Monday, September 24, 2018

Passwords and Heaven

Passwords and Heaven

Seriously, What if, I mean What If getting into Heaven was as easy as remembering your Password?  Just to make those shimmering Pearly Gates crack open, all you have to do is remember your Password.  You know, the one with one capital letter, two numbers, a special character and the answer to a riddle worthy of “Indian Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  Yea that Password.
The hours I have personally spent tormenting my family with the modern-day question “What’s the password?” to…  our home internet, my own cellphone, the itunes account, amazon, my personal email.  Shall I go on?  Oh, I forgot the internet in the new car, the Kroger Card account, the bank account, Venmo, Somebody Stop Me!

Are you freaking kidding me?  I remember the 12 months of the year, my times tables, the entire Soviet Army Order of Battle, my wife’s Social Security number, no wait, still don’t know that one.  But for the love of Peter, how many things have do we to remember and memorize over the course of a lifetime?  For God’s sake, I have a Master’s Degree, graduated from the U.S. Army Flight School, know a boat load of songs and prays.  So why the Hell can’t I remember my freaking Password?  It alludes me on a daily basis (and most of you) just like that elusive unicorn... the winning lottery ticket.
So going back a few years when email and such were just becoming a thang, a good friend of mine said “Oh my God, how many times can you type in your kids names?”.  Oh, how prophetic that one little group of words became.  For over the course of my electronic lifetime I have used my kids names, my wife’s name, my dogs names, my birthday, their birthdays, Password, drowssap, 123-456,  my favorite sports teams, horses who have won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Bellmont, the Soap Box Derby!  Somebody STOP ME!  For all things holy, it’s only eight (8) characters!

So I can see it now.  There I am, all spiffed up having left my earthly body far behind, ready to punch in my Password to get into Heaven, Nirvana, the Great Beyond.  I see St. Peter in the guard tower by the passgate looking down upon my wretched soul waiting to see if I’ll pass the test.
“How may I help you.?”  Says St. Peter himself.

“I’d like to enter my password St. Peter, for entrance into the eternal Land of Milk and Honey.”
“Just punch it into the keypad right there in from of you Mark.  Don’t forget you only get three tries.”  Says he.

So my shaking finger slowly, but confidently I might add, slowly pushes in THE PASSWORD.
“Jesusis#1”….  “Nice try, but that’s nine characters.” Says The Lion.

“Very nice Mark, but you’ve used two special characters.”  Peter retorts.

“Hey! You got it!!, awesome job."

"Now what’s you’re Username?”

Saturday, March 24, 2018

What's Your Pleasure?

What’s Your Pleasure?
     You gotta be kidding me?  I live 99 minutes away from the Columbus Metropolitan Heliport (CMH), a.k.a the airirport, and my flight departs at 0700.  Strapping a plane to my buttock for the better part of the day could have started at a more reasonable hour right?  Nope, not this time.  Off to the 29th Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.  As a five-time veteran of the march, I’m truly looking forward to the breath-taking view of mountains, and the desert vista stretching out for miles upon miles. The sand so white one can see it from the moon.  Not having been to the moon, I’ll take COL Glenn’s word for it.
      As I boarded at 0644, my Motus Operandi remained the same; find my seat, stow my gear, and pass out for the first thirty minutes.  I don’t even hear a word of the safety briefing before I’m sleeping like a baby, a log, the dead.  The plane could get hit by lightning, do six complete barrel rolls, and take a 62-degree nose down dive into the dirt and I wouldn’t notice.  Seriously, I’m lights out.
     What happens around me during this blissful 30 minutes?  Not a clue.  What I do know is when I awake, the prickly heat of stares is upon me.  Not that I care, because I’m refreshed, feeling good, ready to get to work.  However, I do have to wonder…was I snoring, drooling, talking in my sleep?  Unless someone has their phone out filming, I’ll never know.  Which brings me to my precise point.
      Countless Souls and I have spent numerous hours flying around the globe together leading me to one realization; we all fit loosely into one of the below airborne slumbering categories...

 Ya gotta pick one, because you know you fit in.  So, What’s Your Pleasure?

 The Fly Catcher?  Now this dude is a modern-day miracle.  Totally slack jawed, mouth gapping wide, preparing to catch any fly, insect, or piece of dust floating around the cabin looking for a home.  Now this may be me, but I tell ya, there are times on the way to the bathroom, I could perform minor dental surgery.  Counting molars, crowns, cavities, false teeth, is a favorite pastime.  I’m always tempted to drop a few peanuts or pretzels into the awaiting gob of the person looking most like a baby bird waiting for the first spring worm.  Amazing.

The Rubber Neck?  This individual is just too painful to watch.  My family just loves America’s Funniest Home Video’s and what’s an episode without a hilarious sequence of infants with their heads lolling about, falling asleep in their mash potatoes, birthday cake, or a plate of spaghetti?  Now fast forward to the average age of an airline passenger, and 1/3 of us fall into this category.  No way could they bend their necks at such obtuse angels while awake.  Those masseuses who rent a place at the airport and give the 15 minute neck and back rubs will never, I repeat NEVER be out of work as long as I'm around.

