Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saying Goodbye

This Christmas season has been a tough one. A week before Christmas, my Grandpa lost his three-year battle with cancer. I've spent the past several weeks sorting through thoughts and emotions, trying to decide the best way to pay tribute to an extraordinary man whom I admired greatly.

My Grandpa was a man of uncompromised honesty and integrity. People loved him and wanted to be around him because he made everyone feel valued and important. He was a tireless innovator and was relentless in his pursuit to see his dreams come true. At his visitation and funeral, I was amazed to see and meet so many people whose lives he impacted. It made me immensely proud to be a part of his legacy. It also inspires me to be a better man: to embrace hard work; to value family and people above everything; to never give up on my dreams.

I had the opportunity to see him shortly before he passed away, to say my goodbyes, to tell him that I loved him, and to hear him say that he loved me. It was hard to see him in the condition he was in, but I will treasure that moment for the rest of my life. In that moment, it was just him and me saying the words that matter most.

For now, it's goodbye. Grandpa, you will not soon or easily be forgotten.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It Pays to Be Nice

I almost didn't stop. I was running a little late and the Sunday drivers were out a day early slowing the flow of traffic. I decided that I would pull in and see how the drivethrough looked; if it wasn't packed, then I would stop. But it's a Saturday afternoon and I've never seen fewer than three cars on a Saturday afternoon. I'm a Starbuck's junkie and I need my almost daily fix, especially before a 12-hour, no-break workday. The thought of a Starbuck's drivethrough drive-by gave me cold sweats, and I was delighted and amazed to see it empty.

I normally order a drip coffee, venti-sized, please, but on the special occasion of an empty drivethrough, I decided to splurge: venti vanilla latte. I pulled around to the window, grabbed my wallet, and selected the $5 bill I stole from Diane yesterday (hee hee hee). Two of the baristas greeted me as I drove up to the window. "We took a vote, and because you are so nice and in such a good mood every day when we see you, we decided to buy your drink for you today!"

Several thoughts crowded my mind, the first being, EXCELLENT!!, which was immediately followed by, "Wait, 'good mood'...are they sure they have the right guy?" which was closely followed by, "Who cares...FREE LATTE!!" Apparently they had served such an endless series of foul-mooded people, that my neutral moodiness was a breath of fresh air. Either way, I got a free latte and it made my day. And to think I almost didn't stop...and I still have Diane's $5!

Friday, December 08, 2006

I Got One Hand in My Pocket...

OK, first off, get your minds out of the gutter. It's not like that...not this time, anyway.

Today has been an interesting day of "pocket-finds". Why is it that everyone gets so happy about finding money in their pockets? I guess it's the closest we come to finding lost or buried treasure. Well, this morning I was putting away some clothes when I found a $5 bill in the front pocket of Diane's slacks. I was giddy with excitement. Not only had I found lost treasure, but I also knew I was going to STEAL it! And so I did. It was a rush. Finders keepers, losers weepers. I think I even did a happy dance as I carefully placed it into my wallet. So, Hon, if you're wondering what happened to that $5, it's in my wallet. Just try to take it back, if you dare!

Next, in the same session, I found a long-lost stick of Chap Stick in the front pocket of my jeans. OK, it wasn't lost that long; just long enough for me to have to buy another one. If there is one thing I absolutely NEED to get through winters here in the Southwest, it is Chap Stick. It's really wierd. It seems that as long as I have a stick of Chap Stick in my pocket, I don't really need it. But the second that I leave the house without my Chap Stick, my lips immediately dry up and I go into withdrawal, licking my lips like a raging psychopath. And now that I'm writing about Chap Stick, I'm having to apply it every thirty seconds. I'm totally mental. Anyway, I swear that I previously checked all of my pockets in my quest for my Chap Stick, so I was amazed when I found it. And I'm now strangely excited to have TWO Chap Sticks. Envy me if you must.

My third and final pocket-discovery of the day came when I pulled out my "winter" coat. It's been freakishly cold and windy here in the Southwest, and by freakishly cold, I mean in the 30's at night and in the 60's during the day. I've become a desert wuss. My "winter" coat is actually more of a fall coat, and I don't get to wear it very often. This was made evident when I pulled four theater tickets to the production of Peter Pan out of the front inside pocket. They were dated November of 2004. We went to the show on Kyra's 4th birthday and saw Cathy Rigby in her farewell performance. The girls wore their pajamas to the show and we had a great time. It's a good memory.

