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1. How Are You?

The most disingenuous three words in the English language. Unless you are the ultimate cynic and cast your lot with I love you. I hope that’s not the case.

Do we ever mean it when we ask? Really? When is the last time you passed someone in the hall and said “how are you” and truly wanted to take the time to know how they were? I’ll bet it’s been a while.

I’m not holier than thou. I say it all the time and rarely care. If some slick gunslinger is quicker on the draw than me, I even add the oft-disregarded, “I am well, and you?” Of course, I don’t want to know.

Until yesterday.

I get these wild hairs – often they involve really stupid things, but this one actually had redeeming potential. I decided to spend my lunch hour in the lobby of my building asking people I saw, “How are you?” and giving them available time and a proper interest to see if they would answer.

Most people don’t stop long enough to notice my disarming voice beckoning them to unburden themselves. The first seven I asked kept moving and gave the appropriate return without so much as an upward glance.

I don’t believe that anyone is “fine” like these seven told me. Pawn your lies and rote responses elsewhere.

Fine

Number eight seemed to think I had serious mental problems and eyed me warily while reaching into her purse for either a small handgun or pepper spray. Needless to say I decided against an elevator ride with this charmer. “I’ll take the next one, Bonnie Parker.”

You can trap the elderly.

In walked a slow, older gentleman. Number nine. He began scanning the directory and seemed somewhat confused.

“How are you?” I asked in a very welcoming and reassuring tone.

“I’m fine young man, just fine,” he replied. Something was different, though. Before he spoke, he turned and made eye contact.

He was rather unkempt, smelled like my high school gym teacher, and had a thick bushel of hair growing out of each nostril. But he smiled warmly. In fact, he smiled all over… an infectious smiled that started at his lips, slowly ran through his eyes and worked its way off his person and onto me. I liked this old dude.

“Say, would you know where the office of Litton & Driscoll is located,” he asked.

“I think that’s on the fourth floor.”

He patted me gently on the chest with some paperwork he had rolled into a tube, like a kid’s telescope. “Thank you, friend.”

“Don’t mention it.” Judging from his demeanor, this might be my first victim who actually was okay. He might just be fine. I had to be certain, though. “Are you sure you are fine?”

He looked at me long whilst I returned my best, biggest, dopiest smile.

“Well, I am headed up to settle my wife’s affairs. So, if you want an honest answer, I suppose I’m not fine.”

Oh boy…  Panic!   In over my head…  I thought I would learn about a foot ailment… or a wayward kitten. Not this. Why am I so stupid? All of me wanted to say, “I’m fine, and you?” But I got myself into this.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine.”

“You married?”

“Yes, sir. For 22 years now.”

“Seem young for that.”

I really liked this old dude.

“How long were you married?”

“Fifty-three years last August….”

And so began a wonderful story of love and loss.

You know what? I’m glad I asked. In fact, I’m going to break the habit of asking when I don’t care. From now on, I will only ask, “how are you” if I have time and interest in the answer. Try it yourself. Better yet, come join Joseph and me for coffee tomorrow morning and see that infectious smile.


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on How Are You?, last added: 11/19/2014
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2. A Thing for Vanna White

When I was in college, I had a thing for Vanna White.

Thing – (n) An odd desire or inkling of unknown origin and without rational basis that impels one to make poor decisions.

Everyone has a thing for someone else at some point. You can’t dismiss them, nor can you describe them. Things are just things. Boys especially get things because we are so visually driven. My thing happened to be for a letter-turning model who wore evening gowns.

vwIt’s best when a thing isn’t an acquaintance. That way, you have little opportunity to make a fool of yourself. Also good is when your thing is a celebrity because they have 300 pound security officers to keep fools with things away.

I never got the chance to meet Vanna. A friend had a similar thing for her and we decided to drive to Charleston when Wheel of Fortune went on the road. Our jalopy broke down somewhere in Tennessee and we never got close. Probably best.

By the time I met my wife, I thought I was over my thing. Little did I know that Vanna would rear her finely-styled locks into my life again. Searching for something to watch, I paused on Wheel of Fortune far too long, which elicited a comment from my Future Lovely Wife, who knew about my thing for Vanna.

FLW: It’s okay, you can watch her.

Me: No, I don’t want to watch her.

FLW: Seriously, nothing else is on and I know you like her.

Me: I don’t like her.

FLW: It’s okay to think she’s pretty.

(Before I type my response, you have to understand that I am and always have been an idiot.)

Me: Oh, you’re nowhere near as pretty as Vanna White.

Yup. That is actually what I said. I fully intended to say, “Vanna White is nowhere near as pretty as you.” But I didn’t. Stupid Thing! That comment has been etched in family lore ever since. Somehow, she still met me at the altar.

 

In breaking news, my wife is HOT! I’m sorry if that offends anyone – I don’t mean it to be demeaning. I asked if I could say it and it doesn’t offend her. She got the chance to wear an evening gown a few weeks ago and WOW! I always knew she was gorgeous, but WOW! Of course, in the pictures, there is a gorilla in a tuxedo beside her who looks too dumb to know he is the poor side of the unequal relationship.

 

There is a point in this post.

 

I decided to change the background of my phone to the picture of us in our swanky clothes. Since there are six of us, I couldn’t lay it out without cropping one or two of my kids, which could cause problems (especially if it were one of the middle children who always feel cut out). So I made just my stunning wife in her blue gown my background. Now that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it has been for me.

You see, every time I finish a call or close an app, no matter what I’ve been doing or seeing, I go right back to my wife. Remember our visual nature. Wherever I allow myself to wander, this picture on my phone gets me revved up about my wife… which is kinda the way it’s supposed to be.

Take note guys. Find a picture where your wife, fiancée, girlfriend looks absolutely gorgeous and put it as the background on your phone. Too often, we get stuck looking at other things.

Things aren’t real and will get you nowhere. Just ask me about Vanna.


