Saturday, December 31, 2011

You have HOW MANY kids ?!

I felt that it would be appropriate to make my last set of SIX "mini" blog posts all related to the same subject, while also being something I had a personal goal to write about this past year.  I found just such a topic about a week ago and have conducted enough research and observation to complete this "last leg" of my 2011 blog journey.

The subject: My 6 unique children

Blog # 360 - Who is Joshua Robert Case, Jr ?
Josh Jr (or Jah Coonah, according to Catalina) is my oldest son.  He is brilliant, and I'm not just saying that as a parent ... he really is!  Unfortunately, he faces the same challenges with his intellect that I once faced when I was younger and filled with such potential: he gets bored very easily.  I feel for him because, at 12 years old, he is beginning that journey from child to adolescent to adult ... and it is awkward!  He is handling it so much better than I did!  I am so proud of him and I need to tell him this more often.  He has been doing some baby-sitting (and not just for his siblings), which is not easy when you're in charge of people just a few years younger than you.  He has a very giving nature, even if it is masked by the desire to pull pranks on his siblings.  His skill at musical instruments is most impressive and is an inspiration for his younger siblings.  I guarantee that Josh Case 2.0 is a much better version (already) than Josh Case 1.0 ... and he has plenty of time for even better upgrades!

Blog # 361 - Have you seen my Benjamin Jerdon Case ?
Ben is awesome!  He has such a fun personality and desire to make everyone around him happy.  He is also a whole lot of emotion wrapped up in one medium-sized package.  When he does something wrong (even a tiny, innocent mistake) his head droops and his heart breaks.  I'd be very worried if not for the fact that a gentle hug or some rough-and-tumble wrestling and tickling completely reverses his mood.  Ben is also very smart, but he got my ADD and (bless his heart) his attention span is mind-bogglingly short.  I know I am too hard on him, with my expectations so high because I know what I've overcome with almost the same lack of ability to focus for very long.  He is going to be a tremendous young man!  He also has awesome hair!  :)

Blog # 362 - Brooklyn Rose Case, is she 8 or 16 ?
Oh my beautiful oldest princess!  She's called "Brook" by many of her friends and she is a heart-breaker already.  She is also already very mature for her age, but then she did start school much earlier than her older brothers because she made the cut-off for D-49.  Brooklyn is passionate and very emotional, but in a good way sometimes.  I love all of my kids' laughter, but it is when Brooklyn laughs herself almost sick that I feel like I have found a little piece of heaven.  I just hope she still loves me and listens to me in another 5-10 years.

Blog # 363 - Have you ever heard Savannah Joy Case ?
Odds are great that you haven't really ever heard Savannah ... for she is the very epitome of the word meek.  That is, unless you cross her.  She has a fiery temper, but it is almost never in defense of herself.  More often than not, she will "rise up" in defense of her siblings.  Of my four girls, Savannah is the one I think is most like her mother (my beautiful wife Karen).  She absolutely loves babies and playing house.  She is quick to go along with whatever anyone else wants to play and is painfully aware of how others are reacting to her.  She is quick to cry, but equally quick to smile.  She loves hugs and I love the way she wants to be near me whenever I am around.  She is an excellent example of unconditional love ... just like her mom!

Blog # 364 - Think you can keep up with Catalina Jacquelle Case ?
Well, you're wrong if you think that because no one can keep up with her.  She is a "speed demon" of ideas, and games to be invented, and pictures to be taken with the camera, and candy to be eaten, and tricks to be played, and books to be read, and on and on.  Cat is super smart, in the logical sort of way.  She is also the master of all facial expressions.  The best comedians can convey a message with just a raising of one eyebrow or crinkling of the nose ... they have nothing on Cat!  If creativity and curiousity and cuteness had one combined name, it would be Cat!

Blog # 365 - Is Myra Jasmine Case the last one ?
Immediately upon reading that Blog Post Title I know about a dozen people who are going to mistake this post as some sort of "announcement" about another kid being "on the way."  IT IS NOT!!  Consider the fact that she is the topic of this last post for me for 2011 and you'll get what I mean when I ask that question!
Myra is a little too young to define, but she is one thing for sure: fearless!  She climbs like a monkey, even after a few not-so-fun falls from places she should not have been able to get to.  She is also a momma's girl, which I know makes Karen very happy (especially if she ends up being our last child).  Myra is a redhead and her cheesy grin is already wrapping me around her little finger.  We're just not such good friends at 2:30am!  :)

So there you have it.  365 blog posts this year, albeit not exactly one-a-day as I had initially hoped for.  This was fun.  2012 will probably be closer to 52 posts (one a week) although my goal is more.  I will be posting a Daily Theme Song blog each day so be on the lookout for that if you love music like I do.  Thanks for reading along (even if it was only here and there).

Happy New Year !!!


A "Six-Pack" of Blog Posts ?

That's right.  Here comes the second set of SIX blog posts.  You are indeed welcome for my decision to make them mini-blogs, and to put them in such an easy-to-read format.  :)

Blog # 354 - Do you like "Quotes" ?
Almost every day I send a "Quote of the Day" to my team at work.  I've used a variety of sources over the years and most in the team have enjoyed receiving them.  This got me to thinking about things that I have said often, which could eventually be quotes attributed to me.  I think that would be very cool ... to be "quoted" by other people.  What an awesome experience to be able to say "Yeah, I said that.  It was pretty profound wasn't it?!"  So here are three of my own "quotes" ... feel free to use them (and give me credit of course).  :)
 - Conflict never ends, but it can be resolved.
 - You can't do anything with nothing, but you can do a lot with a little.
 - Hope and despair are opposite sides of the same coin.

