Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Here I am at the end of another year, sitting at my desk, working away trying to finish up some projects by working a little later. I’ve got some important things that I need to accomplish before tomorrow night. There are deadlines to be kept, the mess on my desk just doesn’t clear up all by itself. On top of that one of the interns asked to shadow me for a few days and he is constantly asking questions that I’m surprised he doesn’t know the answers to. What is wrong with this generation? You’d think that the schools would teach them to be free thinkers, come up with solutions, find the answer before they make it your problem.

On the other hand I’ve had some one on one time with the CEO, some lengthy conversations, other times quick exchanges as we discuss the status of our unit. I feel like my performance could use some good ol’ Steven Covey inspiration. First Things First. These past few days have been “time wasting” activities. I haven’t contributed much, just flying along on autopilot. Watching the CEO I’m amazed at what she accomplishes in such a short time. Even has time for the intern, their exchanges are always lively, some would say playful.

Friday will be different though. Friday I go back to work.

It’s amazing how just a few days off throws your system off. I’m sure that my wife (the CEO) wonders how my company survives with me let alone without me. Of course if this was the summertime I would have a totally different attitude. I would be outside or at least in the garage, building or fixing something. But even the garage is cold and unattractive. Even sleeping in is a chore with the 8 year old grandson (the intern) an early riser and expecting me to be his entertainment. It takes some energy. I don’t remember my own kids being kids anymore. I am sure that someone got up with them, fed them, clothed them, kissed their scraped knees and held them when they hurt inside. I just having trouble picturing me doing those things.

But I could beat the best of them at Nintendo, until they found out I was cheating. My office phone line had toll free access to the Nintendo help desk so I’d just go on speakerphone until they picked up and then some attentive minimum wage minion at Nintendo would answer my Golgo 13 or Zelda question and I’d return at home a hero. “How’d you figure that out Dad?”, “Well, I just worked it out in between meetings son.” It’s easy to get them to think that they can become Gods when their dad is godlike when it comes to playing games.

No, future vacations belong to the time between April and September. I’m not anywhere close to being helpful during a vacation in December. I don’t shop, I don’t clean, I don’t decorate. I’m not a baker, I don’t ooh and awe over the cute things of Christmas, and I won’t go caroling. The weather is cold, it snows sometimes, the power goes out, and I eat 90% of my annual chocolate allocation from Thanksgiving to New Years Day .

I know, I make the Grinch sound cute and adorable. Go away now. I’ve got to organize my mp3 collection.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Day Before The Day Before...

Twas the day before the day before Christmas. In my world I think of it as the “day before the day I start shopping for Christmas". Moreover, there is nothing more disconcerting than shopping for presents for the wife, especially on the last shopping day.

Shopping for my wife used to be easy. I would put off my shopping until Christmas Eve, get up, eat breakfast, maybe slink around the house until about one, then sashay into a jewelry shop, and make my purchase. I didn't spend a lot of money, it was the thought that counted. I was buying what I could afford, $20 earrings in the early days. Later in our marriage, I bought her some stuff that could really cut glass. The purpose of going to the jewelry store was for personal publicity. I was a man, I was in a jewelry store, and I was buying jewelry. I got extra points if someone I knew would see me buying jewelry. What they saw was a loving husband buying his wife JEWELRY! Women wished they were going home with me, men were envious, little girls hoped they'd meet someone like me some day, little boys didn't care.

Reality is that I suck at buying gifts for my wife. Early on in my marriage I bought my wife a gift just for being her. No special occasion, no birthday, it wasn't the anniversary of the day we met, nothing like that. But I saw this item and just knew she had to have it! Seems like a food processor doesn't have the same appeal as cheap earrings. Now in my defense I really thought that she would love it. I was making her life easier! The other day I needed a new beard trimmer and she suggested that I wait until after Christmas because she might get it for me. I reminded her that personal grooming products and kitchen equipment weren't gifts but necessities. And then I realized where I went wrong with the food processor. We, or should I say I, only used the food processor a few times. The only time she touched it was when she moved it to the garage. I re-gifted it in 2004 about 16 years later. Okay, I gave it to my mother who was thrilled at how thoughtful I was. Mothers of course are thrilled that we can put sentences together.

Going shopping under the best of circumstances is tough. Going during the Christmas rush is just madness. 99% of the time when men are going to the store it's only for themselves. Even when we lovingly offer to go to the grocery store late at night for our sweethearts, it's only because we've been thinking about going and getting some chips or ice cream for ourselves. By offering to go we get style points. When she is pregnant and wants Mexican TV dinners at nine in the evening we go, but we find it an excuse to get more dip.

