Lucky rock

An ocean rock attacked me this summer. I wrote about it here.

This is the police line-up of beach rocks. Which one hit me? Creative Commons: Gastonmag.

Quick recap: I was standing in a foot of Malibu surf searching for rocks and shells with my daughter when the water churned a stone into my ankle. I developed a large painful lump and thought, “what bad luck getting hit by a rock while enjoying a day at the beach.”

I went to the doctor and had my ankle x-rayed. Hematoma was the diagnosis. Good news: Nothing serious. Bad news: plaque in the arteries. “Go see your heart doctor right away,” the ankle doctor said.

And I did, leaving a copy of the x-rays with him for an expert to examine. And I was given orders for several blood tests, which I didn’t get because my teeth were being pulled out or cracking and I was busy paying for my dentist’s new fishing boat.

Now we’re back to the present, almost.

The day before Thanksgiving my heart doctor called and confirmed atherosclerosis showed up in the x-ray. I wasn’t happy about the timing of the call before a four-day weekend. However, I didn’t let it get to me. I didn’t think of it once until today when I went to complete the blood tests, and tonight writing this post.

Instead, I spent the holiday weekend looking for ways to have fun each day and not worry.

A new Xbox is in a UPS truck with my name on it right now because 1) I’ve always wanted one, 2) it will be fun for the holidays, and 3) I’m not sure I can play any more Mario and Sonic at the Olympics games.

More rocks to be identified. Creative Commons: Henkster

Again, the keyword here is “fun,” as in, “it’s better to seek fun out than wait for it to find you.”

And the rock I thought was bad luck? It’s now my lucky rock sent by the universe to let me know about a problem that might have gone undetected until the day I yelled at my Denver Broncos to crush the Minnesota Vikings, felt a pain in my chest, and face-planted into the wasabi cucumber dip. End of my story.

So, let’s toast to the writing of a new ending, the endless pursuit of fun, and a lucky rock.

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The economy + an uncertain future + daughter’s future education costs + corporate cost cutting and waiting for the return of Queen for a Day

My wife and I spent some quality time at the dining room table this weekend pouring over what it would cost to move. Over the years, we’ve resisted moving up like many of our friends have. Thank you, cystic fibrosis, for that decision, as my wife needs to be able to afford a house payment on her own and not be straddled by debt.

So, we looked over the numbers. And as much as I want to move, there’s no way around the costs associated with moving, e.g. agent commission, movers, etc.

And then there is the weight of carrying debt. It’s heavy when you’re allergic to it.

The bank offered us a boatload of cash for a loan, or at least it feels like a boatload to us. And we had to laugh because why would we want the stress of starting a 30-year loan with a big payment right now?

Damn, I can get this stove on Amazon for 28 bucks and change. Yeah, baby. I may need it for boiling nebs if we remodel.

Big payment = hello, soup kitchen line.

We factored in our daughter’s future education needs, the current economy and both of us working for large corporations. We’re convinced there’s someone at our companies fresh out of business school looking at numbers and thinking how he or she can save the company big bucks by sending more human capital to the unemployment line. Or by outsourcing our jobs to monkeys – my job at least.

Uncertain economy + uncertain employment by large companies + my uncertain future = staying put.

Now our conversation has moved to upgrading our house – security wall with razor wire first; kitchen second. But totaling up what it will cost us for a new kitchen is causing my wallet to pucker up.

Mormon dream or old TV show?

We had a contractor over and we’ve worked up a kitchen budget. The sound you hear is me gagging on 35K of kitchen debt.

Here’s my new plan: I need to go on The Price Is Right and win a new kitchen. But then I’d have to pay taxes on my winnings. Damn you, Taxman, the Beatles were right.

If only Queen for a Day was still on and my wife could tell a pathetic story and win a refrigerator because God knows a new appliance makes any woman’s hardship vanish.

Here’s the story my wife could tell on Queen for a Day: My husband won’t do dishes or cook. He made me watch every minute of the movie Melancholia. He won’t let me drive when he’s in the car. He’s called me “grumpy” during my special time of month (audience gasps). He’s missing a few bricks upstairs and roams the house saying, “I’m the McGriddler; Batman ain’t got nothing on me.” And he’s so ugly, he wears a paper bag on his head.

Damn, after writing that, I think she wins. I’m buying her a new dishwasher for Christmas. I am the McGriddler and I make the magic happen – one appliance at a time.

Odds and ends and odds

Work

I’ve been doing it. A lot lately.

My life would be so much better if I didn’t have to work and was rich. Actually, I like working. If I could just trim some of the mundane, mind-numbing tasks from my job and keep the good parts, I would be happier.

I like work that doesn’t feel like work. And sometimes I have that type of work. Just not as often as I used to.

***

Robert Frost, my man, you were wrong about fences. Wrong, so wrong.

Good fences don’t make good neighbors

I feel like I’m playing a real-life game of Risk in my neighborhood. My argumentative neighbor hasn’t said anything to me since the day we disagreed on how he should speak to my wife. And he hasn’t said anything to my wife since then, which is even better. But times are tense here in the land of palm trees, cement and brown lawns.

