Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Chicken in a Tree House ?

That is how my almost 4-year-old daughter, Catalina, described the restaurant we went to for breakfast this morning as a family.  Let me back up so you can understand the reference better ...

Karen and I decided last night that we wanted to take the family out to breakfast at a certain restaurant where they give you TWO free kids meals for each adult meal purchased.  Awesome deal right?!  So our plan had been to wake up as early as we do for school and surprise the kids with this eating out experience.

It did not go as planned ... AT ALL!

But I'm off track on what Cat said so let me close that loop for you.  Josh Jr, our oldest son, kept asking "Where are we going?" and his mom was having fun picking on him with short, non-descriptive, and very non-helpful answers.  Out.  To a restaurant.  For breakfast.  Here in town.  And so forth.  Once we were finally in the car Catalina remembered where we were going, as she has eaten there with us before.  And she was happy to help Josh Jr out so she said "I know where we're going!  We are eating at the place with the Chicken in a Tree House!"  Josh Jr did not find this helpful.  In Cat's defense, it is accurate because the menus do have a picture of a chicken and it looks like it could be sitting in a tree house!  :)

At the restaurant, Savannah had asked to sit on my lap ... and she was not feeling well.  The rest of the story is that (less than one minute before our food was brought out to us), Savannah vomited all over herself and down my leg.  Needless to say we asked them to box up our food and we finished our eating out breakfast at our kitchen table.  I felt so bad for Savannah because she felt awful for "ruining our breakfast."  I've never felt like I could be happy about being thrown up on, but when it's your child there certainly isn't any anger when you know they just don't feel good.

How's your day been so far?  :)


Monday off ... so what ?

Yesterday was Memorial Day and the vast majority of American workers had the day off.  This is the first "day off" in the year for many employees, so there is an understandable sense of excitement.  It is also the unofficial kick-off of summertime, so everyone has their RVs and camping equipment out.  BBQ grills are uncovered and you can smell burgers, brats, and hot dogs sizzling over coals or propane.

People break out their bikes and invite the family over.  The whole neighborhood comes alive and because it is a "free day" everyone just seems so much happier.  No "Monday Morning Blues" on this day, for anyone.  Hang out late Sunday night with no fear of what tomorrow brings because you don't have any responsibilities that day, except fun things you want to do!

The 4th of July falls on a Monday this year, so that will be the next "woo hoo" time for most Americans.  Then of course there is Labor Day, which (like Memorial Day) always falls on a Monday.  Time for even more celebration across the nation as we get to relax with a 3-day weekend again and again.

But for me, it is not really anything different or exciting.  In fact, sometimes, it is a bit of a downer.

You see, I normally have Mondays off.  I work Tuesday through Saturday so my "weekend" is always Sunday and Monday.  So I already love Mondays.  But on 3-day weekends I sometimes feel like people are infringing on my day!  And I always have to find a different day of the week to take off from work (to compensate for the holiday hours I'm already not schduled to work on).  It is the rare occassion (this year happens to be one of those) when I can make my own three-day weekend by taking the day after the holiday off.  Usually I just end up with a middle-of-the-week day off, which just isn't the same at all.

So I hope everyone had a fun day off yesterday.  I know I did.  Hanging out with my family for burgers and games, etc. is almost always a great time.  But next Monday, I'll be laughing silently to myself as I watch everyone trudging off to work while I sleep in!  :)


Monday, May 30, 2011

Is It Finally Over ?

Hard to believe but it is true.  The end is here.  After a long journey, we've reached the conclusion.  We all knew it would happen, some even calculated the exact day and guessed at the time.

Alas, here is the final Progressive shirt picture ... accompanied by a few "extras" of a Progressive hat I never really wear anymore (except outside for yardwork, ocassionally, and sometimes when I'm painting).

If it seems like I look super excited ... it's because I am!  Blogging has been a bit more of a chore this month as I have tried to tie in specific blog topics with the style of shirt I was wearing in the picture for that day.
As you can see it resulted in me going many days between blogging bursts, which is not very fair to you readers.

I am looking forward to resuming a blog with less pictures of me and more fun, hopefully witty, commentary on the weird things we all see and experience in this life here on earth!


Is It a Game for Her ?

My 11-month old daughter Myra is SO cute, just like all babies are absolutely cute at that age!  I know my other kids did adorable things like she is doing at this age, but I wasn't blogging back then and we didn't have a digital camera, etc.

A little out of focus (sorry!)
but you can see her
playful side in this pic!  :)
Lately when I have been in the midst of changing her diaper, she seems to think it is hilarious to roll over and crawl away ... as fast as she can go!  This doesn't upset me as I learned very early on to hold a child's legs until their backside is all clean so stuff doesn't end up everywhere. 

I am certain this is not the only time any child has done this and I know it won't be the last.  There is nothing extraordinary about this behavior, but I still felt impressed to blog about it because it made me wonder ... does she have a concept that what she is doing is funny?!

Myra Jasmine sitting in a
chair @ Grandma Julie's
house.  Sooo cute!  :)
 I'm unsure at what age children begin to recognize game-playing.  Laughs and giggles and smiles happen constantly with babies, but when is it just a natural reaction and when is it the earliest manifestation of their sense of humor and joking personality?  How do you know the difference?

Myra seems to sense that she is doing something that bothers me, but doesn't really upset me.  This is further evidenced by the fact that she only crawls a little ways away and then turns to look at me for a response.  When I say "Get back here" or reach for her leg she laughs in an excited and somewhat scared way as she high-tails it out of my reach!  As frustrating as this can be when we're in a hurry to get somewhere, I am never really even "bothered" by it ... I just find it amusing!

This afternoon, while watching her and Savannah (who has a mild fever) - because the rest of the family is at the VGRA pool for opening day - Myra decided she wanted some play time with daddy and just kept attacking me with an open mouth and soft, playful hits with her arms and/or legs.  I got down on her level and wrestled with her for toys and a ball, etc.  She giggled playfully and seemed to have a pretty clear understanding of our "play time."  It is so fun to see each child's personality come out little by little.

