Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Call me a Croc convert

There's a great scene in the classic 80's Baby-Boomer flick The Big Chill that resonates down to the base of my mildly corrected feet to this day.

William Hurt's character Nick, has just tried on a new pair of running shoes and passionately states something along the lines of, "These are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I'm never taking these off. I want to be buried in these shoes."

I recently experienced just such a moment when I opened up a Christmas present from my in-laws, found these at the bottom of the box and slipped them on.

--Insert angelic clouds-parting sound from the opening of The Simpsons here--

Now, I've seen my small townsfolk of every size, shape, age and gender sporting these brightly colored rubbery excuses for footwear since moving here 4 years back.

Heck, my daughters even have a pair...or four.

But for whatever reason I never put finding a pair of Crocs that I could honestly feel "comfortable" wearing in public, high on my priority list. By comfortable, I mean, emotionally. Let's face it, neon footwear was no where near the job description I wrote for my feet so many years, and so many pairs of shoes ago.

In fact, my life in bare-footed footwear thus far has consisted of loyalty and devotion to what I've always called slippers. Depending on your age, race, and background, you may know them as one of the following:slippers
Jap slaps (sorry, gotta be part J to use this one)
sherpa slips
oriental hiking boots
flip flops
slip slaps
surfer flats
But now that my tired and middle-aged hang-dog tootsies have felt the stimulating caress and Tigger-like bouncy-trouncy feelings of taking multiple steps across house and home in these wonders of modern Made-in-China barefootin' footwear, I'm afraid my slippers are likely to be relegated to the closet of never-again-wear

-- sharing space with such items as every promotional tee-shirt my old employer handed out celebrating inane corporate milestones, that Jackson 5 Victory Tour concert shirt featuring brother Michael front and center from 1984, and every hat ever given to me since my 5th birthday (I don't wear hats...don't ask, it's a big hair thing).

A quick scan of the official Crocs site reveals that they are offering a fur-lined (fake fur, easy there PETA), version of their bestseller.

Footwear with a "fuzzy removable footbed?"

I do so want to be buried in these things.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greeting cards have all been sent...

Words of assurance to all those in my family's ever widening circle of influence and one-time-a-year correspondence confluence...those Christmas greeting cards you send to us are well viewed and dare I say, scrutinized to the highest order.

Season's Greetings card traditions were few and far between during my youthful California green salad days. As a family we received plenty of pre-printed card stock cards with greetings appropriate to the season. Picture cards weren't quite the norm yet, and the traditional box cards weren't as yet massed produced en masse in the millions of varieties they are today.

Repeats were common. Photographs were rare. Annual "I can't believe it's been a year since our last Christmas letter" letters were yet to be unleashed on the card reading public.

Mother K would use the cards with the most vibrant colors and thematic tones as decorations around the elf and deer snow diorama village that would sit atop our built in shoe-rack. But the majority of cards were relegated to the rubber band pile, as craft making junk boxes had yet to be invented in our house.

Long about February or so, the cards would be discarded as a group exercise, having once been pressed into duty as holiday cheer via the US Mail, now being pressed together with a series of large and flexible rubber bands.

The dynamic for greeting cards in my in-laws family, and as an extension my own little family unit, couldn't be any further if we lived on Jupiter.

The daily celebration awaiting my wife during the holiday season begins and ends with the stacks of Christmas cards arriving via the post. I have learned over the years to collect them together and set them aside for her to lovingly pour over at her leisure upon returning from the trenches of her job.

She saves the envelopes for me, as it is my job to correlate, aggregate, parse and parcel the names, addresses, and offered contact information from each holiday correspondence sheath.

It's a dirty job, but sum bum gotta do it.

Memories and stories of past exploits flow freely as the cards are collated, the pictures are both ogled and scrutinized, the artwork examined (we have several artist friends who design their own cards), and the names and ages of offspring are registered and commented on. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays -- all are welcome, all are represented, due in part to our varied associations from our days back in LaLa land.

The entire process is repeated upon the arrival of each family member visitor to the house, ensuring that each card received gets more than it's fair and expected share of human interaction and attention.

The coveted cards are displayed on a gigantic wire rack wreath constructed in the orient for the sole purpose of making something out of nothing (or in this case a wreath out of used Christmas cards), exclaiming their murmurs and shouts of the joyous season to my family for a daily dose of holiday cheer.

Unlike days of old however, our old cards eventually will make their way to the craft materials box or to the paper recyling bins across the way.

