Pet Peeves – The New Batch

  I enjoyed putting together the previous list of pet peeves and have realized that there are even more things that get on my nerves.  That’s a bit ironic – I enjoy discussing things that annoy me.  Or maybe I enjoyed seeing others agree with me, I don’t know.  I guess I’m an old curmudgeon at this point in my life but I just don’t understand a lot of things that I see every day.  Maybe I’m guilty of these at some point and don’t even realize it, which would make me quite the hypocrite.  Although these are in part 2, they are no less annoying.  A couple of these were kind reminders in the comments on the first post that I agree with.  So without further ado, let’s jump back into the insanity.

  •  Parking Lot Sharks – We all know this one.  I experience it quite often as an avid Publix customer.  This one didn’t bug me so much before I had kids but now it’s more noticeable.  You see the cars slowly rolling up and down the parking aisles waiting on someone to get in their car so they can have that close spot.  Sometimes they’ll pull up behind you and creep along your backside to see if you might be their mark.  If you walk too far, they’ll go ahead and pass but if you are close to the store, they’ll slam the brakes and throw that blinker on.  Doesn’t matter if you have a cart full of groceries and a baby that has to go in a car seat, they’ll wait…staring….holding up cars behind them that are getting impatient.  All just waiting on you.  No rush.  My new strategy is to walk past my truck a couple of spaces and then turn back to it.  They are already too far to put it in reverse.  I know….I can be an a-hole too.  
  • People that take up two parking spots – While on the subject of parking lots, this one is a must.  I see it alllll the time.  I drive a larger vehicle that is sometimes hard to park.  An open space doesn’t always mean I can park there.  This one can happen two different ways.  First, the car is already parked in two spaces meaning that you have to go further to find a less encumbered spot.  Secondly, it can happen after you have already parked, making your exit a nightmare.  I don’t always get it right but I always look at my spot and see if an adjustment needs to be made before I go in the store.  I’m not above re-parking to get it right, or make Alicia happy.  
  • Restaurants being out of something – While this one bugs me, it REALLY bugs Alicia.  It happens to her more than anyone I know.  We love B Dub’s but we don’t even go there on Sunday nights anymore because we had a bad run with them being low on supplies.  Even ketchup one night.  Apparantly, the deliveries come on Monday morning.  But even worse is when you are craving something.  One local restaurant spoiled us with fried green tomatoes and the next three times we went, they were out.  That last time, we didn’t even stay.  We asked up front and bailed.  You should never run out of A-1 at a steak house, ketchup at a burger joint or napkins at any place.  It’s aggravating enough when you run out at your own house.
  • Rude drive thru – I get that this may not be the most fun job in America but you are getting paid to do it.  Learn what Thank You and Your Welcome are and you’re pretty much home free.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through a drive thru and never heard a word from the window.  Nothing.  I’m not here for the unmatched service but give me some effort.
  • Clueless shoppers – Ok, back to my Publix obsession.  I’m there almost daily.  I’ve come to know the store like the back of my hand.  Maybe I have more exposure to this issue because of my level of visits.  The scene is always the same though.  Cart in the middle of the aisle, customer looking for something and a traffic jam behind them.  Some people catch on and slide over and then some just stay put and keep looking.  Don’t mind us, we’re on your schedule.  Take your time, they didn’t make these aisles wide enough for two carts for a reason.  Nevermind that what you’re looking for is probably right in front of you.  I guess your lucky it’s not a poisonous snake.  There’s really only one way to handle those shoppers.  
  • Price checkers – I get this one sometimes.  In some cases, that sale item was supposed to be $5 or $10 cheaper.  The ones that get me are the .10 or .50 arguments.  They happen, trust me.  “Wait, that apple juice was supposed to be 3.99, not 4.49.  I don’t care if I had 80 items, I need you to send someone back to aisle 2 and check my memory.  Take your time though, I’m parked in the fire lane.”
  • Running out of OREO’s – This one I am guilty of too so I am voicing my displeasure and my disdain for my own shortcomings.  You go in the kitchen, have your mind set and headed to the OREO’s.  There they are – you open up that handy new peel back package.  There’s one left, or worse, it’s empty. There are few adjectives that can appropriately describe that empty feeling.  Depression, fear, outrage.  In a divorce, this should fall into the category “irreconcilable differences.”  Whoever left the package empty loses custody of the kids and house.  No need for mediation.  
  • Forgetting something at the grocery store – Last one about shopping, I promise.  Ever spend a good hour at the grocery store, get home and start working on supper, only to realize that you forgot that one major item?  Hamburger meat for the spaghetti?  Buns for the hotdogs? Seasoning for the chili?  That is rage inducing, I don’t care how close you live to the store.  Maybe if you didn’t have to dodge those parking lot sharks and aisle blockers you’d keep your wits about you while getting you list completed.
  • Litter Bugs – Come on dude.  You learned this when you were like 5.  Pick up your trash and throw it in the can. Don’t throw it out at 65 on the highway.  Don’t leave it on the table when there is a trash can right there.  Clutter up your house and yard all you want but don’t clutter up mine or public space.  Easy as that.  
  • Pack searchers – This one will be in the weeds for some of you.  As a brief background, there are two major types of sports cards you can buy – hobby and retail.  You get hobby at a card shop or online and you get retail at Target or Wal Mart.  Hobby is always better because they have more hits and shop owners don’t let their customers search.  There are YouTube videos dedicated to outing these scumbags.  Card companies have done a lot to try and combat it with their packaging but there are real dedicated toolbags out there that find a way.  They feel all of the packs in WalMart, bringing in scales and tiny magnets, all in hopes of finding that one pack that is a little different than the others.  Those are the ones with the hits.  I’m fine if you can eyeball a pack and see a difference but when you bring in your searching kit, you can get bent.  Next time you go to Target, look at an open box of cards and you’ll see that the entire inventory has been rifled through.  Then they turn around and sell them on EBay as guaranteed hits.  You’ve ruined retail for the general public.  Thanks asshats!  
  • Politicians – Timing is perfect for this one.  Elections are coming up and I’ve been watching various debates and trying to avoid the usual political ads.  These people really are the worst.  It should tell the entire political world something when Donald Trump is leading.  People are sick of your rhetoric, your catch phrases and your perfectly combed hair.  Marco Rubio looks like the little guy that got picked on growing up.  Ted Cruz looks like a human version of a terminator machine.  He talks with a cadence that never changes, only gets a little louder when making a point.  Trump just calls everybody an idiot and continually says things are a “disaster”.  Kasich is palatable but he’s so far behind, he’d need the other three to drop out.  And Ben Carson is just happy to still be invited to the debates.  He can’t even get anybody to notice him.  And God help us all if Hillary or the Socialist get the nod.  And just a little word of advice for the local hopefuls – Standing at a red light and waving at me at election time is not the way to get my vote.  It’s corny and insincere.  Don’t be like those jack legs in Washington. 
  • Fake outrage – While on the subject of politics and the like, can we all get a grip on ourselves and drop the BS anger about everything?  The Starbucks holiday cup, Mad Max with a female lead, Star Wars with a minority lead, The Oscars.  When will people realize that the media and Internet fuel all of this crap? A friend of mine always jumps to the lead on FB when these things come up.  He’s reminding everyone that something else is happening while we are distracted by Khloe Kardashian photoshopping a selfie.  Think about that for a minute.  A Kardashian photoshopped a selfie and social media actually stood still for this and it made the national news.  I’m angry at myself for even knowing this happened while I was living.  The world is going to hell in a hand basket and we’re appalled that someone who’s starved for media attention would dare alter an Instagram image of themselves.  The blue dress?  Rachel Dolezal?  The lipstick color named “under aged red”?  Come on people.  This is the result of giving participation trophies.  Some things in life just aren’t the way you want it and you’ve got to live with it.  
  • “What happened next” Facebook posts – These are becoming more and more prevalent and they really steam my potatoes.  It’s some strange video of a guy riding a tiger that has the caption, “He thought it was a normal day.  What happened next will leave you speechless.”  You think, I gotta check this out.  You click and 13 minutes into the video, you realize there isn’t even a tiger in this story.  This is looking more and more like an advertisement.  You bastards!  I now avoid all click bait.  If it’s legitimate, I’ll hear about it eventually.
  • NASCAR on Fox – It’s Sunday, I’m watching racing and I’m as annoyed as ever.  Darrell Waltrip starts us off with a stifling “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” for the one millionth time.  Mike Joy continues to use his 1950’s one liners.  Now Jeff Gordon is in the booth to give us his take.  Larry Mac is “splainin” something to us in the garage with the cutaway car.  I’ve been taught what drafting and wedge and rear spoilers are for the hundredth time.  These guys are horrendous.  I’d rather hear Verne and Gary call a Bama/Florida game.  
  • Open Mouthed Chewers – This one was a Clem special but right on the money.  Now, I have been accused of being a loud chewer with potato chips and such.  Right, Alicia?  But I do try and keep my mouth closed when I eat.  During supper is not the time to launch into deep conversation.  Food goes in, mouth closes and you chew and swallow.  I don’t need to see what chewed up steak looks like before it goes down.  I have a pretty good idea of the characteristics of chewed food with two kids.  Every now and then, take a big swig of water too to wash down that potato skin stuck to your gums too.

