Doom and Gloom

For someone who had the most wonderful morning a couple days ago, you think I would be feeling on top of the world. Yet, I have this awful sense of impending doom, like my whole world is about to collapse around me. There seems to be no apparent reason for this. In fact, it had been a great week.

On Thursday, my wife Joanna’s band Drive By Todd opened for The Rustic Overtones. I’m so very proud of her. I’ve never been very good at showing my emotions and feelings, but her band has been practicing in my basement for a few years now. I heard their music practices for so long that it wouldn’t feel right if they ever stopped, even if I have to ask them to turn the volume down on occasion. So to see them on stage opening for a major band, that was a great accomplishment and at current, I can’t think of a time I’ve been more proud of her.

Sunday was such an incredible morning as well. We went out to breakfast to this little hole in the wall place in Camden. I’d never been there before. Rarely going out, Joanna has shown me so much about the area I grew up in that much of it is like a whole new experience. We each had eggs and brisket and it was amazing. We then stopped at a cute little bookstore and finally, Reny’s to browse. It was a really wonderful morning made all the more magical by the trees.

It had rained the previous day and the temperatures had dropped so quickly overnight that all of the tree branches were coated in ice making for an amazing drive. You’ve seen the movies where someone is making their way through a gorgeous winter wonderland? Well, this was more incredible. The way the sun twinkled through the hanging ice was nothing short of breathtaking. We even tried to stop in the road once or twice when it appeared that traffic wasn’t behind us to get a picture.

In the early afternoon, I went sledding with the kids. It was immense fun. I haven’t had that much fun sledding in quite a long time. The way my hat kept flying off into the air as I zoomed down the slopes. Or how I would lie on my belly and my kids would lie on my back so we could reduce wind resistance and achieve maximum speed and distance. It was simply a blast.

And then, that afternoon, I felt this awful sense of dread and doom looming over me. It just came on for no apparent reason at all. I spent probably an hour or two burning wood in the fire to clear my head, but it didn’t help. Probably because I wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular. Yesterday wasn’t bad. Joanna managed to put a wonderful smile on my face that lasted most of the day, but the feeling didn’t go away completely. I’m still feeling it this morning somewhat.

What’s particularly strange is an odd sense of peace with it. Like, I’m feeling this sense of dread, but if I were to pass away peacefully at this time, I would be okay with it. Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. I don’t have any desire to die, whatsoever. There’s so much I want to see and do. I look forward to the day and Joanna and I are grandparents babysitting our grandchildren so their parents can get a night to themselves. I have been experiencing lots of new moments of joy that I never would’ve in the past. So I don’t know why I have this strange feeling. Perhaps things have been too good for me and I subconsciously fear it will all be swept away. Perhaps where I haven’t been drinking nearly as much, this is some withdrawal symptom. I’ve heard depression can hit hard when a longtime drinker cuts back or just quits altogether. Maybe, where I have opened up so much, I am simply struggling to deal with my feelings. Or maybe, this is just something normal people go through.

I’m sure it will pass and I’ll be back to my normal self again. Either way, I’ll come out a stronger and wiser person for it and that makes me better equipped for the hurdles that will come down the road. So at the very least, I can look at this as a good thing in that regard.

Progress

Life is hard. Very much so. While the past couple months have treated me quite well, it’s had its downs. Being able to be much more open with my thoughts and feelings has been a tremendous blessing to me. It’s greatly improved many aspects of my life as well as helped me to make important changes. For example: I am have been working out three days a week now. To accomplish this, I get up at 4:30 in the morning and walk through the snow to an unheated garage at sub-freezing temperatures. Sometimes, I have to force myself to do it, but I do get up and do it. I also drink far less than I used to, only having two or three beers a week, if that. I am considerably less irritable because of it.

The downside to being more open with my emotions is after having them cut off for so long, I still struggle with how to deal with them. When bad news strikes, my brain seems jumps straight into the worst case scenario and fails to understand how to appropriately respond to it. This may result in an emotional break down whereas in the past, I may have been more likely to respond with, “Okay” and then move on. Neither of which is terribly helpful. One is uncontrolled and the other is overly controlled. I wish I could find some balance and middle ground with this, though I’m sure this will come with time.

