A Lesson In Ladies' Dainties

This week Allie and Avery are spending time at their father's place, and I have to admit after only a few days, I miss the little scamps. I guess I was a little surprised to realize I felt that way, but when they called today and asked for me it dawned on me there was a tiny void in my life where the burping and giggling usually are. That wasn't quite the case on Friday as I balanced researching information for an upcoming client consultation, doing laundry and policing the girls as they attempting to turn the loft into their own personal Chucky Cheese.

At one point, I came up stairs to find Avery standing on the decorative wood trim dividing the glass in the doors to the entertainment cabinet, while propping herself up by holding on to the arm of the nearby chair in a maneuver deemed too dangerous by the performers at Cirque du Soleil. Allie, who is witnessing her sister's balancing act being performed at height high enough to knock out more than a few teeth, is indifferent to the potential liability and says nothing.

I make a mental note requiring Alley to retake the OSHA Domestic Compliance and Safety Test again as it appears she clearly did not retain the material covered. However, in all fairness to Allie, both girls' risk assessment skills aren't worth a crap so they both could use a little extra training on the matter. I planned to send an email to HR once I pulled this next load of laundry from the dryer.

After diffusing a potentially hazardous situation and filling out the required incident report forms, I headed down to get the last load of clothes to fold. The girls were woefully short of clothes for their trip to their dad's so this was the priority task for the day - washing, folding and then packing clothes. By this point - load 4 I think - I was nearly blind and my fingers had developed some form of spontaneous arthritis from folding such teeny tiny shirts, pants and skirts all day.

Still, the physical pain was nothing in comparison to the mental anguish of trying to determine whose clothes belonged to who. I know the practical reader would suggest for me to just look at the label, but understand the confusion in some saying 'size 4,' and 'size 5' while others said 'small, extra small,' or just plain 'girls size.' In addition to all those size dilemmas came the accompanying drama of what was once Allie's is now Avery's, yet Allie really likes a number of her old outfits and thinks they are still hers (this situation drives me crazy as there have been times when they would literally rip outfits off of one another thinking that it still belonged to them - high school is going to suck).

Thankfully, Avery decided to take a break from her high-wire routine to watch me fold clothes. To me, watching adults fold laundry would be the ultimate in summer boredom for a kid, but to Avery everything is exciting and new, as well as being a potential opportunity for a fresh set of sutures. Whatever the case, she seemed enthusiastic and I needed a great deal of help differentiating between the girls' underwear.

"You're touching our panties!" Avery squealed, followed by a minute-long round of giggles.

Let me say this now. As a step-father with girls this is something you NEVER want to hear them say, and I prayed the neighbors weren't home as I started blushing.

"Avery, I'm just folding them so you have clean ones for your trip with your daddy." My adult attempt at logic failed to curb the giggling, so I hoped, by ignoring it, she would drop it. She did finally stop laughing and abruptly so, as she focused in on where I just set the last pair of folded Care Bear underwear.

"You're doing it wrong, Ron." There was a undeniable tone of disappointment in her voice as if she believed all caring adults inherently understood which underwear matched to which kids in this world, and I had been one of the first to shatter that reality in her fragile mind. "Those aren't mine. These go with Allie and those ones are mine." She flipped through the rest of the pile of folded clothes searching for any further egregious errors on my part.

"Sorry, Avery." I was still a little embarrassed from earlier, now I was feeling a bit incompetent. What if I get this all done, pack up their stuff for their trip only to find out I had packed a bag with all the wrong stuff. I could just imagine their dad questioning my aptitude for taking care of his offspring if I didn't know the difference between a few sets of girl's underwear. "Help me out here, will ya," I was holding a pair of the Wiggles panties (which, as I think of it now is pretty creepy in itself). "Avery, could you please help me and tell me which are which?"



"If it's a Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bears those are mine and if it's a Hannah Montana or High School Musical, then it's Allies." That was all she said and seemed pretty straightforward to me. However, when I put a pair with Zach Effron's baby blues in the wrong pile, I was chided again.

"You have to hold them up like this," she explained with a sigh. Then she held them up with her pointer fingers stuck in the elastic ban and stretched them. "Then you do this. The small ones are mine and the large ones are Allies."

I followed her advice and seemed be getting it right, given she hadn't called me out as I placed several new pair in each pile. "My panties makes me itchy." Avery finally said after a few moments of being quiet.

I wasn't sure - no, I was pretty sure I didn't want to know the cause or reason behind this. I was weirded out enough already by the sound of a four-year old using the term "panties," so to learn of the source of Avery's itching underwear would not be helping the situation.

"See, right here."

I wasn't going to look, but I could see in my peripheral vision she was repositioning so she could be in my direct line of site. "Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts... I don't want to know what she's..." but before I could finish the thought, Avery was in my face.

"See," she said holding a pair right up to my eyeballs. "These sparkle things make my sides itch."

I was relieved to discover what she was referring to was the decorative sparkles added to the the elastic ban which can twist, allowing the sparkles to then rub on the skin. "Ya, I'd have to agree, that would make me itch too Avery." I couldn't think of any reason men's briefs would have sparkles on them, except for figure skaters maybe, but in any case that was the stupidest thing I had ever seen for a kid.

Then Avery continued. "Mamma doesn't line panties with the stripes in them."
It occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't encourage the subject any further, but I was at least relieved we were now talking about someone elses dainties this time.

"Oh really. You mean she doesn't like all the lines in them?" I wasn't quite sure what she meant, but figured it had to do with color and design.

"No," she said while shaking her head. "She doesn't like the ones the have the stripes that go like this," and with that she made an up-and-down motion with her finger while pointing to her butt crack.

"Ohhh, okay," I said realizing what she meant. "You mean she doesn't like thongs for underwear." Somehow this was turning into a legitimate conversation, and it shouldn't be.

Avery started shaking her head in a way that makes her whole body move up and down in unison, "Ya, the stripe always disappears and she thinks it makes her booty look too big."

I now consider myself pretty well-informed on the matter.

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Blog Award Nomination...Really!

As you can see in the left-hand column, I've been nominated for... Hottest Daddy Blogger of 2008. Apparently this is a legit award - I don't know what I get, but in any case, Ashley's all for it (I'm surprised it was her that did the nominating). If you'd like to vote for me (read: please vote for me), then click on the button and it takes you to a registration page where you need to sign up.

On the sign up page you fill out the information and then wait for a confirmation in your email inbox. Open up your email, click on the link and you end up back at the voting page. Scroll down to the bottom of the menu where is says "Hottest Daddy Blogger", and click that button. Now here's the thing - you have to click through the pages to find me (last count I was on page 2 and I don't need that many votes to win). Click on the "Vote" tab, and if you'd like to add comments then go there next. The comments are where I was referred to as the "George Clooney of blogging." I was flattered, but I'll take it.

My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

Normally, I'd be too polite and modest to ask for votes, but it's an election year and all.

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CLARK KENT'S INBOX June 27


During one of my evening phone conversations with the boys, Noah and I got the idea to play video games online together. We couldn't find games that were interactive (play with/against each other in the same game) so Noah came up with playing Sponge Bob games at the Nickelodeon site. There were a ton but we finally settled on Invasion of the Patty Snatchers. I'll spare you the details, but this game was F-U-N, and the two of us got pretty excited trying to win on our respective computers. Don't be fooled into believing this game was for pushovers. It was quite the opposite, given the need for strategic thinking in order to win, which neither of us could do.

