Month: February 2008

Well, it IS almost spring you know

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I’m in a rut!   (Get it? Rut…Mating season…Spring? I know at least ONE of my readers will get that reference)


No, no…not sexually or financially or professionally (well actually…). I mean, I’m in a dinner rut. I need new inspiration for cooking for the family. Currently, our dinner planning revolves around

  • – ground turkey (as I type this, I’m eating Hamburger Helper leftovers using turkey instead)
  • – steak
  • – chicken breasteses
  • – breakfast food (the old fallback)
  • – seafood (typically either Salmon or scrimps) 

And that’s about it. As you scan see, we’re carnivores, although we’re not averse to a good salad. I don’t cook much with pork really and I occasionally will do a roast, but the crockery in our Crock Pot cracked a while back and I haven’t gotten a new one, so slow cooking is out for the time being. This means no good soups or chili, or slow cooked roasts either.


Other exacerbating situations include a picky 4 year old who will sometimes eat, but usually not, and a 1 year old with front teeth but no molars, which requires soft foods and generally means that if we’re having a meat product for dinner, we have to come up something wonderful and different for him.


So I’m looking to you all for some mealtime inspiration. Here’s the requirements:

  • – Use of “in season” ingredients. I’m not paying through the nose for pineapple in the middle of winter
  • – Prep time under 30 minutes
  • – Though we love spicy food, we should keep it on the down-low spice-wise for the kiddies
  • – Relatively low fat and healthy

Gimme your best recipes, kid tested if possible and I’ll give them a try.


On a mission for (some) GOD!

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(A Note to my (2) readers: This is a long and rambling post about church. If you’re not a churchy kind of person, you might wanna skip this one) 


After our “regular” churches’ tithing sermon a few weeks ago (see: And the Lord Sayeth...) CareerMom and I decided it was time to look elsewhere for our spiritual infilling. CareerMom fairly recently attended a church north of us called “NorthPoint Community Church,” and lacking any other candidates, I agreed that we should check it out. She had warned me that it was “big” though, so that I could mentally prepare. She’s used to big church crowds having attended that huge church out in Texas presided over by Joel Osteen, but I’m more of a medium-sized kinda guy, so I was psyching myself up the whole time I was getting ready.


Now that we have kids, it’s important to me that our new church have a good kids’ program. I mean, I can deal with preaching that isn’t that great, but if I’m going to go through all the hassle of getting the kids ready and dragging them to church, I want them to do more than just cry the whole time they are there. 


Let me just say that, regarding the size of this church, BIG would be an understatement! On the way there, we were ushered by numerous off-duty policemen and “volunteers” through a maze of orange cones and jean-clad worshippers, all the way over to the “G” section of the lot, which was by no means the furthest out.  I mean, we parked farther out than I usually park at the mall during the Christmas rush. 


We finally made our way across the parking lot and into the church, where we were greeted by a huge crowd of people milling about and apparently going nowhere. Luckily there were signs and we finally made our way over to the kids’ section and were directed to a registration desk where, after multiple attempts at getting all of our contact and personal information, I finally said to the lady, “We’re not sure we’re going to attend here full time, so we’re not really interesting in getting on your mailing list.” I can only imagine what went through the lady’s head, but folks, I don’t dig crowds, so my patience was already wearing thin.


A teen volunteer walked with us to the boys’ classrooms–such was the immensity of the children’s area–and ensured we got them properly registered. At his class, MLI (My Little Introvert = my oldest son) clung to my leg and a nice older lady had to pry him off me while CareerMom and I beat a hasty retreat to the sanctuary. 


Apparently you have to get to this church really early to get a seat, and after circling the back of the auditorium only to come up empty, I finally half-ran over to the far edge where there were a few empty seats on the periphery. As we came to find out, those seats were empty because the view was like being behind the speakers at a rock concert; you just couldn’t see much.


