Monday, June 19, 2006

The Dongle Test and Cardboard Joy

Failing the Dongle Test

Construction on the Ass House next door has stepped up a notch or two. Most days find a crew of workers running about and the frame of the home-to-be is very near complete. We’re hoping the loud aspects of construction will be complete by the time Pumkin moves into the nursery, which has a window facing directly onto the chaos. I can’t help but think that hammers and Bobcats a few feet from the window would affect Pumkin’s sleep schedule.

It was these carpenters that inspired the dongle test.

In addition to Pumkin’s nursery, there are several windows in our house that face directly toward Mr. And Mrs. Ass’s work zone. One of them is the bathroom. For years, I have not been too concerned about the bathroom window, despite that fact that our neighbors are at most fifteen feet away. The glass is frosted and I took comfort in the assumption that the frosted glass product had been designed specifically for this type of use. Last week however, Moonshot mentioned that she would like to get a curtain for the bathroom window.

“Why? There’s frosted glass.” I responded.

“During the day there are construction workers right outside the window,” she replied. “I know the glass blurs everything, but I'd rather be able to pull it shut completely.”

We’ve been hesitant in the past to block the window because the bathroom is very small. The logic had been that the light from the window made it feel more spacious. But, her request made perfect sense given the shirtless carpenter working three feet from the window.

So, on her next trip to Home Depot, she grabbed a basic-looking white curtain. It was sheer, but we figured it would add enough to the existing protection to make our decency assured. I hung it on Saturday morning and neither of us was particularly impressed; the sheerness being even sheerer than we had expected. So sheer in fact that we wondered if it would really do anything. We decided to wait until the evening and test it under the worst possible conditions…bright inside, dark outside. This was dubbed the “dongle test.”

As mentioned in a previous blog, we ended up going out to Duke and Pinky’s place that night and we didn’t return until about 1 am…very late for a pregnant Moonshot. The storm was still spitting a steadily stream of rain so Moonshot voted to wait until the next night. I figured if we needed a thicker curtain, I’d like to know now so we could buy a new one tomorrow and still have time to install it by the time the workers showed up Monday. In addition to this logic, I occasionally develop a perverse attraction to miserable tasks. I can’t explain it, but at that moment the idea of stumbling exhaustedly into the rain to look into our window sounded like a mini-adventure to me…something I’d be proud of making myself do after I had done it. I can’t explain it, but it’s one of the reasons I trudged out into the storm, so I include it here for clarity.

Anyway, I marched into the darkness with one of our portable phones so that I could talk to Moonshot and have her swish the curtain open and closed to display the different effects. Our first test was with the curtain closed. I could easily see Moonshot’s outline as she moved about the bathroom getting ready for bed, but nothing graphic, just a vaguely human shape. I told her the sheer fabric was doing nothing, but in the interest of science, she pulled the fabric to the side just to make sure.

Moonshot proves the uselessness of the frosted glass.It was there, with rain dripping down my face that I realized that the sheer fabric had, in fact, been doing a great deal. Without the curtain, I could suddenly see the exact line on Moonshot’s toothbrush where the bristles turned blue. Everything look a little blurry…but more like “I took off my reading glasses” blurry instead of the “total lack of detail” blurry I had expected. I thought of my toilet, positioned so that my urinating form was perfectly framed in profile inches away from the glass…so as to maximize detail. For five years I’ve been using that bathroom. By calculations I’ve done in the meantime, I figured an average of two nighttime pees a day. Over the course of my residence there I come up with 3,560 peepshows I’ve flashed toward Mr. and Mrs. Ass. Even if I take into effect Moonshot’s belief that people don’t usually spend a lot of time looking out their window at night…that’s a whole lot of opportunities to catch a good glimpse. I’ve been calling my neighbor Mr. Ass; I can now only cringe and wonder what they must be calling me. Images of poor Mrs. Ass making her way to their kitchen for a late night snack, only to lose her appetite after coming face to face with an all too personal image of…well…all of me.

