Sunday, July 31, 2011


I try to keep most of my blog postings light and humorous. Or at least I hope they are humorous. I do this for two very important reasons. 1. I love laughing and making other people laugh, especially when it's through storytelling. 2. I have a really hard time attaching myself to and facing the realities that some things are incredibly serious. So much so, that I avoid serious conversations, be it at work, church, or family functions. Part of that is the fact that serious conversations usually lead to pontificating by some pompous blow hard convinced of the fact that he truly has an insight that everyone else surely can't live without hearing. The other part of it is that I fight feelings of embarrassment when it comes to deeply emotional expression. Not artistic expression because there is an air of separation between audience and artist that is just intimate enough to share, but somehow lacks the naked exposure of a true "this is how I feel" moment.

My feelings on this subject are beginning to change. A lot of it has to do with a song. I realize that it's not a real surprise that I would bring music in to this conversation, but this song is different. There's a folk singer from the 70's and 80's named Loudon Wainwright III who wrote a song so personal and self-deprecating that I felt embarrassed for him the first time I heard it. Loudon left his wife with two small children to pursue fame or folly when they were very young. His son, Rufus, has become a pretty famous musician himself despite having very little contact with his father. After hearing this story I obviously was on team Rufus, and rightly so. The one thing I had not considered when looking at the situation of this family was the regret that Loudon felt. That was, until I heard "When You Leave" for the first time. I have linked it below. Please take the time to listen to it a few times through before proceeding with the remainder of this posting.

It's a very painful song on many levels. His ego is shown on a few different levels. First he is the gallivanting young man who places importance on his freedom. Then he is the gatekeeper to his world, where his kids "show up," ready to accept the fact that they are back in his life. Finally, he is crushed by the fact that by wrecking their lives he had been excommunicated from them and was seemingly inconsequential in their lives. This is the most painful realization.

He lived this experience on stage, almost as a penance. This has turned over a new leaf for me and my blog. Don't worry, I'll still try and focus on funny stuff, but I'll also begin exploring a few more serious topics. If you get bored, change the channel.

A few days ago I watched "The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."

This lecture was given by Dr. Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon University shortly before he fell victim to cancer. It's a fascinating swan song, from an educator, that gets pretty deep pretty fast. He discusses how he achieved his childhood dreams through a combination of perseverance and luck. This got me to thinking about my own childhood dreams. But to do this I must consider three questions:

1. Am I there yet?
2. Was I a loon?
3. Did I trade up?

Question one is based on the fact that I'm only 32 years old. There is a good chance that I simply haven't gotten to a place in life where certain dreams are attainable. In number two I must strongly consider that I may have been a little too wide-eyed and sugar doped as a kid to have considered dreams that were attainable. But hell, they're called dreams so we'll throw them in anyway. Number three is critical when considering maturation and the things I've learned, through various experiences, about the world. Was my dream too low? Do I honestly appreciate the dreams of others that I selfishly live everyday?

That said, let's get to the list.

1. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to sing at Carnegie Hall. Not as a part of a choir currently on some school funded trip, but as me. This dream was promulgated by many early years of listening to classical music and seeing the musical world as two high peaks, Julliard and Carnegie. Those were to creme de la creme. While this dream seems miles away, considering my current career path, I bullishly refuse to accept a future that doesn't involve a return to music at some point. So I'll capture this one under "in progress."

2. Travel the world. This dream was spawned by an upbringing where I traveled the U.S. with my parents, and experienced the uniqueness of the various cultures throughout our country. I also spent some time in England in college, and would love to return. I see it like this: There is no way, in the time afforded to me on earth, that I can see the entire world, but I should never stop trying. I can't think of anything more sad than when I hear stories of people who lived their entire lives never leaving their home towns or states. Therefore, I'll file this one under "renewed project."

3. Restore a 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air two door sport coupe. Yep, not there yet. But I will.

4. Play St. Andrew's old course. This one is pretty tough. However, one day I hope my boys will share my love of golf and we can make it our mission to spend a day on the old course. It's golf's most revered holy ground, and even though the chances are slim, but I'm not giving up on this one.

5. Discover a dinosaur fossil. I loved dinosaurs as a kid, and so does Jackson. But somehow I think the opportunity to become a paleontologist has passed me by. I'm ok with that. This one may have fallen into the realm of enabling the dreams of others (Jackson). So be it.

Now obviously most of these dreams are not related to "grown up" stuff. They don't take in to account the critical nature of raising kids, where every step could seemingly wreck a life. They don't take in to account the incredible power of a life devoted to another person, shunning all the rest. But the thing is, they're not supposed to. They're dreams. It's the type of stuff that makes us giddy and feel butterflies, somehow transporting us to a time where the serious conversations of life revolved around who was the better detective, Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown.

So now I'm faced with the question at hand. Do I continue to reach for the dreams of my childhood, or do I now completely invest myself in to the dreams of my own children? Are the two mutually exclusive? Have my own dreams taken a backseat to the life I've chosen to lead as an adult, or was I just a silly kid who didn't see the whole picture? Those are hard questions, but there is one that is more daunting. Am I still dreaming? Am I devoting myself to the routine that I currently run, like a robot, or am I still trying to create more adult-like butterfly moments? Does our psyche as adults prohibit us from continuing to dream, or are we just too damn distracted by the flashing lights of our daily lives?

Maybe those dreams aren't mine anymore. Maybe my evolution and maturation will lead me to greater dreams. Maybe. But the one thing I have begun to realize is that while dreaming is automatic for a child, for me it takes work. I can't simply continue to wake and sleep without dreaming of "what's to come."

To this point, my blog has largely been a one way street. I've simply told my stories without engaging the people who take time out to read this nonsense. That said, please feel free to comment on what I write and share my blog with others, if you feel so inclined. I would love to hear your feedback on the process of self-expression.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Identify the Downhill Slide of a Date.

I realize that some of my stories will provide absolutely no benefit to my son's futures. However, I'm hoping that some of these stories will truly do them some good and that they'll be able to escape some of the more precarious situations that I was apparently unable to avoid. This story is truly one of those teachable moments. It taught me and it definitely taught the girl. Now, this is going to sound bad, but I genuinely do not remember this girl's name. However, that is not because I'm some notch-in-my-bedpost jerk who was tagging and bagging tons of girls. In truth, I think the memory was too painful and my sub-conscious is doing me a favor by wiping the slate. Since I have no idea what her name was, we'll call her Melinda. Why? Well, she kinda looked like a Melinda, I guess. She was really cute and petite, but had a HORRIBLE personality. However, the hormones pumping through my bloodstream at 16 years old was a river just loud enough to block out the annoying, inane comments she made on a minute by minute basis.

Now, I'm going to be a little mean here, so bear with me. It's one thing for a girl to attempt manipulation and mind games. That's bad, and I've dealt with that. It's another thing altogether when the girl attempting to be manipulative has an IQ lower than most speed limits. She was not bright, so her attempts to control me were about as hard to spot as a marching band plowing through your living room. However....hormones.

Our date wasn't really a "date." It was more of an impromptu "let's go hangout." To be honest, she and her sister were being raised by a single mother that might have been a touch on the lunatic side. That was a LOUD house. I'm sure she would've jumped at any occasion providing respite from that three ring circus. So when I offered she gladly said "sure, stop by and pick me up and we can hang out for a few hours. I have to meet my mom and sister at Chesterfield's at 6:00 for dinner, so you can just drop me off there. Sound good?" "Sure," I thought, unaware of the impending horror show that would take place over the next four hours.