The Snort-asaurus?  One of my most favorite!  You can just tell sleeping beauty is semi-conscious, knowing he snores like a freight train at home, not wanting to spill the beans in public.   Well, too late, as an incredibly deep, loud, most often sharp SNORT echoes throughout the cabin.  If pigs could fly it’d get their attention!  Now this dude has scared awake anyone slumbering within three rows and they are tryin to figure out what hit the plane or what part just got ingested into the engine.  Heart rates begin to slow as the Snort-asaurus relaxes back into his gasping rhythm…  

The Space Invader?  This species is most often found on flights departing Las Vegas.  After a hard night of making sure what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas, this bachelor party veteran is ready for the sack.  There’s a method to his madness; The invasion starts slowly on the arm rest while his seat-mates are still awake.  The plan breaks ground, levels off and then phase two commences.  The unlucky seat-mate finds his stale alcohol exuding BFF snoring gently on his shoulder.  The human pillow adjusts slightly, leans toward the window and gives up more space not wanting to interrupt such an awesome nap.  Phase three…  total muscle relaxation.  The slumbering individual now fully leans on his neighbor, shattering all socially acceptable definitions of personal space.  If it's a trip back to Boston the Space Invader may take the liberty of laying down in their new buddies lap like a four year old with his Momma.  AWKWARRRRDD!

The Puddle Maker?  Now this is just gross.  But ahh yes, it happens, especially to those of you who use your tray as a pillow.  The Puddle Maker is hard at work as he dreams away, leaving you wonder just how much salvia a person can manufacture.  Seriously, where is all this drool coming from?   Worst waking nightmare?  This torrential downpour dangles from the tray over the line of demarcation into your space.  Then what do you do?  Seriously, What do you do??  Best part though, is when PM wakes up.  Totally unaware of the St. Bernard worthy string of white frothy gunk hanging from his lower lip connecting him to his shirt, pants, tray, or all of the above.  Then he  realizes he's done it again and tries to figure out what to do the newly formed lake under foot.   A Classic to observe!

So we all fit into a category people.  What’s Your Pleasure?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Traveling Abroad?

Traveling Abroad?  You Better Know Your $#!^! 
     Contained in the following paragraphs is my sagely advice gathered from 35 years of traveling all over the world in my current job, with the military, and on several vacations.  If you’re interested in help with a check list, we’ll, this isn’t the article for you.  
     What I can offer is the only thing you’ll really need besides a valid passport and perhaps a visa.   Anything you forget on the kitchen table or in your bathroom you can buy at your destination, or something relatively similar.  This critical advice you can’t pack in a bag.
     The bottom line?  Knowing your $#!^ before you have to take one.  No joke!  There is no moment in a foreign country filled with more anxiety than the first time you saddle up to the commode.  And depending on the country, the second, third, and fourth times can be as equally harrowing!  As you can guess, yours truly, being of the male species, won’t take my own advice before traveling to a foreign land.  Which is…  Watch YOU TUBE, ya big dummy!
      If You Tube existed back in 1983 when I ventured to The Peoples Republic of China, I may have known my posterior would be precariously perched over a smelly hole in the floor with two painted foot prints straddling the target ensuring pin point accuracy.  These outlines were certainly not measured for western folk as they were much, much too narrow.  Perhaps the clue appeared moments before while I was snapping pictures on my Cannon 35mm Camera of the indigenous people comfortably crouched like Johnny Bench behind the plate, happily smoking and chatting about the weather, politics or the screaming hot spices in the local Szechwan noodle shop.  No way could I assume that position without a lifeline to hang onto, no way.  The savvy traveler would have started prepping his knees months before the 18 hour plane ride for this agonizing squat.  This, my friends, was my first painfully anxious experience into the world of international toilet protocol! 
      Let’s jump to 1986, right after college, as I landed at the Amsterdam airport to continue my hockey career.  Have imbibed in various spirits in flight, I had a few things to take care of prior to transitioning through customs.    My first challenge was deciphering which commode to visit.  I guessed right and went for the stick figure without the skirt on.  Not that that would have mattered in some parts of Amsterdam.  Finding the configuration of the apparatus relatively similar to those stateside, I commenced to commencing and finished up in short order.  Then came the final step, the wake-up call, the paperwork if you will.  I glanced to my right, you know next to the ashtray, and noticed the grade of paper available.   Seriously?  I could get softer sand paper at Lowes!  This gray no-ply stuff was brutal!  My Mother would have taken extreme offense to the Dutch wanting her baby boys touché assaulted with such material.  Once again, not having done my homework, I signed up for the new adventure and vowed never again to depart the shores of North America without a soft cloudy “Square to Spare”.
     Did I learn?  Nope!  It was off to Egypt several years later for some military training.  As my feet hit the Saini my Army issued parachute enveloped me and the 13 hour flight ended.  Having some necessities to take care of the conversation went something like this…
“Hey Sergeant Walmsley, I gotta go.” 
“No worries Dean, just use your entrenching tool and cover the hole when you’re done.  Hey, and don’t forget to check for Scorpions.” 
“Yea Man, they’re everywhere and are drawn to the heat.” 
      You gotta be kidding me!  No way was I going to be the first injured on this deployment.  Talk about something that doesn’t brief well?  Being Medevac’d for a scorpion bite on the rump would never be lived down.  Ever!
       Are you starting to get the drift?  If not, you need to.  Because the little drinking fountain next "Der Toiletten" in Germany isn’t for dehydration purposes.  It’s for hydrating your birthday suit.  And please, please don’t forget toilet paper doesn’t go down the chute.  It gets wadded up in more T.P. and tossed into the little garbage can by the baby wipes.  The baby wipes?  Yup, one of five critical steps in the procedure.  And a procedure it is, especially if you’re trying to figure it out on the fly.
      My last piece of advice originates from my most recent business swarray  to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  On a trip to the world’s largest  and most amazing indoor mall in Dubai, I found it was that time.  I was honestly taken aback when I walked into my first public bathroom stall to find the floor looking as though my Yellow Lab had shaken himself dry after jumping into the Ohio river.  There was water all over the place!  As I broached the immaculate porcelain potty, I saw the hose.  Now this apparatus, in this setting, was new to me.  Minimal paper in the stall, but a bright shiny silver hose, like the one by the sink where you might wash your hair.  Except you don’t wash your hair…  Good thing I had Wranglers on or the full on sprinkler effect on my trousers would have been noticed immediately.  Still trying to figure out the methodology here… 
      Please tell me you’ve figured this out.  I pray my close calls from Caracas, to Xian, back over to Cairo and then onto Pristina have made your lightbulb go on.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Put You Tube and Google to work.  If your load isn’t too heavy already, pack a little pack of Western pleasure.  Just for some piece of mind.  Happy Trails!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

