Saturday, December 31, 2011

Say What!?

In lieu of the traditional 'The Best Of 2011' post customary for the final day of the year, I thought I would just continue to bang out the same old drivel that has helped me reach the esteemed status of more than 2000 people visiting my site in a single month.  That may not seem like a big deal to you.  After all, I think the Bejeweled Blitz game on Facebook probably has 2000 new people on their site every second.  But, to me, I am thrilled to have people come here, read my ramblings, and then carry on with their lives.  It's interesting though, I cannot think of anything else that I would do that would interest that many people.  Thank you for visiting.

I have mentioned before that I think my hearing is going.  I may or may not have mentioned that I have been to the doctor and he said that I have, "a substantial hearing loss due to exposure to noise."  The firing range, the machine shop, various concerts, teaching all adds up.  I am used to having to say, "excuse me?  Did you say that the wax for the turtle is on the sandwich block?"  That is why today's story stands out to me.  It wasn't me and my substandard ears that were in question...for once!

It started when our son Jake was taken to a class by a friend of ours.  We do a lot of carpooling and today was our turn to be kid free.  The class ran a little long and it was starting to look like he wouldn't be back in time to go to his basketball practice the day before the game.  We thought it was best to make sure he got some time under the basket, so we called our friend to see what time they expected to be home.  I happened to be driving to the store at the time so Sylvia made the call.

Did you ever hear one side of a phone conversation that just made you go, "HUH!?"  Well that's exactly what happened.  It went something like this:

Sylvia on her cell phone,
"Hi there!  I know the class is running long but we were wondering if you knew what time it might be over."
"Oh, that long.  We may have to come get him early."
"Uh huh.  Oh you were?  I'll ask Jeff."
To me:
"She says that her husband works near there and they have extra passes to a sneak preview to a movie.  They were about to call us to see if Jake could go too.  Can he skip practice?"

We talked it over and decided that since there were only two practices between games and he was already missing one it would be better if he skipped the movie.  Back to the phone.

"Yeah, we think he should probably go to practice.  By the way, what movie?"

...long pause...

"War Whores?  What kind of movie is that!!?"
(meanwhile I am trying to drive with my mouth hanging wide open)

...long pause...

"Say that again.  I think I heard wrong.  War Whores?!"

...long pause...

"I am hearing something that I hope you are not saying.  Say it one more time."

...slightly shorter pause...

"Spell it!"

"OH!!!!  H-O-R-S-E!!!  War Horse!  HAHAHAHA  I was thinking, what kind of a movie were you trying to take my kid to?  We don't watch those kinds of things!  By the way, Jeff is yelling that you are going in the blog!!"

Even with my bad ears I could hear her laughing on the other end of the phone.  She then said that it was OK to tell the story in the blog but I couldn't use her name.  So I will just call her Hortensianna.

We drove over to the class, picked up Jake, teased Hortensianna that she was a bad influence on our son and that we were going to have to re-evaluate whether or not the boys should be hanging out together, and then rushed back home to go to practice.  When we got to the gym we found out that there was a scheduling mix up and there was nobody available to open the doors.  Practice was canceled.  Guess he could have gone to see War Whores after all.

(Sad part is...I Googled it and in 1996 there was a film made with that title.  Rated X.  Hortensianna has not seen it.)

Thank you all for reading!  See you next year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Sylvia is watching a baby.  Not in a "Ma'am would you please step over here away from the bushes, we would like to ask you some questions." kind of way.  It's more of a "I don't know what I would do if you weren't taking care of our baby" kind of way.

A friend of the family and former teacher to our children, Jen, had a baby, Penny.  Jen works here, she lives there, we live here, she'd rather have the baby here than there, Sylvia is taking care of the baby.  Sylvia gets her 'baby fix', Jen gets to come visit at lunch if she wants to, the baby is doted on, it's a win-win-win.  Of all the people involved in this scenario, however, Sylvia definitely has the best part of this deal!  Penny is an absolute doll.  She is such an easy-going baby.  If I come from school before Penny goes home I am always greeted with a huge baby smile!  I have to tell you, there are about a billion worse ways to be welcomed home, and not too many that are better.  Of course poor Jen thinks, at this point, that this is the way all babies behave so when they decide to have another one she may be in for a shock.  But that is not what I wanted to talk about today.

Today I wanted to talk about what happens when baby moves from "come on! you can roll over" to "my goodness you are quick! how did you get over there?"  It happens quick, and we are mostly prepared!

When Sylvia and I were new parents we baby proofed the house.  There were latches on all the cabinets, there was a lock for the stove, there was even a lock for the refrigerator.  Over the years some of those locks came off, and with the kids being teenagers, we felt secure that they would not get into the pots and pans to play drums.  Also, since Kristiana is becoming quite the budding chef, we are encouraging her to get into the pots and pans as much as she wants.  We decided that since we live in earthquake country, we should just keep the locks on the cabinets unless there was a real reason to take them off.  Or one could be taken off if it malfunctioned and then we just wouldn't replace it.  As an aside, if you are ever desperate for a personal bag of Cheetos and you yank on the cabinet door rather quickly while forgetting that there is a child lock, that lock will break.  (So we need to replace the lock on the Cheetos cabinet)  Other than that, we are ready...I thought.

You see Jen, being a new mommy, has been targeted by the darkest forces known to mankind.  The baby safety gadget consortium.  This entity exists for the sole purpose of making new mommies feel inadequate if their baby is not protected from all manner of imaginary threats.  They will make a mommy believe that you need to  sterilize a pacifier that has dropped on the floor with their newest Steam-O-matic.  Just fill with distilled water, insert pacifier, wait 15 minutes, and your pacifier is ready to be thrown on the floor again.  Any mom of more than one baby knows that you can achieve pacifier sterilization by blowing the germs off (and in extreme cases putting it in your own mouth to wash it off).

Well this group is trying to wiggle their way into the safety of our house and it visited in a big way the other day.  It all started when I came home from work and Penny was still here.  I got my smile.  I put my Scooby Doo lunch box away.  (Just's the Six Million Dollar Man lunch box)  And then stood in the kitchen until someone rang the doorbell.  I was the closest so I walked over to answer.  I was met by the unholy creation that is the doorknob lock.  Never-mind that Penny is only just beginning to crawl.  Don't think about the fact that if she was able to stand she would still be 18 inches away from reaching the doorknob.  It doesn't matter that even if she wanted to reach it, if she could, she wouldn't have the ability to turn it at all!  Without the lock!!  As it turns out, I wasn't able to turn the handle either.

I spent the next three minutes hollering through our heavy duty fire rated door.  Explaining that I, Jeff Garrett, possessor of several college degrees and pickle jar opening championship medals was being thwarted by a baby-proof doorknob lock!  It went something like this:
"Hang on!"
From the other side, "mummfff mmf" (obviously it was someone who had just come back from having oral surgery, and their mouth was full of cotton swabs)
"We have a new lock!  I can't open it!!"
"Wammff waniff"
"I should just have to push and turn!  Just a minute!!"
"Smmmff snanniff"
"All right I see what I have to do!!  Any second now!!  Dammit!  Do you happen to have a chainsaw!?!"

I eventually got the door opened but it took Jacob coming over to disassemble this modern day torture device.  I imagine that these are the doorknobs that they have at the Hotel California.  You know, "You can check out any time you like but you can never leave."  Nothing?  Using a song that is three decades old as a reference is not blog worthy...Oh well.  Such is my life.

Unfortunately, Jake re-installed the knob.  We are in day 12 of our exile.  This may be the last you hear from us.  Hope is fading.  We are all weak from hunger since someone installed a new lock on the Cheetos cabinet.  Farewell...from the inside.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

This is the letter we send to our family and friends in the mail...I thought you all may like to see it as well.

Once again I am late in writing our Christmas letter.  In fact, it is the 26th and we are sitting in the smoldering aftermath of commercialism run amok.  Not really.  Seriously, we had a very nice Christmas, and apart from mom feeling a little under the weather, it was one for the books. 

I don’t want to be one of those families who, in their Christmas letter, stretch the truth, exaggerate accomplishments, and try to outdo.  I will give you the clear and unvarnished truth:  Following Sylvia’s win of the largest lottery in the history of the world she decided to give it all to charity in what the media said was “the single most generous act of recorded history.”  Kristiana won American Idol at her very first audition but they are keeping it quiet to continue their ratings and not discourage the other 50,000 people auditioning.  

