Writing Prompt Sundays – Fix a Movie

Writing Prompt – What’s the last movie you saw and how would you make it better?

This is an easy one – Fatherhood, with Kevin Hart, and I’d improve it by not killing off the wife in the first act.

Aside from the fact that it’s been done a thousand times, I kind of shook my head when it played out on the screen because I was expecting a solid comedy with Kevin Hart and this plot device just made it way too sad too quick. Plus, as a father myself, there are plenty of wacky fatherhood scenarios that the movie could’ve played out without him needing to be a single Dad. Or if you want him to explore that helplessness anyways, make the wife a career woman and put him in the stay at home Dad role.

It just really set the movie off on the wrong foot for me, which admittedly was already going kind of slow, to have that traumatic scene, and the funeral, and everyone gathered at the house, and then all of the pressure from his mother-in-law about them wanting to take the baby home with them?!

Maybe it wasn’t meant to be nothing but laughs like his other movies, but I was definitely looking for something lighthearted and funny that night so to be hit with more of a drama was a little disappointing.

a good Florida day…

By my best estimation, I think we spent something like 3-4 hours in the pool today. It was basically all we did today, and it was fantastic.

The kids admittedly didn’t get as much pool time as we would’ve liked last week due to scheduling and rain conflicts. I think the last two nights we had to cancel on account of thunderstorms, which of course is very common this time of year in Florida, so out of fear that the same could happen again today for a third day in a row, I ended up taking them out this morning to get in an hour or two before lunch…

…which also has the added bonus of quieting down the house so that Sara could sleep because she both worked overnight last night and is working again tonight…

Anyways, arguably the pool is one of my easiest ways of entertaining the kids because they’re allowed to get a little wild (within reason) on account of being outside, it wears them out like crazy which makes naptime/bedtime so much easier, and it’s a good workout for me, too.

And it’s fun, of course!

Usually I’ll spend some time diving with David & Christopher while Matthew plays around on the pool deck, and then once his brothers start jumping that’s what he wants to do which turns me into the aquatic version of an air traffic controller to both keep his head above water and at least try to prevent everyone from bumping into each other … the latter of which is still very much a work in progress!

After our pool time, Christopher asked if we could eat lunch outside on the patio – another thing that we’ve also been enjoying lately, so we ate and watched iPads for a while before one by one I started peeling them off for naptimes. Christopher and I then sat around by ourselves a while longer, with me doing some work and him playing with his Mario Kart cars, until we eventually made a quick trip to the gas station for ice and snacks which resulted in us getting a bit drenched by the afternoon downpour.

Thankfully, however, it only lasted maybe twenty minutes and the heat outside still made the pool a welcoming place, so after naps and saying goodbye to Mom, we headed back out for round #2 and swam for another hour while waiting for pizza to get delivered for dinner!

In reflection, it just reminded me of one of those classic, lazy summer days where all of your time is either spent in the water or eating nearby it. It would’ve been nice to have a grill or something for maybe some shrimp or fish, but then again it would’ve been nice for Sara to be able to join us, too, because I certainly can’t man a grill and supervise three kids in the pool at the same time anyways!

We need more days like this over the summer. I’ll circle back to the grill point at a later date… 😉

Coronavirus, Day 474 – What Now???

I honestly just don’t know what to think about this pandemic anymore.

It frustrates me that vaccinations have slowed down so significantly – a month ago on May 22nd, 2.3 million doses were given out, compared to just 647k doses yesterday on June 22nd.

It also confuses me that the case and death numbers have fallen as much as they have, which don’t get me wrong is obviously a good thing. It just leaves me wondering if we’re missing something … are states getting lax about their reporting (Florida switched from daily to weekly recently) or are more cases going unreported???

I wish I knew what it’s supposed to look like for me to believe that it’s over because although the graphs above look promising even despite vaccinations running at only 45% of people vaccinated instead of the 70% that I thought we were aiming for a few months ago.

I guess I just worry that after we’ve all been through and sacrificed so much, what if there’s another surge that we could’ve prevented by taking precautions just a little bit longer or by more people being eager to get vaccinated themselves. My wife and I are both vaccinated and we still wear our masks everywhere because we’re worried about bringing it home to our kids, and yet it’s hard to see mask rules pretty much on a whim at this point where you know that those most adamantly against them just aren’t wearing them and still refuse to get vaccinated.

It’s weird for me to see Disney not only removing the last of its precautions around the parks, but also absolutely packing them in with people who are ready to move on with their lives … despite today seeing 365k cases around the world and 8,600 deaths.

And it’s damn scary to see Republican politicians going out of their way to pass legislature against things like schools requiring vaccinations or even masks, or businesses being allowed to require proof of vaccination for going on cruises in the name of “personal liberty.”

