I don’t know what I’m doing anymore

Some time ago, I read an article. Somewhere. I don’t remember where I saw it. The article was discussing whether you put your socks and shoes on sock-sock-shoe-shoe or sock-shoe-sock-shoe. One way is the “normal” way. The other means you are a psychopath. That may not have been the exact point of the article, but that’s what they were trying to say. I remember breathing a sigh of relief as I put on my socks and shoes that morning, realizing I am, indeed, not a psychopath.

Months have gone by since I read the article. From time to time, the article will cross my mind as I put my socks and shoes on in the morning. Since it had been so long, I couldn’t remember which way was normal and which makes me a dangerous person. I began to over think my process. I would put on a sock then try to remember what I do next. Do I put that shoe on first? Do I put on the other sock? I honestly had no idea what I was supposed to do. All I know is that I used to do it the “right” way. Now, I sit and stare at my feet.

Since I have absolutely no recollection of where I first saw the article, I cannot simply find out how I used to do it. It has become an all-encompassing obsession, plaguing my mornings 2 to 3 times each week. I get the first sock on and freeze.

This isn’t a new experience for me. Years ago, I read that if your shoes come untied frequently, that means you are tying them wrong. You can tell by whether the bow goes up and down on your shoe – the wrong way, or across your shoe – the right way. If you are tying your shoes the wrong way, you just have to tie them backwards – wrapping the loop around the other side of the lace. I retrained my brain to tie my shoes backwards, as the article suggested. And it worked. After some time, however, my brain got confused. Was I tying my shoe backwards – the right way, or had I reverted back to the wrong way? I would stop mid-tie and try to think about what I should do next. This resulted in tying and untying my shoes a couple times before I would head out the door.

I have since just resigned myself to the fact that I was most likely tying my shoes correctly. I honestly on’t know anymore, I just don’t think about it. (That will probably change after writing this.) But I just can’t let this sock-shoe thing go. Not only does it slow me down in the morning, but it is causing me great anxiety. If someone has any information on the proper way to sock-shoe, please, PLEASE let me know. I hate being a psychopath every other day because I don’t know how to be normal.


Set goals. Follow your dreams.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet running to my room. There was a knock on the door, followed by, “Daddy??” Knowing what she was after, I met her at the door. My 6-year-old had a nightmare.

I followed her back to her room to comfort her and hopefully get her back to sleep. As I sat next to her bed, stroking her hair, she rolls over. “Daddy? Why do they make bad guys in movies?” I went into an explanation that they need the bad guys to give the good guys something to beat. Seemingly accepting my explanation, she rolled back over.

A few minutes later, she rolled over again. “Daddy? Why do they sometimes make bad guys scary?” I didn’t really have a good explanation for this one. I went into some nonsensical explanation that was basically, “The good guys always win, so there is nothing to worry about.” Again, she accepted my answer and rolled back over.

Another few minutes passed. “Daddy? Why did they make Maleficent scary?” Knowing this was the source of her nightmare and knowing that I had to give a convincing answer that would answer her question, but also comfort her enough that she could go back to sleep, I went a little deeper. This time, it involved explaining that in the movie, Maleficent wasn’t really the bad guy. She was bad out of a necessity to protect her friends. (If you’ve seen the movie, my explanation made perfect sense.) She accepted this answer, too, and rolled back over.

It had been a decent amount of time at this point, and I was ready to go back to sleep myself. I knew that she would fall back to sleep pretty quickly even if I left. As I got up to leave, she rolled over and asked where I was going. I told her I was going back to bed. “Aw, man. I am trying to reach my goal of dreaming about penguins.”

This was just too cute. I couldn’t leave yet. I sat for a few more minutes stroking her hair and whispering, “Penguins.” I’m hoping she achieved her goals.

maleficent v penguin

A snack Bear Grylls would love

Yesterday, my wife and I made a trip to Sam’s Club. One of the joys of going to Sam’s, aside from the free samples they hand out, is the free sample machine. It is a stand-alone electronic kiosk that doles out free samples of whatever product they choose when you scan your card. The majority of the time, all the free samples have been given away when I get there, leaving me empty-handed and broken-hearted.

