I Made a New Friend

The other day I took the car to the mechanic due to the largely-useless and often annoying check engine light coming on. You know, the one which lights up for any number of problems, the most of which garages are more than happy to just reset for you as they are no big deal to the safe operation of the vehicle. This time was one of the let’s-go-ahead-and-fix-that times so I got to sit in the waiting room for over two hours.

There were others waiting as well, including a woman with two of her children; one boy and one girl. The kids were very well-behaved and mom brought some simple electronic distractions. Not only that, but said electronic distractions were not noisy at all. They had a little breakfast from McDonald’s to start off their wait time then proceeded to entertain themselves. The most “distracting” thing the little knee-chompers did was, after a while, get off the couch and stretch out on their bellies on the carpet while enjoying their gadgets.

Then, after about 45 minutes, the little boy was up and stretching his legs. He stood right in front of me, but his hand on my knee, then leaned in and gave me a hug. It was too cute. I patted him on the back and said, “Hi there!” We shared a few moments, a fist-bump, a high-five and some polite conversation. I turns out his name is Billy and he is three-years-old. His sister is two. Billy and his sister have at least one other sibling; a ten-year-old brother who is this tall. Billy asked me if he’ll be this tall when he’s ten; I told him I think he’d be this tall. (Wait, you can’t see my hands. Okay, forget that part.) All-in-all, Billy was a very friendly and very cool kid. His sister briefly spoke with me, but I didn’t get any hugs from her (I guess the second one from Billy was for his sister).

As a father of five myself I certainly enjoy talking with kids. They are, after all, my intellectual equals (or superiors). And I was especially impressed with their mother. My wife and I do teach our kids about stranger-danger, and they don’t get much stranger than me, but I do like when our children can socialize and be themselves with people when mom and dad are around. I don’t want them so cautious of others that they become fearful. I applaud this mother for letting her son be himself. Perhaps if we were all a little more sociable with our fellow man our world would be a better place. And this coming from a very shy non-talker.

I was happy to make my new friend, Billy. He sure brightened my time in that waiting room, and I hope he continues to brighten others’ days as well. Maybe I should try harder to as well.

Turning the Page

Another new year is upon us. I’m not going to reflect on the many successes and failures of 2016; although I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that our biggest highlight was the birth of our son! (With four older sisters, good luck, boy.) Nor will I mention my resolutions for the new year (second attempt at one, btw). Instead I’m just going to mention my hope for something that I have no control over other than to pray for it to come to fruition.

I’m talking about the opportunity for my best friend from high school to get out of jail. I’ve written about him before, so just click here if you haven’t read that entry. Much like Winston Churchill I will never give up on the hope that he will some day rejoin the free world, but some days are harder than others to maintain the hope. However, I learned of a law proposal in Pennsylvania which may help him out.

Please read about House Bill Number 2135. This may be his ticket to freedom. I certainly hope it becomes so, if no other legal alternative presents itself. (The above link is to the state website, I recommend clicking on the memo for  a brief explanation and your choice of either HTML, pdf or Word version for the bill.)

I used to be a pretty staunch “law-and-order” kind of guy. I was pro-death penalty; pro-life imprisonment and the like. Time has changed me. So has my faith. Although the Catholic faith does permit the use of the death penalty in the most extreme circumstances (and my friend was never in threat of the death penalty due to well-written and thought out Pennsylvania statutes), the Church does frown upon its use and prefers mercy. And, no, not the kind of mercy in Joffrey Baratheon’s mindset. But even in looking at the history of the Church, and the whole Judeo-Christian history, those who kill can become instruments of God. Just look at Moses – who in this day and age would easily be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, worse if his attorney was less talented than the DA. Clearly Moses had a purpose which, had he been punished with death or a life sentence without parole, he would have never attained.

There’s a Catholic saint, Saint Maria Goretti, who was murdered while resisting an attempted rape. Her killer reformed himself while in prison and was actually present at her Canonization. Sure, quick “justice” or being “tough on crime” may seem more appropriate to many, but this is a beautiful end to a terrible story. Without mercy and the chance to repent, those languishing in our criminal justice system will never repent.

Not only that, but those in prison for life without parole (as is Brandon), will only ever be a burden on the taxpayers. By keeping the life without parole sentence (i.e. death by incarceration) we aren’t making those who commit crime pay, we are paying ourselves. Give them the chance to reform, return, and offer true restitution through their contribution to our society.

