🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Hey There, Dorothy 🌪️
Christmas Hurts 🎄
Bye-Bye, Checks and Balances ✔️⚖️
If you’re ever in need of some entertainment, might I suggest being in a church with a bunch of homeschool parents when tornado sirens go off? That’s where I found myself tonight, accompanied by Boy The Younger at a spring track kickoff meeting. It seems the unseasonably warm air we were having was bitch-slapped by a cold front, and voila! Tornado warnings.
Now I’m not here to stereotype homeschool parents, because they actually are a fairly diverse bunch. But I will allow myself to say that it wasn’t entirely surprising to see a freak-out mode approaching Defcon 1.
I have an unhealthy fascination with tornados. I grew up in New York, where twisters weren’t really a thing — at least back in the 1980s and early ’90s. I went to college in Iowa, where I expected to be seeing one on the regular as I walked to class. In my four years there, I saw none. I’ve bounced around the Midwest since graduation, experiencing nary a tornado. The closest I came was earlier this year, when there was at least a little rotation in the clouds passing overhead.
I’m the guy who, when the tornado sirens start, heads outside with his camera while everyone else is ducking into the basement. I understand this approach is dangerous and not conducive to living should an actual tornado touch down. I’m also quite sure that if I actually saw a tornado up close and personal, I’d never go outside on any day with even the slightest breeze ever again.
But as it stands right now, being herded into a small room in a church basement with a bunch of smelly teen and pre-teen boys along with their overhyped, super vigilant parents wasn’t where I wanted to spend part of my Friday night.
Oh, and track practice begins the last Monday in February, if you were wondering.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here (forgetting the 60-degree day and tornado sirens), as we prepare for in-law family Christmas tomorrow. Wifey Poo and the Judester spent the day cooking and baking and wrapping and cleaning, as a bevy of relatives are set to arrive in the morning.
This whole season is tough for me. My son was born and died on Dec. 20, 2000. I remember the night after his brief life, laying on the pullout bed in Wifey Poo’s hospital room, looking at the Christmas lights blinking on homes around Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Cincinnati, and wondering if I was ever going to feel any sort of joy again — ever, not just at Christmas time.
Thankfully, I have. Life forces you to go on in the wake of even the most difficult tragedies, and I really didn’t have any choice. I wanted to curl up in my bed and never show my face to anyone ever again. It’s hard to keep your house and buy food if you’re going to take that approach. So when the time was right — well after everyone had put away the Christmas lights — I got back to living. There was a newspaper to run. A Wifey Poo to take care of. A future of some sort.
But Christmas has never been the same. I’ve tried. Really, I have. It’s been 21 years now. Yet every time the decorations start going up, a part of my spirit begins to descend. The four months between August 2000, when we found out something was wrong with our developing baby, and the five or so hours he lived on that snowy December day were hell and changed me in a fundamental way that I haven’t been able to fix in now more than two decades.
I’m proud of the father I became in the wake of Boy The Eldest’s brief life. Everything I promised I would be to him I’ve tried to be to Boy The Elder and BTY. I’ve failed more than I would like to admit, but I’ve succeed enough to be able to look myself in the mirror and say that I’m doing alright by them. I haven’t repeated the mistakes I saw. I learned the hard way that it’s OK to have regrets, that it’s OK to make and admit mistakes to your children, that it’s a good thing to say “I’m sorry” when you’ve done something to hurt your kids — whether you intended to hurt them or not.
I’d like to believe BTE and BTY will have an easier go of it as young men than I did simply because they’ve seen their dad be vulnerable and admit his mistakes and own up to them and try like hell to actually fix them instead of simply sweeping everything under the rug and pretending they didn’t happen and aren’t continuing.
But all of that aside, when the Christmas lights are twinkling and I’m the only one awake, when I pause in the midst of all the preparation to create that perfect holiday memory, I wonder what things would be like — what I myself would be like — had my eldest lived. I prayed for it. We all prayed for it. Literally thousands of us — from all different kinds of faiths and from all across the globe — prayed for it. And it didn’t happen. And I was forced to be OK with that.
The reality, though, is that I’m not OK with it. To say I’m OK with it is to accept that a world in which it’s OK that babies die for supposedly some bigger picture that we’ll never see and I’ll sure as hell never understand makes sense. And it wasn’t just any baby … it was my baby. The baby I played with while he was still inside his mother by poking at his protruding fist in the month leading up to his birth while she slept and I couldn’t. The baby I held.. The baby I had to hand over to a nurse after he’d breathed his last difficult breath, knowing I’d never see him again.
I don’t begrudge others that they have truly merry Christmases. They’re supposed to. Of course… we’re all supposed to. But somewhere between supposed to and today, real life got in the way. So now I experience Christmas as something less than what it used to be, less than what it is for many other people.
Ultimately, that’s OK. I don’t complain much about the hand I was dealt, and the amount I do , well, I think I deserve that freedom. I am extremely blessed and also extremely privileged as a white male born in the good-ole U.S. of A. Everyone has a thing. Losing my son around Christmas is mine.
So I’ll enjoy the hell out of tomorrow. I will. Wifey Poo, BTE and BTY and I will all be together. My in-law family is amazing and filled with people who understand what it means to be family. There’s no drama. No tension. There’s just pure and innocent love. And that… that right there is the Christmas I need. That we all need. This year. Every year.
The ‘What Did You Say?’ of the Day
I don’t give a rip what anyone believes about abortion. I honestly don’t truly know what I believe about abortion. I’m a white male who has never been confronted by an unplanned pregnancy, so even if I did know what I believed on the topic, I might not be the best one to offer a truly educated opinion.
What I do know is that the decision made by the Supreme Court today as I read it is one more domino falling in the now out-of-control descent of our once-great empire. The role of the judicial branch in the system of checks and balances we all learned in elementary school and beyond has been fundamentally changed by this decision, and I’m not sure either party is going to like it in the long run. That is, if we have a long run.
In Other Writing …
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- In-law family Christmas!
- My only niece has a gymnastics tournament tomorrow and I get to see her do her thang.
- Good cigars paired with good bourbon.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading