Oh Boy! I’m Almost Old Enough to Shave Everyday!!

Ok. I know last year’s birthday was a bit of a letdown. As you may remember, I was hoping to either have singer Sade sing Happy Birthday to me. Or I was hoping for a date with Sheryl Crow.

And while neither has indicated if she will be able to make this year’s party, I’m really not worried about it. Because this year I don’t need any validation from celebrities.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing for my 50th birthday this year. But if I can't land a date with Sheryl Crow or Sade (both are still a solid maybe at the moment), then I'm sure I'll be having fun with my kids.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing for my 50th birthday this year. But if I can’t land a date with Sheryl Crow or Sade (both are still a solid maybe at the moment), then I’m sure I’ll be having fun with my kids.

You see, this year’s birthday is a big un. It’s the big 5-0.

Yep. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

And what’s really exciting for me is that I think this birthday will finally marshal in my final growth spurt.

You see, I’m not a real big guy. So I’m hoping to add a few inches, and I want to add them VERTICALLY.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. When you get to be a geezer as old as I am, then I should probably just be happy to have all of my parts still working (well, most of them. A few need a little oiling from time to time).

And not only that, but I think I’m finally about to BECOME A MAN!

Again, I know it’s hard to believe, but I think I’m finally almost old enough to shave EVERYDAY. Now THAT’S exciting.

You see, not only am I not a real big person, I’m not a real hairy person, either. Some of you guys may remember back in our school days, the guys who were shaving by like fifth grade. And I remember thinking, it will be so cool when I can shave every day. Or NOT, and grow a cool beard or something.

Well, I’m still waiting for that day.

So you might be wondering where all my optimism is coming from. Well, there have been some signs.

Like for instance, I was counting my chest hairs the other day, and I noticed I was up to EIGHT! (I thought it was nine, but one of them turned out to be a crumb from a Hostess Ding Dong I had eaten earlier in the day. Darn! SO CLOSE!!)

Also, in the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve had to increase the number of times I shave from just one time a week to THREE WHOLE TIMES. A week!

Ok, so I admit it’s no taking Sheryl out for a good time (hint, hint) and it falls a little short of having Sade croon over me while I’m blowing out birthday candles.

But shaving everyday is something to hand my hope on. And that’s always important – especially when you’re still a growing boy.

 

The Girlfriend With No Name

Dating has changed a lot for me this second time around.

The first time I was single, I was young, geeky, and didn’t have any money.

Now, in my second act of dating, I’m old(er), still geeky (maybe geekier – if that’s possible) , have kids, and still don’t have any money.

The guy on the left has no trouble attracting women. The guy on the right? Weeeelllllll . . . that's a different story.

The guy on the left has no trouble attracting women. The guy on the right? Weeeelllllll . . . that’s a different story.

Ok, so maybe not much has changed, with me anyway. But the dating itself is waaaaay different. I’ve thought many times about writing a blog post chronicling all my dating adventures, but I value my life just a little too much for that post to see the light of day. So what I’m going to do is write it . . . then save it. I’m going to leave instructions to publish it after my death.

You’ll want to stay tuned for that one. Some of the stories I could tell . . . Of course, I’m sure the stories I tell would pale in comparison to the stories my dates could tell about me . . . That’s what’s really scary.

First you need to know, I don’t have good luck with dating. What kind of luck do I have? I have this kind: someone set me up on a blind date once. But once we met she didn’t want to go out with me anymore because I looked too much like her brother. What are the chances? Anyway, that’s the kind of dating luck I have.

And it’s all so different now. Back when I was in college it was simple. I would see a girl I like, ask her out, and she could turn me down right there on the spot. Clean and simple.

But NOW, now we’ve got online dating and texting and emailing and Facebooking and who knows what else. And there are rules to using ALL of these when you’re dating. There’s only one problem: NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THOSE RULES ARE!

If you were to go throughout the world seeking the answer, maybe even climb one of those mountain to visit with one of those wise men, there would probably be an “Out to Lunch” sign waiting for you. Because even THOSE guys don’t know the answer.