I will say that overall this has been overall much better for me and my family, even if I can’t handle it correctly all the time. The times that I can’t I am embarrassed and ashamed. I need to remind myself that life is a struggle and can be painful, but it’s exactly that which forces us to grow stronger. It is my hope that as time progresses, this will help me to be the best husband and father that I can be. And when the time comes that I shall pass, I hope that my wife can back and is proud of who she chose to call husband and that my children were proud to call me father. Perhaps that is the highest goal of any man. Though I stumble, it is the one I strive most for.

I think I have a bright future ahead of me. Still I realize that there will be more pain ahead for nothing good ever comes easy, so I must be vigilant so that when it comes, I can deal with it in the best manner possible. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I believe that it will be worth it. So here’s to the future. Here’s to a better body, a better mind, and a wonderful family.

Scammers are getting clever

Yesterday morning, I received an email that appeared to be from my pastor. I saw it come in and then disappear as my e-mail flagged it as delicious spam. I went to the spam folder, checked the name, email address, and message and it all appeared to be legit. I did censor my Pastor’s name and any locations and have not included any email addresses in these transcripts. Here’s what it said.

  Hello How are you doing?

I need a favor from you

message me as soon as you get this

God Bless

Rev. Xxxx Xxxxxxx

The grammar was a little bit off, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time. So I replied.

Good morning, Pastor.

I’m doing well. What can I do for you?

Within two minutes, I had this reply.

Thanks for  getting back to me Brad,Am in meeting right now , and can not make calls , and due to my busy schedule, I can not get things done myself , 

I just need to get Steam card  or eBay today for some women going through cancer at the hospital but I can’t do that right now because of my busy schedule.

Can you get it from any store around you?  and I will pay you back later in cash or check. 

Let me know if you can get the card for these patients.

God Bless

So, there are some things in here that should’ve tipped me off right away, but I didn’t immediately notice because I was also working on other things at the same time. The first thing was that the font was slightly larger than in the previous email. Also, the grammar, punctuation, spacing, and capitalization was worse. The Steam card and eBay card for women at the hospital should have tipped me off, but the email coming from a seemingly trusted source forced my brain to rationalize it.

Being in a meeting could lead to distracted typing causing the grammatical errors. The women in the hospital going through cancer could’ve been helping kids with cancer and that would explain the Steam card. I honestly don’t expect my Pastor to know about Steam or how it works, so I could totally understand why he would reach out to me for help with this. And the eBay mention, I figured he meant getting a Steam card on eBay. Again, I don’t really expect my Pastor to understand Steam so it made sense that he would be asking me for help getting this for the children with cancer that he didn’t mention.

Now, I’m willing to help the church out. But I’m also going to do my due diligence and be smart about it. So I asked some questions. One thing I did catch on in the previous email was he mentioned “today” in the email. My Pastor knows what kind of drive I have to get to church and that it’s one of the reasons I can’t make it every week. While I still hadn’t quite figured out it wasn’t him yet, I made sure to mention specific dates in my reply. Also please note how I offered to ship them. While I love modern convenience, I am still stubbornly old school about certain things and when it comes to gift cards, I’d rather have one put in somebody’s hand.

I think they have those at my local Wal-Mart. I could probably grab one tomorrow. If not, I imagine I could get one on Amazon. How much do you need? And do you need one Steam card or multiple. I’m in Xxxxxxx today and won’t be back to Xxxxxxxxx until late tonight.  If I go through Amazon, I can probably have it shipped to an address of your choosing. I imagine you would have it by Thursday or Friday if I went through Amazon.

I made a quick search on Amazon after sending that and found that surprisingly, Amazon was not a good place to get Steam cards.

Scratch Amazon. Steam cards seem to be all from third party sellers on there. I can probably pick some up at Walmart tomorrow.

Within two minutes, I received this.

Ok good I will be so glad if you can get the for me.There are 20 of the women 

but I’m thinking of $1000 worth of Steam Gift card or eBay gift Card only for 10 for now, ($100 or $50 denomination each. That’s 10 cards  of $100 each).

Steam Gift card or eBayCard can be get at Best Buy, Kroger, Walmart or Target Store , and get it activated at the point of buying 

Am out of the parish office for a pressing meeting. I only need you to scratch the cards,

then take a SNAP SHOT of the back each showing the PIN and have them sent to me here so I’ll just forward to them easily. 

Will you be able to get the card for the patients right away?

Please let me know if that’s okay with you. 