This time, I was lucky enough to have made it while there were still some samples left. (Sadly, the usual sample passer-outers were nowhere in sight.) The sample this week was a Clif Bar. I scanned my card for the first free treat, then scanned my wife’s card for a second. (Don’t worry, this is totally legal.) Seeing as I typically go to Sam’s hungry, this was a welcome relief. I ripped open the package and tore into the 2 bite sample.

I don’t know if you have ever tried a Clif Bar. I had not up to this point. I think they are marketed for outdoorsy type people, who like to hike and camp and whatnot. Now I know why. These things taste exactly like what you would expect to eat if you were stuck on the side of a cliff, foraging for something, anything to eat, just to keep yourself alive. I commented this to my wife, as I painfully devoured the second and last bite of this life saving “treat.”

As I tried to swallow the dry, bark-tasting, chocolate covered bar, I found myself now in need of a river or something from which to sip some water to choke it down. Oh, to be hiking up the side of a mountain with a stream running down the side, as you make your way to a pristine waterfall, having ignored the “Trail is difficult” warning.

As we left Sam’s, with me trying to get some moisture back in my throat, my wife turns to me and says, “Here. I’ll leave this in your car. That way, you can have a snack if you die.”


This one time at the Three-Legged Mare

I went to lunch with some coworkers today. We were able to get away and talk about non-work stuff. It was a nice distraction in the middle of the day. We hit on just about every medium of popular culture. The conversation went a little something like this:

Video games:

Coworker 1: “Once I started on video games, I was hooked. I loved Tetris.”

Coworker 2: “One computer I had was an old Radio Shack that had 8″ drives. We played DOS games.”

Me: “Did you ever play Oregon Trail?”

Coworker 2: “I played this one game on my abacus.”

Coworker 1: “I think I played that one.”

Me: “I used to play this game called Global Thermonuclear War. No one ever won, so we just played Tic Tac Toe.”


Coworker 2: “My daughter has this completely disjointed playlist. Her friend thought she was nuts.”

Coworker 3: “My parents listened to jazz when I was growing up.”

Coworker 1: “My parents loved the Beatles.”

Coworker 3: “…Crosby Stills and Nash…”

Coworker 2: “Do you know what their first gig was?”

Coworker 3: “Woodstock.”

Coworker 2: “Do you know who the most experienced artist was at Woodstock?”

Me: “Jimi Hendrix?”

Coworker 2: “No. This artist was in Vietnam and had 4 Top 10 hits…”

Coworker 3: “Country Joe MacDonald.”

Me: “I don’t know much about music. I grew up in a small town and my dad was the preacher. We weren’t allowed to listen to music. It started when these kids died leaving prom.”


Coworker 1: “I love campy 50s and 60s horror movies.”

Coworker 2: “There was this horror movie from the 60s. They kept talking about this monster. They never showed it, they just kept talking about it. At the end, you find out that you were the monster the whole time. The whole film is shot from your point of view. At the very end, you’re getting killed by all these people because you’re the monster.”

Me: “I read the book that movie was based on. I think it was called The Monster at the End of the Book.”

For some reason, I’m not invited to next month’s team lunch.

The World’s Largest Vacation

We just returned from our vacation in Colorado. We did all the touristy Colorado activities. We hiked up the mesa, which is the largest dormant volcano in the country. In the process, we nearly killed my wife. The next day, we hiked up the ridiculously rocky path to Hanging Lake. The path itself may only be about a mile long, but it is the most difficult mile I have ever walked. We were told that it would be easier than the mesa. It was not. On the way up, we nearly killed my wife.

