Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Shine On, Spring Break!

March 10, 2013

Back in 1980, when I was studying at Ball State University, the two main spring break destinations were Ft. Lauderdale and Daytona Beach. College students from across Indiana would flock to the sunshine state for sun and fun. However, my love for the outdoors combined with a keen sense of adventure overrode this natural instinct to migrate south that year. Instead, my friend Bruce and I made plans for a fishing trip to the back hills of Kentucky and Tennessee on Dale Hollow Lake. We had all of the ingredients for a successful trip — gas money, a boat, enough tackle to stock a retail store, and a lifetime of fishing experience. Notice I didn’t mention anything about money for food? We didn’t have any. The lack of money, we reasoned, would not be an obstacle. We would eat like kings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, on the bounty we pulled from the lake. What fish wouldn’t want to be caught by two blindly ambitious eighteen-year-olds? The lake was full of fish and the world was at our feet.

The Ford LTD Station Wagon was jammed to the gills with fishing tackle and camping gear yet scarcely contained enough food to fill the glove compartment. No problem! We set off from Indianapolis to lose ourselves on the water and tame this giant reservoir. Nearing the lake we noticed that the countryside was dominated by simple homes. Seemingly forgotten for decades, these cabins lacking in paint had rusted tin roofs and cluttered front porches. They conjured up thoughts of the movie Deliverance. For two boys from the suburbs it was a culture shock. Surely, we naively thought, every cabin had a still on the property! The idea of buying a jar of moonshine to drink in the evening as we ate our catch became the topic of discussion. We stopped at a small country store that had a wood plank floor covering half the space and dirt covering the rest. We wondered out loud where we could buy some moonshine. How much could that stuff cost? Let’s ask the guy at the counter! Cutting our nonexistent food budget was the only way to afford some. So that’s just what we did, opting to purchase only a bag of potatoes, peanut butter, jelly, and bread. The potatoes, we reasoned, could be baked, fried, or diced and wrapped in foil with the fish adding diversity to our diet. Oil and foil we brought from home. Wisdom and his close friend common sense were left at home.

On day one we awoke before light. Full of energy and peanut butter we set out to conquer the lake while discussing the idea of stopping mid-day on some island for a shore lunch consisting of fried fish and potatoes. Arriving back at the campsite that night, our growling stomachs announced to the campground that we hadn’t eaten a shore lunch. Not one fish had been caught. Nothing too small, nothing that got away, not one hint of any aquatic dweller…turtles included. We fished from sun up to sun down without even a hint of a fish. The weather was great though, and as slumber came we were confident that day two would be different. Both days two and three ended in much the same way. By the end of the third day we were over the potatoes and peanut butter. It was time to find the fish. So we lit the lantern, opened the lake map and pored over it looking for a solution. Midway through day five we started discussing Plan B.

Finding someone selling moonshine had met with much the same fate. Every night we drove around in the dark looking for a cabin that had a moonshine vibe. (As if there would be some sort of rusted arrow pointing at the roof from the sky above with a sign that read…Get Your Corn Liquor Here!) The process went like this: Bruce would pull up to a shanty, let me out, I would walk up as if I were selling vacuums door to door and coyly ask if they knew of anyone selling sour mash. Sour was the look they gave me, and the conversation was over with the slam of the door. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t know them. In retrospect it was great training for both comedy (tough crowd…said like Rodney Dangerfield) and sales. In fact all sales people should have to do that as a rite of passage; if you actually talk your way into buying a jar then you are immediately promoted to director of sales!

As we drove further into this wild goose chase we continued talking about our empty stomachs. Small farms dotted the hillside. Farms have chickens we reasoned. I knew how to butcher chickens. My grandmother raised them and we butchered them every year. If we could find a chicken coop I’d sneak up, grab a chicken, wring its neck, throw it in the trunk and we would eat like kings… if kings stole chickens. As we rounded a curve we came across a big pig laying at the edge of the road — just a random pig…on a random gravel road…in the middle of nowhere. Bruce stopped the car and for a moment the two of us pondered the idea of butchering that pig. With our fillet knives. Thankfully that ridiculous idea was dismissed — as if stealing someone’s chicken wasn’t ridiculous.