Also don’t forget to let me know if you would want me to pay you

back the $1000 in cash or check

And here is where the scammer drops his guard. The first thing you’ll notice is that the font is even larger this time. What purpose the ever-increasing font size serves is beyond me, but they scam thousands of people every year, so perhaps they know something I don’t. The next thing was asking for a thousand dollars worth of gift cards. My church is a small church. They’re very charitable, but I can’t see them fitting in their budget to drop $1,000 of Steam games for children that again were never mentioned.

And then came the next few major giveaways. It suddenly wasn’t just Steam. eBay was confirmed as well as having Best Buy, Kroger, Target, and Wal-Mart were added. The nearest Best Buy is at least an hour or more from our church and the nearest Kroger is over 250 miles away. There absolutely no way the church would be requesting any of them, especially not from me who is much farther away than they are from Target or Wal-Mart. And then they asked for me to just send the pin on the back of the cards. Again, that’s another dead giveaway.

At first, I was very tempted to reply with, “Pastor, are you trying to scam me?” It was so hard to resist sending that. Instead, I decided to reply as I would to my actual Pastor to get that final piece of proof. I just wanted that one last bit of information to confirm everything I suspected.

Oh, I don’t have that much in my account. I could maybe do $100 or $200. I’m sorry. We’ve been scraping by paycheck to paycheck this year. Having to replace the well and a car as well as other unexpected repairs put a big hurt on our finances. I’m really sorry, but I don’t have that kind of money.

My Pastor would’ve already known this and wouldn’t have asked me to drop a grand. If it was really him, he’d apologize for forgetting about that and thank me for my time. If it was a scammer (it clearly was), he’d still be excited about getting what little money I had. Within two minutes, he replied.

Okay good get the Ebay gift card of $200 in $100 denominations

And forward the pictures or the codes of the cards to me

God bless

The font was back to normal. He was no longer requesting a Steam card for children that were never mentioned. He just wanted to shop on eBay with what little money I could offer. I had my proof and I sent him one final reply.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
-Mark 8:36

Repent! Go, and from now on sin no more.
-John 8:11

I haven’t received another reply. He must have realized the jig was up and decided to not put any more effort into me. It was around this time my Pastor sent an email advising everyone to ignore emails from that Gmail account as it wasn’t him. I asked him if it was an account he had that was hacked or one created in his name. That was not an email address that was his, but it was well crafted to appear to be from him. Someone had hacked his actual email, got ahold of his contacts list and then set up a new account in an effort to scam.

The ruse was well crafted and took an approach I hadn’t really quite run into before; that is pretending to be someone you know and even taking careful planning to craft the email around something they do, in this case, helping people. I wonder if everyone got the same email or if the scammer had learned enough about each of us to ask us the right questions. Did everyone get requests for Steam cards or was it just me? I can’t see some of the people in my church really knowing anything about Steam. In this case, I could totally see Pastor asking me for assistance with Steam if it were for sick children. I really can’t think of anyone else in the church off the top of my head that would be an immediate go-to in regards to Steam. This, of course, begs the question, did anyone else get requests for Steam cards? I’d love to know how generic or specific this targeting was.

Another thing to take note of is how the brain seems to ignore certain flags if it appears to be coming from a trusted source. I’m glad that as I asked questions, the flags became more and more apparent. Still, this must be a method that works and I wonder how often people just fall for this without question. Clearly, enough for these scammers to do it.

I think there are some good key things to take away from this. When they are asking for something, is it something they would have trouble with? What I mean is, could they easily do this themselves or would the task, in particular, be something they may be confused with. In this case, it was. However, would you also have trouble with the task at hand and would it be reasonable for them to come to you about it?

Do they normally type like that or do they normally communicate via email? If you answered no to either of them, that’s a red flag. If it’s needed by a certain time, challenge it. Offer a time that works better for you. If they are insistent, it may be a scammer. Some situations work better over the phone or in person. If they are unwilling to meet in person or talk over the phone, that’s a huge red flag.

Look for variances in the story. Do things change over time? Do they ask for things that simply don’t exist in your area? Do they seem to not know things that the should simply just know? Do you say you are unable to help and they quickly urge for less than the initial amount?

Basically, look for any clue that seems out of the ordinary. If even one piece does not fit in line with their character and habits, no matter how minute, it may not be them.

