Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cell Phones Are Making Us Antisocial! Argh! Grrr!

I would like to dispel a myth here. Cell phones do not make people anti-social, or ruin family dinners, or keep us from our loved ones. Being an asshole does that.

I was eating at a restaurant with my wife the other day. A couple came in and sat down. She was thin as a rail and obviously pregnant. He was a big, burly guy. They looked pretty young, and could not have been married long.

They did not talk. Not once. Not to each other. In fact, they barely LOOKED at each other. They came in, ordered, ate, and left while my wife and I were still enjoying our weekly date together.

Another couple came in shortly after. Middle-aged or older, perhaps in their fifties or a bit older. He held her chair for her when she sat down. Right after ordering, they both whipped out their cell phones and began surfing, texting, etc.

The difference between this couple and the other? They talked. The whole time, they talked. They showed each other things on their screens, shared funny comments and texts they received, laughed, and had a great time. All while playing with those dreaded CELL PHONES that are destroying interpersonal relationships.

When I was young (born in 1970; do the math), we watched dinner in front of the TV. We barely spoke, unless something funny happened on-screen. After ward, I would go to my room and read, or listen to music. My mother would sit and smoke and watch TV. My father disappeared into the basement doing... whatever.

Before TV, there was radio. And newspapers. There have always been books. People are going to pay attention to one another or ignore each other depending on their personalities. I've watched older couples come into McDonald's, get a coffee, and then bury their noses in today's newspaper or a magazine, never communicating. I've watched a group of teens in the same location, all on their phones, talking and laughing and teasing one another.

In short, quit blaming cell phones for people being assholes. They are just assholes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

You Say It's Your Birthday (na-na-na-na-na-na)

It is currently 12:40am on (what is now) March 14th. My son's fourteenth birthday is today, which explains why he's still awake at this ridiculous hour. Not that he is disturbing me, mind you. I am a night owl by nature. As in, I stay up late, not a washed-up psuedo-superhero with a latex fetish.

Where was I? Oh, right. My son's birthday. As I have mentioned before, my youngest son is extremely tall for his age. He stands 6'3" at the moment. I assume. I haven't measured his height in a little while. Not out of laziness, but because it frightens me. The boy is a behemoth, the proverbial bull in a china shop. Every time he adjusts to his size, another growth spurt hits him like a ton of bricks, but without the subtlety. Then it's back to bumping into walls and furniture.

I mean, clumsy runs in his blood. On both sides, I hate to say. It's a wonder how two ridiculously klutzy people even managed to have two kids. Needless to say, both kids were a surprise. On top of this natural oafishness comes a body that just won't quit growing, and a mind thinking We're 14 years old. What's with the extra-long arms and legs, and really low ceiling fans? You see his dilemma.

Why is he so excited, then? He's getting his own laptop. Nothing too expensive, mind you. Until my book sales go up (hinthinthint), a refurbished Toshiba will have to do. But that's good enough for him. We may not be rich, but our kids appreciate the little things in life.

And to my son, EVERYTHING is a little thing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dodging The Bullet (At Least One of Them )

We dodged a bullet last week. Well, to be accurate, my youngest son dodged a bullet.

A little backstory: I tend to be a little lax about updating this blog. But this time I have an excuse. Things have been nuts lately. Aside from some legal troubles (which I'll discuss in my next post), our main concern has been Oscar. Particularly, his legs.

Oscar is 12 as of last month. He is also 5'10" and nearly 200lbs. He already wears bigger shoes than I do. At first, we were strangely excited by his sudden growth. Big guys run in my wife's family. Her brother is 6'3", and her great grandfather stood over 6'7" and had such broad shoulders that he had to be buried in a piano case.

Being Autistic, Oscar has some odd physical quirks. Occasional finger-flicking, humming, and other acts of self-stimulation are not uncommon. When he tells a story, he walks in circles, not looking anyone in the eye. About 19 months ago, he began walking with his left foot rotated outward. He was in Occupational Therapy at the time, and his therapist said it was likely an affectation due to his Autism. She, and his regular doctor, were none to concerned by it. Heck, with a gentle reminder he would bring it back to true.

