What kind of second-rate planet IS this, anyway?

Just when I think my life can’t get any more weirder . . . I go home. Seriously. It’s not that something weird hasn’t happened, it’s that something weird hasn’t happened YET.

So here we were today, getting home a little late after I finished up an interview for a student’s podcast.

Before I go on, there’s something you should know. My son is big about worrying about the environment. He wants to invent a car that runs on a clean energy source, and thinks one that runs on carbon dioxide might be a good idea.

I used to think Captain Planet was pretty lame. But now, in hopes of avoiding being wished into the cornfield by some kind of new mind meld technology my son might invent, I'm going to say that the Captain and his gang are REALLY COOL!

I used to think Captain Planet was pretty lame. But now, in hopes of avoiding being wished into the cornfield by some kind of new mind meld technology my son might invent, I’m going to say that the Captain and his gang are REALLY COOL!

Hey, it works for me.

So today, my son and I arrived home, and my daughter was already there. I was feeling kind of brain tired (in other words, normal for me) when my son threw out this question:

“Do either of you even KNOW it’s Earth Day?”

Well, I knew it was because he’s been talking about it for what feels like the last 12 years, and he’s only 10 years old.

So being my normal smart ass self, I said, “Eh, I’m tired of this planet. I’m ready to get a new planet.”

I expected to hear some kind of complaint. Something like, Dad! We’ve got to take care of our planet. Or, Dad, we have to take care of what we have.

You know, I really thought I’d reached the point where there was nothing he could say that would surprise me anymore. I mean, I should be used to hearing odd things from members of our household. But I was wrong, when my son (who is also known as the second coming of Lex Luthor) followed my statement with this:

“Dad,” he said in a tone that indicated this was something I should have already known. “We can’t perform terraforming yet.”

Terraforming. Yet.

What the . . .

I had to stop and laugh for a minute. Then, like any competent dad, I pretended I knew what he was talking about.

I stealthily made my way to the computer so I could look it up. Terraforming: basically the process of trying to modify a planet similar to earth and make it habitable.


Are you kidding me? Where does he come up with this stuff?

So, I don’t mean to scare you or anything, but our generation is about to be followed by my son and like-minded kids. Kids who are up-to-date on what we need to start time travel. And understands what it will take to start terraforming, whatever the hell that might be.

So my advice, on Earth Day 2014, is take care of the planet we’ve got. Because if our kids are smart enough to understand these sophisticated advancements in science, I hate to think of what they might come up with for a simple plan of revenge against their parents.


Going back in time

My son hasn’t quite perfected that time machine that I’ve written about in the past, but the other day he did send me back in time. It seems that since he’s moved up to fourth grade and a new school, that Four Square is all the rage. He’s been talking about it for weeks, and in the back of my mind, I could vaguely remember playing that.

We now have our very own four square court.

We now have our very own four square court.

But then just a few days ago, he actually drew a four square court on our back patio, and then I remembered it clearly. It instantly took me back . . . to fourth grade. I think fourth grade was the last time I played the game. And then he got me out there to play four square for the first time in . . . gosh, I’m not sure I want to admit how many years. But it’s been a few. Isn’t it funny how doing something for the first time in a long time can take us back to another time in our life. And that’s what happened to me. There I was, back on the playground of my own elementary school, seeing kids I haven’t seen (or thought of) in years. People who will forever remain young in my memory.

Songs from that time instantly came back, like “Bennie and the Jets” and, who can forget, “Don’t Rock the Boat.”

TV shows I hadn’t seen in years came played briefly in my mind, and the lyrics to their theme songs, not heard in years, were instantly sung in my head. Shows like “WKRP” and “Welcome Back Kotter.”

It was a strange sensation to have all those memories come flooding back at once.

But another thing I had forgotten was how much fun the game was. My son and I played on our newly-installed four square court, and I had a blast.

And as we played, my son told me about some of the arguments that would come up during games at his school. And rules they had for playing. And different game formats.

And even though we were alone, I could almost hear the kids from my own playground years ago yelling. And arguing. Running. And laughing.

And above all, having fun.

No, it wasn’t quite a time machine my son built. But he took me back in time in a way that was just as powerful. And, with him as my copilot, even more enjoyable.

