Tag Archives: Heidi

A Modest Proposal

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with Heidi.  I looked up from brushing my teeth to find her standing in the doorway of my bathroom clad only in toe-nail polish and holding a bottle of my favorite beer.

Love, it seems to me, is fraught with perilous events, things over which we feel we have very little control, but are somehow propelled toward, which is why I think men try so hard to avoid it.  I learned this first-hand when I became engaged to Heidi some 14 years ago.  My decision to become engaged was actually brought on by a “discussion” that occurred the night before I proposed.  Heidi and I don’t have fights; we have “discussions”—and the discourse to which I refer was our first since I started seeing her.

Our discussion revolved around her insistence that I buy a dresser.  Being a bachelor at the time, I saw absolutely no need for a dresser.  I was perfectly happy with my system for storing clothes: when I ran out of hangers I piled them “neatly” on the floor next to my bed—unless I was hosting company, in which case I stuffed them in my closet.  For some reason, this arrangement bothered her, and she applied some convincing logic, explaining that “you can’t live this way”.  Now while I didn’t really buy her reasoning, I did decide that in the interest of domestic tranquility I should look into buying a dresser, and promised to do so the next day.

The next day at lunch I was scouring furniture stores feeling completely ill-equipped, which must have been obvious to the astute in my proximity because at one point a nice lady wearing too much perfume approached me and asked whether I needed help.

“I’m looking for a dresser.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I mean what style suits you?  What sort of décor do you have now?”

“I have a small, one bedroom apartment, so something not too big I suppose.”

“I mean your current furnishings.  Contemporary?”  Pause.  “Metro modern?”  Nothing.  “Vintage casual perhaps?”

I continued to stare at her, my mind devoid of any data whatsoever.

“Sir?”

“Thank you.  I’m just looking for now.”

Clearly out of my element, I punted.  I turned and headed back to my car as I began to invent excuses about why I didn’t get a dresser, racking my brain for a suitable, believable alibi that would absolve my neglect of this critical problem of my improperly stowed clean attire.

And then it struck me: what I needed was a surrogate gift.  Some token of my sincerity, which I could present as a down payment on my good intention.  As I walked toward my car I spotted a jewelry store.  Jewelry.  Yes.  Small package; big pay-off.  Of course.  A delicate gold necklace with an opal pendant, perhaps.  Precious, yet not too expensive.  Viola; mission accomplished.

As I entered the jewelry store, I was immediately assaulted by a sign clearly designed to up the ante: “Show her how much you love her.”  Recalling my recent epiphany in the bathroom, I began to think about my relationship with Heidi in more serious terms.  Heidi is a really amazing woman—smart as a whip; an athlete with no equal on the tennis court; a woman with model good looks arrayed with a thick mane of long blond hair.  She seemed perfect to me at the time.  Besides, I had this nagging feeling that if I didn’t start getting serious about this relationship soon, I might never have my beer delivered in quite the same way again.

For the next half-hour, my thoughts wandered as I began to contemplate what was previously unfathomable.  I was officially divorced a mere four months prior.  Yet as I stood there looking at the glitter of romance within the crystal showcases, I was seriously considering a second foray into the land of until death do us part or until I can’t stand you anymore.  And this is the peril of my first reference.  We say until death do us part, but the fact is that we are all too comfortable with until I can’t stand you anymore.  But not to preach; I’m just a writer.

I was next accosted by a stunning vision who identified herself as Linnea.

“May I help you?”  A sense of déjà vu overtook me.

I’m looking for an engagement ring.” I replied with significant trepidation.

“See anything you like?”

My mind was again reeling—repeatedly asking a host of questions: “Is this what I want to do with my remaining years on Earth? What sort of setting would she really like? Can I really afford this?” and, much to my surprise, the most terrifying question of all: “Would she say yes?”.  As I contemplated the rest of my life, I wasn’t sure which possibility was scariest: a polite reply of “no; not now” or an enthusiastic “yes”.  I mean the proposition of forever is frightening on its own merit—with or without the one you love.

I looked up and the clerk repeated her question: “What sort of set did you have in mind?”  I stared at her, unable to speak.  Sensing my uncertainty, she reached down, unlocked the case, and pulled out a simple diamond trio setting.  “I think this is beautiful.”  I replied simply “OK; I’ll take it.”

I returned to the office cash poor and unable to work, distracted by what had now become an obsession for me.  I decided to make good use of the time and make the necessary plans for the evening, putting off actual work for the moment.  I made reservations at a local restaurant, and on the way home I stopped at the store to pick up some flowers and a card.  I wanted to set a romantic mood for the evening; she, of course, thought I was merely trying to make up for the previous night.

On the way to dinner, I was thinking about the evening ahead.  The restaurant was unique to Austin and had incredible romantic potential, perfect for asking the question at hand.  Sure that I was about to present her with a unique culinary and romantic experience, I asked “Have you ever been to Hudson’s on the Bend?”  “Once, about five years ago.”  she replied.  “It’s where I got engaged.”

Aghast, my lower jaw dropped, like one of those cartoon characters who suddenly realizes they just stepped off a cliff with nothing beneath them but air.  I frantically searched for an appropriate reply.  “You got engaged there?”  I asked, incredulous.  To which she replied “Yes silly.  I told you; Zeke proposed to me there.”  “He did?” was all I could muster.

“Will this bring up any bad memories?” I asked as I desperately tried to recover.  “Oh no.” she said.  “That was a long time ago.  It’s fine.”  Horribly disappointed, I briefly considered delaying my proposal, but I was already committed and at this point I doubt God Himself could change my mind.

Later at the restaurant, when I was halfway through my second glass of wine as we waited for dinner, I knew that it was now-or-never.  Looking at Heidi across the table, my breathing increased and I felt beads of perspiration forming on my forehead.  I nervously asked her to take my hand.  Unable to muster any creativity whatsoever, I recited the script most men utter in these situations.  I think it must come from the movies and TV shows our girlfriends force us to watch when we first begin dating.

“I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I began.  Uncertainty momentarily seized me as I tried to continue.  “Will you—will you marry me?”  I stammered.  Then, as if in slow motion, I reached into my pocket to retrieve the box with the gold and diamond token.  Fumbling as I opened it, I knocked my fork off the table, wincing as it unceremoniously crashed to the ground.

