Monday, December 31, 2012

Shopping for Some Happy Holidays

It seemed simple enough. I needed to get out and do some last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. The Wife wanted me out of the house so she could wrap some presents. And, we needed to get a few things at the grocery store. No problem, right?

It started out pleasantly enough. I pulled in to Shopko and, although the parking lot was crowded, I was able to find a spot in the first lane that I turned down. (For those of you who don't know, Shopko is a middle-class department store chain around here.)(Classier than Kmart, but not as "prestigious" as Target.)

It was snowing, so I had to pick through the shopping carts to find one that wasn't wet. The main reason I went to Shopko that day was to get a calendar for The Wife's uncle, who was visiting from New York state. (As opposed to New York City.) The Wife's uncle and aunt have talked about moving to Utah from New York, so we thought it would be a good idea to get him a calendar with scenic pictures from Utah to help encourage them to move here. (We like them. Them's good peoples.)  And I knew, from previous visits to Shopko, that they had two big racks full of calendars to choose from.

But, since I specifically wanted a scenic Utah calendar, the one thing they did not have was, of course, a scenic Utah calendar. Oh, they had calendars featuring butterflies, lighthouses, cute puppies, ladybugs, cows, and Justin Biebers, but no scenic Utah.

(Isn't it annoying when you are looking for a certain thing, and you know you've seen it at the stores, but when it comes time to buy it you can't find it anywhere? The worst such instance for me was the year my brother caught my Mom reading a romance novel titled  The Cowboy Under the Christmas Tree. We teased and teased her about it. That Christmas, I thought it would be funny to get her a toy cowboy as a present, so she could have an actual cowboy under her Christmas tree. But, I could not find a toy cowboy for the life of me. The Wife and I looked at five or six different stores and couldn't find a single toy cowboy anywhere, not even those cheap little plastic cowboy and Indian sets that are like the little army men! Of course, as soon as that Christmas had passed we saw toy cowboys everywhere. They mocked us with their abundance.)

(I now fully expect to see scenic Utah calendars in every store I go to for the next several months.)

Merry Christmas! Please buy some useless stuff!

Having found about 15% of the things that I wanted to find at Shopko, I made my purchases and sloshed my way back to the car. I had one more stop: the grocery store. I could see as I approached the store that it was pretty busy. Usually when I pull up to a store, I'll drive past a few distant parking spots in hopes that there will be one closer to the store. On this Christmas Eve however, that was not my strategy. I immediately determined that I would pull into any spot I could find.

That determintaion didn't help me in the least. The first lane I pulled into was full, from the street to the store. The second lane I pulled down also offered no empty spots. I tried another lane; not only were there no parking spots, but I couldn't pull through because there was a Christmas tree lot at the end of it. (Why, at the one time they actually need all of their parking spots, do they fill twenty or thirty of them with Christmas trees?) (Really, on Christmas Eve those parking spots are about as valuable as gold, frankincense, and maybe even myrrh!)

As I grew more and more frustrated with circling through the parking lot (along with twenty or so of my fellow parking spot seekers, some of whom had started to stalk shoppers heading back to their cars, hovering over their soon-to-be-vacant spots like vultures,) I decided to think outside the box. Based on my experience from delivering to grocery stores in the past, I knew that sometimes there were a few spaces behind the store where I might park. So, I worked my way over and found a spot behind the sporting goods store next to the grocery store. Sure it was a good, long slosh through the slush to get to the front of the store, but at least I had found someplace to park!

I was actually surprised to find a row of about fifteen shopping carts still available when I walked in the store. (When I left the store there were none. Outgoing shoppers were handing their used carts to incoming shoppers like Olympians handing the baton at a relay race.) The store was very crowded. I got the bread I needed without incident, but it was a bit of a fight to get the baker's chocolate that The Wife had on the list. Mostly because the brand she suggested I buy was sold out, so I had to check the labels of the stuff that was on the shelf. And the traffic clog of shopping carts trying to get down the aisle wasn't very patient with me and my slow label-reading skills. (Sometimes that fine print is very fine.)

I got what I needed and headed for checkout. (I looked for a scenic Utah calendar there, too. I'm sure I'll see several on next week's grocery trip.) On a normal day I sometimes wonder why they have so many checkstands. I was not wondering that on this day. All 16 checkout lanes were open. And all 16 checkout lanes had about ten people waiting in line at each one. Each checkout line worked its way down into one of the shopping aisles. It was a long wait to get to the register. And it was full of several exchanges like this:

Dumb guy (trying to get his shopping cart in front of mine): "Is this the line?"
Me (pointing towards the back of the store): "No. That is the line."

Eventually I made it to the register and purchased my foodstuffs. I got back to my car and drove home in the snow. And you know, it's great to have snow on Christmas Eve so you can have a "White Christmas." Until you have to go out and shovel it. (If Bing Crosby were still alive I just might punch him in the nose.)

Still, I made it through my Christmas Eve shopping experience, and we managed to have a very good Christmas! And I hope you all had some happy holidays, too!

Yes. I said "Happy Holidays." I've said it before and I'll say it again.

The term "Happy Holidays" has gotten a bit of a bad rap (or is it a bad "wrap?") lately. Some people think you should only say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so you don't offend people who don't celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, other people think that if you ever utter the phrase "Happy Holidays" it means you are buckling under to the politcally correct, and you are somehow trying to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas."

I'm sorry, but I'm going to say "Happy Holidays" whenever I darn well feel like it! (I'm also going to say "Merry Christmas" whenever I feel like it, too.) If you get offended, I'm sorry. Maybe you need to get some thicker skin. I'm not a mother, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy Mother's Day." I'm not a president, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy President's Day." I'm not a tree, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy Arbor Day." (Just for the record, no one has ever wished me a "Happy Arbor Day.") (Maybe this year.)

Back in the day (before the politically correct police and before the politically correct police backlash) "Happy Holidays" was a term that often was used as shorthand for "Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." You see, the "Holidays" in "Happy Holidays" is plural. (There's even an "s" on the end and everything!) Sometimes, people would even use "Happy Holidays" to refer to the entire season between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And that's okay.

So, just because someone says "Happy Holidays," it doesn't mean they are a left-leaning pinko commie. And just because someone says "Merry Christmas," it doesn't mean they are right-wing, gun-toting redneck. What it probably means, in either instance, is that they are wishing you well. So, don't be offended. Because it's better that they are wishing you well than meaning you harm.

That said, my suggestion is that if you truly want to have "Happy Holidays," you might want to get your shopping done before Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Crack Problem

I have a problem with crack.

And once you have a problem with crack, you will always have a problem with crack. It won't go away. It's just a matter of how well you can cover it up.

Some people have no idea they have a crack problem. They go through the course of their life as if nothing is wrong. But, if you truly have a crack problem, that's all anyone else will see. They won't see you as a person, they'll just see you for the crack. So, one of the first steps in successfully dealing with a crack problem is admitting that you have a crack problem.

I know I have a crack problem. My wife has been great in helping me with my crack problem. She has stood by me, not been judgemental, and offered to help in any way she can. And, she has come up with the best solution I have yet found for dealing with my crack problem: Really long shirts.

(I am, of course, talking about my butt crack problem.)

I've always thought of myself as a normal-ish looking guy. As I've said before, if you took 50 guys at random, I would not be one of the ten handsomest, nor would I be one of the ten ugliest. I would be one of the 30 guys covering the middle ground. I'm a fairly big guy, standing at 6' 2" and 240 pounds. Those numbers would be pretty good for an NFL linebacker or running back. (Unfortunately, my belly fat-to-muscle ratio numbers would not be anywhere near good enough for the NFL.) (Besides, as someone once said, "you gotta be fast to play linebacker.")

I never thought of myself as having an unusually long torso. But then, I met my wife. I'm a full four inches taller than her. (Which is a good thing, because standing at 5' 10" she made the decision that she would not date anyone shorter than her. I know it sounds a bit discriminatory, but I'm okay with it because it meant she was still available when I came around.) (Sorry, short guys.)

Even though I'm four inches taller than her, our legs are the same length. This is great for driving, because we never have to adjust the seat in the car. As opposed to when I was young and got in the car after my mom had been driving. I don't know how many times I whacked my knees against the dash and steering wheel because I didn't pre-adjust the seat. (My mom is 5' 2".) (Although some of those poofy 1970's hairdos bumped her up to as much as 5' 5".) So, I don't have to adjust the seat, but, because of my unusually long torso, I do have to adjust the mirrors, because when I get in after my wife has driven they seem to be pointing straight into the ground.

At first I thought that my wife and I having legs the same length was because she had unusually long legs. But then I thought it might be my unusually long torso. (It's probably a little of both.)

It took me a while to admit that I had a crack problem. Sure, I would feel that occasional breeze hit me between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants when I would bend over or sit down, but everyone gets that sometimes, right? I would think that my shirt wasn't reaching my pants in the back because of my oversized gut in the front. Maybe it was because my pants weren't tall enough. (The Wife actually thinks this is part of the problem. She thinks I wear my pants too low. It's a fair criticism, but I really doubt she would like it if I went full Urkel on her.) (No one wants to hear, as my aunt once said to my grandpa, "Hey, are those pants a little tight on your armpits?")

So, before I fully came to terms with my crack problem, The Wife was trying to fix it. She started buying me longer shirts. My regular shirt size is "extra-large." (XL) You would think if they made a shirt that was "extra" larger than regular large, that some of that "extra-ness" might go to the length of the shirt. No. All of that "extra-ness" is used to get around the belly and the chest. Adding another "X" (as in XXL, XXXL) doesn't help the length of the shirt. (Besides the fact that those bigger sizes seem like names for future Super Bowls.) (Maybe the Vikings can finally get a win in Super Bowl XXXL.)