We rode around for a while and hit up the mall for some CD shopping. Noticing that she was a tad bored I decided that now would be the time to introduce the idea of the pier. The pier was a short pier West of Hattiesburg on a very quiet lake near a business that my friend's father owned. The pier faced West, and on a clear night the trees perfectly framed the moon. Perfect for a romantic escapade. I told her about the pier and asked if she was interested in heading out there to talk for a while. She agreed, and we were off.

We arrived at the completely dark parking lot, hopped out of the truck, and trekked about thirty yards through the woods to the pier. We weren't there long, and had no smooched even once, when we heard some rustling in the woods nearby. That's when I realized that her romantic evening was beginning to resemble a slasher film. She was apparently afraid of the dark and nature. Her cute little snide comments quickly shifted to freaking out in fear. So, I tried to calm her down and told her we would go. It was almost time to meet up with her mom, so the timing wasn't that bad. She's nearly sprinting as we cross through the woods once more, and arrives at my truck like she made it to home base without getting tagged. She breathed a sigh of relief that we had made it out alive. Sure, we were alive, but we were certainly not out of the woods yet.

As I scoffed, arrogantly, at her fear I tapped the waistline of my umbros shorts for my keys. Hmm, that's not good. I stared back at the woods in shock figuring I had dropped them while I was trying to keep up with the galloping ghost's frantic flee. The thought of re-tracing my steps caused a sinking sensation in my stomach. We could literally be here all night. As I explained to her our situation, she FREAKS OUT. She's sure that we are dead. Just then, I found my keys. They seemed to mock me as they gently hung from the ignition inside my locked truck. She seemed relieved until I explained to her that Toyota pickups were notoriously hard to jimmy, and that I had nothing in the bed of my truck to use to pop the lock. The only thing in the bed of my truck was my trumpet case.

You would think that now would be the time to join together to solve this problem. However, she chose another route. She turned her fear into rage and immediately began to berate me for my mistake. She couldn't believe that I was so stupid. She used words like asshole, brain dead, and loser to express herself. I was honestly impressed. After all, asshole had more than one syllable. She had obviously been working on her vocabulary words.

After surveying our options, I decided that we needed to walk to a nearby gas station to use their payphone to call her mom and my dad. Her mom was surely worried about her, and my dad would be able to help me pop the lock. The walk to the gas station, which was closed, was a little over a mile on a highway. I quickly marched down the side of the road as she followed three feet behind me. She continued to amaze me with her ability to find synonyms for the word idiot. After about fifteen minutes of this routine we arrive at the gas station to find that it has no phone. I felt like I was trapped in a poorly written movie where the viewer would be booing at the screen in disgust, unable to believe this unlikely scenario. That's when things really took a turn for the weird.

After a couple of minutes brainstorming over what to do, a car flies into the parking lot and pulls up to the pumps. Great, here comes the inevitable murder/rape scenario. The door to the car opens and pot smoke pours out. It's a group of teenagers, and out of the backseat I here "Jamey? What in the hell are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?" To which I replied, "What in the hell are you doing trying to get gas from a store with no lights on?" "Good point," the person said as he emerged from the back seat. It was Mike, my friend from an earlier posting. He and another guy from our school were out partying with three girls from a neighboring school. Two of the girls fit the script. They were cute, little preppy types that were high as a Georgia pine. We'll call the third girl "moonbeam." Moonbeam definitely stuck out in that she was not very attractive, dangerously skinny, and looked like she stepped right out of a 1969 peace rally. She wore a flowing purple shirt, bell-bottoms, and huge platform boots. She had beats around her neck and was wearing purple shaded sun glasses at night.

After noticing that she was acting very peculiar, Mike informed me that she was on acid. I couldn't figure out which emotion to cling to more as I described the situation to Mike. Should I be more embarrassed over this situation or thankful that help had arrived. He agreed to help and we headed back to the parking lot of despair. The car they were in had a coat hanger in the trunk so we tried for about thirty minutes to pop the lock using the old window method. But through all of our attempts the locks stayed locked. Now, I haven't mentioned Melinda in a while. Please don't think that the presence of my friends shut her up. Oh no, she was simply shifting gears. The more she whined and complained, the more Mike and his friends looked at her in disgust. At one point, Mike asked me why in the world was I hanging out with this whiny chick. My only response was to look toward her legs, which were nice, and muttered "uh, you know." He smiled and we quickly got back to work.

While our attention was squarely on the truck, moonbeam's trip began to take a turn for the worse. We didn't notice as she sprinted from the woods and leaped on to the hood of my truck. She screamed and cursed as she began to repeatedly stomp my windshield. She was tired of playing good Samaritan, and only the windshield stood in her way of returning to the wide spread panic concert in her head. She got about ten stomps in before we could remove her. Lucky for me, moonbeam weighed about 90 lbs. soaking wet and probably couldn't have stomped through my windshield if it were made of balsa wood. But her freaking out had turned all of us desperate. Mike grabbed me by the arm and explained to me that I would have to simply punch a window out. It seemed logical at the time. For Pete's sake, it was glass. How hard could it be. Mike ripped off his t-shirt for me to rap around my hand, to protect from the glass explosion that would surely follow. After five or six hard shots, I was pretty sure that I had shattered every bone from my pinky to my shoulder.

That's when Mike grabbed my trumpet case from the back of my truck and began to explore it's contents. He pulled out my trumpet's mouthpiece and handed it to me. "Here dude, throw it." I stepped back about five feet, aimed for the triangle window, in the corner of the passenger door, and let it fly. The window EXPLODED. Everyone cheered as if we had solved world peace. We hugged and high-fived. I thanked Mike and his merry band and they quickly departed. Since glass was all over the inside of my truck I laid down my t-shirt on Melinda's seat to keep her from getting cut up by the millions of glass shards.

Not a word was said as we set a land speed record getting back to Chesterfield's. Her mom was standing out front screaming as we pulled in to the parking lot. "You're gonna tell her exactly what happened. DO YOU HEAR ME," Melinda screamed when she saw her mom parading around the parking lot like a loon. I nodded in agreement as we pulled in. Just as I came to a stop, she jumped out and started pointing her finger back at me as the shouting match ensued. I simply put the truck in first gear and drove away, never to see Melinda again, thankfully. By the time I got home I was bleeding from head to toe. This was my penance for not truly seeing this girl for who she really was. From then on out I always looked for a girl who would choose to respond gracefully to adverse situations. Thankfully, I found one who hasn't called me a two syllable name yet.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Superlatives! (My best blog yet)

We all have annoying habits, right? Well, that's what I want to talk about on tonight's blog. I've made a list of my annoying habits. Hopefully, this proves to be cathartic and helpful to "cure" some of these habits. But at the very least, it should let those around me know that, yes, I am aware of the aggravating ticks I have and would love to change them.