Jake, with his 8th grade science kit and a bag full of peat moss, has solved the world’s energy crisis.  And me, I was promoted and received the title “America’s Best ___________” where anyone can put in any profession and it still applies.  All right, so that isn’t exactly the whole truth.  Jake also had to use some orange peels. 

Actually, as a family we have been plugging along and doing what we can to remain sane amid a flurry of schedules and responsibilities.  Sylvia is still home schooling the kids and has started watching a baby for a teacher friend of ours.  What a cutie! (Sylvia and the baby both)  She continues to do her ministries at the church and is hoping to grow the one group that she has been leading into multiple groups.  She has a heart for helping people who have been abused.  And, unfortunately, there is a definite need. 

Kristiana is still enjoying singing in several choirs and was able to travel to New York (without the family…sniff) to sing in a showcase for highly skilled choirs.  She is studying the piano and guitar and is planning to use her talent in her career working with kids following college.  For now she is thinking that high school has much more schoolwork than junior high.  (We haven’t had the heart to tell her that when she starts to work she will look back at this stress as ‘the good old days.’) 

Jake has gotten a hold of the book “How to Be a Teenage Boy!” and is studying it very carefully.  He is paying special attention to the chapter, “Clever answers that may or may not get you into trouble.”  He is also learning the piano and guitar and amazing people at his knowledge of all things scientific.  He is still participating in sports of all kinds, when he isn’t sporting a cast, and we are starting to get recognized by the staff at the ER.  He even had a broken arm when the whole family went with the church to work on the Ganado Mission in the Navajo reservation this summer.  It was such a rewarding time that Kristiana is going again over spring break and we are in the process of seeing if the whole family will be able to go. 

As for me, I am still teaching kindergarten and enjoying it ever so much more than last year’s very challenging class.  I have learned some new teaching techniques that are making this well behaved class excel, and it is exciting to be a part of.   Other than teaching, I am still enjoying writing in my blog, “Do I Really Live in this Sitcom” at ( and occasionally people tell me that they are still enjoying reading it, so I suppose I will keep plugging along.  I have also been given the inspiration to write a book that is centered on Sylvia’s ministry.  I think it could be an important and meaningful book once I get the time to sit and write about it and postpone writing about the funny things that happen in the family.  I have purchased five lottery tickets for the mega prize so once I win that should afford me more time to write (as long as Sylvia doesn’t give it all away to charity). 

Overall we consider ourselves blessed every day and hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a prosperous and terrific new year.  God Bless!                                      

Love,    The Garretts

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dog For Sale: Cheap!

Amid these troubled and uncertain times I have come to the realization that the dog must go.  I understand that this will come as a shock to some of you but at this point, it's either him or me.  Since I am the one who gets to get out of his warm bed to let him go to the bathroom, (at 4:30 in the morning...every morning!...including the first day of my Christmas vacation when I could be sleeping in!), I vote him!  Add to that the fact that I have opposable thumbs and can open jars and am willing to squish spiders, and it ain't looking too good for the pooch.

Among the many benefits of being the proud owner of Fudge the Wonder Dog is his ability to keep you safe.  Let's say there is a small appliance fire in your kitchen.  Fudge could alert you, allow you to get your family to safety, and get your picture on the front page of the paper!  Of course, in order for this to happen you would need to have an appliance fire and that certainly has it's drawbacks.  Also, you would need to have that fire at precisely 4:24 A.M. in order to rouse him from his many dreams of chasing rabbits.

He could also protect your family from marauding hordes!  He would definitely be who I choose to be by my side if I were ever to face a marauding horde.  Of course, this would have to be a horde of mailmen in order to set off his protection instincts but given the high rate of disgruntlement in the U.S. Post office I would say that it's even money that the encroaching hordes would be carrying mail sacks.  If, however, one of the mailmen is pushing a vacuum, you will surely die.

Fudge is a floor cleaner and food processor!  I did an experiment the other day.  We had a leftover yolk from a soft-boiled egg.  I snuck down to the room that houses his food dish.  I dropped it in from a height of four feet...splut...and as fast as lightning, Fudge came racing across the kitchen and 'Hoovered' that egg yolk with surgical precision!  Of course I have never actually seen lightning "mosey" across a floor before.  Actually, it was more of an amble.  A stroll with a dash of lolligag?  Well, the point is that Fudge heard the softest of sounds and reacted!  Of course it was a food related sound.  He doesn't always hear it when someone is trying to get him to go outside, move away from the door so we can leave, or get away from the sandwich on the table, but apparently his ears do work.  In fact, they work so well that if anything hits the floor in the kitchen he comes along to investigate.  And if he knows that it is a food item, and you are bending to pick it up, well then you'll see some speed.  In addition to keeping food related items off the floor, Fudge has a unique ability to process the food as well.

I'm sure everyone knows about the ability dog's have to turn their little brown pellets of food into significantly larger pellets of, let's just say, ahem, non food.  All dogs can do it.  No big deal.  Well Fudge and his magical belly can turn one stolen morsel of onion into a quart and a half of (descriptive and odoriferous explanation deleted).  It would be a science experiment in the making if it wasn't so dangerous for the pup.  I just wish he would stop and think, "last time I ate something that smelled like this I got sick.  I will leave it alone."  But alas, he is not known for his discerning palate.

So there you have it.  One big brown alarm clock in the shape of a furry man's best friend.  I suppose I should mention cost.  The kids would be terribly upset if I let him go for the bargain basement price of mere millions...let's start the bidding at billions.  Operators are standing by!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Different people have different levels of 'gross'.  One may think that observing the five second rule for a dropped cookie may be gross.  Another may have no qualms at all about observing the five day rule when finding leftover pizza in a box that was hidden by the Sunday paper. (I have no personal experience with this, I can assure you)  Some people can eat dinner while they watch movie after movie with the words, Blood, Murder, Kill, Hotel, or Dismember in the title, where the director seems to be paid by the gallon of gore.  Others may get woozy and have to turn away from the screen while a doctor gives someone an injection on a doctor show.  (I also have no personal experience with this either)  Differences are the key!

Well I have been informed, indirectly by my daughter Kristiana through Facebook, that I was being gross while writing and talking about our anniversary yesterday.  According to her definition:  I am guilty as charged.

It started when I wrote a blog yesterday about the proposal.  The way it works is I write here on the blog, I upload it to the net, then I go directly to Facebook and include a link that is shared on Twitter, then I share it onto my profile page since there are only a handful of people who are connected to my blog page or follow me on Twitter.  I'm not sure who appreciates or is annoyed when I upload all these places, but that is what I do.  Well, being a guy of the nineties, that means that I am also sending this info to my daughter.(Yes, I am aware that it is 2011.  But seriously, should I say I am a guy of the tens column?)  But I digress...

There usually isn't a problem since KRISTIANA will typically just skim through my blog to make sure that I haven't written KRISTIANA anywhere where KRISTIANA might see it.  (I'm gonna pay for this)  Apparently she also checks to make sure I haven't tipped the 'gross' scales toward the embarrassing side.  Yesterday was ripe for signs of embarrassment.  It started when I posted:  Seventeen years ago today. I married my best friend!  on Facebook.  I was quickly informed that someone thought it was "gross".  (I suppose you can guess who...NO!  It wasn't my wife!) Then, Sylvia had the nerve to write:  Happy Anniversary!!! Love you lots! Thanks for my surprises around the house!  You can imagine the uproar when that hit the screen!  We received another, "gross"  Then, because I wanted to write solely on Sylvia's wall and not be an ad for the blog, I wrote:  Happy Anniversary Honey! I love you!!   "gross"   Sylvia also did a little electronic graffiti (wrote on my wall) with:  Seventeen years ago today I married a pretty wonderful guy!! I would say yes all over you Jeff Garrett.  That was followed by the now routine, "gross"  I would like to point out that we have friends, Lucinda and Jamey, who are always sending love notes back and forth on Facebook.  Kristiana thinks they are cute!  

The gross-fest continued through the day and evening.  I would say, "I love you Honey." to which I would hear, "gross."  When I said grace over the dinner that I planned, I thanked God for bringing me Sylvia and for our marriage.  "gross"  When I opened Sylvia's car door.  "gross"  When I held her hand.  "gross"  I gave her a peck on the cheek.  "gross"    When I burped the alphabet after chugging down a liter of Dr Pepper.  "gross"  (Ok, that one may have been deserved)  I'm telling you, I couldn't do anything without moving into the "ewww" category.  Trouble is, except for the card, we were pretty much as gross as we are all year long. All right, so I sprang for the extra few dollars to put Baby's breath in the roses.  That is different as well.  (Kristiana didn't seem to think that was gross for some research staff is working on the reason.)  
Jake didn't join in the gross-o-rama.  I suppose he wanted to suffer in silence.  

