My Dad is Awesome

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This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. Naturally, I can’t leave my pops hangin’! I’ve gotta blog about him too. Here are some of the things I think my dad did right.

1. He played with me and read to me.

I remember many, many times when dad would lay down on the floor and play He-Man figures with me. We would sit for what seemed like hours in front of Castle Greyskull. I always wanted He-Man and Skeletor to have parties instead of fight, so that’s what we did. Dad also read books to me regularly. He read book so many times that he started changing the words, to which we would laugh and laugh. It’s a proud tradition that I carry on today when I have to read about Sleeping Beauty and her pet dragon. He also played Joust with me on the Atari 2600. Joust was the only game I could ever get him to play!

2. He ignited my love for bad movies.

I love watching a good movie, but I also love watching terrible ones. I love cheesy, campy nonsense. The kind of stuff where the filmmakers are not entirely aware they are making a bad movie so they just go at it with gusto. I attribute this to my dad. We watched quite a few bad movies together. Dad and I watched the cinematic gem, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. We also watched some movie called, Monster in the Closet or something. Dad was always telling me about this movie, Motel Hell. I finally did get to watch it with him. It was divine in its awfulness. I never did make him watch Manos: The Hands of Fate though.

3. He has a funny sense of humor.

One day my mom made dad and I go to the grocery store. Neither of us wanted to go. So as mom got groceries, we proceeded to lay stinky, nasty farts all through the store. It was hilarious. We will sometimes riff on what we’re watching on TV together. Some horrible tragedy will befall a character and one of us will go, “Don’t be such a whiner!” I’ll never forget the day dad told me the joke about the snowman and his snowpants – that is one of my favorite jokes.

4. He provided an example of a good work ethic.

Now I’m not saying my mom had a bad work ethic. Not even close. They both worked hard, but this blog’s about dad. He worked hard – often 50 to 60 hours a week at a lumber yard. He did this despite the fact that he was what most would call “handicapped.” A disability that would crush weaker men, would make them die inside, limping to the disability office for a check. Well… that disability only pissed dad off. He did more work at that yard than most of the people half his age.

5. He paid the bills.

I know to some people that might not sound like much, but consider this. My belly was never empty. My Christmases were always awesome. I had a Nintendo and a collection of tapes and CDs that was probably the largest in the neighborhood. I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. I never had to wonder whether the light would come on when I flicked the switch. My childhood was pretty dang comfortable and I was blessed to have a dad as dedicated to providing for me as he was.

Now, this isn’t a complete list, naturally. I think my dad did more right than I gave him credit for sometimes. We didn’t always see eye to eye when I was a teenager. As I look back I realize how much he loved me (and still loves me) and I am grateful. I love you, Dad!

 

 

My Mom Is Awesome.

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Sunday is Mother’s Day and I wanted to take a little time to talk about my mother. She’s awesome. I don’t know what my life would be like today without her. A lot of how I think and feel comes from her. So to celebrate I’d like to talk about some specific things I think my mom did right.

1. She didn’t sweat the small stuff.

One of mom’s basic philosophies was, “If it’s not going to be a problem at 15 or 20, it’s probably not that big of a deal now.” This extended to just about everything. Mom didn’t get upset at my progress (or lack of progress) with potty training because she knew I wouldn’t still be peeing my pants when I went off to college. As I got older, she didn’t freak out because I listened to heavy metal. Granted, it was mostly Christian, but some moms I knew just couldn’t handle that. When I wanted to grow my hair long the only rule she had was that I had to keep it clean. She just couldn’t see flipping out over stuff that probably wasn’t going to matter in the long run. Especially since I don’t have any hair now to speak of!

2. She did stuff.

My mom and my aunt drove my cousin and I all up and down upstate New York and Pennsylvania to go to Christian metal concerts. They took us to a music festival at Darien Lake called Kingdom Bound for several years straight. Our family went on cool trips like Niagra Falls. Later, she went to see the Lord of the Rings movies with me. When I was little she would take me on “adventure walks” in the woods near our house.

3. She taught me how to drive.

I can attribute what are possibly the two greatest lessons about driving to my mom. A) Pay attention to everyone and everything because no one is watching out for you and B) You might have the right of way but if you’re not careful you can be just as dead. Heck these days people aren’t even paying attention to what they themselves are doing, let alone what you’re doing. This is exactly what I’ll be telling Lexi when it’s time for her to drive.