So, to any guy out there who has spent some evening time in the upstairs Gren bathroom…congratulations, you’re an exhibitionist! If you’re not ok with that…feel free to make use of the new, super-thick curtains on you next visit.

The Joy Of A Good Cardboard Box

Excitement in the Gren house: baby shower presents have begun to roll in. In addition to the child items mentioned previously, we now have a cool baby gate from our friend Ben, a high chair from Husker and Panache, and a fun assortment of books and socks and onesies from Elsa and Taltap. Thanks to all of you. But, the real treat in these arrivals was the box for the high chair. Moonshot noticed it first and commented that it was a good box for playin’ in. And she was right. It’s a shame that so many of the items you need for your baby come in boxes that your baby would love if it s/he were only a few years older. It seemed like such a waste of a perfectly good fort to just throw it out. So we instead decided to bring it out to O’Fallon with us and see if Duke and Pinky’s toddler, Superfly would enjoy it. He’s about to turn three but to my knowledge has never had to joy of playing with a large box. So I folded it up and threw it in the back seat where it traveled out to O’Fallon with us this weekend. I’ll admit I was a little afraid we would get looks that said, “why are you bringing your trash to our house.” And while a few of the people there did give us exactly that look, both Duke and Pinky were excited to see if their Superfly would take a shine to the new toy.

Duke raided his toolbox and I attacked the folded cardboard with duck tape and a razor knife. I taped the top shut and taped the bottom flaps down to add some extra height to the enclosure. I cut him a door in the front, a large fold down window in the back and a double shutter style window on one side. I put little finger holes in each flap so he could open and close them with ease. It’d been a while since I made a box fort…but it all came back to me pretty quickly.

When the project was complete, we set the fort in the living room, showed it to Superfly, and waited expectantly. He couldn’t have cared less. He was far more interested in all the people in the house, far more interested in running around the room. Rack showcases the box's roomy interior Our friend, Rack tried to showcase the boxes finer points…but Superfly remained disinterested. His little brother, Mr. Chubbers, crawled over to the box and grew curious about the door, swinging it open and shut on its cardboard hinge. But he was a bit too young to really put the enclosure to good use so we returned our attention to young Superfly. We lured the distracted toddler in by throwing a favorite toy inside. He retrieved it quickly and left. It was time for drastic measures.

I hid behind the box with a few stuffed animals and began a peek-a-boo style puppet show. I called him to the front door with an Elmo and then proceeded to jump from window to window. With two windows in which to appear in, and three characters (Elmo, a friendly looking kangaroo, and me) I could throw in enough variation to keep his focus on the show. The wonder of the box began to dawn on him…he got interested. He sat in the cardboard doorway and watched the show and laughed, his eyes darting from window to window. Slowly, cautiously he made his way into the box just as Duke’s father deposited a flashlight through an open window. Superfly turned on the flashlight and suddenly the box made sense to him. He sprang up and shut all the openings. Superfly lights his box with his glowing cheeksLight flashed from under the box and Superfly could be heard laughing from within. Friends and grandparents flung open windows; Superfly would giggle and slam the window shut again. Someone would sneak a stuffed animal through a window; Superfly would laugh and throw it out the door. Grandpa made his cheeks glow with the flashlight; Superfly giggled and proceeded to shove the flashlight into his mouth in an attempt to duplicate the effect.

It’ll be a little while before a box becomes a space ship or a castle for Superfly, but even without such imaginative storylines, he (like nearly every child before him) had succumb to the irresistible joy of a good cardboard box.

Blogger Pearls

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Tip of the Hat to Some Wonderful People

A Few More Reasons Moonshot Rocks

I have never been pregnant…nor do I have any likelihood of being so in the future since genetics sort of forbids it. So I can’t really judge any woman’s handling of her pregnancy. Even so, I’d like to go on record as saying that I think my wife is tackling the whole baby-growing thing spectacularly. Her back hurts and her feet are swollen. She is tired all the time but can’t get a good night’s sleep because no position feels good. She has to pee constantly and Pumkin seems to be growing into some sort of boxer...currently working on mastering the Bruce Lee one-inch-punch agasint Moonshot's ribs. She is clumsy and off balance and her fingers are awkward on the piano now. She cringes as her pregnant weight increases and has recently discovered her first stretch marks.

