Changing Diapers in the Dark

A powerful storm moved through our area tonight. The storm was accompanied by heavy winds, which took down trees and knocked out power to hundreds of homes. It seemed like the storm was here and then it was gone. Unfortunately, our home was one that lost power. Being someone that loves to be “plugged in” at all times, I don’t enjoy power outages. Now that we have a baby in the house it is even more of a challenge.

Fortunately, Baby Boy had his last bottle for the night just before sunset. However, he also decided it would be a good time to go poop. I’ve never changed a diaper by flashlight, that is until tonight. Let’s just hope Baby Boy sleeps through the night. I’m not sure I really want to change another diaper when I can barely see what I am doing. You never know what kinds of things may hit your face. Perhaps, I should grab a welding mask before I bed down for the night.

At last check, it looks as if our power could be restored by 4 a.m. Then again, when I first checked, the estimated time of restoration was 7:45 p.m. It is now just past 9:30 p.m., so it is really anyone’s guess. Luckily, we keep our thermostat set to just above freezing in our house once summer temperatures start to set in for the season. So, by the time this nightmare comes to an end it might not be all that hot in the house. I guess time will tell. The penguins might have to migrate to the basement tonight, as I am sure it will be too warm for them upstairs.

I see now that the houses across the street are once again illuminated. Let’s hope this side of the street is soon to follow. However, we have our flashlights at the ready. Now, I just need to find that welding mask!

I’m a Sucker!

I hate to admit this, but I actually enjoy vacuuming the house. There are several reasons for this. First, with two cats it is a necessity to vacuum on a regular basis. Plus, it makes the house smell much more fresh. Likewise, it is a job that produces palpable results. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we own six different vacuum cleaners. However, my pride and joy is my new Shark UV560.

This thing came out of the box like a set of Legos. I just snapped them all together and I was ready to hit the floor running. It also comes apart in various ways so that it can be carried around the house with ease. Doing the stairs with this vacuum is a breeze. Perhaps my favorite feature is the canister.

Messing with a vacuum bag is a pain. You have to open the vacuum itself, secure the bag in place before closing the baggage storage compartment. Then after the bag fills up you have to carefully remove it so that its contents don’t start spilling out. There is none of that with a canister vacuum. It sucks up the mess and then you just dump it in the garbage.

I just swept the living room floor and the stairs. I’m thinking the only thing I need now is an attachment that vacuums the cats directly. However, that might cut down on the fun of vacuuming the floors. Plus, I think Cat and Dot might stage a revolt. I would not want to be the victim of one of those “When Cats Attack!” videos you see on YouTube. I already get a piercing shrill in my ear every time I burp the baby. No need for anymore trauma.

Now if I could just have the same zeal when it comes to dusting. I’d rather vacuum a million floors before dusting one shelf. However, there are no attachments, or swiveling heads like there are on a vacuum cleaner. There is simply a can of furniture polish and a rag. Where’s the excitement in that?

My enthusiasm for vacuuming might best be illustrated by a clip from an old Saturday Night Live sketch where Dan Aykroyd is selling a fictional product called the “Bass-O-Matic.” If you’ve never seen this check out the video below. The way he feels about the “Bass-O-Matic” is how I feel about my Shark.

https://youtu.be/6RLHPaZUuyc

Surrealistic Westerns

If you are anything like me, you are tired of turning on the news and hearing about how chaotic the world is becoming. My last few posts have been on the more serious side. Therefore, I thought I’d lighten the mood today and share a short story I wrote several years ago. All of the names have been omitted to protect the innocent. What follows is a slightly modified version of the original story. All of the details are true.

The last few days have been pretty surreal. I came home sick with the flu on Thursday. My stomach was so upset. It felt as if someone had been twisting my intestines into knots. I slept for about 17 hours off and on between Thursday afternoon and into Friday morning.

Most of the day Friday was spent in front of the television, although I did venture out to the store once. Who knew going to the store took so much strength? Once I got back home I felt like I had just made my way up Mt. Kilimanjaro. I definitely was in need of more rest.

I then woke up Saturday morning and did what most people would do after nearly dying from the flu. I went to a funeral. The grandmother of one of my closest friends had passed away. His grandmother’s dog was in attendance, which I found rather touching. My friend’s uncle did not dissapoint either, as he was dressed in blue jeans that he was having trouble keeping up above his waist. This particular uncle is known for wearing blue jeans to most functions. In fact, he often sports a pair of blue jean cutoffs while out and about.

