I’m really not all that worried about how many people read my blog.

I checked my blog stats and set my phone on the coffee table. The stats weren’t all that important since I had started my blog for fun, and I am not all that worried about how many people read it.

I went back to watching Dancing with the Stars. Well, actually my wife was watching Dancing with the Stars, I just happened to be in the same room.

I check my blog stats again which is odd because I started my blog for fun, and I’m not all that worried about how many people read it. Nothing had changed in the two minutes since I had last checked my stats. I set the phone back on the coffee table.

My eyes were getting heavy and I was just about to fade into my Dancing with the Stars nap when my phone lit up with some sort of a notification. I couldn’t quite tell if it was a WordPress icon that was showing on the screen.

Instinctively I started to reach for the phone to see what the notification was, but then I stopped and reminded myself that I had started my blog for fun and I’m NOT all that worried about how many people read it. I can check it later. I went back to watching Dancing with the Stars.

My mind drifted. I thought about my blog post from yesterday, a post that I was particularly proud of. Who in the world wouldn’t want to follow a blog that offered posts such as the one I had created yesterday? And besides, I had included some new strategic tag words that were sure to attract a whole new demographic of reader.

It occurred to me that I was fretting over my blog again. . . . A blog that I had started for fun and wasn’t all that worried about how many people read it.

“Stop it! Just stop it” I thought to myself.

“Stop what?” My wife asked.

Apparently I had also said it out loud.

“Are you obsessing about that blog again?” My wife added.

“NO! I started that blog for fun and I’m not all that worried about who reads it.”

Just then, the commercial with Jake from State Farm came on the television. I waited with baited breath for him to say “kakis” so I could laugh for the hundredth time and my wife could roll her eyes about me still laughing at a commercial I had seen a hundred times.

Right on cue, Jake said “kakis” and I started giggling.

“She sounds hideous”

I laughed even harder as I reached for my phone . . . . . But then stopped mid-reach. I remembered that I wasn’t checking my stats because I had started my blog for fun and I wasn’t all that worried about how many people read it.

I sat motionless . . . . My hand was partially outstretched towards the place where my phone sat on the coffee table. I hated the thought of obsessing over something, especially my blog which I had started for fun and wasn’t all that worried how many people read it.

As I sat with my arm still partially outstretched, my phone lit up again. . . . Only this time, my slightly more-forward posture allowed me to see that indeed it was a WordPress notification.

My eyes widened.

That made one WordPress notification for sure, and the possibility existed that the first time my phone lit up might be another WordPress notification. I stared at my blog checker . . . I mean my phone. It smoldered with the prospect of blogging fame and fortune.

My hand moved ever so slightly closer to the coffee table. But then I stopped and reminded myself that I had started my blog for . . . . OH SCREW IT! I grabbed the phone. I had to know.

It might be a notification telling me that I have a new follower! Maybe two new followers!

Maybe it was a blog award notification!! Who knows, it could be a notification telling me that Ellen Degeneres had mentioned my blog on her show and i was in the midst of a new follower tidal wave!

MAYBE MY BLOG WAS JUST NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PRIZE!!!!!!!!

Frantically, I unlocked my screen. The little red circle told me that I had one new WordPress notification (sigh, I was hoping for two or more). I opened the WordPress app to find that someone had liked my comment that I had made made in response to their comment.

“Sigh. . . ”

“People liking my comment is a good thing,” I told myself . . . . Of course having Ellen Degeneres mention my blog on her show or winning the Nobel prize is much better . . . . .

Fortunately, I had started my blog for fun and was not all that worried about how many people read it. Otherwise, I might be constantly checking my blog stats and worrying about my blog.

 

If you enjoyed this story, there is a whole book full of them available to you at Amazon.com:

Single Family Asylum

Being a Cool Dad.

The other day, while driving my daughter’s home from school, the discussion was centered on one of the girls friends, Christiana and how much fun it was to stay at her house.

“What makes it so fun to stay at Christina’s house?” I had to ask.

“They let us watch horror movies,” Natalie answered.

“Christina’s parents are cool, too,” Hannah added.

“Yeah, her parents ARE cool,” agreed Natalie.

The horror movie answer was a bit concerning to me, but had not nearly the sting of the cool parents statement. What made her parents so cool? . . . I had always considered myself to be a cool parent.

