Why Can’t I Just Shut Up!

“Why do you always have to say something? Can’t you, just once, not say anything?”

I had just annoyed my daughter for the third time in a five-minute conversation, by telling her she needed to vacuum the inside of her car. . . which was true . . .but why do I have to say it. She is twenty years old, and if she doesn’t want to vacuum out the interior of her car, who am I to say she needs to? Yet, I can’t stop myself. I am that dad.

The preceding two annoyances within the same conversation were sparked by my telling her that A) she was spending too much time and money on tanning, and B) her and her peers, the Millennials, would be the downfall of modern civilization . . . and perhaps any other alien civilizations that were sneaking around here on earth. I was just kidding about millennials ending life as we know it, but even then, she claims that I only joke about things that I believe to be true.

My unwanted advice not only annoys my daughter, but it annoys me as well. I remember the unwanted advice from my parents when I was twenty. I remember thinking I would never do that to my kids when I had them. Yet here I am, spitting out droplets of knowledge and opinion at what might be an even higher rate than was spat upon me.

Often, after a conversation has taken place, I’ll go back and inventory all the things I had said that annoyed my daughter. I’ll determine which of my comments were necessary and which were just me being that kind of dad. Last night’s inventory went something like this:

I told her: “You shouldn’t wear your white sneakers after it has rained all day. They will just get muddy. You will ruin them.”

In review: The statement is true. Yet, I have told her this since she was a child. If she hasn’t learned by now, my telling her again is probably unnecessary. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it. . . But then, maybe if I say it enough, it might actually sink in some day . . . yes, this statement was justified.

I told her: “You shouldn’t buy the Chili Cheese Fritos because the regular Fritos are better. The Chili Cheese flavor is just an artificial powder that is blasted onto the corn chips.“

In review: Why should it matter to me which Fritos she buys? . . . even if the regular Fritos being better than the Chili Cheese Fritos borders on fact rather than opinion. I just need to keep quiet. Maybe she has never tried the regular Fritos, though. Maybe my mentioning it will open a whole new world of Frito awesomeness to her. Yes, this statement was justified.

I told her: “You spend too much time with your nose stuck in that phone. You need to shut that thing off and live life in the real world for a while.”

In review: She rebutted that I had spent the previous two hours sitting on the couch staring at my phone. This was true, but I was killing time playing Angry Birds. Killing time is different than living inside my phone. She then pointed out that I was flipping through my phone while I was telling her not to be on her phone so much . . . again, true, but I was waiting for a response to a particularly well thought out and edgy comment I had made on a thread debating pros and cons of the latest Doctor Who character. She obviously cannot distinguish between warranted phone time and unwarranted phone time. This statement was certainly justified.

 

After a thorough review of my previous night’s unsolicited interjections, I determined that they were all justified . . . . ugh, I was hopeless. I was THAT dad.

It’s so hard to shut off the part of me who managed her existence from cradle to diploma. It’s hard accept she might make decisions that are different than the ones I would make. I guess that because I love her, I want to improve her life any way I can. I guess that because she is now an independent adult, I will desperately do anything to stay relevant in her life. . . even annoy her to the point where she questions whether she wants me in her life.

 

The Cat Who doesn’t like me to watch TV.

I’m a cat guy. I love all animals, but I particularly like my two cats Schnitzel and Phoebe. I think they like me. But for some reason, Schnitzel is determined to interrupt my television watching as much, and as often as he can. He’s actually gotten quite good at it.

You might look at the picture above and think, “I don’t see the problem. He’s being considerate enough to sit where can still watch your show, ” which is a true statement. However, he is more devious than you think. He’s sitting in right in front of the TV’s “eye” . . . the eye that sees the remote control’s signal. So while I can watch my show, I can’t change the channel, or turn the volume up or down during commercials. It’s quite ingenious on part.

Another one of his favorite TV sabotage tricks is to fight with our other cat, Phoebe, behind the TV stand where all of the cords plug into the TV, cable box and DVD player causing them to be yanked out of their spot where they are supposed to be plugged in.

You might be thinking, “Oh he’s just being a cat. He isn’t intentionally trying to disrupt your TV watching.” But you are wrong! He knows exactly what he’s doing.

His best trick is to wander around the couch and step on the remote that I have sitting next to me. Somehow, he know exactly what buttons to push that will take me to some place in the TV or cable menu that I have never been to before . . . and takes me five minutes of button pushing to find out how to get out of whatever strange mode he sent me to. . . . are a surprisingly large amount of smart TV and cable nether worlds that I am  unfamiliar with.

The Second Marriage Dimension.

“Why did you change lanes?”