After probably an hour, Noah had to go to bed, but I wasn't about to give up. Two hours later I finally figured it out, much to Ashley's relief as she sat next to me on the couch for a large chunk of that time. I was pretty proud of my 6,372 points giving me a number 2 ranking among other players from all over in net; however, I was curious as to who was number 1. Some punk calling herself Kristen76 had the number 1 national ranking with - get this - 38,976 points! It was comforting to know I was whipped so soundly by someone (I'm assuming based on the 76 in her screen name) only four years younger than me... and a girl no less (kidding).

The next night I was anxious to tell Noah how I finally beat the game.
Ya, Dad, that's great. I did too, he said without much enthusiasm. Have you beat the medium level yet?
There's a medium level? Oh well, on with Clark's Inbox. (Watch out Kristen76. I'm on your tail.)

Okay, what's do we have in Clark's Inbox this week? Ashley found this little gem and sent me the link, which you have to check out. It's The Top 26 Most Disturbing Kids Movies Ever: Family Films That Will Scar Your Children for Life.

They definitely had my choice - the original Willy Wanka with Gene Wilder - Umpa Lumpas freak me out. Comment on the Lunchbox if your childhood-scaring movies are on the list or which ones should be. If I get enough responses I'll post them next week.


Kreepy Bay-Beez Pic of the Week
We got our first Kreepy Bay-Beez reader submission, and it was... Kreepy times 10.


It almost made me give up ice cream. By the way, it sold on Etsy for $135. Guess there is a market for Kreepy Bay-Beez.



Cartoon Review
This really isn't a Cartoon Review, but if you love/hate Dora The Explorer, you'll appreciate this video from SNL.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die


Have a great weekend, and think safety people.

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Cockroaches That Entertain: A Lunchbox List

Why is it when you mention cockroaches then cockroaches start coming out of the woodwork (ya, pun intended - cheap laughs are still laughs and I'll take all I can get)? Of course, my method in informing Ashley of her near death experience at the hands of our cockroach-in-the-night has only made her so skittish, she now sleeps with a loaded 38 special under the pillow, and claims she will shoot me in the right calf if I ever pull something like that again. Point taken.

Since that particular incident Ashley was approached by a large 3-inch monster while in the bathroom who tried to sell her crack. Then last night while she sat at the computer - yep. you guessed it - another roach ran up to her hoping to check his email. "What do they want?" she kept asking and I explained how, now is the time of year when bugs seek out new water sources. "That and they like big-breasted women," I joked as she reached under the pillow.

In any case, I started to think about it, and really, cockroaches have played an important part in entertaining us through movies, TV and books (and my blog of course). Here's my list of the Top Ten books, movies and TV shows where cockroaches entertain us.

10. The album Infest from the band Papa Roach features a large roach on the cover (Music). - Papa Roach? Roach on album cover? Ohhhh, I get it.

9. Enchanted features the magical Princess Giselle using her voice to summon various creatures from New York City to help her tidy the apartment she is staying in, including many cockroaches (Movie). - If Disney can't make rats cooking fine cuisine look cute why did they think they would succeed with cockroaches?

8. In the television show "King of the Hill", the character Dale Gribble has been shown as a breeder of cockroaches. He attempts to breed a colony of Madagascar hissing cockroaches to do his bidding, theorizing that they will believe he is their mother and obey if he is the first thing they see when they hatch (TV). - Dale is not an accurate representation of a Texan in that he is raising a non-Texan breed of roach. Sometimes you can carry satire too far and then it's just ridiculous.



7. Daniel Evan Weiss's novel The Roaches Have No King tells the story of a humanized colony of cockroaches, who swear revenge against their hosts for renovating the kitchen and thus preventing easy access to food supplies (Book). - I've never heard of this book till now, but it's evident that even roaches are being hit hard by the housing crisis now that homeowners are choosing to renovate and increase property value rather than buying new. Cockroach oil is still doing well though.

6. Joe's Apartment — The bugs are cheerful, swinging party-goers who help the titular human hero (Movie). - Where Disney failed to make roaches cute, MTV succeeds by giving them tiny cans of beer and cigarettes and having them through raucous parties. Movie-goers laughed till their sides ached in between hits from their bongs.



5. "La Cucaracha" ("The Cockroach") is a traditional Spanish language folk song (Music). - True story: an ad firm putting together a major marketing campaign aimed at Hispanics pitched this song as the theme music. I asked them if they thought anyone would draw comparisons between cockroaches to immigration? "Huh?" They didn't get it.

4. Revolt of the Cockroach People, an autobiographical novel by Oscar Zeta Acosta, cockroaches are used as a metaphor for oppressed and downtrodden minorities in US society in the 1960s and 70s, particularly Mexican-Americans (Book). - for the movie they plan on using "La Cucarcha" as the theme music.

3. Men in Black — A giant cockroach-like alien's actions threaten to lead to the destruction of the Earth (Movie). - if Vincent D'Onofrio is a method actor, I wonder what he did in order to learn the essence of his character?



2. X-Files episode "War of the Coprophages", cockroaches are seen to group together to murder people. The character Dr. Berenbaum (based on the University of Illinois entomologist) suggests that it is actually swarms of cockroaches that are responsible for most UFO sightings because they can generate an electro-static field which can be illuminated dependent on atmospheric conditions. In one of the scenes, a cockroach that escaped can be seen crawling over the camera, making it appear that the viewer's television has become infested. Though the shot was not planned, the producers decided to leave it in the episode (TV). - don't laugh, they are also responsible for crop circles, the mysterious mutilation of cows in North Dakota, and the assassination of JFK.



1. Franz Kafka's story The Metamorphosis, the character Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect, often interpreted as a cockroach. Actually, the type of bug into which Gregor transforms is not specified, though it is referred to as "vermin" and the little physical description offered could match either a cockroach or beetle. This novel has been parodied in various ways, including at least two other published works: Marc Estrin's 2002 Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, where Gregor Samsa prospers despite his transformation, becoming an important figure in society, and Tyler Knox's 2006 noir comedy Kockroach in which a cockroach wakes up one morning as a man and becomes a leading gangster in Times Square during the 1950 (Books). - As a Lit Major, I had to read this major work, and my professor didn't appreciate me showing up to class with a can of Raid... Ok, that's not really funny but neither is Kafka.



Other notables

Damnation Alley — A post-apocalyptic Salt Lake City, Utah is infected with a four-inch long, flesh-eating mutant variety (played by the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach). - honestly, I could care less about the cockroaches (unless they were polygamists too), I would just like to see what post-apocalyptic Utah looks like.

Bug (1975 film) also starred Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, this time able to produce fire from their abdomens, wreaking havoc. - they were defeated by unknowingly ingesting concentrated doses of Prilosec... problem solved.

The album Lonesome Crowded West published in 1997 by American indie rock band Modest Mouse contains a song titled Doin' the Cockroach. - why?

International pop superstar Madonna has famously quoted, "I am a survivor. I am like a cockroach, you just can't get rid of me." - and like roaches we just learn to live with you by trying to imagine you aren't really there.



Along with rats, cockroaches are frequently seen infesting various locations in Steve Purcell's comic book series Sam & Max, and one storyline features a race of gigantic cockroaches living on the moon. - thus proving cockroaches can live anywhere.