Actually, the kids were a big help.  We got the house tidied up while mom was off helping her brother with some chores.  Kristiana prepared the dinner (let the kids play to their strengths I always say) and Jake helped me arrange the roses in the vase.  When Sylvia got home she was very pleased with the way the house looked and how the kids had gone above and beyond what she had hoped for.  As for me, I was happy to do it.  You know the saying, "When mama is happy, everyone is happy!"
I Love You Sylvia!

At the risk of being called gross one more time I would like to say, I Love You Sylvia! ...  My prayer is that our kids find relationships that are just as gross as ours is.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Still Do

Did you ever notice how some blocks of time don't seem like the same amount that the clock says?  Whenever a student who has come back to visit me in my classroom I will usually try to guess, by how many years have gone by, what grade they are in now.  I have tried to stop since I now have former students who are having families of their own, and it would be really embarrassing to ask if they are in twelfth grade and have them say, "No, but my son is in kindergarten."

I have already written, in order, about how Sylvia and I met, the fact that it was an arranged marriage, and that ever important first date, (you can click on the links if you've never read them) but I have never written about how I proposed...until now.  It has only been a year since I've written about Sylvia and I as a couple, but I suppose to you it seems more like a decade.  Funny thing time, I remember that at this time seventeen years ago, today, I was just waking up, in this house, on a twin bed, in the room that my son is sleeping in now.

But back to Sylvia and I.  We had been dating for a while and I knew,  The big "knew."  I wasn't sure if she knew that I knew, but I knew.  It was a dating anniversary and I wanted to take her out to dinner.  A common occurrence.  But I wanted this date to be special so I made reservations at the restaurant that we first went to.  Neptune's Palace at the end Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.  When I picked her up at her parents' house I pulled up, opened my car door, and found a penny at my feet.  As I've said before, I don't believe in luck...but it couldn't hurt.  I picked it up.  When the door opened Sylvia looked stunning.  I went in, said "hi" to Ruth, her mom, got the usual "Hmmmph" from her dad Kurt, and away we went.  Her parents didn't appear to know that I knew or that she knew that I knew, you know?  I was sure that everyone could tell that I was a little fatter.  One tiny box in my jacket pocket fatter to be exact.  No one let on.

When we got there I tried to be nonchalant as I could, but I told the hostess that I needed a table by the window since this was a special occasion.  It's little things like this that Sylvia likes.  They sat us at a table in the corner and I heard the hostess walk away and tell our waiter that the people at table 8 were celebrating.  Thanks!  I'm sure when she was out of ear shot she said, "And did you notice that he was walking a little funny?  It's almost like he has a little box in his coat pocket."

We ordered dinner, Sylvia had a lobster dish that they no longer serve and I ordered shrimp Alfredo.  We looked out over the bay.  There were millions of sparkles on the water.  We talked.  The lighthouse on Alcatraz Island shined its light rhythmically. We watched as the sun started to go down.   And then I started to get nervous.  It wasn't bad enough that there was this little box in my coat pocket that had been rubbing against my ribs all night, now I was starting to lose my lighting.  And then time slowed down...  Sylvia said, "We... should... order... dessert..."  In my head...WHAT!?  No! We are not order dessert people!  We eat, we get full, we leave!  Dessert!?  Think Jeff think!  "No, I thought we would do dessert somewhere else.  Let's walk along the pier."
"Ok, I'll be right back."

As Sylvia went to, ahem, powder her nose, I rushed the waiter through handling the check and gathered all of our things.  I was waiting by the front door when Sylvia came back and I hurried, as slowly as I could, out to the rail at the end of the pier.  The sun was setting.  Perfect.  I turned my back to her, reached into my pocket and felt for the box.  It wasn't there!  Just kidding.  It was there.  It was so there that I had nearly pounded a dent into my chest from checking.  With my hand in my pocket I turned back to her and said, "I got us some dessert."  And then I pulled out the box of Cracker Jacks that I had been hiding in my jacket all night.

I know, I know...I've been teasing you all along.  I am aware that you thought I had a tiny velvety ring box in my pocket.  That is so not me.  I handed it to Sylvia as casually as I could and she started to open it.  Did you ever notice that Cracker Jacks boxes are nearly impossible to open?  I am certain that they are made by the same company who makes safes, panic rooms, and the black boxes on airplanes.  Sylvia had trouble with this box.  So she turned around, put her elbows on the rail, and held the box over the bay as she tried to pry into it.

Speaking of prying into it.  At about this time, seventeen years ago today, my elderly great aunt, Ev, who was visiting started calling for help through the bathroom door.  She was ok but had locked the door and now it wouldn't open.  The lock had broken.  We didn't have time for finesse at this point.  We pried it open with a monkey wrench on the doorknob.  Sorry about that.  Back to the bay.

I couldn't take it any longer.  I said, "You may want to hold that over here.  Just so it doesn't drop."  She looked at me knowingly and turned back around.  Back to slow down time.  In reality all of this took about a only felt like half an hour.  Once the box was open she looked and saw that there really was Cracker Jacks inside.  She shot me a questioning look.  I said, "You don't have to eat that.  Look for the prize."

Since you all have figured out where I am going with this I feel I can explain now.  In the interest of public service.  If you ever decide that it would be a great idea to open the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks, empty the contents, throw away the prize, and re-insert your own prize along with the warned.  No matter how expertly you seal the bottom (and I did do a fantastic job) exposing the caramel corn to the air and then packing it up again will turn it into a somewhat solid brick of inedibly sticky popcorn.

Luckily Sylvia found the little envelope I made, tore it open, and pulled out the very real, very non-Cracker Jack, engagement ring.  I took it from her, I placed it on her finger, and asked her if she would marry me.  This is where the real slow down happened.  She hugged me, she kissed me, she started to cry...she never said anything.  People all around us were walking in slow motion.  There was a guy who just happened to begin reading War and Peace over to the side.  More hugging.  More crying.  A couple with a stroller walked by.  Very slowly.  I looked up to window of the restaurant where we just were sitting at table 8.  No one was looking down at us.  The guy reading the book slammed it shut and said, "Done!"  Still Sylvia hadn't said anything!  More hugging!  So I asked.  "I'm guessing you mean....?"
And then she said my second favorite thing ever.  "Yes!  Yes, I will marry you!"

And exactly seventeen years ago today, in just a little while, we were standing up in front of our friends and family, listening to Ave Maria play through the sound system of the church when Sylvia said my very favorite thing.  "I do."  Well Sweetheart, on our seventeenth anniversary I would like to say, "I still do!"

I love you Sylvia.  Thank you for making me the happiest man on earth.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cereal Killer

I apologize!  I did read somewhere in the book "How to Become Rich and Famous While Writing a Blog!" that you should never apologize.  I was brought up much better than that so here goes!  I am sorry!  To the author of the book.  Sorry.  To the person who may or may not have gotten to the parking space a milli-second before I pulled in.  Pardon.  To the newspaper delivery boy(man) who didn't get a tip because I feel the paper should be readable and not soaking wet.  Mea Culpa.  And finally, to all of my loyal readers, who have come to expect much better than this shoddy treatment...Please, forgive me!

Why am I typing this while groveling?  I failed to keep up with the times!  I want to be on the cutting edge of blog writing and I have apparently missed the boat.  Fear not!  I have purchased a ticket and I am walking up the gangplank of said boat right now.  Bon Voyage!

The name of this metaphorical blogboat is "Pictures Of Food" and it is coming to a (usb)port near you.  It seems that there is a plethora of blogs dedicated to people taking pictures of their food.  I was falling behind.  Now be warned, while I think that taking pictures of food is a wonderful thing to do, it just never seemed that interesting to me.  It wasn't something that drew me in and made me want to buy an expensive camera, nicer dishes, and a I didn't.  But I can guarantee that this will be the best blog of its kind!  (eventually)  It may take me a little while to get the hang of it.