Well, another batch of peeves are out there.  Maybe one day everyone will realize that I just don’t like much at all.  I’m starting to realize it more and more everyday.  As a matter of fact, I tabled at least 5 more during this post.  What say you?  Are these on your list?  


A Blog About Nothing

  I’ve been struggling today with whether to write a serious piece to get some things off my chest or whether to try and lighten my mood with something fun.  I’ve opted for fun thanks to the Facebook marathon that Ashley and I have been having over the Seinfeld quotes.  I’ve talked music, movies, hobbies but I haven’t touched on the single greatest television series in history.  It’s a series that people either love or hate.  There isn’t much in between.  That’s probably because those of us that love it spend our time quoting it and snickering at inside jokes that seem juvenile to those who aren’t familiar.  If you are one of those that hate it, this is probably not for you.  If you love it or aren’t very familiar, pull up a chair and let’s talk about it.

For those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the show and premise (and there are some out there), let’s get some housekeeping out of the way.  Seinfeld was a sitcom that began airing in 1989 and starred comedian Jerry Seinfeld as himself.  In simple form, it followed his daily life in New York with his three close friends; Elaine Benes, George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer.  The show ran for 9 seasons and covered every inane thing you can imagine.  When you really break down some of the episodes, you could question why everyone can’t make a sitcom about their lives.  But Seinfeld nailed it in a way that could never be matched.  The character development in the show remains second to none.

  First, there was Jerry.  As one of the main characters and namesake of the show, the story centered around his job as a comedian, his apartment in New York and his relationships.  He was usually the voice of reason among his group of friends, which was not saying much.  He had some very unique characteristics such as his germophobia, which was highlighted by his inability to continue dating a woman, even though that woman was Kristin Davis, who unknowingly brushed her teeth with a toothbrush he knocked into the toilet.  To pay him back, she locked him out of his apartment and when he got in, told him that she had placed one of his things in the toilet.  Jerry lost his mind throwing things out left and right only to find out it was the toilet brush.  He also ended a relationship when he found an anti fungal cream in a girlfriends medicine cabinet, later to find out it was for her cat.   

 A running theme on the show was how small meaningless things could end his relationships.  He could not remember Deloris’ name and instead called her Mulva when the hint was “it rhymes with a female body part.”  He dated a beautiful woman that had man hands.  He lost out on Teri Hatcher when he sent Elaine into the sauna to find out if her breasts were real.  “They’re real, and they’re spectacular.”  He dated a virgin and lost her when she found out he was competing with his friends to see who truly was “master of their domain.”  He lost respect for one of his girlfriends when he found out that Newman had dated and dumped her in the past.  He dated a model at one point but she dumped him when she caught him in a nose pick at a red light.  “Are we not human?  If we pick, do we not bleed?”  He dated a masseuse who refused to give him a massage.  He dated Donna Chang, who was an American woman who spoke in Chinese proverbs and lingo.  He dated a woman who walked around the apartment naked and it eventually turned him off.  The one woman that he really hit it off with turned out to be just like him.  They got engaged but later broke it off when they realized they were identical. 

 One of his prior girlfriends was Elaine Benes, another one of the main characters on the show.  They remained friends, even though they tried to be friends with benefits in one episode, with disastrous results.  Elaine had several steady boyfriends but none more serious that David Puddy.  Puddy was my favorite non-main character.  One of my favorite episodes was where Puddy was a car salesman and Jerry used the relationship to try and lock down the insiders deal.  However, Puddy developed a bad habit of asking for high fives during the episode, which led to a breakup between him and Elaine in the middle of Jerry’s deal.  George was supposed to be on hand to help combat the sales tactics of adding undercoating and rust proofing but his day was derailed by a mechanic who stole a twix from him.  This led to arguments over which candy had nougat, which had caramel and which had a cookie crunch culminating in a candy bar lineup to try and trick the mechanic.  I did mention inane in the intro right? 

 Much like Jerry, Elaine had several interesting relationships.She dated Crazy Joe Davola, who took photos of her with telescopic lenses and developed them in his apartment.  She also dated Keith Hernandez, Tim Whatley (the label maker), Joel Rifkin (the serial killer), Lloyd Braun (George’s sworn enemy) and Brett (Desperado).  She also had several interesting jobs.  She’s spent some time at Pendant Publishing where her boss eventually fell for her due to kavorka.  She assisted in the ultimate bankruptcy of the company thanks to Jujy Fruits.  She also becomes an assistant for Mr. Pitt.  She eventually is fired from that job because she is accused of trying to kill Mr. Pitt after she is added to his will.  Her most memorable job was with J. Peterman as a catalog writer.  This job led to several memorable moments such as when she ate a 2,000 year old piece of cake, she was unable to travel due to poppy seed muffins causing a failed drug test, she took over the company when Peterman had a nervous breakdown but was later fired when he came back and she proclaimed her hatred for the movie, The English Patient. 

 Then there was Kramer, the aloof neighbor who was known for busting in to Jerry’s apartment on a regular basis.  Kramer had very few publicized relationships, although he carried himself as a ladies man.  He also did not have many jobs, with the exception of H&H Bagels, which was only discovered after a 12 year strike came to an end.  His employment lasted only a few days after the strik ended before he had enough.  He was well known for his business ideas that never panned out.  He wanted to open a restaurant where you could make your own pie.  He and Morty (Jerry’s dad) tried to push the beltless trenchcoat.  He and Newman tried selling old records and also tried to create a way to successfully transport empty bottles to Michigan where they could collect .05 cents each.  He invented the Bro/Mansier, a bra for men.  He successfully wrote a coffee table book about coffee tables.  My favorite was his creation of Kramerica Industries in which he obtained an intern from NYU to help him develop a bladder system for oil tankers to end oil spills.  This didn’t pan out as their testing of the prototype (simply a rubber ball from George’s company, Play Now) ended another of Jerry’s relationships (Helllllooooo.). Kramer was constantly inventing and scheming. 

 My favorite character was George Costanza.  George was a short, stocky, bald guy who lived with his parents for most of the series.  He was a very unlucky individual who was afraid of most everything.  He had a wide range of jobs including the job at Play Now where he fooled his bosses into thinking he was handicap, scoring his own bathroom and rascal scooter.  He also worked for Pendant with Elaine for a brief time until he was caught having relations with the cleaning lady.  Then for a while, including during one of the most memorable episodes, Festivus, he works for Kruger Industrial Smoothing.  His most successful job was as the assistant to the traveling secretary with the New York Yankees.  The portrayal of George Steinbrenner and their interaction was a treasure trove of comedic value.  At every job, he either attempted to get out of work or provided terrible ideas.  He once had a shelf under his desk built at Yankee Stadium so he could nap during the day.  Also, with the Yankees, he proposed the team switch to cotton jerseys for comfort, which ended up shrinking after the first wash.  Of course, he may be most famously remembered as a wanna be architect by the name of Art Vandelay.

George was a part of many memorable moments on the show.  Here are a few of the funniest:

  • Festivus – his father created a holiday that was anti-commercial and consisted of only a metal pole, airing of grievances and feats of strength.  A classic episode.
  • The high score – he held the high score on a frogger machine in a pizza joint from high school.  His attempts to transport the machcine while leaving it hooked up was priceless.
  • Shrinkage – one of Jerry’s girlfriends walked in on him right after he had gotten out of the pool.  Enough said.
  • 12 Steps – he refused to let an old acquaintance advance in the 12 step program until he apologized for a joke about George’s big head.  This ultimately led to George entering anger management.
  • He double dipped a chip at a funeral.
  • He ran over Bette Midler at home plate in a coed softball game.
  • He fought over the proper way to pull into a parking space.
  • He killed his fiancée because he bought cheap wedding invitations get had poisonous glue.
  • He tried to cheat on his fiancé  with Marisa Tomei.