Creepshow — Swarms of them terrorize a cantankerous and verminophobic old man. - the old man was the goofy dancing guy from the Six Flags commercials



Godzilla vs Gigan, both King Ghidorah and Gigan are controlled remotely by Nebulans, an alien race of giant cockroaches that inherited a waste planet after the dominant species on it polluted it into oblivion. - Green Peace plans on using Godzilla to step on George Bush who they claim is being controlled by an alien race of cockroaches running Haliburton



In the 1983 film Scarface, Tony refers to Gasper Gomez and the Diaz Brothers, rival gang leaders to Frank Lopez, as cockroaches in one of the film's most famous lines: "I'll bury those cock-a-roaches." - fine by me, take Madonna with you while you're at it, Tony "Say goodbye to my little friends!"



* descriptions of listed items courtesy of Wikipedia (and some geek that actually researched the subject of Cockroaches in Pop Culture). The commentary is all me.

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Kryptonite Kreativity

I take it as a great compliment when people comment on my creative endeavors (no, I'm not hinting around for something, but thank you anyway). Usually, I get the question asking to what do I attribute as the source of my creativity, and to which I always reply with a straight face, "Drugs. Really strong and illegal drugs." About 80% of the time people don't get I am joking and their discomfort in searching for a socially appropriate response only confirms what a talented actor I am as well (oh, stop... well, thank you). On one occasion a lady followed up by asking if I still used those drugs. Of course I told her I did and continued by explaining I, in fact, planned on taking another "hit" once I finished speaking with her. In hindsight, I wished I would've have invited her to join me just to see if she would (hey, she asked).

The truth of the matter is there are no drugs involved and never have been. I quickly point this out in those above conversation when I am in my "acting zone" lest any unfounded rumors get started. When it comes to my creativity, it's a combination of solid genes (no in-breeding), God's blessings (or mercy if you will) and a healthy dose of good ol' fashioned ADD.

Ironically, the very reason for much of my creative output is also the obstacle holding me back from reaching a reasonable level of productivity. In Superman-speak, Adult ADD is my kryptonite. I've written and joked about having Adult ADD a few times, but beyond that, I haven't maintained any direct focus on the issue (no pun intended) in the Lunchbox. I've been somewhat deliberate in that decision because I don't want to appear to readers as having an "excuse" for how I behave or for what I say. Taking responsibility for my actions - good or bad - is paramount to me, especially when exposed to such a diverse audience.

However, there is a danger in downplaying its existence to the point of not respecting the effects it can have. When life is good, you eat healthy, sleep regularly, manage stress, establish disciplines, but it also can become easy to let little things slip, like missing a meal or forgetting your meds, and soon, life isn't so good anymore. It's in those moments you respect it again and get back on track.

Understanding my ADD has come in stages since my diagnosis several years ago. First, was to realize its power and reach in my live. Next was to learn how it impacted my relationships, my job performance, and my self-image. Finally, was to implement the correct measures to make me a smooth operating machine. Now I'm coming to a new realization over how, as my lifestyle changes, so to, do the measures I need to be effective.

A couple years ago I was in a place where I could afford to eat the healthiest food, I exercised regularly, managed stress effectively and stayed properly medicated. Today, however, my life has changed dramatically in that I don't have the same convenient resources at my disposal, and as such, I'm feeling the radioactive rays of my ADD in ways I never have before.

It's from my ADD I get a flood of my creative ideas. So many, in fact, it's unrealistic to be able to act on all of them. When I'm effectively dealing with my ADD, I manage to keep the flood in check, which is to say, I realize I will never be able to use all of the ideas that pop in my brain and I pick the best ones to work on, and go from there. On the other hand, when my ADD is in a full-on, unchecked rampage that flood becomes a tsunami, and not only is it impossible to keep things in perspective, it's debilitating in my attempts to accomplish everything my brain can imagine.

It becomes cyclical at this point. Unmanageable ADD translates into a torrent of ideas. Those ideas, unfiltered, result in a feeling of being overwhelmed, which then results in shutting down. Shutting down means sitting on the couch in the fetal position and watching Sponge Bob Squarepants for several hours with the depressive awareness of the lack of productivity. No productivity means no money, and thus, no money, means working harder at managing ADD with the limited resources available for my current lifestyle. If I cannot manage the weakness created by my ADD, I will never attain the level of output that will generate the income to make life a bit more manageable.

My point in all of my musings is to set the groundwork for future posts in writing about how I manage my ADD. As a freelancer, there is virtually no structure for me (except from 10am to noon and 4pm to 5 when Sponge Bob is playing on TV), and no structure for an ADD'er like me is as self-destructive as holding an AA meeting at a Jim Beam distillery. So, just an alcoholic stands and acknowledges and owns his weakness, I need to acknowledge mine as I adapt to the changes in my life.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Ooh, gotta run. SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS!


Note: If you are curious to find out whether you or someone you know may have adult ADD check out this link (no, it's not some goofy joke with shiny objects - it's legit), and answer the questions on the second page.

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Clark Kent's Icebox

You know how parents are famous for showing off the refrigerator art created by their children? Well, I had the idea of creating a 'virtual' version of the same concept by posting the kids' masterpieces in a photo-hosting site. To keep with my Clark Kent theme I modified (under the tutelage of Ashley) the pic of an old 1940's fridge, (or Icebox) and added what Noah, Allie, Harrison, Avery and Sawyer have come up with.

For the boys and me this gives us a chance to stay connected by sending them a self-addressed, stamped, envelope and having them mail something they've created back. Once you go to the hosting site, you can read descriptions of the work for each one. Showing everything together allows the family to feel a bit more blended despite the distance.

Click here for a closer view of Icebox Art from the Lunchbox Bunch


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Cock-a-la-roach

I have a moral dilemma of sorts going on right now as to whether I should tell my wife something or not. Before I get to the dilemma, I should give a little back story first. Last night Ashley and I attended a birthday party for a couple friends of ours. We were having a good time, but part way through the evening I became light-headed, broke out into a drenching sweat and went white in the face. It was apparent I didn't look so hot, and we left early to go home. I, of course, went right to bed while Ashley had to say goodnight to her true love - the stat counter for her blog - before she joined me.

If you've been reading this blog for a while now, then you already know Ashley's sleeping habits, and true to form she was out cold in a matter of seconds. I feel asleep too, but due to a migraine headache that had come on, I kept waking up every so often to make sure the ceiling was still in place. During one of those 'ceiling checks' I happened to look up at the exposed brick wall on Ashley's side of the bed where I saw through the glow of our nightlights, the impetus for my dilemma.

Perched on the wall sat a large two and a half-inch long cockroach, looking down on us as if to say, "sleep well, Ron, and comfort yourself with the thought I could have pounced on you in your state of slumber, but I - the Cock-a-la-roach, am a merciful bug and I extend that mercy to you." Needless to say, I wasn't about to return the favor. In the world of things I dislike about nature, cockroaches and rats run neck and neck for top honors.

That said, my condundrum was a matter of what to do about the situation. If I tried to kill it, based on it's position on the wall, the angle of trajectory and the current wind speed the bug would land dead center in Ashley's hair. Should I miss, there was also a better than average chance it would still be alive when it landed, and even though the topic never came up in our pre-marriage counseling, I'm pretty sure I know how Ashley feels about roaches.

A few weeks ago, a roach crawled up Ashley's leg as she sat at the computer. When I informed her their was a roach on her she thought I was joking, but the look on my face convinced her otherwise which after a second or two of realization she went into a flailing fit in the attempt to dislodging the bug from her person. Based on that scenario, having a roach - dead or alive - land on your face as you slept would likely illicit a worse reaction.