I’ve been taking my shoes off at the airport now for twenty years because one time a guy tried to blow up a plane with bombs in his shoes – what about that personal liberty?!

I think a lot of it makes me uncomfortable because it forces me to be more judgmental of the people around me for the sake of protecting my family. If everyone still wore masks or even if the vaccination rates were still up to show that the public trust was high around everyone just being careful, it would make me feel better about trying to ease back into some of the things that we did before COVID-19 changed all of our lives.

I saw one person joking about becoming agoraphobic over the last year and I don’t know if I’d go that far, but my anxiety is definitely a bit more on edge when I have to be around people who I don’t know if I can entirely trust because I don’t know if they’ve shared the same attitude towards the virus and staying safe as I have.

It leaves me wondering what back to normal will look like for me and just how long it’s going to take regardless of whatever the world chooses to do around me… 🙁

It’s Finally GONE!!!

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been looking forward to this day.

Actually, I can!

I’ve despised this 30-some-odd foot monstrosity pretty much since we bought this house back in 2012. It drops leaves and acorns like it’s slowly dying on my front lawn, even though it’s definitely not, it’s impossible for me to prune because of how huge it’s gotten, and it’s even started to tear up the sidewalk and our driveway.

If left to its own devices, I have little doubt that before too long this innocent-looking oak tree would’ve displaced the entire house, leaving just one gargantuan behemoth of a tree in the center of our tiny, suburban lot and the family that once lived there forced out onto the area formerly known as our sidewalk before it ripped that whole thing to absolute shreds, too!

Admittedly it actually was pretty impressive to see the crew work. It wasn’t cheap, but these guys rolled up with three trucks and two massive cranes along with an industrial-sized wood chipper that buzzed through 8.5 years of my oak dread like a hot knife through a tree.

I griped a lot about our HOA over the years, but the process was surprisingly easy. I probably spent a week or two getting quotes from various tree removal companies – the one we picked wasn’t the cheapest option, mind you, but I was more confident in these guys than the next quote that was about $300 cheaper and when I watched them work, I knew we’d made the right choice. We didn’t have to get a local permit because the tree was considered a nuisance (tell me about it!) due to the damage its roots were doing, and I think even the HOA had their approval back to me in less than a week!

From the final approval, it took about a month for scheduling to get these guys out, and once they arrived the whole thing was GONE in maybe an hour?!

They still need to come back in a few days to grind out the stump so that we can try to grow grass over the oak tree’s unmarked grave, but all in all I was pretty impressed.

And relieved. We literally just had the AC worked on in our van because acorns were clogging up the pipes and causing water to back up into the system. Just before that, I raked 4-5 bags of leaves myself and then paid somebody who raked another 10 bags out of my tiny, little front yard!

Good riddance – don’t let the wood chipper hit ya where the lumberjack split ya… 😛

Writing Prompt Sundays – Medieval Travel Plans

Writing Prompt – Where would you fly right now if you could hop in a plane?

Let’s assume that this implies we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic because my travel anxiety is high enough without adding in the threat of communicable disease!

I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe to check out all of the castles of the Middle Ages. I’m not sure the extent to which they let you just randomly wander around – if it’s simply a look at the castle walls or you can actually walk the dungeons and towers and explore all sorts of secret passages that for all I know are based more in movies than reality.

When I was a teenager, we had a camping trip at Northern Michigan’s closest equivalent to a castle and I got to ditch my lowly tent on the grounds for an opportunity to actually sleep inside! I don’t remember a whole lot about it, except that the room we stayed in was made of stone and it definitely felt the part to a 14 year-old who’d always looked up to the likes of Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers as veritable role models…

It does make me wonder with so many castles over there, does looking at them ever get “old” as in, “If you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen ’em all…” or are there enough varieties and details to explore that it’s like people who tour classic churches or museums where there’s always something new to discover?

I don’t know if it will happen before we retire, but it’s definitely a trip that I’d like to make eventually … and if there’s an opportunity to spend the night inside, well, then that’s just a bonus! 😉

Mini-Games

Very much on a whim, I found myself ordering one of the Super Mario Bros Game & Watch handhelds.

I honestly wasn’t really swayed last fall when this was released because I didn’t have any of these things as a kid and admittedly most handhelds are just too small for my big hands and old eyes to play for any length of time these days. But then Nintendo just announced that this year they’re releasing a Zelda versionwhich is easily in my Top 5 favorite games of all-time – and I also happened to find the Mario one on sale, so here we are…

Even though by now I’ve played the original Super Mario Bros on probably half a dozen different platforms (NES, SNES, Wii, WiiU, Switch, Arcade Cab, Computer Emulator), for some reason it still amused me to see that iconic screen in full color on a tiny, 2.5-inch portable screen. And it’s not like I don’t have scads more graphically impressive games on my phone, or that I could carry around literally thousands of games on a 1 TB micro-SD card the size of my thumbnail.