Somehow I managed to present the ring to Heidi without any further mishap.  Becoming a bit emotional, she wiped her eyes, smiled at me, and simply said “Yes.”  I breathed a thankful sigh of relief, took the ring from the box, and placed it on the third finger of her left hand.  I then looked deep into her eyes and contemplated all the wonderful things ahead for the two of us.

She returned my gaze, smiled, and softly said “Thank you for a wonderful evening honey.”

She continued “Oh; I meant to ask you: did you get a dresser today?”

Guy-o

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What Things Have Come

On May 7th 1995, my life was forever altered.

Life altering events happen every day, but we are typically unaware of them.  It seems they always happen to others as we read about them in the paper or watch them on the news.

Individually, we spend most of life engaging in the grind of it.  We get out of bed.  We go to work.  We go to school.  We raise children.  We cook.  We clean.  We sit down to dinner.  We entertain ourselves with mindless television to escape the ever-present drudgery that life all too often connotes for us.  And then, once in a great while, it confronts us with the reality of something that leaves an indelible mark on our souls.

Some life-altering events are universal.

For my grandparents’ generation it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  For my parents’ generation it was the Kennedy assassination.  For my generation and that of my children it was the terror attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.  Most life-altering events, however, are individual.

The individual life altering event to which I referred in the opening text of this entry was a right hook that came in the form of a phone call from my manager on a Saturday morning at 10:00.  Its inception, however, occurred at 4:00 on the Friday afternoon prior.

I was sitting on the steps of the office building where I worked as I nursed a New Castle Brown Ale.  My friend Pat walked over to my stoop after entertaining a conversation with another woman, whose name and image I can’t recall.  Pat was known as the office mom at work.  She was the receptionist, office manager, and general caretaker of us all, and she was loved by everyone.

She took a seat beside me and raised a long neck Corona to her lips.

“Weekend plans?”  I inquired.

The Eagles.” she replied.

“The Eagles are in town?”

“Yeah; the Hell Freezes Over tour.”

“Wow.  I’m jealous.”

“And I hired a divorce attorney.”

“Really?  You’re done?  That’s it?”

“Yeah.“

“You OK?  Any regrets?”

“I’m fine.  I told you; I have Eagles tickets.”  She smiled and took another swig.  I turned to look at her profile.  I remember that she seemed so pretty in that moment.

I continued.  “Well I gotta pick up the kids.  My wife is outta town.”

“Yeah; I need to go too.”

We tossed our bottles into the trash bin in a single unified motion and headed to the elevator.  I went back to my office and collected my things, and then I left the office area and headed to the common hallway to use the mens’ room.  I looked to my right just as she entered the ladies’ room.

“See you Monday” I called out as I waved.  “Later.” came the reply.

10 minutes later she died in a freak one-car accident.

I, frankly, never recovered.

Present day.  My wife and her sister have been caring for their grandmother, Maxine, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  Day in and day out; night in and night out; they have cared for her, meeting every need.  The drudgery of life asserts itself.

Then last Wednesday.  I made my regular afternoon call to Heidi.  She seemed distracted.  “What’s wrong?” I inquired.  “Nothing; I’m just dealing with grandma.”

“Everything OK?”

“Yes.  I’ll call you back.”

As I hung up the phone a sense of foreboding gripped me.  A quiet voice deep inside whispered to me that something was desperately wrong and a sudden urgency overtook me.  I shut down my computer, informed my manager that I needed to leave, and walked out to my car.  The sound of the car door slamming closed seemed poignant in a way I can’t quite describe.

As I crossed the threshold of the front door I was confronted by a familiar unpleasant aroma I couldn’t place but I instinctively knew.  An odor that took me to another place I couldn’t quite remember; a sudden Deja Vu.  Inside the air was still and the silence overwhelming.

I made my way to the bedroom where Heidi’s grandmother, Maxine, slept.  Maxine was in bed and Heidi was kneeling at her side.

“How is she?”

“She’s tired.”

“Can I help?”

“No.  She had a bad nose bleed.  I was afraid she was leaving us, but I guess she’s OK.  I just need to watch her.”

Heidi stood up, and then I saw it in her eyes: the terrible fear that only appears when the end seems certain and immutable.  I held her for a moment as she sobbed.  When I released her she wiped her eyes and simply said “I love you.”  We left the room just as I heard the front door open.  Unannounced, her friend Sherry arrived greeting Heidi with a heartfelt embrace.

“I asked Sherry to stop by.  She wanted to help.”

I looked at the time.  It was 5:00 and Wednesday is when I typically meet the guys for Happy Hour.

“So I was thinking about meeting up with the guys.”

“Go ahead honey.  Everything’s under control.”

I kissed her and said goodbye relieved that the situation was not nearly as dire as I thought.  Little did I know.

I returned home at about 7:45 and was again confronted with the same fetid odor that greeted me earlier.  And then in a moment of violent recall, I knew the smell.  It was the stench from the scene of Pat’s accident, which I had visited the Saturday afternoon after her death.  It’s funny how these things pervade our senses and linger without permission.

I heard soft whispers coming from Maxine’s room.  I made my way to the threshold to find Sherry wiping blood from Maxine’s face as Heidi lay next to her weeping softly.  It was a nose-bleed—an otherwise simple condition—but the flow was so profuse it was alarming.  It was then that I embraced the truth, and the truth was that Maxine was dying.

I quietly entered the room and sat in the chair near the foot of the bed.  I looked on for the next four hours as they took turns holding her, caressing  her brow, wiping blood from her face, and offering comfort as she begged to go—to see family members who were no longer on this plane of existence.  It’s never easy—dying.  We fight it, sometimes fiercely, but despite our best efforts it always ends the same.

I watched as she closed her eyes to sleep and then opened them again begging to go.  Over and over like a broken vinyl record that skipped unendingly, she alternated between dead sleep and anxious agitation until she finally succumbed to the sleeping meds Heidi gave her.

Heidi’s mother and sister arrived at about that time and thankful for a respite we left the room as I listened to Maxine’s labored breathing and the hushed conversation among the women.

It was 5:25 the next morning when Heidi’s mother knocked on our bedroom door and ushered in Heidi’s life altering experience.  “Mother passed.”

