Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Sylvia!!

I am the luckiest man on Earth!  At the risk of sounding like I am writing about our anniversary, I am married to my best friend.  I could not be married to her if she weren't Happy Birthday Sylvia!  

As a thank you to Ruth, my mother-in-law and Sylvia's mom, I always stop by on the morning of Sylvia's birthday to say thank you for, "Borning her in pain." (Ruth's words)  Barring accidents and oversleeping, today will be no different.  Thank you Ruth for raising such a caring and wonderful daughter.  I hope you think I am doing a good job being her husband, in your eyes.  

To Kristiana and Jacob...would it kill you to put your dishes in the dishwasher?  It's mommy's birthday for crying out loud!  Just kidding (not really)  I hope you realize how lucky you are to have her as your mommy.  She would easily give up everything for you.  She will protect you when needed and allow you to learn a lesson when warranted.  I don't think I ever told you this but when you were born, Kristiana, mommy said to me, "I love you with all my heart.  You know that.  But to look at this little child of ours, I can't describe it, the love I feel for her is like none other that I have ever felt before."  Sorry Jake, you were born a deep shade of purple and they had to shout things like "code 999 stat!" while they tried to resuscitate you, so we didn't have the whole Hallmark moment with you.  You should both know that mommy wants the best for you and works hard to make that happen.

To Sylvia, Thank you for putting up with me.  Thank you for giving me two wonderful children, an inviting home, and a heart full of love.  Thank you for not smothering me with a pillow when I didn't hear the baby crying way back when, and also now while I try to snore the hallelujah chorus nightly.  Thank you for having a heart for helping others and for being relentless when fighting to heal others.  Thank you for having a heart that loves God and for being the type of woman that, when your feet hit the floor, the devil says, "Oh crap, she's up."  Thank you for standing by me in good times and in bad, for encouraging me, for allowing me to do what I love.  I wish I could buy you your house in the mountains.  I wish I could take you to Hawaii.  I wish we could re-live our wedding and go to Jamaica again!  I wish I could shower you with everything that you deserve.  We've done the "poorer" portion of our wedding vows...what do you say we cross our fingers for the "richer" part to come our way.  I have to admit, however, that walking hand in hand around the lake or even just to the store, is my favorite place to be.  Happy Birthday Honey!  I Love You!

And finally, dear readers...for you I have a request.  Today, as you know, is my lovely bride's birthday.  I was thinking that it would be fun to get greetings from as many of you as I possibly can.  I know that I have people who have stumbled upon my blog from places near and far and I would like to get well wishes to give to Sylvia from all over the globe, in as many languages as I can.  If you would be so kind as to leave a comment for her, here on the blog, I would appreciate it.  She would too.  I mean help a guy out...this is the only present I have for her!  (kidding!)  (not really)


Monday, February 20, 2012

To Buy...Or Not To Buy

Sylvia and I have been lucky enough to have friends in high places.  Some of these places include...there was the one who....and that one wouldn't really be considered a high place... well, I suppose there aren't really all that many.  But we do have friends who own timeshares and are willing to share their time with us.  I don't really want to mention their names here, (unlike my cousin Kim and her friend Bernadette who have been given the mission of spreading the word about my blog) but we have two sets of friends who have generously shared their points with us.  (I'll get to the points in a minute...which coincidentally is exactly what the salesperson told us)

I don't want to seem like I am mocking our timeshare vacations.  They have typically been offered to us at times when a.) we desperately needed to get away.  And b.) we wouldn't have been able to afford getting away unless there was some sort of "deal" on a hotel.  Last weekend was just such a time.  I told our friends that Sylvia was just about "one more thing" away from becoming a serial killer and I was equally far away from being described to reporters as "a quiet neighbor."  In comes the offer.

When our friends bought their timeshare it was in such a way that they could buy extra time (points) and pay just a tiny percentage of what they would need to pay at a hotel or to buy more permanent shares.  We pay them back for the extra points and we get to stay in a pretty nice little unit with two bedrooms, a dining room, two bathrooms, a washer and drier, a balcony, and a kitchen.  It's a little condo complex in Angels Camp, CA that we invade maybe once or twice a year.  There are so many things to do on the grounds that it would be hard to point them all out here.  The one thing that makes me hesitate to stay there at all is that they try to get you to buy in to their little slice of heaven while you stay there.

