Friday, April 12, 2013

It has been quite strange to see my words in a real book and not just in my scrawled handwriting in tiny notebooks but it has happened. Oh Sandy: An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Cause was published in March 2013 and has an "essay" I wrote What I Learned in Union Beach Today. It's an honor to be published and more importantly it has made all my other notebooks quite jealous. I'm working on taking the jump from scribbling to editing and hope to become more of a word sharer and less of a word hoarder. Stay tuned!

More information about Oh Sandy can be found at;
Oh Sandy can be ordered at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Little Blue Notebook

Too long. Just way too long. The real blog post I am currently working on has evolved into an unmanageable monster. I keep trying to capture it, train it, cage it. While that work continues I'll answer a question I sometimes get asked by fictional characters I create in my head when I need a segway in a blog post.

The question is: What exactly do you scribble in that little blue notebook of yours?

That's an excellent question Fictional Character. That notebook is just random thoughts and observations that crave to be shared. Here's a glimpse:
  • That cashier made the conscious, deliberate decision to take the time, effort, and commitment to rock that long, feathered hairstyle this morning.

  • Brave Guy on the dance floor - you have that first or second date look to your interactions with that girl. My advice to you would be: if you're going to so clearly display a lack of rhythm maybe you don't do it to Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing.

  • I attended a senior citizen holiday party and three days later was in a bar filled with twenty-somethings. Same number of sparkly sequined tops and women struggling to walk in heels at both places.

  • "Dream Loud" Saw that phrase somewhere and loved it.

  • That's a lot of head and no chin.

  • If you insist on bringing your conversation over to my area of the bookstore I will think some advice at you. Bearded Guy, your female friend is trying to be nice and explain your rambling, boring, drawn out, story about girl troubles might possibly be a hint at why females don't seem to find you interesting. She's being polite and using words like thoughtful, chatty, detailed, and “so much to offer” when she’s trying to say, “less talky-talky.”

  • Think I may have had too many Coors Light tasting kisses and not enough sunshine kisses.

  • Yes sir, that’s quite an impressive belly you’ve assembled there. I am especially awed with that T-shirt you’ve chosen to wear out in public today that lets it peek out the bottom to get a little fresh air.

  • 7.5 My score to the teenage girl that just blew a snot rocket right outside the supermarket door. Sound was a 10, velocity a 9, but lost points on the distance. Keep training!

  • If you can scratch your ear with your big toe you do NOT belong in the same Beginner Yoga class as me. Go take Super Stretchy Uber-Yoga and stop setting up your yoga mat right in front of me. I feel I am in the correct "flexibility-of-a-file cabinet" class.

  • Random blog-flipping taught me some of the topics that everyone and their mother (quite literally, it’s a lot of mothers) have covered so I never need to: wedding planning, photography, cooking (including baking, healthy, new diets, and everything in-between,) and especially my-kids-are too-cute/funny stories. Since I don’t possess any of those skills it’s a lot easier for me to leave it to the thousands of other blogs on those topics.

  • Sometimes when assaulted with too much crazy being fired at me I hear Captain Kirk in my head demanding, “Crazy Deflector Shields to Full Power.” Sometimes it works; sometimes Scotty just can’t provide enough power.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas

         I could save the time and ink and let my mother tell the Box story, but since she cries every time she tells it this method may be best. Don’t assume it’s a sad story because it only takes a coffee commercial during the holidays to make my Mom cry. “Look he snuck in and his parents don’t know he’s home for Christmas…and he’s making them Folgers because he’s a good son that misses them…”

My hometown is Mt Tabor New Jersey. Never heard of it? That’s ok; I rarely meet anyone that has. Many of my fondest childhood memories live there. We moved away on November 20, 1980, yes I still remember the exact day. I cried. Now that I’m older it’s easy to see my attachment to Mt Tabor. Those were the easy, dirty knees, new adventure-a-day times. I had a trail that lead from my back door to a park and a library which pretty much defined how I turned out.

In Mt Tabor as an 8 year old I was probably given more independence than is currently legal. I would wake up for breakfast (usually cereal with GASP! whole milk.) As soon as I had slurped down the sugary milk I would hear one of the following phrases:

“It’s a nice day go outside.”
            “It’s not raining THAT hard. “or “The snow isn’t that deep.”
          “How many times can you lose a sneaker?”
            “Take your brother/sister/both with you when you go out.”
          “If you don’t stop right now I’ll remove your spleen!” (That became a common one with sometimes a different organ substituted.)

