Friday, March 30, 2012

March Madness Madness

All the talk of March Madness is driving me insane. I have been forced into dozens of conversations about this topic that I know nothing about. It reminded me of an old post which I believe explains my stance.

Originally posted October 22, 2010

After a long, hard week working in the tire factory, it is finally Friday.  I could not be more happy for the weekend.  I just got paid, I have two days off, I just got the news I have been waiting for about a new job, and the Eagles are playing the Titans on Sunday.

So, guess what I will be doing on Sunday afternoon.  I will help you.  I may be reading a book, walking around the mall, or wasting time on Facebook.  I will not be watching the Eagles game.  I also will not be watching the Saints, Patriots, Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars or Steelers.  What do I have against these teams?  Nothing.  I just don’t watch football.  What do I have against football?  Nothing.  I just have no interest.  None.

I have never had any interest in football.  Or baseball.  Or basketball.  Or any other sport.  I just don’t care.  Sports do nothing for me.  When I see those big emotional documentaries on Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, or Mickey Mantle, or footage of the Immaculate Reception, I can’t help but think, “It’s just a game.”  What’s the big deal?

I didn’t grow up in a sports family.  We didn’t watch the games on TV or go play baseball in the yard.  I did play Little League when I was in grade school.  I even tried out for basketball when I has in the fourth grade, but even then it wasn’t because I loved sports.  I did it because,…well, it’s what my friends were doing.  I even had fun playing baseball in the summer, but it’s because I was a kid and I was playing.  Playing is what kids like to do, but I would have been just as happy playing anything.

As an adult, I really don’t understand the fascination with a bunch of guys who throw a ball around.  I am not saying anything against sports fans.  They enjoy it and that’s great; I just don’t understand it.  A man goes to see his favorite team play.  Let’s say the Rams, since I am so close to St. Louis.  There are some good plays, some lousy calls by the refs, and in the end the Rams win (or lose).  Now, I understand the entertainment of watching the game, but when it’s over, it’s over.  The number went up in either the W or the L column.  What difference does it make?  If they keep winning and make it to the Super Bowl, even win it, what difference does it make?  Whether they win or lose, they will be back again to play next year.  To be so into the game that arguments break out in bars and living rooms over whether the coach should be kept or which players should be traded is beyond me.

Once again, I want to state that I have nothing against the people that are huge fans, not even the ones who paint their whole body the team colors and wear crazy hats.  If this is what some people want to put their time and energy into, that is fine by me.  I am sure there are many people out there who do not understand my extreme interest in computers, reading, and photography.  Those are the things I like to do, and could easily burn an entire weekend in front of my computer or reading.  So, I have nothing against sports or the people who follow or play them.  I just don’t get into it myself.

However, there is one thing about many sports fans that makes me want to take up cage fighting so I can make them tap out.  Why is it that if I don’t know the name of the Bears’ quarterback or the shortstop for the Pirates in 2006, I am suddenly not a man, at least, not one from this planet?  I have tolerated the endless discussions about the rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with my best smile, but as soon as I cannot participate in the conversation with any knowledge on the matter, I feel like I am being shunned.  “You don’t follow NASCAR?  What do you do on Sundays?”  The next question is the worst one.  “So what sport DO you follow?  Football, baseball, golf, soccer, MMA fighting, dodge ball, competitive bass fishing?”  It is unheard of that I don’t follow any sport.  Once I confess this dirty little secret, there is usually several minutes of silence while they try to think of what we could possibly talk about if sports is off the table.

I first noticed this prejudice in high school.  Near the end of my senior year, my school hosted a Sports Appreciation meal.  It was a rather simple affair.  The school ordered several dozen pizzas for the sports participants of the school.  Of course, the basketball and baseball players were all there.  I walked in with my team and the partiers of the room stopped and stared.  “What are you guys doing here?”  You see, the team I was on was the Scholastic Bowl.  We competed against other schools in academic challenges.

As far as we were concerned, we should be part of the meal.  What we did was a sport.  We would compete with 5-person teams and two alternates.  There was a countdown timer and we kept score (unlike cheerleaders, who were at the meal).  Our matches had officials (like referees), we practiced three times a week and traveled to our different meets.  It was very competitive.  Sounds like a sport to me.

We hadn’t even been invited to participate, but our coach found out about it and decided we should crash the party.  We got a lot of dirty looks and nasty comments, but we didn’t mind.  We just wanted the pizza.  Maybe if we threw balls at the opposing teams while they answered we would have gotten more respect.

So, this Sunday, if you invite me over to watch the game and I say, “No, thank you,” know that it is nothing against you.  It’s just that if you want me to sit through three hours of sports talk and watching people yell at a TV then you need to have some really good snacks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You Can't Get Away From Your Family

I like to think that I have always been my own person. I have my way of thinking, my way of acting and my way of doing things (even if they don't always work). While I can respect the wisdom and knowledge of people that came before me, I like finding my own way. This started at a very young age.

Never a slave to conventional dress,
I found my style early on.
Much to my parents dismay, the pastel colors and little duckies on my clothes just were not acceptable to me. After much deliberation (mostly on their part since I couldn't talk yet), I compromised.

I was gangsta,
before gangsta was cool.
At the age of 18 months, I began to change my own diapers. This was not a modesty issue. We know from past posts, I still don't have any modesty. No, this was part of my unrelenting desire to become my own man.

I demanded this freedom in other areas of my life as well. I knew how I wanted things and would accept nothing less.

Had Mother fixed the steak I asked for,
this would not have happened.

My parents, being appreciative of the freedom I was offering them by my new independence, took advantage of the situation. Since I could take care of myself, they could go out and not have to worry about me. It saved money in babysitters and further taught me self reliance.

Against my wishes, they later decided this was not a good idea.

I invited the neighbor girls over,
but their mom said they were napping.
The cop took this picture after pulling me over.
I was on my way to buy more booze.

After the run in with local law enforcement, my parents had me under their oppressive thumbs and my life was relegated to the boring life of a toddler once again. I endured this for a little over a year before I saw my opportunity to escape.

One Sunday, my family was walking in the pasture behind my great-grandfather's house. It was a beautiful day and the birds were singing. All that open air made me yearn for the freedom that I knew I deserved. After all, it had been over three years since I had escaped from the suffocation of the womb. How long should I be expected to play the part of cute pet? I knew today was the day and began looking for my opportunity.

As we approached the top of a hill, I observed a wide open space before us. This was the place to make a break for it. If I could make it to the tree line, I could disappear and live off the land.

Being acutely aware of my short stature (darn stubby toddler legs), I knew I would need a head start in order to not be caught. The large descent before me would give me the opportunity to gain speed quickly. If the parental units could be distracted for a few moments, I would have the edge I needed.

I pointed at a cloud and babbled in that way that adults think are so cute. When they looked up, I bolted for the bottom of the hill. I was able to get close to the bottom before they realized I was gone. Only a few hundred feet more and I would be free forever.

I looked back and noticed that they had taken pursuit and were screaming for me to stop. They must have been aware of my intentions because they were much more frantic than usual. My father was closing in fast, so I concentrated on my departure.

Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, I tripped and sprawled forward. My tumble caused a white hot dust to come out of the ground. I quickly found it difficult to see and began to cough. I then realized that I had been duped.

My great-grandfather had anticipated my plan the night before and laid out a trap. He had burned a large brush pile after clearing out some trees. Knowing this was where I would most likely make a run for it, he placed it in the valley before the trees.

The entire pile had been burned to the ground and the only evidence of the preceding days events was the white ash on the ground. In my haste to get away, I had not noticed what I was running toward. The fire was out, but the coals were still crackling hot. My hands were now holding up the rest of my body from being burned, but my center of gravity did not allow for me to stand up and remove my hands from the burning.

Was this going to be the end? Would I slowly disintegrate into the pile eventually engulfing my entire body? I had underestimated the deviousness of my guardians.

My father snatched me out of the fire. I knew they were disappointed that the trap had not worked properly. He was going to throw me in and finish the job properly. I held my breath and waited for the heat, but it never came.

My father ran back to the house as the heat in my hands began to grow to intolerable levels. After a quick clean up, they rushed me to a hospital. The doctor's did horrible things and then bound me so I could no longer cause any trouble. My parents' plan to end my independence was complete.

I could no longer change my diapers.
Without the use of my hands, I had to humbly allow my mother to feed me and take care of my bathroom issues once again. I couldn't even use my toys. My life was going to be dependent on them forever.

My dog didn't even respect me any more.
Two days later, I was returned to the hospital and thrilled to learn that they were removing the hindrances that had been placed on me. However, my hands and fingers had doubled in size and were covered in blisters that stood over an inch tall. My hands still didn't work. Then they held me down and bound me up again.

They teased me this way every few days. The doctors would take them off and then replace them. I finally understood. They were trying to break my spirit.

After a few weeks, I falsely admitted compliance. Satisfied that I would not attempt escape again, they freed my hands. It was several years before I tried again.

It didn't go well either.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hop Along Sunday

Disclaimer before you read this post: About 3 months ago, I wrote my most popular post Abscessed Adventures with Adam telling the story of me taking my friend Adam  for an emergency room visit. Due to the nature of his injury (bleeding groin) that day, my blog caused him a little embarrassment.  I have learned my lesson and sincerely apologize to Adam. In order to save him from further embarrassment, for the remainder of this post he will be referred to as Steve.

As explained in past posts, "Steve" is an amputee. Half of one foot has been removed and three toes on the other foot. This information is necessary for the story and also explains why he moves so slow at Wal-Mart.

Due to some issues with Steve's insurance, his primary care doctor has dropped him. This has resulted in Steve not having access to his pain medication. He doesn't take it very often, but it is there when he needs it.

Steve has a new DJ business that is starting to see an increase in customers. This past week has been especially busy and he has been on his stumps feet a lot. Without proper medication, he tried to power through the pain and did so for several days. Sunday morning at church he pulled me to the side.

Steve: "I have a serious problem. You have to take me to the hospital."

Me: "Now?"

Steve: "As soon as church is over."

You have got to try this.
Me: "I don't know. Subway has that new meatball pepperoni sub. I am really looking forward to trying it."

Steve: "Ooh! That does sound good. Let's go, but you have to drag me to the truck. I can't walk."

He was serious. Since he weighs more than me, by the time I  hauled him to his vehicle, we had both worked up an appetite and did go out for lunch.

Once our hunger was satisfied, we headed to the hospital. Due to the construction that is still going on from the last time we were there, driving up to the emergency room door involves a long, tight curve. There was an unmanned car parked in front of the door, which meant that I would be unable to pull through after dropping Steve off. I would have to back out through the winding obstacle course.

Unsympathetic to my concerns, Steve still insisted I take him right to the door, which I did because I am an awesome friend.

We pull up to the door and Steve just sits there.

Me: "Well, get out."

Steve: "I can't walk. Remember."

Me: "You don't have to walk. You just have to get out of the truck. I have to go park."

Steve: "What am I supposed to do once I get out?"

Me: "I don't know. Lay on the sidewalk or something. After I park, I will roll you in the door."

He gets out and stares longingly at the entrance. To be polite, I made sure not to hit him with the mirror despite him not stepping from the vehicle.

Once I returned from finding a spot, I was relieved surprised to discover that he had found his way inside. The smell of Vicodin must have lured him into the building. The nurses remembered us from our last visit and they directed me to the correct room as soon as I walked in.

Steve was laying on the bed moaning. He was already starting to panic because he was afraid they might want to touch his foot-type thing or, even worse, give him a shot. As I started to explain why it would be worth it, I heard a quiet, high-pitched "YOOHOOOO."

Me: "Steve, did you hear that?"

Steve: "All I hear is the blood rushing to my head."

Mystery Voice (whispering): "Is there anyone here?"

Me: "There it is again."

Steve: "Is it that hot nurse from earlier?"

Me: "No."

Steve: "Then, I don't care."

It was so quiet, I wasn't even sure I was hearing it. Then, I heard it again, but louder.

Voice (screaming): "Someone bring me some food!"

Me: "I knew I wasn't wasn't crazy."

Steve: "I beg to differ."

Me: "Shut up! Listen."

Screaming Voice: "I AM HUNGRY! SOMEONE BRING ME SOMETHING! IS ANYONE OUT THERE?"

Me: "Those nurses are good at tuning people out. Steve, start screaming. We'll see who comes."

Steve: "No. My head hurts."

Me: "You're no fun."

The doctor came in and Steve winced in pain.

Me: "He hasn't even touched you yet."

After hearing the story and attempting to get close enough to observe the troubled area, the doctor explained that he could give him something for the pain right now, but Steve would need to find a doctor to take him on as a patient.

Steve started crying.

Me: "What is wrong with you?"

Steve: "He almost touched my foot."

The nurse came in and pulled out the last thing that Steve wanted to see, a syringe. Once convinced it wasn't going in his foot, he decided to accept it.

Steve took several deep breaths and waited. She cleaned the area and gave the injection quickly. Steve decided it wasn't so bad. He asked what she had given him.

Nurse: "Morphine."

The nurse left and said she would be back with a 3 day prescription of painkillers, but Steve really didn't care. Something had happened to him.

 
HA HA HA HA! What pain? Why are we here?

Steve's pain was gone and so was his capacity to think, talk, or concentrate. Everything the nurses tried to explain to him was funny. The old woman that fell in the hallway was funny. The rubber gloves on the table were funny. Luckily, they got the needed signatures from him before the shot.

I decided it was time to leave and went to bring the truck to the front. I, apparently, left my phone behind and Steve answered when my daughter called.

Five minutes later, her Facebook status was updated.

Now, remember, this is Steve (not Adam)!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chaos Butterfly Powers

When I was a kid I loved to pretend I had superpowers. I may be an adult now, but my mind still wanders off into extreme fantasy land on occasion. How cool would it be to have the power of invisibility making it possible to sneak into  places without being detected? I could use it for evil purposes to rob banks and spy on people or I could use it for good by assisting the military or police and taking down the bad guys.