I could go on and on about great George moments.  I could go on and on about the whole series but these are some of the most memorable episodes and stories for me.  There are so many more characters like Babu Bhatt, Third Person Jimmy, the low talker, the close talker, the sidler, Frank and Estelle Costanza, The Mandlebaum’s and Uncle Leo.  There are countless classic episodes like The Chinese Restaurant, The Merv Griffin Show, The Bizzaro Jerry, The Opposite.  I watched it in the 90’s, I watch it in syndication today and own all of the seasons on DVD.  I can quote the episodes pretty much on command.  It’s a sad commentary to be honest.  But Seinfeld will go down as quite possibly the greatest TV show ever.  It will for me at least.


The Diary of Bailey

  My love for the Deftones is widely known.  They are the untouchables in my world.  There isn’t anyone that I’d rather see play and there isn’t anyone I would ever compare to them.  I do love other bands though.  Like Chevelle, Tool, Thrice, Crosses, Incubus, Slipknot and…..Breaking Benjamin.  Not only do I love Breaking Benjamin, they are currently Bailey’s favorite band.  She loves every song and knows most of the words to the big ones.  

Their most recent album, Dark Before Dawn, is full of positive and uplifting messages.  Ben Burnley has been through quite a lot during his life and seems exploding out as a beacon of hope and positivity.  While Breaking  Benjamin formed in 1998, Ben Burnley remains the only original band member.  He is, however, responsible for songwriting, singing and everything else that comes with being the bands namesake.  The current lineup formed in 2014 and began work on Dark After Dawn, in which Ben seems to have really focused his lyrics on redemption, overcoming failure and, as the title suggests, finding the light at the end of the tunnel.  Because of the meaning of the album, I have openly shared the lyrics with Bailey and encouraged her to enjoy the songs.  And she has done just that.  She knows what they are saying and we talk about our interpretations of what each song means to us.  It’s been quite an interesting journey.  

For Christmas, Alicia got 2 tickets to BB at The Tabernacle in Atlanta.  Bailey was disappointed that she hadn’t been included so she decided to buy her own ticket with Christmas money.  This set up our first family concert.  Bailey loves music and shares my taste in rock.  It’s how she was raised.  I’d been debating on when the right time would be to take her to a live show.  They are loud, there is a bit of sitting around waiting on setup, standing in lines for good seats, etc.  Given the right circumstances, it can be too much for me and Alicia so we needed it to make sense for Bailey to go.  First off, The Tabernacle was a no brainer for her first venue.  It’s indoors, has raised seating levels to be above the ruckus on the ground and it’s perfect for music.  After that, I knew her first concert would have to be Deftones, BB or Chevelle so we scored there too.  It just made sense that now was the time.

After much anticipation, the week of the concert finally arrived.  We made it to Thursday and struck out on our 2 day adventure to Atlanta.  We laid some ground rules and expectations on the drive up to make sure she was prepared.  We explained that we would first have to wait in line for up to 2 hours to ensure we got front row seats in the raised level.  Then, we explained that there would be an opening act and we would likely be unfamiliar with their music but it would be in the same genre as the headliner so we likely would enjoy it.  It also builds the anticipation for the headliner when music is being performed.  We told her it would be crowded, it would be loud and we would be there a long time.  She understood and was good with everything.  She was ready. 

 We arrived at the venue around 5:00 with doors expected to open at 6:30.  There was already a line forming so we got ourselves in place and started passing the time.  Ted’s Montana Grill is across the street from The Tabernacle and luckily a bathroom was available for Bailey’s trips.  While in line, our friends Heath and Molly Gilbert arrived and we all had a really good time talking and raising the anticipation.  Before we knew it, it was 6:30 and the doors were opening.  After passing through the security checkpoints, we successfully secured front row seats in the 3rd level, providing an unfettered view for all of us.  Then, it was food and merch while we waited on the opening act, scheduled for 7:30.   

 While getting food, Alicia managed to successfully reject the attempts of a nefarious couple trying to sabotage our seats.  Momma wasn’t having any of that and dispatched the duo with force and determination.  Meanwhile, me and Bailey were busy running up and down 3 flights of stairs with drinks, chicken strips, hot dogs and pretzels.  All of this happened in great timing as we all settled in for the opening act, Starset. 

 As expected, we were unfamiliar with Starset but they were very good and provided a nice visual element that engaged Bailey from the beginning.  The band members, less the singer, came out in full spacesuits that lit up in different colors and they continued to play the entire set in them.  They would change colors and fire off fog from turbo blowers on the rear of the costumes.  Aside from that, the singer was very good and the drummer was extremely talented.  Opening act was a success but we came to see Breaking Benjamin and we were controlling our excitement until they took the stage.  After about 30 minutes of setup change, they were ready. 

 They hit the stage with one of their great intro songs, “So Cold”. This is one that Bailey and I could sing along to so it didn’t take long to get in the swing of things.  For several songs, “Follow”, “Until the End”, “Angels Fall” and “Failure”, we were on our feet singing our lungs out.  Around the time Ben took a vocal break by letting the two guitar players have a couple of leads, we were ready to sit down and recoup.  Now, those songs were very good too but Bailey had her songs already picked out that she was going to jam too.  As Ben introduced “Unknown Soldier”, he revealed his obvious passion for the armed forces and we gave standing ovations to the men and women who served our country.  The song was very moving given the circumstances and the entire place was on their feet.  I had chill bumps.   

 That led to the next song, Alicia’s favorite, “Ashes of Eden”. The song was flawless and engaged all of us as its one that is listened to often in my truck.  Then, my favorite rolled around, “Breath”.  I think it might be close to Bailey and Alicia’s favorite too but we all have our own.  It was perfect! 

 Then came Bailey’s favorite song, “Give me a sign”.  This was really the “wow” moment of the concert.  During the final chorus of the song, Ben stopped vocals and only guitar remained as he began to speak to the crowd.  He asked us all to take out our cell phones and turn on the flashlight feature.  He then asked the venue staff to take the room completely dark.  This concert was 80% over so we were accustomed to the lighting levels in the room by this point.  When the lights went out and the cell phones came on, the room lit up like a living room with the overhead light on.  It was really something I had never seen before.  The photo from behind Ben is the heading photo on this post.  Just unreal.  He went on to explain the point of the exercise in what was the moment that solidified our decision to bring Bailey to see BB.  Ben explained that we all had a light that shines within all of us, just like those phones.  No matter how dark the world can be at times, if we will let our lights shine, we can light the world and the people around us.  He said that we were the difference makers and our kindness could rise above the crap that is out there.  He had a strong sincerity in the comments and you could feel the positivity flowing through the room.  They finished the song amid more chill bumps from yours truly. 

  After a couple more songs, they exited the stage in preparation for the grand finale encore, which we had also previously explained to Bailey.  It was a biggie.  They returned to play the mega hit “The Diary of Jane”.  Again, before going into the song, Ben took the time to ask the fans to be kind to one another and to take care of those around you.  Then they nailed the song and took their bow.  A wonderful concert had come to a close and we were left with adrenaline still pumping and ears still ringing.  But, the night didn’t end there.  It wouldn’t be a Tabernacle story if there wasn’t an awesome twist at the end.

Heath and Molly scored a guitar at the merch table which provided 6 wristbands to go backstage and meet the band at the conclusion of the concert.  Not only had Bailey been able to come see her favorite band in person, but she was about to one up me and meet the entire band.  First, I can’t thank Heath and Molly enough for including us in this adventure.  They helped the great night become a dream night and I have to do some serious work to pay that one back.  We got in a fairly short and exclusive line to meet the band and wait on them to come out and take their seats.  After what felt like a long time, but was really about 30 minutes, they emerged and excitement reached a peak.  We were able to get autographs, shake hands and take photos with the entire band.  Ben took special care to get down on Bailey’s level (he’s 6’4) to shake her hand and to thank her for coming to see them. I was as proud of that as I was about meeting him myself.  Bailey is still learning what is normal or expected and what is a unique event and I think she even gets the gravity of that meeting.  She was half asleep and dragging but when that picture was taken, her smile was shining like the cell phone lights an hour before.  She met Ben and he rose to the occasion of being a superstar in a young child’s eyes.  He was every bit as genuine as he had portrayed during the concert and we left feeling on top of the world.

By the time we left, it was after 11 and it hit me that Bailey had been a trooper for over 6 hours at the venue.  That’s no small feat for an 8 year old.  I was very proud of the way she carried herself and the respect and happiness she showed to BB and Heath and Molly.  Now, she would eventually get to sleep and sleep pretty late the next morning but she passed her first concert test with flying colors.  And Breaking Benjamin eliminated any small skepticism I had about their positivity and meaningful songs by backing it up with their presence in the room and with us.  This one will go down as one of the greatest concerts I’ve been too, after Deftones at The Tabernacle of course.  But this one is going to sit with me and Alicia for a long time and with Bailey for a lifetime.  My recommendation is to go see Breaking Benjamin the very next chance you get if you’ve never seen them.  If you are a fan of the genre, you won’t regret seeing them.  We’ll be back! 