Just beyond the pig we spied a chicken coop on the side of a hill between a barn and farmhouse. Our plan called for Bruce to stay in the car with the motor running and the lights off. I would sneak off to do the deed. Wearing denim from head to toe I was dressed for this covert operation…or a bluegrass festival. All was quiet as I crept up the hillside in the shadows. Slowly I snuck closer while listening for the sound of roosting hens. As I reached the door to the coop I was giddy with the thought that we were about to pull this off. The building was as weathered as the shanty homes. The door to the chicken house was on the side that faced away from the farmhouse. As I slowly opened it the hinges creaked. The silence was broken. Their dog started barking. Dog! Yes the dog! The chickens rustled and clucked in surprise. I quickly shut the door. My adrenalin spiked. The dog sounded big and he was on a mission to protect the farm. His bark was like a shot from a starter’s pistol. The race was on and I was off with a dog somewhere behind me. With the slope of the hill beneath my feet I ran like the wind so fast that I nearly ran out from under my legs. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the fence that separated the pasture from the barn area. Running full stride through the darkness I hit the fence at waist height and in an instant was flipped and hung up on the opposite side of the fence on the barbed wire that was strung across the top. Both of my arms were extended out in either direction from my body as if I were strung up on a cross. The sleeves of my denim jacket were trapped in the barbs. I struggled to break free. The dog was barking somewhere behind me. Suddenly Bruce was at my side helping to free me. He was laughing nervously having seen me run straight into the fence. How could I not see it, he wondered? It was plain to him, as he sat there comfortably in the car with nothing chasing him except the thought of flame-grilled chicken. Struggling to my feet I stumbled my way into the passenger side of the car and we sped off into the darkness with the lights still off, laughing. I never saw the dog. I never touched a chicken. We never ate meat the entire trip.

Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

Winter Olympics

February 16, 2010

I find the Winter Olympics more inspiring than the Summer Games by a land slide.  The beauty of the mountains, the snow, the ice, childhood dreams fulfilled.  Many of the sports seem to be games that kids made up and played long ago in their spare time after school. Like the luge, it’s sledding on steroids.  I remember daydreaming about being in that competition as a kid.  Since I lived in Indiana the day dreams were short because the hills aren’t very tall. Blink your eye and the fantasy is over and it’s time to walk back to the top of the hill for another brief ride.  We had a neighbor that lived on the top edge of a valley.  He had a sledding trail cut through the trees down the side of the valley’s edge.  The drop was steep enough the trees never came into play except to give it a more of an alpine feel.   No bank turns, no ninety mile per hour runs, nothing an energy drink would want to sponsor, but it kept us engaged for hours. 

Look at snow boarding, speed skating, down hill skiing, ice hockey, ski jumping.  Those are all sports that have kid ingenuity and fun written all over them.  Since kids will be kids they became competitive.  One thing led to another, parents got a hold of the idea, organized it, found support from local businesses and a cottage sport was born.  Then ABC’s Wide World of Sports found it or more recently, MTV, and the rest is history.  I think the only winter sport that didn’t evolve that way was curling.  That must have been invented by some grumpy old men who could no longer play hockey.  They liked the ice, they were still competitive, and they had cabin fever.  They told their wives they were going out to sweep the snow off the front porch.  One of their friends was ice fishing in the neighborhood pond.  They gathered down there to see if he was having luck.  It was cold.  The fish were frozen.  One old man pushed the frozen fish to the other with the broom and a sport was born.  Using fish wasn’t practical.  One of the old men was a stone carver, because that’s what they did before Wii was invented.  The rest is history.

Decades later their great grandkids grew to be successful business people who retired, moved to Florida, and invented Shuffle Board.