With no further ado, I would like to introduce the subject of today's feast:
The Cinnamon Toasted Raisin Charms

I stumbled across this recipe quite by accident.  It was a cold winter morning and I had a little extra time in the morning so I decided to make myself a rare bowl of cereal.  I opened the cereal cabinet and beheld a veritable cornucopia of breakfast treats!  After pondering the selection I made my decision.  When I reached to lift the box and its bounty I misjudged the weight, applied too much force, and slammed the box into the shelf above. (something I did regularly before milk came in see through containers)  I was holding what I assumed to be an empty box.  Upon closer inspection I found that I was mistaken and that empty and two tablespoons worth weighed nearly the same.
Lucky Charms with all the "charms" removed

I took it out of the lineup.  I reached for my next choice...gingerly...once bitten you know, and found that this one was similarly weighted.
Raisin Bran...minus raisins

On the counter it went.  Third choice.  Same.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch (luckily there is nothing for the kids to pick out)

Fourth.  Ditto.  (I lost this last image though...I took these on my phone and I think I may have accidentally made it my profile picture on Facebook.)

What to do what to do?  Then it came to me.  What if I chose to eat all of them simultaneously!  Four bowls would have been wasteful.  Throwing away even twenty eight cents worth of cereal?  Unheard of!  One big bowl.  Done!
VOILA!  Cinnamon Toasted Raisin Charms!

The way I figure it, and according to the panels on the sides of all the boxes, I have accomplished in one bowl over 128% of my daily intake of riboflavin!  (129% if I used whole milk)  For all of you purists out there who may be inclined to suggest that I have exceeded the serving suggestion size I would like to invite you to measure out the exact amount suggested, just once, and try to make it all the way to lunch.  I tried, the resulting bad mood is legendary at my school!

Apparently I forgot the cardinal rule of food in the house.  Anything deemed "not enough", "not worth it", or "not as good as that" automatically becomes food for Dad.  I used to enjoy eating the parts of the pizza that actually held the toppings before I had kids!

So there you have it.  I have written about and photographed food!  It was a lot of fun and I can assure you I will most likely be writing on this subject again!  I can feel the riches flowing toward me already!  I may make enough to get a white tablecloth to have as a backdrop for next time...dare to dream!  I am already considering my next food related project.  It came to me while I was making a sandwich after I finished breakfast.  I had three loaves of bread to choose that, of course, meant I had only six end pieces!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Short But Sweet (The story and the kid)

It is no mystery that working with kids is about as hilarious a job as you can have, but when you work with a classroom full of them, and they're five, rarely a day goes by when one of the cherubs doesn't do something adorable.  It doesn't hurt that I work with colleagues who are constantly on the lookout for cute as well.  

A few days ago, at recess, I was done handing out the Goldfish to the students to eat (crackers people-I don't work in a frat house.) and I came outside to see the other male kindergarten teacher "calling" one of my students on his iPhone.  Little Joe (not his real name) was, of course, talking on his iBanana!  As I walked by, Josh tapped me and nodded to my student, as if to say, "Look at this!  He's totally having a conversation with me!  

Josh played along with Little Joe for about a minute and then decided to 'end the call' since we can't be seen playing all day long.  They may decide that we are having too much fun and lower our pay.  ('s our little secret)  Well he kept talking and asked about Little Joe's day, how he was doing, and most importantly, where he went on his break.   Little Joe, who had been faithfully talking into his fruit phone, answered every question.  As he began what seemed to be a long winded answer to the final question, Josh said, "Little Joe!  I can't hear you!  You are breaking up!"

Most kids would have laughed and said something like, "You're silly!"  Little Joe, who is apparently no stranger to dropped calls, (I never trusted the commercial where the guy says, "ooh ooh eeh ooh?" Which of course is Gorilla for "Can you hear me now?")  Little Joe pulled the iBanana away from his ear, cupped both hands around the 'receiver' end, and yelled, "I SAID, WE WENT TO MY GRANDMA'S HOUSE!"

Josh and I erupted into silent guffaws (we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings) and he said, "Jeff, you have GOT to remember this!"  I don't need to remember, I have a blog!  And now you can remember it too.  

I was tempted to get the iBanana to replace my Droid...but after seeing this poor reception I think I will stick with dreaming about the Razr .  Besides, I hear that they are already working on iBanana 5!  Technology, sheesh!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank You!

Yesterday I wrote about my desperate need for attention.  (It was subtle but it was there if you read know, between the lines.)  I was rewarded by having many, many people go and visit my blog and wish me a happy birthday on Facebook.  I would like to say thank you.  I appreciate it all!

Thanks to you all this month has been the third most visited that it has ever been.  The first of course was that month when I gave away something in a contest.  You remember, the one of a kind artwork, styled solely for the readers of this blog and penned in the handcrafted fashion that can only be described as an early American masterpiece...otherwise known as a doodle.  Well people clamored to the site to submit their applications for ownership.  It was mentioned as the second greatest gathering of people trying to get something, only surpassed by the black Friday that didn't involve pepper spray.  (according to the New York Times)  I think there were well over six people who came to that event...electronically.

I realize that you have many choices when selecting your entertainment and the fact that many of you keep coming back to read this is humbling.  I will try to continue to write in the same manner to which you have become accustomed.  Whatever that is.  I would like to say that without readers like you and the kind words you say I would be banging out this drivel for no reason at all.  It brings to mind a quote from none other than my lovely wife, Sylvia, when she repeatedly says,  "Don't laugh.  It only encourages him!"  Thank you for encouraging me.

Don't worry that I have been making desperate pleas for followers and begging for attention.  I will be right back to the hard-hitting reporting about the silliness in my life soon enough.  Here's to silliness!  Here's to Friends!  Here's to thanks!  No seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And I suppose it could have been worse...I could be thanking you from the heart of my bottom...but I digress


Monday, November 28, 2011

Shameless Appeal!!

That's right!  No writing!  I am just using this opportunity to make a shameless appeal to have people click the "Like On Facebook" button over there on the left.

The reason?  I would like to gain notoriety.  I would like to be able to see how many of my Facebook friends come to this site.  I would like to have a reason to post a really embarrassing video of me recreating Sally Field's famous "You like me!  You really like me!!" Oscar speech.  But most importantly, because it's my birthday and it could be like a little gift to me (without paying any money).

If, of course, you are the senior adviser in charge of handing out free stuff, at the Porsche plant...then you are excused from clicking the button.

If you are not on Facebook for time constraint, moral, or privacy issues...I understand.  But, would it be so bad to sign up to make my birthday wish come true?  I mean really.  What's a little less privacy among readers?

If, however, you are one of those people who have five thousand Facebook friends, this would be the perfect opportunity to hit "share" and get the word out about my blog!  You know you wanna!

Actually, I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you so very much for reading.  I am awed by how many people are coming to my site and leaving such nice comments.  I humbly accept your kind words and I am asking you to forgive me for trying to force you to do something related to Facebook.  Please know that I am doing it with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek.


P.S.  You really don't need to click the "Like" button...even though for everyone who doesn't, a large corporation will cut down an acre of the rain forest.  Your choice!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's a Tradition! (that I just made up)

Yes folks, traditions have to start somewhere and I think this is a fine place to start.  My new tradition is; whenever I get a new keyboard for the computer I write a blog post the very next day just to try it out.  I realize that it's an obscure tradition and based on past occurrences I would say that I am safe from having to do this particular tradition for another few years at least.  Considering that we haven't had a new keyboard in ages and the only reason we have one now is that my mother-in-law bought a new computer and it came with a keyboard that she didn't want.  Also, our old keyboard had been abused, and banged on, and rubbed, and dirtied, and whatever, so much that there were a lot of letters that were no longer recognizable.

I considered using the missing letters to explain the complete randomness of some of my recent blogs...but I cannot.  It seems that I am burdened by a complete sense of morality and I am forbidden from relaying something that isn't 100% true.  Nay!  As I sit here in my silk Armani tuxedo and white gloves to protect the keys while writing this blog, I am not looking at the keyboard at all so I cannot use a malfunctioning keyboard as a crutch.  You can use a nice sturdy piece of pipe as a crutch but I digress...

Actually, it is really close to my birthday (tomorrow!) and I don't want to anger anyone who may be in the mood to buy me stuff.  I'm kidding of course.  But that does bring me to a different tradition that I have been adhering to for quite some time.  Whenever someone in the family asks me what I would like for my birthday I say, (help me out guys) "Nothing."  No seriously.  I'm good.  I cannot think of a thing that I need.  I have a loving family, I have food to eat, I have a great job (some years greater than others), I have a place to live.  I'm set.  There are things that I would want but, honestly, those aren't in the cards.  

Because I get smacked every time I say that I really don't want anything I decided to bump it up a notch.  So now when someone asks me what I would like for my birthday I have two things that I ask for.  "I want an official Red Ryder carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time."  Either that or a new eight hundred dollar phone.  Yes folks, I am desirous of the new Droid Razr.  As much as I have spurned technology in the past, I even have a watch that is a sundial (seriously), I have been awed by this new hunk of electronics.  It's got an enormous screen.  It's faster than any other phone I've ever seen.  And it is so far out of reach that I feel I can ask for it without fearing that someone would really get it for me.  I may as well ask for someone to recreate the parade from "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street" and a Porsche for me to watch it from.  It's not going to happen.  