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on A Thing for Vanna White, last added: 11/13/2014
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3. The Art of the Snot Rocket

I have no idea when I perfected it. The snot rocket is an art boys learn early on. We had our share of cold winters in Kentucky where I grew up. Winter, where the snot rocket is born…

You might say there is no skill involved in expelling phlegm from your nose. That’s where you are wrong. Anyone’s nose can run. The question is: can hold your nose just right, tilt your head and force it out properly so that it doesn’t land on your face or clothing? Because that would be embarrassing. Further, can you aim it while on the run so it doesn’t freeze and become a dangerous icy patch to those who come after you?

I can.

sr

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good – darn good. I feel like if we could get this added as an Olympic sport, I could medal. Where is the SRAA (Snot Rocket Athletic Association) to champion this cause? Imagine that, a Southern boy winning gold in the Winter Olympics.

I got to test my skill Sunday. It dipped to freezing in Georgia for the first time this winter. I love cold runs. In fact, I planned on doing 8 miles and stretched it into 10. There weren’t many people on the greenway with me while I plied my phlegmy craft. Unbeknownst to me, there was a new factor at play.

Kylie has decided that she no longer likes the shape of my head and wants me to cover it with hair again. In fact, she decided she would like me to cover my face, as well. I don’t know what that says, but I am happy to comply. Just like I had always wanted to shave my head, I have always wanted to try to grow a beard. My lovely wife objected to both, but we do pretty much whatever Kylie wants while she is in treatment. So I have a week’s worth of stubble on my head and face.

I think it is going to come in. It looks slightly patchy on the cheeks, but a goatee will not be a problem. All the online beard-growing advice I’ve found says you have to give it a month before you decide. I can hold out. I’m actually kind of excited about it. Right now, with stubble all over, I feel dangerous – like a European bad guy in a James Bond film.

This new growth plays havoc with the snot rocket, however. I didn’t know it when I started running. I launched away for the 5 miles out. When I turned around, more people had joined the run and I noticed quite a few stares. I chalked it up to my new shady appearance. They must be afraid – wondering if I was planning dastardly deeds that only MI6 can thwart. Dangerous.

Little did I know until I got to the truck that I was stockpiling snot rockets on my new facial hair. Like twin demented antlers, they had collected and grown in a downward spiral shape from my upper lip. Yuck…

I have a challenge before me this winter of adapting the game to my new look. Don’t worry, part of being a professional is overcoming obstacles that stand in the way. And if the SRAA comes calling, I will shave and probably wax my upper lip to be competitive. Nothing can get in the way of an Olympic dream.


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on The Art of the Snot Rocket, last added: 11/5/2014
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4. Pure Joy

I got to be party to pure, absolute joy this weekend. I have seen such displays on television after a big win in sports or gameshows. This time, it was my little girl who celebrated. After so many losses in the past six months, it was a much needed win.

As a parent, one of the worst things about cancer is being totally helpless. We are forced to sit and watch as one thing after another is taken away from our little girl. Ballet, plays, school, vacations, little things and big things are plucked away as she lays in bed.

Wonderful organizations are out there to give back to these kids. Groups such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation come beside them to give them something to look forward to during their treatment. A very introspective child, Kylie debated long and hard over her wish, finally deciding she wanted to see Aladdin on Broadway.

A few weeks ago, Kylie was asked to be the honored child at Make-a-Wish Georgia’s annual fund-raising Wish Gala. The chairperson of the event took her on a shopping spree for a gown. This day of shopping was unlike any that my girls have been on – especially Kylie. As a fourth child, hand-me-downs are the rule of thumb. If it isn’t obscenely high or dragging the ground, it fits.

Not this time. She was treated like a princess. After a six month hiatus, I saw her old friend, “excitement” start to creep back into her life.

The big night came. We all got dressed up for the Gala.

gala

 

She knew she was going to sing with her sister. She knew I was going to speak. She thought of herself as the entertainment and the face of wish-children for the evening. What she didn’t know was that Make-a-Wish had planned a big surprise for her. They had a video from her favorite Broadway performers who granted her wish to go to see Aladdin. Here is her reaction:

 

 

Priceless.  Pure Joy.

After so many months of seeing her disappointed, I can’t look at that video without tears.

You might be wondering if I embarrassed myself and my family in front of the trendier set. I believe the answer is no. With a stern admonition from the start, I spent the evening minding everything I did and said carefully. I paused three seconds before any word escaped my lips. I didn’t spill or break anything. My online tux-buying escapade was made unnecessary by a friend exactly my size who owns a tuxedo. I did not step on anyone’s dress or trip on my way to the stage. I didn’t try to fit in by discussing the beach chalet I own in Vermont.

It was a lovely evening. Kylie was the star…. And she deserves it.

 


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on Pure Joy, last added: 10/22/2014
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5. What I Learned About My Wife This Year

It is fitting that I spend this day, my 22nd wedding anniversary, with my lovely bride at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. We are here together waiting for Kylie to get out of minor surgery. We have never made a huge deal of our anniversary – sometimes a nice dinner out but often just too much going on with our four children to make it work. I’m embarrassed to say there have been years when a kiss and a card is all we could muster. Suffice it to say that there will not be a banner celebration this year, either.

Year 22 has been challenging to say the least. Not in a contentious way, I am happy to report that we have never been more united. But when I review the years, this is one that I would like stricken from the record. I wish I could pull this book off the shelf and let 21 fall lazily into 23. It proves the need for the “better or worse, in sickness and in health” portion of the vows we stood up and said when I was but a wet-nosed pup.

 

anniversary

 

Even though April’s cancer diagnosis has made the year regrettable, I have learned much about my wife and our marriage. In fact, I’ve learned things I will never give back.

 

I learned my wife has a seemingly infinite supply of tears that no words of mine can dry. My shoulder has been wetted by them far too often. I wish I had a magic word to make them stop, but only time and tenderness sooth the pain.

Likewise, I have learned my wife’s care for those she loves has no limit.