Pain and Growth

I am a fuck up. Probably always have been, most likely always will be. But I’m trying. With every screwup comes a little improvement, or at least that’s what I hope is happening. I have messed up a lot in life. It’s led to an awful lot of insecurities and it’s caused me to ignore or shutout all of the wonderful people around me. It’s caused me to reject or miss a lot of great experiences. Experiences I was a part of, I often completely missed the wonderful and beautiful things about it. When faced with challenges, I would back away or lash out at them. All this, in turn, has caused me to mess up even more. You can see it’s a vicious circle that spirals downward until change or demise.

I used to have a big problem with empathy. I had a great difficulty feeling it. As such, my emotions and responses were very cold, unfeeling. Feeling sympathy for other’s misfortunes was difficult. I couldn’t relate to things that shouldn’t have taken a lot to relate to. I had difficulty picking up on simple social cues and I was stubborn to the point of blinding myself to the obvious. It was absurd how much I blinded myself to what was clearly around me. I was, to put it bluntly, a detriment to myself and those around me.

In recent months, I have woken up to that fact and it hit me like a truck full of bricks. Somewhere along the line, I had stopped growing. Perhaps it was living alone for so long with little to no outside social life. Perhaps it was a growing dependence on alcohol and tobacco. The fact is, somewhere along the line, I went stagnant. Even major life events didn’t change me as much as they should’ve. I’m growing now, but it is very difficult.

I think I have a lot more understanding and compassion than I used to, but I believe that I am having trouble regulating. Having lived so long without the basic social skills and emotions that a person needs to grow, I find it difficult to determine where the lines of too much and too little are. I try and I think I’m better at reading social cues than I once was, but I can’t be certain.

One thing I am certain of is that I’m a much better person than I once was. Everything is now exciting and new to me. Looking back, I don’t like the person I was and I’m pleased to say that I’m relatively sure he’s dead. Don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of great qualities the old me had, but there were also a lot of bad ones. A lot of things I’m ashamed of and embarrassed about. I like to think I’m keeping all the good qualities while carefully burying the bad ones.

If someone asked me what I wanted out of life a year ago, asked me what were my goals, the old me would have said that he didn’t know, that he already had everything he wanted and to an extent, that was true. I had married the woman of my dreams, had two wonderful children and bought a home. However, that would’ve been my own stagnation speaking. Yes, I had achieved what I wanted and they were absolutely wonderful, but I didn’t see a need for goals from there. If you asked me today, I would tell you that I want to have a loving, long-lasting marriage. I want to make sure my children grow up into wonderful adults. I want to try new experiences, including those things that I outright rejected in the past. I want to go to another country for my 10 year anniversary. I want to go on exciting new journeys in life. And I want to write.

That’s one of the things that has been something of a blessing to me; a renewed interest in writing. I used to write all the time, but somewhere along the line, I stagnated and stopped. Every once in awhile, I’d start typing and write whatever came to mind, but lately, I’ve had more focus. I’ve been able to work on short stories and develop them a bit before posting. Writing has always been something of a passion and now that this passion has been re-kindled, I’m hoping I can keep this flame burning long. I’m not looking to become a big author or anything like that. I just want to get my stories out and know that people have read it and said, “Yeah, that was a good story.”

For the past few months, I’ve been looking at the world through new eyes. It’s a wonderful and beautiful world. It’s also got a lot of pain, but with pain comes growth. It should’ve happened much sooner, but I think I’m finally growing into the man I need to be.

Shameless plug…

If you’d like to read any of my stories, head on over to Taradiddlesoup.

There you will find an ever-growing collection of tales that I have written. I have two more short stories that I am currently working on that I hope to post soon with hopefully many more to come after that. I’ve recently posted a delightful story about photography and why you should never attempt it.

Tickmageddon!

I spent much of my youth running around like a little idiot. You could often find me running through a field of tall grass, climbing trees, or recklessly wandering through the woods. Being one who could not stand the feel of lotions and sprays, my only protection from the sun and various bugs looking to use me as a buffet were my hands and clothes. Despite all my years playing in the exact areas ticks love to call home, I never once saw or even got a tick on me. All of that changed for me this year.

