Thursday, August 30, 2012

Apparently, Not Everything Is About Me

I have been really busy the last few weeks. Nothing particularly interesting, just busy. So when I sat down to write, I had to search my memory for a bit to decide what to write about. I eventually came up with something, but want to share a couple of pictures first.

A few days ago I was visiting my friend Brad's house. His son Bradyn was running around the house doing what 2 year olds do. Screaming, laughing and throwing things at the guest. After an hour or so, he began to slow down and sat to watch TV. He curled up in a chair with a doll and was very quiet.

As I got up to leave, I got my first good look at the doll.

His dad says it's Braydyn's favorite and sleeps with it every night. Brad had bought it at a haunted house a few years ago and Bradyn took a liking to it. Brad and his wife eventually decided to just let him have it.

Bradyn plays with trucks and blocks the same as other boys his age, but the nipple-pierced demon is his favorite toy. I will be keeping my eye on this kid.



For this next picture, I don't have any story, it just really caught my eye.

A pink Mustang. I'm still not sure how I feel about that.



The new school year started last week. Kirsten and I both had a great summer and hated to see it come to an end. However, it has ended and it is time to get back to work. As Kirsten was getting ready for her day, I ran out to the mailbox. In the way back, I noticed some bright colors on the steps by our side door. Since I had not yet put in my contacts, I couldn't tell what it was, but knew it was out of place.

From about 20 feet away, I saw that it was a vase of roses. Now, I am not really a big fan of flowers, but a huge smile immediately came to my face.

In the few seconds it took me to retrieve them, my mind went through a series of thoughts.

WOW! Red sent me flowers! She is so awesome. I love her.

Wait, she's still looking for work and money has been tight, so I doubt she would spend her money this way. Plus, she usually puts more thought into her gifts. I don't think she would send flowers even if she was sending a gift.

These are on the steps of my side door and it is only 7:30 in the morning. A flower company did not deliver these. It must be someone local.

Have I done something nice for someone lately and they want to say thank you?

Do I have a secret admirer?

It wouldn't matter who it was. I am very happy with Red, but it would be flattering. Who sent me these flowers?

I grabbed the flowers and pulled out the card to settle my racing mind.

KIRSTEY? WHAT?!?

It hadn't occurred to me for even a moment that they could have been for someone else. I'm not the only person in this house. Am I really so arrogant, that I could only conceive of the gift being mine. Well, I am that arrogant, but that's not really the point.

I have written in past posts about my daughter dating, but I guess the reality of it isn't really at the forefront of my mind. I have accepted it, but am not really used to it yet.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My 1st Book Review - ROYAL FLUSH

About a month ago, I received a Facebook message from a man named Scott Bartlett. He asked if I would be willing to be part of his blog tour to promote his new humor book Royal Flush

Mr. Bartlett had...(wait a minute)...Mr. Bartlett? I don't speak that way. I'm going to call him Scott. He is not here to ask if it is okay to call him Scott, but it's my blog and I am more comfortable with Scott than Mr. Bartlett.

Scott had a couple of suggestions for how we could do this.
  1. He could write a guest post recalling some of the struggles he has had with publishing companies and what he has gone through to get this book published. 
  2. He could send me the book and I could write a review myself.
I advised him that I was not real big on the idea of handing my blog over to someone else. I am not at all ashamed of my narcissistic tendencies and use this blog to showcase my writing.

He stated he could send me the book and gave me the choice of the 27th or 29th for my review. I objected since it was already June 28th and did not think I would be able to finish it in time. He probably began to question his choice of reviewers when he had to point out to me that he meant the 29th of August (face palm).

After reading the first chapter, I contacted Scott to let him know that I may not be the best person to review this book. I really wasn't enjoying it. To his credit, he responded that he would appreciate the review either way and would still hold up his end by pointing people toward my blog regardless of what I had to say about it.

Given the green light to say whatever I wanted, I felt some of the pressure of this assignment fall off my shoulders. This could be fun. I dove back into the book with renewed vigor.

Royal Flush is about a king who hates his job and the people in his kingdom. Since his constituents despise him even more, it is a mutual agreement. He even hates the man that appears to be his best friend, his fiddler. The fiddler hates the king even more and only sticks around because he needs a job and the king keeps him because he needs a fiddler.

This king is forced to ride a maniacal goat instead of a noble steed because the kingdom is in financial collapse. He executes or imprisons anyone who upsets him in anyway. Near the beginning of the story he has a girl thrown in the dungeon when his date with her was not going as well as he had hoped.

