Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolving to Wake Up

28 clever quips
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I usually keep it simple.

Try more new things.

Floss more often.

Avoid plotting the downfall and misery of others who have achieved far greater, yet undeserved, success.

But I've been kind of stumped for 2009.

Prevent myself from becoming a fashion intervention victim on "What Not to Wear"? (Luckily, Stacey and Clinton don't seem to bother with guys much any more.)

Re-learn my signature so something beyond the first initial is legible? (I blame those scan and sign credit card readers at the checkout for this development over the years.)

Master "Louie, Louie" on as many instruments as possible? (That'll teach you for never giving me proper music lessons, Mom!)

I'm open to suggestions.

However, there is one thing I need to do.

I'm half way past 40 and a day hardly goes by that I don't wonder who I am and what I'm doing with myself. My life is good in many, many ways -- I can count at least four of them that live under this roof with me -- but admit to not thinking beyond the next morning, beer or paragraph most times.

No one's ever accused me of being a strategic thinker and I've been fine with that. I've always been one who prefers to do more than devise a master plan, a fact My Love can verify based on my attempts at home repair. But I think I've reached that point where, unless I unlock what I've got hiding inside somewhere and follow it, I'm just going to continue to be rather than live.

So, in 2009, someway, somehow, I need to uncover what's sleeping in my soul.

I just hope it's not a bear.

Or a pissed Gallagher brother.

Take me home, boys.

Video: "Acquiesce," Oasis

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game Boy

16 clever quips
The note from Santa was printed, signed and ready for hand delivery, but not a peep was raised about puppies, turtles or anything else that did NOT appear under the Christmas tree. After two days, I finally fed it to the shredder.

Lesson learned: Giving eight Nintendo DS games to two kids can save a life ... or at least this Dad's sanity. But I am worried about Thing 2's.

Outside of a few potty breaks and my convincing him to play a dozen rounds of Lazer Tag around the yard with me Christmas afternoon, this is all anyone has seen of our beloved 6-year-old since he ripped through all the paper and ribbons on Thursday morning:

In fact, My Love pointed out this morning that he is still wearing the same clothes he put on to play Lazer Tag ... three days ago.

The longest "conversation" he has held with us in that time was about how good Santa is at "Super Mario Bros."

"The box was open and I put the game in and it was already saved to Level 8! I've never gotten that high! Santa got it to Level 8 for me!" he said.

This is because Santa buys good little boys Nintendo DS games through -- used .

But I think I'll let the jolly ol' elf maintain his street cred with the boy. 'Tis the season.

Speaking of which, every time you vote for me at, an angel gets some.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Let 'Em Down Easy, Santa

16 clever quips
It is a few minutes past midnight as I start this, meaning I have at least 17 more hours to keep the kids away from any wayward white-bearded fat men in red suits.

Oh, I know what they want. I don't need chubby's help there. I just know he ain't bringing it.

Thing 1, my precious little girl who can't spell her way out of … well, anything that requires the spelling of "exit," has been banging at the computer since September. She typed up a meticulous Times Roman listing of the last three American Girl catalogs. Her ongoing Word document, at last glance, was up to 16 pages.

The other day, after finding a print out, I asked her to get a calculator. Add up the price of each item (which she dutifully listed, I should note) and let me know the total, I told her.

Her digits gave out by the third page.

Thing 2 took a simpler approach this year. (Normally, he takes scissors to any mail-order catalog or Sunday advertisements that feature toys that he sees and starts cutting ragged circles around indiscriminate items he "wants." The mounds of clippings are then stuffed into a manila envelope and tossed aside. One of us usually discovers it during spring-cleaning. )

This year, though, he declared all he wanted was a Target gift card.

For $100.

No, $200.

Uh-uh, $1,000.

It's all blurry now, but I think his last bid was $5,000.

Then there is the special request. The one the Things will make if they pay their annual homage to the Toy Dude.