My son makes a BOLD announcement

I knew something big was coming.

It was an ordinary day at home, when my son came up to me and said, “Guess what?”

My son practices for his upcoming concert AND fights cavities - at the SAME TIME!!

My son practices for his upcoming concert AND fights cavities – at the SAME TIME!!

The announcement didn’t come with a lot of fanfare or the trumpets and pageantry of say the anointing of a new king. Or, even more rare, a win by the Arkansas Razorback football team.

But still, I knew something big was coming (or at least some material for a new blog post, and I wasn’t disappointed . . . )

“Guess what I can do,” my son asked proudly, a smile stretched across his face.

Hmmmmmm. The possibilities were unlimited . . .

Maybe he’s learned how to counterfeit money . . .

Or has taught himself the secret to brewing vodka at home . . .

Or maybe he’s finally figured out the power source for that time machine . . .

Heck, I’d be happy if he told me he had learned how to cook frozen dinners and operate the dishwasher.

But instead, I got this . . .

“I can play a song on my teeth using my toothbrush.”

(Cue sound of crickets chirping in the background.)

Oooooooohhh boy. Sigh . . .

Does David Letterman have a slot for Stupid Teeth Tricks? It could follow the Stupid Pet Trick.

I guess there was some merit to this. At least as much merit as there is in my ability to work jigsaw puzzles. Being able to work puzzles is a fun, exciting, and rewarding talent to have . . . until you realize there isn’t much of a market for Professional Puzzle Putter-Back-Togetherers. (I can see it now . . . Uh, excuse me, sir. I noticed you were having a little trouble getting that puzzle of yours back in shape. I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I can handle that job for you. I’ve got the Stephens’ 2,000-piece puzzle to finish up over the weekend, and then the Dunlevy’s have two 300-piecers, but I should be able to knock those out Monday morning. I should be able to fit you in Monday afternoon, and have your puzzle back to you no later than, say, Tuesday afternoon.) Besides, what would you even charge for something like that?

And if his first announcement wasn’t enough of a letdown, he followed it with this:

“But I can only play two songs.”

So, now what. Do I encourage this new-found skill? And if so, where would I start – enroll him in a music class or take him to a dentist?

I really wasn’t sure how to develop and nurture cutting-edge talent like this.

And finally, I got this . . .

“I can play ‘Take me out to the Ballgame’ and ‘Hark, the Herald Angel Sings.’”

Oh boy. This may be tougher than I thought.

But there is one consolation: we’ll be the biggest hit on the Christmas Party Tour.

AND, I expect a call from the Chicago Cubs ANY day. I think we’ve finally found a replacement for Harry Carry during the 7th inning stretch of all the games at Wrigley Field.



We should get married in a Subaru?

When you live at my house, you come to expect strange comments. Not that my kids intentionally say odd, off-the-wall stuff. So I’m usually not surprised at any eccentric remark that might escape the lips of my son. There is almost nothing he can say anymore that can surprise me. Almost nothing.

I guess it's only fitting that the kid who wears the Sharknado t-shirt (by choice, I might add), is also the kid who comes up with some, ahem, interesting questions.

I guess it’s only fitting that the kid who wears the Sharknado t-shirt (by choice, I might add), is also the kid who comes up with some, ahem, interesting questions.

But the other day, even I had to do a double-take when I heard my son say . . .

“Dad, don’t you think more people should get married in a Subaru?”

What the . . .

Not only did I not have a clue of what he was talking about. I didn’t even have an idea of what planet he was returning from.

I tried to remain calm, and kept in mind that the local mental health office was on speed dial. “What are you talking about?” I asked very cautiously.

And then he proceeded to explain. And, in his own 10-year-old way, it kinda, sorta made sense.

It turns out there’s a Subaru commercial that’s been on the air at some point in his life that talks about being in love with your car, or your cat, or some such thing. Anyway, he thought if Subaru put so much love into their cars, and IF people loved Subarus so much, then wouldn’t it make sense for people to get married in one.

Well, it made sense to him, anyway.

Now, you should know that I teach marketing, and I’m one of only about 48 people in the U.S. who actually watches commercials. (You know when you fast forward through commercials Which means my poor kids often have to suffer through all the ads as well.