Keep those cards and letters coming kiddies...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Canes of the candied variety

I state with some equivocal authority that like most members of the male species, peppermint is not my favorite spice.

Spearmint, fine. Wintergreen, okay...unless while munching a wintergreen lifesaver you are mistaken for a Skoal Bandit user.

Those original Altoids - death mint.

Given that, candy canes have never been on my list of must-consume-during-the-holidays treats.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the iconographic symbolism that the traditional red and white cane of candy represents.

The aroma of a loved one smacking on the hooked candy is pleasing to my minds palate. I enjoy the visions of the holidays that the striped confection offers my ever shrinking grey matter. Heck I even love to watch them get mixed, cooked, and stretched on so many Food Network shows featuring the behind-the-scenes life of our favorite foods.

Just don't like to 'et 'em is all.

So what's the dilemma then?

My daughters.

To their youthfully innocent eyes, candy canes represent the most basic of good-li-ness that this particular season has to offer.

Along with all the fun and frolic the mere mention of the combined wording of "candy" and "cane" suggests, the appearance of which triggers all the enormity of a holiday wherein the overwhelming input of presents far exceeds even their spoiled splendid expectations.

Top that off with the obvious fact that candy canes are indeed candy, and well, you've painted a Normy Rockwell picture of the perfectly edible holiday icon.

Daddy be damned, candy canes rock in my girl's world.

Now egg nog, well, that's an entirely different beast, so don't go and get me started on that delicious monstrosity of raw egg, spices and milk.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A "ro-zu" by any other name...

Wifey and the girl's were off on a girl's-gone-woody weekend with my M-i-L for their annual state park cabin getaway. I had my list of things to do to finish off the upstairs bathroom and playroom, but come the evening hours I felt the need for some proverbial time away from house and home.

I had been listening to NPR on the FM dial most of the day while toiling away upstairs and an ad for what was was deemed a unique staging of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was in production at a theater in the metro.

The Bard's R&J...what could possibly be done to this classic tragic tale of star-cross'd lovers to dub it unique?

How about...Tybalt with a samurai sword!

Yep, this funky staging of J & R's tale of woe was set in post-WWII Japan.

Other than the costumes and ethnic faces, however, nothing else was altered. No Jets and Sharks with dancing feet, no Leo DiCaprio gunplay, and no Zeffirelli nudity.

Okay, Tybalt and Mercutio were both slain with katanas instead of rapiers.

And hearing Willy of the Avon's post-Renaissance English spoken with a Japanglish lilt was at times difficult to grok and jarring to the senses. I did award bonus quirky points for the sushi rolls that Peter, Nurse, and the fair Juliet dined on while picnicking.

Still and all, the familiar storyline, characters, and staging was a comfortable fit and I was able to leave the world of my small town behind for a few hours and enjoy the buzz generated by live performances.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catholics beat down the Methodist

It was a fundraiser to fill the Xmas toy wishes of local children in need. A few bucks got you two different bowls of chili with all the fixins, a hunka-hunka wedge of a home-baked dessert, crackers a-plenty and a beverage.

Two different colored bowls (red and green) brimming with the reddish-brown meaty concoction for the ages awaited hungry chili epicureans in the downstairs multi-purpose room of our small town's historic Methodist church.

The red bowl chili was heavy on the ground beef while the green bowl selection held a satisfying mix of chunky and ground beef.

Red was milder in flavor, with a touch of vinegar essence in every bite.

Green embraced it's spicier side by showcasing a welcomed inclusion of finely chopped onions and peppers.

As a control, I tasted each bowl as virgin samplings, downing a good portion of each before topping them off with equal portions of raw onions, hand-crumbled saltines, Louisiana hot sauce, and a sprinkling of coarsely grated cheddar cheese - my preferred bowl chili toppings.

Votes were cast using a double-blind taste test and the winner for best chili was chosen completely by total votes cast.

The Catholics won spoons down.

Variables I felt affected the outcome included the weather, as the digital mercury device was reading in the low-30's that night and the Catholic's chili was definitely leaning toward the spicier side.

Had the competition taken place in the heat of the Oklahoma summer, I'm convinced the Methodist's recipe of stewed meat and beans with the milder piquancy would have emerged victorious in the end.

Entertainment for the event included a discussion with the Methodist church's Youth minister who originally hailed from Boston. While we commiserated on what we missed
about our respective big city birthplaces and discussed the differences between Boston Baked Beans and Cowboy beans, the chili slowly disappeared from the kitchen and $800 was raised to brighten the December 25th morning of dozens of low income kidkins.