My wife doesn’t like my driving, and I don’t like hers. I thought that we had established this long ago and had an unspoken agreement that we would suffer our dislike for each other’s driving in silence. She had broken the code of silence.

“You know we have to turn left right up there don’t you? You are not in the right lane to turn left,” she added with no sign of stopping her lane change protest.

This is the point at which our marriage reality splits into two separate dimensions. There is the normal dimension, which we are all used to, where I switch back to the lane that my wife feels is more suitable for turning left. But there is also another dimension that is ruled more by thought and impulse. Every marriage has this second dimension.

In the alternate marriage dimension, I continue driving in the lane I had switched into, and my wife continues to express her dissatisfaction for my lane choice. I reached over and grabbed her nose and turn it slightly to the left. This changes the channel so that her voice is suddenly turned into music, and her mouth was a speaker. I continued driving and nodding my head to the beat of Led Zeppelin’s Good Times, Bad Times emanating from my wifePod player. I reach back over and pull down slightly on her right ear, increasing the bass level of the music. Once the song ended, her voice returned and picked up right where she had left off in her protest. Without a word, I reached up to the dashboard and hit the eject button. Instantly, a panel slid open in the roof of the car, and my wife, seat and all, was rocketed skyward towards an unknown interstellar destination.

Not everyone is aware of this second marriage dimension, but we all utilize it. After dinner last night, I set my plate in the sink without scraping the remaining dinner scraps into the garbage. When I turned back from the sink, I came face to face with my wife . . . the same wife who has made it abundantly clear that all food scraps are to be scraped into the garbage before dishes are set in the sink. She looked at me, and then at the plate in the sink with food on it. She frowned.

Once again, reality was parted and two separate dimensions began unfolding simultaneously.

In the normal reality, I quickly turned back around and grabbed my dish to scrape its contents into the garbage. But in the alternate dimension, I didn’t have time to correct my mis-step. My wife’s frown was actually a result of her charging up her plasma vaporizer weapon located just behind both of her eyes. With a strobe-like flash and whooshing sound, a beam shot from her eye sockets and struck me squarely in the chest. Instantly, the atoms that made up my body were separated from each other and scattered to the wind, leaving a pile of clothing on the floor where I had just been standing. My wife whistled cheerfully as she scraped the food from my plate into the garbage and fanned away the puff of smoke that my de-atomized body had left hanging in the air.

Fortunately, we all experience our marriages and relationships in the first dimension. If it were the second alternate dimension that was our marriage reality, there would be very few marriages left intact. Divorcees, widows and widowers would be the commonplace as the result of spouses being silenced, paralyzed, vaporized, flung out of moving vehicles in ejection seats, and many other forms of spousal impulse justice.

In the second dimension, I never got to hear the funny comment she made about lady whose wild hair matched the hair of the dog she was walking down the sidewalk. Her mouth was loudly playing Led Zeppelin music right up until she was ejected from the vehicle.

In the second dimension, my wife and I didn’t end up sitting together on the couch eating our favorite ice cream and watching an awesome movie together that evening. I had been vaporized shortly after dinner for my food covered plate transgression.

In the first marriage dimension, there are second chances and I’m sorry’s. There are happy endings and long lives spent together. The next time your mind instantly transports your spouse to the epicenter of an active volcano for saying you spend too much time watching football, just remember, somewhere in another marriage dimension, you are about to spend the rest of your life alone.

 

This story was originally published on Sweatpants and Coffee

 

 

Were We just tougher back then?

All across Michigan, schools have been canceled due to the extreme snow and cold. This means that Facebook will light up with us older, tougher folks complaining about school never having been canceled for snow and cold when we were younger. I might have joined in on the chorus, but truth be told, I’m jealous.

When I was younger, school was never canceled because of extreme snow and cold. If it had been, I might still have my best friend, Jimmy.

Jimmy and I would walk together to the bus stop, which was eight and a half miles away. Neither of us had coats, so we would steal newspapers from driveways and paper boxes along our trek to stuff in our clothing to act as insulation. On the worst of the cold mornings, we would light our newspaper coats on fire for extra warmth . . . it’s just what you did back then to survive.

On one particular minus-forty-two degree day, Jimmy and I were making our way through the chin deep snow towards our bus stop. We had already successfully warded off an attack from one of the roving packs of rabid neighborhood dogs, and escaped the gang of kidnappers who would prey on children walking to the bus stop. . . . so it had actually started out a good morning. Making the morning even better, we had just found the last roadkill carcass needed to strap to our bare feet to act as snowshoes. After fashioning our carcass snowshoes, Jimmy and I continued on our way.