You see, the problem is that this blogging venture hasn't taken off quite as lucratively as I originally planned and we, perhaps, could afford a picture of the new Droid Razr...if they happened to send us one in the mail, as an advertisement, for free.  Hey look!  Right by the new keyboard!  A picture of the Razr!  My life is now complete!  Yes, I had visions of my writing being made into a movie, a really weird movie, (Fred Flinstone will play me) and I would be rich.  Well, that hasn't happened and in fact the revenue I have generated from this blog (not counting the $2.00 off coupon for nasal spray) hovers around the nineteen dollar mark.  Not per month.  Total!  It is increasing at a rate of approximately one cent per month so I can practically feel that new phone in my hand.

Actually, the truth of the matter is, since it is my birthday tomorrow and I haven't reached the level of visits to the site that I like per month, I decided to just sit and bang out a random collection of thoughts (on a new keyboard) in a shameless ploy to get people to click over.  I would like November to be a month where lots of people come to my blog for some reason.  And, as long as I am telling the truth and all.  I am not sitting here in a silk Armani's Brooks Brother's.

happy birthday to me.....happy birthday to meeee.....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rude-olph the Red Faced Shopper

I realize that as a blogger I took an oath to uphold truth, justice, and the American way.  Yesterday, I failed to uphold my duties.  I suppose I could justify myself in saying that being rude to cashiers is rapidly becoming the American way...especially around the holidays...but I still felt bad after I left.  Before you start gathering the villagers and setting up a pitchfork and torch stand outside my castle...the moat would keep you out anyway...let me assure you that I was not the one who was dishing it out, so to speak.

Let me say that I have encountered my fair share of dimwitted and/or ill-prepared cashiers and clerks in my day. I have felt the frustration creeping into my being.  I have dealt with the injustice of being told one thing and then experiencing another, more expensive alternative.  I have been held at bay, even in an extreme hurry, by the customer ahead of me who seemed to be purposefully taking their time so as to make my day a little more stressful.  And in each and every encounter there is one thing that remained the same.  I cut the poor person some slack.  I know you must be thinking, surely you must have lost it at least once and blown your top at just one person in your past.  I can honestly say, "No, I have not...and stop calling me Shirley."

The reason that I have never gone into full blown meltdown mode is twofold.  Primarily, that is the way I am wired.  I try to see the other person's point of view.  I assume that if there is something that should be happening to make me a happy customer the clerk is probably not given enough authority to make it happen.  I have spoken to managers to explain situations and try to get resolutions.  Whenever a clerk is in the wrong and a manager is able to rectify the situation I will usually say something like, "You may want to explain this policy to your employees since I think not all of them are on the same page.  Teachable moment you know."  I try to avoid conflict most of the time and I realize that making a scene is going to take a lot of energy and probably get me nowhere.  I would really hate to look like a giant ass in the middle of, well, anyplace really, only to find out that I had made a false assumption and was in the wrong.  And then have to walk out with my tail between my legs as customers everywhere point and laugh and tell their children not to be afraid of the rude man.

The second reason is that I have been that poor unfortunate clerk.  I know how awful it is to have to tell someone that I have no idea what they are looking for and I would need to get someone else to do what should have been my job.  I know the frustration of having to tell someone that I had no authority to deal with the problem they were having and then stare blankly as they retell their tale of woe only to hear again, "I'm sorry.  I have no authority whatsoever.  Would you like to speak to my manager?"  And most importantly, I know the amount of sheer willpower required to not pound someone into a whimpering pile of bruises even though they desperately deserve it!

Allow me to explain that last bit.  It was a few decades ago and I was the only person behind the counter at San Leandro Electric Supply in San Leandro California.  The organizational chart had me as low man on the totem pole and that meant that I covered the counter while everyone else was out to lunch.  All of the regular customers knew it and would only come in if they desperately needed something.  I was the least experienced.  I was the most overworked.  I was lucky to know where a third of the things were let alone what they all did.  Most days, thankfully, were extremely boring since it was common knowledge that you just don't come in at that time.  One day, however, was an exception.  I had every seat at the counter filled with people who needed their things in a hurry or their jobs would shut down.  I was literally running from one customer to another and I was in the zone!  "What do you need?  20 amp fuses?  Got it!  How about you?  Starter?  Size?  Got it!  And you? Safety switch?  With lockout? Be right back!"  I ran and got these three taken care of at one time.  I heard, "Great job!" "Thanks!" and "You saved the job!" more times than I could count.  As soon as three left, three more came in.  It was my worst nightmare!

There was one person who was there the whole time watching this all and aware of the desperate situation these people had.  It was fifty degrees in that warehouse and I was sweating from running for fifty full minutes when Ron came to the counter.  (That is his real name and if I could remember it I would give you his real phone number so you could call him and tell him to stop being a jerk)  Ron, after seeing all of this action and my attempts at saving the day for people whose jobs were in the balance, proceeded to tell me his random, refill his supply, order in as lazily a way as I have ever heard.  The people who had come in after him audibly groaned as he counted off a large list of items that would never, ever, have been considered emergency items.  I asked if I could take care of a few of the customers who needed things to continue working and he just looked at me blankly, as if to say, "It is my turn and they can wait."  After getting his impossibly mundane list that would have easily been work enough for two people, I turned and started to run to get the first item.  As I  began to leave the counter he turned his back and said, "And Hurry!"  Had I been David Banner I would have turned large and green and kicked him into the next county amid the cheers of the customers with real emergencies.  What did happen is that I turned back and put both hands on the counter, I raised one knee as if I was getting ready to hop over a fence, and the customers who were next gave me looks that communicated, "It's ok.  We know he's a jerk.  It's not worth it kid.  We can wait."  I turned around, went back to filling his order, and was thankfully relieved by the regular crew coming back.  Good thing too.  I would look terrible with prison tattoos!

Suffice it to say, I understand what it is like to be overwhelmed and I don't want to be the person that other clerks blog about in the future.  Having said that, I witnessed something unbelievable while out shopping yesterday.  I realize that it was 'Black Friday' and I had no business being out and about, but my mother in law needed a new computer and this seemed like a good day to do it.  We avoided all of the early morning pepper spraying, crowd shoving, line standing nonsense.  We had a nice lunch together and went in the early evening to do a little shopping.  We were hoping to catch the tail end of some sales on the craziest shopping day of the year.  We found what we wanted at Fry's Electronics, made our way to the register, and waited in line.  If you have never been to this store it is set up with about sixty cashiers.  You wait in one line and a person at the front sends you to the next available worker.  It actually works very well.  By the time you get to the front there is a cashier with a green light and they tell you "number 30" and that is where you go.

Well we went to the cashier and did our two transactions while the green light stayed on.  The 'sender' never sent anyone because she could see that it was a mistake and there were still people at the register.  A manager type person came by and said, "You don't want to leave your light on.  You need to turn it off until you finish."  Obviously, this was early on in her training.  It was early on in cashier # 31's training too.  He accidentally turned on his light so the sender sent a lady on over.  The trouble began when his customers came back to ask a question about their multiple receipts.  As the poor cashier explained that each one was to be sent into a different place for different mail-in rebates we started to hear a banging.  I honestly had no idea what it could be.  It continued...LOUDLY!  I tried to concentrate on my transaction while this annoying rhythmic sound kept going.  I looked again, the woman who was sent, was waiting to be rung up but she was being the opposite of patient.  The sound was her, pounding her 24 pack of AA batteries on the counter next to these poor people as they tried to find out how to receive hundreds of dollars in rebates.  The pounding continued.

Sylvia looked over and caught this 'woman's eye.  She was met with eye rolls and "what are you looking at?" stares.  This customer was doing the best impersonation of a female dog (I think you know what I mean) that I have ever witnessed.  Still I said nothing.  Sylvia explained that she almost told her that she needed to stop instinctively as if she were telling one of our children to stop making an annoying sound, and would have if she had been pounding at us.  Sylvia even tried smiling at her.  There is a saying in her native German that goes, "You give an attacking dog two treats"  The pounder wanted none of it.  We looked at the people she was trying to intimidate and they seemed to be able to blissfully ignore the rudest behavior I had seen in a long time and kept on talking.  Still she pounded.  We finished our transaction as they were finishing up and we all walked out leaving the pounder to her miserable life.

