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Tuesday, November 29, 2011 7 comments

What’s So Lucky About Lucky Charms?

Aloha,
OK, I must stop here.
But, you just started…
Well, I have to stop and explain something.
Fine, but you could have waited until you’d written something more than “Aloha.”
What’s wrong with “Aloha?”
There’s nothing wrong with aloha, it’s just you picked a bad place to stop.
Stopping, right after I started?
Yes!
Oh… OK, mahalo.
No worries, now where were you?
I was here, where were you?
In your head, and, by the way… who’s on first?

The above is typical of the conversations I have during the day while I run around as a stay-at-home dad – and aspiring
more like perspiring
author.
See, it’s not that I’m going crazy
he’s not
but every now and again, when I’m alone up to my neck in sticky fingers, dirty feet and repeated requests like
Can I have the pink telephone, please, Papa?
My Office (With Reflected View!)
that I feel the need to chat with someone not called Curious George, Tickle me Elmo or Larry the Cucumber.


The other day, I was trying to get out of the house at least fifteen minutes past the time I supposed to be there
Ha! Making it anywhere on time with my two little boys… I must want to be a fiction writer.
There I stood, in the middle of the living room with three shoes, two drinks and a snack bag hanging off my pinkie, with my two Tasmanian cutie pies listening to nary a word, when I realized that this was why they don’t hand out baby manuals to new parents.
(Mowers and toasters, yes. Babies, no. As a species, we would have died out ages ago.)
But, it’s true. As a parent trying to get anything done on a schedule, it seems like there are only two ways of looking at life during the many moments of "crisis."
It may be embarrassing to stand, sobbing in a pile of expired coupons and look around the baby aisle wondering why they moved the coffee? And, where did they put the frozen quesadilla bites that I need for my picky-eating, Prince of Particular?
But, having often cried myself to sleep in the fetal position (!) I know now that I might as well laugh my way through the day.
So, I thought I’d share a couple of things that made me laugh today (Monday) as I muddled around being a parent who’s trying to write through the drama of life.

Don't Touch the Tree!!
·          Sunday, my wife, Gen, and I started to decorate the Christmas tree, but today I discovered it leaned to the right no matter what I did. So, instead of using a shiny, man-card friendly tool-kit, I went with two of the kids’ colored, wooden blocks and a Gatorade bottle filled with water to stabilize above mentioned safety hazard, er, tree. (MacGyver would have been proud.)

·         Right now, my two boys are watching Curious George, so I have twenty-two minutes to write until the snack plate gets chucked off the table, or the giant fish ball is thrown at the half-decorated Christmas tree… that, hmm, seems to be blowing in the wind.... of the air-conditioning unit... (note to self: turn A/C off until Jan. 6.)
Oh, oh, spoke too soon, the youngest, (21-month-old Corey) snuck around my blind side… I just heard a splash, which means there's a ball or a shoe in the toilet bowl. (It was the ball...)

·         I later discovered a trail of various animal crackers, Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms leading to the general vicinity of the "water boy" who stops chowing down long enough to look up as if to say “Papa, you said if we’re home, it’s OK to eat the stuff that falls on the floor.”

Ed. Note: The author of this piece recollects no such thing, and invokes the Three-Second Rule of the Fifth Amendment.
 By the way, speaking of Lucky Charms… Who are they lucky for? Chiropractors? Dyson vacuum cleaners? I’m always picking up the unlucky seventy-five percent from the Ziploc bag that once contained the marshmallow cereal thingies.
Why do they even pack oat cereal into Lucky Charms anyway? Who eats the cereal? Wouldn’t it be luckier, or more charming, to have an excess of marshmallows and less cereal?
Oh, how these and other questions swirl around my head as I run to deal with the latest issue. (Riddle me this: How do you wash the dirty, stinky towels that lay around a leaking washtub?)
However, it’s the wonderful, unscripted moments that make being a homeschooling parent, in my case, the most wonderful, exciting and amazing experience J
I think when kids hug you, they hit you up with some form of mind-numbing, forget-the-last-hours-of-drama secretion…and their kisses, oh, and their kisses are filled with a liquid solution of love mixed with a double dose of amnesia. (See below… I think…)
This morning, before my unlucky trauma began, I stumbled past the Christmas tree, giving it my best I'll-get-to-you-when-I'm-ready look. Rubbing my eyes, I headed for the kitchen, thinking about the boys’ breakfast when four-year-old Tobey sprinted past me and off he went to hug the tree.
The tree.... ahhh that's cute...... oh, wait!