Blog # 355 - Well, What did you Expect ?
People sometimes misunderstand things, even when you are very clear about them.  White Elephant gifts around Christmastime are one of those commonly misconstrued situations.  In two recent settings (where the standard explanation of "White Elephant Gifts" had been clearly explained prior to the exchange) I saw people walk away from the experience feeling hurt, sad, upset, cheated, etc.  I am not intending to put those people down.  I understand what they are feeling and I genuinely feel sorrow for them ... but the logical side of my brain has to wonder what they were expecting?  If it was your first time, then I understand.  If not, despite my compassion toward you, ultimately you have no one to blame but yourself.  Sorry.

Blog # 356 - What's your Communication Style ?
I won't go into the specific details (because it might be an unknown and unintended copyright infringement), but at work we're beginning to use some software to help us assess our own (and our customer's) communication styles.  There are SIX categories, but only FOUR of them are predominant styles (the other two only make up about 2% of the population).  The FOUR predominant styles are: Emotions, Thoughts, Reactions, and Opinions.  The TWO less dominant styles are: Reflections and Actions.
I happen to be Thoughts, although I used to be Opinions (based on this survey you complete).  That makes a lot of sense to me because logic runs my life and I prefer to think things through before acting.  I also communicate in terms of "thoughts" much more than any of the other styles.

Blog # 357 - What is that in the Road ?
My wife will laugh at this but only because she has experienced it hundreds of times.  I love to run over things in the road!  Not animals or other living things mind you, but soda cans, tumbleweeds, paper bags, and especially snow and rain!  There's just something satisfying (to me personally anyway) about aiming your car at something in the road and hearing that "pffftt" as you crush it beneath the wheel.  My wife thinks I'm crazy (and she's probably at least partially right), but it is one of life's simple pleasures for me.

Blog # 358 - Wait, There's A Sportscenter App for the iPad ?
This post could have easily been called "Where have you been all my life?" because I have fallen in love with this app!  I stumbled across the app while checking out for some game scores.  The app allows you to select any number of sports teams that you want to "follow" and then it will capture Sportcenter videos and/or written recaps for anything related to those teams.  That alone is super cool, but it also has this alert feature which drops down a Final Score (or periodic updates if you want them more often) at the top of your iPad screen once the game has ended).
For years we've gone without cable or satellite TV and I always felt like I was missing out .. but NO MORE !!!  :)

Present wrapped by me
do NOT look like this!
 Blog # 359 - Who does the Wrapping at your house ?
Every year (especially around the holidays) there is always a crucial decision to be made about presents.  No, not what to get ... I'm talking about Who Wraps The Gifts ?!  In my house, it has almost always been me.  That's because I just love wrapping gifts!  There is something satisfying about covering a gift in wrapping paper.  I hate to have to use the "fancy" gift bag sort of wrapping.  I know some people love that, and it does have it's place.  But for me, I love the challenge of figuring out what sort of paper to use (we have at least a dozen different types for all occasions) and how to make it look the best (images on the paper centered on the gift, etc.)  I also get all too excited when the item to be wrapped is an odd shape and size, which will require some serious creativity to wrap properly.  I am still the undefeated champion!  :)

The last round of blog posts for the year is coming up ... see you soon ...


A Novel Concept ?

Haters unite!  You win!  I lose!  You defeated me!  I have failed!  You are smart.  I am dumb.  You're the king of everything.  I am the steward of nothing.  Blah, blah.


Herewith are 6 of my final 18 blogs of the year, all rolled into one!  I will be posting THREE blogs, each covering one-third of the total posts I need to reach my 365 Posts in 2011 goal.  You say I'm "cheating" or "changing the rules" ... to which I reply ... so what?!  It's not your blog now is it?!  (See, those are two more questions since this is a question-based blog!)  :)

Blog # 348 - A Christmas Mystery ?
Every year for at least the last 5 years, my not-so-little family has enjoyed the same Christmas Story tradition.  My wife bought this book several years ago.  It is an advent calendar book, so there is a chapter of the story to be read every day until Christmas Eve.  The premise of the story is that a pilgrimage of people travel back in time to the birth of the Christ Child.  I do different voices for the different characters and we have added in all sorts of other fun traditions as we read it almost every day.  The kids' favorite part is to shout "To Bethlehem!  To Bethlehem!" along with Joshua the first shepherd (which happens at least once in every chapter).

Blog # 349 - 8 Days a Week ?
We've recently because just the best of buddies with our friends the Amsdens.  I've blogged about them before (she used to be our church choir director and he is a high-falutin' military man!) but we just love their family and it is so much fun to hang out with them.  In one recent stretch, we actually got together with Amy and Kevin 8 evenings in a row!  Most of these were after we had both put our respective kids in bed, but at least one of them included a "family" get together.  I am now convinced that our strengthening friendship with them is at least one of the primary reasons we were inspired to move into our current house (almost two years ago now).  You see, the Amsdens live just a few hundred yards down the street from us and we'd likely never have been blessed by their friendship if we hadn't moved to where we did.

Blog # 350 - It's a Calendar!  Who Cares ?
Well, I do!  Since I became a Supervisor at Progressive a little over 5 years ago, I have created a monthly calendar for my team.  They have changed greatly over the years, but each month I am quite proud of the finished result.  I have found complementary colors to use for each months theme and have slowly begun to add a more diverse listing of holidays and other cultural events on them.  It is also fun to look back on them as a sort of "Journal" because I always list my vacations and training classes (so my team knows where I am).

Blog # 351 - Isn't That Our Waitress ?
While sitting at our table at Applebee's a few weeks ago (we had taken Josh Jr out for a special dinner to celebrate his birthday - which was way back in October) a strange thing happened.  I looked to the left toward the bar area and saw an odd sight: our waitress appeared to be sitting at a table with some other people and just laughing and having a good time.  I was about to be offended when I realized ... the tables in the bar area were elevated and she was actually standing right next to the table and getting orders from those customers.  I wonder if that has happened to anyone else?