And while I’ve met several very nice ladies through online dating, I’ve also had my share of . . . ummmmmm, not so nice ladies.

And sometimes I get myself in trouble without even trying.

For instance, one time I met someone on-line and we started seeing each other. Things were going pretty well. But there was just one itty bitty problem: I never knew her last name.

I know what you’re thinking – how do you go out with someone and not know their name? I asked myself that several times. Maybe (possibly, probably) she told me early on. But I really couldn’t remember.

And really, how do you ask someone their name after you’ve been out a few times. I mean, when she’s telling you how she feels about you, it just doesn’t seem quite appropriate to answer with “By the way, what’s your last name?”

It was like the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry didn’t know the name of the woman he was dating. Only now, this was really happening!

So what I thought I’d do was, I thought I’d try to find her on Facebook. She lived in a nearby town, so I figured we had some mutual friends. I could type in her first name and . . . PRESTO! Hers would be one of the names that would pop up.

Uh-Uh. Wasn’t happening. Just my luck. There are maybe nine people in the western hemisphere who don’t have a Facebook account, and I happened to be dating one of them.

So then I was left with the option of either just admitting I didn’t know what her last name was, or just moving on.

It turned out I didn’t have to do either. She moved on.

I always wondered if she knew that I didn’t know her name. But then I thought, maybe she didn’t know my name either.

But probably she did. Probably she knew my name AND a few other things. And if I had to guess, she’s working on a blog post about me right now . . .

My son proposes a change to the Constitution

It’s not often that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution can be proposed that is endorsed by almost everyone, but I think my son may be on the right track

It all started the other day when my son exclaimed, “That should be against the law!” constitution

I immediately FROZE! I wasn’t sure what I had been doing, but it couldn’t have been good.

“I can’t believe they’re doing that,” he said.

Oh, it’s not anything I’m doing. Whew!

Ok, I was in the clear. But now, like is often the case, I was (how can I put this nicely) a bit clueless as to what my son was talking about.

So, I slowly dipped my toe in to test the water.

Ummmm, I’m not sure what you mean.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to do that. It should be against the law,” he stressed while looking at the TV.

My son - boogieboarding fiend by day, political activist by night - after I fall asleep, that is.

My son – boogieboarding fiend by day, political activist by night – after I fall asleep, that is.

I glanced over. It looked harmless enough. Some kids on a commercial, exchanging ideas and thoughts on issues of the day I was sure. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what they were selling.

It turns out the commercial was for some back-to-school clothes or some such thing. Only, it’s still over a month before school starts. And therein lay the problem – as far as my son was concerned anyway.

“No one should be allowed to advertise school stuff before August,” he proclaimed.

In retrospect, I probably should have let it dropped there. To categorize it as the ranting of a kid who doesn’t want to go back to school.

Simple nuf.

But the slightest mention of advertising brought out the marketing side of me, which is never a pretty picture.

Well, I began, companies want to get their name out there first, get customers thinking about this, blah, blah, blah. And companies have the right to advertise stuff when they want to (insert more blah here).

“Well,” he declared, “there should be a change in the constitution.”

What do you mean?

“It should say in the constitution that no one is allowed to advertise anything for school until August. It’s not fair!”

And there you have it. For over 200 years, the U.S. Constitution has been a symbol of high ideals and democracy. It is made up of rights that we feel are invaluable to our citizens, like the freedom of speech and to drink beer and sleep late. And now my son wants to add the next important amendment – no commercials about school stuff until after the last day of July.

Well, actually it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. In fact, I’m sure most folks would not only be in favor of adopting that idea, but would be up for an amendment that took out ALL advertising.

Hey, maybe this kid is a little more tuned in to public opinion than I ever imagined.

I’d probably be all for no TV ads, too. Except, as I learned through watching the World Cup, I need a bathroom break from time to time. And a chance to finish doing whatever it is I was doing before my son almost caught me . . .

 

Saying thank you while signing books

My first book has been an exciting time for me. Both confidence-building and humbling at the same time. It has been a true honor and blessing.

