Tuesday, May 29, 2007

4 stories of my ignorance

When we look on the moments that may be slightly embarassing, but also make us who we are, those moments may have a theme. Some people have a knack for saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, while others develop a keen timing for clumsiness.

My own theme is ignorance. Specifically, not knowing something that seemingly everyone else knows, thereby leading to a very awkward situation. And the longer it goes on, the more impossible it becomes for me to ask for help, because after all, why the heck didn't Michael ask earlier?

Two stories from childhood, two from adulthood. Here we go, in chronological order:

Rotary Club

I was in second grade, I believe. Mrs. Hurst's class. For some reason I was in the Vice-Principals office and was supposed to be calling home to my mother. I honestly don't remember what was going on -- maybe I was in trouble, or maybe I was sick. Beats me.

Anyway, the VP asked me to call my mom, and let me sit at her desk as she left the room for a few minutes. I looked at the phone but didn't have any idea what to do next. You see, it was a rotary phone, and this was the first time in my life I'd ever seen one.

I pushed the numbers, right inside the metal holes... nothing happened. Hung up, picked up the phone again... got a dial tone, that's good. Pushed the numbers. Nothing happened.

Soon the VP came back and asked about my mom. I said she wasn't home. The VP said I could try again in a few minutes, and she left the room again. This cycle continued three or four times, with me insisting my mom wasn't home, even though I hadn't yet figured out how to dial a single digit on the ancient contraption.

Finally, it dawned on me how to work the thing. Call it delayed intuition, angelic assistance, or a "duh" moment. All I know is that it was so sweet to finally figure it out. And nobody ever found out about 7-year-old Michael's dilemma of ignorance. Until now, I guess.

Show me the money

Sixth grade. Mr. Adams' class. It was my first year, literally my first month, in a new state after we moved from Arkansas to Kansas. I had discovered that our Arkansas schools had been about five years behind the times compared to Kansas' suburban school society.

Music, clothing, language... everything that was "cool" at our old school was suddenly lame. That was proving to be a tough transition at first, but I was good at sports so that always helps break the ice for a young guy. Sure enough, after a few recess sessions on the basketball court, I was making some friends and having fun.

One thing eluded me, though. The lunch money mystery. Every Monday, Mr. Adams would call roll, and as he said your name, he would ask how many lunches you would eat in the cafeteria that week. The price was $2 per lunch, I believe. My parents gave me the $10 for lunch every week, and I told Mr. Adams that my number was "five" every Monday, for all five lunches, but I never figured out how or when to pay!

People who know me well know that I am a pretty good observer. I can see things most people don't see, when I watch closely enough. I decided to watch my classmates extreeeemmmely closely, to see when they paid Mr. Adams, or paid the lunchlady, or whomever the heck we were supposed to be giving our money to. Unfortunately, this didn't work.

A few weeks went by, maybe a month. Apparently nobody paid anybody around here. It's just free lunches all around! I wish. Eventually Mr. Adams (or maybe even the principal, I don't remember who) called me to a private discussion to see about the lunch money. They probably thought I had been taking my parents' money and doing other, nefarious things with it. Sixth grade was a pretty innocent time back then, so it's not like I was buying crack or spending it on ho's. At worst maybe they thought I was paying to have my homework done.

But I wasn't. When asked about the lunch money, I broke down in embarassment and relief and opened my backpack to reveal wads of cash -- every cent I owed for lunch. The mystery was solved, my bill was paid, and I could go back to swishing 3-pointers and grossing out the girls.

Red shirt freshman

The next two stories both happened on my first day at a new job, years apart. Lesson learned: don't get any more new jobs. Just stay where I am.

This story is about my first day as an intern at a nursing temp agency, owned by my dad's boss. It was a great company, and after finishing my sophomore year of college I was pumped to finally be doing something other than manual labor. I would be doing accounts receivable, with a desk and air conditioning and everything. Big upgrade from my previous summer jobs, trust me.

