Friday, January 29, 2010

Deduction

19 clever quips

One week ago:

pills-full

Yesterday:

pills-half

Can you figure it out?

(If you need a hint, read "Milestones".)

Have an equally great weekend, everyone.

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You can support our family’s efforts to find a cure for juvenile myositis by donating to Cure JM today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Yoga Tale is a Bit of a Stretch

29 clever quips

yoga pose fail Even in my athletic heyday as a teen (multiple baseball teams, singles tennis, pickup basketball) and my resurgence in my mid-20s to early-30s (multiple softball teams, doubles tennis, pick up another six-pack), I never suffered any serious strains or sprains -- a fact I attribute mostly to my notable lack of muscle mass.

Can't hurt it if you don't have it. That's my philosophy.

It's worked pretty well. While I was never the biggest or best player, my reflexes, hand-eye coordination and proper positioning always made up for my lack of strength and helped me through. For example, while I never came close to even three hopping the outfield fence in softball, I could consistently hit line drives up the middle, field several positions pretty well and regularly hit the cutoff man.

Then I hit 34 and -- BAM!

Literally.

A routine ground ball one day attacked my left eyebrow, requiring 13 stitches.

Bye-bye, reflexes; hello, doom of middle age.

Therefore, I was not too surprised the day my doctor told me that my hips are tight.

"It's normal for most people your age," she said. "You need to stretch that part of your body more often."

Yet this doctor still refused to write a prescription requiring my wife to have more frequent and acrobatic contact with me. This, my fellow Americans, is the sad state of today's U.S. health care system.

Instead, the doctor told me I should consider yoga. When I asked her how a cup of milky bacteria was going to put the motion back in my ocean, she promptly ordered a hearing test. That's another story.

I had always read great things about yoga. Aside from the physical benefits, there is stress reduction, improving one's sense of awareness, the chance to wear pastel leotards -- all the good stuff. Game on.

As I am a bit reclusive, rather than interact with actual live people (or even dead ones as they are notoriously bad getting in or out of Downward Facing Dog), I decided to go the self-help route. I dug through my wife's pile of gently used exercise tapes and DVDs and found one titled "A.M./P.M. Yoga for Beginners." I dutifully waited until a few minutes before noon and turned it on.

rodney yee pretty boy This particular tape stars Rodney Yee, who I've since learned is some big-time yoga yogi to the stars, one of whom is Oprah Winfrey.

Had I known this at the start, that would have been my first warning.

Oprah goes through dog trainers and diet gurus like House goes through diagnoses. She has 37 kajillion dollars and none of these people can solve her problems so where does that leave me, a man who still regularly wears a jacket he bought back when The Hooters regularly had Top 40 hits?

Well, let's go to the videotape. (Seriously folks -- videotape! In this day and age! That should have been Warning No. 2.)

The soundtrack is a dreamy New Age love fest of synthesized strings, birdcalls and crashing ocean swells.

And there's Rodney, standing on the pristine sands, shirtless.

The tequila-sunrise sunrise is gleaming off his exceptionally ripped chest and abs. Even his very dated granola-guy ponytail, black, thick and luminous as a fresh puddle of Pennzoil Platinum European 5W-40, has the most awesome muscle tone.

(Swami Rodney, I also learned, dumped his wife then got in the Jackass-Boinks-Strumpet Pose with one of his students. Shoulda been Warning No. 3.)

As I lay down and tried to get in touch with my breathing, I glance up to Rodney for further instruction. There he is, lying in his painted-on Spandex shorts as the breeze caresses the beach and his impossibly sculpted physique and I'm thinking that here, alone on my cement-hard basement floor, that this is possibly one of the most uncomfortable and creepy feelings I've ever had in my life.

And I'm not even in the first pose yet.

Maybe the doctor will reconsider and at least write my wife a fairly persuasive Post-it Note.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Wayward Passengers, Please Report to the Gate

8 clever quips

My Love just returned from the annual company physical (perk of being a Globetrotting Executive Goddess), and the news is good.

Even though I – he of imagined heart attacks and actual panic attacks - still hold the family record on that sexist stress test), she is perfectly healthy and able to continue to support me in the manner in which I am accustomed.

flight boardThen, while stepping out of the airport shuttle van, the computer bag on her shoulder swung forward. And the momentum took her with it.

BAM!

Two bloody knees and a sore wrist.