I still find myself surprised, and even somewhat shocked, that people even want to read my book, a book that relays some stories over the past year as well as the journey that has brought me to this point in my life.

My kids have been hugely inspirational both in my writing and my life.

My kids have been hugely inspirational both in my writing and my life.

But I’m even more surprised that people want me to sign their books for them. Not only do I appreciate the request, but I feel very humbled at the same time.

And, as a writer and speaker, words fail me. It’s the first time that I can remember not know what to say.

I want to say something like “Thank you so much for buying and reading my book. I wish I could be there with you while you read it, and we could discuss it afterwards. I wish there was some way I could repay you for this.”

But that runs just a tad on the wordy side.

I do, however, want to thank people for the unique roles they have played in helping me in my life. But again, how I can say that in just a few words?

It just doesn’t work.

How, in just a few words, do I tell my mom or mother-in-law thank you for all the help and support over the years. Or my sister, or other family members.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from former neighbors, and my few short words written in the front of their book falls way short of thanking them for helping me survive a terrible time in my life.

Colleagues at work think I’ve done something special. Only they don’t realize that they’re the ones who have done something special in helping me stay optimistic and focused on the good things in my life.

I’ve heard from friends and people I knew while I was in high school. How do I put into words the thanks I felt when that person helped me through a difficult time, and probably didn’t even know he was doing it.

How do I thank my publisher, Raburn Publilshing? And friends from church, and friends from town have been both encouraging and supportive How do I thank them all? And the list goes on . . .

When words are your life – either in front of a classroom, in an ad, or on a printed (or web) page – it’s a helpless feeling when you don’t know what to say.

There are so many people to thank, people who have helped me get where I am today. People who have helped at times when I needed it most – even though they didn’t know it.

And how do I thank my kids. My son and my daughter obviously didn’t buy a book (not at full price, anyway – I gave them each a nice discount), but they have helped me each and everyday to remember what’s important in life.

I just want to thank each of you for the help and support over the years. And I look forward to the journey that lies ahead.

 

 

Vacation turns into Question-cation

It was nice to get away from the grind of being off from teaching this summer by taking a vacation. However, if you’re familiar with my blog, you know there’s s no vacation from the questions my son demands the answers. to.

We spent a week in Alabama, visiting family and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Orange Beach.

Here is a sampling of the questions my son had on his mind during the trip. Along with the answers I (mostly) wish I could have given.

“Do you want to walk around the lake?” Ummmm, are you kidding. It’s over 900 degrees outside!

My son, looking out at the lake that we walked around while talking every morning.

My son, looking out at the lake that we walked around while talking every morning.

“Do you want to play football.” Ummm, it’s still 900 degrees . . .

“Do you think the U.S. will win the soccer game?” Of course!

“Does the hotel have a hurricane shelter?” It really doesn’t matter, because if there’s even the slightest hint of a hurricane, I’m going to be back home sitting in my chair before the wind even picks up.

“Can we go for a walk around the lake?” Son, my first microwave oven didn’t get as hot as it is outside.

“Can I get inside one of the water walker balls?” Sure! Sounds fun!!

“Is there air inside it?” Ummmm, if not, we’ll punch some air holes in it.

“Do you think I’d be a good college professor?” Yes! Of course! You should ABSOLUTELY consider doing that.

“Do college professors make much money?” Ummmmmmmm. Weeeeelllllll . . .

“Do you want to walk around the lake?” Son, it’s not only hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, you could boil one, too.

“Is that a comet in the sky?” No, that’s just an airplane.

“Is that a comet? No, that’s just part of the fireworks.”

“What would we do if it was a comet?” Well, that could be a slight problem.

“Can we go boogie boarding?” Son, I’ve seen more waves when you take a bath.

“Do you want to walk around the lake?” Ok, I said, finally giving in. Let’s go, I said with a smile.

Then, without missing a beat . . .

“Can we go around the lake two times?”

It could be worse. We could run out of gas. Oh wait . . .