I’m not sure how I’d handle all these things, but Moonshot just keeps on truckin’. Oh, she complains to me…but complaint is an art form in the Gren house, so I’d never suggest that she hold back any verbal objections she may have. But generally, she is upbeat and laughs good naturedly at herself rather than pitying her condition. She continues to tackle jobs that she wants to get done. She mows the yard and makes the gardens beautiful even though I continually remind her that I will handle it. Moonshot and Pumkin tackle the Gren lawn.She went out to one of those pick your own strawberry farms last week and brought home a huge bundle of strawberry goodness. Basically, she just keeps on doing the things she enjoys doing…she just takes more breaks. And I guess I had sort of taken that for granted. But the truth is that when she’s doing these things, people look at her in awe. Women comment that THEY wouldn’t be doing such-and-such if they were pregnant. Neighbors give me dirty looks when I come home to a newly mowed yard. Basically, society seems to be amazed at how my wife is tackling her pregnancy. And realizing this has made me realize that perhaps I should be a bit more amazed myself.

So, Moonshot is awesome. Just thought you all should know.

Related Sentiments about Duke and Pinky

There are all sorts of reasons that Duke and Pinky are wonderful friends. However, their awesomeness has been popping into my head more frequently of late since I am bombarded with their generosity each time I walk through Pumkin’s future bedroom. Just Look At All These Fabulous Prizes!! The space is now filled with items from Duke and Pinky’s basement that their children are no longer using. They handed over a Johnnie-Jump-Up, a motorized swing, a vibrating kid hammock that zips up to protect against wind and sun and bugs. Furthermore, we’re now the keepers of the very baby basinet that Duke and his younger brother slept when they were Pumkin-sized. This will allow Pumkin to sleep upstairs with us until s/he is able to sleep through the night. And Duke is cleaning up a baby bathtub that fits in the kitchen sink for us too. So, every time we walk through that room, Moonshot and I both have to stop and take in the sudden “babiness” of the room. And the vast majority of the baby stuff in there came from Pinky and Duke. So, thanks.

And if that weren’t enough reason to sing their praise across the blogosphere, they also let us use their children as test subjects. (See below)

Oh, and Happy Birthday Pinky! It’s today…Sunday for those of you who’d like to send a birthday message. She’s just a few days older than me…but somehow those few days that keep me 29 while her odometer flips to 30 make me feel better. Thanks for takin’ the lead on this, Pinky.

Aunt Gimpy’s Heart

I’m in a pretty upbeat mood today. This is in no small part due to my Aunt Gimpy’s recovering health. A little background:

Aunt Gimpy with Her GranddaughterMy Aunt Gimpy, MoMa’s younger sister, is the type of woman who has no business walking around and laughing as much as she does. Several of her vertebrae have been rebuilt and fused so that that she’s in constant pain. She lives off doughnuts and Diet Coke…with the occasional infusion of fast food when she needs a “meal”. She smokes like a chimney, watches vast quantities of television, and only sleeps a couple hours a night in a TV-facing recliner. Her continued jovial nature runs contrary to everything I think I know about health and nutrition.

Recently however, her body has been less cooperative. She suffered what the specialists think was a heart attack, has fluid on her lung and has what is being described as a leaky valve. Despite the underlying heart problems, her lungs have been the major hurdle. They can’t work on the valve until they get rid of the fluid and she’s been on a respirator for the last two days. The respirator means she can’t talk and that they have to keep her sedated so she doesn’t instinctively fight the tube. However, this morning, I got word that the fluid had drained sufficiently that she could breathe on her own. There are still more hurdles to face, but forward progress feels wonderful. She’s in good spirits and hopefully will be back to her recliner in no time.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to let my aunt and the rest of my family over in Kansas City know that I was thinking of them. I love you all.