Today's Progressive shirt of the day is ... what appears to be a repeat, but I actually have TWO of this same shirt.
This is my XXL sized version of this shirt,
which is much more comfortable to wear
than the L version in my prior post.
The hat is a "commemorative" item too!

How Hard was THAT ?!

So my wife is the president of a local Pool Board ... blah blah blah, I know ... you already know that.  One of the things that the pool has been talking about doing is set up a good e-mail address, Facebook page, and website for the pool.  And they've been talking about doing this for so very many months.

Today I established an e-mail address (VGRApool@yahoo.com) and set up a Facebook Profile Page (VGRA Pool) for them.  I added pictures of the pool to the Facebook page and also added the current pool board membership e-mail addresses to the address book for the pool e-mail.  Sure it took a little time to do this, but certainly not that much time!  As for the website ... that will be another matter for another day, but for the time being I think having the Facebook page and e-mail will go a LONG way toward bringing communication with the pool into the 21st century.

On to the Progressive shirt of the day ...

My newest Progressive shirt.
Don't ya just LOVE the
baby blue color on me?!  :)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

When are we going ?!

I need to go golfing!

I've tried three times in the past month to get out and play at least 9 holes, but each attempt has been foiled by a different circumstance that is insurmountable.

First, I was going to go golfing with my co-worker Bill, but something at the school for one of my kids kept me from being able to go.  No big deal.

Then, I set up to go golfing with another former co-worker, but we never could find a date or time that would work for both of us.  He couldn't get time off from his current job or I had a meeting I couldn't miss or one of our families had an "event" that we couldn't justify skipping.  No big deal again ... there's always later in the summer for us ... maybe.

Finally, I promised my good buddy Tony that I would take him golfing if he would help me rotate my tires.  It is now almost a week since we rotated those darn tires, but he has such a long "honey do" list (not just from his wife, but from work, from the in-laws, and from derilect friends like me, etc.) that we can't seem to commit to one 2-3 hour period of time.  Now it IS a big deal!

I've thought about going myself, but I've never actually played a round of golf alone.  I'm not scared to do that, but I'm a HACK!  And my luck is that I would be added to a threesome already set to play ... and they'd all be scratch golfers.  What kind of solo-golfing idiot are they going to think this guy is when he comes out to play alone and barely breaks 50 over 9 holes?!

So I sit and wait and plot and plan and cancel and reschedule and cry and whine and blog about it and call other people and put the clubs in my car (just in case) and cut coupons and budget money and confirm times when it would be okay with Karen and on and on and on ... but still no actual golf.  :(
And here's my "oldest" Progressive shirt ... almost time to retire it ...
I bought this shirt around my
5th anniversary with Progressive.
It came in the mail before my actual
anniversary shirt, so it is
technically the oldest one I own.

How Can I Help Him ?

From as far back as I can really remember, I have struggled with what can only be categorized as severe ADHD (although when I was younger and on Ritalin it was just called ADD).

For those who aren't familiar with those acronyms, this is what they represent:
ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADD = Attention Deficit Disorder

Either way, this is a real condition in which your brain and thoughts go so fast you struggle to keep up.  And this causes all sorts of problems.  In school, it can be difficult to concentrate and challenging to complete tasks and assignments.  Sure you can excel in "creative" writing, but virtually everything else scholastically is very difficult.  In personal relationships, this inability to "stay on task" can create rifts in communication, which can leave the other party feeling unimportant or unloved or unappreciated.  At work, during games, playing sports ... the list goes on and on filled with activities that become even more challenging when you cannot just do them and instead have to focus on doing just those activities (as your brain is always trying to multi-task even though you rarely can accomplish that successfully).

I "trained" myself to overcome this condition as a result of having to take Ritalin to "calm myself."  It always made me feel like a zombie or like I was in a long tunnel and all noise but whatever was immediately in front of me was like the teacher from the Charlie Brown specials ...

My family dutifully asked me, when I was not "acting" appropriately, "Did you take your medication today?" and I got sick of it.  I hated the way I felt.  I hated the way people looked at me and reacted to my actions when I was "out of control."  I hated that question.  So I paid close attention to how I "acted" when I did take my medication and then simply stopped taking it.  To avoid being "caught" I would act exactly like I knew I acted when I had taken my meds.  It wasn't a perfect plan, but it did eventually work and I weaned myself of the medication.  This was, of course, a huge surprise to my parents when they finally found out, but I consider it one of my greatest success stories.

All of this is leading to my eventual point, which is this ... my second son, Ben, has ADHD ... and I fear his is even worse than mine was at his age. This has not been "confirmed" by a doctor, but I feel fairly competent to assess this as a recovering sufferer myself.  The signs are all there.  He does okay in school, after having excelled in earlier grades.  When he is reading a book or watching a movie, he completely tunes everything else out.  He forgets even the tiniest of responsibilities, sometimes even while he is doing them!
And he beats himself up about it ... just like I used to do (and still do sometimes).  There is a difference between kids being kids and ADHD sufferers.  There is a constancy to the excessive thoughts that come flying in when you're dealing with ADHD.  And there is virtually no "off" switch.

I could wax poetic on this forever, but my main issue is ... I don't know how to help Ben through this!  As a parent I hate nothing more than seeing my children suffer.  I've dealt with the difficulty of this disorder for my entire life and my heart aches to think of my son suffering through what I have experienced.  I worry about my oldest son too, but not for ADHD.  I worry about how frail he is (toothpick thin) and how awkward that can make just about anything in life.  It is a miracle (and testament to my awesome parents) that I made it through childhood ... as a hyperactive, short-attention spanned, skinny, short, mouthy kid.  Thankfully Ben and Josh Jr already have so many great qualities that it took me decades to pick up.  They will be just fine, but I dread the days ahead where they will both suffer through trials and difficulties of life.