Then I learned to tube and drive a boat. I had put a floating key chain on my GoPro, in case it fell off if/when I went down. I wasn’t convinced it would hold up the camera. I hesitantly tested it carefully, by not really letting go of it while it “floated.” On my second wipe out, the GoPro went for a swim. I floated helplessly in the water, panicking and frantically spinning about, looking for the blue key chain to bob to the top. Nothing. There was a look of sheer terror on my face. Certain that my GoPro met its watery demise, I was wishing I would have gone under as well rather than face my wife’s wrath. After what seemed like minutes, but, according to the video footage, was mere seconds, I saw the blue key chain on the surface. I have never felt such relief.

The way home was probably the most activity I have ever crammed into 2 days. We left Colorado and ventured into Kansas. My wife is Czech, so of course, we had to stop in Wilson, KS, the Czech capital of Kansas. We took a picture next to the World’s Largest Czech Egg. (To save you from the disappointment my 15-year-old suffered, this is not an actual egg. It is a large painted egg-shaped sculpture.)

From there, we headed north to the Garden of Eden. Samuel Dinsmoor, the man who created the Garden of Eden was an interesting man. Dinsmoor served in the Civil War. After the war, he started creating cement sculptures designed to bring tourism to Lucas, KS. His sculptures, while having some biblical references, are all about how large corporations take advantage of the little guy. They are…interesting. When Dinsmoor’s first wife died, he was not allowed to bury her on the property. Instead, she was buried in the local cemetery. One night, Dinsmoor decided to dig up his late wife and bury her in his backyard. To make sure she couldn’t be relocated to her original resting place, he covered her grave in cement. He married his second wife when he was 81. She was in her 20s. Don’t ask. I don’t know, either. Their children, listed as the last surviving offspring of a Civil War veteran, died in 2013. When Dinsmoor himself died, he had already planned to be added to the spectacle that is the Garden of Eden. He fashioned a cement coffin, complete with a glass top, to be placed in a cement mausoleum atop his first wife. If you take the tour, you will be allowed entrance to the mausoleum to see his mummified corpse. Even after all these years, his beard would make most hipsters envious.

It was getting late when we left Mr. Dinsmoor. But we had a special, secret plan, before heading to the Wizard of Oz museum. The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was immortalized by Weird Al Yankovic. The ball of twine Weird Al sang about is located in Minnesota. The ball in Cawker City, Kansas is its much-storied rival. (We’ll leave out the supposed largest ball owned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.) Cawker City is a small town in northern Kansas that has all but shut completely down. The shrine to the twine, though mentioned on the city signs on both sides of town, has no pomp and circumstance about it. It is in a gazebo just large enough to protect it from the elements. It is so nondescript that we drove past it twice before stopping to ask where it was located, only to find out we were directly across the street for it.

From there, it was a mad dash to Wamego. It is about 2 hours from Cawker City to Wamego. We left about 3:40pm. The Oz Museum closes at 6:00pm. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. The teenage girls running the museum were not too pleased to have visitors so closed to closing time. They reluctantly let us in, and promptly locked the entrance to the display behind us. It may have been that it had been a busy day already and we were feeling a bit rushed, but I think only the most diehard Wizard of Oz fans would really appreciate what is probably the focal point (despite the fact that it only had one or two more signs than the ball of twine) of this small town. On to St. Louis for another night’s sleep before our final trek home.

Headed from St. Louis to Ohio, we ran into more than our fair share of construction. Traffic was so bad that we hopped off I-70 looking for a detour. Instead of a faster path home, we found a gift shop chock full of Native American memorabilia. We posed for pictures in front of a large bison (not the world’s largest) and inside a tipi (also not the world’s largest). We shopped a bit then headed back out. Traffic was moving now, so back to the highway.

On our way to Colorado, I remembered seeing a sign for another attraction that was sure to be closed when we headed through the first time. Since it was now early afternoon, when I saw the sign, we had to stop. Again, the kids had no idea. Most of them were woken suddenly, no idea where they were. They were groggily surprised to be forced to stand next to the World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, IL. Their moods got better when they got to ring the chimes. Directly across the street from the wind chime, they were constructing the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. We took a picture in front of the work in progress. Then we headed across town to the World’s Largest Golf Tee. We were met with a lot of, “Really? What now?” It was great. Leaving the golf tee, we were told of another attraction in the center of town. Casey’s giant pencil. “It’s not the world’s largest, though.” Who cares? Giant pencil! More pictures! Again, we got a lot of, “Are we really stopping there? No more pictures! Please!” But I know they loved it. Memories!