I do, however, feel better about loading up my house with security cameras and the soon to be built Berlin Wall II. I have East German-like clandestine meetings with my neighbors on the side of my house in the dark, where we whisper about what we’re going to do about the country so intent on causing pain and suffering to its neighbors.

We’ll see how it plays out, but it makes me wish I was a renter right now and could give my 30-days notice and move.

It’s amazing how much stuff my wife and I have accumulated over the years. I long for the days when I moved to California and all of my possessions fit in a brown Camaro with a 1-inch round hole in the driver’s door where someone shot it with a slingshot one night.

My advice to my daughter – don’t buy s**t you don’t need and live light.

***

Now we’re cooking – or not

Holy crap, kitchens are expensive. If my wife and I don’t move, we’re going to remodel our kitchen. We’ve lived with the current one for over 15 years. The grout is chipping away. One drawer won’t shut and points upward when you close it. The giant fluorescent light fixture covers the area with nasty light and fills up with dead bugs and debris. Our stove is black; our stove hood white. The face of the dishwasher falls off sometimes.

Yes, we are the most frugal people in the world. But even we don’t feel like being pigs anymore and would like something nicer – a smooth countertop, no grout. Handles on the cabinets. Ah, to dream.

***

Grind away

I’m going to the dentist every week these days. All because I chewed through my bite guard a few years ago and was too lazy and busy being sick to replace it.

I’ve eaten my own teeth – cracked and polished them like river rocks made of glass.

I blame the stress of CF and going to bed many nights not 100 percent positive I’d wake up in the morning.

So, my public service announcement tonight is . . . see a dentist and get a hard plastic bite guard if you grind your teeth. You’ll save your teeth, thousands of dollars, and more importantly, you’ll avoid annoying lectures from dental hygienists who can’t wait to tell you “would have, should have, could have.”

Yes, I am an idiot.

What my security cameras revealed

My security cameras are installed and working like a charm. I can see around my house day and night. I can see my wife and daughter pull into the driveway each day, and I can spot people soliciting before they hit my doorstep, like the 26 year-old pretending to be a high schooler trying to earn a trip.

The only drawback of a four camera system is that now I want another four cameras. I should have bought the eight camera system.

Have you experienced this scam? The person claims to live in the neighborhood by saying something like “I’m Ted, Bob and Carol’s son. We live over on Valley Circle.” Classic B.S.

There is no Bob or Carol. His name isn’t Ted. Therefore, none of them live anywhere near me.

But he wants me to feel guilty and help a neighborhood kid, despite looking like a crack addict, which might help him if I were sympathetic to Bob and Carol’s imaginary plight of having a drug-addicted son. I’m not. I didn’t send him on his trip.

I only buy something from kids who bring their real parents with them because they’re too young to roam the neighborhoods alone selling chocolate and cookies. I lived the nightmare of going to door to door selling Girl Scout cookies with my daughter. Now we just buy a case ourselves and give them away. But I empathize with parents stuck with the same duty.

So, what have my cameras revealed?

  1. One opossum sitting on the roof blocking my camera view. My daughter deemed my excitement of seeing the opossum funny enough to do a stand-up routine for her grandmother making fun of me and my new furry friend. I’m proud of that little girl.
  2. People stealing trash. Both times a man got out and searched our blue recycle bin and our neighbors’ cans. I’m torn. I feel bad for anyone who has to survive rummaging through trash. On the other hand, it bothers me. This is why we shred everything.
  3. Cats. It wasn’t quite the musical, but they find our house a convenient place to cross through on their way somewhere. And there are lots of them in different colors. It’s CatLand at 4 in the morning here.
  4. The paper delivery man chucking papers out the window of his lighted car. This is a service he performs for my elderly neighbors who are afraid of the Internet and don’t mind their news a day old and stale. “Jo Pa was fired from Penn State? What? When did this happen?” Yesterday, you turtle.
  5. Bugs and angry birds. F’ing bugs activate the motion sensors. And if I were a Ornithologist, I’d tell you why birds like taking a direct route at my cameras when they’re not killing pigs.
  6. My wife freezing and the dogs pooping. Fortunately, this isn’t the other way around. But every morning there they are, my wife dressed up in my jacket shaking and the dogs running around killing our plants.

I'll be watching home from my hospital bed one day. Hopefully, not soon.

I’m in no hurry to go back to the hospital, but the next time I’m there I’ll be able to watch over the house while my wife and daughter sleep. If anyone approaches, I’ll see them. It will give me reason to fire up the new laser defense system I installed. It works great on cats. Can’t wait to see it bring down a perp.

Behave. Someone is watching.

(Note: If you think I’m shooting cats with a laser system, you’re the perfect reader for my blog. Keep on keeping on, my crazy friend, and come back soon.)

Random shallow thoughts on blogging and 300 posts

Unleash the virtual confetti. This is post number 300. Woo hoo.

Okay, celebration over. Cut it. Return the llamas and clowns. End of party.

Instead of cake, how about some random thoughts on blogging?

