Halloween Spirits – Part 2

I’ve mentioned my 15-year-old’s crush on Ross Lynch, right? Well, she showed me one of the episodes of Austin & Ally (the Disney Channel show he stars in) which made me appreciate that show as a whole. It was a Halloween episode where the four main characters are locked in the music store which is the center of the show. It’s Halloween night and they have a contest for the scariest story. The actors play the roles of the characters in the stories they tell. The first one involved a swamp creature, played by Lynch, who is really not a bad guy at all, just misunderstood. To get the townspeople to see he’s okay, they perform a song and dance routine. The scene was a great tribute to a classic comedy which became the inspiration for this post.

Trick-or-treating and monster/ghost stories are the biggest parts of Halloween in our culture – just look at all the candy displays at the grocery store and the list of new releases at the movie theatres if you need any proof. (If you do need some form of proof, what rock have you been living under all your life and when did you crawl out?) But a good, comedic twist on the ghost/monster story can be highly entertaining. No one did this better than Mel Brooks with his 1974 classic Young Frankenstein. Although the scene with Gene Hackman as the blind hermit and Peter Boyle as the unfortunate monster companion is one of my all-time favorite funny scenes, it’s the Puttin’ on the Ritz scene I’m linking here. The scene I mentioned from Austin & Ally pays homage to this classic. Although Lynch does a fine job on his show, nothing beats Peter Boyle’s garbled singing. I hope you enjoy watching it – my daughter loved it when I showed it to her.

I decided to tackle trick-of-treating next, and I kept the musical theme in the process. Key of Awesome is, well, pretty awesome in their ability to develop parody music videos. They’re probably the next best to master Weird Al Yankovic himself. I think Trick-or-Treat-or-Die! was only their second offering on their YouTube channel, but it’s a pretty good one and I hope you enjoy it as well. I love the costumes and the extra dorky voices they sing with to add to the effect.

My last endorsement for the evening goes to Your Favorite Martian, Ray William Johnson’s musical cartoon videos. Posting this on Facebook for Halloween became kind of a tradition of mine because I find the lyrics and animation to work brilliantly together. Lots of Your Favorite Martian videos are hilarious, and this one is relatively understated in that regard, but it ranks amongst his all-around best. If you choose to peruse some of his other songs I’d recommend The Stereotype Song and Club Villain but  I’m linking his post-apocalyptic post-mortem love song,  Zombie Love Song here as my Halloween Spirits pick. It sure took BRAINS! to write.

Halloween Spirits – Part 1

As October 31st approaches I figured I’d share some stories, all in three parts, about any number of Halloween memories or stories. This first one stems from Halloween while in elementary school. It’s weird that my memory largely sucks in most instances; but can be very sharp in others. There’s no real consistency – sort of like my bowel movements after eating Mexican. But that’s another story – don’t worry, even I wouldn’t share that whole story.

Getting dressed up in a costume was a big deal for all of us in elementary school, and I hope lots of readers share a similar past because it’s just darn fun to go to school in something other than everyday clothes – the joy of blending learning with playing pretend. Often times the teacher would walk around the classroom trying to guess which student was behind the costume. I was at a severe disadvantage in attempting to stump my teachers. My second grade teacher looked at me – I can’t remember what the heck I was dressed as – and I at her. “Hi, Jason,” she said, “there’s no hiding your blue eyes.” Figures, the only women interested in my dazzling blue eyes over the years were old lady teachers. Even my wife barely spares them a glance – she just loves me for my body.

The first costume I remember, while in nursery school, was The Thing from Fantastic Four. It was one of the vinyl suit costumes with a plastic mask attached via a rubber band – typical of the 70s. What’s particularly strange about that selection was the fact that the Thing was this big, rock-hard, bad-ass fighting machine. But I was a scrawny little wussy who spent most of his life more likely to be on the receiving end of clobbering time. I guess Halloween really is a day to spend being something you’re not.