The Road Ahead

  Life is a long and winding road, if we are lucky.  It has been established that I am getting old so I won’t beat that dead horse.  But let’s assume that I’m over halfway there.  And barring an unforeseen softball or video game tragedy, let’s assume I stick around a while longer.  I think I have learned a lot over the years but I know I have a considerable amount of learning still on the horizon.  But what should I expect from this second half, so to speak?  In sports, you have to make adjustments in the second half to finish strong.  You have to learn from your mistakes.  If you don’t, you’ll either blow the lead you have or fall further behind in the deficit.  

I’ve learned a lot about people in 39 years.  I’ve learned that only a few can be completely trusted and they should be kept close.  I hope that will help me spend less time and energy on those that are not in my life for the right reasons.  That might sound a bit brutal but another thing I’ve learned is that you have to be honest with yourself.  There are a lot of people that will tell you what you want to hear or soften words to spare your feelings.  That’s all well and good but you have to be honest with yourself.  That doesn’t mean you have to be hard on yourself, just honest.  And if I am being honest, I have to accept that I spend a lot of time trying to please or impress people that don’t deserve the effort.  That can’t continue in the second half.

One of the best compliments I’ve received recently was in a Facebook post on my birthday.  It’s one that made me feel good about where I am in life and what I project on others around me.  A close friend said that they “loved my transparency”.  That may seem like a throw away line but that tells me that, at least to some, I am “what you see is what you get.”  That is the Dewey in me and something I’ve aspired to be for a long time.  I may not fit in with everybody but I’m going to make sure that I enjoy being in the presence of those that I do fit in with.  

It takes everybody time to figure who they are.  I’ve changed more in the last 3 years than the first 36 combined.  It’s really been a combination of events, some I’ve written about and some that stay locked in my head.  But I have become more accepting of myself and my flaws.  I don’t deny them.  I want to improve them but I can clearly  acknowledge they are there.  I can be needy sometimes.  I wonder why somebody doesn’t text right back.  I wonder if somebody doesn’t want to do something WITH ME or if they just don’t want to do something.  I wonder if I have offended someone if they aren’t happy, or at least chipper, when we talk.  That’s a big change I want to make.  It’s not always about me.  People have bad days and people can’t always give you their best.  

That leads to a similar area of concern; a “needs improvement” if you will.  People aren’t always going to reciprocate feelings that you project on them.  Sometimes I feel like I really get along with someone or I could talk to them about anything.  Then, I kind of put myself out there and realize that I’m just out there by myself.  For one, some people are not as accepting as others.  But also, some people are just guarded and will never feel the openness that I feel in friendship.  I want to be more accepting of that going forward and not take it personal.  A close friend could tell me just about anything, as long as it wasn’t disparaging to me or someone I love, and I would accept it and try to understand it.  That, I am proud of and want to continue.  But I can’t expect that in all people.  

Sometimes I wonder how much I’ve experienced is real or just my perception.  It’s all felt pretty real.  I guess that’s what’s important, feel.  I want to feel even more.  I can watch a movie or listen to a song and experience feelings and emotions that really sharpen my perspective.  Alicia doesn’t watch certain emotional shows or movies because she doesn’t like that challenge.  I get that but for some reason I want to feel it all.  Maybe that’s why I have that “experiencing others feelings” condition that E Dub says I have.  I’ve never really shied away from feelings.  There probably aren’t a lot of men who would admit to that.  Again, honesty within ourselves.  The more I feel, the more I understand.  And sometimes those feelings are hard to find or not manly to acknowledge.  It works for me though.

For all of these issues, whether I’m comfortable with them or they need improvement, self awareness is the key.  That’s my goal for the second half – developing true self awareness.  I want to understand why these things are important to me.  I want to separate myself from the events in my life that happen arbitrarily.  I want to understand when it is my fault and when it’s not.  Not self-concious, but self aware.  If my goal is true transparency, then I have to reach the highest level of self awareness.    I have a chance to improve that tomorrow…..and then the next day.  Let the games begin.

My Generation

  Well, another birthday has come and gone.  As one astute (or wise-ass) 16 year old told me in her card this weekend, “One more year until you’re officially old.”  I really can’t believe it when I stop and think about being 39.  The memories I have written about over the past few weeks seem like only yesterday but in reality are 10, 20, even 30 years ago at this point.  Forty used to seem so decrepit when I was a kid.  I assumed life pretty much ended somewhere in the 30’s and you spent the rest of your years just wandering around the earth telling kids to turn their music down and how much greater times used to be.  The only music I want turned down at this point is country and top 40 but I do think that my generation was the best and experienced the coolest things.

How many kids today can say they rode the rickety wooden roller coaster at the Miracle Strip?  Panama City Beach in general has lost its shine.  Now, spring break is people stripping and blacking out from drinking 24/7.  That’s not necessarily a bad beach trip as an adult but we’re talking about 15, 16, 17 year old kids, sometimes younger.  When we went to the beach, it was about who had the best soundsystem (Jason Lee), walking and driving the strip, going to Miracle Strip, chasing girls (legitimately) and even hitting the usual attractions like go-carts and mini golf.  The closest I got to Spinnaker and LaVela was staying at the Summit one year.  Our room was on the corner and a decent pair of binoculars (Nocks) got us all the wet t shirt action we could handle. I can honestly say that I never had a brush with the law at PCB in the high school days.  Maybe I was a pansy or maybe I was lucky.  Either way, hard to beat those times. 

 Today’s youth have no idea what a good cartoon is!  Transformers, He-Man, actual Looney Toons and GI Joe would wipe the floor with Dora and Calliou.  I’ll give SpongeBob a pass because I still watch it occasionally.  And these shows that Bailey watches are such blatant rip offs of Saved By The Bell and Full House.  They are even bringing Full House back for another run so what does that tell you?  Here’s a gem for you if you can remember what Nickelodeon was like in my day.  You Can’t Do That On Television!  Dude, there would be so many hurt feelings over that show today and the sad part is we are the generation that watched it but would shield our kids from it like the plague!  If you’ve never seen it, please take the time to YouTube it.  It’s really quite bad today but damn it was entertaining back in the day.  Twenty-year olds weren’t even born when Seinfeld and  Friends were in original run.  All night sleepovers were filled with Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies.  Now, they watch their version of the movie and have no idea what it was like in 1989 to watch a camper get slammed against an oak tree while being zipped up in their sleeping bag.  Good times. 

 Music?  I can’t even give this one proper attention in this blog.  I’m still battling people over what music is.  But, in the spirit of the theme, lets cover the basics.  Michael Jackson, Vanilla Ice, Poison, GNR, The Police and even Whitney Houston (who I have little experience with) are far superior to Lady Gaga, JT and Adele.  Aren’t they the hot shots of today?  Metallica was even better in the late 80’s/early 90’s than they are now.  Smashing Pumpkins, Blink 182, Cube, Dre….all 90’s baby!  MTV used to play music videos too instead of this Teen Mom and Guy Code drivel they put on now.  Head bangers Ball and Yo MTV Raps, my heads starting to spin.  And spring break on MTV was almost as good as being there.  The music industry, in my opinion, has seen the greatest drop off of anything in pop culture over time.   

 For crying out loud, even wrestling sucks compared to the good ole days.  I don’t even watch anymore but I can remember actually gathering at friends houses to watch it on a weekly basis.  We all had our favorites.  Some of these guys are still around but I’m talking hay day Stone Cold, Booker T, Hogan, Sting, Bret Hart, The Rock, Undertaker, Lex Luger, The Steiner Brothers.  NWA and WWE were both strong.  Monday Night Raw was a show stopper.  Now I guess people gather up to watch The Voice or The Bachelor.  Holy crap, our society has gone to hell in a hand basket.  

Speaking of athletes, check out the list of athletes I got to watch on TV, or partial list for brevity.  Ken Griffey Jr, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Nolan Ryan, Bo Jackson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Rickey Henderson, Darryl Strawberry, Tony Gwynn and Frank Thomas were some of the best baseball players to ever watch.  John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and again Bo Jackson headline another sport and likely aren’t rivaled by the same number of players today.  The best athletes in a sport in my generation has to be basketball.  Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic, Dominique, Penny, Shaq, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Hakeem The Dream and Clyde The Glide just scratch the surface.  You know something else cool about those days?  With some exceptions later in their career, most of those players played for the same team every year.  I think the 2016 Braves have 3 players that were on the team last year.   