After the service at the funeral home was over, I attended the graveside service, which unbeknownst to me, was in a town about 15 miles from home. So, I joined the funeral procession as it snaked its way across two towns. On the way some tumbleweed came blowing across the street, which is a rare sight in this area. It made me feel as if I was in a Spaghetti Western. The only thing missing was Clint Eastwood chomping on a cigar. Eventually, we made it to the gravesite, where we stayed for no more than five minutes. It was a magical, mystery funeral, that is the only way to describe this event.

After the funeral was over I broke out in a cold sweat because the flu still had its hellacious grip on my body. So I did what all people in my condition would have done, I went and had the oil changed in my car.

I then came home and had a long talk with the guy who had been fixing my computer, as it had become infected with a virus. He was there to deliver it to me. With my computer and I on the mend, I was feeling deliriously happy. On second thought, I might have just been plain delirious. After the computer repairman left I went outside to clean up the yard.

As I was outside picking up twigs, I looked up only to see an umbrella blowing down the road. I once again felt like I was trapped inside a Western film. One based on a painting by the Belgian Surrealist artist Magritte. I would have much preffered more tumbleweed. At least that would have been more in keeping with the theme of the rest of this influenza fueled weekend.

My “Anti-Bucket” List

Last April I wrote a post listing the “Top Ten Things I’d Like to do Before I Die.” This list included places I’d like to visit, events that I would like to attend, and so forth. Today I am going to turn things around and do an “anti-bucket list” or things I hope I never have to do again before I die.

There are certain foods that I despise. Near the top of this list are lima beans. To me they taste like soap. Plus, their texture is unpleasant. Therefore, I will never have another lima bean as long as I live!

Over the course of my life I have undergone at least 30 different surgical procedures. Being put under for surgery is not an unpleasant experience. I do enjoy the feeling of euphoria that comes over you just before “the lights go out.” However, as I have gotten older it has taken me longer to bounce back after surgery. It is because of this that I hope to never have another surgery.

One thing that does not fill me with euphoria is riding a rollercoaster. I actually am terrified of going on most amusement park rides. I prefer to have my feet planted on terra firma. I would be happy never to ride another roller coaster as long as I live.

In keeping with the amusement park theme, I hope to never go to Disney World ever again. I went for the first time at the age of 30. Perhaps, it is a different experience if you go when you are a child. It may seem more magical then. However, I didn’t find anything appealing at all to being at Disney World.

Me on the “Small World” ride at Disney World. I think my face says it all.

A few years ago I went on a canoe trip on the Meramec River in Missouri. I have written about this experience in a previous post. It was quite possibly the last trip of this kind that I will take. If you do go back and read both parts of this story, you’ll see why. I not only lost my crutches and glasses, but I lost some of my dignity as well.

One thing that I have experienced a couple of different times is food poisoning. I can safely say I hope this never happens again. There is nothing pleasant about eating something that makes you ill. I can no longer eat at couple of different restaurants due to very bad experiences.

Nearly three years ago Amanda and I had an issue with the plumbing in our house. I will admit it was caused by me. I had gotten into the habit of flushing little bits of clumping cat litter down the toilet as I cleaned out the litter box for our cats. Needless to say this was not a wise idea. Fortunately, I have a cousin or two in the plumbing business, as our sewer line backed up into our house. I learned my lesson and I hope to never have to live through this experience again.

As noted above, I have had numerous surgeries in my life. Many of these have been orthopedic in nature. I spent the first few years of my life in and out of body casts. There is nothing worse than being confined inside a hunk of plaster, especially when you are hot and tired. This is an experience I would prefer to never have again.

Me propped up against a chair in one of the many body casts I was in as a child. My brother Cory is looking on in amusement as I see just how wide I can open my mouth.

We are fortunate here in America to have public restrooms in almost every store and restaurant. If you’ve ever traveled abroad you’ll soon find out that in other parts of the world public toilets are not so common. I learned this the hard way one night in London as I really was in dire need. While I do love to travel, I hope to never again have the trouble I did that night.

Finally, I have spent the last two months working from home. In that time I have begun having conversations with myself while Amanda is at work. I am ready for restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places to once again be open. Never again do I want to experience a global pandemic. In the words of the late, great Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!”

Richard Scarry

Ever since I was a little boy I have loved Richard Scarry books. Thankfully, I have been able to revisit a few of my favorite Richard Scarry books since Baby Boy has become a part of our family. In addition, I have found a few with which I am not familiar. For instance there is one called the “The Bunny Book.” If you have never read this one, it is about a baby bunny whose family all have different hopes and dreams for their baby bunny once he grows up and becomes an adult.