But it was the kindergarten outfit which was my most original. For some strange reason I wanted to dress as a carrot. Mom did a great job on this costume. I basically had a frame with orange, I think paper mache, strips attached with little eye holes to see out of. I think there were little holes for my arms and the main body stopped about at my knees, meaning when the teachers paraded the cute little kindergarteners through the other grade levels I was first in line so the teacher could hold my hand to prevent severe bodily harm through trips and falls. Basically, moving about in that outfit without adult supervision was as hazardous as trick-or-treating at night in a solid black bodysuit in the middle of the interstate. And walking home past the petting zoo – I had nightmares for years of being chased by killer bunnies long before ever watching Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.

I haven’t dressed in a Halloween costume in years, but enjoy watching my daughters dress up these days. Perhaps I’ll go out in costume again some day – as soon as the wife let’s me dress as a nudist.

Epitome of Random – Vol 5

-I’m going to dress-up as a mummy for Halloween. I figure I’m a daddy the other 364 days of the year, so, why not?

-By some definitions a gay boner is just a happy mistake; like inviting Richard Simmons to a board meeting.

-I saw a car with two bumper stickers: “I love my German Shepherd” and “I love my Corgi.” I saw the German Shepherd in the car with a collar which read “I love my chew toy.” I didn’t see the Corgi.

-My co-worker Keith asked why I have all the Athenas in my department. As a father of four girls I won’t oogle the pretty  young women in my department, that’s why.

-Last week I forgot to enter next week’s schedule on the computer; so this week I had to pull double duty entering next week’s schedule, which was due last week and the following week’s schedule which is due this week. I also had to file last week’s schedule. That’s how I explain things at work, too. No wonder my staff is so confused.

-My obsessed 15-year-old added Ross Lynch to her prayer intentions this evening. Actually, he was her only prayer intention this evening. Need I apply for a restraining order on behalf of Mr. Lynch? Or should I just let her join his fan club, like I’m a registered member of Emma Watson’s fan club? Well, I’ve received correspondence from her attorneys and I’m registered. Let’s just leave it at that.

So, How Old Do You Feel?

While putting away my shipment on Friday one of my much younger employees was nearby. I grunted as I moved a case from the pallet to the cart, saying, “I’m getting too old for this.” She said, “Aw, Jason. You’re only twenty-nine.” I know she knows I’m a good bit older than that, but it made me feel really good. I gave her a hug. Then, the good feeling went away, because I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER 29!

It’s not like I’m old – my 41st birthday is still over a month away – but sometimes I just get that old feeling. This especially happens on those three days a week I receive a truck at work; and as we approach busy season those trucks will only get bigger. It wears down my body. Much like my kids – chasing them around wears down my body; having my five-year-old unexpectedly jump on my back while I’m in a crouching position, attention focused on something else, wears me down; showing my eleven-year-old exercises I could rattle off when I was just twenty wears me down; heck, even the act of making kids wears me down. When the decision between sex and a nap is a difficult one, you’re feeling old.

There are three specific things that have made me feel old over the years. The first happened many years ago – long before I was even approaching forty. We were visiting the in-laws and watching a made-for-television movie about the early days of Apple and Microsoft. (I believe it was called Pirates of Silicon Valley.) It opens with a recreation of the making of Ridley Scott’s 1984 Apple Computer commercial. My youngest brother-in-law said something to the effect of seeing that commercial on the History Channel. History Channel??? I remember watching the Super Bowl they aired that commercial on! I used to work in advertising and I understand the historical significance of that commercial on the industry – but how could something from my youth be on the History Channel that soon? Oh, it was just a preview of things to come.

On our last visit to the in-laws that same little brother-in-law and his wife came over to watch Girl Meets World, the Disney Channel spin-off to ABC’s Boy Meets World from many years ago. The show focuses on the daughter of Corey and Topanga Matthews from the original series. I remember that series well, from my high school and college days. Now they have middle-school-aged kid? Where has the time gone?

