Friday, December 29, 2006

New Post-Christmas tradition

After one too many "have you seen that gift card from Aunt Josephine?" post-Christmas present unwrapping carnage, I've begun a new tradition this year called...

"The saving of the Christmas leavin's in the back of the Elky until all items are located and accounted for."

Our hectic family schedule being what it is, who knows when I'll be able to fire up the elky and drive the remnants of our under tree wrappings, bubble pack packaging, ribbons, gift trim, bippity-boppity buttons and bows to the dump.

It may be weeks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

They don't make jackstands or cinder blocks this tall

Wife says...
"You're not putting my Taurus in the driveway to put that THING in the garage, no sirree bub, no how, no way!"

Just finished being thoroughly cannibalized by: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

Monday, December 25, 2006

Santa brought a new family member

Introducing Franny

In reality (or as real as our lives can get), she was named after the supposed spirit that may (or may not) be inhabiting our house on another plane of existence.

In the realm of our sweet daughter's childhood imaginations of all things possible, here is how Santa came up with her name, as explained in this letter that Santa left with the girl's new pooch...

This is a huge step for our little family, and one which I'm domestically prepared for, but totally stressing out on a purely emotional basis. Strange how parenting two homo sapiens feels more natural to me now, than training a dog to pee in a certain spot is.

One step forward, two steps back.

Stay tuned on Franny's (and my own) progress.

BTW, she's an 11-week old schnoodle.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The world's ugliest bundt cake

The PTO I belong to hosts a crock pot soup / salad / dessert lunch for the teachers and staff at C's school as a holiday treat.

I volunteered to bring a dessert.

What I took instead was this monstrosity of baked futility.

I used one of those new silicone baking pan gizmos, thinking I could avoid all that "greasing and flouring" the pan before pouring in the mixed ingredients.

The directions say otherwise.

I didn't bother to read the directions. I figured, "hey silicone...nothing sticks to silicone, right?"

So much for better baking through technology and it's ability to make up for ignorant mistakes made by arrogant kitchen amateurs.

A friend once told me that there's no baking accident that a jar of frosting can't hide from the consuming public.

Maybe that only applies to those who are skilled in the art of frosting application. As I am not in possession of such skills, my frosting job only seemed to exaggerate the grotesque shape of my slowly cooling baked accident.

Next time, I'm bringing a salad.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean

Took a road trip the other day to go and accumulate some holiday debt and saw these power poles along the highway, doing the sway back stationary hustle.

I'm not nearly as concerned about my pole now.

How often do you get to hear a man state that with any sense of confidence?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Counting licks

Remember back to the days when you had the time, patience, physical and mental fortitude to be able to pursue an endeavor of this scope and scale...

"C's Counting Chart for the number of Licks it takes her to get to the chewy, chocolatey center of her Tootsie Pop."

The world may never know...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Musicians don't smile

Last week my in-laws treated the family and I to an evening of holiday music courtesy of a live performance by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was fun filled night of both classical and poppy renditions of all our favorite seasonal medleys, complete with a quirky host telling bad puns and a chorus of attractive and spiffily dressed warblers singing and stepping their way around the stage with elegance and grace.

The only stumble bumble of the evening occured when the leading vocalette gracefully stepped off stage and tucked herself behind the curtain,only to belt out a few resounding phelgmy coughs and crouppy hacks before she realized her wireless mic was still on.

The girls dug the live "band." C was transfixed by the "tiny lady playing the huge harp," and PK kept reminding us that her time on stage was quickly approaching as we were only days away fom the Christmas Musical Program at her local school.

My only comment is this. Why don't orchestral musicians smile when they play like rock 'n roll music makers do.

The wind players not smiling, that I can understand -- their mouths are busy.

But you never see a chellist break out his pearly whites while doing some long horizonal strokes.
Nor do you see a violinist grin like a hungry bobcat as they rosin up their bow.
You'd think even a harpist would crack a happy expression as they plink/plank/plunk away on their totally impractical string instrument.

But not smirk in the bunch.