Blog # 352 - Am I addicted to WWF ?
My cousin Matt might think I mean the World Wrestling Federation, but I am actually talking about that Zynga Game which is very popular right now on Facebook and iEverything ... Words With Friends.  A friend of mine (he dated my sister for a while a long time ago) invited me to play and I hated the game on Facebook ... but on the iPad ... it's a whole different story!  I love this game!  The board is colorful and it is clearly built for iUsers because everything is touch screen and drag-and-drop.  I even signed up on WWFStats so Mike and I can track our scores against each other (we are pretty evenly matched).  On the iPad this is the first place I go ... I may need help!  :)

Blog # 353 - Ever had Del Taco ?
One day, several months ago, a friend of mine at work offered to pick up some tacos from Del Taco ... I just had to pay for them myself.  He said they only cost 39 cents and I immediately wondered about the quality of what I was about to purchase and eat.  I had him get me 5 tacos (I wasn't that hungry but at 39 cents it seems odd to just get one or two).  They were actually VERY GOOD (in relation to the cost of course)!  As with anything "too good to be true" that 39 cent deal didn't last long.  But the tacos are now only 59 cents, so for around 3 bucks I can eat 5 of them (which is plenty to fill me).  They also have a deal on Tuesdays where you can get three tacos for a dollar.  So we did that one night as a family for dinner and only spent about 8 bucks!  I am definitely a fan of this place now!

Stay tuned for the next round of 6 more blogs all rolled into one ...


Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's your LEAST favorite "Christmas" song?

I did NOT link any of these songs to this blog on purpose!
If you haven't heard them, consider yourself lucky!

Here are my 5 LEAST favorite songs:
(they are either overplayed or confusing or insensitive, etc.)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
by Bruce Springsteen
The song was recorded live and I'm sure it was a cool experience at that time ... but it just seems so contrived with "the Boss" laughing so hard at the end that he can't sing, blah, blah, blah. And I bet by now Clarence has practiced real hard and had santa bring him several new saxophones!

My Favorite Things
by Barbra Streisand
This song itself makes NO SENSE as a Christmas song!  Sure they are gifts and so that's remotely related, but Sir-Mix-Alot likes big butts ... and we don't hear about that every December.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
By Jackson 5
It should be a cute song, but I'm not a fan of young Michael Jackson (his voice and stage presence were still amazing ... I just don't like the tunes).  My big beef with this song is that it can be very confusing to little kids, who don't catch the humor.  I know that's supposed to be part of the humor of the song, but I don't like it.

Do They Know It's Christmas?
by Band-Aid
This is a horrible, horrible song. It is a perfect example of the lack of global awareness and "we are so much better than you" mentality the rest of the world sees the United States as viewing them with.  Let's break down just a few of the lines from this uber-famous song:
"There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime." Um, really?! DUH! Might have to do with the proximity to the equator ... oh and also that southern hemisphere seasonal thing.
"Where nothing ever grows. No rain or river flows." Are you kidding me?! Ever hear of the Nile?! It's only a little bigger than a stream ... but I think it flows.

Last Christmas
by WHAM!
(but all versions are equally terrible)
I am not a fan of what seems like lazy lyric writing.  Although it fits into the song and melody, the chorus is just awful.  Let's take it in two parts:
"Last Christmas I gave you my heart and the very next day, you gave it away."
First, if your gift to this other person was just ... your heart ... then YOU may be the worst gift-giver ever.  No wonder they re-gifted it!
Second, honestly how could they actually do this?  Even if you're talking about it metaphorically, how does someone give your heart away?  "Hey dude ... here's the heart of this other person.  Enjoy!")
"This year, to save ME from tears, I'll give it to somebody special (special)."
First, gift-giving is supposed to be a self-less not selfish act ... and we're back to you being the worst gift-giver ever.
Second, your version of "someone special" might need a closer look ... 'cause last year you thought I was special ... so perhaps you are just a horrible judge of potential soul mates (or whatever you hoped I was).
Overall, this is just a depressing song and that is NOT the way I prefer to celebrate the holiday ... but they play this song over and over and over again!

It had to be done ... now I can move on with my life ...


What's your favorite Christmas song ?

I've come to the conclusion that the Title Question of this post is absolutely impossible for me to answer.  There is NO WAY I can even limit my favorite Christmas songS to even just a "Pick 6" list as I have done in prior blogs.  But I have gone through a personally painful process of elimination to come up with my top 3 songs per Christmas Genre.  You might think that "Christmas" IS a genre, but I've broken the mold and made multiple categories of it!  :)  Enjoy!  And comment below with your own ideas.

(If you only listen to ONE SONG from all that I linked below, make it "I Cannot Find My Way / Three Kings" from the Forgotten Carols.  You WILL NOT be disappointed!)

Traditional Favorites:
By Nat King Cole
The real "King's" smooth, soulful voice combined with the opening words of this song ALWAYS conjure up a cozy, mountain cabin with a warm fire glowing and the companionship of friends and family.  Literally every singer or group has performed a version of this song, but NONE will ever be as good as this one.  It is as classic as classic can be!
By Eclipse
I love MANY different versions of this song (which is why it qualifies as a "traditional favorite" even though this version is less than a decade old and not a "favorite" of everyone ... yet).  The California Raisins had the first one that I really enjoyed, but in recent years I've heard versions from Barenaked Ladies and the one linked above, which have made it one of my favorite songs ever.
By The Drifters
Made even more popular when it was featured in the movie Home Alone, this version of this song has always been one of my favorites.  I love doo-wop music and this song combines that style of singing with a classic Christmas song.  Other versions of White Christmas are very good, but this is the best one IMHO.

