2009... Histrionics, Hysteria, Hyberbole, Hoaxed, Hustled... Do I Need to Go On?

What a way to end the year!!

"Little Jihadi Boy" burns his "groin-ish" area in an attempt to bring down a passenger jet over the city of Detroit and nearly succeeds. Fortunately, Murphy's Law...Karma...Divine Intervention (whatever you may want to call it) limited the damage to his "Jihadi Jewels" and the high explosives did not detonate.

But don't worry... our Great Protector in Skirt, Janet Napolitano, is assuring the public that "...the system worked...". That's reassuring... wait! When did it begin working? OH! So the system began working AFTER it failed in a cataclysmic and deafening roar... I see.

There is more to this story to come, but I want to focus on the ENTIRE YEAR! It is, after all New Years Eve and we are putting 2009 in the history books. Sadly, the history books will NEVER tell the truth about what happened this year. But we will know.

Histrionics: Exaggerated emotional behavior, calculated for effect (The Healthcare Plan)

Hysteria: Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic (H1N1)

Hyperbole: A deliberate exaggeration used for effect. (Homeland Security Cyber Systems Controls)

Hoax: Trick (Immigration Reform, Global Warming)

Hustle: To sell or get by questionable means (Economic Stimulus Package)

Let's take a look at these items, one-by-one, and get to the "bottom line", as it were. What is the "straight poop" on these issues that seemed so ready to destroy our nation for the last 12 months? What are the REAL threats?

In the next five posts we will take a look at the "big issues" that the media would have us focus on. Then in the next five posts I will show you what the media and administration DOESN'T consider important. And you can decide if it's important to you or not... they are important to me!

First up will be the H1N1 flu and the Global Warming Religion. The truth isn't hard to find, but maybe just difficult to swallow. And, I won't be doing as the Obama Administration is doing and ask you to just take  my word for it. I will be providing you with sources and source data; some that comes from the government agencies.

I'm not asking you to agree with ME. I'm just asking you to think about two things while you read the next ten posts for this blog:

1. Why were the "big issues" the "big issues"?
2. How much good, or bad, can happen when we let the government do things, for our own good?

Let's get started...

Becoming a Man...Learning to Relish the Moment!

My oldest son turns 18 this week.... DAMN I'm old! He's the serious one of the "brood".  At the age of 11 he was the only kid, or adult, I've ever see request a life jacket on the big circle rafts you ride down the 3 ft deep rapids at Six Flags over Georgia.  He's just like that!

I'm his exact opposite. I laugh when I should be serious and I will always be the one hanging off the side of the cliff by one hand yelling "YEEE HAW" and he will always be the one taking the time to untangle the rope and secure his climbing helmet. It's just the way we are!

The nice part is... we both like who we are and we accept each other and respect each other. He knows I will always ALWAYS be there for him and well, I know my son will always respect me.

He asked me how I learned to be so "free" and fun the other day. He knows I grew up in Mississippi and that growing up in Mississippi does not haven anything in common with "free" or "fun".  I told him about my Uncles!

Want to hear a story???

I knew you did!

"Get your long board and get in the truck." Awesome thing to hear from my uncle with the crazy, long hair as he threw my board shorts at me that had been drying over the rail of the back porch. "And don't tell Alice (my mother) I'm taking you night surfing."  I jumped up from the bean bag so fast the darn thing stuck to the residual suntan lotion and sweat on my back. "Leave that here", he laughed at me.

I was 14 and was spending some time in California with my crazy ass Uncles. Life in Mississippi was difficult for me. Fitting in was not something I have ever done well, and fitting in means survival when you go to High School in Mississippi, of all places. So in a trade for good grades my parents allowed me to spend the summers with my Uncles in California. Spending time with my Uncles taught me to realize that "peaking" in High School wasn't my thing. Nope.

My "Crazy Haired Uncle" would drop me and my board off at the beach on his way to work each morning then find his way out to the line up just in time for the afternoon swells. He taught me that there is no better beach lunch than PB&J's with bananas. Because if you couldn't sweet talk the "Betty" Lifeguard into keeping it in her mini-fridge inside the tower it would still be an "awesome" sandwich  with the banana and peanut butter and jelly all melted together after sitting under your towel all morning.

When surfing dinner consisted of "emergency tacos" at Del Taco or sushi (way before it was cool to eat sushi) and sitting at the local coffee shop (again, LONG before there was a Starbucks). I'd drink my Martinellis Apple Cider and he'd drink his "Irish Coffees" and I'd sit for hours and listen to him "wax on" about life, surfing, love, surfing, and then we'd talk about surfing.

He'd get excited and jump up on the bench with his long hair flying around in the evening wind and impress everyone with the stories of surfing off the cliffs in Baja California. I remember looking down at my little jug of cider and laughing, wondering if I could ever be that awesome and cool (yeah it happened)!

Then my "artist" Uncle would show up in his fancy Mercedez and tell his crazy ass brother to sit down.
I can't beat up on Communists too much, because my "thoughtful" Uncle was a Communist before it was "Campus Cool" to be one. He and I would argue and philosophize for HOURS!

At the coffee shop, my uncles always drew a crowd of some of the strangest and most amazing people. People who enjoyed life more than watching TV... hot "Beach Bettys", couples with babies and small kids... old dudes... militant lesbian women... the craziest group you could ever imagine. 

Eventually we'd all walk down to the beach and sometimes make a huge fire and talk about the beautiful things in life, the ugly things to avoid in life and how to make the perfect cup of tea! Or... we'd all just sit there and stare at the fire and stars and be quiet.