Being able to fly would have all sorts of applications. It would definitely make travel much easier, although without some sort of super strength, I really couldn't take things with me. I would need to invest in a large backpack.

Save the Cheerleader
Save the World

When I was younger and aspiring to be a stuntman I would have been unstoppable if I had the healing powers of Wolverine or the cheerleader Claire Bennet from Heroes. I can only imagine the stunts I could have accomplished had I known that I would live through it. Believe it or not, we did come up with ideas that we backed down from. We may have taken a lot of risks, but we did have our limits.

Telekinesis would probably be wasted on me since I would use it more for messing with people than ever finding a practical use for it. Plus, I would probably get really out of shape if I never had to get up to do anything. Moving things with my mind would not have a good outcome for anyone.

Despite all my crazy comic book nerd fantasies, I discovered in the last week that I do have a superpower. It is very similar to the Butterfly Effect or the Chaos Theory. The term Butterfly Effect was coined by Edward Lorenz in response to a 1963 paper he wrote demonstrating how the tiniest action can be the catalyst for a series of events eventually causing a result in another part of the world. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could cause a tornado to be set off in Texas.

The butterfly did not create the event by itself. It simply started an event that had a consequence, which led to another event, which led to another, and so on, until the accumulation of events created the conditions necessary to create a tornado.

Due to recent events, I now know that I have this ability. Due to my delayed response to a question, I caused an event to occur 8,927 miles away. 


Many of you have been following the interaction between Red of Doesn't Speak Klingon and myself. Here's a brief explanation for those of you that aren't up to speed. Of all the people that are watching this saga unfold since my proposal to Red last Valentine's Day, no one is a bigger fan than Bozo of A Bozo's Abbozzo. Please note that Bozo is in India.

Bozo has scoured each of our comment sections to pick up on any communication that may be happening between Red and myself. She sends each of us encouraging comments and gets tickled every time she learns new information. She is thrilled that Red and I are now emailing back and forth, but that also means that our conversations are not in the public eye as they were before.

After learning a new piece of information that Red shared in one of her recent posts, Bozo asked me a question in the comment section of her own blog (compatibility check, sheer curiosity, who knows). Since I wasn't at my computer, I didn't answer right away. Waiting for my response caused her to burn the milk she was boiling. She writes about it here (Of Burnt Milk & Brett Minor).

My actions in Illinois ruined food on the other side of the world. My destruction has a worldwide range.

To demonstrate to you, my readers, that I do not only use my powers for evil, I have an example of how I have used these powers for good. However, while evil comes easy, doing good takes some extra effort.

Red had a very bad day last week and I wanted to do something nice for her. I decided to send her some flowers, but I don't know what town she lives in. I wanted it to be a surprise, so I couldn't just ask her. So, being the computer geek that I am, I put my skills to work to implement my plan.

I felt like I was
doing something dirty.
I know the industry she works in and the state she lives in. Using that information coupled with her real name (yes, I know her real name, are you jealous?) I conducted a directed search and found what I was looking for within a few minutes: the name, address and phone number where she worked.

Before I went any further, it occurred to me that this might be outdated information. I didn't want to send flowers to a place that she left 3 years ago. I needed to confirm that she was actually still employed there. I called the number and it was disconnected.

A Google search for the company name gave me a new number. As I began to dial the number, I stopped and rethought this entire adventure. How will this be perceived? Will she be impressed or feel like she is being stalked?

After thinking it over for a few minutes and praying that my intentions would be understood, I decided to proceed. I called the number and asked for her. The receptionist asked "And who should I say is calling?"

I hadn't thought of that. What do I say? I didn't want to give my real name, because I wanted the flowers to be a surprise. I blurted out the first name that came to mind, "Steve Powers."

I don't know where that name came from, but was glad I didn't say Austin Powers. That might have been hard to accept.

Then, she answered. "Can I help you?"

After weeks of blogging comments and hundreds of emails, I actually have her on the phone. I am hearing her voice for the first time, but since she doesn't know it is me, I have to play my part to get the information that I need. I wanted to confirm that the address I had was correct for getting to her and not just some receiving area in the company. I did my best to answer her questions despite knowing very little about the subject matter and got the information that I needed.

I hung up the phone and felt the guilt wash over me. I felt like such a bad person, but there was no turning back now.

I contacted a flower shop in her area and placed a delivery order. I then tried to busy myself and hoped for the best. Today, could mark the end of this internet courtship.

Two hours later, I receive an email from Red indicating that the flowers had achieved the result I had been hoping for. Of course, her first question was, "How do you know where I work?"

I quickly called back as Steve Powers again so I could tell her that she had given me what I needed to know. I identified myself very early this time.

My mood was entirely different after hanging up this time. The sky was brighter, food tasted better and my daughter told me to stop smiling like an idiot.

My plan worked.



Back to my Chaos Butterfly superpower: I used my power for both evil and good within 24 hours of each other. My evil powers have at least a 9000 mile range, my good powers have only been tested up to 900 miles. I am going to have to develop the good side much further to maintain a balance in the Force.

Note the butterfly.
Coincidence?
I think not.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grand Theft Auto - Kindergarten Style

Not actual car, but closest I could find.
My brother Kyle drove a 1974 AMC Javelin when he was a teenager. He loved that car.

One night, as he was driving home, the car broke down. He pulled over to the side of the road and discovered he would need a few tools to get it running again. Since it was well after dark, it would have to sit until morning. We lived out in the country and knew the car would be safe until then.

The next morning the trip to get the car was a little delayed because we had family come in from out of town. After visiting with them for a few hours, he enlisted me to drive him out there.

We took Kyle's second vehicle. It was a large flatbed truck used to haul water. Kyle had a water hauling business. At the time, we lived in an area that did not have water lines. Everyone in the area got their water from a well. Using a well for your water supply means that you have a limited amount of water and it is possible to run out. If someone went empty they would pay Kyle to come out and refill their well.

Our visiting family members included our 6 year old cousin, Fred. He was fascinated by the large truck, so we asked him if he wanted to go for a ride. He was thrilled to get to climb up in the cab with us. We were soon on our way.

After driving a few miles, Kyle points at his car and says, "Look at that. Someone left a car on the side of the road."

Fred had never asked us where we were going and had never seen this car before. He didn't know it belonged to Kyle. He looked up over the dashboard and commented on how cool it was. I suggested we pull over to get a better look at it.

Kyle pulled his truck up in front of the Javelin and we all get out. Kyle and I watch Fred admiring the car. As Fred is looking in one of the windows, I open the side door. "Hey, look. It's unlocked."

Fred's eyes opened wide. "You can't do that."

Kyle told him, "Relax. There's no one around."

No one for miles.
We lived in a farming community and this was one of those areas where a house could not be seen in any direction. It was all fields, but Fred stood his ground.

As Kyle climbed into the car, Fred protested again, "Get out of there. The cops will get you."

I open the hood and yell, "Hey, Kyle, I think I see the problem."

Fred yells at both of us, "I want to go back. Let's leave."

Ignoring Fred's pleas, Kyle joins me at the front of the car and says, "I think I can fix this. Hey, Fred, grab those tools under the driver's seat."

