Jelly or Jam?

Hey Marty, Lemme ask you something.

Do you prefer jelly, or jam?

I’ve always been a jelly guy myself. Not that I’ve eaten all that many peanut butter sandwiches lately. It’s just what we always kept around the house when I was growing up, so why change. You know what I’m saying?

To be honest here, I never would have given the matter much thought.

Last week though, the wife goes shopping, and accidently buys jam instead.

I mean Jesus Marty, it’s an honest fucking mistake. They’re sitting right next to each other on the shelf there at the supermarket, you know. They’re both purple, what are you gonna do? You know she’s not feeling well. I think she’s coming down with that thing I had the other day. You know, accidents happen. The point is Marty, I don’t care. Jelly, jam, what the hell’s the difference, right? Me I’m I grown up, shit like that don’t bother me. Not a big deal, right?

Only we don’t find out she bought the wrong thing til a couple days later, see.

There she is, in the kitchen making lunch for the kid. She get’s the jar out of the fridge and sets it on the counter. My son sees the label and starts giving her the sideways stare. You know that look I’m talking about. The one they get right before they make a big deal out of fucking nothing. Yeah that look. Now, my wife she’s already had a rough god damned day what with getting everyone up for breakfast, and doing the laundry and such. Like I said she’s feeling under the weather. I see what’s going on and, I figure, I need to do something.

That’s when I step in all like. “Oh, boy jam!” I tell him how great it is that his mom bought it for me, and look it’s concord fucking grape, my favorite. Then I tell the kid that I’m gonna make myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and ask if he wants one. Well now I got him off guard, right? He ain’t to sure about the whole jam thing still but, I’m so freaking excited about it, he says he’ll try it.

I say, “Tell you what kiddo, I’ll make a sandwich and, we’ll split it.”

You know, the damned kid never finishes a whole sandwich anyway.

So, I make the sandwich, cut it in half, make sure to cut the crusts of his half. He don’t like the crusts see. If you ask me it’s the best part of the bread but, kids. What are you gonna do, right? Anyway I put each half on a plate, slide one across the counter to the kid. He’s still looking at me all weird, so I smile and take a big bite of my half.

I gotta tell you Marty, I’m a fucking jam guy now. I swear to God, it was amazing. It was a little bit sweeter, a little smoother, and it didn’t fall out the edges the way the jelly normally does. You know it just stuck to the bread better. You know, maybe it was just this particular brand but, I really liked it.

I don’t know where you stand on the whole jelly or jam issue but , you should think about it.

Anyway, let’s go get a baseball bat and see if this joker knows something or if he’s really as dumb as he saying.

Hey Marty, you like wood or aluminum bats?

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The Damned Cat

How am I doing? I’ll tell you Marty, I’ve had a hell of a day already.

Pulled myself outta bed to take the kiddo to school. I’m trying to get him up but he’s being an absolute ball buster this morning. You know I’ve had this god awful cold all week, so my head is just freaking pounding. I’m trying to be in a good mood, I’m really trying here but, here’s all this whining and pouting about getting out of bed, and for once it’s not me. You know what I’m saying Marty?

Anyway, I’m practically begging the kid to get dressed now. I’m hoping to god that I can get him out the door in time to just stick him on the bus, but the clock’s ticking. Instead he’s just pissing and moaning about how he can’t find his freaking monkey socks. I don’t even know what a fucking monkey sock is. So I’m helping him look for these god damned socks but everytime I bend over all the snot in my head goes sliding forward, I get all dizzy. It feels like I’m gonna go over like a stack of dimes. Anyway, we find the socks, he gets the left one on but as soon as I try handing him the right one the whole freaking thing falls apart, and he starts yelling at me and pushing me away. Finally, I get him to out of the bedroom by promising I’ll put his shoes on for him while he eats his damned oatmeal.

This whole time Marty, the whole time I’m being nice about it. I’m acting all smiles and god damned sunshine, I swear.

So, then we go to the kitchen, I set the kid up on a stool the wife puts the bowl of oatmeal on the counter. I ask my wife if she’s seen the cat.

Now that damned cat is the whole reason I even dragged my sick ass out of bed this early I’m getting the kid to school, so that my wife can take that murderous little turd to the veterinary clinic for it’s shots this morning.

Of course the answer is no, she aint seen the cat. Because, it’s a cat.