1. Superlatives - I wear them out. There is something about my excitable nature that prevents me from viewing life in perspective. Instead, I make mountains out of tiny, little mole hills. I'm sure it is a derivative of the insecurity I feel over my own opinions, but I can't help myself. I don't just like things, I LOVE them. The bad part is that when I tell other people about the things I'm currently obsessing over, I exclaim them to be the "best." I overuse words like amazing, hilarious, genius, or, legendary. It's like everything I see is the equivalent of that "Christmas morning" feeling, where you run downstairs to the tree to find the best presents EVER!!!! The bad part is that my attention span also equates to what happens to Christmas toys a month later when they are jammed in to the bottom of the toy box with every other toy that wore out it's welcome.

Maybe I'm a product of my generation. Our exposure to life is like drinking from a fire hose. Maybe, it's a sign of a lack of maturity. Whatever it is, I'm amazing at it. hehe

2. Numbers - I mentioned in an earlier posting about my fascination with the numbers 6, 16, and 36. This is an annoying habit that only really affects me, but I'll list it anyway. Every since I was much younger, I've always had a warm feeling about those three numbers. They feel right. They feel whole and well balanced. Yeah, I know I sound like I'm ready for a straight jacket, but I'm praying that someone else out there has had a similar issue. Don't ask me why it's just those three numbers, I have no idea. It's not sequential, otherwise 26 would be in the club too.

My love of these three numbers is not the annoying thing, it's what they force me to do.....everyday. When I walk down the sidewalk, I have to adjust the length of my stride so that I have either 6 or 16 steps in between the cracks. The only reason 36 isn't a part of this one is that I would have to take some crazy small steps, or walk on a really weird sidewalk. But that's not the end of it; oh no. I also take car license plate numbers and attempt to add, subtract, multiply, or divide them to end up with 6, 16, or 36. This type of concentration does not lend itself to safe driving conditions. There are a few more ways in which I'm tormented by them, but none more than my finger thingy. If I catch myself far away in thought and tapping my fingers on my desk, it has to be done in the appropriate sequence.

And yes, there is an appropriate finger-tapping sequence. In fact, there are two. Number one is a four finger method that alternates rolling index to pinky then pinky to index four times to reach the desired 16 taps. However, the final four taps must go pinkey-ring-index-middle, because I must always conclude this nonsense with the middle finger. Don't ask why. The second sequence is a five finger evolution that starts with the middle finger rolling away from the center and back inward three times to reach fifteen, then tapping the middle once more for the desired objective. Yes, I know......

3. Grammar Nazi - I can't help but be a jerk about this one. I'm talking about pet peeves galore. I know I don't use perfect grammar, but it drives me NUTS to hear adults speak like two year-olds.

4. Music Snob - I know art is subjective, but I can not control my vitriol when it comes to poor music taste. Case in point: I threatened to stab my friend, yes friend, to death because of his love for Kid Rock. I swear, if I would've had a sharp object handy when he exclaimed "Come on man, he's a great performer," I'd be in Angola right now. I bite my lip every day when someone on facebook inevitably quotes some ridiculous song lyric that speaks to them so deeply. Yeah, the gentle words of Taylor Swift guide me daily too!

5. Nose hair - This is another one of those habits that really only apply to my own mental prison. Why Jamey? Why don't you just break down and spend $15 on a decent nose hair trimmer? I get it. Either God or genetics played a pretty funny trick by transferring my ability to grow hair from my head to my nostrils. But do I tend this field like a normal grown man. No, I wait until they are driving me crazy, usually while driving, and try to jerk them out by hand. For you ladies out there who may not be able to understand the pain I'm describing here, let me explain. Imagine how it would feel to bikini wax behind your eyeball. Is that graphic enough for you. The one upside is that I'm able to keep my car on the road as I scream, tear up, and sneeze incessantly following a good plucking.

There. That's a good start to my list of annoying habits. Stay tuned for more to follow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How I Lost My Temper

When I was a kid I had a really, really bad temper. It's hard to point to one thing that inspired my explosive temper. I honestly think it was a combination of a lot of factors. Fourth child in a family, growing up in a neighborhood full of boys that fought a lot, being short, or maybe it was just chemical. Teenage hormones are a hell of a drug. Whatever the cause, my frustration was constantly at a simmer, just shy of a boil. If I felt, in any way, that I was being taken advantage of, or was the butt of the joke, my humiliation would send me in to a tirade. And no, I'm not talking about the "got mad at a girl and punched a wall" kind of temper tantrums. Those are completely understandable. I'm talking about blood boiling, screaming and cursing, uncontrollable fits. The kind of performance only perfected by five year olds, minus the cursing.

Maybe that's why I write this blog. If you haven't picked up on the running theme yet, I make fun of myself a LOT. I tell embarrassing tales that most people would tuck away into the recesses of their minds, and would only let them out to torture themselves and exacerbate a sleepless night.

The funny thing is, I don't get embarrassed. Not anymore. I'm pretty comfortable with who I am. Do I wish I had more hair, or less weight, or a 68 ' Cuda? Sure. But, for the most part, I'm a happy person. More importantly (and I know Amanda would scoff at this) I think I'm a pretty well-balanced person. Sure, I have my quirks, like my obsession with the numbers 6, 16, and 36, or my unhealthy relationship with college football, but it's nothing that's going to cause me to put on a dress and go on a senseless rampage. So, I think we're safe.

(you're all wondering about the numbers thing, huh? That's a story for another day)

Two stories from my past represent my temper quite well. While both of these stories make me look like a crazy person, the second one was a very important step for me. It was the end. You'll see, just keep reading.

Story one starts way back in high school. The names will be changed to protect the innocent, but if any of those mentioned read this, you'll definitely know who you are....

My high school physics teacher was an absolute gem. Everyone loved her. I'll say her real name. Mrs. Greene was a very special woman. She was the kind of teacher that started out by giving you the benefit of the doubt. She was on your side first, and as long as you played nice and respected her, that's where she would stay. But the best part about her was, she LOVED physics. It was cool to have a teacher that was just as marveled by the simple experiments we performed as we were. She was absolutely giddy, which made lab days so much fun. Well, one particular lab day we were supposed to measure the distance an object traveled. We would do so by taping sheets of paper to the floor and mark, on the paper, the starting and ending marks of our object's flight.

Now, let me introduce the cast of characters. For this story I'll be playing the part of "lunatic." It's a simple role that pretty much is how it sounds. There is also the role of "Mike" who was the starting linebacker on our football team. Finally, there is "Misty." She plays the role of antagonist.

During the preparatory stages of this experiment we were supposed to share a roll of scotch tape that would be used to secure the paper to the floor. My team was late to the supply table and would have to wait for a free roll of tape to emerge to complete the task. Misty's team finished first and I asked if I could borrow their tape. Misty agreed and I began taping. Since I don't wear skirts, I wasn't too concerned with bending over in a lady-like manner to accomplish this task. I spread my feet, bent over at the waist and got to work. From behind, this pose resembled the letter A, minus the cross bar. Well, a few seconds in to my paper taping extravaganza, Misty asks for the tape back. It would appear that her paper was not as neatly fastened as once thought.

I looked back at her and said "sure, just let me finish." Apparently, that was not satisfactory as Misty would implore me twice more to return her tape. Ok, now I have to screw with her a little. I began to slow my taping down and ensured her that her precious tape would be back very soon. I now realize that Misty might have my same issues with being the butt of the joke.