 So, most of my days became me playing all over the town without any parental supervision. I might run home with a freshly skinned knee at some point during the day for a quick bite. I do mean a quick bite, because my Mom is blessed with many gifts that make her a great mother:
     ·  She taught me to read at 4 years old and taught me to love books.
     ·  She’s empathetic. (Her children would argue empathetic to everyone except them at times.)
     ·  She was always very involved with our schoolwork, sports, boy scouts/girl scouts.
     ·  She makes a mean Halloween costume. I don’t use the word mean in a cool way; I’m talking mean like chicken wire and paper maché costumes that outweighed the child wearing them. (But that’s a story for another time.)
      ·  She’s very close with her family and set a great example about what family is about.

Notice that cooking isn’t on the list. That’s not an accidental omission. I can gladly share my mother’s recipe for Tuna Luna casserole or Microwave Meatloaf in a future blog. When I stopped home for a quick bite it was usually a sandwich. One slice of ham, one slice of cheese, two slices of bread including an end piece of the loaf of bread (how come I always get an end piece!) I tried to carefully avoid stopping home during Days of Our Lives. There was no way to avoid being accused of “raising a ruckus” during that hour which meant room banishment. Sometimes banishment till my father got home from work.

My father worked long hours in NYC and would sometimes get off the train so late we may not see him for a day or two. He would walk about a mile uphill from the train station after work. When we were bad my mother’s go-to threat was he was walking up the street to our house and she was going to tell him we had been bad. There were a few holes with this strategy;
     · My father was exhausted by the time he got home. His usual response to us was usually, “Why can’t you just be good for your mother?”
    · With 4 kids I could usually get my bad out of the way early in the day and there was good chance that someone else would do something worse/break something more valuable/disrupt Mom during Days of Our Lives and my bad would get outranked on the list or maybe even forgotten.
    ·  My Mom would use it in the middle of the afternoon. I might not have mastered the whole time-space continuum but I did know that my Dad didn’t get home till it got dark. Nice try Mom.

Everyone in Mt Tabor would go down to the post office to pick up their mail each day. Yes, it was that small of a town. Once I got old enough to not consistently lose at least one envelope my Mom would let me go get the mail each day as part of my wanderings. The post office was only five minutes from our house but I could easily turn that into an hour adventure of climbing trees, jumping off stone walls, and throwing balls up on roofs. Tabor measured snowfall in feet not inches so a snowfall could make it another 30 minutes of snowball making, icicles taller than me to knock down, and new paths in the snow to make.         

          Luckily for me it was not snowy when my mother sent me down to the post office on Christmas Eve when I was 8. I was told to get the mail and come right back. “Right back or I’ll remove your kidney with a spoon and tell your father!” Come right back meant I would have to skip the playground but could probably sneak in trying to beat my long jump record on the sidewalk around the corner. I was so close to clearing the second square. The hill down to the post office was very steep. My father had already permanently scarred me by “teaching” me how to ride a bike one Saturday on that same hill. Dad seated me on my bike on the top of the hill, showed me how to put my feet on the pedals and then pushed. I careened, skidded, bounced, and bled down the hill. I don’t remember hitting my head but those were the days before helmets and car seats so who knows what memories I have had knocked out of my head. I wouldn’t get back on a bike till I was 11. I much preferred walking down the hill to get the mail instead of attempting to bike.

          The post office was crowded when I got there. That wasn’t very difficult to accomplish since the post office was basically one room with a counter. When it was my turn the postmaster (I’m not sure that’s the correct term “postmaster,” but it’s fun to say. It sounds like a superhero-Postmaster!) gave me a few letters. Postmaster then told me we had more.

          “And you have a box”
“Ok, I’ll take the box”
“It’s a big box you’ll need a car.”
“I can’t drive, I’m seven.” (Ok, didn’t actually say that but I always wished I had.)
“Your mom will need to drive down.”
“My Mom doesn’t drive.” (She grew up in Manhattan and never learned.)
“Well you’ll need to do something because it’s in the way back here and I’m not carrying the damn thing.”
“Thank you kind sir, I’ll go tell my Mum and return with due haste” (That’s probably not exactly how I worded it but it did give the story a certain “Christmas Carol” charm and class to it.)
          I gave my Mom the letters when I got home and told her I had to go back to get The Box. She rifled through the letters quickly before she starting asking, “What box? Who send it? How big is it? What’s in it?” All excellent questions that I hadn’t thought to ask. Mom took my lack of answers to mean I was exaggerating. My brilliant 8 year mind came up with a plan. I could go get it with my wagon. “Fine, just come right back or I’ll tell your father you were fooling around with the mail. I think I see him coming up the hill now.”
          My wagon wasn’t the pretty bright red Radio Flyer wagon kids on television wheel behind them to refill their lemonade stand on a sunny day.  My wagon was a scraped up, dented, one wobbly wheel, broken handled noisy thing I dragged all over town. It usually contained rocks, dirt, or the jacket and hat I was supposed to be wearing. I made sure it was empty and wheeled it back to the post office.         

Postmaster pushed a massive box from behind the counter. This was a big box. It didn’t fit in my wagon. I had to rest it on top of my wagon. This was a big box. Getting it up the hill was a challenge that involved some pushing, some pulling, and some praying. This was a big box. I later learned it had been a Scott toilet paper box that holds 6-8 twelve packs of toilet paper. This was a big box.
           It was a much tougher trip back up the hill but I was able to get The Box back to the house. I told Mom I wasn’t exaggerating! The Box was addressed to the Butler Family. The return address was simply, the North Pole. We convinced my mom to open the Box which really wasn’t that difficult. We outnumbered her 4-1 and had already mastered the technique of dis-coordinating our voices to get the most annoying volume level in the shortest amount of time. The secret is to make sure all four voices are not saying Mommy at the same time. That unison whining was too easy for Mom to block out. You need that 4 part Row-Row-Row Your Boat effect to truly be annoying. We opened the Box right there in the den.
          Our Christmas was inside the Box. Gifts from each of our lists to Santa: a train set for my brother, a doll and clothes for my sister and a crocheted reindeer for my baby sister.
          - Anytime my mom gets to this point of the story (which would include tears by now) she always says it was a “hand crocheted reindeer.”  Is there another kind of crocheting I don’t know about? Can you robo-crochet or crochet with your feet?

          There were also gifts for me from my list to Santa. Star Wars figures and the Land Cruiser! I was an action figure kid-“Don’t call them dolls, they’re action figures!” It was 1979 so these were the original four points of articulation, light sabers slid out of the arms, guns so small I would lose them by New Years, currently worth a small fortune Star Wars figures.

  • Not that I have any of my old Star Wars action toys to sell. I’m amazed anyone has those undamaged, gem-mint condition, still in the original packaging figures. My Star Wars guys ended up buried, nailed to trees, burnt, or missing limbs-never mind how fast I threw out the packaging. Although once you lose their swords & guns you can make new ones with garbage bag ties. Just don’t get caught as your parents look for them to actually close a garbage bag.  
  • One of the Star Wars guys in the Box was Greedo, who I HAD to have. I had a strange fascination with Greedo who is only in Star Wars for about 2 minutes before he gets shot by Han Solo. No matter how George Lucas edits it- Han shot first.
          I also received something else from my list, a KISS poster. I am the oldest of 4 kids, had no older friends that I can remember and barely watched TV except for Saturday morning cartoons. How I had any concept of KISS, never mind ask for a poster; still boggles my mind. My fascination with KISS did resurface the following Halloween. I won third place in a Boy Scout pumpkin decorating contest for my Gene Simmons Jack-O-Lantern. My pumpkin was the only one with a wig and make-up.

          The Box also contained hats & gloves for all of us, perfume for my Mom, my Dad’s favorite aftershave, and a bottle of wine. The Box really did contain our whole Christmas. As kids, we didn’t question much about the Box. Santa had just mailed out our gifts instead of coming down the chimney. It didn’t fit Santa’s M.O. but what did I care I had Star Wars guys and didn’t even have to wait until Christmas morning. We didn’t get the rest of the story until years later. 

          That would be our last Christmas in Mt Tabor. My parents were struggling financially with the very basic equation of:
1 income - 1 huge mortgage + 4 kids =?
They were getting by, but just barely and needed more than bad, crooked bangs home haircuts and hand me down clothing. There just wasn’t extra money for Christmas and of course long, detailed lists to Santa. Mom had threatened my vital organs again on Christmas Eve because she was waiting for a $100 check from my Uncle Joe to at least have one thing for each of us under the tree. The plan had been to go shopping that night once my Dad got home.  Leading up to that Christmas my Dad had walking pneumonia. Being my Dad he was of course, still going to work everyday.

          You see, my parents were just as surprised at the Box as we were. My Mom had kept our Christmas lists that we had “mailed to Santa” in her purse.  There was no card in the box and no return address other than The North Pole. My Mom still calls it our Christmas miracle. If you want to ask her about the Box please bring Kleenex. Someone in 1979 gave to a family that needed it, sent it anonymously, and has never claimed credit in all these years since. 

          People will have to forgive me if I think Christmas is more than toys, decorations, cards, and greetings. I’ve seen the Spirit of Christmas in a big, wrapped toilet paper box that I hauled uphill. One day I will repay the favor to a family. I’ll make sure to add a little red wagon to the box because those things take a beating.