Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where are all the "Ballers" ?!

I remember a time when I had to lock the doors at the Meadowland Stake Center on Tuesday nights to keep too many basketball players from crashing our games.  We had at least 10 "regulars" and between 3 and 7 "maybes" each week.  Then people brought their friends.  I recal one night less than a year ago when we have 27 guys show up!  It was a mad house and I ended up just leaving because it was 30 minutes between games once you had to sit.

Two months ago:  we had 8 guys

7 weeks ago:  we had 5

6 weeks ago:  I cancelled because no one committed to coming.  (I went and played down @ Aeroplaza and that was pretty fun, but MUCH LESS challenging competition).

5 weeks ago:  we got 2 guys (myself included)

4 weeks ago:  I recruited like crazy and we got ... 7 guys.

3 weeks ago:  we got 7 guys again ... but not the same 7 guys

2 weeks ago:  we only had 6 guys (but one showed up very late so it was 2 on 3 for a while!)

Last week:  I cancelled because I only had 2 guys committed to coming.

So far this week I only know FOR SURE that 5 guys are coming.  What the heck?!  It makes me wonder if everyone just got old at the same time and we've all stopped being able to play at night.  I know I am more tired the next day, but I still love playing.  Where's the passion?  Where's the commitment?  Where's the love?  Where are my true "ballers" at?

For heaven sakes ... we have had 17 and 19 people respectively for the last two weeks at Volleyball (which I enjoy, but c'mon ... it's not basketball!)

So very sad ... this is probably why the Stake Presidency has already said we will only play Men's Basketball for the "Season" on Tuesdays and Wednesday nights (Thursdays will remain "Ladies Night" @ the gym).  Looks like my fears about playing for the Oakwood basketball team may never come to any head at all.  I guess that's good ... but I miss playing full court ball.  That's the best part of my game ... open court running and gunning ... put me in the half-court and I'm done (mostly).

Oh well ... maybe I am being taught a lesson ... we'll see ... (sigh)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mom, How Can I Ever Thank You Enough?

My mom, Julie Case, smiling at Ben and holding Catalina
(I love this picture because my mom is often smiling
the most when she is with her grandkids!)
Today, October 13th, is my mother's 61st birthday.  She posted on Facebook (which honestly amazes me because she isn't particularly computer-savvy) that she thought she was turning 62 today so she is elated that she got a year back.  That almost sums up my mom perfectly.

I met my mother at a very young age.  I was very impressionable and she took advantage of that, but in a very good way.  She, like most of us, remembers almost exclusively ONLY the "bad" things she did when raising me (none of which I will share now because even though they are funny, this is a tribute to my mom and not a "roast" on Comedy Central ... but my typical humor will still be sprinkled throughout, which is just one more thing you can thank (or blame) my mom for).

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother letting me just be "me" which is about as close to a miracle as I will ever witness.  I was horrible!  Those of you that have known me mostly just as an adult will find this unbelievable but I used to be VERY hyperactive and unable to focus on anything.  I remember my mom telling me stories of my childhood ... one in particular stands out ... I came bounding into her room and pounced on her in the bed and shouted "it's fwee-o-clyock mommie ... let's play" ... this was 3:00 AM!  And despite this kind of rambunctious energy she loved me and supported me.

Oh sure there are funny stories what my parents had to do to get me to calm down, but the truth of it is ... a lesser mother would have taken me for a ride and driven the car off a cliff.  Or beaten me senseless to try and get me to settle down.  Or just shunned me.  Or quarantined me to my room.  Or sent me to a boarding school.  You get the picture ... my amazing mom did NONE of those things.  She just loved me.  She showed patience much more than she would ever believe or care to accept as the truth.

Another memory is of her beautiful garden in our Orem, UT home.  She planted all kinds of good things like raspberries and peas.  I think she probably thought they never grew well but the truth is that I ate every pea and raspberry I could find that was even close to the ripened color.  It's a miracle anyone else ever got any, but year after year she would plant and weed and fertilize and on and on.  I remember "helping" her sometimes, but really I just ate the ripe stuff and ran away.