So, friends, while I attend to her every need (her need, not mine, gutter-dwellers) (but I appreciate your rooting for me), here are few oddly appropriate items I wrote elsewhere this week for your enjoyment:

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meganmedal THING 1 FUND UPDATE
$18,600 raised; $6,400 to go!

Help the Uncool Family find a cure for Thing 1’s autoimmune disease!

Even if you can only spare $5 or $10, please support us in the Austin Marathon by donating to Cure JM Foundation, the only nonprofit dedicated solely to putting an end to this often painful and potentially deadly disease. Just whip out a credit card and click over to our FirstGiving fundraising page.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Cops Are Onto Me

14 clever quips

Remember my strategy for dealing with scofflaw drivers along the route The Things’ walk to school?

school-crossing-guard2You don’t? Click that link above and read.

Too lazy to do that? OK, a hint – it’s brown and steaming and NOT made by Uncle Ben. Unless, of course, Uncle Ben is what I rename my dog.

Several people who do remember have asked whether I’ve had to employ my solution to these red-light runners, and the answer is happily (or sadly if you are a fan of high-concept comedy): “no.”

I’d like to take credit for improving the driving habits of my fellow residents. However, the truth is that the intersection in question has been partially closed for most of the time since September because our city is installing …

… wait for it …

sewers.

Alanis Morissette needs to write a new verse to “Ironic.” Donchathink?

This road closure came complete with an off-duty cop standing at the intersection as well as the standard florescent orange barrels, saw horses and “THIS ROAD CLOSED, MORON!” signs across the street entrance because, in my hometown, drivers tend to be nonbelievers.

And asshats.

This development, while making getting crosstown a bit of a hassle, had the upside eliminating the most dangerous of the two intersections on the Things literal path to higher education. As a result, I even started to let The Things walk to school unescorted. *sniff* They grow up so fast!

But wait!

There’s more.

One morning during early September, I decided to drive the kids over to school since I had some stuff to do around town that most definitely did not involve a strip club and a taco truck despite the body similarities between me and that guy on the grainy security footage. Anyhow, as we approached the exit from our neighborhood, we were waved through by the officer the private school across from us hires to mitigate the morning rush of crazed commuters, parents and school buses.

Except it wasn’t Officer Jim, who has been working that corner for at least the six years since we moved into the neighborhood.

As I made the turn, I slowed and rolled down the window to ask whether this new guy was replacing Officer Jim or just filling in.

The officer said Jim was in training that week and would be back on Monday.

Then he spies the Things in the back of the Minivan of Manliness, eyeballs me, and says:

“Are you the guy who wrote that thing about the traffic and cutting of school crossing guards around here?”

“Um, yeah. That was me,” I said, smiling nervously and with a bit of shock because I’m not accustomed to being recognized and the man did have a service weapon at his side.

“We got a good laugh at that one down at the station,” he said. “You’re right. The drivers on this road are out of their ever-lovin’ minds.”

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THE THING 1 FUND

You’ll be seeing a FirstGiving widget on my blog and – Google technology willing -- in the feed for the next few weeks. My Love and I are participating in the Austin, Texas, marathon next month (she’s running, I’m sweeping up water cups discarded by the runners) to raise funds for Cure JM Foundation, the nonprofit that supports research into Juvenile Myositis -- the rare autoimmune disease our beloved Thing 1 has lived with since age 2.

Cure JM is a small, all-volunteer organization so nearly every cent it collects goes straight to do good such as pay for research fellowships or buy laboratory equipment for the handful of doctors and scientists who study this disease.

If you’d like to support us and you have any money left over from the holidays and all your generous donations to Anissa’s family and Haitian relief  -- even if its just $5 -- click the widget’s orange button or go to directly to our FirstGiving page.

Thanks.

 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shows NBC is Developing to Replace Leno in Prime Time

12 clever quips
  • Law & Order: Parking Violations Bureau
  • The Biggest Loser: Talk-Show Host Edition
  • The Weakest Link
  • Knight Rider III: Kit Goes Hybrid
  • Law & Order: Lost and Found Box
  • Er …
  • (Insert day of week) Night Lights
  • WWE Late Night SmackDown
  • Law & Order: Traffic Enforcement Division
  • Saved By the Bell: Mid-Life Crisis
  • Suicide: Life on the NBC Schedule
  • Deal or What the F--- You Mean I’m Moving to 12:05 A.M.
  • Law & Order: Janitorial Services
  • Grizzlier Adams
  • Sing Along with Mitch McConnell
  • Carson Daly, Where Are You?
  • Law & Order: Entertainment Litigation

