Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paint it White

Can it be that Winter has finally arrived? Technically speaking, the season has been around for over a month, but for some reason it just doesn't feel like Winter until there we have ourselves a good layer of snow on the ground. The big ole "Storm of the Century" was nothing but a big ole bust around our neck of the East Coast, but it was nice to finally get a good snow under our belts for the new year.

I don't know what it is exactly, but for me, I think the snow makes all those bitter Winter nights worth the shivering. Somehow, the snowfall brings a feeling of peace to the world. There's nothing better than heading outside in a good snowfall, with the ground already covered, and listening to the absolute silence around - especially during the twilight hours. Standing in that blank slate of Mother Nature's art project and hearing no other sound except perhaps for a gentle breeze sweeping past the ears. It's a very calming feeling and one that I wish I could take advantage of more often. It's one of those times to finally stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It's a chance to put the hustle and bustle of the world aside and reflect on what was and what will be. It's not bad for skiing either, when you think about it. That is one of the things I do miss from my past - those all too brief trips to the slopes - whether it was those ski club sponsored school trips, or that last trip with Shannon for a Valentine's weekend getaway. I hope to get back there one of these days, or at least one of those days in the future - maybe after Abby starts crawling. That would be the perfect time to get her on a pair of skis. Gotta start 'em young!

And once the Time of Reflection is over, well naturally it's time to start building some hills and snow forts for some good old fashioned sledding and snowball fights. Nothing beats those days of youth, especially them days back in the 80's when G.I. Joe and Star Wars were at the forefront of every pre-teen aged boy's mind. A good snowfall meant taking the battle from in front of the fireplace on the the living room floor out into the great white open, either recreating the Battle of Hoth or (when the snow series was produced) having G.I. Joe continue their battles against the evil COBRA organization.

Year after year it never got old. But as these things tend to happen, I did. Now I am just going to have to force myself to live vicariously through the kids. Abby got to celebrate her first big snowfall on Tuesday, and hopefully there will be many more to come. I am sure Erin can't wait for her to get old enough to enjoy the snow with her big sister, the way my brother and I used to do all those blizzards and ice storms ago. Part of me can't wait for that time either - it will be my chance to go back to those days of youth and enjoy it all over again. The other part, however, wants Abby to stay young just a little bit longer. Hopefully her first Winter will last a little bit longer than the nine that have just seemed to fly by now with Erin.

In the mean time, I'll just keep enjoying the memories and waiting for the real "big one" this year because there is nothing like a good old blizzard to spice up the usual boring routine once in a while.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Got Milk?

Human nature never ceases to amaze. For every example of selflessness and pure ingenuity, there are a dozen examples of pure, unadulterated selfish ignorance.

First, I should say that for the first time in a long time, I am actually enjoying what I am doing, job-wise. It's hard to imagine what working pretty much stress free feels like until one has actually been under constant stress for a period of several years. I now liken it to a small dog which was featured on an episode of It's Me or the Dog a while back. The dog was apparently nervous to begin with, but only got worse when the owners introduced a new dog into the household. It got to the point that the smaller dog was constantly shaking because his stress level peaked and it no longer could release the tension. I didn't realize that I was operating under the same conditions for almost ten years - slowly but surely tension building up and up, and while it might drop for a bit of time, it never came back down to normal levels. So year after year, the stress would keep rising, like going up an escalator, never allowing me to reach that bottom level. All that changed when I was one of the many victims of our lovely U.S. Government budget sequestration back in 2013. After the initial shock wore off, I couldn't believe how good it felt to finally wake up every day and not have to dread going to work; not having to fear what next disaster would hit me in the face like a brick again.

Anyway, now that I have been back at my retail job, albeit without the management position which started the whole stress escalator to begin with (but still making a nice salary thanks to that previous position), I finally can understand what being able to actually enjoy what you are doing (and thus being able to do it without undue stress) is like. But of course, there come those moments like today, when I just can't fathom how Americans can get through a day in their lives without forgetting how to breathe. Thank God that our Forefathers were a heck of a lot more intelligent and selfless than the Americans of today because we would still be flying the Union Jack otherwise. And what has brought me to this most magnanimous conclusion?


More specifically, three packs of six Horizon Chocolate milk cartons. You know the kind - those little milk boxes that you would send with the kids' lunches. I found them this morning sitting in one of our freezer endcaps that had frozen pies, ice cream, and some other desserts. Now I can't blame someone for wanting an Apple Pie ice cream over some chocolate milk (although having both would sound even better), but not to even take the less than 30 seconds it would take to make the round trip to put the milk back where you got it from? If that is not the epitome of shear selfish laziness, I simply do not know what is. So now, according to food safety guidelines, we have to trash all three packs of that milk. Never mind the fact that is money for the store that is basically getting thrown away, but that's also three less packs that someone else is able to buy until we get a new shipment in. I am willing to bet that the person who left those packs of milk in the freezer would be the first to complain that something they need is out of stock. Got news for ya pal - it's probably not out of stock, but sitting somewhere else in the store because another ignoramus just like yourself just decided to dump it off instead of taking the time to either find an employee to give it to or just putting it back themselves. Of course this is something we deal with on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis, but it still never ceases to amaze me how much of a lack of common sense, and common courtesy, we as Americans continue to show. But then again, it can't really come as any surprise from a society that legitimizes stupidity by having to have a warning on a hot cup of coffee lest some knucklehead burn themselves while keeping said cup of coffee between their legs while driving.