They’re completely unreliable. That’s why I’m a dog guy. You want reliability you, get a dog. I’ve always said that. You know I’ve always been a dog guy.

So, There I am, struggling to put canvas high tops on the dead weight that is my child. He’s not cooperating. He’s just complaining about how I’m doing it wrong between shoving spoonfuls of apples and brown sugar in his face. Meanwhile the wife’s outside calling for the freaking cat. I’m sucking snot back up into my nose, trying not to get any to the kids sneakers, ‘cause that’s gonna open up a whole new can of worms with him. I’m looking at the clock, just watching time melt away from me here, and I know, I just know there’s not a chance in hell of making it to that bus stop, not today.

So anyway Marty, you know the car’s not running right. That’s why I needed you to come pick me up this morning, right. By the way thank you. So, that means I got to get him to school on his bicycle.

I take out my phone to find out what the weather’s doing, ‘cause the radio ain’t being no help. They’re too busy yammering about what this dipshit we put in office is screwing up today. So, I look at my phone and it’s thirty-four degrees out. Now I’m like are you shitting me? Two degrees above freezing and I gotta get this kid on a bike? I tell the kid to get his helmet and, there’s suddenly all this shock and amazement. He starts whining all over again, about how it’s too cold and that he want’s to ride the bus. At this point I sort of lose it a little bit. I start telling him all of the problems I’ve had this morning. The wicked sinus headache, the blocked nasal passages, the constant whining from him. I tell him how, despite all of it, I’ve been very nice to everyone so far, and if he had just gotten up when I asked him the first time he could’ve rode the bus. So, if he didn’t mind, could he please just go get his god damned helmet so we can get on our way.

To be clear Marty, I never raised my voice. Not once you know, not really.

I go outside, I walk past my wife. She’s shaking a god damned bowl full of food for the cat all over the place, trying to get him to show up. I go back to the shed to get the bikes. Of course mines buried all the way in the back behind all the Christmas ornaments. I wrestle the damned thing out. The tires are fucking flat. I gotta pump them up. Which means I gotta dig around for the damned pump.

I do that. I bring the bikes back around to the front of the house. I go back inside.

There’s my wife, staring at me. Giving me that look. You know, that look. Apparently I upset our little angel.

I didn’t even yell at him Marty. I mean here I am. Sick as a dog, getting up early. Being nice to everyone, not complaining once. I’m being the loving husband, the dutiful father here. All so she can take this freaking cat to the vet. Now I’m all of a sudden the bad guy again.

She tells me don’t worry about it. She’ll take him to school. She can’t find the cat anyway, so she’ll just call and reschedule the appointment for later in the day. She’s not raising he voice, not making a fuss, but I know I’m gonna hear about it later, believe me.

They walk out the door.

I sit down on one of the kitchen stools.  Finally, I take a sip of my freaking coffee that I poured myself forty-five minutes ago. It’s ice fucking cold. I look down. There’s the cat. Crawling out if the fucking pet carrier. It’s been asleep in there this whole time.

Jesus, I tell you Marty, I hate that damned cat.

So anyway, let’s talk about how you want to do this bank heist.

Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.

Thank You Appendix

“What are you thankful for?” The unavoidable question that will come out of my child’s mouth this year as our small family sits around the dinner table this year. She’ll ask it out of genuine curiosity, out of a sense of tradition, and out of a desire to deflect my attention when I tell her she needs to eat something other than cornbread. I’ve known the question is coming for weeks and I’ve been trying to think of what I am actually thankful for. It’s been kind of a crap year I suppose. It started right off the bat with my wife losing her job and well it just kind of gets harder to pick out good news from there. So I guess I’ll settle for being grateful for bad news.

This year I am thankful for appendicitis. Specifically my wife needing to be taken to the ER with severe abdominal cramps early this summer. She had emergency surgery to have the offending vestigial organ removed. It was then that they found the tumor.

A carcinoid tumor. It’s a slow-growing type of cancer. It often goes undetected for years. If her appendix hadn’t gone then quite frankly the chances of it getting noticed before it was extremely advanced was slim. She was scheduled for another surgery quickly and the rest of the tumor, along with about two feet of intestine was removed.