"I need to tell him we want two turtles and a puppy," Thing 1 said to me as I stared vacantly into another simmering pot of rice pilaf for dinner.

It's not that don't sympathize. From preadolescence upward, I begged my parents for only two things every Christmas and every birthday: a 10-speed bike and a dog.

"You get a bike and next thing, you'll want a car" was my mom's standard reply to Option 1. Even after I got my first car.

Her message was usually less subtle, and much shorter, when the canine issue was raised. I always thought the look in her eyes was something akin to what men saw shortly before Medusa turned them to stone.

Needless to say, I ended up buying my own 10-speed when I was 22. I finally got a dog when I was married. Eight years later. And living in a different time zone.

Precious Things, it therefore tears me in so many different ways to read this note I found next to the stockings that you hung with care:

"Dear Little Uncools,

Even though you didn't come see me, don't think I haven't forgotten about you! I know you have your hearts set on me bringing your dog, Murphy, a blushing puppy bride and yourselves a little green floatable friend each.

You have both tried to be good. But trying isn't enough when it comes to pets. You both need to show you can take care of yourselves before you can take care of another life. For example, Thing 2, you'd be well advised to heed your father's words about brushing, wiping, showering and so on.

Thing 1, wipe off that smile, you can't remember to make your bed even though you have been offered cold, hard cash to do so. And I know you are all about the Benjamins.

It would help if you cared more for the pet you already have. Telling your father he needs to brush Murphy's fur, clean his teeth and the like, while showing you have management potential, is not actually caring for your dog.

Thing 1 -- feed him in the morning as well as at night. Take him out to play ball once in a while instead of watching another re-run of "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Thing 2 -- you gained valuable experience picking up after the horses and sheep in camp this past summer. Apply it daily in your own yard.

I'll be checking in on your progress in a few months. Meanwhile, please accept and enjoy these Nintendo DS games.

Your Friend,


P.S.: Mmmm - love those Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies!

P.P.S. : If you think you got screwed, check out these bozos on my naughty list."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lose Weight: Empty Your Wallet Here

23 clever quips
My varsity baseball coach once told me you should be at your heaviest in the winter to help you stay warm. I'm not sure what his point was since he weighed about 320 year-round.

This holiday season, if you wish to maintain your slim, sexy svelte physique (c'mon, shake a tailfeather, honey … yeah, baby, like a bowl full of jelly) then you definitely should read my column in this month's Aetherial Relaxation Spa newsletter.

"Uncool," you say, "I've got presents to buy, cookies to bake, day laborers to hire to untangle those crappy icicle lights I bought on sale at Ace Hardware in 2004 so I can get them hung up on the gutters before frickin' Martin Luther King's Day arrives. Why should I click over to another Web site to read your column?"

I'm glad I had you ask.

First, Beth -- the world's most generous spa owner -- has agreed to donate $1 (up to $100) to the Cure JM Foundation for each unique visitor to my column. That money will help pay for some medical folks at Children's Memorial Research Center in Chicago to continue to look for a cure for juvenile dermatomyositis, the autoimmune disease Thing 1 has been dealing with for the past six years.

Second, my column (you'll click on it eventually) contains many great, simple tips for avoiding that holiday heft. As you expect, I unmercifully ridicule them all as being just the kind of phony baloney Dr. Phil-ish dribble that gives me periodic apoplexy.

Third, it's actually pretty funny. I mean, Beth laughed harder at it than she laughed the first time she saw me on the massage table naked. An assistant had to make her snort six bottles of lavender aromatherapy oil to mellow her out after that experience.

So go read my column. Please?

Still here? So am I. Could have done better than this?

I want to thank those of you who have been generous enough to contribute to or plug what we're doing with Cure JM Foundation. With your help, My Love and I have raised $20,000+ with a solid month left to find the last five grand to meet our goal (check the cool widget on the right of my blog home or our fundraising page for updates).

