The reason this blog isn’t as good as it could be – Spoiler Alert: it’s me

Many of the posts I write stem from something funny one of my kids said. With all the hilarious things they say (both intentionally and unintentionally), you’d think I’d have more than enough material to post quite often. And I would, if I could remember things.

Last week, Big Man and Buster had a hilarious conversation. It would have made for an excellent blog post. I remember it was hilarious, but I don’t remember anything they said. What’s more, I don’t even remember what they were talking about.

So why did I wait a week to try to write it down? I didn’t. I wanted to make something of it the very next day. Even then, I could not remember a single word either had said, or what topic they were discussing. All I knew was that they cracked me up, and probably would have cracked you up too, if their father had any kind of memory.

To be accurate, there are some things I do remember: the dates of a great many Civil War battles; lyrics to 1940s ballads; the Pythagorean Theorem and how to apply it.

Antietam (Sharpsburg, if you’re a Confederate): September 17, 1862. Just one of many dates locked in my memory.

On the other hand, there are lots of arguably more useful things I tend to forget: what my kid needs to take to school today; the coupons I have in my pocket at the grocery checkout; where I’m driving to – if it isn’t to or from work. Less important but still vexing: the plot of nearly every novel I’ve ever read.

When not traveling to work, I like a friend to drive me. Otherwise I will end up . . . at work.

Since I’m getting a little long in the tooth, you may naturally conclude that age is getting the better of me. While this is certainly true, it is not the cause of my forgetfulness. I’ve always been absent-minded. There is limited space for information in my brain. All the bits I try to stuff into that walnut shell compete with each other like rats in a crowed cage, inevitably killing each other off, until the sole survivor is the tune to a commercial jingle from 1975 – the winner and still champion!

So, the reason this blog doesn’t happen more often, and isn’t as sharp as it should be when it does happen, is me. Sure, those little comics who can’t be bothered to record their own jokes aren’t exactly helping, but the buck stops with the blog registrant.

I’m not one to write notes as things are happening; I noticed in school that when I took notes I ended up missing the important tidbits. I write too slowly to keep up and I’d end up missing all the punchlines.

The truly amazing thing is that I’ve managed to retain so much of their words to actually get what posts I have out of them. That must be some sort of redeeming quality. Or maybe, sometimes, they say things that are more important to me than where I’m driving to. Some days, their words are probably almost as important as that old TV commercial. Almost.

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It’s Snowdaypalooza!

In the past couple weeks our schools have had at least seven snow days. It might have been more, but I lost count in the delirium of the cabin fever. Being housebound with three boys, preschool through 5th grade, felt like a bad episode of Big Brother at first. Then it began to feel like Lord of the Flies.

Our first two snow days were the result of an actual snow storm. When that got cleaned up, the Polar Vortex saw its chance to swoop down on us, giving us high temperatures in the neighborhood of -3° F (-19°C). I’m glad there’s now an official name for a good old-fashioned cold snap. Things are more dramatic when they have names that are capitalized. People might not understand closing school for an arctic blast, but having the Polar Vortex descend upon you is serious business.

That moment you realize the cold spell you see coming is actually the Polar Vortex.

After two days of keeping kids at home, the Vortex got bored and moved on. The temperatures rose to near freezing. Yay!

Ice storms. Boo!

The ice storms had names too, because that’s how storms roll these days. I don’t think it’s a good idea to name storms. It makes the storms competitive. Every storm wants to be remembered by name, so instead of just enjoying themselves and scooting through on the trade winds, they get as nasty as possible to leave their marks: “Winter Storm Gretchen was here! Boom! Two inches of ice! Power outages! Downed trees! Plus, I made you fall and bruise your ass! Won’t forget old Gretchen now will ya?”

I didn’t learn the names of the storms. I won’t play their games. My ass bruise will always be a nameless tragedy.

Anyway, our house shrunk to the size of chicken coop over the course of the innumerable snow days. At first, the boys were excited at having no school. They expressed their pleasure by running headlong into each other and executing other WWE maneuvers. They screeched for the sake of the noise and balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

As time passed, they began to expect each coming day to be one with no school. Too often their expectations proved correct. The thrill of the surprise vacation waned. In their ennui they ran headlong into each other and executed other WWE maneuvers. Bored, they screeched for the sake of the noise. In their desperation to live free within their homebound world, they balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

It got a little tiring, especially since I made them start each day with horrible school stuff like reading, spelling, and practicing the violin. The protests were loud and grating. But at noon we had a lunch fit for three kings to complain about, followed by an afternoon of parental surrender, tablet screens, and PlayStation.

Today we have school again. I deserve a vacation. Maybe going to work will seem like one.

 

Let me check my calendar

Every year I make my wife a calendar for Christmas. I upload photos of our boys to one of the online photo gift sites and lay it all out there. It can be a tedious process, but she enjoys the end result and it gives us a kind of memory book for the year.