Fast-forward a year. Oscar's foot has steadily turned further and further outward, and the right is also beginning to follow suit. He complained often of slight back and foot pain, and long walks become almost impossible. Growing concerned, we took him to a orthopedist in Hays, KS (about two hours from home). After examining him and taking x-rays of Oscar's feet and hips, the doctor gave us the news: It wasn't his feet that ere turning outward.

It was his hips.

We were devastated. The general consensus in the office was that his body had grown too fast and certain parts developed too slowly. The fear was that his hip bone was underdeveloped and unable to accommodate the leg bone (forgive the lack of technical jargon; that stuff goes right over my head). It was believed at that point that surgery, perhaps several, would be needed to correct it.

Cue parental panic.

On the orthopedic clinic's referral, we made an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Denver, CO (about 4 1/2 hours away). So we sat for a tense month, wondering and worrying and making plans, trying to decide how to break the news to Oscar when the time came. I lost a LOT of sleep those 31 days.

Finally, last Wednesday, we went to the Rocky Mountain Pediatric Orthopedics' office. More examination, more x-rays, more consultation. Finally, after two hours, the doctor got back to me. He explained the situation in detail, showed me the x-rays (and gave me copies to take home), and gave us the good news. Oscar did NOT need surgery. In fact, he recommended against it. Oscar's hip bones were developed normally. It was the muscles in his legs that did not grow properly. With a specially-made set of foot braces (that will also correct his falling arches, also a result of his odd "duck-walk") and regular exercise, specifically walking and swimming, his feet should turn back to true in time. He may need some physical therapy in the future.

But, for the time being, the news is all good. We're at peace, at least for the time being. At least, until we have to go to court next week. Stay tuned for details...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost, Too

I'm trying; I really am. I try to teach my kids right from wrong, good manners, kindness, forgiveness. To love their fellow human beings. But, I'm weak. I have my foibles, my weaknesses. One of these is, unfortunately, a bad temper.

Don't get me wrong: I don't beat my wife and kids. I don't go to the bar on a Friday night, get loaded, and punch everything in sight. (I used to be like that, years ago; that's why I no longer drink.) But I am easily offended. Worse yet, I hold a grudge. It's a family tradition. Back when I was still close to my parents and relatives, I used to joke to friends that the Coffman clan was so vengeful, the Mafia would tell them to chill out and let things go.

My father once got bad service in a department store not far from our home. In 25 years, he never shopped there again. Mind you, businesses were few and far between, and there weren't many choices. This place had low prices and decent staff, but one bad employee and he never set foot in the place again.

I'd like to think I'm better than the old man. In most ways, I believe this to be true. I don't abuse my kids, and I'm not afraid to tell them I love them or give them a hug. Until I moved out of my parents' home, I believed men simply never touched or embraced one another, except in movies. Even today, I'm still uncomfortable if someone who isn't a member of my close circle (which currently only includes my wife and kids) touches or embraces me in any way. I know it's a character flaw, but I'm working on it.

Anywho, back to the temper thing. Several weeks ago, my wife volunteered to help out at the local VFW with some baking project the retirees had going on. I was replacing damaged ceiling tiles for a few extra $$$, as we were kind of strapped for cash at the time. My work went well and received more than a fair amount of praise, which made me feel good. It wasn't until after that I found out that my Beloved did not receive the same welcome.

The kitchen was overfull, with more hands than work. Now, anyone who knows my Brenda knows she hates being idle and loves keeping busy. Enough so that it sometimes drive me nuts. Long story short, there wasn't anything for her or the other (only under-65) person there to do. So, they ended up discussing the town's upcoming plans to open a grocery store in between the infrequent requests for help. Our new hometown is over 20 minutes away from the closest grocery store, and their prices are outrageous. It's at least an hour drive to any decently-priced groceries.

The town council is looking for someone willing to open a store and run it, with a little financial help from the residents. My wife, having years of management experience running large and small accounts and businesses, had already offered to do this. Considering that most of the ladies working the VFW kitchen that day were either members of the council or wives of them, the conversation drew a fair bit of attention. Up until this day, we had received nothing but kudos for her ideas and plans, and a fair amount of encouragement.

Unfortunately, this was not to remain the case. Towards the end of the day, two of the women made disparaging remarks at my wife's expense, one of which I heard personally.