8 Pounds of Memories

8  Pounds of Memories in a Can

My beloved wife left me this weekend...
     She left me to watch a multitude of young Collegiate wrestlers in the prime of their lives (and singlets) compete for the opportunity to represent their Conference, their Team and themselves at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland.
     Her absence left me with two dogs, three cats, four horses and myself all standing around in our skivvies staring at each other wondering how much beer we could consume, war movies we could watch, and openly debating if pizza was a three meal a day option.
     Before the nine of us could cut loose the “Honey Do” list had to be dealt with.  We all saw it lurking there on the frig beckoning to us like the dreaded chores on an early Saturday morning.    
      I laid waste to the horse waste, I beat the weeds into submission, the mold on the lower deck got the green power washed out of it.  I systematically scratched off item by item on said list seeing my plan coming together nicely. 
     Ol Righty, one more task and I can order the heart stopping, colin stretching, meat lovers Chicago style extra large pizza and hit up Dish for this weekend’s MMA fights. 
     Number 8  on the list looked innocent enough…
“Put decorative handle on refinished night stand.”
     No worries!  This will take ten minutes tops!  All I needed was a bolt and a nut...
     Quickly skating out to the garage in my stocking feet, seeing myself as Tom Cruise in "Risky Business", I arrived at my beloved tool bench.  The multitude of stickers from years past always welcoming.  
     Sizing up the requirement, I reached to the bottom shelf for... You guessed it!  That “Chock Full of Nuts” coffee can containing every sized screw, bolt, nut, washer, and those multi-colored hubalators that go at the end of the electric wiring.  In fact, some of this treasured collection was left to me by my Dad and maybe even his Father's Father.
     Holy Cow!  My family heirloom has anything this modern day world may need (or want).  And then some!
“Ahh, throw it in the can, never know when you’re gonna need it”, my Dad’s words echoed.
     Hoisting the treasure chest onto the bench, I winced under its sheer weight.  One of the dogs tilted his head wondering what the grinding popping sound was.  Yea, it was my back.  That sucker must go eight to ten pounds at least!  I've caught tournament winning bass that weighed less.
     Knowing exactly what my project called for, I began digging through the first layer. 
Then it happened...
The Cans magic had me.
It drew me in, right then and there.
I was under it’s spell.  Time became a mere concept.
     In the next 90 minutes the entire garage floor was strategically covered with ever article of hardware that Can had to offer.  
     I sorted them alphabetically by size, diameter, application, and relevance, creating a sheer Masterpiece of organizational efficiency.  Next time a project required anything known to man, I knew exactly where I could find it!

So did I find the right sized screw and bolt?  Of course not!  

