All That and a Bag of Chips

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I’m easily amused by the ‘nutrition facts’ labels on food packaging.  Some of them are so funny that I think they would get bigger laughs in the comics section of the newspaper than on the side of a box.  Serving size, servings per package, they’re all just a bunch of guidelines conjured up by white-coat dietitians in an office.  Does anyone really pay attention to the serving size anyway?

I got one of my biggest laughs while eating from a bag of caramel flavored rice cakes.  I don’t even know why they call them rice cakes. They’re more like an amalgam of a chip and a flavored air reservoir.  The back packaging says that the serving size is eight mini cakes.  Are you kidding me?  Eight pieces just barely begins to whet my appetite.  Who has time to count?  .  What it doesn’t say on the package is how long after eating the eight mini cakes, can I eat another eight mini cakes?  Is it 15 minutes, an hour?  I really think they need to include this kind of information.  And what about all the crumbs and partial pieces that are at the bottom of the bag?   They don’t even talk about those, so I don’t count those as part of my “serving.”

And don’t get me started on Oreos.  They are another one of my weaknesses; and as much as I love them, I try not to ever have them in our house.  They say that three cookies equal one serving.  I don’t know about you, but as long as the pack of Oreos is in front of me, I’ll keep eating them.  With them, it’s like, “Serving Size: Yes, go ahead and eat all of them.” 

What I probably need, is to find is a box of self control.  I’m sure I could use a few of those servings in my diet.  I could sneak them in onto my daily caloric schedule somewhere in between the rice cakes, the Oreos and - OK, I’ll admit it: the Lucky Charms. 


Would You Like Some Apnea With Your Sleep?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I complain to my doctor, “I don’t sleep so well.”  He tells me that as you get older, you don’t need as much sleep as you used to.  OK, not the answer I wanted, but I’ll make a note of it.  “Oh, also, my wife says that I snore – really loudly.  She is leaving the room in the middle of the night to go to another bedroom.”  The doctor says that these days, a lot of couples sleep in separate bedrooms.  OK, that’s not the answer I wanted either.  I don’t feel real good about inadvertently sending my wife to “Exile Island” every night. 

“What are my options?”  The doctor tells me that there is a device that blows air on your face, and stops you from snoring.  I think my doctor is kidding me.  How could some air, being blown on your face, stop you from snoring?  There is also a surgical procedure where they cut out your tonsils, or freeze off part of your soft palate, or remove a little bit of your tongue, or inject some little foam things in your soft palate to make it firmer.  Of course, after surgery, there is no guarantee that the snoring will stop completely.  You could also lose your sense of taste, or even worse, it might be really painful to swallow for a seemingly endless amount of time – and afterward, if you’re not happy with the results, you can never go back to the way it was.  When it comes to surgery, that’s the deal breaker for me.  I guess I’ll have to look at this air pump thing.

The CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device.

Does it work?  I would say, for the most part, yes.  But there are a few things that they don’t tell you about the whole CPAP experience. 

One:  Make sure you show your family what you look like while wearing the mask before you first use it.  Life is scary enough without having to see your Dad lying in bed with an air hose attached to his face.    Let’s not frighten the kids unnecessarily. 

Two:  Remember to take it with you when you go on vacation.  Yes, that means the cruise ship and the hotel.  It kind of defeats the purpose when you travel without it, and the only place your family members can hide from the snoring is in the bathroom.  (Yes, I speak from experience.)

Three:  While on that vacation or trip, make sure you take the device out of its case before you go through the airport security checkpoint.  It seems, (I’m not quite sure why), that the TSA agents don’t like to find any surprise electrical devices with wires and tubes.  Failing this step could find you in the secondary search section for an undetermined amount of time.  (Yes, I’ve experienced this too.)

I’m still not a great sleeper, but I am a quieter sleeper.  I would prefer to not have to use the CPAP, but it’s nice to not be the butt of all the snoring jokes anymore.  Those are now pointed at my Mother-in-law, which gives me a weird sense of satisfaction. 