In this year alone, my wife and I have pulled so many ticks off of me and our children that we can scarcely believe it. Despite living away from the center of town, I do my part to keep my yard tidy to keep the little bastards at bay, and yet they still come. Just today my daughter was outside for not terribly long while I was doing yard maintenance and somehow managed to get a tick on her leg under her tights. After doing a thorough tick check on her, I had my wife do one on me. Thankfully, I was in the clear. Earlier in the year there was one embedded behind my ear, so we’ve been cautious to do regular tick checks. Considering that I haven’t had a haircut in over two years, tick checks aren’t the easiest for my wife to perform on me. After taking my shower, I decided to check over my jeans before putting them back on. I’m glad I did as I found a tick on the inside of one of the pant legs. Suffice to say, the tick met a watery demise as it was whisked away to my septic tank. The jeans went straight into the washing machine.

20180715_125015

Believe it or not, when we moved in, you couldn’t even see this stone wall. To someone who didn’t know better, you’d never know it was there.

If you take a look at the photograph above, you’ll see my recently uncovered stone property line. That wall is a veritable tick breeding ground. I’ve gotten more ticks on that wall than I have anywhere else on the property. That’s why I’ve been doing my damnedest to clean it up. That picture was taken today and if you think it looks like a mess, you should’ve seen it before. In the next picture down below, you’ll see a huge pile of brush. Most of that brush was what I had cut away and cleared from the wall. It was so thick there, you couldn’t even see the wall when we moved in almost two years ago. Since then, the vegetation around that wall has been met with branch cutters, a chainsaw, a machete, and good old-fashioned pulling. I have tried to mow and weed whack as best I can along that wall every week. I’ve been making progress, but the basic stuff comes back quickly. I would love to just coat that entire area with industrial plant killers, but my wife is against the idea.

20180715_125024

The area that you see before you looks absolutely nothing like it did when we moved in.

In this next picture in left corner between the wall and the trees, you can see branches and plant growth. Though it’s difficult to tell, that pile of branches and brush goes up above my head in places and much further back, just to give you an idea of how much I have cleared from the wall. If you go back to that first picture, you’ll see I’ve got a lot to go. Well, that’s not really that much compared to how much I’ve already removed. However, before I can get the wall fully cleaned up, I need to take some time to talk to my new neighbors about cleaning up their half of the wall. Cleaning up my side will only do so much if the other side is still a breeding ground.

Anyhow, back to the second picture. If you look between the left tree and the brush pile, you’ll see an empty space. Until very recently, that space was occupied by ancient and rusty farm equipment. It was also full of waist high plants, large dead sticks, and rocks which made it very difficult to clean up. Once the farm equipment was gone, it was much easier to go in there and clear the area out.

The space between the trees had a very large shed in it and was extremely wet. Throw in there very large rocks, boards with nails, and very high plants, and it wasn’t even worth the effort to clean it up until the shed was gone. Thankfully, that went the same day as the farm equipment. Within hours of that shed moving, the wetness began drying up very quickly. This allowed me to go through and cut down the high plants as well as remove the large rocks and boards with nails.

The are around the right tree was full of tall plants. Once I actually got in there, I discovered that most of those plants were not actually grass and the such, but lots of little trees that had sprung up over the years. So many skinny trees, most of them half an inch to an inch thick. We used (and I don’t know what you would call it) what I can only describe as a weed whacker with a saw blade. It took quite a while, but it got the job done, though I lost much of the feeling in my arms that day from the sheer vibrations of it. Then I used the branch cutters to remove the stumps. It wasn’t fun work, but I’m proud of what I did. The yard looks so much nicer now and I’m not nearly as worried about ticks in the part of the yard as I once was.

In the back, you can see what appears to be more bushes. These are more of those thin trees that have cropped up over the years that need to be cut down and removed, just as were around the right most tree in the picture. In time, I will remove these too, however, they are not priority right now and will have to wait for a future date. I am considering having a go at these during the winter when there aren’t any leaves to obscure what I am doing. Winter will also allow me to cut the wood into better piles. Without all the summer growth, I should be able to take care of a lot. Hey, maybe I should consider doing some heavy work on that wall during the winter as well.

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Please excuse the unfinished mowing job. I’m waiting on a new mower blade.

In this third picture, you can see a portion of the back yard. It’s difficult to tell, but right after that patchy part of the yard ends is where my yard used to end. From there back, it used to be all field. This year, however, I decided to mow all the way to the property line which you can see in the right corner by that tuft of grass and the line where it goes from short to tall. Now, that taller area is usually much, much taller. Once a year, however, that field is cut down and this picture was taken about a week or two after that had happened. So I decided to mow all the way to the property line for two reasons. The first was that I wanted my children to have a larger area to play in. The second was to keep the ticks further at bay. Ticks enjoy taller grass as it puts them at a better level to grab on to their prey. This is also why I keep my lawn mower on one of the lowest settings. Unfortunately, this is also why you see in this picture that there’s still a chunk of lawn that needs to be mowed.