I remember my mom worked another job outside the home most of my youth (something she would tell you she regrets, but in reality I learned much from that example about doing what needs to be done to make ends meet and sacrificing of your own time to benefit others).  She was (and still is) an amazing typist.  She worked as a transcriptionist for many, many years in all kinds of situations: small offices, hospitals, ER, radiology departments, at home via virtual networks, etc.  I can remember days when I was sick and stayed home and I could hear her typing reports for doctor's feverishly in our home office.  The sound of her typing was comforting and would often lull me to sleep (which you might imagine was a difficult task given my ADHD).  I remember reading a book together (I don't recall the title but I know she will know it) and then her typing the report for me almost faster than I could dictate what I wanted to say.  Those who know me will know that my typing skills are atrocious (I use what I refer to as the 4-finger method, although one of those fingers is my thumb and understands it's place as the spacebar king ... the other fingers seem to fight each other for those middle keyboard letters) ... I digress ... I can type fast enough to keep up with the average joes so no one knows the difference and I give credit to my mother because it was the sound of her typing that taught me what it ought to sound like.  I just mirrored that sound and will never type "normal" again.

My mom supported me through the awkward teenage years.  She would get excited with me after first dates and be there to console me and tell me I'm a "real catch" after difficult break-ups.  She came out to cross country and track meets (could there BE a more boring sport to watch high school kids compete in?!)  She drove me all over the place and when I was close enough in age to drive she always made sure I had a car to get where I needed.

She taught me my love for music and my ability to harmonize with any song.  I still sing songs the way she does and I think it may bother her that I'm stealing her harmony line.  She is a gifted pianist but would never let anyone believe that about her.  She taught me how to clean and I mean CLEAN!  We had what I felt like was ALOT of chores, but the truth is, it kept us "busy and out of trouble" to use my dad's favorite phrase.  It taught me the value of hard work and of taking care of your stuff (a.k.a. not being a hoarder).

My mother was a huge reason I felt confident in serving a two-year mission in LA (even though she bawled like I was going to die there when I first opened up my call).  She did so many things to help me prepare that I didn't even recognize until months later.  She sent me letters every week and packages nearly as often, with homemade cookies and candy and filled with love and spiritual power.  She has been there for every important event in my life and the lives of my children.  Always the graceful host she coordinated graduation and birthday parties, my missionary farewell and homecoming.  She supported the planning of our wedding reception and remains ready, willing, and very able to assist in anything I ever need help with.

Mom, I could write forever on the amazing gifts you have given me and the things you have done for me.  But if I did that then you'd never get to read this because it would never get published.  I love you.  You are much more of an inspiration than you know.  You're not perfect, but you try so hard and that gives me the strength I need to try myself when life gets tough.  If I can be half the parent you were, then I know my kids will turn out great.

I hope your birthday was a blast and I look forward to celebrating many, many more with you in the years to come.  Thanks so much for being my mom!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When is a Banana ready to be eaten?

There are basically four stages of banana-ripeness:
 - Green and hard as a rock -

 - Yellow and sorta soft -

 - Yellow with spots and almost mushy -

 - Black and shriveled -

I absolutely cannot eat green bananas but I know some people who love to cook with them at that stage.  Once they are fully yellow I can barely stomach them without feeling like I'm eating a potato or taro root.  So in a pinch I'll down a yellow banana.  Black and shriveled are just perfect for making banana-bread (at least that's when my wife usually makes the bread and hers is delicious so I trust her method of proofing the bananas).

By a long shot, my favorite banana-ripeness level is the third category I mentioned above: Yellow, with spots and almost mushy.  At this stage the banana almost tastes like it is a sort of creme-filling and if they are cold or mashed up some I think they provide much better flavor on cereal or ice cream, etc.

I love banana-flavored things.  It remains to this day the single best Slurpee flavor EVER!  Bananas and nuts go great together in everything from cereal to muffins to pancakes to bread, not to mention desserts like pies and ice cream (Chunky Monkey by Ben and Jerry's is superb!)

But I am curious if there are more like me out there, because in my current family and my family-of-origin I seem to be the only one who prefers this kind of flavor and especially this kind of almost mushy banana.

So when do you eat them?  Are you a "greenie" or a "pure yellow" fan?  Just wonderin' ...


Monday, October 4, 2010

Whatcha watchin' ?

Lately ... the following TV Shows have had my attention.  Karen and I have been watching literally dozens of episodes each week to get "caught up" on these great shows.  Some we've always loved and others we've heard great things about from friends or family (of course that list is a mile long so we haven't seen all those you've suggested yet).

Since we've been able to watch many of them instantly on Netflix, we're getting up to the current season rather quickly (and our "through the mail" Netflix pattern works well enough to get two discs watched every week).  So without further ado, here are the top shows I'm checking out lately:

#1.  The Office
I just love this show and am a little disappointed that I've not really watched any of it over the past 6 years!  It is very much like my work life (even though they are in a small office and the folks I work with are generally MUCH smarter than the TV show).  It just resonates with real life, even when the situations are so surreal.  A former boss of mine always said that I reminded him of Jim, so I guess that's a compliment.  :)

#2.  Chuck
Although the current season (now that we're caught up) seems to be very similar to the Alias plot-line (mom and dad were both spies and they're both bad and good, etc.) ... I still enjoy the show.  It does remind me of a quote a heard once that "Being is never as entertaining as becoming."  So that must be why season one and early season two were more enjoyable for me.