Hermit Crab Cakes

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do you remember when the hermit crab craze was so prevalent a few years ago?  They were everywhere, including kiosks in the shopping malls.  Well, that was about the time that I gave in to my two daughter’s constant requests for the, oh so, cute crustaceans. 

It all began innocently enough.  We bought a little starter set with the cage, the sponge, the food and the little plastic palm tree.  We started out with two crabs, presumably so they could keep each other company.  One of the hermit crabs died almost immediately.  We got a replacement, but he also didn’t last too long.  Soon after that, the original one died too. 

What was I thinking when my youngest daughter said that she wanted another hermit crab?  I must have been thinking a lukewarm “yes,” because I went with her to a pet supply store and picked out a replacement.  It was a nice conversation piece for a while.  We changed its water, the sandy beach platform and even got a bigger cage.  I would take it out for walks on the kitchen counter and let it crawl over my hands.  Once, I was successful in getting my daughter to let it crawl on her hand.  That turned out to be a mistake.  She flinched at the touch of the crab legs and the little guy pinched her skin tightly so he wouldn’t fall.  I had to rinse her hand with cold water in the sink to get the crab to release its grip.  That was the last time that my little girl did anything with her (my) hermit crab. 

Since then, the crab has molted about seven times, growing a little bigger each time.  He has even escaped a few times in the middle of the night, and I’ve been convinced that we’d never find him again.  Each time, I found him in the far corner of our family room behind our sofa.  How he survived the drop from our kitchen counter onto the tile floor, and then evade our boxer dog is still a mystery to me. 

And now, I learn that these hermit crabs have a lifespan of up to 23 years.  I don’t even know if I’m going to live that long; and I know that my daughter is never going to take care of it in my absence.  What’s a Dad to do?  I can’t make crab cakes out of it, because it’s just too darn small.  I’m afraid to get another one as a companion, because that might extend my watch for another - who knows how many more years. 

I guess if I want any crab cakes for dinner, I’m going to have to go to the restaurant like everyone else.  I’m not a big fan of them anyway, so maybe I should just keep watching the seafood in my aquarium, and praying that they increase in portion size. 


Exercise in Futility

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let me just think out loud for a moment, because I’m having a difficult time understanding something.  You are at your gym.  You are admiring all the people that are trying to do something healthy for their body.  You’ve got the bruisers, the cruisers, the heavy, the thin and the people that don’t fit into any of those categories – like me.  Some are enjoying the publicly provided music, while others have brought their own custom blends of entertainment. 

In the distance you hear something that sounds like a phone ringing.  You casually glance to the right and see that a person is, in fact, having a phone conversation.  They haven’t stopped exercising; they are continuing to pedal or pump or whatever motion they were performing at the time.  I can tell that this is not some urgent business call; this is a personal call.  These are not quick phone calls where they say “Hey dude, I’ll have to call you back a little later.”  These, many times, end up being five to 10 minute conversations.  I am not a body builder by any stretch of the imagination, but when I’m at the gym to exercise, I’m there to exercise.  I leave my cell phone in the locker room.  I’m not there to socialize or talk to my neighbor on the bicep machine.  These “cell-ercisers” offend me on a different level than phone conversations at a table in a restaurant. 

After working out myself, I leave the gym – perhaps a little more confused than when I began.  I make the obligatory MP3 changeover from my headphones to the car stereo.  This time I glance to my left, because I can’t believe what I think I’m seeing.  There is a guy riding a bicycle while smoking a cigarette.  I’m sure it’s a cigarette, because I see a smoke trail leaving the business end of his face.  You might not agree with my opinion of cell phones in the gym, but you have to admit that smoking while riding a bike is just wrong on so many levels.  Is this guy so addicted to cigarettes that he can’t even wait until he gets to his final destination (no pun intended) before taking a drag from this portable tobacco product?  Can the buzz feel so much better while on a bike? 