Except for the maestro. He was all personality and a joy to watch.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Don't kid yourself, size does matter...

...on the roads in my small town and just about everywhere else.

$5,000 worth of damage vs. $500.

File this under "Deathrace 2006 - Peterbilt vs. Impala"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I sew, I sew, the badges on they go...

My eldest daughter belongs to one of those youth organizations where they earn merit badges for learning to do things that will make them better citizens of the world and beyond...

Meanwhile, back on earth, I'm the lucky parent who gets to sew each and every one of these earned badges onto the required organizational uniform (vest).

My sausage fingers came back to haunt me yet again when dealing with the whole "needle-threading-&-tying-miniscule-knots-in-barely-visible-to-the-human-eye-thread."

I had to stop my "moving at the speed of pouring molasses" progress several minutes and a dozen or so finger pricks later, to find a thimble -- or something that would protect my now bleeding phalanges from any additional sub-cutaneous invasions of the needles vicious head.

It was tedious, painful, and tense work, but I managed to get a new merit patch sewed on, move several around to accomodate space for a new half-chevron, and even remembered to color coordinate the thread I used for each different colored patch.

Looking forward to the day when her kiddie club discovers the joys of iron-on's.

Not that I'm the greatest ironer in the world...but at least I can make a few grilled cheese sandwiches (remember Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom?) while I iron some badges on.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The unused handle on my coffee cup

I've been drinking coffee lately, which is something new for me. I have never been a coffee drinker. I don't know where this new taste has come from, but perhaps the cold weather had tickled a new tastebud on my tongue.

Anyhow, the other night I was enjoying a cup of Biff's Caramel Cream blend when my 7-year old commented that I never use the handle on my coffee cup...that I always hold the cup itself.

I stopped for a moment and looked at my hands and how they were indeed not holding the big blue mug by the handle specfically made for that purpose.

Generally speaking, unless I'm at a Presidential State dinner and want to conform with the other lemming coffee drinkers, I find myself instinctively drawn away from holding a steaming cup of hot liquid, any hot liquid, by a protruding handle.

Is this just a lack of proper coffee cup etiquette training or experience?

In case you've never been to an Asian restaurant and ordered hot tea, generally, Asian teacups do not have handles on them. You are forced to endure the pain of grabbing onto the superheated porcelin teacup to have the honor of scalding your lips, tongue and epiglottis with the hot beverage. And, while I'm a totally westernized, 20th century product of American birth and upbringing, I'd have to say that the majority of my tea has been ingested using the handleless teacup method.

This by no means is an excuse for my avoidance of the western coffee cup handle. I'm not playing that race card. So then it must be instinct. Or is there something deeper in my psyche that prompts my hands to forego the protuberances and head straight for the cylindrical container itself.

Here's an excerpt from the eulogy I gave at my Grandmother's funeral a little over 3 years ago that may reveal an answer...

Bonding with Grandma was never an easy thing for me to do. After all, when I was younger, she was just Grandma.


When I was entering my mid-20's, I strangely found myself spending Sunday evenings at Grandma's house with my best friend and my brother, watching a selection of TV programs being broadcast in her native language. Grandma would always have a bag or two of rice crackers ready, and she'd make us a big pot of tea...the good stuff. The kind of tea that only Grandma could make.

We'd barely notice as she'd shuffle off to the kitchen when the hot water kettle was boiling, then return moments later with a porcelin pot and four teacups (the good ones reserved for guests) on a lacquered tray. She wouldn't fill our cups until she had tasted the steeping tea several times, making sure it had sat long enough to be strong enough to drink.

We'd drink her tea, eat her rice crackers, laugh, moan and groan together at the melodramatic subtitled dramas.

Finally, I had found something to bond with Grandma with.

When my girls and I went to see her last Saturday, the day she passed, I knew it may be the last time I would see her alive. She had stopped taking in fluids and we were told to expect the end to come soon.

I didn't know exactly what I was going to say to her. But I knew that I did want to introduce her to my 8-month old daughter, PK...Grandma's 5th and latest great-grandchild.

