The promise of a gift

A couple of weeks ago, my son asked me for the first time this year, “Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?” fathers day gift

Simple enough. And like many of you (for Father’s or Mother’s Day), I hadn’t given it any thought, and I really didn’t have any idea. In fact, there was nothing that I really wanted.

But over the next several days, the question would pop up again. And sometimes my son would provide possibilities. He knows I like bad movies, so it wasn’t a surprise when he asked, “Dad, how about Karate Kid 3? Would you like that for Father’s Day?” Yes, that is one we’ve talked about getting.

“Or how about . . .” and you can fill in the blank.

But it’s really hard to know what to want on a made up holiday, especially when I’m not even sure what it is we’re celebrating. Is it a celebration of me being their dad? Is it a chance to honor me, give me a special day? Or should it be a time to honor us as a family, do something together?

Or maybe I should look at it as an honor just to be a father. To have great kids. Talented kids. Kids who are so similar, yet so completely different. With different abilities and characteristics. Different strengths and weaknesses. Different hopes and dreams. And to have kids who are healthy.

Maybe it’s a day that celebrates both – that honors the father and the family.

Then a couple of days ago, we were talking when a completely new topic came up. “Dad, if you ever need to, you can live with me.”

I was taken aback. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“You know, when you’re older. If you need to, you can live with me. For as long as you like. And I’ll take care of you.”

My son didn’t realize it, but he had just given me the best Father’s Day gift I could ever receive. One that I would remember for always. One that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I had done a couple of things right along this parenting road.

Sure, I’m still looking forward to a bad movie to add to my collection. But the promise of a gift I may never need will be what I remember most from this Father’s Day.

The Girlfriend Handbook, Part 2 – 10 first date questions answered!

(It’s probably best if you read this first sentence with a very smooth, sexy voice. Think Barry White. Or even me – that is if you can imagine me having a sexy voice.) All right, ladies. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The second installment of my Girlfriend Handbook.

As you can tell, I take every question on a date seriously. And I put some serious thinkin' into just the right answer.

As you can tell, I take every question on a date seriously. And I put some serious thinkin’ into just the right answer.

If you’re a regular reader, then you might remember my post from last summer, in which I mentioned the main benefit of having a blog as a single person. I found that by having a blog, I was able to avoid getting bogged down in all the questions that are so typical of a first date. Or second date. Or a relationship. Questions like, why does your son think hushpuppies are a fish? That’s easy, I say. You can read my very NORMAL son, his thoughts on eating fish and how I’ve got this parenting thing going on right here!

Or if a woman were to ask this very typical question: “What’s your son’s least favorite part of the show Davey and Goliath?” Again, I’m ALL prepared, and I save a ton of time simply directing her smart phone to this post.

And if a woman asks me, as she inevitably does, “Have you ever dated a woman who’s name you didn’t know.” Again. Easy-peasy! And presto! I show her this post of the woman I dated for several weeks without ever knowing her last name.

See how it works? Great right? And best of all, by bypassing all the chit chat and getting-to-know-ya stuff that’s so common in dating, we can move right on to the important stuff, like smooching and sex and all. Then after that 86 seconds is over, we can move on to even more good stuff, like watching NASCAR or discussing the latest in literature (Green Eggs and Ham is new, right? Well, I guess new to me will have to work).

But what I discovered, and it still holds true today, is that I can’t possibly answer all the potential questions that might pop up during a date. So again, in an effort to be efficient and avoid having to have an actual conversation on a date, here are many typical date questions and my answers. And again (insert Barry White voice here again) ladies, I’m only thinking about your needs here.

1. “Do you think you’re a good parent?” Certainly. I haven’t killed off either one of my kids. In fact, I haven’t even sold one or the other for adoption. Although I have been checking out prices on that adoption thing . . .

2. “Are you a good listener?” Of course. And I could listen to the TV a lot better without all the questions.

3. “Do you practice good personal hygiene?” Yes, but I don’t wash my belly button. That way in case I ever pass out and no one knows who I am, I’m hoping doctors will be able to perform some archaeological-type of test and discover how old I am.

4. “Do you keep your house clean?” Well, how do you expect me to do that? I have to do something with all that dirt I’m getting off of me!