Lastly, my eldest looked up Kate Upton on IMDB because she saw her in the preview to the new movie The Other Woman. I remember Kate Upton being the youngest ever model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition, but that seems like it was a little while ago already. However, upon checking Upton’s birthday, I’m pretty sure it was mere days after my high school graduation ceremony. Yes, the modelling industry is for the young – but am I so old that the supermodels of today are that much younger than I? It appears so.

But, as the old saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel. Those same kids that wear me down keep me young. Chasing them around gets me some much-needed exercise (as does the aforementioned sex); the five-year-old using me as her own, personal jungle gym keeps me alert; and watching all of them experience the world around them and grow does more for my heart and soul than anything else on this earth. It’s like a warp in the space-time continuum; some days you feel old, and a few days later you feel young again. It’s one of the great blessings of life, the variety that keeps it interesting each and every day.

Tightrope Parenting

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have, as well as the most daunting. And most frustrating. And most habit-forming. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to start the heavy drinking when one of my kids cracked open a case of vintage whine! But, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Ultimately, as a parent, you have a responsibility to raise your kids to be well-behaved adults who contribute to society in one way or another. Early on child rearing is pretty easy – child acts up, they get a kick in the rear to get back in line. As they grow it gets far more complicated – Kid 2.0 has more features and potential bugs than Kid, and so on. Hence all the technical manuals on raising kids. But, in a nutshell (or Linux shell for you computer nerds), I’ve come to the simple conclusion that raising kids into responsible adults entails one major skill – tightrope walking. Yes, parents are forever trying to foster their child’s interests and talents to help steer them in the right direction for their future, professional life without grabbing the wheel themselves and thereby leading their child to a life of forced misery in a job and life they despise. It’s a very daunting task, like I said, because parents want their children to have their own dreams and set their own goals. But as parents, you know that some of those goals and dreams aren’t even close to their potential if not woefully inappropriate.

Take for example my eldest. Now that she’s in high school she should have at least an inkling of some of the careers she can pursue in order to plan her education from here on out. And, as her father, I’ve spoken with my wife and my own mother about some possibilities to try to get her interest up. We all see she’s a caring young woman and the job of home health aid seems to be growing. We live in an aging metropolitan region, so that could be a good choice. She’s also very good at math and with some further education could make a decent bookkeeper. But she’s an adolescent and has her own ideas.

She has mentioned becoming an actress. Has she performed in any school plays? Nope. Does she like to sing and dance? Nope. Is she comfortable in front of a crowd? Nope. Is she outgoing? Nope. Then why the heck does she want to be an actress? Well, she figures it’s her only way to get to Hollywood and meet/marry Ross Lynch.

I believe I mentioned it’s a parent’s job to foster dreams and goals in their children. Although I don’t necessarily discourage marrying rich (it would make our own retirement easier if the rich actor/singer son-in-law could help take care of Mom and Pop), I don’t think it a worthwhile goal to have. And given that she has no real interest in acting, I’m not sure that’s the best route. Perhaps she can work on her writing skills and become an entertainment reporter. I feel comfortable saying this because she doesn’t read my blog – otherwise I’d never give her that idea.

Then there’s the 11-year-old. She is very creative and very bright. She’s a talented artist, writer, seamstress, cook, etc. She made her own Elsa costume – only having a little issue with the sleeves on her very first attempt at making a dress. She baked her own birthday cake with minimal supervision from Daddy; and she often makes her own food. Her standardized test results were in the 99th percentile. She could be anything – but she only talks about being a hair stylist. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that profession and I’d never say she’s too good or too smart to be one. But, to understand my concern about this potential career just take a look at the character Sophie in Super Completely and Totally the Messiest. I mean, would you get your hair done by someone whose hair looked like that? Well, she’s young.

Now, my next two are too young to really be looking into potential careers. However, the baby loves playing with Lego-Duplo building blocks. Perhaps a career in architecture or civil engineering is in her future. When she’s older and the swallow/choke risk has subsided I hope to buy her some traditional Legos. Then, I can play Legos again, too. No more naked Barbies for this Daddy!