Perhaps the one thing I noticed driving halfway across the country with the kids is that when you have a 15-year-old daughter, every picture looks the same.

Sleep with one eye open, dad

The other day, I was doing Andri’s hair in preparation for ballet class. When I got done, she started brushing my hair. She was using her detangling spray to make it stay down. Apparently, my hat made my hair all crazy. I told her not to worry about it because I was going to put my hat back on. She disagreed.

Andri: “Dad you should try not wearing hats.”

Me: “Yeah. That’s not gonna happen.”

Andri: “Yeah, but when you get old, you’re going to be dying…to not wear hats. ”

Me: “Oh yeah?”

Andri: “Yeah. You’re going to be dying…to get rid of that stuff. You’re going to be dying…to get rid of all that fancy stuff. Yeah. You’re going to be dying.”

I get the feeling she’s trying to tell me something. And I’m pretty much not going to sleep ever again.

I’m just not sure how well this evolution was thought through

We have all been taught that evolution is the survival of the fittest. For example, there was this white moth whose population thrived. Through some mutations, some of these white moths gradually became darker, turning grey and black. Along came the Industrial Revolution. With the advent of factories, pollution increased. As the pollution increased, the darker grey and black moths became less visible to moth-eating predators. As a result, the darker moths eventually became the majority. (This is literally the only example of evolution I can remember from my schooling. For some reason, this has stuck with me for 20 some odd years.)

TRexNow, we all know about the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They have big heads and little arms. This makes them less than ideal at, say, capturing a time traveling kid who is about to foil your diabolical plan. But, for this shortcoming, they evolved to excel in other ways. They were ferocious. And they were rather fast for their size. This made escaping the savage T. Rex especially difficult, even in your Jeep.

But at one point, there had to be at least one Tyrannosaurus who had proportionate, regular-sized arms. They could easily catch their prey. Pick things up. Carry things. Read books. Drive cars. Basically, lead a normal dinosaur life.

Somewhere along the line, of course, evolution stepped in. Evolution, who obviously has a sense of humor, decided that the little arms are best for survival. As a cruel joke on the king of dinosaurs, over the course of a few generations, heads got bigger as arms got shorter. This caused a divide across the top of the food chain. The “new, improved” T. Rex gained superiority. While the now odd-looking T. Rexes, those with usable arms, ran away, formed their own clan, and eventually died off.

But, before they left, you know there was that one T Rex with normal arms who looked around and was all, “Seriously? Come on, man!”

The power of suggestion

Last week, my wife surprised me with a trip to Key West for my 40th birthday. What is most amazing is the number of people who knew about the trip, yet not one let it slip to me. Not even my 5-year-old, who is notorious for giving away secrets. Especially to me.

If you ever get the chance to go to Key West, I highly recommend it. And rent a scooter. Yes, it’s the cheesy tourist thing to do, but it is more fun than you would expect. And it makes parking much easier. However, don’t try to fly directly to Key West. It won’t happen. The flights from Miami to Key West are frequently severely delayed, if they are not cancelled. Instead, fly to Miami and rent a car to make the 3-4 hour drive. It will be less stressful. (Just ask the couple from Minnesota who were traveling for their anniversary, only to be sitting in the airport waiting for a flight for 4 hours.)