New should be Classics:
by Eclipse
I am only slightly biased toward this group by my cousin being one of the members in it.  I LOVE their version of this song.  The melody is just so upbeat and the refrain "It's Christmastime!" is so fun to sing along with.  Oh how I wish they'd play music like this on the radio!
By Josh Groban
What I like best about this song is that it was written for the movie Polar Express and with the intent to encourage belief in the "Santa Claus" side of Christmas.  But I believe it is much more powerful if you metaphorically place our Savior Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father's eternal plan for us as the message of the song.  He knows our needs and will give us wings to fly ... if we just believe!
Written By Michael McLean
If you have never heard "The Forgotten Carols" then you are totally missing one of the best Christmas traditions around.  Although several of the songs have very similar (and simple) refrains, this one song ALWAYS gives me an overwhelming feeling of the Holy Spirit and brings tears to my eyes!  To anyone looking for the true meaning of Christmas (and more importantly, the true meaning of LIFE), it is the Lord Jesus Christ!  This song makes that point beautifully!  (Bonus: The song "Homeless" is a phenomenal a capella tune that causes equal amounts of chills and inspiration!)

Spiritual Hymns:
By the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Of all songs that are both spiritual and LOUD this one has got to be my favorite!  When you picture the "heavenly choir" singing praises to celebrate the Savior's birth, is this not exactly how you would expect it to sound?!  I find it amazing that so many people can sing together the very first word of this song so powerfully!
By Amy Grant
Okay, so it's not a "hymn" ... but it should be !!!  This song is haunting but also uplifting and if you can find a version with Amy's husband (the very talented Vince Gill) singing harmony along with her ... it will give you chills.  I can almost understand what Mary might have been feeling like when tasked with the responsibility to bear and raise the Christ Child.
From Handel's Messiah
You can find hundreds of versions of this online but the music itself is beautiful regardless of the performer.  Handel was inspired by God when he wrote this!

Funny or Silly songs:
By Bing Crosby
No, I did not become a fan of this song because of the pool scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  It's just a great tune to sing along with!  I love Hawaiian-style music and combining it with Christmas is just a brilliant pairing!
By Cheech and Chong
My mom sent me an audio-cassette tape with this song on it while I was on my mission in Los Angeles, CA.  That was the first time I ever heard it and I loved it immediately.  Despite the overwhelming drug-heavy theme, it's still just ... funny!
By Bob and Doug McKenzie
Any song that includes "Four pounds of back-bacon" has to be a WINNER !!!  This is some classic 80's comedic humor from two of the worst singers ever!

"Non-Christmas" Christmas songs:
by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
I absolutely love the simplicity of this music and it was made popular in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special ... but it has no other real tie to the holidays.
By Boyz II Men
This song is on their Christmas Interpretations CD.  It is related to Christmas, but is not a traditional Christmas song ... so it goes here.
by John Williams
The beginning and end of this song are just beautiful and instantly recognizeable, but it just happens that the movie takes place around Christmastime and so the song reminds you of that time of year.  Otherwise, there's no reason for it to be a Christmas song.


Do you get Cell Phone "Twitches" ?

I hadn't really ever thought about it before but
I have carried a cell phone in my pants pocket for well over 3 years now.
I've become one of those people who feels "naked" without my phone and I'm "lost" when the battery runs down or I have no service (like when I'm camping).

What tipped me off to this whole dependency situation was when I began to notice that I sometimes get "twitches" in my upper thigh area (where my phone normally rests against my leg in my pocket).  This makes sense when you consider my phone is on "Vibrate" about 90% of the time ... but it still really freaks me out.  Why?  Because often I hadn't actually gotten a text or a phone call ... my leg just
"twitches" as though I had gotten a message.

Am I the only one who is experiencing this weird physical phenomenon?


Does our Memory really get worse ?

Two brief thoughts here (well, brief for ME anyway):

First, I do not believe our memory gets worse as we get older.  Show me all your scientific studies, blah, blah, blah.  I think we have more to remember as we get older, so the percentage that we can recall off the top of our head lessens as we age and/or have more experiences.  So I refuse to feel "bad" if I begin forgetting more things as the years wear on ... because I'll also be remembering more things too!

Second, I believe that the more we take in, the harder it is to remember specifics about what we've read, heard, or seen.  One of my good friends recently told me that she "forgets" books and movies within a few months after having read or watched them.  But the part she is actually "forgetting" is that she is replacing the memories with new books and new movies, rather than just "losing" them.  At least that's what I believe.

So what say you, humble reader?  Do you think our memory gets worse over time?  Or do you agree with me that it probably actually gets better but it seems worse because of how much we "replace" with newer knowledge?


What is it about snow ?

I know I've blogged before about how much I love snow, but recently I've been thinking about the way snow affects many different things.  So here are my questions along those lines ...

What is it about snow that ...
 - Renders people completely unable to park properly? (at work I would bet that on "snow days" we fit half as many cars into twice as many available parking spaces ... and it's the same everywhere you go!)
 - Makes everything look like a Christmas Card? (old wooden fences, an open field full of weeds, broken down buildings, dirty sidewalks and streets ... they all look picturesque with an inch or two of snow on top of them.)
 - Motivates children to want to go outside instead of playing video games? (My kids have NEVER asked to go outside when it is cold or rainy or really hot ... but put some snow out there and it is almost impossible to keep them inside.)
 - Generates such goodwill in people? (they hold open doors for complete strangers and other acts of kindness and entertain conversations that are oddly pleasant when they might have yelled at you just minutes before when you "stole" their parking spot.)
 - Turns any night-time driving into a light-speed experience from Star Wars? (you know you've imagined your car is traveling in space when the wind is blowing those "snow stars" at your windshield!)
 - Creates a romantic evening out of a simple "stuck at home with a movie" situation? (we men would never get away with that idea without the snow's help ... but light a fire or some candles and cuddle up on the couch to some chick flick - with snow falling outside - and it's a miracle!)
 - Inspires adults to act like kids again? (how many adults actually hate sledding?!  they might pretend they do but once you're out there it is a blast no matter what age you are!  And building a snowman, or snow sculpture, is one of life's simple pleasures!)