Fred: "No."

Me: "Fred, the quicker we get this car going, the faster we can get out of here. Now hurry."

Fred hangs his head and slowly walks to the truck. He retrieves the tools and comes back to stand beside us. He stood there looking at the tools in his hands, contemplating whether he should be an accomplice in this crime he did not want to commit.

Kyle: "Give me the tools and go behind the truck and watch for cars."

Fred: "What?"

Me: "We need you to keep watch in case someone comes."

Fred: "I don't want to. I'll wait in the truck."

Kyle: "Fred, at this point, if someone comes, we will all get busted. Now, help us out and go watch for cars."

Fred, moving slower than ever, shuffled over to the other side of the truck so he could get a clear view of the road. Kyle begins working under the hood. I assist with my limited mechanical abilities (which usually means turning the key when Kyle says to). We soon forgot about Fred out there keeping us safe.

After a few minutes, we hear Fred scream. I look up and see him come running around the corner of the truck yelling, "CAR! CAR! There's a car coming!"

Fred runs by us and dives into the ditch. Kyle and I quickly take our places hiding behind the car as well. Trying not to laugh, I start to say something to Fred, but he cuts me off and puts his finger to his lips, "SHHHHHH!"

Once the car got by us, Kyle and I stood up. Fred yelled, "Not yet, they could still see us. Get down!"

Once he felt it was safe, he stood up, gave us a dirty look and went back to his place behind the truck without any of us saying a word.

Kyle soon had the car started and we yelled for Fred. I hopped in the Javelin to drive it back and told Fred to get in. He said he was not getting anywhere near the car and climbed in with Kyle in the truck.

On the way back to the house, Kyle was explaining to Fred that he couldn't tell anyone about this. He had to keep his mouth shut until he repainted the car. Fred just sat there with his arms crossed and did not talk all the way back.

Back at the house, I parked the Javelin in the garage and closed the door. Kyle parked behind the house and I helped Fred out of the truck. Before going inside, we reminded him once again that he could not tell about what we had just done. He nodded his head.

We walked to the house and as soon as I opened the door, Fred bolted inside. He ran up to his mother and the little narc spilled out the whole story in one breath.

"MOM, I DIDN'T WANT TO, BUT THEY MADE ME. I GOT SCRATCHED AND WET HIDING IN A DITCH AND THE COPS ARE COMING, BUT I DIDN'T DO IT. IT WAS THEM. THEY TOLD ME NOT TO TELL AND THEN PUT IT IN THE GARAGE. I GAVE HIM A WRENCH BUT IT WASN'T MY FAULT. I DIDN'T WANT TO."

Dude WriteWhen he paused to take a breath, his mother, alarmed by the excited state of her son said, "Wait, what happened?"

Fred hung his head and cried, "We stole a car."

She looked up at us. Kyle and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went back outside.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Turn Off Your Cell Phones and Refrain From Talking

The movie Act of Valor is now in theaters. This movie is about a Navy SEALS team that go on a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent. The movie uses active duty Navy SEALS for the cast. I have heard great things about this movie and look forward to seeing it.

My friend Adam (who now has his own blog, The Train's Whistle) is trying to talk me into going to see it with him. I keep telling him no, but he is persistent. As much as I would like to see this movie, I am more than happy to wait until it comes out on DVD. That is what I do with almost all movies. I very rarely actually go to the movie theater. The last movie I saw in theaters was Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in March 2010. Before that, it was Coraline in February 2009.

I really do enjoy movies. My Netflix account gets a very good workout, but I just don't enjoy the theater experience. In December 2006,  Rocky Balboa was in theaters. Several of my friends decided to go together. I went because it was a chance to hang out with the guys. This group really doesn't get together very often and I thought it would be fun. My dad even decided to go.

I had to drive to the theater immediately after I got off work to meet with the group. Due to one of my complaints about movie theaters, I stopped to grab a few things before I got there. I refuse to pay $12 for a soda and some popcorn. I understand wanting to make money, but after paying close to $10 just to walk in the door, the concession prices are ridiculous. I don't want to have to take out a small loan just for an evening out, especially when the same movie will be available for a buck in a few months.

I arrived at the theater, bought my ticket and met up with the guys. After catching up with each other, the lights dimmed and the previews started. One of the guys looks around the group and says, "Don't judge me guys. I know we're not supposed to do this, but I can't pay those prices." He pulled a King Size Snickers bar out of his pocket.

The guy next to him laughed and pulled out the soda he had snuck sneaked in. (I just learned that snuck is not a word.) Curious to see who else had a penchant for breaking the rules, they looked down the row and whispered, "Hey, did anyone else sneak in food?" Not to be outdone by a measly soda and candy bar, I showed them the Big Mac Extra Value Meal I had smuggled in under my coat.

Remember, I had just gotten off work, and it is really not that hard to do when wearing winter clothing.

Despite the fun we had that night, we would have had fun anywhere. It wasn't the theater that provided the good time. It was the company. In fact, the theater does it's best to prevent actual enjoyment.

When I am at home and have to go to the bathroom, I have the luxury of being able to pause the movie so that I don't miss anything. They will not do this for you at the movie theater. They don't give you a remote and it is apparently not voice activated. No matter how many times you say or yell 'PAUSE,' the movie keeps playing, but now it can't be heard because the other patrons are screaming at you.

At home, if I don't catch what someone said, I have the option to rewind it a few seconds. Most of the time, I turn the subtitles on. The movie theater doesn't care if you are partially deaf in one ear due to a misplaced picnic table during a bicycle stunt. It is your problem and just like the pause issue, nothing happens when you scream, "What did she say?" I always end up having to tap the shoulder of the guy in front of me to explain what I missed and he is rarely helpful. For some reason I always seem to end up behind a very grumpy man.

Speaking of the grumpy man, I also have to contend with the other people that are in the room with me. You never know what smelly person might sit next to you. Or the guy behind you that won't stop talking. Or the parents with the crying child. On one occasion, there were two unsupervised pre-teen boys in the theater. They kept laughing loudly, getting up to dance in the aisle and were throwing popcorn. One of them tripped over a patron's foot when returning from the bathroom. He turned around with his chest out loudly challenging the guy, "What are you going to do about it?" After they sat there for a few minutes loudly reveling in how cool they thought they were, I had had enough.

I excused myself from my seat, worked my way to the aisle in a packed theater and marched to the front row where these kids were sitting. I have worked with kids for years and had seen these types hundreds of times. I knew how to handle them. I stood in front of them, leaned close and whispered a few sentences.

They stared at me for a few seconds and then stood up and walked out. As I went back to my seat, the theater erupted in applause. As much as everyone appreciated what I had just done, I couldn't get any of them to catch me up on the last 20 minutes of the movie I had missed because of those kids.

As much as some people may believe that you just have to see certain movies on 'the big screen,' I have rarely found it to be worth it. Why pay over ten times the price and be forced to purchase their over-prices snacks? They won't pause it, won't rewind it and rarely take care of trouble customers unless they are especially problematic. At home, I have control of all that and the thermostat.

