Camping with your teenagers is like one big (search) party!

image Our family loves to go camping. In fact, we make sure to get out and pitch our tent — without fail — once a year.

Traditionally, this takes place during the busy Labor Day Weekend so that as many people as possible can witness a 49-year-old man being attacked by his own tent. In my defense, I have to say our tent is very large; especially when it is laying flat on the ground.

If I hadn’t lost the step-by-step instructions that came with it, I’m sure the assembly process would be a lot easier because, as a man, I could use them to, step-by-step, blame everything on having lousy instructions.

What this means is that over the Labor Day Weekend my handiwork will again be mistaken for a hot air balloon that has crash-landed into our family’s camp site. Continue reading

A man’s guide to romantic cuisine — Step one: Insert beer into chicken cavity

image Men, by their very nature, are grillers of food. If you follow me on Facebook, then you know I love grilling everything from steak kabobs to bacon-wrapped bratwurst. This is because grilling, aside from providing men with a legitimate excuse to drink beer and play with fire, is actually a sign of romance and affection dating back to the discovery of fire itself.

We know this thanks to recently discovered cave paintings depicting what archeologists believe is a romantic meal prepared by a Neanderthal named Glork soon after the discovery of fire. According to archeologists, the sequence goes like this:

Painting one: Glork makes a small fire using a careful mixture of embers, dry leaves, and an assortment of twigs. He then douses it with liberal amounts of highly flammable liquid, creating a massive fireball that scorches the roof of his cave.

Painting two: Glork adds a marinated pterodactyl drumstick to the fire and begins drinking an unidentified beverage.

Paintings three through six: Glork continues drinking a lot more of his unidentified beverage.

Painting seven: Attempting to capture the attention of an attractive cavewoman, Glork uses the flaps of his animal skin to fan the aroma of dinner in her direction. In the process, he inadvertently exposes himself, leading to the creation of what archeologists believe is the very first “Kiss the Chef” apron. Continue reading

When it comes to looking ahead, look no further than your behind

image You should be aware that the idea of promoting an important issue through a week of “National Awareness” has gotten… How can I put this tactfully..?

Really stupid.

There was a time when, in order to command the attention of our entire country for a whole week, you actually needed to have an issue that was important. It needed to be something that could save lives, improve society or, at the very least, boost the sale of Hallmark cards.

But not anymore.

I say this because, as you may or may not know, we’re in the middle of “National Psychic Week.” (For those of you who did not know this, I’m sorry — but there’s a good chance you are not psychic.) According to one website, the purpose of each week-long focus is to: “dispel skepticism [of psychics] through factual awareness.

Thanks to an article that appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard, I have a better understanding of how it might take an entire week to dispel all that skepticism — especially after reading about Ulf Buck, a blind psychic from Meldorf, Germany, who claims he can read people’s futures by feeling their naked buttocks. Continue reading

True happiness began 7 years ago for me, when she became my wife

imageI remember standing at the altar, watching as she crossed the courtyard toward the church. I remember smiling so much my cheeks hurt; I remember the pride and appreciation I felt knowing I was about to be her husband; and I remember a momentary breeze lifting a stray strand of hair away from her face, like God’s finger gently brushing it aside as she entered the chapel. As with any rare occasion when we don’t enter a room together, our eyes found each other immediately. So much was said to each other during that long walk to the altar. Not in words, but spoken between our two hearts — in a language we had been fluent in from the moment we met…

Seven years ago today, I became the man I was meant to be by marrying the woman I was meant to be with. The moments we have shared since then are more than memories — they are carried within each pulse that beats from my heart; like a constant and steady flow of warmth and wonderment inspired by her presence. We came into each other’s lives as parts of a fractured whole, survivors with scraped knuckles from time spent trying to repair broken marriages with parts from ourselves. Perhaps because of this it was easier to recognize one another when our hearts met for the first time. And perhaps because of our past experiences we were able to appreciate even more the rarity of what we felt. Continue reading

Turning 49 doesn’t matter much when you don’t act your age anyway

image Last night, a good friend suddenly and without warning offered a pre-emptive toast to my turning 49 next week. I call him a “good” friend because, until as recently as last night, I considered him a “great” friend. But I honestly can’t remember his name now.

Haha! Just kidding!

We were actually never very close.

Ok, in all seriousness, until his good-natured ribbing about turning 49 (I still can’t stop laughing!), I hadn’t given it much thought. That’s because I don’t really think about myself relative to age.