     I’m sure I had only used it the week before.  But the inadvertent stroll down memory lane was well worth it.  Finding bits and pieces of my daughters 4H bird feeder, the angle iron from my son’s homemade pool table, and a bit of wood from the first book case my wife and I ever refinished.
     Who would have thought so many memories would be held in a 12to 18 pound collection of stuff?  
     But there they were, laid out in front of me beckoning to continue my leisurely stroll.  And I did…
     When the incantation wore off I realized I had totally missed my pizza/ fight window and may have a herniated disk.  I slid into the truck venturing off to Loews for the mythical bolt and nut to complete #8 on the list.    
     I grabbed a “Hot n Ready” pizza at the Little Caesar’s and headed back to the ranch. 
     Upon arrival to my famished animals I saw my wife’s car in garage.  
     “How could that be?”  I had my hardware jig saw puzzle laid out on that very floor!
     Skidding to a halt, I labored out of the truck to see my wife coming out to meet me.  
     “Hey Honey,” she beamed, “The tournament got done early.”
“I put all that stuff back in your Dads Coffee Can for you....”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hail to the Golden Girls

Hail to the Golden Girls!  By that I mean, Hail to the 2018 Winter Olympic Gold Medalist!  USA, USA,USA!  As a former Division I hockey player, and one who played overseas, I hesitate to call my experience professional as it was marginal play at best.  I marvel at how far the Women  have ventured in not only four years, but in my personal experience of 54 years. 
     Not totally giving away my age, I was present at the inception of the Pembroke Pandas hockey program, which in turn become the Brown University Women's team.  The home of several ECAC Championships and several Olympians.
     Knowing that not all of you are hockey buffs or even fans for that matter, I wanted to tie a few things in here by letting you know how much of a role hockey played in my life and the lives of the Co-eds I fell in love with back in 1966.
     Slight right turn here, so stay with me...  My Dad ran three retail stores (Ashby Dean’s LTD.) on Thayer St. in East Providence, RI.  He was gladly an initial sponsor, being one who greatly appreciated the fairer sex.  Now, in 1966 their skills were still developing but many played with brothers and friends on frozen ponds, and the vast majority had figure skating backgrounds.  I vividly remember the hand-me-down equipment and beat up sticks the Panda’s started with.  But the fire was there, they were Pioneers by God!  Dad's store was three blocks from the rink so I lived at Meehan Auditorium, watched the men and women practice daily and had the fortune of several of the women babysit on occasion.  "You kidding?  She knows who Bobby Orr is, shoots pucks, and smells great?  What's not to Love?"
     The game was very different at that point not at all what we witnessed several weeks ago in a phenomenal showcase of talent, heart, and dedication.  The skating, stick work and strategic aspect of the game was absolutely first rate.  A true pleasure to watch!
      Much like these young Athletes, and the thousands more.  Hockey was my life.  "Why?" you ask?  At the tender age of six it was my source of validation, confidence, and hope.  Man, my Squirt team was awesome…  Winners of several State/ New England Championships, numerous tournament wins, and yours truly was one of the lead dogs.  Many teammates went on to Collegiate and Professional careers.  Like most great power houses we all came together at the tender age of around six.
     That athletic validation was critical.  My budding dyslexia was showing up even at that point.  I couldn't tell my Left from my Right so as a Right Winger, I had to wait for everyone to line up so I could figure out where to go.  In the classroom I was being pulled aside with a few others  who were struggling with basic skills.  God forbid anyone should ask me the months of the year.  I didn't unscramble those till sixth grade.  Hockey was my savior.
     These two worlds collided when I had to read a small speech at our New England Championship Banquet.  45 years later, I can still remember standing in front of everyone staring at the words.  Extremely painful.  But now?  I’ll speak in front of any crowd, You name it! 
     So what in tarnation does this have to do with the 2018 Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medalist?? Well, in both our cases I’ll apply the 1968 tobacco slogan targeting Women…
“You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”!
A Heart Felt Congratulations to all the Players, Staff, and Families of the Reigning Women’s Ice Hockey Olympic Gold Medalists!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pot Holes:What do They Really Cost?

Pot Holes:  ?  What do They Really Cost?