I walked with her to the room where Maxine lay and looked on as Heidi held the cold shell that was once her grandmother and tearfully said goodbye.  On November 29th 2012, in a fleeting moment, life changed for Heidi, never to be the same.

Guy-o

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Freya’s Concerto

There have been times in my life when things have worked in my favor with no effort on my part.  Such has been the case over the last few weeks, and I lay this good fortune squarely at the feet of my muse, Freya.  My writing has been on hold lately because she’s been on vacation—at least that’s the story she told me.  I’m pretty sure she was actually cheating on me, a suspicion I find very upsetting.  Relationships in my experience are based on three things: trust, common interest, and mutual attraction.

Until now my relationship with her has engendered all three, although I’m starting to rethink that first and most important item because of her absence lately.  However, I still find her stunningly attractive, so I’m not ready to break up with her just yet.

You, of course, know nothing about my muse, because inspiration, like making love, is a very personal thing and you don’t know me.  I’m just a writer—someone you will probably never meet and my life to you is nothing.  But what I will tell you is that she’s tall, Scandinavian, athletic, and boisterous.  In fact, rather than greeting me with a kiss, she just goes straight for the full body check—and these are all very attractive qualities to me.

She and I have several things in common.

First, she’s very fond of alcohol.  I know this to be an undeniable fact because she only shows up when I’ve been drinking.  There are countless times I’ve been enjoying a cold brew when, from out of nowhere, she shows up and announces her presence by playfully knocking me off my bar stool.

Then of course there’s the writing, the very reason you’re reading this piece today.  I listen carefully as she whispers soft words of encouragement to share my secrets with you—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  All the things I try so desperately to hide but that inevitably find their way to the surface under her commanding, yet gentle direction.

Finally, my wife is the muse of my muse.  If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that at least half of my writing is conceived by something my wife has said or done—and my muse invariably whispers “That would make a great story.  Follow me.”  And, of course, I always do.

And here is the path to which she led me today.

In the last two months my wife, Heidi, has entertained several suitors—among them a former boyfriend and an ex-fiancée.  Now the cultural definition of a suitor is someone who courts a woman in the romantic sense.  A suitor, however, can also be someone who is simply petitioning or vying for something from another individual or collective.  In this case these men seem to simply want her attention for one reason or another.  Now here I must add that I am, in fact, the jealous type—and this sudden popularity of my wife among these men got annoyingly under my skin.

Trust being a necessary component of marriage, though, I’ve adjusted to this current state of affairs and am convinced there’s no reason for concern.  That said it’s also true that I’m a self-doubting, self-loathing, drunk who believes deep down inside that I don’t deserve what I have and that somehow life’s been unjustifiably good to me.  I actually believe in these moments that it was just dumb luck that I somehow convinced the best woman living on the planet to marry me.

So when I see these guys posting notes on her FaceBook page, my  first thought  is “I’m totally screwed;” that I don’t stand a chance in Hell of hanging onto her.  But then this other guy surfaces from a hidden crevasse deep within my soul, and my eyes involuntarily narrow and a growl spontaneously erupts.  I am then inspired (no-doubt by Freya herself) to post a passive aggressive reply, have a drink, and chuckle because in that moment I think I’m clever.  This bravado then produces a feeling of euphoria in which I convince myself that I also happen to be the most charming and devastatingly good looking guy alive.

Such was the case on a Monday, four weeks ago.

Freya knowingly looked on.

It was the morning after said event and I was ruminating about my clever FaceBook reply to one of these gentlemen the evening before.  I was just out of the shower and stepped up to the mirror to shave when I heard the familiar voice of inspiration from behind me:

“You’re fat.”  She whispered.  I instinctively began scanning my reflection from the neck down.  I’ll spare you the image that confronted me, and instead offer the fact that I actually winced.

“Dear God.” I whispered.  “I’ve become Kool-Aid.”

My thoughts immediately returned to the guys courting my wife for her attention; panic ensued and only one thought came to mind.  At the top of my lungs I bellowed: “Heidi!  Can you come in here please?”

Opening the bathroom door my wife shushed me.   “Quiet!  Cindy and grandma are still sleeping.”  I looked at her for a moment.  She was holding a pillow with a half-donned pillow case and morning hair, wearing a tee-shirt that read “Got Sleep?” and a pair of flannel pants adorned with kittens. Funny; she never really looked as pretty to me before as she did right then.

“What do you want?” she inquired in a hushed tone.

“I uh—I want to join a gym.”

“You do?” she replied in a cheery tone while sporting a toothy grin.  “Yeah.  I’m fat.  I need to join a gym.”

Laughing she simply replied “Who are you?”

Freya smiled.

Fast forward to last Wednesday.  I was three weeks into a low-carb diet and exercise program.  No beer, no pasta, no pizza—and I’m in the gym three times a week.  It’s a total 180 situation.

Enter my personal trainer, Michel.  A young, good-looking, muscular kid who has been kicking my ass on Mondays and Wednesdays over the course of this awakening.  I have to admit I’m kind of getting into it—but this cross-training crap is BS.  I hate cardio.

Now these sessions are only 30 minutes so when I go in I’m a total clock-watcher.  I’m just counting down the minutes until I can go back to the office and scarf some tuna and collapse at my desk.  On this particular day, though, I was late, a fact which my trainer did not appreciate.  And he made that fact crystal clear after I suited up.  I approached him and he just kind of stared at me and said “You’re late.”

“Yeah man; sorry.  I just had some things going on at work and I forgot my gym bag.”

Suddenly I was back in boot camp.  Annoyed, he barked at me with a scolding tone: “When you first got here you said you wanted a change; you said that you had let yourself go, and you admitted you were fat.  I can’t help you if you don’t take this seriously.  Now let’s go.”

For the next 20 minutes he tore me to pieces.  At the top of the hour, I attempted to disarm him with humor:

“OK, so this has been good.  Great job.” I puffed while attempting to initiate a fist bump.

“You were late.”  He replied again sternly.

“Yeah; I know man.  You know; life gets in the way.”

“Outside.”  His stoic and commanding demeanor reminded me of when I’m in trouble with Heidi.

“What now?” I inquired.

“Running.”

An expletive crossed my mind.

Here’s the thing: you can’t negotiate with your trainer.  You’re paying him for results—but the thing is I got out of the damned service more than 30 years ago and now here I am taking orders from this kid half my age.