Still focusing on the roach, I reviewed all the possible scenarios. Best case would be to shoot it with a silenced handgun which would kill the bug without it falling on her face, and I could stay in bed and she'd never know a thing. That option was out for obvious reasons (I don't own a gun big enough to kill roaches), so I was left with A) killing the roach with my shoe with the hope it wouldn't fall on her face, B) letting it live with the hope it wouldn't fall on her face, or C) gently waking Ashley up and asking her to roll to my side of the bed while I pound the tar out of a very large bug.

Each of the choices had their pros and cons and I gave them equal consideration, however, as I lay their thinking, my "little" friend started to move... down the wall. One of the things I hate most about roaches is their abulatory skills. When they are in casual mode they have a back-and-forth jerking motion that reminds me of a large delivery truck attempting a three-point turn on a narrow neighborhood street. The other style of movement is that sickening and cowardly scurry they use when trying to get away. I can almost hear them plead, "Don't hit me, no, no, no, please don't hit me." as they run underneath a chair, or cabinet or something.

Whatever the actual right choice would have been, the fact that the roach was getting closer meant I needed to do something. Crawling out of bed I grabbed my shoe, and walked like the cockroach-killing ninja I am, around to Ashley's side of the bed. I searched the wall for my target. It was gone. Even still, I figured if I waited for a moment it would reappear.

Standing there, my shoe at the ready and poised to strike, I started to chuckle at the idea of Ashley waking up to find her new husband standing over while holding a shoe like a baseball bat.

I'm trying to kill a cockroach, Honey.

Oh, ya, right! I could hear her say, You're trying to kill me aren't you? I knew I shoud've run a background check on you.

No, no. For real, there's a huge roach that just crawled down the wall towards the bed.

What?! Don't just stand there; kill it!


I'm always cooking up little day dreams like that (that's what ADD does to a person), and as such I lost focus on the bug and it must have gotten away. Disappointed, I put my shoe back and crawled into bed. As I reclaimed the covers, Ashley woke up and looked at me. Are you feeling better, Sweetie?

Uh, Ya, Honey. I just have a dull headache keeping me up.

Oh, Poor baby. Then she offered to turn out the nightlights.

Uh, No, I said realizing I needed them on in case my buddy reappeared, that's ok, Honey. Just need some sleep is all. Ash, of course, was sawing redwoods before I even finished my sentence.

The real dilemma I am currently in, has been whether I would tell Ashley about it in the morning? If I told her in the middle of the night, she'd freak out and I'd get no peace until the roach was eliminated. Should I tell her the next day, I would be faced with the same prospect. So what's the answer? I guess she's finding this out the same way you all are.


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Legally Stupid, The Musical

Ash and I are huge fans of The Soup on E. We will laugh like crazy at the pure beauty in making fun of so much stupidity on television. Sometimes there are moments that are just too "precious" to pass up, like this one commenting on the reality show searching for the lead in an upcoming musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie, Legally Blond.

The entire concept - the show, the movie, the contestants, the display of "talent" everything - is so bad even God wants them to stop.




I pray my kids never end up on a reality TV show... unless to host The Soup.

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CLARK KENT'S INBOX June 20

Tomorrow will be the two-week wedding anniversary for Ashley and me, and we're hoping to get out and use some of the gift cards (along with writing Thank You's) this weekend. I finally got some of the wedding pics posted in the sidebar of the Lunchbox, and will update them as I get more in.

This week I spent the last part of the week working with the girls at home, which meant facing the challenge of balancing work/job hunting with engaging the girls. I don't think I did too bad, but I did make the worst batch of chocolate chip cookies ever while getting a chance to critique a few cartoons (which you will read about). My boys actually were in Texas this past week visiting their other grandparents, so I got to hear of their adventures in the backwoods of east Texas as they went off-roading with their mom's dad, and watched tons of Wheel of Fortune.

I'm adding a few different items to Clark's Inbox this week including the resurrection of the Kreepy Bay-Beez.

So as, I mentioned, I spent time watching cartoons with Allie and Avery this week and was struck by the various political, environmental and economic undertones running throughout the various episodes I watched. I don't recall the cartoons of my day being so complicated. Who wants to see Bug Bunny as a vegan carrot-muncher chiding Elmer Fudd for hunting down and eating meat or Scooby and Shaggy advocating the use of hemp-made products? Today's cartoons, however, aren't afraid to jump right in and tackle today's pressing issues. This week I watched The Fairly Odd Parents address the current housing crisis, urban sprawl and suburban conformity with in-your-face tenacity.

CLARK'S CARTOON REVIEW
The Fairly Odd Parents: In this Nickelodeon cartoon, Timmy Turner, a manic, 7 year-old boy, gets into loads of trouble due to the ridiculous antics of his god-parents, Cosmo and Wanda who happen to be magically mischievous fairies that only he can see. In the episode I watched Timmy's mother, who's a real estate agent worries she's lost her touch selling as it's been months since her last sale (it's not you, sweetie, it's the market). Cosmo and Wanda, thinking they are helping, secretly give the mother a magic ability to sell any home to any person (ya, but can they qualify for a mortgage? That's where the real magic is). Of course she sells a ton including the family's own home so they can now move to Dimmadore Acres. Dimmadore Acres is a master-planned community developed by a Texas residential development tycoon (no doubt a reference to national builders DR Horton and Centex Homes, based in Dallas). Upon moving into the community, the Turner family quickly fall prey to the extreme standards of conformity, enforced by the home-owner's association, who as it turns out, work at night for the same Texas developer in his milk factory. Timmy, who's a prime candidate for massive amounts of Concerta, manages to magically restore everyone back to their senses as well as transforming all of Dimmadore Acres back to its original state with flowering meadows and woodland creatures (an obvious reference to environmentalist concern over urban sprawl... thanks Al Gore).

I've devised a scoring system for cartoons to determine their accurate depiction of the heinous world child viewers can expect once they grow up. It's on a 1 to 5 point scale with 5 being heinously accurate and 1 being mindless drivel suitable for only children. Here's my assessment.

Economic Awareness: 5 Using the housing crisis as the story's sub-plot was a stroke of Nick-Genius! Bravo!

Environmentally Conscious: 5 Commenting on the evils of urban sprawl was right on target, and although the magical restoration of the development to it's natural beauty was a bit unrealistic, the sentiment brought a tear to my eye.

Promotes Diversity: 2 Low marks here. Even though the god-parents are 'fairies' (not the ones you're thinking of), the lone representative for diversity was Timmy's African American friend, AJ who dresses and acts like a little preppy cracker.

Politically Awareness: 3 Average is the only score I can give since there was no direct political references, which is pretty darn sad in an election year. However, the show's indirect indictment of corporate CEO's (represented in Texas businessman, Doug Dimmadore) running amok without the oversight of the federal government, kept it from receiving a lower rating.

OVERALL SCORE: 4 I was pretty impressed with realistic the show was in depicting the bleak world we live in.

KREEPEE BAY-BEEZ PIC OF THE WEEK
Theeeeeeeey're baaaaack! Due to their popularity the Lunchbox has resurrected the Kreepy Bay-Beez with the intent of posting a weekly pic as part of the Friday Inbox, and we invite all of you to submit pics of your own, which we will pick as the most "kreepee" and post along with our own.


... and in case you missed it, this week I reflected on what my dad's resume has taught me (thanks Ness for sending readers this way), I got "tagged," almost got caught in an alien encounter, and confronted the issue of nudity.

Thanks again for taking the time to read the Lunchbox, and have a great weekend.

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Area 51... & I Totally Fell For It.

