Kicking the Holiday Season Off with a Bang!

It has been…a week, to say the least.

1. It being Halloween, my daughter and her friends decided to be Scooby Doo characters and they wanted to turn my beloved golf cart into “The Mystery Machine.” I love my daughter more than life itself, so I pulled all the materials together, my wife organized a painting party, and I did the rest. They had a heckuva time. That’s mine on the right:
Marissa and Friends Halloween 2019

2. Our 84-lb Doberman tore her Cruciate (that’s an ACL in humans) while also destroying her meniscus. The result was an appallingly expensive surgery, now followed by 6 weeks of intensive eyes-on, full-time cones of shame, and hot and cold compresses followed by leg massages.

3. I built a fire Saturday night (my 4th this season) and the chimney caught on fire (inside the pipe). I was able to put it out with the fire extinguisher, but not before three (count em “3”) fire districts showed up, along with two Bam-buh-lances. I’m grateful, but it felt like overkill considering I told 911 I already had put it out. But now, I have to get everything inspected and cleaned. The interesting thing is that, while I haven’t had it actually “cleaned” in years, annually I burn one or two anti-creosote logs, and had just done one the night before. New brand. Coincidence?

4. And lastly (so far), approximately one month ago, I received a Jury Summons; something that happens about every 4 or 5 years in my county. The issue is that I live in the very tip-top end of the dominant county in Atlanta. Which means that satisfying a jury summons in my county is quite the ordeal. See, look:

Note that these drives are indicative of when I would have to drive down to arrive by 8am:

Courthouse map

I drove downtown yesterday, arriving around 7:30 at the parking lot. Caught the bus over to the courthouse, and then stood outside in the cold for 15 minutes waiting for security to open up. Another 30 minutes later and I was inside. Per the desk clerk, “We have an unprecedented number of judges wanting jurors.” Of the 8 “groups” of potential jurors selected to “potentially report for duty” (usually only about 4-6 of the 8 have to actually show up) all 8 had to report. It was packed!

That also meant that any hopes of a quick, “We don’t need you; you are free to go” was dashed. An hour later, me and 39 other potential jurors were assigned a courtroom and down we went.

Once ushered into the court room, the judge proceeded to tell us the facts as she could:

  •  This trial is expected to last 9 days (9 DAYS!)
  •  It was a medical device failure lawsuit, resulting in the death of a teen
  •  I understand everyone has issues with being away from home daily for 9 days, but we will only accept hardship requests under the following circumstances (disabilities, over 75, etc.)
  • If selected, expect to start court daily between 7:30 and 8 am and finish at 6pm.

We spent the entire morning first hearing the plaintiff’s and defense’s attorneys give a “lite” version of the case and then being questioned en-masse, raising our little paddles whenever we agree with something the lawyers on each side asked. Then, the remainder of the day was spent on individual questions. I was panelist #40, so I was dead-last.

It was a nail-biter of a day, and if you ask me, the opening attorney for the plaintiff (from the “Johnny Cochran” law firm) did a horrible job of biasing potential jurors with his opening remarks, and a very smart young lady to my left in the jury pool–whose dad was a lawyer as were several others in her family–called him out on it. When it was my turn to respond to questions, I was only too happy to join her chorus when asked, “Do you believe that starting out, the plaintiff and defense are on equal footing?”

My answer: “I do not. Based on the facts laid out by the plaintiff’s attorney, I already have some idea of how I might view the case even before it starts. I also believe it takes an extraordinary person to be able to completely set aside their personal beliefs and bias and judge something solely on its newly-presented merit. If Facebook has taught us anything, it’s that most of us are not extraordinary in that regard.”

Neither I, nor that young lady, were selected! What a week indeed…


Real Men Don’t Need Kits

Carving pumpkins is not easy, unless you’re Bob Ross, who I imagine could carve a pumpkin in his sleep while dreaming of “happy places” with tree lined streams and snowy mountains.

We never carved pumpkins when I was a kid, so I don’t have a high water mark set by my father that I have to try and top when it comes to carving pumpkins. But with all the hype around it, and with the plethora of pumpkin carving utensils on the market, you’d think that any schmuck (can I use that word if I’m not Jewish?) could carve a decent pumpkin, thereby reaching new heights of hero worship with his kids.

“Not so!” says the wise man whose wife has been outta town for five days now…

When I was at Old Tyme Pottery earlier this season, I happened upon a pumpkin carving kit, complete with little pinhole saws for cutting those intricate corners, a scoopy thing to pull out the punkin guts, and some paper templates and glue to guide you on your way to punkin carving greatness! Now, I’ve never used a kit before, but I’ve always wanted to. In my mind, after using this kit, I’d be able to turn out one of those Award Winning Pumpkins like you see on TV.

So I bought it and I have been waiting impatiently for the day when I could whip them out and bust a move on a wary punkin; but alas, it was not to be.

See, what I didn’t reckon on, was that the tools that came with the kit, were made of microscopically thin pieces of sheet metal that snap at the slightest pressure. The very act of trying to cut horizontally, completely broke off both of the pinhole saws that came with the kit:

Pumpkin carving kit

And that little scoop thing…was made for little hands and not for the adults who will actually be carving the pumpkin!

So…after snapping off the second saw, while trying to talk on the phone with CareerMom to catch her up on all the cutesie things the boys have done this week, AND while trying to throw the ball for the dogs to give them some exercise, while ALSO trying to keep MLE from stomping in the bowl of pumpkin guts, I finally had to just put everything down and STEP AWAY from the pumpkin!

When I was finally able to again focus on the task at hand, I realized that sometimes, a man has just got to be a man. With that, I ordered the boys (and dogs) to stay put, while I went to the basement and got out the old standby pumpkin carving tool:

Real Man Saw

If you look closely, you can still see pieces of pumpkin on the blade.