He led me to the parking lot and barked “Let’s go.”  I limped along exhausted and he continued: “Get ahead of me.”  Another expletive.

75 yards around the facility later and I slowed to a pause, which inspired his repeated command: “Move it!”

I obediently picked up the pace and pathetically “ran” the next 25 yards to the designated finish line.  I bent over with my head between my legs and he barked another order: “Stand up; hands over your head!”

More expletives.

“Dude!  You’re killin’ me here.”

“No growth without pain man.  Now let’s finish it; turn around and run backwards.”

“Who are you, freaking Nietzsche?” I exclaimed.

“Who’s Nietzsche?”

“Friedrich Nietzsche.  You know; ‘that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”

“Hit it!” came the stern reply.

I somehow made it to the second finish line—pathetic though my performance was.  And it was in that moment I began to suspect that all of this was somehow divinely orchestrated.  That I was on a path set by forces beyond me.  As I stumbled back into the facility I realized that as a grandfather, I owed it to my kids and to their kids to take my health seriously.  I suddenly understood the importance of ensuring the longevity of my life so that my kids won’t have to tell their kids about me in my absence while pointing to a tombstone.  That I need to live a long and healthy life—not just for me–but for them as well.

Do you see how she did that.  First she made me jealous, then she called me fat, and then she assigned me a cross-trainer—“all for my own good.”

Freya giggled.

 

Guy-o

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Holiday Cheer

I am not the Grinch.  At one time Christmas was my favorite time of year.  I grew up in a place that received snow every year—many times during the winter holidays.  It seemed kind of magical.  The time off from school, the change of seasons, and—of course—presents.

Then I grew up and had kids of my own and the Holiday season became about making it special for them.  Actually I’m not sure I ever really grew up, but I certainly had children.  Call me crazy but in addition to doing my best to make the holidays special for them, I also made certain they understood what we were celebrating.  At that time political correctness was being invented, but had not yet been integrated with the infrastructure of our culture.

So I actually talked with them about the birth of the Son of God and what that meant to Christians.  Which reminds me: I recently saw Bill Maher’s film Religulous.  I think Bill is a very funny, surprisingly intelligent guy, but in my opinion he has the wrong idea about the Bible.  I don’t want to get into it here; I just wanted to offer a nod to anyone who doesn’t quite buy into the whole Christian aspect of the holiday season.  You’re entitled to that opinion; I don’t care—but if you’re offended that I mentioned the birth of the Son of the Almighty, step off.  It’s freaking Christmas.

Over the years, however, I’ve become a little jaded about the holiday season, which seems to be less about holiness and more about parties and commercialism.  Have you ever noticed that people on the road become absolutely unbearable during the holidays?  Also, I noticed that there are two variables that turn otherwise courteous drivers into road-rage warriors:

Proximity to

  • Christmas Eve

and

  • Your local shopping mall

It seems that the intensity of the rage enjoys a linear relationship to how many calendar days we are from the 25th of December and how many miles you are from the shopping Mecca in your part of town.  Isn’t it great the way people greet the Salvation Army volunteer on the 23rd with a twenty and a Merry Christmas on their way to the car and then offer vulgar gestures if they think you cut them off leaving the parking lot?  Classy.

Then there are all the other unwanted intrusions—like Christmas decorations and incessant holiday music the day after Thanksgiving.  Look; I just don’t want to hear dogs from 1955 singing Jingle Bells because I hit the wrong button on my car radio.  It was a clever trick at the time but how about this?  Archive that crap and bring it out to amaze high school students once each year or as a college exercise in psych 101 when you’re covering Pavlov.

Also, some of the traditional music starts to lose its meaning.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Silent Night have been functionally reduced to children’s nursery rhymes.  For those who don’t subscribe to a Christian approach to life it doesn’t mean anything in the first damned place, and for those who do you’ve killed the original meaning when it comes up in rotation as list play 243; for the Faithful it has been reduced to meaningless gibberish.

Next we have the proclivity to run up your credit card balance because of the pressure to artificially make it special to friends and loved ones.  Do your kids really need the latest electronic gaming box or iThingy?  Does your wife or girlfriend really need another piece of jewelry or perfume or some other expensive trinket?  Does your boyfriend or husband really want that shirt, tie or whatever girls buy for guys these days?  Please.  Pick me up a box of practice handgun ammo and be done with it.  It’s 20 bucks and I can buy my own clothes.

This brings me to my own personal holiday burden: the dreaded family Christmas letter.  That unattractive sound you just heard was me groaning as I sit at this sports bar drafting this entry.  Don’t get me wrong I love to write—but this beast is just so unwieldy.    First of all, it’s not even to my family.  It’s to Heidi’s family.

Recently my family has started to become closer—but for a decade and a half it hasn’t been that way.  Heidi’s family, however, is very close and always has been.  They call each other.  They keep in touch.  They know what’s going on in each others’ lives.  And, of course, they have a family Christmas letter.  The purported purpose of the letter is to keep in touch and to know what’s going on in each others’ lives—but wait.  They do that without the Christmas letter, and yet this chore falls to me.  Why?  Because I’m known as the writer in the family.

Now what’s interesting to me is that my wife also wrote and published a book as well.  So why am I the writer who is asked to take on the burden of writing the Christmas letter to her family about what they’ve been doing all year, even though they already know what they’ve been doing all year?  Because she said so; that’s why.

Now this year, I’m not doing anything anyway.  I’m just hanging around waiting for the next thing, and so writing the family Christmas letter isn’t really that big of a deal—but there’s always a catch.  The catch in this case is that my wife is the assigner and I am the assignee.  What that means is that I am working for her, and by extension she has to approve the final product.  It also means that I’m not compensated directly.  Well she does give me an allowance, which I spend on fast food, whiskey, and beer—but you get the point.

As I sat at my desk two weekends ago watching 1,000 Ways to Die, a series on bizarre ways that people have been accidentally killed, she tossed the assignment across my desk to me in the form of a directive.  Heidi often addresses me in this way because, as I’ve already pointed out, she’s in charge of me.

“I need you to write the family Christmas letter.”

“I did that last year and you rewrote it.”

“No; I edited it.”

“I’m pretty sure you rewrote it.”

Raising her voice, she insisted “I edited it!”

“I need talking points for your parents.”  She left my office and returned about two minutes later with a bullet list.  “Pretty impressive.” I thought. “Do I have a deadline?”