The Wife was able to find a shirt size called "XLT," which stands for "extra large tall." These shirts were a godsend. I started wearing them and suddenly I wasn't noticing that butt-crack breeze as much. I could sit in a vinyl chair without having to peel my lower back off of it like a piece of fruit leather. It didn't take long for me to notice the difference between the "XLT" shirts and the "XL" shirts, and start seeking out the "XLTs." I think that is when I finally started to come to terms with my crack problem.

Unfortunately, the "XLTs" are pretty hard to find. Most stores don't offer them. The Wife usually has to scour the interwebs to find them. And even then, not all "XLT" shirts are created equal. Some "XLTs" still aren't long enough for my unusually long torso, especially after a few washings. And some of the "XLTs" are actually a little too long, seeming almost more like a tunic or a muumuu than a shirt. (But, and I think this goes to show how much I am determined to beat my crack problem, I would rather wear a tunic than expose my butt crack anymore.)

There are a lot of people who could benefit from "XLT" shirts. (I work in the truck driver industry. Believe me, there are a lot of people who could benefit.)(And not just the ones who wear the shirts.) I'm surprised an enterprising "XLT" shirt manufacturer doesn't set up shop at a plumber's convention. "XLT" shirts could also find huge sales if marketed as "tramp stamp" covers, especially as the bodies of those women who fell for the "tramp stamp" fad begin to age and sag. (Sorry for that image.)

So, yes, I have a crack problem. I know it, and I'm working on correcting it. It's going to be a lifelong problem. I'm going to have to be diligent about it for as long as I live. Because no one wants to see my butt crack. Not even (maybe even especially) my wife.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm NOT Loving It: Finding a Foreign Object In My McDonald's Burger

First of all, let's get one thing straight: The arches are yellow. They are NOT golden. Anyone who ever had a 64-count Crayola set knows that "yellow" and "gold" are two different colors. Those arches are yellow.

Over the years I've learned a lot of things from McDonald's. As a kid, I learned that's it's okay to put cheese on a fish sandwich. (The lesson? Cheese makes everything better.) I learned, as a very young boy, that my Grandma could eat two Big Macs in one sitting. (The lesson? Grandma was AWESOME!!!) I learned that it is possible to have "too much of a good thing." (The lesson? I shouldn't have had that third triple cheeseburger.)

As a guy who was single until he was 40, I frequented McDonald's frequently. And now, as a father of a two year old and a four year old, I still frequent McDonald's (just not quite as frequently.) As a concerned parent, giving consumers the choice of apple slices or french fries in Happy Meals was very smart. Then, deciding to include both apple slices and french fries was brilliant.

Not all of McDonald's moves have been smart, though. I remember when they tried to introduce "McPizza." It was like a slab of school lunch cafeteria pizza, only not as good. Then there was the "McDLT," which promised to keep the "hot side hot and the cool side cool." Instead, it was killed by this unspoken motto: "Same amount of burger; twice as much styrofoam."

And then there is the "McRib," a limited-time sandwich with a cult-like international following, which proves the old axiom: "People Is Stupid." The "McRib" is Horrible On a Bun. It is a pre-formed slice of meat-like substance (which looks and tastes like a bathroom sponge,) covered in sauce. (They say it is barbecue sauce. I disagree. It tastes like some sort of mixture of barbecue sauce and dish soap.) Every five years or so, I try a "McRib" again to see if they improved it or if my assessment of it was wrong, and every five years or so I am again completely disgusted. (I have a friend who gets the dry heaves at the mere mention of the "McRib.")

What makes the success of the "McRib" so infuriating is that around the time it came out, McDonald's offered another limited-time sandwich that was actually worthy of a cult-like international following. It was called the "Cheddar Melt," and it was fantastic! It was a quarter-pound burger on a rye bun with sauteed onions and cheddar cheese sauce (similar to the cheese sauce from  Arby's Beef N Cheddar.) Unfortunately, the "Cheddar Melt" was only given a couple of limited-time runs, and then it was never heard from again.

So, that's why I was so excited when I saw that McDonald's was offering the "CBO," a new limited-time burger with some similarities to the old "Cheddar Melt." The "CBO" stands for "cheddar," "bacon" and "onions."

(Just for clarification, McDonald's "CBO" should not be confused with the Star Wars droid C3PO.)

(Also, for the record, C3PO is golden. The arches are yellow.)

Let's break the "CBO" down. Cheddar: I like cheese. Melted cheese makes everything taste better. We have a saying around our house: "Cheese is for heroes!" (I think it's a quote from Chuck Norris.)

Bacon: I'm a big fan of bacon, and everyone who knows me knows this. So much so, that when anyone sees anything related to bacon, they post it on my Facebook wall. In fact, my Facebook wall is almost literally wallpapered with pictures of bacon. (I'm just not sure if it should be a "bowlful of bacon" or a "bowl full of bacon.") (Either way....bacon!!!)

Onions: I used to not like onions. Then I figured out what I didn't like were raw onions. Cook those onions up and they are delicious!

So, one late Saturday evening I was quite happy to ditch my regular dollar menu fare and splurge on a "CBO." We had gone as a family to a wedding reception. It was late, and we were hungry, so we stopped at McDonald's. (Parenting tip: If you want your kids to be able to play in the Playplace without having to deal with all those other unwashed, misbehaving kids around, take them there at 9:00 PM or later. Most other parents are responsible enough to have their little heathen tykes home and in bed at that hour. Even in Redneckia, Utah.)

And then, I bit into it. I was immediately disappointed. The burger was dry. (It would have moistened it up a bit if the cheese had been in sauce form.) I didn't know anyone could ruin bacon, but they did. It was overcooked past the point of "crispy." It was hard and dry and more resembled the bacon-ish dog food "Beggin' Strips" than any bacon I had ever eaten. And the onions were chopped up so small that they looked like slugs or boogers.

I was not enjoying my burger. And then, it got worse. It's never good when you have to stop what you are eating and say, "Wait, what is this thing?" I had just taken a bite when I noticed a piece of clear plastic roughly the size of a 50-cent piece. I didn't know exactly what to do. So I showed it to The Wife. "This was in my sandwich," I said to her, pointing at the plastic.

I then debated what to do next. Should I finish my burger? Of course not. (Although I did wonder for a few seconds because I was hungry.) I thought about just putting the burger down and saying nothing, but The Wife (rightly) said I needed to bring it to their attention, if for no other reason as to make sure it didn't happen to someone else. Also, I wanted to find out what exactly it was that was in my sandwich.

You always hear about people finding foreign objects in their food. Usually it's either a finger or a mouse. My foreign object was a piece of plastic. (Of course, I'm not sure if my foreign substance was actually foreign or not. It may have been domestic.)

I took my burger and its protruding plastic up to the counter and asked for the manager. Through a bit of detective work it was determined that the plastic in my burger was from the wrapping around the cheese slices. She asked if I wanted a new burger. I pondered for a second, then said yes. (I really was hungry.) She also offered me a shake. I wasn't sure I wanted one until she mentioned that one of the flavors was egg nog. I love egg nog. The Wife, however, hates egg nog, so I wouldn't get to share my shake with her. (Or wouldn't have to share it with her, depending on your point of view.)

I took my new, free burger back to my booth and ate it. I didn't enjoy it. It was as dry and uninviting as the first one was, except it didn't have any plastic in it. (That I know of.) (Although the chance of it being laced with the spit of McDonald's employees was significantly higher.) I probably should have asked for a different sandwich (a Filet-O-Fish or something) or insisted the whole meal be comped or something.

Maybe, like with the "McRib," I'll try the "CBO" again in five years or so and hope for a better experience. But, for now, I think I'll avoid the yellow arches for a while. My last expereince there was far from golden.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks or No Thanks

I'm thankful that Thanksgiving comes around every year to give me a reason to be thankful.

I'm not thankful that I'm too stupid to appreciate all the things I'm thankful for that I need a holiday with the word "Thanks" in its title to bash me over the head. (I should also be more grateful for flags on days other than Flag Day.)

I'm thankful for my wonderful wife and my two cute kids.

I'm not thankful for idiot drivers. (And it's amazing that pretty much every other driver on the road is an idiot. If they drive slower than me they are a "Grandpa Gomer." If they drive faster than me they are a dangerous, reckless lawbreaker. And if they drive the same speed as me they need to give me a little space.)

I'm thankful for all the people who serve in the military, putting their lives on the line to protect our country and the world. (People like my nephew Cody and my brother-in-law Jordan.) (One of the benefits of Veteran's Day being so close to Thanksgiving is that by the time turkey day rolls around I still have our soldiers and their sacrifices on my mind.)

I'm not thankful for the idiots, morons, and despots who start wars and make it necessary for our soldiers to put their lives in jeopardy.

I'm thankful I won't be going out for the "Black Friday" sales. (We did that last year, and it was a "once.")

I'm not thankful for "Black Friday Creep." "Black Friday Creep" is either the fact that the "Black Friday" sales are starting earlier and earlier on Thursday evening, or it's that guy with the mullet, tank top, and back hair that crowded in front of us at Target last year. Either way, it's not pretty.

I'm thankful the Detroit Lions play football every Thanksgiving. Why? Because if I miss the game while I'm eating or visiting with family it's no big deal. After all, it's just the Detroit Lions. (Only two things have been entertaining about the Detroit Lions in the last 30 years: a) Barry Sanders and b) Eric Hipple's beard.)

