A New Kind of Birthday

Posted in Family, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by Mike

Tomorrow is my grandmother’s birthday and it’s the first year she won’t be here to celebrate it. She was 86 when she passed away last December. Even though she’d had health challenges for the last 2-3 years of her life, the real end happened suddenly and dramatically over the span of one blur of a weekend in an Asheville hospital, when we watched her vital signs fall away to nothing and held hands around her and braced for that second when her heart finally stopped. It was like witnessing a ship sink and the moment when the vessel you know so well slips away forever.

Now we’ve arrived at her birthday, soon to be followed by the anniversary of her death, and those two dates add a blanket of loss to the season. The specter of the big holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – approach like trucks in the fog.

I’ve thought about her a lot over the past year. I miss all of the conversations we used to have on the phone when she’d check in—those are gone. It’s been hard to handle the silence. Her name is still on the caller ID, so when it rings and I see “Nanny Home,” I know it will be my grandfather. My lost, sad grandfather who’s a different man now.

People like to think of their deceased loved ones as somewhere else, always in a better place. My disbelief system prevents me from placing her in some kind of heavenly, eternal setting. I can’t believe it so I can’t conceive of it either, as much as I would like to. Believe me, there are times that I crave some kind of sign from her, a signal, just a brief passing feeling or glimpse of something, or an audible sound, a wisp, footsteps anything, but to me she’s just gone. The promise of seeing her again in another incarnation is off this table and so is the comfort that such a thought would bring.

For her birthday I plan on doing all the little things she liked me to do, whenever I’d see her, the small requests, her sweet preferences, no matter how insignificant.

  • I will sport a preppy shirt, tuck it in, and wear a belt
  • I will be polite to everyone I meet
  • I will pitch in and help out wherever I can
  • I will shave my stubbly face
  • I will floss, maybe twice in a row
  • I will clean every plate I face
  • I will pick up a Bible and try to find something she would’ve liked
  • I will vacuum the floor of my car
  • I will find a rerun of The Love Boat/Fantasy Island/The Carol Burnett Show/Hee Haw and cover up with a blanket and miss her commentary
  • I will fuss over my kids, her great-grandchildren, and savor them like she did
  • I will bring her back to life through memory and honor her through small gestures
  • I will miss her











Reflections That Arise From Near Constant Viewings of The Croods

Posted in Family, Gags, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2015 by Mike


Any parent of a toddler will tell you that kids will get fixated on one movie and watch it until the laser has burned right through the DVD. Our daughter, Alice Wren, is going through an intense love affair with “The Croods.” It’s her first and last request of the day: Can I watch The Croods? Of course we say yes and reach for all of the remotes – we wouldn’t dream of squashing her young love affair.

But due to the unfortunate open concept design of our home, we are also forced to watch it, unless we spent the waking hours in the garage with the door closed, and what kind of family time is that? The more you watch a movie, the more you start to make connections and decode puzzles the filmmakers planted just for you and the countless other willing and unwilling habitual viewers.

  1. Certain scenes were written to riff on the probably universal sentiment that Nicolas Cage is a shameless overactor. (a.) When the dad character emerges from the cave and reluctantly signals to his family that it’s all clear. The dad is embarrassed to do the weird bird sound – “aaah-oooh, aaah-ooooh” – and you can feel Cage filling the recording studio with his patented brand of cheesy uber-emoting. (b.) When he and Guy are trying to get the large colorful cat to yank them from the tar and he performs with the “acting sticks.” Cage seizes the scene like the character seizes the sticks and the over the top performance, in this one scene in this one movie, is appropriate.
  2. The opening sequence – the epic chase for the egg, which is underscored by a marching band like a halftime show or an NFL highlight film – is one of the better action sequences you will find in any movie. There’s humor, greatThe-Croods-egg-in-beak-scene directing, tension, release, and suspense. Repeated viewings only intensify the fun–I can see this rewiring my daughter’s synapses as she studies the screen every time, hopefully it’s improving the original network. 
  3. This movie surely overplays the running joke “I wish death upon my mother-in-law”–it’s probably used at least six times where the dad is doing a headcount and he’s repeatedly disappointed when he finds that the mother-in-law has survived the latest misadventure. Simply, he wishes she was dead dead dead and that’s a weird point to make over and over again.
  4. If you really think about it, modern man still lives in caves and we only venture out for the necessities–we are plagued by trepidation since danger and horror await us each time we roll away the rock and emerge from our holes and squint into the oblivion of each new day.
  5. Despite his skills on the vibes, Belt should’ve been hurled off a cliff the second time he did the ominous da-da-beltdaaaa thing. And he carries a knife – he’s dangerous and not to be trusted. 
  6. I think the the cave-Emma Stone and the cave-Catherine Keener are just as enticing as their real selves and I think most females would think the same thing about the cave-Ryan Reynolds. And then I think I should get out more.
  7. It’s doubtful that an elephant-sized feline exists in the fossil record. But wouldn’t that be fun? This movie makes you cherish your pets and, if there was more time and an editing suite in this garage, could be trimmed down into a commercial for fostering unwanted animals.
  8. The ancient artists behind the Lascaux cave paintings were probably hilarious and ironic and invented their era’s versions of modern conveniences like umbrellas and instant cameras. In this painting, you can see that early man used rubber duck canes, which can now be found in Disney Stores all around the country.Field Museum 6

To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before – a remake

Posted in Gags, Music with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2015 by Mike

As cheesy great as the original was, this song needed a reboot. Not all guys can sleep with whichever beautiful woman he desires. Most of them wander around in desperate longing half the time, tantalized by the gorgeous females beyond their reach.