BONUS LIST:

Past NBC Flops that Could Have Done Better than “The Jay Leno Show”

Manimal (1983) – Man turns into an animal with help of B-roll shot at zoo and cheesy makeup to fight lame crime of the week. It’s no The Incredible Hulk.

imageMr. Smith (1983) - TV.com sums it up nicely: “Mr. Smith was the name of a talking orangutan who worked as a political advisor in Washington, D.C. The show was one of NBC's lowest-rated shows ever, lasting 13 episodes.” It also was NBC’s lead-in for Manimal. Awesome programming block, Peacock!

Pink Lady and Jeff (1980) – Jeff Altman! Hugh Hefner! Greg Evigan and The Bear! (Too bad Cheap Trick didn’t appear in this clip.) And two Japanese ladies in bikinis who butchered disco songs in English every week! I believe I saw this variety show back in first run, but I have an excuse – I was in the throes of puberty.

My Mother the Car (1965-66): I always see this listed as one of the worst of all-time. After I watched an episode on Hulu, it’s kinda hard to disagree.

These lists are brought to by the letters ABDPBT.

image

Friday, January 15, 2010

Causalities of the Season

15 clever quips

The first carcass appeared the day after New Year's in my neighbor's front yard.

The next morning, a second victim lay smack in the northbound lane of street outside my neighborhood. An elderly man inched his rust-colored sedan toward it, attempting to either drive over the dead or push its remains aside. The rest of us drivers looked on -- some in anger, some in disbelief, but none shedding a tear -- as we looped around this awkward dance.

The body count has grown considerably since then. I even added to the tally this past weekend, humming to myself:

"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree.
Your branches brown and shedding."

Despite all the discarded christmas treesoptimism a fledging year brings, its first month remains the saddest and bleakest. Inside, holiday cheer gives way to post-holiday bills and broken toys. Outside, it's all tundra whites, dingy grays and faded greenery decaying by the gutter. What hath Baby New Year wrought?

My Love delays this annual misery as long as possible because she hates to see all the festiveness she's hung, strung and displayed in our house disappear. Though I usually have my fill of snowmen singing "Winter Wonderland" in our foyer and shriveled poinsettia leaves crunching under my feet well before New Year's, I relent.

"The house always feels so empty after we've put everything away," she sighs every year, helping disengage my grip on the green snap-lid tote bins for another week.

We compromise with a day of undecking our halls sometime between the season's traditional end on January 6 (The Epiphany to Christians, Twelfth Night to the Shakespeareans) and the third Monday of the month (Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the federal government, Trip to the Indian Casino Day to My Love). Our lone exception is the miniature lights strung around our bushes and railings outside in accordance to the ancient proverb: Better to light a walkway than curse the dark ice.

My main role is tree disrobing and disassembly. Breaking down the artificial conifer in our living room always amazes me because, compared with my childhood memories of the 624 dangerously sharp metal and plastic branches on my parents' old faux tree, this one is a three-piece model of scientific ease. It even fits easily back into the mammoth plastic duffle bag it came with. This probably explains why JCPenney discontinued our particular model.

The live Fraser Fir in my office goes last. This year it was under-lit, owing to my switch to more efficient LED (or Less Exciting and Dimmer) bulbs, but it had lots of character.

The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Cosmo and Wanda from The Fairly Oddparents and other cartoon folk to be exact -- all ornaments picked out over the years by The Things during the annual tree trip to Stew Leonard's in Norwalk.

Then there were the handmade trinkets from pre-school and school years past.

Popsicle sticks with glitter glue.

Die-cut foam and construction paper.

A few made of some strange hardened dough that unbelievably have never been discovered by the dog.

Back into plastic bags and boxes they all went. But not without me giving each a final look in an attempt to recall the initial excitement and wonder that holiday magic brings, only to disappear as soon the wrapping hits the trash bin.

This sentimentality stopped with the final closing of the bin, which for the next 10-and-a-half months -- along with a dozen other bins like it, several yards of artificial evergreen roping and many other seasonal items that hang, light or sing -- will be the sole occupants of our attic.

If, of course, you don't count the dust bunnies.

My wife and I then hauled the fir out the front door and set it next to our mailbox, where I see it now every day alone and cold.