5. “Do you make sure your kids stay clean.” Yes. And I’m proud to say my son learned everything he knows about staying clean from our cat.

6. “Do you know how to cook?” Of course I can! What kind of stupid man do you think I am. I can cook both Banquet and Lean Cuisine dinners!!

7. “What kind of car do you drive?” Well, imagine a Porsche. Now, imagine what a Porsche would look like if it were a bicycle . . .

8. “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I’m not sure . . . what night of the week is that on?

9. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I just hope I can stay the same thoughtful, considerate person I’ve always been.

10. “What’s your favorite TV show?” Why, Grey’s Anatomy, of course! (Shhhhh. It’s not really Grey’s, but I have to give them something. Afterall, if you want a good relationship, you have to put the other person first!)

 

 

Tonight on “It’s Just Nature” . . .

(You should read the following with an Australian accent. Oh, and pretend you’re wearing one of those really cool safari hats. I promise not to tell anyone)

G’day everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of It’s Just Nature. As we do every week, we’ll be journeying to some of THE most remote locations on the planet. Tonight’s episode includes a trip to a place seldom ventured. A land of danger and INtrigue. Tonight, we’ll take an exclusive look at the uninhibited world of a bachelor. A HUMAN bachelor.

As always, I want to remind you that the images you are about to see have NOT been edited or altered nor has the house been cleaned). Some viewers might find the following images and documentary shocking and disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

So come with me now as we venture . . .inside the habitat of the human bachelor . . .

Ahhhhh. Here we are now . . .We’ve chosen a rather unusual subject for our Programme. As we slowly make our way into the living quarters of the Human Bachelor, we see that he has two young cubs that he is raising. As you can see, they are learning at an early age what it’s like to live in the wild.

As we venture deeper into the living quarters, we see that the Human Bachelor is foraging for food for he and his young. After a hard day out on the plains, we see that the male was in fact able to make a kill today. On close look, it appears that he has brought down an elusive batch of spaghetti noodles, and now prepares the kill for he and his brood to ravage.

Although often difficult to pho-TOW-graph, our film crew was able to capture these rare photos.

Although often difficult to pho-TOW-graph, our film crew was able to capture these rare photos.

(You are still using the Australian accent, right?) As we see in this exCLUsive photo, the male is stirring what appears to be a sauce of some kind, which we can only assume he’ll use to entice his young cubs to eat the otherwise tasteless prey he’s prepared.

Now, after the Male Bachelor and his young female cub feasted on tonight’s kill (with nothing left by the gnawed bones of the once proud spaghetti), we’ll venture near the pack’s watering hole where we find . . . Wait! What’s this?!! It appears that these creatures, much like the more domesticated house cat, are CLEANING the very utensils they used for the feeding frenzy. But unlike a cat, they’re not using their tongues. Perhaps these creatures are not quite the sloths we imagined when we began our journey.

But there’s still a lingering question, a piece of the puzzle that is still missing. Namely this: where is the young male cub. He wasn’t taking part in the carnage. Where could he be.

We found the female cub using her skills to wash away the remnants of the night's kill.

We found the female cub using her skills to wash away the remnants of the night’s kill.

Slowly, (ominous music begins in background) oh so sloooowly, we make our way down through the darkness to his nesting area where we find . . . (ominous music turns into a light, whimsical ballad) the young cub napping after a hard day of play. Oooops, it appears we may have awakened the young cub from his slumber.

It looks now like the young cub will soon be alert and ready to prowl as the sun makes its way below the horizon. Is he nocturnal? After several weeks of observation, it appeared that in fact, he was NOT nocturnal. So we can only assume that this daytime nap was not a part of his usual routine.

We spent several weeks of grueling research, surviving on  our wits and whatever we could find in this broods refrigerator. But much of what we saw was typical of the evening you’ve just witnessed from the safety of your home.

We hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s episode. Join us next week on “It’s Just Nature” as we take a bold look at how Pop Tarts are harvested in the wild.

We found the young male cub sleeping lightly, a wise strategy in the dangers of the wild.

We found the young male cub sleeping lightly, a wise strategy in the dangers of the wild.

The young male - alert at the slightest sound!