Yes, there are some truly wicked men and women who will never repent, and will always be a threat to society, or even just a small fraction of society. But give the parole boards a chance to hear them out and make the best decision on whether or not to let reformed criminals return to society and become contributors. Shouldn’t that be part of the Department of Corrections – returning them to society to act as correct citizens?

Perhaps this is all falling on deaf ears. So be it. Like I said, all I can do is pray. Then again, if anyone in Pennsylvania reads this and gets others on board, perhaps there really is more I can do.

The Spawn of Satan

This past Saturday was turning out to be a good day for me. Even though we are fast approaching our busiest time of year the corporate office issued the edict that no department heads are permitted any overtime. As I was busted up pretty good with big deliveries to prepare for the Christmas rush I was getting out almost two hours early. Yeah, enough time to finish shopping for stocking stuffers, go to confession and get a few quick items at the grocery store.

However, I was feeling a little hungry and had a hankering for some delicious McDonald’s French fries. I pulled up to the drive-thru, placed the order…you know the rest of the drill. As I was pulling away I pressed the button on my power window only to have said window stay firmly in the open position. Hmmm, this isn’t good. I can’t leave the window all the way down to go shopping, I don’t have a garage in which to park the van to keep would be thieves and critters from entering, and our area was expecting rain later in the evening. And it was Saturday after 2:30…not an ideal time to find a mechanic. Needless to say, my initial reaction accomplished nothing other than to lengthen my time at confession should I be able to go.

So, I drove to Wal-Mart, with the window fully down in 48-degree weather. With no hat…and my jacket in the seat next to me. If you don’t already know, Wal-Mart’s auto center doesn’t fix power windows. I drove home, a little faster than normal as I was going to look up places to get the window fixed ASAP. As I mentioned, the weather at those faster speeds with no hat made for chilly driving; and there my confession would be further extended. (My apologies to the little old lady who I think heard me.)

So, I learned a few things after making some phone calls. Much like Wal-Mart, Sears Auto Center doesn’t fix power windows, either. And, on Saturdays, the national chain repair centers don’t answer their phones too readily. As a last resort, I tried the local Ford dealership. I was not expecting the repair shop to be open, but – SERENDIPITY BABY – I was patched through! Oh, I get to leave a voice mail? Well, a few more minutes in confession won’t hurt. Then, my wife tried to get through.

Meanwhile, I grabbed a pair of pliers and a paper towel. The window was all the way down and I couldn’t get even my fingernails onto it, but maybe, just maybe, I could get the pliers into the window enough to grasp the thing and pull it up. (The paper towel was in case I cut myself with broken glass…which would just result in a still longer confession.)

SUCCESS!!! You know that sometimes you shout out the same words when you’re ecstatic that you shout when you’re angry? Yup, that made for a longer confession. But at least now with a window in the full up position, I could make it to confession, and shopping, without worrying about someone or some thing getting in through an open window.

It was a stressful, and slightly sinful, hour. And all because of McDonald’s! Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that McDonald’s is the spawn of Satan.

But, man…they sure got yummy fries!

Epitome of Random – vol. 20

  • I’m thinking of starting a restaurant which caters to the white supremecists: I’ll call it Cracker Ass Cracker Barrel.
  • My seven-year-old was looking at the shadows cast on the wall next to our coats the other day. “Look, Daddy, this one looks like a bunny, and this one looks like, um, something else.” Good observation, sprout of my loins; good observation.
  • As I mentioned in a previous post we recently potty-trained the three-year-old. We had a near set-back as she was holding in her poops and getting constipated. The other day we told her she could only watch some YouTube clips if she pooped. While we were in the middle of praying our nightly Rosary she called from the bathroom, “It’s tricky to go poop!” Needless to say, it was impossible to maintain reverence for a few seconds after that.
  • I don’t like cleaning spider webs off the front porch because I want the little fellas to catch bugs and I find intricate webs to be beautiful. The other day I saw a leaf stuck in a web and immediately thought, “Hmmm, a vegetarian spider. Cool.”
  • From the keeping-it-in-context department: The other day I was trying to get my squirming son dressed. My wife told my seventeen-year-old, “Go help Daddy put his pants on.” My daughter and I just looked at each other and she began to shake her head. Yup, she’s inherited my sense of humor.
  • I’ve been losing a little weight. Add to that the fact that my canvas belt is old and no longer holds too well I’m often hiking up my britches throughout the day. So, regardless of the excessive cloud cover in my region, many of my co-workers had a great view of the Super Moon.
  • Another good potty-related story involving my three-year-old: She once again was holding in her poops. So my wife thought offering oatmeal for breakfast would help keep the pipes clear. She asked, “Would you like a bowl of poo? I mean, oatmeal?” Hey, I can’t blame her; we were only one week away from the election and poo was all over.