My mower has hit enough stumps, rocks, and what-have-you hidden by the tall grass and bush that it’s not worth the effort of continuously bending the blade back into place. I found a replacement blade specifically for my lawnmower on Amazon.com for only $12.97 that many of the reviews say is better than the one that came with it. At this point, I think I have removed every obstacle that will damage my blade so if I can get a better one for under thirteen dollars, then I’ll wait the two days for it to come in the mail.

In this picture, you can also see my recently dug firepit. So for those of you about to say that the pile in the second picture is a breeding ground for mice which are a breeding ground for ticks, I’ve already planned for that. As time permits, I go out and cut the branches up, making neat stacks based on thickness. These piles are in turn expended in the firepit in which beer is drank in front of in the darkness of night. Yes, there is still quite a ways to go in cutting down the branch piles into neat stacks, but Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.

Over the next few years, I hope to eventually line the perimeter of my property with a couple of feet (wide, not thick) of mulch or gravel. It is my understanding that these things are not things ticks like to cross, mostly because it’s difficult to grab on to passing prey. I suppose if there was an area that I would be more likely to be stepped on as opposed to being in a place where I could freely hitch a ride and get free drive through, then I too would try to avoid that area.

So now you’ve read some of what I’ve been doing to keep the ticks at bay. It’s not foolproof, but every little bit helps. Still, the ticks find ways to get in. A few weeks ago my son dropped his hat on the ground. It was only there for a moment before he put it back on his head. When we went in the house later, I found a tick crawling through his hair. Also, turkeys are crawling with ticks and those damn birds just love roosting on my lawn for some reason. It’s not uncommon for me too look out the window in the morning and seeing twenty or thirty of them in my back yard. In addition to ticks, they like to leave other surprises, namely digging holes in my yard. I’ve seen them do it.

I would love to hear your comments on what has worked for you at keeping the ticks at bay. Before you say chickens, at the moment, chickens are not feasible to me, though they are delicious. We have too much wildlife and they would most likely be eaten by a fox in no time. On the plus side, we have lots of robins. As soon as I found out that robins are natural predators of ticks, I installed a bird feeder. I want to encourage the robins to stick around for as long as possible.

Dennis the F***ing Menace

It’s not terribly often I actually contact a company about it’s content. Honestly, my opinion is the company can have whatever content they please. But every now any then, I come across some questionable decisions and even more questionable algorithms. So begins my gripe with Hulu.

I don’t use Hulu often, but they’ve got a few programs I like and they give me a good monthly cost. I have a children’s account setup for my daughter, but the show selection is honestly dubious at best. It’s mostly just terrible/stupid programming that has no redeemable qualities whatsoever and when you do find a good quality show that children can appreciate, it’s only available on a regular user’s account. And sometimes further, the logic behind what is acceptable on a children’s account and what is not makes no sense. Now, I like the Dick Van Dyke show as much as the next guy, but can anyone tell me why this is available on the children’s account but Dennis the Menace isn’t?

Anyhow, because of such nonsensical decision making and my great disdain for most of the other programing on the children’s account, I will occasionally allow my daughter to watch a show on my account as long as I approve of it. One such program we enjoy watching together is the 1959 version of Dennis the Menace. Oh, the mischief that boy gets into. How is he going to torment Mr. Wilson next? I guess I’ll just have to watch and find out.

So I had the house mostly to myself a few weekends ago and I thought I would sit and watch an episode of Dennis the Menace by myself (don’t let my daughter know that I watched it without her). It was the episode where Dennis threw out Mr. Wilsons old phone book not knowing there was a slip for $500 worth of stocks inside. Oh, that Dennis. Anyhow, it was during the second commercial break that a commercial for Shameless came on, a show I actually want to see. I was a little surprised that the commercial was running during an episode of Dennis the Menace, but I didn’t really put too much thought into it. I mean really, what’s actually going to happen in an advertisement during a family show?