I grew up knowing my destiny would not be to live and die in the confines of the southern traditions and mores. But I learned not to despise those traditions and mores, but to relish the good and "shake off" the bad.

I would complain to my artistic Uncle about having a hard time fitting in and he would point at me and say, "Don't let things make you mad. Sometimes people need small worlds so they feel complete... but you, you need a huge world to feel like there is always something else out there! Don't try to rush out there to it! It will wait for you!"

My Uncles took me on some amazing and crazy adventures!!! There are some stories I could tell... but won't... at least not yet!

"It's a surfers moon tonight, Little Brudda!", my Crazy Haired Uncle pointed to the rising full moon. "Perfect conditions to surf.  "The moon calls up the big swells at night!"

I asked what it was like and he looked at me like I was asking why the sky was blue. "It's like day surfing but you just can't see the waves... because it's night. You will need to feel the swells with your board and time the swells by watching the stars on the horizon. When you see half the stars disappear you better already be paddling or you better be getting ready to get pummeled like a pebble."

He had a "funny" thing that when he got "excited" about something his eyes would grow HUGE and his hair would become "electric" and fly around his face.

"Don't we have flashights or something?", I was hoping we would.

"Cha! No man! You become swordfish bait when you wear those mini flashlights." He opened his eyes really wide at me as he shifted the manual shift on the truck and waggled his mop-like head at me... "you just gotta stop seeing and FEEL it, Lil Bruddah! Stop seeing and FEEL!"  Then he seemed to fall into some sort of crazy eyed trance and he got a sort of glazed over look and seemd to stare beyond me as if this epiphony was carrying him away.

I leaned forward into his line of sight and pointed to the road and he acted like he had meant to go into the other lane and honked back at the car as it honked at him (us).  You had to love riding shotgun with my Crazy Haired Uncle.  He drove the little Datsun truck like he drove his dune buggy out in the dunes near the Joshua Tree Desert, wait, that was his dune buggy that he drove! Ha!

We never seemed to surf where the little poser dudes surfed. And I knew we were passing the line from having a surfing event to a surf adventure when we passed through the border for Mexico. Any time he took me down to Mexico it was an adventure... smiling really big now... yeah, more stories for another day.

I knew we were headed for the cliffs! There wasn't a beach at the "cliffs". In order to surf the big sets you had to jump into the ocean from about 40 ft high cliffs to get to the "line up". An adventure for a 14 year old in broad daylight, let alone at night.

His old truck didn't have a working radio so my Uncle was blasting the group Bread on the cassette player he kept under the seat of his truck, "Don't be nervous, Lil Bruddah! Just get into your brain and don't let your brain get into you! (I still don't have a firm handle on what that means EXACTLY but a general idea) If you get turned around just paddle for the lights on the resort. I will come find you there."

He parked his "truggy" about 5 ft away from the edge of the cliff and we both watched the last of the sun go down in silence. I remember looking down at the ten and twelve foot waves and itchin' to get down there and start setting up on some of those barrels that  were forming up... but I knew that was against the rules.

There needed to be the "relish-ment" of the moment. "Relish-ment" was important to my Uncle. It meant to relish the good feelings and not "rush" them. So we sat in the truck and "relished" the amazing scene unfolding as the sun dipped below the lowest clouds  and as it touched the water...lit the ocean on fire. "Gorgeous", was all he would say.

I got out when he did and in almost a solemn way we zipped up our long sleeve wetsuits and started "trimming" our boards. "Don't get caught up in the noise and confusion that you will find out there. Give me a "hoot hoot" if you get too mixed up and I will come to where you are. "Let's fly, Little Bruddah!"

And with that he threw his surfboard out ahead of him and jumped off the cliff into the receding waves. I was right behind him.

He was right! It was LOUD! The noise from the rising surf was compounded by the cliffs and the rocks and I became so disoriented I started to panic a little.  My uncle had paddled up beside me and grabbed my cord that connected my ankle to my board and gave it a quick tug. "Lets get off these rocks, Little Bruddah!" And I followed him out to the line up.

Once out at the line-up I remember feeling a bit more calm and I sat back and watched my Uncle "Whhhhooooop!!!!" his way onto the first few sets. He would start paddling and then suddenly disappear off the edge of the wave... GONE!

But I could hear him! Whoopin' it up like a kid as he dropped down the vertical drop of the wall and into the trough and then shot out like a cannon ball into the foam. My turn!

I put my finger tips near the nose of the board and turned the nose toward the beach. I turned around to see a rising black bulge against the starry backdrop so I started to paddle to gain enough speed to keep up wih the wave. I remember looking back and to my horror the whole sky had disappeared behind this giant black wall, holy SHIT!

My mop headed Uncle I think tried to shout survival instructions rather than encouragement at this point, "You gotta paddle hard, Little Bruddah!" Paddle hard!" As I felt the nose of the board start to wiggle down over the edge of the wave I jumped up into the lowest and widest stance I could find as I began the longest vertical drop I had ever experienced. I remember trying to scream but my breath was sucked up by the wave and I was trying to somehow claw my toenails into the board so it wouldn't fall out from underneath me.

I did as I was taught and maintained my low and wide stance and landed at the base of the wave on my board and then shot out ahead of that wave like a bullet from a gun. I screamed like a crazy man as I picked up speed and cut back up onto the wave just in time to have the front edge close over me like a roaring, black blanket and I shot through the black tube of water. I could hear my Uncles "whooping" as he saw the beastly wave swallow up his little Bruddah! At least that's what he bragged to everyone it looked like back at the coffee shop... BEASTLY! (He'd grin at me every time he told the story!)