As I have read this several times now, I have begun to question some of the aspirations Baby Bunny’s family has for him. For instance, Daddy Bunny wants him to be a circus clown? Really, who wishes this for their child? The Grandaddy Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lion tamer? Again, I am not sure this is great line of work for anyone. Finally, Aunt Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lifeguard. Low-paying, seasonal work is kind of an odd choice, at least in my opinion.

It seems the only sensible people in this story are Baby Bunny’s siblings and cousins. For example, Little Bunny Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be an entrepreneur who owns his own candy store. Likewise, Little Girl Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be a doctor. Moreover, Little Sister Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a pilot.

This Bunny Family needs to sit down and have a frank discussion about Baby Bunny’s future. However, Baby Bunny does have his priorities in the right place, as he wants to be a Daddy Bunny.

Let’s get this bunny a good guidance counselor and/or mentor who can steer him into a profitable profession. Because, if he is going to raise a big family, he is going to need to bring home the carrots.

Richard Scarry, I love your books. However, I’d like a follow up to the “The Bunny Book.” Does Baby Bunny become a lifeguard on the beaches of Malibu, or does he become a heart surgeon with a thriving practice in Scarsdale? Please tell me he is not working in Vegas as a lion tamer. That would just be disappointing. Let’s just hope whatever he is doing now is fulfilling. Richard, I will be waiting to see what happens.

No one writes them like Richard Scarry.

Roll The Credits!

What movie is this in which I am starring? Where are the cameras? When is the director going to yell, “cut!”? These are questions I ask myself on an almost daily basis now. It feels like life has become the script of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. I am just waiting for the plot twist. I hope I don’t wake up some day and find out we are all being held hostage as part of some psychological experiment conducted by the CIA. Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory?

When you work from home it seems as if every day is the same. It definitely feels very similar to the film “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray wakes up each day only to relive the same day over and over again. That has become my life. It is often difficult to distinguish one day from the next. Did I clean out the litter box on Monday, or was it Wednesday?

I think the cats are beginning to wonder if I am going to be a permanent fixture at home. They often come into my “office” and look at me as if to say, “you’re still here?” Then they return to chasing each other around the house, or climb up in a sunny windowsill and fall asleep.

The one benefit of staying in is that I don’t have to pick out my clothes each day. The only choice is what Cubs t-shirt to wear. I have one for just about every day of the week. However, if anyone in the Cubs organization is reading this, I could always use a few more.

Despite my desire for more Cubs paraphernalia, life is pretty good. However, I am ready for the director of this bizarre film in which I am starring to yell “cut!” I’d like to be able to watch some baseball. I’d also enjoy going into a restaurant to have a meal, or go into a store where no one is wearing a mask.

Until the end credits roll, Amanda, Baby Boy, and I will be all right. We have a nice routine. Baby Boy comes home from daycare, he has a bottle, a diaper change, and some cuddles. Amanda and I will then have dinner. We’ll watch TV and then it is usually time to read and sing to Baby Boy. Reading and singing at night is something we all enjoy. It is the one part of this movie that I could watch over and over again. It is his smile that makes it all worthwhile.

COVID-2002

I find scrolling through Facebook amusing at times. Despite the current state of affairs in the world today, there are posts that I read that truly make me laugh out loud. For example, I came across the the picture below and found it humorous. However, it also got me thinking just how different things would be if we were living without the technology that we have today.

In 2002, I had been out of college for just two years. I was volunteering as a reading tutor through the AmeriCorps Program, which is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. Instead of serving overseas, participants volunteer within their own communities, such as working in schools.

While serving in the AmeriCorps Program, I was living at my mother’s house. Much like the picture above, I had a Nokia cell phone and was limited to dial-up Internet. I can remember dialing in late at night and chatting with friends online. There was that audible dialing of the number to connect to your local Internet service provider, then if you were lucky enough to establish a connection you’d here a long, high-pitched squeal that seemed to drone on forever.

Usually, you could go fix yourself a sandwich, grab a Coke, and by the time you got back the squaling would be gone and you’d be connected to the Internet through your 56K modem. Then it was on to Yahoo to search any number of random topics. In those days, I was most likely looking up information on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, or any other of my guitar heroes. Because, as you see, I had taught myself some basic HTML programming and I had created my own website that was hosted by a service called Geocities.

Geocities was a web-community that had various “neighborhoods” where you could create a website with a particular theme. My “neighborhood” was in the music section of “town,” as my website was called “Strat Cats.” It was all about my favorite guitar players who were known for playing a Fender Stratocaster. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Buddy Guy were just a few of the featured musicians on my site. Each guitarist had their own section, complete with biographies, discographies, and current news.