The cover is always a nice shot of the boys together, often gathered around one of their favorite weapons from the year. You know, a sweet shot of loving children and something that throws bombs.

My wife takes more pictures than I do. If I want to amass the best collection of photos to use in compiling the calendar, I need access to her pictures too. We have a shared drive on the cloud where we dump all our pictures together, which is easier than hacking into her phone. Well, it used to be easier.

Nearly every adult American now walks around with a camera on his or her person at all times. No one takes advantage of our snapshot existence more than my wife does. She is a visual hoarder, taking pictures of everything and anything.

If there is a stray dog in our neighborhood, my wife has a picture of it. Something’s on sale at Target? We’ve got photos of the merchandise and more of the sale sticker. School permission slips, sales receipts, suspicious-looking loners who might be involved in human trafficking? We’ve got it covered.

The problem is that all these photos are automatically uploaded to our photo sharing cloud. When I need to find photos of people we actually know, I find myself wading through a bunch of pictures of random stuff I can’t identify.

Arranging the useful photos into a calendar is difficult enough. All the extra pictures means added scrolling through to find the useful ones, and excessive scrolling is the bane of the personalized photo gift maker.

Since pictures of our actual children are getting harder to locate, I told my wife I will make a calendar of all her random shots next year. Maybe I’ll make one for the entire neighborhood, so everyone can find their lost pets and be on the lookout for that shady character who walked down our street last April.

Here’s a taste of what it would look like. Is this the new direction the family calendar should take?

January: That lovely salad the waiter set down in front of the stranger at the next table.

 

March: The donuts you like, just in case I happen by the bakery department next time I’m out.

June: The unmarked van you pursued all day, waiting for the captive inside to fashion some sort of “HELP ME” sign.

 

October: The mysterious coat left at our house after the Halloween Party.

November: The random cat sniffing around our garage. Not pictured: 3 lost dog posters; none resembling this cat.

December: “Is this a good deal? Do we need a TV in the pantry?”

Cross-pollination begins in the home

I’m not a great self-promoter.

If you visit here regularly, you probably know this. If you’ve never been here before, see above.

I bet most people who stop here don’t even know I have another blog. Yeah, it’s mentioned in the sidebar, but sidebars are the last refuge of people who are not great self-promoters.

To take it to center stage for a minute, I have another blog: scottnagele.com. On that blog, I write about . . . well . . . writing. I know it sounds like a real hoot, but give it a chance. I mean, some people make good livings marketing online videos of themselves playing video games. It has to be better than that. Right?

Good bloggers with multiple blogs cross-pollinate their readership. I’ve never been disciplined about that, which goes a long way toward explaining my opening sentence. I’m giving it a try. Let’s see how it goes.

One of my favorite things to do over at that other place is to post flash fiction. (Read more flash fiction from scottnagele.com.) In the spirit of cross-pollination, I will blatantly plagiarize a short-short from my other blog below. I hope I don’t get sued. I’m definitely suing.

What’s in Your Wallet?

I asked the nurse to hand me my wallet. She fumbled it a little and a condom fell out. She kept a straight face, discretely picking it up and setting in on my blanket. Then she left the room, not wanting to burst out laughing in front of me.

Rocky, my roommate, grinned at me from his bed. He was 50 years older than me, with his scraggly beard and glassy eyes.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

Rocky chuckled. “I understand. I was a young buck once. You a college boy?”

“Yeah.”

“I never went to college, but I did have my fun.” He nodded at an inevitable transition. “Then I got married. Margie and me was married 40 years, and I liked that a whole hell of lot better than carrying one of them things in my wallet.” He gestured toward the condom I struggled to stuff back into its home.

“40 years? That’s awesome!” It seemed like the right thing to say.

“It was.” He sighed. “Except for the last few. She got Alzheimer’s. I carried her license in my wallet ‘cause she’d lose it otherwise. She’d lose anything you gave her.” He shook his head. “Then she’d snip at me about it. Finally I said, ‘Margie if this next 40 years don’t go no better, I’m calling it quits.’ That was the last joke I told her.” He frowned. “Not a very good joke.”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“She passed almost two years ago.”

I didn’t want to say sorry again. “Do you still keep her license in your wallet?”

“No. I couldn’t look at it every time. It only reminded me of the past. But I guess she told the last joke. After all that time wedged in that little sleeve, it left a faint impression of her picture on the plastic, like a ghost staring up at me.”

“Did you get a new wallet?”

“Oh no. I don’t mind the ghost. It doesn’t give me bad memories; it says she’s still with me. And being how I already invested 40 years, I guess I’ll keep her.” He turned his wet eyes toward the window and spoke at the sky. “Yup, I guess I’ll keep her.”