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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Perfect Thanksgiving

My wife hasn't decided what she wants me to be in charge of this year for Our Very Wonderful Family Thanksgiving Meal.

Usually I get to set up the table and do something fancy for the centerpiece which immediately gets moved off to the side, or regulated onto a chair in the corner because said arrangement is too tall, or too wide, or too fancy. This begs the question: Just what is too fancy? If the assignment I have duely been trusted with is for something “fancy” and I comply -if not succeed outright with glee - then why is the centerpiece tossed aside like so many moldy potato peelings that have been hiding in the fridge for a week.

“Make a fancy centerpiece!” they say. So I do and it is regulated to the kids card table to be slowly picked apart by Mikey, the angry preteen and then used as a depot for the vegetables he has vowed not to eat. This year I am going to spread paint on my palm and press kindergarten hand turkeys into the tablecloth at each table setting. Let them try to move that aside!

Lets see, palm paint, kids table, centerpiece... oh yes, I'm waiting on my wife's decision. I hope she lets me do potatoes this year. I want to show everybody that there is too much time wasted on potato peeling and carving. I just throw them all into the boiling water. I don't even cut them up into smaller pieces. Just cook them longer and there is no cutting involved. Then, I add two pounds of butter. Simple as pie – which she definitely shouldn't assign to me because my crusts are like corrugated aluminum and were instrumental, they say, in breaking her sisters insicers two years ago.

Punch! She could give me the punch. I like to experiment with different flavors of cool-aid. Mixing kiwi passion fruit with berry-blue raspberry and outstanding orange makes for a delightfully fresh and original taste that cant be matched at a fine restaurant. And the brown color is perfect for thanksgiving.

I asked her several hours ago about what she wants to assign me, but she is dragging her feet. I'm getting all excited about what I'm gonna do to help and she is still in the bathroom talking to her mother on the phone about just how she is going to tell sombody something without hurting the poor sap's feelings. All she has to do is pick something from the aray and I am willing to bring my remarkable skill to the table, like I did the year I actually brought my skill-saw to the table and cut us out a bigger table top.

While it's true that the big ticket items had to be placed near the center of the newly expanded table, and it's true that at one point we all had to hold it up with our knees, it's like I still tell my wife - a little bit of helping from all seated in the spirit of cooperation and overcoming gravity was perfectly appropriate for the holiday.

Several of my aunts ripped their nylons on the screws sticking out from underneath the table, but for pets sake! The pilgrims didn't even have nylons, so I don't know what they were complaining about.

My wife wants to make a good impression this year. She has invited a whole gaggle of her relatives over, and apparently the first thing they asked was if I was helping with the meal. They get it, at least – even if my wife doesn't ; That I really do have a significant contribution, and it makes Thanksgiving at our house what it is.

Okay, she is coming out of the bathroom now. Shes gonna let me know how I can be of service this year.

Hey, good news! Most of the main dishes are being brought by her family, and she already started on the potatoes so she wants me to man the football games! We always watch football with her dad who is losing his hearing, and I have been assigned to yell the score at him – an important job indeed.

I knew Thanksgiving would be a time when my contributions to the family would really be apperent to all. Now, where is that remote?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rah! Rah! Raw!

My wife is the worlds greatest sports fan, and I’m not talking about figure skating, synchronized swimming or ballroom dancing. I’m talking pigskin, hoops and Americas favorite pastime.

When asked what her favorite memory is, her answer is anything to do with Chipper Jones and the Braves, Derick Jeter and the Yankees or sitting with her dad in a cold stadium in Provo watching a BYU football game. Her favorite sports memory however is when I got in a fight with her sister at her wedding.

Monday night is reserved for the family in our church organization. If we can fit a family activity into halftime during Monday night football then we consider it all good.