This little disaster resulted in an out pouring of sympathy and support from friends and family.  Some of this support came in the form of a care package, that included two gift cards, one for a restaurant, and one for amazon. They were just enough to let us shuffle expenses around and kept us from making a hard decision between her post-op medications, groceries and other household needs in the following months.

That package also included a journal and a pen, that after letting it stare at me accusingly for a while I took up and have now been using daily to unclutter my brain every morning. This in turn, has caused me to start blogging again. Because why write it down if you don’t intend it to be read? Doing this has caused me to recently go back and examine some of my earlier work and I am thankful for the realization that it doesn’t entirely suck.

I mean don’t get me wrong there’s some real turds there, but I am happy to have found quite a few I’m somewhat pleased with. Especially the 100 word posts I’ve made but then I have always been a fan of brevity.

So yeah, thanks to my wife’s appendix that no longer is.

Oh yeah. I am thankful for my family and friends, my pets (even the emotionally needy rat terrier), lollipops, indoor plumbing, and all the rest of that stuff.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have turnips to peel.

“That Dad”

I wanted, I really wanted to write something about the election.

I had this thing in my head,  there was snark and humor involved. But that’s not what I do and it’s a little late in the game to start with that nonsense. Besides that, something more important came up.

I missed my daughters first chorus recital.

Because of work.

I became “that dad”.

I didn’t find out about it until after the schedule had been posted. Everyone else had their time off planned for weeks, there was no one available to cover who had my skill set, and I really needed the hours. My wife assured me our daughter had fun, it likely didn’t matter to her that I wasn’t there. It wasn’t even an actual recital,  It was just two songs and, it was done with really quickly. The kids spent more time playing in the park than they did actually singing.

That just makes it worse though. If I had known all that I could have gone into work early set up the kitchen, dipped out, hustled downtown to the thing, and hauled ass back before dinner rush had begun. Not that I could have known but, such is hindsight. Still it bugs me.

I’ve never missed anything before. Nothing like that. Not even the school play where she didn’t have any speaking parts, and basically just stood there dressed as a shrimp. Well, I mean we called it a shrimp, we did our best with what we had, it was mostly just sequins and googly eyes, she really looked more like a super fabulous Deep One. But seriously, for fuck sake I chaperoned a gaggle first graders through a field trip to a nursing home one year so they could sing holiday carols to the residents there. Let me just say, you’ve no idea what hell is until you’ve listened to over one hundred elementary school kids sing “I Have a Little Dreidel” off key, at the top of their lungs, and not nearly in unison to a bunch of confused, and possibly angry, senior citizens.

I suffered this and many other things because I promised myself I’d never be “that dad”.

The one that wasn’t there for things.

I promised I would be there for all the things. The big things, the little things. Even be there for mostly insignificant things that, in the long run, will wind up being forgotten. I have now broken my promise to myself about my daughter so, by proxy I broke a promise to her.

I know I’m probably over thinking it. That it’s not that big of deal. That I had some reasonable excuses. I tell myself that.

Then I remember these words about a father, with a very important job, making a mad run to get home in time to read to his child, because he promised he would do it everyday:

“No excuses. He’d promised himself that. No excuses. No excuses at all. Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses.”
― Terry Pratchett, Thud!

There will be other things to make time for. There’s a thing in a couple of days, and another in December. Then there will be a whole new year after to not be “that dad”.
Any way, if you live in the United States, go out tomorrow and vote, if you haven’t already. No excuses.

Happy Monday.

 

Guilt

I had my last drink that night,BadPoetryLogo1
And in the morning you were gone.
Only a note by way of apology,
for being how I treated you.

You came back home,
Even when we had no home left.
Now I still panic,
If I wake up in an empty house.

A Morning

You pour the coffee and wait. Sitting there in the dark you reflect for a moment about how this has never been your time. This early morning shit is for the birds. You take your first sip as the alarm beeps, causing your phone to dance around the table. The crack of dawn has arrived. Then there’s what has to be done.

You get up from the tiny table to cross the cramped apartment. You walk to the bed and look down. There she is peaceful, beautiful, asleep, perfect in the moment. You move the long hair covering her face. You rub your eyes. It can’t wait much longer. It’s the right thing to do, so you nudge her awake.