We have two ponds near our home.  Every winter we look forward to the days that are cold enough to freeze the ice to a safe thickness.  I drill a hole to test the ice and we skate outside in the evening.  That is inspiring.  The air is crisp, the stars are out, and the girls are laughing and acting goofy.  There is a freedom that comes with skating outdoors under the big sky.  The girls choreograph little performance pieces or we play tag.  They pretend they are tracking some type of alpine animal as they skate around.  We don’t talk about any of the pressures of life.  We just laugh, dream, and play in the winter night.  Those times are better than any of my childhood dreams.  Those are a few hours of perfection in our busy time that I carry in my heart.  We relive them as we watch skating in the Olympics.  The hours of dedication it takes to nurture your passion.   The childhood dream realized and the tears shed on the podium during the medal presentation.  Pride, passion, dedication, we live it every day as the girls train for ballet.  It’s nice to see examples of how that hard work pays off.  Their tears are real and their emotion is pure, as pure as childhood fun that is found on a frozen pond at night or in the daydreams of a boy, in a sled, on a small hill in Indiana.

Coffee, Zest, Blocks & Stalls

February 4, 2010

His glasses were so crooked they formed a diagonal line pointing across his face from his temple to his ear lobe.  I haven’t seen glasses worn like that since Grace played dress up as a three year old.  Was this a test?  Was he baiting me?  Should I pluck the glasses off his face, straighten them, and put them back on him…with a straight face no pun intended?  It was hard to take him seriously yet the conversation was just that.  Finding your passion, living with zest, eliminating blocks and stalls from your life.  So you can achieve your goals and thrive.  He was a life coach and he spoke with passion while wearing crooked glasses.  I wasn’t paying him for this lecture.  I hadn’t signed up for his seminar.  He wasn’t my coach until I sat down at the table next to him inside the Borders on the corner of Randolph and State streets in downtown Chicago. 

I believe God sends people into our life for a reason.  He sent this gentleman, Dr Richard Talsky motivational lecturer extraordinaire, to me.  I had a fresh cup of coffee and no where to go for the next hour and a half.  He seemed entertaining, insightful, and passionate.  So much to my wife’s chagrin I listed to his teachings while she studied grad school stuff across the table from me.  I was as much held captive as I was captivated because I already believed everything he was preaching.  There are random times these days when my motivation lacks high octane drive, but I do a lot more than just get by.  That day I’d planned on writing a blog about zest and as luck would have it, he was teaching, preaching, to me about it.  My blog had more to do with the opposite of his lecture, but irony is good, God is good.  Dr Talsky has good intentions, so for that hour and a half I became a student.

He was the poster child for the word savant.  Smart guy, disheveled look, books piled around him in disarray.  I can’t confirm this, but it looked like he was using the Borders as a library.  There were easily ten books, two magazines, and one newspaper scattered around him on the table.  He was studying about successful business people like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  He wanted to know their philosophy on business and how they cultivate that special zest that separates them from everyone else. 

He told me he was renting a turn of the century theatre on Chicago’s west side.  That theatre would become the epicenter for all things motivational.  People would flock there to hear all types of successful people teach about zest.  I’m sure they would serve only the best popcorn at the snack bar…ok I made that up.  Any way this will be the only theatre of it’s kind…all motivation…all the time.  I bet it the resulting positive energy will cast light in that neighborhood 24/7.  He believes the area will become a cultural haven for zest.  One of the components for spreading the word is a radio show on WIND 820 AM.  He also has a web site for all things positive, http://www.thewowcenter.com.  He has a vision of the cost, the profit, the future.  He has eliminated the blocks and stalls that prevent success.  He wants me to eliminate blocks and stalls that hold me back from experiencing my ultimate success.  At this point my wife and everyone around us want me to eliminate the blocks and stalls that are preventing me from breaking it off with Dr Talsky so that he will go back to studying quietly.

He is a published author.  His book, 50 Ways to Thrive, is available for $15.00.  I didn’t have cash, so I bought a Borders gift card for $15.00 and gave that to him for a copy of the book, which he signed.  My wife sighed.  I didn’t care.  I want him to reach his goals.  I want to see him on Oprah discussing the 50 Ways to Thrive.  I want him to notice that all wildly successful people wear glasses horizontally across their face.