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

I sure love my girls, but this little shout out goes to a little girl who is not my own.

I had a different-than-usual work schedule this week, allowing me to accompany my wife and kids to the homeschool co-op they attend. During lunch break I took my three-year-old out to the swings. A lot of the other younger children were there, too. One little five-year-old girl was on the swing next to my daughter’s, being pushed by my thirteen-year-old.

This little girl asked me, “What’s your name?” So I said, “Jason.” As I continued to push my girl on her swing this other little girl would chat with us, asking my name every few minutes with a silly little smile on her adorable face.

After one such repeat of her favorite question, I answered, “You can call me the cookie man, because I give out cookies to good little kids like you at work.” She laughed, then asked my name again.

Thinking that adding a title of address may help, I answered, “Mister Jason!”

Bad idea, because she giggled out, “Mrs. Jason!!”

“No, not Mrs. Jason; Mr. Jason.”

“Mrs. Jason!” (giggle-giggle-giggle)

This went on for the remainder of the lunch break, between a few other random five-year-old appropriate conversational topics. It really cracked me up. Especially when she was getting ready to go to her next class and called me Mrs. Jason in front of her mother.

It was a great way to start off my week, because the next two days at work were a little rough. I showed up at 6 (usual starting time 7) to place the order which I couldn’t place being off the prior day; an order due by 8:30am. However, my baker had called out the night before (her shift was supposed to start at 5). So, I had to rush my order then start baking about 1:20 after the baking start time; plus I had to also perform my other duties which should start at 7 but had to be pushed back until the 3-plus hours of baking were done.

The next day our baker was back, but my 8am helper called out. That left me as the sole counter person until my 1:30 clerk showed up…all on the day my previous order was to be delivered and put away by yours truly. Fortunately the delivery was going to arrive at the same time as my clerk. But, when I heard it would be over an hour later, I was getting a  little hot under the collar.

Until I looked about fifteen feet away to see my new-found friend and her mother perusing our Sushi department. I got a cookie and walked it over to them. I asked mom if it was okay for her daughter to have the cookie. She said yes. And upon presenting said cookie to the little cutie she thanked me without any prompting from her mom.

“Thanks, Mrs. Jason.” (giggle)

Thank you, little one, for brightening up my day.

And, in case you were wondering, no I’m not changing this to themrsjasonsmind. I work retail…I can’t afford that kind of operation.

Potty Training

A short while back we began potty training our youngest daughter. Let me correct that, off and on over the past 8 months we’ve tried potty training our youngest daughter, a feat not made any easier by having a very active baby boy in the house. However, our most recent attempt was going to be our final, we had decided.

The first step was actually quite simple. I went to Wal-Mart and called home on the cell phone to tell her what kinds of panties were available. She picked the My Little Pony panties and we told her to keep them clean and dry. Well, that worked, because she didn’t want to give the ponies a shower, neither of the golden variety nor any other. However, we were still having trouble with her pooping. No, she didn’t go in her pants, she held it in like it were money. Yes, this was her stubborn streak shining through.

I’ve heard of lots of parents having the same struggle with their little ones; peeing in the potty works out just fine, but pooping becomes a challenge. Of course we didn’t want her to get backed up, so we had to come up with a reward for pooping in the potty. Okay, let’s be honest, the advice-givers call it a reward but all parents really know it’s just a bribe. Fortunately, we had one on tap. You see, when we would visit my parents she would always ask to play with a toy cat that looked like Marie from The Aristocats. She named it White (because Caucasian is too hard for a toddler to pronounce). So the deal was if she pooped thrice in the potty she could bring home White! And, no, we’re not racists – we don’t believe that three browns are equal to only one white, so don’t go there.