 Of course there are the usuals, like we could play outside without worrying our parents to death, we weren’t consumed with cell phones (I sort of have that problem now) and we didn’t have access to all the trouble of the Internet.  I guess the kids today could try and make a case for their time but it’d be a pretty tough sell.  I try and give Bailey all of the experiences I had growing up to see what it was like.  We watch 80’s/90’s movies, we collect older sports cards, we watch old throwback sporting events and tv shows.  She knows every character on Seinfeld, she knows MJ was better than LBJ, she knows Ken Griffey Jr. was my favorite baseball player, she knows that Bo Jackson was the greatest athlete or our time and she knows that The Smashing Pumpkins are as good as anything she’ll hear on the radio today.  That’s all any of us can really do as we get older, just try and pass on the things that made our lives great to our kids.  Even those that aren’t our kids.  That 16 year old from earlier could’ve fit right in with us 90’s kids and I’ve told her that before.  I think it was the greatest time to be alive.  Maybe it’s just because it’s when I was growing up.  Or maybe it really was an awesome time to be a kid.  Some may see it as being stuck in the past or refusing to “grow up” but I see it as a way of preserving my youth, even if I am only one year away from being officially old.  So I guess I was right as a kid about getting older.  I tell people to turn down Florida Georgia Line and I spend my time talking about how my time was the greatest.  Can you really argue with Kelly Kapowski though? 


The Last Night

  Have you ever wondered about the end?  What if you knew when it would be?  Just for you personally.  Would it make you live every day and experience everything you could?  Or would you sit there and think “one day closer” and live in fear or sadness?  Really, the answer should be the same even though we don’t know when that last day is coming.  Because, really, that’s the scary part….we don’t know.  It could happen at any time and most of us live with the attitude that we will get to something tomorrow or we treat someone as if we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will see them again.  I know I do both of those things.  But what really scares me even more than not knowing when is realizing that I may not get that big thing done and it may have some ripple effect or, worse, my last encounter or conversation with someone will be one that is not representative of the relationship we had.

It’s easy to say you have an attitude of “living in the moment” but we are all alike in this aspect.  We never think that today might be it.  That’s not a part of our decision making and I’m not necessarily advocating that it should be but there is something there that intrigues me enough to give it thought.  I guess the first thing is to distinguish the difference between living in fear of the world around us and just simply considering that a task you are completing or a conversation you are having might need a little extra care.  It only really takes a little inner dialogue to realize that we don’t treat our time spent enjoying life and friends and family with the proper reverence.

I’m going to go on a little hypothetical trip and show you what I mean.  If tonight was the last night I had on this earth, what would these answers tell me?  Some of these have positive, reassuring answers but some of them remain either unanswered or incomplete.  If this was it, would Alicia know that I love her more than anyone I’ve ever loved or ever will again?  Does she know that nothing could ever come between us?  Does she know that I would lay my life down for hers without question?  After all, isn’t that what a husband is?  Isn’t that the role we take as men when we take a wife?  Have I shown that today or would there be some question in her mind?  It kinda makes me want to treat tomorrow differently if I get it.

What about Bailey?  She knows that I love her.  But would she know what a man is supposed to be in her life?  Would she have the right expectation of how she should be treated and respected?  Would she understand what it feels like to experience unconditional love and always have the key to my heart?  The same could be asked of Georgia but she is too young to get any of it at this point.  Again I ask, isn’t that the role of a father?  To let your children know that they are your most precious possessions and your love for them knows no bounds?

I believe that our daily interactions help to build those foundations with our family and friends.  I also believe that they are easier to tear down than build up and that should always be understood.  There is a saying that “Trust takes years to build, seconds to destroy and a lifetime to repair.”  Couldn’t that be said about love, respect and many other positive emotions?  Do people have bad days?  Of course, but that isn’t the problem.  The problem is when those bad days become weeks and then months and maybe even years.  I know personally that you only have to let me down a couple of times and I am moving on.  But even bad days can end on positive notes by telling people how you feel.  

We don’t really do that enough though.  Feelings are implied or revealed these days by actions and that is how it should be.  After all, talk is cheap, but have you ever told somebody to shut up while they were telling you how much they cared about you?  Me either.  The actions should be supported by the verbal confirmation.  Or vice versa.  Silence is often times confused with indifference or nonchalance.  That’s not how I feel about my most important relationships but I know I don’t say it or show it like I should.  It doesn’t even have to be mushy or lovey to qualify.  I don’t know the last time I told CJ or Michele or Barry or Crystal or Eron or Chris or Byron or any of my good friends that I appreciated their place in my life.  It’s been implied before but I have a tendency to take the “you know what’s up” route.  I think I may even start ending my conversations with CJ with, “I love you bud!”  Just joking Clem.  My point is that people should know where they stand with us.  That is an effort I want to improve.  If tonight was my last night, there are probably several people that would think “yeah, me and Joey were pretty good friends” and it’s really more than that but I may not have let them know their importance in my life.  

I’ve mentioned here in the blog several friends and what memories we’ve made and what they mean to me.  Maybe you read about Coop last night.  Or maybe you’ve realized how many times I’ve mentioned Mike or Byron.  A lot of people read how near and dear Z is to my heart.  But in reality, it’s more than all of that.  Those and many others are the reason I am who I am today.  My parents, my family, Alicia, Bailey, Georgia and my closest friends make up what it is you see in me.  They are the motivation for me to write these stories.  They are the ones who the memories are about. They are the ones that have to know how I feel when I don’t know how to say it.  There will no doubt be more stories about these friends and the times we’ve had (as long as people keep reading).  I still have to talk about the many memories Alicia and I have made over the last 20 years.  Bailey and G are just little kids so the best times are still ahead.  I haven’t told you about the SOTC softball team yet or the things I can’t wipe from my memory that us and The Normans have done.  I’ve still got memories to make with The Collins’ and The Olsen’s and The Henderson’s and Willie McJohnson and many others.  I have a whole list of Dewey stories that have already appeared in video but need to be put in print for posterity.  Pam is the one who has always pushed me to do things just like this.  I could go on and on but for now, I want those people to know that they are special.  Everyone of them.  That’s why I write about you.  That’s my way of saying I Love You and I appreciate all of the memories.  If this is my last night on this earth, know all of this to be true!


Remember The Coop

  The name has come up in several of my blogs so far so I thought I might take some time and introduce you to the man himself. First, I’m dropping the gauntlet.  I gave him the name Coop.  I don’t care who else claims it, it was me.  He was wearing one of his moms old tshirts from an Alice Cooper concert and it said “Remember The  Coop” on it.  That’s where it started and it’s still pretty much what he’s known by to this day to many.  I have no idea why it stuck but it did.  His real name is Adam Lamb.  He is my first cousin and he was my first cousin on the Kelly side of the family.  He’s also the older brother of the other Lamb that I am spotted with most frequently, Mike.  But Coop came first and was my closest relative and friend growing up.  I’m two years his senior but that was about all that separated us.

There are so many memories I have of me and Coop growing up that it’s hard to pick out just a few for the benefit of this piece.  I guess I’d have to start with RA camping trips.  As kids, this was as good as it got.  A weekend in the woods, playing football in tents, fishing, scaring each other and eating campfire grub.  I don’t even know if those things still happen but if they don’t, kids are missing out.  Coop’s dad, my Uncle Lee, was the head honcho on these trips so we always had a little more parental supervision than the other kids.  But what we also had was Uncle Lee’s peach cobbler.  I still don’t really know how it was done except it was cooked under ground for a looooong time and was usually the Saturday night treat.  I would typically rather have apple pie or cobbler on any given day but that particular peach cobbler was always unbelievable.  We went to several places around Georgia.  Okitayakani had the big generator in the middle of the pond that scared us.  Seminole had the grassy water that made canoeing particularly shady.  There was one campsite, I don’t remember which one, where every night we went to bed, we could hear gators grunting in the lake.  Me and Coop would race canoes, play football in waist deep water and try to scare everybody when it was time to go to bed.  Man, things were so much easier then.

One thing about Coop is he’s always had an unfortunate relationship with the camera.  Two of my favorite photos illustrate that.  The first one is from one of our trips to Disney World with the family.  Our papa has always had some sort of time share or something in Orlando and the whole family went.  It turned out that Coop was not a big fan of the mine train and somebody was able to snap a photo at just the right time.  There was a time when he really didn’t like that photo and got mad when you brought it up but I think we are past that now. 

 The other photo was from the skating rink.  I believe it was my birthday because there are several photos of different family members skating that day.  Ole Coop took a tumble and again, somebody was there to snap his picture and he had one of his classic, “what are you looking at” faces on. 