I can remember staying up for hours researching the lives of these men. I needed to stay current on all of the latest news about each of them so that I could keep the visitors to my website informed. It was enjoyable learning about these people, who were legendary figures to me. Yes, I was a nerd and proud of it! I had a website, which did get noticed by some on various message boards. However, I was living at my mom’s house and when it got too late she’d yell at me to go to bed.

Fast forward now to 2020. Many of us are working from home using high-speed Internet that puts a world of information at our fingertips in a split second. This could not have been done in 2002. Likewise, I am typing this story that you are now reading using just my iPhone, while laying in bed.

I can do most things online from just my smartphone, whether it be paying bills, ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant, or just perusing Facebook when I am bored. Honestly, I cannot imagine life without this access to information.

I am thankful for the technology of 2020. It has kept me employed. However, it is often a hindrance to one’s peace of mind. It can be difficult to shut out the negativity that is so pervasive across much of social media, news sites, and other types of digital content.

I am still a nerd. I love to look up facts about things that interest me. It is also fun to be able to connect with others through Facebook, Zoom, and through various online games, such as Wordfeud. I have met some wonderful people online over the years. Some that I consider dear friends today.

Without the power to digitally connect with others, the world would be much different today. Amanda and I are able to stay connected with our church through Zoom. Likewise, there is FaceTime to see family and friends in far away places. It will be odd to spend Easter at home this year, while participating in a church service online. However, until we can all meet again face to face, this is the best we can do.

I don’t long for the days of dial-up Internet. However, our current situation has made me realize how much I take for granted. Just today I was at the grocery store. I was one of the few without a face mask. There were signs all over the floor reminding customers to “stay at least six feet apart” from one another. Many of the shelves were empty of items that are typically never out of stock.

Perhaps it would be simpler to go back to the days where I was still living at home. I might even go to bed if my mom yelled at me to do so. Now, I have a baby that just yells at me to get up and feed him. But doggone it I can stream any movie I want to watch day or night. I can even watch TV in the bathroom. That is a lifelong dream that has been realized thanks to the iPad.

I am signing off now, I need to go check if “Strat Cats” still exists somewhere out there in cyberspace. If it does it is going to need some updates.

‘Twas the Morning Before Presidents’ Day

‘Twas the morning before Presidents Day, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a baby.
The bags were all packed by Amanda and Ryan with care in hopes that breakfast would soon be there.

Baby Boy was nestled all snug in his bassinet while visions of creamy formula danced in his head. And mama in her pajamas and I in my sweatpants had just woken our brains for a long winter’s drive.

When out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I moved like a turtle. Tore open the curtains and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

The moon on the breast of the brown, dormant grass gave absolutely no luster to the outdoor bins of trash below. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a black SUV packed to the gills with Baby Boy’s gear.

When a tired old driver not very lively and certainly not very quick, I knew it must be Ryan.

As slow as a sloth his arms did move, and he whistled, and shouted, and he called them by name:

“Now Dan! Now Judith! Now Baby Boy! On, Amanda! On, Alice to the front door! into your cars, now drive away, drive away, drive away all.

Happy Little Accidents Continued…

It happened again. I tried my hand at painting. Amanda, my sister-in-law Alice, and I took another Bob Ross painting class. This time we had a different instructor. One that was much more patient, especially with my lack of artistic sensibilities.

Lynn, who owns ArtDog in Eureka, Missouri was a fun person with whom to work. She took the time to show us proper technique. Plus she helped me “erase” my mistakes as I went along. I would not hesitate to take another class with her, as I feel I learned a lot. Plus, I did not feel rushed like the last time we all took a class together.

I think another thing that was helpful is that we used far fewer colors today than we did before. This made it easier for me, as I tend to be a little color blind. Lynn also assisted me by pointing out what colors I needed to use for each part.

We had Bob overseeing our work today

It was nice to be able to relax and just take our time painting. Our class began at 10:30 this morning and it was 2:30 p.m. before we knew it. Time does indeed fly while you are having fun.

If you didn’t read about my previous experience learning how to paint using the Bob Ross method, see “Happy Little Accidents…” I think today’s painting looks much better than the first that I did. It was certainly a lot more enjoyable to create.

Today’s finished project

“Call 911 and Get Me an IED!”

I was awake at 4:30 this morning. I don’t know if it was the excitement of having to sit through a long day of training, or the fact that Amanda had rolled over to my side of the bed and was squeezing me out of my space. Whatever it was, I knew it was going to be a long day. However, it was also a good day, despite having to sit through a six-hour class on child/adult CPR and first aid. This was one of the last hurdles that Amanda and I had to jump over before we become certified for foster care. Therefore, once the class ended it was a great feeling. Just one background check to complete and one more home visit to go and we should have our certification!