One of the women at this little shindig happened to be the mayor, and up until this time our biggest supporter in our endeavor. The other is a close neighbor who had helped us out when times were tough, and who I repaid as quickly as possible doing work around their property they were too old to perform themselves. I won't name them, of course, but they know who they are should they come across my blog. Well, the mayor, whom I overheard, commented to another old biddie smug tightass woman this about my wife: "Well, just because she has a college degree doesn't mean she understands anything." Our neighbor later made the comment that "It must be nice to stand around and talk while everyone else is working."

Now, to rebut: First off, my wife is in MENSA and is much smarter than myself or most anyone I've met. I'm not saying this because I'm biased, but because she's fucking smart as hell. Second, I personally heard her ask repeatedly what she could do to help and being constantly rebuked if she even so much as touched anything. The few times she did assist the crabby old bats Cryptkeeper lookalikes ladies corrected her every move, no matter how trivial.

Anyway, rant over. My point is that, after finding out how she had been treated, I went ballistic. Being that the perpetrators were all elderly women, my usual response to making my wife cry (i.e. beating someone senseless) was not an option. So, I was left with impotent rage and passive-aggression. We haven't been to church since, as looking at their smug faces makes my blood boil. When one of the women from that day wave or says hello, I turn away and refuse to acknowledge them. My Love no longer trusts anyone in town, which is sad because we moved out of the city to get AWAY from this kind of bullshit. Since this series of events, several other incidents with residents of this town I once fell in love with have tested my patience and temper, two things I'm not known for.

This all goes back to being a parent. I'm trying to teach my boys love and patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, the whole package. But it's difficult when you just want to scream into the faces of the hypocrites and double-dealers that seem to infest every community and infect it with their cynicism. It's a kind of "Do as I say, not as I do" kind of situation. I want my kids to do what I've tried to do: be a better man than the examples I grew up with. If they can learn not only from my words and lessons, but from my mistakes, then I will be glad. My worst fear is that they will grow up to emulate me, as I am a serious collection of faults.

So far, my boys seem to understand that their dad is not perfect, not Superman, and maybe not the best example of leading a good life. Were I a better man, I would be more forgiving, less aggressive, a little bit less reactionary. My hope is that I can relay the ability to recognize my own faults and my desire to overcome them to my boys in a way that allows them to apply such a philosophy to themselves.

Also, I would love for them to realize that some people are just assholes, regardless of age, race, religion, creed or color.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2

So, My Love's book has been on sale through Amazon's Kindle Store since November 20. Sales are going great, but we're still waiting for a review. Good or bad, just say something, people! Get the word out to potential readers, that's all we ask.

Perhaps those who have read "Diana's Dreams" are still in shock*, unable to function due to fear and having their worldview shattered. That's okay. I understand. I spent three days in a coma after reading it, and that was the first draft! Just relax; you'll get though this. Take a deep breath and repeat to yourself: "It's just a book, it's just a book..."

On a side note, fellow writer and Blogger Matt Ballard, author of Diary of a Nerd King, is giving away a free Kindle Fire or iPod Touch on his website. Check it out, buy his book, and buy Brenda's book on Kindle, "Diana's Dreams". You'll be glad you did, once your vision returns to normal and the palpitations stop*.

*symptoms may vary due to age, health history, and exposure to Lovecraft. If reading this book results in an erection lasting more than four hours, consult your doctor. A psychiatrist that is, you sick bastard.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh, The Horror!

So, you might not have heard that My Love is now a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! Her first full-length novel Diana's Dreams has been available through Kindle's website since November 20. So far, sales have been good, but word needs to get out. Nobody has left a review yet. I've been appointed to Brenda's marketing department, and am trying to get the word out.

Now, her adult horror novel is available through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. This means that Kindle owners can now borrow books for free, and the author receives a royalty. Granted, this is far less than what she would earn from a sale, but it gets the book out there, hopefully garnering some praise (or even hate, at this point any press is good press).

So, what are you waiting for? I love the book, not just because the author gives me sexytime, but because it's a damned good read. Scary, touching, suspenseful, this book will keep you up at night. Give it a try. The more books we sell, the happier My Love will be.

And that means more sexytime for me!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Zombies: A Love Story

I love zombies.

Well, not literally. Figuratively. I don't have a zombie blow-up doll or anything.But zombie movies, games, t-shirts, songs about zombies? Yeah, I'm all over that. Again, NOT literally.

