Monday, April 26, 2004

Weekends up north with the in-laws sometimes involve gambling. It's usually a simple card game or a throw of the dice deciding the gain or loss of a few quarters, dimes and nickels. Judy, my mother-in-law, kindly collects the pocket change I subconsciously leave lying around her house during our visits. She knows Deb and I will need all the silver we can get our hands on so that we are able to stay at her kitchen table for more than a couple of rounds.

Gambling at Glenn and Judy's kitchen table is loud. Six, seven, sometimes eight people all with nice, pink, smoke-free, lungs involuntarily shrieking over how the dice turn up. Not to mention the fact that these people don't merely toss dice. They slam a leather clad cup on the table as if they could actually muscle the black and white cubes into doing what they want them to do. This is no effete exercise in recreational gaming. For these people, gambling with family is a visceral affair that demands fist slamming, arm waving, grimacing, grinning, belly laughs and screams of rage or delight.

Last weekend was a record breaker. My brother-in-law, Mike, had previously held the distinction of taking home the largest pot of dough ever won in Glenn and Judy's kitchen: $40. This time it was Deb that raked in the mother lode by taking $54 (or something like that) away from her family.

It was Deb's sister Pam's fault the pot got so large. She suggested we play for dollars rather than the customary quarters Michigan Rummy requires. And as the pot got bigger and bigger the room got louder and louder. Allie tried to stay in the kitchen with us but kept leaving with her fingers in her ears. "You guys are scaring me," she said.

This is a good thing. I didn't want Allie in the room with the adults. I kept suggesting that she would have a better time in the living room but she wanted to see what all the noise was about. I couldn't blame her. However I wasn't too keen on her seeing her mother and father get a little nuts over a big pile of bills in the middle of her grandma's kitchen table. When she sees her friend Maddie this weekend I half expect to find them upstairs shooting dice for Barbie clothes.

That didn't stop me from playing side game of dice with my daughter. We rolled dice for a couple of dollar bills that we would borrow from one another to play another game after losing. Once again my sense of "what not to teach your kid" was twitching but she was having fun and insisted that we continue to roll the dice. I should tell you, we weren't just acting like we were gambling. Allie understood the rules and looked to the dice and not me to tell her when she had lost or won.

I'm guessing she's going to have ton of new Barbie clothes come Friday night.

Friday, April 23, 2004

This morning I was shaving and I thought I should do something of substance with this site.

I mention the shaving thing because I usually have thoughts about my inadequacies while I'm scraping hair off my face. Not sure why. . .

I rely on the Web for most of the information I need to keep my days running smoothly. From how to reprogram my TV's remote control to a decent meatloaf recipe I look to Google to unlock the secrets of the universe for me.

It's time for me to give back.

I tried to think of something that I could post here that would bail someone out of a jam or turn him/her on to something new or unexpected. Like a wiring schematic for a 1952 Hamilton dryer or a walk-through on how to avoid second degree burns while setting your nipples on fire (and if you think there has never been a Google search for safe nipple ignition I'm certain you are wrong).

Turns out I don't really have anything to offer. Everything I know, you know. Even the stuff you're not supposed to know, you know because it's probably been used as fodder for a post.

These thoughts have caused me to walk around all day long in a state of mental constipation. The only thing I'm coming up with are the usual, vanilla anecdotes: Julia won't eat her vegetables and sits around talking like a miniature mobster all day (Eh? Eh? Eh?). Allie is enlisting everyone in the family in the fight against "evil weapons". By the way, we've all been assigned a color for our uniforms (think Power Rangers). Write me and I'll let you know what color and superpower you have. Debbie brought home Ding Dongs in an effort to kill me so she can finally have some peace and quiet (with a little insurance money on the side). Pig has begun shedding.

As I read the paragraph above, I'm thinking I really should try to find that 1952 dryer schematic.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


At least that's what I thought Tuesday morning as I went to put our Toro outside for the hardware store to come pick it up (spring tune-up).