Click here to listen to the recording.

all the girls-01


The Pitch-Mire

Posted in Gags with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2015 by Mike

pitch mire-01

Pitch-mire, noun: The seemingly interminable span of time between the beginning of the forced ad the millisecond when you can, and do, skip the ad. While in the pitch-mire, you watch the seconds count down, forcing yourself not to look at or listen to the commercial. You vow to never buy the product that’s being advertised and curse the fact that you live in an era where you can’t watch a blooper reel without having to view a friggin Mylanta commercial. During the middle seconds, and since you’re on the clock, you wonder if you shouldn’t just cancel out of the window and do your actual job, but that thought takes 2-3 seconds, nudging you that much closer to the sweet release of the blooper reel. Just before the countdown is over, you wonder if the advertiser knows how hated they’ve become during this relatively short interval and that, instead of a potential customer, they’ve created a monster determined to sabotage their business. Then the blooper reel starts and your blood pressure goes down and you watch Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly clips for the hundredth time.

Movie Memes for Parents

Posted in Family, Gags with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2015 by Mike










Something in the Way We Move

Posted in Family, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2015 by Mike

This week is the culmination of a year and half of effort to move our family a few counties away. While the entire timeline is hard work, endless prep, semesters worth of research and study, and the coordination and cooperation of dozens of individuals, things don’t really get crazy until the end. The month before you move will affect your long-term mental state. Here are some milestones and things to consider if you’re planning to move in the near future.

30 days left – Once the contract is signed, your old house and its attendant issues are someone else’s problem. But fear of bad Karma and crapping on your buyers motivate you to weed your yard by hand since the lawn service was dropped weeks earlier and the grass is being overrun by countless alien sprouts.

24 days left – You start to look at your spouse as a co-worker at a moving company. All of your time is spent planning logistics, stacking, and restacking columns of boxes. You have detailed directions on where every item in every box will go in the new home and you wonder, since every other waking moment is occupied by another task, if your wife is nesting in her sleep.moving1

20 days left – You invent creative recipes to thin food from the pantry. I suggest crock-potting all of the cans of beans you have with the freezer-burned Boca Crumbles sitting on the Antarctic top shelf of the freezer, topped with fried onion straws, and maybe a handful of petrified Bac-O’s for zest.

17 days left – You are on a constant quest for boxes, sometimes driving miles into the country working from a tip given by another gas station (“Mary’s Market may have boxes”) You score a box from Mary and it somehow seems worth the time and gas money. Though infinite in their supply, you find that boxes from the liquor store are small and you’re lucky to pack a single, newspapered shoe in one of them.

14 days left – The house that you’re moving into sits out there like a faint, not quite affordable, mirage. You pull the address up on Google maps often and study every curve in your new road and squint at the satellite images of the houses of your new neighbors to see what clues you can deduce.

12 days left – You survey what’s left to do in your house and see things in 15 minute increments of time and amount of boxes each space represents (e.g., Alice’s closet will take 45 minutes and 4 boxes to pack.) At this point you realize there’s not enough time to do it all so you start the wholesale trashing of irreplaceable family possessions.moving2

10 days left – It’s amazing how well beer helps the packing process, so amazing that your belly sloshes at all times. Three beers is the magic number, anything beyond that slows you down and makes you spend the majority of your time retrieving lost items that you set down somewhere, especially the black Sharpie and the packing tape, which should be secured to your body at all times during the two weeks leading up to the move.

8 days left – To avoid yet another logistical task or phone call to a service provider, you wonder if you can manage okay without cable, trash pick-up, or electricity at your new home.

7 days left – Weird moving logic peaks when you consider buying a fifth of gin to make martinis so you don’t have to move or pour out the half bottle of vermouth still left on the liquor shelf.

5 days left – Due to the numerous idiosyncrasies of your old home, you realize the rest of your time should be spent on drafting an Instruction Manual for the new owners. Article 4, Section 2: Handle of kitchen faucet must be returned to the 12 o’clock position to stop leak; Addendum 2b, Appendix XII: Do not stand fully upright in the attic or you will puncture your head on roofing nails driven from the other side.

2 days left – Since you’re taking your kids to the grandparents while you and the wife suffer through the last grueling days, their countdown is on a faster track that yours. Even though they’re young, you feel the need to tell them it’s their last day and to take it all in while they can. It’s your own nostalgia forcing the issue but you can’t stop yourself. Once you’ve driven them from the old house for the last time, dropped them off, and are alone in the car, you put on your shades and finally play Patty Griffin’s Useless Desires and Jackson Browne’s Looking Into You (songs you’ve been purposefully avoiding until you were ready) and let that nostalgia really stretch its legs.moving3

The End – There’s no reason to divide the last two days into separate units since they run together and are a blur of backbreaking toil, military maneuver-like logistics, and misplacing more stuff. This is the period of time when you count on family and friends to voluntarily agree to haul all of your earthly belongings from one roofed compartment to another. This is when you sweat in brand new places and reek like someone from a life raft but still find yourself in clean, sterile law offices signing documents. Your sense of place is turned upside down and memories and new worries come tumbling out. You wander through your old empty home one last time and recollections fly past like a DVD rewinding on 4x speed; meanwhile, entering your new house as homeowner brings out many large and small imperfections – like the last owner was a hardcore smoker which will require priming, painting, and recarpeting so your young daughter doesn’t get lung cancer the moment she enters her new room – but it’s just Day One of a brand new timeline. And you can hardly wait to get started.

A Tale of Two Pillows

Posted in Family, Gags with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by Mike



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