I never wore dark socks pulled up to my knees while wearing shorts like my dad had done. And I was always doing fun and entertaining things when my daughters had friends over, like playing my hilarious DVD of Star Trek episodes that had the dialogue dubbed over in German, or performing my famous word-for-word reenactment of Walter Cronkite’s moon landing newscast, using a high falsetto voice. But apparently, it takes something far less substantial to be considered cool to this generation of kids.

In the days that followed the overheard conversation in the car, it would bother me every time I thought about it. I remembered when I was a teenager, and how some of my friend’s parents were so much cooler than others. I couldn’t stand it . . . I had to be a cool dad.

I felt certain that it would not take much to push my stature well into the “cool” dad category. I mean it’s not like I was some socially stunted hermit who was completely out of touch with the youth of today. So for the next few evenings, I plotted the grand unveiling of my coolness.

….

That Friday, I pulled up to the front of the school ready to impress. I knew that some things never change when it comes to the teenage requirements for coolness, so the first thing needed was some loud bumping music.

I would have preferred to have picked out one of my daughters CD’s to blast, but since my 1998 Buick had come equipped with a cassette deck, this was not an option. Luckily, I still had a few tapes in a shoebox in the garage, and luckier yet, some of my sisters old tapes had gotten mixed in with mine . . . teenage girl music is teenage girl music, I figured.

As I slowly drove along the student lined sidewalk in front of the school, I put in my sisters tape that I had picked out, a band called Menudo, and let it rip. The music was loud and had a catchy beat, but apparently teeny bopper music in my sister’s day wasn’t any better than what my daughters listen to, because I couldn’t understand a word they were singing. It was almost like they were singing in Spanish or some other language.

I had my hat on sideways, and despite the pain in my back, I was leaned way over into the middle of the car like I had seen other cool young people doing. I tried my best to bob my head in time with the catchy, loud music. I spotted my girls standing in the row of students, and stopped in front of them.

Wanting to fully display my new found coolness, I cranked the poorly vocalized music even louder and got out to escort my daughters over to the car. As I approached the sidewalk, I noticed quite a few students laughing and pointing in my general direction. There was a particularly criminal looking group of teen boys that began yelling things like “turn that crap down, grandpa!” My oldest daughter seemed to be upset, and possibly crying.

My youngest daughter marched up to me and screamed, “DAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“What?” I said calmly, “Do the rules of coolness not apply to guys over 40?”

“Why are you blasting 60’s Spanish music loud enough for the whole town to hear?” She shrieked.

“It’s not from the 60’s, it’s from th- . . . wait, that really is Spanish?” I mumbled.

“And why in the world would you walk around in public like that?” she demanded, sounding even angrier.

I assumed she was talking about my hat being sideways and my underwear showing a bit, like I had seen every other boy at the school wearing.

“Dads can’t sport a little sag?” I asked while making gang-like hand gestures that teens nowadays seem to use while talking.

“You have your underwear pulled up, not your pants sagged down!” (By now she was yelling.) “And they are white fruit of the looms with the elastic band half ripped off!!!”

Unconvinced that hiking my undergarments up was any different than pulling my pants down, I turned to walk back to the car.

As I stepped off the sidewalk, the pain caused from leaning over in the car seat intensified and my back suddenly went out, causing me to collapse down on to all fours. The violence of the fall tore my underwear band the rest of the way so that the band was now completely detached from the rest of the underwear. And although I couldn’t turn around to look, it felt like there might now be some butt cleavage showing.

Meanwhile, a boy with purple hair from the group of criminals had broken off one of the Buick’s windshield wipers, and was using it to whip me across the buttocks as I helplessly crawled back to the car and into the driver’s seat. Several students lined up along the sidewalk had their phones held up and I could only assume they were videoing the whole event.

With a bit of difficulty, I managed to get the car door closed and then quickly drove away with agonizing back pain, two sobbing daughters and a pair of stinging butt cheeks.

After several video versions of the whole incident had been posted and viewed on YouTube, it was decided by my daughters, my wife and the principal that I would no longer be picking the kids up from school.

My oldest daughter, Hannah, has finally started talking to me again, and hopefully Natalie will follow.

I have decided that my level of coolness is what it is, and like nature, shouldn’t be messed with.