Turns out those busy beavers at the hardware store came and got the mower a day early. I just happened to leave my garage door open for about forty minutes, or so, late Monday afternoon. The guys at Terry's Small Engine Repair (they work out of the hardware store now) took advantage of that narrow window of opportunity to snatch my self-propelled mulcher away from me.

Stealthy little mower repairing ninjas. That's what we have on our hands.

I called Deb Tuesday morning to see if she knew anything about the missing mower. She thought I was joking (of course). Then she called the hardware store. "This is going to seem like a dumb question," she said. "Do you have our lawn mower?" Deb asked.

"What's your name?"


"Yeah, it's here."

Whew. Although, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed. I had this, "Gone in Sixty Seconds" scenario cooked up in my head. A group of ace mower robbers had to jack fifty Toros, LawnBoys, Snappers, etc. in order to save someone's brother from a ring of ruthless, international garden implement thieves. You see, that's why they only bothered to take our mower and nothing else. They were in a huge hurry.

Then I thought if someone had stolen our mower it would need to be turned into the insurance company. Then we'd have to buy a new mower. I could get something cool. Something that would make mowing the lawn an adventure in grounds maintenance every time I tugged the starter rope.

Rope, hell!

This puppy would have an electric starter. The neighbors would think Joey Chitwood had rolled into town each time I cranked the throttle from turtle to rabbit. The custom paint job would include flames on the oversized motor, menacing fangs on the front of the mower deck and BAD ASS GRASS MASTER on the sides. Of course there would be super bright, flashing red strobes all over the thing. Mowing would take a very long time because all the foxy ladies in the neighborhood would constantly interrupt me to check out my slick new mower.

It's not going to happen, though. In three weeks the old Toro will be back in my garage. However, it will have new wheels, a new spark plug, fresh oil and a nice, sharp blade. Not as exciting as the Bad Ass Grass Master, but at least I'll be able to finish mowing in a decent amount of time without all of those foxy ladies bugging me.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I'm burping up the not-so-subtle flavor of fish oil.

I started taking fish oil supplements just this morning to boost the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids floating around in my blood. In addition to the fish pills I've improved my eating habits significantly during the past two weeks.

On the weekends, I eat whatever the hell I want.

I mention this effort to clean out my arteries because McDonald's Chairman and CEO, Jim Cantalupo, died of an apparent heart attack this morning.

I realize Mr. Cantalupo's heart problems, more than likely, had very little to do with his affiliation with McDonald's. Regardless, I read the sad news and felt my chest tighten as I thought of all the Quarter Pounder extra value meals I've consumed over the years.

I'm guessing I go to McDonald's three times a month so I consider myself a typical McDonald's customer considering my demographic. Two of those three trips are usually because of the convenience found in having disgruntled teenagers prepare dinner for my family. Although there are those times when nothing but a Big Mac or their fries will do.

I'm pretty sure maintaining this type of allegiance to the Golden Arches has hurt my health. These days, each trip through the drive-thru feels like I'm giving in to some cabal of powerful, profit hungry executives. These people don't seem as sinister as those found in the tobacco industry. However, they still hired a clown to obscure the fact that the fries aren't good for us.

I suppose it's encouraging that Ronald's bosses are responding to the pressures of a well-informed public. Not unlike the smokeless cigarette, McDonald's is tinkering with their product line by offering adult Happy Meals.

These meals are apparently not an effort to mainstream the porn industry. They are simply a marketing ploy that targets health conscious fast food consumers.

If you order an adult Happy Meal you'll get a salad, a bottle of water and pedometer. It'll also be chock full of cutting edge fitness advice like, "Walk more."

It all seems more than a little lackadaisical considering the current onslaught of negative publicity the fast food industry has received from the Department of Health & Human Services and the waves of burger bashing we've all seen in the press. And, did I mention, they have a CEO who had a heart attack this morning and died?

Dwayne called this evening. I had to cut our conversation short because I had hamburgers burning on the grill.