Nowadays I start early on my shopping. About a week before Christmas I start dropping hints to her that maybe I wasn't listening when she mentioned that she wanted so and so. I bring out my little black book and call her girlfriends, our children, Dr. Laura, and light a candle at Lourdes in the hopes that God will bring all things to my recollection. Once I've squeezed every piece of information out of my sources, the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars I make my final move. I confess to her that I have not remembered a single suggestion she's made. I take my verbal lashings and with paper in hand, I go shopping.

Today, the day before the day before Christmas I went shopping. I would have gone on Christmas Eve but there was a threat of snow in the forecast, besides I happened to drive by a mall. I went into the "Women's Intimates" section of a well known store... all by myself. I knew her size, I knew what she wanted, I froze. I hung out in appliances for about an hour before I got the nerve to go in. As soon as I entered the "Intimates" department my sperm count dropped by about 5o%. The women's area is of course where female hormones come to reproduce and they feed off male testosterone. It is why they place this section on the side of the store opposite of the electronics section. You cannot place your hand on any rack without touching something that makes you feel like you're a sex maniac. Everywhere you move it is a girly world. Words are hard to form when someone offers assistance. I've had better conversations overdosing on Novocain. I was slapped twice by asking different women for assistance. The slapping stopped when I quit answering the question "What's her size?" with "She's not anywhere as big as you.

Women on the other hand shop for boys all of their life and let's face it guys, there is nothing at all sexy and steamy about the men's section. Boxers or briefs is the biggest decision that we ever make shopping. Our only criteria is to find the best underwear to hide the skid marks from the outside.

And she will be great on Christmas Day, she'll open up the presents that she told me to buy her. She'll put on an Oscar winning performance as she tears the wrapping (if I bothered to wrap them) off of her gifts. She'll exclaim that I'm so thoughtful and so considerate, that I always know just what she wants.

And it will be our little secret. About how lame I am, how stupid I am, how lucky I am.
Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Never Call A Girl Ugly (Even If It's True)

Thank God for my younger brother Gene.

I learned from him that it’s not always appropriate to say what you think directly to the person that you have the opinion about. A lesson like this didn’t’ come from careful planning, books, or deep conversations about choices and consequences, it came from pure stupidity.

We spent most of our childhood living on two acres in an area called the West Hill. The surrounding houses were a mix of families living in homes on two acres and little tract homes on postage stamp lots, and at the end of every street a cul-de-sac. It was quite the mixture of incomes. Well off, middle class, struggling to make ends meet and just plain poor. We fell into the latter category. I didn’t know it until I was twelve. It took going to junior high to realize how poor we really were. In elementary school you live alongside the people you go to school with. In junior high you realize that some people have more than you.

Now Judy Lang, in my opinion, was ugly. I know that it isn’t politically correct to say that in this day and age and it shouldn’t have been okay to say it back when I was a kid. But, let me say again, she was ugly. Judy was the girl that they based the quote “beauty is skin deep but ugly is to the bone” on. And it wasn’t just my opinion, all of the guys in the neighborhood and all the girls thought it too. I think adults held the same opinion. It wasn’t a case of she sometimes looked good if the light was right, the only time she could have looked good was if the earth would fall into total darkness and light had been snuffed from our existence. It is no exaggeration to say that she was difficult to look at. To add insult to injury she was my age and in my classes in school from elementary to junior high.

As a comparison I should tell you that living next door to me was an absolute goddess that must have been a little selfish when looks were handed out. I’m sure she got any beauty Judy was supposed to get. Debbie was my first crush and of course, I had to live next door to her for the next 9 years. Very difficult to go through puberty living next door to her. We had very nice things to say to Debbie, all of them to her face.

Judy was the target of an endless barrage of taunting, ridicule and name calling that I have never seen repeated in my entire life, except for the recent presidential elections. We made fun of her last name mainly. We called her Fang, Fango, Fangendorf (after the bread), and numerous other things that I can’t recall or I’m too embarrassed to share. As an adult I’m shocked that she didn’t go out and off herself with the way we treated her. Her house was only about a block away from ours, a huge distance to a kid. Her house was nicer than ours, She wasn’t poor and She dressed better than us. Again, she was ugly and that was our excuse for the way we treated her.

Everyone on our street walked the quarter mile to junior high school, my brother, three of the kids living next door to us, and everyone to the east of our home, which totaled about twenty kids. Fango, I mean Judy, had to walk past our house everyday to get to school and to visit her friends. I don’t know if she was going to an ugly club meeting that was held weekly or what. Gene, the first of my younger brothers, was standing with a group of about six boys, including me, on our side of the street. Judy came walking by. Ready for the lesson?