I thought about saying something like, "It is really difficult to concentrate while someone is making rude noises like that and it will probably slow them down."  But let's face it...she would have just attacked me for something that was none of my business.  And you know what they say, "You can't teach an old female dog new tricks."

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I have inadvertently tortured many of my Facebook friends for the last year or so.  Which is so unlike me.  I would much rather torture people advertently (which is actually a word...I hate when that happens).  Way back in January, the 23rd to be exact, I simply posted a percentage "0.3%".  I have been updating this ever increasing percentage throughout the year and only yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, I reached 100%!  What started out as a means to hold myself accountable has turned into something fun.  But I am done now and I will keep you in suspense no longer.  I have read 100% of the Bible, via the 'Bible' application on my Android smart phone!  There it is.  The secret is out.  I hope I haven't disappointed you all.

When I downloaded the YouVersion Bible on the Droid I had no plan in mind.  I merely wanted to see what it was.  While exploring, I found out that it had notes, more versions and languages than I could even begin to explain, and a little thing called "plans".  I clicked on it and found that there were quite a few plans.  I could have chosen to read through the New Testament in a month, the Old Testament in two years, the Psalms and Proverbs in 372 days, or the whole Bible in a year.  I chose the latter and began, on January 23rd, and much to my surprise (many things surprise me when it comes to technology) after I read the passages for the day, the app said, "You have completed 0.3%!"  Seriously!?  I just read for twenty minutes!  All I made it was a lousy 0.3%!?  It struck me as funny (but honestly there isn't much that doesn't) and I thought, if I am going to make this all the way through I am going to need an accountability partner.  So I posted the percentage and the torture began.  I had decided to post about every ten percent (so I wouldn't annoy people with daily increases) but lately I have been posting fractional increases!  I had no idea that I would have so many unwitting partners in my move to stay focused, but there you are.  Thank you all for keeping me on track.  I have had fun...most of the time.

There were some interesting things that happened along the way.  I was surprised to find out, remember me...untechnology man...that the Bible app would not work when I had no coverage for 3G.  Whatever the heck a G is.  But due to proper advertising on the part of Verizon, when I get my next spare three hundred dollars (somewhere around the middle of the next century at the rate I am going) I will purchase a new Droid that has 4G!  I still don't understand what a G is but I know I need four of them...but I digress.  I went away for the night to a place with no coverage and I couldn't do my reading for the day.  I was disappointed but it taught me a lesson.  When I took a group of junior high kids from our church to snow camp I planned ahead and wrote out the passages that I would be missing so I could read it the old fashioned way.  There is a group of about six boys who have known what this was all about and they haven't said a word!  (Great job keeping the secret guys!)  When we traveled away for a week to the Ganado mission in Arizona I wasn't so lucky and I fell behind, but I wasn't trying to win a race so I forgave myself, picked it up where I left off, and forged ahead.

For the most part I would read first thing in the morning when Fudge would nudge me to say that it was time to be fed, get some water, and do his business.  I was up before anyone else, quiet time, I read.  On more than one occasion I would jump up to take care of Fudge and it would be pitch black in the house.  We have shutters that make it midnight dark whenever we want.  Instead of fumbling and tripping my way to the hallway I would simply turn my phone around and use the light from the Bible App to guide me on my way.  It struck me, when this happened, that the Bible was guiding my way both figuratively and literally!

When I was having such a terrible year last year in school I had decided to spend some of my before school time reading in the classroom.  I found that I could squeeze in an extra day's reading after I dropped Kristiana off at choir but before my little cherubs (with dirty faces) came in.  On one particularly difficult morning where I was seriously considering becoming a truck driver, pizza delivery guy, oral surgeon...whatever! was obvious to me that I wasn't supposed to be a teacher.  I decided to read the passage out loud in the classroom.  I wanted the echo of positive words in the room to combat the difficulty that was coming.  So I started reading out loud and the passage was all about students obeying their teacher!  I sent the passage to Sylvia in a text, I tried to bookmark it in my phone, and subsequently lost all record of it.  But it was there I swear!  If anyone has the passage I am thinking about I would love to know.  I would like to embroider it on a plaque in the room.

While not explaining what all of the percentages have been about I have had all sorts of people offering guesses.  When the percentage was low, people guessed about my level of sanity.  When it got high, people guessed about my level of insanity!  When it was in the teens I even had one dear friend suggest that she hoped it wasn't my percentage of body fat!  Since it was increasing steadily I would hope not.  Little did she know that I have never had body fat in the teens!  My DNA hovers around the 27% range.  (disclaimer...I have no idea what my body fat percentage is.  27 just seemed like a humorous number.  Sort of like kumquat is a humorous fruit...but I digress)  Well the body fat guesses seemed to be the fallback position for everyone.  Thanks a lot AnnMarie!  (still love you!  but I can't get over there to give you a hug since my friends think I am a big tub of goo with no bone structure at all, and I would roll over and crush you and your 3.2%!)

Some of the more interesting guesses have been:
"Body fat?" (138 times)
"Your level of sanity?"
"Your level of insanity?"
"The percentage of days left in the year?"
"The percentage of days left before your birthday?"
"The percentage of your blood that you have donated?"
"The amount of school days you have before you snap and start smacking kids?"

More recently when people were getting frustrated about the ever increasing phantom percentages:
"The level of disappointment we will have when you explain?"
"The chances the (insert your least favorite team) choke in the big game?"
"The percentage you have completed on your next blog?"

Some people have just made comments and skipped guessing altogether:
"I want to know what this is!"
"Tell us!"
"Will you just tell me what the freakin' percentage thing is!!!!!!!" (which I suppose is technically a question but I don't think Anne meant it that way.)  *I also don't think I am going to befriend any more people named Ann(e).

Well there it is.  I read through 100% of the Bible.  Nothing crazy.  I committed to do it and I did it.  I learned a lot and it was remarkable how often the passage for the day applied to the day I had.  I liked reading the Bible every day and I will have to look through the plans to see which one I will choose next.  Who knows, maybe I will write about days that stick out as I go.  I hope that you are not disappointed with me and my percentages.  I really didn't start out to cause anyone any stress.  I was actually surprised to see how many people even paid attention at all.  Thanks!

And in conclusion I would like to end with my, without a doubt, very favorite comment on Facebook from my son, Jacob.  On a day when the general theme of the guesses was 'tease Jeff in a mean way', Jake, who has known since I explained it to the junior high boys in the freezing cold cabin at Hume Lake last year, said:

"I know what it is about and when you people find out you are going to be very proud of him!"
Thanks Jake, that means a lot.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today's message comes to you from deep down in the laughter factory of the cosmos.  It is one of those stories that, when mentioned to those directly involved, will cause the memory to come rushing back spreading smiles around the room.  In fact, one us will burst out laughing as if it just happened!  I hope I do it justice with my retelling of it here.

Did you ever have one of those dinner parties where things didn't go quite as planned?  If you have ever been in charge of feeding someone who isn't related to you, in your own kitchen, then I am sure you have.  Growing up, having my mom say facetiously "I hope everyone enjoyed the (rolls, green salad, rice, jello) since they are still in the (oven, fridge, pot, counter)."  Yes, it was common for our family to have way too much food and then forget that we had prepared something that never made it to the table.  (Yes mom, I am saying 'we' made stuff but everyone knows it was all you.  Don't tell.  I have a blogging reputation to uphold.)

Dad was no stranger to creating laughs at a gathering but his was more of a shock factor.  My parents had prudently bought "unbreakable" dishes when we kids were still little.  They weren't merely crack resistant.  They actually said, unbreakable.  No, we didn't eat off of prison issue tin trays.  They were kind of nice.  They were completely white and they held food.  What more could you ask.  The salesman, in true showman style, sold my dad on these dishes by reaching out to hand him a plate and, as my dad was reaching to take it, he let it go and sent it falling to certain doom.  The plate fell to the floor, clattered and banged and caused heart-rates to soar, but it didn't break or even chip.  It was my dad's favorite ice breaker to re-create this demonstration in our kitchen.  I had seen him do it at least two dozen times and it was always hysterical.  The problem is that these plates were designed to not break if they accidentally fell to the floor once or twice.  After being dropped dozens of times their luck falls short and eventually they will break.  I know this from my dad's final, and equally hilarious, demonstration.  Can you say millions of pieces?!

When Sylvia and I got married we decided that we didn't want to carry on the tradition of leaving food un-eaten or dropping dishes.  We decided to come up with our own shtick!