I have learned my wife is the most unselfish person I know. She has put her life completely on hold this year and not voiced one word of complaint about what she is missing.

I’ve shared the boat when the storm is high and seen her reach levels of peace that can only be called supernatural.

I have seen that she can be her loved one’s greatest advocate, stopping at nothing to get what her patient needs and letting no one interfere with her.

I know that she might not remember to take her phone off silent for days on end, but she can quickly recall exact medication, doses, and the last time given.

I have found she has strength and resolve I could only imagine prior to this year.

I have seen her ignore her own pain and seek ways to lessen the pain of her patient.

Although she hates camping, I have learned that she will sleep on an uncomfortably hard couch beside a hospital bed for nights on end if someone she loves needs her there.

Speaking of sleep, I have been reminded that she needs very little and will sacrifice it completely if she is needed during the night.

With only twenty-four hours in the day and a relentless schedule of caregiving, she seems to have created time and invented special ways to make the rest of us in the family feel loved.

I now know that her faith, hope, and love are boundless.

 

All in all, I have seen God reaffirm just how blessed I am that she had a momentary lapse of reason and chose me. I always thought I would be the elderly and infirmed patient that required her care first. I wish that were the case. When I grow old and start falling apart, I’m sure I will test her patience with surprising wimpiness and irrational demands. With what I’ve seen this year, I know I will be in excellent hands.

So today, I will whisper a Happy Anniversary to her while Kylie sleeps off the anesthesia. Sometimes through sickness and tragedy we learn things. Every day this year, I have seen the tender way she cares for her girl and learned a little more about just how lucky I am.

 

 

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

6 Comments on What I Learned About My Wife This Year, last added: 10/3/2014
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6. The Flirt

I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.

Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.

Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”

I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.

800px-Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation

Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.

Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.

I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.

At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”

“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”

Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”

The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.

“I don’t think I know you,” I said.

“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”

Crap…

I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.

 

***

Artwork:  The Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on The Flirt, last added: 9/30/2014
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7. The Flirt

I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.

Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.

Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”

I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.

800px-Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation

Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.

Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.

I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.

At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”

“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”

Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”

The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.

“I don’t think I know you,” I said.

“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”

Crap…

I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.

 

***

Artwork:  The Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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8. Honesty Has a Smell

A relaxing morning, cooler temperatures, a good run, and a mystery to be solved. That’s what greeted me on Sunday. What started off as an excellent day devolved into a conspiracy against me! The evidence piled up early until I had no other option but to come to the conclusion that I am not trusted in my home when it comes to selecting fragrances.cp

No one would tell me this shocking news, of course. I had to figure it out on my own. Since my littlest’s sickness means my wife stays with her most of the time, I must do a good portion of the shopping. I am up to the task. I have now purchased things I didn’t know we used, needed, or even existed. One of those things is fragrance products. Did you know there is a whole store that just sells that? I knew about air fresheners, baking soda, and odor-eaters, but do we really need a store.

The aforementioned little one currently loves bubble bath – which apparently, they only sell at the smell store. So I volunteered the previous day to go and get her more. When I did so, I noticed a few sneers and strange looks around the room. Never did I think they would stoop so low as to plot an underhanded way to keep me from helping. But that’s just what they did.

I believe in honesty! If someone has an issue with me, tell me. I would much rather someone tell me that my pants are too tight and my shirt too puffy than let me walk around all day looking like a foolish pirate. I guess this is a value I have been lax in instilling in my children…

On our way home from church, we passed the smell store. When I suggested to the two daughters present that we stop in, I got fumbling excuses about homework and hunger. I should have known something was amiss right then. I mean, when do they ever want to do homework?

Arriving at home, pizza appeared from nowhere along with cold Dr. Pepper. I was ushered to the TV where the Falcons game was already cued up on the DVR. Hmmmm….

Lulled into a football coma, three hours passed as my team got pushed around by their opponent. Likewise, I got manhandled by five delicate females. Angry about the game, I grabbed my keys to go – only to find that the purchases had already been made.

I was going to get something exotic, tropical… something that would have let her float away to an island retreat… Whatever scent I picked would have soothed her beyond all her troubles. It would have uplifted her mood and spirits just to reflect on its glorious scent. My choices were as endless as a box a crayons:

Warm Vanilla Sugar

Peace, Love & Daisies

Pure Paradise

Endless Weekend

 

Why wouldn’t they let me? Why?

None would make eye contact with me as I probed for an answer, leaving me:

Hurt

Disappointed

Rejected

Betrayed

 

Finally the little one said, “Dad, you like the smell of your farts.”

And there it is! Honesty! That’s all I’m asking for.                  Wait… Huh?


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on Honesty Has a Smell, last added: 9/17/2014
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9. Bumps and Petty Annoyances

There once was a humble Lord who refused the high stature, fame, and glory that he so rightly deserved. He lived with his beautiful Lady in a quiet manor deep in a thick forest. The two had a dog who rarely barked, save at pillaging squirrels – and that was just fine because the Lord hated squirrels nearly as much as he detested noise.noise

Slowly, however, noise crept in. It started with a small bump on his Lady that grew and grew until the bump turned into a baby. How proud he was of this little bump. It cooed, it giggled, it smiled… and it cried. It shattered his peace with its colicky wails and while he loved this little bump, the Lord yearned for the peace it had stolen.

From time to time, snuck off to the porch, basement, or rolling meadow to get away from the ruckus. As time marched on, the little bump became mobile. For some reason, it loved the Lord of the manor and would follow him to any retreat and destroy the silence he sought.

Three more bumps put an end to any refuge on the grounds. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no square inch of silence to be found. The bumps may have shattered his peace, but they brought him laughter, love, and joy he hadn’t known before. He loved the little bumps more than he ever thought possible… even though they were loud.

All four little bumps grew in stature and decibel until they could no longer be called little. In fact, the time came for one of them to strike off on its own. It was the oldest and loudest bump that left home in search of her destiny. Both Lord and Lady were sad. There was but one comfort in her absence, some measure of quiet returned to the manor.