Personally I think that talking on the phone and smoking, while exercising, is too much work.  It’s a bad example of multitasking.  Come to think about it, exercising is too much work.  I think I need a nap.


Good to the Last Drop

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

 If you ask around, you’ll probably find that most people don’t know a whole lot about blood.  Sure, we know that we bleed when we get cut, and it’s red, but that’s about the extent of it.  When I first heard the title of the movie There Will Be Blood, I thought that it was a horror film.  You can imagine my surprise when I watched that movie. 

As a lot of my beliefs came from my Mom, it’s not a big surprise that blood awareness became a part of my life because of my Mom.  She was a big believer in blood donation and gave quite regularly.  She used to bring home those little plastic blood drops on a pin (parting gifts from the American Red Cross after giving) to proudly display on a shirt collar.  Today they give out little stickers that say “Be nice to me, I gave blood today!” 

I think my first blood donation might have been during my Mom’s oncology treatments for breast cancer.  It was at that time, when I truly realized the importance of blood banks, apheresis and blood types.  As she was going to need blood to replenish her own supply following a bone marrow transplant, the hospital’s blood bank would need to be replenished afterward.  It’s one of those circular concepts where one side borrows life while the other side tries to give it back.  Sometimes we can only work together with the hope that our efforts will bring a little relief to someone’s life. 

I began to take great pride in my blood donations.  I have given a lot of blood and platelets over the years.  I’ve almost fainted a few times and gotten tingly lips and fingers at other times.  When I give platelets, my feet still cramp up a little toward the end of the 90 minute donation process.  But don’t ask me to stop; that’ll never happen.  As long as I’m healthy and able, you’ll find me a regular on those little blue gurney things at the Red Cross.

I give the stickers to my youngest daughter now.  She likes stickers, and thinks it’s kind of neat that I give blood.  Anyway, I don’t need a sticker to remind people to be nice to me.  That’s not the reason I give blood.  I give for the unseen children and adults that are in need.  It will never bring my Mother back, but it keeps her very alive in my daily life.  I’m not sure that we can really give life, but we can contribute to it and hope that it continues for as long as possible. 

I hope that my daughters will donate blood when they get older.  Maybe they’ll take selfless pride, like me, and be able to think happy thoughts of their loved ones – past and present.  We all need to make an effort to ensure that there will be blood for those that need it.  It's a little gesture that goes a long way.


Person of Interest

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Person of Interest:  The definition of a person that is seen as a possible criminal, usually, after the (alleged) act of murder.  But a person of interest could be a good person too; right?

Who is this ‘person of interest’?  When I was single, and on the prowl, I was fond of a girl that worked at a pizza store.  She was a ‘person of interest’ to me.  Actually, I was never “on the prowl.”  I was single and hopeful, but that’s another story.  You don’t really want to hear that sad story now; do you?  Let’s move on.  When this girl thought that she was being stalked (her words, not mine), I was seen by the police as a ‘person of interest’.  Just because I was single and hopeful doesn’t mean that I was a stalker.  Disclaimer:  I am not, nor was I ever a stalker.  It’s a sad fact that I have to even mention that in these politically correct times.

If I were surfing (an activity that I swore I would never do again) and a shark happened to take a bite out of me, which resulted in the unplanned amputation of my arm or leg, I would be a ‘person of interest’ to the media.  But, what of the shark?  I guess that would make the shark a Selachimorpha of interest (big fish with sharp teeth).  No I didn’t just pull that word out of my head – I’m simply an interested person who looked up that fact in Wikipedia; keeping me honest, looking out for your interests – so to speak.  There’s no need for you to look up that word; it exists.  I verified it.  It’s not good to be too interested, just interested enough.  You see, we’re all persons of interest in one way or another.

The goal, I think, is to strive to be a person of interest at the right time; like a bride or groom, the winner of the lottery or a just a girl who works at a pizza store.  Not like an alleged murderer, or a Selachimorpha (shark – remember?)


Who's Your Daddy?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Do my kids really know me?  Of course, they know me; I’m their Dad.  I’m the one that helps them with their math homework.  I’m the one that they come to on the weekends to ask, “Daddy, what are we having for breakfast?”  And I also get asked the following technical question when my oldest daughter has a new friend over, “Daddy, what’s the WEP code for our router?”  She doesn’t’ use the words ‘WEP Code’ or ‘router’; I’m paraphrasing, of course. 

My point is:  what do they know of me?  I’m not known as a particularly vocal person.  I over-think my words before I speak, and would much prefer to sit back and listen.  So I think I have one persona that is pretty obvious to them, and another one that lurks in the background.  My writing voice is completely different than my speaking voice.  It’s more fluid and coherent.  My shadowy sense of humor is edgier when it comes out of my pen.   

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  I have notebook after notebook of documented events from my life.  I don’t call it a diary, but let’s face facts; a lot of what I’ve written has ‘diary-like’ entries.  I’ve got the fears, the thrills, the spills; the problems at work, the first kiss and way too much information detailing the death of my parents.  My kids aren’t privy to a lot of this background.  In effect, they’re not aware of a lot of things that make up ME.  I’m troubled by this, and I think that’s why I am so intent on keeping up my journal entries. 

Does anyone really want to be known that completely?  Maybe it’s just too raw for a person to handle.  Sometimes when I re-read my own stuff it even gets me depressed.  But there are also the good times, the life lessons that have been uncovered either accidentally or by choice.  Those are the things that I would want to share most with my children.  There’s so much that I want to teach them and say to them.  I would love it if even a small percentage of the beliefs and ideals that matter to me will matter to them in the future. 

So, in answer to my original question, “Who’s your daddy?”  That would be me.  I’ve got strengths and flaws, just like everybody; they are unique to me, and I want to share them with you.  Let’s start with my pancake recipe.  We can make them together this weekend. 


Confessions of a High Roller

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hoarding, OCD, eating disorders and other sundry guilty pleasures are personal issues that we’d much prefer to keep to ourselves.  As long as they don’t get exposed to the public, we can silently revel in our little routines and proclivities.

I’m no different.  I’ll admit that I do some things; but I know that we all do things that we’d prefer stay out of public scrutiny.  OK, I’ve got some hoarding tendencies that I might not have realized if it hadn’t been for the show “Hoarders,” but I’m not an extreme case.  I could be; if certain aspects of my life were skewed a little to the right or left, but I try not to dwell on that too much. 

When our little secrets escape in broad daylight, that’s when our problems become real problems; because we have to admit that they really exist.  I came to this very realization the other day while visiting a friend of ours at their house.  The visit began simply enough.  I’m not really a drinker, so I didn’t have to worry about turning into an angry drunk.  I had eaten a light snack before leaving our house, so I didn’t have to worry about eating too much and leaving the other guests hungry (although I always save plenty of room for dessert).  I’m also not outwardly political, so I didn’t have to worry about pontificating my point of view concerning the upcoming election.  I do drink a lot of water, and that’s where the trouble began. 

I’m only human.  After about two bottles of water, I started to get that feeling.  You think for a moment, “Am I going to be able to wait until we get home, or should I go the bathroom here?”  I didn’t want to torture myself, so I decided to use the local facilities.  I never knew that I had such a strong obsession with toilet paper before, but something about that roll didn’t sit well with me.  It was leading from the bottom.  In a moment of unmistaken clarity, I decided that the direction of the roll must lead from the top.  Without hesitation, I turned that roll of toilet paper to the correct rotation and thought, “Oh my god! I’m a high roller.”