As we grew a little older, we both fell in love with basketball.  Coop had a dunk goal in his backyard and had a concrete court with flood lights covering it.  We would play on that court day or night, rain or shine.  We would play to 100 and once we got there, would start all over again.  I don’t know what our career record ended up being but I think I got him in the head to head.  We would team up though and take care of most of our competition.  Except one team.  There is one battle that lives on in my head and will never fade.  Dewey and Lee.  We had baited them and baited them and they finally gave in and played us at the lake.  And they won.  I don’t know how.  They just beat us.  It wasn’t skill and it wasn’t luck.  It was just them overpowering us and beating us.  That’s the only way I can justify it. We would beat most everybody we played at lunch at MB but our dads will forever be 1-0 against us.  That one stings.  I know it does for Coop too.  We both took it hard that day.  We should’ve just played Chase and Michael and this would not be a lingering issue.  Of course, when we rounded out our team with Brewer and Munt on Saturdays at the Westwood gym, it was a thing of beauty.  Along with real basketball, we also competed at NBA Live, Double Dribble and any other video game we could get our hands on.  You are probably familiar with the “Go Reggie” story at this point.  

Speaking of video games, there are some great stories from that arena.  Our thing was staying up all night and playing Tecmo Football or Basketball or Contra or Bases Loaded or Double Dragon.  Whatever was hot at the time, we were on it and we would play until our eyes crossed and thumbs ached.  One night we weren’t supposed to be up playing but Coop couldn’t contain his excitement, which happened often.  He got a tad rowdy and Uncle Lee bolted into the living room and came real close to throwing the Nintendo in the yard.  Another night (around 3 am), in a fit of exasperation, he was sitting on my couch and threw the controller in the air and smacked his arms against the wall behind the couch.  Above him was a shelf that had trinkets, tea pots and anything else that made a tremendous amount of noise.  This shelf came down and Pam was in the living room before everything settled on the floor.  Parents-2, Coop-0.  The funny thing though was Coop was always less phased by all of it than I was.  It didn’t really get to him.  The parents scared me to death but I really think Coop liked that sort of thing.   

 Things weren’t always peachy with me and Coop but even those times have their spots in history.  I remember when me and Trent wanted to play football and Coop had an RA basketball game THE NEXT DAY and needed to “rest up” and caused the whole shabang to go off the rails.  We were so mad about that.  Then there were the fights when we actually did play football at BeBe’s at Christmas.  Those video games led to some pretty contentious moments too.  With the old Nintendo, you could angrily reset the game with very little effort.  And I may have taken a little too much pleasure in some of his moments of discipline from his dad.  His famous “What a crock” comment that was met with a stearn, “What did you say boy?” comes to mind.  And I almost got to see what it looked like to have one’s teeth wrapped around their neck, thanks to our relentless repitition of a made up dumb word.  One time, as a prank I promise, I pushed him from a moving golf cart and he broke his wrist.  But maybe the angriest I’ve seen him though is the day he got his panties in a bunch over the most famous line from our childhood….”It’s a sardine, get Adam a cracker.”  I don’t even know what made him so mad about it except we all laughed.  A dead fish on the bank of the lake and a random comment from his dad sent him into a blind rage that day.  

There were so many good times though that outweighed those fights.  We successfully navigated Dalton’s horticulture class as a two man gardening assault team.  We both made fun of the same basketball players for getting schooled.  We both took pleasure in beating Southside in RA bball.  We both pounced on Trent in the “that’s why your mama doesn’t love you” incident.  We both even had the same sworn enemy after high school.  We did a lot of stuff together before life took us in different directions.  Even though it did, we still see each other and laugh about the same things.  We still talk basketball and we still talk about the good ole days.  Cheers Cooperelli! 


Things I Don’t Understand

Things got real over the last couple of posts so I’m going to go light on this one.  It may seem like a random dart thrown but I thought I’d try to have a little fun with some things I don’t really understand.  They aren’t deep thoughts or anything.  These are just things that apparantly most of the rest of the world enjoys or appreciates but I just don’t quite get.  I have some pretty lame hobbies to some with my sports cards and video games but I guess everybody has their own thing.  I don’t take it as a knock on me rather just something others don’t understand.  So you can do the same if I cover something that you like in this post.  And I certainly hope I do.  I guess the best way to outline this is to do it as a list.  Besides, who doesn’t like a good list.

  • Super Bowl Halftime Shows – Ok, so timing is good to list this one.  Crystal and I were just talking about this last night.  At halftime, I said it was probably time for us to go, which was met with “but it’s the halftime show!” It was Coldplay, who came out to a song from 1999 (or at least it seemed) and that was about all I heard.  Everybody gets all up in arms every year about who the performer is.  I feel like I’m one of the only Americans that could care less.  I don’t even like halftime shows with rock music, a la Red Hot Chili Peppers a few years ago.  It’s rarely real singing and it’s mostly theatrics for the wow factor.  We’ve had the nip slip, some chick shooting a bird and then the controversial Beyoncé performance last night.  What’s the actual point?  There is really not much entertainment value when you break it down but that’s what America acts like everytime the NFL announcers the big act a few weeks ahead of time.  This year they made this big super secret announcement.  It was Coldplay…..who will it be next year?  Creed?  Wake me up when Slipknot belts out a tune as people wave neon flags in the shape of a football.   
  • Singing Shows – While we are on the subject of entertainment, what’s up with all of the singing contests?  Or now, lip synching contests?  I’m talking to you Bri!  It has been established over the last few years that apparantly half of the US population thinks they can sing.  Some can, but most are like the average person in the shower.  They sing ok but if you asked them to write a song or play an instrument?  Not happening.  There are obvious exceptions: Phillip Phillips writes and plays guitar, Daughtry did the same.  Hell, Daughtry didn’t even win the show he was on.  I love music, albeit atypical music, but I’m not buying any of these shows.  Now, Chasing Victory?  They didn’t need a show to make it.  They were good and they worked hard, the way it’s supposed to be.  And don’t even get me started on Local Noise, right Mike?  Hang on, let me download the latest Taylor Hicks album.  
  • Reality shows – I couldn’t talk about tv without hitting this topic.  The tube in my house is almost always on some reality show.  Real Housewives, Mob Wives, Teen Mom, and those are the decently produced ones.  The whole glorification of teens having babies aside, they just aren’t good or believable.  Sorry Alicia.  I absolutely do not watch any of those but the wife has a DVR full.  I’ll watch Deadliest Catch or Dual Survival or something on Discovery Channel because I can justify it as being education of some sort.  I’m selective, but you can have that other stuff.  There are hundreds out there that are just downright dismal.  Lizard Lick Towing and Hardcore Pawn come to mind.  TruTv has made a mockery of television and I can’t turn away sometimes.  They don’t even have good actors.  They’ve taken real people, given them a script and asked them to act out unbelievable story lines.  Matt Damon couldn’t pull off these gems, nevertheless some guy that runs a pawn shop.  I heard today that TLC is looking for a replacement for Left Eye just so they can do a reality show. Wow – that’s really all I can say.  Let’s just run down a partial list of the people that have likely made more dough in the reality show game than they did in their real career: Flava Flav, Chyna, Vern Troyer, Bret Michaels, All of the housewives and even Peter Brady.  But people lap this stuff up like its the best thing since Seinfeld.  That makes me “madder than a toothless dog in a meat house.” ~ Ron Shirley, Lizard Lick.
  • Kim Kardashian – I mentioned reality shows, so what the hell?  I really don’t have to explain this one though, do I?  What legitimate reason is there for this person to have 40 MILLION followers on Twitter?  That’s a real question.  What is it?  This family has made an empire out of TMZ reports.  And those Twitter followers are serious.  If anybody says anything cross about Kim, they will destroy your life.  At least your social media life.  The only person in the family that ever worked was the dad and he helped get OJ off of a murder charge.  That guy deserved a reality show.  He had something happening worth watching.  Don’t share this with any of Kim’s followers.  I don’t have the time or resources to fight them off.
  • Remakes of previous Hollywood hits – Halloween, Friday the 13th, Chainsaw Massacre, Karate Kid, Ghostbusters.  These are all worse than the originals.  I kind of get it though because there is a time and place for a remake I suppose.  Oceans 11, Cape Fear, Dawn of the Dead and Night of The Living Dead are all remakes that hit pretty well and were actually just modern day updates to the originals.  Where they lose me is when the story gets changed to interest today’s audience.  If that has to be done, just make a new movie and call it something else.  I’m a big fan of the original Halloween series and I enjoy an occasional Rob Zombie film but I didn’t need Michael Myers to become some torturous deviant to like the movie more.  He was “the shape” in the original movie. In the Zombie films, he was a kid that did things I won’t even discuss here.  Too much, Rob.  Make the movie you want and call it your own.  Don’t ruin a classic for pure shock value.  Although Malcolm McDowell was a welcome replacement for Dr. Loomis.  
  •  Serving Sizes – Switching gears abruptly here but this one really does blow my mind.  Ever studied these things?  When did a bag of M&M’s become 4 servings?  It should take me 4 swings at a bag of M&M’s to finish them off?  Two OREO cookies?  Half of a 12 oz Dr Pepper?  One pop tart?  What world am I living in?  You may have realized that I like to eat but let’s be honest about our servings.  Don’t take shortcuts to reduce the number of calories you have to print.  I don’t like doing math when I’m eating potato chips.  And some things have a half in there.  You’re asking me to eat 2 1/2 chocolate chip cookies?  Let’s be real and make the serving size 5 and I won’t need a calculator.  And don’t even ask me to figure out actual meals.  You have to add for cheese and mayo?  Those are staples.  Give me the total and let the non-Americans that eat a hamburger without cheese subtract.  This one belongs on the pet peeve list too.