Best Dog in the World…Period

Doggie...Jackpot One final tip of the hat to my sweet little pouch, Arlo. Moonshot and I have been planning for how to introduce Arlo to Pumkin once Pumkin takes up residence outside Moonshot’s expanding belly. We’re not worried, exactly. But Arlo’s never really been around a baby before. Through Moonshot’s piano lessons, he’s gotten used to children…but not babies. Pinky and Duke’s two children have been our obvious test platform, but they have been waiting to open an invitation to Arlo until their youngest was mobile enough and strong enough to hold his own against a small dog.

Well, the kid has been crawling deftly for a few weeks and is just about to start walking, but we’ve held off on pressuring them into allowing Arlo to come over. Seemed more polite to wait for them to bring it up. Last night, however, we were scheduled to go visit them and a large storm was rolling toward St Louis. Arlo, like most dogs, hates storms. He tries to be brave but ends up trembling, huddled against me. The idea of leaving him alone to face the thunder didn’t sit well with Moonshot and me, so we finally threw politeness out the window and asked if Arlo was welcomed back at the Dukedom. Pinky seemed more than happy to have him so we loaded up our furry little friend and trucked on out to O’Fallon.

Upon arrival, Arlo charged into the house and made his speedy rounds. The children squealed in delight and gave chase. But Arlo seemed far more interested in the scent of the resident cats than in the infant or the toddler. Only when he had finished his inspection of the main floor did he stop to pay any attention to the high-pitched pip-squeaks in continual pursuit. And even then, he was curious but not overly concerned. He gave the crawling child a few sweet kisses and generally steered clear of the berserk toddler who had been overly stimulated by a doggie in his living room. But at no time did Arlo appear uncomfortable, aggressive, or freaked out in any way. And at the end of the evening, Duke told Arlo he was welcome to come back any time. The experiment was a glowing success.

We hadn’t really expected anything less from our friend, but it was wonderful to be reminded the extent to which we hit the doggie jackpot when we adopted Arlo. Other than a possible and understandable jealousy issue, I’m now more convince than ever that he’ll make a wonderful big-brother.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Facing the Darker Side of Parenthood

As Pumkin’s arrival looms, I have been wrestling with a concept that I would have thought I understood, the very notion of parenthood. I grew up with parents, everyone I knew had at least one parent, and I’ve observed parents in the world. But fitting myself into the role of parent has proved fascinating to me. Not difficult or particularly scary (on most days), just fascinating to begin to self apply a term that has always so clearly meant “other”. So it is not terribly surprising to find myself reevaluating what it means to be a parent in the first place. In the past my concept of parenthood has stopped at the generally pleasant image that films and books tend to display. But as I get ready to assume the mantle, I find myself staring down other, less appealing aspects of this role. And this thought process has changed the way recent news, both local and family, has affected me.

Parenthood: Rejected

About two weeks ago, the local news reports near my home were abuzz with the story of a newborn that had been discovered in a dumpster, umbilical chord still attached. She was left there for hours, but somehow managed to survive. Normally this would have saddened me, but I would have moved quickly on and not given it much more thought. But this time it struck me and continues to strike me two weeks later. For one, the dumpster in question is less than 2 miles from my front door, right across from the Schnucks grocery store to which I occasionally make milk runs. But even more haunting to me was the fact that this child was born 10 weeks premature when our own Pumkin was 10 weeks from term. This idea took hold that all this time that Pumkin has been inside Moonshot, growing and getting ready for the world, this baby had been inside its mother, only a short walk away from us, growing and getting ready for the world as well. Their paths seemed so similar. But then this other child was born early, casually wrapped in plastic and thrown into a dumpster with the trash. Meanwhile, Pumkin’s home is being lovingly prepared for his/her arrival. It all seems so unfair and random. After spending so much time and effort getting ready for our child, I try but fail to understand the mindset that could allow someone to carry this child for 7 months, give birth, throw it way, and then just casually go to work. But that’s exactly what the mother did. The idea of this Pumkin from another vine entering this world so clearly unwanted continues to haunt me.