In addition to being just “the bomb” for carving holes in pumpkins, it’s also wicked looking, which gives me additional “cool” points with my kids!

It’s not so good for detail work though, which means that all I was able to do last night was the regular pumpkin face.

For the really cool pumpkin design we have planned, I might have to bring out the big gun:


Don’t laugh till you’ve tried it. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a saw shredding through the soft flesh of a pumpkin at high RPMs!

That sounded kinda creepy…




100 bottles of beer on the, er…street

Beer PumpkinIt’s over, done, fini, complete…and any other foreign-sounding words that are meant to provide a sense of accomplishment regarding Halloween and trick or treat. Not that the whole event was bad, but it’s just such a build-up to something—like Christmas—that afterward leaves you feeling a bit like, “Was that it?”  And I think it’s doubly bad when said build-up happens in the middle of the week and you have to turn around go back to work the next day. Blah!

But in any event, last night was fun. We went to my oldest son’s best friend’s house for a party and then they TorTed for a while before making it over to the grandparent’s house who were overly and unusually chatty until finally my son gave us an “out” by exclaiming, “I want to go to my home.” Good boy!

And once again, we had absolutely zero Trick-or-Treators at our house last night. An examination as to why this is yields a couple of possibilities:

  1. Parents are too scared to let their little ones wander down our hilly driveway for fear of them getting tangled up in their sheet-costumes and tumbling down the pavement and crashing into my garage door.
  2. We are near the end of the neighborhood in a side-street where the housing density is not terribly great. From a parental standpoint, I can understand the desire to maximize one’s TorTing time by hitting the thoroughfare and avoiding the mildly populated side streets.

However, one thing struck me last night that I have been noticing with greater frequency of late, and that is that the life I lead is vastly different from the lives other families (and men in particular) lead. Here are a couple of “for instances.”

At this week’s golf tournament, several men were discussing the “over and under” and “the spread” regarding this weekend’s upcoming NFL games. It occurred to me that I had absolutely NO idea what they were talking about (well, I vaguely know) and that I was in the distinct minority here.

Secondly, last night as we TorTed around my son’s friend’s neighborhood, I noticed that every dad on the street, and some mothers, were carrying around a beer in their hand. And in one case of “oh man, where’s my camera?” we spotted a mother pushing a stroller with one hand and dragging a cooler full of beer behind her with the other. And these aren’t “white trash” people either. These are white-bread, successful white-collar professionals. Even the father of the boy my son was visiting put his son and my son in a wagon to pull them around the neighborhood, and then all around them in the empty wagon space he placed approximately 8 or 9 beers. WTH? I mean, we only planned on being out for 45 minutes. How many beers does a guy need?

And like I said, these activities aren’t limited to the men…nossir, the women were doing it too and both my wife and I realized how far from our peers our lives deviate. When things like this happen it always makes one wonder who is exhibiting the strange behavior? Them, or us?

Sometimes wish I could be “that guy.” I wish I could give up this zeal for fitness and this responsibility I feel to always be clean and sober around my kids and just live life for me as if having children didn’t change anything. But I don’t think I can, and truthfully, I don’t think I could live with myself very long if I did. But they’re still my friends…especially when they have free beer!

I’m handy…I swear!

Thanks to my own father making me sit and watch (and in a few rare occasions pitch in and help) him do things around the house when I was growing up, there are very few things I won’t tackle around my house. I can refinish furniture, build simple bookcases, perform general remodeling, install appliances, etc. In fact, I do so many things around here on my own because I’m too cheap to pay someone else to do it, that my in-laws are rarely surprised when I said I did such an such project and are in fact more surprised when I tell them I had to pay someone to do something (such as walk around on my roof blowing out the gutters!).

However, this weekend, I found something that I can’t do…carve pumpkins! I absolutely stink at carving pumpkins. Once would think that with the thousands of dollars in tools that I have in my arsenal, that I’d have the two or three things necessary to successfully carve out some eyes and teeth without breaking the darn pumpkin nearly in half, but I don’t.  We got two pumpkins the other day at the Dairy-cum-punkin-patch and my oldest son wanted to carve a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine in it. So, I downloaded the template. I also thought I’d just carve the boys’ names in the other pumpkin, so I picked out a nice creepy font and typed their name in MSWord in a size that would fit on a pumpkin and I was ready to go.

At first, everything went great. I got out my jigsaw and cut the tops off the pumpkins…perfection! This was going to be so easy…and cool! However, when I started trying to cut the design that I had traced out on the pumpkin, I quickly realized that the brute-force power-tool approach was not going to work. Unfortunately, that was AFTER I’d botched the first two letters in my son’s name. Leaving that one in disgust, I turned to the Thomas template and while it did turn out much better, it still leaves a lot to be desired. It looks OK at night with a candle in it, but I’m afraid that for the other pumpkin, I’m just going to print up the boys’ names on paper, let them color it and stick-pin it to the pumpkin and call it a day.

My Punkins

Hey, I’m no artist. I’ve always known this, and why I thought my handy-ness would translate into a useful artistic endeavor such as pumpkin carving is beyond me. But one thing about botching something is that it teaches you a valuable lesson. With luck, this year’s punkin debacle will fade from both boys’ memories as quickly as it takes my youngest to go through a box of diapers and by the time they are both old enough to appreciate punkin carving, and aren’t icked out by scooping out the punkin guts (my oldest wouldn’t touch them), I’ll hopefully have found a nice set of carving tools and perfected my craft.

Maybe next year I’ll get a third punkin and practice on it before operating on the real ones. All’s I can say though, is thank the good Lord that I didn’t become a veterinarian.