“Yes.”

“When is it?”

“This weekend.”

“OK.”  I responded as I turned Netflix back on to watch deathtrap #20: a man crawls into an industrial clothes drier to inspect it and the door closes behind him.  Whoa!  Totally gruesome.  Why the hell am I watching this crap?

I turned it off, reviewed the bullet list from Heidi, pulled up Word, and began to write.  For the next two hours I crafted a beautiful tribute to her father, mother, sister, grandmother, and her, with an honorable mention of myself.  Virtues were extolled.  Tribulations and successes alike were offered.  The living of life was celebrated.  All in Heidi’s voice.

Did I mention that this was an assignment from Heidi’s mother?  No; I didn’t think so.  Her mother always looks to her for this assignment, and Heidi invariably passes it onto me.  It is a labor of love in which I say the things about each family member I think Heidi would say so that her mother will not be disappointed.

Noon o’clock rolled around and I was done.  I walked into our bedroom where she was working diligently on whatever Heidi works on when I’m watching Netflix and YouTube videos.

“I’m done.  Do you want to look at it?”

“Sure!” she replied enthusiastically.

I waited impatiently wanting to head out for time with the guys.  She made a few minor corrections, giggled a couple of times, and seemed truly touched on one or two occasions as she read my sterling copy.  When she was done she looked up at me and smiled.  “That was very nice honey.”  Smugly I inquired “Am I dismissed?”  “Yes.” she replied.  “I just need to tighten it up a bit.”  Off I went for beer and pub-grub.

Fast-forward to the next afternoon.  After wasting most of the day plotting Texas secession from the Union, I wandered into her office and asked “What’s happening?”  She answered “Just working on the Christmas letter.”

“You’ve been working on it for a while.”

“I know.”

Puzzled, I left the room.  A few hours later I overheard her talking to her mother on the phone.  She was dictating the “tightened up” version of the letter I so lovingly crafted.  I entered the room and listened as she read the foreign sounding tome into her high-tech cell phone.  Sometime later she hung up and she looked over at me.  I guess the horror on my face was apparent.  “What?” she inquired.

“You rewrote it.”

“No; I edited it.”

“You portrayed your dad as a former covert agent, running drugs for the CIA.  He was a B52 pilot in the Air Force during the cold war.”

“Right.  It’s a where are they now kind of format.  Mom loved it.”

“You said your sister was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight.“

“Yes.  I thought it would be funny.”

“I thought the point was to inform the rest of the family of what we’ve been doing for the last year.”

“Right.  So I referenced the kind of thing they used to do in an exaggerated way and made it relevant to what they’re doing now.  It’s called creative license; look into it.”

“You said your mother was on a reality TV show flipping houses!”

“Well she did make a lot of money buying old houses in the right neighborhood and fixing them up.”

Nonplussed, I shook my head and offered “I see.”  I then shuffled out of the room, poured a glass of scotch, and put on some traditional Christmas music.

Newsflash: Jesus just cancelled his tickets for the Second Coming.

Merry Christmas,

Guy-o

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Filed under Life or Something Like It, Marriage

Life Accidental

I lead a sad and pathetic life.  I mean I have family and friends who love me, but at the moment, because of circumstances that are only marginally under my control, I’m not doing much with my life right now—other than this blog.  Totally weak.

I never labored under the impression that being a writer was glamorous, in part because I never intended to become a writer.  When I was in college my writing sucked, and if you ask some people today they will claim it still does.  I was a horrible writer in college.  I discovered this fact one day when I was working a job for which writing was a requirement, and I had thus set out to learn the craft of writing; there was nothing glamorous about it.

At one point about six months into it, I stumbled upon a report from my college English Lit class.  I was a big science fiction fan, and I really loved Isaac Asimov, so I decided to choose him as the topic of my assignment.  God it was awful.  It was incoherent, rambling, disjointed—kind of like many of my blog entries today.

I then began to scrutinize memos that circulated around the office and gradually became appalled at the way my colleagues brutalized the English language.  For those of you just out of diapers, a memo (short for memorandum) was a brief communication drafted by an executive, typed on a piece of paper by someone called a secretary, and circulated manually to a list of people provided by the executive.  I suppose it’s an alien concept in a world in which the bedrock of business communications is e-mail.

I became a writer gradually and during my journey I fooled enough people into thinking I was good enough to actually be paid for my craft.  Allow me to be clear: although I practice the art of writing, it’s not up to me to say whether the result is good or bad.  Others will be the judge of that and, one measure of its quality is whether someone who has read the words is actually willing to pay for them.

As an aside, at the time of this writing, since July when I left my steady job to restart my freelance practice and promote my book, I have acquired one client and have sold exactly five books—one of which was returned.  The amazing thing is that the price is only $.99.  That’s right; my book is so freaking awesome someone actually asked for their $.99 back.  Really?  You took the time and effort to go to Amazon, have it lifted from your Kindle, and put the $.99 back on your credit card?  In the modern vernacular: epic fail—on my part not on the part of the person unfortunate enough to stumble upon my book.

So to the point of my opening line, these days I spend a lot of time doing basically nothing.  Here’s a sample; what I did yesterday:

3:00 a.m. – Wake up.  My right hip is killing me from laying on my pistol because I sacked out next to my wife without undressing while she watched the last episode of Mad Men season four.  I undress and lay down on my back.

3:10 a.m. – Wake myself up multiple times because of my snoring.

3:15 a.m. – Rotate to my left side.  My outer left ear begins to ache from the pressure of my fat head pressing on it.  I ignore it as long as possible hoping to return to the hinterlands of slumber.

3:25 a.m. – Rotate back to my right side.  I awaken multiple times in a cold sweat because of dreams that activate my acrophobia as I stand on an 80-story building ledge with 40 mph winds whipping around me.

3:30 a.m. – Rotate to my back.  Wake myself up multiple times because of my snoring.  Dear sweet Jesus.

3:45 a.m. – I climb out of the bed in disgust and sack out on the couch so as not to disturb Heidi’s sleep.  Turn on the ceiling fan, turn down the AC, and turn on the History Channel.  I curse the History channel for broadcasting infomercials completely unrelated to History.  Change channels to MSNBC.