Sometimes when I'm writing posts for the Lunchbox I worry that maybe I'm getting too many laughs at the expense of others. Of course it's never my intention to ever hurt anyone in what I write, but I do want to ensure there's a balance in my subject matter. I once heard the remark, "If you can't laugh at yourself, then you sure can't laugh at others." What I'm about to admit to definitely fits the "laugh at myself" criteria, and when you see what I'm talking about you will laugh at me too.

This week my mother sent me an email with photos attached. In the subject field was the headline, "Strange Happenings at Home," and since my parents had just recently made it home from their road trip to attend our wedding, I expected a some news about how high the lawn was, or which woodlands creatures feasted on the newly planted garden. The pictures, no doubt, would be the visual accompaniment. What I found was completely astonishing.

First I read the message my mother wrote which explained how they had gone to bed and woke up to find what's pictured below in the backyard at the hands of some unknown entity.



By her tone, and because they had been gone for the past week and a half I was convinced this mystery was totally legit. I spent the next several hours searching "lawn diseases," and yes, "crop circles." Not for one moment did I doubt my parents were anything but sincere over there consternation on the origins of this strange marking.

When my mother finished her email with the line, "I wonder what this looks like from a satellite photos on Google," I made a note to search for outer space imagery while I was at it. Later when I talked with my son Noah on the phone, I told him all the gory details which immediately sent his curiosity skyrocketing. In fact I'm pretty sure I opened the conversation with him with the question, "Noah, do you know what crop-circles are?"

"DO I?!!!" His imagination brought to mind who knows what, but in any case, my honest belief in an alien encounter translated into an explosive flurry of activity for every lobe in his brain. We discussed theories, and possible testing we could conduct; we wondered if maybe the government would show up - Noah even asked if there was a way we could make money off the whole thing.

I did have something of a concern that floated in the back of my mind as we talked. Understand, I am terrified of several things: large rats, rare flesh-eating viruses and aliens. I'm not sure how to explain UFOs and little green men, but with all the crazy happenings documented from the time of Ezekiel till today, I believe there's something out there.

My larger concern in this little X-File episode was the fact I had planned several days of camping out in the back yard when the boys and I visit my parents later next month, and as such I wanted no part in me or my boys being the subject of any alien abductions. Not only did I dislike the idea losing internal organs or having metal disk of an unknown composition inserted into our spinal cords, the thought of trying to explain to their mother that we're one kid short because Sawyer was sucked up in blinding light from the sky wouldn't play out well as I turned the kids back over to her. I briefly considered canceling the planned outdoor activities (seriously), but decided otherwise since it's a well-known fact that many an abduction took place within the safety of of the abductee's own bedroom.

Noah and I continued our excited discussion for a solid forty minutes before he had to get off the phone, at which time I struck up the same conversation with his 6 year-old brother. "Harrison, do you know what crop circles are?"

"DO I?!!!" and with that Harrison was ready to donate his time and services to our investigation. Of course, Harrison maintains an undying infatuation with gadgets, and one in particular. "We're going to need a flashlight, dad."

Given my fear, I was thinking more like a flood-light, but I reassured him we would have a flashlight (and several weapons) handy. This was going to be probably the best two weeks with boys with one unbelievable bonding opportunity.

At this point, I want to reiterate I really believed the "yard-circle" to be authentic - honest, cross my heart, hope to die. My comic-book, conspiracy-inclined self couldn't wait to figure this whole thing out, and the fact my boys would be involved made it all the more exciting. Several hours later, however, the mystery was solved after a phone call home.

"Hey, Mom, tell me about those crop circles," I asked. "The boys and I are all excited to figure it out."

My mom was silent for a moment on the other end. "Didn't we tell you about the swimming pool?"

Apparently my parents had purchased an above ground pool for our impending visit, and dad had already marked the spot and started removing sod for the base of sand he planned to pour underneath. I have to admit I was a little disappointed as I explained to mom how sold I was on the idea my childhood home being the next Area 51.

Of course, this was hilarious to my mother, who followed up her instigating email with a follow up the next day entitled, "Strange Visitor Not From Around Here." Opening the email I was treated to an excerpt of my mother's instructions to their "alien visitor" on how they wanted the pool dug, the garden maintained and several other chores carried out. As you can see in the next few photos, while traveling back home, my parents stopped at a few antique malls, and knowing my love for all things Superman, purchased a three-foot high replica they found tucked away in some booth.
Now I know where my sense of humor comes from, and after years of innumerable stories with my family as the subjects of my musings, they got me and got me good. And what about the boys? Well, I think they'll enjoy the pool a whole lot more than an alien abduction.

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I've Been Tagged... A Lunchbox List

Thank you to both A and Ness for taking the time to "tag" me this past week. Normally I don't participate in these little Internet/blog games. It's not that I think I'm too good for them; it's because I don't like to bother anyone by "tagging" them as a means of keeping the chain forward going. However, because my "taggees" are friends and family, I'm filling this short list of items out. Then, as an additional step outside my normal habits, I'm going to tag three of the most untouchable people I can think of on the blogosphere. Why? To remind myself that just because I drive a mini-van, worry about the price of milk in China and suffer at the hands of two little girls, I still have a pair... for the most part.

So here are the rules as I understand them: No punching below the belt...

Actually the rules of this game are closer to this:
1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning (this is helpful as otherwise, no one has a clue what you're doing).
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves (it would be better to make up answers about someone else, but I don't make the rules... I only make fun of them).
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 3 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog (I'm going to do about 300 push ups and an hour of pilates so as to pump enough testosterone in my brain so I actually don't chicken out).
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer (Ness & A, consider yourself warned).


What were you doing 5 years ago?
I'd been out of the Army for a little over a year and working for a large residential homebuilder. Unfortunately, this wasn't a happy time in my life. I was 40 pounds heavier, my marriage was on a spiral downward, and I was suffering through a what was the begining of a major depressive state that lasted for several more years. My greatest joy, and the thing I focus on when I recall that period is my boys, Noah (4 years old) and Harrison (18 months - Sawyer wasn't thought of and wouldn't come into the picture for another year). My life wasn't always sunshines and rainbows, people.

What are 5 items on my To-Do List for today?

  • Write 5 blog posts
  • Provide several article ideas to the editor of Christ & Pop Culture
  • Apply for new job postings found in my email
  • Follow up on several leads for writing projects
  • Remove alien mold creature who landed his intergalactic Tupperware saucer in the docking bay of our fridge on 22 May (there was a government "cover up" hiding it).

What are your 5 favorite snacks?

  • Ritz Crackers with sharp cheddar cheese slices
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (must eat them 50 miles from home as Noah & Avery are allergic to all things peanut)
  • Edamame (un-shelled)
  • Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Ice Cream
  • Newman-O's



What 5 things would you do as a billionaire?


  • Pay all the bills off
  • Set up a trust fund for all 5 kids
  • Buy a bad-ass place in Chicago
  • Invest a bunch of it
  • Start a charity for kids

What are 5 of your bad habits?

  • Procrastination (I was supposed to do this post last week)
  • Talking myself out of stuff (I don't think I'm gonna "tag" anyone)
  • Dental Hygiene - I have two cracked teeth and need to finish my last tray of Invisalign braces (see top of this list)
  • Changing the oil every 4,000 miles instead of the dealer recommended 3,000
  • Stealthily picking my nose and then flicking the findings without anyone knowing

What are 5 places you've lived in reverse order?