After trying to get comfortable the last time I went to the movies, the theater manager came to speak with me. Apparently, even he thinks I should watch movies at home if I want to lay in the floor in my boxers. He said something about building fires codes and indecency something or other. I wasn't really listening. I was trying to stay with the dialogue of the film. How rude.

Why should I hand over money to suffer these communist conditions? I will pay a buck, watch it at home, pause it for bathroom breaks, use my laptop phone if I want, turn on the subtitles, eat whatever I like and pants are completely optional.

You can even come join me, but bring your own snacks.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, but that day doesn't mean much to me. I stayed home and watched a DVD with my daughter. (The Rum Diary, if you want to know. It sucked.) I really don't frequent bars or go to wild parties. I did those things years ago and like to say I outgrew them, but sometimes I wonder.

My life changed. I had children. I have other lives that I am responsible for. I had to make some changes and some of them involved staying home and taking care of my family.

You know how some kids go off to college and then go nuts because they are no longer under the roof of their parents. I wonder if that will be me in a couple of years when my daughter leaves for college. It will just be me with no responsibilities other than myself. That kind of freedom can be dangerous in the hands of a man that hasn't seen it for eighteen years.

My leash is a little longer.
I am not suggesting that I feel that I am shackled down. I love being a dad and wouldn't trade it for anything. I also understand that the parenting doesn't just stop when they move out. However, to have the daily responsibility suddenly lifted when the last child moves out is a little scary and yet I look forward to it as well. What will happen when I don't have to get home because I have a daughter there? Will I actually do anything different? I have no idea. We will find out in a couple of years. My daughter will be leaving for college in the fall of 2014.

Until then, I am happy to be at home. I get into my share of trouble every now and then, but it stays fairly tame. Half the time, I have her right beside me for any trouble I encounter, but last night we played it safe and stayed home.

After a night of emails, TV and checking Facebook I headed to bed. That is when the adventure started.

Like most people I dream in my sleep. Sometimes I remember my dreams and sometimes I don't. On the occasions that I do, it is usually little snippets here and there. However, last night, I pursued the same adventure all night.

I will tell this dream as best as I can remember how it happened. The dream will be in blue. I will add my commentary and possible reasons for these images in regular text.

As soon as I fell asleep, I started dreaming that my daughter and I were sharing a meal at home and talking. She was telling me about her date the night before with her boyfriend. At some point in her story, she gave me the impression that her boyfriend was doing drugs on their date. He does not do drugs, but in the dream, I was aware of the fact that he did. It was not a problem as long as he did not do them in her presence, but he did that night.

I was upset with him for doing this and upset with her for allowing it to happen by not calling me. I was also upset that she acted like nothing had been done wrong. Despite her protests, I had to report this to the police. While she was getting ready, I stepped outside. In the dream we lived in an apartment in a large city. 

There were hundreds of people going from our apartment into a building across the street. I walked across to see what was going on over there, but was stopped by a policeman and asked to show my wristband. Apparently, to prove that I had paid for the event. I explained that I was not going in, but was just curious to see what was going on. He would not answer any of my questions, but I got him to believe that I was not going in.

When my daughter finally came out, we began walking to our car. Due to the shooting that had happened a few blocks away, (I did not see this, but was aware that it had happened) the parking garage was full of panicked people trying to get away. There were also many forklifts carrying some large blue crates. The drivers could not see in front of them, so we had to dodge them to get to our car. We barely made it.

We couldn't find the police station, so we drove to a woman's house to visit with her. This woman had hundreds of cats dressed in varying outfits. However, the cats were the size of large mice. They were on the back of the couch, on shelves and running everywhere on the floor.  My father was sitting in an easy chair trying to dress one of the cats in a fire fighter outfit. 

After marveling at several of the costumed kitties, I eventually became bored and began to photograph the children that were running around the house. I don't know where they came from, but it seemed normal in the dream. Every time I would get ready to take a picture they would make a terrified face, wait for the shot and then run off laughing.

Eventually, my youngest brother Trevor came out of a back room with one of the children and said it was time to leave. I climbed into the back of a police car (driven by John Kiselewski, a deputy I worked with at the Sheriff's Department) and we sped away.


Actual photo of strip mall in Harrisburg, IL
40 miles from my home. (3-1-2012)
After several minutes, I noticed we approached a town that had been destroyed. Trees were knocked down and houses were decimated. The devastating Midwest storms from a couple of weeks ago happened 40 miles from my home. It was raining furiously. I asked where we were and he told me, "This is Yellow Ash." I have never heard of Yellow Ash in real life. There is a White Ash 30 miles south of here. In the dream, I was familiar with it and it was way off course from where I wanted to go.

When we stopped, I was asked to wait inside a high school. My daughter and I stood in the kitchen discussing where her boyfriend's drug use took place. Finally, we got back to the purpose for this adventure. Once she told me where it had happened, I realized that I had been trying to get to the wrong police station. I had been trying to get to the county police department, when the offense had happened within the city limits. This meant we should have been headed to the city police department.

As I was trying to explain my mistake to my daughter, a Secret Service agent walks in to the kitchen and asks us to stand back. As I step to the side, people begin filing into the kitchen. One of them was Rick Santorum. Santorum had just been in our town that day delivering a speech at the airport. This was a current presidential candidate, so I wanted to shake his hand, but he had a coat covering it. I reached out and pulled the coat away as he passed. Despite the dirty looks from the Secret Service agents, he knew what I wanted, shook my hand and walked out the back door.

At this point, I woke up.



Now, I am left with the dilemma of trying to figure this out. Was this dream trying to tell me that I need to find out more about my daughter's boyfriend? Why was the type of drugs never mentioned?

Why was the shooting only a side note in the dream?

Was it telling me who to vote for...or not vote for?

Is it guilt for not volunteering to help with the relief efforts in Harrisburg?

Since Red is dreaming about me, why did she not make an appearance in my dream?

Of all the cops I have worked with, why was Kiselewski the one driving the car?

Why did the cat woman's house suddenly fill with children? Why did we go there to begin with?

Why did the children make the horrified face before every picture?

What was the significance of the coat over Rick Santorum's hand? Does it matter?

Someone help me out here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Radio-Active Iridescent Nuclear Bio-Optical Weapon

 Due to my crazy schedule and lack of sleep for this week, I have not had the time to create the post I had planned for today. I am re-posting my favorite piece. It originally appeared on my blog on March 12, 2011.



I was driving home with a friend after last week’s rain and she noticed a beautiful rainbow over the trees to the east.  It was probably the brightest one I have ever seen.  I pulled the van off the road to admire it before it faded away.  It was amazing.    

After watching the rainbow for a while she commented that she really didn’t understand how rainbows hang in the sky like that.  I felt obliged to explain it to her and started to give her the history of rainbows.  I explained that they were a product of the U.S. military and why they were invented in 1947.  She abruptly cut me off.  She exclaimed that although she may not know how they work, she knew they have been around for  thousands of years.  She gently reminded me that it was in the Bible that God created rainbows after the Flood to show the world that he would never destroy the earth by flood again.