I'm not thankful the Dallas Cowboys play every Thanksgiving. Unless they lose. (I still have fond memories of Randy Moss toasting the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.) (This year? Go Redskins!)

I'm thankful for the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Chiefs. Because whenever I think life as a Minnesota Vikings fan is tough, I look at those teams and realize things could be worse. (Much, much, much worse.)

I'm not thankful for "reality" television.

I'm thankful for a four year old girl who says funny things that make me laugh. (Like this fall when the wind was blowing a bunch of leaves across the road and she said, "Are those leaves having fun? It looks like those leaves are having fun!")

I'm not thankful for gout. (I really could do without.)

I'm thankful for a two year old boy who has a smile that lights up a room, and who loves to have me read him books. (Except for when he starts whacking me in the stomach with a book in order to get me to read it to him.)

I'm not thankful falling asleep to a television show, then waking up in the middle of the night to a loud and annoying show on the same station. (Reruns of The Nanny are especially egregious at 3:00 AM.)

I'm thankful that instead of getting-married-for-the-sake-of-getting-married when I was younger, I waited around for someone who was right for me. (My wife is amazing, incredible, and fantastic!)

I'm not thankful for....Oh, who am I kidding? I'm just reaching for things to not be thankful for. I've got so many things to be thankful for, and so little reasons to be grumpy!

I'm thankful for my family. My wife. My kids. My brother and his family. My sister and her family. My Mom and Dad. My wife's family. My friends.

I'm thankful for chocolate chip pancakes on Thanksgiving morning. (Possibly a new holiday tradition?)

In fact, I'm so thankful for everything, I should be walking around with the goofiest smile on my face at all times. If you ever see me not smiling, please tell me to smile.

I'll proabably thank you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Politics of Stealing Candy on Halloween

I try to be a good parent, but sometimes I fall asleep on the job. Literally.

I know I shouldn't, but it does happen occasionally. Take today, for instance. Two nights a week, including last night, I get off work at 2:00 AM. That's an ungodly hour of the night. (On the plus side, I was actually able to leave on time last night. Many nights it takes me fifteen minutes to an hour extra to get finished up so I can leave.)

So, I got home at 2:30, and found my way to a corner of the bed around 2:45. I say "corner of the bed" because that's what I usually end up with. We have a king size bed. It is very big. And yet The Wife usually finds a way to angle herself across three-quarters of the bed. As a math teacher, I'm sure The Wife could figure out an equation to determine how one small object (The Wife) could take up as much space as possible on one large object (the king size bed.) I don't need an equation, because I see it in practice all the time. (It's okay, though. I love her very much, and I'd still rather share a corner of the bed with her than try the couch.)

Anyway, I got to bed around 2:45. The Wife's alarm goes off at 5:45. (Sometimes I hear it, sometimes I don't.) (Of course, sometimes she hears it, and sometimes she doesn't.) Even if I do hear it, I usually go back to sleep until about 7:15, when The Wife leaves for work. The kids usually wake up a few minutes after The Wife leaves, so I have to get up to tend to them.

In other words, the two times a week I work the night shift, I usually end up getting between two and five hours of sleep. So, as the day progresses, sometimes I fall asleep while watching the kids.

That's what happened today. After breakfast I sat in my chair and got out the computer, checking out and such. And I dozed off for a few minutes. When I opened my eyes, The Boy was eating a Tootsie Pop from his Halloween stash.

A quick aside: It's Halloween morning, and yet the kids already have a "Halloween stash." Why? Because Halloween has become a week-long party. First, the kids had a "trunk-or-treat" in Grammy's neighborhood on Saturday. Then they got dressed up again and got more candy at The Boy's playgroup on Monday. On Tuesday, it was The Girl's pre-school's Halloween party. So, by the time they go out tonight for actual Halloween, it will be the fourth time they get into their costumes to beg for candy! (Back when I was a kid, Halloween was one night of the year! And we didn't go car-to-car in a parking lot for our candy, we had to walk the entire town and knock on every door!) (One of the good things about growing up in a town as small as Arimo is that we literally could and did knock on every door in town!)

An aside to the aside: The kids costumes are awesome! They are going out as Minnie and Mickey Mouse this year. The Wife made and put together the costumes herself, and she did an amazing job! (Okay, she didn't make the mouse ears. We got them at Disneyland. But still, she did an outstanding job with their costumes!) I am going dressed as Goofy. I was very proud of coming up with the costume by myself last year, without any help from The Wife. I figured I could get several years of mileage out of it. But, The Wife says this, the second year, will be the last year I get to wear it. She doesn't want me to turn into my brother. (We love him, but my brother John, a Green Bay Packer fan, has been a "Cheesehead" on Halloween for 20 straight years.)

Minnie and Mickey
Anyway, (asides aside) when I woke up, The Boy was eating a Tootsie Pop. Now, if he had wanted to sneak a candy and not get caught, this is the worst choice he could have made. Why? Because: a) it takes him 30 minutes to eat one; and 2) even if I had still been asleep when he finished, the sticky evidence would be stuck on his face. No, The Boy didn't have a care at all if he were caught or not, he just wanted the candy.

The Girl, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. She knows what is right and wrong, and doesn't like it when she gets caught doing wrong. So, she tries to put a spin on it. She is very good at this. With her ability to deflect questions and give vague answers, I think she might have a future in politics. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Did you have a piece of candy?"
The Girl: "Maybe."
Me: "Did you have a piece of candy?"
The Girl: "My brother wanted me to have some." (I like how she still hasn't admitted that she had any, and tries to pass the blame to him.)
Me: "Did you have a piece of candy?"
The Girl: "I was going to ask you, but you were asleep." (Still hasn't admitted, now trying to blame me.)
Me: "Did you have a piece of candy? YES or NO?" (I was going with the parental approach of asking the same question until you get the answer you want, raising my voice a little each time I asked. She was being so evasive that this time I added the "Yes or no?" and did so with about as stern a voice as I could.)
The Girl: (Finally and sheepishly) Yes.

Her answers were so good and so "slippery," that The Girl would be right at home at one of the presidential debates. Obama and Romney could both learn a few things from her about plausible deniability and shifting the blame. I'm not sure if I should be proud of her, amused by her, or frightened by her. (Probably a little of all three.)

All I know is that, as a parent, I better not fall asleep on the job anymore.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

May Contain Immature Language

[Warning: This story contains mature language. Language so mature that it may cause junior high school boys to snicker uncontrollably.]

A while ago, my wife was trying out a new recipe she found on Pinterest. (As a guy, I have no personal interest in Pinterest. I don't even know what it is exactly. Is it a website? An app? An online store? A social media site? I really don't know, and I really don't care. However, I am very glad that The Wife has an interest in Pinterest. Why? Because more than once she has made something that tastes delicious and then said, "I got that recipe off of Pinterest." So, on second thought, maybe I have more of a interest in Pinterest than I thought.) (Whatever "Pinterest" may be.)

Anyway, the recipe The Wife was making involves those Pillsbury-type rolls, you know, the ones that come in a cardboard can. (The "easy opening" cans that act like a demented, dough-filled jack-in-the-box when they finally ....POP open.) (Yes, I jump every time.) (And I say "Pillsbury-type" because we buy the store brand instead. They are cheaper, and I am nothing if not cheap.) The recipe involves flattening out the rolls, putting a couple of slices of pepperoni and some cheese in them, then rolling the dough back around the pepperoni to form a ball, so that you end up with a little roll stuffed with pizza.

The Wife started to call them "pizza balls," but then she stopped herself and said, "Oh, wait, I can't call them that." Why? Well, The Wife has been a junior high math teacher for several years, and so she has a built-in instinct as to what she should not say because it will make junior high boys laugh inappropriately. Her instinct told her that "Pizza Balls" would fall into that category. So, she had to think of another name for them. I think she settled on either "Pizza Rounds" or "Pizza Rolls."

(Should I be offended that, since no junior high boys were around, I was the reason she felt she couldn't call them "Pizza Balls?" No. After all, I still laugh every time I hear the name "Winnie the Pooh." I'm not exactly the model of maturity.) (See:

That got me thinking about what other simple words or phrases she has to avoid for fear of inapproriate giggling. So, I asked The Wife and her mother (The Mother-In-Law was a high school English teacher for many, many years) what other words they needed to be careful with. And then I gleaned some of my own memories as a snickering junior high boy, and I came up with this list of words and phrases that might make immature schoolboys laugh, chuckle, or guffaw for no apparent reason. (Of course, this list is far from comprehensive, because sometimes junior high boys can find innuendo in the most innocuous of words.) (Probably even the word "innocuous.")

* pee--Urine, like most bodily functions, is very humorous. And, if you say it twice in a row (pee-pee), even the junior high girls will think it is funny.

* P--The Wife says she can't even use the letter "P" as a variable in a math equation. (You know, stuff like: 4a + 3c = P) That's how funny pee (or P) (or pee-pee) is.

* thong--Back in my day (which admittedly was a long, long time ago in a land far, far away,) a thong was a kind of slip-on shoe, like a flip-flop or a sandal, which stayed on your foot  because of a little strap that came down between your big toe and the toe next to it. (The index toe?) The word "thong" used to be quite tame, butt but then a certain style of skimpy underwear and swimsuit became more and more popular. If you say the word "thong" today, junior high boys will immediately think of butt cheeks. And they will giggle.