One night, several years ago, we had invited some friends, Bob, Jeanine, and their kids, over to dinner.  The friendship and the conversation was the goal and the food was secondary.  So no one would have to work in the kitchen we collectively decided that we would just "pop in a frozen lasagna" and spend most of the time talking and laughing.  (laughter is a pre-requisite around here)  The evening was going as well as any evening where we got to visit with good friends and we started to set the table and get everyone ready to sit and eat.  We all sat.  I probably picked up my knife and fork and started banging them on the table chanting..."food food food."  (I didn't really, but you totally believed that I am capable of that right?)  The timer went off and Sylvia got up and walked over to the over to bring the lasagna to the table.

I'm not sure if you have ever eaten a frozen lasagna, but if you have you'll know that they do not use the most sturdy of pans.  The pan is made up of a very thin grade of crinkled aluminum that is rolled at the top to make a lip.  The pans, in fact, seem so thin that it seems entirely possible for it to develop a hole and have a large portion of the sauce and noodles ooze out and coat the bottom of the oven in a blackened hardened shell.  That is not what happened.  No, the lasagna looked great!  It smelled great!  We were all starving!  Bring on the grub!

Sylvia got the patented oven mitt with the non skid coating (I'll mention the real name as soon as they sponsor my blog) and she bent down to grab the food.  Did you ever notice that your dog, whether invited or not, will always check to see what you are taking out of the oven?  It happens so often that eventually he will get tangled between your legs and cause a slapstick juggling act worthy of most of the silent film stars!  Food will fly.  People will dive for cover!  And the dog is rewarded with a meal fit for a king!  Well that didn't happen either.

No, Sylvia grabbed the edges of the 9 by 13 aluminum lasagna pan, took it out of the oven, and carried it two and a half feet to the table.  Almost.  She was about two and a quarter feet short of the distance.  We had forgotten the cardinal rule of frozen lasagna baking.  The pan, which seems solid as cast iron while frozen, is as flimsy as wet facial tissue (another sponsorship opportunity) when the contents are piping hot!  There, in black and white on the package, it reads, "If you don't put this flimsy aluminum pan on a cookie sheet while it is baking, when you try to take it out of the oven the ends will fold up, the middle will drop down, and your friend Bob will laugh so hard that tears will stream down his face!"  It was oddly specific but that is exactly what happened!

When Sylvia tried to take it out of the oven, the pan held on until she was past the oven door.  Had it begun to crease there, she could have set it down quickly and then slid it onto a cookie sheet.  We would have talked about how lucky that was as we ate slightly disheveled lasagna.  No, this lasagna pan held on until it was over the floor and when it started to give Sylvia later explained that her first thought was to put her knee out to "catch" it and keep it from crashing to the floor.  She thought better of that and stopped her knee from going out since third degree burns really put a damper on an evening.  The lasagna went crashing to the floor and so did the tears that were rolling off Bob's face.  You see Bob and I operate under the same theory that if you are going to laugh about it someday, you may as well start now!

Bob turned out to be the hero in our story and as we cleaned up the mess he ran to the store and got everything we would need to make spaghetti and the dinner was saved, but we forgot the garlic bread in the oven...I hope everyone enjoyed it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

So Now We Know

I've heard loads of people say that they could use more hours in the day.  As a teacher I know that it could be a Gregorian chant coming from schools around report card time.  "I need more time....ohmmmm.  I need more time....ohmmmm."  It would be an interesting anthropological study to be able to actually give people extra time, to see how they used it.  It is often said, by imaginary people in my fake research staff, that if people were given extra time they would use it to do something that was very important to them.  This morning I have been given an extra hour and I am using it to write.  So now we know.

This morning is the morning that we in most of the United States turn our clocks back one hour at 2:00 A.M.  and then leave them an hour back until six months from now when we turn them an hour ahead.  The saying pertaining to the seasons and the hands of the clock, for the uninitiated, is 'Spring forward and Fall back'.  As a public service message I would like to tell you that it is now really 5:54 in the morning but it feels like 6:54!  I would also like to say, "You have an extra hour to sleep so go back to bed!"  Well, unless you are reading my blog after it has been turned into book form (and paid dearly for the privilege of owning one of the leather bound editions...thank you) then I say, "You paid big bucks for this book!  What is it doing in the bathroom?! I am NOT signing that now!  (...and light a candle for crying out loud! phew!)"

Do not ask me why we Americans do this weird, arbitrary, apparently random thing with the clocks, but we do.  I know, from paying attention to National Treasure movies, that Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest it.  But he also wanted the turkey to be the national bird so we know that he was a loony!  I know it had something to do with saving energy at one point because if it is brighter longer then you don't have to use lights at night.  Yes!!  Of course when you get up in the middle of the night to start your day and it is pitch black, then you need to use the lights in the morning.  D'oh!  I know that there are parts of the country that don't participate in this odd ritual.  My dad is in one of those places now.  The first few minutes of my phone calls to him always deal with the time issue and is it too late or too early to be calling.  "Sorry Dad, I lost my slide rule.  What time is it there?"  Interesting side note...When my dad was a teenager a sweet young lass had caught his fancy.  (Yes, my dad grew up in Scotland during the 1700's)  Well he and his intended date set it up that he would pick her up at 6:00.  He showed up at 5:59 and was greeted by slurs and slams!  Apparently my dad lived in part of Indiana that didn't feel the need to do something moronic like change clocks twice a year and the girl lived across the border in obedient Kentucky.  So she thought he was an hour late.  She would hear none of his excuses.  She didn't care about the time difference.  She was not even very fond of Benjamin Franklin!!  She slammed the door and never spoke to him again.  (Really, what do I care?  She wasn't my mom but I thought the story was funny)

There are also those who think that it came about, "For the farmers."  The people who think that have never worked on a farm.  Animals don't really care if it is light or dark and they especially aren't concerned that you want to sleep in an extra hour simply because the newspaper headline says, "FALL BACK!"  They want to be fed, milked, moved, and generally tended to.  When the clock changes that just means that farmers get up an hour earlier.

It is actually due to an animal that I am up now.  Fudge, the wonder dog, has a routine that usually works out well for me.  Every morning just before my alarm goes off Fudge comes and nudges me.  It is his time to, ahem, use the facilities (he doesn't light a candle either).  I feed him.  I go back to the room.  I turn off the alarm.  I start to get ready.  Nice, right?  And then it comes to fall.  Fudge, even though I have bought him several nice watches, refuses to let me sleep in!  So here I sit.  Using my 'extra' time to write.

And now, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite daylight savings stories.  It was about thirty years ago and we had a fairly young and relatively new associate pastor at our church.  I was a teenager so I squeezed every last ounce of sleep out of the morning and my magical extra hour.  When I drove into the church parking lot I noticed that the new-ish pastor was by the door hugging everyone she greeted.  She was always very emotional and very demonstrative but something about this morning was different.  Everyone who walked by got a special greeting like she had been away on a long trip...and yet I had seen her the week before.  After church, as I was talking to her, I said something about feeling a little extra rested this morning and how I appreciate this time change WAY more than when we go the other way.  She leaned in close and said, "I need to confess something to you.  I forgot to change my clock this morning so I got up and got ready an hour early.  When I got here and there was nobody here I thought that the Rapture had happened and everyone else was called to be with Jesus and I didn't make it for some reason!  I was so glad when I finally realized that it was just the time change that I missed!"

OK, everyone...get up and ready for church!  Be early...but not too early!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Frankly Scarlett, I do give a damn!

I have always been a firm believer that blood was designed to stay inside the body.  God put it there and, by gum, that was where I wanted it to stay!  I also don't 'do' needles.  I have what some, including myself, may call, a 'phobia' of needles.   Given these two facts, what the heck was I doing, lying on a recliner, trying not to hyperventilate, with a needle stuck in my arm, allowing my own personal blood to go into a bag to be taken away, VOLUNTARILY!? The answer is Scarlett.