  • A loft in Houston...again (I like to decorate, hence the pics)

  • A condo in Fayetteville Arkansas


  • A flat in Chicago

  • A loft in Houston

  • Smallville (well, not quite, but it's home)

What are the last 5 jobs you've held in reverse order? (Yes, this is shameless self-promotion on my part, but I need to pay the rent)

  • Unemployed writer (when I get paid, I'm an 'employed' writer)
  • Consultant (I get paid for this... sometimes)
  • VP of Homebuilder Sales (Chicago)
  • Director of Sales & Marketing (Houston)
  • President of Builder Operations (Houston)

And there you have it... Boor-a-palozza. Now, to make good on my promise... dooce, Sweet Juniper, and The Pioneer Woman (There's no way in hell, but I gotta break the chain for the good of humanity)

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Dad's Resume

With yesterday being Father's Day, of course I'm going to write a post about my dad, not because it's cheaper than a card (It's on the way, dad) or because I'm obligated since I wrote one for my mother, but because my dad gives me allot of material to work with. However, there's a problem in having so much to work with, and that's how much time my dad will spend at the computer reading it. When I left home for the Army, my dad used to sit down and write me these long letters using the most perfect penmanship ever witnessed. There's something about hand-written letters that mean a great deal to my dad. Maybe it's because he can appreciate the thoughtful effort required to put pen to paper, or perhaps it's that letters from home helped sustain his hope while he faced uncertain dangers in Vietnam. In any case there's this sentimental place within my father that relishes the simplicity of the past.


I know because he passed that same trait on to me. I'm sure sometime in the next decade when my boys try to send me their wishes for a happy Father's Day via the latest version of Mega-Twitter 2000 (don't ask, Dad...it confounds me too), I'll fondly recall the days when you would just email your father. Of course, by that time, it's likely we will all be able to plug our brains directly into the computer giving us the ability to upload our love and gratitude in some form of E-emotion message and send it to a recipient in a matter of nano-seconds. That being the case, I'm sure I'll sigh to myself, nostalgically remembering the elegance of a wireless keyboard just before I jam a USB cable into my ear carnal in my attempt to send out Christmas Cards for the year 2020.

This is the same picture I have of my father as he sadly sits behind a computer, trying to figure out the URL for my blog so he can read this post dedicated to him, and all the while, wondering why I've forsaken the elegance and style found only in a well-written letter complete with a stamp and envelope.

As I sat at my desk thinking about my father and the age of written letters, I remembered his resume that mom sent me to update. I had read through it a few times before thinking of ways to rearrange the formatting and beef up the content -- noting how modest my father was in conveying his occupational expertise. When I tried to talk to him about updated details he would become elusive and a little annoyed. Normally, that behavior would be frustrating but I understood what he was thinking since downplaying accomplishments and talents is another trait passed on to me. As such, the resume has sat dormant as some gigabyte of information in a hard drive somewhere, until I thought to conjure it up as part of my Father's Day reflections. Looking at it as a son, I realized how much I've learned about being a man through the few short lines outlining my father's professional life.

EDUCATION:
HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA 1967
Randolph-East Mead High School

A good education was something always recognized by both my parents who both attended college, but were unable to finish. But what I really learned from my dad in this short snippet of information was about sacrifice. Even though we lived by modest means, my sisters and I never went without and always had what we needed growing up including a private education that my father worked hard and sacrificed his time to earn for us. Today I see so many fathers who won't sacrifice even an afternoon of their own time for their kids and yet I had a dad who gave up time, money and opportunities year after year so his children could have the best he could offer.

EXPERIENCE:
ELECTRICIAN 1995-PRESENT
Journeyman electrician with experience working alone and supervising other workers as a general laborer, material handler, and conduit installer, as well as operating forklifts, manlifts and bucket trucks. Over 600 hours of classroom instruction, now a teacher in the electrical program.
CERTIFIED IN RESIDENTIAL NETWORKING FOR COMMUNICATIONS 2005
Cooper Wiring Devices
TECHNICAL DEGREE IN ELECTRICAL CONSTRUCTION 2001
Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Pennsylvania

My dad is the hardest working guy I know - hands down. He's approaching retirement age and yet I still hear stories of how he runs circles around younger guys in a profession that is physically demanding. Alot of guys his age are content to waste as much of their time as they can drinking coffee and BS'ing with co-workers about the ills of society, like why they can't get disability to help them pay for another dozen donuts. While these guys are running at the mouth, my dad is doing his job and theirs, and doing it more quickly and accurately. Because of this work-ethic, he's been offered chances for more responsibility, but he keeps turning them down - not because he's afraid of it, but because my dad would rather get jobs done than get bogged down in the politics surrounding the job.


BUSINESS OWNER 1971-1995
Co-owner of family business, a lawn, garden and agricultural supply store. Duties ranged from warehouse/grinder man to President of Corporation. Company grew from one location with annual sales of $360,000 to six locations with annual sales reaching $3,500,000.
MARLEY LEADERSHIP CERTIFICATE IN BUSINESS 1989
Executive Time Management
Perfection of Selling Techniques.

From almost the time I was born until just after I left home, my Dad worked in a family owned and operated agri-business. He and his brothers started it after their dad - my grandfather - got laid off from a factory job and needed a place to work. My Dad was the youngest of the five brothers (hence the 5 M Milling name), and yet he had to take charge as the president, confront older family members on issues, and settle disputes. It had to be uncomfortable, and there always was an easy way out, but my Dad stuck it out. He was loyal to his family and to his employees. One of the hardest jobs I ever had was working for my father in the business. I say it was hard because Dad wasn't about to let me take the easy path just 'cause I'm the boss's kid. I used to hate it, but I later realized what he was teaching me. Not only that, I learned how to treat others. Dad was a favorite of all those he worked with. He was personable, sincere and fair. I don't know how many times I watched him unload an entire truck load of fertilizer, or corn, or dog food in the middle of the summer. While others sat in an air-conditioned office, Dad would be sweating in the back of a rig, even when he was president of the corporation.

SPECIAL FORCES RECON TEAM LEADER 1968-1971
United States Army Laos & Cambodia: Completed two tours during the Vietnam War, led classified operations as a team leader and was honorably discharged. Awarded the BRONZE STAR for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces

These few sentences don't convey the half of it. Even today, with the books and movies coming out, Dad remains low-key on his service as a Green Beret in the Army. Dad never had to say much for me to realize how special that funny hat was perched at the top of the bookcase. As I got older and fished out more and more stories from him, I new what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were times I would take his beret and practice snappy salutes in front of the mirror when I thought no one was home. When you're a kid, what you see is the adventure and danger, but what I came to realize after I became a soldier myself is the cliche behind that kind of reasoning. What my dad (and many like him) had was a desire to be a part of something bigger than himself, and yet, ironically, to express that sentiment openly would reduce it to something laughable. To talk of being noble is only talk, whereas true nobility is an action that encompasses more than just a military uniform. It's how I am to act in every situation.

As I talked with my Dad on the phone yesterday about some tough circumstances in my own life, he remarked that he wouldn't even know how to deal with what I was going through. However, the truth of the matter is, I wouldn't know how to deal with it either had I not had the example my father set for me in how to act with honor, even when you make mistakes.