      Pot Holes!  Got your attention right away didn’t I?  No joke, if the Pot Holes in my town were Kansas wheat, it’d be a record bumper crop.  They’re everywhere!  Going down the main street in my beloved Burg has turned into the Monaco Grand Prix, complete with vicious twist and turns then straight aways with massive acceleration.  Except the speeds aren't fringing on 100 MPH or the posted 35MPH, but actually a cautiously crawling 10 MPH...  Ohhh, it's painful.
     My fellow citizens and I have become so fond of some of these Pot Hole they have their own scenic road signs...”The Grand Canyon”, “Cliffs of Dover”, "The New River Gorge” and my personal favorite, the “Snake River Canyon”.  There was a small contingent of Police out there on Saturday slowing traffic so an Evil Kniveal impersonator could set up his ramp and jump that Beast!  Shame too, he almost made it.
    So, now really, what’s the cost of a Pot Hole?  I know from a personal perspective it’s exactly $323.23.
       Let me walk you through my figures.  And please, particularly if you're a City Engineer, don’t jump ahead, as this has little to do with asphalt and labor.  I’m talking real cost.
   So expense number one...  Button down dress shirt x 2 = $62.50.  How is that you ask?  Welp, the first one fell pray to a steaming cup of Joe.  Yes Sir, straight down the middle of the fairway.  Newly pressed white business shirt gained this growing inky spot when the front half of my truck disappeared in one of our more infamous creators.  After a few choice expletives, I realized that puppy wasn't coming out.  Nice new gardening shirt.
     Shirt number two you ask?  This one was worthy of a commercial, or at least a You Tube clip.  On the way in for a basketball game my cheek inadvertently collided with my Chili Cheese Burrito which landed squarely in my pocket.  What are the odds ?  Apparently pretty good.  All as the result of my left front tire plunging precariously into a newly created creator causing it to skip a full revolution, sending me and my Burrito careening toward the curb.  After shirt number one had bite the dust  you'd think I would have worn black to the game.    
     Expense three...$132.23.  Front end alignment and tire balancing.  This one goes without saying.  But my guess is, seriously, if I came back into town at 3:33A.M., I’d bet the dedicated employees of all four auto part stores and two garages would be working in complete unison to make these freaks of nature BIGGER!  Jack Hanners, pick axes, sledgehammers, the whole deal.  Swinging, picking hammering toward their winter bonus!  
     So the last, and most certainly not the least, of my Pot Hole expenses is the fiscal and emotional toll these gargantuan holes have placed upon my relationship.
     Here’s what I mean... so most of us dudes look at this newly minted obstacle course as a challenge right?  Who among us hasn’t bragged about our speed and "Tire to Hole Ratio"?  How many times you’ve braved the gauntlet and not hit ONE!  
    So as the course flag dropped last Saturday on the way through town, I was on fire, hadn’t been engulfed in one!!  However, and this is big, my loving spouse was furious, giving me “The Look”. Unbeknownst to me she had banged her head twice off the passenger window, poked herself in the eye during the traditional make up/ touch up session, and drawn a "Chantilly Red" smile across her cheeks that The Joker would be envious of.  
     My best gauntlet time was quickly overshadowed during a quite $137.41 dinner at her favorite restaurant with two fairly expensive bottles of wine.  I don't drink wine.  Just sayin....

So, how much am I willing to chip in to fix our Moon-Like Pot Hole conundrum? 

Well, about $323.23.  You??



Sunday, February 25, 2018

That Night and Ms. Parker

     That Night and Ms. Parker...  As promised, I am going t omake no changes to this blog post from a grammatical, and spelling perspective.  And it shouldbe vey fitting as this is how my life changed.  In a VW Van, in a night and in a bed.  racey sounding isn't it?
     Well unfortunately for you it's  not.  Back when I was about ten years old in late November we were on the way home from hockey practice in Westerville, Ohio at he old Ice Chalet, for those of you who may remember.  It was about 10:30 at night, my sister had had figure skating practice that evening woile I had been on the second sheet of ice with the hockey team.  The 45 minuite home was uneventful until we came to our last stop sign, literally across the road from our 26 acre farm.  Right now as I sit here a gazillion years later, I can still see the side lights of a semi truck passing in front of us, that burnt orange color traveling from my right to my left, can also feel the impact as our VW Van hit the side of this semi, now we are spinningcounterclockwise.  The frumping sound of metal on metal in my mind, then everything stops.  Having been stretched out n the back seat of the van, still decked out in my hockey gear, now I see my sister and Mom hanging out of the car by their seat belts.  Ya see the front of the car had literally been ripped off, like the top of a tin can of beans.  I get out of the car to help them out and then, and really I mean right now, because I can see this in my minds eye as I sit here sharing this with you, I see the headlights of the car traveling beind the truck swerve.  The next few minutes or seconds, never sure which it could be is lost for ever, buried in my subconscious, cause that vehicle, going about 55 MPH hits me.  Thaaawack!  SO now, my ten year old eyes feel the bllod of my mothers facial cuts dripping down onto mine as a guttural scream-cry comes from her throt as she leans over the top of me.
     That moment changed my life.  No kidding right?  I can fill you in on the rest later but that moment changed my life for the good.  God came to me that evening in the form of an 18 wheeler.  Ya know, like the Native American's giving the spirits animal shapes.  Mine was a truck.
    So for the next six months, I was a very cptive audience, having been intraction in the hospital, then ina cast up to my hips at home nursing a broken femer and a bunch of other cuts and stuff.  My Mom and sister made it through with some relatively minor injusrues btw.  Anyway as I transitioned home to lay there starting at the ceiling, in saunters young Ms. Parker to tutor me.  All I can remener is her long blond hair, short skitsr and well endowed nature.  Good job Mom and Dad, you got my attention!  Tell you what, if I didn't want to read before, this specimen changed my minid.  And read we did.  For the next five months.  The first book I remember us reading together was actually a hockey book (just bought it on ebay) "Porko vonPopbutton" and amazing tale about a kid who goes off to school and becomes a hockey star.  That night, that truck, Miss Parker all helped me develop a tool box that would assist me with breaking the dyslexic code.  And I thank all of you for that!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A True Confession