Now I don’t want to go out on a limb here, but I’m thinking that maybe (just maybe) I’m subjecting him to a few too many ads.

So then he followed up the observation about wedded bliss in a Subaru with this question: other than a church, where would you like to get married?

Hmmmmm. That’s a good one. And here’s a question for you: where do you come UP with this stuff?!!

Well, I guess if I have to get married somewhere besides a church, a Subaru will work as well as the next place.

I’m just dreading the day when he asks me where I’d like to go on a honeymoon. And I’m hoping REAL hard he doesn’t suggest the backseat of that same Subaru.






Cancer – the monster that never sleeps

People have asked over the years what it was like to live with someone who has cancer. I’m never quite sure what to tell them, but I try to be as honest as I can, while also extending as much hope as I can.

But one thing I don’t think people realize about living with cancer (and I would imagine it’s the same with any terminal illness) is that it never sleeps. And it ‘s always hungry. hope

People see the person suffering from this terrible disease and they think of cancer as eating away at the victim. It’s true – it does do that.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Cancer, you see, eats away at everything in the house. It’s always present. And like a guest who won’t take a hint and leave, you often find yourself talking around it  . . . even though you know it’s still there.

It takes away your quality family time. It eats away at your finances. It makes you change the way you live your life from day-to-day.

It undermines you as a parent, because your kids can see how fragile life is. And how quickly it can be taken away. The words “It’s going to be ok,” usually fall way short of what’s needed to restore confidence and hope in life.

Intimate times? You may as well forget it. You don’t feel like doing much of anything. You might try a dinner out together, but the cancer invites itself along.

There’s no real peace as you fight an enemy that you can never truly see, but you always know is there. Cancer doesn’t fight fair, and it’s hard to fight something that keeps hiding from you, ducking and moving and avoiding attempts to defeat it.

It devours your home life and your finances. It even invades your mind, and creeps into your thoughts throughout every waking moment. And often into your dreams as well.

Some day there will be a cure for this terrible disease.

But what can we do now? It’s such a helpless feeling to know a friend or loved one who has cancer. You want to help, but anything you can offer to do seems to fall so short of being helpful.

But it’s not.

If you know someone who has cancer, give them a call or drop them a card in the mail Or better yet, drop by to see them. You may feel awkward because you don’t know what to say.

But that’s ok. Remember, they probably don’t know what to say either.

And while it won’t cure the disease, it will go a long way in helping your friend feel better.


It would be a shame for my son to eat a doughnut alone (or Everything I know I learned from Karate Kid)

I think it would be accurate for me to say that 73 percent of everything I know I learned from the movie Karate Kid. Not that new, fake Karate. But from the REAL thing, from the down-and-dirty Karate Kid movie of the 80s.

Hey! Somebody took a bite out of my doughnut. I better get a SECOND doughnut so I can enjoy the FULL sugar high.

Hey! Somebody took a bite out of my doughnut. I better get a SECOND doughnut so I can enjoy the FULL sugar high.

The rest of what I know I’ve learned through commercials (“Don’t squeeze the Charmin,” “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!! and if I drink Bud Light, I’ll soon have a covey of beautiful, scantily-clad women buzzing around me. Well, if I drink the beer, at least they’ll look beautiful.” I also learned plenty from reading the back of cereal packages, watching Breaking Bad and Brady Bunch, and, of course, from adult websites. (But I thought I was supposed to act that way on the first date.)

But most of my working knowledge comes from Karate Kid. Wax on; wax off! Sand the floor! Paint the fence! (I’ll never forget the first time I saw that movie in high school. On the way out of the theater, the friend I was with said he planned to start working on his house the next day . . . ) I found the handy man tips much more useful from a theoretical sense than any practical sense.

You see, I’m mechanically declined. I took a shop class in high school, and spent what seemed like most of my high school years (along with college, AND two years of post-graduate work) trying to saw a piece of wood at a 45 degree angle. Finally, the shop teacher came up to me and said (in his slow, southern drawl), “Maaaaaark. Ah think it’s time for us to mooove on to the next project.” (I have no recollection of what the next project was. We had any number of projects to complete that semester. I think I finished maybe like four and one-fourth of mine. Out of the goodness of his heart, and in hopes of never having me in class again, he gave me a B for the semester.)