I got a late start to this summer job because my tonsils were removed right after the college year ended and I came home for summer break. If I remember right, I had the surgery the first or second day I was home so that I could get to work as soon as possible.

What I didn't expect was how looooong it would take to heal. I recall being wheeled out of the hospital, unable to speak and barely able to move. I looked over at a five-year-old girl who'd just had her tonsils out too, same time as me. She smiled at her parents and said sweetly, "Mommy, can I have that ice cream now?" She talked! Fresh from a tonsillectomy! I didn't care how cute she was... she must die. It's only fair. I didn't talk for several days, due to my non-toddler healing ability, my severely infected tonsils and my being a redhead (we have a reputation for being "bleeders" who take long to heal, which even the anesthesiologist noted as I entered the operating room).

Anyway, eventually I was able to go to work. This was after losing a week of my life in a codeine blur (I'm not joking, I don't remember a thing. People who talked to me during those days said I was an... interesting conversation partner).

On the way to the office for my first day, I was rear-ended by another car at a red light. Just sitting there, and this guy rams into me. I hit my turn signal, point over to the side of the road, and pull into a parking lot to assess the damage and exchange information with the brake-pedal-challenged driver. When the light turned green, he instead gunned it and left me standing in the parking lot. Nice. I didn't get his license number.

Got back in the car, fuming and frustrated. Then a sneezing fit hits me. Wonderful, now I'll go to my new job with a dented bumper and red eyes. Yay me!

Eventually get to the office, fill out the usual first-day paperwork, and get started meeting the new people I'll be spending the summer with. Everything goes pretty well, although some of them were a little standoffish to me. I just figure it's because my dad runs a sister company of this one, and maybe I'm getting the cold shoulder due to nepotism. Whatever, I'll win 'em over with hard work, personality and a cannon arm (they have a softball team).

The day ends, I get in my car and start it up. That's when I look down and see blood all over the front of my shirt. My white shirt. Evidently my early morning sneezing fit dislodged a bit of throat scab (that's perhaps the grossest sentence in the history of this blog... yes!) and I sneezed the blood all over my shirt without noticing in all the chaos of fender benders and new jobs. All day long, meeting new people, meeting the entire freakin' company! Eating lunch with them! Ahhh, I ate lunch covered in blood, and they had to look at me as they ate!

16 hours later I went back to work for my second day. Nobody mentioned anything about my bloody shirt from the day before. I sure as heck didn't mention it either.

And I dominated in softball that summer, too.

Private potty?

The final story takes place less than two years ago, on my first day at my current company. It was early afternoon, and I made my first trip to the bathroom. Beautiful bathroom, black slate floors and walls, black marble sinks. Top notch.

There are two urinals and a stall in the bathroom, and this visit called for a stall. I walk in and try to close the door, but... no door? I don't see a door anywhere. That's odd. From my seat on the toilet, I would be facing directly at the sink, with nothing blocking the view. Weird, but I had to go.

I'm sitting there doin' my thang, when someone else enters the bathroom. Crap. He hits the urinal for a minute, and the whole time I'm thinking, for the first time in my life, "Please don't wash your hands, please don't wash your hands, please don't wash your hands...". He goes to wash his hands.

He's standing at the sink, and there I am, six feet behind him and sitting atop all the fecally regal glory of the white throne. He spots me in the mirror but doesn't say anything, simply washes his hands quickly and leaves.

One of the weirdest bathroom moments of my life.

It was even weirder the next day, when I went to the bathroom again and the stall door was halfway open. It exists. The door's always been there. The door is solid black, just like the floors, walls and sinks. Somehow, the day before, the door was opened flat against the wall and I just didn't see it.

And Mr. longtime employee went to wash his hands to see the new guy sitting there with the stall door open.