 

*If you enjoyed this story, there is a whole book of them waiting for you at Amazon!

Single Family Asylum

 

The Reviews are Starting to Roll In!

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It’s only been a few hours since the World Premiere of Single Family Asylum, but already the reviews have started to roll in:

“The perfect reading material for those extended sits on the toilet.”  – Plumbers Weekly.

“Complete Rubbish”  – The Society for Perfect Parenting.

“With writing like this, Ziegler is sure to make dozens of dollars”  – The Otisville Women’s Auxiliary Book Review.

But don’t just believe these reviews simply due to the pedigree of the organization from which they originate. Buy your own from copy from Amazon and pen your own favorable review!

Single Family Asylum

 

 

Single Family Asylum Paperback World Premiere!

Thousands of anxious readers lined up outside book stores all across the globe in order to be one of the first to get their hands on the long awaited book release of Single Family Asylum. Police in several cities tried desperately to calm the frenzied book buyers by spraying them down with fire hoses and passing out Starbucks gift cards, but the crowds were relentless in their fervor for the new best-seller. . .

Well, maybe it didn’t happen quite like . . . . Ok, that didn’t happen at all. But don’t let that dissuade you from checking out this collection of ridiculous, funny, family-oriented stories for yourself. You are even free to start rioting in front of a book store if you are so inclined. If you would simply like to check out my new paper back online, here is the magical Amazon book link.

Single Family Asylum

Single Family Asylum is a collection of short, humorous stories about the imperfections of family members and family life that have appeared right here on this blog.

Buy the book! Buy 10 books! Tell your friends! Tell them you won’t ever talk to them again unless they buy the book.

Parents and Technology.

My daughter is stuck at home tonight with two parents who are not only technically challenged, but who also just switched from Androids to iPhones. She has had an iPhone for a year now. The conversation sounds a bit like this:

“Why is there no back button? My Android had a back button.”

“How do I sync my email?”

“Just a minute, I’m helping mom make the screen letters bigger.”

“You’ve been helping her for a half hour, it’s my turn. Where the heck is the internet?”

“It’s called Safari”

“Leave her alone she’s helping me”

“SAFARI? That’s stupid.”

For the first twenty minutes, she seems somewhat pleased that WE, the parents, are so dependent upon her to perform even the most basic of functions on our new smart phones. But as the night wears on, she becomes less amused at our ignorance.

“Where’s my contacts list? Why isn’t it right down here at the bottom like my other phone?”

“DAD, I’ve told you four times how to get to your contacts list! It hasn’t changed since that last time five minutes ago!”

“How do I get my songs on here from iTunes?”

“I want to turn my picture into a zombie like you did the other day. What was that app called?’

“Why does it keep saying that I need an Apple ID? That’s stupid!”

Unfortunately, all across the globe, scenarios like this are being played out in living rooms, night after night.

Like my wife and I, many parents our age did not grow up in a digital, computer dependent world full of smart phones, email addresses, and WIFI. These are all things we have had to learn and to adapt too. At times, our analog, pencil and paper geared minds can get overloaded. A new smart phone can be horrifying as opposed to the excitement my daughters would feel. I just barely learned how to operate all the functions on my old phone, and now you want me to throw it all out and start from scratch?

In our day, if you learned how to use the U.S. Postal Service, you could reasonably expect that the skill would carry you through the rest of your life without needing to alter how you use the Mail system’s OS (operating system, I just learned that one from my daughter). If you learned how to look up a number in the phone book and dial the telephone that hung on the wall, you were pretty much set. But then all this new stuff comes along and ruins everything.

Kids nowadays were born into this cyber world, and their brains are trained to think that way from day one. They adapt to changes in technology and operating systems so much faster than I can.

Gone are the days when a father could proudly teach his son or daughter the simple life skills they needed to be able to interact with the world around them. Most of the technical learning that goes on in our household is daughter teaching parent.

We recently switched from cable TV to satellite TV. This change required that I learn a whole new OS. This change was a creator of much stress for me. I felt like a turtle on my back. I couldn’t make a TV show even appear on the screen, let alone one I wanted to watch.

But I have learned to cope with my technological disabilities, and overcome them. When the new satellite box was fired up for the first time and I had spent the ten minutes required to determine that I had no idea how to operate it, I simply handed the remote to my daughter Hannah and left the room. This is known as step one.

