Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kids Gone Wild

Let’s start with a little back story. As a child I routinely spent part of my summer with either my mom’s dad or my dad’s mom. Not only were these visits a chance for me to spend quality time with my grandparents but they were a wonderful opportunity to learn from an older generation. At the time I didn’t even realize the lessons learned but as I’ve grown older I find myself drawing on those experiences more and more.

One such experience came as I went to church with Grandma Millie. From what I could tell my grandmother was well liked by the congregation and had many friends where she attended church. That’s what made what happened next so shocking. As we sat in the pews listening to the speaker this particular Sunday I noticed a small child wandering down the aisle unsupervised. My grandma turned around and looked at the child’s progenitors. When she saw that they weren’t moving, without hesitation, she got up and laid hold on the child and delivered him to his parents. She returned to our seat looking more than mildly annoyed.

I was mortified by her actions. Over the years I witnessed that scene play out a half dozen times. Finally I questioned her as to why she did that. She explained that children cannot be allowed to run the show and parents ought to be setting boundaries. My grandma had no problem showing us kids who was boss and I had the bruises on my backside to prove it.

Being a parent is extremely difficult. It is no mystery where the source of the difficulty lies. As the legendary comedian put it, children have brain damage. “My parents never smiled... because I had brain damage. My wife and I don't smile because our children are LOADED with it.” -Bill Cosby

Before I had children of my own I used to tell people that I was prejudice against children and I believed it. Since becoming a parent I realized that my beef was not with that brain damaged miniature person but with his or her parents.

You see parenting is a war. The first rule of war is know thyself and know thy enemy. Parents you are in charge. A child is looking for boundaries, constantly testing their limits. Yes, it is an exhausting and seemingly never ending battle but you cannot concede. “In any moment of decision [or parenting], the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Kids don’t act right. Sure it’s embarrassing when it happens but any reasonable person won’t fault a parent when a kid throws a fit. However, when a child doesn’t act right and a parent doesn’t act at all then we’ve got a problem.

Parents get up off of your rears and parent your children. Please I beg you stop these little bedlamites from running amuck at church, in restaurants, at the movies, in the store or really anywhere that I may be.

I understand that reasoning with your little brain damaged offspring is a fruitless endeavor and I’m certainly not condoning anyone abusing a child but there’s got to be some effort to restrain or subdue these tiny psychopaths. The great General Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

All I ask is the establishment and enforcement of rules and boundaries. Provide real and immediate consequences and you’ll be surprised how quickly behavior changes. Does this mean that the battle is over and the war is won? Hardly, but that’s the game you sign up for when you take the title of “mom” or “dad”. Oh and one more thing, “No” is not a bad word. Use it, liberally if necessary, because a child who is unaccustomed to hearing it becomes a nightmare for future adult authority figures whom they will inevitably encounter.

My fear is that those who will take this the hardest are those that are genuinely trying and fighting that good fight. For those I echo the words of Jeffrey R. Holland “…if you are trying to do the best you can…in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a houseful of little bedlamites—then give yourself high marks.”

As for the rest of you, you’re on notice. I will no longer sit idly by and watch your tiny terrorists wreaking havoc upon the masses and setting a poor example for my own diminutive derelicts. Like my grandmother before me I am going to intervene for the good of the child and humanity. You have been warned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The unnatural and unholy

This week started like any other, but without warning tragedy struck.

On Monday the king returned to his castle at the appointed time and was greeted with a hero’s welcome. That is if “a hero’s welcome” is a 3 year old bounding towards you wanting to wrestle, a Wii entranced 9 year old’s half hearted acknowledgement that someone entered the room, an unrequited kiss on the cheek for your daughter as she races passed you to go to a friend’s house and a wife who is on the phone. Ah yes, it’s good to be king.

When my wife got off the phone she greeted me warmly and we exchanged a summary of our day’s activities; followed by my standard query, “What’s for dinner?”

She responded that we’d be having brinner [for the uninitiated that is breakfast for dinner], which is a favorite in our household. She explained we’d be having eggs, toast and…wait for it, bacon.

My heart began to soar. Oh bacon, how do I love thee? Let me count the…wait a minute. Who says eggs, toast and bacon? Isn’t it always bacon and eggs, or at the very least eggs and bacon? How did toast rise higher on the marquee than bacon? Something was amiss.

In a panic I raced to the frig and threw open the door. And just as I feared, there it was. An abomination; the worst fraud perpetrated on mankind since the Ponzi scheme and Milli Vanilli (kids ask your parents; they will know it's true ooh, ooh, ooh, they'll tell you). Staring up at me from the meat drawer was turkey "bacon". (get used to the sarastic quotation marks around "bacon")

Fighting back the tears I reached in and retrieved the package so deceptively wrapped that, without careful examination, one could be led to believe that it was indeed bacon. My protests were rebuffed with, “You’ll thank me when it comes time to step on the scale.” If I lived in a post-apocalyptic hellscape subsisting mainly on bark and weeds where the only source of protein was giant mutant cockroaches I still would not be thankful for turkey "bacon". You think a pound or two is going to make this affront to my senses easier to swallow? How dare you madam and how dare you Oscar Mayer!