Emerging out of the tunnel I aimed my board for shore, trying to avoid getting smacked in the back by the wave, but I was a little late and the wave hit me in the back of the head and sent me and my board spinning.

By the time I came to the surface my Uncle was waiting for me with the other half of my surfboard. He grinned at me and said "Relish it, Little Bruddah!! Relish it!"

The broken board brought the night surfing to an end and we walked the small trail back up the cliffs to the Datsun truck. Not a lot was said... we were doing  some serious "relish-ing". I remember shivvering all the way home. Not because the windows were down and the warm air was drying me off. Nope... I was relishing the rush!

Just like I'm doing now!

"Relish it, today"

It's Tuesday!!! Time to Break Out of the Slump!

Rugby has GOT to be the greatest game there is! All the power and pain of football but without the wussy helmets and pads! You stand or you fall based on your own ability to see past the pain and the fear and cross that line.

It's been a rough weekend, but Spuds is back! Time to kick all the asses and take all the names!

It's good to be back!



Time to Listen...

Spud's Court of Appeals and Court is in Session (always...)

We have an injury scale at our house. The scale goes from 1 to 6, and acceptable responses have been clearly defined. Punishments are all subjective based on the merits of the case and the mood of the Arbitrator (that would be ME).  I will pause and let you re-read this paragraph and consider the many nuances...

The reason behind developing this "Injury Scale" was the alarmingly disproportionate reactions some of the "injuries" were provoking. If I had been a smart man I would have filmed some of the incommensurate responses the younger children were performing.

The first time I encountered such a situation I was upstairs in my "quiet room". Okay... I was in the bathroom...sitting in the bathroom... for the sake of not being gross, that's all you need to know.

Anyway, I was enjoying the latest issue of Rachel Ray's Cooking Magazine (shut the HELL up! I'm secure in my manliness!) when out of the blue... SCREAM!   I SWEAR the scream sounded like Abbey had somehow had her arm or some other body appendage traumatically amputated. I was out the door in a flash doing my best to secure my pants around my waist and not trip on the Rachel Ray magazine that had been dropped on the floor.

We have a big house, but when your child is screaming like a... well like she was screaming, the halls and stairs seem like MILES!! I crashed downstairs and into the TV room and... let me describe the scene...

My oldest, Tanner, 17 years old, was standing up in the middle of the room eating a sandwich (eating in the TV room... GRRR) with one hand and holding the remote to the TV up in the air with his other hand... laughing.

Abbey, my 12 year old, was screaming in some strange language and pointing at Tanner, who at this point was realizing that this probably wasn't the "funny" situation he had originally considered it to be. He stopped smiling and handed me the TV remote... I guess he thought I would know what to do with it.

I knelt down on one knee and began looking at Abbey's arms and head for the site of the injury. Still half expecting at least some blood loss or maybe deep bruising. Nope...

"Dad! What are you doing?"

I looked at her... "I'm trying to find where you are bleeding!!"

"I'm not bleeding... Tanner changed it from iCarly and wouldn't change it back and he's been playing his Xbox on the TV all day and I ..."

"WAIT!..." I held up my hand at both her and her brother "Stop talking.... NOW!"

I was trying not to curse because the kids were around and Sarah, especially, would find my swearing a source of great entertainment.

"You mean to tell me that you are NOT bleeding or that you don't have any broken bones or even a nasty little red mark? You screamed like THAT and you're not in need of a DAMN ambulance (Sarah smiled and covered her mouth).

Sarah went on to cover her mouth one or two more times in that conversation. Hey... I tried!

But one or two situations like that and I knew it was time to define the level of injuries and the appropriate level of response with each classification. I tried to throw in a "Band-aid amendment that stated "blood must be visible" in order to receive a band-aid", but the 7 yo twins threatened a filibuster. So I deferred...

Here's the Official Injury Scale with APPROPRIATE Responses
Scale of 1 to 6
1-2: Some form of "he touched me" occurred. More of a violation of personal space than injury. Response does NOT include any form of crying or yelling. Simply find the GIC (Guy In Charge) and make him aware that your personal space has been violated. The violator will be subjected to a series of pokes to the sides and back in order to teach the importance of personal space.

3-4: Hitting has occurred. There is a red mark, no real bruising and no scratches are visible. There is also no visible blood. The appropriate response to this injury can lead UP TO but not exceed holding the injured area and crying soft to medium levels as you find the GIC and let him know of the injury. Punishment will be determined.

5: Any injury that is causing bleeding. Blood must be present at the time of inspection WITHOUT squeezing the area to assist the blood in being exposed. Crying medium to loud levels is tolerated with this injury, but the crying can not be for longer than it takes for the GIC to get it cleaned off and wrapped in a band-aid or bandage. Punishment for causing bleeding will be determined based on the situation and testimony of witnesses.

6: Trauma involving injury that may require stitches or a trip to the ER. This includes hitting with sticks or rocks or golf clubs or hockey sticks without allowing the other person to be in the proper protective gear. Reaction to this type of injury can include crying up to and including screaming for help.

You're probably making the same face my 12 year old daughter made when I announced the new scale. But it works!

Today Adam, my 7 yo son (Sarah's twin brother), came running upstairs to me after Sarah had smacked him across his forehead with a nerf sword. "DADDD! Is this a 4 or a 5???"  I gave him the sideways glance with a smirky smile and told him to go get his sister for me.