THE TREE!!!
No! Son, watch out for the blocks and the Gatorade bottle!
“Papa, why is there a Gatorade bottle holding up our Christmas tree?”
A highly intelligent question, one in which I deflected by offering waffles, pancakes or peanut butter sandwich?
Peanut butter won, and then came a moment of silence, a look toward the tree
Oh, oh….
followed by:
“Papa! Today is Christmas time!”
Well, that's a good way to start off a Monday :)
Then this evening, as we were about to go upstairs, the wee man came up and hugged me... for much longer than he hugged the little Noble Fir that could.
Take that, tree!
“Papa?”
“Yes, my son.”
“Papa, thank you for putting the lights on the outside walls. I love you.”
Clears throat…

Sunset & Lights!
Today, I plan to write about how hard, and how difficult it is to be a parent…. Hmmm, where did I put my notes? What was I going to say? I can’t seem to remember…

Can you remember one of your favorite hugs? Why not share a fun memory… It’s Christmas time, and as they say over here, we wish you a Mele Kalikimaka :)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10 comments

Thanksgiving: What's Your Story?

Aloha,

I wasn't born in America; I just got here as fast as I could.

(I know it’s a cheesy line, but it’s the holidays!)

For my first five Thanksgivings, ('96 to '00) I didn’t care about the holiday, so I volunteered to work at my restaurant, allowing other managers some quality time with their family.

Then, all of a sudden, I found myself working for a place that was closed for Thanksgiving.

And, I didn't know what to do with myself.

(I was new to California and had no friends or family close by.)

A running buddy of mine, also from Ireland, found out my situation while at a dinner party the night before Thanksgiving.

"Hang on a second," says Brian.

He grabs his phone, makes a quick call, and passes the phone to me.

"It's for you."

"What...?"

"Hello, Mark? Yes, this is Brian's mother, Pauline. Brian tells me you've nowhere to go for Thanksgiving?"

"No, ma'am..."

"Right you are, then. Dinner is served at 3 p.m., and just bring yourself."
 
CLICK!

"Your mother just hung up on me," I said to Brian, who was smiling like that Cheshire Cat.

"That's me ma."

Needless to say, I had an absolutely wonderful time at their house, where they made me feel like one of the family. And it was inside that small, loving home that I finally "got" the meaning of Thanksgiving.

My life has changed (as it does) and now my wife and two kids are looking forward to spending another Thanksgiving with some new and old friends.


But, I'll never forget that first one, and whenever we are hosting and I find a "homeless" friend, I always pay it forward by inviting them to join us. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s not as if we were going to finish the turkey for weeks.

(Footnote... a month after I first met Pauline and her family, she was back on the phone with me on Christmas Eve.)

I was getting ready to have a quiet Christmas. Pauline had other ideas...

No prizes for where I was at 3 p.m. Christmas Day!

What's your top memory of Thanksgiving, and if you could invite one extra person (living or deceased) to the table who would it be?

(My invitation would go to the late U.S. Army Major Dick Winters, former CO of Easy Company – of “Band of Brothers” fame.)
 
 
 
Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters
 
 
 










Thursday, November 17, 2011 4 comments

Wedding Party Photo Contest

Aloha,
???
Here’s my first photo caption contest. (I took this original, untouched pic in O’ahu 10.24.11)

Rules are simple:
·         Entries must be *12 words or less* and contest ends at noon (EST) Nov. 23, 2011.

CONTEST ENDED.

·         To qualify, post your entry (and please show how you've forwarded this contest via Twitter, FB, LinkedIn et al) in the comment page on my blog.

·         Final Five will be chosen on Nov. 25, 2011 and will be judged by three of my Bluddy’s (blog buddies.)

·         Winner will be notified by Dec. 7, 2011, and can choose from one of four “like new” books, see pic.)


1.      Autographed soft cover “The Nine Modern Day Muses” by Jill Badonsky

2.      Hardcover “Moonlight Mile” by Dennis Lehane

3.      Hardcover “The Irresistible Church by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro

4.      Hardcover “The Given Day” by Dennis Lehane.
Pick me! Choose me!

·         I’ll pay for shipping to anywhere in the U.S., Canada or APO addresses. (If winner lives elsewhere, we'll come up with some cheap solution:)

Good luck and aloha!
Monday, November 14, 2011 4 comments

Help Harry Help Others...