4:00 a.m. – Listen to U.S. Senator John Kerry talk about how cutting 3% of the budget isn’t possible because Republican members of the recently appointed budget Super Committee won’t give up the “Bush tax cuts.”  I execute a numbing facepalm as my hatred for politicians rears its ugly head, wondering whether we should either secede from the Union or return to being subjects of the Crown.  I start to develop a headache from the impact with my hand.

4:15 a.m. – I change the station to Syfy.  I become disgruntled about the way the language is devolving.  Syfy?  Really?  I become immediately intrigued by a gruesome film entitled Chain Letter in which the premise is that a serial killer goes on a murderous rampage against people who receive a chain letter and do not forward it to five other people.

5:00 a.m. – Go back to MSNBC.  My hatred for politicians grows exponentially.  Switch to the History Channel.

5:30 a.m. – I begin neurotically switching to MSNBC and then back to the History Channel and back again, with brief pauses on CNN to watch Robin Meade say nothing of any consequence in a way that forces me to watch her with the utmost interest.

6:00 a.m. – I begin to nod off as I settle on a History Channel presentation of The Real West.

6:30 a.m. – My sister-in-law, Cindy, begins preparing hot tea in the kitchen.  Weary of continually falling asleep and waking because of my snoring, I head to the bedroom to try to sleep in earnest.  Grandma is awake and asking Cindy repeatedly “Where am I?”  Discover that Heidi is awake and cleaning the bathroom.  Sack out on the bed, spooning with the dog.

7:00 a.m. – Heidi moves her cleaning campaign to the kitchen.

7:05 a.m. – I tire of repeatedly waking because of an acrophobic reaction to sleep stage one dreams of being on an 80-story building ledge with 40 mph winds whipping around me.  I turn on the shower and step into the glass cage for the first time in a week.

7:45 a.m. – Check my e-mail.

8:00 a.m. – Make coffee and small-talk with housemates.

8:30 a.m. – I retreat to my office and begin surfing Netflix.

10:00 a.m. – Grandma’s caregiver arrives and begins talking loud enough to drown out my documentary on how the advent of Peak Oil will end civilization as we know it.  I sigh rudely and close the door.

11:00 a.m. – Curiosity overcomes me and I succumb to the temptation of watching Chain Letter from beginning to end.

12:00 p.m. – Heidi offers to buy lunch.  I mention that I’m probably going to be having lunch with Jeff.

12:30 p.m. – I call Jeff.  We agree to meet at 1:30.

3:30 p.m. – Finish washing Fish-n-Chips down with my last beer.

4:00 p.m. – Return home with a six pack of beer and begin writing thank you notes to the individuals who interviewed me at the last agency that took an interest in me.

4:30 p.m. – I begin writing this blog entry.  I pause occasionally to engage in mental arguments with my former friend who was the subject of my last blog entry.

6:00 p.m. – I stop writing and embrace the waves of self loathing foisted upon me by my over-active Super-ego.  Damn you Freud.

6:05 p.m. – I pour my first round of the evening and put on Neil Diamond.

6:30 p.m. – We all sit down at the dinner table and I drink more beer as my housemates eat dinner.

7:00 p.m. – We adjourn to the den to endure two hours of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I graduate to Scotch.

8:00 p.m. – I heat up my dinner and as I’m eating I remind my housemates that Real Housewives is, in point of fact, about ego and drama and not about relationships.  I’m immediately assaulted by daggers from their eyes.  I shut up and return my attention to my pathetic little bowl of spaghetti and Italian sausage.

8:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Grandma repeatedly bids everyone goodnight, leaves the room, and then returns to her chair to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, as she inquires whether her mother will be picking her up in the morning.

9:30 p.m. – Grandma is finally in bed.  Exhausted from working on the dozen or so projects for that day, Heidi asks me to come to bed and bribes me with a Netflix presentation of Collapse, a documentary on the end of Civilization as we know it.

I suppose there are worse ways to live—I mean at least I’m not homeless.  And as I sit here contemplating the meaning of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I’m trying to remember that I have a lot to be thankful for.  How about this though: could I just get a damned client or a job or something?  I think my brain just turned to oatmeal.

Guy-o

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Dharmas and Greg

I was sitting in my office writing a thank you note to the last company that interviewed me.  My freelance business isn’t picking up and an agency called me for an interview for a copywriting position.  I’ve worked for myself, I’ve worked for other people, and I’ve worked for companies large and small.  Each has its pros and cons—but if you can arrange it so that you can actually earn a living, working for yourself is definitely the way to go.

If not, I recommend avoiding those jobs at companies with an asshat leadership team.  Someday I’d like to write an instructional manual on how to do that.  Unfortunately, about half the companies I’ve worked for either had such a management team or were acquired by corporations in that category—so I’m not sure I’m an expert in this particular area.  The agency I was applying to was different.  They seemed to know what they were doing and they seemed to be really good people.  If I have to work for a company I’d just as soon work for one with people like those I met during my interview.

As I worked the keyboard, I attempted to come off as gracious, charming, witty, talented, and—most of all—like I had the intellect to qualify for this specific position.  I happened to look up just as my wife, Heidi, wandered into my office.  I greeted her with a casual “Hey.”  “Hey.” she echoed.  “What’s up?” I continued.  In any relationship it’s easy to fall into a communication style that is less than articulate, and I suppose that’s where we’ve landed for now.

Heidi continued: “I just thought we could visit for a minute before I go to Adeliene’s.”

“What’s happening there?”

“Cindy (her sister) and I are taking grandma to our weekly Color Mastermind meeting.”

“Huh?”

“I told you silly.  We meet every week.”

“What is it and why do you meet?”

“To move the teaching of the colors forward.  Would you like to join us?”

OK; let me fill you in.  My wife and her sister subscribe to what I call a spiritual theory, known by many in her community as the colors.  The idea is that there are exactly seven spiritual gifts, and each person is endowed with exactly one of these gifts from conception, or birth, or whenever you believe human life begins.  Each gift has a moniker in the form of a color, which is used as shorthand for the gift because it’s kind of complicated to explain.  I started to describe the theory further in this blog entry, but the more I wrote the less sense it made to me—so I gave up.  I don’t dismiss it out of hand, but let’s just say I’m not into it in the way Heidi and Cindy are.  I mean, I wanted to initially dismiss it, but some of what she related did make sense to me.  After careful consideration of my gift and Heidi’s gift, I went with it and moved onto other things; things like drinking beer and rifle shooting (not necessarily in that order.)