It's getting to the end of the closet ... here's another Progressive shirt ...
These shirts were given out as part of an
internal marketing campaign, aimed at
showing employees how PROGRESSIVE
we all are ... and how that's a good thing!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's a "Turn Signal" ?!

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my driving pet peeves.

What is it you ask?

Failure to use turn signals, I reply.

I know it shouldn't bother me too much, but it really, really does!
Why do you think they spent time and energy building that into your car?!

So because I had nothing better to do, I decided to do an unofficial test of the drivers around me.  Here were the results (and yes I did write them down as soon as I got to work so I wouldn't forget them.  You can't make this stuff up!):
 - On Powers, from Dublin until Research, 21 people changed lanes in front of me.  Only 6 used their signal before moving over (left or right).
 - At Powers and Hwy 83 only 2 of 15 drivers had their left turn signal on.
 - At Powers and New Life Road it was better ... 8 out of 12 drivers used their right turn signal.
 - At New Life and Voyager Parkway it got worse again ... 3 out of 8 drivers used their right signal.
 - And last but not least, on Voyager, from New Life to Sybilla Lane, 7 people changed lanes in front of me.  Only 2 used their signal before moving over, but one signalled after they moved.  Real helpful ... NOT!

I suppose the reverse is just as annoying ... driving behind someone with a turn signal on who is not ... actually ... turning ... ever!  I just don't think it is too much to ask that we be courteous to others around us as we drive by using the signal for its designed purpose ... to inform others of you intent to turn or switch lanes.  Maybe it is just another sign of the times that people don't feel the need to be courteous any more.

Today's Progressive shirt is a sweatshirt ... and I cannot remember for the life of me when or where or for what reason I got it.  I still like it though.  :)

Why use REAL strawberries ?

I've mentioned before that I am a "frequent flyer" at Sonic's Happy Hour.  Mixed drinks and slushes for 1/2 price always sound good to me.

So a few weeks ago, Karen tried one of those McDonald's Frozen Strawberry Lemonades ... and she loved it!  Being the thoughtful husband I am, I decided to surprise her and get her a Sonic Strawberry Lemonade (forgot to try it as a slush) so she could see which she liked better (as the McDs ones are a lot more pricey, especially compared to "happy hour" drinks).

I decided to taste test it before I brought it home and ... BLECH!  Not the taste mind you, the seeds!  I did NOT expect to take a sip of their tasty beverage and get a mouth full of strawberry seeds!

You purists can deride me all you want, but give me strawberry flavoring ANY DAY over the real thing ... IF you are talking about drinks!  I love strawberries!  My kids have learned my "secret" which is to cut out the white part of the strawberry and fill the hole with sugar before eating the whole thing like sushi ...
in ... one ... big ... bite!

But in a drink?!  Why would you want the seeds in there?!  Strawberry flavoring is just as sweet and I just don't want to have to sip through a filter to get that goodness in me!  Yes, I do detest pulpy orange juice too!  If I wanted pulp, I'd EAT an orange!  There is just no sense in leaving those things in there!

Karen liked it though and has since tried a Lemon Slush with Strawberry added and says they are just as good as the McDs frozen lemonades ... so I guess it all worked out ... except ... for the stupid seeds that it took me forever to brush and floss out of my teeth!

Did you think I forgot?!  Of course not!  Here's the Progressive Shirt of the Day from my own personal collection ...
This is a St Patrick's Day special!  Seriously!
We "volunteers" wear it while marching in
the Annual St Patrick's Day Parade here in
the Springs.  It is brighter than it appears!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Will I Ever Remember ?

I've completed literally hundreds of home improvement projects over the last 12+ years as a homeowner.  In that time Karen and I have owned three different homes, all with plenty of "work" to be done on them.

In our first home, I fixed countless things.  I landscaped the side, front, and back yards.  I put in a nice walkway from the front of the house to the backyard.  We had new carpet installed, painted EVERY room, and I even re-painted our master bedroom before we sold it.  I also re-tiled the kitchen and bathroom floors and updated molding and baseboards.  I even put in an entirely new bathroom in the basement.

In our second home (now our "rental property"), the work continued.  After two full years in the house we finally determined a painting scheme that would flow properly from the kitchen to the dining room to the great room and then up the stairs and through the hallway leading to all the bedrooms.  The floor plan was very open so we had to "test" several paint set-ups to find one that would work.  The basement was completely unfinished when we moved in and I framed, put up sheetrock, and rolled out old carpet remnants to make it "liveable."  The backyard had a tiny porch, which I doubled with a poorly constructed (just because it took way too much cement) second patio.  I built a huge shed on the side of the house (located too close to the manifold of the sprinkler system I also installed).  In the front yard I built flower boxes for Karen's lilac bushes, which I also planted.  I re-built the rock boxes along the side yard.  On the other side of the yard I tore out the old railroad-tie retaining wall and replaced it with a "stone" retaining wall (made up of 12-inch by 8-inch by 4 inch concrete stones).  I planted a tree in the front and back yard.  I also created a rose garden / flower boxes along the walkway to our front door.  Up from that I built a true garden, where we grew all kinds of vegetables ... and weeds.  I painted what I have been told were very impressive themes in each of the upstairs bedrooms (a castle in the girls room, hand-prints in Broncos-colors in the boys room, and a complete brick wall - based on our cool archway between the bedroom and bathroom - in our master bedroom).  The list goes on, especially in the garage storage I created and the hidden workbench, etc.

In our current home, I haven't done much ... yet ... except building the second set of CD and DVD storage spaces in our walls and some "basement finishing" work (tile in the laundry and bathroom areas and baseboards, etc.)  I have built storage in the attic for all of our Christmas stuff (there is a LOT of it!) and the garage is fairly well organized too.  But the point is, most of the work is left to be done on this current home ... and THAT is where the title of this blog comes from.