She was referring to Genesis 9:13 which reads in the New International Version, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”  I couldn’t blame her.  It is a common, although misguided thought.  The translators of the NIV made a mistake.  If we look at the King James Version, it reads, “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.”  The King James translates the Hebrew word קשת correctly.  Unfortunately, there has been a misconception of what a bow is.  The word has evolved and has not been used in this manner for several centuries.

The word bow according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary when used as a verb means “to cease from competition or resistance.”  You can check the definition here.  While this word is now only used as a verb, at one time it was used as a noun.  When used as a noun, it meant a “cessation of substance” or “area of lower density.”

Therefore, when Genesis says that God created a bow, it referred to an area of less or no rain in the midst of rain.  A rainbow and a rain bow are not the same thing.  While a rainbow is the colorful arc caused after a rain by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in raindrops, spray, or mist, a rain bow is a place in the middle of a storm where there is no rain.  When you are driving in the rain and it stops for a moment and then starts again, that was a bow in the rain, or a rain bow.  It is the same as when you can see it raining across the street, but it is not raining where you are.  This is a rain bow.  Now that we have that cleared up, let’s get back to the origin of rainbows like the one we were looking at last week.

Rainbows were invented by military scientists at the Roswell Army Air Field in Roswell, New Mexico.  The air field had a national security issue in the mid-1940’s that needed to be promptly resolved.  Roswell was the leading manufacturer of experimental aircraft for the military and often tested their new developments late at night when most people would be asleep.  Unfortunately, the unusual lights in the sky were frequently spotted by people who worked late and insomniacs.

Military scientists and engineers brainstormed to come up with a solution.  They needed to prevent civilians from witnessing the test flights and possibly discovering military secrets.  They concluded that building a wall two miles tall around the entire base would not be cost-effective and relocating the civilians within eyesight would take too long.  It was in this brainstorming session that they came up with Project R.A.I.N.B.O.W.

Radio-Active Iridescent Nuclear Bio-Optical Weapon

While not actually a weapon, the idea was to create something bright and beautiful in the sky in the opposite direction of the planes doing their test flights.  This would cause people to be distracted and not notice the planes.  This brilliant concept still works today.  When someone sees a rainbow, they always point it out to other people and those people always look.  Some people even go as far as to make a phone call to tell people to look out their window at the beautiful rainbow.  A bank could get robbed and it would not be noticed if there was a rainbow glowing in the sky in the opposite direction.

After spending millions of dollars, Project R.A.I.N.B.O.W. was almost scrapped after it’s first test run.  On July 9, 1947 the local newspaper Roswell Daily Record reported that a high-altitude weather balloon crashed on a ranch near the airfield.  There was much speculation and many rumors milling around the area about what had actually crashed, but the newspaper story was correct.  It was a weather balloon, but the military did not release the rest of the story.

The weather balloon went down because a test pilot collided with it in mid-air.  He had been temporarily blinded when a bright flash of colors shot up from the ground.  The blinded pilot veered off-course and struck the weather balloon.  The pilot and plane were fine, but the balloon crashed to the earth.  After a few more test runs with similar near disastrous results, the scientists made a few adjustments and re-engineered their new invention to work during the day.  From this point on all test flights were done in broad daylight while people were mesmerized by the pretty colors on the other side of the horizon.

After several years of successful test flights without incident the generals in the Pentagon were looking for a more destructive, military-type use for the rainbows.  They wanted to use them strategically in war situations.  Since the rainbow had no destructive power, the generals decided to use it in the same manner it had been used successfully for the last several years.  It makes a wonderful distraction.  It could be implemented outside an enemy air field keeping enemy pilots from reaching their destination.  It could also be turned on in the middle of a fierce land battle.  Unsuccessful tests were conducted to produce special lenses that could be worn by American soldiers so they would not be distracted by it’s brilliance.

In the mid-50’s, they had their answer.  Computers had become sophisticated enough that scientists installed the rainbows with artificial intelligence.  With an independent intelligence, the rainbows' computers could make split-second decisions on the battlefield to determine the most strategic place to illuminate.  The research laboratory was brimming with excitement as the programmers awaited the results of the field test.

Things did not go the way the generals, engineers, and programmers had planned.   It seemed that the rainbows could not determine the difference between domestic and foreign soldiers.  They distracted every moving thing on the battlefield.  With these disappointing results and the recent dismantling of the Roswell experimental flight program, Washington decided to bury the project.  However, the newly intelligent rainbows were not ready to be put down.

Further study revealed that the rainbows' failure on the battlefield was due to the fact that they were now only interested in self-preservation.  They saw every person as an enemy to themselves with no regard for who may be an American.  The rainbows used their new intelligence to formulate a plan to escape from the base and power themselves.

The military launched a full-scale assault against the rainbows to no avail.  Rainbows cannot be destroyed since they are only a refraction of light.  Despite the best efforts of the military the rainbows remained at large and even began to reproduce themselves.  Within weeks there were sightings of rogue rainbows in every state in the country.

Although rainbows could not be destroyed, they did not appreciate being attacked all the time.  Using their computer-speed intelligence they came up with a plan to get back at the people that were trying to destroy them.  Since they had no actual defenses and could not do any damage they decided to retaliate by creating a nuisance that could not be ignored.  Rainbows understood that they were beautiful creations people loved to stare at.  They decided to make something devoid of color that people would not want to see or experience.  It needed to be something that would make people cringe at the very thought.  The rainbows hatched a plan and released their creation onto the world.


MIMES!!!

Just as the rainbows had planned, they were soon forgotten about.  Mimes were everywhere.  They infiltrated birthday parties, state carnivals, and public parks.  People could not walk through a park without being imitated by one of these black and white abominations.  Worldwide public outrage prompted a quick response from governments all over the world.  The United States, facing international pressure, lead the way in trying to eradicate the Mime Invasion.

Since mimes are similar in appearance to humans, they could not be killed without protests from various human rights organizations.  Congress passed laws forbidding people from feeding them, housing them, or offering them employment.  Countries around the world quickly followed suit.  France, however, offered mimes asylum and they congregated there by the thousands.


Around the world most mimes died within a few months and their bodies littered the streets.  The smell of decaying mimes was too much for the public to bear.  The same problem was occurring in France despite the special statutes protecting them, because due to the huge numbers of mimes in the country as a result of the protective sanctuary that was offered to them, there was not sufficient mime food to feed them all.  Nevertheless, the smell didn’t seem to bother the French.  In other parts of the world Mime Rights groups were starting to form.  One organization even succeeded in getting mimes established as their own race.

Since mimes are not particularly intelligent, unlike their creators, most just died off, but some of the craftier ones banded together to survive.  A few even became part of paramilitary resistance groups.  In Waco, Texas a mime resistance group formed calling themselves Fighters Against Racial Tension (FART).  They were silent, but deadly.  In their last stand, they held off ATF agents for 50 days before being burned out and gunned down.  This marked the end of guerrilla mime warfare.