I ate two of them.

That completely eliminated the fish burps.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

New photos of the girls in the M&J Gallery.

I'm going to bed now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Once again I can't get my blog going. Instead of deleting my false starts I'll just go ahead and post them:

-John Travolta has a jet, or two, parked in his backyard. When I look out my back window I see a bench covered in lichens and a rusty eight-year-old grill. What I want to know is if a person ever gets used to the fact that he/she owns a jet and has the means to keep it right outside his/her patio door? Has John become blasé about his backyard airport? I'm sure he'd never admit it if he has. I do wonder what kind of thrill threshold John has. For contrast I'll tell you I still get excited waiting for a book I ordered to arrive from I'm thinking it would take a little more than that to get John all giddy inside. Poor John.

-Each morning the cat jumps up on our bed lays on my arm in an effort to get me to pet her. I usually give in and stroke the cat beneath her chin. It turned out, that on this particular morning, the cat decided to reverse her usual position. Half-awake, I realized, after a few seconds, it wasn't her chin I was stroking. I shot out of bed and scrubbed my hand under hot water for as long as I could take it. For some reason the cat wouldn't leave my side for the rest of the morning.

-I ran across some cartoons Jon quickly drew (three years ago?). They make me laugh and I want to post them here. Unfortunately he drew them on the back of his used up desk calendars and they're far too big for me to scan. Big and cruel is what they are. Speaking of Jon I'm happy he's added comments to his blog. His posts are almost always extremely comment-able (greg like make up words, heh). I'm not sure why he's being so tight-lipped about where I can get one of those Bunz T-shirts he used to wear. With him living far away on the West Coast it's not like we'll be seen together wearing the same shirt anytime soon. Don't know what the deal is.

-The other day I went to the bathroom and saw a guy standing by the paper towel dispensers. He was drying his hands and forearms with what looked to be an unusual number of paper towels. Then, as I passed the sinks I noticed he had removed his rings and his watch to wash his hands. There was the smell of death in the air. It came from him. I just know it. And he must have come in direct contact with smelly death. Why else would anyone need to remove his jewelry and then wash up to his elbows?

-Sadly, I'm removing the link to Robyn's blog from this site. She's discontinued posting because. . . Well, I'm not sure why she took down her blog. But it's no longer there and that's a shame. In place of her link I'm adding Jon's friend Seth's blog (I didn't ask permission so I hope he's okay with this). It's a great blog and there's consistently something interesting going on. Like this:

Pick up the nearest book. Open it to page 23. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Standing Firm by Dan Quayle (I swear. I don't know how it got on my bookshelf, but there it was).
Fifth sentence:
Let the focus be on Dole, or Kemp; the more time there was to focus on their negatives the better for me.

-I just watched Kill Bill on DVD. Uma Thurman's toes are unfortunate.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Why my lawn is important to me.

By Greg

Last night I had a tuna sandwich. I ate it while I sat beside my daughter, Allie, in the living room (we usually don't have dinner in the living room). Allie was also eating. She had a quesadilla, apple slices and celery sticks slathered with peanut butter.

My wife and other daughter were upstairs sleeping. They weren't feeling well. Again.

After dinner I applied fake pink plastic Barbie nails to the ends of Allie's fingers. The fake nails were an Easter gift from Allie's Aunt Pam. Allie loved decorating her new nails with flowers and holographic stickers of high heeled shoes. I didn't share her enthusiasm. However I was the only person around who could peel the tiny stickers off the backing paper and apply them to Allie's little pink claws. I did my best to hide the fact that long nails freak me out. Fortunately Allie got tired of her nails fairly quickly and asked me to remove them.

Next Allie sat on my lap and watched a cooking show for kids. After five minutes she looked up at me and said, "I'm bored watching this. Let's play."

I felt like sitting on the couch. I felt like staring at the ceiling. I felt like listening to the TV tell me how to make fondue for eight-year-olds. I felt like clearing out my tear ducts with my index finger. I felt like trying to pull off my socks without using my hands. I felt like looking out the window. I felt like bumping the lamp shade to see how much dust would fly off it.