He ran out

"Sarah! Dad wants you! You're lucky! It's just a 4!"

Birds and the Bees.... Hmmm....

Just one question.... "Why do we parents make our own jobs so much harder than they need to be?"

SEX!!! I had a friend named Daniel growing up who would start to laugh when we would say that word. Sitting in church I would lean over and quietly whisper, "Naked" or "Sex" and he would lurch forward laughing and his freckled face would turn some serious shades of crimson. From what I understand he does have children so it seems that he was able to stop laughing at some point... which surprised some of us.

As a parent I know the unnerving panic that starts to rise up from your stomach into your throat as you try to explain the "mechanics" of sex to a 7 year old. It's awkward trying to explain "stiff and stuff".

The problem is that we can't wait too long to tell them! By the age of 7 they are already getting a pretty good idea of what is going on with the whole sex "thing" just by watching HBO and the Victorias Secret Commercials. Not much of a secret if you ask me, Victoria. And, while they may not have a very good understanding of the "ins and outs" of the sex process, they are talking to eachother and narrowing it down!

I had a friend growing up who could draw ANYTHING!! Amazing talent! I remember him selling nude drawings of women, obviously from his imagination, when we were in the 3rd and 4th grades. Yup! For .25 cents he would sell you one of his "private collection" pieces.

The problem we all seemed to run into was that we may have had a pretty good idea of what the "upper" bumps looked like "sans bikini", but we had NO CLUE what was going on "down there" (not that we have any GREATER understanding at this point, but at least the geography isn't alien). I say this because in every picture he sold in that time the naked woman he had drawn had some GIANT boobies, but, without any other real frame of reference, there was a DEFINATE wiener going on down low.  A penis! On a naked woman!

I'm blaming my parents for the fact that I did not know any better until I was 7!

But talking to your kids about sex is HARD (Geez, stop giggling when I say "hard")! Sex is awesome and loads of fun, but deep down you don't want your child knowing that that sort of thing is actually going on just down the hall... because you KNOW that's what they are thinking the whole time you explain it to them!  "You DO that?

I remember when I got my "Big Talk".  My father was military and I'm thinking that my "talk" was somehow influenced by his military background.

At the time it didn't seem so strange, but as I sit and "recover" those memories I begin to realize that, while it may have seemed to be a strange way of presenting the topic, my dad did the very best he could... but did we really need the chalkboard??

When he came to get me for "a few minutes" I could sense that we were about to have a very serious discussion... possibly regarding the decline of the dollar or about how the GDP affects inflation. Instead, he sat me in a chair in the middle of the room and brought out his chalkboard and pointer (again! The giggling!).

Due to his military training and a need to overcome his nerves my father started out with a quick roll call... "Spuds?" .... "Here, Sir!.... "Very good!"  After the quick roll call and a brief outline of what we were going to be discussing he handed me a Acknowledgement Form stating that I, indeed, understood the nature of the discussion that would ensue.

He began... he continued... he described... he wrapped it up... he asked for any questions...

I don't remember all of the details of what he said, but I remember thinking that I was missing Gilligan's Island.  I also remember that the circles, arrows and designs on the chalkboard resembled something you might see in a Dr. Seuss book. You know the one. The one that has Thing One using a submarine-looking-contraption to torpedo Thing Two's underwater lair.

Yup. I walked out of that room wondering where in the hell Dad had the submarine parked. Thank goodness for Three's Company on TV to fill in some details, or I would have remained clueless until Laurie gave me that little smooch behind the church when I was 12. I found where my submarine was parked!! Who knew!!!

I can't say that I did much better with my kids. None of us go into the speech with the intent that we are going to start stuttering uncontrollably and suddenly forget the child's name. But it happens!!

One father, who will remain anonymous, explained the "process" as a car full of people "going into and out of a garage." I am trying to avoid any speculation as to how the garage is in any way complimentary for his wife because my mind is like a vast open space when I try to find a good example. But then I do remember that the father drove a very small car to work. But I digress.

The explanation continued with the car going into and out of the garage until everyone in the car decided to get out. Then one of the people who jumped out of the car (I'm assuming he jumped or exited the car in some sort of thrusting motion) was then able to go into the house through the laundry room door. OH! And he locked the door behind him.

I'm guessing the other people just wandered around in the front yard or something.

But I'm left with the nagging question of who backed the car out of the garage if all the people got out? My friend wasn't able to remember if her dad ever covered that important piece of information. Maybe they just left the car in neutral and it found its own way out.

Did they shut the garage door??

A friend, who's mother is a teacher, decided on the odd tact of using props. My friend was watching the Smurfs when her mom called her to the dining room table where a banana, carrot, and bagel were modestly hidden under a papertowel. The bagel makes sense, and I'm thinking there must have been a reason the mom used both a carrot and a banana, but I can't, for the life of me figure it out. But then she may have been trying to teach variety. It is, they say, the spice of life.

There is always the parent who buys the Oprah recommended "Everything Your 7 Year Old Wanted To Know About Sex" book. I have a friend who found himself assaulted by this approach. Lured to the couch for "reading time" with two cups of creamy hot cocoa; the two curled up on the couch to read stories. Talk about a sneak attack! The poor kid didn't even have a chance to position himself comfortably on the couch before he was hearing words like penis and testicles and ERECTION! What the hell, mom?