It's hard to explain what happened next. I all happened so fast. Misty got a running start, and kneed me directly on my rectum. Not my left butt cheek, or my thigh, but right on the bull's eye. I don't think I realized what happened until I felt the cool linoleum of the lab floor on my right cheek. Instantly I hulked out. I bounced back up onto my feet, began screaming at Misty, describing in great detail what I thought my be serious flaws in her character, crushed the roll of tape, and winged it at her head. (I know that's a bit of a run-on sentence, but I felt it was necessary, as all of those things occurred simultaneously.

Before I know it, I'm being hoisted up and dragged out of the room into the hallway. I'm grunting and snorting about not wanting punch a chick when Mike grabs me by my shoulders and screams in my face to get my attention. "Jesus man, I'm a linebacker. Why am I having to calm down the showchoir guy. It's ridiculous! Get a grip." He was right. That's when I realized that I might have a temper problem. But that was just the beginning. Later that year, I would get kicked out of band (my first true love) after threatening our wormy little band teacher when he cornered me with our principal and accused me of things that were simply untrue. He was a real piece of work, but I shouldn't have threatened to kill him. Lesson learned. The words "I swear to God, I'm going to kill you" never win an argument. If anything you just get arrested, which I didn't, thankfully.

Story two takes place a few years later. I've bragged, on this blog, about how Amanda and I rarely argue. That was all very true. What I failed to mention was, when we do fight, it's legendary. Our different styles of arguing do not allow for an easy resolution. She can't understand why I react the way I do, and I can't understand that I could be wrong. See what I mean, nasty recipe.

One argument in particular pretty much ended all that. We have only had one serious one since.

I have absolutely no idea what we were arguing about, which is the first sign of a truly dangerous argument. In the absence of valid points, pointless frustration wins out. You both begin to say things simply in an effort to "score points" rather than searching for a solution. This argument took place in my car, while driving. The zingers were flying around left and right. We were both working the body well, with an occasional head shot. On second thought, scratch that. Boxing references will on serve to confuse you on the actual severity of this argument.

I remember thinking "holy crap Jamey, she's got you dead to rights. There is no way you are going to win this one." That when I reached my boiling point and did the only "logical" thing left. I squeezed the Coke. That's right, I squeezed the Coke. In the vacuum that was my ability to rationalize this defeat I grabbed a 3/4 full can of Coke from my center console and squeezed the bejeebers out of it. Apparently my grip was a little stronger than I imagined, because Coke literally showered me, Amanda, and pretty much my entire car.

The moments following this explosion would prove to be pivotal in our relationship and my life. The world stood still for what seemed like an eternity as my pea brain tried to process what in the world possessed me to paint the interior of my car a syrupy brown color. Just then, Amanda laughs. Not a "oh Jamey, that's so funny" laugh. More like a "wow, my insane boyfriend just threw a kid-like hissy fit" laugh. It was at me, not with me. And, I completely deserved it. I lowered my head, laughed aloud, and beat her to the punchline by admitting that I was acting like a complete child. I apologized, profusely, and was truly humble in the fact that I needed to chill out.

From that day forward, nothing really gets me that worked up. I get aggravated with people now and then, yell for a second, then it's over. I spend more time focusing on the fact that there's not much worth me losing my temper over. I focus on the positives, like the fact that I have a great wife, beautiful kids, a good job, and most importantly a Coke free interior.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Right Tool for the Job

I’ve been on a bit of a roll this week. I’ve written a few new blogs, most of them shorter than usual. I’m not really sure why I’ve felt like writing so much. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a LOT of time listening to The Tobolowsky Files podcast. It’s an hour long podcast starring Stephen Tobolowsky, who is a character actor you might know as Ned from Groundhog’s Day or the cop in Mississippi Burning. In his podcast he tells stories from his life as an actor. It’s a very quiet and subdued podcast that would probably bore you to sleep if it wasn’t for one very important factor. Stephen is an INCREDIBLE storyteller. He has a way of creating visualization for the listener so that the story really comes to life. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that listening to his podcast has inspired, as of late, to write more than normal. Anyhow, on to the post!

My Dad has lots of sayings. Most of them are regional colloquialisms that he picked up during his formative years. They are usually humorous, and always informative. Here are a few examples and their meanings:

“That steak could make a chihuahua break a log chain” – This one infers that something is so attractive that it could create an urge so great that if that urge was placed in to a small dog, not even a logging chain could hold him back.

“That girl could make a freight train run a gravel road” – This is used to describe something so unattractive that if a freight train were faced with the possibility of meeting it on the tracks, then the train would rather jump off of the tracks and flee, courtesy of a gravel road.

“You don’t take a Cadillac to a Ford dealer” – This is, perhaps, one of the wisest things he ever taught me. Basically, it means that if you have something important in your life, treat it as such. Only entrust important things to people who know what they are doing. Don’t use amateurs.

However, sometimes I forget. Maybe it’s that I’m too trusting of others to truly ascertain their qualifications. Two stories from my life represent this concept in spades.

In late spring of 2003, Amanda and I were getting everything in order to get married. Part of this process is to acquire a marriage license. So one day we ran over to the courthouse in Brandon, MS on her lunch break. We filled out lots of various forms, showed lots of identification, and we faced with the last step of the process, the blood test.

Now, for this story to really make sense you need to understand my horrific fear of needles. From an early age I have always been terrified of a tiny knife, wielded by some $3 quack, breaking through my skin and forcing God knows what into my body. It doesn’t seem natural. Why can’t I just take a pill or drink some cherry liquid substance? And the process of taking blood is another thing all together. I just can’t fathom that nurse Sally Sue has the necessary acumen to not only shove a metal spike into my arm, but to then use said spike to carefully enter a vein and extract the stuff that keeps my heart beating. See, when you think of it like that it’s like something out of a horror movie.

As an aside: To all you nurses out there please stop trying to prepare me for a shot by describing it as a “little pinch.” That is crap and you know it. If you really want me to respect your bedside manor tell me the truth. “Well Mr. Nolan, I’m going to poke you with this. It will hurt and the thought of cold steel entering your butt cheek will probably make you nauseas for a good half hour. But don’t worry, you won’t even think about the nausea as you’ll likely be concentrating on how drive your car without crashing because your leg is twitching uncontrollably as your butt pulses from the medication.” That I can respect.

Anyway, we take our paperwork down to the finest of currency deficient college student healthcare providers, the free clinic. After surviving the waiting room we skip down to our treatment room. After a few minutes a kindly old nurse wonders in explains what is coming next. Apparently, we were fortunate enough to need blood tests on a new LPN’s first day. Perfect. The LPN joins us in the room and looks like she is about to have a stroke. She is visibly shaking, white as a sheet, and can barely form sentences as she speaks. I bolt up out of my chair in protest. I then explain to the older nurse that there is NO WAY I’m going to play guinea pig for the new girl. My voice cracks as the anxiety level in the room crests. The LPN has tears in her eyes, which will obviously have a negative effect on her vision. This makes the situation worse. I now have nervous Ms. Magoo trying to negotiate a needle into my body? I think not.

Amanda and the older nurse now join forces to try and calm us down. After a few minutes, I agree that I will give her a chance. She brings in a tray containing the syringe and some viles to collect my blood once it starts gushing. I take a few deep breaths as she situates her equipment and puts on her latex gloves. She then fumbles around with a rubber band and straps it to my arm. Once in place, she goes for the needle. Then I heard it. As she picked up the needle, she quietly uttered a very faint “oops” and looked curiously at her hand. As she looks back at me and begins coming at me with the needle I realize what just happened. I SCREAM “HEY, did you just poke yourself with the damn needle? “ She looks horrified as she nods yes. “You were about to stick me with a dirty needle? Are you out of your mind?”