The problem from my point of view is that I find focusing on things like the colors for any length time doesn’t move the important things in life forward.  Having a job, earning a living, and maintaining your weapons and whiskey cache all take a back seat to such ethereal notions if you think about them too much.  Look; I believe in God, leaving the world better than you found it, and helping your fellow man when you can.  But if you spend your entire time looking up at the sky you’re going to miss what’s right in front of you.

In the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  So while Heidi’s focus on the colors has spiritual merit in my opinion, I simply have no interest in sitting in a room full of new-agers talking about them.

Trying to be supportive, though, I offered “Hmmm; I think I’ll stay home and work on my blog.  What time will you be home?”

The meeting ends at 8:30; so 9:15 or so.  My tire is low; can you fill it for me before I head out?”  “Sure.” I replied.

Now I know how these things go.  8:30 means the meeting will actually end at 8:45.  Then there will be wine or herb tea, chocolate, and talking about the meeting, trying to understand everything about what was covered in the meeting, and what the content of the meeting actually means to everyone in attendance.  And, ultimately, what that means is that they will all be home around 10:00 and the wine and chocolate will have been the only nutrition the three of them consume, which equates to massive hunger.  So, to the point, after filling Heidi’s tire, I headed over to Pappa Murphy’s take-and-bake to pick up pizza and then returned home to spend the evening with Johnny Cash, Johnny Walker, and my dog Gretl, or as I like to call them, the Trifecta.

After my second round of whiskey and beer, I began to ponder the new-age approach to life on which my wife and her sister have embarked for most of their lives.  Between the two of them, they’ve tried every religion known to man over the course of their collective spiritual journey.  I think it’s because they were never taken to church as children.  I believe this dearth of any sort of religious exposure has left them hungry for some sort of ultimate spiritual climax that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist.

I, on the other hand, was raised Southern Baptist and was forced to attend church three or four times every week.  Criminy!  Today, I can’t attend church or anything like it; I’m totally churched out.  I still have faith, but can’t my dog and I just have a conversation with the Almighty at my bar?  Seriously.

My thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from Heidi: “We’re 15 minutes out.”  “OK.” I replied.  “Pizza will be ready when you get here.”

I slipped the pie into the pre-heated oven, poured another round and returned to my bar just as J.R. Cash began Folsom Prison Blues.  I smiled as I listened to the familiar melody and allowed my mind to drift into my nothing box, knowing that the air would soon be filled with voices an octave or two higher than my own.  For those of you not familiar with Mark Gungor’s concept of boxes, consider this your homework assignment: click either of the last two links.  Basically, I turned my mind off.

Fast forward: the timer alerted me to the now finished pizza and the aroma wafting from the oven confirmed the timer’s notification.  I then walked over, took out the pizza, and cut it into eighths just as my other housemates crossed the front door threshold.

I retrieved four plates, greeted everyone, and returned to my place at the bar.  Predictably, they were ravenous.  I sat silent for the next 20 minutes as all manner of new-age ideas and color theory filled the air, which sounded a lot to me like the teacher on a Charlie Brown Christmas special.

After I finished my round of drinks, I poured a glass of wine and helped myself to two slices of pizza.  As I retook my seat, Heidi and Cindy simultaneously stood up and began walking to Cindy’s office, better known as the healing room.

“Where are you going?” I inquired.

“To the healing room.” replied Heidi.

“Why are you going there?” I asked.

“We have to apply our Michael oils.”

“What?”

“The oils Archangel Michael prescribed.”

Considerably vexed I continued “Why are you doing that?”

Heidi and Cindy giggled as they left the kitchen.  I began eating just as the Neil Diamond CD kicked in: Beautiful Noise.  Shrugging my shoulders I washed the awesome yummy goodness down with the cheap Cabernet.

A few minutes later the two of them returned reeking of hippie perfume.  Cindy cut a piece of pizza in half and put the smaller slice in the microwave.  Intensely curious I opened my mouth and repeated what I thought was an obvious question: “Why did you do that?”

Cindy laughed.  Heidi smiled and cheerfully replied “Michael said we should do it to heal the world!”  Perplexed, I simply finished the last of my pizza and wine and then poured another glass of scotch.

Healing the world.  Hmmm.  I’m not sure what that means and frankly I’m much more interested in saving the world than healing it, but to paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days, if it comes down to your hippie oils or my Glock, I’ll take my Glock.

Guy-o

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The Worst Laid Plans

Wednesday of last week my wife, Heidi, announced to me that she had a mixed doubles tournament in Dallas.  “Remember,” she began, “I’ll be gone this weekend from Thursday to Sunday.”  “Where are you going?” I asked casually as I looked up from my computer monitor.  “Dallas.  I told you.  I have a mixed doubles tournament.”  “When did you tell me that?”

Mildly exasperated she explained “Last week and the week before that.”  She then related that my two other housemates, her sister Cindy and their grandmother would be accompanying her.  Unfazed, I casually replied “OK.”

I was in the middle of trying to draft my next blog entry but this new revelation gradually became a significant distraction over the next half hour.  I became slowly smitten with the proposition of having the house to myself.  I’m currently between jobs and trying to get my freelance practice off the ground, and so I have a lot of spare time on my hands.  Visions of a continual diet of Saving Private Ryan, Blackhawk Down, and reruns of Parks and Recreation, while consuming unlimited amounts of bacon and scotch and sitting around in my boxers were suddenly foisted upon me.  I was practically salivating.

Predictably, things unfolded a little differently than I imagined.

Thursday:

2:00 a.m. – A call from Heidi’s parents who were returning from upstate New York.  They’re stranded in Kentucky; they hit a deer and totaled their van.  No one is hurt but they can’t make Dallas in time to watch Heidi play, which was their goal.

10:00 a.m. – Cindy, who was planning to stay in her parent’s hotel room, announces she can’t afford to go.

11:00 a.m. – I realize the continual sneezing I’ve been experiencing since 5:00 a.m. is actually a cold and not allergies.  Damnitall.

1:00 p.m. – Heidi’s parents are on the road again in a rented van.  They think they might be able to make her second match on Saturday.  Cindy decides she’s going to Dallas with Heidi.