Welcome to my world. I'm ignorant, not stupid. Stupid people don't learn, but I'm an excellent learner. So I generally only do dumb stuff once before adapting. But oh boy, when I do my one-time dumb stuff... I get my money's worth from that one time.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day -- Three things

My History

I know of at least three men in my family who have served America in times of war. My father-in-law was in Vietnam. My grandfather and my great uncle served in WWII. All three came back alive.

My great uncle Lando was a medic in WWII and was in the thick of it. He came home with lots of medals but I don't think anyone in my family knew what he'd been through, or what he'd done. Finally, not long ago, he shared some stories. Most of his decorations came from the time when most of Lando's squad was captured by the Germans. Lando the medic got a gun, went back for his guys, and got them. That's about all I know, but the story was thankfully recorded by my family before Lando died recently. I look forward to reading it and hearing more about it.

My Hope

Jesus is recorded as teaching, "You have heard it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."

To all of our enemies in foreign lands and here on US soil,
To those who would shoot us as soon as look at us, simply because we're American,
To those who have grown up seeing and knowing little else than violence and poverty,
To those who are in so much pain, and been let down by their own governments,
To those who know no other way to express this anguish, than by hating us and trying to kill us.

This is my prayer for you.

May your anguish be replaced by hope, although some pain will always remain.
May your hatred be replaced by peace, and eventually, maybe even love, although that takes time.
May your children, who have seen their lands and people decimated, find a way to change the momentum of their generation.
May you forgive us for those we have already killed and those who will die over the coming months and years.
When the bullets and bombs stop one day, as I pray they will, may you find a way to regroup, rebuild, and succeed on your own terms.
May your next generations not hold this war against us.
May you live in peace, with each other and the world.
May you come to understand that you are God's children, just like us, and that what makes us the same is so much grander than what makes us different.
May your pain heal, but your memory stay strong. Never forget the face, and the price, of war.
God bless you, and if the winds change, and one day it's your turn to wage war on us...
may we still love you, and continue to pray for you.

My Offspring

Our church showed a video this morning, with scrolling quotes from some of the great leaders from America's past.

Samantha saw a background picture with a large, stone hand holding a torch, and got very excited:

"Daddy, look! It's the Statue of Delivery!"

I almost corrected her, but then realized that her misnomer isn't really so incorrect after all. My own ancestors probably saw the statue and felt delivered, along with millions of others.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More from the office wall

Work has been simply insane lately. I had to fire an employee last week (my first time... not fun), so it's transition time at the office as we backfill the work.

Along those lines, here are more actual quotes from www.overheardintheoffice.com:

Five-year-old: I'm taking a break.
Young librarian: What are you taking a break from?
Five-year-old: ...The world.


Cashier: And what form of payment will you be using today?
Customer: Money


Manager: Be sure that you take a coat with you if you go over there, because when it's warm here, it's cold there.
Employee: In England?
Manager: Yeah, their summer is like our winter.
Employee: I don't think so.
Manager, frustrated: Well, it's true. I went there in May, and it was freezing. I had to wear a jacket all the time. They're in, like, a different hemisphere or something.
Employee, laughing: No, they aren't. They're just further North than we are, and their climate's a little different. Australia's in a different hemisphere. England is in the same hemisphere that we are -- North.
Manager, in a cold fury: Look. I've been there.


Chick: Dude, you're such a poser. You talk about food all day long and then go home and eat salad. You're not a real fatty like me. Talk to me when you join the club.


Intern, at water machine: You know, I've never known which one of these is colder.
Boss: What do you mean?
Intern: I've never been sure if the red tab gives you colder water than the blue tab.
Boss: [Stares]
Intern: Do you know?
Boss: Yeah. It's the blue tab.
Intern: Are you sure?
Boss: [Walks away.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Four kids

No, all four kids aren't mine. We've got two, and it's gonna stay that way for a while. No interest yet in Jamie and I being outnumbered by our own kids. It's a tough enough matchup when it's 2-on-2.

This is a quick weekly update of four kids in my family:

#1 Samantha

New word of the week -- "Electrivvity". Her school lost power yesterday when a transformer blew, so everyone was talking about the electricity being out. She listened to all the conversations and said the word as closely as she could. Electrivvity.