The happy ending to this story is that the child has several offers to adopt, so I have confidence that she will be ok in the end. I keep checking online for further details, but have found no recent news. I can’t help but wonder though, how the lives of Pumkin and this little girl who until two weeks ago was sharing so many of Pumkin’s life experiences will continue to diverge from here.

Parenthood: Exploited

During my nomadic days after I graduated college, I spent about 6 months living in the Miami area (Davie, specifically) with my cousin, Zilla. He is the only child of my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Goldwing, and he is perhaps the most infuriating person I have ever spent time with. In fact, he prides himself on this fact. He spent vast amounts of time trying to make me explode, just to prove that he could even get under the skin of someone as laid back as your narrator. It took him three months…but he did finally evoke a tantrum that involved me pounding the hood of his car and screaming obscenities in a crowded parking lot…but that’s another story. Zilla is a walking contradiction, a homophobic, homosexual, gun toting, web junkie with a fear of heights, a severely bad back, a love of corny jokes, and a knack for getting himself into the most bizarre situations. If ever I am asked to write a memoir, some of the best and most interesting stories will involve Zilla. Despite his love of aggravation, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him.

As I was preparing to continue my city hopping by trading Florida for New Orleans, Zilla began the process of adopting a child. He explained that he no longer wanted to be alone and that he felt he had a lot to offer a child. Since he didn’t like babies, he was willing to adopt an older child, a child statistically much less likely to get adopted. He went through the hoops required for adoption and shortly after I was settling down in St Louis, Zilla adopted an 11-year old son, “Brian.”

Over the last 6 years, I’ve stayed in touch with them through email and their occasional visits to Kansas City family functions. Things seemed to be going well. I often disagreed with Zilla’s parenting style, but I disagree with lots of people’s parenting style, so I didn’t pay too much attention. Brian seemed happy, Zilla seemed happy, and I was content to leave it at that.

A few weeks ago, I received a call from Jet. In a tone laced with foreboding, he asked if I had checked my email. The tone was the same one that had hidden behind my Uncle Jerry’s voice when he called to tell me about the death of my cousin Denny, a call too recent for me to miss the similar emotion in my brother.

“Why?” I asked “What happened?”

“Zilla’s been arrested,” he replied. “It’s all over the news in Florida. Apparently he’s been having sex with Brian and a whole bunch of other kids. I… You just have to see the footage.”

I rushed upstairs to find the email from Uncle Goldwing that Jet had described. It contained a painfully short letter from my uncle and a list of links to various Florida news sights. What unfolded from these sights was a nightmare of press coverage of my cousin’s arrest for having sex with his adopted son and other teens, filming it, and sharing it online. Phrases like “160 state indictments for child pornography”, “4 federal indictments”, and “life in prison” swirled in my head. Video of my aunt, Zilla’s mom, breaking through a line of reporters to get into Zilla’s house to be with her grandson and mug shots of a haggard Zilla kept playing in my mind even after I looked away. Sitting in the quiet of my upstairs office I watched from a distance the chaos that had engulfed my family. The events I was reading and watching had occurred almost a month ago. My uncle, unable to face the family with what was happening, had opted to suffer in silence for the first month. I felt helpless. I Googled every possible combination of my cousin’s name and various rephrasings of his alleged crime. The reports I found offered no new information, but I couldn’t stop. Like the inability to pull my eyes away from the television after September 11th, I couldn’t escape the notion that somehow, if I just kept looking, there would be different news or I’d catch some small detail that would help me make sense of it all. My uncle’s email had apologized that he “had no words of wisdom to explain any of this,” and I shared his loss for words as I wrestled with the horrible reality.

Even now, three weeks after that first email, I am still hard pressed to put my feelings on this matter into words. For the first several days I kicked myself for not recognizing the signs. I convinced myself that I should have known, and maybe I should have. Zilla had several traits that I should have paid closer attention to in retrospect. I’m not talking about his being gay. I still contend that his being gay had very little to do with this. I have a fear that much will be made in the press as this story continues about the fact that a gay man was able to adopt a young boy who he later molested. It seems like such a cliché that various groups will try to draw media attention to that angle. But that’s not what I mean when I say I should have known. Zilla had other issues.