So, after less than a week, White came to live with us. Bribery works! (Just ask any career politician.) And we are certainly happy to close out this chapter in parenting with this child. Granted we’re not as happy as the McNeils (click here, you’ll love it), but I certainly have a new-found appreciation for their overall enthusiasm.

If you’ve ever read my earliest posts you’ll know my little blog has no theme. This entry just proves that I’ll write about all sorts of crap!

A Closer Look At the Candidates

The ballots are set; votes shall be cast; opinions shall fly from all directions; and, come November, we shall see who comes out on top, and who has to wait to try again. In that aftermath, some will celebrate, some will lament, but we will all carry on in our daily lives. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame were recently released, and I, for one, would like to add my two cents. Which I can do here, because it’s my blog. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

First, let’s look at some previous inductees to gain some insight into what it takes for a toy/game to make it into the Toy Hall of Fame.

Monopoly, I believe the best-selling board game of all time, was one of the first inductees in the inaugural 1998 year. It really is a wonderful choice as the rules are easy enough for families with children to enjoy, yet the competition can be fierce, indeed. Monopoly is perhaps my all-time favorite board game. Happy to see it was one of the first in the hall.

LEGO!! Oh yeah, baby! Nothing says playtime quite like LEGOs. Perhaps the ultimate creative toy, LEGO earned honors as Toy of the Century from multiple groups. It’s easy to see why, just 6 different pieces can be combined in almost one billion possible configurations. The child (or adult) who builds with LEGO bricks is limited pretty much by only his/her imagination. I’m happy to report LEGO was also an inaugural inductee.

Crayola Crayons. I’ve been to the Crayola Experience in downtown Easton, PA, and it’s been greatly enhanced since. If you’re ever in the vicinity I highly recommend it, even without kids. Crayons are a great tool for kids to exercise their own creativity on a blank page. Although lots of other companies make crayons, it’s the story of Crayola that reflects our cultural history as well.

The Stick. No, there’s not a toy named The Stick, we’re just talking about sticks. How many times can you see a child on a playground, in a park or in their backyard just pick up a stick and spend time imagining all sorts of scenarios with just that stick. It was a surprise nominee in 2008, and a better nominee than two people who are candidates in something else this year. (I won’t name names, but they rhyme with Stump and Quinton.)

But enough about previous winners, let’s get down to the hopefuls for 2016!

Care Bears, Clue, the Coloring Book, Nerf, Transformers and Uno are all worthy entries, but not inductee material. Granted that’s just my opinion, but I don’t think they have the staying power of the other possibles. Care Bears only were nominated due to their former fans being older now; Clue, much like Care Bears, is more of nostalgia pick; the Coloring Book wouldn’t be an afterthought without the previous inductee of Crayola Crayons (which can stand on their own); Nerf is too generic, although could be a sleeper pick; Transformers are too connected to a series of violent and not-very-spectacular movies; and Uno is a Spanish word seeking acceptance in a year in which Donald Trump was nominated for President.

So, if they’re your obvious losers, who are the possible winners, The Jason?

Fisher-Price Little People: Okay, I was going to mark them for losers, too, as I don’t think they’re deserving. However, after seven previous nominations Fisher-Price Little People are the Susan Lucci’s of the Toy Hall of Fame. They may get the sympathy vote.

Dungeons and Dragons: No, I’m not saying this because I’m a former D&D geek, but the game has many high-profile former D&D geeks in the entertainment industry. When you have influential friends, you can get your hands on the proverbial hardware.

Pinball: My city recently opened a Pinball Museum, which I really want to visit. Sadly, it’s a little too expensive for me. That said, attendance has been above expectations at last report, from many different types of people. If my little city is a snapshot of America, then Pinball has a shot!

Swing: How many hours of entertainment have children had on swings, whether they be professionally designed or old-fashioned tire swings? How much exercise have parents gotten via pushing their children ENDLESSLY on swings (this daddy included)? And how many hours of entertainment have YouTube watchers received from watching people try to do stupid stunts on swings?

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The most directly violent entry on our list, perfect for a society surrounded by violent images on our news, television shows, movies and music. Plus, no toy is more prophetic as we are transitioning to warfare settled by robots and technology (can anyone say drone-strike!). And they were the best non-Disney/Pixar cameo in a Disney/Pixar film! If they don’t get in, I’m going to have to knock someone’s head off!