The best part is that she left the book with him so that he could peruse it later at his leisure and then retreated quickly to the kitchen, avoiding the Q and A portion of the book completely! I saw a similiar scene happen at the zoo when the lion "feeder" (I don't know what his official title would be) opened the door to the lion's "den" and took a couple of steps in, saw the lion, threw the meat at the lion and ran out.

The sad part is that when we, as parents, are finally more comfortable about explaining sex to our children they will already have graduated college and have one or two of their own.

Dads and Their Boys... and Their Dads

Sometimes the quiet anonymity of the internet is surprisingly comforting. While, probably, no one will ever read this, I still get the "release" from having said it.

I've given these feelings their life and expression, as it were.

It's tough to explain. It's even more tough to understand.  Certainly mortality is an inevitability for all of us. And I'm sure all of us have contemplated if we would like to know the time of our departure... or not.

I'm thinking I would NOT like to know, but I can see how I might be persuaded otherwise.

I took my dad to the doctor to find out how his lab tests came back. The results were numbingly bad.

How do you sit and quietly listen to the doctor explain to you and your father that your dad has maybe two or three more years with you?

What are you supposed to say in the elevator on the way down to the van?

Or on the drive home?

How do you say, "I wish with all that I have that you didn't have to die, Dad!"?

Or do you have to?

My dad broke the uneasy silence on the ride home, "It's good to see the sun finally came out this weekend. You and the kids can have some fun outside today and we can have a burn pile... if you want."

"That sounds like fun! Let's stop and get the stuff for smores and some hot dogs."

We spend the rest of the ride talking about how I'm going to fix the broken truck with the brake leaks.

As we pull up the drive he points to the barn where we are going to be putting in the chicken coop, "You need to make sure you slope the ground enough so that the water doesn't pool up in the middle of the chickens roosting area."

"I'll make sure we get that done."

We are kicking that "can" down the road, I know... but I know that when the moment is right he will sit me down and tell me what he needs from me. Or maybe I will just know... I honestly have no idea.

I help my dad get his wheelchair out of the back of the van and watch him cruise around to the back of the house to inspect the work on the fence around the pool area and talk to the kids who are jumping on the trampoline.

I'm so honored to stand with my dad as he walks this final journey. I hope I can be strong for him when he needs me, but I worry that I may need his strength more as the times grow more rough, sounds selfish.. I know. I wish I could tell you the quiet greatness of my father. I wish you could hear his low and gravely voice as he grumbles out lullabies to his grandkids who nap on his chest when they come visit. (I inherited his grumble and growl) The way he calmly and quietly continues to lead the extending and growing family. He is a hero many times over.

I want to stand and fight this fight for my dad! I want to show him how strong his son has become and how I have become a man and how brave I am when standing against evil and bad men. But this adversary can't be fought for him. I can't walk this path FOR him.

I don't know what to do or say...

I feel like I should do or say something to him... but I think he knows. His hand on my shoulder as I helped him to the van told me he knew what I was thinking... I couldn't look at him...

I wish you didn't have to go, Dad.

I'm Finding that the Answers are Not So Easy to Find...

I think we all come into this world with  the same basic list of question in our pocket.  "Where do babies come from?", "Why is the sky blue?", "How does Aquafresh keep the colors separate all the way through the tube?"...

You know... basic questions for all of us... we all WANT to know!

The paths we travel determine any additional questions. For some, there are questions which will never be answered. Shaking angry fists at God isn't necessary, even though I once heard that, "It's okay to get mad at God when bad things happen... He can take it!" Unfortunately, when we are on life's journey and we pull the mini-van over and take the time and effort to shake our fists, it's our loved ones who seem to catch the brunt of our weaknesses and foibles and stumbling.

I'm finding that no matter how loudly we shout our queries to the heavens... we won't EVER get an answer to some questions.  At least not in this life.

But you have to ask yourself if finding the answer to every question is so important. Why bad things happen may not be nearly as important as what we do now that those bad things have happened. Explaining human suffering may not be as vital as finding ways to aid those who may be suffering. And, bemoaning the evil in the world may not be a helpful as standing up to that evil... no matter how scary it might be.

I saw a pretty serious accident the other day. I was right behind it when it happened. My oldest child was with me and after the crashing and spinning he shouted, "There are kids in the cars!"

Kids... Damn!

I turned around and looked at my son, "Stay RIGHT with me!! Don't wander off...do you understand me?" My 17 year old son nodded his understanding and I could see the nervous anticipation in his eyes as I made sure he had heard my instructions.

We drove past the first car on to the second car that looked as though it had sustained the most damage and we pulled the mini-van over. "Stay with me!" I repeated. "Watch out for traffic and STAY right behind me!"

"Yes sir!"

The entire front end was smashed to the point of looking as though it had been chopped off and the whole length of the driver's side was crushed into the car. Steam from the radiator was flowing back over the car and we could hear crying and moaning from inside the car as we approached. As we walked to up to the car we saw blood on the drivers face and an obviously broken wrist and arm.

Having started out in the military as a medic at the age of 17 and then becoming a special operator I had seen countless injuries and accidents in my decades of service. It all seemed familiar and I started going through the steps and motions of these situations and forgot that my son, who had never seen such things was right behind me.

I wrapped my scarf around drivers wrist and spoke to the driver and tried to keep her calm so that she would keep her head still. She was worried about her small child and I could see why the boy was crying. His child carseat had kept him from serious injury but there were little pieces of glass on his face and in his eyes. Without taking him out of his seat I spoke to him and the mother and gently flicked some of the glass from around the little boy's mouth and eyes.