Fun Fact – Super Mario Bros on the NES was only 40 KB in size!

I think what really makes me smile is that Christopher has gotten a kick out of playing it, even though it’s not nearly as shiny and feature-rich as Super Mario Odyssey and Super Mario 3D World that he’s playing right now. Here’s a pic from 2018 of him trying to play, but more or less just running into pits and Goombas…

And yet three years later he can play along with the game that not only introduced his Dad to video games, but also was the predecessor for the Switch games that he loves exploring today!

I’m curious to see if the next one will spark a little interest in the Zelda franchise for him because although he hasn’t had much interest to date, you never know what will catch their eye next! 😉

…either way, I’m sure I’ll enjoy playing through the first dungeon randomly before my eyes start seeing double or my hands cramp up on these tiny, tiny buttons…

Dealing with Death

This week started as Monday morning I learned that one of my coworkers passed away unexpectedly.

We worked together for something like eight years – nearly half of my career and a quarter of hers – and although she was going to be out on leave for most of the summer for medical reasons, I never could’ve imagined it turning to this.

I guess I’ve been kind of lucky recently because I think the last funeral I went to was my Grandpa’s in 2014 and then my wife’s Grandma a couple of years before that. Even with the global pandemic, I don’t think that I knew of anyone personally who has died from it, and so other than Cleo passing last fall, I’ve been mostly spared from the sorrow that comes from that kind of loss…

Monday was mostly a day of shock for me and I spent the rest of the day working in my office alone with the lights off after sharing what limited news I had with my co-workers.

Tuesday was when I started to feel the sadness seeping in. I’d learned more specifics about what had happened and more people were reaching out to me, which has felt very stressful in a guilty sort of way.

By today I just didn’t really want to interact with anybody, which has been tough because Sara isn’t feeling well and the kids have been a lot to handle today on top of trying to squeeze in a little work here and there because the job doesn’t stop. In fact, it only grows because not only do I have her extra work, but also the work involved with her passing … which I also feel guilty even complaining about because it is my job, but here we are regardless.

Tonight I went swimming after the kids went to bed for all of about ten minutes until a thunderstorm rolled in and called me out of the water. Even though it was a little cold because it rained some today, and it was dark so the only lights were the pool lights, it was nice just to embrace the quiet for a few minutes and try to take a breath and get my bearings around all of it.

I feel like I really haven’t had a chance to grieve yet, per se, because I need to work on an announcement to go out to the whole company about her career, and there are a lot of other unknowns that I still need to talk to HR about because they don’t exactly have a documented process for this sort of thing. Everyone around me has offered to help in any way that they can, but when you’re trying to figure out what it is you’re supposed to do yourself, there’s just not much that others can offer at this point.

Tomorrow I need to talk to her family again and see if they’ve made funeral arrangements, and I need to get a handle on what my own responsibilities in all of this are. Apparently I also have to get access to her email to see if there’s anything we need to keep before IT removes her account, which makes me a little uncomfortable.

And yet through all of the sadness and discomfort, I keep reminding myself that my feelings are nothing like what her husband and daughters are going through right now. I worked with her for 40 hours a week – a good portion of the time remotely where we didn’t even see each other face to face – whereas she was the rock of their family 24/7/365.

I will say that I’ve tried to hug my family a little tighter and appreciate everything around me, despite the chaos, ever since hearing the news. It’s scary to realize that things can change on you just that quickly, and that nothing is guaranteed in life except right here and now.

It reminds me of this eulogy that Richard Hunt gave at Jim Henson’s funeral back in 1990 that I turn to in times when I need a little inspiration…

Writing Prompt Sundays – My Next Five Years…

Writing Prompt – Write about the goals you’d like to work toward in the next five years.

In five years’ time, I’ll be 46 years old.

The kids will be 12 (6th grade) and 9 (3rd grade).

If I continue at the same job that I have today, I’ll have been with them for 22 years!

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about goals near and far, so I’m honestly not sure if most of them are much of a surprise…

  • I’d like to continue working towards taking better care of my health. This is probably the most important one – for obvious reasons.
  • I’d like to have built and moved into our dream house, so here’s hoping that real estate and construction costs have dropped considerably before then!
  • I’d like to go on some fun adventures with our family once COVID-19 is finally behind us, including travels out of state and possibly even under the sea… 😉
  • I’d like to explore some new avenues with my writing, and also continue adding more books to my bookshelf – both digitally and in person.
  • In general, I’d like my life to be less stressful and more within my control so that I can better focus on the things that are really important to me.

I actually think that every one of these are pretty reasonable goals for a five-year period if I’m able to practice what I’ve learned lately about making small, impactful changes over time. None of these are things that I’d expect to solve over a single year, but five years gives a person a lot of time to work with as long as you’re actually willing to put in the work.