With all the work I've done on the previous homes (and thus far in this house), rare (if ever) is the occassion when I actually had the forethought to take "before" pictures!  And the trend has continued!  This past Thursday I began painting our "home office" and do you think I took pictures of what it looked like beforehand?!  Of course not!  Sheesh!  Hopefully this blog will help me remember to get pictures of the shed before I convert it into a woodworking shop ... and of the side yard before I build the retaining wall and plant the garden with the walkway next to it ... and of the front yard before I move the tree to the northeast rock section and hang the basketball hoop and pave the west rock section and add other trees and flower boxes.

Eh ... probably not.  I guess I'm doomed to just say "You shoulda seen it before I did all this work!"  Just trust me ... it looked WAY worse before!  :)

Here's another Progressive shirt o' the day ...
Another "old" and "retired" shirt.
This was from our sponsorship
of the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
Bad.  Marketing.  Idea.

This is the "back" of the shirt.
Our "game" was mostly a failure.

Does anything I say stay in your head ?

I'm convinced that my children's ears have a hole that goes straight through their heads.  I can't be sure, because when I look inside there is so much wax I can't see out the other side ... but that has to be the explanation as nothing else logically makes sense.

The other day I was spraying texture on several areas of walls around our house that had been damaged by all sorts of things.  I told my kids very loudly (not a surprise for anyone who knows me) NOT to touch or lean against any of the walls for at least 30 minutes.  I can count on one hand the number of times in the last week when ANY of my kids has leaned against any of these walls ... but within 10 minutes of saying NOT TO DO THIS there were at least three incidents of me needing to remind them of this (and just as many more "touch ups" needed).

To be fair, I shouldn't have touched up the walls while they were in the house.  They are kids after all and therefore prone to making mistakes based on curiosity or just plain bad luck.  But the texture on the walls is only the most recent example of my words falling on the "deaf ears" of my children.

Perhaps the answer is that they have figured out how to tune out the specific sound of MY voice.  I notice that when one of their siblings calls them a bad name (no matter how quietly it is said under their breath and facing the opposite direction of them while also walking out of the room and with the TV on in the background), they hear that LOUD and CLEAR!  But when I am pronouncing something important for them to listen to, such as the phrases "It's bedtime!" or "Hang up your backpack." or "Is that where your book goes?" it is as though a tree fell in the forest and made no noise at all.

Sigh.  What parent hasn't felt this way hundreds of times in their life?  Oh well ... here's the Progressive shirt of the day ... I SAID ... Here's the PROGRESSIVE shirt of the day !!!
This is my current FAVORITE shirt!
Another in the series of shirts I got for
my team, this was last year's offering and
it is "Eco-Friendly" ... but what I like the
most is the color and the comfortable fit!

How does she sit so calm and still ?

I have 6 kids.  Most of you readers already know this, but for those that didn't ... surprise!

My youngest daughter Myra is just over 11 months old (at the time I am writing this anyway).  And just like my other children she is very unique.  Perhaps the most unique thing that she does is this ...
Note how she wraps her right foot around
my arm for better balance.  Too cool!
She LOVES to sit high in the air, balanced on just the palm of my hand, with my fingers behind her butt for support.  NONE of my other kids ever wanted to do this, or anything much like it, at all.  I think Josh Jr enjoyed being tossed in the air and I recall Ben and Brooklyn loving me to do "baby body slams" where I gently tossed them on their backs on a very softly padded couch cushion.  But Savannah was NEVER a fan of even being lightly tossed in the air and Catalina only enjoyed it maybe once or twice (as reckless as she is that puzzles me!)

So Myra will just sit and sit and sit up there.  In fact, when she is in a somewhat grumpy mood and doesn't need a diaper change or food and is not tired, holding her in the air like this is the perfect thing to calm her down.  She will even put her arms up while I'm holding her in my arms to signal that she wants "more."

I'm sorry for those parents or readers out there who freak out about this, but I've NEVER dropped a child and NEVER lose control of them in my arms or hand.  I think it's cool and I know my dad used to do it to me and my siblings when we were younger so maybe it's just a legacy being passed on.

And the Progressive shirt of the day is ...
If you're thinking "That
doesn't say Progressive!"
Wait for it ...
look on the back

This is the back of the t-shirt
which is from a partnership
we have with the Motorcycle
artists from SuckerPunchSallys.

A Day of "Rest" ?

Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest, right?  Not for me.  Not yesterday.  Almost never in fact.

Yesterday went something like this:

8:15am - Up and shaving and showering for church.

8:50am - Out the door with Ben and lots of "stuff" to use to save seats for Stake Conference.

9:07am - Begin warm-ups with the Stake Choir.

9:13 to 9:40am - Practice both pieces for Stake Choir (we sang "Lead Kindly Light" and "How Firm a Foundation").  I was told the both sounded great, but the acoustics up in the choir seats are terrible so I couldn't hear any other members of the choir or the piano.  It was a little weird.

9:50 to 10:00am - Sang prelude hymns for Stake Conference.

10:00am - 12:00pm - Attended Stake Conference (sitting in the choir seats is very different than sitting with the massive congregation).

12:15pm - Get home and begin making pancakes

12:40pm - Finally sit down to eat my lunch (pancakes and "Cajun Cheese Eggs")

1:00pm - Begin cleaning and taping baseboards in the "home office."

1:05pm - Teach Josh Jr how to clean and tape baseboards so I can tape the line between the top and bottom colors in the "home office."

1:33pm - Begin making doughnuts with Karen.  No that is not a euphemism for something else.  Just doughnuts!

2:01pm - Back to taping the walls in the "home office" and congratulate Josh Jr on a job pretty well done (especially for his first time doing anything related to painting).

2:20pm - Begin two loads of laundry (so nice to have dual washers and dryers)

2:38pm - Paint the "tape line" in the "home office."

3:04pm - Switch laundry loads and turn on sprinkler outside.

3:25pm - Second part of making doughnuts with Karen (rolling, cutting, setting aside to rise).

4:12pm - Remember all too late that the sprinkler has not been moved.  Head outside to frantically move it to another area of the mostly still dormant lawn.