The mom kept asking me what was going happen and if she and her baby would be ok and I just kept telling her that everything would be okay. She seemed to have sustained some injuries to her arm and maybe her ribs but she was breathing and not bleeding too badly.

By the time the ambulance and fire truck arrived the little boy had stopped crying and was pointing to the airplanes as they flew over and the mother had stopped crying as well. I almost tripped over my son as I backed away from the car when the ambulance crew took over. He had stayed RIGHT behind me the whole time. Watching me and listening to me.

We sat quietly for a few minutes in the van as we started home again.

"How did you know everything was going to be okay, Dad?  How do you walk up on a situation THAT scary and chaotic and within minutes start telling the woman everything is going to be okay?  How do you not freak out when you see that kind of stuff?"

It made me think!

Because in my experience I knew that the steamy fog from the radiator wasn't smoke, and that the little pieces of glass on the child's face LOOKED horrible but they were just superficial and that no matter the pain the woman was in she was breathing well and showed no signs of serious injury. Of course I was too slow to think of that answer on the spot while my son was asking, and I kind of mumbled..."I just... knew, I guess."

Do we NEED to know WHY? Do we need ALL of the answers? Isn't it enough to know that there are those who have gone down paths almost the same as yours, and they are telling you to just "hang on"... that it gets easier and that you will "be okay"? Isn't it enough to know that God may not give you all of the answers you seek but that He has told us, time and again that, "It will be okay!"? Do you really need to know "how" it will be okay?

You may not like where you're standing, but you're STANDING! Take an accounting of what you DO have. Get your bearings. Catch your breath. And then, when you feel less wobbly... let's get this mini-van back on the road and get to where we are going.

But keep your list of questions... maybe we CAN take it with us.

Operation Dos Marias (Two Marys) and a Half a Jesus

Two female pygmies (daughters) equals two potential Marys (Mother of Jesus) equals.... crying, fighting, more crying and a little bit of crying. Even fate couldn't predict the volatility of this situation. Being the "GIC" (Guy-in-Charge", pronounced GEEK) I needed to resolve this situation quickly as to avoid longterm emotional drama. This shouldn't be difficult... right? Incorrect!

Solution 1. Let's make it fair..."Who was Mary last year?" Well the older pygmy was Mary last year and she made the seemingly valid point that the younger pygmy was just too young to be Mary last year because she couldn't read the lines... SOOO we shouldn't count the fact that she was Mary last year. (Meanwhile Ramona, the younger pygmy, is pointing her finger at the older pygmy and saying that she is just a liar and MEAN! Not using her inside voice.)

Solution 2. "I am going to flip a coin." Seemed like an okay plan until older pygmy LOST! "In your FACE!" Came the shout from the younger female pygmy. This unprovoked attack on the older pygmy was met with immediate retaliation in the form of a shove and crying (loud crying with some strange language being yelled out while she cried. I will need to get in touch with a linguistics expert to try to piece that conversation together.) I found the speed at which the situation was moving to be somewhat ahead of my reaction time and before I could effectively intervene the smaller female pygmy started sing-songing "I'm Maaa-ry! I'm Maaa-ry!..." Which didn't seem very "Mary-ish", if you ask me, but then, I'm not a theologian. Maybe Mary was a little sassy... who really knows?

Desperation Solution 3. "FINE! You can both be Mary!" There was confused silence from the battling miniature females. BRIEF silence...  "DAAAAAD! Jesus can't have two mommies!!" came the reply from the smaller, yet more fiery, of the two foes, "That's not the way Jesus was borned!"

I was tired and a bit ornery and I promise I meant no deep disrespect to any religion or religious person by what came out of my mouth next, but when you have been listening to screaming and crying for thirty minutes straight you just get CRAZY! "Actually it is! That's why it was a miracle! Half a Jesus came from each Mary and they glued the whole Jesus together with superglue. That's why they called it a miracle..."!

(I know.... I'm SO going to hell.)

Stunned silence on two levels from both of the micro-sized female noise machines...

The older female just jutted her chin out at me and squinted a disgusted look at me while the younger and smallish female tilted her head to side and squinted in a "quizzical" way... I could tell she was contemplating the practicality of my sacrilege.  They both just walked away... still squinting.... but not YELLING!!

Mission Accomplished!

Quiet?... Calm?... I'll take Dull Roar and Low Simmer!!

It's only One in the afternoon and I've already retreated from the teeming masses into my Bunker/ Office/ Fortress of Solitude. I am finding out why Superman needed a Fortress of Solitude. Being the GIC (Guy-In-Charge, pronounced "GEEK") is a tough job. Let's see what we've got simmerin' so far today...

9- Adults
21- Children
4- Dogs
4- Cats
1- Turtle
1- Hamster (That I'm trying to keep hidden until Christmas)

I have two hams cooking in the BBQ Oven outside, three pumpkin pies in the downstairs oven and I'm trying to help children throw together some improvised "costumes" for the Nativity Scene this evening. I have pulled out ALL of my khaki green triangle bandages and pressure bandages for for their moulage (that means costumes for you civilian types) and I have had to confiscate my black grease paint three times! (The grease paint is designed NOT to come off and I don't relish the thought of 21 kids in "black-face" for the Christmas morning photos. Jesse Jackson would be protesting our house by New Years Eve!)

Now... I'm resting. I'm doing what any great commander would do and I'm allowing my troops a little R&R from the schedule of events I have printed for today. I'm finding that children need structure and motivation... but only to a point. Spontaneity and whimsy seem to be essential components for children... and for some adults, too.