The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.

football

Movers & Shakers

September 25, 2009

Call me judgmental, but nothing says “white trash movers” like the bed of a pick up truck piled to the sky with family items.  I’m not talking about moving a TV or a washer and dryer.  You know the look, a mountain of possessions pieced together a bad game of Jenga and held in place with 900 feet of rope effectively cocooning the items in place until they hit a big bump.  They always have one or two chairs precariously balanced on the side defying gravity with other possessions nested in the seat. There is a bike, stroller, or a car seat sitting on the top effectively crowning pile.  Since Houdini didn’t tie the knot that holds everything in place you see that random bark-o-lounger on the side of the road.  I always wonder who was behind the truck when it was jettisoned from the pile.  What kind if evasive action did they have to take?  One minute your singing a little Dave Matthews, “Place them in a box until a quieter time…lights down you up and…crap!  A chair!”  Screeeeech!

I thought my days of needing to phone a friend with a truck were long gone.  Then my wife went to grad school.  She spent the first semester living forty-five minutes from campus with my mom.  As school progressed it became obvious that she needed to live closer.  She broke it to me slowly one night on the phone.  “I’m moving to Ft Wayne.  Check your schedule and let me know what weekend works best for you, the sooner the better.”  OK I may be paraphrasing it a little.  So last weekend with the help of a friend and his truck I moved my 49 year old wife in with two, twenty something class mates.  She’s the house mom.  They have a girl pad…which sounds wrong now that I say it out loud.  They are actually really nice.

I was looking at the move with a mild case of dread because it was the two men and a truck method of moving.  My friend wasn’t that thrilled either because…he’s the guy with the truck.  He owed me some favors so…at eight AM Sunday morning he pulled up ready for a fun day of Sanford & Son.  Our list of items was small and included one head board, one foot board, a queen sized mattress and box spring, and an old oak dresser that we used for Halloween costume storage.  The dresser came with the house my wife bought before we met.  Both the house and the dresser were…um…fixer uppers.  There were actually two dressers that matched.  Together the dressers were worth slightly less than the house.  OK that’s a little strong.  The house was worth much more unless the dressers were full of clothes.  Then it was a tie.  We sold the house 17 years ago and kept the dressers if that tells you anything.  The bed is nice.

The mattress and box spring were wider than the bed of the truck so they were placed at a slight angle.  The dresser was placed on top, facing drawers up. The bright side, we didn’t have pots and pans bungeed to the side of the dresser.  Everything was secured in place with ratchet straps, because we are advanced white trash.  When you have ratchet straps you have security.  I thought about creating the illusion that we’d tied everything down with a garden hose, but that idea was vetoed.  We checked and rechecked the straps, dresser, and bed…all checked out.  We headed up I-69 for Ft Wayne.  My wife was behind us in her little red Yaris  hauling the smaller items and a bike on a bike rack.  She looked trendy we looked…the part.  Somewhere between Anderson and the north Muncie exit, mid conversation, the dresser flew out of the back of the truck at 70 mph.  I had no idea.  I was a passenger.  I had no rear view mirror.  I was the one talking.  My friend broke it to me with all of the subtly of a shot gun blast.  The cars and semi behind us took evasive action.   Thankfully no one was hurt and nothing was damaged….except the dresser which exploded on impact.  So did my bowels.  I became the idiot you see running after loose furniture on the side of the interstate.  The next time you pass a chair or a dresser on the side of the road and you wonder who the hell does something that stupid.  You’re looking at him.  We should have used rope and duct tape.

 SSPX0133[1]

Protesting a High School

September 23, 2009

This week Carly’s high school is being picked by the members of a church because of a play they are staging.  I’ll let you digest that one for a minute…a school of kids…will be picketed …by adults from a “faith” based organization.

I’m all about faith.  I should get that out in the open right now.  I believe in the golden rule.  I teach my kids to live with love and treat people they way they wish to be treated.  Ask and ye shall receive – we live it, practice it, believe it.