4:25pm - Begin frying doughnuts.

5:07pm - Remember again that I need to move the water.  Get outside and just turn it off.

5:31pm - Load up kids (and doughnuts) in the car to go to the Lockard's for Grandpa Don's birthday party.

5:58pm - Help Rick finish cooking the steak (he did a great job without me and my "help" was mostly complimenting him and eating the "test" pieces).

6:30 - 8:30pm - Grandpa Don's birthday dinner, presents, cake, and other stuff.

8:59pm - Kids in bed (finally!) and time to fold laundry loads 1 and 2.

9:22pm - Time to switch laundry and fold loads 3 and 4.

9:44pm - Begin this blog post, while waiting for the final two loads of laundry to finish.

Sometime after Midnight ... head to bed so I can sleep a little before a nice "quiet" day tomorrow ... NOT!  :)

Editor's Note:  I was up at 1:20am taking care of Myra until after 3:00am.  Great end to the day!Today's Progressive clothing picture is here for your comments ...
Yep, that's right!  An "official" Flo apron!
We got these at work last year and I have
since used it at least weekly when making
pancakes on Sundays.  At least it
keeps my church pants clean!  :)

Wants or Needs ?

Lately people I interact with seem to have a flawed understanding of the crucial difference between these two words and moreso the concept behind what each one represents.  People seem to use both words interchangeably, which is not only a poor use of the English language, but is also a terrible injustice for truth-seekers.

The word WANT is defined as this:
to wish, crave, demand, or desire.

The word NEED is defined as this:
a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation.

A few examples:
 - You don't NEED a brand new car with all kinds of special features and an outrageous monthly payment.  You WANT that.  You "need" suitable transportation to and from your destinations.  Bus, car-pool, or an old beater car would all meet your "needs."
 - You don't NEED more time off from work.  This is something you WANT, but likely not something you are willing to sacrifice your income to get.  You "need" to balance your work and life better, along with be more stringent in your budget if you want to be able to work less and be with you family more.
 - You think your spouse or partner NEEDS to treat you better, but to be perfectly honest you may need to adjust your expectations.  It is highly unlikely your wedding vows included the phrase "wait on them hand and foot, take them out to dinner every night, and disavow any interest in anything besides them."

I do not believe this is a generational thing where these Gen-Y kids (who typically have a greater sense of entitlement than any prior generation) are the only violators.  I interact with many people from the Baby Boomer or Silent generations and some of them are worse off than any Gen-Y person I'm in regular contact with.  The difference is that this error in the ability to decipher between wants and needs is easier to correct earlier in life, before patterns of behavior are set more permanently.

So here are a few notes to my children who will one day read this (some much sooner than later):
 - You did not NEED brand new clothes every school year.  You needed clothes that fit, and your mother and I always provided those (and your aunts, uncles, and grandparents too!)
 - You did not NEED a cell phone in grade school ... or middle school ... or until you were of driving age!  Yes, all your friends might have one, but I'd bet their parents sometimes regret that decision.
 - You did not NEED to have lavish birthday parties at expensive play areas.  You will be better off for understanding the value of money and seeing it not wasted for a "name brand party."  I think your friends had just as much fun at the pool or having a sleepover at our house or whatever we ended up doing.
 - You do not NEED a car!  When you WANT a car bad enough to pay for it (including gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.) you will have one.  Be grateful that your mother and I let you borrow our car(s) as often as we did let you use them.
 - You NEED our love and support.  And that you will ALWAYS have, even when you make bad decisions based on things you want.  Your mother and I NEED you to know that we love you!

And here's one of my favorite Progressive shirts ...
This shirt was from our Diversity Art Show
in 2009.  On the left sleeve it reads
"About the Right of Being Different"
which was the name of the art show.

Why'd you have to ask THAT ?!

While on the phone with my wife last Saturday, she mentioned how cool it would be to go and see the new Pirates movie.  Then she says "Maybe we could go on Monday.  What do you think?"

Dadgumit woman!  I think it's a great idea!

Which is why I already arranged for my awesome mom to watch our kids so I can "surprise" you and take you to a 3-D showing of that very movie!

Why must you seemingly always ruin my best-laid secretive plans?!  :)

I'm so mad I can barely muster the introduction to this next Progressive shirt ... here it is ... sigh ...
An "old" shirt, if only because it says
Progressive DIRECT on it, which is
what my division was called until we
combined into Personal Lines in 2008.

Why is it so fun ?

It began many, many years ago in my Sophomore year of high school.  I had a few friends who had done it and they all acted like they were so cool because of it.  I thought that it was crazy and a little reckless, but it also DID seem like a very cool thing to do.  It involved some careful planning so you could avoid getting caught, but once I thought it through and considered the implications, I made my decision to do it.

I still remember the first time.  It was on a Thursday (much like the day I wrote this blog).  I had been planning for the whole week and when the moment came I was ready.  I should have planned to do it with a few friends instead of alone, so that I'd know for sure I was doing it right.  But I think it is one of those things you can figure out on your own without too much effort.  After the bell rang to signal the change between 4th and 5th period, I made my move.  I thought I was soooo stealthy as I headed calmly down the hall toward the door.  I stepped outside and headed toward the school library.  I entered and there were a surprising number of students inside.  I scanned the room and found a suitable table and then I sat down.  A few minutes later it began.  The school bell rang signaling the start of 5th period.  And I stayed ... right ... there.

That's right ... I ditched class. I skipped school. I played hookey.

Ah, the innocence of "the first time."  And stupid me spent the hour studying in the library.  It was a less than glorious beginning, but it did teach me a few valuable lessons.
#1. "Planning" to skip class, work, or any sort of event still counts!
#2. It can be more fun when ditching plans is spontaneous.
#3. You better be prepared to handle the consequences like a MAN!

So I'm wondering if any of my readers out there ever willfully decide to "skip" anything?  Have you gotten burned as a result, or did it end up making little difference in the grand scheme of things?  I myself will still occassionally choose to give myself a "break" maybe a few times each year.  But I'm still very planful about it and it is more like #1 on my list above.