In the evenings, while the other three bumps pursued wordless interests, the Lord sat back in his easy chair and relished the silence. This newfound peace lasted several days before he realized something was missing. Something he had previously considered an annoyance was gone. He should have been happy. He should have rejoiced over the removal of the thorn. But instead, he felt a different way.

So it went until a long weekend came and the oldest bump burst through the door with a very large bag of laundry. Beside her stood an equally loud jester she suspiciously called “boyfriend”. They sung, hooted, hollered, and raised the excitement of the other bumps until the Lord of the manor had to hold his ears. Now he knew what was missing. Though his head did ache, his heart was full enough to accept even the added noise of her jester friend.

In this merry state, he wondered what joys had he missed over the years simply because he had loved silence over substance.

Petty annoyances can be dangerous things, don’t give them more credence than they are due.   


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7 Comments on Bumps and Petty Annoyances, last added: 9/9/2014
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10. #652 – I Love You Infinity by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt

coverx

I Love You Infinity

Written by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt
Illustrated by Robert Pracek
Blue Note Books 2014
978-0-9895563-2-3
Age 4 to 8 32 pages
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“I Love You . . . Infinity brings a precious, yet simple message about expressing love, while journeying through space and experiencing a fun fact about each planet in our solar system with the characters Fisher and Rigley. The book’s vivid and colorful illustrations and lovable characters help your children engage in bringing them along on this lively adventure Fisher and Rigley’s characters are so entertaining and charming, they will pull your children’s attention in like gravity and encourage their imagination to explore an out of this world love. Bring the message of love into your home when you and your children say I Love You . . . Infinity.”

Opening

“Mommy, How much do you love us?” asked Fisher and Rigley.”

The Story

The family of three starts out on the ground asking if mom loves them bigger than their house. Then Rigley, who is a giraffe, wants to know if Mom loves them farther than the moon. The next spread shows Rigley in his space outfit, floating near the sun. Once again, he asks,

“Do you love us BIGGER than the sun?”

Of course, mom does love him bigger than the sun. Then the trio head off to a star; the rocky planets Mercury and Venus; the beautiful Earth; red Mars; Jupiter, the largest planet in the system; Saturn and all its rings; cold Uranus; as far out as Neptune and the once, but no longer planet of Pluto. Mom loves the boys more than all the planets in the solar system, the universe, and finally infinity.

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Review

Brothers Fisher and Rigley ask Mom how much she loves them. This sparks a long series of increasing degrees of love. The first thing mom must do is explain the meaning of infinity. Mom says,

“It means forever and always.”

Though not exactly correct, that definition fits the book. Infinity is limitless in time, space, or distance; a number so great you cannot count it. For a four-year-old, “forever and always” may be easier to understand. Do not think your child will learn a “fun fact” about each planet. The “fun facts” include the Sun is big, planet Earth is beautiful, Mercury and Venus are rocky, Mars is red, Uranus is cold, Saturn has rings, Neptune is a long way away, and Pluto is no longer a planet. I expected more, something new, something interesting. If you want interesting facts about the solar system and each planet, go to Kids Astronomy.com. (http://www.kidsastronomy.com/) The writing is good and nearly error-free.

I love the spread, near the end, with the complete solar system laid out including poor abandoned Pluto. The brightly colored illustrations fill up each page, and, because you are in space, expect to see a lot of yellows and blues. The three characters are cute, especially Rigley, who is a giraffe.  Somewhere I read that the two brothers were to represent the two brothers who co-authored the book with mom. Now, which one chose to be a giraffe? Whoever you are, your giraffe is cute and one of my favorite animals.

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I really like the last spread where mom finally proclaims,

“I love you infinity.”

The light blue page shows each planet, in correct order, and the spaceship carrying the characters moves around those planets in a lopsided figure eight—the symbol for infinity. All of the illustrations are pleasing to the eye.  When you purchase I Love You Infinity, be care to get the correct book, there are two other children’s books with the same title.

Kids will enjoy I Love You Infinity, especially if they are into science or the planets. Anyone can make this book work into a fun, giggle-fest, ending in a series of hugs and kisses goodnight. Boys in particular will enjoy this picture book, which I think the authors have planned as a series, though I do not know what is next on their agenda. Though I Love You Infinity is a simple picture book about the complex solar system, it does a good job of orienting kids to our solar system and space, and it gives parents a fun read. The font is rather large, often too large, but if read in a story hour with several kids, the extra large font could be visible to every child. An interesting debut by mom and her two creative sons.

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I LOVE YOU INFINITY. Text copyright © 2014 by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Pracek. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Blue Note Books, Melbourne, FL.

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Buy I Love You Infinity at AmazonB&NBlue Note Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about I Love You Infinity HERE

Meet the author, Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt at their Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/Jillian.Anjill

Meet author, Jillian Schmidt, at her website:   http://infinityauthorjillian.blogspot.com/

Find other books at Blue Note Books website:   http://www.bluenotebooksonline.com/

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i love you infinity

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: Children's Books Tagged: family, Jillian Schmidt, love, Max Schmidt, outer space, relationships, Sam Schmidt, solar system

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11. The Fine Line between Grocer & Gangster

Going to the grocery store is akin to walking down a city street where a guy in a pinstripe suit says, “C’mere… I needs to have a word witcha.” If you follow him down the dark alley, you’ll stumble back out pennyless.

A grocer is just a gangster in an apron. They act like your friend, but they are only there to rip you off.

Take toilet paper. We all need it, but they stymie you with choices and ridiculous descriptions that make no sense! Double rolls, triple rolls, soft, extra-super soft – what does all that mean? I got the Delicately Quilted Super Cuddly Teddy Bear Soft one time and it felt so good the whole pack was gone in a day. The kids wiped when they hiccuped just to feel it and our septic tank backed up from all the quilting. Forget that, now I buy the thinnest, coarsest paper I can find – single ply and unscented. The stuff lasts forever because it’s almost a punishment to go to the bathroom. Some kids refuse to use the toilet at school, mine hold it until they get there.