There’s not much better than going on vacation.

And there’s not much worse than the drive home from a vacation.

But that’s where we found ourselves on Saturday. But we were determined to make a good day out of it. By we, I mean my daughter, my niece, and me. We were leaving Orange Beach on the Gulf in Alabama. Sure it was a long drive – about seven hours – but we weren’t in a hurry. In fact, we planned to stop somewhere and watch the World Cup game between Argentina and Belgium. We could go at our own leisurely pace . . .

Sharkey was a good travel companion. He was quiet. Well, he was quiet most of the way.

Sharkey was a good travel companion. He was quiet. Well, he was quiet most of the way.

Little did I know . . .

After about two hours, I had traveled about a block and a half from the condo. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it felt like it. Traffic was bumper to bumper all the way to Mobile.

Now, at this point, you might need to know something about me – I have a GPS. And in the past, I would have checked the map to have at least an idea of where I was going, this time I had none.

We had initially planned to leave the condo early, then stop some where like Hattiesburg, Miss., for lunch and the second half of the World Cup game. So as we were driving by Mobile on the interstate, we were discussing whether or not to take the exit our GPS (I think she is a cousin to Siri on the I-phone) wanted us to take, or drive ahead on the Interstate and look for a place to eat.

Interstate = non-moving traffic. The exit offered us sweet freedom, an open gateway to a smooth trip and easy driving. Well, for a couple of minutes.

Before long, Siri’s cousin had us driving on what felt like the back streets of Mobile. The sad part was we knew where we were, but we didn’t know how to un-get from where we were. In fact, we weren’t even sure if you could even get to our house from Mobile.

At some point in time, we did escape from the clutches of the city of Mobile. And then we were on the road. Running smooth and steady. There was only one problem . . .

We had already missed all of the game. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right?  So we decided to pick up just a bite of something then, and we’d stop in either Jackson, Miss., or Monroe, La., for supper, and watch the SECOND World Cup game of the day. I saw that if we timed it just right, we could get to Monroe just in time for the second half of the game.

If I timed it right, and sped for about the next two hours. But I figured it was a holiday weekend; don’t the police get those days off, too . . .

Anyway, I’m cruising along, jamming to my I-pod, my daughter is desperately searching for a place for us to eat and see the World Cup, and my niece is desperately hoping I’ll stop somewhere – ANYWHERE – that has a bathroom.

So as we’re entering Monroe, we’re looking on both sides of the Interstate to see if we can find a place to eat. And it’s at that exact moment that I look down and notice my gas light is on. And I’m not sure how long it’s been on.

Uh-oh,

And the first thing I think is, why can’t I ever run out of gas on a date. But then I realize, and say almost at the same time, it’s a good thing that we’re stopping soon because I’m about to run out of gas.

And it was at THAT exact moment that traffic around us came to a complete stop, for what turned out to be an overturned Fed Ex truck waaaaaay on up ahead.

So there we were, stuck in traffic, no way to move,  me worried about running out of gas, my daughter worried about running out of time to see the World Cup, and my niece just worried about stuff running out.

My daughter said maybe we should turn off the air conditioner to conserve gas. I told her I would just as soon walk to a gas station as I had to sit in a hot car.

We didn’t run out of gas. We did finally make it to an exit that had a Chili’s restaurant.

And you’ll be happy to know that we stopped to watch the World Cup and eat first. After all, we do have our priorities straight.

 

I’ll Have a World Cup To Go, Please

As I’ve said before, our family loves the World Cup. My daughter got us started during the 2006 tournament. Now we look forward to it each and every four years.

And this year was no exception.

However, when the sporting event you love takes place during the summer, sometimes, you have to check schedules, coordinate travel, be willing to travel at 2:30 in the morning, and let your 10-year old son drive on the interstate.

The staff at Applebee's in Brandon, Miss, was kind enough to let us get our World Cup fix while eating . . . and not throwing us out for cheering too loud.

The staff at Applebee’s in Brandon, Miss, was kind enough to let us get our World Cup fix while eating . . . and not throwing us out for cheering too loud.