I currently have three shirts featuring zombies, play two games about them, own seven movies based around the zombie apocalypse (no, not the crappy Resident Evil ones, or the "Return of the Living Dead" ripoffs), watch The Walking Dead religiously, and so on.

Of course, this raises the question: Why? What is it about zombies that so fascinates me that I would immerse myself in the culture? And no, I'm not jumping on any bandwagon. At the risk of sounding hipster-ish, I was into zombies long before they became culturally relevant. When I first caught Night of the Living Dead on late-night TV I was 17, and I was hooked. I'm 41 now; do the math (I don't want to).

Again, why? I'm not normally into gruesome stuff. I don't have a weak stomach. I can watch a gory horror movie, or a medical procedure being performed. Hell, My Love watches those true crime stories like Forensic Files and fictional ones such as CSI, and I watch right along with her. But I'm not a gore fanatic. I avoid crap like the Saw movies and Hostel. I'm not into torture porn for a cheap thrill.

There's something else about the zombie genre that appeals to me. It took me years to realize what it is: I'm afraid of it.

Most people, I think, enjoy horror movies because they represent something they fear. Whether it be vampires, werewolves, zombies, alien invaders, ghosts, or what have you, people like to face up to those irrational terrors. I'm not sure exactly why this is; I'm no psychologist. It's a need of some sort. That's good enough for me. Other movie monsters don't give me that thrill/chill like zombies.

It's deeper than that, though (bear with me here). The nightmares I've had regarding the walking dead don't revolve around being chased by them. It's always a fear of becoming one of them. That, I feel, is what makes the zombie such a gruesome and formidable enemy in the horror genre. Sure, in most tales, a vampire or werewolf's bite can make you one of them, but not always. Besides, being a vampire means still being you, essentially, and a werewolf only need fear the moon three nights a month.

Zombies are forever.

To me, the fear of losing one's self, one's humanity, is what makes the idea so appalling. Zombies were once ordinary people, like you or me, who now shamble about, rotting, filthy, devouring their own kind, mindless. And there it is: mindless. The thought of losing who I am, my identity, individuality, personality, memories, hopes, dreams, loves, LIFE, frightens the hell out of me.

Some zombie purists (what the hell does that even mean?) complain that movies such as 28 Days Later (one of my favorites) are not really 'zombie' movies. "No," they sniff, "they are Infected, not zombies!" Well lah-de-freakin'-dah! To me, the Borg from Star Trek are a classic example of the zombie mythos. Infected, Borg, zombie... it all boils down to stripping one's humanity away. And that scares the hell out of me.

I'm about to go off on a tangent here. Just hang in there. It relates, trust me.

I don't use drugs, nor do I drink alcohol. No, I'm not going to start preaching here. To each his own. Now I've never smoked pot or taken anything stronger than a prescription painkiller, and that was only in extreme conditions. Normally, I'd rather bear up under the pain if I can. As for alcohol, I beat that particular demon years ago. I've been sober for over 20 years, and the world is a better place for it. What I learned from my drinking days was this: That's not me. I lose my temper when drunk, want to fight anyone and everyone (and everything, including walls, cabinet doors, mannequins, etc.).

I lose control when I'm drunk. Motor control, emotional control, mental control, all gone. And that loss of control scares the hell out of me. I can't imagine getting high, especially on a powerful amphetamine or hallucinogen, and not being me. Not that I'm any treat sober. But, I'm a control freak, at least when it comes to my own life. Relinquishing that control to something or someone else is unconscionable to me.

By the same token, I fear diseases of the mind. Alzheimer's, dementia, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), all of them steal your memories. I avoid stories about Alzheimer's because the concept frightens me. Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost sympathy for victims of these terrible diseases. I can read the stories of cancer victims and feel empathy and compassion. But I can't face the possibility of my mind being robbed from me. I know that makes me weak.

Hence, the fear of zombies. The fear of a simple scratch on the arm stealing away who I am and leaving a mindless beast in it's place. Compared to that, becoming a vampire or werewolf sounds almost pristine in comparison. Unless it's one of those sparkly vampires or shirtless man-child werewolves. In that case, I'm terrified of losing my masculinity, not humanity.