Well, at any rate, at least I can be thankful that this is the only thing I have to worry about today!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stream of Ruminations

Well, the last of the decorations are finally stowed until the Thanksgiving weekend rolls around again. At least I think they are - it seems that one or two always manage to be overlooked and pop up when least expected, kind of like the pine needles from the tree. I swear we are still finding needles from trees of Christmases from the last few years. The toys on the other hand are a different matter entirely. We still haven't managed to clear them out from the corner they have resided for the last three weeks, though the Can Robug did make it out of the box and across the kitchen floor, much to Marley's chagrin.

The Doodle's been with us for just over six years now, being a slightly late gift from Santa when we went to pick him out a few days after Christmas 2008. Thanks to the Marley and Me children's books, Erin was determined whatever dog we picked out would be named Marley. Naturally, when the Labradoodle we picked out at the store was brought home, that sweet, innocent looking creature ended up taking after his namesake more than we would have thought possible. Not for the first time have I wished I wrote down all the wacky, and naughty (like eating my eyeglasses while I was in the shower one morning) antics of our dog. I imagine I could title the book The Wackadoodle and Us. Maybe one of these days I'll set pen to paper and get some of those stories down - or maybe even fingers to keyboard in a blog or some such ;).

So, as Marley hits middle dog-age this year, Erin will be hitting the big 1-0. She'll be our double digits girl. A decade of marriage and parenthood under our belts, and we are learning it all over again with the Abbster as she hits the four month mark in another ten days. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to get through it the first time around will all involved parties more or less intact. New jobs, a new house, and pretty much a new life together. Has to be one of the nuttiest things that can be done, but I can't say I would trade any moment of it for something else. I guess we did all right for ourselves. Now we just have to see what the next ten years will bring us ... besides Erin hitting the big 2-0 and Abby becoming our new double digit girl.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking For: One Misplaced Decade


Another year, another ... $365. Once again the holidays have come and gone in a blur - another Jackie Lawson Advent Calendar come and gone in a blink of an eye. Haven't even finished putting up all the decorations and now it's time to start taking them back down again, and time to get that problematic leaning Tower of Christmas Tree out of the house and to the curb for composting. The Winter cold seems to finally be arriving, but before we know it will be giving way to another summer of Hershey Park and Dutch Wonderland visits (this time with the Abbster in tow instead of "in the oven"), which will be over before we can even blink, and then once again the lights will be coming out of the box and heading right into the trash as yet another string magically stops working during their 11 month hibernation.

Except for those Hersheypark Kiss lights. They'll be hitting the big 2-0 this year, and despite some being a little worse for the wear, they have been as reliable as Old Faithful every time plug meets outlet. Not one bulb burned out after 19 seasons - knock on wood! Hard to imagine having those lights nearly half of my life. Kinda makes me wonder where in the hell a decade has gone. It almost seems like we went from the 90's right into '10's, like we skipped right over the "aughts." Reading a book, or watching a movie, or listening to a song, or playing a video game - each seeming like they had just come out not too long ago brings the shock that they are nigh on two decades old at this point. Two decades of sitting on a shelf while the daily routine marches on, as it seems time itself has been sucked away into some mysterious void in between turning off the alarm, heading to work, eating dinner, and falling asleep on the couch, only to hear that alarm way too soon again.

Where did the "Double 0" decade go? Erin's hitting the double digits this year, yet flipping through pictures in albums or on the computer only bring the vaguest of memories of those days when she was still not even old enough to walk. Those early days of starting a website to fight the nonsense of celebrating the wrong year for the new millennium to watching the Twin Towers fall. Can a tragedy of such magnitude erase a decade of time from our lives?

Hersheypark has some old pictures up around the park, showing scenes from its early days. Some of those pictures capture random people in a moment in time. We have a jigsaw puzzle of old American Indian cave dwellings that do the same thing. Every time I see such pictures I often wonder what the people in those pictures where thinking at that moment in time. If often wonder where they might be now. Obviously many, if not all, are no longer on this earth. I wonder what they would think if they knew they were being memorialized for decades into the future while just going about their business on a day that was no different than any other.

Memories are fading, some of them thankfully so. Yet many others remain that I wish would join them, and others I want to hold on to forever have gone so completely that not even pictures can conjure up the feelings of the time in which they were snapped. Some seem so dreamlike, one has to wonder whether they really happened at all or if they were indeed figments of the imagination. More than ever I start to feel like the Professor in The Bishop's Wife, wondering if I will ever have the time to finish the things I haven't even started yet and wishing that there were some angel come to reassure me that time isn't really speeding up on us all year after year, like a runaway car on a downhill slope. The Earth may be slowing down, but the passage of time certainly does not seem to follow along.

So many things to be happy and proud about, and an equal number of regrets. Regrets can gnaw at you and send you from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, wondering what would be if a different path had been chosen - turning left instead of right. Would that have made a difference in the end? Would things be better now or could they have become much worse. Where did the time go? How can one be sure they are stopping to take in each and every important moment when those moments of the past are gone and they swore they were doing it then? How can we so easily lose a decade of time?