When we went up to see her, the words started flowing with ease, because, no matter what physical or mental state she was in, she was still just Grandma.

I told her that she didn't have to fight anymore. That is was okay to let go and get some rest. That her money was safe, all her hotel rooms were rented out, that her kids were healthy and happy, and that Grandpa and other loved ones were waiting for her on the other side.

I told her that her family loved her very much, but that we all understood that she was ready to leave us.

Before I shut the door to leave, I did ask Grandma for one last thing. That the next time I saw her, would she please have a bowl of rice crackers and a pot of tea ready, so her and I could pick up right where we left off.

Later that same day, we got the call that Grams had passed.
I went and made a pot of tea.

November 12. 2003

When I hold my coffee cup, I see my grandmother's hands.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seeing the lights from the back of the Elky

I'm not sure if this phenomenon is abundant in other states or areas of the country (it certainly wasn't an epidemic in LA County), but here in Oklahoma, the holiday season spawns millions and millions of city sponsored but privately funded light displays of truly epic proportions.

My small town caught the fever to put up temporary Christmas twinklers at the largest city park for a drive-through attraction sometime in it's past and it's now become a major bullet point in the Chamber of Commerce's propaganda package to get people to visit, stay, and spend money in our little town.

The other night, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm evening temps (40's-50's) and piled into the back of the El Camino for a cruise through the megawatt park.

I didn't have any astroturf, but a few furniture blankets sufficed for a soft pad in the bed of my car-truck. A few heavy wool blankets, mittens, earmuffs, hoodies pulled tight, and the girls were ready for a nostalgic 5 mph slow jam amidst the man-made milky way of cheap made-in-Taiwan mini-bulbs, prelit wireframe sculptures, and animated figures of frequent repose.

Norman Rockwell couldn't have envisioned a winter sleigh ride with more holiday fervor and nostalgic je ne sais quo than we had going on right there in the back of my muscle truck.

As I fired up the small block and let the beast exhale some Flowmaster fumes, my wife commented that even growing up a small town Okie, she had somehow managed to avoid what she termed a very "redneckie" activity such as we were about to partake.

Yet here she was with her So Cal born and bred husband and daughters, oohing and ahhing at Christmast lights, while smiling and waving from the back of a pick 'em up bed.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure the kids behind us were wishing at that moment that they could pop out of the heated leather seats in their Dad's BMW 3-series eurolux sedan and switch places with my girls.

Or maybe they were just chuckling at the expense.

Monday, December 11, 2006

When pigs become hogs...cold hard facts

A few weekends back we took the kiddies out to a Christmas Tree farm up by Tulsa to get an interview with the owner for a story that my wife was working on.

It's an old fashion select-and-chop-your-own-tree joint, where Y2K families can romp through the rows of trees and relive a Little House on the Prairie episode that never existed in their own lives.

The owner has a great attitude towards his customers and was an amateur botanist of the nth degree. The farm is a family affair with his wife working the counter, his son's working the farm, and assorted cousins manning the tree shaking and netting machines (both of which are wonders of modern Christmas Tree technology).

This farm offered a complete family afternoon entertainment experience complete with hay bale maze, hay rides (tractor powered of course), a lunch wagon pulling a portable smoker, a gift boutique and store, free coffee/cider/cocoa and cookies, as well as a visit with a real-live Santa-person in a mocked-up sleigh.

But it was the petting zoo that drew my girls attention for the duration of our 4-hour stay.

Three goats, two piglets and all the kibble you could feed them.

The petting zoo was stafffed by the youngest member of the Christmas Tree Farm family, a strapping young fella resembling Bobby Hill (of King of the Hill) in appearance and dialect. He took to my "city girls" with a keen interest that only a card carrying member of the local FFA could muster with confidence, and proudly dove into a "day-in-the-life" retelling of a pigs life.

