Back-To-School Shopping

Melbourne old GPO postal hall converted to a s...

Melbourne old GPO postal hall converted to a shopping mall complex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time of year always meant one huge thing to me as a child – back to school!  I loved, loved, loved going to school.  But, back to school meant…

Back-To-School Shopping!

Shopping is the one thing I hated about going back to school.  My mom would take my brother and me shopping.

Shopping for clothes.

Shopping for shoes.

Shopping for lunchboxes and thermoses.

Shopping for pencils, and pens, and copybooks, and rulers, and scissors, and…

On and on and on.  The preparation for school started in late July and lasted for, well, forever!  At least, to a young boy it seemed it did.  It was at this time that I developed what I would call my mall headache, which I still get today.  It’s a headache that has a particular feel to it, and I only get it in a mall.

This aversion to shopping of mine continues to this day.  I can’t stand going into a store for more than five minutes.  Even if it’s for something that I like, I have to do my best to get in, get what I want or need, and get the heck out.  Now, there are some things I can stand to browse for a little longer.  Books, computers and accessories, food, and office supplies are awesome to look at.  But, even then, once I have my fill, I’m ready to get whatever it is I came for and/or found and leave posthaste.

I know I’m not alone in my shopping aversion.  I know plenty of people (mostly other guys) who try to set a new speed record when they shop.  Perhaps there’s something on the Y-chromosome that makes us that way.  Perhaps it has to do with evolution.  I can see that – when hunting some huge animal, the less time you’re outside the cave and in the wild, the less chance you’ll end up in some predator’s stomach.

How about you?  Does the mere thought of shopping make you cringe?  Or are you more like the shopaholic, who can spend hours comparing a hundred different items for the perfect fit and/or the perfect deal?

This post is for the September Back To School Blog Challenge, hosted by Matt Conlon on Join Something.

September Back To School Blog Challenge
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The Joy Of School

A depiction of the world's oldest continually ...

A depiction of the world’s oldest continually operating university, the University of Bologna, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was of school age, which is approximately 5 to 18 years in the US, I loved going to school.  Does that make me weird?  Well, for the typical child in the US, it does.  I remember being the only one who couldn’t wait to start school, who couldn’t wait for Monday, and couldn’t wait for the summer to end.  I enjoyed learning new things; indeed, I still do.  Also, and this is when I will sound arrogant, I enjoyed showing how smart I was.

Yes – I was your typical little nerd.  Some (myself included) would argue that I still am that little nerd, but that’s not the point of my post.

September meant that I could get back to what I enjoyed – learning, acquiring new knowledge, and learning to apply that knowledge.  Sometimes that application was only what I could answer on a test, at least in my (then) young lifetime, but that was fine by me.  I managed to get great marks in school.

I learned quickly that I was, shall we say, unique in that regard.  My classmates hated school, and made sure I knew that I was different than them.  But… that’s a story for another time.

Nonetheless, I loved school, loved learning, and still do.

How about you – did you love school, as I did?  Or were you more like my classmates?

 

Edit: I neglected to mention that this post is for the September Back To School Blog Challenge, hosted by Matt Conlon on Join Something.

September Back To School Blog Challenge

I’m On Fire! – The Blog On Fire Award

That’s right – I’m on fire!  Of course, that sounds like something a man who calls himself BeefGriller would say, doesn’t it?  Or, perhaps, a Bruce Springsteen fan would say it.  But, no, in this case I’m saying it because I was nominated by blogger Nicole Michelle for the Blog On Fire Award.  This is the first blog award that I’ve received and accepted.  (I was nominated by another wonderful person, but I’ve yet to accept it formally – I can’t fulfill the requirements just yet.)

Nicole Michelle’s nomination is an honor for me, and very humbling – I’m not the most regular blogger, despite my desire to be.  But, that’s perhaps a story for another time.

While reading her post about the award, I found that she was nominated by Ashleigh of Beauty Still Remains.  Well, this lead to me tracing the award nomination back through the ages.  Why?  I guess because I’m sort of OCD like that.  Do you know what I learned?  Two things:

  1. At some point, the image of the award itself changed from that on the left to that on the right.  Why?  I don’t know – I didn’t find any explanation for that.  For completeness’ sake, I’ve posted both.
  2. Some of the folks made it difficult for me to find their nomination and/or their nominees.  That’s why I stopped after eight generations or so back.

The rules for accepting the Blog On Fire Award are simple:

  1. List eight things about yourself.
  2. Nominate other blogs for the award.

Fairly simple, I think.