In addition to actually being able to get there, driving is a much better experience. Water stretches out as far as the eye can see in beautiful hues of blue and green. Islands are peppered throughout, all against the backdrop of the brilliant blue sky. It really is something to behold. Even if you drive there at night. The water is invisible hues of black, peppered with black islands, against the backdrop of a pitch black sky. But that didn’t stop anyone from slowing down to stare at the scenery as we made the 4 hour drive at night. Everyone making the drive is on what they call “Key time.” Nobody rushes in the Keys. For us normal folks, with limited Key time, it is frustrating as we try to drive anywhere near the speed limit. Most of the sole route through the Keys is a 2 lane highway, with nowhere to pass. When you do reach that elusive 4 lane section, you quickly switch lanes and stomp on the gas. You don’t stop until the passing lane ends, hoping to get around as many cars as possible.

At one point, Tammi said, “Why are they driving so slow? It’s not like there are deer that will jump out in front of them.” This is a common occurrence in the frozen tundra of Ohio that we are all too accustomed to. Not 2 minutes later, we passed a sign. “Entering protected animal area. Speed kills key deer.” Are you serious? She then said, “If someone hits one of the deer, we can bring down plenty more to replace them.” (At this point, we knew nothing about Key deer. It wasn’t until we met up with our friends who pointed out these aren’t regular deer. They are miniature deer. About 30 inches tall. The perfect size to carry around in your back pocket for when you get the craving for deer jerky.)

Looking for a less plausible reason for the slow drivers, Tammi said, “Ok, fine. It’s not like kangaroos are going to jump out in front of them. I just want to see what happens.” I think she was testing her control over the universe. When we finally got to our hotel and went to the lobby to check in, this fellow greeted us.

G'day, mate.

Apparently, she does control the universe.

On our way home, we got to enjoy the scenery that we could not see on the way down. At one point, we saw a Crocodile Crossing sign. There was a metal fence the entire length of the highway. And a concrete barrier down the middle. I don’t know how they’re going to get into the road to cross it, and where they’re going to go. Then I saw an opening in the concrete barrier.

“Here it is, boys. This is where we’re going to cross.”

I must break you

Recently, a friend turned me on to Trivia Crack. For those of you not familiar, it is like Trivial Pursuit on your phone. Being a trivia fiend, Trivial Pursuit is probably one of my favorite games. One problem. Nobody wants to play with me. Perhaps it is because of their imminent demise at the hands of my steel trap mind, full of useless knowledge.

DragoI am the Ivan Drago of Trivia Crack. A beast. Unbeatable. A force to be reckoned with. Relying solely on my confidence. My superior trivia expertise. My powers of deduction. My mental prowess. I was Apollo Creeding my way through opponents. Destroying all who dared challenged me. There has been more than one game where I bound through an entire game, winning all 6 “crowns” in one turn. None could beat me.

Until that fateful day. I lost a game. Then I lost a second game a few days later. My brow had been cut. I was bleeding. They saw a weakness. Sure, my win percent was astoundingly high. But the damage had been done. As those who had never won against me before finally got their victory, they would text each other screenshots of the win. They all rallied around each of my defeats.

My time as The Siberian Express had ended. I changed my approach. I started answering questions outside in the bitter cold. Doing mental push-ups. I have become trivia Rocky. Sure, I take a few beatings now and again. But I know, in the end, even those who once hoped for my crushing defeat will be chanting my name.


Not the answer I was expecting

After dinner, the 13-year-old threw his juice box in the trash can. We don’t do that in our house. If it can be recycled, it goes in the recycle bin. We’re a responsible family. I have to pay $2.90 for each trash sticker that goes on our trash can. Recycling is free. Plus, something about protecting the Earth. I called him upstairs. I was hoping to subject him to the same speech I was given by our tree council (yes, we have a tree council whose sole responsibility is counting the number of trees in the city) about how we’ll all die if we cut down even mostly dead trees, we will all die.

Me: “What is your juice box made of?”
Him: “Cardboard.”
Me: “What is cardboard made of?”
Him: “Paper.”
Me: “What is paper made of?”
Him: “Trees.”
Me: “And what happens if we cut down all the trees?”
Him: “We’ll have lots of paper.”
Whitney: “We’ve solved the paper shortage crisis!”

I was outwitted by a 13-year-old and a Whitney.