She starts with grumpy, she always does. Soon enough you are both angry, your opposing schedules colliding. Too tired to fight, too short on time, you try to discuss breakfast. She waves you off. She’ll have breakfast when she gets there today. Just some juice for now, maybe a piece of fruit. There are bananas in the kitchen. You finish your coffee and soon she has herself clean and dressed. By the time her hair is brushed she is all smiles and sunshine. She takes her bag from your hand and you both walk out the door, down the stairs.

The morning outside is cool and grey, the world seems blurry in this early light. The street is quiet, the neighbors barely awake, save for the one or two just starting their cars. You walk in silence, hand in hand. So many things you want to say. About hopes for the future. Apologies for the past. Things that could be, the way they should have been. Your time together is too short each day so instead you talk about nothing. Just happy for what you have right now. This morning. That’s all there is.

You walk on to the intersection, waiting for the walk signal. She bumps you with her shoulder and smiles. It’s always that smile, that what gets you. You wonder how she does this every morning. She doesn’t even drink coffee. Ten minutes that all that remains, six blocks and then your time together is over. You it fill as best you can with laughter at little jokes you both make.  You are so tired, your feet seem to drag on the cement and she begins to almost skip with each step. She is looking forward to the day and you are looking towards finally getting some sleep.

When the building comes into sight she wants to walk the rest of the way by herself. Your heart sinks, but you know you have to let her go on. You say goodbyes and watch her walk away. She turns one last time to wave at you. You know their only so much time before it’s someone else’s heart she’ll be breaking. You smile and wave back.

 

You’ll get to spend one more hour with her later when you bring her home from school. Before you have to work. Now you just head home, and go to bed.

We never lived here

“Daddy, did we used to live here?”

An innocent question asked some distance between a park and an ice cream shop. Maybe it was the butterfly that drew her attention.

An echo of shame bubbles to the surface. Memories of having to run for refuge during evictions from various homes, or the power being turned off in the Florida summer when the bill money got misspent on inebriation. Excuses made to hide the slinking back here after a night drinking. No rent money, but enough for a buzz.

“No, baby. We never lived here.”

Can’t really call it living anyway. wpid-cam00413.jpg

Re: Spotting a potential problem

“No good can come of this.”

The Brain, from Pinky and The Brain

 

Last week I was at work and in a rare idle moment, I checked the internet on my phone. The first thing I encountered was a link to an article about a product that was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Have you heard of Palcohol? It’s an interesting product, it’s powdered alcohol. Just add water and poof, instant margarita.

 

Margarita

a margarita, photo By John Sullivan, courtesy of P.D. Photo.org

Even after seven years it always seems so surreal when I see something and the first thing I think is, This concerns me as a parent. Now this isn’t just the prudish paranoia of an admitted alcoholic, so bear with me.

Of course given, the spectrum of people who work at restaurants, when I announced this to my coworkers the first question asked was “Can you snort it?” The answer to this was broadly yes, but the company has taken a precaution to make this unfeasible.

“We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don’t do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, we’ve added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain. Just use it the right way.” -Palcohol website

Well thank goodness for sane thinking, however, I am not sure if anyone here has ever attended a keg party; this is the type of thing that seems like the makings of a wager between a couple of overly enthusiastic attendees of such an event that maybe are around the age of twenty something, give or take. This wasn’t the cause for my concern though.

A friend of mine had commented on the link about teenagers not needing better way of smuggling alcohol. Wait, but, teenagers aren’t allowed to buy alcohol. Having been a teenager I do recall it being no great feat to obtain it regardless of legality. Now with this product, instead of carrying bulky cans and bottles in backpacks and purses they can have little envelopes of powder tucked into wallets or socks or just pockets. A bottle of water at a movie theater may be a bit pricey but, now it may seem worth it to some. Still, this isn’t what worried me about this.

No, the thing that troubled me was: If you can add it with water, or your favorite mixer, can you add it to some unsuspecting persons already alcoholic drink. Could you make it so someone doesn’t know how much they’ve really had to drink?  It would seem to be an ideal, legal to obtain way of making a cocktail more potent. Could this product become the next big date rape drug? Alcohol is already pretty big in this department already, does it need to be worse. This is what worries me as a parent. Now I know my daughter has a long way to go before she might be in this potential situation, but as a father this was my knee jerk reaction.