I did not feel like playing anymore.

"Go play by yourself, Sweetie," I told her.

Allie just sat there on my lap staring at the ceiling, listening to the TV tell her how to make fondue, sucking her thumb, picking at the loose threads on her dolly, looking out the window to see what I was staring at, watching me bump the lamp shade and adjusting her posture as I wiggled my feet trying to take my socks off without using my hands.

It's in these moments of sweet ennui that I begin to think about my lawn. It's not a bad lawn. However, in comparison to my neighbor's lawn it needs a lot of attention. Ted, my neighbor, has the archetypical suburban carpet of perfectly clipped, deep green grass. Some of his perfect lawn has actually migrated into my backyard making the delineation between the good and the bad less severe. But the contrast is still there and it's, unfortunately, a stark one.

So I want my entire lawn to look like Ted's this year. After all, a nice lawn is a statement for passersby that says I've worked hard to own a house and I'm willing to put forth the effort to maintain it. And then there's this: If every house in the neighborhood was on fire the fire department could only save some of the houses, not all of them. . . How would they choose which ones to save?

I'm certain the firefighters would point their hoses at the homes with nice lawns. They would know that losing a home would have a greater impact on the nice lawn people because, obviously, they care much more than their neighbors with the raggedy-ass turf.

My lawn is important to me because, if I keep it nice, it will prevent my house and family from being consumed by an enormous fire that will destroy the rest of my neighborhood.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I was sitting in my Grandma's living room Saturday holding a tattered, eighty-six year old photograph. The photo was held together with a piece of tape and shoved in a simple, clear plastic frame. It showed a man and a woman with a baby between them. Someone had taken a ballpoint pen and written, Charles on the man's chest, Gertrude on the baby's gown and Amanda beneath the woman's face.

Grandma told me, "Dad had just got a new overcoat and wanted to wear it for the picture." There really wasn't a need to explain why Charles was wearing his coat in the photo. It didn't look unusual to me. I have a feeling Grandma has heard this bit of trivia told to just about everyone who has seen this photo over the years. I'm sure Grandma offered the explanation to me out of habit. After all, she is the baby in photo so I wouldn't expect her to have any memory of what happened that day, eighty six years ago.

The picture is evidence that my Grandma was a beautiful baby back in 1918. It's no surprise why Charles and Amanda chose to bring her home from the orphanage. Although, I'm told, it was Charles who immediately fell in love with Violet. Violet was Grandma's name before she was adopted. Charles and Amanda decided to call her Gertrude. I looked at my Grandma when she told me this and in my head I said, "Hello, Violet."

Surprisingly it fit. Grandma named for a beautiful flower seemed just as appropriate as Gertrude (I looked it up and it means spear of strength). And, as far as I am concerned, Grandma is really the only name she'll ever need. But I would never presume to argue this point with Charles, Amanda and everyone else who knows and loves Gertrude. So my first, Hello, Violet, will be my last.

Charles was a laborer for the Wabash Railroad and Amanda was a school teacher. Grandma tells me Charles spent most of his time washing the big train engines that would roll into the rail yard. I looked at his face in the pictures. I was somehow disappointed by his lack of resemblance to anyone in our family. An odd thought that seems petty and ungrateful. How could I be disappointed that a man who chose to love and care for my mother's mother didn't have eyes shaped like mine?

Amanda looked young and vital in the picture. I had a difficult time reconciling this with the image my mom has implanted in my head of Amanda as an older, stern woman who lost a leg to diabetes. Grandma talked about the day Amanda died. I kept looking down at Amanda as Grandma told me about the day she lost her mother. My brain was swirling together an overwhelming sense of mortality with images of everyone I care about and I kind of wanted Grandma to shut up.

She did.