With few exceptions, most of you I know only through an e-mail address, blog URL or goofy nickname. Who the hell are you and why are you so good to my kid? Do you have a sister or maybe a cousin?

Seriously, and you know how hard it is for me to be serious, you're good eggs. A little cracked, maybe, but that makes me love you all the more. Perfection is boring; flaws are very sexy.

Shout-outs to:

All That Comes With It
DadCentric (for letting me write about my adventures with JM far too much)
Daily Piglet
Fairfield County Child
It’s My Life and I'll Blog if I Want To
Manager Mom (not dead, just not blogging)
Mediocrity Mockery (folks, always be nice to your temps)
Midwest Moms (PR is as good as money)
Mom of 2
Post Picket Fence
Seriously Mama
Unmitigated (I saw your plug for BHJ, you sneak)

Special thanks to:

  • Anissa from Hope4Peyton: She's got a kid recovering from cancer and she still donated to me. May I dry clean your cape?
  • Anna from Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder: Out of the blue, you tossed not-so-funny money our way. I'll never rat you out to the Feds. Ever.
  • Kristine at Stamford Talk: One of the people who got me into blogging. My first commentor. A very generous donor ... on a teacher's salary, no less.

Finally, super extra non-sarcastic special thanks to Black Hockey Jesus of The Wind in Your Vagina. I goaded him into running the 13-mile half marathon in Carlsbad, Calif., next month on behalf of Thing 1. He responded by getting a mess of his readers -- who I'm sure fought suspicions of a major scam -- to donate more than $1,100 to date to support his fallen arches for the cause. Dude, Thing 1 has a special message for you:

If I failed to mention your generosity, I apologize. Drop me a line and I'll correct the wrong.

Or charge a few more bucks on your credit card at That'll teach me a lesson I won't forget.

And if you visit and vote for my posts, I'll untangle those icicle lights for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bite Me, Jack Bauer!

20 clever quips
We returned from Nebraska with two zombies -- one moaning from strep throat (Thing 1) and another moaning every three seconds for another hit of Super Mario Brothers from his Nintendo DS (Thing 2).

The sickly state of our house, not to mention an unwieldy stack of unfinished Christmas cards on the kitchen counter, made My Love unusually eager to escape onto another plane, this time to fly overseas on business. However, for such a detail-oriented person, haste brings out her worst, exhibited by the following call home about an hour after the car service had whisked her to JFK International:

"I left my laptop at work. I can't be in London for a week without a computer. You need to drive to my office, get it from under my desk, and drive it here to the airport. Now."

This looks like a job for … uh, yeah, me.

With Thing 1's strep, Thing 2's sudden development of a headache (most likely DS DTs) and me needing to white-knuckle the Minivan of Manliness for 40 miles, I wrangled one of my neighbors to look after the kids, who by 8 p.m. were already passed out upstairs.

"Want me to turn the TV on before I leave?" I said, adjusting my cape and tights.

"No, no. I brought a book. Unless, you've got a good porn channel."

"Satellite pay-per-view gives you that magical option. However, given your house is just on the other side of that picture window note this," I said, "your wife will have almost as good view of the show as you."

"I brought a book."

Within 20 minutes, I'm at My Love's office building, circumnavigating the company's high-tech security system with a MacGyver-like trick I call "Swiping Your Wife's Card Key from Her Car's Change Tray." Once inside, however, I promptly get lost.

I ring her. "Dammit -- is your office in Building 16 or 17?"

"It's Building 18! Where are you?"

"Building 18? Who are you working for? Wait, just tell me -- do the buildings connect?!?"

"Yes. Stay along the perimeter of the floor until you see a brown door. It opens into a hallway leading to Building 18."

I'm hustling serpentine down the hallway, trying to avoid suspicious glances from the cleaning crew. If stopped and questioned, I'll confuse them with my rudimentary grasp of high school Spanish ("Donde es la oficina de la bossy blonde senorita? Necesito su computadora mother-humpinando!").