We go to every game our kids have, home or away, and it doesn’t matter what sport. This year we have matching blue shirts for my sons city football team. We’ve done red, blue, yellow and black, red again and then back to blue. We get new ones every year. We have blankets and pompoms. I make a twelve foot canvas banner that we bring to the games printed with uplifting and supportive sayings such as “Kill ’em or Don’t Come Home”, "Blood Makes The Grass Grow" -my wife's contribution, or my favorite..."If You Don't Start Making Your Blocks Dad's Renting Out Your Room”.

We’re a little nuts as a football family and my wife, bless her, is the queen nut. She goes to every practice and is completely miffed at me when I won't. I would rather have a root canal with a spoon.

I just do not enjoy his practices. At all. Two hours of watching boys sweat and grunt and cheat on their push ups just reminds me of all the lies I told to get out of doing the same in Jr High.

Now if I could sleep, then I would enjoy the sojourn to and subsequent stay at the football stadium, but my son Ihoma has forbidden me to nap on account of my snoring like a Greek tank during his basketball scrimmage at the veterans hall where some sensitive old guys thought we were under attack and hid under tables until somebody woke me up. He has been wearing the same practice pants over the same ratty boxers since democrats invaded the White House and he is embarrassed of a little snoring?

Also, I sometimes slip and call his practices “rehearsals.” And when I didn’t understand why he had to be so early to warm up, he kindly explained to me - using the language I could understand, that is was like “call” for a show. Okay, that made sense.

My wife brings a chair and her Ipod. She walks the track and talks to the other parents and by other parents she means moms. Dads don’t go to rehears…practices. Dads expect a certain element of surprise. We don’t want to see how they got where they are. We just expect them to be there. And if they're not there, then we yell. Mild-mannered me even yells - though I don’t sound like any other dad there.

My best yell so far was “Pull up your other sock! What, ya’ wanna walk with a limp?” My next best is not one that I can take credit for, but even I sound tough when I yell “Hit somebody”. That one works best when you finish it off with an exclamation at half volume & shake your head as you walk away. Of course, My wife knows all this stuff. She even teaches the construction worker dads a thing or two.

I’ve given up on laundry during a wining season. Apparently you do not wash your lucky sweat out if you win. We have to hang his uniform on the porch to air out and it has to be high enough that animals won't make a nest in his shoulder pads and the dogs don’t make themselves at home on ‘ol number ten. It has happened. Both.

My wife tells me to chill out about the laundry. “Were a team, man. Keep your head in the game! Focus on the team!” So I'm taking one for "the team." -which simply means that I do the laundry when “the team” is asleep dreaming of an undefeated season.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do Do Do Do DO!

I lost my cell phone the other day. It wasn’t in the usual places I find my phone after it has been lost - my truck, the laundry pile, the microwave, or my daughters purse.

So, I had to use the home phone to make calls. Standing there with the phone in hand I realized that I didn’t know the numbers of any of the people I needed to call. The numbers were programmed into my cell, and I usually have no need to remember them.

Back in the days when I liked to pretend that my life had meaning, I used a day planner. The very same type of thing used to happen to me, only different. I would write down a date or an appointment and having done so, would forget about it entirely. I was handing my brain to a third party.

I now, based on the last three minutes of concentrated thought, believe that these superb latter-day inventions, these incredible devices that certainly assist us in these modern times are actually an infestation of a mechanical nature from outside our planet that will bring about the downfall of society as we have come to know it. It’s so lowbrow to play the "martins in space" card, but I’m gonna do it.

Think about it. “Oh my, it looks like that pod plant is growing dangerously close to Burt and Sally Mormons bedroom window! I better quickly call the… Now where did I put that cell phone. I don’t remember the 911 number cause it’s programmed into that sleek, modern device I use to communicate with the outside world. Oh well, looks like a rerun of Green Acres is on TV.”