And the Progressive shirt of the day ...
NOT a fan of this shirt!  Can you tell ?!
I got this from a friend at work, who had
gotten it at an off-site leadership meeting.
It has been "retired" ... my friend has not.

Slander or Harassment ?

I think I have mentioned before that my wife is the President of a Pool Board for a local pool (actually it's near the home where she grew up ... that her parents still live in).  This is a challenging responsibility for her, but one that she has benefitted from greatly.  She has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of her comfort zone and ability to handle a variety of leadership tasks.  She never ceases to amaze me with the way she is committed to the success of this local pool, where she once roamed the patio as a lifeguard in her younger days.

My blog title is in reference to the former president of the board, who, after some questionable decisions and arguably poor leadership, simply resigned from the pool board.  Since that time, this person (note that I am being VERY careful not to say he or she so as to keep things as objective as possible) has been sending e-mails to my wife and complaining about all sorts of mostly ridiculous things.  This person and their spouse attended the general pool membership meeting and both attempted to raise all sorts of ruckus.  Karen put them both in their place, but in a respectful way.

Last week, after several more rude and disrespectful e-mails, this person finally went off the deep end (like the pool reference?!  Genius, I know!) and made statements in an e-mail that were rude, inaccurate, and included threats of suing the pool, the board, and even Karen.

So I'm asking any readers out there who can help me out on this ... is that sort of behavior "Slander" or "Harassment" ?  Or ... is it something else altogether?  I am just wondering so that should this person choose to send another e-mail again, I will know what to say to them when I call them at their work or home number.  Karen and I (mostly "I" because Karen was nice and let me type) sent a strongly worded, but truthful and respectful e-mail to him/her last Monday evening.  In it, we spelled out that Karen will not be responding to ANY other e-mails from this person regarding their issue which they created for themselves and could resolve for themselves but are being too petty to do so.  If you're interested in the "rest of the story" just give me a shout and I'll gladly fill you in ... should only take 5-10 minutes.  :)

I've never felt the need to defend my beautiful wife (she is more than capable of handling her own defense and doesn't really need me to stand up for her) ... but in this case I am getting more angry the more this person refuses to take responsibility for their own actions.  I don't want to take anything away from Karen, but I can see that these words and false accusations and threats hurt her to the core ... and THAT gets me riled up more than anything!  I'll stand behind or directly in front of Karen on this or any other issue and just want her and everyone that ever reads this blog to know that.
Do NOT slander or harass my wife !!!

And to finish on an upbeat note, here's another of my Progressive shirts ...
This is another shirt I got from my
"little" brother (who is taller than me).
I've ironed and even dry cleaned it
but those wrinkles are still there between
those top buttons.  Oh well ... :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Need A Pencil ?

These are the pencils I sharpened
... just today ...
I'm looking forward to summertime and the kids being out of school for many reasons, but one of the most oddball reasons is this:  I am sooooo tired of sharpening pencils!

Our "fancy" pencil sharpener
We bought an electric pencil sharpener sometime last year to help us keep up, but with 5 kids in school (and 3 of them needing pencils for homework virtually every day) we nalways seem to be running out of properly sharpened pencils.

I personally have spent 20-30 minutes sharpening pencils with the electric sharpener at least 3 times ... since January!

Today was the last day I'll have to sharpen them for at least 3 months ... and I remember when it used to be cool and fun and exciting and a priviledge to sharpen pencils with an electric sharpener.  Now it just feels like WORK!  :)

And here's another Progressive shirt o' mine:

This is another shirt I bought for my team.
In fact, I think this was the first shirt
I ever bought for a team when I became
a Supervisor @ Progressive.
Ahhh, memories!  :)

What To Do ?

I'm perplexed.  Despite what you may think, that doesn't happen often.

I am a planning kind of person and I'm almost always thinking about what comes next.  I'm one of those list makers and I like to know what's in store for the next hour, day, week, month, year, etc.  So with Summer on the horizon my thoughts always turn to the list of projects I have wanted to get completed but ... the weather has been my excuse not to do them.  But I don't know how to prioritize these projects because they're all things I want done NOW!

Here's what I'm considering for this late Spring into Summer time:
 - Gain HOA approval for, Purchase, and Install a basketball hoop above the garage.
 - Move the tree on the side yard to the front yard.
 - Gain HOA approval for, and then hire or pour myself the extension of our driveway (to add a little more parking space for get-togethers but also so we can have a 3-point line on our basketball "court").
 - Fix the sprinklers (front yard is 100% important, back yard = maybe 50/50)
 - Install retaining wall on the East side of our property.
 - Prepare ground near said retaining wall for a garden.
 - Plant garden (this will almost certainly have to be done the year after finishing the above two items).
 - Rotate my tires (& replace the brake pads on the front two tires while I'm at it).
 - Re-plant / re-pot our three "spider" plants (and my small one at work, and the other plant I have at work, and our other plants at the house).
 - Redecorate our "home office" with a Hawaii theme (this involves: putting up border wallpaper, painting the walls, hanging all the Hawaii knick-knacks we have, hanging our "spider" plants and their "legs" along the ceiling, adding insulation to the North-facing exterior wall, re-arranging our computer desks, and finally hanging the pictures and artwork back on the walls).
 - Finish painting Brooklyn's room.
 - Begin painting ALL other rooms (Master bedroom, Josh Jr's room, Ben's room, Savannah / Cat's shared room, etc.)
 - Reassemble the "playhouse / swingset" in the backyard (and stain it too).
 - Stain the fence (several areas that have been replaced and never done).
 - Build gate for East side of house (walkway to eventual garden).
 - Clean up landscaping in our "spice garden" in the backyard.
 - Convert my big shed in the backyard to a working woodshop.
 - Finish the edging in the basement (and hang closet doors in all the kids rooms).
 - Purchase and hang louvered doors for our utility closet in the basement.
 - Trim trees, rose bushes, and lilac bushes at our rental property.
 - Research, Purchase, and Install "fake" grass at our rental property.