This group has a bee in their bonnet because our high school is producing The Laramie Project.  This is a play about the brutal slaying of a gay University of Wyoming student and how it impacted an entire community.  They have a problem with the gay part of that play.  Not the beating part…and here’s the kicker.  It’s not a local church.  These “God loving souls” are driving from Topeka, Kansas to the north side of Indy because they are so offended by the content of this presentation.  We’ve been warned by the school that it’s going down…so to speak.  Maybe they can warm up by picketing one of the adult book stores along the way.  Those book stores are popping up along the interstates like rainbows in a gay pride parade.  I bet we passed 5 or 6 on I-65 south between Indy and the ABT summer intensive this summer.  No family trip is complete without a quick stop at the “Lions Den” for furry handcuffs and an X rated copy of, Woody the Wood Pecker.  OK…I’m going to hell for that.

This church must have someone who monitors the internet in search of sinners.  Talk about job security!  Seriously though how else did they find out about this play?  They must have some type of software that locates sinners using gaydar because Topeka is no where near the north side of Indy.  I Googled Topeka…yes it is now included in Google maps…just barely…but it’s there.  Topeka to Indy is 544 miles.  They also said it’s eight hours and twenty-two minutes by car.  I’m not sure how long it takes by Conestoga wagon or what ever time machine they are using.  Let me say that again, “Eight hours and twenty-two minutes away…by car”.  The twenty-two minutes are probably spent stuck in traffic on 86th St. between Meridian and Westfield Blvd.  I have a tip for all of you picketers.  Just incase you are monitoring me now that I have a kid who is going to hell for attending said high school.  You guys and gals should avoid 86th street and come around on 465 to the Keystone exit and then go west on Keystone.  After you’re done picketing there is some really great Satan free shopping at Keystone at the Crossing just east of the school.  However they do have Victoria’s Secret.  It’s common knowledge that lacy panties lead to fornication.  So you may want to avoid the North West wing of the mall.  Oh, and there is probably a gay dude or two working at the finer men’s stores because they have infiltrated the culture of our city and they know how to dress.  Now that I think about it they are probably working in the home furnishing stores too because they are great at decorating.  I guess you probably shouldn’t go to that mall unless you want another reason to picket. 

So I assume this “church” wink, wink, nod, nod teaches the quote, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Is there an unpublished part of that quote that adds, “Unless they’re gay.”  I’m not sure Jesus would have said that unless it was a different Jesus.  You know the switch hitter who played for the Astros back in ‘69. 

So why did they decide to use their resources to travel here to picket a school with a play that is staged for only one weekend?  Haven’t they ever heard of Broadway?  How about San Francisco, Key West, or any gay neighborhood in any city in the country?  I bet they really want to come to Indy for a Colts game.  If they stop to picket they can write it off as a business trip.

Scheduling the Week

September 12, 2009

I had a friend contact me last week with a business proposal.  It was a great idea, but he’s got more drama in his life than a collection of ER’s greatest hits.  With the girls back in school and ballet training every night our schedule is more choreographed than a Dance Kaleidoscope  show rehearsal.   Dealing with the drama of the day is not on my to-do list.

I need to make sure everything is organized so nothing gets overlooked.  Our dinners and the girls dance schedule are posted on the fridge Sunday evening for the week ahead.  That morning I plan the meals over coffee.  Then I go grocery shopping.  I know what we need which saves time and money.  My grocery list is built with the flow of the store in mind.  It saves time and makes shopping easy.  Then I compulsively wash my hands 50 times like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  Not really, but I sound like I have a compulsive disorder.  I should wash my hands after shopping though with H1N1 lurking around every corner.  Those shopping carts are probably a breading ground for the flu, scabies, and five kinds of flesh eating bacteria…sleep well tonight!  Any way, I hit Costco for the big stuff and Meijer for the other stuff.  I could take the easy way out.  We could do carry-out every night.  I have two problems with that…actually three.  (1) We live on a budget and carry-out is way more expensive than cooking.  (2) We need to eat healthy.  My girls are athletes and I like my fruits and veggies.  Carry-out is…bad.  Just shoot a wad of butter in my veins and toss the dirt over my head (3) Leftover’s make a great low cost lunch and I like them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to choke anything down just to save money.  I like cooking and leftovers. 

If you haven’t figured it out yet I have a type “A” personality.  Numbering, lists, scheduling…where’s my coffee?!  Seriously though, we as a family and a society need to eat healthy and stick to a budget.  Financial crisis…hello!  Health crisis….we’re fat!  I was thinking about this when I walked into Meijer last Sunday.  The first seven adults I saw had a combined mass slightly greater than the state of Texas make that Tex-ass.  Obviously they were all passing the produce section in search of the breaded, frozen, fried cheese sticks and dip. 

Each morning I make breakfast and lunch for the girls, ride my bike (see my last blog) exercise (me time), and start working.  At lunch I make dinner for the girls then go back to work.  Carly gets home from school at 3:30.  She grabs their dinner, & snack then leaves to pick up Grace at 4:00 and head to Jordan.   They start dancing at 4:30 and that usually goes to 9:00.  So they need to take dinner.  While they are at dance I work until about 7:00.  Then I clock out and hit our veggie garden, other yard work, or other domestic stuff.  When they get home it’s time to hit the books.  I write my blog or unwind with them until 10:00.  So you see I have no time for someone else’s drama.  It just drags you down.  At some point I call my wife to catch up with her, tell her fun stuff like I was hit on at the grocery …by a guy.  That wasn’t on my to-do list either.  At forty-eight years old I’m flattered that anyone is attracted to me, but if I had my choice I’d rather be propositioned in the produce section by a well educated woman who snuck home to surprise her husband with fresh strawberries and candles. That would be great, sadly it’s not on my to-do list either…until this weekend.  She didn’t buy the strawberries or candles I did.  Some times it’s good to lose the list, unplug the clock, and let the people you love know they are appreciated.

The Sex Talk

August 29, 2009

 The girls and I were watching the Colts preseason game last week.  A commercial came on that featured a man and a woman.  Carly looked at me and said, “Is this one of those boner pill ads?”  I wanted to laugh out loud.  I did laugh out loud.  It was a credit card ad.  The thing you use to pay for the boner pills.  I’m glad she is comfortable asking me questions like that.  I see she inherited my straight forward approach to life.  There was no beating around the bush…no pun intended.  When I was seventeen I would never have asked my parents that question.  I turned inside out if a tampon commercial came on when I was watching TV with my family.  We just didn’t have that kind of relationship.

When I was in Jr. High my mom walked into my room and gave me a book called, How Babies are Made.  She asked me to read it and if I had any questions I could ask her.   Thanks to Playboy, Penthouse and weekly conversations with friends I had a grasp on that concept without the aid of paper mache illustrations from her book.  Yep, she put her teenage son’s sex education in the hands of a book that depicted chickens made of construction paper “doing it”.  To think my wife wonders why I’m weird.  I don’t even remember if there any pictures of humans.  I flipped it open just to see what they had to say.  To…see what there was to see.  Were there any pictures of naked women that were better than the Playboys we had stashed in our tree house?  When I saw paper mache chickens I closed the book and never opened it again.  No matter how hard I try I can’t get those images out of my mind.  That brief encounter with her book had the opposite effect.  Though I do prefer chicken over beef when it comes to meals…and I love the feel of down filled pillows…I mean I really love them.

When I was in high school my dad took a stab at educating me.  We were driving to my grandmother’s farm.  OMG she had chickens…no wonder I loved going there!  Any way he asked me if I had any questions about sex.  I said no and asked him if he had any that I could answer.  He said no and that was the end of that.  Those two brief conversations were all they offered me. 