DISTINCTIONS
4 Children (1 Son, 3 Girls), all happily married

9 Grandchildren (4 Grandsons, 3 Granddaughters, 2 Step-Granddaughters)


I know these aren't the typical distinctions for a resume, but they are the right set of distinctions for the man I'm writing about. I've heard my dad lament more than once over the belief he didn't do enough, but the fact of the matter is he (along with mom) did all he was capable of doing, which is a great deal compared to an average guy, and what he's done has paid off with a happy set of kids, and grandkids, as well as one swell wife. No one will accuse my father of being perfect, but but no one will ever say he didn't work his hardest or put himself first either. I guess to answer the earlier question of why I didn't just write a letter or send a card I'd have to say that only my dad gets to read what I've written in a card or letter and then it goes into a shoebox to share eternity with 36 years of other cards and letters from me. With a blog, however, I get to share who my dad is with the world, and, at the same time, I also have the chance to express my appreciation and love for the man greatly responsible for making me who I am today. Thanks Big Guy.


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Manifest Destiny & A Queen-Sized Bed

It's been a while since I've had to share an entire bed with someone on a consistent basis, and it's taking a little getting used to now that I'm married again. I love Ashley to death, she knows this; however, with her sleep habits our bed may not be enough for the two of us. At one point I used to own a king-sized metal framed monster, but I always thought it too large. It seemed such a waste for so much sleeping space to go un-used when children in India sleep on the floor of their huts. I remember describing the enormity of that old bed to a friend pointing out how looking across to the other side of the mattress felt like viewing the flat planes of Nebraska, and in order to communicate with one another, phones with a long-distance plan needed to be set up on each night stand. The last I heard that bed hit an ice berg in the North Atlantic and sunk 300ft in some freak accident. Too bad. It would be nice to have again as it appears Ashley has adopted some form of Manifest Destiny in her occupation of "our" queen-sized slice of heaven.

At first I figured Ashley's complete dominance of the bed was merely a matter of her getting used to sleeping in a new bed. It took me several weeks to find my groove when I first got the mattress a few years ago, and now I'm quite happy with how the springs are contoured to my body. It only stands to reason that Ashley shouldn't be expected find comfort in such a short time. At this point, however, I'm pretty sure she will not find that comfort on just one side of the bed, or with one set of covers for that matter.

I've come to think of Ashley's sleep domination in the same general terms as the German occupation of Europe during World War 2. Like their treaty with the Russians, Ashley has married me and we have divided the bed in two like it was Poland. However, in the middle of the night, when I am the most vulnerable Ashley has overrun my borders forcing me to the very edge of the bed in the same fashion the Germans turned on their Russian allies and pushed them to the brink of collapse. Foolishly, like the French, I believed I could halt her advance by setting up a Maginot Line of sorts consisting of pillows placed between us, and just as the French did, I watched her roll right over the top of it and then take all of the remaining blankets. This, of course, forced me to my Dunkirk where I evacuated to the couch in Mother Living Room ("God Save the Queen!") in order to prepare for a future invasion of the bed again.

My analogy does not end here as, "Da Fuhrer" has her own version of Italy and Japan in the form of Allie and Avery, who after a bad dream, wetting the bed or an early wake up will join the "Mother"land in the quest for complete mattress domination. Together, they are an axis of slumbering evil, and yet I've learned, divided, they can be defeated. Like Italy, I usually can buy Allie off with the promise of a fresh batch of pancakes, and by taking away one Care Bear at a time in a fashion similar to "Island Hopping" I can bring down the "Land of the Rising (Before The) Sun."

Apparently, like the belching disorder, this bed-time blitzkrieg is a hereditary condition shared by Ashley and her girls. On the occasions I have witnessed them passed out together in the same bed, I could only describe what I saw as something close to those scenes shown on TV where fisherman drop hundreds of epileptic fish from a net onto the ship's deck. It's a bit disconcerting to note the fresh set of bruises sported by each of them as they climb up to the breakfast table, anxiously explaining how they all had the same dream of Harry Potter casting spells on them while using a baseball bat instead of a wand.

I will admit I have worried a little over what this quirk of Ashley's could mean for our marriage, but then I looked to the example set by my parents. For nearly 25 years they slept in the same double-sized bed, changing the mattress only after they had mashed it to the thickness of a Ritz cracker whereas Hobos would complain after being forced to utilize its services. During the entire life of that mattress my mom and dad fought, bickered and complained upon any mention of sleeping together in the same bed, but little did they realize at the time how strong it made them as a husband and wife. Finally, several years ago, they broke down and purchased a Seally mattress similar to the ones many middle-aged couples use today. Now they get along great as my mom sleeps on the pull-out guest bed and my father sleeps in his recliner or on the floor in front of the TV. There has never been a happier or more well-rested couple in the history of marriage to date.

With this as my inspiration, I feel confident Ashley and I will be able to work past this little problem. I mean if I can get past the snoring which is louder than a chorus of chainsaws buzzing redwoods, the constant sound of rushing water made by her drool on the pillow, and "that other thing" that sounds like ducks angrily debating on CNN's Crossfire and smells like twice-baked Alabama road kill then certainly I should be able to make allowances for her version of nocturnal interpretive dance depicting urban sprawl.



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Don't I Know You?

The other day I had an interesting exchange concerning the details of my life with someone I know from back home where I grew up. It's been nearly 17 years since I've been in touch with anyone from my home town (aside from family), which admittedly, was a conscious decision on my part. My choice in doing this had nothing to with any particular person or persons, but rather it was my chance to escape the perceptions people held of me - perceptions that had become a prison of sorts keeping me from exploring who I really was. Now, through the advances in various forms of social media it's possible to find almost anyone you went to school with, or is a long, lost second cousin from Scotland. It's actually pretty cool to catch up with old friends and find out what they've been up to, but for me, there's also a bit of uneasiness in the thought of being exposed to the potential for the same scrutiny I grew up with.

For the most part that hasn't been the case as I've been in touch with more and more people from my past, and it's evident they have gone on to live their own lives. They have good jobs, nice families and reside in interesting parts of the country. I enjoy my exchanges with them, and it's fun to laugh about the the experiences we shared during our younger days.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case as in the instance I referred to in my opening line. Let me say up though, I don't want to give the impression I'm attacking anyone, but for some, the paradigm by which they lived when you knew them years ago is the same today as it was then. The microscope I was dissected under 17 years ago is the same one I am being judged by today.

Some want to figure out what type of cult-ish church I belong to that perverts the Word of God. They want to know why I have three boys living 1300 miles away from me, or why I have a failed marriage under my belt. I have no problem taking about those circumstances of my life when people ask, as it's just a natural part of the conversation with most people I've been reconnecting with. However, when people go the search function on the Lunchbox and type in "divorce" just to read all my posts on the subject, and then failing to even say "hello" to me in the process, I feel that microscope on my back. It's people like this and the ones who send judging emails that make me feel as if my hardships are giving a malicious sense of joy to others.

In reality, there's nothing I can do about it except maybe shut down my blog or block those people, both of which would be my natural tendency. I could go underground again and hide my life away, exposing myself where it's safe and with those I know won't judge me; but in the end, I think I'd be missing an opportunity.

What I mean is, the other day I was reading in Matthew about Jesus going back home to Nazareth where he preached in the synagogue. If you know the story, you know this wasn't a case of "local boy makes good." In fact, the same account in Luke says those that were listening to him were filled with rage and attempted to kill Christ. That seems extreme, but part of the deal was Jesus spoke to assembly with great confidence over the fact that he fulfilled the prophesies of Isaiah to which his fellow Nazar-eenos - many of whom he worked with or who knew his family - started going, "Wait a second! Isn't this guy the same guy who pounded nails into large planks as a carpenter? And now this knuckle-dragger is saying that he's, he's... he's the Messiah? TO THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY WITH HIM!"