* balls--I know I mentioned this earlier. I just thought I'd point out that "Pizza Balls" does sound like a nickname some unfortunate kid might get while in junior high.

* nuts--Very similar to the usage of "balls." (Although, now that I am writing this, I don't think I'll think of a squirrel "gathering his nuts" in quite the same way ever again.)

* #1 and/or #2--The numbers 1 or 2 by themselves will not bring about snickers. It's when you combine them with the actual word "number" that the laughter ensues. (As in "number one" or "number two.")(Yes, bodily functions are hilarious.)

* __?_--I was going to put a word here, but since I try to keep this a family-friendly humor column, it just didn't look right, even though it is a common word. The word has several meanings, including pulling the hammer back on a gun, raising an eyebrow or turning your head in a particular manner, or even a male bird of any kind, particularly a rooster. But, I would suggest you avoid using it around teenage boys. (And don't even think about saying something "warms the cockles of your heart.")

* 69--I've got to admit, I didn't know the number "69" was a "thing" until I was well into my mid-thirties. I was on a party bus going to a mandatory office party in Wendover, Nevada. (For those who don't know, Wendover is 100 miles due west of Salt Lake City, and it is a frequent destination of Utahns who want to leave the state to experience the wilder side of life that the state of Nevada offers.) I didn't really feel the need to let my wild "Nevada" side out, but this particular office party was mandatory if I wanted to get my Christmas bonus that year. (It's the only reason I was on the party bus.) To pass the time on the 100 mile ride, my coworkers engaged in a game of drunken bingo. (I think the driver and I were the only sober ones on the bus.) And whenever the number "69" was called out, everyone giggled like junior high boys.

* pianist--For heaven's sake, just say "piano player" instead.

* tool--The other day we were watching an episode of Castle, and the female police officer pulled her gun on a guy who was using a grinder to try to break through a safe. She told the guy, "take your hand off your tool." The male cops who were with her started to snicker. (So did I.) I then asked The Wife if her junior high boys would laugh at that, too. She said the 9th grade boys probably would, but the 7th grade boys probably wouldn't get it.

* wiener--If you say "wiener" instead of "hot dog" at this point in time, you're pretty much just asking for trouble. ("Beanie-weenies" are pretty dangerous, too.) (In more ways than one.) (Yes, that was a fart joke.)

So, there you have it. Like I said, this list is far from complete, because, in the right frame of mind, junior high boys can turn just about anything into some sort of innuendo. (Probably even the word "innuendo.")

And now that I'm done writing this, I think I'll go make me some Pizza Balls! (Mmm.....Pizza Balls!)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Daisy Duck vs. Daisy Duke

A few months ago, our kids were playing with a set of Disney character figurines. (Let it not be said that we are not cogs in the giant Disney Consumer Products Machine.) This set contained the six main characters from the cartoon Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, and Daisy Duck. For some reason, two-year-old Buzz kept gravitating toward the Daisy Duck figurine. (Figurine? Action figure? Doll?) He would play with Daisy above all the other characters, even going so far as to try to say her name. ("Duh-seeee.")

I found it odd that Buzz would pick Daisy. (When Roni was that age, Goofy was unquestionably her favorite. Now that she is older and more "sophisticated," she might choose Minnie over Goofy.)  It got me thinking about Daisy. Who are her fans? Why is she there? What does she contribute to the stories? Is she the favorite of anybody?

At Disneyland, all of the other main characters have their own house. Mickey has a house. Minnie has a house. Goofy has a house. Donald has a boat. Even Pluto has a restaurant called "Pluto's Dog House." But, nothing for Daisy.

It got me wondering why Daisy even exists. I can think of two main reasons: 1) So Donald has a girlfriend; and B) So Minnie has a girl friend.

I wanted to learn a little more about Daisy, so I started to google "Daisy Duck." (Yes, that is the state of my life now. I actually attempted to google Daisy Duck!) But, before I could get there, auto-correct took me instead to "Daisy Duke." Up to that point in my life, I had never associated Daisy Duck and Daisy Duke. I didn't realize how close their names are to each other. I mean, the first seven of the nine letters in their names are exactly the same! (Wait. Did I say "seven of nine?" Yes, you know I am a nerd guy when I can't type "seven of nine" without pausing to affectionately remember my favorite character from Star Trek: Voyager.)(......Okay, I'm back.)

So, I thought I'd do a little compare and contrast between Daisy Duck and Daisy Duke to see their similarities and their differences.

Relationships: Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse are best friends. Possibly because they have a lot in common and genuinely enjoy each other's company. Or, possibly because they are about the only two non-princess females in the Disney world.

I wasn't sure, but apparently Donald and Daisy have never been married. They've just been dating for over 70 years. (Talk about fear of commitment! Hey Donald, put a ring on that thing!) (Or should it be: put a ring on that wing?)

Meanwhile, Daisy Duke has no siblings or parents, just cousins and an uncle. Daisy is cousins with Bo. Daisy is cousins with Luke. Bo and Luke are not brothers, they are cousins. Even the lame replacement refs cousins, Coy and Vance, aren't siblings with each other or anyone else. They are all cousins. And, Uncle Jesse is not the father of any of these people. I find this all rather odd. In my experience, hillbillies have a lot of kids. But here we seem to have five different one-child, parentless hillbilly families! It's all very confusing.

And, as far as romantic relationships go, Daisy Duke does not seem to be very lucky. On the rare occasions she actually is dating someone, that someone usually turns out to be a grifter in cahoots with Boss Hogg. (I'm not sure which is worse, 70 years of a non-committal duck with anger management issues, or a rotating band of ne'er do wells and hooligans?)

Fashion Sense: Yes, Daisy Duke has a kind of shorts named after her. That is very impressive. But, Daisy Duck doesn't even wear pants! (This one's too close to call.)

Appeal: As stated earlier, other than Buzz, I'm not sure who Daisy Duck's fans are. Most girls like Minnie better. Most fans of angry birds like Donald better. I'm sure there are some people who like Daisy best, but these people are definitely in the minority. (These are probably the same people for whom George Harrison is their favorite Beatle, Marlon is their favorite member of the Jackson 5, and someone not named "Kim" is their favorite Kardashian.)

On the other hand, almost every man is a fan of Daisy Duke. (At least all of the heterosexual ones.) I don't know what women think of her, but I don't get the sense of intense jealousy/hatred of Daisy Duke like I sense for others, such as Jessica Alba or Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Usefulness: From the episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that I've seen (which is more than you might think), Daisy Duck doesn't really do much. Mostly, she justs hangs out with Minnie.

In contrast, Daisy Duke often contributes to the Duke family shenanigans. She frequently rides around in her jeep distracting Roscoe, Enos, or Cletus. Or she has to rescue Bo and Luke. The point is, she does things that help.

Bottom line: Is there really any surprise how I think this is turning out? I am a heterosexual male. Of course I think Daisy Duke wins over Daisy Duck! I'm not sure why Buzz has latched on to Daisy Duck. Probably because he hasn't seen Daisy Duke yet.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel Tips

Vacations are awesome!!! Mostly.

There are highs and lows when it comes to traveling with a family. The vacation spots can be incredible. The driving to get there can be tedious and tiresome. And living in a motel room for a week can be an interesting mix of relaxing and infuriating.

Earlier this month we went to Disneyland with The Wife's family. We had six adults and four children. We drove from Utah in two vehicles. We stayed in California in three motel rooms. Through our travels and travails we learned a few things. I'm going to pass some of that knowledge on to you now:

*Plan travel time around children's sleep time. This is a great idea. Except when it doesn't work. We decided to leave at 3:30 AM. The thinking was that we would get the kids out of bed, throw them in their car seats, and then they would sleep half of the way to Disneyland. It was a nice theory. But, the kids slept about a half an hour each the whole way down. (Luckily, they were very well behaved.)

*Have plenty of new toys and snacks for the kids while driving. This is a great idea. And, it actually worked! The Wife and her family have a tradition on long drives called "The 100 Mile Toy." Every 100 miles (or so) each kid gets to unwrap a new toy. This may sound expensive, or seem like we are spoiling the kids, but that's not the case. The "100 Mile Toy" is usually something small and cheap from the dollar store. And they only get the toy if they are being good. This worked quite well with our kids on this trip, with the exception that many times when we reached a 100 mile milestone, the only ones awake were me (the driver) and the kids (who refused sleep for fear they might miss some sagebrush scenery.) So we would have to wait until one of the adult passengers would wake up for the kids to get their toys. (But, it was okay because my kids are little enough they can't/don't keep track of every 100 miles.)

*Be sure to have an abundance of "stay awake" foods and beverages for the long drive. Those sugar-coated candy orange slices? Reprehensible at all other times, but indespensible on a long drive! Also necessary: a big bag of licorice to gnaw on. (The gnawing is essential for "stay awake" purposes.)  Of course, some kind of chips are then needed for textural change of pace from all the sugary stuff. And don't forget the caffeinated beverages. My preference is Mountain Dew LiveWire, although I will settle for Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, regular Coke, or, basically, anything fizzy.

*Let the music play! The driver on a long trip gets to control the music. When we're driving around locally, I'm often forced to play kid music to placate the kids. Or the soundtrack to Wicked to placate The Wife. (The Wife, her sisters, and her mother went to see the play Wicked this summer. Ever since, the soundtrack has been in heavy rotation in the van.) (You could say it's been "Popular.") (Lar.) But, when I'm driving on a long trip, I get to choose the music! Singing along is a great "stay awake" tool. And, if anyone complains about my choice in music, or about my singing, I tell them it's better than me falling asleep and driving off the road. (They usually agree.)