See what I mean? Or maybe you are more of the type for… “I have just discovered the cure to cancer, appendicitis and early pattern ‘A‘ hair loss! It’s all right here in my brain! This will surely save mankind! And maybe a few women, too! Before I go to the press and make my announcement so that all the world may know of this miraculous break-through, let me take a moment to update my status on facebook…oh look! Heather is having problems with her blender again. And it is snowing in South Dakota at the Four Presidents film festival. How interesting. Now, what was I doing?”

Ugly, isn't it. You can just hear the brains quiglafrying (I know. Good word, huh?) into a green Jell-O-like substance that oozes and festers and absorbs knowledge & conversational fodder until no one at all will listen to you or invite you over for fish and chips.

We’re doomed, I tell you. And its all due to some modern technological advances of rather dubious origins.

Case in point. Have you seen the screens on these hand-held’s? It’s positive proof that they are inventions of invaders of the short pale variety - i.e. little and green. The view screens are so small that even I, with glasses that have lenses so thick they could be used as shields on the star ship Enterprise, end up handing the phone to my kids so I can see who is calling.

Puny screens = aliens!

Now I hope I haven’t frightened any of you. Just go on about your petty lives as if all was well, and you didn't know that the world is going to end in 2012. It’s best if you consider this a simple little lesson in prevention. Do me a favor and memorize your own phone numbers and I'm sure you'll be just fine.

A short message to the government of this fine nation - Please fix health care. Also, don’t keep the star wars security codes in a cell phone, laptop, or a small sleek-looking toaster ovens unless you know for sure that it was made in the US of A.

And if you find a cell phone with a Close Encounters of the Third Kind ring tone, please let me know ASAP.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who Wears The Pants?

Today, as I searched through the house for clothes to wear, I spent a short minute between cursing to reminisce about the time when I was the only man around the house, and I had free access to all of my clothes with a frivolous impunity of a... a...young man with a whole bunch of clothes.

I used to have shirts. Several of them. Hanging. In the closet. Blues, whites, one both blue and white…yellow even. Many with buttons. Tasteful ones like the one you see here. And there were slacks that, though not matching exactly, coordinated with the shirts in a manly sort of way in man-ish colors such as black, brown, and the occasional blue, both navy and royal, and a late-at-night-black-blue which was my favorite. And they were not pants. They were slacks. I knew the difference.

Belts. I had belts. More than two. I have pictures of me wearing stylish belts.

Saving the best for last in my quick minute to recall, I remembered that once I had socks that matched. I had a thing for socks. I liked wearing them between my feet and shoes, and sometimes alone with no shoes at all. I liked the thick wool ones that made me look like I had ankles instead of chicken stilts.

Underwear. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my underwear.

I had some once. I think I had white underwear. And I remember having clean white tee shirts. Oh my, I think I‘ve done it. I think I am starting to tear-up. No use getting all emotional about it, because THOSE DAYS ARE OVER, BUDDY!

I consider myself lucky these days if the paint I used on my ankles doesn’t run when I sweat. Once in a while I will see one of my formerly adored hosiery being used as a rag to clean dishes off, and I smile fondly and drift off while I stand at the kitchen sink and clean off lasagna and asparagus sauce.

My pants are now all frayed at the bottom. I understand that pants are supposed to sag now-a-days. That means that they drag on the floor which is cool if you are 18. I am not 18. I am over 18. I am not going for cool. I am going for covering my hinney.

My pants now drag because I don’t have a belt. The last time I saw a belt was when my daughter had too much cough syrup and got so hyper that she smacked her brother. And my pants are frayed for that same reason, plus the fact that Grey wears them and he is two inches shorter that I am. Rather than adjusting the waist, he lets friction adjust the hem.

You see, my oldest son, Grey had decided that since I was such a bad father that I owe him big. I can't say as I blame him. And since I have no money, or cars, or money, he is taking his pound of flesh in clothes. And food. So there is never any food or any clothes. I don’t know where they go.

I get glimpses every so often. Last week I saw photos on Greys face book page, and voila! There he was eating my sandwich and wearing my polo sweater and brown slacks. Pants now. Slacks don’t have frayed hems.