And what did Jesus do? Not much except to tell them that their reaction was to be expected as a prophet isn't welcome in his own town, and thus furthering his popularity evne more. That's when the crowd moved to chuck him over the cliff, but somehow Jesus moved through the crowd and went on to the next town to continue his ministry. If effect he said what he needed to, he ignored his detractors and moved on with his mission.

I guess my point in all this is that some people will never stop looking at me as anything more than who I was when they knew me many years ago as a skinny, goofball. They'll always look for ways to question the choices I've made as well as the consequences I've had to live with as a result. They'll use the fact that I'm exposing myself as fodder for gossip, and they'll drag my family into the mix by questioning them. Naturally, I'll be upset, but trying to convince them of who I really am today or trying to discredit them myself would be a waste. Instead, sometimes all I can really do is ignore them and move on.


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A Lunchbox List: Top 10 Episodes of The Unit

I've noticed over the past two months the number 1 searched item on Clark's Lunchbox are posts related to CBS's The Unit (76 or the last 500 page-loads & over 25% of the key words searched leading to my page). For those of you not familiar with the show which was renewed for a 4th Season after being in limbo due to the writer's strike, The Unit follows the harrowing missions of the Army's secret Delta Force commando unit based on the true exploits of CSM Eric Haney. But as I've mentioned before, it's not all explosions and fire-fights as it shares equal time on the drama of the wives who have their own stories apart from their husbands.

I always feel a little goofy writing about the super-secret Army elite, partly because growing up with a father who was a Green Beret himself, it was kind of understood you didn't make a big deal about that kind of work. When I left home I tried to follow in his footsteps, but it wasn't meant to be which leads me to the other reason for my reticence in that I look like a "wanna-be." That, however, is not the case, as I am posting The Top 10 Episodes of The Unit in terms closer to what this blog is meant to be.

A little background first. There are a several main characters in the show, but the one I follow closest is the freshest member of the Unit, Bob Brown (played by Scott Foley) who has a great deal to prove to his teammates, to his wife and himself. Bob, who's code name ironically is "Cool Breeze" has to rely on a his strength of character and his judgement to deal with one stressful situation after another. We may not face a hail of gunfire as a regular part of our day, but that doesn't mean we can't apply what we see demonstrated by Bob and the rest of the characters to deal with our own challenges.

The Top 10 Episodes of The Unit & What "Cool Breeze" Teaches Us About Being A Man

1.) First Responders (S1.E1): Bob, aka "Cool Breeze," is the newest member of the Unit, but he doesn't let that hold him back or make him try too hard as he taks part in his first mission.

* In the series premiere, newcomer Bob Brown joins Jonas' team as they set out to rescue a hijacked plane filled with European businessmen. Meanwhile, the Unit wives help Bob's wife Kim get acclimated as she struggles against the level of control the Unit has over her personal life. Even though there seems to be a lack of privacy, there are still secrets in the Unit that must be kept private.


2.) 200 Hours (S1.E3): All men make mistakes, but can we own up to them knowing the consequences? What will we do to improve ourselves to avoid making that mistake again, and will our mistake intimidate us to the point we shrink when we need to call out mistakes made by others?

Jonas attempts to rescue a group of American missionaries in hiding in The Philippines, but the mission becomes more complicated than he expected when two members of the missionary group refuse to leave. Meanwhile, Bob inadvertently shoots Mack during a training exercise and must repeat the drill over and over again, until he gets it right. Also, the Unit's wives come to the rescue after Col. Ryan fails to convince a visiting Senator of the importance of investing in military training.


3.) SERE (S1.E8): Don't be the weak link in a team, and don't cave when your teammates perceive that you are. Just do your job and don't make excuses.

Based on the real-life training course that the military uses to prepare for capture by enemy forces, the Unit takes on SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), a grueling training exercise of torture and humiliation. The training proves to be especially difficult for Bob, who is sick when the training starts, and the torment pushes him close to death. To complicate matters, the CIA is orchestrating exercises with virtually no limits to the level of physical punishment and emotional manipulation that can be used in an effort to break them, which would result in them being kicked out of The Unit.



4.) Natural Selection (S2.E8): You're on your own and people are depending on you. Remember the hard work that earned you that privilege.

Bob and his translator survive a helicopter crash in Siberia but now, cut off completely from civilization and without their gear, they face the challenge of enduring the harsh weather. As Bob fights dehydration and hypothermia, the harrowing experience triggers flashbacks to his experience during Unit Selection and the extreme difficulties he faced in order to achieve entry into the elite group.



5.) Dark of The Moon (S2.E17): Sometimes you might be the better man, but you need to be a good follower too.

After arriving at an Army support base in a remote area of Afghanistan, Jonas and his team discover that the base is in a state of disarray and take control of the situation by organizing the troops for an all out attack against the tribal militia surrounding them.



6.) In Loco Parentis (S2.E20): Be Johnny-on-the-Spot. Sometimes you have to improvise with the situation you've been given so think quick, and stay calm when everyone else might be freaking out.

The Unit must rescue students of an elite international private school in the Washington suburbs who have been taken hostage by captors. However, the captors make no demands and set no timeline for negotiation. Tensions run high as the missing students are children of prominent government officials and foreign nationals. When Tiffy & Kim discover that Lissy has a boyfriend, the boy’s mother tells Tiffy the families cannot fraternize. Kim sympathizes and allows the kids to spend time together until Lissy takes advantage of Kim's generosity and trouble ensues.



7.) Paradise Lost (S2.E23): Don't be a sell-out especially when your gain is at the misfortune and expense of others.

The Team's world collapses when they return from a successful mission to discover The Unit has been shut down and all Unit members are under governmental investigation for secret misdeeds of the past. This is no security drill, no training exercise: it's the real thing, and it's a noose around the neck of every Team member. The men learn The Unit will be disbanded and the men, court-martialed; Ryan relieved of command and retired in disgrace, and the community that Molly and the other women have worked so hard to build will be shattered and scattered to the wind.




8.) Every Step You Take (S3.E4): Sometimes we fail because subconsciously we don't believe we can. Can you find that place where you have no doubts about yourself?

Subsequent to violence and threats against the American Embassy in Cote D’Ivoire, Abidjan, Bob, Hector and Mack are dispatched to collect key remaining American personnel and their families. Close to their point of safety for exodus, the group is caught in the middle of a minefield while Bob, several blocks away, fends off insurgents and attempts rescue.




9.) The Insiders (S3.E5): Don't let your work get in the way of being who you are supposed to be at home.

Pregnant, Kim is put on bed rest for 48 hours after a minor scare but Bob seems to be incapable of taking care of the kids without her. Tiffy is blind-sided by a sudden firing precisely when she needs financial independence most. Due to her DUI, Tiffy has a felony conviction and can't get another job. She ends up waiting tables in town but finds out that the real money is made dancing behind the blue curtain at the restaurant.



10.) Gone Missing (S3.E10): What moral code do you operate by? Sometimes we have to question what we're doing just make sure we haven't strayed off the path unknowingly.

The team prepares to execute a sniper mission in the small nation of Montenegro. But the mission causes Bob to wrestle with his conscience as he finally confronts the moral implications of the deadly acts he performs.


For all of you out there that have been checking out this site for information on The Unit, I figure you're ether stationed in the middle of no where and using the SATCOM hook up for some entertainment or you're an Al Qaeda cell looking to gain insight on tactics... Either way, if you have a favorite episodes let us know in the comments section.

* All episode synopsises provided by the Official CBS site for The Unit.

Watch select episodes for free at CBS.



Interested in watching The Unit? Check out Season 1, Season 2 & the upcoming Season 3 on DVD.


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