I would like to tell you that I acted graciously during the aftermath, but I can’t. That would be a lie. What ensued was a barrage of verbal attacks. It was not my proudest moment, but she deserved it. We almost shared a needle; the least I could do was share my honest opinion of her mental state. She ran out of the room crying. After a few seconds the older nurse comes in and sternly questions me about why she is so upset. I explain the situation, expecting to hear a meaningful apology. I wanted an Oscar worthy performance. What I got was this: “you should be ashamed of yourself, making that poor girl feel bad about a little mistake.” “LITTLE MISTAKE!” At this point I’m convinced that I’m either taking crazy pills or have enter a dimension of sight and sound known as The Twilight Zone.

The older nurse eventually gave us our blood tests and sent us on our way. In all honesty it was my fault. I didn’t take my Caddy to a Caddy dealer. I went with a very nervous shade tree mechanic instead.

Story two is a little different. During the summer following my sophomore year of college I became addicted to running. I ran every day. Well, after a few months of running and waiting tables, I went back to school as fall rolled around. After convincing some of my friends to join me for a run in the rain one night I felt a twinge of pain in my left leg. It was up near my lower knee and continued to get worse over the next few days. I was convinced that it was shin splints, but to make sure that it wasn’t a stress fracture I visited my friendly school nurse. We joked around and talked as she took a couple of x-rays and sent me back to her office to wait. After about 20 minutes she returned to the office with a completely different demeanor. Her voice trembled as she instructed me to have a seat.

She told me that there was no stress fracture, but there was something that I desperately needed to see. She placed the x-ray up on the wall and switched on the lighted background. There it was. Near the bottom of my leg, just above my ankle was a huge mass covering the bone. She stated that it was likely one of two things. Either a fluid filled sack or a bone tumor. Not fully understanding the impact of my two options I called my parents to inform them that she set me up an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for the following day. During that appointment I met Dr. Smith (not his real name). He seemed like a nice enough guy. He also seemed to be very knowledgeable and professional. He set me up with a round of tests. I would need many x-rays, an MRI, a CT scan, and a bone scan. These would all take place over the course of a couple of days then I would come back to see him for a diagnosis.

I’m a very optimistic person. During this entire process it never entered my mind that I might be in danger. I just saw it as a little problem that would probably end up causing me to have some type of outpatient surgery. The tests were horrible. Most of them took a really long time of sitting perfectly still. The bone scan actually required me to ingest some type of radioactive crap that made me feel a neat combination of nausea with hot flashes. Misery.

I still didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation as we met back up with Dr. Smith to discuss my diagnosis. My parents were there and my brother even flew in to be there. I remember feeling bad that he had wasted money on a plane ticket and rental car just to come and hear that there was a mistake and I would be fine. After waiting for a long time, Dr. Smith entered the room with a mound of paperwork and images. He popped up a few of the images as my family introduced themselves. He was primarily focused on the MRI. I remember that he measured his words carefully, being as efficient as possible, as he pointed out that the MRI showed that one half of the out layer of my tibia was gone throughout the length of the tumor.

Since I didn’t quite get it, he was forced to explain that this most certainly meant that it was malignant. He had no doubt. I even tried to approach the subject of alternatives and he shut me down. I assume that he felt it was the right thing to do; to make sure that I wasn’t confused about what was to come next. He stated that the cancer had most likely spread to the soft tissue of my lower leg. “OK, that sounds bad.” He then gave a prognosis where he explained that the way forward would most likely be to amputate my leg just below the knee. I jumped off of the table and screamed “BULLSHIT! There is no way you are cutting my damn leg off.” My mom grabbed me and pleaded with me not to use bad language. I remember giving her a terrible look that said “Really mom? Really? I’ve just been given some incredibly devastating news and you’re worried about my potty mouth. Did you even hear what he just said? Cancer mom, CANCER! How could you possibly care about my language? Are you afraid that if I curse God won’t protect me? Look around mom, I ain’t feeling very protected, are you? In fact, I’ve never felt more vulnerable and alone. How can you be thinking anything other than ‘OH GOD, not my child?’

Yep, all that with a single look.

I’ve since come to understand why she reacted the way she did. She needed some semblance of control. We all did. We were on a rollercoaster that only seemed to be heading downhill. I tried to gain control by telling Dr. Smith what he would and wouldn’t do. Dad immediately went into provision mode as he made it his personal mission to focus on the details of our new and ominous way forward. My brother did what a brother should do, he cried and hugged me. The weird part was, I wasn’t crying. I was far too angry for that. We left the hospital, each going our separate ways. It wasn’t until I reached the interstate that I began to break down. But mostly I broke down because I would now have to tell Amanda the news. How would she react? Would she run away? If she did, was she justified to do so? And the scariest question: If it were the other way around, would I run away? The thought of my potential weakness if it were her scared me to death that I would have to face this alone.

But, as always, Amanda was there. She loved me. “Oh, that’s what love and commitment is!” The next 20 days were the darkest of my life. I had to drop out of school and move home. Some days, we only cried a little, but those were few and far between. Then my dad tried to give me hope as he explained that some old man from our town had his hip replaced at UAB in Birmingham, AL, and that Dr. X who performed the surgery was some kind of miracle worker. I didn’t want to hear it. I had already gone through so much pain, there was no way I wanted to get a glimmer of hope only to start over with my grief. But he insisted.

So, we piled into dad’s truck and headed to UAB. We had the hospital in MS send over all of our records ahead of time. As we sat in the waiting room, I was understandably cautious. Let dad have his chance and then I can get back to reality. Dr. X from UAB walks in the room and nonchalantly asks me how I’m doing. I don’t even know how to respond. He asks me if I’m scared. I nod. He then confidently states, “Well, don’t be scared, you don’t have cancer.” He said it so fast that I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I asked him to repeat himself. He did. He went on to explain that Dr. Smith had based his entire diagnosis around a picture taken by a piece of crap MRI. He said that my type of tumor was rare, and most orthopedic surgeons would probably go an entire career without seeing one. But he, however, had seen many. He set me up to have an experimental surgery that would have me up and walking in under two months.

I occasionally get gas bubbles in my chest. It is really painful. Then comes the burp. In an instant......relief. This news was a lot like that. It was almost impossible for me to process how instantaneous the relief was, and how everything seemed brighter. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense. I mean visibly brighter. It became almost impossible to look out the window because of this newly found brightness. I could barely speak and make sense. As Dr. X left the room I tried to make a joke that made NO sense whatsoever. In reality, I had no idea what I had just said, or why I said it. I just needed to laugh, to smile, to breathe, and to rest. Grief takes those things from you and you don’t even realize it.

Then, like clockwork, my dad looked at me and said, “and son, that’s why you take a Caddy to a Caddy dealer.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to be THE MAN (painfully)

Disclaimer: Sexism has no bearing on the content of this posting. I’ll be using the term “the man” many times. This is simply employed to describe the context of one’s behavior, not whether their Hanes are his way or her way.