Initially, I was under the impression that today’s class was going to run from 8 a.m. to noon. So, with that in mind I thought it would be a piece of cake. Four hours would go by quickly and we’d be free to enjoy the rest of the day. Our class was about an hour away from home, so we left at 6:45 this morning. That left us plenty of time to get to the hospital where our was class was being held. This is good because once we arrived I needed to use the restroom, where I proceeded to overflow the toilet. This is a specialty of mine. I have overflowed toilets from London to Rock Island, Illinois. Unfortunately, there was no custodian around to notify, which was probably just as well since I was now running late to get to class.

To my relief, Amanda met me in the hallway once I left the bathroom, since I had no idea where I needed to go for our class. Showing up fashionably late is not something I enjoy, as I always feel all eyes are on the stragglers. However, class had not started yet, so we made our way to the front row. Two things I love, being late and sitting in the front row! Once we got situated class was underway.

The first topic was CPR. This part of the class moved rather quickly, as there were lots of activities involving mannequins. It made me feel as if we were recreating an episode of one of my favorite television shows, The Office. In this particular episode things go horrifically wrong as the staff undergoes CPR training. If you are unfamiliar with this show I’d suggest finding it on Netflix and watching the two-part episode called, “Stress Relief” from season five. Fortunately, no mannequins were injured during today’s class, except for the one the instructor dropped on its head at least three or four times. This woman is also a volunteer EMT. I am hoping she never has to come to my aide in an emergency situation.

The CPR portion of the class was over by 10:30, which had me thinking, “yes, only another hour and a half to go and we’d be done!” Oh, was I sadly mistaken. As it turns out, class was not scheduled to be over until 2 p.m. I am actually glad that I did not know this until class had already started. Despite this devastating bit of news, Amanda and I made the best of it, as we learned all about first aid. We actually did learn quite a lot. For instance, in any emergency situation one must first “check the scene for safety” before stopping to help an injured person. This to me makes perfect sense, especially if electrical lines are down.

Then, you should always direct someone to “call 911” while someone else should “go grab an Automated External Defibrillator or AED.” I think after running through several different emergency scenarios I was beginning to get delirious, or perhaps I was just really ready to go home. For instance, as we were practicing proper emergency procedures for someone who is having an allergic reaction I instructed Amanda to “call 911” and “then go find me an IED, instead of an AED.” I am glad the instructor didn’t hear me, otherwise, she might have thought I was asking for some explosives, as IED actually stands for “Improvised Explosive Device.” Again, it was getting late and I was ready to go home after running through what seemed like every emergency situation one could ever possibly face!

However, then came instructions on what to do if bitten by a venomous creature. This led to what seemed like an hour-long discussion on the difference between being bitten by a rattlesnake and a coral snake, followed by what to do if you ever encounter a poisonous tree frog, you know the kind that can excrete toxins directly from its skin. By this point I was actually hoping for a coral snake to crawl up my leg and just start going to town on my thigh. Apparently, the way they deliver their venom is by gnawing on you for a bit. In the end, I learned that rattlesnakes are probably more deadly, as they can just clamp onto you while the coral snake has to actually do some work before it kills you.

All of the questions regarding poisonous reptiles and amphibians were asked by one particular person in the back of the room. I think perhaps she would have been content to stay all day and discuss the stings and bites of various animals. I say this because after we finished discussing snakes and frogs we moved on to jellyfish. Strangely, I knew where her line of questioning was going as she inquired about there “being any truth to the rumor that human urine” is effective in taking the pain out of the sting of a jellyfish. Fortunately, this ended the discussion on all things poisonous when the instructor stated that “urine is indeed useful in relieving the pain of a jellyfish sting.”

In conclusion, I do not want you to think that I am making light of all the useful things that we learned today. Much of the information was very important. It will be helpful to have this knowledge if we are ever faced with a situation in which someone needs CPR or first aid. Likewise, going through this class got us one step closer to our goal of becoming foster parents. However, I can safely say that after today, we will never be going for a hike in the woods. We will have an AED with us at all times, and we will never be visiting the tropics. Finally, if I am ever stung by a jellyfish, just back off and leave me alone. I’ll go find some vinegar, or some meat tenderizer, as that apparently aids in pain relief as well. For now I am off to work on putting together a first aid kit. Where did I put that tourniquet?

https://youtu.be/ssIY8NYwvh4