After an hour I returned, and just as I suspected, she had mastered the system. She could perform any and every function available. In fact, she had already set up her own channel favorites list and had set the DVR that came with it to record her shows.

Step two is to have Hannah simply show me how to turn the channel box on and off.

Step three is an on-going step. Step three is to use Hannah like a voice controlled remote for the next month or two as I slowly learn each satellite TV skill one at a time.

“Hannah, make it go to The Discovery Channel.”

“Hannah, make it record Wildest Police Video episodes.”

“Hannah, make Netflix come up on the screen.”

This system has helped to eliminate much of the anxiety and fear that can be the result of trying to learn a new technology or OS. I’d like to think that over time, my ability to adapt to such changes would become easier and easier. But I’m beginning to realize that all the gains I make as far as becoming fluent in the computer-digital-cyber world, are being countered by my memory becoming duller, and perhaps a touch of senility setting in.

They Don’t Understand.

Sometimes I wish that other things could hear and understand my frustration.

I tell the dog to stop shedding and slobbering all over the place. She wags her tail as if I just told her that Star Trek is on . . . . That is to say that she doesn’t understand.

I tell toilet to stop clogging because it grosses me out to plunge a poopy toilet, but it doesn’t listen. It clogs even more.

I tell the toaster to stop burning my toast, but it doesn’t understand.

I tell the ants to stop coming into my house uninvited, but they don’t understand.

I tell my daughters to clean up after themselves, but they don’t understandsta- . . . . Wait a minute. . . . . Yes they do. It just seems like they don’t. Sometimes I forget that they actually understand English.

The Path of Least Resistance.

I remember being so excited when I found out I was going to be a dad. My wife and I could hardly stand waiting the nine months it took for my first daughter to arrive.

But now when I think about it, it’s almost as is if that that after your children are born, you spend the rest of their lives trying to make it seem as if they didn’t exist.

If they cry, you stuff a pacifier in their mouth to silence them. If they are running around screaming and breaking things like idiots, you try to find some quieter, calmer activity that will occupy them. Or even send them to a “time out”, which not only quiets them but makes them disappear as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children to death, but I can’t deny that I tend to react to them in whichever way I determine will make them quietly disappear the fastest. 

As they get a little older, this reaction is often what I call “the path of least resistance”. Sometimes I will try to disguise the path of least resistance by calling it “letting them learn from the consequences of their decisions”. At least then I can assign a methodology to my not wanting to engage in an arguments with my kids.

When a child wants something that might not be the best for them, I have to consider if the bad result of letting them have what they want is so awful that I want to endure the tantrum involved with telling them they can’t have it? Sometimes the answer is no.

I try hard not to give in to complete apathy as a parent. . . . . but I don’t always succeed. 

Six year old Hannah: “Can I have a gallon of gasoline?”

Me: “Wellllll, I guess. But take it to your room and play with it.”

A lot of times it is my wife who alerts me to just how far down the path of least resistance I have travelled.

Annoyed wife: “Why on earth would you give a gallon of gasoline to a six year old?”

Me, second guessing my decision as I answer: “Ugh. . . because she asked for one?”

Even more annoyed wife: “Well if she asked for a basket of hand grenades would you let her have that too?”

Me trying to sound logical: “No. Hand grenades are expensive and much louder than the whining I will get when I tell her no. 

Sometimes I will give them what they want to quiet them, but I will add “but just this once” to make myself feel like caving in isn’t a regular occurrance. 

Six year old Hannah: “can I have a gallon of gasoline?”

Me: “I guess, but just this once.”

Other times I will give in to the path of least resistance, but only with a compromise to their request. This way I feel like I still have some control.

Six year old Hannah: “Can I have a gallon gasoline?”

Me in control: “Hmmmmm, no but  you can have a quart of gasoline. A gallon would be just too dangerous.

The Behaviorizer.

What if I told you that there was a device that you could purchase, that when plugged in and turned on, it would emit and energy field that caused children to calm down. Not just calm down, but actually sit silently and trouble free for as long as you want.

Right now, many of you battle-weary parents are thinking, “That would be WONDERFUL!! If only there was such a device!!!”