*Have luggage with wheels. I know this is pretty redundant at this point in time. All luggage has wheels, right? Well, it didn't used to be that way. I don't know how the people of the 1960s and 1970s lugged all that wheelless luggage up to their third floor motel room. I can understand why that Samsonite suitcase had to be tough enough to withstand the monkey-in-a-cage test. Without wheels, I'd be tempted to slide the suitcase down the stairs, or just throw it over the ledge down to the car.

*Don't fill your cooler with ice from the ice machine. Don't be that guy. Just don't.

*Make sure your motel has good, working WiFi. Becasue no one ever has trouble getting connected to the motel-provided WiFi. (By the way, that's sarcasm.) I took my laptop, and every time I tried to log on to catch some scores on ESPN, or see the latest Zynga Slingo request  posted by my Facebook friends, it would be a 25 minute fight to get connected. (I bristle when I think of how many "cute kitty photos with bad grammar captions" I missed out on while on vacation.) At least I didn't have any problems connecting my phone to the internet. That's because my phone doesn't connect to the internet. It's not what you'd call a "smart" phone. It's what you'd call a "flip" phone. (On the plus side, all I need is a tricorder and a phaser and I'll be ready for an away mission with Bones and Spock.)

*Take advanrage of the continental breakfast. There are times when I think they call it "continental" breakfast because half of the continent is trying to cram into the small room provided to get their "free" stale danishes and watered-down apple juice. It's amazing that, for a motel with over 300 rooms, they provide eight tables for breakfast, three of which will actually seat more than two people. Sometimes they market it as a "warm" continental breakfast, then provide a waffle maker. That's all good and well, but usually there are 11 people in line for the waffle maker, three of whom actually know how to use it. (I should mention that we recently stayed at a motel with a "warm" continental breakfast that provided a bowl full of bacon! Yes, a bowl full of bacon! (Or was it a bowlful of bacon?) Unlimited bacon!!! Needless to say, I will be staying at that motel the next time I am in that town. Or anywhere near that town.)

* Have fun at the pool! The swimming pool is a nice relaxing diversion at the motel. The kids can splash out some of that pent up energy from the long ride. And the adults can take a nice soak in the whirlpool. If they can get to it. There always seems to be that one group of people who seems to think the whirlpool (or hot tub, or spa) is their own private club, and they monopolize it. I've found that one of the best ways to clear out the whirlpool is to bring your two-year-old over, talk loudly about how he "hasn't pooped all day," then dip his toes in, with the threat of putting his whole body into the pool. The whirlpool hoarders will usually get out and find another place to loiter.

*If you go to the beach, you might get wet. And, there will be sand. Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it. But, having lived my whole life in land-locked Idaho and Utah, I was stupid enough to wear jeans and tennis shoes to the beach. Needless to say, I got wet. And, there was sand. (Lots and lots of sand.)

And here's a couple of Disneyland-specific tips:

*Bring lots of ice and water. As the day goes on, you will get thirsty. Fortunately, Disneyland provides lots and lots of water fountains. Unfortunately, all Disneyland water fountains have two problems: 1) high temperature, and B) low volume. I don't know about you, but when I go to get a drink from a water fountain, I like the water to be cold, or at least cold-ish. Also, no one wants to have to bend down so far that their lips have to touch the actual fountain in order to get to the water. Who knows whose lips have touched that fountain before? Why would all of Disneyland's water fountains be so high temperature/low volume? It wouldn't be that they want to sell those $4 bottles of water, would it? So, bring plenty of ice and water. (Or, if you are Mr. Moneybags, just fork out the big bucks for the bottles.)

*Eat plenty of churros. At Disneyland, there are churro carts around every corner. In the real world, there are not churro carts around every corner. There should be. The world would be a better place if there were churro carts around every corner. So, when you are at Disneyland, enjoy the churro flow while you have access to it.

In the end, the vacation was definitely worth it. We survived the drive down, we had lots and lots of fun, and we survived the drive back! But, it's good to be back. It's nice to be at my own home, where there isn't a line for the waffle machine and I have easy access to all the "cute kitty photos with bad grammar captions" that I could possibly want.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

So, You DON'T Want Me To Listen To Your Radio Station?

Ah,'s the newspaper of the airwaves. (And no, that's not a compliment. I can only remember perusing through a newspaper once in the last year or two, and that was in a motel lobby while waiting for the rest of my family to wake up.) (And this is coming from a guy who basically got his college degree in newspaper writing.) (Which is why I drive truck for a living.)

Newspapers are going the way of the dodo. (I'm talking about the "extinct bird" use of the word "dodo," not the "stupid people" use of the word "dodo.") And radio may not be far behind.

With iPods and iPads and iTunes and Spotify and Pandora and Sirius and computers and the internets and smart phones and even phones of average intelligence, people have a wide variety of places to get their music and information besides traditional radio stations. Even ancient technology like the 6-CD changer has driven folks away from the radio. (I remember when I moved up from cassette deck to 6-CD changer almost six years ago! It was a glorious and wonderful thing!) Now, more than ever, radio stations need to do things to keep people listening to them, and yet they continue to do the same stupid things that make people want to change the station or turn it off completely.

I still listen to the radio (I am an old guy, after all), but I only listen to it four days a week. I usually listen to sports talk radio on my way to and from work. And then, when I'm at work, I flip between three or four music stations. When I'm not at work I don't listen to the radio at all because I have an iPod and a computer and, who am I kidding? I've got two kids under the age of five, so I spend much of my days watching PBS Kids and Disney, and playing with dolls and trucks.

With their fragmented and dwindling listenership, it's amazing that radio stations continue to do the annoying things that drive people away. I call these the "So, you don't want me to listen to your radio station" moments. One of the best things about car radios is the station preset buttons. So, when a station pulls out one of its "So, you don't want me to listen" moments, I can quickly push a button and I'm magically transported to another station. Until that station drives me away and I'm forced to hit another button. It's a never ending cycle.

Here are some of my (least) favorite "So, you don't want me to listen to your radio station" moments:

*The Radio Remote. This is when the radio station sends its DJs out on location at one of its advertiser's places of business, often a car dealership. The station then inundates its airwaves with pleas to visit the location instead of actually playing music. (And, by the way, you don't want to actually visit these locations, because you most certainly do not want to see your favorite radio personality. There is a reason these people are on the radio and not the television.) (They ain't pretty.)

*"Let's go to the callers." I'm usually okay with listening to professional radio personalities because they are actually professionals. It's what they get paid to do. I do not want to listen to the idiotic ramblings of some buffoon who thinks the world needs to hear what he has to say because he's witty or clever. Just because you can dial a phone doesn't mean I want to hear your opinion. Besides, when they go to "Bart from Ogden," any or all of the following things can happen: a) Bart has already hung up, leaving the DJ saying, "Bart? Bart? We seem to have lost Bart." b) Bart has his radio too loud, leading to annoying feedback. c) Bart is on speakerphone, so he sounds like he's calling from inside a tuna fish can. d) Bart has absolutely nothing of importance or interest to say, because he has nothing better to do than sit around all day and call radio stations.

*DJs singing over the music. In much the same way that I don't want to hear non-professional talkers talking on the radio, I also don't want to hear non-professional singers singing on the radio. Remember, you're a disc jockey, not Rick Astley. (Unless Rick Astley is now working as a DJ. In that case, I'd gladly listen to him singing over the songs.)

*DJs talking over the music. I know DJs are trained to talk over a song right up to the start of the singing, but sometimes the intro music is the best part of the song. I would much rather hear the jarring guitar at the beginning of "Just What I Needed" by the Cars, or the "Hey!" and hand-claps at the start of "What I Like About You" by the Romantics than any ramblings about traffic or the weather by some random DJ. Let the music play.

*Loud laughing "zoo crews." Radio stations often have a "zoo crew" for their morning shows consisting of two, three, four, or even five people. The problem is, all these people think they are so funny that they spend all their time laughing so loudly at each other that you can't hear or understand what they are laughing about. Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn't limited to morning zoo crews. Late night sports guys get this way, too. (I'm talking to you, Fox Sports Radio.)

*The "We don't talk" syndrome. Some stations promise things like "One hour of uniterrupted music!" Then, between every song, they interrupt the music to tell you that you are in the middle of "one hour of uniterrupted music!" Self-promotion is still advertising. I don't want to hear you talk about how little you talk!

*Chopping up the songs. If you bill yourself as a "classic" rock station but still play the chopped-up, hacked-up, shortened-for-time versions of great songs like "Piano Man" by Billy Joel or "Come Sail Away" by Styx, well, you have earned yourself my disdain and scorn. (And a good scowl, too.)

*Annoying advertising. Everyone has ads that drive them crazy. Here in the Utah area, there is one ad campaign that has been running for several years that forces me to turn the station whenever it airs. It is for a heating/air conditioning company, and features a superhero spokesman and his talking dog sidekick. The ads themselves are seldom about the company, but more often about the supposed fame and ego of the superhero and his talking dog. The person doing the voices for the superhero and the dog does so in a "funny," over-exaggerated way. (And by "funny" I mean funny's cousin, "Not Funny.") I'm guessing the ads are effective, because they've been running them for so long. But, I also know that if I had heating or air conditioning problems, that is the very last business I would go to. (I've sometimes wondered if I had a business and was looking to advertise if I could request to make sure my ad did not follow a certain other ad. "Yes, I'll advertise on your station, but only if my ads don't air in the fifteen minutes following an Action Man and Action Dog commercial.")