This is a TRUE Confession.  At 4:00 A.M. this morning as the pitch black stared back at me with a light winter rain drumming out my thoughts, I felt the inherent need to Confess to you.  After five and a half decades, I found my PASSION. 
    Approximately six years ago I discovered, dare I say this, I have a talent for writing.  Started with lyrics, then poems and now books.  Which in my mind (the whole point of this blog entry), MY MIND, is one of the most ironic things I have ever know. 
     The reason?
     Last week I drove four hours to Lexington, KY for business, and on the way listened to a voicemail from my publisher (Monday Creek Publishing- Whoop Whoop) leaving me the phone number of a professor at Ohio University who specialized in Dislexia (that's how my mind would spell it... and yes I will poke fun at myself ((endearing coping skill)), even on a life molding topic such as this) who had read my recently published children's book "The Adventures of Coal and Andy; Charlie the Catfish". For those of you who haven't read it quite yet, on the back cover I profess I struggled with childhood Dyslexia.  As this phenomenon is her passion and major course of study, she wanted to spend a few minutes discussing my experiences.  As it turns out, like me, she is also a non-spelling, slow reading, number reversing, word switching, highly functioning, phenomenally educated, extremely intuitive, amazingly passionate person who is making a hugh difference in the WORLD.  This conversation changed my life.
     I want to know how this can be?  It has taken me years, I literally mean years of my life, to this day as a matter of fact, to understand that I am not a RetardThat word hurts...  As a matter of fact, I've used it.  I've hidden behind it.  I've run from it.  I suppose in this day and age, "Developmentally Challenged" is more PC.  Not Stupid, Idiot, or Late Bloomer?  Worn all those tags, accepted all those adjectives, believed those labels... 
     Let me be clear, "Crystal Clear".  This is no "Woe is me" tale.  This is a TRUE Confession.  A proclamation I have found yet another True PASSION in my life.  And with this new found mission, I intend on changing not one child's life, as was my goal with "Charlie the Catfish", but copious gobs of crumb snatchers as well.  I'm going to tell you my story, with as many gory details as I can remember, in order to help the next kid get out of the box we are trying to put him or her in.
This won't be my only blogging topic, but certainly one worth tracking. 
     On my next post, I am going to turn off the spell/ grammar checks to give you an idea of who the man is hiding behind the curtain.
     This otta be fun!!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Getting the Grease

     Yes, we all know the adage "The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease".  For once, I'll play the role of the Squeaky Wheel.  And I literally mean the Squeaky Wheel. 
     So there I was, Friday afternoon, ready to head home for the President's Day weekend.  However, I needed to make a quick pit stop at Kroger's Market for the essentials which will allow me to stay tucked in at the house all weekend.  I mean all weekend.
     First stop...  the grocery store.  See, here's the rub...  I live in a small college town and if this required ten minute stop is done at the wrong time of day or perhaps on Mom or Dad's Weekend, you might as well have brought a tent to camp out.  Seriously, the lines for a new iPhone launch are shorter,  by a mile, I'm talking all 5,280 feet.
     Coasting through the parking lot doing my recon, the mission looked like a GO.  Spots available, a few carts in the cart corral, and most cars looked local.  Let's do this. 
     Once in the door I grab the first cart I can get my hands on.  Vigorously scrubbing the carts handle with the provided disinfect wipe clearing any hibbie geebies the last shopper may have graciously left, I sneak a peek upward to plan my route.  
     Now as I may have inferred, I needed the essentials.  Dawg and cat food, beer and a pallet of water for the barn fridge.  As I cruise past the organic veggies, I realize that the front left wheel on my shopping companion is teetering. No biggie, I'll only be here for two minutes, max.
        I continue on my predestined route to isle 16, pet food.  Grab the 50 pound bag of dog food for my buds, the 20 pound bag of food for my mouse eradication team, plus six cans of the wet stuff that smells like, well, cat food.  
    Engaging the handle I push.  That 70 plus pounds starts to head immediately left.  Heading right for the bird food and cat litter.  Whoooa...  Hang on partner.  I self correct realizing this cart had just copped a major attitude.  Confident I can out-muscle this contraption, I adjust my heading with a 20 degree crab (aviation term for angle) and headed off to the libation aisle.    
     Halfway to my next check point the front left wheel literally starts to squeak like a 13 year old boy's voice as he talks to his first crush.  I know this, I was that bashful squeaking fella.
     Now, I've got every shoppers attention as I literally push-drag my demonic cart to my beer.  Finally arriving in the brew section (with a major cramp in my left forearm), I hoist two cases of high octane and one pallet of water (strategically positioned a the end cap) into the belly of the beast.
     Lets see, if I do my calculations right, that's another 32 pounds of liquid.  So now, this limping contraption weights about 110 pounds and begins pulling on my left arm like a six year old who sees the Twizzlers on sale.  I mean yanking and squealing doing a fine imitation of Ms. Veruca Salt at he Chocolate Factory! 
     The unpopulated Goal line looms 20 yards past the massive pyramid of bargain soup cans. I can do this!  Push, drag, push drag, yank, squeal, squeak.  Push, drag, push, drag, yank, squeal, squeak.  Almost there.  So what happens next?  That's right!  The cantankerous wheel liberates itself from bondage, straightening the cart and drives me straight into the pyramid, sending tomato, barley, and vegetable soup scurrying across multiple lanes of shopper traffic!  What do I do?  Yank my hat down, bolt for the exit, and head out to the fresh air.  "Clean Up on Aisle 10!"    