The young male – alert at the slightest sound!

Yaaaaay! It’s my Blog-entennial!

Or my Blog-centennial. Or maybe my Blog-in’-tennial.

To paraphrase Kool and his Gang, I'm always ready to celebrate good times. And this blog has definitely provided a lot of good times for me. I hope you've enjoyed it as well.

To paraphrase Kool and his Gang, I’m always ready to celebrate good times. And this blog has definitely provided a lot of good times for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well.

No matter what you call it, this is my 200th entry on my blog. That’s right. Two. Zero. Zero. It’s hard for me to believe, too.

Over that time, you’ve had a chance to watch grow up a little bit. (And you’re probably wondering when I’ll do the same.) And, hopefully, I’ve made you laugh, or at least smile a time or two. For those of you who have somehow read ALL 200, well, I want to say thank you. And your check is in the mail (along with a nice supply of mood-altering drugs).

This blog has turned into a nice place for me – a place to get away. A place to reflect. To share my thoughts, and often disappointments or musings (or maybe that should be a-musings, as in things I find as such.)

When I started this blog two years ago, I really didn’t have a plan in mind. In fact, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Or where this whole thing was going. But it’s been a great experience for me.

I want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read, comment, like, or provide some feedback.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the blog goes over the next year. Heck, I’m pretty excited to see where it’s going over the next week. I hope you’ll continue to join me.

mark

 

My buggy pushing reaches an apex

When you shop at Wal-Mart, there are certain things you come to expect: you’re going to be hungrier than you were at any point during the previous week, you’re going to see at least 2.79 people you know, and some amount of unplanned-for chocolate will be bought (and yes, possibly consumed) before you leave the store.

Gaze upon the BEST BUGGY in the world and despair. You can almost see the passing customers averting their eyes.

Gaze upon the BEST BUGGY in the world and despair. You can almost see the passing customers averting their eyes.

But recently I had a new experience at Wal-Mart. A glorious experience. An experience unlike any other I had ever had in Wal-Mart, where I’m sure by now I’ve spent a little more than 11 years of my life (most of it looking for spices that no longer exist or some form of canned tomatoes).

What was this extraordinary occurrence?

(Imagine a drum roll as I announce . . . )

I had the BEST shopping buggy I’ve ever had while shopping. EVER!

It was like the Buggy From Heaven.

Now you might think this particular buggy might have had a holy grail-type-glowing aura about it, but that’s what made the whole experience so special.

I pulled the buggy out of the buggy holding area that houses all the ordinary buggies. But right away I could tell THIS ONE was different. It was THE ONE.

First, none of the wheels went Ka-clump. Ka-clump as I meandered my way through the store. Second, I was able to make either right turns OR left turns.

There was a smooth precision to the complicated BUGGY MECHANISM. It was like driving the Cadillac of Buggies. And as I made my way around the store, I noticed that having such an incredible piece of machinery that responded to my every touch, my entire mood changed. I was happier. More at ease, relaxed. I found myself whistling to myself, almost like I was one of the Seven Dwarfs. And I was smiling and saying hello to passing strangers. (Ok, I usually say hello to unsuspecting strangers, but this time I MEANT it!).

Yes, my friend, I was cock of the walk. And I knew those around me regarded me with a veiled resentment.

But a sad thing soon happened: my shopping was complete.

I wheeled my bagged groceries out to the car, and with a teary eye I bid adieu to the greatest buggy that’s ever come into my life.

I’m sad to say that since then, my shopping experiences have been . . . lacking. I’ve had a longing for the that beautiful four-wheeled creature that was so good to me, if only for a fraction of my life.

Every time I venture to Wal-Mart now, the trip is underwhelming at best. I look around each time, hoping to see a glow emanating from the Chosen Buggy.

And every time I feel like I’m going to plunge into feelings of having an inadequate buggy. Of leaving the store unsatisfied. But then I just load my inferior buggy up with more chocolate, and that pretty much fixes everything.

 

 

The Mystery Date

Is it the dream . . . or is it the dud?

Is it the dream . . . or is it the dud?

“My friend wants to know when you’re going to call her.”