But the biggest lesson I learned from the Karate Kid was balance. As Mr. Miyagi would say, “All life, must have balance.”

So that’s what I try to do – have balance in my life. And I try to apply it in all areas of my life. For instance, after teaching for an hour at work, it’s only right that I should sleep for an hour, right?

But more than anything, I try to have balance in my home life. For example, I try to balance exercise with a busy work and family life. I try to start each day with a run.

My ideal Saturday would be waking up early, and enjoying the sunrise while I’m on the road running. Or going to a race, and trying not to finish last. (I actually won a race recently. I won the Overall Male division. Of course, what it doesn’t say on the trophy was that I was one of only three guys in the race. Or that I was beaten by a woman. Or two . . . But hey, I WON THE RACE! I’ll probably never have the opportunity to say that again.)

However, my ideal Saturday morning is in complete contrast with my son’s. His perfect weekend would be to wake up and have a doughnut. A scrumptious, warm, fluffy, chocolate-filled concoction. Not that I would want one, of course.

Now, if I was a parent with no skillz, I might flub this all up. But as usual, when I’m not sure what to do (and I can’t think of a tv ad that will offer a solution) I go to my fall back. What would Mr. Miyagi do? (I need a wrist band – WWMMD?)

And I know exactly what he would do, and it wouldn’t involve catching a fly with chopsticks. He would advocate BALANCE. cobra kai

So that’s what I’ve fallen into embracing: balance. I still go for my Saturday morning run, but then I stop by the doughnut shop.

It’s not that I like doughnuts or anything. I especially don’t like the jelly-filled ones with all that tasty raspberry or strawberry or blueberry or apple filling in them. But my son loves our Doughnut Days together. And I wouldn’t want to disappoint him.

Or Mr, Miyagi.

Besides, who knows when one of the thugs from the Cobra Kai dogo might be lurking around, making any potential meal I have my last. And if it’s going to be my last meal, I wouldn’t mind it being with my son.

Even if it means I have to make a personal sacrifice and eat a doughnut. Or two.

They’re all easy, if . . .

As a college instructor, there’s one question I hear on a regular basis. And no, it’s not “Can we get out early today?” (ok, so maybe there are TWO questions I hear a lot.)

Every time I get ready to give a test, a student (sometimes two. Or three. Often a dozen or more) will ask “Is the test easy?”

And instead of just laughing maniacally, or responding with one of my many stock smart aleck remarks. millionaire 1

Instead, I tell them a story. I think most of them roll their eyes or have no idea what I’m talking about. Or, more than likely, immediately tune me out. (They never tune me out when I tell them about how I like to eat cinnamon rolls when someone throws up. But who can figure what will capture the attention of today’s college student?)

The story I tell them is this. When my daughter was younger, we would often watch the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. At this point, I usually lower my voice and try to take on the Regis Philbin persona. But instead, I think I probably sound more like Monty Python’s Michael Palin doing his imitation of a cheesy announcer.

My daughter was pretty good at answering the questions. I don’t think I ever told her (so please keep this quiet), but I think she was much better at it than me. And that’s when she was like eight years old.

However, no matter which question she answered, whether it was the $100 question or the $500,000 question, if she knew the answer, she would always say, “Yeah, but that one was easy. Every one knows that.”

And I would always say, “If you know the answer, they’re all easy.”

And that’s what I tell my students – if you know the answer, they’re all easy.

If the students are still paying attention by this point, they’re either regretting their decision or on the verge of trying to escape through an open window.

Or, if they were unfortunate enough to have made it all the way through, they realize then that either A) the test isn’t easy, or B) they don’t know the answers.

But isn’t this true – not just for taking a test or trying to take home millions of dollars on a game show, but also in life.

If we can do something, we think it must be easy. Or everyone can do this. Instead, we should acknowledge our talents. Embrace them.

That’s what I tried to do for my daughter – let her know that no, not everyone can answer that question.

I don’t know if she ever listened to me. But it’s given me a story to tell that college students are learning to dread.