I am in no way saying that Lipsmark, the company that owns Palcohol should be denied the ability to market or distribute it. As a long time worker the food and beverage industry I can see potential uses for this product. Smaller restaurants that would want to offer cocktails but don’t have the space or budget to install a full bar could easily benefit from it. It would also be useful, as their website says was part of the inspiration for its creation, to people going camping or partaking in other activities where packing extra weight and volume would be problematic. Ultimately I have no problems with people of legal age enjoying whatever they fancy in an appropriate environment.

I just thought I would point out the problems that might come up, and things that we parents might want to know about when children leave the house on their own. It is up to us, as always to talk to our kids and let them know about the dangers of not just drugs and alcohol abuse, but the ways that others might put them to abusive uses towards them.

As of the writing of this article Palcohol has lost its approval with the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau due to a labeling discrepancy and, is being resubmitted to the agency. Even with this approval the company would still have other legal obstacles to overcome before it could be sold.

Anyway that’s just something I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday.

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A Long Walk, a Good Talk, Ice Cream, and a Giant Fish

This past Sunday the clocks needed to be set forward for Daylight Saving Time, my daughter asked me to take her to the park, and my wife asked for the third time this week if I would mow the back yard. These are sure signs that spring is trying to poke its head out from under the blanket of winter weather.

Well my phone is my primary time-keeper, so it sorted itself out, and I had no desire to spend any part of the day walking behind a noisy machine that spewes exhaust fumes and grass clippings at me on my first weekend day off in close to a year; so, a father/ daughter day at the park seemed about my speed. This also provided me with a convenient excuse not to venture to the urgent care place to investigate this respiratory illness that has been causing me some discomfort for nearly two weeks now.

The local park is a wonderful affair with a large well maintained, and rather cool looking playground and jungle gym.

1911081_782627415100421_236963972_o

Once we arrived my role in the afternoons activities was reduced to that of pusher of the swing and I watched as my daughter chased after children her own age and showed off to the younger ones and tried to coax the shy ones out of their shells. While I love watching my little extrovert at work I couldn’t help feeling ignored and left out. I tried to strike up conversation with some of the other parents but most were too busy hovering a few feet away from their kids in case, heaven forfend, they fall, or try to go down the slide backwards.

Extrication from the playground was made possible by the promise of ice cream. a dirty trick I know, but  jealousy got the best of me and, I wanted be able to actually talk with the daughter I barely see. A half mile walk was a pleasant way to recap the playtime and speculate on our ice cream choices, I even received an unsolicited “I love you dad” and a huge smile.

Over our dishes of frozen sugar we discussed the relative merits of vanilla chocolate chip, versus strawberry, and it was agreed that the chocolate chip was the clear winner. The remaining discussion ranged from what was the best part about school to the impending birthday she had coming up in just a few days with, including few direct statements about what she would like.

When presented with the option of taking the direct or scenic route home my girl chose the longer of the two, the way she hadn’t seen before. The extra time was filled with sudden interest in when I was a boy and where I grew up.

I told her some about the small town where I spent my childhood and the schools I went to. How, like her, recess was my favorite class. It led to discussion about how even though she had two aunts that lived up north only one of them was my sister. It took two tries for her to get her head wrapped around the fact that her other aunt was my sister’s wife. In the end she simply accepted this, even though it was outside of her realm of what was typically expected.

An awkward moment came when she asked about my parents. Honesty made explain that they has died. The conversation included the fact that my father died of cancer caused by smoking.

I quit about two years ago, my wife has not. So when Kate pointed this out I just told her that I would like her mom to stop smoking, she just wasn’t ready to do it yet, and left it at that. My daughter asked me is she was going to smoke when she was older, and I said that she didn’t have to, and I rather that she didn’t because it was really bad for her. She thought about it for a moment, with a serious look on and finally agreed.

The seriousness of the moment was broken when she realized, with an excited gasp, that our long meandering journey had taken us all the way back to the other side of the park. The sun was going down and most of the other kids had gone home, but we stopped and played some more anyway.

Sunsetfish

It was early evening before we set off home to a dinner of take out from our favorite taqueria. As we strolled I was satisfied in the knowledge that, time would march on despite the pointless lunacy of mucking about with clocks, that I had properly shirked my landscaping duties, and that for one glorious rare afternoon I got to spend a few hours just being a dad.

Just one thing still puzzles me and it has been bothering me for a long time…

Why a fish?

Why a  giant fish?