Aloha,

I'm a writer, but can't imagine losing one of my kids to anything, let alone a brain tumor.

One U.K. family, the Moseley's, are dealing with this tragedy - right now - and two of my fellow bloggers decided to lead the charge in helping raise money for their son's charity: Help Harry Help Others.

During Rachael Harrie’s recent Campaigner Challenges, Katharina Gerlach read hundreds of flash fiction stories. Cat came up with the idea to collect them into an anthology, mentioned it to Rachael. The call was made, and the result is Campaigner Challenges 2011, an eBook available on Kindle (or Kindle on PC.)

Here's Harry's story...
Source: http://www.helpharryhelpothers.com
Harry's story began in 2007. He had problems with his eyes so after lots of visits to the opticians and the local hospital, the doctors gave him an MRI scan. Harry was told that he had a brain tumour which was inoperable as it was in a dangerous place, deep in his brain.

Harry began chemotherapy but unfortunately it didn’t work and his tumour grew. His only other option was radiotherapy.

That’s when he met Robert Harley who was also having radiotherapy for a brain tumour. They had their treatment on the same day, every day for six weeks so they became very good friends.

In 2009 Robert became very ill so Harry decided to make and sell beaded bracelets to raise lots and lots of money for brain cancer research to help make him better.

Sadly four weeks into Harry’s campaign, his friend Robert died, aged just 55. Harry could no longer help Robert, but he knew that Robert was proud of him and would have supported him – he wore one of his bracelets too.

Harry had regular checkups to monitor the size of his tumour, which remained stable for two years. Unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worst in July 2011 when he developed a blood clot on the brain.

He had an emergency operation on Wednesday 10 August but he remained in a coma for over eight weeks until doctors advised Harry’s family to bring him home to rest on Friday 7 October.

Source: http://www.helpharryhelpothers.com
Harry Moseley passed away peacefully in his mother’s arms the next day at 11.10pm...


Campaigner Challenges 2011 features 176 flash fiction stories by 81 writers (including me.) It is available in eBook format for $2.99 at: Smashwords, Amazon, and coming soon, Barnes & Noble.

Please buy a book for yourself, and forward this on to as many people as possible. All proceeds will go to Help Harry Help Others.