I could tell I was becoming a little too "rigid" when my 7 yo female pygmy put her hands on her hips and told me that she was going to call Santa if I didn't let her "have some fun" today. The thought of being reported to the Big Man himself was only mildly annoying. But the thought of taking ANY of the wonder and fun of Christmas from the kids set me back a few steps. Not to mention it is supposed to produce severe storms tonight and we may lose electrical power.  So I am making my checklists for such an emergency.

We are already having to move all of the older kids from the big tents in the backyard and into the house. This is causing a logistical NIGHTMARE in my head. Order amid the chaos is a constant battle. I seem to be staying ahead of it... is it safe to say that??? People say I should knock on wood when I say things like that... huh? Fate and I have faced off more times than I can count and I can tell you that, thus far, fate is a wussy! That's right... I'm tempting fate... oooooooooh!

I just figure that with proper preparation and strategic planning even the worst that fate can throw at you can be handled and overcome. I sound boring now, don't I? ("Spud is such a planner! Such a 'worrying mother'!") Trust me! I've heard it ALL before... BUT those are the same people who thanked me later when the "balloon when up" and the shit hit the fan!

Soooo... I sit here like all of the great Military Leaders have done on such occasions and I am listening to the joy of sudden chaos, the elation of near calamity and the unbridled laughing of children as they do what children do best... be kids! And I must say... I may or may not have allowed a small smile on this grizzly old face as I too enjoy the revelry of the moment. Because, quite honestly... I can hear the wind picking up and can see the storm on the horizon.


Whine List Wednesday... Careful! It's Pretty Cheeeeezy!

Ok Ok Ok! Today kicked my butt!! HARD!!! (Got the broken nose to prove it!!!) I should have known it was going to be a bad day when I tempted fate and wrote the piece about calling the "wah-mbulance".  Karma kicked my ass!!!

So I get my nose broken (long story, but believe me, it was NOT in some glorious battle against evil). And while my nose may hurt like ever lovin' HELL... it looks pretty damn good! I think the "accident" may have actually straightened it a bit from the last time! Still damn good lookin' though!

Here's a good thing... oh but wait... hmmmm... not so much! Another stray cat adopted us. We are going to start looking like the "cat people" if we get more than 4 cats. I can't say as I BLAME the cats! They show up looking pretty skinny and rough and my kids have them fattened up in no time! What semi-intelligent creature wouldn't stick around? I'm just not a cat person. Cats are no respecter of personal space! They come up and rub on my legs all the time without me even calling or whistling to them. Of course, when I DO call or whistle to a cat, it seems to give me the "middle finger" look.

Did I mention I'm not a cat person??? We are at our "cat limit". Even though they are all outside cats, I find it very... uncomfortable... to walk into the garage in the morning to put my boots on and there are cats looking at me in very annoyed faces for turning on the lights. It's my house.... Dammit!!! (I do turn the lights off when I'm done though. Although I think that's just the good natured side of me showing.) 

Then my son comes home with the Expedition.... MY Expedition! He gets to drive MY Man Truck while I get stuck with the... mini-van (spit). And now he's broken it! I can tell it's broken when I see him driving less than 100 mph  up the gravel road that leads to our mile long gravel driveway. So I wait for him.... and wait... this is not good...

"Dad, there's something wrong with the truck!" And I can hear him shove the emergency brake down HARD to stop the truck. And I see my newly modified and customized "Snow White" (That's her name) lurch to a quick stop. "The brakes stopped working!"

I'm disturbed on two different levels here.  As a dad I'm DEEPLY disturbed that he chose to drive the vehicle home when he realized the brakes were NOT working. That's insane! Only a crazy person would drive a truck with no brakes all the way home from... wherever! Well, a crazy person or his father (don't say it!). Secondly, I'm DEEPLY pained by the fact that MY TRUCK is injured! I can feel it's pain as I caress the hood that I carefully repainted just the summer before.

I take a quick look under the truck and it looks like Alien vs Predator around the left front tire. The brake line was cut and there was OBVIOUS damage to the area around the axle. The rear wheel had the same "battle damage".

"Um son..." I'm doing awesome holding my tone in check at this point, "at any point today did you allow the driver's side of the truck to grind off of the road... maybe?"

"I was going to tell you about that, see what happened was..."

"I need you to go inside and watch your younger siblings... I'm going to need a moment."

"Yes sir"

Dollar signs are flying across my brain as I look at the different parts that will need to be replaced or reattached (which is good news because I get to use my new welding tools again! But I will relish those moments later!)

My nose hurt, my head hurt and my truck hurt! The trifecta of fatherly pain!!! And on top of it all... I hear the twins yelling as I approach the front door which someone has left open so that the four cats can sneak in... obviously. (Commence low grumbling growl)

Suddenly... in flash and a blur a giant cardboard box and filled with Ramona and Calvin came FLYING out the front door and off the front steps and then rolled into the front yard.

"HI DAD!!!" Ramona has no shame, after all! "We just slid down the inside steps and alllll the WAAAY out HERE!" Her little shaking hands were pointing out the trajectory of their flight off the front steps while Calvin tried sneaking around to the garage door...

This is going to be a long night... grrrrrrr.

Fireworks to the Groin and Other Stuff You Shouldn't Waste Your Time Reading... But You Will!

I buy crazy stuff sometimes.

I don't know why... if I knew why I wouldn't say I buy crazy stuff sometimes, now would I?

Not like the "Bi-Polar" crazy stuff, but stuff that just sounds fun because I may be a dad and all, but, hey, I'm still a dude!!!