Thursday, February 15, 2018

That Old Coffee Cup
     "What in the tarnation are you doing with MY COFFEE CUP!  Hand that over right now or I'll punch you in the snot locker so hard, you won't be able to smell Christmas DINNER!"  These are my exact thoughts when one of our visiting family members grabs my favorite coffee cup out of the cupboard to enjoy a nice fresh cup of Java.  What really comes out of my mouth?  "Hey ahhh, I think that one still has grounds in it.  Try this one."  Or perhaps, "Good Morning, opps, that one's cracked, let me pour you a fresh cup."   I deftly grab MY CUP and hand off one that I stole from work about six months ago. 
     Honestly, there are some things in this world I am willing to throw down for, and this is one of them.  Seriously, how strange is that?  A coffee cup?  I had to ask myself what makes this small piece of sentiment sooooo important? 
     I examined this chink in my armor and realized it's the sentiment and value that I place on the time with my old friend.  My cup waits almost a full 24 hours for me to carefully extract it from the cupboard and pour that morning steaming sunshine into it.  Sounds corny doesn't it?  But is it?  If my cup was a puppy it'd be the one with the tail just flailing, ears back, tongue hanging out, eye's saying "Pick Me!  Pick Me!  Pick Me!" 
     And I do J  And I'd wager that you do as well.  Just like yours, My Coffee Cup fits perfectly in my hand, just the right size, just the right warmth, just the right amount.  It's, well, Just Right.  Much like my favorite pair of work boots, which is another blog entirely, this piece of pottery has history with me.  We've shared the dawn of my best days, my worst, and many that have some and gone.  Truth be told, perhaps the reason it's so special is the time we get to spend with the other love of my life.  Each Saturday morning we pick our best friends out of their hibernation, fill them to the brim and share tales of our hope for the day.  All four of us, experiencing the most uncluttered time of the day.  And who doesn't love Saturdays?  The bonus day!
    My heart truly skips a beat when I see a relative reach for my friend as it proudly sits there, unsuspecting, unable to protect itself, waiting patiently for my hand to guide it to the coffee pot.  For like my beautiful spouse, you are the one I chose.  Amongst all the others. 
     Hiding you in the back of the dishwasher or my side of the bathroom during holiday visits is not above me.  You mean that much, your friendship, your memories, your loyalty. 
I look forward to many more mornings together, sharing the dawn of new day, preparing to make history.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Half Pipe?  Half Crazy!
So here I sit watching tonight's Olympic Coverage from the safety and warmth of my living room.  Fires blazing, yellow Lab snoring, mid evening nap looming.  Beautiful night, no doubt. 
     Tonight's events grab my full attention and make me start to wonder how deranged some of these winter athletes must really be.  Seriously, they must be nuts!
     The half pipe is on at this very moment...A young athlete is hurtling 50 feet in the air doing twists, turns and half this and a full that and I tell ya, it's amazing to watch.  But what the heck is going through her mind right now?  "Hmm, wonder what's going on at home?" , "Man, what was that Korean thing I ate last night, it was awesome!" or my favorite "I wonder if someone is insta-gramming this?".  No doubt, she can think that; she has trained her mind and muscles to perfection.  And it shows!  Me?  What would I be saying?  "Hail Mary..." or "I shouldn't drink and snow board." or perhaps the most realistic "Am I gonna Die?".
Half Pipe?  Try Half Crazy! 
     The events changes to another safe hobby; the Ski Jump.  Oh My God!  I know most of you remember the "Agony of Defeat"?  You literally couldn't pay me enough to go barreling down that massive hill, knowing there is no possible way to get off this ride before you go flying, and I mean FLYING through the air.  How in the world do these athletes get started as a child?  The only potential I have shown for the winter Olympics, no joke, was last year when I fell off our six foot ladder changing a light bulb out in the barn.  Full summersault, half twist, with a debilitating leg over the head split to end my performance.  Hadn't practiced at all!  Nope, no hot totties and congrats by a roaring fire in the Lodge like these phenomenal winter athletes, but more like four weeks of 800mg horse tranquilizers, a blue sling and a bunch of "What the Hell happened to yous".  Yea, that's more my speed!
But seriously folks, the concentration, dedication and pure personal courage these half bonkers individuals show is amazing.  And its so hard, I mean soooo hard to compare the Winter and the Summer events.  Honestly not taking anything away from the Summer crew, but how many of us would attach ourselves to a turbo charged sled for the thrill of going at amazing speeds, or maybe standing a top the glorified 1 x 6 planks to soar miles in the air, or maybe, just maybe, climb into a aerodynamically perfect tube with blades on the bottom to blow through curves higher than those on the best NASCAR tracks?  Hmmm...and Oh Yea, can't forgot to mention the thrill of being thrown through the air twirling, while your partner awaits you with open arms  going 20 MPH on ice skates?
Incredible, Just Incredible.  My hats off to these Winter Athletes that Do It because they can!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February, ahh yes, the mentally darkest month of the year.  And who first spelled it anyway?  Thank God for red lines, always thought it was "Feb ewe airy".  Have you ever met anyone walking this rain pelted, ice growing, snow covered earth, that actually pronouns the "r"?  Well, I sure haven't.
     So this blog post doesn't really concern the weather but brings to light a daily phenomena that exists as a byproduct of Mother Nature's rank attitude. 
     For those of you whom I haven't had the pleasure of meeting, my family and I live on a small horse farm in the Southeast corner of Ohio.  Absolutely beautiful area with rolling hills, meandering creeks, real Norman Rockwell stuff.  Just gorgeous.  In order to keep this little parcel of land and its inhabitants moving right along, I also have a full time job about 20 minutes up the road.  Love the company and will stay there as long as they'll have me.
     Each night I make the trek home knowing that my loving spouse has beaten me to our humble abode and is diligently chopping, boiling, and prepping a fantastic dinner.  Which means, that yours truly, gets to head out to our "Equine Facility" and feed our four hay burning, muffin making, mud wearing, retirement devouring horses.  Much like my beloved, I prep their hay, scoop the grain and then get the hose out to fill up their 100 gallon stock tank.  And here, my friends, is where the phenomena makes itself know.  Every night, its unfailing and every present. I slowly uncoil the hose from it's keeper, you know, the one I diligently placed the hose on just 24 hours ago and run it the 75 feet out to the thirsty tub.
     Quick pause for a bit of background...  I grew up on a small farm, bailed hay as a kid till my skin wore off, raised steers, hogs and sheep.  Tied and untied knots for halters, gates, and siblings who were out of hand.  Then, to manifest my need to work my bones into the dirt, did a 21 year stint in the U.S. Army.  Had the pleasure of jumping out of planes, rappelling from helicopters and attending the US Army Ranger School.  I mention these experiences not to beat my chest, but because I was taught, untaught and retaught how to tie 1,323 different type of knots.  At some points, the man in the Smokey bear hat said my life could depend on this skill.
    But for the life of me, how on this blessed earth, can an inanimate object, like the heavy duty farm hose, neatly stored and unstored every night, tie itself in a perfect square knot within 75 feet?  Honest to God, I have never witnessed anything, I mean ANYTHING, like it.  One night the Soma da Bitch even had two half hitches on either side of the perfectly dimensional square knot.  Took me years to perfect that simple configuration!  Its never a granny knot that'll come undone, but an unflawed piece of art, just laying there choking the water away from the vessel that needs it most.  There are times I believe a well camouflaged Ranger Instructor sprints out from under the horse trailer and ties that thing himself.  Simply amazing.
   Now I know that each one of you who works in the elements can relate to this daily miracle.  And if by chance, you know what incantation I can place on this water carrying apparatus, or have extra chicken bones and blood about the house to break this spell, I would LOVE to hear from you!