Snow is AMAZING !!!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why do women make things so complicated ?

One of my teammates at work has been helping our team "Think Outside the Box" with creative activities and e-mails.  The picture you see to your left was part of one of those recent e-mails.

Of course, I find this more amusing and more of a "gender differences" example than of any creative thinking, but it was a great lead-in to a post I've been thinking about writing for a while.

Men and women are different.


But as a man, I (of course) believe that we men are "right" and you women "need to change."  (I have to clarify here that I don't really believe that, but for the intended humor of this post to have its full effect you'll have to pretend that I do think women are wrong ... all the time ... about EVERYTHING!)

I see that picture above and it makes me think:
 - Men make complicated things seem simple.  Yay!
 - Women make simple things complicated.  Boo!

I think about the general happiness of the opposite sex:
 - For men: if we have enough food, sports, and sex we're happy.
 - For women: there's not enough room in this post to outline the specific requirements that have to be met in the right timeframe and with the right meaning behind them and with the right people and in the proper amounts to guarantee (or even predict with a small degree of accuracy) happiness.

I hear communication breakdowns:
 - Men listen to what you say ... and that's about it.
 - Women listen to what they think you mean by what you said and they also listen to what you don't say but should have (or didn't ... and then they fret about why you didn't say what they thought you meant to say).
 - Men say what they think ... and that's about it.
 - Women say everything except what they think ... even when you ask a straightforward, direct, yes-or-no type of question.

I am convinced that it is easier to learn a second language (such as French or even Chinese) than to learn to speak "Women."
You want proof?!

Show me the Rosetta Stone language kit for male-female communication!

There is none ... because EVEN THEY CANNOT FIGURE IT OUT!  :)


Monday, December 19, 2011

What kind of Year-End bonus do you get ?

It is one of the classic scenes in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but in case you have never seen it, here's a link to the edited (I hope) version:

As you can see, Clark Griswold, receives easily the worst "Christmas Bonus" in the history of mankind.  I love his brother-in-law's reaction (when he tries to put a positive spin on it by calling it "The gift that keeps on giving.")

That is my lead-in to the "Year-End Bonus" spectrum, on which I am VERY HAPPY to fall waaaay on the opposite side of compared to that movie.

At Progressive, we receive an annual bonus at the end of the year called Gainsharing.  It is based on the concept that if the company does well, it's employees should receive some sort of a bonus.  The better we do (against our goals for the year) the higher the payout.  Of course the opposite is true and I was employed at Progressive back in 2000 when we received ZERO bonus (because we were well off from our target goals as a company that year).

Not to bore you with details, but the calculation is quite simple based on a thing called the "Gainshare Factor" (calculating that factor however requires serious amounts of mathematical know-how).  My payout at the end of the year is this: Gainshare factor (1.07 this year) ... X (times) ... Annual salary (like I'm going to divulge that on my blog!  Hah!  Just pick a number between $25K - $75K) ... X (times) ... Your gainshare % (this is 8% for front-line employees and increases with different positions and pay grades ... mine is 12% as a Supervisor).  And now I've just made it sound way more complicated than it actually is.
In short ... 1.07 x $25,000 x 0.12 = Total Gross Gainshare Payout.

Needless to say, if the Gainshare Factor is around 1.00 that works out to about a 12% of my annual salary bonus at the end of the year!
It is awesome!

That gainshare factor is capped at 2.00 (which has happened twice before ... not so ironically in the two years immediately following the ZERO payout fiasco).  That would mean roughly 24% of my annual salary paid out as a "one time bonus."  I doubt that day will ever come again, but I'm always going to hope it will!

One other really cool thing that Progressive does with the payout is this: Only 75% of the Gainshare is paid in December, with the other 25% paid in early February.  This is to avoid an overpayment (since the final gainshare factor has to be made based on expected results for December in order to complete the payout in December).  Trust me, this is a BIG thing to get right!  I have heard stories of the first year of gainsharing when it was all paid out in December and then the final results came in with the company not doing nearly as good as predicted.  Front-line employees were not impacted, but Managers and other Leadership roles supposedly received less on their gainshare to cover the overpayment to the other employees.  Not cool.

So I hope you get a really good Christmas Bonus wherever you work ... if not ... send me an e-mail about coming to work at Progressive!  I love it!  :)


Do you pick it up ?

Or do you just pretend not to notice it and walk on by?

I'm talking, of course, about pieces of paper or other trash on the floor near any trash receptacle.

This is not the bathroom from
where I work, but the paper
mess looks very similar to this.
At work, the restrooms are cleaned daily (probably multiple times) ... except on the weekends (for obvious reasons considering we have much less staff here those days).  This leads to the same occurrence every single weekend: the trash cans in the bathroom begin to "overflow" with wadded up single sheets of the sandpaper paper towels used after everyone washes their hands.

Now I am glad that so many people clearly ARE washing their hands, but it never ceases to disappoint me when there are dozens of pieces of and/or full (slightly wadded-up) pieces of paper all over the floor near these trash cans.  It seems selfish or insensitive or at the very least a huge lack of awareness on the part of these paper droppers.

I'm a "picker-upper."  Before using the restroom myself, I will gather the loose shreds of paper and push them down far into the trash can (hopefully my efforts are not in vain and the can holds out until Monday morning).

I do this with pieces of paper or any kind of trash I come across anywhere in the office (my wife would tell you I do it at home too).  I feel like I should be proud of where I work and should do my part to keep it clean (especially if it is right there in front of me).  I'm not judging you to be a horrible human being if you're NOT a "picker-upper" ... but I do reserve the right to assume your own homes are probably more messy than they should be.  I also believe that this simple act is a way to remain humble (on some level at any rate).  The day I'm too good to pick up pieces of paper or trash as I walk by it is the day I need to be knocked down a peg or two on the old pride scale.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Have you ever felt like a superhero?