This miserable wretch of a king is harassed by the local media, despised by his own mother,  drunk most of the time, and is unable to even have a decent conversation with people. His ineptitude brings disaster upon himself and his castle, but since no one else really wants the job there is little hope of any improvement. Despite everything and having no discernible people skills, he is in search of love, sort of.

EXERPT:
A trumpet sounded in the distance. The King looked up, unenthused. His interest grew when he discerned a flood of movement on the apex of Shepherd’s Hill. He squinted. A swarm of black-clad figures was cresting the summit, only to rush down the side nearest the King. It seemed to be some sort of a parade, or a marathon, or perhaps a…

(The King’s mouth fell open.)

…a vast host of armed warriors, dressed in the same uniform Private Reginald had worn.
The trumpet blared again, inspiring the King once more to scamper down the hallways. This time, he screamed uncontrollably.

“Your Majesty!” Frederick called as the King ran past the room in which he and Eliza cuddled. 

“Whatever is the matter?”

The King entered the room and paused to catch his breath, holding up a finger. Finally, he was ready.

“What is it?” Frederick said urgently.

The King’s brow furrowed. “I can’t remember.”

“Oh.”

“It can’t have been very important. I’ll let you know if I recall.” The King left the room again.

Frederick and Eliza returned to snuggling.

The King came barrelling back in. “I remember now!” he shrieked. “Invaders! Approaching the castle!”

Frederick jumped up. “Is the drawbridge closed?”

The King thought this over.

“No!”

“Then let’s go!” They dashed out of the room.

“Bring your fiddle!” said the King. They dashed back. Frederick tore open the case and extracted his instrument.

They dashed out again.

Downstairs, the attackers were already rushing into the entrance foyer.

“Hey!” Frederick shouted from the stairs, his voice cracking. The King cowered behind him. “Get out of here!” Frederick brandished the fiddle.

“Assail them!” ordered the King from over the fiddler’s shoulder.

By now completely pale, Frederick proceeded hesitantly down the staircase. “Hey!” he shouted again. He swung the instrument in a clumsy arc.

The black-uniformed soldiers drew up hastily. “Hold it, boys! He’s got a fiddle.”

“That’s right!” Frederick said.

“Is that a Stradivarius?” asked another soldier, who wielded a broadsword.

“Er, no,” the fiddler said. “It’s a replica.”

“Skillfully crafted, though,” said the swordsman. The invaders all agreed.

Another piped up. “Hey, now, you’re not going to hit us with that, are you?”

Frederick faltered.

“I’ve been thinking about it!”

“But you might damage it,” a thoughtful young corporal observed.

“That’s possible, yes.”

“You shouldn’t jeopardize a decent piece of equipment like that.”

“I’ve taken leave of my senses!” Frederick said, gaining momentum.

“Instruments like that are hard to come by nowadays.”

“I’ll just have to do without!” the fiddler said, a wild gleam in his eyes.

The soldiers muttered among themselves. “Bloody maniacal,” one said. “Not a shred of respect for good craftsmanship,” said another.

The corporal cleared his throat. “If you’re not going to be reasonable, then we’ll have to. Come on, men. We’ll find another way in. On the double, now.”

The soldiers filed out in an orderly fashion. The King rushed up to the winch that controlled the drawbridge and cranked it for all his worth.

King and fiddler leaned panting against the blessedly vertical wooden plane.

“Play me a mournful tune,” the King requested.

Just like in this excerpt, the king is almost always in the midst of some degree of chaos that he brought on himself.

The further I read into the book the more I began to like it. Several times, my daughter would ask what I was laughing at. It was in those moments that I began to realize how much I was enjoying this book.

At first, I thought the story was too silly and it just seemed ridiculous, but once I let my guard down and simply sat back to read, I realized just how humorous it was. Scott Bartlett is a very funny writer and I highly recommend this book.

Favorite Line: They had both grown so used to being lonely they accidentally spent the rest of their lives in perpetual appreciation of one another. - Page 191


Not one of the funnier lines, but it connected with me. It reminded me of myself and Red, minus the lonely part. I even called her immediately to read her this line.


Note: This book will do nothing to promote intellectual stimulation, but supplies lots of laughs to the reader just looking for a fun book. Do we really need to be stimulated all the time? Get your mind out of the gutters...you know what I mean. I was just trying to make a point and you always have to make it dirty. Take the statement for what it is.

Click here for Scott Bartlett's site and more information on his book.

If you drop by his site, please drop him a note to let him know you came there from here. He might have to buy me a car or a house or a giant or something.