I don't want you to think that they are obnoxious.  They take "no" for an answer very easily but they try to entice you to at least listen to their spiel to see if it may be something you might be interested in.  Most of the time we politely decline.  This time we decided to take another look.  I have to admit, the $100 American Express card they offered to "just listen" was the pebble that tipped the scale.  We went in, just before we were about to head home, and told our presenter that we were essentially here for the incentive and that we really couldn't afford to buy in.  He said, "I hear that all the time!" turned the brochure booklet around to face us, started tapping his finger on all of the wonderful exotic places that we could be going to, and proceeded to give us the entire talk.

About three minutes into the talk he asked if we had ever been there and had we ever seen the movie presentation that explains how their system works.  I said an emphatic, "YES!" and I turned the booklet back toward him.  Sylvia entered a much meeker, "Maybe."  I looked at her and thought, 'I thought we agreed that we would just tell them no and then leave.'  He then turned the booklet back to us and talked about how the points worked and we explained that we knew all about it since we were riding on the points coattails of our friends.  (I turned the booklet back toward him) He, luckily, decided that we had indeed seen the movie and we wouldn't need to see it again.  Then he lowered the boom.

"You know, since you have already seen the presentation I cannot offer you the premiere package.  The cost is double and the amount you have to buy is triple so we would need to come up with $50,000 to join but it's good that we came in today because the price would be going up at the end of the month."  He turned the book back toward us.  "Suppose you wanted to go to Hawaii...take a look at how few points you will need!"

I excused myself so I could unscrew my hollow leg and shake all the stacks of hundreds and twenties out so we could pay for this and said, "I think we are done.  There is no way we could afford anything even close to this and I was even thinking that we couldn't really afford to buy our friends' extra points for the weekend."   (but we couldn't afford not to since prison uniform orange really isn't Sylvia's color). I turned the booklet back toward him. He wouldn't let us up.  He started talking money.  He asked, "How many days do you stay in a hotel per year? How many days a year do you go camping?"  He then did some calculating on what looked to be the largest calculator that I had ever seen, and announced proudly, "Over the next forty years you will have wasted $46,000!  Not accounting for inflation.  Can't you see that!?"  (Booklet back toward us.)

I said quietly, "No, we won't have wasted anything.  We got away.  We have memories.  We got a return on our investment."

"Yes, but you will have nothing to show for it!"

"Well, if I am hearing you correctly, since we no longer qualify for the premiere plan then after forty years we will still have nothing to show for it since we are only able to rent these shares for the next forty years.  Unlike the premiere owners who get to will theirs to their kids."

"Umm, yes, but you are owners until then."  He then said, out of the blue, "You look like an author.  Are you an author?"

I was taken aback.  "Um yes...sort of...I write a blog."

"That's awesome.  I don't know.  You just look like you write."

That gave me an idea.  I turned the booklet back toward him and started tapping on all the pages.  I said, "I'll tell you what.  Here's the deal.  Your company gives me 50,000 points.  My family and I will travel all over the world using these points and then I will write all about our experiences in my blog.  It'll be great!  You will have more customers than you will know what to do with!  Lines outside the door!  You'll run out of American Express cards!  What do you think!?"

At this point he laughed, closed the book and put it away.  And this was the first time he wasn't absolutely sure of what to say, "We can't do...advertising team...whole division...any other questions? heh heh"

We got information for my dad and Sylvia's mom (it really does seem like a nice idea...we just really can't afford it) and went to collect our AmEx cards, gave it to our friends to help offset the cost of the weekend, and went on our merry way.

In closing, I would like to offer all of you first time readers a premiere membership in my blog. (My booklet is still being printed...just imagine that I am turning to toward you)  For the low low cost of "FREE" you can become a follower, share it on Facebook, and even write comments to me.  But hurry, corporate has informed me that there are big changes coming at the end of the month...I don't know what they are yet, but they are big.  I would hate for you to only be able to get the standard readership which involves all of the benefits of premiere but means that you have to also come and do a brake job on my truck.  Bring your own tools.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bernadette, Kim's Friend

I warned her this would happen.  I said, "Don't laugh.  It only encourages me."  Did she listen?  No.  She went ahead and did the unthinkable...she suggested reading my blog to her friends.  There's no stopping me now!  Bernadette, I hope you are happy!