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from the blessed pork belly of a pig. It is cured with large quantities of salt. It cooks up greasy, crispy and delicious. It goes wonderfully with, well, just about everything. The word bacon is derived from an Old High German word bacho, meaning buttock or ham and cognate with the Old French word bacon.

Turkey “bacon” is a meat product prepared from reformed turkey and sold as a low-fat substitute for traditional bacon. It comes from the thigh of a turkey and is manipulated to look like bacon. The word is derived from the Latin words atrox meaning terrible and prodito meaning betrayal.

That knowledge aside, if I knew nothing else about it, the fact the turkey “bacon” does not change in size, color or texture when you cook it would be enough for me. That’s not natural. My oldest child summed it up best when he said turkey "bacon" is “kind of like a fruit roll-up only salty.”

Where is the beautiful popping sound when the meat hits the skillet? Where are the greasy leftovers that need to be drained after half the package? Where are the rolling hills of fatty goodness rising up from the pan to greet you and the one of a kind aroma that sticks with you as a blessing for the rest of your day?

America, I know we have our problems. I realize that the scale and our waistline are foremost among them. I’m willing to make concessions, I really am. I drink, and prefer, skim milk. I’ll take water packed tuna over oil packed tuna any day. I can stomach low-fat ranch or I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Anything. I’ll even look the other way on sugar free ice cream (believe me that one hurts), but I’ll be darned if I’m gonna let somebody take my delicious delicious pig fat from me. I’d rather die.

There are some things that you just don’t trifle with; a man’s family, his home, his life, his liberty and his bacon. God bless you, God bless that pig and God bless the United States of America. Thank you for your suppork…I mean support.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Parting is such...

I’m an ardent supporter of the old adage “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Not sure why but that’s always made sense to me. Perhaps it was observing my grandfather, who was brought up during the Great Depression. He kept everything and used it until it couldn’t be used again, then he’d try and find another use for it before eventually, reluctantly, discarding it. And by “discarding it” I mean he stored it in his garage/workshop.

I take a good deal of pride and satisfaction in making something last. I’ve written before of a beloved twelve year old polo shirt, that I still have by the way, and my attachment to it. The old worn out belt I’m wearing right now is nearly as old and I’ve had my Costanza-sized wallet since the mid 90’s (a gift from my grandpa).

Last night I saved a toaster that we got as a wedding present from a diabolically placed Lego. Some of you may say, ‘Hey, 10 years is a good life for a toaster and you could get a new one for under $20.’ And you’d be right but that’s not the point. That toaster still has some life in it. With a little TLC I’d love to squeeze another ten years out of it.

I wear socks and pants until they get holes in them and then try to conceal those holes as long as I can so my wife doesn’t throw them out. This practice my grandfather would not approve of. I remember as a child staying at his house, in Sun City, for the summer and having an argument over a holey football jersey that he didn’t want me to wear any more. In a battle of wills two stubborn cusses dug in our heels and I ended up spending the remainder of the summer at my grandma’s apartment in Glendale. But I digress.

On the surface, to most people, this would seem like a virtue and I’ve long viewed it that way. However, there is a dark side to this game that borders on the unhealthy. Deep in the murky recesses of my mind this need to stretch the usefulness of things meets with my cheapness and my aversion to change and an unnatural connection is welded by my fear of becoming old and useless. I feel a bond to an inanimate object and forge an imaginary relationship that exists only in my head. I’ve tried to deny it, to hide it, but it’s there; ever-present, lurking in the shadows.

With something as simple as a toothbrush I feel a kinship entirely of my own making; a sense of loyalty and gratitude born not of logic or reason but of madness. My wife cavalierly tosses her toothbrush in the trash and opens up a new one without a second thought, almost as if she’s glad to be rid of it. My toothbrush has served me well for the past several months and to me that should be honored and regarded with a bit more ceremony and reflection when its time is done.

It doesn’t end with toasters and toothbrushes either; I mourn the unexpected premature passing of a tool, a t-shirt, a cup, really anything I use or wear. Several years ago my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo threw a rod and died because I overloaded it on a youth trip and was trying to climb a mountain when it was past due for an oil change. To this day the sight of a grey ’99 Rodeo saddens me.

I know I shouldn’t care this deeply. I’ve been told it’s wrong to feel the way I do but I can’t stop. I’ve tried. I’ve flipped an old “useless” pen in the trash with a smug nod and a grunt, only to turn the corner and pay silent homage in my mind to my old trusted recently parted companion.

No longer will I apologize for this. No longer will I hide my old mission backpack in the back of the closet, banished, sun faded and threadbare; it hung from my shoulders for two years and carried school books and church manuals long after. There is no shame in being well used and it’s time that my old friend returned to the marvelous light of day and felt valued and appreciated again. Something that feels this right can’t be wrong.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m having a small intimate service today for sleeping pad who met its untimely demise in a thicket at the bottom of Tonto Gorge. You will be missed mi amigo, you will be remembered.

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