So five bucks, backup for a Chap Stick addiction, and a fond memory...not a bad haul. What's in your pocket?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why Can't Christmas Decorating Ever Be Easy?

I would enjoy the Christmas holiday so much more if someone ELSE did most of the decorating.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas decorations. They make our home feel more cozy and comforting during the Holidays. And I'm OK once we get the Christmas tree up. But it's the process of getting the tree up that is so damn frustrating I could just scream! Add to that the frustration of hanging ANY type of Christmas light ANYWHERE, be it on the tree, on the house, around the house, on the lawn, on a tree outside, on a bush, on a shrub, on any frickin' type of plant life, or just randomly dangling inside the house...something will always go wrong. Just guess what my two main Christmas decorating jobs are. DING, DING, DING!!!

My first job was hanging Christmas lights on the eaves outside our house. I tackled that one last week, but it was a two-day job and it nearly cost me my life...again. There's very little traction on a ceramic mission tile roof, something I get reminded of on an annual basis. Add to that several awkward ladder positions, one of which has me dangling roughly twenty feet over our cement driveway, and Christmas-light-hanging becomes a death-defying experience. Anyway, the only reason it was a two-day job this year was because of the light bulbs. One fricking bulb on a 1,000 bulb strand of lights will cause 50 lights to go out, and it's my job to go through each bulb one-by-one to figure out which light it is. Well, this year I said SCREW IT. I am not playing Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb this year. This year, I am going to Target and buying NEW LIGHTS so SCREW YOU!! And that's what I did. I even bought an extra set so I don't have to play Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb next year either.

The lights had the last laugh, though. The other night as I drove into our driveway, I noticed a section of lights out on the side of the house. They weren't out when I put them up. Looks like I'll be playing Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb after all.

This morning began our annual Christmas tree fiasco. Today was the only day Diane and I could pick out the tree together, so we headed out first thing this morning. We got our tree at Home Depot. That's so depressing. When I was a kid, we used to go to Talbot's Tree Farm, grab a hacksaw and trek for hours looking for the perfect tree. There never was a perfect tree, so we'd settle for second-best while freezing our butts off. On second thought, Home Depot isn't so bad.

This morning was not a normal tree shopping day. We picked the first tree we saw: an eight foot noble. I've never picked the first tree. Today was going to be different. Today we were going to break the curse of the Christmas tree.

We took the tree home where I unloaded it from the top of our van and took it to the backyard. I had some other errands to run, so tree setup needed to wait. The plan for this afternoon was: 1.) prep the tree and get it in the stand; 2.) get lights on the tree while Diane takes the girls to gymnastics; 3.) eat dinner and then decorate the tree as a nice family evening. Why do we even bother making plans?

Everything was going smoothly. I returned after running my errands and immediately went to work on the tree. I trimmed off the lower branches. I cut off the recommended two inches of the trunk so the tree can take in water. I shook the crap out of the tree to get rid of loose needles. I had the tree stand cleaned and prepped and when Diane was ready to go, I carried the tree in and placed it in the stand. Diane held it in place and when I had determined that the tree was straight, I went to work on fastening the screws that would hold it in place. Wham! Bam! Bam! Done!

I grabbed a pitcher from the cabinet, filled it with water, mixed in the preservative that came with the tree, and returned to give it its first drink in its new home. I emptied the pitcher and refilled it to top off the stand. I can't believe this went so smoothly! No sooner had this thought gone through my head than I noticed a puddle of water growing on the tile next to the tree. Our stand had a leak. Diane was minutes away from taking the girls to gymnastics. Plan aborted.

We freed the tree from its stupid leaky stand, and I took it back outside where I placed the trunk in a bucket of water and leaned the tree up against the house. Diane and the girls left and I hauled my butt to the store to look for a new stand. Of course I couldn't find one right away, and it was only as I was leaving the store that I noticed the tree stands OUTSIDE. So I bought the stand, went back home, and waited for the girls to get back so we could put the tree in its new stand. I should have gotten to work on checking the lights, but I didn't. I started writing this blog instead. Yes, I am stupid.