I have offered to send Grey to therapy so he can talk out any problems he still has with the way he was raised. His mother and I started saving years ago for the therapy that we knew would be coming. Not just for Grey, but for all of the kids.

Some people save for their kids college funds. We save up for therapy.

Maybe once Grey has moved out and starts wearing somebody else's own clothes I can take some of the money he is not using by wearing mine and use it to replace a few shirts.

And maybe I’ll splurge of a pair of socks. I could get used to socks again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Love Guru

Have you ever been in a delicate public situation where your nose is telling you that it is being tickled past the point of no return, but your brain is telling you that sneezing would be considered a faux pas of biblical proportions. So, you stifle the sneeze, try to control the outburst, and smile like your nasal passage isn‘t making a run for it.

Please dear reader, take note of that feeling and that look - that wrinkled, tense, frozen, you just stuck you hand in a bucket of calf brains look. I will ask you to remember this later.

I taught a Sunday school lesson today. It was our church groups semi-annual conference where the big-wigged leaders of the region come in to confirm that what is being done on the local level is in concurrence with what the authorities of our church would have done, and by that I mean that we try not to flub so much that they ask us to un-volunteer.

Today there was a trinity of gentleman who visited my class with pen and paper ready. I heard they have tranquilizer guns in their jacket pocket in case things get out of control. It was as close to a mafia intervention as I have come to since they screened a video of “The Godfather” in my kindergarten class.

Long story slightly shorter, I said crap in the course of the lesson. I also may have made mention of the love guru.

In church, I did this.

Now, my wife usually lets me know just how far deep in I am. She has a series of hand gestures to let me know when to stop joking, when to add some humor, when to speed it up, when to speak louder. We even have a sign for when I’ve neglected a class member, or worse case, a zipper.

During our ward conference, which I compare to television sweeps week, my wife keeps me in-line by using these hand gestures from the back of the class, as well as a series of crusty looks that would fill a bread truck.

As luck would have it, my wife has been out with the flu all this week, but she promised me she would be there. So she dosed up on flu meds with a Lortab thrown in for the headache and she washed it down with some orange daytime cold & flu stuff. Halfway through the lesson my lovely wife starts into a series of hand gestures that, with out much effort of translation could be printed in Sailors Digest. She also started into what looked like a cheer for the high school football team. Let me just say the signals were not what they should be have been to guide me through a sensitive lesson on the words of the Lord. And, just as the lesson was about to end her head fell to one side and, asleep, she let out a snort.

Somewhere in this whole mess, the trinity of Sunday School judges in their lovely dark and tasteful suits made "The Face". (Please refer to the opening paragraph and remember trying to stifle the millennial sneeze). At least the ivory tower triplets left the tranquilizer guns pocketed.

My wife doesn’t remember a thing. She doesn’t remember the look from the mafia brothers, me saying crap, the love guru, or the snort.

If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a man speaks, and his wife is drugged to the gills and doesn’t hear him, did he still embarrass himself and almost get sedated?

My dealings with philosophy have lead me to the conclusion that, no. No to all the above. At least that’s what I am choosing to believe. Choice, free agency, christen love, being forgiven for saying crap, not getting tranquilized…

Isn't that why we go to church in the first place?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sit, Ihoma, Sit!

My daughter has decided, based on her exhaustive study during commerical breaks, that her brother, my son, Ihoma has canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Anything to get a share of his allowance, I suppose.

It’s true, they haven't been getting along of late. Annie is definitely the alpha sister and, being younger, Ihoma has put up with her boss-atude without much of a fight. But no more. Ihoma has reached puberty and the world as we have know it is unpredictable and new.

I understand at least part of her logic she expressed so well in the paper she e-mailed to her mother and me. Why she e-mailed it when we were sitting across the table from her at the time I just don't know. I quote “If humans are able to get swine flu, then why are we not able to contract from canines there crazy illnesses as well? After all there is much more contact between dogs and humans than there is between people and swine.” Of course our dog Dogella sleeps in Annie's room so if anyone in the house is going to end up with doggie crazy syndrome it would be her, but I will not bring this up to anyone but my wife and possibly my dad - if I can get him to stop barking and itching his neck.