My wife and I left shortly after, to return home.  I didn’t say a word about it during our drive.  How could I?  I had just imposed my unsolicited beliefs on our unsuspecting friends.  You can’t take pride in that.  I had not only discovered a new irrational “issue” of mine, but I had exercised it in a public place:  a friend’s house.  This is clearly a violation of character that I am finding hard to forgive. 

I can’t say that I won’t do it again; I mean there is a right direction for a roll to sit, and I might not be able to tolerate anything otherwise.  But next time, I’ll try to limit my secret sleight of hand ritual to my own home or to an acceptable venue - like a high roller convention. 


The Pen at the End of the Block

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Write.  Just Write.  Write on.  Is this what we’re reduced to when fighting the symptoms of writer’s block?  Do these cheap, motivational mind tricks actually work for anybody?  “Let me try to describe this orange.  It’s round.  It’s orange. It has a bunch of crater-like dents in it, known as ‘orange peel.’ When you squeeze the peel, some orange essential oil squirts out.  It stings if it gets in your eyes.”  Are you kidding me? This isn’t writer’s block; it’s stupidity and boredom.   

We never stop thinking do we?  Do we get “thought block?”

A writer has to please him or herself first, by describing something in a unique way.  Seinfeld may have had it right.  Sometimes less is more.  Sometimes nothing is the best approach.  A writer’s job is to pick out little isolated elements of life or fantasy and assemble them in a way that entertains someone on some level. 

I’m with my daughter right now, at her swim class.  There are five little swimmers in the pool.  I see three parents, plus me, watching their kids.  One of the parents is sitting outside the pool area in the snack bar section.  He’s sitting alone on a bar stool, no snacks, looking at his kid through the glass.  He looks bored, but that might just be the way he looks; I don’t know him.  One of the moms is putting on makeup.  She does this every week.  I’m not a woman, nor do I wear makeup; but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t pick this humidity filled swimming area to do it.  One guy is playing with his cell phone.  I don’t get very good reception in here, so I can only assume that he has a different cell carrier than I do.

My daughter finishes her lap and looks up at me.  We smile.  I like this.  It gives me a good feeling inside that, as a writer, I should be able to describe in better detail.  The day will come when my daughter will no longer look to me for that glance of support with that reassuring smile.  Because of that I’ve got to take the time now to see it, feel it, experience it and write about it.  I don’t have time to deal with writer’s block.  Life’s too short. 


Too Hot to Handle

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alright, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way; no animals were harmed during the writing of this post (although I can’t speak about afterwards).

I like to barbecue as much as the next guy.  (I think it runs in our genes.)  It had been a hot day and the thought of grilling hamburgers had filled my head for most of the afternoon.  When I got home from work, I went right to the kitchen to begin the process of creating my burgers.   This is not a food column, nor would I ever consider disclosing my secret recipe.  Many have tried to duplicate it, and many have failed; let’s just leave it at that. 

With raw, formed burgers on the platter and a matchbook in my hand, I stepped outside to my trusty grill.  My anticipation was growing as I lifted the lid of the grill.  But wait; something’s not quite right.  There are some leaves in my grill.  As I reach for the grill-top, I hear some rustling.  This, I admit, catches me off guard and startles me.  After a moment composing myself, I see that there is something that looks like a tail.  It’s a long tail.  I don’t yet see a body attached to the tail, but I conclude that it is not a mouse.  No, this is something bigger; something that I know I am not going to be comfortable negotiating with. 

Upon further examination, I see a bunch of pink things huddled together in the center of the leaves.  I discover, after counting, that there are eight little baby rats in my barbecue.  They are bright pink, eyes closed; apparently newly introduced to the world. 

There is clearly only one thing for me to do.  I plug in my George Foreman Grill.  There is no way that I am going to be able to forcibly remove eight newborns and their protective mom.  This situation will require some additional thought. 

My youngest daughter starts up almost immediately, “Daddy, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, honey,” I answer.  “What do you think we should do?”

“Can we keep them?” she asked.

You can hate rats, but still love a child’s innocence. 


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