I bought these really neat "champagne poppers" just after July 4th this year on the off chance that we could use them to celebrate the demise of the Healthcare Bill, not to mention that the dude sold me four 10 packs for a DOLLAR. (In my mind I went.. "boooooooo-yahhhhhh") but then the cheapskate in me blurted out "ninety cents and you gotta deal!" The dude gave me the strangest look as he handed me the bag of poppers and my ... um... my dime.

Stop laughing at me! It was the principle of the thing, not  JUST the ten cents that I put back into my pocket and then lost in the dryer! I just feel compelled to do that... my kids hate it!

But they loved it the other night when I pulled that "bag o' fun" out of the pantry above the stove from behind the clay chicken! Yup, I watched them eating their daditas (fajitas made by dad) and their faces looked like they were relishing a Linear Algebra class in college. Time to SHAKE THINGS UP!!! KING DAD!!! (Aren't those two words synonymous anyway?? I mean, come on!)  "YES! We get to shoot fireworks!!!" Calvin seemed a little TOO excited, which worried me.

"OK, since we really don't have anything to celebrate, except everyone making A's and B's at school, we will only shoot two each." That was me taking control of the situation, in case you missed it.  Yup, I am the designated GIC (pronounced GEEK), Guy In Charge.

So we all gathered on the back patio for our very informal celebration to everything trivial and mildly momentous. I remember all of us lining up in a semi-circle and me distributing the first champagne popper to every one.

It's important to point out that I've never actually detonated one of these small explosive devices. I was counting on my "Dad's Intuition" to guide me through this "seemingly" trivial matter of champagne poppers.

My detailed instructions were, "On the count of three we all just pull the string". 

"One... Two... THREE!"

All 7 of us suddenly had wads of paper confetti fired into our... well we got shot in our "groinal areas" because we all held the damn things upside down. Intuitively we held the small plastic bottle things in upright position. Which in hindsight does seem rather silly to think that a wad of paper could find its way out of that small opening, but hindsight and all being what it is...

I felt like General Custer watching the utter demise of all of my brave troops due to my own inexperience and not reading the instructions. Kids were doubling over all the way across the semi-circle... not really in pain because it was just paper after all, but in utter shock that something was exploding into their "stop playing with that" area.

Calvin, being the most dramatic, held his pose and looked up at me and utttered, with feigned agony, "Right in the jimmee!" and then with much relish and verve, rolled onto his back with his knees up.

Josh, my 15 year old, and the dry humor specialist of the group brought us back into the moment when he said, "hmm, not as spectacular as I thought but certainly exciting." His nonchalance was balanced by the small ribbons of paper still dangling to his "jimmee area".

We all laughed for at least...  well probably all of 2 or 3 minutes! Seriously, it was funny!

At this point we all sat down on the porch and I regailed them with stories of the insanely massive fireworks wars we would wage at the Boones house every New Year's Day. (Insanely dangerous now that I think about it, but we were indestructible.... right??)

The kids had fun laughing at stories about Dad as a kid and they shared funny stories about when they did something that seemed "cool" at first but turned out to just be fodder for a good laugh. 

Good times! It was well worth the 90 cents spent!

Santa... Just Another Old White Guy Exploiting the Little People

You know it's coming... it's just a matter of time at this point... sadly.

"Today here at the "not-so-bright-but-highly-offended" news programs we caught a glimpse the cases being filed against Mr. Santa Clause.  In fact, we are now joining a press conference by special-super-hero-lawyer Gloria All-Red. Here we see Ms. All-Red stepping up to the microphone stand at the press conference with an angry elvish man and his pregnant "little person" wife sniffling into a tissue. Let's listen in...

"Today I am announcing that I will be representing Ms. Anita Stayshort in her lawsuit against Mr. Santa, the fictional, Clause. We intend to show that Mr. Clause may provide a good job with excellent benefits, but that he requires the "little men" to work an hour or two extra during the busy hoiday season, leaving "stay-at-home" mommies to deal with actual "hobbit hole" issues. At times these "overtime hours" could extend as much as an hour and a half per WEEK.

"We want to preserve my client's dignity and we would ask that you wait for the made-for-TV mini-series on Lifetime Channel before you start casting judgement on this case.

"I will also be representing Mr. Rudulph "the red" Reindeer, who is suing Mr. Clause for some unspecified personal damages. Mr. RRNR has evidence that shows that Mr. Clause overlooked all safety precautions and allowed Mr. RRNR to "guide his sleigh" that foggy night WITHOUT waiting for proper insurance coverage or certificate of flight school training completion.  It was this lack of training and proper handling of paperwork that allowed my client to suffer irreparable emotional trauma and lingering effects to his self confidence because of the asterick being placed next to his record breaking statistics for that one night.

"We will also show that, previous to that Foggy Christmas Eve, Mr. Clause allowed a hostile work environment where "name calling" occurred at least twice as the reindeer gathered for their games. This name calling occured over a 2 year period. The other reindeer would, in fact refuse to play with my client, using names like "Dumbo". This name calling pushed my client to drop out of flight school and to fall into a "toxic relationship" with an un-licensed practicing dentist and his "gold digger" ex-lover." 

Cameras pan over to Mr. Red Nose Reindeer, "I can't just get those years back! Where is my compensation for these lost years, SANTA?"

I will be keeping an eye on this developing news story for you and let you know if the situation changes in this very volatile situation.  So check back with us as we follow this story for you, right here on this blog post.