Throughout our lives we seem to be faced with critical juncture points. Many of these are obvious, like deciding where to go to school or when to propose. I think many of the most life changing and critical junctures slip up on us during the course of our normal days. It’s at these points that we are faced with the decision to try and step out and become “the man.” In fact, I can tie many of my greatest successes and embarrassments to my urge to be “the man.” Sometimes it leads to you making a great leap forward. Other times it’s reminiscent of that quote about “opening your mouth and removing all doubt that you are, in fact, an idiot.” Therefore we must take the time to judge the situation very carefully. Impulsivity rarely pays off. For me, it usually leads directly to trying to slink down in my chair.

My story today is one that was a little more ridiculous and obvious to spot, but I chose to chest puff anyhow. Big mistake.

Nothing misrepresents actuality more than the military uniform. It makes it look like we all show up and do the very same job every day. In actuality, there are many different jobs in a military service and it takes all types of people to fill those jobs. The Coast Guard is no different. We have many different missions that attract many different types of people. I was a Marine Science Technician. MSTs are, for lack of a better word, the nerds of the CG. We investigate pollution, read regulations, and do various types of inspections. We don’t carry weapons, we carry books. However, this job usually attracts people who are very intellectually alpha. We hate being wrong, and love being challenged to find the answers to tricky questions.

On another side of the house we have the gun toters; physical alphas whose bull pen usually resembles a locker room. They do armed vessels boardings and patrols of the port areas.

Well, during the last few months of my enlistment I was working at my desk when approached by my immediate boss. “Hey Jamey, wanna make 75 bucks?” “Of Course!” He then explains that the bravado of the bull pen had gotten a bit out of hand. One young Gunner’s Mate, in an attempt to impress his co-workers, made a foolish statement. He stated that he loved hot food so much that the heat never bothered him. He was too tough. His bluff was called as a standard coffee cup was filled to the brim with Tabasco sauce and placed on the table in front of him. But he doesn’t yield. He scoffs at it and explains that he would totally do it, but not for free. So, money starts hitting the table. By the time the older guys were finished with him, he would now have to drink the entire thing or pay each of them (10 or so) $75 a piece. That’s giant money for a young enlisted guy, so he’s stuck. Also, there was no way this kid was going to touch that cup. Every time he got close, he would balk and try to change the bet. They weren’t having it.

My boss happened to be in their bull pen as this was going on, felt bad for the kid, and decided to give him a cheaper way out. That’s where I came in. My boss proudly marches me in to the room and declares that if the young GM wouldn’t do it, he had an MST who would. “Uhh…what?” The kid looks at me trying to size up my will power. Inside, I’m as freaked out as he is, but there is no way I’m letting this little punk see it.

My boss goes on to explain that if I would drink the cup the kid only had to pay me. The rest of the guys agreed. After a few seconds of “aww shucks guys,” he agrees. Now here is the point where I'm faced with the decision to step up and be “the man.” All of my instincts were telling me that this was a bad mistake. But, my more animal side was simply repeating that there was no way I was leaving this room without appearing to be a natural born badass. God, I hate my animal side.

As soon as the kid gets the last syllable of “OK” out of his mouth I quickly, yet nonchalantly, throw the cup back like it’s the antidote. I don’t taste it as it goes down, all 8 ounces of it. In fact, for the first few seconds I didn’t really even feel it. This left me just enough time to slam the cup down, wipe my mouth, instruct the kid to have my money by Friday, and leave the room beneath a chorus of jeers toward the young man.

As the door to their bullpen shut behind me, my internal organs had pressed the emergency button. The top of my head begins POURING sweat as I make a quick right turn down the hallway towards the restroom. There is no way I was going to let someone see me freak out. I entered a stall a hunched over in agonizing pain. This must be what being poisoned feels like. We’ve all seen movies where a character drinks the poisoned wine and then over-dramatically wails and flails around on the floor like a fish. The problem is, I was now living it. A couple of minutes in to this display my body began to involuntarily reject my submission as I continuously dry heaved about thirty times in a row. I get it Lord, maybe next time I should just mind my own business and not try to be “the man.”

Once the convulsions and heaving subsided I quickly made my way to the Coke machine for a cold drink to sooth my fiery stomach. One problem; I did NOT anticipate the reaction that carbonation would have the SATANIC liquid in my system. After the first sip of a cold Sprite, I felt as though I had swallowed a 1000 count roll of black cats and lit the fuse, as the heat bubbled back up in to my esophagus. That was the final sign that there was no way around this thing. I was going to have to live through this bad decision and learn my lesson.

It took HOURS for me to feel normal again. Simply drinking milk would not cure the fact that I had poisoned myself with peppers. It had to “pass.” After all was said and done, I was done with bravado for a while. That is, until a friend of mine swore that he could not vomit, so I challenged him to an ipecac drinking contest. But that’s a story for another day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Voodoo Steering Wheel (my pattern of self-annoyance)

In my first blog posting I stated that I might have some potentially self-destructive personality traits. Let's amend that drastic statement. My little ticks aren't really destructive. They are more like self-induced hysterical episodes. Not haha hysterical; more like reversion to a five year old fit hysterical.

I'll be honest, there are parts of my life that I would capture under the heading of soul crushing boredom. I've had the same commute for seven LONG years. A commute that has been wrought with road construction and people who seemingly need to slow down to 5 mph to cross the high-rise bridge, just in case someone snuck on to the bridge at night and removed the downhill portion. While I love my job and am thankful for it, there are many days where staring at a twenty year old, dust covered cubicle wall makes me want to grab a marker and color all over my face just to get some sort of reaction out of my office mates, other than the obligatory hot weather or long Monday conversations. I've even noticed that I've somehow created my own version of a rhetorical hallway greeting to avoid people. Instead of saying good morning like everyone else, I involuntarily say "mornin, mornin" really fast. Every time it escapes from my lips I instantly cringe at the fact that I've adopted this plastic facade. It's a very annoying tick that I can't seem to break, but I simply consider a symptom of the vast depths of my boredom and career-stalled despair.

OK, enough of the dramatic stuff. Here's where the crazy really steps it up a notch.

In the Spring of 1997, my parents bought me a car to take off to college. My college was paid for, so they were off the financial hook (as if there was one). So we went car shopping. We spent hours surfing the finest free classified ads we could find to nail down just the right late model foreign car, that would be sure to last me my entire college career. After a few clunkers we spotted one that looked just right. It was a 1990 Honda Accord in a neighboring city. Honda Accords are reliable, fuel efficient, and fun to drive. And this one priced very low.

We test drove it and agreed that it was a good buy. True to classically impulsive Nolan behavior, we bought it on the spot. Less than ten miles away from the owners house, the engine blew up. So, here I stand on the side of the road waiting on a tow truck as the previous owner's wife and daughter beep and waive as they pass me by. However, as I'm trying to figure out the dirtiest phrase I can key into their cars, since I know where they live, Dad is negotiating a replacement engine. He assures me that not only has he found an accord engine with half the miles of the oil deficient one currently holding down the pavement on our driveway, but purchase and installation of it will still be under NADA book value on the car. Perfect! Dad saves the day.