My cousin Kim, at the apparent risk of increasing my cranial pressure to dangerous and skull expanding levels, (she didn't want my head to swell) sent me the posting from her friend's Facebook page.   It was very nice.  She shared the link to my blog on her own site and then wrote a little something about it saying that she could relate to what I had written about the DMV, and that everyone should go check it out for a laugh or two.  Do you have any idea what kind of pressure that puts me under?!  Now I have to try to be "stranger funny!"  I have been getting by being "family funny" and even "friend funny" for quite some time...I'm not sure I am ready for the big leagues.  In order to be funny for people who don't know me, I will have to pull out all the stops!  With my family I just have to do the literary equivalent of, " 'member, you 'member, huh! "  With friends (and people my mom pay to be nice to me) they have all seen me do my impromptu comedy bits, so it is relatively easy for them to imagine me telling off the doctor or begging for mercy at the hands of the slowest DMV worker in recorded history.  I don't have that luxury in total strangers.  I'm going to have to really step up my game if I don't want to embarrass poor Bernadette.  Her credibility is on the line and I cannot disappoint her at this stage in the game.

I don't know too much about her.  She has been friends with my cousin for a long time, they used to go to a school that required wearing uniforms, and (this is terribly important) she has excellent taste in reading material.  She took complimenting it to the next level and told her friends about my little corner of the internet and really put the screws to me.  I couldn't help but go back and look at what I had written after the one about the DMV.  It was about snoring.  Talk about a let down.  If I were to be just tuning in to a new blog and the subject was snoring...well, you can draw your own conclusions.  Let me just say that TLC does not have a new show lined up based entirely on snoring...although it may be coming soon considering what they have been cranking out lately.  Pretty soon it'll be ice truckers who transport short bigamist moonshiners with 30 plus kids that are trying to find out which wedding dress will fit into their overly cluttered house...while snoring.  I don't know about you but I am crossing my fingers!

I suppose I could just rest on my laurels (not sure what those are exactly but I suspect they are in the posterior region and that if you rest on them too long you need to soak in epsom salts) and continue to crank out the same sort of mediocrity that has garnered me a modest amount of fame in the Slovenian wilderness!  (I'm big in Slovenia!)  But no!  I will meet this new task with honor, hard work, and silly sounding words like kumquat, fahrvergnugen, and Abu Dhabi!  (coincidentally, those words are all banned in Slovenia)

In writing this I would like to point out that no one is safe and I could write a blog about any one of you.  I never know where I am going to end up, typing wise, when I sit at the computer.  I just start with an idea and run with it...actually, I let my fingers do the running.  I would like to say that I had an idea brewing for quite some time, I developed characters, and painstakingly wrote, edited, and rewrote over a period of weeks.  No, I pretty much use the million monkeys banging on a million keyboards approach to writing and that is how I end up writing about snoring.  I swear, today, it was either write about Bernadette and Kim or too much food at holiday dinners.  Only time, and the history books, will let me know if I made the right choice!

Another thing I wanted to do today was thank Miss Bernadette for the compliment of sharing my blog and suggesting it to her friends.  It wasn't that hard to do right?...I even put a "share" button on the left side of the blog.  If you are logged into Facebook and hit the "share" button you will be able to put my link on your site for a brief moment in time.  If you wanted to do this every time I wrote something new, that would be awesome.  If you have several friends on Facebook who are publishers and are looking to pay people millions of dollars to write silly little articles about going to the DMV, buying (or not buying) a timeshare, or even getting lost in the woods on a tortured bike ride, then I encourage you to post my link on your site every fifteen minutes until I tell you to stop.  If you happen to have George Lucas on your friend list, "This is the droid blog you are looking for."  If we don't all work together as a team then this blog will never be made into a movie, Kurt Russell will never play me, Bonnie Hunt will never play Sylvia, and Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez will never play Kim or Bernadette.  Only you can make this happen!  And if your Facebook friend is the one who makes us move into the movie realm...then I will let you pick who you want to play your character on the big screen!  Just sayin'!