Symptoms of doggie dementia, as she has described it, are; confusion, memory loss, personality changes, house in-training problems, (I thought I was the only one to notice! He leaves the seat down one more time and my wife is going to kill him) hearing loss, wandering aimlessly, being sarcastic, not doing chores and a sensitivity to day-light and toothbrushes. Okay, I think she added those last three but it was so skillfully done that I am leaving them in.

Annie has completed a form as the website asks and has been keeping a history of Ihomas behavior for about three and a half hours - since he admitted that he lost her calculator last week and failed to return it in a timely fashion. The exact wording of this was important to her, and she held the gaming controllers hostage until he conformed.

She has tracked his appetite: chews with his mouth open, and his elimination patterns; gross, disgusting and gross, and his sleep-wake patterns; either sleeping or annoying me.

Based on this and the fact that he is now starting to leave hair everywhere, and partly on what I have been able to monitor, I am now prone to agree with her.

Annie must be fighting some kind of grudge other that the calculator thing because this is the type of energy she usually reserves for mortal injuries, like when I painted her room with out her having a say in the color, or when her mother told her neighbors that her daughter was using Preparation H on her sunburn, or when her sister got her face book password and changed the lead photo to one of Annie at age one and a half in the bathroom sink "sin la ropa".

I'm supporting it now because I just now found a stash of beef jerky and pickle wrappers under his bed.

So now, Annie and I are deciding what to do with Ihomas part of the allowance because he doesn’t get paid to sit around on the job and eat off the floor and annoy people in the entry when they knock on the front door. That job is taken by his older brother. He’s going to have to find a new gig if he is serious about earning his keep.

Beg, Ihoma, Beg!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Devil Spawn Art or Yet Another Use For Duct Tape

My daughter Annie is spending the rest of the afternoon on her space ship with her imaginary friend, Dill Weed. Its name isn't really "Dill Weed". "Dill Weed" was just the first name I thought of. It's not like I am going to hurt the imaginary friends feelings. When we have him over for dinner I just won't call it by name. Problem solved.

Annie is mad at me because I told her she was not allowed to punch the neighbor lady. It's not that I wouldn’t like to sock the neighbor lady myself, or that I don’t think neighbor lady would benefit from a good hard to the right. It's that Annie is really mad at the neighbor lady's two evil twin daughters. I call them the evil twins because they are evil twins. I will name them Santana and Luciafira for clarity sake, and because it makes me feel better since apparently nobody is going to be punching the neighbor lady today.

Annie, my daughter holds the mother responsible. It’s soooo like her to be all mature, long sighted and stuff! I on the other hand, just want to duct tape the Evils to an east bound train and hope that it slows down enough in a major metropolitan area for some nuvo artist to spray-paint them into a colorful and caustic poem of rage and glory. Their days of punking on my daughter are over - the Evils just haven't received the E-mail yet.

I know that it’s not really my battle. I know that if you help chickies out of their shell they don’t strengthen enough to handle the pressures of chickie life. I don’t care. No one messes with my chickie but me.

I fought my own battles when I was her age, and by "fight my own battles" I mean that I hid in the library behind a volcano display and a fallopian tube take-apart model. I thought I was home free until Jared Jay ratted out both me and my hiding place for no good reason but to see me get my hinny kicked. In hinny sight, I understand the logic. It was self preservation. It completely took the pressure of him, and he was the second nerd of the school. Guess who was the first?

So BigCarterTheBully told me he would meet me after school at three. Actually, he told the fallopian tube because I would not come out from behind the table. I told him I was busy at three and he suggested 3:15 due to a previously arranged eye appointment set by his mother, and I said that it was a little late for me but he insisted so I said that would be fine. At 3:20 my bus left bus I had to meet him if I was going to ride home on the bus and not walk the several miles to my house.