1:15 p.m. – Heidi’s ride to Dallas, Sherrie, announces a new passenger; that makes five people in a compact sedan.  Cindy opts out once again along with grandma.

1:30 p.m. – Sherrie insists that they can all fit and it’s only a three-hour trip.  Cindy and Maxine can stay with Sherrie and Heidi until Heidi’s parents arrive.  Cindy agrees to go.

1:45 p.m. – Cindy decides it’s too much hassle.  My weekend plans are eroding before my very eyes and the roller coaster ride is beginning to make me nauseous.

4:00 p.m. – I bid Heidi goodbye and begin a steady diet of generic Nyquil and scotch.

6:00 p.m. – I head over to a local bar seeking the isolation I was hoping for.  I forfeit the idea that I will be killing Nazis at Normandy and Somali terrorists in Mogadishu tonight.

9:00 p.m. – Completely blitzed, I head home and then file into my bedroom with my dog Gretl.  I turn on Parks and Recreation and fall asleep five minutes into Season 2 episode 16.

Friday:

10:00 a.m. – I awake, laying on my left side staring down the nose of my dog who is demanding breakfast in a low, throaty growl.  I get up and wearing nothing but boxers and a t-shirt, feed the dog and make coffee.  Unapologetic for my appearance, I offer a groggy good morning to grandma and Cindy.

11:00 a.m. – I call Jeff:  “Dude.  Let’s do lunch.”  Jeff replies: “Twin Peaks.”

12:30 p.m. – The cold has moved to my chest.  It’s too early for scotch so I switch my cold remedy to Nyquil and beer as we plot Texas secession from the union at the tacky breastaurant also known as a sports bar.

3:00 p.m. – I return home.  Cindy is seeing a client in her home office.  I sack out on the couch watching the History channel.

4:30 p.m. – I regain consciousness with an aching head and feeling a little dizzy.  I call Fran: “Beer?”  Fran replies: “5:30.”  We spend a typical Friday evening of drinking, wings, and Karaoke.  We argue over whether it’s a violation of the Sixth Commandment if I were the Seal Team 6 member fortunate enough to put a bullet in bin Laden’s head.

9:30 p.m. – I head home, announce to Cindy that I feel like crap, and hit the rack with the pooch.  The weekend is looking up.  I tune into Netflix and call up Apocalypto.

9:45 p.m. – Grandma wanders into my bedroom asking for Heidi.  I yell at her to go back to bed.  Somehow I make it through 2 hours and 20 minutes of subtitled Yucatec Maya dialogue while watching half naked men chase each other through the jungle.  I turn on Parks and Recreation and fall asleep five minutes into season 2 episode 16.

Saturday:

10:00 a.m. – Gretl is losing her patience with my new sleeping habits.  I put on a pair of jeans, make coffee, feed the dog, and check my e-mail.  I check the laptop clock and realize it’s 11:30.  I have no idea what I did with the 90 minutes I just lost.

12:10 p.m. – I meet Jeff at a Twin Peaks.  Tom can’t make it because he’s waiting on the lawn guy to come over and collect his pay.  Totally weak.  I decide to lay-off the Nyquil for a few hours.  I’m hacking like a smoker as we continue to plot the Texas secession.

2:10 p.m. – I suggest to Jeff that he and Tom and I get together for pizza and a History Channel presentation of Targeting bin Laden.  I call Tom: “I’m  going to Jeff’s tonight.  I’m bringing pizza and we’re going to watch Targeting bin Laden.  Are you in?”  “Sure man.”  “See you then.”  I pull into the driveway, head for the den, turn on the History Channel and sack out on the couch.

4:30 p.m. – I open my eyes and after a few minutes stumble into my office.  I feel like I’m just about over my cold.  I check my e-mail.  My phone rings.  It’s Tom.  “Dude; Art is coming over.  I can’t make it tonight.”  “What does he want?”  I inquire.  “I’m not sure.  I think he wants to talk about that evangelist we were supposed to see tonight.”  Annoyed, I shoot back “Dude you already bagged on that.  We’re having pizza and we’re going to watch the Seals hunt down bin Laden.”  Tom is firm: “Sorry man.”  Completely lame.

4:45 p.m. – I get a call from Heidi.  “We’re coming back tonight.  I’ll be home at 7:30 or 8:00.”  “Uhm, I was planning to go over to Jeff’s for Pizza.”  I hear a disappointed “Oh.  Well that’s OK.  You have your plans.”  “OK.” I retort.

5:30 p.m. – I realize I’m a jerk.  I call Heidi.  “How about if I make a meatloaf tonight?”   “Well, we’re just now leaving Dallas and traffic is murder.  Don’t worry about us.  I’ll be home around 10:00 or 11:00.”

7:30 p.m. – I pull into Pappa Murphy’s Take-n-Bake.  They are as slow as Christmas.  I run across the street to pick up a six pack, and down two Nyquil gel-caps.

8:00 p.m. – I arrive at Jeff’s.  We start living vicariously through Seal Team 6, but I’m a phlegm-bag.  I pop two more Nyquil and begin my first round of beer and whiskey.  I enviously eye the AR-15 Jeff is holding, wishing I had brought my AK-47.

8:30 p.m. – We put in the pizza.

8:40 p.m. – The Nyquil and alcohol are beginning to kick in.  I’m razor sharp and my cold symptoms have completely dissipated.  We are 2 minutes away from tasty awesome goodness and 15 minutes away from killing bin Laden.  Heidi calls.  “Hello?” I answer.  “Where’s  Cindy?”  “Out with Gwen and and your grandmother.  Why?”  “I’m locked out in the front yard.”  “Where are your keys?”  “I left them in the house in case you guys needed to use my car.”  I’m momentarily speechless.  “I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”  I hang up.  “Sorry Jeff.  Duty calls.”

9:00 – I’m three minutes from the house.  Heidi calls.  “I just got in the back door.”  I begin to doubt the existence of God.

9:10 p.m. – I find my wife unpacking in the master bathroom.  “Hey; I’m home.” I offer with as much cheer as I can muster.  Standing up with a blouse in her hand she exclaims “I know you’re mad at me!”  I ignore and her and invite her to dinner.

OK do-over.  I just found out that Heidi has another sectionals tournament in two weeks.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I really need a second shot at bin Laden.

Guy-o

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