#2 -- Jack

New word of the week -- "Bozodolder". Jack's name for what is commonly referred to as a "bulldozer". He has a book about Billy the bulldozer, and although he's had it for over a year it has suddenly become a favorite. He picks it up, brings it over to me and says, "Billy da bozodolder. To read?". Irresistable.

#3 -- Adam

My nephew in Arkansas, Adam is a fun 2-year-old who looooooves John Deere equipment. I mean like, he loves 'em. If John Deere was a woman, he'd move to a third-world country with her so that they could get married before the US-legal age. If John Deere was an expensive piece of time-keeping technology, he would keep it... safe... if he was ever detained in a POW camp (movie reference for the Hollywood buffs out there). You get the point.

Anyway, he also knows the names of all kinds of farm and construction equipment -- tractors, combines, front loaders, cranes, and diggers. Except he pronounces diggers as "diggas". One time he actually went outside to play and said, "Hi, my diggas!".

Here's a recent picture:

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Andie Nicole

Andie is my newborn... she's my cousin's daughter, so I'm not exactly sure what that makes her. First cousin, once removed? I was always terrible at figuring out that stuff.

My cousin is a great athlete, and her husband is a big man -- wouldn't surprise me if he was a good football player in high school. Their baby was getting so big that the doctor decided to do a C-section two weeks early. Then, later on, they moved the date up again, at least another week.

Five days ago Andie made her appearance, nearly a month early and weighing in at 10 pounds, 9 ounces. Whoooooooaaa, Nellie. I can't imagine how much fun that would've been for my cousin to wait a few more weeks and then have the baby.

For comparion, four and a half years ago Samantha was a month early and weighed over 7 pounds. The nurses were very impressed and said, "She probably would have been a 10-pounder by the due date!" Andie was already a 10-pounder weeks before the date! Hopefully this means she'll be ahead of the game in her eating ability and her sleeping length.

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Later, dudes -- my parents are in town this weekend and I'm ready to have some fun!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Treasured weekend

Our best friends from college visited us last weekend. They're a great couple, and although I've known them longer than Jamie has, both of us feel right at home with them when we get together, no matter how long it's been since we last met.

We spent the weekend going to Louisiana to see a cousin graduate from college, but also had plenty of time to just sit and talk. We talked about our lives, our churches, raising a family, money... the usual. They also had birthdays this month, which is a big deal because the husband turns 80 next year.

Oh -- did I forget to mention? My best friends from college are my grandparents. As a 30-year-old man, I am extremely blessed to have all four grandparents still living and active, and all four live in the town where I went to college. They have been our biggest fans for a long time.

My mother's parents visited last weekend, and in July I'll get to spend an entire week with my father's parents. It will be nearly 30 years in a row that we've spent a summer vacation together. It is one of our family's richest traditions, right up there with taking pictures at mealtime.

I stayed home late Monday morning instead of going to the office at my usual time, just to steal a couple more hours with my grandparents before they flew back home. As we parted, I mentioned that just like the bible says Mary "treasured all these things (Jesus' childhood) up in her heart", I treasured our time together. We are all well aware that every human being is mortal, and at some point my grandparents will all move on to the next part of their journey, whatever form that takes. Until then, we are cherishing every moment with our best friends.

A sociologist once said, "Family serves two noble purposes. First, to appreciate all different stages of life. Second, to experience unconditional love."

My family definitely thrives in both.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Calendar weirdness

I have one of those daily calendars in my office, and it's some sort of theme of "Tips for Life" or something. Most of them are OK, some are really good. Others can be categorized as "things that make you go hmmmm."

Here are a couple of recent samples:


Focus on What Really Matters to You

"There is no point in competing in a game that you do not really care to win. Don't allow your life and expectations to become anything but deeply personal reflections of what matters the most to you."

My take: Relevant and useful. Me likey.