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Crossing State Lines

My daughter Kirsten is sixteen and a junior in high school. She has two years left before she will be headed off to college and I will have this house all to myself. However, today marked one of those milestones that made her want to go right now. Her boyfriend Charles left for college this morning.

His school is about a six hour drive from here in another state, so they will not be seeing each other regularly on weekends. He might make it back home once or twice in a semester. I have split feelings about this.

I have had a couple of years to get used to the idea of my daughter having a boyfriend. I can even witness him kiss her with only a minimal spike in my blood pressure. I have tried to teach my daughter to be strong and independent. I raised her to know who she is and not to ever be defined by her relationship with another person or to allow her tastes, opinions, feelings or desires to be decided by someone else, whether that be a person or societal expectations. She is growing to be that woman and I couldn't be more proud of her.

The topic of Charles leaving for college came up last week over dinner and another adult advised Kirsten to move on and live her life. Do not put her life on hold and wait for him. This advice goes right along with the spirit of the lessons I have taught my daughter over the years and I couldn't agree more....sort of.

While the adult side of me sees the rationale in the advice and I would probably give the same advice to any random teenager, I have a selfish father side as well that wants to protect my daughter. While he is away at college and she decides that he is the man for her, that means she is not dating anyone else. I have absolutely no problem with that. She is basically not dating as long as he is her boyfriend and school is in session. No father would complain with those circumstances.

On the other hand, should a sixteen year old be making this type of commitment? You only get to be young once. Would this be considered putting her life on hold for a boy?

I have decided I have no problem with this and there is one main reason for it. I like this kid. Kirsten has not had a lot of boyfriends, but of the ones she has dated, only two have been quality guys. The last one moved to Georgia. There were a few that were okay. They weren't bad kids, they just took up space. There have been a couple I really did not like. One of them was so bad, I forbid her from ever seeing him again. Yes, I am that type of father. It was for her protection. That kid was trouble.

I wish our culture recognized the wisdom of arranged marriages. Then, I could just forbid her from dating until I found the perfect man for her. I would do a bang-up job, but very very few would make the cut.

The guy she is dating now is great and is the reason I have no problem with this. As long as she considers herself his girlfriend, she is not bringing home some other idiot. Plus, he really is a great kid. His parents were my youth ministers when I was in high school and his father baptized me. I am well aware of the stereotype about preacher's kids, but it is just a general rule of thumb and does not always apply. Charles is attending a Christian college to prepare to be a missionary. He is well mannered, respectful, courteous, never rude and very funny. Most importantly, he treats my daughter very well.

It is these and other qualities that make me happy to see that she is holding on to him. Kirsten is only sixteen and I am not trying to get her married off. It's too soon to think about such things, but one day she will end up with someone. With each guy she has brought home, I couldn't help but imagine what her being married to him would be like. Most of the time, I haven't liked the future I saw for her. Wanting the best for my daughter, I am happy to see that she has found a quality man. As long as she is with him, she is not with some other random douchebag.

I am not suggesting that she needs to marry Charles. Once again, it is too early for that kind of talk, but it is comforting to see that she recognizes what a good guy he is. I am totally supportive of this relationship, but don't tell him.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Awards Fairy Is Still At It


One day last week I woke up to someone pounding on my door. Bleary eyed, I made way way through the house, tripped over the couch and ran head first into the front door. Immediately after my cranium bounced off the door, the person on the other side gave it a good thump as well. I guess he thought it was a game.

I got to my feet and opened the door to have a clipboard shoved in my face.

Stranger: "Sign here."
Me: "What?"
Stranger: "Sign here. At the bottom."
Me: "I know how it works. What am I signing for?"
Delivery man: "How am I supposed to know? I'm not allowed to open the packages."
Me: "I have a package?"

He held out a large envelope, but snatched it back when I reached for it.

Delivery man: "You have to sign first!"
Me: "Give me the pen."   I scrawled my signature.
Delivery man: "Here. Next time wear pants to answer the door."

Looking down I realized I was still in my underwear, so I shouted at him as he climbed into his vehicle, "Next time, try showing up later than 6:30 in the morning."

I tossed the envelope on the kitchen table and went back to bed to get the last seven hours of sleep for the night. By the time I woke up, I had forgotten all about it. It sat there for a week getting buried under new mail I tossed on the table.

Last night I was doing my monthly chore of sorting through all the mail I never bothered to open and found it. I suddenly realized the early morning delivery man was not just a strange dream and ripped it open.