Grapevine rumor ensures me that the Methodist's have demanded a rematch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reading about small town living

As awkward as it is for me to admit, when it comes to making a selection from the new fiction book shelf at my small town library, I instinctively reach for the male authored tomes first.

There is of course no logic to my bias, as female authors are vastly capable of sallying forth the goriest and glorious of my favorite gumshoe genre tales.

In my failed attempt to live my life as unbiased as possible, this is the one illogical bias of luxury for which I plead the 5th on.

Sure, I've read female authors before. Plenty of 'em.

Faye Kellerman comes to mind. Evanovich, Grafton, P.D. and J.A., Paretsky, and of course the grande dame herself, Agatha Christie...I know the names and have often been tempted, but when push comes to shove my hand always reaches for a sleuthing male author first.

Again, no logic.

Stretching my male chauvinist gray matter, I can recall the last book I read that was scribed by a member of the opposite sex. Tulsa based author Billie Letts' selection from '04, Shoot the Moon.

There is some logic here. Letts is an Okie. And while some not familiar with the wiles and ways of our panhandled state may feel that reading books written by, about, and set in and around Oklahoman's is tantamount to punishment gluttony of the nth degree, I call it cathartic information gathering.

Research if you will.

Along this vein, I happened to grab this book off the new selection shelf the other day, tantalized by the title...Ghost at Work (A Mystery)

A quick perusal of the jacket summary revealed three things that eventually led me to swap this selection for the latest Ender Wiggin selection from Orson Scott Card that had found a comfortable (albeit temporary) spot under my left armpit.

Small town Oklahoma setting.
Paranormal detective.
Murder mystery.

Ms. Hart had me from page one and although lacking in the testosterone laced rhetoric that I normally find comforting in a gumshoe novel, following the antics of a crime solving card carrying member of the afterlife was a hoot and and a hollar.

Even found a quotable paragraph that reveals a small town truth penned in elegant Okie prose...
Everybody didn't know everybody, but if you had any prominence at all, you were known. Even more important was the fact that someone always saw you. It was that simple. No matter where you were or what time or with whom or why, somebody saw you. Ghost at Work by Carolyn Hart (pg. 55)

Did Agatha ever write a story that took place in Oklahoma? Hmmm, I wonder.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanks for the instructions...I think

I've always been a read-the-instructions first kind of guy.

I know I may be in the human population minority in this trait, but more times than not I learn something by reading the manual for a new purchase and the other times I find myself going back to the manual when something goes wrong with my initial usage.

Case in point, the daytime running lights on my wife's 4-door made-in-Tennessee import are on all the time, making it somewhat inconvenient when driving through the myriad of lighting displays that are all the rage throughout Oklahoma this time of the year.

I have never figured out how to disable the lights, and every time we find ourselves puttering through yet another spectacle of seasonal lights, I knock myself on the head and state out loud,"Darn it, someday I'm going to read that owner's manual and figure out how to turn off those darn daytime running lights!"

Writer's note - they apparently don't ever go off, and there is no built-in override for the sensor. There is a mod however, that I found on an online auto forum (Tech Service Bulletin EL011-00), as well as a mickey-duck kludgy way to temporarily trick the twilight sentinel.

Yep, instructions are your friend. Unless you don't understand Chinglish. Then, you're in big trouble.

Case in point, today while picking up a prescription at our local small town pharmacy, I was cruising the "gift" aisle (those Jean Nate after bath splash gift sets never get old) and stumbled upon this wonder of Made in China packaging. Pulling my digicam, I snapped these, being careful not to read the text, else the pics would be blurred and fuzzy due to my jelly belly rolled laughter.

A remote toy car that drives up walls! Speed Racer, eat your heart out. Who wouldn't want one of these?

Note the large font and bold lettering - this text must really be important...

Feeling feverish lately? Could be your improper use of batteries. And apparently hair is not something you want to wear when operating this toy.

The intended meaning of the grammar is semi-obvious, however getting only 5 minutes of playtime for 30-50 minutes of charging time seems a bit much to ask a kid to endure...or a grown-up at that.

I'm not sure if "charging under the guidance of adults in charge" is the best course of action here. These complicated steps seem better suited to 8-year old's who can program the clock vcr.