Public outrage forced Congress to pursue a new tactic.  Lawmakers knew that the mime scourge still had to be squashed, but it had to be done discreetly.  All laws restricting travel, lodging, and commerce were lifted and the government even provided jobs for every mime.  Call centers were set up all over the country and the mimes were put to work as telemarketers.  The scheme was brilliant.  The government had provided jobs and given them a way to support themselves.  No one could legitimately complain.

The telemarketing jobs offered fantastic compensation, but it was based on commission only.  If the mimes wanted to get paid they had to make sales.  The program would take care of itself.  The mime population has been dropping steadily ever since.  There are very few left today.  The world is possibly one generation away from putting this dark period behind us.

However, if you are one of those bleeding heart types that feels sorry for them, remember this next time you get one of those phone calls and there is no one on the other end.  It may just be a mime trying to feed his family.  When you get that call just say, “I’ll take two,” and then give your credit card information.  You may just save a life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Return of the Awards Fairy

Eight days ago, I was visited by a short, balding man who identified himself as the Awards Fairy. Despite his appearance and pushy demeanor, I let him into my home because he did actually have some awards to give me. After giving me the awards, which I did appreciate, I couldn't get him to leave. He stayed for 3 days, cleaned out my fridge, ran up my phone bill and clogged up my toilet. He stepped outside only once to retrieve a bag of of Cheetos I had thrown into the yard. Once outside, I locked the door.

After two days of his howling and beating on my door while I kept all the lights off and pretended not to be home, he finally left. He didn't really have much of a choice. He was escorted off the property in handcuffs. I was so relieved to see him go.

I don't know how this works, but he either made bail or had to be released when he had more awards to pass out, but tonight he came back. I stepped outside to take the trash to the curb and when I came back, he was sitting on my couch. I didn't think to lock the door since I was only outside for a minute.

As I reached for my phone to call the police again, he held out two awards. The first, he explained, had been sent to me over a week ago, but due to his unfortunate detainment, he was unable to bring it to me.

A peeling sticker on the back of the award stated that it had been given by the blogger at HoodyHoo. I began to relax a little bit. I still didn't like him being in my house, but I knew who this was. I comment on this blog often and recently got this recognition by explaining my strategy in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I told her that I expect that I would be dead and won't really need to worry about it at that point. Although, if I was going to fight for survival, I would want HoodyHoo by my side. She once knocked her boyfriend unconscious just for peeing in her yard. I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to mess with her.

The rules for accepting state that I am to forward this on to 3 bloggers that I would like to know more about AND to share 3 things about myself.

I would like to know more about:

  1. Bozo at A Bozo's Abbozzo has definitely been the closest follower of the Brett and Red story. Bozo is an American living in India and has two birthdays every year.
  2. Jayne at Ach de Lieber, Jayne likes to fantasize about having arguments in her dream house. It's strange, I know. However, I just recently discovered her and have really enjoyed digging through her archives.
  3. Crazy With a Side of Awesome Sauce is a Portland native who recently escaped a nightmare roommate. I check in with her regularly to share in her latest adventure.
Now, for three things to share about myself.
  1. I have mentioned on here a few times that I work for the Sheriff's Department. That is no longer true. I got fired, but cannot yet discuss it due to possible litigation. Hopefully, I can share the story soon.
  2. Four years ago, I pre-paid for a year membership at a gym. I went twice.
  3. I come from a family of carpenters, mechanics and electricians. However, I can barely operate a hammer. I called all my friends to celebrate when I fixed a clog in my sink by myself.

I looked up to ask the fairy for the other one, but he was gone. Great! 

He was in the first place I expected him to be - the kitchen. He had discovered the pizza that was delivered right before he showed up and had already inhaled over half of it. He had dropped the second award and it was sitting under the chair. I grabbed it before he noticed I was in the room.

This one was sent from Nellie Vaughn at Buttons Are Not Currency. Nellie falls on the other side of the zombie spectrum. It is quite possible that she is one already. Nellie recently confessed on her blog that she has an internet crush on me. She also really likes kissing. So, I am adding "Kiss Nellie Vaughn" to my bucket list.

Like the previous award, I must list things about myself. This award requires seven:
  1. At one time, I strived toward becoming a mortician. I even got accepted into the mortuary program.
  2. I was on the newspaper staff in high school. I was the only boy in the class. I learned a lot about women that year, but didn't want to know most of it.
  3. I received a semester grade of 107 in Trigonometry, but I have failed Accounting three times.
  4. I only started blogging because my daughter's boyfriend had to create one for a class. He told me, "It's kind of fun. You should try it." So, I did.
  5. I attended one school from kindergarten through high school, but my kids have attended 5 different public schools, 3 private schools and been homeschooled.
  6. When I was twelve years old, I was a flasher for Halloween. It was my mother's idea.
  7. Once I complete my teaching degree, I plan to get a Department of Defense contract to be a high school math teacher on military bases.
The fairy is now passed out on my couch. It looks like he was watching Jersey Shore. I am supposed to tag 15 bloggers for this award, but since I have already called the police, I only have time to do a few.
  1. Vinny at As Vinny C's It is a journalist in Trinidad and Tobago. He recently did a disturbing story about ant colonies. He also covers the events in his part of the world. 
  2. People I Want to Punch in the Throat - As her tagline says, "I think the title sums it up. If you can't figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat."
The cops have shown up and can't seem to wake the fairy. I need to go. Once they get him out of here, I am headed to the courthouse for a restraining order. If anyone else wants to send me an award, please just mail it. I will pay the postage. I don't want him coming back. I think he urinated on my floor.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet the Parents

It has been a couple of weeks since the last time I addressed the saga between my internet fiance Red and myself. There are no exciting new developments to reveal, but we have been communicating privately via email. It has been removed from the public blogging spotlight for a couple of reasons. One of them is the fact that there are real people behind these words. While it has been a lot of fun watching this unfold on our blogs, in order to keep the new developments exciting to read about, it would have to move at a much quicker pace. It just doesn't work like that.

That doesn't mean our followers are to be left out. You will be kept in the loop. Of course, what is or is not shared is totally at our discretion, but you will hear things from time to time. Today is one of those times.

Almost two weeks ago, Red announced that she will be moving to Indiana, which is 900 miles closer than her present residence. In that same post, she explained why meeting with her parents, especially her father, may not be a good idea right now. We may be engaged in the virtual world, but the transition to the physical world has different rules.

Parents can be  tricky. Whether it is meeting a friend's parents or the parents of a girl for the first time, that first meeting carries a lot of weight. There are a couple of my daughter's past boyfriends that I did not like immediately. I understand. Not only is the impression from that first meeting important, but so is the timing. There are so many things that can go wrong and if the family (especially parents) doesn't like the new person, it can lead to a lot of trouble.

On Christmas Day in 1995, I was sitting in a room filled with my new in-laws. I had just gotten married the previous September and while I knew my wife's immediate family, I had only met most of these extended family members briefly at our wedding. The room was filled with her aunts, uncles, cousins and some grandparents. Since my wife was helping in the kitchen, I was on my own. They were very friendly, but I couldn't help but feel under dressed. While they were all dressed in nice sweaters and cardigans, I was in my usual jeans and t-shirt. The room was also very calm and quiet. It was quite different from the loud ruckus that happens when my family gets together.