Well, I may be exaggerating a little bit. We never left a minute before 3 a.m.! I figure at that time there won’t be nearly as much traffic for my son to maneuver around. And through. And over . . .

This year’s edition of the World Cup has been very entertaining. We cheered wildly during the U.S. win over Ghana. Then we cheered on the U.S. win over Portugal . . . until our cheers turned to disbelief in the final minute of the game.

But then the group play was over and it was time . . . for us to take a trip.

Ahhhhhh! How can we travel during the World Cup? It turns out it’s easy – if you meticulously study both the tournament bracket schedule, your travel plans, and consult a Magic 8 Ball.

The first game of the Knockout round was on Saturday with Brazil and Chile, and it was a game we really wanted to see.

So we knew if we left at a certain time, we could hit Jackson, Mississippi, at just the right time to eat lunch and watch the second half.

Our timing was almost perfect. Almost. As we passed through Jackson, we didn’t see a place to eat.

Uh-oh.

But we did find an Applebee’s in the city just past Jackson. In fact, it was so close, that I thought we might still be in Jackson.

As we entered Applebee’s, the hostess asked us if we wanted a booth or a table. Our reply was one she had probably never heard before – we want to sit somewhere so we can see the World Cup.

I have to hand it to this particular Applebee’s. Every one of their chain establishments is housed with a number of TVs. However, the serving staff went out of their way. They found a table right next to a big TV, turned to the channel we wanted, and let us watch to our heart’s content.

I’m sure customers are accustomed to hearing people cheer for Ole Miss football or Mississippi State football. But this is probably the first time they have ever heard someone like my daughter Oooooo and Ahhhhh over ever close play in a soccer match.

As it turned out, a middle-age couple sat next to us, and they were big soccer fans too. We struck up a conversation and cheered the game on together. As the game approached penalty kicks to determine the winner, the wife informed us that their son had also played soccer. And that she hated penalty kicks because her son was always one of the last to take a kick. And usually the game, to win or lose, rested on his foot.

And I was reminded again of what it must be like to be the parent of a kicker for a college team. I can’t imagine my son being the object of either instant glory or historical hatred, all depending on whether he makes a field goal.

We loved the colors of the crowd in the Brazil- Chile match, where the fans wore bright yellow to support their home Brazil team.

We loved the colors of the crowd in the Brazil-
Chile match, where the fans wore bright yellow to support their home Brazil team.

And our group talked of what we would do on the way back. After all, if the U.S. won, we would need to stop somewhere to watch the game. I suggested we could stop here again, although I didn’t really know where we were.

“We’re in Brandon, Mississippi,” my daughter said laughing, while pointing with her thumb like a hitch hiker toward a mural on the wall behind her. The mural featured a number of sporting scenes with the word “Brandon” printed in large letters. I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought Brandon was the name of the football player above the words. Then I realized it was the name of the local high school, which was also the name of town.

“Oh yeah, I knew that,” I said casually.

Staying with family in Alabama, we found some time each day to watch World Cup games, some better than others. Of course, we all had marked the calendar for Tuesday afternoon’s game featuring the U.S. and Belgium. We would ALL watch that one.

As we kept awaiting the start of the U.S. game, my aunt asked why they needed an hour-long pregame for a soccer match. I told her this game was just like an Alabama football game, only not quite as big.

Ahhhhhhh, she said. Now I understand.

A large group of us gathered around the TV and cheered and sat on the edge of our seats as the U.S. fell just short of advancing to the quarterfinals.

It was a disappointing loss. But it was a great experience with family and friends. It wasn’t quite college football (where we’ve spent a week together eating and watching bowl games together) but it was just as much fun to me.

Even though the United States isn’t playing anymore, my kids and I are looking forward to watching the rest of the games in this tournament. And I’m sure we’ll get some strange looks as in Appleby’s once again, this time as we cheer on Germany and Argentina.

And we’ll start counting down the days until the U.S. plays in its next World Cup . . . in just four years.