Normally that would be a very simple request. A friend had wanted to set me up with one of her friends from out of town. In other words, a blind date. Yeah, I can hear you laughing, but this level of desperation is pretty typical for single parents. Well, for me anyway.

But in this case there was a reason I hadn’t called. You see, there was one itsy-bitsy problem:

I didn’t know her friend’s phone number.

And, even worse, I didn’t even know her name.

I’m sure you could see where both could be a problem.

I’ve had dates where I didn’t know the woman’s name. Dates where I wished I hadn’t known her name. And dates who probably forgot my name by the next day.

But this was a first.

You’re probably wondering why even bother. Well, beyond the desperation factor (especially for the geekily enhanced, like me) there is the tantalizing possibility that this one could be THE ONE. It’s kind of like the allure of gambling or even the Publisher’s Clearing House: YOU could be the winner!

And if you’ve been through this dating process for a second (or third. Or more . . . ) time, then you know that anyone you haven’t dated is probably the PERFECT woman (or man, depending on which direction you’re going). And what you’ve also probably discovered is that EVERYONE is the perfect date . . . before you date them.

And therein lies the hook.

Yep, they’re ALL perfect . . . until the reality of the date sets in. And then you find out that they may not be quite as perfect as you had thought. Or even worse, they find out that I’m not as perfect as they imagined. ( I would have thought that the picture they saw of my wearing either my MST 3000 or Monty Python t-shirt might have clued them in already, but you know what they say about hope.)

For instance, I recently had a woman tell me I was stupid. This actually occurred during the date, after my taste in movies and music had already been ridiculed. I offered to take an online IQ test to show that, in fact, I probably wasn’t as stupid as many men she had dated. But by then she had already finished dinner and the mood was pretty much ruined.

So here I am again, on the verge of dating the perfect woman . . . if only I knew her name.

You might see a personal ad in your local paper that reads something like this: “Are you her? If you’re the perfect woman I was about to go out with, please contact me right away!!”

Yep, I knew my marketing skills would come in handy one day. Now, all I have to do is sit back and wait for the phone to start ringing . . .

 

 

A lazy Sunday morning

“Dad, in which of the Fast and Furious movies was there a tribute to Paul Walker?”

I looked up from my newspaper. It’s only the end of May, but I was reading about new shows coming on in the fall, shows that I would never remember once that season actually arrived. My son had just asked me a question from Trivia Crack, a game we like to play on my phone. strawberry doughnut

“Is it Fast and Furious 1, 3, 4, or 7?”

I pondered a second. “Well, I don’t think it was 1. And seven, hmmmmm . . . I don’t think it’s sev-”

“I only heard you say seven, and I went with that. That’s right.”

I knew I wasn’t an expert on Fast and Furious movies, but still . . . They’re about cars, right?

I returned to the paper along with a bite of my sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit.

We had decided to take in an extra destination on our usual Sunday morning routine with a stop at the doughnut shop. I really didn’t need a doughnut – so I got one with strawberry filling, that way I could count it as a fruit. And the sausage biscuit thing? That fulfilled my recommended daily allowance of grease or some other necessary nutrient in my diet.

Ok, admittedly not what I needed (so much for running three miles earlier). Actually, not what either of us needed. But it’s hard to beat a relaxed time with your kids. We were the only ones in the place, and time was, as the Rolling Stones said, on our side, at least it was on this occasion.

“Which South American country is ruled by a monarchy?”

Oh boy. I’m guessing we’re not talking about the butterflies here. This sounds like one I should know. But my only feeble response is a waffling, “Hmmmmmm.”

“It’s Brazil,” he tells me matter-of-factly. Another question right.

We’re the only customers sitting down to eat. A handful of others come through, make a choice among a selection where there is no wrong choice, and leave with their bag of tasty calories.

But, on this rare occasion, I’m not in a hurry. The food tastes good, the newspaper is relaxing, and the trivia is fun. And my Dr. Pepper 10 is cold. (I’m not a coffee drinker. But it’s always kind of like tattoos with me – I want to want to like coffee, but for some reason it’s just not falling into place.)

After reading about all the shows I won’t watch in the fall, I glance down the page. Ahhhh, the horoscopes. “Hey Sam, would you like me to read your horoscope,” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“Yes,” he says enthusiastically, his attention away from my phone. Nothing like the important things in life to distract you from the trivialities.