A mile later, we in the middle of our third frozen-river crossing required to make it to the bus stop, when suddenly, the ice began to crack, and Jimmy fell through. He flailed wildly, trying to keep his head above the frigid water, but despite his efforts, he was beginning to go under.

Using a technique that I had learned earlier that year from a bus stop safety film, I fashioned a rope out of thread pulled from my burlap underwear, and was able to pull Jimmy from the icy river waters. He crawled to the shore, thanking me repeatedly for saving him, but deep inside, I knew it would probably have been more humane to simply let him drown.

Even if he did survive, I could tell from the pale blueness of his fingers that he would no longer be able to use them to complete the eleven hours of homework that was assigned to us every night, let alone, be able to hunt the possum, needed during our walk to the bus stop, for food to keep himself alive. I kept these thoughts to myself.

It was still another mile to the bus stop, so I knew I had to keep Jimmy moving. I switched out his wet insulation newspapers with some of the dry ones from my shirt and covered his head with a hat I made from some of the corn husks that my mom had sewn together to make the pants I was wearing.

I did my best to prod and encourage Jimmy’s shivering body to keep walking. I gave him bits of carcass jerky that I had ripped from my roadkill boots, but he was fading fast.

When we were a few hundred yards from the bus stop, Jimmy finally collapsed from exhaustion and hypothermia. I tried to get him back on his feet, but to no avail. I could see the headlights of the bus in the distance. There was no way I could get Jimmy there in time.

“I’ll never forget you, Jimmy!” I said tearfully, as I quickly covered him with the remainder of my newspaper insulation and lit it on fire to keep him warm in his final hours.

“Please don’t leave me,” he pleaded. But I knew that if I missed the bus, it would be Jimmy who would succumb to the kinder fate by freezing to death.

I kissed him on the head, and skin tore my lips having frozen to his icy hair . . .  and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. As I sat down in my seat and looked back down the road through the window, I could see a truck stopping near Jimmy’s collapsed body. I knew I would never see him again.

Back in those days, there were greedy opportunists who would drive the roads on such dangerously cold mornings looking for the bodies of kids who had frozen to death along the bus routes. They would load up the victims and sell them to dog food manufacturers to be ground into dog food.

For thirty-five years now, I have sadly thought about Jimmy every time I fill a dog dish with food. So complain about school being canceled due to cold? Not I. I thank the Lord that my kids will never have to live the rest of their lives with the image of poor frozen Jimmy being loaded into a dog food truck.

 

Free for Imperfect Parents and Spouses.

Attention all imperfect parents and spouses! Don’t miss your chance to download my just-short-of-world-famous Ebook for FREE! Single Family Asylum is now free to download on several platforms below. Unfortunately, Amazon will not allow me to offer it for free, so you can get the book nearly anywhere except from Amazon. Amazon sucks.

If you find the stories entertaining, leave a review on whichever site you downloaded it from! If you hated the book . . . . ummm . . . just forget you read it.

Stories from the book have been featured here on my blog, as well as on many other sites such as Mamalode, Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Sweatpants and Coffee, and Parent Co.

Get the book on your phone from either the iBook’s app for Apple, or from Google Play Books on Android by searching on the title. You can also download from these sites:

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For those of you who enjoyed the book so intensely that you feel compelled to pay something for it, instead of paying me, make a donation to Compassionate Life Foundation!

My wife recently took over as Executive Director of The Compassionate Life Foundation. CLF is a small non-profit that provides funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage and CLF Student Center in Swaziland, Africa. The CLF Directors and board members are 100% volunteer, so no one here in the U.S. is getting any part of donations received. We do pay some Swazi employees at the Orphanage and the care center, but their monthly income is less than most fast food workers make in a week. If you are like me, you have always wondered how much of your donated money actually makes it to the people you are trying to help. I can tell you first hand that other than money spent on office supplies and what is spent on fundraisers, all CLF donations go towards food, tuition, uniforms, maintenance on the orphanage and paying Swazi staff.

Interested? Go here: https://james127.org/

Domestic Inanimate Object Abuse.

I’m an abuser . . . . I have anger issues. I can’t stop the fury from welling up inside when I perceive that I’m being purposely messed with, and that’s when I lash out violently.

Who do I abuse?  . . . Oh, no no, I need to explain myself better. I don’t abuse people. I would never harm another sole, most especially the ones I love. It is things I am talking about . . . I abuse objects. Objects such as a lawn mower that won’t start.

For some reason, I imagine that the lawn mower has decided not to start simply to taunt me and make my life difficult. It laughs at my grunting and sweating as I repeatedly pull the chord for five solid minutes . . . . stopping only to swear and catch my breath. I mean, I know that the lawn mower doesn’t really have the ability to decide to make me angry or laugh at me . . . . At least when I actually stop and think about it.