But the band played and the music was good. The whole production, which is what it was, a production, was as good as I’ve seen at some concerts and the nerd in me reveled at the engineering marvel that was the lighting, the sound setup and all the other hooplah that went into it. 


But you know…I couldn’t really have cared less. I sat there thinking, “If I were 16 again, this would totally pull me in.” But I’m not 16 anymore and all this, to me, was just a show. Nothing more. 


The pastor came out and gave his sermon, which was good in that it wasn’t “preachy.” It was a lesson morelike, something that everyone could relate to. The ending was simple and abrupt though. There was no, “If you felt led by the Lord to come here today, we’d like to pray with you” invitation like I’m used to. There was no real “call to action” per se to follow up on all that we had seen and heard. I was a bit disappointed, not because I was longing for some public invitation to come up to the front and be prayed over (snort! Not bloody likely!), but I longed to get something personal out this public spectacle and there was nothing. 


After the dismissal, we went and fetched the kids, who were generally fine, though far from excited. We made our way back to the car where neither CareerMom nor I spoke about the service, which is odd since we usually do. I think it was obvious that this church wasn’t my thing and I think she was conflicted as well.

A church this size, I just don’t get it really. I want to tell her that for me, church is something that I can take or leave, but that I’ll go for her and the kids. But I know that if I speak that out loud, it will ruin something about the experience for her. I’ve changed spiritually since she met me and the last time I tried to broach the subject, it didn’t end well and I’m not anxious to revisit it.


I don’t know though. I’m torn. I want my kids to have a spiritual basis; I feel that a child needs something to believe in even if their beliefs change significantly as they get older, like mine have. But at the same time, what value is there in attending church if they are going to be miserable the whole time? 


I also have to question a church setup like this that requires scores of people to logistically pull off.  I found out that this church has a remote site in town where scores of people come and watch the pastor on TV remotely as he broadcasts from the location we attended. This begs the question of what is the difference between that and watching a televangelist? Other than rubbing elbows with a few friends, all you’re doing is increasing the amount of donations that DON’T go into outreach programs and instead go to fund a sanctuary that doesn’t even house a pastor. 


To me, it’s mind-boggling. I don’t know how Christianity got to this place, but I know that the more of it I see, the more I want to retreat to a medium-sized church where I know a few people, my kids learn about Jesus—maybe drink some Kool Aid—and where I know that the bulk of my donations aren’t going to go towards paying the power bill. 


I don’t know what I want in a church really. I want anonymity so that if we miss a Sunday (or two) people don’t freak out and want to come over and pray for us, but I also want to make some spiritual friends, preferably some who feel as I do (misery LOVES company right?) and who I can talk to about spiritual things without feeling like some sort of ingrate. I also want our kids to have wholesome friends, rather than just the hoodlums they are bound to meet in the public school system. I want depth and intelligent insight from my pastor, and I also want good, heartfelt music, not just the latest bass-driven worship music played over the Christian radio. For that, CareerMom wants to donate some time to the kids and I will be more than happy to pitch in and use my handiness talents to help others.


It seems like a lot, and finding it would be asking for perfection, which, last I checked, only Jesus was credited with achieving. Oh well, we’ll just keep looking. Sooner or later we’ll find a winner.


We’re Rolling Back Prices on Shin Splints!

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When you’re young–and I’m talking a teenager here–you don’t always think about what you’re doing in terms of how it reflects on you personally. No teen ever asked him or herself whether flipping burgers was a noble endeavor, or whether or not when, years from now and they’re running for office, if anyone will look back and go, “Him? Seriously? Man, that dude was THE WORST fry cook we ever had. I wouldn’t vote for him.”


No, most teenagers are just working to put gas in their car and date money in their pocket. Well, boys are anyway. I have no idea what teenage girls do with their money other than buy more makeup and too-tight jeans. But anyway…


When I was a teen, I held a number of jobs. At 15, I worked in a plant nursery. We did everything from putting the tiny little plants in pots, to rolling out football-field lengths of black plastic in the Alabama summer, and then later moving the plants in various stages of growth from one end of the field to another; an effort I never quite fathomed the reason for. It was tolerable if only because of the Black-Widow spider killing contests we had amongst ourselves (they LOVE tropical humidity in greenhouses!) and the hour-long lunch break we all took lying under the shade trees eating our crappy lunch while listening to Aerosmith on the little transistor radio. 