Eight Things About Me

Without further adieu, here are my eight things about myself:

  1. I’m kind of OCD about things.  For example, I will spend entirely too much effort trying to trace a blog award back.  But this OCD only seems to manifest for things that I actually care about or enjoy.  I suppose that’s where my geekiness shows.
  2. I was a lifeguard for two summers – 1987 and 1988.  I worked at a community association known as the Levittown Public Recreation Association.  The second summer I was an assistant manager at the Pinewood pool.
  3. Although my current career is in information technology, I received my degree in mechanical engineering.
  4. I am an adoptee.  My adoptive parents got me when I was five days old, so I know nothing about my birth parents.  I’m quite content with this, and have decided against finding or contacting them(for now at least).
  5. love spicy food!  My favorite hot sauce is Tabasco, but I started with Frank’s Red Hot, which is still one of my favorite.  When I go to a restaurant, I will always try their hottest food.  It turns out that, generally speaking, Americans are wimps when it comes to spicy food.
  6. I worked for 4-1/2 years at a school as the IT person.  While there, I also taught some classes.  It is the reason I have so much respect for teachers now.  I miss teaching very, very much, but that chapter of my life is written.
  7. I know many people, and am friendly with them, but I don’t give the title “Friend” lightly.  My friends are family to me, and I cherish them.
  8. I have very strong willpower, but I have to care about something to tap into it.  Does that mean I don’t really have strong willpower?  I don’t think so, but one could argue that.  Regardless, once I decide to do something and stick with it, it’s a done deal.

My Nominations

Here’s where I get to pass on the Blog On Fire Award to whom I think deserve it.  Oh, the power!

There you have it!  Thanks again to Nicole Michelle for the nomination.

Land Line Telephones

Recently, my wife and I upgraded my phone/television/Internet service.  Well, upgrade may not be the most accurate term, because we cut back on a lot of television channels that we never watched (how many channels dedicated to cooking does one really need, anyway?).  Since our three services are bundled, we got a “new” digital telephone service, with a whole lot of bells and whistles that we’ll never use anyway: Call Forwarding, Call Blocking by number, you know, stuff like that.

Telephone

Telephone (Photo credit: plenty.r.)

In the process of the upgrade, our voicemail with the phone company was reset, so to speak, and I had to reinitialize it.  OK, no problem.  Log into the website, click the FAQ, click the “Call my voicemail” button.  Really, all I wanted was to set up the voicemail – who’s idea was it to require a website logon?!  Anyway, I clicked the button, and my phone rang.  It was the voicemail lady, “Please enter your password, followed by the pound sign.”

Blah, blah, blah… I follow the prompts and hang up the phone.  Then the website prompts me for more setup options.  OK, at least I don’t have to listen to the voicemail lady tell me to press this number, or that symbol, or to speak the command in Ancash to continue.  Websites are generally the superior interface for these sorts of things.

Then, one of the options presented to me is something like Simultaneous Ring, which, despite sounding like a wedding-day custom, didn’t really appeal to me.  Its purpose is to ring another number at the same time someone calls your home number.  So, if someone were to call my home, it would ring at, say, my cell phone at the same time.  Without hesitation, I kept that feature disabled.  There is no way in God’s green Earth that I would want that.  The only people who call my home are pests who want to sell me something, pests who are asking for donations, and, especially here in the United States at this time of year, pests who want me to vote for them.

It was at this moment that it occurred to me – my home phone is pretty much useless now.  It has devolved into a marketing tool for other people!  Despite my registering on the Do Not Call List, I still get these calls.  Now, here’s the kicker, and the thing that really gets my goat: I’m paying for this – literally AND figuratively!  I use my cell phone for all my calls now.  My friends and family with whom I care to speak have my cell number.  Any time a phone call comes in to my land line, I let it go to voice mail for immediate screening.

Before I go off on a rant, which I’m really close to doing, I’ll close with a question to you, dear readers.  If you have a cell phone and a land line, do you use your land line for anything else other than a screening service?  Are the only folks, or a large majority of them, who call your land line those who want to sell something?  Would you cut the phone line permanently, if you haven’t already?

Let me know in the comments below.

The Wrong Pillow

Bed made with white bed linen. Four fluffy pil...

Recently, I stayed at a place that wasn’t my own.  It was only for one night, and I had been there before.  I will refrain from naming this place, mainly because I like to respect people’s privacy, but also because I’d rather not cause any static.  Not that what I’m about to say is a secret, or that it insults anyone.

Anyway, while I was there, I was reminded how important one’s pillow is, Continue reading

Fond Childhood Memories – Setting My Brother On Fire

OK, the title is a little misleading – I didn’t really set my brother on fire, well, not entirely.  Nor did I enjoy it – at least, not the burning part.

Let me start it this way…

This happened when I was younger, probably around ten years old, which would make my brother around eight.  If I recall correctly, this was in the late summer or early fall – September or October.  I remember it being fairly warm out, but not hot, and my brother was wearing pants.  This will become important to the story later.

The sun was up.  It was afternoon, probably around 3:00 or 4:00 PM.  Throughout the day, my brother and I had been playing with a magnifying glass.  We’re not alone in this, it would seem, as I’ve swapped many stories with friends about using a magnifying glass to burn things – ants, grass, plastic action figures, Matchbox cars, you know – typical boy shenanigans.  Anyway, my brother and I thought it would be a really cool idea to burn some newspaper.  So, we grabbed a newspaper out of the trash that our parents had thrown out, went outside the garage to the driveway, and started focusing the sun’s light.