Another hang-up I have is laundry detergent. It’s so stinking expensive! It’s just soap! When did they start charging by the fragrance? My wife is very particular about her lavender scent. Me? I’m just partial to clean and really not immovable on that point. So, while at the store, I made the command decision that we needed a new scent at our house. Out with the lavender and in with the wonderful smell of whatever the store brand that’s half-price. It’s gotta be good, it says it is Trustworthy right on the box.

I worked out savings on paper products, hygiene, and hair care all before tackling food. 1024px-Man_grocery_shoppingThere I found some pretty good bargains in meats. The store has this whole refrigerated section of half-priced meat. Some of it seemed slightly discolored and the expiration date was fast approaching. But as long as we cook it real well and have 3 – 5 pounds with every meal before Friday, we should be fine.

Yesterday’s bread – check.

Dented cans – perfect.

Brownish bananas – Viva Variety!

 

By the time I had my cart filled, I noticed the apron-clad robber standing in the dairy section watching me. He worked a toothpick with his stumpy fingers as he sized me up. The plethora of orange clearance labels in my cart told him I was onto his little game. We squared off like gunslingers in the Old West. Time stood still. Mothers pulled children out of the center aisle in slow motion, afraid of the impending showdown. From the back of the produce department I heard the signature ominous whistle and somehow, the slap of saloon doors. I cracked my neck, rolled my fingers, and readied for the call to draw.

But the old grocer was yella. I had him beat and he knew it.

couponsI checked out to find I had shaved $87 from our weekly bill. Genius. Street genius. The little old lady behind me nodded proudly as she fingered through a thick wallet of neatly cut newsprint. Intrigued, I inquired about them and learned all about these things called coupons from my new friend, Mildred.

Turns out they save you even more money! Who knew?

 

“Hey Guido the Grocer, I’ve got a coupon-cutting date with Mildred on Saturday… After that, I’m coming back to town. And it ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

 

 

(This story would have ended happily if I hadn’t have changed scents. Turns out, my wife didn’t feel threatened at all by my new 84 year-old coupon girlfriend. She just really likes lavender.)

 

Photo by: By Bill Branson


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5 Comments on The Fine Line between Grocer & Gangster, last added: 9/4/2014
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12. #650 – The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey by Gregory E. Bray & Holly J. Bray-Cook

cover 2 mzzox

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The “Tail” of a Boy Named Harvey

Written by Gregory E. Bray
Illustrated by Holly J. Bray-Cook
Published by Gregory E. Bray         6/01/2013
978-1-488271465-4
Age 4 to 8              32 pages
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“Harvey is always playing with his pets, but his pets don’t like the way he plays with them. When the tables have turned, will he enjoy the way he’s played with?”

Opening

“Harvey was an energetic boy. He loved playing sports.”

The Story

Harvey is a typical five-year-old. He is rambunctious, energetic, imaginative, and self-centered. Harvey loves playing with his pets: a dog and a cat (names not given). Being a young boy, he does not think of either pet’s feelings or consider how they might like to play. The pets are like large dolls that breathe. Harvey puts clothes on them, uses the cat as a basketball, and dresses both up in military garb when he wants to play army—sending the cat up into the air so it may return in a parachute. To say Harvey plays rough with his companions is a mild way of describing his actions. Harvey plays like a little boy plays, with energy and enthusiasm.

The poor dog and cat are not happy and try to avoid Harvey at all costs. His parents cannot figure out why the pets react so adversely to their son, until the day mom catches Harvey ready to catch his parachuting kitty.

“She sent him to his room after dinner and he was only allowed to come out for school and meals.”

Harvey’s response to his punishment further shows he has no idea what he did to get into so much trouble.

“Stupid pets!”  [Harvey said, while lying in bed.]

Review

spread1

I really like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Subconsciously, Harvey understood what he did was wrong. In his dream, he is the “pet” and the pets “own” him. The pets play with Harvey exactly as he played with them—thrown up in the air, dressed up, and abruptly awakened. Harvey hates this “playing.” The army games the pets play with Harvey terrify him enough to jolt him awake. Mom tells him it is only a dream, but Harvey has other thoughts on his mind,

“I’m sorry guys. I didn’t know how bad I treated you. I promise to play nice with you for now on!”

I like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey because animal abuse starts with that first inappropriate action. While most kids do not continue on abusing animals—and later extend the abuse to humans—the sooner they learn to respect their pets, the faster they will learn to respect other people and themselves. Harvey’s self-centeredness, typical for his age, opened up a notch with his revelation. I love that Harvey came to this realization mainly by himself, though he would have gotten there much slower had mom not punished him. This is a perfect example of how kids learn. The author’s inspiration for the book came in part from his son Liam and their cat Harvey. The author got it right.

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Now, what I do not like about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. I am not a fan of the 8 x 8 format mainly because little hands need the stronger pages of a traditional picture book format. A couple of pages came loose from the binding in my copy. The main problem with the story is the lack of action. The narrator tells us 90 percent or more of what is happening instead of letting the characters do this. The story would be more engaging had this happened. The reader would also be able to add to the story by adopting character voices and further charm their child. Please remember the key maxim: Show not Tell.

The illustrations are good, not traditional looking picture book illustrations, but nicely done. The pets are great at showing their dislike through facial expressions, though my cat would have simply hissed or bit, then run away. When the pets do run away, their fast retreat is nicely illustrated. The illustrator made sure we understood Harvey’s point of view drastically changes when he becomes the pet. The dog and cat (wish they had names) are adorable. Nice job with the little details I love so much.

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I think kids will like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Young kids will appreciate the story and laugh at Harvey’s predicament. Those with pets will quickly learn from Harvey and that is a great thing to happen. Classrooms with a pet would do well to read this story, as would any child soon to get their first pet. The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey is the author’s, and the illustrator’s, first children’s book. They both did a nice job bringing the story of Harvey (the cat or the boy, I am no longer sure which) to life.

