Sunday, April 24, 2016


I blogged about Prince dying a couple days ago. Turns out, that wasn't the first death to throw me for a loop in the past few days.

After Prince, news broke Friday that the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt had died. Oswalt is my favorite comedian; his bit on how "Christmas Shoes" is the worst holiday song ever is several minutes of pure brilliance. His wife was 46, in good health, but died in her sleep. Oswalt talks about being a family man often during his standup. He has one daughter who now doesn't have a mom. That news gave me pause, but nothing like what happened today.

Lori's boss/business partner/good friend was killed in a car crash this afternoon. She got the news about 6 p.m. from her office's general agent. I was grilling when she came outside, stunned, and said he had died. He also was 46 and has two sons, one of whom is Michael's age and would hang out with us on occasion during the summer when he was staying with his father (he lived out of state).

The crash was a single-car accident; Lori's boss simply missed a turn and drove off the road. His fiance survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but according to the Facebook posts that we're seeing, was seriously in shock, wondering what happened, where his engagement was, and if anyone had told his future stepsons what happened to their father. The couple planned to marry this summer.

I'm coming at all this bad news, especially the last tragedy from two angles. First, no matter how much I'm feeling sorry for myself or wish the things that are stressing me out could not be so burdensome, I'm lucky be in a place where I and my family is healthy and (at least in my case, relatively) happy.  I can muddle through sucky days and occasionally lose some sleep, but at least I get to see the next day sadness-free.

Second, I have goals, dreams and plans -- to be a better father and husband, to be happier and less stressed, to be more productive, and to think at the end of every day "Damn, this was a great day." Down the line, I don't want to feel any regrets that I never fulfilled those goals, dreams and plans. Thinking I have years to proceed with my blueprint is not wise, because as these three tragedies have demonstrated, something unexpected might intercede. Obviously, some courses of action aren't immediately feasible, but delaying working toward them can mean you never do.

Amid this sadness (and tonight, my stomach is churning from the terrible news we got five hours ago), I'm feeling a little bit of resolve. No excuses, no waiting, no regrets. Be great today. Be great every day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

One day all 7 will die

Prince died today. Only 57. And it's not like he died after years of chemical abuse or a bizarre lifestyle -- he generally was not that reckless compared to other rock stars (how Keith Richards has outlived so many of his peers is beyond me).
I'm not taking this as hard as when David Bowie died back in January, but it is a little humbling that musicians I listened to in my youth -- ones whose songs offered some sort of impact in my life -- are dying off. I loved most of "Purple Rain" in 1984, came to appreciate his older stuff, and promised myself but never followed through that I needed to listen to more of his less commercial stuff that is supposed to be simply amazing. 
Anyway, I've been listening to his songs all day, posted some things on Facebook, and reading what others are saying. Looked up a lot of lyrics and was surprised how many I've been singing wrong over the years. With that in mind, here are my five favorite Prince lyrics (I couldn't even begin to come up with five favorite Prince songs, though "7" -- which I borrowed a line for the title of this post, probably would be one ...):

1. "Hey, I ain't got no money, but honey I'm rich on personality"
2. "Every time I comb my hair, thoughts of you get in my eyes"
3. "Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before/That's when I saw her, ooh I saw her, she walked in through the out door, out door"
4. "Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of, boy versus girl in the World Series of love"

And because I had to have one dirty Prince lyric in this list (and there are a lot of good ones):

5. "Hey Ducky, let me stick the 7-inch in the computer."

Finally, favorite Prince lyric from a song he wrote for someone else:

"He tells me in his bedroom voice, 'Come on honey, let's go make some noise' "

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I 8 the sandbox

First, some context on the title (wait for the Bert and Ernie part, about 45 seconds in):

I once showed this to Ben and his kindergarten classmates back in the day, and though they thought it was funny, they were shocked that a kids' show used "stupid" so casually. But remember, Bert was kind of an anti-hero (just like Oscar was). He would mellow, of course ...


I have high hopes for the front lawn this year, now that it's spring. Minus the bare patches, it's already looking not too bad, and I think if I get the EZ Seed onto the bald spots now -- and keep watering (that's what got me last year) -- I may make progress. The back lawn is growing strong too, but mostly with weedier grass. I will have to run the weed whacker through it soon; the growth is a little too difficult for the manual lawnmower. Still wondering at what point I buy another electric mower ...


I'm sitting on our porch writing tonight and looking at our RAV-4, which I still don't believe we own despite it being almost a year. And I see the Corolla, almost 19 years in our care. Six more years and our little sedan officially becomes a classic car.


I've been eating like hell lately. Partly have been too randomly munchy, and partly not working outside of my kitchen enough -- it's just too easy to think I'm hungry when I'm not. I need to start tracking my food intake again ...


Well, this was a random post. I wanted to write something tonight, which is better than nothing. I will leave you with this (and yes, times have changed -- jesters generally don't get crushed on educational television anymore):

Monday, April 11, 2016

Nine tonight

My nighttime routine has been off kilter for the past few months. To counter some bouts of insomnia, I've been going to bed earlier, figuring if I woke up and couldn't fall back to sleep right away, I'd still have more time for slumber. As a result, the evening hours have been crunched -- it seems like once we get through dinner and whatever activities we have for the night (and the activities are plentiful with the boys, as always, especially through the winter), there's barely time to get the dog out for a walk.

One blessing of this is I haven't watched as much TV lately. I gave up on "Gotham," which had devolved into almost the same story every week. But on the minus side, my evenings feel rushed, as if I'm just waiting for bed to roll around. No writing. Barely any board games with Ben, which had been a regular occurrence through December. And it really hadn't helped the insomnia -- I'm not getting any more sleep than I had before.