It contained a letter from a lawyer representing the Awards Fairy. The letter stated that when the Awards Fairy fell asleep in my bathtub, he had contracted pneumonia and was suing me for medical expenses. The fact that he had robbed me blind on earlier visits didn't seem to deter him from wanting even more from me.


Links to past visits from him:
The Awards Fairy Strikes Again
The Awards Fairy Came By
Return of the Awards Fairy
Awards Fairy Detox

The envelope also contained three awards. I set the letter aside to see what awards I had received.

The first award was from the prestigious mens' writing site Dude Write



I got this one for my post When The Cat's Away. Thank you, to the men over at Dude Write.

The second award came from Mrs. Luttrell over at the Coffee Blogs. It is the Leibster Blog Award.


This one had several rules attached to it, but I have received this one a few times and will opt out of doing them. This may bring future wrath from the Awards Fairy, but it doesn't appear that he is going to leave me any time soon anyway. I will risk it. I will acknowledge the person that awarded it to me once again. Thank you, Jessica Luttrell of the Coffee Blogs.

The last award was one that is new to me. Plus, I received it from two different people.


My blog has been called a lot of things, but this is the first time it has been called sweet. However, since it is sweet to two people, it must be sweet to others as well. The bloggers who think my blog is IRRESISTIBLY SWEET are Ken Degner of Ken-inatractor and Rachel at When a Lion Sleeps, Let It Sleep.

The rules for this award are to post seven random facts about yourself and pass it on to ten other deserving bloggers.

Random Facts:
  1.  This week I started a new job as a Sexual Health Counselor. I will give more info on that in a future post.
  2. Despite my usual disdain for talking on the phone, I still talk to Red every night for at least twenty minutes. Everyone else still gets cut off very quickly.
  3. Last month my dryer broke and I haven't gotten it fixed yet. After I do my laundry, underwear is hanging off doorknobs, ceiling fans, chairs and anywhere else that I can find a place until they are dry.
  4. My brother just got a new unicycle. I will be over there trying to knock #74 off my list.
  5. Now that I have met Red and we have spent significant time together, I still call her Red. Saying her actual name, just doesn't feel right.
  6. My blogging has slowed down significantly over the summer. I hope to get back to regular posting once school starts up again.
  7. I still don't have a smartphone. My contract runs out in November and I can't decide if I want to upgrade or just keep a regular old phone. I would love to have all the extra features, but am afraid I would never stop playing with my phone and all life productivity would stop.
I am also supposed to pass this award on to ten other bloggers, but have decided to tempt fate and see what will happen if I don't. I have passed out many awards in the past and have trouble coming up with new people. I will consider this a blogging experiment. Is it like breaking a chain letter and I will be cursed with bad luck?

Thank you to the people who gave me these awards. It has been fun writing this blog and watching my readership slowly grow. It is a great feeling knowing that there are people who enjoy what you write. Plus, I sat down this morning to discover that I hit 30,000 views.

The Awards Fairy cares about none of this. I guess I will spend the rest of my day speaking with a lawyer to see what I need to do about him. I don't expect this will be the last time I hear from him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Worst Day of the Year

Everyone has tasks to perform that they don't look forward to. Every April, we have to do our taxes. We have to brave the crazy crowds in the stores for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas just to get household necessities. We have to spend time with our children. We have to visit the DMV to renew our plates or license. A couple of times a month, we have to talk to the police officer knocking on our door. We have to dart to our car every morning to avoid being seen and caught in a conversation with our neighbor. We all have these things in our lives that are less than pleasant, but must be done. It's just part of life. However, yesterday was the day I dread more than any other. It was my daughter's high school registration day.

It started a month ago when I received the New York phone book sized registration packet in the mail. I've spent a few hours every night since then, filling in the thousands of blanks on over a ream of paper including:
  • Medical permission slips
  • Emergency contact information
  • Parking permits
  • Class schedules
  • Free/reduced lunch forms - whether you expect to qualify or not
  • Year book orders
  • Internet access permission
  • Racial profiling forms - not a joke. Apparently, they must know the race of your child. The form states that if you decline to provide this information (I always mark Asian so she can get an 'A' in math), they will make a determination based on visual observation.
  • Bus route slips
  • Rules of conduct booklet
  • Parent/Guardian's full name, address, phone number, place of employment, employer's phone number and hours of work
  • Extracurricular clubs and organizations
  • Immunization records
  • School picture packet
  • ACT/SAT registration
  • Etc., Etc., ad naseum
As much as I hate all this paperwork, it is even more frustrating knowing that they already have 90% of this information from when I gave it to them last year. Plus, the top third of every page asks for the same information as the other pages. Name, address, phone number, student ID, social security number, etc. Since there is some information I refuse to provide, I know that half my time during registration will be spent arguing with administration as I have every year in the past. 