Everything went great for a while. I went off to college, pimped out my little accord with a nice sound system, and burned the roads up on the weekend. That was, until May of the following year. I know it was May because it was HOT outside as I approached my car in the school parking lot. I threw my bags in the backseat, shoved in the key, turned it, and nothing. It wanted to turnover, but it just wouldn't. After five minutes of praying, sweating, punching, and swearing, nothing happened. In my depths of broken down car failure, I turned the key one last time. Around the third ch-chugga of the starter I slapped the steering wheel at approximately the 10:00 and the little booger started right up. That's right, "ch-chugga, ch-chugga, ch-SLAP!" "Oh my Lord, I'm an engineering GENIUS!" Or, maybe it was some type of voodoo, but I figured out the trick. In reality, there was no trick. The computer on the car was having issues synching up with the new engine, but somehow I lucked up on a backwoods workaround. For the next three years, if the car gave me trouble starting I would grin slyly, and in a very Fonzie like way, pop the steering wheel just so to turn it over.

Far be it from me to take it in, pay a very modest fee, and fix the thing for good. No need. The weird part is that I find myself putting up with these little imperfections in most every facet of my daily life. Sometimes it's a florescent bulb that you have to flip a minimum of five times, really fast, or it won't light up. Or maybe it's toilet that runs constantly unless you jiggle the handle just right.

I think those are all just symptoms. I think they are symptoms of the fact that we are all so damn bored with the niceties of our modern age, that we subconsciously refuse to fix them for good. If we did, how could we ever live without the heroic feeling of conquering the voodoo steering wheel. After thousands of years of genetic conditioning, men were required to go out into the wilderness and kill to provide. We simply have to set apart an hour to brave the modern wilderness of Wal-Mart. The problem there is, I'd get arrested to taking along a bow and arrow. We've been neutered by our advances. And while a paycheck and insurance is surely provision, we now are exempt from the fear that we might not have enough salted beef to survive the winter, leaving us with no other recourse than to scour the plains for adequate subsistence.

So there we are, creating seemingly meaningless mini-vacations from the boredom of monotony to be the hero. If only to satisfy our own imagination....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Let me make one thing very clear: This blog posting is NOT intended to mock my wife, Amanda. She is the love of my life and I would never intentionally hurt her feelings. This posting is completely intended to share a couple of stories from our married life that have made both of us laugh over the years. Trust me, she's cool with it.

On July 12, 2011 Amanda and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary. In that time we have shared two homes, the birth of two children, and maybe two serious arguments. That’s not bragging, it’s just the way it is. We dig each other. As Dr. Evil would say “She’s my posse,” and I guess I’m hers. Amanda tends to be pretty reserved so one of these stories may surprise you a little, but trust me; it’s very true and accurate.

Story number one is more of a cute inside joke that we have shared for seven years.

Story #1

In late April of 2004 I was scheduled to head out to an eight week school for the Coast Guard. During that time, our contact would probably be pretty limited with only a couple of weekend visits. Coincidently, Amanda was five months pregnant with our first son, Jackson, at this time. Knowing this, my Chief recommended to me that I take a long weekend and spend some time away with my wife. Smart man. After some deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend a few hours away in beautiful Charleston, SC.

We didn’t plan much, and didn’t know much about the area, but we headed off to just relax and explore. The waterfront area of Charleston has a cool flea market and some amazing restaurants. We spent most of our day window shopping and talking. It was great. Honestly, we were still considered newlyweds so we were flirting and joking around.

Well, as the day came to a close we decided to take a long walk before we turned in for the evening. The sidewalks in this part of Charleston had trees planted about every twenty feet or so which made for a nice southern feel. Well, as we played around and batted our eyes at each other back and forth both of us seemed to lose track of the trees. We were so entranced with how cute we were and failed to identify that we had drifted near the tree side of the sidewalks. As we joked around Amanda skipped merrily out in front of me and looked back at me to smile. As she turned back forward she was instantly face to face with a low lying branch.

Now, I’m not sure if it was her burgeoning motherly instinct, a personal flight instinct, or years of playing running back for the Dallas Cowboys, but she instantly dropped down, shook her head side to side, and gave a jook move reminiscent of something straight out of a Barry Sanders highlight reel. It happened so fast and with such precision that I stood frozen, in awe, for approximately 1.35 seconds before exploding in laughter. She also made a EHHH sound that reminded me of the sound you make when a bee is circling your head. It was so out of character for her to go in to instant ninja mode. People probably thought we were a couple of drunken college kids as we howled in laughter unable to stand. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Story #2

There is an old joke where you ask a man “So, are you still beating your wife?” No answer wins. It ain’t so funny in real life.

In January of that same year our suspicions were confirmed, she was pregnant. We were scared and happy, but mostly scared. We visited our local general practitioner for a blood test and referral for an obstetrician. However, we soon learned that Tri-care (military insurance) would only allow for one location in our area of NC, a teaching hospital in Wilmington. Hmm, teaching hospital sounds interesting. Basically, we would not be assigned to a specific Dr., instead we would see whoever was in that day and possibly a few students would hang around to pick up some pointers. Not ideal, but no other choice.

So off we went for our first appointment. We sat in the lobby with an incredible amount of nervous anticipation for a good half hour waiting for our names to be called. We checked out the other expectant mothers, who curiously did not seem excited at all to be there. As our names were called we followed the nurse in to a very small waiting room which consisted of an examination table, a rolling stool, and a chair off to the side that had a curtain hanging nearby. This curtain was on a half moon track that would segregate the chair from seeing anything in the room. “That’s an odd design.”

After a few minutes a nurse comes in and checks her vitals. Everything looks great. After a few more minutes a middle-aged woman joins us. She's probably in her early fifties, short cropped silver hair, no hospital coat, no stethoscope, wearing sandals. You could almost smell the patchouli. She informs us that we will be seeing her for our first visit. She's a nurse mid-wife. "OK, that's not what I expected." Now, before I go off and offend a bunch of people, I'M NOT KNOCKING MID-WIFERY. Don't get your panties all bunched up. But I am going to smash this one for a few minutes.

As we start to tell her a bit about ourselves, she interrupts with volley #1, which goes something like this:

Dirty Hippie Mid-Wife: "Uhh, how do you feel about natural birth?"

Amanda: "Well, I hadn't really thought about it." (this should be translated as: Jeez, I've been pregnant for four minutes, give me a break!)

Dirty Hippie Mid-Wife: "Well, if you really care about your baby and the natural order of childbirth that womankind has experienced for thousands of years, natural birth is the only way."

Amanda: (polite and uncomfortable giggle) uhh, ok.

Dirty Hippie Mid-Wife: My best friend teaches a Lamaze class three times a week. I'll give you her number. She can really help you remain centered during your journey blah blah blah. It was like she was reading from the Mother Gaea manifesto.

Amanda: Well, I don't do well with pain so.....

Interrupting Dirty Hippie Mid-Wife: Nonsense, it's the only way to go.

So, in our first three minutes of neo-natal healthcare she's managed to makes us feel that we are going to poop on thousands of years of childbirth and has solicited the services (non-hospital) of her buddy to guide us down the right path. We both clam up. But she, however, starts the next line of questioning by asking Amanda if she was comfortable with me remaining in the room. Amanda gives me a puzzled look and says sure.

Hippie now stares me down for a few seconds and proceeds to ask Amanda personal questions. I zone out for a second until I hear question #5 or so.

Dirty Hippie Mid-Wife: "Have there been any instances of physical violence in your home?'

As if in slow motion Amanda gives me a sly smile and throws out her best shot at break the ice humor.