THE TAIL OF A BOY NAMED HARVEY. Text copyright © 2013 by Gregory E. Bray. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Holly J. Bray-Cook. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gregory E. Bray, Sacramento, CA.

For a young lad’s critique, click HERE

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Purchase The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey at Amazon—B&N—CreateSpace—Gregory Bray—your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey HERE

Meet the author, Gregory E. Bray, at his blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Meet the illustrator, Holly J. Bray-Cook, at her website:

Gregory E. Bray published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

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tail of a boy named harvey

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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A Little about Gregory E. Bray

gregory e bray authorx

“Gregory E Bray (1967-present) was born and raised in Sacramento, CA where he still resides He was a film major in college who now works in the IT industry. He has written scripts for corporate videos and shorts and uses humor in everything he writes. He uses his humor in this, his first children’s book, to help get the books message out to children. His inspiration for writing this children’s book comes from his wife Lita, their son Liam and their cat Harvey.”

How to Find Gregory E. Bray

Website:

Blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/gregoryebray

Goodreads Author Page:   https://www.goodreads.com/geb1967

Amazon Author’s Page:    amazon.com/author/gregorybray


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: be kind to pets, cats, children's book reviews, dogs, Gregory E. Bray, Holly J. Bray-Cook, imagination, pets, picture books, relationships, respect

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13. You Are How You Drive?

I’m just curious, do you think someone’s true personality comes out when they get behind the wheel or does the protection of a ton of metal magnify some suppressed aggression?

Everyone knows “that guy” – the one who is too good to wait in line to merge with the rest of us. So he goes as far as he can, perhaps driving in the median or passing over a solid white line before entering traffic.

Do you think he cuts the bathroom line at the fair or knocks down the old lady at the self-checkout line because she is taking too long? I always wonder.

Yes, I have a specific driver in mind. He drives a white BMW and takes the same route as me to work every day (Although I do so legally and courteously). I am a mellow driver and don’t wrestle with road rage often. When I happen to see him cutting people off, I don’t fume. Rather, I have this dream scenario where I am at the perfect angle to wedge my old truck in front of him and seal off his escape. Then I hop out and interview him like Bob Barker on a game show. Oh, I don’t pummel him (probably), I just humiliate him into contrition – showing him the error in his ways and giving him opportunity to apologize to me as representative of all of the drivers he has treated so rudely over the years.

Funny how life plays out sometimes. I was sitting in the exact spot I had envisioned when I saw him coming up on the shoulder. As fate would have it, the line in front of me started to move at precisely the right time and I had what I think was the voice of Ferris Bueller whispering “Do it” in my ear. So I lurched my truck to the right and cut the imbecile off.

mad

He slammed on his breaks and pounded the horn as I got out of my truck. I wish I’d had the skinny microphone and cheesy tie on – that would have been too perfect. I rounded my truck while he sat red-faced in his ultimate driving maching about to explode in rage. This was gonna be good!

Wearing my best disarming smile, I walked slowly toward his door. I wonder what he thought about the 6’, 3”, grinning, bald guy headed his way. Whatever was going through his dense mind, he didn’t feel compelled to roll down his window as he did in my dream.

Not surprisingly, he was kind of a little fella. I felt like I was forgetting something even though I knew my line was,“Tell him what he’s won, Johnny…. Well Bob, This rude driver will be late to work today!”  (cue applause)

I have to say it got a little awkward with me standing there waiting to talk to him and all the rubberneckers around us wondering what was going on.

What had I forgotten?

Oh yeah, BMW’s go in both forward and reverse. They actually go pretty fast in reverse and spit up all kinds of roadside crap on any wannabe gameshow host who might happen to be standing in front of the car. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. He zoomed around me with a final honk and a proper salute while I watched, dirty and alone.

It was too late for me to go home to change and get to work on time. I just told everyone at the office that I had helped an old lady change her flat tire and let them think I was a saint instead of an idiot…

 

It’s better that way.

 


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5 Comments on You Are How You Drive?, last added: 8/26/2014
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14. You Are How You Drive?

I’m just curious, do you think someone’s true personality comes out when they get behind the wheel or does the protection of a ton of metal magnify some suppressed aggression?

Everyone knows “that guy” – the one who is too good to wait in line to merge with the rest of us. So he goes as far as he can, perhaps driving in the median or passing over a solid white line before entering traffic.

Do you think he cuts the bathroom line at the fair or knocks down the old lady at the self-checkout line because she is taking too long? I always wonder.

Yes, I have a specific driver in mind. He drives a white BMW and takes the same route as me to work every day (Although I do so legally and courteously). I am a mellow driver and don’t wrestle with road rage often. When I happen to see him cutting people off, I don’t fume. Rather, I have this dream scenario where I am at the perfect angle to wedge my old truck in front of him and seal off his escape. Then I hop out and interview him like Bob Barker on a game show. Oh, I don’t pummel him (probably), I just humiliate him into contrition – showing him the error in his ways and giving him opportunity to apologize to me as representative of all of the drivers he has treated so rudely over the years.

Funny how life plays out sometimes. I was sitting in the exact spot I had envisioned when I saw him coming up on the shoulder. As fate would have it, the line in front of me started to move at precisely the right time and I had what I think was the voice of Ferris Bueller whispering “Do it” in my ear. So I lurched my truck to the right and cut the imbecile off.

mad

He slammed on his breaks and pounded the horn as I got out of my truck. I wish I’d had the skinny microphone and cheesy tie on – that would have been too perfect. I rounded my truck while he sat red-faced in his ultimate driving maching about to explode in rage. This was gonna be good!

Wearing my best disarming smile, I walked slowly toward his door. I wonder what he thought about the 6’, 3”, grinning, bald guy headed his way. Whatever was going through his dense mind, he didn’t feel compelled to roll down his window as he did in my dream.