He started at the blessed event of the little piggies birth and ended it with the following:"When they get to be hogs, we'll eat 'em."
The whole, "piglets becoming hogs becoming bacon" transformation took C a few seconds to comprehend, to which she replied sternly..."You're not really going to eat these little guys, are you?
Guess my 7-year old isn't quite ready to join the blue and gold brigade -- I'm told the minimun age for FFA membership is nearby the teenage years.

Perhaps by then, I'll have worked up the courage to tell her about the birds and the bees and the bacon and the ham.

Or is that her Mother's job?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Preserving anonymity

Regular YASTM readers may have noticed that I don't use the real names of myself and my family, nor do I reveal my actual location.

It's my little attempt to retain some semblence of security through anonymity in the midst of the all encompasing internet cloud.

However, it seems that I've provided enough evidence in my hundreds of postings for some locals who are familiar with the surroundings of my hometown to figure out my whereabouts.

And I thought I was being so careful...huh.

Still others claim to have stumbled upon my blog accidentally (wonder what they Googled to find me?), the most recent of whom was from the very small town I live in...what are the chances?

As much as I appreciate and look forward to comments and musings related to YASTM, just so you know, if you post a comment that contains a grain or two of information that I feel is too revealing, I will moderate the comment to private-land and it will be seen by my eyes only. Sorry about this, but it's for security sake that I do this.

Call me paranoid, call me a freak, call me a dike-plugger trying to tide the floodwaters of the digital information age. Just don't call me out of my small town moments.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Instant Karma's gonna get you

Instant karmas gonna get you,
Gonna look you right in the face.
Better get yourself together darlin'.
Join the human race.
How in the world you gonna see,
Laughin at fools like me?
Who in the hell d'you think you are,
A super star?
Well, right you are.

We miss you, John.
December 8, 1980

Small town Catholic musings

Excerpts from the newsletter that my youngest comes home with from her Catholic School Pre-K...

This is the small rural town version of "Hey Spanky, let's meet at the clubhouse and put on a show!"

Not being a Catholic, this entire statement fills me with both a sense of dread and wonder, with the question foremost in my mind being, "just what is my obligation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and why would I even THINK that going to Mass would fulfill that obligation?"

Current page turner-"Empire" by Orson Scott Card

Thursday, December 07, 2006

An infamous day

As my Father tells it, it was his father that woke him up in the early morning hours of that infamous Sunday, and not the loud explosions, or terrified screams, or the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros buzzing overhead.

My grandfather scrambled his entire family onto the shaky tin roof of their plantation home in Puunene, Maui so they could see what the commotion was about at a neighboring island.

My grandfather, of course, knew what the commotion was about. He recognized the red dot painted on the underside of the wings of the planes that periodically flew overhead and had by now filled the smoke-filled skies around Pearl Harbor.

My dad tells me that his father was cursing at the top of his lungs, screaming obscenities at the pilots who shared an ancestral heritage with his own family.

He made my father, my aunts and uncle, and my grandmother watch the entire attack, commenting that this was something important that they needed to all see and remember, because this was going to change everything.

I remember visiting Pearl Harbor as a boy with my family and Grandparents. We marveled at the glass bottom boat that took us out to the Arizona Memorial. Dad pointed out the oil still bubbling up from the sunken ships belly and we all paid our respects at the marble slab wall listing the names of fallen sailors and marines.

At the time I wasn't aware enough to understand the importance of this place to my family, my country, my home. When I was a kid, things of this nature weren't discussed openly among family.

When I eventually do take my girls to Pearl, I wonder what I'll tell them when they inquire what this place is, or why we came here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Do I need to call someone about this soon?

I've noticed that a lot of the power poles up and down the highway have this sort of bend to them, which in the past has always incited a mild "whoa nelly-ish" chuckle from me.

Then I noticed this one in the alley behind my house.

Now I'm wondering just how far this sucker will bend before it snaps like an old and brittle willow switch.

Currently reading-"The Jester" by James Patterson

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Disturbing the peace

Early in the a.m. last Friday, after the snow had fallen all night and during most of the previous day before, I was sitting with my 7-year old in a big comfy chair, looking out one of our three 9 foot tall living room windows.