*"Don't touch that dial!" Any advertisement that demands that I don't change the station pretty much guarantees that I'm going to change the station. It's like a double-dog dare.

*Siren commercials.  I find any commercial featuring a blaring siren to go beyond annoying into the realm of being irresponsible. When I hear a siren in a commercial, my first instinct is to pull over to let the emergency vehicle go by. How many times do people not pull over for actual sirens because they think it's a stupid radio commercial?

*Playing songs I don't like. Here's where I'm going to get into trouble. I'm going to offend someone by listing a song that they love as one that I hate. But it's all so subjective. A while back a writer on said he had pretty much dismissed all of Billy Joel's work because he didn't like the fact that he rhymed "Davy" with "Navy." (What was he supposed to rhyme it with? Gravy?) (On second thought, that would be pretty cool! "He's talking with Davy who likes to eat gravy.") The point is, we all come up with reasons, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes credible, as to why we hate songs. Here are a few that make me immediately turn the station:

"Run To You" by Bryan Adams. It's a cheating song. I don't like cheating songs. (See also "Tempted" by Squeeze and pretty much all non-"Ghostbusters" songs by Ray Parker, Jr.)

"Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. Because if I want to hear Robert Plant having sex, I'd.... (I decided to not finish that sentence, because I will never want to hear Robert Plant having sex.)

"Cocaine" by Eric Clapton. I'd prefer my rock and roll songs about drugs to be a little more subtle. (I used to like "Dream On" by Aerosmith until I "cracked" the cocaine-use code on the whole "lines in the mirror" lyrics.)

"Layla" by Eric Clapton. I really don't have anything against Clapton. I like many of his songs. But I just don't like the way the ending repeats itself and drags on seemingly forever. (And yet I like those same qualities about "Hey Jude." Like I said, it's all subjective.)

All songs by Madonna, with the exception of "La Isla Bonita." Why do I like "La Isla Bonita?" Because the title is one of the funnest things to say in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. (You are trying it right now, aren't you?)

Any song by Aerosmith, with the exceptions of "Come Together," which is a great song no matter who sings it; "Love In an Elevator," because it reminds me of something (No, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter!); and "Dude Looks Like a Lady," just because occasionally it is fun to hear someone scream "Cow-cow-cow-chikka-chikka-chikka-cow-cow!!!"

"Imagine" by John Lennon. I know this one is going to get me in trouble with a lot of people. There are many who think this is the best rock song of all time. But, I don't like the song's anti-religion, anti-government stance. I like to call this song "The Anarchy Song," and imagine further lyrics, if they were to exist, to say things like, "imagine there's no traffic lights," or "imagine there's no guard rails." (I know I'm in the minority here. Oh well.)

"Man, I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain and "I'm Just a Girl" by No Doubt. It's not because these aren't catchy, fun songs. It's because they are catchy fun songs. They get stuck in my head, and then I get singing them at inopportune times.

There are many other songs that make me want to change the radio station. And there are probably other annoying things radio stations and DJs do that make me want to change the station. What about you? Are there songs or other things that make YOU immediately turn the station? I'd really like to have some feedback, either at the bottom of the page here, or on Facebook.

(And yes, I realize I just pulled a "Let's Go To the Callers," but I figure if you don't like it, the worst you can do is switch to another humor column.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Me and My Sister Wives

Yes, I am a Mormon. Yes, I live in Utah. But no, I do not have more than one wife.

It just seems that way.

The Mormon church quit practicing polygamy a long time ago. (1890, to be exact.) That's over 120 years ago. And yet, when some people hear the word "Mormon," they feel compelled to say, "So, how many wives you got?" (And then they stand there with a smug look on their face like they just uttered the funniest sentence in the history of the human race.) (They didn't.) (I'm not sure what the funniest sentence uttered in the history of the human race is, but I'm pretty sure it involves the word "poop.") (Or maybe "horticulture.")

As Mormons, we try to educate the world that we are normal-ish, one-wife-loving people. The 2002 Winter Olympics were a great opportunity to get that message out. There are occasionally profiles about the church on television shows like 60 Minutes, or magazines like Time or Newsweek. Or sometimes we'll trot out Steve Young as our example of Mormonhood. (Isn't it sad that we're still using Steve Young for this? He retired over 12 years ago, after the 1999 season. Shouldn't we have had another talented, handsome BYU quarterback to hold up as an example by now? John Beck and Max Hall, you've really dropped the ball!) (Often literally.)

But, every time we make some progress along those lines, Hollywood comes along and puts out a show like Big Love or Sister Wives. (Yes, I'm blaming Hollywood for all of our problems.) (That last parenthetical notation was sarcasm, by the way.) (Hollywood is really responsible for only 64% of our problems.)

I've never seen any episodes of Big Love because I am too cheap to pay for HBO, Showtime, or whatever station used to air that show. And, despite what my DVR might tell you, I haven't seen more than three minutes of Sister Wives. My wife, her mother, and her sisters all like to watch that show. If I walk into the room and it is on, I'll find myself something more entertaining to do, like maybe the dishes.

They say they like Sister Wives for the "train wreck" aspect of it. Me, if I want to see a train wreck, I'll watch an actual train wreck. Or a Minnesota Vikings playoff game.

Personally, I can't fathom being married to more than one woman. It took me forever to find one woman crazy enough to marry me, let alone several. And yet, sometimes it seems like I have several wives.

A couple of weeks ago I took my family to the zoo. It ended up looking like a trip with a polygamist clan. Besides me, there was my wife and two kids; my wife's sister and her two kids (her husband is in the army and is currently deployed); my wife's sister's friend and two of her kids (separated from her husband); my wife's mother (her husband at work); and my wife's mother's friend (her husband at work.)

So, for those of you counting at home, that's one man, five women, and six kids. My very own "Sister Wives" troop! (And, for those of you wondering about the generation gap, because of the "scandalous" age difference between my wife and I, I'm actually slightly closer in age to her mother than to my wife, so the whole thing is somewhat feasible.)

I find myself in these "Sister Wife" situations frequently. Partly because of my work schedule. (I work two day shifts and two evening shifts per week, giving me either five days or five evenings a week to go out with my troop.) And partly because my wife's family is so female-centric. (She is one of three sisters, with no brothers. The only man in the family, her father, works a standard five-day work week, and is often busy on the weekends doing volunteer communications work for local search and rescue.)

The funny thing is, the zoo trip didn't include probably my most frequent "Sister Wife," my wife's other sister, the single one who lives in our basement apartment. Other occasional members of my clan include my wife's aunt, when she visits from New York; my sister, when she visits from Idaho; and my adult niece when she visits from Washington.

Do I like being surrounded by attractive, intelligent women? Of course I do! Would I want to be married to them all? Oh heck no!!! One wife is a-plenty for me!

Because there are so many women in my life, I often find myself in very feminine-istic situations. The other day I went with some of them to a place where we painted ceramics. Yes, I was painting ceramics. Even tonight my wife and one of her sisters are upstairs playing Barbies with their daughters. I had to take Buzz and escape downstairs to finish this column and maintain a little hint of my masculinity.

My "Sister Wives" are great and all, but there are times when I wish I had some more "Bro Dudes" to hang out with to watch some games and belch and fart with. Who knows, maybe the Vikings will make the playoffs this year so me and my "Bro Dudes" could watch a train wreck of our very own.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slow Joe, the Marathon Man

I was watching the Olympics, and it got me thinking about my own athletic prowess. And then, after that daydream ended, I thought about my actual athletic achievements. Such as they were.

My first attempt at organized athletics came when I tried out for the 7th grade basketball team. I thought I had a pretty good chance of making the team. I was fairly tall, and...well, that was about my best qualification. 

When it came time for the actual tryout, I had a rude awakening. When the coach had us run "killers" (from end line to foul line and back, then to half court and back, then far foul line and back, and finally to the other end line and back) I finished second to last, just barely ahead of the fat kid. (And everyone else was moving on to the next drill before the two of us finished.) I was not athletic. And I didn't make it past the first cut.

There's a reason they call me "Slow Joe from Arimo."

When 9th grade rolled around, I thought I'd try out for the football team. Unfortunately, tryouts started two weeks before school did, and I did not know this. But, in a way, it was a good thing I missed tryouts, because that's when I learned about the cross country team. Desperate for runners, the cross country coach (also the high school basketball coach) asked the few who weren't on the football team if they would be interested in running. I was.

I was definitely the tortoise from the tortoise and the hare. At basketball tryouts they needed fast rabbits, but for the three-mile cross country course, the slow and steady turtle could win the race. Not that I actually won any races. But, I did finish 10th in the Junior Varsity district finals, which, for me, was pretty good. Maybe, by the time I was a senior I could be good at this.

But then the cross country team was dropped after my freshman year due to budget concerns and lack of interest.

That left the track team my only option for athletic achievement in high school. My old joke about being on the track team went like this:

Me: I'm on the track team.
Other person: Oh, really? What do you run?
Me: Slow.

The longer the race, the more I could hide my lack of speed. But, the longest events at track were the mile and two-mile races. I was too slow to be any good at them. And that was the extent of my athletic career.

Until ten years ago. That's when I thought it would be a good idea to try to run a marathon.

At the time, I was pushing 36 years of age. I had just gotten on an exercising kick. I lost about 40 pounds and was working out regularly on an elliptical trainer. I went to visit some friends, and they were going to run a 5K race that day. I figured I was in the best shape I had been in since high school, so I told them I would run with them. After all, 5K is just a little more than three miles, and with all the work I'd been doing on the elliptical, that shouldn't be a problem at all.