So, until I get to experience the joy of seeing my little girls all grown up and standing on their own two feet as productive members of society, I’ll just have to try my best to enjoy watching their journey of self-discovery and not get too stressed out in trying to guide them along the path which will best join their dreams with their talents. And, maybe, along the way, I’ll do the same for myself.

Epitome of Random – Vol 4

-As a manager it is my duty to point out the blatantly obvious. However, the manufacturer of some of our bread out did even me. At the top of the nutritional information section it reads, “Serving size: 1/6 of a loaf; Servings per container: about 6” Well, thanks for helping me figure that one out without the use of my abacus – it’s just so hard to lug that thing around to the store to attempt such advanced mathematical functions.

-We also sell some product in our pet section called Dogswell. What the heck is that, viagra for canines?

-There’s Ebola running rampant in western Africa, jihadists causing chaos in Iraq and Syria, poverty and disease and hunger throughout many parts of the world, but that’s okay. BECAUSE WE SELL PUMPKIN BLING! That’s right, you can decorate your jack-o-lantern with rhinestone stickers this Halloween. Oh, yeah, where would civilization be without pumpkin bling?

-I’ve mentioned I’m a Game of Thrones fan. So are my employee Lauren and her boyfriend Jacob. They were planning to both dress in GoT costumes for Halloween, but the Khaleesi dress was too long for her, not to mention 70 bucks. So, they decided to do the skeleton thing. Jacob’s skeleton comes with an internal air pump to inflate the attached erection. It’s the jump-my-bones skeleton. Given the amount of sex and death in the series, I guess, in a round-about sort of way, he did get a GoT costume. Actually, that wasn’t his first choice in costume. Jacob wanted a traditional skeleton outfit, but they made a boner at the warehouse and shipped him this instead.

-I discourage the use of recreational drugs. They’re bad news. But if you feel the need to do something totally trippy, try taking both Exlax and Immodium – man, that’ll mess you up!

-And lastly, I don’t understand the big deal about Michael Sam. How is his coming out as the first openly gay football player so courageous? So many people in every walk of life are gay these days, it’s just not a big deal – even in sports. You want to see courage in athletics? I’m waiting for the first openly straight male figure skater.

Love and Sacrifice

“That’s what true love is all about. Sacrifice.” Thus said Jonathan Lithgow’s character in Cliffhanger. (Maybe not those exact words, but the best I can remember.) And he was absolutely right. Granted, his interpretation of that fact was a little skewed as he went on to kill Catherine Goodall’s character, leaving himself as the only bad guy capable of flying the getaway helicopter. Okay, maybe not absolutely correct, Big Jon, so let’s modify that one. True love is all about self sacrifice.

It took me a while to really learn the full implication of that fact. I didn’t date very much when I was younger. It wasn’t important for me to sacrifice my own time to spend it with another in her pursuits. My time was my time and I preferred reading books of my own interest, watching movies I wanted to watch, and playing volleyball with by best friend. That was my time, and I wasn’t sharing it with another. But I wasn’t totally selfish, at least as a young man I didn’t care about getting laid. I wasn’t trying to conquer another, I just did my own thing without doing anyone else. I was not ready to share myself or my time. Basically, I wasn’t ready for self sacrifice.

Then I met my wife. For the first time I was willing to give up anything for another. I wasn’t a very “academically mature” student in college. Heck, as far as I was concerned I was doing just fine so long as my GPA increased if I squared it. (Go ahead and use a calculator if you don’t get that one; I’ll wait.) But I came to the point that I was ready to buckle down and take classes more seriously. Then, like I said, I met my wife.