We got the tree in the new stand without a hitch, ordered Thai food to go (Gaeng PaNang is a festive holiday dish), and then I went to work on the lights. Only one strand out of the six I had in storage worked. I already bought two new boxes of lights, but I was counting on at least two of my old strands to work. So guess what I did for the rest of the evening? That's right, I played our favorite Holiday festivity, Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb.

So now the tree sits in our family room, unlit and undecorated while I nurse a margarita and put the finishing touches on this blog. Family decorating night has been postponed until tomorrow.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Day Rainbow Died

I learned something new yesterday: fish don't necessarily float when they die.

I should have known something was up. A couple of days ago, the girls were freaking out because they thought Rainbow, their blue and red male Beta, was spending a little too much time at the bottom of the bowl. This is not unusual behavior for Betas. They lead pretty uneventful lives (unless you put two males together) and their little fins must get tired from hovering in one spot, so they take a little rest on the rocks. Kailey watched Rainbow as he "rested" and grew concerned that he wasn't just "resting", so she shook the bowl. To her relief, he zipped to the cover of the fake green plant suckered to the bottom of the bowl. She told me she was concerned about Rainbow's health and I told her not to worry. "You'll know when Rainbow dies, because fish float when they die." Little did I know that my words would later serve to save my butt.

Well, Kailey must have taken those words to heart, but they still didn't completely alleviate her fears about Rainbow. As Diane tucked her into bed last night, Kailey asked her to go check on him. I was in Kyra's room telling her a story when Diane walked in, usually the cue for us to switch rooms. She grabbed me and gave me a hug as I headed into Kailey's room. " likey," I thought as she whispered in my ear. But what she whispered in my ear puzzled me. If she's trying to get me into bed, this clearly was not working. I pulled away from her and shared my puzzled look. "What?" I muttered. She pulled me close and whispered again.

"Rainbow's dead."

I sighed and headed to the family room to see for myself. I saw the bowl across the room and immediately scanned the surface for Rainbow's body. I didn't see it. As I drew closer, I could see his little body resting on the rocks. I shook the bowl and he tipped over on his side. He wasn't looking so good. Crap. What are we going to tell the girls?

I returned to Kailey's room and tucked her in, then Diane and I put our heads together to figure out what to do. Problem #1: school. We didn't want to inform the girls of the death of their first pet before bedtime or before Kailey went to school in the morning. We didn't want her to be blubbering at school all day long. Problem #2: we would both be at work after the girls finished school, so we couldn't tell them then, either. Furthermore, we didn't want to tell them and then have to pass any post-mortem grief counseling on to Diane's parents, who would be watching them.

OK, maybe we're horrible parents, but this is the best we could come up with. And if there was ever any doubt about where I'll be heading upon my earthly demise, this may serve to clear things up a bit. We left Rainbow in the bowl. If the girls happened to notice his rotting carcass on the bottom of the bowl, then we would deal with the aftermath. If they didn't notice him, then Diane would drop Kyra off at school and make a beeline to the pet store to get another Rainbow. I know, I lane to hell.

Well, the girls must not have been all that concerned about Rainbow because neither of them bothered to check on him. So we executed plan B, full speed ahead. Diane picked out a new fish and I disposed of the evidence. As I cleaned out his bowl I couldn't help but think of all the good times we had: the Pavlovian way he would come to the surface for food whenever I opened the lid to the bowl; the way he liked to lay in the blue rocks lining the bottom; the way he, um, well, that's pretty much it. There wasn't too much more to his life. I'd like to think that he's now in a better place, but I know better, since I wrapped his body in a paper towel and flushed him down the toilet. I can only hope that all pipes really do lead to the sea. Sorry buddy.

Diane returned home with Rainbow II (Electric Boogaloo) and we introduced him to his new home. He's much more active than Rainbow was, and that's not just because he happens to be alive. Like I've said earlier, Rainbow liked to lie around a lot.

Diane later discovered that at some point before bedtime on that fateful evening, Kailey apparently shook the bowl and got no response from Rainbow, which prompted her to ask Diane to check on him. Now I don't know this for sure, but I think that since Kailey saw Rainbow on the bottom of the bowl, not floating, she didn't believe he was dead. So, in essence, my ignorance bought enough time for us to perpetuate a lie to our children. Merry Christmas. The girls are SO going to need therapy. That's OK. They can join me. Maybe we'll get a group rate.


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