Protect it!
Let's start with the social security number. A social security number is for tax purposes. There is no valid reason to ask for it. The school gives each student an ID number. That should be sufficient for tracking the student. I don't even put my social security number on job applications, because unless they actually hire me, they don't need it. There is too much identity theft out there to be careless with your number. However, every year some school administrator on a power trip insists that they have to have it in order for her to go to school.

I got my son all the way from kindergarten to high school without ever giving up his number and Kirsten is now a junior. I have registered a kid for school every year for the last 15 years. I know it can be done and I ask why if they have to have it she was allowed to go to school last year since I have never given it to them. They eventually give up and let her enroll.

My next argument takes place with the bursar, who generally has to call in the principal or school superintendent. There are a few fees that I refuse to pay. The book fee is one of them. I have only paid this fee one time. It was my son Christian's freshman year. I paid $70 for books and discovered a few weeks later that he hadn't been bringing his books home to study. He explained that he wasn't allowed to take the books out of the classroom. They didn't have enough books for all the students, so had to leave them in the classroom for the next class to use them. They could not bring them home for homework or to read over a chapter. All students had to rely on their notes.

I went to the school to demand our books. After all, I had paid for them. I got nowhere. The following year, I went to eBay and purchased all the books he would need. I then refused to pay the fee since we already had the books. Since he would be bringing his own books from home and would not be using theirs, there is no reason to pay the fee. It seemed reasonable to me. The school disagreed and argued that the money goes to other places as well. It is just called a 'book fee.' I pointed out that I was well aware of that, since they obviously weren't using the money to buy books. I then turned and left. I haven't paid a book fee since, but have had to argue my point again every year. This year marks the sixth year that I have gone without paying that fee.

I also have to argue about the fact that I will not give them my work phone number. They don't need it despite their insistence that they do. They have my cell number and the contact information for three other people. Last year, I worked at the sheriff's office. Personal calls did not need to happen. They can call my cell.

Keep in mind, that I hadn't even gone in yet. This is just a recollection of what I have had to go through every year. However, this year wasn't looking to be any easier.

Kirsten attends a large school with a few thousand students. They have registration scheduled for three separate days. Yesterday was for students whose last name begins with letters A through I. My daughter's scheduled day would be the next day. However, my new job starts on that day and I would be unavailable to go in. My job hours were a last minute change that I had not anticipated. I suddenly would not be available on the correct day, so called the school to ask if I could come in now ('A' through 'I' day).

I was told that was not possible since they wouldn't have her proper paperwork there to register her. Because they wouldn't know she was coming, it wouldn't work. I stated that since I was calling in, they would know she was coming and could have the paperwork ready. She didn't agree.

She explained that I could register late, but not early. If I couldn't come in Tuesday (her scheduled day), then come in Wednesday, the last day of registration. That didn't work for me either. My job starts on Tuesday, so I will be working on Wednesday also. I was free now, on Monday.

I was told they had a late registration day the following Monday for the people who were not able to get in on the scheduled days. I tried in vain to get her to understand that once my job started, I would be working. I have this Monday off because I haven't started yet. I will no longer be available during the week.

"Well, then you will have to wait and register her on the first day of school."

ME: (Trying not to scream): I will be at work! I am free today and you are doing registration today! How can you not see the simple solution to this problem? We need to register today!"

"But today is not your scheduled day." 

She attempted do transfer me to school administrators who might be able to come up with a solution, but being registration day, no one was in their office. As the day clicked by, I began to realize that no one would return my calls until they were free, which would be after registration was over. I grabbed Kirsten and we went to the school. I fought to register early and won. I fought against paying the book fees and won. I fought to protect her social security number and won. I fought to make them use the immunization records I had provided the year before and won. I fought to get the yearbook we had purchased the year before, but they did not have a record of. I had my receipt and won that one too.

We spent over three hours in registration surrounded by huge crowds of frustrated parents and students. I was so happy to get out of there and have the day behind me. It's the same scene every year. Registration at this school has never been without incident. As I was driving home and the stress was slowly lifting off my shoulders, I suddenly found myself grinning from ear to ear as I realized that I only had to do this one more time. My daughter will be a senior next year. I'm almost done.