Jun 29, 2013

Bucket List Item #2: Indians Fantasy Camp

Since I don't write on this blog as often as I would really like to, I decided that a fun way to create some posts would be to add an entry for each of the items on my "Bucket List." I am basically going to jot down my thoughts as to why that particular entry made it to the list in the first place.

Entry #2 is to attend a Cleveland Indians Fantasy Camp.

I've been a Cleveland Indians fan since I was 5 or 6 years old. I've never dreamed of playing baseball in the Bigs or anything like that, but I have always wanted to don an official uniform, stand at the plate, and live as though I were an Indians player just once. Fantasy Camp is no cheap matter, though.  I have to get to the point where I can save money and then reserve my spot.

I think most kids dream of playing for their favorite baseball team some day, even for just a short time. When I watch "Field of Dreams" and I see the part with Moonlight Graham, I always think of myself there. I would love just that one chance to play. The Indians Fantasy Camp would provide that.

Of course, the things you get for attending are no small potatoes: Official uniforms with your name, highlight DVDs, your own trading cards, and most importantly the chance to hang out with some of the greatest Indians players and staff and play along side other Indians fans.

Jun 28, 2013

Customers, however, can climb anywhere they want.

And all this time, I thought roses WERE flowers.

Bucket List Item #1

Since I don't write on this blog as often as I would really like to, I decided that a fun way to create some posts would be to add an entry for each of the items on my "Bucket List." I am basically going to jot down my thoughts as to why that particular entry made it to the list in the first place.

Entry #1 is "Own a Corvette."

As a kid, I thought Corvettes were cool. I loved the stingray body style with the slick curves and the big tires. Then, my Uncle Bill bought a brown one. I believe his was a '74. It was the coolest car I had ever seen. And then, we got to ride in it a few times, and I was hooked for sure. I don't know what year he bought it, but I would guess I was no more than 6 or 7 years old. Those rides in my Uncle's car made a lifelong impression on me.

The thing to understand about my #1 list item is that I do not necessarily want a Brand-New Corvette at all. I just want to be able to own one some day. I have a every confidence that it will happen after I cross a couple of other items off my list (like the whole paying off debts thing).

There are some things in life that stick with you from the time you are very young. It may be a certain song, a certain smell, a certain joy ride in a Corvette.

Jun 16, 2013

A few random thoughts about my father

As we celebrate Father's Day, I know how blessed I am to have my own kiddos in my life. I also know how lucky I am to have had the father I did.

Life with Dad was not always easy. In fact, for a time in my early life, things were about as bad as they get. But, when the choice came down to living his life the way he wanted to at the time and being there for us kids and his family, he chose us.  My brother was probably too young to remember all that, but I lived the nightmare for several years.  Sometimes, we can't find the light until we are in the middle of complete darkness.

When Dad came out of that period, everything about him changed in my mind. We spent many summers going to visit my grandparents in Cleveland and hitting the hot spots like Sea World (they had one then) and Geauga Lake. We also went to Cedar Point and visited Lake Erie every year.

We didn't have a lot of money - or much at all, really - when I was a kid, but I never went for wanting that I knew of. One time, Dad had me and my brother close our eyes as tightly as we could and he drove around and around, trying to make us guess where we were. When we were allowed to open our eyes again, we were parked in front of Children's Palace, the biggest toy store I had ever been to until FAO Swartz many years later.  Now, it might not have been huge to grown-ups, but to me, it was the ultimate place to go.

Dad took us to see Star Wars every time we wanted: at least seven times.  That was just "A New Hope," mind you! And, he took us to the toy store afterward to buy our first Star Wars figures. We had the original (now worth TONS of money) Jawas, which we promptly played with, mangled and destroyed. Haha! Life was so much simpler then: we actually PLAYED with toys, not collected them.

Dad was a referee for FIFA and MISL for several years. Once, he and a family friend took our families to Niagara Falls for a tournament. I remember two things about that trip: 1) My brother spitting his applesauce at the friend's daughter from laughing so hard, and 2) My Dad crossing the line to get into the river that feeds the falls. I have that photo.  He also coached our soccer teams and basketball teams without having a clue how to do either - because they needed someone, and WE needed someone. Funny thing there: the local soccer association made him PRESIDENT his first year. Hahaha! Man, were they in trouble!

When my Dad's Dad passed away, I remember trying to be so strong and 'brave' for my Dad. He pulled me aside and told me it was okay to cry when sad things happened. I burst into tears and he grabbed me up and held me for a few minutes. When I had gotten most of my crying out, as they used to say, he loosened his grip, looked me in the eye and said, "Feels better, doesn't it?" He and I walked up the stairs of the funeral home after that. A little while later, he gave me some money to go to the local card shop and buy some baseball cards.