The word “fucking” happened, actually. It was very clearly and forcefully said in the commercial. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was verbalized in all caps. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. It was in the middle of the day during a family show. Now, I realize Hulu is an online pay service and I pick the programming I want to watch when I want to watch it, but surely they must have an algorithm for choosing ads better than this, right? Like, if I was watching say Dexter of Spartacus, I absolutely would’ve expected a commercial like this and not given a second thought about the f-bomb. But I wasn’t watching Dexter or Spartacus or anything of the sort. I was watching old fashioned, good wholesome, family friendly, 1959 black and white Dennis the Menace. You’d think whatever algorithm they use for choosing advertisements would be considerably better. If I watch the Addams Family, are they going to recommend me Game of Thrones and show somebody in the process of becoming his own uncle?

I called the company. Can you believe it? A major corporation this day and age that still has a customer service line that was semi-easy to find. You’d be surprised how uncommon that is. Anyhow, the lady I spoke with a extremely friendly and absolutely wonderful. Exactly what a customer service rep should be. She was surprised to hear that an ad for Shameless came on during Dennis the Menace and even more shocked to hear that an f-bomb was dropped in it. She actually asked the same question a couple different ways to make sure that she was hearing what I was saying correctly. “It wasn’t censored? It was clear? During Dennis the Menace?” She was very sympathetic. And assured me that she was going to be taking this to their….I forgot what she called the team, I think it was a content department something, but she must’ve gotten it done as I haven’t seen a single inappropriate advertisement since, not even on shows were I would expect an ad like that.

So I have to give great props to Hulu and their customer service rep. It was honestly a much better experience than I would’ve imagined. There was a surprisingly bad hiccup in their advertising and they handled it splendidly. I hope that lady gets a raise.

The Music of My People, Children

When I get old and my grandkids are in their early teens visiting as I sit in my chair staring off into space, I’m going to just start randomly mumbling Kid Rock and Korn lyrics to make them think I’ve lost my mind.

“Bawitdaba, da bang, da bang diggy diggy, diggy, said the boogie, said up jump the boogie.”

“Boom na da noom na na nema, Da boom na da noom na namena, Da boom na ba noom na namena, Da boom na da noom na namena…”

I can only pray that it happens at a family gathering with my cousins and brothers who would hopefully join in to make the kids think we all lost it at once.

It’s A Boy!

On June 22nd at 10:34 PM, David Maxwell Grierson was born. In a previous blog post, I mentioned that on the day my daughter was born, I read to her Genesis 1 and I had yet to decide what I would read to my next child. Up until he was born, I still had no idea. After a few hours of sleep, I held my son in my arms and I knew.

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Genesis 2 on what was technically the day after he was born, but seriously, it wasn’t even 10 hours later. It may have been even less than 9 hours later.

Genesis 2 was what I read to him hours after he was born. It seemed appropriate. Second child, second chapter. First son, first man. Somehow, nothing could be more appropriate. And so I held him and I read.

It’s been an adjustment. My daughter tries to be helpful, but she’s not old enough to understand how her “helpfulness” is actually problematic. My poor wife only gets an hour to three hours of sleep a night. I started a new job so I need to make sure I get my sleep so I can perform to support my family. We’re breastfeeding (well, she is…it’d be kinda weird if I was breastfeeding) so it’s not like I would be much help when he wakes up hungry anyways. I try to help out in other ways though. My new job has much better hours, so I’m actually home for more hours than when I’m just sleeping so I pick up slack in the areas of laundry, dishes, and helping with the toddler. Trust me, trying to teach a two year old proper toy organization is hard when they don’t grasp that the toy hot dog does not go with the toy dairy; it goes with the toy fish and toy hamburger.

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Seriously, three year olds back in the day were expected to sort berries. Why can’t my near two year old separate fish and milk on the toy shelf? I swear, if she’s not programming a VCR by the time she’s five, it’s back to the womb with her.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-DIG-nclc-00791

Kidding aside, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I wouldn’t change a thing. My wife may wish I produced milk, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s the Real Story?

A few days ago as I stood in line at the grocery store, I glanced over at the rack of magazines and saw something hilarious. There was a picture of Jared from Subway looking sad and underneath it said in plain black letters, “Jared beaten up in prison.” But then, right below it in larger bright pink letters, “PLUS: HE’S GAINED 30 LBS!” You can tell where the media feels our priorities lie. On one hand, you have the spokesman for a healthier society who was shown to be an active pedophile and now he’s getting beaten up for it in prison. A stark warning to anybody who considers committing the unspeakable crimes. On the other hand, you have the story about how the guy who lost all the weight at Subway is getting fat again. What’s the bigger story?