***

Thanks to everyone who visits. Without you I would have quit this damn thing a long time ago. Maybe I should be angry at you for making me do this. It’s all your fault. Do you know how much television I could have watched?

Let’s see . . . 2 to 4 hours per post, sometimes more. Average 3 hours. 300 posts. 900 HOURS? I could have watched Road House 450 times! Am I mad in the head?

Yes. Yes, I am.

***

From the “This I know to be true” department: I suck at self-promotion.

I’m torn between having fewer readers I like or having a large audience of people I don’t know because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a blogger. I’ve chosen a contrarian strategy and sometimes think about going dark with my blog and having no readers.

Yes, I would miss you – except my two pals in England (you know who you are, troublemakers).

***

Why am I blogging? I ask that question a lot. I know I started it for my daughter, but I can’t answer it anymore. Why try to define it now?

It is. I am.

***

Department of “illogic”: I can write 300 blog posts, but I can’t write a novel.

This I don’t understand.

But then writing blog posts is a 1,000 times more fun than writing novel chapters. Especially when you’re writing after a full day of work where you get paid to write.

At night with blurry eyes, it’s all about writing what I want to write.

***

I feel good about all of the posts. I took them seriously, put a lot of effort into them.

Am I happy with them? No.

Did any of them turn out the way I thought they would? No.

But the magnificent Bono once said he’s not satisfied with most U2 songs. So, I feel better. Not really.

One day I’ll nail one of these posts, but don’t bet on it.

***

I never know which posts will draw reactions. I’ve spent days on some. Gone late into the night and thought, “I’VE DONE IT. I’VE FINALLY WRITTEN A DECENT POST.”

Then I hit “publish” thinking I’ll see comments in the morning. Nothing. Zero. The sound of outer space.

I suck.

***

Having an eclectic blog sounded good in theory. Readers come and go. I talk about the dogs, I get dog readers. I talk about CF, my CF friends chime in. Politics, everyone splits. I’m not sure writing about various subjects builds a large, consistent readership. One subject seems the way to go.

I should write a cooking blog. I don’t cook. Kiss that idea goodbye.

I wonder if three blogs is the answer – keep the subject matter consistent for each blog. Too much work.

***

Why subscribers should always read the blog post at the web site: Typos.

How many times have I hit “publish” thinking I fixed all of the typos? A lot.

Then, after one more read, I find another. Typo. Argh. Typo. Argh. Typo. Oh, Hell.

***

From the “best laid plans” department: My goal is to write only short posts and funny posts. My apologies for the 299 posts* that weren’t either.

(*My friend, Karyn of Australia, wrote a funny one for me. The other 299 are my responsibility. Send any complaints to Sean and Matt Smythington, 555 Bite Me Lane, Cleethorpes, England, 98YurAss573t)

***

I miss Fox.

Mesmerize me

Here are a few things that get my attention and hold it.

Dogs playing. We keep our two dogs in the kitchen during the day because the puppy works for a demolition company and chews the s**t out of everything if we let her loose in the house. I often walk in and find the two of them fighting each other in a playful way that makes me wonder when blood will start spraying like a Monty Python movie.

I hang out, watch them duel, feel thankful they don’t have antlers, and forget why I walked in the kitchen.

M&Ms, Smarties, and/or saltwater taffy, of course.

Go Broncos. Finish 2 and 14 and draft Andrew Luck, please.

Football games. What can I say. Even after all these years, I still like football and the Denver Broncos. And I’m sticking to my guns about Tim Tebow – he has heart but no NFL QB skills. When will the fans start yelling, “Quinn, Quinn”? However, football still has the power to make me plant myself on the couch for three hours.

Victoria’s Secret Commercials. I’m embarrassed to admit this one. Okay, I’m not. I can fast forward through a TV show at top forwarding speed, read on my iPad at the same time while I listen to music and talk to my wife, and still catch the quick flicker of a VS commercial.

And every time I stop, rewind and play it, my wife shakes her head and wonders why she ever decided to go out on a date with complete idiot like me.

I’m not sure, but I love her so much I’m building her a time machine.

Tricky commercials. One of the first lessons I taught my daughter was how commercials don’t tell the truth and deceive us. Beer ads don’t use exotic locales like AA meeting halls and skid row. Banks don’t loan people money because they’re nice. And only one in 100,000 people is going to learn the Chinese alphabet on an iPad (an app used once by my daughter who had to have it). And much to my disappointment no bird ever flew out of a box of Coco Puffs.

But I watch certain commercials like one might watch a magician perform a trick – how did he do that? I know, or at least I think I do.

Would you think less of me if I told you I've seen this movie over 10 times - or parts of it 10 times?

Movies I’ve seen five times or more. If I’m up late on a weekend and a movie I like comes on, one I can recite the dialogue to, I can’t stop watching it. Even with the power of a DVR at my fingertips, I stay up way too late and suffer the next day.

Examples include: Predator, Road House, Ronin, Heat, Bullitt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a myriad of others. I can’t explain it but if I record the movie and watch it the next day it’s like eating a day-old bagel my daughter forgot to seal in a bag – stale.

Stay alert.