I knew Zilla likes young men. Not illegal young as far as I knew, but young. I made my peace with this fact by reminding myself that most men I know, myself included, find their eyes wandering toward young women. This culture bombards us with images of 18 years old in various levels of undress, so I wasn’t too afraid of this similar trait in Zilla.

I knew Zilla likes some freaky, freaky porn. He delighted in showing me his latest web findings and particularly enjoyed it if he could make me turn away laughing, my face a mask of disgust. But even here I can’t throw stones. I myself have enjoyed the odd round of “Who can find the most disturbing Internet porn” with various friends. So, while it was clear Zilla was clearly more attracted to sexual taboos than I was, it didn’t seem like cause for alarm.

And finally, I knew that Zilla was, deep down, a sad and bitter man who often made himself feel better by bring those around him down. As when he pressed so hard to make me angry, he did so because he, himself, is an angry man and it made him feel better to watch as Mr. Reasonable blew his top. It justified his behavior.

I know many people who share variations on these character traits with Zilla. So the issue isn’t any one of them, it’s the combination that should have made me worry more. And I did worry, but obviously not enough. Before I left Florida, as he was going through the paperwork to adopt Brian, I was quite direct with my fears. I asked him if I should be worried that a guy with a taste for young men was about to adopt a boy. He responded with what seemed to me to be a reasonable level of disgust and explained that this was entirely different. I accepted him at his word and shoved it to the back of my mind. And even today, I believe that he meant it at the time. However, I clearly should have been reexamining the issue as his son, now 17, grew older. But, I was unable to believe such things in someone I knew. These are supposed to be the actions of horrible people whose faces are shown on TV, not by my cousin. Well, now my cousin is one of those people on TV and we’re all left trying to make sense of it.

I keep thinking about my uncle and aunt. Uncle Goldwing lives in New England with his wife, so he is somewhat removed from the chaos. But Zilla’s mom is in the middle of it. The press hounded her while she tried to juggle her split responsibilities to her son and to her traumatized grandson who she is now raising. But the distance does not shield my uncle from facing the same dilemma my aunt is going through as they both are forced to balance their love for their son and their disgust at what he has done. I cannot imagine.

Over the last eight months, Moonshot and I have spent many conversations imagining what Pumkin will be. Will he be a musician? Will she be a doctor? The possibilities are infinite. Once Moonshot brought up the question, what if Pumkin grows up and does something horrible? I waved the question away but now find myself facing it again. I’m sure my Uncle Goldwing had grand dreams of what his son would grow to be. And I’m sure that nowhere did a life sentence in a federal prison factor in.

So, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the scarier aspects of being a parent. I’m facing the idea that there are people in my neighborhood for whom the birth of a child was not something to celebrate but something to hide beneath a pile of garbage. I’m facing the fact that there is a member of my family whose base urges and weaknesses were greater than their desire to shelter and protect the son for whom he took responsibility. Their crimes, it seems to me, are related. They were unable, for whatever reason, to put the needs of their child above their own. Unable to accept the overpowering responsibility that is unconditional love for a child. But I am also facing my uncle and the concept that in the infinite possibilities open to my child’s life, a very few have the potential to display the cruel side of the burden that is unconditional love.

There is no question for me…no dilemma to resolve concerning my role as parent. I will love my child to the best of my ability and protect him from as many of the world’s ills as I can. I will put her needs above my own and do my best to learn from the examples of parenting I have before me…both the good and the bad. But I’ll accept this new role as parent knowing that I am accepting a burden that many cannot handle. And I acknowledge that in return for the exceptional joy of raising a child, I am opening myself to the possibility of all sorts of pain that wouldn’t otherwise find me. But for my Pumkin…I am ready to face these risks.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

People have been asking lately, “Where has Moksha Gren gone?” And it’s true, I’ve been away from the keyboard for a while…ignoring my blog responsibilities…ignoring you, my two or three loyal readers. And for that, I apologize. But I have reasons. Some of them are even valid. Others are almost embarrassing, but I’ll pull them all out for display.