Up until that day, none of us would call her names directly to her face, that would have been mean, but as soon as she turned the corner and came toward our house, my brother yelled out “FANGO, you’re ugly!” It was an obvious posturing technique to assert his position as leader of the pack. What happened next surprised us all. Judy Lang walked over to him, his chest feathers all puffed out with peacock pride, him still calling her names and then… she decked him! Not some girly slap, there was no pushing, no further dialog, no requests for him to be polite or apologize, she just reached out with her first and cleaned his clock with one move. I believe that it was a right cross.

Up to that point, I had never witnessed firsthand someone go from a vertical position to a horizontal position so fast. I learned something while watching the blood start to ooze from his mouth. It’s better to think twice and act once. Once to think about what I’m going to say and the second time about how it will affect the other person. Not that I have applied this lesson learned in all situations, but seeing my brother prostrate on the ground sent me a strong message that has served me well over the years.

And maybe Judy got the last laugh on me. As a kid I had a newspaper route and delivered a weekly newspaper in our neighborhood. Judy’s parents were faithful subscribers. I was so scared of her after she cold cocked my brother that I chose never to collect the monthly subscription fees from her parents again. She had me so frightened that I just delivered that paper for free as long as I had that route. To avoid any possible confrontation with her I either threw the paper at the porch or sprinted as fast as my little legs could take me to the porch and back to the street.

I just realized that I’ve admitted being scared of a girl.
Thanks Gene, whereever you are.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Naughty and Nice List

Thanksgiving has come and gone and it looks like it’s crunch time for the fat man of the north. At the North Pole, this is the sports equivalent of fourth and goal on the one-yard line 10 seconds left and only a touchdown can win it, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, two strikes on the batter and he needs a Grand Slam to win. If Santa was Cinderella the clock is about to strike twelve and he is nowhere near the pumpkin coach. Being Santa has its pressures.

While the elves have their tasks, made easier by modern factories, Santa still must personally take care of one thing. The Naughty and Nice List. They, and we all know who they are, say that only Santa has the magical powers that tell who is naughty and who is nice. That leaves Santa the sole employee in charge of logistics.

That is quite a list with some notable names on it.

The Naughty List includes infamous people like Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dalmer, my ex son-in-law’s, and the girl who forgot to put ketchup packets in my bag at Jack in the Box on Friday. The Nice List includes people like Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Bill and Melinda Gates, all the girls who went out on a second date with me, and my wife (who bless her heart didn’t laugh the first time she saw me naked).

As time has passed and the world has changed I’m sure that the list reflects more of the world’s current standards. For instance, things which were once naughty are no longer are part of societies evils. For instance, dipping the ponytail of the girl in front of you in the inkwell at school, naughty but not relevant in today’s society. Not because a naughty boy wouldn’t or couldn’t do it given the chance, there’s just no need for inkwells anymore. Where is the fun of taking an ink pen and trying to write on her hair? Besides, the number of girls with longhair has grown shrunk noticeably over the years and dipping a short-haired girls locks in the ink would defeat the goal of not letting her know you’re doing it. You can’t just grab a girls head, tilt it back 90 degrees, dip the hair in ink and think she won’t notice. You do that today and you are the recipient of a harassment charge or a swift kick to the boys.

Other Naughty List deeds that were once bad seem to be moving over to the Nice List. Living together, disrespect to your parents, teachers and minister seem to be acceptable today. So is cheating at school, taking bribes, some murders, and recreational drug use.

With all of this change in morality the biggest problem that Santa has are the people that could easily be on both lists. If the criteria for the Naughty and Nice List has got a little blurred over the years maybe the answer lies in a new list, The Naughty and Nice List.

Here are a couple of examples of the argument for the new Naughty and Nice List. Let’s say that you have a ruthless dictator that oppresses the very people that he has responsibility for. On one hand, he imposes outrageous taxes on the people, but he also provides free daycare to everyone in the country. See, naughty and nice. Hugh Hefner has three girlfriend’s (Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson) that live with him. I’m sure they engage in immoral activities. Naughty, in two ways. But, the girls are helping out a senior citizen in his golden years and Hugh is providing advice and financial support for impressionable young women.

Not that any of this will matter soon. Santa will more than likely have to eliminate the Naughty and Nice list because it discriminates based on behavior. Soon he’ll be just like the Easter Bunny.

Everyone gets something, for nothing.