"Found it!" I yell into my cell phone.

"Good. My laptop is under the desk."

"It's wired! Tell me how to disengage it from the dock, dammit!!!"

"Run your left hand along the side. You'll feel a lever. Pull it and release."

"Got it!!!"

"Now, there should also be a yellow shopping bag there with running shoes. Take the shoes out and put the computer in the bag. Now, go! Go!"

"On my way," I said, "once take a leak."

A good shake later, I'm zipping along in the Minivan of Manliness. Traffic is oddly light in the 'burbs and boroughs. The GPS is fired up, news radio blasts weather and road updates on the 8s. I'm thinking to myself, "Man, I hope my neighbor was kidding about the porn channel."

I call My Love. "I'm entering the airport. Where am I meeting you?"

"Terminal 8. Departures. I'm on the way there. Hurry, Uncool, hurry!"

There she is, standing with a stack of luggage by the curb. She opens the passenger door, grabs the yellow bag with the laptop off the seat.

"You're my hero!" she says. "Love you!"

She tosses onto the passenger seat a different plastic bag, a white one, slams the door and disappears into the fluorescent airport haze.

I look at the white bag.

A reward for a job well done, perhaps?

Duty-free gin?

Upper-rack, shrink-wrapped gentlemen's mags from the Hudson News?

The snowy plastic crinkles under my fingertips. I reach in and pull out … another assignment.

It's the Christmas cards, dammit!

Looks like a job for

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Me in Nebraska

21 clever quips
This weekend, I'll be at my niece-in-law's wedding in Nebraska. I'm sure it will be great, but it has a lot to live up to based on the two previous nuptials I've attended in Cornhusker Country.

The first was your standard church wedding followed by a huge buffet dinner at the local airfield Quonset hut. About midway through, a group of male party-goers kidnapped the bride, hauled her through the snowy night to a bar for shots of Wild Turkey and a drink of champagne from her shoes.

(Kids, on that last item, trust me -- sparkling wine is no match for sweaty bride toes. A nice Chianti, perhaps ...)

I, still a lifelong Northeastern at that point, was told that kidnapping the bride and getting her sloshed was a Nebraska tradition. A tradition, I should note, not approved of by her newly minted mother-in-law who, back at the Holiday Inn later that night, referred to her daughter-in-law as "that slut."

Divorce followed a few years later.

After that experience, I felt fully prepared for my second wedding a few years later. However, I failed to factor in two things: the bride-to-be was My Love's best friend and she, as well as her husband-to-be, were both morticians.
People, you've never partied until you've partied with Midwestern morticians in love.

To sum up the pre- and post-martial event highlights:

The night before the wedding much alcohol was consume. I may have danced on a table. Later, I may have ended up under said table. Someone definitely ended up in My Love's pants. While she was still wearing them. Elastic waistbands -- comfort and convenience, folks, it's all about comfort and convenience in Nebraska.
Said Pants-Dancer, a person My Love had been good friends with since they met at a college party and she promptly vomited on him, split the evening between a hotel room with two married women and the backseat of his car.

The marriage ceremony was held in the funeral parlor's chapel. Some call it circle of life. Some call it creepy. I call it a wicked contact high courtesy the formaldehyde being used in the embalming room downstairs.

The room the reception was held in also served as the local VFW hall. First time I ever bought scratch cards at a reception before. Cha-ching -- $2 winner, barkeep!
The bride's mom served us guests sausage and peppers on Wonder bread at the reception. Now you know why My Love brought pants with an elastic waistband.

Also in Nebraska, you have what is called a Dollar Dance. Everyone lines up and pays a dollar to dance with either the bride or the groom. One of the people collecting the dollars on behalf of the happy couple that night was Pants-Dancer. When my turn came up, I tucked a George in his cummerbund and folks, let me tell you, the boy can dip.