Excuse #1) The Event I can’t talk about

Last week, news reached me that has had me pretty upset and has dominated my thoughts since it occurred. However, the news relates to people who were not yet ready to have these events discussed in public forum…so I was politely asked to wait to mention it in my blog. I was, of course, more than happy to respect their privacy, but it has lead to a lull in my writing since the one thing that keeps popping into my head, the one thing my brain would like to explore on paper is off limits for now as a literary discussion point.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about…sorry. This isn’t meant to be a teaser or to build up anticipation…I’m just venting what little I can.

***Update just prior to posting - I have been given permission to discuss this issue. But will do so in a future entry.***

Excuse #2) F’ing Flash Games

This one is a bit embarrassing, but I’ll fess up to it none-the-less. My brother, Jet has been working up at our new payday store for the last few weeks. Growth has been steady, but the first few weeks of a new store are always slow as you basically wait for customers to trickle in. In his down time he discovered Internet Flash games; these silly little video games you can play for free online. At first I was unswayed. Jet would play the games and I would work on tasks for my job through the home office. But over time I found myself looking over his shoulder and eventually trying to beat his scores. Damn this competitive streak. However, even at that point, I was still under control...just an occasional game here or there to pass a few idle minutes. But then I hit the mother load, a site that had compiled hundreds of these damned games into one spot. I played more and more often and eventually even started setting my laptop on a TV tray next to my bed so I could play as I fell asleep. Only one game in six or seven was worth playing for more than a minute or two, but that made it even worse. Now there was a gambling thrill in even choosing which game to play. In my quest for the next idle amusement, I jumped from game to game like some slot machine junkie running mad with her bucket of tokens. And the shear mass of games meant that even those few programs that were worth playing could keep me busy for days. And they did. I made it to level 15 on Splashback, and touched 159 balls on Ball Toucher. I frittered away hours on Ball and Cubedelic and enjoyed the mindless smashing fun of Black Knight. And the scary thing is that aside from Splashback, which Jet hooked me on, I’ve only made it up to D on the alphabetical listing of games.

So, while it’s true that I could have easily gotten around Excuse #1 and come up with other topics to write about (I still have several bios that need writing), I instead sank into the gutters of Flash addiction. I’m going to try to stay away from the cursed amusements this week so I can write more…but even as I sit here, E through Z are calling me.

Excuse #3) Moonshot put me to work
I’ll admit up front this is a pretty weak excuse and bound to get me in trouble when Moonshot reads this. It is one of the less significant reasons I did not make time to write recently. But it is a reason, so it will get listed.

The fact is, despite the late-night Flash sessions, the Gren household has been pretty productive of late. Moonshot has finally undone most of the damage my years of bachelor yard neglect inflicted to my grass and gardens. She has made slow but steady strides toward a beautiful yard. She does most of it, but occasionally she shoves me out into the heat and makes me do the man jobs: the hedge trimming, the rock moving, the weed eating, the gutter cleaning, etc.

Plus, with Pumkin’s tummy-escape approaching, Moonshot’s nesting instinct has kicked in and suddenly projects long procrastinated are finding their way to the front of our lists. So, Sunday and Memorial Day found us cleaning and reorganizing the unfinished section of our basement. This is the sort of job Moonshot loves. Getting rid of unused items, finding new and ever more efficient ways to store the few things that survive the purge, cleaning in every crevice, and making me hang shelving. Personally, I would have ignored this task for another 3 years, but I will admit…it’s truly an impressive sight to behold. I really should have taken some “before and after” pictures so that you could share my amazement…but I didn’t, so you’ll have to take my word for it. There is now a section just for our camping gear and yard games. We have a full-fledged recycling area. Boxes of family heirlooms like pictures and old 8mm film have been stacked lovingly in a specific closet. Holiday decorations are sorted and arranged for easy access. And I can one again see the surface of my tool bench and now have a basic inventory of what I have in stock. This especially is nice since I discovered that I own five nearly full boxes of 1 ¼” dry wall screws. Which means on 4 occasions I went to Home Depot and rebought them just because I had no idea I already had them.