The Old Man And The Z

 After New Years and the holiday season came to a close, I decided I would dedicate strong effort to getting my head back in the game, so to speak.  I was back at work, catching up and trying to come to grips with some pretty serious news we received there at Christmas time.  On top of everything that happened with Alicia, the news that the place I had worked at for the last 16 years was about to merge with another bank sat heavy on me.  With that news came worry of whether I’d stay in my role, have to move, or even keep my job for that matter.  I had made a lifetime worth of friends with the people I worked with.  Wasn’t 2014 enough chaos for a little while?  Needless to say, I felt like I had become a zombie.  Wake up, go to work and worry, call Alicia several times to remind her of the medicines due, go home and try to forget about work and worry about how Alicia was, go to bed.  Rinse, Repeat.  

I needed a mental and emotional option that wasn’t life or death or unemployment or homelessness.  Softball has been my outlet in adulthood and the close of February meant I would soon be back on the diamond and I was desperately hoping that would help me focus  and find the balance I was looking for.  I was prepping to play in a coed softball tourney in early March.  I was excited for softball to start because it would be a routine of normalcy again.  Coed was still new to me but it was a nice way to break into a new season.  We needed a couple of female players and I put the word out on FB.  I got an odd response from an old classmate about the age the player needed to be.  I thought to myself, “we’re the same age so if I can do it, you can handle it.”  She was actually asking because she wanted her daughter to get involved.  We were able to sneak her in and that’s the day that I met Zibby.

Without much detail, I understood that Z was in a similar mental state as me at the time and needed to get out and involved in something.  She was welcomed with open arms and fit right in.  We had a great tourney and finished 2nd overall.  Z even took home the trophy.  I also felt something spiritual with our meeting.  I felt something pulling at my heart to stay in touch with her.  Her mom and I continued to communicate and a need for some guidance in the softball department presented itself.  I have never claimed to be a superstar but I have always loved the game and coaching.  Wait for my post on the 1999 MB Eagles Baseball Team.

It felt weird at first because I didn’t really know anything about Z but I wanted to help her.  We started working together and I learned more and more about her everytime we would practice.  I got to know her pretty well and began to realize that she had not had a  very easy 16 years but she was always smiling and upbeat when we were together.  She would greet me with a fist bump that always let me know she was happy to see me and ready to go to work.  She soaked up everything like a sponge and improved as quickly as I’ve ever seen a player improve.  I was amazed but then started to see her for who she is.  She sings, plays guitar and piano, takes stunning photos, plays softball, plays soccer.  She can really do anything she tries to do.  She has amazing talents and abilities.  I knew then that I was dealing with a special person. 

 By working with her, I found myself returning to form.  She had brought about a different kind of focus that I needed.  My priorities remained home and work but we would get together once, sometimes twice a week, and I would forget about pain and worry and fear.  My focus was on her learning how to hit a softball better and harder and to show her that she could unlock the beast I saw glimpses of in practice.  We shared the same goal for different reasons.  The goal was for her to make the team.  For her, I suppose it was to be on the team and play the sport.  For me, it was to show her that she COULD make the team if she put in the time and work.  I suppose it all really took some serious trust on both sides.  We were strangers using each other to rebuild ourselves and find our inner strength again.  With that for me came pressure but it was the kind of pressure I liked and thrived on.  It was pressure that I had control over.  Not the work and medical stuff that I was at the mercy of.  My pressure was to push her to her limits and make sure I understood who she was and what she was capable of.  At the same time, I knew I was running the risk of pushing too hard, too fast.  I was able to gauge her feelings and thoughts by talking with her and her mom, Eron.  We built a bond in those practices that would blossom into a full blown friendship.  That has a way of happening when you open up and put all your faith in someone.  And that’s exactly what we did.  She had faith in me that I would teach her and help her become a better player.  I had faith in her that she would work hard and believe in herself.  That solidified the bond that was created from little more than happenstance.  

 For two people that aren’t related by blood or marriage, you probably couldn’t find more faith shared.  She has remained a special person in my life over the last year.  She loves my girls, we text regularly, she’s gone with us to the fair and haunted houses and hangs out with me and my family as if she’s one of our own.  Eron says we have kindred spirits and I have always agreed.  I just feel comfortable with Z and that isn’t an easy thing to find anymore.  But, for some reason, she was placed in my life at a particular time.  I feel like we have a bond that will never be broken.  Twenty years from now, she or I will see something that makes us laugh and think about something cool that has happened over the last year.  I am guessing those things might be related to spiders, sweet tea or now, scorpions.  I have to share the sweet tea story just because it is so funny.  We were scheduled for practice one Saturday and I text her mom to make sure she brought the TEE.  That being the piece of softball equipment I let her take home to practice her swings.  Zibby, being Zibby, went to the refrigerator and took out a gallon of sweet tea and proceeded to take it to the car.  By the time Eron got the phone out for a photo, it was all hitting Z and she tried to put the tea back.  But Eron snapped off the picture in time to send it to me with the caption “Z getting the tee.”  I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that one, including a nice photoshop. 

 She has a tremendous ability to make me smile and forget about all of the grown up stuff that gets me down.  In a year, I’ve got her wearing UGA gear, listening to occasional Deftones and hanging out with me when it would be a lot cooler to hang out with friends.   I don’t even really know how to classify her other than an angel.  My angel on the infield and sometimes in the outfield.  She’s my friend and she’s like another daughter to me.  I know she has already been a positive influence on Bailey.  And Georgia loves seeing her.  And Alicia too.  I don’t know what made it click that day.  I just know that it did and I am forever grateful that fate dealt me those cards after being dealt the crappiest hand of my life.  Today, Alicia is healthy, G is awesome and Bailey is still daddy’s girl.  Also, I am mentally back to the same old corny, fun loving nerd I’ve always been.  For that last part, Z deserves a lot of credit.  Thank you!

Update – May 29, 2017

Z walked across the Big grad stage on Saturday and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  The last few years haven’t been a cake walk for her as she likes school about as much as I did, which wasn’t much.  She did make that softball team in 2015 and that was a win in the confidence department confirming that we were both successful.  But she’s become so much more than that in 2017.  She’s grown up!  She still goes to my softball games, she plays with our girls, we share funny stories and great music and she even went to her first UGA game with us last year!  We are going to the Deftones/Thrice concert in Jacksonville in June and that will be a first for her as well.  I’ve been honored to help her share some experiences outside of the norm for her.  She seems to enjoy them too or either she’s an extremely good actress.  The next couple of years are going to be pretty crucial in her transition to adulthood and I plan to be right here to offer her the same shoulder to lean on as the previous couple of years.  She’s a big girl now and can do things on her own but I’m not going to let her fly away just yet!

Strongest Woman I Know

  I believe in angels.  Sometimes it might be a supernatural presence that you feel with you.  These are hard to explain.  It’s difficult for an analytical thinker to reconcile something that is felt but not seen.  I just know I have felt it enough to accept the reality of it.  The other version is those that walk among us that are filled with a spirit we find remarkable.  We don’t know why but we are drawn to those people.  These kind of angels are few and far between.  But both tend to come along at just the right time.

My close friends know what Alicia went through two years ago.  We don’t talk about it much anymore because it brings some painful memories to the surface.  I’m going to just rip off that bandaid and put it out there.  We had been trying to get pregnant with our second child for a while.  Bailey had finally settled into a place we thought was perfect.  When we found out she was pregnant, we were both excited and scared at the same time.  As a parent, or pending parent, all you want is for your children to be healthy.  You may want a boy or girl but you really don’t care as long as everything goes smooth.  