But when objects like said lawn mower decide that they are indeed going to act unruly, I can tend to go into a rage, or become spiteful. I want to make the weed wacker feel regret for its disobedience so I punish it by beating it to death with a golf club. Sometimes I laugh and sing lawn mower beating songs while I pummel it into oblivion.

When I load the dish washer, there are always those one or two pans that won’t fit into the dishwasher and require that I wash them by hand. It makes me mad. I’m not sure if I’m mad at the pans for being too big, or at the dishwasher for being too small. In any case, it’s the pans that receive the punishment.

But unlike the lawn mower, I choose to punish the pans with mental cruelty by humiliating them. I let them sit on the counter naked and unwashed for days . . . . Even weeks. . . . . Stewing in their own filth . . . . A spectacle for all other items in the kitchen to see. Sometimes while I’m emptying the dishwasher, I parade the clean dishes slowly by the oversized large pans and let the clean dishes ridicule them to add to their shame.

The worst offender is the computer. I know it hates me and I hate it. It likes to pick a certain key on the keyboard and designate it the “erase the story you’ve been working on for two hours” key. And apparently it chooses a different key to perform that function every day, because I can’t for the life of me figure out what I touched to erase my story.

It likes to freeze up in the middle of my moments of feverish inspiration. It infuriates me. I bang on top of the tower. I violently run the mouse across the top of the computer desk. I attack the keyboard with all ten fingers typing rapidly and randomly.

The computer strikes back in its own time by remembering all the keys that I hit during my tantrum and executing them all simultaneously causing a huge computer mess.

But I have the last laugh. I grab the computers power chord and yank it from the socket with a loud, “HAAA”. I just know that this must cause the computer pain. Even my computer genius friend has told me that it’s not good for them to do that.

Maybe I need counseling. Maybe I need medication. At least I’m willing to admit that I’m partly responsible for this dysfunction. However, I’m expecting that all of the objects in this house will step up and admit to their contribution to the problem if we are to make any positive changes in our relationships.

Dishes that are Full Bodied and Easy to Manage.

Out of dishwasher soap, and the store is a seven minute winter drive in a car that won’t even heat to above freezing in that amount of time . . . so don’t even give me the “just go buy more.”

My only option is trying to figure out the best alternative . . .

Gas? . . . No.

Bleach? . . . Maybe.

Shampoo? . . . It can’t be poison, or you wouldn’t scrub it into your brain coverings. It says it has vitamins . . . Vitamins are good. Plus, if it does the same thing to dishes as it does to hair, my dishes will be intensely moisturized and easier to manage.

Just have to be very careful on the amount used so I don’t repeat the “liquid hand-washing dish soap volcanic eruption of ’09”.

Pasta Hoarding.

pasta

In our house, there is a delicate balance between not having enough pasta, and having way too much pasta.
 
I’m not a list maker . . . Sort of a maverick when it comes to shopping. . . So at the grocery store, while staring at the rows of pasta, I try to remember if I was last angry because we didn’t have enough of the right kind of pasta, or angry because the supply of pasta was enough for the whole county.
 
When in doubt, buy pasta . . . Although it can lead to a cupboard that looks like this.

The Danger of Pancakes

I love pancakes. My kids love pancakes. Sometimes I make them shaped like animals because my girls think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Sometimes I make pancakes for dinner.

The only problem with pancakes is that pancakes involve maple syrup. And maple syrup involves stickiness. Even as an adult, I cannot manage to get through a pancake meal without being plagued by stickiness. I try hard to contain the syrup and its stickiness properties to the end of my fork, but without fail, it will work its way up to my fingers. From my fingers, it will then travel to forearms, face, shirt, the table top, and even the dogs head.

My young girls fare even worse. By the time they have finished their animal shaped pancakes, their sticky hands and faces have collected pancake crumbs, lint, dog and cat hair, small pieces of napkin, and whatever else happens to be a floating around. They end up looking like a mop just before you rinse all the crud out of it. And heaven forbid the syrup gets stuck in their hair.

If one is not careful, the stickiness can spread from my daughters to the table, chairs, pets, door knobs, toys, and nearly every other surface in the entire house. On pancake day, it is not uncommon for one of our cats to be seen running around the house with a sticky pancake fork stuck to its back, and leaving sticky pancake crumb paw prints.

I’ve often thought that a man could get rich if he invented syrup that wasn’t sticky. But until someone does, a next best remedy might be to make young children eat pancakes naked in the bathtub. That way as soon as they are finished, you can just turn on the shower and wash all the stickiness away.

……

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