That one St. Paddy’s Day I was attacked by a wooden lion…

(It’s been two years since that fateful St. Paddy’s Day when I was attacked by a wooden lion. Some scars take longer to heal. Especially when there’s splinters. Below is the whole sordid (weird) tail… I mean tale.
Erin go Roar!)

image It’s been nearly 40 years since my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Flunkem, wrote the following remark in red ink on my report card:

Unstructured time is a challenge for Ned.

After reading this, my mother looked at me and said, “Since when did filling your unstructured time become a challenge?”

And things haven’t really changed since then. I can honestly say, through sheer luck and determination, I have put myself in a position to have what I’m sure Mrs. Flunkem would consider entirely too much unstructured time. Fortunately for me, my wife disagrees with Mrs. Flunkem and encourages me to make the most of it.

How?

By saying things like, “Hey Honey! Look at that wooden lion over there!” Continue reading

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Ratings decline may require Oscars to get jiggy before things go wack

image As you’ve probably noticed, we have entered the annual “awards show” season, which officially began with the Golden Globe Awards, and is due to wrap up some time in April, when David Hasselhoff hosts the coveted Intoxicated Karaoke Performance Awards live from Tijuana, Mexico.

Every year, I watch at least some of these awards shows because, as a columnist, it’s important for me to keep up with cultural trends. I also watch because seeing Nicki Minaj always makes me feel better about the way I dress. However, according to a recent poll, ratings for awards shows have actually dropped. So much so that programming executives are calling it “an alarming trend.”

Personally, I think the word “alarming” is a little strong.

Coolant levels steadily leaking from a nuclear reactor — THAT’S alarming; a decline in the number of people tuning in to see how long it takes for a fight to break out at the Rapp Awards is actually pretty encouraging. The obvious reason ratings are down is because the number of awards shows is up. The entertainment industry must ask itself if it really needs The Golden Globes, The Oscars and The Peoples’ Choice Awards in order to single out Hollywood’s finest when they could just as easily save time and money by combining all three into, say…

The Peoples’ Globes Awards.

Okay, bad example (Although, it does sound like something that’s probably available on cable.) Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

Last year, a blogger friend named Randall posted a beautiful poem about taking time to recognize the magic in our lives. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience that I tell each year on Christmas Eve. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments. That said, my sincere thanks to all of you for sharing the magic every day…
_______________________________________________________________

image He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and whats-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence. Continue reading

Remember when the school supply list was just a Pee Chee?

[Still looking for that pair of No. 2 red-handled safety scissors required for Mrs. Flunkum’s eighth-grade algebraic lit. class? You’re not alone. As government spending on education has gotten smaller, school supply lists have grown to the size of a Nasa space mission checklist. Never mind that Nasa doesn’t actually go into space anymore. The point is, this week’s Wednesday Rewind doesn’t require a protractor…]

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child's will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

When I was a kid, our school supply list consisted of a Star Wars notebook and a Pee Chee folder. The notebook helped us organize our assignments; the Pee-Chee folder was used for entertaining ourselves during class by drawing thought balloons for the athletes on the cover.

Football Guy: (Getting tackled) “Oh sure — run the old L-42 play, THAT always works…”
Tennis Girl: “If my skirt gets any shorter, I’ll be playing Olympic volleyball…”

You get the idea.

Just about everyone remembers this folder because, like Al Sharpton’s hair gel, it has remained virtually unchanged since 1964. What has changed, however, is the growing list of items parents must provide throughout the school year. This comes in addition to rudimentary things, such as clothing, snacks and a recent urine sample. The reason is simple: The government is tired of wasteful spending, particularly in the educational system, where a special task force has discovered that schools routinely get bilked into spending thousands of dollars on paper alone.

“And, shockingly, most of this paper has turned out to be blank,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Continue reading

Gone in 60 Minutes (Or why I won’t be cast in a Fast & Furious movie)

image Welcome to Post Traumatic Sundays, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how:

With humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each day to laugh for the right reasons. It’s good to laugh with you now — for all the right reasons…

* * * * * * * *

They say it takes a car thief less than a minute to break into a vehicle, hot wire it, and be on their way. So, when I locked my keys in the car in the grocery store parking lot, I thought, “Hey, if Nick Cage or Vin Diesel can do it, so can I.”

True, I had no “Slim Jim,” or any other special car theft device to work with, at least not until I remembered the coat hanger that holds the bumper in place. With a little twisting and unraveling, the wire came off and I had my thieves’ tool. Continue reading

Nine days in a mental hospital; it’s time for our family vacation

image Welcome to Post Traumatic Sundays, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. What these posts aren’t about is venting or vindictiveness.

So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how: with humor. Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each and every day to laugh for the right reasons.