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“Holy shit! The Subway guy gained 30 lbs. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”

I looked at some of the articles online and many of them talked about how he eats cakes for breakfast and the other junk he’s consuming with only brief mention of the assault. The story that’s being reported is less about a pedophile getting his ass kicked and more about a pedophile on his way to diabetes. The reporting that’s been done (from what I’ve seen) has clearly been less on the actual news and more about making people feel better about themselves. I can imagine some poor obese person whom Jared once gave hope but could never achieve the weight loss saying aloud, “HA! That’s what you get for making me feel fat. Now who’s the fatty!?”

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It’s still you.

And that’s how I realized why magazines are still around this in this day and age. Bullshit headlines for bullshit stories to makes us feel better for few minutes as we laugh at someone else’s expense, even when the actual story is almost totally ignored. You might point out that it’s typical for tabloids and celebrity magazines to have headlines along the lines of, “Look who got fat!” and you would be right, but the difference here is that there is an actual big story and it all gets glossed over. If there is a silver lining to all of this it is this; if you’re famous and you commit some horrible crime, just get fat and it may overshadow every terrible thing you’ve ever done.

Repentless Child

Last evening as I sat down at the computer to do a few things before playing Yahtzee with my wife, my two and a half year old daughter ran up to me exclaiming, “Daddy, daddy! Play some music.” Being the totally responsible parent that I am, I obliged and put on some Judas Priest. I was initially disappointed when she told me “Daddy, I don’t like this one,” as Judas Priest is my favorite band. Worried, that I was going to have to disown her, she surprised me when she pointed at my screen and said, “Daddy, I want to play that one.” She was too far away for me to see exactly what she was pointing at so I picked her up and brought her close enough to point directly to it. When I asked her what one she wanted again, she placed her finger on the screen and said that one. It was Slayer’s newest album.

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You can really see the childlike appeal.

“Slayer?” I asked.

“Yeah! I love Slayer!” she exclaimed with great delight.

Despite having never used the Amazon music player before nor ever seen me use it, my daughter deftly grabbed the mouse that was on the desk, moved the curser over the album cover to reveal the PLAY button and pressed it. Immediately, the soothing tones of Slayer’s Implode came bursting out of my computer’s speakers. With a squeal of glee, my daughter got down on the floor and began thrashing about like a true metal head. Normally, I wouldn’t allow her to listen to Slayer, but the sheer hilarity of it all coupled with the fact that my daughter picked and seemed to genuinely enjoy good music, I decided to allow her in this instance. Following with the song Repentless, she ran back and forth screaming with a psychotic giddiness as her arms flailed in the air. Truly this was my child.

This morning as we got ready for church, my daughter politely informed me, “I want some Slayer, Dada.” Sorry Olive, but I’m not turning the computer on as I get us ready for Church just so you can listen to Slayer. In the car, my wife decided to put on some Gangnam Style to make the ride more enjoyable. Olive was whole unimpressed and appeared to be quite disappointed in us. I feigned mild disappointment but deep down, I was proud of my little girl.

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Too imature for a two year old, yet adults everywhere were mesmerized for a year straight.

After Church, we visited some of my wife’s good friends. My daughter somehow managed to quickly find the CDs in their house which is amusing because we almost never use CDs, so I’m not fully sure where she picked on the fact that these discs play music. Kids will always manage to surprise you, I suppose. When one of the girls of the house asked what she was doing, my daughter politely responded with, “I want to listen to Slayer.”

The poor girl was taken aback, as if she didn’t know what to say. “Slayer?” she managed to get out.

“Yeah!” said my child. “I love Slayer!”

Now, I don’t believe this family had any Slayer. They seemed like an earthy bunch and earthy people can’t stand Slayer. Not really sure why, but I suspect that when the sky rains blood, it isn’t very good for the plants. Anyhow, Olive kept asking this poor family to play Slayer for some time. Eventually, they were able to get her off the subject and have a delightful afternoon with the lass.

I still have much work to do in teaching my child of good music, but the Slayer incident has given me hope. There is a ray of sunshine that says I may not have to put up with the latest boy band or vapid pop singer in twelve or so years, but may instead be treated to the classics of my own youth, or at the very least, bands that don’t suck.