4. She let me go.

This is probably the thing I’m the most thankful for. I remember talking with a co-worker who was telling me about his future and how he was moving away. He told me about how his mom was throwing a fit because he wanted to go. I am so grateful my mom didn’t do that. After I graduated college with my fancy-schmancy bible degree I had no future to speak of. A friend offered to let me stay with him for a bit if I wanted to move to Florida. I took him up on the offer because I desperately needed a change. Because of that move I got married and have a kid – two of the best things I’ve ever done. Not only did mom not guilt-trip me, she supported me every step of the way. Even today living so far away I can always call her for advice or just to talk. I consider my mom an actual friend and I think that’s rare and wonderful.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of the things I think mom did well. It’s just the things that stick out right now. There’s a lot of good moms out there, but I like mine the best!

Oh, I forgot. In addition to all the wonderful stuff she does, she also wrote a book. You should totally go buy it either in hardcopy or Kindle form. Book Two should be out soon!

I love you mom!

Little Kids Dancing and Chickens

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My daughter, Lexi, has been taking ballet for about a year now. This past weekend we were treated to the fruit of her labor as her class performed their final concert for the year. I personally, at great expense to myself, sacrificed many hours driving her to her lesson in another town. You might say, “But Adam, doesn’t all that driving mean you get to listen to whole albums uninterrupted? That’s not much of a sacrifice!” You hush. It’s my turn to talk, not yours.

Anyway, my lovely little squeegiedunk had been practicing her dance week after week for months. With the aggressive focus, dedication, we often ascribe to Olympic athletes. “Do you want to play with your ponies?” I would ask. “No, Papa” she would say in a cultured British accent, “I must practice for my concert.” I have no idea where she picked up the accent. It must be all the Doctor Who.

Ha! Ha! I’m kidding of course. I never ask her that because then I have to play with ponies.

Anyway, with all this practice, I knew that when we sat down we were going to be treated to some bonna-fide triple A class dancing. Naturally that is what Lexi delivered. She was the best dancer in the show. She upstaged all of the older girls that had been dancing for almost half a century. She was the epitome of poise and grace. Her lines were flawless. The fact that I am her father almost assuredly has no bearing on my opinion whatsoever.

The other girls in her class… well…

I am not sure they were aware that there was any choreography to begin with. They kind of moved their limbs around haphazardly as though they were told about the dance a mere ten minutes before the show. Let it be known that I do not place any blame with their teacher. I can’t imagine what it’s like to try and get twelve four-year-olds to do anything. Actually, I can imagine what that’s like. I imagine it’s like going into a chicken coop and gathering twelve chickens, getting them into a studio, and teaching them how to dance. “Okay, chickens, first positions!” says the teacher.

Then one of the chickens poops on the floor. Another chicken begins pecking at another chicken for no reason. Then yet another chicken flaps its wings aimlessly in the corner of the studio oblivious to both the other chickens and the teacher. I would imagine that after an hour or so the teacher would just gather up the chickens and head to the nearest Chik-Fil-A. “Here,” she says dumping a bag of chickens on the doorstep. “I hope they’re delicious because they’re terrible dancers.”

In other words, I’m amazed that the kids did anything at all! I’m more amazed that their instructor can still speak in complete sentences and walk around like all that chicken-wrangling is no big deal. Oh great… now I’m hungry for chicken.

 

Writer’s Block

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It sure is hard to write sometimes.

Well, hard to think of things to write at any rate. I certainly don’t mean that sitting here on my couch and typing words with no pants on is hard work. Not that I’m sitting here with no pants on, no sir. Now I am somewhat acquainted with actual hard work. I once worked construction for a few months while living in Florida. I spent a few days lugging around cement bricks for no good reason. I’ve climbed up on precarious scaffolding to put up paint shields. I watched my friend and coworker almost hack his hand off with a grinder. I’ve also dug an actual ditch so when I say I’ve “spent time in the trenches” I am not, as my grandparents might say, “whistling Dixie.”

But sit here and think of something funny to write? Honestly, sometimes I’d rather dig the ditch[1].