Mahalo, and aloha.
Thursday, November 10, 2011 7 comments

Veterans Day: The Late Warrior & an Early Story

Aloha,
Veterans Day is tomorrow, and I wanted to share two unrelated events that happened to my family yesterday.
My wife, Gen, is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy. Normally, she leaves at about 7:20 a.m., takes the short drive over to Pearl Harbor and then struggles to find parking. Wednesday was no different, but after circling her block several times, she found a spot several minutes from her office. Parking, she set off for her first meeting of the morning.
Coffee and lunch bag in hand, she was about to enter her building when a strong voice called out.
“Commander?”
Gen turned and came face-to-face with an elderly gentleman wearing a beret covered with military pins. (He’d later identify himself as retired U.S. Marine Master Sergeant James M. “Gunner Jack” Jackson.)
“Yes, sir, how can I help?”
“Commander, are you by any chance leaving by the Makalapa Gate?”
Looking down at her coffee and lunch bag, she opened her mouth, but then noticed the large suitcase next to the man whom (she would later discover) spent twenty-seven years in the Marine Corps – after serving in the Merchant Marines during WWII.
She stepped away from the door and introduced herself.
“Sir, where do you need to go?”
“Well, I have to get off base and onto a bus to the airport, but I screwed up the times, and now I’m late,” said the former Marine with still-piercing brown eyes, who served as a gunner on the AC-130 “Spectre” Gunships.
Source: http://spectre-association.org/afghanistan.htm
“Let me make a quick call, and, sir, no worries. I’ll give you a lift.”
“You can? You will? Thank you! I’ve no idea when the bus comes, but at least I’ll be there when it does.”
“There’s no need for a bus. I’ll get you over to the airport – it’s close – and it’s my pleasure. It would be an honor.”
The two chatted during the short drive until, with a final shake of her hand, “Gunner Jack” grabbed his suitcase, leaned on a cane, (his nickname carved in the wood,) and made his way into the terminal, now well on schedule.
Meanwhile, I was the one who was now late. My wife called as I scrambled to bring the boy’s over to their regular story time at the base (Hickam) library.
I got goose bumps as she told me about this old warrior, who’d travelled from his home in Korea for a doctor’s appointment at Tripler Army Medical Center.
“I feel blessed I was given this opportunity to help out – especially to someone who served our country for so long,” Gen said. “And guess what – when I got back on base, I immediately found a prime parking spot next to my office...”
Laughing, I hung up and jumped out of the minivan, unstrapped the kids and made it to story time where all three guest readers were veterans.
Mitzi Austen, a regular, was in the Navy, where she met her future husband, also a Navy veteran. “Miss Austen” as she is affectionately known to the kids, read “Hero Dad” by Melinda Hardin, while retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, Bill Pigott, read “My Sailor Dad” by Ross Mackenzie.
Retired U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Dave Burnett finished the session by reading “A Salute To Our Heroes: U.S. Marines” by U.S. Marine Capt. Brandon Barnett to the group of about thirty kids and fifteen adults.
“Kids, this picture here is an illustration of when the young men and women complete Boot Camp and are called ‘Marines’ for the first time,” said MgySgt Burnett, pointing to one page.
“However, they are er, called, er, several other things before that.”
The theme was clear and while the kids seemed to enjoy hearing the veterans read, it also hit home to at least one dad who said he enjoyed all three books.
“I teared up a little as each dealt with deployment issues and ‘Daddy being away on a long trip’ – that was a bit emotional,” he said, standing near a Christmas tree decorated with homemade “Thank You” notes and black and white pictures of smiling Navy sailors. “But, then, there were the welcome home pages – and that’s what it’s all about when you’re away: Getting the job done – right – and coming home to your family.”
Reflecting on Freedom
On a personal note: To all who serve(d) to defend my right to free speech: A sincere mahalo – and my family and I send best wishes to you and yours for a happy and peaceful Veterans Day.
Monday, November 7, 2011 10 comments

I cracked Janet Reid up! (Maybee I kan rite after all...)

Aloha,

If you're in the business of writing, you've heard of Janet Reid, literary agent. I follow her via my blog roll, and every now and again, Ms. Reid hosts snap writing contests.

This time, the idea was to write a story using one hundred words or fewer and post it in the comment column of her blog.

I also had to use these words in the story:
countdown
truck
fringe
argo
rens

The 24-hour contest ended Sunday, and while I didn't win, I did get an honorable mention in her "Lines that just cracked me up" section:

Mark 10:06am
“Hey now Liam, ‘argo,’ ‘ergo,’ I go where you go, you know that.”

There were about seventy-five entries, so for Ms. Reid to even offer a few words of encouragement means a lot (especially on a long, tired Sunday evening when I'd rather be sleeping.)
Look out for the puddly pothole, Papa!
In my writing career, I know the road ahead will be long, winding, full of potholes and even a speed trap or two, but at least I know - and believe -  I'm heading in the right direction!

Here's my one hundred word entry:

*******
“Well then, argo, it must be true,” Rens whined.

“Stop being such a huffster, you’re going to see something amazing,” I said, the damn fly buzzing me to the fringe of anger. “And, it’s ‘ergo,’ not ‘argo.’”

“Hey now Liam, ‘argo,’ ‘ergo,’ I go where you go, you know that.”

“Rens, you surely are numb nuts, but great. You won’t be disappointed, brother,” I said, lowering the truck windows and watching my fly fly.

“That dead intercom on my bed, the one I been telling you about? They talked to me again. They’re coming. The countdown is on, man: 11/11/11.”


November 05, 2011 10:06 AM

********
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 6 comments

Raising 2 Kids, 1 Homeschooler & a Baby Blog (#3): A Teaching Moment

Aloha,

The other night, my hand was stuck inside a plastic pumpkin as I raided my kid’s stash of Trick or Treats (is that bad?) when I had a sudden come to candy moment: Why bother homeschooling?

If the kids were in daycare or childcare... hmmm, I’d have more time to work or complete checklists without having to worry about snacks, drinks, diapers and toys (oh, the toys! The toys!) that I lug along with me on a daily basis. Hmmm...

                                                                ********
The day started off OK. My plan was in place, and I was motivated to get a few errands done, so I could get home, give Corey (twenty months) his nap and head to school with Tobey, our four-year-old.