#3.  Cougar Town
Okay, this is my most guilty pleasure (as the show is not the most clean) ... but it is HILARIOUS !!!  I'll reserve a separate blog sometime in the future to compare the core 6/7 characters in this show with the Friends cast (which is partly why it is just as funny).  But I have literally hurt myself laughing from this show more than pretty much anything I have EVER watched before.  So many quotes but a recent one that I love is the "nonversation" which is that time when two guys are just sitting there, not talking, but lots is "said" between them in the silence.  I laughed three times out loud while writing this because I remembered so many parts that are just too funny to describe.  And I have to say it 'cause they have a super cool version of this you can play on their website:  PENNY CAN !!!

#4.  Bones
Karen kinda got me interested in this one.  I watch mostly because she loves it.  The female lead (aptly nicknamed "Bones") reminds me way too much of an ex-girlfriend: book-smart but socially very awkward.  The actress in the show is quite beautiful though so she's not like my ex in that regard at all!  Anyway, I can't stand the gross bone-related stuff, but the witty writing and banter between the characters is very fun to see.

#5.  Psych
Speaking of witty writing, this show has probably the best writers, if only from the standpoint of: how many one-liners and quips and obscure 80's references can we squeeze in one episode?  I laugh so many times during each episode, and sometimes have to pause the show to explain to Karen why the reference is so funny.  It never translates near as well as I'd hope.  But again the cast of characters and the roles they play set up for so many funny moments (but the show is at it's best when it mercilessly mocks itself and/or other psychic or crime-solving shows).

#6.  Leverage
Best show ever ... that is among those based on a good guy done wrong, who kinda goes a little bad (bends the rules) and does so by hooking up with a group of proverbial bad guys (and girls), who kinda go "good" once they have a taste of what using their powers for the right side feels like.  Again, witty writing and great individual characters.  But this show is set apart because the interplay between the characters is masterful.  The computer geek is envious of the muscle-man fighter, but those tables are turned just as often and the geek is "the cool kid."

#7.  Castle
The two main characters on this show are played by people who I already loved in other venues.  Nathan Fillion was completely lovable yet equally disliked in his role in Firefly, and his character in this show is similar enough to take advantage of his strengths, yet different enough that you don't assume he is one-dimensional as an actor.  The female lead played a vampire in a made-for-TV series starring Noah Wyle (The Librarian).  She was very adept at playing that sexy role and this role has her down-playing her attractiveness as a more hard-core police detective.  The "will they" or "won't they" magic continues between these two opposites that are really quite perfect for one another and that makes it super fun to watch, if not very frustrating to wait for the eventual "Yeah, they did!"

Oops ... gotta go ... Karen's ready for some more humor ... life is sure grand even without DirecTV or cable!  :)


Saturday, October 2, 2010

"English" Walnuts?! How do they know?

Today I needed an afternoon snack and it really needed to be something chocolate.  So I headed to my "food drawer" because I was at work and I usually keep it stocked with enough food to last me several days (you know I have to have my 24-hour kit if we ever get snowed in!)
I was about to enjoy my Little Debbie Fudge Brownies when I noticed something on the package ... it said in big bold letters "with English Walnuts."

Several thoughts entered my head all at once.  Here is my attempt to capture them all and break them apart for your reading pleasure:
#1. Is that "advertising" supposed to excite me or deter me from consuming these?
#2. How do they know they're "English" walnuts?  Do they have an accent?  Or mabybe they like tea and crumpets?
#3. Is there really a big difference between the nationality of walnuts?  Do Jamaican walnuts run faster?
#4. When choosing to eat pre-packaged, thick-as-mud (and just as tasty) brownies, who is really thinking about the tiny specks of nut-like substance that appear in occasional bites of the brownie?  They certainly don't look like the ones pictured on the box, which you can clearly tell are walnuts (and if you look closely you can see they are English because they clearly have terrible dental hygiene).  :)
#5. The Ryder Cup is going on right now ... I better support the team by boycotting these English "nuts".
#6. Was Little Debbie from England?  Or would she be rolling in her grave knowing that we've gone back to the motherland and begun using foreign ingredients in her "tasty" morsels?
#7. Huh ... I've never noticed that Li'l Debbie is wearing a hat that has a chinstrap on it.  And why does her shirt match the background of the packaging material?  Maybe she made her own clothes from leftover tablecloths?