I could see it was far more difficult for Grandma to talk about that day than it was for me to hear about it. But I was grateful she spoke about it with me. It's what I couldn't stop thinking about at 2:40 a.m. on Easter Sunday. That and the eighty-six year old picture of a train washer in his new overcoat with his beautiful wife and his new baby girl.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I took Alex voting one year. We got to the polling place and she wanted to know where all the votes were. She wanted to ride on a vote.

That's the only semi-amusing voting anecdote I have.

Where I vote they read your address aloud, three times, before they give you your ballot. That way people around you can try to match you to your neighborhood (at least that's what I do). It also sparks conversation. "I'm your new neighbor," a lady once said to me after my address was read. She had just moved into the big Victorian down the street. "We just moved into the big Victorian down the street," she told me. "Everyone calls me, Bird," she added while extending her hand. I shook her hand and probably welcomed her to the neighborhood or something.

I've never spoken to Bird since. It's probably the name. Having a nickname like Bird isn't all that strange. However, making sure everyone you meet calls you by your eccentric, probably applied during childhood by an obnoxious uncle, name hints at weirdness. I'd be afraid Bird might want to talk about her repressed childhood memories of being force fed marshmallows and sardines during her boarding school days or something. So I haven't really attempted a casual, neighborly conversation yet. Plus, she lives way the hell down the street. Most days I'm lucky if I make it past my mailbox.

The big issue facing voters this year is "smart growth" which is a euphemism for should we let them build a big ass Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town? Many people are certain a big ass Wal-Mart will destroy the character of our fair city. A big ass Wal-Mart will wipe-out all the small businesses that currently reside on Main Street. A big ass Wal-Mart will attract loads of traffic and unsavory elements to our community.

The girls and I made our way through the line without speaking to anyone this time. That is until we got to the last volunteer. She asked Allie if my first name was Gregory. "I don't know."

"What street do you live on?"

"I don't know."

"What city do you live in?"

"I don't know."

"What state do you live in"

"United States of America"

The volunteer looked up at me with a look that said, "It's really too bad about your daughter, sir. But at least she's cute. She's got that going for her."
I woke up in a foul mood this morning.

You'd think I'd be in a great mood. I took yesterday afternoon off. I had big plans for reorganization and projects that I've put off for far too long. Instead I ate a huge cheeseburger and wandered around town buying stuff. I got good deals on new pants, socks, a huge umbrella, a vegetable peeler, big fluffy towels, a bulletin board, discount children's software and put together nifty Easter treats for our three member Lee Ladies' Auxiliary.

I also bought a $12 bottle of cologne. It was a bottle of Perry Ellis. That's the brand I used in high school when I first began to wear cologne. Back then I'm sure Perry Ellis wasn't $12 a bottle. That's a unique indication you're getting old. When your eau de toilette is no longer $50 an ounce and makes the journey from the hoity toity department store counter to a dusty shelf at Walgreens next to the Brut by Faberge.

Anyway, I couldn't pass up a $12 trip down memory lane (after all they say the sense of smell is most closely intertwined with memory). I put some on this morning. I put too much on. I spent all morning smelling myself and wondering if everyone else was doing the same thing. I'm paranoid about such things. I was taught to use cologne as a kicker. You get the girl close enough to pick up your clean, subtle, $50 an ounce scent and that simply seals the deal (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). As if I did a great deal of deal sealing back then. However I was prepared.

The new cologne hasn't done much to elevate my mood. I don't see why it would. After all, ask my family and you'll hear that I'm cranky all the time these days. I'm convinced I'm a larval stage curmudgeon. I'm preparing for long summer days spent on the porch yelling at the neighborhood kids to get the hell out of my yard. I'm in training to be impatient with wait staff when they don't get my 4:00 p.m. early bird special dinner prepared precisely the way I like it. I'm learning how to prepare nasty letters to the editor in my head. I won't actually write them down, but I will complain about many benign topics and will inflict these views on anyone within earshot.