I quickly learned that there is a big difference between working out on an elliptical and actually running. But, I did manage to finish the race. My friend then told me he was planning on running a marathon in September. (The 5K run happened in March.) I decided, what the heck, I'd run the marathon with him.

So, over the next several months, I ran to train for the marathon. I would usually run five miles at a time, and I would do this about three times a week. (I later learned that to actually train for an actual marathon, this was not nearly enough.)

And then, it was time for the marathon. The marathon my friend (Daren) and I chose to run in was the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, Utah. The race starts 13 miles up a country road, so we parked in the city and they took us by bus to where the race was to start.

It was a bit surreal before the race started, because all I can remember are buses and port-a-potties. There were the dozens of school buses that brought all the participants to the starting area, and then there were about 40 port-a-potties. And each of those port-a-potties had a line of about twenty people waiting to get into them. It's not something I would have thought of beforehand, but when you have over 1100 people who are about to run for over 26 miles, all of those people are going to want to go to the bathroom right before the race.

I had never seen so many port-a-potties at the same time. And there weren't nearly enough of them.

The race started, and I didn't feel very good. I was even more slower and sluggish than normal. Finally, about three miles into the race, I was able to get into a bit of a groove. Daren ran with me. It was his second marathon, and even though he could have easily gone at a faster pace, he chose to stay with me at my pace to keep me company.

It's a good thing he did. When I got to about mile 17, my body was done. I was ready to quit. But, Daren stayed with me. He kept telling me, "Let's just walk to the next mile marker, and then you can decide if you want to keep going." And, when we reached that mile marker, he would talk me in to walking to the next one. Finally, when we got to mile 20, I knew I had come too far to give up, and that I was going to finish the race.

At that point, 60 year old women were passing me, and 8 year old kids were passing me. I didn't care as long as I reached the finish line.

That's me on the right, looking like someone who has ran 18 miles and doesn't care to run any more.

But then, it became a race against time. At six hours they take down all the barricades and such off of the roads and most of the marathon volunteers leave their posts. So, we had to push it to get to the finish line before the six hour cutoff.

I finally managed to cross the finish line five hours, forty-two minutes, and thirty-two seconds from when I started. I finished in 1,078th place (out of 1,130 finishers.) 633 men finished ahead of me, and 444 women finished ahead of me (many of them over the age of 60.) But, I don't care because I finished.

That's me on the left, bolting across the finish line in record time! (A record for me, anyway.)

I can now and forever say that I ran a marathon! (Okay, I ran and walked a marathon.) Regardless of how I did it, I did do it. The results are on the internet and everything! (And the internet is forever.)

Here I am with Daren after receiving our "finisher's medal." (I'm the red-faced one who looks like he might die. Daren is the smiling one who looks like he's ready to go for another jog.)
After finishing my marathon, I thought that maybe in a few years I'd try it again. But do better. Ten years have since gone by, and I now realize that it's never going to happen. I'm too old. (Yes, I know that people older than 46 run marathons all the time. Believe me I know, because I saw all those 60 year old women pass me on the course.) But, my feet are too wooggity at this point. And I'm too fat. And my knees get creaky climbing up a flight of stairs.

So, no more marathons for me. I'm officially through showing off my athletic prowess. (Except on the basketball court. I'm still holding out hope that some NBA team is in need of an old, slow, fat guy who can shoot 18% from the three-point line.)(On a good day.)(If nobody is guarding me.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tubby Time for Tough Guys

I like to take long soaks in the bathtub. This does not make me less of a man. Really, it doesn't. Tough guys can take tubby time, too.

When my wife's sister heard that I like to take baths, she made fun of me, called me a "girl," and compared me to Chandler Bing, the character from the show Friends. (For the record, I'm not quite like Chandler Bing. I'm more like a cross between Chandler Bing and Ned Flanders.) (Hi-duhlee-ho, neighbor-eeno!)

She then quoted from the Friends episode where Chandler discovers he really likes to take bubble baths. (My sister-in-law has a Friends quote for every occasion, sort of like I used to have a M*A*S*H* quote for every occasion. It's kind of a generational thing.)

I guess that's the image that comes to mind when you hear a guy likes to take baths: Chandler Bing soaking in a bubble bath, desperately clinging to his manhood in the form of a toy boat.

Yes, that's me as a baby, taking a bath.
(I am very grateful for the strategically placed red donut!)

But, that's not how I take baths. I haven't taken a bubble bath since I was a kid. The only bubbles in my bath are from the jetted tub and/or the periodic farts. And, I don't have any toy boats. (Although maybe I should get one.) My baths are therapeutic.

Liking to bathe is a relatively new phenomenon for me. When I was single, I hardly ever took a bath. (For the record, I did shower every day.) (Well, at least every day that I ventured out of my Fortress of Solitude to face the real world.) About the only time I ever soaked back then was when I was battling kidney stones. (And when you are battling kidney stones, you'll try anything to take the edge off.)

Shortly after I got married, I switched jobs to the one I currently have. For reasons known only to a crazed architect (who I'd like to punch in the face), the offices are up a long flight of 34 stairs. I have to go up and down these stairs more than a dozen times a day. Truck drivers seeing me on the stairs will often say, "These stairs must keep you in shape." I point to my gut and reply, "You'd think so, but no. All they do is beat the heck out of my knees." And that's the truth.

I'd been at the job for three or four months, and my knees were killing me. Then, serendipity helped me out. For the six-month anniversary of our wedding, The Wife and I went back to the bed and breakfast where we spent our wedding night. (We don't celebrate our six-month anniversaries anymore now that we're no longer in the "shappy" phase of the relationship. [Shappy=sappy+happy] In fact, our six-month anniversary just passed a few days ago without either of us noticing. Still, we had a good evening doing the things we like to do these days: watching a couple of episodes of Castle and hope-hope-hoping that the kids actually go to sleep and stay asleep.)

Anyway, one of the amenities of our room (along with a really cool Scooby-Doo-ish "hidden" wall door!) was a two-person jetted tub. We liked and enjoyed the tub.

I was back at work the next day. As I walked up the stairs I noticed that my knees didn't hurt anymore! It was the Miracle of the Jetted Tub!

At first, I wondered how a little soak in hot bath could help my knees so much, but then I remembered the television crime dramas that I grew up watching in the 1970s. Shows like MacMillan & Wife, Barnaby Jones, and Charlie's Angels would occasionally have a plot that involved murder and intrigue inside the rough and tumble world of professional football. These episodes would usually showcase real-life tough guy football players as guest stars. Tough guys like Joe Namath. (Wait. He was known for wearing panty hose and fur coats. Not a tough guy.) Tough guys like Rosie Greer. (Wait. He was known for his love of needlepoint, not the activity of a tough guy.) Tough guys like Deacon Jones and Ben Davidson. (Okay, now these are a couple of real tough guys who would head-slap their own mothers if it meant they could get to the quarterback.)

These shows would invariably show a locker room scene in which, after a rough game or practice, one of the tough guys would be soaking in a hot tub. These tubs were called "whirlpools" or "spas," and no one questioned the toughness of the guys soaking in them. It wasn't girly, it was therapeutic.

So, after that, every two or three weeks (or whenever my knees demanded it) I would take a soak in the tub. It was easy to find time to do this before we had kids. Even after The Girl came along I could synchronize my tub time with her naps, putting the baby monitor near the tub so I could listen for her.

A few months later, when we moved from a condo to our house, the large jetted tub in the master suite was a definite selling point. I guess we could have looked for a house with a hot tub on the back deck. It's interesting how different the perception of me would be if my soaks were in a hot tub on the deck instead of a jetted tub in the bathroom:

     Bathroom tub=girly man
     Hot tub on deck=horndog

But, I don't want a hot tub on the deck, at least not now. There are three reasons: 1) I can't afford to put a hot tub on the deck. 2) While the kids are little, there would be safety concerns about a hot tub. And c) in a few years, when the kids are teenagers, I wouldn't want it to attract the horndogs and the hoochie-mamas.
I would love to have one of these at the house, but I'm afraid it would attract the horndogs and the hoochie-mamas.

So, we don't have a hot tub, just the jetted tub in the bathroom. Unfortunately, now that we have the two kids it is becoming more and more difficult to find the time to take my therapeutic soaks. "Nap time" is often more of an abstract concept than an actual reality. Also, The Girl has learned to move stealthily enough that I can't always hear her in the baby monitor. Plus, both kids have mastered the art of doorknob operation. (Things were so much easier when they couldn't open doors!) Any time I try to bathe now, I'm always on edge. And my knees are suffering for it.

Last week I finally had a perfect opportunity for a good bath. The kids were down for naps, and were both actually sleeping! The Wife was home, working on some schoolwork, and said she would take care of them if they woke up. So, I drew a bath. [Rant Alert: "Drew a bath?" What kind of stupid expression is that? What, do I suddenly have to become an artist to be able to get water in the tub? That may be the dumbest phrase I have ever heard! End rant]

I got in the tub, filled it with water, and started to soak. I had the bedroom door closed, but the door from the bathroom to the bedroom open to keep some air circulating. I had just started to relax when I heard it. "MMROWULLL!" I had shut the cat in the bedroom. "MMROWULLL!" She wanted out. When our cat "talks," she sounds like someone is putting a fork through her foot. (This confuses The Boy, our 2-year-old. He is learning from books that cats say "meow," but his real-world experience is that they say "MMROWULLL!")