Being the newest addition to the family, a lot of attention was directed toward me. They wanted to hear about my upbringing, my parents, my job and anything else they could think to ask me.  It wasn't an interrogation, they just wanted to know more about me, but it did get tedious after a while. They all appeared to be so cultured and proper, I answered carefully, not sure if they would be appreciative of my perspective and sense of humor. I was feeling them out the same as they were doing to me. Needless to say, I was relieved when the attention shifted to a cousin who had arrived late.

One of the aunts asked about the beautiful sweater she was wearing. The cousin explained that her husband had given it to her that morning for Christmas. She then called him in so she could show off the slacks she had bought for him. The whole room began to share with each other the various pieces of clothing they had received as Christmas gifts. Eventually, someone asked me.

"Brett, are you wearing anything you got for Christmas?"

This was the first time all day that I felt I could actually contribute to their conversation without it feeling forced. I stood up and boasted, "Yes, I am."  Without thinking about where I was, I began to undo my belt.

Let's pause right here for a moment!
I did have on a Christmas gift. Just that morning, I had been given a pair of stars and stripes boxers with a big happy face on the front. I didn't normally wear boxers, but these were cool and I was happy to put them on right then. Since we came to join the extended family right after that, I still had them on.

I unfastened the button on my jeans and dropped my pants to the floor to show off my Christmas present. I raised my arms above my head and spun around so everyone could see them.

STUNNED SILENCE!!!

I immediately come to the realization that this crowd does not know me and may not appreciate my underwear even if they did know me. I pull my pants back on and quietly take my place on the couch. Still, no one is talking, and the aunt and cousin that were sitting next to me created extra space between us on the couch. Grandma is still staring at me with her mouth hanging open. Did I break her brain? 

What feels like several minutes goes by and still no one is speaking. Suddenly, my mother-in-law walks in to the room to announce that dinner is ready. I immediately jumped up to get out of there, but she was blocking the door. Looking around the room, she inquires, "What happened in here?" Her sister speaks up, "You will not believe what your new son-in-law just did."

She had been around me longer than the rest of the family and immediately blushes and looks at me, "What did you do?" She didn't know what had happened, but knew it couldn't be good and she was not happy.

While they were all looking at each other trying to decide who was going to say it, Grandma starts to laugh. Since Grandma was laughing, I guess that made it okay for the others to find humor in what had just transpired as well, but their laughter was very reserved and nervous. 

Grandma said, "Linda, I like this boy." 

About six hours later, I am sitting in a room full of my family relaying this story and they demand to see what the problem was. Their reaction was much different.

My family pulled out cameras.





That may have been almost 20 years ago, but I still remember the lesson I learned that day. I believe it still applies today.

Red, I can promise you that if this proceeds to the point that I need to meet your parents, I will not remove my pants. That should be saved until at least the fifth or sixth meeting. I will leave that up to you. You obviously know them better than I do. I can adapt.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

And I Mean It, Stanley

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I have been spending a lot of time in local schools to meet the requirements for my degree. Illinois standards require teaching majors to spend a certain number of hours observing students and teachers in a classroom setting for every hour of college instruction. Since I am getting my degree in secondary education, I am assigned to junior and senior high schools for my observation credits.

However, I spend even more time in the schools as a substitute teacher. As a substitute, I have worked with all age groups. I have written about some of those experiences here. I quickly learned why I am specializing in secondary education. I really do not relate well to younger children. I have since taken my name off the list for grades kindergarten through fifth grade. I didn't have much of a choice. On one day (if school had lasted another hour), I might have been jailed for choking half a dozen second graders. It was a horrible day.

No! You can't take your pants off.
I'll stick to what I know. I work very well with junior and senior high age kids. I have even discovered that I can work with preschoolers as long as there are helpers in the classroom that know what to do. I would never attempt that age by myself. I have been bitten, stabbed with a pencil, cussed at and spat on. Without another adult in the room to keep me in check, I might act out my fantasies of chucking a 4 year old through the nearest window. They are pretty small. It wouldn't be that difficult. However, their outbursts are typically short lived and I even enjoy it for the most part. Just don't leave me alone with them.

Last month, I was cursed had the privilege of returning to the same preschool class every day for three weeks. This actually makes things much easier than going to a different class every day. I had the opportunity to learn the names and strange idiosyncrasies of each ankle-biter. It makes all the difference in the world when you get to know the kids. It is so much better.

Each day involved lots of crafts, lessons and activities, but my favorite part was the beginning and end of each day. I would start each day reading a couple of books to the kids. This helps them to calm down and gain a little focus before starting the day. We ended the day with the same activity right before their parents came to pick them up.

I enjoyed this for several reasons. One of the biggest was the fact that I got to sit during this time. Another reason was that I actually had the attention of the whole class. That rarely happened. I would do the voices of the characters and add my personal commentary to each page. It was great to hear the kids laugh and say the words with me. As much as they liked to hear the same stories again and again, I tried to introduce them to a new book each day.

I remembered reading this as a child.
I would get to the school early so I could dig through the library and find a book to read during story time. On one of those days I came across a book that I vaguely remembered from my childhood, And I Mean It, Stanley. I thumbed through it quickly to see if it was the story I remembered.

Throughout the book, the child is yelling at someone not visible in the pictures. She is building things with the junk in her back yard and yelling that Stanley better come out to play now. The whole book is rather one sided. This little girl is yelling and getting more and more irate as the book progresses.

It finally reaches the climax when . . . well, I don't want to give away the ending in case it ever gets made into a movie. I don't want to spoil the ending.

Being a book from my childhood, I was excited to share it with the children. As they started coming into the classroom and taking their spots on the rug in front of me, they started making their demands requests for the book they wanted to hear. I told them I had already selected a book for the day.

Once they all got seated and quiet, I pulled out the book. I explained that I had read this story when I was a kid. As I was showing them the book, I saw something on the cover in the top right corner I had not noticed before.

That is my brother's name!  KYLE MINOR
This is the same copy that used to be in our house.

When I said I had this book as a kid, I didn't know I had actually owned THIS specific copy. It threw me for a moment. We grew up 30 miles away from this school. It had been at least three decades since we physically had the book in our possession. Somehow it had made some travels, passed through countless owners and ended up in this school in my hands.

Once I regained composure and snapped back to the present I told the kids what I had found. They didn't seem to be nearly as impressed as I was. I read the book to them with more enthusiasm than I would have otherwise. We all celebrated when we got to the ending and began our day.

At the end of the day, they requested to read the book again and I was more than happy to oblige. Soon, the parents began to show up and one by one the kids got their hugs and left for the day. Once the room was empty, I pulled the book out to marvel at it again.

After a couple of minutes, I realized that my amazement was silly. The book was still in the same county as last time I saw it. It had probably been donated to a library by my mother or sold in a yard sale. At some point it was given to this school. It really wasn't that big of a deal. I set the book down and turned off the lights for the day.

Before I closed the classroom door, I returned to the book and quickly placed it in my coat. After all, it had my family name on it.

RELAX!!!
I brought it back the next day.