The next time I hear Allie tell me, "I don't like it when you're cranky, Daddy." I'll explain to her it's part of my evolutionary process.

There's no arguing that I do have a number of demons ripe for exorcism. The problem is, I don't know where to begin. I'm thinking I need to get into the ring with a prize fighter. He'll beat the crap out of me and I'll gain the perspective I need stop being so anxious about everything all the time. Dwayne, no need to leave a comment stating you'll be more than happy to beat the crap out of me free of charge. I know you're there for me, buddy.

Honestly, though, if you have any suggestions I'd be grateful to hear them. Maybe you tried transcendental meditation or started eating more bran.

Enough about that.

Shannon and his girlfriend, Anna, visited us this past weekend. They arrived Saturday night and left around 3:30 p.m. the next day. That meant we had little time to do much of anything but share a few meals together. However we were grateful for the time we had to meet Anna. She's a good egg who can perform delightful miracles with a single, half-inch piece of string (just ask Allie). We hope we see them again soon.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I just finished looking at a blog written by a man who has a daughter about the same age as Julia. His blog featured photos of granulation tissue that had developed on his little girl's upper abdomen. It seems his daughter has a host of health problems that have plagued her since birth. The man writes about every ounce of body weight his daughter gains as if she had won a gold medal. He tells his family and friends about his baby battling diarrhea and urinary tract infections on a regular basis.

I read his blog and know that I am lucky.

I saw a kid today with big patches of missing hair. Alopecia? Maybe. But his remaining hair was so long that it had to be some sudden, recent event that caused the hair to fall out. Chemotherapy? Probably.

I didn't need to see this kid to know that I am lucky.

All of this lucky stuff gets thrown out the window when Julia screams incessantly because she wants me to feed her sweet potato and turkey dinner while she is cradled in her mother's arms. Suddenly the high chair is no longer good enough for her.

But she makes it through her dinner without any violence on my part and is agreeable as I put her down for a nap before bath time. She smiles at me before I leave her room and suddenly I'm back to feeling lucky again.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Audrey? Audrey Seiler?

We were really worried about you.

Now. . . Not so much.

I was going to write something mean about Audrey but she's nuts.

When I go off the deep end I'd prefer a sympathetic word to a good raking across the coals so I'll skip the diatribe.

But people can't stop talking about Audrey's little adventure. I'm guessing those who spent a couple of days trudging through the mud looking for her have the most to say. I wonder if the same number of volunteers will turn out if our community is unfortunate enough to go through this again. I hope those numbers aren't diminished because we're all too cynical now to show up and help.

But I'm all about keeping things light here so I'll try to add this positive spin: Considering the amount of attention Audrey's abduction received I'm confident there are hordes of therapists who are aching to get in touch with the Seilers. I'm sure Audrey will get the help she needs.

I hope one or two of those mental health professionals will have time for Audrey's family. I imagine they're really confused right about now and completely stressed about the possible ramifications of Audrey's attempt to get some alone time.

I've got my fingers crossed that my kid doesn't ask to play hide and seek any time soon. After this Audrey mess I couldn't help but see it less as a game and more as establishing a pattern of behavior.
Yes. Yes. April Fools.

No lice. Not even a flea to speak of.

I got Judy (and I think Claudette) via the Web and Marcia over the phone. I would have had Karina however my daughter joyfully made quick work of my plan to fool her daycare provider. "APRIL FOOLS! You're doing an April Fools, Daddy."

The little pisher. However two confirmed successful fools make for a better than average April Fools day. Thank you ladies.

Speaking of Claudette I hope she's feeling better. As much teasing as she took from me a few weeks ago converning her impending eye surgery I would feel very guilty about the least little complication.

More from the eye surgery front, Glenn just had his eyes cut into as well. We'll call this weekend and see how things went for both sets of peepers.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Head lice. Can you believe it? We've all got head lice!

We called ask a nurse last night and they told us to get a RID system and start combing nits.

We're cursed.

Colds. Stomach flu. What's next? Shingles? Boils?