Now that you know this, if I'm not back here by Wednesday morning, alert the authorities. Tell them to bring more formaldehyde.
And some Odor Eaters.

Video: "Right Here in Nebraska," The String Beans

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ol' Heave Ho-Ho-Ho

26 clever quips
Today's the big Secret Santa Can Suck It gift swap, hosted by Bee's Musings. This post is about what I bought the blogger I was assigned.

Trolls suck. They make obnoxious comments on your blog then scurry off to hide under a bridge or as Fox News commentators:

Gnomes, on the other hand, are all right. They're good for a free beer, quick with a joke and willing to give you blog inspiration when you need it the most:

That is until you piss them off. Even the smallest mythical creatures have ego issues from time to time:

Next thing you know, they're organizing unruly "flash" mobs to bring you down:

Then, they really get out of control. They're running wild and causing havoc all over your home and blog:

So, to you, VE at VE's Fantastical Nonsense, to keep all those potentially rebellious gnomes lurking in your site header under control, I give to you this -- the "Gnome-Be-Gone Goodfellas":

Happy holidays! Find more great gifts at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Have Yourself a Passive-Aggressive Holiday Newsletter

38 clever quips
My Love and I are ready to start our annual yuletide battle of the wills and, as mine is as squishy as the ancient Sunkists in our fruit basket, I'm preemptively conceding. Therefore, let it toll throughout our fair, deep-in-hock land that Uncool Christmas card recipients will again be subjected to an annual family holiday newsletter.

I know, I know. Most people hate holiday newsletters. As a fellow blogger recently wrote me: "Your life is not interesting enough to warrant a four-page, four-color tabloid, thank you very much."

True. In fact, most people's lives aren't that interesting yet here we all are, spewing our every thought, alleged bon mot and detail of our kid's last bowel movement on blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

Chew on that while I continue.

The first holiday newsletter we did, back in 1998, was completely justified. We had moved in midyear from the Northeast to an exotic foreign land where the hair is high and the pickles are fried -- Dallas, that is … the Big D, Cowboys and concrete strip malls, y'all -- so we inadvertently lost touch with some good friends. Our solution was a cute one-pager, laid out and written in newspaper fashion, highlighted by a guest column from our new puppy (the late great Kiner was a fine writer but a ham-fisted typist).

The format has changes over the years, but we continued to grind them out … mostly at My Love's behest.

"If people need a written synopsis of the past 12 months of our existence to know what's going on with us, doesn't it stand to reason that we are no longer that close to them and should take them off the Christmas card list, period?" I recently said to her.

She deftly countered with "no."

Therefore, newsletter naysayers, I will do my best to keep it tolerable. For those about to attempt their own newsletters, here's my advice:

Keep it short. I can summarize a year for four people and a dog takes me about 250 words. Twice, in pre-Thing 2 days, I summed up our lives in less than 152 words. Now I'm thinking of writing it Twitter style: "No one died or fired. Won't need to sell kids to pay mortgage. You?" Seventy-three characters to spare. Boo-yah!

Keep it entertaining. For a few years, Kiner served as letter narrator. He made many typos but still wrote better than the executive I once worked for who wrote (twice!) that the company would "use all the tools in our arsenal." Bob, if you are reading this, let me say again that tools are kept in toolboxes and weapons are part of one's arsenal, arse hole.

Avoid bragging, boasting and obnoxiously clever designs … but if you must, do all three past the point of obscenity. My favorite holiday newsletter annually comes from a family friend who, without fail, dazzles us with tales of exotic locales, brilliant career moves and over-the-top leisure pursuits (alpaca farming in Australia covered all three in 2005). These letters come fully packaged, one time as a glossy, UV-coated self-designed N.Y. Times crossword puzzle folded into an origami Ankylosaurus. On 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, no less. Reading these always gives me a good belly laugh of self-righteousness ... followed by weeks of grave depression over my feeble existence. Well, nobody's perfect.