And I’m not saying that by 46 I want to own a theme park or write The Great American Novel, though the money from the latter would be nice for funding that dream house of mine!

My goals are really to be more or less of healthy, reasonably wealthy, and just wise enough to fill a few tombs with my thoughts for my own amusement. With enough time and inspiration, how hard could that be?!

A Good and Bleh Week…

The last couple of weeks have been a little – how can I put it politely? – needlessly stressful.

But instead of grumbling about all of that nonsense, I thought I’d share some fun stuff instead!

Snorkeling & Diving Fun
Tonight the kids and I literally spent something like two hours in the pool after Sara went to work and aside from the usual tantrums about sharing toys and bumping each other and whatnot, we all had a lot of fun! I had ordered some sticks to dive for that ended up being so neat I’m going to get some more of them and David, Christopher, and I had a blast diving down to fetch them from the bottom of the pool along with toy cars and dinosaurs and anything else that we could find.

It’s honestly the first time that I’ve ever been able to surface dive – I guess the new mask and snorkel made something click, so I’m definitely looking forward to more practice. And it was quite the workout, too!

Meet Ollie!
It’s been a couple of weeks now, but we also got a new dog!

I’ll admit that I didn’t necessarily think we were ready, however I know that Sara has really been yearning for one since Cleo passed last fall and she happened upon someone on Facebook who had to get rid of theirs, so the next thing we knew she made a little road trip out into the country and came back with this pretty Australian Cattle Dog that we ended up naming Ollie.

For being less than a year old, he’s surprisingly well behaved and we’re really hoping to avoid some of the bad habits that Cleo was known for – so far he hasn’t really stolen food from the kids, his barking is much more subdued, and he even listens when I tell him to stay if I open the door! Plus, he’s pretty cuddly and the kids instantly fell in love with him (well, Matthew took a day to adjust), so it’s nice having another furry member of the family again. 🙂

The Colors of Pride
I enjoy Pride Month. I like seeing all of the rainbow stuff everywhere and people celebrating who they are, and I’ll always believe that equality is an important fight that we forever need to stay vigilant about. So needless to say, I scooped this new Lego set up as soon as it was released on 6/1 and it finally arrived yesterday, so after everyone else went to bed I took the opportunity to take a break from life drama and just enjoyed putting this colorful piece together while I was watching some old YouTube videos.

This is such a cool set – I really just love how bright and vibrant the colors turned out. It was like I was putting together a Crayola box!

New Writing!!!
Both of these were very much unexpected, but this week I found myself a bit inspired to write so in addition to starting my redesign of this site, I also ended up writing a new humor column and a new essay!

…which is significant when you consider that my last posts for both of those were something like nine months ago… 😯

Granted, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to go from here at this point. I’d like to think that maybe this summer will feature some more of both of these projects, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself at this point. That said, I did really enjoy putting both of them together and I’ve been saying the last couple of weeks that I needed a change of pace creatively, so we’ll see! 😉

How to Lose a Customer, in Two Acts…

Act 1 – Sprinkler Repair Guy

We’ve only worked with him a couple of times, but it was a no brainer to give him a call when our sprinklers weren’t working because A) he helped us before, and B) literally everyone in town recommends him.

He’s here for maybe half an hour and everything is back up and running, or so I think, but after I pay him and he leaves, I run through the system again and notice that there are two heads that still aren’t working.

I try to call him back, but no answer, so I text and ask if he can swing back by to fix the other two heads.

Highly recommended sprinkler repair guy finally responds and says, “Give me a call in a few weeks and I’ll fit you in.”

No. No, I won’t. You didn’t finish the job I just paid you to do. You were great at most of the work that you did, but after this I’ll never contact you again.

Act 2 – In-Home Therapists

It’s no secret that we’ve hired several people over the years to help the kids with behaviors stemming from their autism. For the most part, both of them have been pretty successful with the therapy, however every now and then we find ourselves working with someone who just doesn’t quite click.

Right now we’re not clicking because apparently some of the therapists have complained that our house is “an untherapeutic environment” for them to provide their services.

We’ve been with this company for two years now and paid them enough money to buy this house that they’re not happy in, but instead of trying to work with us through these issues, they’re basically threatening to quit because our house isn’t clean enough for them.

And that’s fine.

If they’re not comfortable working in my home, then I don’t want them working here, either, and there are plenty of other providers for us to shop around to if we need to find someone less judgmental and more understanding of a family trying to raise kids with special needs.

I feel like if that’s literally your job, you should already be pretty compassionate in that department, but I digress.

Finale

The morale of today’s rant is simple – never stop appreciating your customers, even if you’re really busy and even if you’re really frustrated with them because customers are a lot easier to lose than they are to find.