“Ok. Now let’s see . . . when’s your birthday?”

“You don’t even know my birthday?!!” he asks in mock surprise.

And it goes on like this. Trivia questions, unhealthy food, and a Sunday paper.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d be home, with work and distractions pulling at me from all directions. But it was nice to have that time together. To have A time together. A moment where there are no time constraints or responsibilities. A time where the two of us can share a doughnut. And a laugh or two.

Am I doing this motherhood thing right?

There’s no better way to spend a day off than to find out the myriad of ways that you’re inadequate. And I find the best way to do this is by taking an online quiz.

It makes for great balance. Anytime I’m feeling good or maybe a little too big for my britches, I’ll bring myself down a notch or two, then I take a quiz. Conversely, when I’m feeling bad, I quickly turn to Judge Judy or Jerry Springer and let the never-ending problems of others cascade over me.

As a single parent, I've tried to balance being a full time dad and a part time mom.

As a single parent, I’ve tried to balance being a full time dad and a part time mom.

So this morning I found myself intrigued with an email with the tempting link to find out the “15 Signs You’re doing Motherhood Right.” Ok, it wasn’t quite a quiz. But that’s ok because I’m not quite a mother. Again, I look to balance (yet one more reason The Karate Kid has had such an impact on my life.). And while I’m not into motherhood, I do have to assume the role of a mother sometime.

So, in no particular order, here are some of those signs, and how I seem to be faring with each.

1. “The kids smile about 90 percent of the time” – well yeah, but only because they’re laughing at my ineptitude at being a, ahem, mom. You may think I’m kidding, but you haven’t seen my cooking.

2. “They share with others” – definitely true here. Just the other day, I saw my son online sharing my bank account and credit card numbers with some new friends he had made online.

3. “You aren’t afraid to issue a time out” – I know a lot of parents have trouble with this one. But not me. Nope, any time my kid is doing something wrong, I find a timeout works great . . . I just go in the other room, take a few deep breaths, and pretend there’s nothing wrong.

4.”They say please and thank you without being told” – They’re supposed to do that?

5. “You put their need to eat, bathe, and sleep before your own” Again, an easy one for me. I stick the kid in the bathtub, turn on some water, hand him his nearly-thawed TV dinner, and remind him to turn off the water before he goes to sleep.

6. “They would rather cry on your shoulder than a tissue” Yes, but only because we’re out of tissues about 99 percent of the time.

7. “They call for you when they have a bad dream” – I used to ask my son what he dreamed about. He would tell me, very matter-of-factly, “Dad, I don’t dream.” Case closed.

8. “You always keep your partner satisfied in bed” . . . oh wait, wrong quiz.

9. “You are a mom first and a friend second.” – ummmmmmm, well, I don’t think there’s a right way for me to answer this one.

10. “Your partner doesn’t know how you do it” – Well, I don’t have a partner, but I do often find myself talking to myself. “Hey self! How do you cook rice without it sticking to every appliance in the kitchen?” Gosh, I guess I really don’t know how he does that.

11. “You’ve stopped crying over spilled milk” – again, an easy fix. I just stopped buying milk.

Ok, seriously for a minute. I see this kind of stuff about moms, and I think to myself, “hey, that’s great. But where’s the stuff about dads? Where’s the info to check if you’re a great dad? Or the call for dads to be great?

Or, in some cases like mine, where’s the info on support for single dads – I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

Sure it’s important for women to be the best moms they can be. But guys, it’s up to us to embrace the accountability and responsibility that comes with the role of being a father. We can do it. We can all do it. So let’s support the women in our lives who are the moms to our children. But let’s also support each other in a job that’s as equally hard as it is rewarding. Because when we do it right, we get a final criteria to check . . .

12. “But they always say I love you” – and those are words well worth working for.

 

 

The Wal-Mart bet

I know I’ve written about Wal-Mart several times in the past, but unless you’re from a small town, it might be hard to understand.