Not surprisingly, he was kind of a little fella. I felt like I was forgetting something even though I knew my line was,“Tell him what he’s won, Johnny…. Well Bob, This rude driver will be late to work today!”  (cue applause)

I have to say it got a little awkward with me standing there waiting to talk to him and all the rubberneckers around us wondering what was going on.

What had I forgotten?

Oh yeah, BMW’s go in both forward and reverse. They actually go pretty fast in reverse and spit up all kinds of roadside crap on any wannabe gameshow host who might happen to be standing in front of the car. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. He zoomed around me with a final honk and a proper salute while I watched, dirty and alone.

It was too late for me to go home to change and get to work on time. I just told everyone at the office that I had helped an old lady change her flat tire and let them think I was a saint instead of an idiot…

 

It’s better that way.

 


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0 Comments on You Are How You Drive? as of 8/27/2014 2:37:00 AM
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15. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


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7 Comments on She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, last added: 8/21/2014
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16. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


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17. To Kylie, the Strongest Person I Know

What is strength? I don’t mean muscular strength, I am wondering about the use of the word to describe a mental and emotional strength. Strength of the heart.

The dictionary defines strength as moral power, firmness, or courage.

I’ve recently seen several quotes about strength. This one stands out:

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option.

-Author unknown

We quote scripture to help us with our strength. Beautiful verses come to mind such as:

But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 43:1

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

I have been given many more. We read them in times of need and feel their comfort. I don’t mean to minimize the impact of the Word – it is all-sufficient. But it isn’t always a quick band-aid overcoming the darkest struggle. Slap this on and feel strong, as it were. I wish it were that simple. In the best of circumstances, most of us need to be reminded time after time before things sink in.

While the concept of strength might be an easy one for you, it has troubled me of late. You see, I am trying to care for my daughter who is fighting cancer. Actually, to be honest, right now she is fighting the chemo that is fighting the cancer. She is only twelve and should never have to deal with any weight so difficult. This road would buckle the knees of some of the world’s strongest men, yet she trudges on.

She puts on a brave face and true to her nickname, smiles to most. But at night, with her mother, her sisters, and me, she often falls apart. The thing I hear from her most often is that she isn’t strong enough – she can’t do this. I wish there was something I could tell her to change her situation, but I can’t. There is no choice, no option, no plan B. The chemo regimen must go on. I wish I could break her cycle of self-doubt, but it is her cycle. I can’t change it. I can only encourage and hold, assuring her of my presence and love.

That leads me to my present dilemma: What is strength? Does she have it? If not, where can she find enough to continue when there is no other way?

I think back over her history and wonder if she’s had to rely on strength in the past. She has run two 5k races with me and had to reach down deep to finish each one. That took some strength – but not the kind I am looking for. I need her to have strength to say, “This life is worth living and I will fight for it.”

*     *     *     *     *

My wife has been asking me to add a picture CD onto her computer so she can look at them. After putting it off for too long, I finally complied. The pictures I saw reminded me of simpler times and I enjoyed scanning them as they flashed across the screen. They were from our school’s play, Anne of Green Gables, in which Kylie had a part. She barely made it through the performances because of the pain in her leg caused by the cancer soon to be diagnosed.

Wait… what are you showing me, God? Is that strength?

Back up – let me look again.image

I see a little girl who was crying herself to sleep every night due to a growing tumor inside her knee. Yet in these pictures she is singing, moving, dancing, and hiding the pain behind a range of her character’s emotions so she wouldn’t disappoint in the show.

I see a little girl who wouldn’t stop dancing until the director forced her to use crutches in the final two performances – and she was mad about that!

I see a girl who collapsed after the finale and couldn’t attend the cast party because the pain was simply too great.

Isn’t that smiling little girl playing a part on stage the same one who lay in a hospital bed in a medication-induced sleep just a week after the curtain fell?

When told she had cancer inside of her, instead of crying out in anger at God, isn’t this the girl who simply said “God must have a great, big plan for me”?

Is that precious, animated child the same one who, when she began to lose her hair to chemotherapy, decided shaved it herself to deny cancer the pleasure?

That is incredible strength! Undeniable strength.

What about now? If we agree that this girl is a strong girl, has four months of treatment changed her? How would a strong person face chemotherapy? Should she charge in, laughing in the face of the toxins that wreck her little body time after time?

Or is it okay to cry, yet move on?

Is strength found, not in the tears leading up to a hospital stay but in the gritting of her teeth when she allows the nurse to access her port one more time, knowing what will soon flow into her veins?

How much resolve allows a transfusion that scares her to death without saying a word?

What measure of courage is there in quiet submission to a treatment that is nearly as bad as the disease?

An immeasurable amount!

The frail body of my daughter holds enormous strength and when this treatment is over, I pity the boy who would try to hurt her or the obstacle that would stand in her way.

I have always been big and thought myself strong. I have pushed large objects and run long distances. Yet I realize I am weak in comparison to my frail, eighty pound daughter, who day after day pushes on through this hell.

She is my hero.

Every morning that she wakes up and greets the day adds to her resolve. There may be tears, angst, cries of terror, and fits of rage – yet every day also contains smiles, kisses, hugs, warmth, joy, praise, and enough laughter and love to beat back at this enemy on her terms.

Oh, she is strong!

My little girl is strength personified, even if she can’t see it.

 

sometimes


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on To Kylie, the Strongest Person I Know, last added: 8/18/2014
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18. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

6 Comments on A Call to Tech Support, last added: 8/5/2014
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19. Poking Fun at the Enemy

One can learn so much from children. Too often, in our haste to exercise control of every situation, we grown-ups unfortunately root out their innate curiosity and creativity. We drive from point A to point B without noticing the roadside art, whim, and fancy of the trip that is not lost on the childish mind. There is joy to be had in every journey.