Uh-oh, My Love just asked me what I'm writing about.

"Holiday letters."

"You're writing this year's?"

"No, I'm blogging about how I loathe writing ours every year."

"Oh. I was hoping …"

"C'mon. Why, why, why must I do this year after year?"

"Because you're the writer."

"Cop. Out. Expand YOUR skill set, sweetie. Why don't YOU write it this year and I'll read it over and say, 'Hmm, I don't think we should say THAT!'"

"OK," she said.





Mixed with a homeless cicada.

"OK, I'll do it," I relented, "but you need to finally clean the dog poop off your running sneaker that has been sitting in the laundry room sink for two weeks."

Lonesome train whistle, off screen.

Bare light bulb swinging in the dark night.

Tree falls in the forest but only a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard witnesses it.

"I'll think about it," she said.

Crap, literally, I'm on it.

Speaking of, vote me out of the bottom-dwellers at or else the newsletter is headed for your mailbox ASAP.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Spoons are for Snow

24 clever quips
I was roused yesterday, as I am many mornings, by a kick in the lower back. This came courtesy of Thing 2 who had climbed into bed between me and My Love at some proper bar-closing hour for want of a snuggle and, as I truly believe, to disrupt my ongoing attempts at having dreamily soft-focused relations with that woman, Ms. Jennifer Love Hewitt.

(This was my subconscious's third attempt on her in 10 days. She's subliminally teasing me for fast-forwarding past her Proactive acne commercial so many times. Frustrating, yes, but it serves as fair warning for the future. I wouldn't want visions of her sugarplums dancing in my head to be overtaken by Billy Mays and his Awesome Auger.)

Shortly thereafter, Thing 1 burst through the bedroom doorway.

"It snowed last night! And IT'S STILL SNOWING!!"

Outside of our second-floor window, a thin layer of frosting has covered our world and, sure enough, an icy haze continued to shower down, clicking on the pane and the gutter just above.

Thing 1 been casting the snow spell for three weeks now. She does this by sleeping with her pajamas inside out while a plastic spoon rests under her pillow, just as one of her pre-school teachers told her and brother to do years ago whenever a chance of falling flakes filled the airwaves. Her invocations have been mostly ineffective possibly because, having run out of plastic spoons, she resorted to sticking a plastic fork under her resting head. (We did get flurries on our walk to school a week or so ago. When I stripped the sheets for washing later that morning, I recovered from her bed a school-cafeteria spork.)

In a few minutes, I was in the kitchen, zipping, buckling and barking requests for hats and gloves. Thing 2's eyes quickly welled with cries that his new snowsuit was too tight. I instructed him to take it off and try it again, this time with the zipper undone and in the front.

Some children burst into the season's first snowfall and quickly ball a handful to toss at the nearest object. Others start rolling the stuff up into a new frosty friend or piling it into an impenetrable fortress. A few go right on their backs and flap their limbs into heavenly impressions.

Mine -- armed with mixing bowls, rinsed out potato salad containers and the good soupspoons -- gather then shovel the virgin coldness straight into their mouths.

Their routine is to scoop all they can off the patio furniture. If parental supervision is lax, they move from the deck to any spot of lawn that looks unvisited by our dog. They proceed to gorge until their tongues and bellies are numb. Leftovers go into the freezer for hourly snacking until they are gone or transformed into an unbreakable solid chunk.

Sunday's feeding frenzy lasted about 30 minutes. By lunchtime, the precipitation turned to rain. The last jagged patches of the morning manna disappeared by 2 p.m.

Come bedtime, Thing 1 appeared in the living room wearing her typical winter nightwear: a Dallas Stars jersey and a purplish pair of PJ bottoms with monkeys chatting on the phone while lounging on crescent moons. Both are inside out.

"Girl, it's supposed to be in the 50s tomorrow. No chance of snow whatsoever," I said to her.

"That's OK," she said. "It won't hurt to try again."


My Uncool Past