So feel free to cast your vote and maybe I'll provide pictures (if applicable) once these various projects (if any) get completed.

And here's the next shirt in my line of Progressive wear:
I got this shirt from my Site Manager
when I played in his four-some at a
golf tournament in 2009.  We lost ... bad!
But I have to say my game was
about the best I have ever played!

Friday, May 13, 2011

How Much Would It Cost ?

I think I could be someone's personal servant
or slave for a full year if the price were right.

I'm not talking about me doing anything unscrupulous, illegal, or against my moral values in exchange for a huge sum of money, but I am talking about being there for anyone at any time for the right amount of money and doing virtually whatever they tell me to do.

The "right" range seems like something between $500,000 and $1 million, in exchange for literally doing whatever, whenever someone wanted me to do it.  Wash their car, clip their toenails, cancel dates, tell them they look great, send mean e-mails, etc.  The list is endless and unless it is one of the "exclusions" listed above, I'm pretty sure I'd be up for anything.

What about you?  Could you sacrifice all your own needs, desires, wants, time, energy, talents, pride, personal space, sleep, exercise, etc. for a "reasonable" amount of money?

And of course, here's your Progressive shirt of the day ...

This shirt is one of my least favorite ...
so it's on my blog post about doing
anything (even if I don't want to!)
Fitting, don't you think ?!  :)

What's up with the Double Standards ?!

Lately I've been having experiences in all areas of my life where people are setting, upholding, or just turning a blind eye to what I believe are double standards.  In my personal life, in my professional life, and in the experience shared below, I am finding that who you are, where you come from, your gender, your experience, your age, etc. seem to have some impact in the standards against which you are being measured.  I am hoping it is just something I'm experiencing and that it is just a temporary or rare occurrence, but I worry that this will continue as I see parallels in society at large nowadays.

Feel free to skip this story if you don't care about a stupid basketball experience I had recently.  Really, I'll never know so there's no risk here if you just jump ahead.  It's not a "trick" related to double standards.  You're good to go.  :)

This past Tuesday evening at basketball, one of the used-to-be-regular-players-but-has-only-been-coming-sporadically guys decided that, since we were only playing 4-on-4 on a full court, we needed to institute a "no fast breaking" rule.  In his mind I am certain the rule was intended to eliminate only "cherry picking" but his application of the rule required that no pass could be made over half-court and the ball had to be dribbled past that point before long passes toward the basket could be made.  I have a different name for this rule ... it's called the "Old, slow, lazy, fat-guy-who-doesn't-have-any-ability-to-run-and-hates-playing-defense" rule.  Or more personalized, the "Slow Josh Down" rule, as fast breaking is probably 80% of what little basketball game I still have at this age.

Anyway, after begrudgingly following that rule meticulously for nearly the full 2 hours of playing time, his teammate got a loose defensive rebound and he happened to be down at the other end of the course.  His teammate threw the ball 3/4 of the length of the court and he proceeded to put in an easy lay-up for 2 points.  As he ran back down the court smiling big and calling out the score of the game (now tied because of his awesome basket!) I challenged the play.  I asked if we were now allowing full-court passes and fast break points ... and he complained about it!  He started claiming that "There is a difference in what I just did and what you do."  And I said "Actually there are two.  First, I actually run on my plays.  And second, you don't see the value of that rule when you're the one who is scoring easy buckets."  One of his teammates then added fuel to the fire and told me to stop "whining."  Are you KIDDING ME ?!

Eventually, order was restored.  They took the points off and the ball back on their end of the court.  In true "basketball karma" form, they had a turnover and we scored a 3-pointer on our next possession.  But the eventual victory didn't taste as sweet because I knew this guy was still bothered by the fact that he had to be held accountable for his own stupid rule!

Anyway, moving on ... now that I've finished "whining" you can check out today's Progressive Shirt of the day.  I hope you like it ... :)

To be perfectly honest ...
I have NO IDEA when or why
I got this t-shirt.
But it looks good on me!  :)

Who Needs a Mom ?

I get Sports Illustrated every week and one of the articles I always read is the "Point After" section.  It used to be that Rick Reilly wrote this column every week, but some years ago it switched to a rotation between several different writers.  This past week's article brought me almost to tears and is a great example of the triumph of the human spirit and the way in which "family" does not have to be defined by "genetic relationships."

I hope you enjoy it ...

By Phil Taylor

It should have been me, Joe Riddle thought. For months following the January 2001 plane crash that took the lives of 10 members of Oklahoma State's basketball program, the feeling haunted him. Riddle, a producer-engineer on the Cowboys' radio broadcasts, knew that if he had not asked his friend and colleague Kendall Durfey to make the road trip to Boulder, Colo., in his place, Durfey would not have been on the twin-engine plane that plummeted into a snowy hillside near Denver on the return flight. There but for the grace of God? Riddle didn't feel touched by grace; he felt crushed by guilt. I should have been the one to die.

He went to the funerals, so many funerals. At Durfey's service he offered condolences to his friend's wife and siblings, but neither he nor they mentioned the fateful switch. They all knew what had happened, that Riddle and Durfey split time on the Cowboy Radio Network and alternated on away games. It had been Riddle's turn to travel, but a friend with a radio show in Tulsa had asked him to fill in as guest host. Riddle could only do it if Durfey agreed to go to Colorado. "He said, 'Sure, man,' just like he always did when you asked him for a favor," Riddle says. Durfey told Riddle that he had planned to go out to dinner with his wife the night of the game, "but it's O.K.," he said. "We'll just do it next weekend."

After the tragedy Riddle went back to his routine, working Cowboys games and doing weekday traffic reports on a Stillwater radio station, his days filled with self-blame and grief. That August he attended the dedication of a memorial for the victims, and across the room he saw Durfey's mother, Ellen Durfey-Wright. In that moment he decided to talk about it, all of it, with her. Maybe it was because he felt the need to do penance, or maybe, since his own mother had died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism four months earlier, he just wanted to talk to a mom.