Amanda: "Nahh, he doesn't hit me anymore. (grin)"

I almost fainted as the words came out of her mouth. How in the hell could she have misjudged the situation this badly. My mouth drops open for a moment as she giggles aloud, apparently expecting me and Melissa Etheridge to guffaw right along with her. Wrong.

Before Hippie can say a word I scream, in a pitch three octaves higher than normal, "Amanda!" But before I can finish my sentence, Hippie cuts me off and screams at me to shut my mouth, thinking that I'm going to threaten Amanda. I'm gasping for breath, as Amanda has yet to realize the danger of alleging domestic abuse in a freaking HOSPITAL. It's like screaming "fire" in a theater, or "bomb" on a plane.

Thus ensues a three ring circus of Amanda laughing hysterically as I plead with her to fix it, and hippie screams at me to leave the room. Finally, Hippie whips her head around to Amanda, stares deep in to her eyes, and gurgles "it's ok honey, you can tell me the truth." Amanda is in a situation much like getting tickled during prayer at church. As much as she tried to get serious gain her composure, my panic has sent her into a downward spiral of "point and laugh." After a couple of minutes Amanda explains to Hippie that she made a bad joke, and that I was in no way an abusive husband. But, the damage was done.

Hippie spent the remainder of our visit positioning herself between Amanda and I to ensure her safety. But, we didn't discover the icing on this particularly scary cake until we left the office and Amanda realized that Hippie had slipped a pamphlet on domestic violence in to her purse when we weren't paying attention. I swear, I'm so lucky she didn't taser or pepper spray me right there in the office. Thankfully, that was the last time we had to deal with her.

Plus, once we got in the car, that might have been the hardest I've ever laughed in my entire life, even if I did almost go to jail.

Happy Anniversary! I Love You!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Things Disney Taught Me

So, Summer 2011 marked our first family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, FL. Amanda and I spent months planning this occasion, as we tend to obsess down to the minutia of pretty much everything we do. We considered five major areas of concern: lodging, tickets, food, souvenirs, and miscellaneous spending.

Lodging was my responsibility. At first I considered staying on grounds at Disney, but our party quickly went from four persons to ten as we added both sets of Grandparents and my sister and niece. It would've been rude to tell each party to find their own accommodations so I changed our plans from a Disney room to a large, nearby 4br condo. Amanda has a business degree, so the budgetary planning fell to her. She masterfully planned limits for each day of our trip. We got our tickets through a discount site that saved us nearly $150. We purchased a nice, lightweight stroller to allow us to be more nimble as we moved from place to place. We found carabiner clips to hang bags to the stroller with ease, and even found a nice Coleman cooler bag that would carry the perfect amount of bottled water to sustain us through our long days in the sun. We read countless "insider guide to disney" type articles. We were all set. Then we walked through the front gates to the park. That's when our education began.

Lesson One: Trust me, start with the damn teacups.

We spent our first day at Animal Kingdom rather than the traditional Magic Kingdom so we could meet up with some of our cousins who were going to be at Magic Kingdom on day two. Of all of the planning and considerations we made prior to the trip, the one thing we had not planned for was the fact that our oldest son is a forty pound six year old. As soon as we got to the park, we checked out a few of the animals around the entrance and immediately moved on to our first ride. Jackson loves dinosaurs. So much so that his career plan at this point is to be a paleontologist. He is freakishly good at identifying the various species. So I thought the dinosaur ride would be a good way to appeal to his curiosity and get him fired up for what would be a long, hot day at the park.

I looked at the ride and figured it was the Jurassic equivalent of "it's a small world" filled with cheesy animatronic dinosaurs that would rigidly move from side to side. Never, in a million years, would I have imagined that this harmless looking ride was actually a VERY intense experience for a child. It was a scary combination of dark, loud, and surprising that basically sent Jackson in to a kindergarten version of PTSD. He was terrified, and I felt horrible. He tried, like a trooper, to play it off once the ride was over, but the damage was done. From then on, if any ride we went on had even a dark corner in the waiting line he would grab my hand, tear up, and beg me for assurance that I wasn't leading him to certain death. Way to go Dad.

Lesson Two: Riding a little rascal doesn't make you a nice person.

The parades at the parks are an interesting phenomenon. The parks are huge. Magic Kingdom is about 107 acres at this point. You can walk around all day long and never see the same person twice. However, during the parades that each park has everyday the park feels more like a postage stamp. Inches matter as thirty to forty thousand people try to get front row seats to a very carefully choreographed show. Also, the most interesting thing happens, everyone forgets that we are there to give our children a positive experience. Adults begin acting like spoiled brats while fighting for position.

Our final night we hit up Magic Kingdom for the second time to catch the parade and fireworks. Approximately an hour before the parade we located a nice spot in front of the castle to catch all of the excitement. We set up right next to a family that consisted of a mom, her son, and her mother, a woman in her mid-sixties riding a little rascal in order to keep up with her grandson. Aww, that's nice. As we parked our strollers, and began claiming our territory Jackson and I sprinted to the nearest toy store to purchase his final souvenir for the trip. By the time I got back, Amanda and her parents were at DefCon 1, ready for battle. People were EVERYWHERE. Our strollers were getting pushed, Amanda's parents were getting nudged, and our spacious spot had become perilously cramped. Not surprising.

Those of you that know Amanda know that she is very non-confrontational. She is gracious and kind and would never start a fight. However, she does not react well when pushed in to a corner. About ten minutes before the parade granny starts getting chippy, complaining that Amanda is standing in front of her on purpose, completely unaware that the parade is coming from her left which pretty much takes Amanda out of the equation. Then she gets brave and barks at Amanda, "hey, do you plan on standing in front of me for the whole parade?" (insert snarky voice) Amanda looks at her in shock as the woman berates her and then gives me the "I'm about to freak out" look, so I jump in. I curtly explain to the old bag that we are standing in front of our strollers and will continue to do so for the remainder of the parade. While I'm doing this her daughter is apologizing profusely and telling her mom to shut up. Then she does it, just before the parade reaches us granny instructs her grandson to "go stand in front of that blonde kid" (Jackson). Amanda's temper is now on overload. But a funny thing happened. Instead of Amanda beating her up, Jackson simply shifts to the side and finds an angle to watch the parade without encroaching on the boy. For him it wasn't about getting the upper hand, he was just content to be in on the fun. The lessons we learn from our kids.

But granny wasn't done, after the parade she defiantly refused to move her little rascal as a man was trying to move his wheelchair bound mother from the parade route. Classy.

Lesson three: It's cheaper to eat lunch at Disney World that in downtown NOLA. Fact.

Lesson Four: To some people, deodorant is merely a fad.

Please allow me to get all "we are the world" on you for a minute. There are so many things in this world that divide us as people. Some people focus on race, some on sexual orientation, some on religion. However, I choose to focus on those things that bind us together as human kind. The Beatles thought it was love. They were SO wrong. Truly, what we all share is stink. If Disney World taught me anything, it was that human beings are horribly smelly creatures.

I get it, you want to wear your culturally traditional clothing, despite the fact that it's 113 degrees outside. What I don't get is that you have chosen to do absolutely NOTHING to hide the fact that when you sweat your entire body smells like a combination of foot and butt. Look, if we are going to be stuck in the space mountain line together for fifty minutes, do me a favor and familiarize yourself with the positive aspects of Irish Spring and Old Spice High Endurance.