It is 5:35pm and a door opens.  Our hero enters.

In the kitchen are family members engaged in a variety of things.  Two boys are opening wrappers from Hershey's kisses and placing pretzels on a cookie sheet to make snacks.  The mother is making dinner (with an assortment of supplies all around her).  Our hero's oldest daughter is sweeping ... or attempting to sweep ... or attempting to look like she is sweeping.

Our hero has brought in peppers and plastic cups from the trip to the store he had to make on the way home from work.  He surveys the scene and immediately realizes there are several dozen tasks that need to be completed in preparation for the party later that evening.

He springs into action ... in a calm, calculated manner.  But the thin smile across his face hides a mind filled with fury (our hero is working on silently counting to ten to control his temper).

Our hero carries all the boxes of unused christmas decorations out to the garage.

Next, he collects coats from the closet to make room for those of the anticipated guests.  Smartly, our hero had previously used his level and measuring tape to properly position the "extra" closet rod that can accomodate more coats ... just for a night like this.

While walking toward the bedroom, arms full of coats, his middle daughters shout out "Daddy!  The toilet's clogged."  This will have to wait a little while.

Returning from the bedroom he carries the recycleable soda cans to the garage and drops the cans into their temporary home (a big black trash bag).  It will be months before they will be taken to the recycling drop-off station, with several other bags of their friends.

Our hero is efficient with his time and brings the toilet snake in from the garage.  Another box has appeared which he quickly tosses into the garage.  He then returns to the bathroom and swiftly snakes the toilet clog down the drain.  He has no time to further entertain his two fears related to this situation:
#1. one or more of his kids has a serious bowel problem or inability to wipe it clean with less than a whole roll of toilet paper
#2. at some unknown and unpredicatable future point it is likely going to be VERY expensive to pay for a full septic tank replacement.

He drops the soda can bucket back in the kitchen and then assists his daughter in pushing the table back in place (apparently, she did sweep).  All the while with the non-dripping toilet snake (he has learned how to hold it so it doesn't drip) in his left hand.

That's when he sees it.  SIGH.  One of the brackets that holds the door that he had fashioned to cover the large cubby hole under the TV area in the family room has completely popped out of it's hole.  This is most frustrating because it has happened several times before ... but this time is is beyond simple repair.  He heads to the garage to grab some "supplies" and has a brilliant idea on a more permanent solution.  But it will require more work than he realistically has time for ... unless ...

Our hero locates the remnant of a old window covering (he keeps these sorts of things in his organized garage for just such an occasion) and begins to clear off the Mitre Saw he has hidden next to the large trash can.  In a flash it is plugged in and he cuts a small piece of material to serve as a new "mount" for the screw that holds the closet-door bracket in place.  He replaces all of his tools, etc. (what a novel concept!) to their storage locations (foreshadowing a future sub-plot) and then heads into the house armed with the mount, some screws and his cordless screwdriver/drill.

On the way to the scene of the next "victory of tools" our hero realizes that the kitchen trash can is full.  Apparently his super-powers of sight are the only ones that can see this issue so he pulls it out, ties it off, sets it aside for pick-up on a future return trip to the garage, and replaces the bag.

In a flash the door is removed, the bracket adjusted, the screws replaced, the bracket reattached, and the door re-hung in a much better (but unlikely to last very long with the way it gets misused) way.  Our hero collects his tools and heads for the garage (grabbing the trash bag on the way) to put things back where they belong.

In the distance the faint sound of a dryer buzzing can be heard.  The towels for the main bathroom are now clean and dry and ready to be hung back up.  On the return trip from the garage our hero removes the towels and heads to the bathroom to hang them.  Of course!  The towel rack is loose (this happens all too often with multiple kids of single-digit ages living in the house).  This is an easy fix though and our hero has the right tools for the job ... except ... they are not where he left them.  Crap.

His hero-in-training son uses his highly evolved brain to identify the location of the small screwdriver set and sets out to retrieve and deliver them to his mentor.  In moments his sidekick support is instrumental in our hero being triumphant.

Screwdrivers in hand, our hero tightens the loose screws and then properly folds the towels so they look nice and all fit on the rod without damaging it ... or the wall.  Mentally he reminds himself that, yet again, the time has come to teach his children how to fold towels and show them the tiny little screw that comes loose (which is why you can't hang on these rods!)

The screwdriver set is returned to it's designated place in the garage.

The clock reads 6:05pm.

Our hero sits down ... and ... writes ... this ... blog.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Do you KNOW how to use the "Mute" button ?!

In my line of work I have the "opportunity" to be on conference calls several times each month.  The groups of people are often similar, but some calls are filled with people I've never conferenced with before.  I mention this because ... some of them seem to have NEVER been on a conference call before!

Just yesterday, one person was noisily chewing food while the leader of the call was trying to ask questions of the rest of the people on the call.  The loud eater must have been called out by his or her peers because it only lasted for a short while (maybe 30 seconds ... which is way longer than it should have been ... I was pretty sure I had a 50/50 chance of guessing their sandwich type if that question had come up).

Herewith are a list of experiences I have had
in the past few months on conference calls:
 - Side conversations (both with others on the call and people "walking by" the person's desk ... some happen very LOUDLY too!)
 - Burping
 - Sneezing
 - Slurping drinks
 - LOUD typing
 - Consistent talking-over people (once is an accident, but 4-5 times means you're probably a loudmouth jerk)
 - Multiple apologies for asking someone to repeat themselves (it was evident this person was doing several things at once ... none of which was listening in on the call like they should have been primarily doing)

So here's where I need your help as readers of this post.  What is the proper approach for calling these folks out and educating them on proper conference call etiquette?  I truly don't want to embarrass anyone, but it is disruptive to everyone on the call ... and I want to believe these folks just don't know any better.  95% of these issues can be resolved with proper "mute button" usage, but it doesn't help to just tell everyone on the call to use their mute button.  And most of the time I'm not the leader of the call, so I don't feel it is my place to educate or call to their attention.