When Riddle introduced himself, Durfey-Wright recognized his name, but not for the reason he expected. "I really enjoy listening to you every day on KRMG," she said. Riddle was stunned. How could she stand to hear his voice every morning? "Doesn't it remind you that if it weren't for me, your son would be alive?" he asked. Durfey-Wright took his hand. "Oh, Joe," she said. "I've never thought that." With those words Riddle felt a burden being lifted from him. "I could see he was in such pain," Durfey-Wright says. "But I wasn't saying it just to make him feel better. I truly never looked at it the way that he did."  Maybe it was a need to do penance, or maybe, since his own mother had died suddenly, Joe Riddle just wanted to talk to a mom.

It would be enough if the story had ended there, with a man finding comfort from a mother, but Riddle and Durfey-Wright talked more, that night and later on the phone. They spoke mostly about Kendall at first, and then about themselves. Riddle told her how, as the only child of parents who themselves were only children, he had no extended family-no aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews.

Before long Durfey-Wright was asking Riddle, who is 49 and single, the things that mothers ask: Are you seeing anybody? Are you eating right? When she drove the two hours from her home in Coweta, Okla., to Cowboys games-always a fan, she became even more devoted as a way to feel closer to Kendall after his death-she would often meet Riddle for dinner. Riddle would do the things that sons do, such as calling her when he traveled to let her know he had arrived safely. So, when Mother's Day arrived in 2002, it seemed only natural for the son who needed a mother and the mother who had lost a son to be in touch. "Kendall couldn't call his mother and I couldn't call mine," he says, "so I just called Ellen and said, 'Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.'"

"I love you too, son," Durfey-Wright said, and that is what they have been to each other ever since-mother and son. Riddle's framed picture is on Durfey-Wright's mantel along with Kendall's and those of her three other grown children, Amy, Karlene and Nelson, who have also accepted him as newfound family. "They all understand that Joe wasn't replacing them or Kendall in any way," says Durfey-Wright, who has been twice widowed and is now remarried. Riddle's Facebook page lists Durfey-Wright as his mother and her children as his brother and sisters. "For someone who has never had much family, this is an incredible gift," Riddle says. "A gift from Kendall."

Durfey-Wright thinks every day about the son she lost, but she also has room in her heart for the one she gained. In 2005 she was listening for Riddle on the radio one morning when she heard that he had taken the day off to be with his dad, who was having quadruple bypass surgery. She immediately drove to Tulsa, where she found Riddle alone in the hospital waiting room and stayed with him. Three years later, when his father died, Durfey-Wright and her children sat with Riddle at the funeral, in the section reserved for family.

On Sunday, Durfey-Wright will get a call from Riddle, just as she has every Mother's Day for the last nine years. It will probably come before the morning light, since Riddle likes to be the first of her children to call. He will keep it simple. He won't talk about how family bonds aren't always formed by blood, or how, in the face of great loss, something precious can be found. He will just say, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom," and that will say everything.

Today's Progressive shirt for your viewing critique pleasure ...

This was my very first "purchased"
Progressive shirt.  I actually used
a gift certificate that I'd earned for
reaching 5 years with Progressive!
Still love this shirt ... :)


How Cool Was That ?!

This past Sunday (Mother's Day) in Sacrament Meeting at church, something happened that has never happened before:
My blog was quoted by one of the speakers.

I knew that I liked what I wrote about Karen and what an awesome mother and wife she is, but it was very gratifying to hear my words coming from someone else as a represenation of the greatness in ALL mothers.

Thanks Aaron for both using my words and being thoughtful enough to ask for my permission to use them.  You made them sound even better than I thought they were.  The rest of your talk was great too!  I did not get the chance to tell your wife that her talk was very good as well so please pass on that compliment to her.
Happy belated Mother's Day to all the moms and aspiring moms out there!

And the Progressive shirt of the day looks like this ...

"There's something different about you ..."
Oh yeah!  My hair is gone!  :)

This shirt is for "Progressive Volunteers"
and on the back it reads as follows:
"I'm insuring a better world.  I'm Progressive"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Is it still the thought that counts ?

You may have noticed the absence of my blogs from cyberspace ... okay, probably not.  Things have been busy in the old Case household (except we're probably the "young" or "middle-aged" Case household since my parents are in town and have us by some 30 years).

Anyway, Saturday was a frustrating day because everything I tried to do seemed to blow up in my face.  That disappointment over and over again made me think about the adage "it's the thought that counts."  I sure hope so, because the actions sure didn't count for anything very good.

Here's a summary of my most notable "failures" of that day:
 - I found out the gift I got for Karen from the kids for Mother's Day was not something Karen was actually excited to be getting.  Not her fault ... just wished I had known beforehand so she could have been really happy about her gift(s) instead of just being happy to be nice.
 - I attempted to "joke" with some of my "buddies" in the Tenor section at Stake Choir practice, but I think they actually took offense at my humor.  Sigh.
 - I asked a peer for his input on something at work and basically had to listen to him critique me for 30 minutes on things I didn't ask about.  I got very upset and almost walked away but decided better of just waiting for him to finish so I could leave calmly and get back to work.
 - I searched at three different stores for a gift I had planned to get Karen for Mother's Day (two of which had said on-line they had it in stock). None of them had it. Grrrr.
 - I had to go to two different stores to find suitable roses worthy of my beautiful wife, for Mother's Day.
 - I was unable to blog one single time, despite many attempts to do so and many really good blog post ideas (all of which have left my brain by now!)

But in a spirit of moving on ... here's my Progressive shirt of the day ... and I really like this one!

I got this shirt from my younger brother
Jordan, who "donated" several shirts to me
when he "retired" from Progressive
to run his own Sears store.
I've always liked this one the best!
But it only has a little time left ...
the collar is beginning to fray.  :(