So long, pal. Mulch luck in your future endeavors.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deep Dish on Food, Science and Chicago

24 clever quips

Thing 1 and I have returned from Chicago where we saw her Juvenile Myositis specialist without drama. We’ll reserve that for when the blood tests come back next week and we learn whether she can finally get out of this holding pattern on the tapering of her medications.

However, that did not mean the weekend was not without its moments:

  • Finally made it to the original Pizzeria Uno – the birth place of Chicago deep dish and, I must say, the pepperoni almost made me switch allegiance from New York thin crust.
  • Then I took a bite of a leftover slice right out of our hotel room’s mini-fridge the next morning. When it’s not suitable for a cold breakfast, then it’s second rate.
  • JM-left-eyeWe learned Thing 1 and I will be appearing in a medical publication. At least her eyelids and my photos of those eyelids will. Her doc has a study theorizing that the spots that many JM kids get on them might be a key to understanding the disease’s activity.
  • Then I got hit up to give some of my own blood and let them take photos of the capillaries in my fingernail beds for a different study involving JM, genetics and possible links the disease has with lupus. My only request was that at some point I get to slam a cane on a table and yell at a doctor, “It’s never lupus!”
  • The American Girl Place lost a little more of its must-visit status for Thing 1 once she discovered that Water Tower Place also has a Justice clothing store. Either way, I lost financially.
  • The observation deck of the John Hancock Center offers awesome views and a goofy, guided MP3 audio tour by ex-Friend, David Schwimmer. I guess if you are dweebie enough to take the audio tour, then you deserve Ross Gellar.
  • David Schwimmer also does promos on one of the hotel’s in-house tourism channels. Talk about whining and dining.
  • My learning-adverse daughter actually seemed to enjoy the audio tour, though all she could recall from it was that Chicago claims to be the birthplace of the Twinkie and the ice cream sundae.
  • On that note, Thing 1 becomes very chatty once you load her up with sugar and carbs. In these tween days of grunts and one-word answers, that’s a good thing.
  • For the first time ever, I did not have to hold the urine specimen cup for my daughter, which is good because at her age that task gets pretty creepy for a dad.
  • Not a single issue with airport security or elderly passengers on either end of the trip. However, just as boarding started on our return flight from O’Hare, Thing 1 realized she left her jacket on the back of her chair. In the food court. Half a terminal away. I’m still catching my breathe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Do Me a Solid Sunday – Anissa Mayhew Style

6 clever quips

Anissa Mayhew and I first bonded over pediatric disease.

No, not the malady of raising children though that should be considered for the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The diseases that our children have.

Or, in her case, had.

the uncool and anissa mayhewShortly after I first commented on one of her posts, we began an off-and-on exchange of shared experiences, bon mots and one-upping each other in e-mails and comments on each other’s blogs.

Kinda like a childhood-illness poetry slam: leukemia mom versus autoimmune dad. My kid’s T cells could whup your kid’s B cells any day, bee-yatch! Bring it on.

One day, out of the blue that summer of 2008, she made a small donation to support Cure JM Foundation, the organization that funds research into my daughter’s juvenile dermatomyositis.

I thanked her.

Then I told her not to do it again.

She had her own causes to rally ‘round while she attempted to run her zoo of three wee ones while her husband worked a state away. Focus, woman, focus! Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

Revenge was mine a short while later when I donated to one of the cancer charities she supported. Take that tumors!

A few months later, I asked all of you to consider making a donation to Cure JM to mark my wife’s birthday … aaaaaand, you can figure out what happened.

I think if I specifically wrote in that post “Anissa – don’t even think of donating this time” she would have giving twice as much just to flip me the bird via PayPal.

That’s why she’s so special.

That’s also why I’m not in charge of Cure JM’s fundraising.

This past October, a year after our first online encounter, I finally got to meet Anissa – which I think shocked her because … well, what’s the name of this blog, people? Our meeting required me, for only the second time ever, to venture into the nearby borough and distant planet of Manhattan solo. (The first time was to pick up My Love’s engagement ring. I know. I’m gagging at the thought, too.)

I thanked her for what she had done for me and my family and always sharing her perspective and hope about raising a child with a serious illness. That’s an opportunity not everyone gets in life, thanking the people who affect their views on the world, and I’m grateful it happened.

Especially, as many of you know, about three weeks later Anissa had two strokes in one day.

That make three strokes in her short, jam-packed 35 years.