Let me know your thoughts ...


Do you SING in the car ?

On the drive home from work this evening I became aware of several people (at different times) singing ... or maybe jamming or rocking out is a better description ... in their cars.  I feel safe in assuming that they had their radio on or a favorite CD playing or their iPod blasting tunes (how odd would it be if they were just screaming or singing their heart out a capella ?!)

I was mesmerized by one lady behind me because she was completely oblivious (or simply did not care at all) about anyone around her seeing her go absolutely crazy singing along with the music playing in her mid-sized car.  She was excited and appeared to be very happy.  I watched her for several minutes (it was a long, slow-to-change stoplight) and she was just thoroughly enjoying herself and the music she was hearing.


Music is awesome!  It can change or enhance our moods.  It can speak to us in ways normal speech cannot.  It can give us a way to communicate our feelings when our own words fail us.  It can express every emotion we are feeling, sometimes in the same song.  It is poetry.  It is rhythm and rhyme.  There is a real power in music and I got such a kick out of seeing this woman (and a few others on my short drive) enjoy their music so much.

I hope we can all be so "in the moment" that we will not be embarrased or ashamed of what the music of the moment is giving to us.  Be proud.  Sing along.  As my kids sing in their elementary school choir ... "Music Matters!"


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's wrong with your "grammar" ?

Saw this posted from a friend on Facebook a few days ago.
It made me laugh enough that I figured it would be worth sharing.  Sorry if it's hard to read, I couldn't get it to copy very well.
And the part that made me laugh the most was this comment (below) which I copied from one of those who had posted on the original link.  It is, of course, sarcastic ... but it was creative and amusing and contained examples of several of my biggest grammar pet peeves (#6 and #10 from above especially).

I couldn't care less about grammar, I think your going to loose a lot of friends if you if you point out there mistakes two often. Irregardless face book should just be for its fun.

I hope you enjoyed it ... and say "Hi" to your "grammar" for me!
(If you say it with the right accent it does sound like "grandma" which is funny too!)


When will it ever just STOP ?!

WARNING:  This is a semi-stupid, definitely embarrassing, crude, unnecessary blog post.
I can almost certainly guarantee you will wish you had not read this ... the only exception is if you can empathize with my plight because you are or know someone who suffers the same problem!

I'm ... in my mid-thirties ... and ... I still get pimples!

This is (of course) NOT ME or a "zit"
But my daughter, Catalina's, face is
perfect for capturing my reaction to
this revolting and unfair situation!

This is ridiculous!  It shouldn't be happening!  I'm not "going through puberty" any longer!  I'm not hitting the steroids!  I shower every day and wash my face regularly (after basketball and/or any other type of sweaty exercise)!
So why the acne?!  STILL?!
At this stage of my life ?!

Or were all those people just lying to me when I was a teenager (and in my early twenties) when they said I would "grow out of it" ?!
Were they trying to be nice, thinking perhaps that I wouldn't remember their names?!
And I'm coming after each one of you for an explanation!  This is a crock!

Oh sure, it's not like there are zits everywhere, and some of them are occasionally an "ingrown hair" ... but still ... when is it ever going to stop ?!

Right now I have a huge pimple on my forehead above my left eye.  I seriously thought about turning it into a huge scratch and blaming it on basketball (because those of you that see me regularly know I always have something cut or bruised or scraped up, etc. on my face, hands, arms, legs, etc. from that!)

I have more than enough gray hairs in my beard and hair (mostly right above the ears) to guarantee that I'm not a teenager anymore.  So why, WHY must I deal with acne at the same time I'm learning to cope with "old age" symptoms?!

It's ... just ... NOT ... FAIR !!!


Have you chatted with your mom lately ?

This evening, while my wife was at the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert with a dear friend, my mom came over to "chat" and it was great!

My mom holding Myra
the day she was born.
 She sat with us as I read two chapters of our Christmas Advent Book (more info on that to follow in another blog later this month) to the kids.  She joined in for our nightly prayers and gave the kids hugs and kisses as they headed off to bed.  Then she helped me look for pacifiers for Myra (somehow three of them disappeared in under 15 minutes, but we finally found one and were able to get her to sleep).

And then ... we chatted.

I love my mom.  She is a wonderful woman and was/is a very good mother.  She is terribly insecure about these things and is quick to suggest that it is a miracle I turned out so good (the jury is still out on that one mom!) with how she raised me.  But we ALL know the truth: she did a fine job raising me!

My wonderful parents !
(Julie and Jerry Case)

One of my worst roles (of the many I play in life) is that of a "son."  I'm not very good at reaching out to my parents at all, unless I need their help with something.  In that way, not much has changed since I was an unruly teenager.  And yet, our relationship has evolved in many other ways.  We are friends first and share our respective "wisdom" (they have much more of that by far) openly.  The communication is among adults and no longer "parent / child".  But I still have a long way to go in reaching out to my mom (and my dad) "just to chat."  I know they will not be available on this earth forever and I should take advantage of their presence now while I still can.

I have such respect for my mother and her lifetime of experiences.  This evening we were able to have a very stirring conversation about progressing in our ability to overcome our own crosses that we bear.  No single person has the same struggle or challenge as another, but regardless of the challenge, it is as real and difficult for that person as your own personal struggle is.  If we could remember that simple truth, we would find it much easier to succor one another than fault find or judge unrighteously that our own challenge is much more difficult than another's.