And, then a pair of crocs went missing…
Source: Crocs.com

The missing shoes were later found in the bathroom (of course) and we were only about ten minutes behind schedule.

OK, not too bad, I suppose…

Loaded with the right amount crocs (four) in my hands, a diaper bag on my back, the snack bag hanging off a pinkie and two bottles of water slung low in the side pockets of my khakis like I was the Sheriff of Water City, USA, I opened the side door to the minivan.

Unloading stuff in the usual spots (where it would stay for about five seconds before being chucked, eaten or drank,) I hear the cheerful voice of the GPS goddess announcing that I “was still on the fastest route, and your estimated arrival time is 10:10.”

I looked around. The van was inside a closed garage and hadn’t moved in like a day, but poor goddess, she didn’t know that. I just always appreciate her positive attitude.

(I have this weird thing about setting my GPS up an hour or two in advance. This allows me to run into the dark garage (multiple times) and see (or hear) what time I have to leave…)

Opening the garage door, I turned the engine, gathered the troops and locked the boys into place.

“Where are we going, Papa?”

“We have to go see a few car doctors – the red van is sick.”

“What happened?

“The door in the back was hit by someone. We have to go ask the doctors how much it will cost to fix.”
Ouch!

A pause, while said news is digested….

“Papa?”

“Yes, Tobey?”

“Can I have the black telephone so I can play ‘Angry Birds?’ Please, Papa.”

Following the GPS goddess into a nearby town, I couldn’t find the exact address, but found two body shops opposite each other.

OK, cool, I need at least two estimates, so I can take care of this in one go.

Not knowing what to expect, and how long I’d be waiting, I loaded the two-boy stroller with snacks, drinks and enough diaper cream to last until Corey’s wedding reception.

“Expedition Estimate Finder” headed to its first destination. I opened the door slowly and pushed (and pushed) the stroller over a previously unseen doorstep (causing minor whiplash symptoms to at least one child.)

After my warm welcome, I was informed that I had to pay $100 and come back when I had an appointment.

“Seriously?”

This was followed by a sigh as I looked down at the expedition members, our enormous load of provisions, and then back at the receptionist. She glared back at me with the narrowed eyes of a non-parent – upset by the increase of noise in her quiet, restful waiting area.

I was back on the streets of Hawaii 5-0 in less than 6-0 seconds.

We crossed the road to the busier looking competition where surprisingly the estimate cost only $25 and they did accept walk-ins and expedition leaders.

Looking around their waiting room, I noticed two things: it was very small, and they had a bunch of handmade Halloween decorations waiting to be judged.

My destructive duo were already reaching for a paper Mache bloody hand and a matchstick-made haunted castle…

We waited outside.

For a minute or two.

And then the storm began.

The expedition’s snacks were quickly doled out as the boys had fun in the third row seats, while I scuttled around practicing my best drowned-rat-in-an-aloha-shirt impersonation.

After procuring two more estimates, including one at Tony Group Body Shop where Sabrina Dela Rama took pity on me and waived the $25 fee, we made it home.

The Letter Of The Day
Corey (and his nose, which was running more than the guy who won the Boston Marathon) fell asleep, so Tobey and I headed to the spare bedroom (aka the school,) where we had a few struggles on letter-writing, a few difficulties with some new words, and a lot of mess with this new finger painting stuff he has.

Mentally fatigued, (me, not him) we finished an hour later, and with The Runny Man sleeping, I grabbed the “pumpkin” bucket of candy and blew a big sigh as Tobey lagged behind me.

“C’mon, bud, let’s go downstairs,” I whined, “don't you want to watch the ‘Little Einsteins’ or something?”

“Papa. Hang on. Wait, I have to say goodbye,” said Tobey, standing in the doorway.

I looked into the room – it was empty. There weren’t even any red monsters waiting for tickles or bears with yellow tummies full of honey.

“C’mon son, let’s go.” I grabbed another candy, wondering why I bothered.

“Papa, I have to say goodbye, wait.”

And, then, my four-year-old son turned and waved goodbye to his school room, adding a happy “See you tomorrow, school” before leaving a big “Mwah!” kiss behind as he closed the door.

Passing me with a big smile, he headed downstairs with no worries, while the sound of his kiss, still ringing in my head, made me feel better than I’d felt all day.

I stood there for another thirty seconds, eating a dark piece of chocolate and chewing on the fact that I’d been taught an important lesson.

Wow, this homeschooling thing rocks.
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