At first, we only got a smoldering spot that caught an orange glowing ring.  Well, darn!  We wanted to see flame!  We wanted to see fire!  No problem, we said, let’s keep trying.  So, since the sun was off to the side of the sky, my brother picked up the newspaper and held it at an angle so I could focus the light more directly.  We expected more smoldering and smoke.  What we didn’t expect was –

WHOOSH!  The entire surface of the paper caught fire!  Not just a little spot of flame, but an inferno!  Well, to eight- and ten-year-old boys, it was.

My brother yelled out in surprise and a little fear, “AAAUUUGGHH!”  He threw the paper down onto the driveway and picked up his foot.

Stomp!  Stomp!  Stomp!  He tried to stomp out the flame.  For those who have seen paper burn, you know what happens after a few seconds – it curls up on itself.  This paper was no different.  It curled up, and around my brother’s foot.  I saw the flames licking the hem of his pants leg.  I thought I saw his pants catching fire.

“AAAUUUGGGHHH!”  He started to panic a little more.  I could see the flames touching his pant leg, and I got scared too.  I lifted my foot, in the same way as my brother, and –

Stomp!  Stomp!  On the flame I came down, hard.  The flame, however, was on my brother’s foot.

Stomp! went my foot.

“OUCH!” yelled my brother, who promptly fell back on his rear end.  He shook his foot, trying to throw off the burning paper.  I kept on stomping.

Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!”

“Stop hurting my foot!”  “Stop moving your foot!”

Finally, the paper came loose.  My brother and I stomped out the remainder of the flame.  As we calmed down, out of breath, we heard an angry voice behind us.

“What the hell is going on?!”  My father scared the bejeezus out of us, moreso than the fire.  “Um, we were using the magnifying glass-”  “And the paper caught fire-”  “And we tried to put it out-” “And it stuck-”  “And my foot hurts-”  We blurted out like a couple of scared kids, which is what we were actually.

“You mean you were starting fires… with this?”  He grabbed the magnifying glass from us.  “And you tried to stomp it out, when the whole time you could have used that!”  He pointed angrily at the coiled up garden hose, not five feet from us.

My brother and I, in unison, replied, “Uhhhh…”

My father yelled a little more about not playing with fire, and getting hurt and all that, and sent us to our rooms, both of us feeling rather stupid.

I never forgot that lesson – use a hose on a fire when one is nearby, and take the magnifying glass farther away from home.

In Memoriam – Memom Gardner

First, I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the men who have children, love them, and are a Daddy to them.

Today is Father’s Day in the US, and I love my children more than life itself.  But this day is full of sad memories for me.  It was three years ago that my mother called me and gave me the news, through a tearful, cracking voice, that her mother had passed away.  I was floored – I knew the day wasn’t far off, but I also never really thought it would come, either.  It’s probably due to having the young boy’s memories of Memom always being there for me.  She was a permanent figure in our family, at least as far as I knew, and losing her was a terrible blow to me.  She was the first grandparent I remember losing, and it happened in my adult life.  My oldest daughters remember her, and for that I am extremely grateful.

My mom asked me to write and deliver a eulogy for her.  I had never written one before, and didn’t think I was up for the task.  Despite my trepidation, I sat down and wrote, and the next day, I delivered it.  Here it is.

Memom, I still miss you.

These are just some of the memories I have of Memom. Of course, all of this is from a grandchild’s eyes.

Laughter. Lots of hugs. Fun times with her.

Long drives to Lancaster County. Camping with Anthony, Lauren and Jana. My first taste of shoofly pie. Memom telling me why it was called shoofly, and the difference between wet-bottom and dry-bottom. Ant slipping and falling out of the top bed in the camper in the middle of the night. Pancakes for breakfast. An artist giving me a painted rock.

Long drives to Aunt Edie’s cabin in the Poconos. Sleeping in the dormer with the pull-down steps. Finding Gumdrop, the dog. The four of us grandkids riding in the back of her station wagon, spitting out the window and watching it do loops and spins before bouncing on the blacktop behind us. Going to Camelback and racing on the sleds in the summer.

Sleepovers at Memom’s in Morrisville with Ant, Lauren and Jana. One more scoop of Jello with one more scoop of Cool Whip. Learning in the morning that one of us had wet the bed, while the rest of us slept through it.

Seeing Memom at Grandpop Gardner’s viewing. Hugging her as she cried. Kissing her cheek and tasting the salt of her tears.

Sleepovers at Memom’s in her Bristol apartment on Garfield St. Wondering why the porch in the back had all that stuff in it. Hours of Uno. The stairs that went to nowhere.

Seeing her at my graduation. Getting my picture with her while I was in my cap and gown.

Dancing with her at my wedding.

Watching her proudly, joyfully hold each of my daughters for the first time.

Talking with her at the Christmas parties. Making her bourbons, and her saying, “Well, it’s a little weak, but that’s OK.”

Seeing her last Saturday, so tired. Holding her hand. Watching my children kiss her and tell her they loved her. Kim and I doing the same.

She gave us, her family, the ones she loved, so much of her time and energy. She was a wonderful, beautiful woman. A perfect grandmother. Of course, all of this is from a grandchild’s eyes.