jake to practice I managed to inch/scream/crawl to a place where I could climb/shout/hobble to the kitchen cabinet where I keep 'the good stuff'.  I got out the anti-inflammatory prescription meds, cursed the decision to put them on the top shelf, and started inching my way to bed.  A few minutes later I had almost made it across the kitchen and Sylvia came home talking about calling the doctor.  They know me over there.  This'll be fun.  I continued to inch down the hall, screaming in pain, all the while telling Sylvia that I would be fine to go to work tomorrow.  (that's a pre-requisite if you want to keep your man card)  More breathing, more screaming, more whimpering, and I made it to lie down.  Sylvia managed to get a phone appointment, good thing...the next time I was moving out of this bed was when I got up to go to work (man card) and I really like my chest hair un-dalmation-like.  The spasms across my lower back were taking my breath away, it felt like someone had stabbed me with a Bowie knife, and I was trying to avoid making lesson plans.  (come on teachers...can I hear an AMEN!?)

The doc called, started saying something about giving me some pain meds...I told her about the 13 bottles I had left over from when they tried to get me to swallow and I couldn't swallow anything and she asked if she could send patients to our house since the pharmacy was running out. 
She asked if I, "Retained bladder control." 
"Did you have a bowel movement?" 
"Ever?!  Just what are you asking doc?"
"When this happened, did you ...?"
"OH!, You want to know if I messed myself.  Nope, all set.  Wait...yup.  No problem."
"OK. That's good.  Take some of the green pills, one of the white ones, sleep, if it gets worse call back or go to the ER."

Sylvia, "What did she say?"
Me, "She said you were supposed to wait on me hand and foot for months!"
"Good night Jeff!"

I really need to get my sense of humor in check.

So here I am, the bad-luck poster child.  I did make it to work (I got ten more points in my man I can wear a pink shirt without being hassled) and I got many, many comments about how I was falling apart, I am getting old, I should take it easy, Sylvia should wait on me hand and foot for months...but nobody got close to the real reason.  I get much more praise for my blog when I write about being sick or injured.  I was just trying to get more material to write about! 

I am worried about the fan mail that Sylvia is getting...asking her to leave out roller skates, telling the kids to play with marbles on the tile floor, setting the radio next to my sink.  I will try to pick up the pace people!  So to Sylvia's mom, please stop writing.  Kidding!  I can write about other things... who knows, I may have something else to write about soon.  I am working up a pretty good hangnail as we speak!

As of now, I am two days away from the injury.  Thanks to a couple nights of rest and a plethora of medications I am able to function (mostly).  It feels like someone has made a fist around my spine and is squeezing.  I am supporting myself with a cane and taking it easy and most of all trying to avoid further accidents.  I have researched information about being safer.  Hours and hours spent on the internet!  I am a veritable storehouse of safety information!  In fact, while I sit in this ergonomic chair and write this aeromatic blog I have my hands placed in the 10 and 2 position on the keyboard...or is that for changing light bulbs?