Thanks for all you have taught me so far, and all that you will continue to teach me mom!  I might be an "adult" with six wonderful children of my own, but you'll always be my "mommy" ... and I am ever so thankful for that!

I love you mom!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why would they put it there ?!

It's been VERY cold lately (below zero temperatures) and the wind has been especially chilly.  I don't mind the cold, in fact I quite enjoy the excuse it gives for having a fire and bundling up, etc.  But I really don't like the wind at all.  No matter how many layers you have, a good, cold wind will wind the tiniest holes in your protective layers and freeze you to the bone!

All of that is simply a lead in to my topic for this post: cold showers.

I'm not talking about the kind of shower you need to take to "cool down" (for whatever reason you might need to do so).
I mean an actual shower that is cold.  Not the water.  The shower.

In our current house and the one we still own but are renting out, the shower was inconveniently placed in the corner of the bathroom and with at least one wall being an outside wall.  So the physical location of the shower and the tiles, etc. therein are FREEZING cold when the weather outside is cold.  It feels like the builders in both homes did not bother to put ANY insulation between the exterior wall(s) and the tiles, etc. in the shower.
It is by far the coldest spot in the entire house!

This pic has nothing to with cold showers
but it's a cool image of a frozen fountain!
If I didn't know from personal experience how difficult it is to re-do a shower, I'd totally take this one out and inject the most massive amounts of insulation that the walls could hold.  I dread taking a shower each morning because I know I'll be freezing cold (even with warm water flowing!)  It has been so bad before that I have seen the top of the tile (about 7 ft up) have "frost" on it from the steam or water-spray from my shower.  It's awful!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's the worst Fortune you've ever gotten ?

I was breezing through the mounds of work I had from over the weekend this morning and had the brilliant idea to take my wife out to chinese for lunch.  She had mentioned it in passing yesterday and I knew the rest of the week would not work to take her for her favorite cuisine.

So we met at New Panda (a restaurant up by Progressive where I work) and enjoyed a nice meal together.  The waiter (we always get the same one even though we only go there maybe twice a year) speaks in halting English, but he is very personable and amusing.  At the end of the meal he brought us our fortune cookies and bill.

We had Myra with us and another little girl (Hayden, age 3) that Karen has started watching (to make some "vacation money" for our family).  Hayden had enjoyed the peanuts that we had with our meal and so I tossed her a fortune cookie as a snack.  She immediately opened it and asked (in her own broken English) one of us to read it.  And this is what it said:

"If it seems like the powers of nature are against you today,
they probably are." (Emphasis added)


What kind of fortune is that?!

That's outrageous!

I was so glad it wasn't mine!  Poor little girl.  :)


False Advertising ?!

It's Monday again and that means it's laundry day.

Two unique things happened today as I was completing the laundry:
 - First, I found a pacifier for Myra that we had been missing for a few days.  It had gotten sandwiched in a pile of clean shirts that had yet to be hung up.
 - Second, while hanging a t-shirt that I had received as a gift from my parents,
I noticed the following (see pictures and explanation below them) ...

That's right.  It clearly states "US Apparel" as the brand name of this shirt.  And it also cleary staes that the shirt was ... "Made in Pakistan."

What.  The.  H--- ?!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

How long can it really last ?

My history of being a fan of the Denver Broncos is long and would make for quite an interesting blog in itself. But that's not the point of this blog. It is just another interesting sidebar to why I am writing about this topic.

If you don't know the name "Tim Tebow" then I can save you some time and you can stop reading right now. You need to have at least a basic knowledge of football, the NFL, and the recent trend to pass-happy offenses that has been coming for well over 10 years now, otherwise this post will just not be of any value to you (kinda like most of my posts, but at least this time I'm telling you to skip it ahead of time).

Today, the Broncos (As a TEAM !!!) won their game against the Vikings in incredible, last-minute fashion (much like they have each of their past 4 games prior). They have now won their last 5 straight games and are ... 6-1 with Tebow as the starting QB (after going 1-4 to start the season with a different QB).
Every week they seem to find some magic play or have just the right kind of lucky break that allows them to squeeze out another narrow victory.  They do not dominate teams.  Tebow doesn't throw many passes (in one victory he only completed 2 of 8 that he attempted).  There is no logical reason why they should keep on winning.  There is a ridiculous amount of discussion on virtually every sports network or sports media related affiliate about Tebow and whether or not the Broncos can win with him at the helm.  My only issue with those that strongly say "No!" is ... thus far, they're the only ones who have been wrong!  Because they keep winning, despite his supposed inability to lead the team.

AFC WEST     W L T        STRK
Denver            7 5 0      Won 5
Oakland          7 5 0      Lost 1
Kansas City     5 7 0      Won 1
San Diego       4 7 0      Lost 6

I believe each victory is truly a TEAM winAnd that's why I'm rooting for Tebow and the 2011 Broncos.  Each week you can see a different player take the lead in making "the big play(s)" that bring a W instead of an L.  I'm a much bigger fan of a TEAM versus an individual who does most of the work and then is given (or claims) much of or all the credit.  I am getting tired of hearing Tebow say the same things at each press conference ("I'm just going to get better each day.  I'm going to do what they ask me to do.  I have a lot to learn but I promise to work hard.")  Blah, blah, blah.  I know you're trying to keep humble and level-headed, etc.  And I know the media isn't asking any "new" questions so you are justified in giving them the same answers.  Honestly, I'll listen to that kind of talk all the way into the Playoffs and the Super Bowl if the miracle continues.

As a fan, I hate the close games, but since we (when WE win, then I am part of the team) keep coming out on top I am inclined to just expect a win each and every week.  This year that's only logical for a Green Bay Packers fan.  But week after week, the TEAM of Broncos finds a way to come together and win.  I want to keep on believin' and just enjoy this ride (like the 2007 Colorado Rockies in MLB) but I know it will end in defeat at some point.  It has to.  Doesn't it?