You see, in a small town, wal-mart is like the center of your galaxy. Sure you can try to stay away, but eventually the gravitational pull draws you in. Then once inside, it’s kinda like the Cantina in Star Wars – there’s a wide variety of characters, dressed in strange garb. This is probably why I blend in so well while walking the aisles. wal-mart

But just the other day I was faced with someone who had hoped to break one of the Laws of Wal-Mart that is physically impossible to break.

I was coming out of the store recently, meandering my way through the parking lot, when I heard someone call my name. It was hard for me to see who it was because Wal-Mart positioned the sun so that it would be shining right as you walk out of the store, blinding patrons and, in some instances, forcing them back inside where they can buy even MORE STUFF.

So there we were, in the parking lot, having a normal conversation and all, when she revealed her intentions . . .

“I’m only going to buy one thing.”

I tried to stifle a laugh, but it was impossible.

“You can’t do that,” I said defiantly. “NO ONE can DO that.”

She assured me that she could. But I just shook my head. “There’s no way. Wal-Mart is deigned so that you’re forced to spend at least 10 times what you intended to spend. And they have very sneaky, clever ways to ensure that.

First, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but they move stuff around ALL the time. The oatmeal that used to be next to the cereal? Nope, not there any more; it’s been moved next to the motor oil or the shampoo or even the condoms. “Yes, I’d love a cup of sex to go with my Cocoa Puffs.”

Another tactic is they allow inventory to run short. That way, when you go to buy the SAME cereal that you’ve been buying for the last 20 years, you’re forced to look around for a DIFFERENT KIND. And you’re not really sure if you’re kids will like it, so you pick up two or three flavors just in hopes that one won’t sit on the shelf of your pantry until even the bugs won’t eat it anymore.

And the most dastardly thing of all that they do? That’s easy – they put chocolate next to the checkout. No, that’s not so you’ll make an impulse buy. They put the chocolate there for survival – because after you’ve been through the stress of shopping at Wal-Mart, you deserve AT LEAST some chocolate.

So, we made a bet: bloody mary’s if I won, and some-as-yet-to-be-determined-flavor of daiquiris if she won. It was kind of one of those no-lose situations (or what the inspirational writers call a win-win. Usually the closest I come to that is being forced to choose between either chocolate covered raisins or just plain chocolate.)

We finally parted ways – me to a happier, calmer place; and her to an impossible task.

I had hardly put he groceries away when I received a text: “You win!” She had bought not just one extra item, but about 21 extra things.

But I wasn’t surprised. No one can break the universal laws of Wal-Mart – it’s a natural law of life, just as certain as the law of gravity and the law that says your kids can only throw up between 2:06 a.m. and 2:09 a.m.

Did I feel bad? A little, but I’m already looking forward to enjoying my winnings.

I don’t look good in a dress

Just a week ago was Mother’s Day, and as you can imagine, it’s not necessarily the best day around our house. Each year brings bittersweet emotions: memories both good and bad, phone calls to wish the grandmothers a happy day, and a church service that welcomes and praises all the mothers present.

But I’m often left with a feeling of uncertainty. As a single dad, I’m often at a loss of what to say to the kids. Or how I should feel. Or even what I should do. dress 4

And what becomes most glaring each year is that I’m NOT a mom. And I really shouldn’t try to be one.

There are a lot of things I can (and have) pretended to be throughout my life, usually regretting it later. And at times, I might have even tried to pull off the Mom roll. But I shouldn’t

Besides the fact that I don’t look good in a dress, there’s an even bigger reason I shouldn’t pretend. Quite simply, I really don’t know how to be one.

Sure, I can apply a band-aid when the driveway proves tougher than my son’s knee. I can follow the step-by-steps of various recipes, stick the concoction in the oven, and a little later pull out something that sort of resembles the picture from the cookbook.

I can buy groceries, clean house, and sometimes even figure out where I’m going on long distance trips (of course, with the GPS system, even MEN can often find where they’re going without getting lost, right?).

But I can’t fake the nuances. I can’t read a book and learn to provide all the little things a mom can provide.

I can give my kids hugs, but they’re a dad’s hugs. I can give them a gentle pat, but it’s not as gentle as that of a mom. I can provide insight and advice from my perspective, but I’ll never be able to provide the perspective of a mom.

No, I’ll never be a mom. In fact, I find it hard enough Just being a dad without taking on a role I can never fill.