Needless to say, after all that hard work…I needed a few Flash games to unwind.

Excuse #4) Blondie’s Birthday

This excuse is even weaker than #3 since it only covers one evening, but I’m claimin’ it. Saturday was our friend Blondie’s birthday party. We went out to Kobe Steakhouse, one of those Japanese flippity-flippity / cook-the-food-in-front-of-you / spin-the-egg-on-the-spatula type places. The room was outrageously hot, but the food was good. The company was good, but we found ourselves on the end of the table, unable to talk to too many people over the clang of knives and the roar of the exhaust fan. Dolly and Pinky’s Dad did his best to keep us company on our lonely end, but mainly we talked to each other. And I guess that’s not so bad…I mean, I did marry her and all.

Moonshot and I sullying the grill with our tofu and only had to face a few good-natured jabs. Our friends are slowly getting used to our meatlessness, which is still a relative oddity here in the Midwest.

Properly stuffed, we rolled our overfull selves to our cars after dinner and went out to Dolly and Duran’s place. They too have recently reclaimed their basement and were eager to show it off by hosting Blondie’s karaoke party. Their basement is a bit more impressive than ours since it is home to three TVs, ten or so retro gaming systems, a wet bar, and a festive tiki theme.
In all, the party was fun…although my enjoyment was diminished by my neurotic love-hate relationship with karaoke. You see, the problem is that I fancy myself a decent singer and really enjoy performing for a small crowd…so long as I’m doing what I consider to be my best effort. My family occasionally makes me break out my guitar at get-togethers and while I am always nervous, I usually end up having a blast and people seem to enjoy the show…at least enough to keep asking me to do it again. So, while I’m not amazing or anything, I like to think I’m ok. But karaoke is often problematic because I don’t know the songs. Oh, I know the chorus to almost every song on the list…but the versus are unknown to me. So Saturday night was an embarrassingly typical karaoke event for me. I stared at a twenty-page list of options for far too long, trying to remember if I knew the basic rhythm and structure of any particular song. This is especially hard to do when a different song is playing in the background. And the standard karaoke songs are the ones that you vaguely know, but haven’t heard in years. Anyway, I picked a song I thought was in my range and to which I was fairly certain I knew the rhythm. However, as usual, I got up there and butcher the verse. This pissed me off more than it should which then ruined my chorus which made me want nothing more than to get off the stage. So now I’m up there, mad at myself for screwing up, but equally angry with myself for being so upset in the first place. It’s psychotic, I know, but this feedback loop just continued until the song ended and I returned to my seat to sulk. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t deny it…I sulk. I try to be sociable and smile, but my mind keeps whirling with my internal dialogue brought on by karaoke.

“Why the hell are you so upset about this?”
“No idea, but it was horrible wasn’t it.”
“Yeah, it was, but only because you freaked out up there. Look around you. Most the people here are horrible singers, half of them are singing songs that they don’t know the words to, and everyone is having fun.”
“Yeah, that’s half of why I’m upset, that I get so worked up over something that is clearly just fun. The other half is that I, for some inexplicable reason, hang my evening’s self esteem on my singing ability.”
“Well, that’s just stupid.”
“Yup, and yet I’ll probably do it next time too”

And so it goes for the next hour or so until Moonshot lets me know that her back and feet are killing her and that she’d like to go if possible. In the car ride home, the internal dialogue above is replayed with my wife voicing the reasonable half of the conversation. She can only shake her head and let me know how insane I’m being.

Out of Excuses

Well, that’s all the excuses I can think of and pretty close to everything we’ve been up to since last time I posted. And since I've run out of excuses and have started feeling slightly uncomfortable about my Flash obsession, I have no choice but to sit down and write.