Well, there is . . . . . . it’s called a television, I call it the BEHAVIORIZER!

Now I know that as parents, we are not supposed to let our children watch too much TV. Some of you may not even let your kids watch it at all.

Before my wife and I had our own children, we would make lofty decrees that our children would not be boob-tube zombies. Our children would entertain themselves playing outdoors, creating art, and doing things together as sisters.

I have since learned that playing outdoors, creating art, and doing things together as sisters involves large amounts of messes, destruction, arguing, fighting, and effort on the part of the parents to exercise some form of order and control.

This is where the Behaviorizer comes into play. It involves none of those things. It’s so effective that it’s hard not to take advantage of its bluish, hypnotic glow.  HOURS! . . .  They will sit for hours, maybe days, and not move a muscle . . . I’m not even sure if they blink. I always keep a spray bottle of water in the living room in case their little eyeballs dry out, and I have to give them a squirt to keep them from squeaking when they move.

I’ve read and heard all the bad things that television can do to children. I’ve even heard it said that TV can destroy parts of their developing brain. But sometimes I think that if it’s destroying the part of their brain that makes them run around like savages destroying everything in their path . . .  maybe that was a part of the brain that needed to be destroyed in the first place. I mean, I’m sure they never would have performed lobotomies on people if they didn’t have a positive outcome. . . . . Right?

There are many other positive sides to television as well. It has made me aware of several products that I need to buy. Some of these products I didn’t even know existed until TV showed them to me, and I realized that I couldn’t live without them.

And you can’t deny the benefit of being able to watch history unfold before your eyes either. In my life, I have been able to see live, in color, many landmark moments in time, such as Evil Knieviel jump over a couple dozen buses, the mysterious transformation of “Bewitched” husband Darren Stevens from one person to a completely different person with no explanation, and David Letterman drive around in a convertible with a back seat full of tacos.

And without TV, children couldn’t spend hours developing hand-eye coordination by playing video games or learn about the cruelty of video war, or alien invasions.

I know as a parent, that I should limit my children’s TV watching and video gaming, but once you’ve experienced the calm and quiet that it can produce as it slowly turns your child’s brain into oatmeal, it’s hard to go back. It’s like I’m Luke being lured over to the Dark Side.

The Dark Side has control.

The Dark Side has POWER!

Children are made in a Convenient Size.

When God was at his drafting table deciding how the universe would work, it was pretty clever of him to make children start out small and grow up to be larger. I can only imagine the challenges to a parent if children were born huge and then grew down to be small.

I mean, can you imagine trying to change an NFL lineman’s diaper if he didn’t want it changed? Or better yet, trying to enforce a “time out” on him? You’d be lucky to escape with all your limbs intact. And I imagine if that same NFL lineman wanted you to play dolls with him? You would not have much choice in the matter. Either play with dolls or have your shoulders dislocated and your ears ripped off.

And if children were big and we were small, it would be us adults who needed to be strapped into a car seat, and have to sit on a stack of telephone books during the family Christmas dinner, not the child.

But fortunately for us, children come in a small, convenient size, which makes them easier to manage. So when you tell a child “come here . . . come here . . . come here . . . come here . . . come here,” you can then provide them with some assistance in “coming here,” when words don’t seem to be working.

Due to their miniature size, a parent can assist children with lots of things like, “come here,” “stay there,” “sit down,” “stand up,” “stop hitting grandma with a wiffle ball bat,” and many other simple tasks that we need them to perform.

You can even assist them in cleaning their entire messy room by employing what I call “the chop stick method.” This method is where (after repeatedly telling them to clean their room, and the child repeatedly refusing) you grasp them by their little arms, and use them like chop sticks to pick up objects and put them away. I’m not sure that this method actually helps the child become any more obedient, but it seems to give the parent some satisfaction.

However, if you choose to use “the chop stick method,” you need to be careful that older siblings don’t see, and end up performing a perversion of it known as “Why are you hitting yourself? Stop hitting yourself.”

I guess if I had any complaints about the whole kids being small thing, it would be that I think they should remain small until they move out. My daughter Hannah is 17 now, and seems to be getting stronger and stronger. The age of 17 is a time in the raising of some children where it would be nice if they were still small . . . . really small . . . . . I’m talking ‘put them in a coffee can with holes poked in the lid’ small.