Though I find this stuff humorous as heck, I can only imagine what some Oklahoma prairieland farmer thinks after looking to the directions when the darn thing "breaks down" after 5 minutes of go time.

Is it any wonder no one reads instructions any longer?

And don't even get me started on having to keep a stock of mini-phillips head screwdrivers on hand just to change out batteries. Whatever happened to plain old plastic-flap-that-breaks-off battery covers on toys and electronic devices?

Batteries not included indeed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cribside karaoke

While humming an Elvis Christmas tune to the slanted walls of the empty playroom and slathering on a final layer of mud over the tape lines, I further attempted to fill the quiet and stillness permeating the environment by tuning my portable to NPR's The Takeaway. A roving topic this morning centered on the lullaby in contemporary culture.

The guest was speaking of an online poll she had conducted examining the popular lullaby's of modern parents. The story was intriguing, the results are humorous and the discussion inspired me to jot down a note to my future daughters (the reason this blog exists) revealing the off-key top 10 tunage favored by their loving parents during their early childhood sleepy time rituals.

Out of necessity, our repertoire developed vigor and girth with our first arrival. Combine inexperienced and paranoid parents with a light sleeper and creaky hardwood floors (the arrival of area rugs accelerated the crib-sneak-away ritual immensely) and you have two tired parents with a karaoke list that challenges even the first season of American Idol.

I've included some YouTube links for the more obscure songs listed.DADDY'S FAVORITES
Yellow Submarine - Lennon/McCartney
In my life - Lennon/McCartney
Suspicious Minds - Elvis
I saw her standing there - Lennon/McCartney
That'll be the day - Buddy Holly
American Pie - Don Mclean (yes, I know all the lyrics)
Puff the Magic Dragon - P,P & M
Norwegian Wood - Lennon/McCartney
Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis
In the ghetto - Elvis
Jamaica Farewell - Belafonte
Ma-na-me-na (do-doo-do-do-do)

Just about any Pi Beta Phi sorority song you can think of, ad infinitum.

So how'd we do? Well, here we are, 9 years post our first child, and going on 5.5 years for our second and all I can truly state with any surety of fact and candor is that both of my daughter's can pick out an Elvis tune when played on the radio.

Thank, ya...thank ya very much.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Stick a fork(lift) in it, it's done

As work progresses on our upstairs bathroom roof-raising expansion, we've somehow made it to the stage where we needed to get our clawfoot bathtub into place.

Seeing as how our local football team is tied up with their semi-final playoff game (good luck tonight fellas), and neither my F-i-L nor I was feeling the need to drink some David Banner gamma bomb juice and Hulk out, we resorted to hydraulic power and not-quite OSHA approved tub relocation practices.

Seems just about every farmer, rancher, fry cook and gas/and or oil worker in my small town has some piece of heavy equipment at their disposal. From wild and woolly riding mower attachments to mini-earth movers to hydraulic rammed hay bale lifting spikes, the mobile folks in my small town own just about any tool a fella could ever need.

Several of whom offered to bring their front-loader tractors over to see if the buckets would reach up high enough to make the tub transfer. But we eventually went with the idea of a local sculptor friend of mine who offered up his own personal forklift to perform the tub lifting duties we so required.

The forklifts solid rubber wheels sinking into the soft grass adjacent to our house was problematic, as was the close and dangerous proximity of the power line feeding into the corner of the house.

We managed to find a relatively safe spot to make the transfer, and after fashioning a couple of extension beams to the forks of the lift (a 4x4 fence post my F-i-L picked up along the side of a country road some time ago, and a run of weathered pole fence leftover by previous owners) the tub was hoisted, dragged, lifted and grunted into it's final service spot.

The 1920's era hotel-style clawfoot tub we picked up at an auction several years ago for a hundred bucks and change, and on which I grinded, stripped, sanded and primered, was then in place and ready for finishing.

The clawfeet have since received a coat of hammered steel finish pewter colored Rustoleum (to match the barn board wainscoting), while the tubs exterior has been bathed in several coats of peachtree pink (matching the bathroom ceiling).

As my friend fired up his forklift and made the turn down our driveway onto Main street, in my minds eye I imagined he popped the clutch, pulled a wheelie and cried out a hearty, "Hi Yo Silver, away!" leaving a man and his tub behind in the dust-filtered golden light of the setting Oklahoma sun.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death in the back of a pickup truck

My girls are very aware that my F-i-L (their grandpappy) likes to hunt for deer, turkey, duck and fish (okay, technically he doesn't "hunt" for fish, but I don't see why we "hunt" for other animals but not the swimming kind...wait, we do hunt for sharks and they swim, oh it's all so confusing).