The air was still, it was early enough in the morning that the traffic on the highway was sparse, and the chilly white blanket outside was muffling the sounds of the world to a serene silence.

I pulled the fleece blanket tighter to my daughter and in my best Mr. Miyagi frame-of-mind, I attempted to paint a perfect picture of the absence of sound that surrounded us.

I spoke of the traffic noise that wasn't there.
I cited the lack of electronic sputter from teevees, radios, cell phones, and CB radios (hey, this is Oklahoma),
I talked of the empty skies above, void of news and cop choppers, airliners, and executive jets carrying celebrities to power lunches on Victory Blvd.
I continued with tales of non-existent horn honks, hypothetical pedestrian yells, unprevailing dogs barks, theoretical leaf blowers, reputed lawn mowers and a complete absence of a 28-year old "teenager" who insists on tuning his Mitsubishi Lancer posing as an EVO 7 at 2 a.m.

And when I finally finished my poetic recounting of all the noises we weren't hearing, and all the peaceful silence the snow covered world was offering us, my daughter offered these words...Her - "Daddy, I hear something."
Me - "What's that sweetie?"
Her - "Your voice."
To which I simply and eloquently, shut my mouth.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Normally, I try to buy items made and manufactured right here in Oklahoma. 'Round these parts we just call it "MIO," or made in Oklahoma.

To this end, there is a flour mill in a town called Shawnee that produces some pretty fine white powdery substance used for baking, frying, dusting, and the like and since moving here I've been almost exclusivelly buying their product for my culinary needs.

The other day while reaching for the trusty MIO flour brand, this nugget of packaging wonder caught my eye...

While it's not MIO (this product is from our neighbors directly to the north -- Dorothy's turf), the simple, totally non-commercial and completely inelegant cover art won me over.

I mean, c'mon. What kind of adult imagination comes up with a chicken leg, a goldfish, and what looks to be a pork chop, happily diving into a frying pan.

Who says great art can't be found in your local supermarket?

Currently engrossed in-"Hundred Dollar Baby" by Robert B. Parker

Friday, December 01, 2006

My first snow day

My 2nd winter as a full time resident of central Oklahoma and yesterday was my first snow day.

Sure, it's snowed here before...couple inches here and there over the last two years, but this one was different in that it became an official "Snow Day."

My wife feels sorry for me that as a kid, I never experienced the excitement of watching the local news in the morning to see if your school was closed, and the joy of reading your school's name scroll up the screen.

She said the sounds of the depressed sighs of thousands of parents across the city could be heard as they faced an unplanned day of having the kids stuck inside the house, making messes and driving everyone crazy with their cabin fevered antics.

I always counter her feigned sympathy by citing the fact that she probably never experienced the eye-burning thrills and chest-wheezing excitement of going to recess during a 3rd Stage Smog Alert in LA in the 70's.

So there (cof-cof, wheeze-wheeze).

Anyhow, this particular storm that was looming on all of our intrepid weatherpersons radar was apparently so bad that schools were announcing their closure the night before the storm even hit. So last night, as Jay Leno sat on the couch with Al Gore (the movie star), the names of dozens of school districts across the state electronically scrolled the good/bad news across the screen.

Upon eyeshine this morning, my first peek out our bedroom window revealed no snow falling and just a dusting of the white stuff barely discernable along curbs and lawn lines.

On went the tv and the local news stations were already scrolling the names. One channel had their scroll line on top, the other on the bottom, one had the names in red with a blue background, yet another had white letters on black.

The entire scroll listing school closings due to weather, took over 25 minutes to get through the entire list.

Now that's a snow day.

Just got an email from my big brother back in sunny So Cal. He writes:"It's freezing here. Literally. This morning was about 37 degrees. Hope it's warmer where you are."My brother cracks me up.

Postscript - between 5 - 8 inches of the white stuff was dumped on our little abode today. The girls dug it. Literally.
Postpostscript - You know it's wintery out when your 7-year old yells at you from behind the closed door to the bathroom, "Daddy, the toilet seat is freezing!"