So, I met him at 3:15. So did the rest of the school. You would think that that Fallopian tube was wired for sound because the whole school including the hearing impaired kid was waiting for the main event. Suddenly the crowd parted and there stood BigCarterTheBully who was warming up his fist on some poor guy who was the inadvertent pre-show. I removed my retainer and zippered it away and prepared for the pummeling to commence by singing something from West Side Story, when lo, an angel appeared out of the cloudy heaven.

It was my sister Jamar. My younger smaller sister Jamar. She was an angel in lime green coolots. She kicked the crap out of BigCarterNow NotKnownAsBigBully. Of course, I didn't live that down for several years until I did something else embarrassing. But the fact was that someone had stood up for me when I felt I couldn’t do it myself.

I want to be that angel in lime green coolots..or maybe pants, rather. I want to do the mature, protective, dad-like type things that will keep my daughter safe while facing down my own personal demons. It will be me who shows her that we face our bullies, that we stand for what is right even when we are afraid, that we are strong when strength is called for.

Now, I just need to figure out a way to tell my wife that we are moving.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Hangover

There are two schools of thought concerning the managing and distribution of Halloween spoils come November - spoils meaning "left over or that left behind" and not actual "spoiling" which has been greatly inhibited in holiday candy recently due to inflated amounts of butylated hydroxyanisole that would keep Eva Peron looking like she just bought shoes at the mall.

The first is to combine all the treats gathered by the youth in my family together with the leftovers from our very large bowl offered to the trick-or-treaters into one large artery clogging, blood sugar raising, thigh enlarging piece of pottery called the sugar bowl. Hence, "The Sugar Bowl Plan". My kids call this the “Why should I have to share my candy with the little kids who didn’t collect as much because they are little” plan.

The other option isn’t really a plan. Its more of a police action in the making. It’s called the “Ima Pig Plan”. It goes something like this. Everybody hides their candy in several hiding spots through the house (and in one failed but original instance, the chicken coop). The thought process is that if one of your hiding spots is discovered you may have several hoardings still hiding that are left untouched and that can be eaten at your leisure which in my family means two days tops. This leaves your eggs in many different baskets as it were. By the end of this two day glutton-fest there is nothing left of anybodys body but pulsating after-spurge mini piles of sugar and wrappers that sit in the living room unmoving until someone changes the channel to PBS or the BBC.

The problem with the first plan, the plan of the civil, the plan of real people, is that it requires the discipline usually associated with those of the opposable thumb.

As an example, I present to you our neighbors to the west. She teaches violin in her spare time and he is successful in his business. They both have waists. These lovely neighbors have a cut glass candy bowl that sits gracefully on the granite counter top island in their well apportioned kitchen where it gently lit by the purple glow of their built-in saltwater aquarium for several months until replaced in February by valentines roses or some such, and the remaining candy is gently tossed into their trash can that has a lid that actually works when the foot pad is pressed.

The year we tried the whole civilized thing was a disaster. The bowl was reduced to shards of pottery in a matter of hours. Thank heaven we didn’t have a salt water aquarium.

Last Halloween I just pretend that I don’t know that the kids were hiding the candy in their bedrooms. There were no injuries, no picking of pottery out of the ceiling, no need for the authorities to visit. I just got more mouse traps and spread them around figuring that the mice would want a real meal after all that sugar.

I’m going to do the same this year, only I’ll make sure that I throw away the wrappers from the candy I find so it can't be blamed on me when the smarties and lemonheads go missing. Of course, everybody knows I eat the sour candies - but quid pro quo. Like the mafia, or church ladies. I get what I want, and they get to keep the rest of their supply safe within pillow reaching distance.

This way the sugar high can last almost a week. And no one has to die. Not even the mice. Just as long as I don’t see them.

Quid Pro Quo.