But I digress. He likes to hunt and likes to cook and eat what he kills.

And the girls seem okay with it.

Perhaps they are still to young to have explored whatever ethical, anthropological and psychological stigmas that may exist regarding the practice of stalking and killing a wild beast for sport and nourishment.

Or it could be that their surrounding environment actually encourages the practice to the point of it being the norm.

Maybe they just like to listen to their grandpa tell hunting stories.

And even though as litt'uns they were as freaked out as I was by the bevy of stuffed wildlife that populate the den walls at my in-laws lake house, neither of them seem disturbed by the fact that the now stuffed creatures hanging up and out in their grandparents vacation home were once living, breathing creatures.

What could have been a pivotal moment in their lives occurred the other day as my F-i-L and B-i-L pulled into our driveway on their way home from a recent hunt and the girls caught a glimpse of a furried hoof sticking out from their pickup's tailgate.

It was a mature doe that my B-i-L shot for the meat, signaling the near future arrival of low calorie low cholesterol low fat venison steaks, sausage, and jerky (deer meat is too lean for a good burger) to our table. Neither him, nor my F-i-L spotted a buck they wanted to take. They are responsible and discriminate hunters and since both have bagged large "8-pointers" in the past they are only interested in bigger bucks with larger racks.

Nope, this doe was strictly for the consumption.

I watched with care and concern as my two girls took in the dead deer. My B-i-L was mindful to cover up the incision where he had field dressed the animal, so they only really saw the unmolested carcass.

At this point I could only spot innocent curiosity creep across their exploring faces. Nothing more or deeper emerged from their initial examination as they touched the soft fur, poked at the hooves, and ran their fingers along the snout.

Other than that, no CSI examination techniques were employed, or comments made other than a few emoted "ewwws" and quietly uttered "eees."

As I was looking forward to a deeper discussion on the dead deer with my 9-year old later that night during our bedtime tuck-in ritual, it was my 5-year old who surprised me with her unique grasp of the situation when she told me later that day..."Daddy, I asked Uncle S if I could have two of the feet of the deer to keep since the deer wouldn't need it [sic] anymore and he said okay..."Naturally, I asked her why she wanted to have the deer feet."To make the clip clop sound when I sing the sleigh ride song..."Apparently audio effects authenticity are important for my 5-year old. Hmmm, should I be worried about this kid?

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Our 1st winter of discontent...Santa skepticism

Based on preliminary reports and early holiday season observations this may be our first Christmas with a skeptic in the house.

A Santa skeptic.

It appears the irresponsible revelation of childhood fantasy figures that occurred between some swarmy teenager camp counselors and a group of kidkins at camp last summer, has stayed with my just turned 9-year old.

When we were in the process of telling our 5-year old that we were going to see Santa (or one of his "helpers" dressed up as Santa...wink, wink) in a few weeks, our 9-year old chirped up loudly and stated that she wouldn't be doing the Santa gig this year.

So far she's been keeping quiet about the E! True Hollywood Stories behind the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and the Jolly one to herself...meaning we haven't discussed what she overheard while at camp last summer. In fact this recent incident was the first time we actually broached the subject, and so far she's keeping her "knowledge" to herself.

My wife and I are providing a united front and will keep the charade up for the benefit of our youngest...our biggest fear being the older sister pulls a Geraldo and dashes the childhood fantasies of her little sister in one fell swoop of her flapping tongue.

While some may say that 9 is plenty old to have the "talk" about the mythical creatures that populate the fantastical worlds of our girl's childhoods, still others say that 9 is plenty old to have the other "talk" as well -- the one that begins with an S and ends with an X.

This is new territory for us, so we're defaulting to how my in-laws handled the situation for my wife and her siblings -- to this day they haven't spilled the beans about Santa. And having two granddaughters to play along with to continue the fantasy only stokes the traditional fire.

But something tells me that in the sleep depriving hours prior to her long winters nap and the wee morning moments of Christmas morning, the logic, peer pressure, and common sense that is battling for control of my 9-year olds brain, will give in to the remnants of the magic that is childhood fantasy and the hope that only a child can feel via the innocence of youth.

Heck Virginia, if there really isn't a Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, then maybe you can explain the reasoning behind Windoze Vista being the best OS that Microsoft can deliver.

Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, will find it hard to sleep tonight...