Instead of a nice, relaxing bath, I got to spend the next ten minutes listening to our caterwauling cat.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get another uninterrupted soak. Maybe there is some way I could make it into the NFL so I can use their "whirlpools" and "spas." I can be a tough guy. (I wonder if they'll let me bring my toy boat.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Being a Father

I woke up on Father's Day to the sound of my wife yelling at me.

Well, she wasn't actually yelling at me. She was yelling for me. They had let me sleep in, and The Wife was sitting on the love seat, playing on the laptop computer. And then, four-year-old Roni walked up to her, gave a little cough, and puked all over her, the laptop, the love seat, and the floor.

That's when the yelling started. I came stumbling around the corner, half asleep. The Wife gave me a choice: I could take Roni and clean her up, or I could clean up the laptop, the love seat, and the floor. Not being stupid, I chose Roni. I wiped a little bit of barf off of her nightgown, then threw her into the tub. Meanwhile, The Wife was stuck cleaning the vomit off of herself and everything else. (Unfortunately, we have since found that laptop computers don't take well to high volumes of vomit in their keyboards.)

The Wife then spent much of the rest of the day apologizing to me for making me clean Roni up on Father's Day. ("It's Father's Day. You shouldn't have to do that.") The Wife is sweet. First of all, she did the vast majority of the cleanup. Second of all, I wasn't the one who was vomited on. And thirdly, what kind of father would I be if I didn't help clean up my daughter's barf, Father's Day or not?

Being a father certainly has its ups and downs. For every new word learned or unexpected hug, there is a puke clean up or diaper poop-through. The key is that the highs are definitely worth wading through the lows.

I find myself really enjoying the times the kids surprise me. Years ago, my brother started a little family tradition. When riding in a car with my sister's kids, he would tell them they needed to duck whenever they went under a bridge so they wouldn't hit their head. Being naive, gullible children of the 80s, they believed him, and would duck whenever they went under a bridge.

A few years later, my brother had his own kids. They were hardened, cynical children of the 90s, and when they were told to duck when going under a bridge, they balked and (rightfully) said they were in no danger of hitting their heads.

So, the other day, I decided to pass this little family tradition on to my own kids. As I was taking the kids to the library for story time, we had to go under the freeway. I said, "We're going under a bridge. You have to duck so you won't hit your head." My kids, being free thinking kids of the 21st Century, heard the word "duck" and started to quack.

"Quack, quack, quack!" they said.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
Roni answered, "There's a duck under the bridge. Quack! Quack!" Buzz then joined in with several "quacks" of his own.

And since that day, whenever we go under a bridge, either one of them might just start randomly quacking. And every time they do, I shake my head and smile. (I love it when they make me smile.)

I like to think I'm a good father. I do at least some of everything that needs to be done for the kids. I feed them. I change diapers. I bathe them. I do their laundry. I take them to story time at the library. (I'm usually the only father there.) I read to them. I read with them. I play toys with them. I clean up after them. Could I do all of those things better? Of course I could. But I try hard, and do a pretty good job.

But, there's one thing I don't do. I can't do my daughter's hair. Oh, I'll bathe her, wash her hair, and comb her hair, but I just can't seem to fix her hair. The problem is, doing a little girl's hair involves putting rubber bands into her hair.

I've been shown how to do this several times by The Wife and her sister. They make it look easy. All you have to do is twist the rubber band around three or four times and put Roni's hair through it. It sounds simple. It looks simple. Unfortunately, the little rubber band starts at about a quarter of the size of a dime. (That's very small.) And then I'm expected to twist this little thing over around on itself three or four times with my large, sausage fingers? I don't think so!

And even if I manage to get the rubber band twisted, I still have to put it in her hair. I'm sorry, but I always try to not hurt my daughter. Pulling her hair to put a rubber band in it just seems mean. So, it's pretty easy to tell the days that I am in charge. They are the days that Roni looks like a ragamuffin. (It makes me appreciate Buzz that much more. Boy hair is easy.)

In conclusion, I wouldn't give up being a dad for anything in the world. It's never going to be easy. There are always going to be surprises, whether they be bad (puke on a laptop) or good (quacking under a bridge). I just have to keep trying my best to do all I can to help them grow to become good people. (And hope that someday Roni will forgive me when she looks back at pictures from this time-frame and sees that I let her out of the house with her hair looking like that.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ode To My Father

My Dad was a tall, rugged, handsome man. Ron Capell stood an imposing 6 feet 4 inches tall. (6'6" if you include his hard hat.) He was one of the best high school athletes in the history of Arimo. (Started center on a state championship basketball team; batted clean-up on the baseball team; anchored the defensive and offensive lines for football teams that didn't lose a single game in his four years playing.) He wasn't just tough, he was farm tough.

My (ruggedly handsome) Dad
Basically, he was everything any little boy would want to grow up to be like.

So, of course, I look like my Mom.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Mom.  She's a wonderful woman. But, I have never heard her referred to as "ruggedly handsome." Likewise, I have never heard of myself referred to as "ruggedly handsome," either. (When I hear a "not completely hideous" I tally that up in the "compliment" file.)

My Dad passed away six years ago, on the Saturday morning before Father's Day. I miss him. He died about a month after my wife and I first met, and about a month before we went out on our first date. So, he never got to meet her. It's too bad, because he would have loved her. And he would have loved to see how happy she makes me.

As a kid, I really looked up to my Dad. (Literally and figuratively.) He was the biggest guy in the whole town. (Okay, there was one guy who was taller, but Dad could have easily whupped him in a fight.)  I remember being shocked (shocked!) the first time I met someone who was significantly bigger than my Dad. (It was former Idaho Congressman George Hansen, who stood at 6'7" and well over 300 pounds.) I didn't think it was possible.

Dad grew up on the farm, and he stayed on the farm his whole life. He knew how to fix things, and if he didn't, he sure knew how to try to fix things. (We're very different in that way. I give up at trying to fix things very easily. He did not.)

Unfortunately, Dad's ability-to-fix-things gene was handed down to his first child, my sister, and completely missed my brother and I. But, I am reasonably good at going to fetch tools so that someone else (in most cases, The Wife) can fix things while I watch.

I'm not sure how Dad managed to walk around, because he always had an entire tool kit in his pockets. (Actually, I'm even more impressed that he was able to sit down with all that stuff in his pockets.) He always had in his pockets the following items (and I am not exaggerating): a pair of pliers; a pocket knife; several box wrenches (up to and including a 9/16th wrench); a screwdriver; a crescent wrench; a tape measure; a set of allen wrenches; and a set of calipers. And that was the minimum he had in his pockets at any time. He would have more and different things depending on the job at hand. We were always amazed at the amount of stuff he had in his pockets. And sometimes, he was too. Sometimes it would take him a while to dig through his pockets to find the specific tool he was looking for.

Most farmers wear hats. They know they need to keep their heads out of the sun. Some (usually the older ones) would wear straw hats. Most farmers around where I lived would wear baseball (or "trucker's") caps. My Dad, however, chose to wear a hardhat. For about as long as I can remember, my Dad wore a shiny red metal hardhat when he worked on the farm. After a few years most of the red had faded or chipped off.

Over time, the hardhat had been through a lot. There was one time when a cow was charging at Dad. In order to get the cow to stop and change direction, Dad took off his hardhat and whacked the cow on the top of its skull with it. This was successful in stopping the cow. It was also successful in putting a big dent in the top of the hardhat. Dad wore the hardhat with the dent in it for years, then one day we noticed that the dent was gone. We asked him why the dent wasn't there anymore. Apparently, when it rained the water would gather and pool in the dent, and when he would take off the hat or move his head just right, the pooled rain water from the dent would splash down on him. Dad got tired of that problem, so he fixed it. He pushed the dent out with a hydraulic press. (I, of course, would have had no idea how to fix a dent in a hardhat. Dad did.)

Of course, my Dad wasn't perfect. At about the time their three kids were ready to leave home for marriage, college and such, my Mom and Dad's own marriage fell apart. After 26 years together, they got divorced. It was not a happy time, and I was not very pleased with some of the choices my Dad made during this time.

He remarried, and helped raise his new wife's four children as their stepfather. Since I was already out of the house when Dad remarried, I was never very close with his four stepchildren. I never thought much about the impact he had on their lives until Dad's funeral. The youngest of those four children related a simple story. When Dad would enter the house after a long day at work, he would step through the door, take off his hardhat, and drop it on the floor. (My Dad was not a "hat rack" kind of man.) The boy would be downstairs in his room, and when he heard the THUMP of the hardhat, he knew Dad was home.

When my stepbrother related this tale at Dad's funeral, suddenly hundreds of evenings of hearing that hardhat THUMP came racing back to my mind. It always was a pleasant sound. And, at that moment I also realized how important my Dad had been to these four stepchildren, too. He didn't just raise his three biological children, he also greatly influenced the lives of his new family, also.

Dad was always at the ready to help anyone who needed it. There are few people in Arimo who didn't benefit from his generosity, whether it be moving snow with his bulldozer, fixing roads with his road grader, or digging holes with his backhoe. (It helped that he had such great "toys" to help people with.)

From my Dad, I learned great lessons of work ethic and responsibility. I wish I carried those two qualities in the quantities that he did, but, as with most things, I don't quite measure up to him.
My daughter, with Dad's hardhat

Since he happened to die on the day before Father's Day, every year Father's Day is especially poignant. I think of his life. I think of his death. I think of how much I wish he was still here. I think of how I wish my kids could experience the influence of "Grandpa Ron."

And then I realize that the best way for them to experience his influence is if I live the kind of life that would make my Dad proud. Thanks for everything, Dad.