As a piss poor (grade wise) English major dating a dean’s list Nursing major, this self sacrifice came in the form of helping her study at the expense of my own. I wanted to see her continue to achieve something I was so far from. So, I took it upon myself to help her thoroughly study anatomy. Wow, was she a diligent student! She sure studied anatomy, and in great detail. I did this with no expectation in return. Not once did I expect her to straighten my Longfellow. If she kept my participle dangling, so be it. I was just happy to help.

(A little aside for now. I know my mother-in-law and younger brother-in-law occasionally read this, so I’m having fun. I can hear my brother-in-law saying the same thing he said visiting us at the hospital after kid number two was born and I was talking similarly: “Jason, she’s my sister!” “Yeah, she’s my wife, too. And now that we have multiple kids you better get used to it.” Needless to say, my wife was a good girl. Oh, was she good. Hee-hee.)

Yes, when you truly love someone your desire to sacrifice your own wants and needs becomes second nature. You even begin to risk bodily harm for them. I’d gladly pull a Bruno Mars and jump on a grenade for my wife; my whole family for that matter. Fortunately I haven’t had to do so and can continue to enjoy my time with them. The only physical harm that came to me from my wife occurred during our wedding. We had a unity candle , and at the beginning of the Mass her mother took a stick, lit it from the main church candle, then lit another, smaller candle on one side of our as-of-yet unlit unity candle. My mother did the same afterwards. Later in the Mass, when it came time for us to light the candle together, she had a little mental lapse. (I contend she wasn’t in her right state of mind, she was marrying me, after all.) Instead of picking up the candle like she was supposed to, she picked up the wooden stick. Out of the side of my mouth, so those in the pews couldn’t see, I whispered, “The candle, use the candle.” So, she put the stick down. Still lit. On a doily. Hmmm…a tiny little flame sitting on the table with the doily, a highly flammable material. After lighting the candle, I set my smaller candle back in its holder, picked up the stick and blew it out. But what to do about the flame on the doily. Well, I sure couldn’t pick it up and beat out the fire – so I just smothered the flame by pressing my left hand on it. I still have the scar. (Ahhh, my first battle scar of marriage.) Perhaps the best part is the video of it all; the camera was a little out of focus at the time, thus making the flame appear larger. The first of many wonderful marriage memories.

Of course, true love is not only reserved for my wife. My girls are right in the thick of my self sacrifice as well. How many times have they jumped on me sitting in the recliner only to pulverize my scrotum into near oblivion? Do I yell, or cuss, or punish? No, I accept that it’s only a sign of their love (or that they don’t want more siblings). Do they know my love of urban planning, especially the New Urbanism? My book collection could almost fill a shelf, but it was once three times the size. To make space for Dr. Seuss, Clifford, Amelia Bedelia, and especially American Girl books, I’ve donated lots of books to libraries, and all for my little girls. (Not to mention some of the books shouldn’t have fallen into little girls’ hands. Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire ain’t for the feint of heart.) But it’s my role as Daddy to give up for my kids so they can have joy in their lives and be provided for. I’m more than happy to do it.

And I witness this same, self-sacrificing love from my wife towards me and the girls. Anyone who is a mother knows all about the sacrifices a mom makes for her kids, beginning with childbirth. Wrong, beginning with pregnancy. My wife sacrificed a lot in her pregnancy – and she made her sacrifices to the porcelain deity, if you know what I mean. Morning sickness is bad enough, but excessive morning sickness requiring hydration therapy is truly a sacrifice for the little life growing inside you. And after the kids were born, and a sufficient amount of amnesia sunk in to allow her to have sex again, my wife sacrificed again. Not by getting pregnant again, but by abstaining from sex. You see, we practice natural family planning which means we avoid sex during my wife’s fertile period. And she can’t keep her hands off of me; if you saw me you’d understand why. So, yes, she sacrifices access to her hot hunk in order to not get pregnant until we’re ready to again.

One last thought on true love and sacrifice. I am a Catholic and it is our belief that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross as an act of great love of our redemption. We all strive to be in Heaven with God. And if our treasure is in Heaven with God, then my family is my Heaven on Earth.