Suffice it to say ... I opted for the much easier to appreciate Swiss Rolls.  Everybody loves Switzerland, right?!  And the packaging has beautiful mountains behind the "enlarged to show detail" picture of these delicious treats.  But then I noticed something on that packaging ... it says "twin-wrapped."  Now a whole new flood of questions and thoughts is flying through my brain!  Why are only "twins" allowed to wrap these precious little cake treats?  Is there a need for them to be identical or can fraternal twins still make the cut?  And who has the right to say that twins are naturally better to do the wrapping?  Do "fake" twins ever try to get jobs at the wrapping stations (like when Joey Tribianni from Friends tries to have a fake twin get him a job doing medical testing)?

Now I'm still hungry and I'm afraid to check any of the other packaging for the bevy of food I have because:
 - the SunChips may not in fact have "Great Multigrain Taste" (why would anyone want "Poor Multigrain Taste" and do they even manufacturing that kind of stuff?!)
 - the peanut butter M&M's bag clearly says "Party Size" and it's just me so I'd feel guilty not having something to celebrate while eating them.
 - Grandma's "Homestyle" Chocolate Chip cookies have a "Fresh New Look" but that might be referring to the picture of Grandma and to be honest she looks more like the witch that gave Snow White the apple.
 - The Austin "Cheese Crackers" say with Cheddar Cheese which makes me wonder why they have to mention the cheese twice in the name?  Are the crackers made of cheese too?  How do they get them to crunch like crackers then?
 - And last but not least ... how can you have a "Low Fat" S'mores Granola Bar Mr Quaker?!  Especially while the Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip bars do not clarify their fat content!  Isn't a "S'More" comprised of equal parts chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow?  So how is that chocolate more "lowfat" than the "chips" variety (which in theory would be smaller right?!  they're "chips!")

Oh no ... I just noticed my bagels must be very sad with their life.
They are after all ... PLAIN!


Friday, October 1, 2010

How do you stop the "Cravings" ?

Everyone gets cravings.  And it is not just food or drink that we crave.  It can be time with people or a break from work and day-to-day life.  You can crave the opportunity to read books or attend sporting events.  Everyone has some "itch" that they just have to scratch every so often.  And just like fasting can make you crave that food even more than usual, any craving can begin to make a person unravel if left unsatisfied for too long.

Cravings don't have to be bad.  You might crave an afternoon run or the "free time" you will have to watch a favorite show or read a book.  Those are not likely to do any harm to anyone, especially not you personally.  But if the "itch" starts calling you, life as you know it can come to a complete stall until you scratch it.

I have LOTS of cravings, some healthy and others ... not so much.  But one in particular just seems to take over my life if too much time passes between "scratching" that itch.  Don't get all weird and start trying to guess or making up cravings that you think fit the description I'll be providing.  I'm not going to share it with anyone (even though that probably makes it sound weird or inappropriate).  Just live in suspense for a while okay?!

I first experienced this particular craving probably over 20 years ago. (Save yourself the lame math related to my age which puts me in my teenage years at this point ... and keep your minds out of the gutter please!)  And since my first introduction to it, I've been more or less hooked.  I've decided numerous times that succumbing to the craving wasn't "like me" and so I have vowed numerous times to stop partaking in it.  But that "itch" just gets stronger and stronger.  I've gone for extended periods of time without giving in to the urge.  I think maybe the longest was close to six months, which may not seem like much but believe me it was in some ways pure torture.  I have convinced myself that there are other "substitutes" that can take the place of it, but they never seem to fully satisfy the craving.  They might buy me another week or two, but that "craving" voice inside my head just keeps calling me back.

I just can't stop my need for this particular craving.  And that disappoints me greatly.  I am not the strongest person alive (physically, mentally, etc. take your pick).  But I don't think I am so weak that I cannot win the battle against this craving.  It's a matter of personal pride now to prove to myself that I can beat it!  Whether or not it has any bearing on anything related to the grand scheme of things, I simply don't like losing!  I don't like thinking that some primitive craving can have that kind of control over me.  Ever!

So we'll see ... we'll see if I can continue to eliminate this craving.  We'll see if an alternative can be found that eliminates the uncontrollable desire for it.  We'll see what kind of weird ideas you readers come up with as to what "my craving" is (although I can guarantee that no one would ever guess it).  If I was a betting man ... I'd bet on me to beat this thing!

But I'll keep you posted ... :)