So what's my solution? After avoiding screens before bed, setting up a "relaxing" bedtime routine, resisting taking the dog on longer walks when it's later, and limiting the stimuli that I thought were keeping me awake, I'm going back in the opposite direction and simply doing what I did before: playing video games, sitting on the porch writing (spring has obviously helped this), watching TV, and staying up past 11. I need to work the board games back in as well. I think I swung to far toward other things to help me sleep that I was overthinking it. I'm probably calmer when I get the wind-down time that I was used to. And I was never an early-to-bed person anyway; it's sort of one of the reasons why I'm falling asleep and then waking up soon after.

Again, spring and the upcoming summer will help. I love working on my porch, and after the long winter, it's good to have my "office" back. Instead of fearing time after 9, I'm going to enjoy it again, just like I had for decades.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ten things I'll miss about you

I'm not sure if I heard this on a commercial or if Michael mentioned it after hearing it on a commercial, but all nine seasons of the PBS series "Curious George" are now on Hulu. We don't have Hulu, nor do we have children who watch "Curious George" anymore. But what struck me was that the show is already up to its ninth season. Technically, it might actually be in its 10th ...

Amazingly, I remember the day "Curious George" debuted in September 2006. We were in Minnesota for a friend's wedding and had stayed a couple extra days before flying home. Michael was a few months shy of 3; Ben was 3 1/2 months old. After a long, fun day and made our way back to the hotel at around 5 p.m. and looked for something for Michael to watch, discovering the local PBS station and this new animated series based on a beloved children's book. We had seen the movie version of "Curious George," but this was different. Michael generally liked it, but as Ben grew older, he was the bigger fan of the show. We probably own a few of the DVDs, and if I had to guess, Ben probably only stopped watching it a few years ago.

I'll say it here: I miss "Curious George." The character on the TV show was the perfect metaphor for Ben. I'm finding myself missing many of the things from the boys' early youth that they have simply outgrown. Here are 10 more of those things that make me feel wistful for the past that concluded before I even realized what was happening:

1. Sandra Boynton books 

2. Wooden Thomas the Tank Engine Trains
These aren't our trains. I'm sure we have more.

3. Baby Einstein's Shakespeare the Dragon

4. Word World

5. Laurie Berkner, The Backyardigans,  They Might Be Giants, and The Wiggles

6. "Cars"

7. The B.O.B double jogging stroller

8. Baby swings

9. Laird Park (probably the park we spent the most time at when the boys were toddlers/preschoolers)

10. Lego Star Wars

I'm sure there will be a sequel to this post ...

Friday, April 8, 2016

These go to eleven

The boys are at an age when I'm not quite as worried about what they are seeing in TV and movies. Swearing isn't a big issue because, well, they have heard Lori and I curse enough that it isn't a shock. Just about every superhero movie today is PG-13 and filled with sanitized violence; even the new Star Wars movie got a PG-13 rating. As long as they don't get too dark for Ben, who get scared a little more easily, I don't worry too much about either boy seeing someone get chomped by a dinosaur or thrown around by the Hulk.

And I think we've got it down what they can and cannot handle. The original "Red Dawn?" Mild by today's standards. "Gotham?" Too dark and way too violent; I usually turn it off if Ben is trying to watch. A classic slasher flick like "Nightmare on Elm Street?" Probably not until they are in high school. "The Hunger Games?" That's already technically a kid's book; a little more violent then I would hope but both boys seem to handle it (and they love "The Maze Runner"). "Walking Dead?" No. "Alien?" I think they would get bored -- it's so deliberately paced to ratchet up the tension. "Aliens?" Much more whiz bang -- maybe the precursor to the nonstop action of today's superhero flicks.

But then there's a middle ground of movies, mostly classic comedies, that I am so torn on. "This Is Spinal Tap" has so many hysterical moments (the amp that goes to 11, Stonehenge, getting lost trying to find the stage, and so on) that they would definitely be laughing. However, how do I explain why "Lick My Love Pump"is a funny line in the movie? The multitude of F words that gave it an R rating I can handle. The crudeness might be trickier to ignore.

From there, what about "Sixteen Candles?" I probably saw it not much older than Michael is now. The sexual references aren't too bad, but there's that brief shower scene. Am I a bad parent if my 12-year-old catches a glimpse of boobs in a movie I encourage him to watch? I was caught off guard when we were watching "Starship Troopers" together and there's some brief nudity that I forgot about. The movie is so campy violent that it's fun for a tween to watch, but does it get disqualified for that one scene? Michael loves "Titanic" but hasn't seen the original versions with Kate Winslet's breasts in it. Part of me thinks, better he see a realistically proportioned naked beautiful woman on screen than someone that's fantastically skinny/buxom.

I saw "Grease" when I was 9 years old, and in the decades since, I'm shocked how dirty it actually is. But, most of the sexual references (and holy crap, there are a lot) went far over my head. As a parent today, in what might be a less innocent time, I'm not sure the references won't go over their heads. At the same time, I want to believe my kids, especially Michael, and kids of today in general, are smarter, more savvy. Maybe I should let them stay up to watch "Saturday Night Live," and maybe I shouldn't be worried about the sexual reference that might reach their ears from something as otherwise innocuous as "Modern Family." And honestly, I'd rather them watch something with a brief nudie shot than something extremely violent.

"Best in Show" is on Netflix this month, and I think the boys would find it hysterical. And I'm not going to worry why it got a PG-13 rating and let them just laugh at the funny parts. Maybe on a scale of 1 to 10 they would give it a 10. Or, as Nigel Tufnel would say, an 11.