Relative to the nearest strip of bacon, coffee shop and my wife, sure.

But age?

Not really. Continue reading

Parenting teens is easy once you embrace being an embarrassment

My son really hates it when I call for a price check.

My son really hates it when I call for a price check.

Everyone with teenagers please raise your free hand. And by “free” hand, I mean whichever hand isn’t either guarding your wallet or refrigerator door. For parents without a free hand because you are guarding both, don’t worry; we can see it in your eyes. It’s that blank, pleading stare recognized and shared by all parents with teenagers.

It’s a look that says, If not for over-the-counter medication and America’s Got Talent, I would curl into a fetal position until my kids turn 20.

Part of what makes raising teens so challenging, aside from mood swings that raise the bar for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, are the lengths parents will go to avoid doing things their teen views as “totally embarrassing,” such as breathing while in the presence of someone they might know from school. Or making eye contact with them anywhere outside of the home. Or referring to them as “Pookie” or “Scooter” while standing in line with other parents and teens during school registration. Continue reading

Airlines may be asked to crash planes to help reduce passenger stress

image Recently, a federal jury in Billings, Mont., awarded $1 million to a woman who said she suffers from post-traumatic stress after her Delta Airlines jet made an emergency landing in November of 2011.

The case gained attention because it opens the floodgate for other post-traumatic stress lawsuits, which includes anyone who has ever ridden in a taxi in downtown New York. Though I never suffered anything as severe as post-traumatic stress from my own NYC taxi experience, it was many weeks before I could free my mind from the terrifying image of my driver giving other drivers the bird with both hands as he navigated through Madison Avenue traffic using only his knees.

Even today, I’m sure that his back seat still has a perfect impression of my hands — in the form of a death grip — which he can use as a nice conversation piece. Continue reading

A steady stream of firefighting moments

image I’m fast approaching my fifth year as a volunteer firefighter. In those five years I’ve experienced some of my life’s greatest emotional peaks and valleys while fighting fully involved house fires, searching for lost hikers, transporting injured ATV riders off the dunes, educating kindergarteners about fire safety, and extricating both the living and the dead from mangled automobiles — sometimes within arm’s reach of one another.

Most of those images will remain reels of mental footage tucked away in my memory like the VHS cassettes of my youth; waiting for me to find them some day when, more than likely, I’m searching my mind for something else entirely.

As I sat here at the breakfast table quietly eating a bowl of Froot Loops, I began scrolling through some of the firefighting photos on my iPad. Among them are moments of fun, intensity, fear and camaraderie built on a shared understanding of trust and faith. Also among those photos are firefighters I once stood with who are now gone — some by choice, others… after having been chosen. Continue reading

Parent’s survival guide to having a teen driver

image As you may be aware, our son recently became the first of our four teenagers to get his driver’s permit. That leaves three more of our teens who will likely be entering the roadways over the next few years.

I’m sorry about that.

In fact, I’d like to apologize in advance for any mailboxes, trash cans or backyard swimminng pools that may be damaged in the future. And that’s just for my son. Once our other three get their permits, no one is going to be safe. At least once they dislodge themselves and the car from our garage door.

For those of you who might be facing a similar situation, or who are now reconsidering having children at all, I’d like to offer this short video sharing a few tips with parents on how to survive having a teen driver. It’s less than two minutes but it could save your life.

Especially if you’re driving anywhere near our neighborhood…

Television for cats: just one more reason not to have cable

Cat with remote If you have a cat, I’m sure you’ve heard about the world’s first TV program specifically designed for cats. This groundbreaking show premiered — ironically — on the Oxygen Network, which demonstrates what can happen when creative minds are allowed to collaborate freely and openly in a room that is actually being deprived of oxygen. That’s the only explanation I have for some of the things I saw on this show; things like cats doing yoga. Cat haiku. And a cat that eats with chopsticks.

Yes, I said a cat that eats with chopsticks.

As you might’ve guessed, the cat I saw doing this was Siamese, which is a breed known for its intelligence. I watched in amazement as Ying-Yow (which is Cantonese for “always hungry”) demonstrated his supreme cognitive skills by using chopsticks fitted with special “booties” to eat a mixture of dry cat food and squid. As impressive as this was, he still isn’t as smart as our cat, which would have simply run away to find a new family.

But not before breaking his chopsticks in half and shoving them into the nearest “booty.” Continue reading