Now if you'll excuse me...I need to go get some ear grease so I can get my abnormally swollen head through our average sized door frames.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I was in the snow with a bunch of junior high students and there was no internet.  They were doing fine with it but I was having a bit of the writing itch and thought I would be able to take notes on my phone without anyone being bothered too much.  I was having to write this with an "app" on my cell phone and save it for when I came down the mountain.  There is a tiny light on the screen that looked like a movie-premiere searchlight in the pitch black cabin in the middle of the freezing cold woods, but the slight annoyance of having a tiny light is more than made up for when you consider that I was giving the junior high students a head start on getting to sleep.  This is important.  It seems I snore "like a rusty chainsaw that has never been oiled."  That is a direct quote from one of the previous victims of my nocturnal cacophony. 

Forgive me for jumping back and forth, and sideways, with my verb tenses...Like I said, I wrote it in the mountains after a long day of sliding around on the ice and snow.

Lucky for me, but mostly for them, they are just about as tired as can be, and I can already hear them snoring their tiny little snores.  Ha!  Amateurs!  Apparently when I really get going I can scare people into thinking there is an impending grizzly attack.  Makes you all appreciate all the nice things I've said about Sylvia even more now...right?  

I'm not an insensitive clod who relishes in causing pour souls sleepless nights.  Far from it.  I went out and bought an economy pack of industrial earplugs so they can be spared my aural assault.  Most of the boys took me up on the offer, but some brave souls said,"I'm a heavy sleeper, I'll be fine."  I told them it was ok with me but two things... I'm not even close to exaggerating and don't try to wake me up at three in the morning digging for them while screaming, "Dear God! What is that noise!?  Give me the darn earplugs!"  

I have high hopes that we will have a great night.  Well, I know I will.  I'm not so sure about the rest of the cabin... Or three cabins on either side of us.  Hopefully they will have brought ear protection as well.

A little about the camp, it's Hume Lake and it is wonderful!  Once a year for the past few years I've taken a group from our church up here to snow camp.  It's a great place that really puts on a well run program.  The pattern is that there's a speaker, wonderful worship, great food, and more activities than can be described in the little time I have here.  It's pretty cold but we have it easy compared to two years ago.  This year the weather is dipping into the thirties at night.  Oh no! I'm scared of the little low temperature.  I might have to put on gloves.  Two years ago, when the youth pastor conveniently couldn't make it, he sent me up here without him.  It was ten degrees below zero!!  We could probably have dealt with the ridiculously low temp but one of the activities involved standing on the side of a sledding hill watching crazy teenagers slide down in giant homemade cardboard creations...this is called the "Boxsled Blitz!"  I have another name for it.  I call it, "Dude, your lips are totally blue!"

As a church group, we decided that we would be the group that takes the championship.  We have a relatively small group (two vans full) compared to other churches and their two busloads!  But we have a winning combination:  A vision for things that are over the top.  An abundance of cardboard.  An overabundance of duct tape. A youth pastor who is more than a little competitive.  And ten crazy eager teenagers who are willing to suit up in snow gear and hockey helmets, drag a forty pound sled in the shape of a Pringles mustache up a hill, and then climb in and slide toward a ramp in the middle of the icy hill!  It is quite a sight to behold.  We, of course, won first place...for the second time in a row...but that isn't why we were there.  If you want to find out what the camp is all about, they have a website and you can look at them here.

Back to the poor guys in the cabin.  We had one ask me, at about 2 in the morning, to help him find his way back to the cabin.  

"Uh, Pal, we are in the cabin."  (I fumbled for my phone and used the screen light as a flashlight)

"Oh"  THUD!  (He hopped down from the top bunk and started to walk to the front door)

"Where ya going?"

"I have to go to the bathroom."

"Well it's 30 degrees outside...didn't you want to go to the heated restroom?  It's over there."

"Oh...yeah..." (he turned around and started shuffling the correct way)

My "I am a sound sleeper" co-cabin leader looked at me and mentioned that he may be a sleepwalker...and asked, "And where the heck are those earplugs!"  

(heh heh)