I have recently learned you can poke fun at even the vilest of enemies. If you haven’t had a run with my current foe, hold on – cancer will find you somewhere. I don’t wish it on anyone, but unfortunately it worms its way into everyone’s life at some point whether through family or acquaintance. The Myers clan is relatively new at this contest. There is no rule book or instruction manual that I can find. No article 7, subsection 34b that tells us we can’t fight this demon with a joke and a smile.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from drowning in tears. While my bald, frail daughter lays in what was formerly my bed, at times, she seems to find ways to make us smile.

Take for instance a little wresting match with her sister when she attempted to apply a surprise atomic wedgie, but was blocked by the classic counter: the roll onto the back. Rather than move to a frontal assault, she poked her lip out and meekly proclaimed, “But I have cancer.”

With that, her sister waved the white flag, accepted defeat, and soon left the room to repair the damage to her drawers in private.

*****

Just the other day while urging her to drink more water to avoid dehydration and the inevitable trip back to the hospital, I declared, “If you don’t take a drink I’m going to sit on you.”

Her immediate response, “The doctor says you can’t sit on chemo patients.”

Touche, young one! Touche!

*****

 

Yes, we might be behind shoddy castle walls with little defense besides a catapult and barnyard animals, but we have our smiles and cheery hearts. The enemy can’t take that away.

Now leave before I taunt you a second time!

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

6 Comments on Poking Fun at the Enemy, last added: 7/10/2014
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20. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

5 Comments on The Hallmark Conspiracy, last added: 7/18/2014
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21. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Saying Goodbye, last added: 7/22/2014
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22. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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23. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

0 Comments on Rookie Mistake as of 7/29/2014 12:28:00 PM
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24. #622 – Eddie and Dog by Alison Brown

9781623701147.

Eddie and Dog

written and illustrated by Alison Brown

Capstone Young Readers      2/01/2014

978-1-62370-114-7

Age 4 ro 8      32 pages

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“Eddie is looking for a friend—a friend who likes adventure. Then Eddie meets Dog. And the fun begins. This wonderful story, with stunning artwork celebrates the excitement of a beautiful relationship.”

Opening

“Eddie dreamed of adventure.

“He imagined flying off to far-off places and doing amazing things. Then one day . . . “

Review

Eddie found Dog. No, wait, Dog found Eddie.

Eddie is at the airport, dreaming of adventures, when he sees Dog in a pet carrier, which Dog opens with his paw. (Dogs can get out of anything.) Dog wants a life of adventure and must see the same in Eddie. Dog asks Eddie if he would like to play. This is the beginning of a unique friendship and a lovely picture book. Eddie and Dog is one of my favorite picture books this year.

What fun the two enjoy together. Their adventures are loaded with suspense, intrigue, and some silliness for good measure. The two hunt crocodiles, sail the seven seas—I’m thinking in alphabetical order—build a grand fort, and traipse through lush jungles. That was day one.

1

When Eddie introduced his new best friend to his mother, she said Dog could not stay—the yard is too small.  Poor Dog. Poor Eddie. Eddie keeps thinking about Dog and it is a good bet that Dog thinks a lot about Eddie. The next day, Dog returns to Eddie. Mom stands her ground. Dog needs a bigger yard and a better home. Mom’s imagination and creativity has taken back seat t her larger practical side. She can’t see the blossoming relationship between Eddie and Dog or how important it is to the new friends. Instead of working with the yard, she instantly says it is too small.

Dog is trying as hard as he can to keep his friendship with Eddie alive. Good friendships should never die—they are too hard to cultivate. But Eddie’s mom is consistently saying no to a dog. Do dogs make her nose sneeze and her eyes cry? Maybe mom really is concerned with Dog’s happiness. Hm, I wonder what will happen next.

2

I love Eddie and Dog. They must belong together else, Dog would not make such grand gestures, would he? Dogs do love unconditionally. And Dog is a dog. You cannot beat logic. Eddie and Dog belong together. I bet Dog keeps trying until Eddie’s mom runs out of excuses and places for Dog to go.

The story is well-paced and the illustrations hit the mark on each and every page.The final spread is my favorite illustration. Eddie sits behind Dog as Dog flies his shiny red propeller plane to their next awesome adventure.. Dog is a cute, cuddly canine. He is the perfect size for Eddie. Dog loves adventures, just as Eddie wanted! The ending has an unexpected twist that I love. Dog can accomplish many fantabulous things in a short amount of time.

sea

Children will love Eddie and Dog. They will be sad when Eddie is sent away, but after the first return—a wonderful twist—kids will keep smiling even when mom sends Eddie off several more times. Sometimes knowing the punch line can be fun. Kids will love Eddie and Dog, even to the point of wanting their own Dog (sorry Eddie). Parents can take heart. Eddie and Dog is an easy and fun read with moments needing sound effects only a parent can provide. Will Eddie and Dog become your child’s favorite book? Quit possibly so, at least until the next edition of an Eddie and Dog adventure hit bookstores. Enjoy!

EDDIE AND DOG. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Alison Brown. Reproduced by permission of the US publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN.

Purchase Eddie and Dog at AmazonB&NCapstone Young Readersyour favorite bookstore.

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Learn more about Eddie and Dog HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Alison Brown, at her website:    http://www.littletiger.co.uk/authors/alison-brown

Find more good books at the Capstone Young Readers website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Reader is an imprint of Capstone:   http://www.capstonepub.com/

Eddie and Dog was originally published in Great Britain by Little Tiger Press in 12/18/2013.

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Also by Alison Brown

I Love You Night and Day

I Love You Night and Day

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

eddie and dog

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Alison Brown, Capstone, Capstone Young Readers, chidren's book reviews, creativity, determination, Eddie and Dog, friendhip, imagination, Little Tiger Press, persistance, pets, relationships

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25. Hide and Go Seek — and other Things that Make me Scream

I am not a scaredy cat. I love to hike and wade in mountain streams.  I love to go to places I’ve never been and see things I’ve never seen. I like to watch documentaries on foods from other countries and want to visit those countries one day. I like to make new recipes! I’ll…

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