I don’t know how it is for actual writers but for me all the stuff comes from my “energy bucket.” If I have a lot of energy it’s easy to come up with funny stuff. If I have no energy, writing something is like trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. Or trying to coax the last drop of ketchup out of a bottle. In other words, way more of a struggle than you would think. This is weird because I think of funny stuff all day.

For instance, while at work the other day a male co-worker was about to swat me in the head with a sales paper. “You had a bee on your head,” he said. I then suggested that if he were to “help” me in this manner I might “help” him with the bee that had just landed on his groin area… with my fist. I had a very clear image in my mind of punching this young man square in the crotch and then saying, “You had a bee on your junk. But I got it for ya.” I thought this was hysterical.

But man, I’m sitting here with no wife or child in the house and I cannot think of a single funny thing to write. I think it’s because my bucket is always empty. When I’m not at work helping a woman get wiper blades for a car that she doesn’t know the year, make, or model of, I’m at home. At home I’m doing puzzles, playing with ponies, or trying to make our house not look like an episode of Hoarders. All that activity empties the bucket and I feel like a pumpkin with the insides scooped out.

Sometimes I don’t even have the energy to play video games. I know, right? Ridiculous! Ah, the life of the husband and father. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.[2]

 

[1] That is, dig a ditch in either Florida or Georgia. Where there are no actual rocks in the ground.

[2] No sarcasm. I really wouldn’t trade it for the world. My family is awesome.

The American Girl Experience

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When my daughter, Lexi, turned four my wife and I decided to do something big for her birthday. We had a couple reasons for doing this. The first being that we hadn’t done anything “big” in about four years (the last “big” thing being have a child). The other was because we had managed to keep another human being alive for four years. No easy feat in today’s world of war, hardship, and famine. I mean, good grief, our car doesn’t even have wi-fi! It was an event worthy of celebration. My wife, Lindy, thought it would be a great idea to take Lexi to the American Girl doll store in Atlanta.

For the uninitiated, American Girl dolls are a brand of impossibly expensive dolls. Each doll has its own name, personality, time period, and hobby. For example, the popular one this year was named Isabelle. She lived in modern times and liked to dance. There was also Kit, who lived during Great Depression and whose favorite hobby was not starving to death. Then there’s Caroline, who lived during the war in 1812. She went on a mission to rescue her father from the British. Her favorite hobbies included sneaking around military facilities and snapping the necks of British soldiers. My favorite was Amelia, the Cyborg Demon Vampire Hunter who lived in 2065. One can only imagine what her favorite hobbies were!

Anyway, off to Atlanta we went. Before the American Girl store, my wife had to stop at Target. She loves Target. We do not have a Target where we live – a fact that greaves my wife to no end. I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s the same stuff as Walmart only five to ten dollars more expensive. While shopping for odds and ends we bought Lexi a musical magic wand. It was from the movie Frozen and when activated played about five notes of “Let it Go.” We also got her a slinky for a dollar. Remember these facts because they will become relevant later.

Eventually, we showed up at the store which contained an estimated seventy-five thousand little girls and their mothers. That’s not to say there weren’t some fathers there, because there were. And all five of us just nodded to one another in solidarity. As the day wore on our nods became more haggard and desperate. We briefly threw around the idea (through silent nods) of starting a fight club. With the dolls. The benefit being that they would never be able to talk about fight club.

After having been shown several dolls, Lexi decided on Isabelle, the dancer. Also, some outfits and a pet cat because we weren’t spending near enough money. When it was time to pay, the cashier led me to the back and showed me the barrel I was about to be bent over. To their credit it was a nice barrel. It was pink (of course) and lined with soft fur. It also had molded rubber handholds which I thought was a nice touch. The cashier cheerfully explained that I was not required to squeal like a pig. No sir, I was free to squeal like whichever animal I deemed appropriate. I chose octopus.

At the end of the day, both Lindy and Lexi had a great time. Now, pop quiz – remember how I said we’d bought some toys at Target? Out of all the toys we bought that day which do you think she played with the most? If you said, “Why the American Girl doll, of course.” You’re an idiot. I swear I have never in my combined thirty-five years seen a slinky played with for so long.