Alicia has had a condition with her hip and leg since she was a baby.  She has seen multiple doctors and even had an exploratory surgery to try and repair it.  It’s never been resolved and she has always had to manage it with anti-inflammatory medication.  That’s a big no no when you are pregnant.  It didn’t take long for that issue to resurface.  She had the problem when she was pregnant with Bailey but this time around would be much worse.  I remember some happy times with the first pregnancy.  She had a constant glow about her even though she would sometimes be in pain with the leg.  She had baby showers and even planned my awesome 30th birthday while pregnant with Bailey.  During the second pregnancy, she spent the better part of seven months in pain, going to massages, getting injections, just trying to make it day to day.  Forget morning sickness, body image issues and everything else that comes with pregnancy.  This was not a problem.  The problem now was just making it day to day.  I recall a trip to the beach in June that started poorly and ended worse.  Alicia tried her best to make the most of that trip but wound up spending the majority of it in bed searching for relief.  That is a painful memory.  We tried to make the most of it and focused on the kids but Alicia couldn’t get through it.  There is a photo of me and Tara and Bailey as we were getting ready to go to the beach the first day and that is the only fun part I remember. 
 We would soon become regular visitors at Phoebe.  We made a total of 6 visits with at least 3 overnight stays.  Everything was a temporary fix and things just continued to deteriorate over time.  If you’ve never been through something like that as a spouse, let me tell you that it is a helpless and depressing feeling to see someone you love more than life itself suffer and not be able to do anything about it.  It was gut wrenching.  Anybody who has been through it knows what I’m saying.  Georgia was not due until September 9 but we found ourselves in the hospital again the last week of July.  Alicia was in misery.  She wasn’t even aware of what day it was or how long we had been in the hospital.  If I had to guess, I would say that she averaged an hour of sleep per night over the month of July.  One hospital trip, the doctors gave her ambien to help her sleep.  Instead of sleeping, she spent the night hallucinating about photo shoots.  I had to move the recliner I was sleeping in to the other side of the bed to keep her from getting up.  6+ months pregnant, no sleep in days, hooked to machinery and IV’s and trying to organize imaginary photo shoots don’t mix.  She would not recall any of it.  I wish it had been as funny as it sounds now.

The doctors thought they had figured out a combination of medications that would give her some form of relief for the remaining weeks we had left to get to a safe delivery date.  We were set to go home on August 2 as long as the meds continued to work taken by mouth instead of IV.  We never made it home that day as the pain returned as intense as ever.  What we didn’t realize at the time was that she was actually beginning to have contractions.  We were 5 weeks early and Baby G had decided that mommy had had enough.  Alicia spent that night in a state of shallow breathing and borderline psychosis.  This is according to her mom because as fate would have it, this was the one night in all the stays that I wasn’t there.  Because it was a Saturday and her mom sensed the last straws I was hanging onto, they sent me home about 11 to get a night of sleep.  I didn’t go to sleep until about 2 am.  I tossed and turned in bed with the TV on in the background.  Alicia even called me once to say that she was scared and we talked a minute.  Again, she never remembers calling.   Sometime in the early morning hours, the nurses started figuring out what  was really happening.  They immediately began prepping Alicia for delivery and called the dr.  Charlotte called me around 6am and told me I should get back up there.  I walked into a chaotic scene of nurses coming and going and my heart immediately began racing.  I remember Alicia staring at me at the foot of the bed as she was about to go back to the OR.  I was beyond frightened.  

Sometime during the delivery, Alicia stopped breathing on her own and had to be put on machines.  After what seemed like an eternity, the doc came out and told me that G was fine and was headed to NICU for observation due to the premature nature of the delivery.  Things did not go as well for Alicia.  She had suffered pulmonary adema and essentially began drowning from the inside out during the procedure.  She lost conciousness and was placed on a vent and moved to SICU.  It would be a few hours before I would get to see her.  She was in a medically induced coma and I was given a hard warning that things would not look good when I saw her.  Nothing could have prepared me for it.  At the moment I saw her, I didn’t know if I would ever see her awake again.  I broke right there.  I sat and cried as hard as I’ve ever cried.  20 years of memories all seemed to start flashing at once.  Things became hazy then.  I was a wreck when family was there by my side.  Couldn’t eat, couldn’t stop pacing.  I had to force myself to go to see G so she knew that we were there but I didn’t want to leave Alicia.  I remember our first SICU nurse was an old friend, Stacey Barnes.  I think she saw the pain in my eyes.  She came to me when her shift was over to let me know all of the positive signs they were seeing in Alicia.  To provide me some comfort.  I’ll never forget that.

When family left and I was alone with Alicia, I really began to question reality and what was going on around me.  I do know that out of all of the long nights at the hospital, that night was the longest.  I stared at monitors and listened to beeps and pings all night.  My mind was in shambles.  Early that next morning though I felt that supernatural feeling I was talking about in the opening paragraph.  I felt something reside in me that gave me a little strength once again.  I don’t know what triggered it or where it came from.  It told me that I needed to be strong and that Alicia was going to be ok.  I would soon realize that I would need that push as Alicia began to come back around.  She had no idea what was going on or what had happened.  She was slowly coming back to me and would begin communicating with hand holding and pointing to letters on a pad to put sentences together.  She wasn’t able to speak thanks to all of the tubes in place on her face and down her throat.  The doctors slowly backed the strength of the machine help she was getting as she got stronger.  The worst fear was easing.  I was communicating with her and was able to see her look at me again.

Over the next few days, I had to be her eyes and ears with the docs and with G.  She didn’t remember her meds, when they were needed, anything.  She didn’t even have all of the pieces of what happened yet.  To make matters worse, Bailey hadn’t seen her mother for 2 days and it was 3 days before Alicia laid eyes on G.  Bailey was able to see her little sister the day she was born.  I had a picture from that first visit and I kept it in the room with Alicia.  As she slowly came out of unconsciousness, she would ask to see the photo more and more.  Finally, with the help of a nurse and wheelchair, Alicia was able to go see Georgia.  It was only then that I would allow happy thoughts back into my mind.  That was supposed to have happened days before.  But it was still an emotional sight.   

 After several more days of testing and observing, they were finally ready to let her go home.  We spent about 2 weeks in the hospital during that event and even going home proved to be scary.  We had a new baby, a seven year old starting 2nd grade and now a wife and mother with a heart condition on 11 different meds.  She was scared to death to even go to sleep.  I knew Alicia had it the worst.  She was, after all, the one carrying the baby and the one in pain.  I was mentally and emotionally tired but it was hard to have any pity on myself.  What I did not consider was the toll it had taken on Bailey.  She missed her mom and dad.  She had spent a lot of nights at the grandparents.  While that can be fun, not being home, with mom and dad can get old.  And not seeing or talking to mom is even harder.  She fought hard too though.  Her first day of school was when we were in the hospital but she was there and got her day in.  It was the first time we didn’t walk her into school and wish her well.  She was also a big help to Alicia over the next couple of months.  Just because we were home, that didn’t mean that Alicia was released.  She was on a lot of medication, was unable to drive and was asked to live stress free for a while.  Bailey helped make that easier by doing what was necessary to help mommy.  She showed me a lot of strength during that time.

The months that followed were a blur.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years – all came and went and I remained checked out.  I was happy that I had my wife back and my baby was healthy.  I had learned a lot about Alicia during that time.  First and foremost,  she’s a fighter.  She could’ve given in to the pain many times but she fought and made sure she kept G’s health a top concern.  Getting home though did not mean a jump back into society.  I was able to go and do some of the things I enjoyed doing, but I remained mentally out of touch.  My life was consumed with medication reminders, side effects and blood pressure.  Everytime she moved her leg, I would immediately panic and think the pain was back and the doctors would not be able to do anything.  Everytime we checked her blood pressure, if it went up one point, I began worrying.  I spent a lot of time wondering about whether or not the heart condition would fully heal.  And as far as work, I was as good as unemployed during that time. If not for such a supportive group of co-workers like Mark Imes, Chris Cliett, Brent Davis, April James, Christie Donald, Mitchell Smith and countless others, I would have never been able to recover in my job.  I just wasn’t able to get back into the world outside of home and family and feel totally comfortable. The family was doing well but the fear of those months had a serious effect on me.  Once everything was over, then the gravity of it all pressed down on my mental health.  Life had a different purpose and meaning.  It would take more time and more willingness to reach out to others to get me back to normal.  And that was the goal, to bring life back to normal.

To be continued…..