I vowed it would not be that way when I had kids.  I wanted them to be comfortable asking me anything.  So their education started when they were small.  When Carly was in first grade I was driving her to a sleep over.  We were talking about something unrelated when out of the blue she said, “Dad I get that a woman has eggs and a man has sperm, but how does the sperm get in there?  Does it crawl across the covers and hop in while the mom is sleeping”?  I said, “Only when I get home really late at night and I’m the one who crawls across the covers.”  Kidding I didn’t say that.  I took a deep breath and told her the truth.  We finished that talk about the time we arrived at the sleep over.  I asked her to please not make this a topic of conversation that night.  Then I gave the host mom a heads up about our conversation.  She was less than thrilled.  I think her idea of car ride conversations revolved around radio Disney play lists.

Back to the ads, how did they come up with those plots?  Who approved them?  A couple on a beach at sunset, each has their own bath tub.  The tubs are close enough they are holding hands.  Bath tubs on the beach?  Really?   Call me naïve, but I fail to see the symbolism.  Then again my education came from Hugh Heffner.

Dinner at Three

August 25, 2009

My dad turns 75 August 28th.  My step mom wanted to throw a surprise party for him.  So she made the reservations before asking everyone when they could make it into town.

Surprise!  No one can make it until later.  I have a brother and a sister.  One lives three hours away and the other is four hours away.  Both have families.  Both will be here but, none of us can make it until later.  So, when the confetti drops and the balloons go up my dad will be celebrating his birthday without any of his kids.  What time was the reservation you ask?  Three PM…for dinner.  Who eats dinner at three PM you ask?  As far as I know just babies and people who are fed by a tube.  

My dad is still a fully functional adult who, as far as I know, doesn’t wear diapers again.  He also still enjoys meals that require teeth.  So I’m thinking that he doesn’t fall into the early meal category.  They aren’t going to a show later in the evening so… the only reason she is planning this meal at three is to be at the restaurant with my dad and a couple of friends.  That’s called a dinner party, not a surprise party.  They normally eat dinner at eight-thirty.  Then they sit in their chairs and watch TV until midnight as the fat builds up on their mid section.  They doze and digest until it’s time for bed after Conan’s monolog.  They watch TV loud too.  They probably need to because all of the blood has rushed away from their ears and brain to help digest the giant late meal.  If you compare the decibels of an indoor Ted Nugent concert, airport noise, and CSI Miami on their TV, I bet Ted would come in first, with their living room running a close second. They are at the stage of their lives where they argue about the weather forecast.  Their short term memory isn’t sharp enough to remember dates I give them, but it’s good enough to remember minor details that invite debate…day in and day out.  I wish my step mom remembered that most families with kids have mid day activities.  Some of those activities can’t be missed, like auditions, all star games, etc.

We asked if she could move the reservations.  She said, “No” she wanted to do this early.  I’m trying to find the logic in eating dinner at three.  It’s not Sunday, in the south.  They aren’t going to a show later in the evening.  Their idea of going to a show is putting in a DVD after dinner.   They “travel” from the dinner table to their chairs in front of the TV.  They do come to see grand kid performances which is nice, but that’s about it.  Like I said, my dad is still a fully functional guy.  He hasn’t regressed to the point that he’s driving 20 mph when the speed limit is 45.  His head reaches well above the steering wheel.  He is the most artistically talented person I’ve ever met.  He made a living as an artist.  He owned and led a graphic arts studio in downtown Indianapolis with a client base that included, Procter & Gamble, Dow Brands, and Stokley Van Kamp.  He created the scrubbing bubble character, he perfected Mr. Clean, and he painted all of the labels found on Stokley Van Kamp fruits and vegetables.  His real life paintings have been seen nationally.  He was a very successful entrepreneur.  He was born in a dirt floor cabin in Acorn, Kentucky.  He possessed the drive to better himself.  He became the first in the family to complete high school and graduate from college.  He raised three kids who are all entrepreneurs.  He passed on his artistic genes.  If my kids possess his level of artistic ability, drive, and business savvy they will be very successful in dance and beyond.

I would like to be there to tell him that in person, when the ball drops, and before the sugar coma sets in.  But he married a woman whose current flexibility rivals steel and brittle poly propylene.  Happy birthday Dad, I love you, I’m sorry I can’t be there at three.