Scarlett is a baby who should have parents that are worried about especially stinky diapers, the sniffles, and trying to decide if now is the time to put all the glass knick knacks on the top shelf.  Instead she has parents who are worried about chemotherapy, skull reconstruction, and blood transfusions.  Scarlett is a remarkable little fighter, with remarkable parents, who, several months ago, doctors had said would not see her first birthday.  I am happy to tell you that I just helped her celebrate her first birthday, in a very special way, with 129 of her closest friends!    I don't want to try, and fail, to tell you her story since her parents do such a good job of it in their blog, Starring Scarlett.  Scarlett's parents organized a blood drive for her first birthday and since it was for this great family and this remarkable little girl, I decided that this would be the one that would pull me past my fears.  They asked for ideas about what to name the blood drive.  Someone came up with "Scarlet for Scarlett."  I guess that's ok...I liked mine better though.  "Frankly Scarlett, I do give a damn!"  (That's probably what they called it secretly)

So back to me, on the recliner remember?  Don't like blood.  I like what blood does, in theory, I just don't want to see it.  It feeds the body, it carries oxygen, it cleans up on the inside, it even heals.  And still, I'm just not a blood guy.  I don't even like to see it if I can help it.  Sylvia and I have a system.  If there is a surgery show on TV she'll say, "Don't look...not yet...ew...oh that's awesome...ok now you can look."  I come from a line of people who say things like, "so in your surgery the doctor took the nee...and the" WHAM!  Sack of potatoes, fainted and on the ground!  I have never fainted, personally, but I'm sure that it's only because I am careful.

I signed up both Sylvia and I for donating from a link on their blog and started the long process of waiting.  I had a date set, I had someone to go with, I had a really good reason, and I started saying, "I am going to give blood." (as opposed to I am going to try to give blood.)  In my mind I pictured everyone going off to someplace private where no one could see my apprehension.  The reality was that there was a row of these donating chairs and a multitude of people giving blood.  Sylvia was not phased.  She had done this many times before.  She said that the ones that she had done at her high school were even more crowded than this!  Not this cowboy!  I was glad there were only about eight.  I have to say 'about' because I was not about to look over at all of them.  They all had people who weren't afraid of blood or needles.  I didn't want to see that.
Sylvia and I waiting to be called...Me with my eyes closed
Kristiana helped at the blood drive by holding Scarlett the whole time we were there!
Kristiana, who desperately wanted to donate but couldn't because she was a few months shy of the cutoff, took this picture.  She kept saying, "Dad, will you just open your eyes!"  Thank you no, Honey, I am facing a bunch of people hooked up to blood stuff and needles.  I can have my eyes closed if I want to.  They also told us at check in that if you were a first time donor you got a special sticker and they were nicer to you.  I asked for 8 stickers so they would be 8 times nicer to me.  I laughed.  Sylvia stuck them in a line on my shirt.

Now concerning needles.  I stepped into a bee's nest as a child and was chased down a country road, along with my screaming younger brother, as we were enveloped in a stinging swarm.  I gotta tell you, I never watched "Winnie the Pooh" try to get honey from a hive the same way again!  Add to this a helpful nurse who said, as she was poised to give me a shot, "It's just a little bee sting." and the connection was made.  I use the word phobia when I talk about needles but it truly may not be a doctor's definition of phobia.  The reason I call it that is because my fear keeps me from doing things that I would like to do.  I nearly hyperventilated when I had to give a blood sample in December of 94 so we could get married. (Then pounded my fist when I heard that as of January 95 blood tests were no longer needed to get married!)  I once had an uncomfortable medical procedure done without anesthesia because I would rather not have a shot.  (My sister, the nurse, said that people under anesthesia can't even handle it...I explained that I was motivated!)  Even now I am avoiding getting a vaccine to avoid shingles.  I have had shingles in the past, twice!, and the doctors think it would behoove me to avoid this painful disease that lasts for about a month by getting a shot ...but that's just it.  It's a shot.

Me, hooked up and trying to take a picture without looking.
Getting ready for donating was both easy and hard.  They said it would go easier if I was well hydrated so for the last week I have been drinking water like it was on sale!  They said that I should eat a good meal the day I donate.  Also, solely in preparation for donating I assure you, I have not been skipping any meals!  And then there were the 'helpful' people in my life.  When I posted on Facebook (which you should go to and like my blog page...there's a button conveniently placed in this blog by the way) that I was giving blood and that I was more than a little nervous about it.  I got all sorts of advice.  One friend even wrote, "Don't think about the blood.  Think about your life slowly draining from your body."  Thanks Joe.  You're a pal!  Sylvia, who has had blood drawn more times than I care to think about, kept saying, "It's such a small needle.  It's even a smaller needle than the needle they use when they use a blood drawing needle at the doctor's office.  NEEDLE!"  That's great Honey, but you seem to be missing something.  Oh well, this will all be funny stuff for the blog.

Back to the event.  I had signed us up to go down early in the morning.  I am a get it over with kind of guy.  Then we had a conflict that would have made it hard to come and we would have to miss Jacob's basketball game in the weekend's tournament so I volunteered to go down and try to change our appointment.  When I was there I got to see, for the first time, that I would have to be sitting and watching a lot of other people giving blood.  Is the room spinning?  I changed the appointment to a half hour before the end and went to the game.  All the while I kept telling Sylvia, "Hydrate!  Get ready!  Drink!"  (Jake the way!)

When we came home we ate (that was a rule, remember?) and waited until our time had come.  There were loads of people who I thought were celebrating her birthday (I was young and foolish) and I soon learned that they had already checked in and were waiting to be called into the donating room.  We were given questionnaires that asked all sorts of personal things.  I checked everything the right way, apparently, and they poked my finger with a needle to check my blood!  It was red.  They took my blood pressure and told me that it was twenty points higher than when I checked it at home just an hour earlier.  It was really high but they said I was good to go.  And then we waited.  There were about eight people waiting to go and sit in the blood draw chairs.  One by one they were taken to the process.  I looked around to see if I could find someone that I would choose to do mine.  None of them were dressed like Dracula, I guess any of them would be fine.

Sylvia got called.  I got called.  And they started the process.  I was scrubbed, blood pressured again, they gave me a squeeze ball, and told me to breathe...something I tend to stop doing whenever I am near needles, and then she went to get the collection bag.  And she was gone for a while.  I kept hearing things like, "Well we can take this off of that and use it." and "I cannot believe they didn't provide us with 30% more supplies than we have appointments."   And then Mary Jane, who was my nurse, came to me and said that they had run out of bags but more were coming and it would be about twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes of me sitting there thinking about what was about to happen.  Twenty minutes of watching other people in the middle of their process.  Twenty minutes of seeing the nurses tagging, and clipping, and storing all the bags that they had already collected in coolers at my feet.  And then, as it turned out, it would be twenty minutes alone because Sylvia had already been cutting it close, time wise, and needed to go before she would be able to donate.

I have to tell you.  I thought, "Heck!  This is good!  I can get credit for coming down and being willing while not having to actually get the needle.  But I figured this would be like the time I went bungee jumping.  I was hooked up and ready to go but almost chickened out.  The guy said, if you don't do it now you'll never do it.  AAAAAAAAaaaaaaa.....  I jumped then, and I would do this now.  Sylvia called my mom to come get me and I waited.  This was when I found out that Mary Jane wouldn't be the only person to help me.  There's something about a giant wimpy guy with a big bushy beard.  If someone like that shows that they are weak people tend to feel sorry for them.  I had about four nurses attending to me at any given time.

When the supplies came in for the few of us remaining everyone cheered.  I started to think, well here we go. Well here we go.  Well here we go.  This was my last chance.  I desperately said, "Couldn't you just punch me in the face and hold a bucket under my nose?"  Mary Jane re-scrubbed my arm and told me that something like, "You've got really good veins.  This won't be bad at all."  And then I was stuck.  I had been paying attention to some of the others who had been hooked up and then unhooked due to one reason or another...I hoped that wouldn't be me.  If I went through with this I better save someone's life for crying out loud!  When I mentioned that it actually did hurt a little, Mary Jane said, "That's probably the antiseptic.  You have a are already half done!"  (Did I mention that I hydrated?)
The nurse saw me and took this for me.  She said, "I have to back up to get the blood."  Is the room spinning?

And then she walked away!  I know that no one was being attended to the whole time they were donating but listen up lady!  Did you not see that I have eight stickers!?  Add to that the unrealistic vision I had of my bag overflowing (hydration's the key really) and I began to worry.  One of the other nurses came over and said, "Almost there...*beepbeepbeep*...done!  I assumed my non-breathing, look away, wince, and clench my fist mode when the nurse said, "What are you doing?  It's all done.  You are unhooked."  Ok, so I guess it wasn't that bad.

They all said that I should lay there for an extra ten minutes longer than most people and that was fine with me since I was dizzy (probably from not breathing) and then it was done.  I got up.  I walked to the door.  And got some cookies and ice cream.  I wore my blood donation bandage like a badge of honor for the rest of the night but nobody at the store asked me about it.  Next time I am wearing all of my stickers!  And if you'll excuse me, I am going to go eat a big know, to get ready for next year!