My Dad enjoyed being with family, but not being with family "too long." Haha. He could handle being around everyone for a while, but he also enjoyed having his own time. In the years just before he passed away, my Dad grew to love playing games on his computer. He especially loved playing the EA Sports games of NHL and FIFA. What he really liked was finding all the add-ons to download so that he could make the arenas look exactly like their real-life counterparts: sideboards, ads, you name it. He enjoyed 1st person shooters and loved any golf game ever made. His favorite was British Open Golf with Jim McKay doing the announcing. Dad loved golf, and this was about as close as he could get to being a pro golfer. He ate it up.  Even now, after the years after his passing, I'll play games that I know my Dad would have loved. He'd be a die-hard Far Cry 3 fan, for sure. He never liked the Battlefield games with their flag-taking waypoints. He also liked to play chess. He got that from HIS Dad. My Dad would have loved the Wii, especially golf and bowling.

(I am pretty sure this is how the Pro Shop at White Oak Lanes looked when I was a kid!)

My Dad took us kids bowling every chance he got. Again, he had that instilled by his own father. Oh, man, we would go bowling at just about alley in the Pittsburgh area. For a while, my brother and I were in a league as kids. I don't remember much about the bowling, but I do remember my Dad taking us to McDonald's afterward. We would burgers or nuggets (they were the 'new' thing back then) and we would take ketchup packets with us when we left. Now, Dad did not participate, but he never stopped us from doing it, either. We would take the packets and place them behind the tires of other cars in the parking lot. When the cars backed out, SPLAT! The ketchup would splatter the cars next to them. Well, that was the theory. In reality, it rarely worked that way. Usually, the packets just popped open and made a mess on the lot.

My Dad changed jobs every couple years. He always stayed within the Federal Government, but he hated getting stagnant. I got some of that, but not enough to move every 2-3 years. I vowed to myself that when I had kids, I would try my best not to move them around. I think I did okay with that. We lived in Little Rock when Tyler was born, and then we soon moved to Prescott. We've been here ever since. And, if I may say, I think our kids turned out just fine.  My Dad also believed that the next big thing was just a get-rich-quick offer away. Holy cow. He had us into Amway, A.L. Williams Insurance, and a variety of other pyramid schemes. He also tried SMC wholesales, several other wholesale companies, and when he hit the Internet, jumpin' Jehosophat! He was off to the races.  Of course, he wanted the "get rich" part without having to put out much effort. Haha! So much for that.

Many people came to know my Dad over his lifetime, and I would bet a dime to a dollar they would all same the same thing: My Dad was one of the funniest, goofiest, sweetest men they had ever known. I couldn't agree more.

*photos property of their respective owners.

Jun 13, 2013

Horror Stories from the Kitchen

One of the Little Rock TV stations asked its viewers to share horror stories from the kitchen. I thought I would share a few - some are just funny. Well, to me anyway.

I used the image above, found online, because my brother once set our toaster on fire with Pop-Tarts. He loaded them in, pushed down the handle, and in a few minutes... POOF. We had a fire.

When Shan and I first got married, we had friends over for tacos. We put the shells in the oven to warm. They caught the oven on fire. The first thing I did? I ran to the front door of the apartment and flung it open.  Why? I'm still not sure. I think I was trying to make an escape route for the smoke.

I was up late one night when my brother comes walking through the living room. He is simply repeating the phrase, "I want some cookies." He was sleep-walking. He went into the kitchen, grabbed a box of Cookie-Crisp cereal and proceeded to eat the entire box while sitting on the kitchen floor. When he finished, he put the box back in the cabinet and went to bed. He had no recollection the next morning.

Once, Tyler put a bag of microwave popcorn in upside down. After a few minutes, we had a charred brick inside. Well, it was a charred brick after we put the fire out!

I once put celery in the garbage disposal. Once. After I had to clean out the mess, I never did THAT again!

This story is a kitchen story because I was sitting in the kitchen at the time. When Shan and I were first dating, I was up late one night talking to her on the phone. My mind wanders when I am on the phone, so I absent-mindedly opened one of the kitchen drawers and fumbled around for something to play with. I found an old garage door opener. It had three buttons. As Shan and I talked, I pressed the buttons in ascending order then descending then ascending and so on. I would have kept doing that too, except that my Dad suddenly burst out of my parents' bedroom, buck naked, and came charging into the hallway and down the stairs. I had no idea what was going on.  A few minutes later, he charged back up the stairs and stood before me, angrier than I had seen him in a long time. He ripped the remote out of my hand, yelling, "What in the HELL are you doing with this!?" I told him, "Nothing. Just pushing the buttons."  Turns out, the "old" remote still worked. The garage door was under my parents' bedroom.  So, as I pushed the various buttons, the door would raise, stop, lower... raise, stop, lower.  Over and over and over. There are very few things as shocking as seeing one's parent ticked off and naked holding a garage door opener.