Time to go water the horses...


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Maiden Voyage 1,323 Miles to GO!

So as you may know, A One Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty Three (1,"323") mile voyage begins with one step.  That step for me happened as I sauntered onto a Southwest flight in Columbus, OH bound for The Dig D.  Ahh yes, Dallas, beautiful city, and for those of you living under a rock frozen to the ground, it's 45 degrees warmer than Columbus (currently 12 degrees as I bang this out), or should I say Athens, OH, my actual stomping grounds.
As a newly minted/ published Children's Book Author "The Adventures of Coal and Andy; Charlie the Catfish" I was looking forward to reading a phenomenal book my publisher, friend, and mentor, (Ms. Gina McKnight of Monday Creek Publishing) had given me prior to my Adventure to the Great State of Texas.  This bite sized book "YOU ARE A WRITER (so start ACTING like one)" by Mr. Jeff Goins intrigued me immediately.  Didn't even have to open it, I was hooked by the cover.  I couldn't wait to devour the wisdom within. 
Needless to say, it didn't disappoint.  Jeff recommended several things for us rookies.  One of the nuggets that grabbed my attention was blogging.
As Jeff would also recommend, tell everyone you're a writer.
That's three times right?  Worked for Dorothy, so why shouldn't three reps work for me?  "There's no place like home"...
So here I am...
What I can promise you if you endeavor to hang in there as I pontificate the oddities of life...

-  I don't really care what people think of my Blog...  My ideas, my keyboard, my blog...  However, if I strike a cord, let me know.  We'll agree, disagree, and then move on.  It's the forward progress that's key here People.
-  Humor... Dry, Sarcastic, Unique.  The kind of humor that carries a bit of well disguised insight into the normal oddities of life.
-  A Truly Red White and Blue, Patriotic point of view.  After 21 years in the Big Green Machine, it's worn off on me a tad.  If you come from the far left, enjoy what I have to say, tell me to get bent, and then come back for some more.
-  (This particular launch being the exception)  Brief and to the point.  I'm not going to waste anyone's time.  Most importantly, my own.
-  A healthy smattering of Poetry, Lyrics, growing stories for both real kids and adult kids, and perhaps some other literary stuff that no one has a name for yet. 
-  A thought or two on other folks efforts, especially those who espouse a unique twist on life.

So welcome to my First Blog entry.  Remember this is the first, the only one of it's kind, and you had the distinct privilege to be here when it started.  This is going to be a Hoot!

Catch Up With You Soon!