Wipe, Don't Blow

"Wiping your nose is something you were supposed to outgrow as a child. You were probably encouraged from a young age to blow your nose instead. But there is no scientific reason to avoid wiping your nose, and there are good reasons to avoid blowing it."

My take: Say what? Don't give me no jibba jabba! Can the scientists in the room please wisdomicate me on the folly of nose blowing? I've gone all my life as a vigorous nose blower. No dainty wiping, no snorting it back up inside. I get that junk OUT... but at what cost? Will I suffer from premature aging, itchy earlobes or excessive flatulation (too late)?

If it's just a matter of etiquette, then I got a big 'ole tissue full of RedSnotty for whomever wrote that "Tip for Life". Welcome to America.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kids and the funny

I'm back from Myrtle Beach! Wrote up a summary here, if you'd like to read it. Tonight I'd rather write about funny kid stuff. This post will ramble a little, but come back around full circle in a hopefully-funny way, like a Seinfeld episode.

Jack's Joke

Jack-Jack has now learned how to tell jokes, at the tender age of 22 months. Well, he only knows one joke, and it's not really funny, but we count it. Here it is:

Jack: Knock-knock.
Us: Who's there?
Jack: (Looks around and finds something; different every time)... Cracker!
Us: Cracker who?
Jack: Cracker ON YOUR HEAD!!

He's told this joke dozens of times, with many different objects, and the punch line is always on our head. Samantha even plays along and laughs when he tells it. He's starting to push the envelope and change it to "on your finger", but it's still a work in progress.

Jack's Bonks

The day after his stomach-and-fever episode finally ended, I went to the office as usual. Less than two hours later, Jamie called me to say that Jack fell off our bed while jumping on it, and was gushing blood out of a very open wound on his forehead. He had smacked it on the corner of my nightstand, probably in an attempt to do a Triple Lindy or something.

He didnt' end up needing stitches -- instead, they used Dermabond to seal it. Pretty cool stuff, and he could even take a bath with it.

To help deal with the stress in a healthy way, I did some photo editing and made this picture:

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Samantha's Super Senses

Lately I've been introducing the kids to my special soundtrack compilation CD, which includes a lot of John Williams. Mostly the essentials -- Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Willow, etc...

One of them is of course the Superman theme. Samantha calls it the "trumpet song". But she also has an incredible ear for all the other instruments, and names them as they are introduced into the music. I assume she learned this from the Baby Einstein DVDs.

Remember, though, she has no context for this song. While we hear it and imagine Christopher Reeve flying before the sunrise, she only knows it as the trumpet song.

Anyway, I'm taking Samantha to school and have the trumpet song playing in the van. She looks out the window and exclaims, "Look, Daddy! Up in the sky! It's a plane!".

I'm not kidding.

Thomas' New Tunnel

Like most American kids these days, ours have a Thomas the Train set. Two of the trains (Lady and James, I believe) are battery-operated and can move pretty well. Samantha was playing trains with Jack, and thought it would be funny for Lady to go right over the top of her head. Oops. The wheels got caught up in her hair, and wound up tight. She ran to me, having a huge freak out, just saying, "Oh, no! Oh, no! Ohhhhh!".

We got her upstairs (after I turned off the train) and took a closer look to see if we could untangle the mess, or if it was time to get out the scissors. In the end it took some of both to free Lady from the auburn curls.

Mostly Samantha cried during the ordeal, but I was able to crack a joke or two to calm her down. Evidence:

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Of course, Jack told her a joke too, just trying to help. I'm sure you can guess:

Jack: Knock-knock.
Sam: (Sniff) Who's there? (Sniff)
Jack: Train.
Sam: Train who?
Jack: Train ON YOUR HEAD!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Golf trip!

I'm off to Myrtle Beach for five days of golf with guys from work. Should be a great time!

I literally have more than a half-dozen drafts of various blog posts started, but haven't finished them yet. Have some major catching up to do when I get back.

Later dudes!