It’s good to laugh with you for the right reasons as well…

* * * * * * * *

By the time you read this, our family will be on its seventh day of a nine-day road trip to California, which means that, by now, I will have been institutionalized somewhere outside of Fresno for almost a week. Yes, even with 11 years of marriage and seven years of child rearing under our belts, our combined wisdom wasn’t enough to save us from a plan that essentially locks us together with our children for nine days in a confined space roughly the size of an Altoids box. Continue reading

More often than not, the Easter Bunny wears boxer shorts

(With it being Easter, I thought I’d skip this week’s edition of Post Traumatic Sunday and run a different kind of flashback, reminiscent of when my children were small and the Easter stakes were always high. Whether this day is observed in your family or not, we can all agree any day that you can be together is worth celebrating…)

Easter dad in boxers In the wee hours this morning, something magical happened in backyards all across America as, one by one, each of them was visited by …

You guessed it! A half-naked father hiding Easter eggs.

That’s right, the same fathers who were stomping on the roof with sleigh bells Christmas Eve were out in the yard in their boxer shorts with an arm load of colorful eggs not long after sunrise.

Their mission?

Keep this tradition alive while trying not to step in anything that could elicit a response deemed inappropriate for Easter morning. Continue reading

There’s no shame in admitting you haven’t seen Janet Jackson’s breast

In honor of today’s Super Bowl, I am harnessing the time-traveling power of Flashback Sunday to go back to that moment when I became one of only eight people who missed witnessing Janet Jackson’s big reveal…

What did I miss?! It’s been a decade since the introduction of the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” to the world vernacular during the 2004 Super Bowl. Yet the fact that I missed that historic broadcasting moment continues to be the subject of ridicule by several of my so-called friends.

As luck would have it, in the same instant 90 million viewers were gawking at a flash of Janet Jackson’s breast, I was picking a tortilla chip off the floor. The sequence of events leading up to that fateful moment went as follows:

1) While watching Janet Jackson dance in a highly suggestive manner, Ned inadvertently steps on a tortilla chip.

2) Being a polite guest, he reaches down for the chip just as everyone in the room shouts “HER _ _ _ _ IS SHOWING!!”

3) In a panic, Ned tries to knock his fellow guests aside but, instead, falls forward and lodges his head between the couch and coffee table, spraining his neck. Continue reading

At a newspaper, every roll is crucial

(Welcome to Flashback Sunday, when we travel back in time to spotlight a post from the distant past while being extremely careful, of course, not to disturb anything that could change the natural course of history. Not that we’d know either way. Admittedly, the inexplicable success of Justin Bieber could be evidence we’ve failed at least once…)

Behind every great news story is a paper trail.

Behind every great news story is a paper trail.

There are few things that can bring a newspaper to a halt when it is facing a deadline. In fact, aside from a natural catastrophe or a critically important breaking news story (Example: Anything related to Dancing with the Stars), nothing stands in the way of our commitment, as journalists, to ensure that the power of the press continues — unless, of course, the unthinkable happens, and we run out of toilet paper in both employee restrooms.

As professionals, this is a scenario we train for. We know how to recognize a potential “situation” that could leave us vulnerable and without back-up. Yet, as we learned today, all it takes is a momentary lapse in resoluteness for things to escalate into a full-blown crisis.

“Has anyone seen Bill?” (Note: The names in this dramatic re-enactment have been changed to protect the innocent, such as myself, from being physically assaulted by “Bill.”) Continue reading

Online banking: Bringing Zimbabwe and Snakegut, Alabama closer together

(It’s time for this week’s Flashback Sunday, when step into our time-travel machine, buckle up, jettison ourselves into the past, but not before someone realizes they really should’ve used the restroom first…)

Red necks It’s not every day that I receive an email from a Zimbabwean prince who needs help relocating $20 million into an American bank account as soon as possible. In fact, in the last five years, I’ve only received this letter maybe 18 times. In each case, the letter explains that I’ve been chosen because I’m reputed to be a “dependable and trustworthy” person.

Given that this letter is always addressed to Dear Sir or Madam, I can only assume that my reputation is in fact so great that I no longer need an actual name.

Either that, or I’m not the only person to receive this letter.

Each time I’ve gotten this e-mail, I’ve deleted it because, let’s be honest: Who wants to spend time figuring out how to access their online bank account? I have no intention of adding to that headache (or potential jail time) by making a cross-continental transfer of millions of dollars from Zimbabwe.

Besides, having our checking account suddenly jump to over $20 million — I think — would look a little suspicious.

I’m sorry Mr. Hickson, but you don’t have money in your account to cover…Oh, wait a minute. Scratch that. Will this bagel be everything? Continue reading