While it looked pretty grim there for a while, the reports from her hubby Peter seem to be getting more and more positive. She posted on Facebook this week and now I’m expecting at least a dozen snarky Tweets from her by spring’s first blossoms.

It’s going to be a long, hard road for Anissa and her family. One they’ve traveled before, one my family is still on with Thing 1’s disease (literally on the road people -- we’re in Chicago today for her quarterly appointment with her specialist).

I’m here today to ask that all of you who have been so supportive of the Mayhews with your prayers, thoughts, cards, donations, e-mails and photos of your breasts (mine, lucky for all of you, are not visible at the 7:43 mark in the video) just keep it up.

Or if you haven’t done something yet, please do.

A family, and a friend, is counting on you.

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Suggestions on how to help Anissa’s family are available at:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Wagon

34 clever quips

If you walk away from this blog having learned only one thing about me, it should be this:

I’m far from a perfect father.

I mean, I’m not the worst dad out there.

Still.

I let the Things watch waaaay too much TV and play too many video games.

I’ve failed to convince them that a vegetable exists besides the occasional raw baby carrot that they should cozy up to at meal time.

yelling And I yell.

Not to the point that my lungs cry "mercy,” mind you. I save that for game time with Thing 1’s soccer team.

Not so much that neighbors five houses away need to seek shelter indoors during warm weather and close all windows.

Enough, though. Sometimes at a volume that, while proved  to be handy at getting people’s attention for major announcements at parties, seminars and – at least once with the Things – a crowded subway station.

For a while, Thing 1 even joked that “Daddy needs anger management classes.” I replied that what Daddy really needed was two kids who listened to what he said and did what he asked when it was initially spoken at conversational levels.

The recipient of most of my vocal prowess tends to be Thing 2. He’s not a bad kid. Just a smartass, pain-in-the-tuchis at times.

Like father, like the nut falling near the tree. On its head.

One of his teachers told us years back that he was bound to be a lawyer because every less-than-agreeable request of him evolves into a bare-knuckled union negotiation session:

ME: Time to go to school. Go put on your pants.

THING 2: School is not for another 30 minutes. It only takes 10 minutes to walk there.

ME: I know, but it usually takes you 20 minutes and me repeating myself six times for you to do what needs to be done.

T2: No, it doesn’t.

ME: Stop it. Go put on your pants.

T2: Go where?

ME: Go upstairs and put some pants on. NOW!

T2: There are no pants up here!

ME: Where are you looking?

T2: In your room!

ME: Why are you looking in my room for your pants?

T2: You said ‘upstairs.’ You didn’t where upstairs.

ME: Look in your own room! I laid out a pair on your bed.

T2: There are no pants on my bed.

ME (grabbing the pair off his bed): What are these then?

T2: Those are jeans!

ME: Arrrgh! Jeans ARE pants!

T2: No, they’re not.

ME: Yes. They. ARE. They are a TYPE. Of. PANTS. Now put them on. … Take your pajamas off FIRST, doofus.

T2: But you didn’t say to take …

ME: YOU KNOW VERY WELL YOU HAVE TO TAKE OFF YOUR PAJAMAS FIRST! NOW FRICKIN’ GET YOUR FRICKIN’ PANTS/JEANS FRICKIN’ ON BEFORE I FRICKIN’ …

T2 (pulling up pants): Ha. You said you have to repeat yourself six times. You only said it fouuuur times.

If this was The Simpsons, it’d do the Homer “why you little …” and squeeze and rattle his neck until his eyes bulged out. Instead, like most good Northeast suburban white ex-Catholics, I just clench the anger away through my fists until it fills my insides, overflows and shoots out my mouth.

Like steam from a boiling kettle.

Like molten lava from a volcano.

Like the shock wave that follows a nuclear explosion.

Alas, this is who we are.

A couple weeks back, I went upstairs to kiss the boy good night as is our household ritual.

But Thing 2 didn’t want to look at me.

A few minutes before I had to use my rise-above-the-subway-rattle voice to stress the importance of nightly dental care over attacking another alien village on his Nintendo DS.

“You hurt me,” he said. His lips and eyes swelled with sorrow.

“Hurt you?” I half-laughed. “Where?”

He balled up his fingers. He placed the fist gently on his chest.

“In my heart.”

Then he rolled away from me.

So, friends, in 2010, I’m on the wagon.

The yelling wagon.

Because some days I truly suck at parenting.

But this year, not yet.

My Uncool Past

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