That job, while probably the most honorable one I had as a teen, was thankfully only a summer job. I got a great tan from working shirtless, but it was backbreaking work. From there I moved on to a Catfish restaurant, where I started out as–what else–a dishwasher, and eventually informally ran the kitchen on the weekends. Finally tiring of smelling like fried seafood all the time, I got a job with the local Wal-Mart.


Now, let me explain that a job a Wal-Mart then, at least for a teen-age boy, was like manna from heaven. The hours were decent; you didn’t have to do any really dirty work, and you got to watch hot schoolgirls (then, MILFs weren’t on my radar) come shopping with mom on the weekends. Hoping to score a job working inside the store as an “Associate” (that’s what Wal-Mart called ALL employees then), I instead got probably the lowliest job in the whole place next to the guy who has to clean out the toilets. I became a “stockman.” 


A sexist name to be sure, but there weren’t too many girls who could do that job. We did everything from keeping the floors clean using brooms and vacuums, to taking out the garbage, to running the layaway items up and down two flights of stairs to and from storage (this was a killer leading up to Christmas). Oh, and did I mention we also had to corral the buggies? 


Buggy patrol was a blessing and a curse. The blessing part was that you were able to get out of the store—out from under the thumb of the bossman—and get some fresh air out in the parking lot. And if you saw a few good looking ladies driving around the parking lot with their skirts hiked up in the car where they thought nobody could see them, well, that was just extra. The bad side was, those daggum buggies are heavy. And if it’s cold outside, those buggies got cold. If it was raining, they were wet. It was also mind-numbingly boring and sometimes I’d see how many buggies I could safely push in an effort at getting at least some exercise out of the whole thing. For this, I developed shin splints which made my next job–boot camp–horribly painful. All that to say, that there was really nothing inherently good about buggies per-se, but the duty was something I viewed with mixed emotions.


But back to my original idea about doing things as a teen that you might later look back on with regret…


One of my local supermarkets here, employs “mentally challenged” individuals—whether out of some real desire to help them out, or because they think it will score points with the shoppers, I don’t know. I do know that they sometimes creep me out though and the whole time I’m sitting there waiting to pay for my groceries, I’m emotionally at war over whether or not to look at them and perhaps say something (the urge to give them a Jim Carrey-like thumbs up comes over me most times) or whether to just ignore them completely. Usually I take the easy way out and just pretend as if they aren’t there.


But what is perhaps the biggest slap in the face, is that one of their primary jobs is–Yep, you guessed it: Buggy Patrol!


Looking back, I’ll admit that I’m more than only mildly insulted that adults deemed me worthy of pretty much the same job that they now give to the mentally handicapped. I mean, what does that say about my interviewing skills as a teen? Did I even form a coherent sentence when I talked to the manager about the job? Was I so slovenly that they took one look at me and knew that there was no way I could possibly straighten an endcap? 


I don’t know. But it does make me wonder what it’ll be like in another 20 years. Will some mental midget be sitting here at a computer banging out marketing concepts just as I’m doing now? Maybe computers will be so smart by then that they can subsidize any missing brain capacity of the user and corporations will employ that sector of our society, rather than us college folk, and pay them a pittance in return for catchy phrases like, “Where’s the Beef?”


May-be, but until then, I own this job, and right now, there’s a pot of coffee that isn’t gonna make itself. Take THAT Sam Walton!

Ixnay on the iseaseday!

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They (being the medical community) really shouldn’t give two very different diseases/conditions similar names. Really, it just causes panic and confusion.


MLE (My Little Extrovert = my youngest son) was all smiles and grinning last night as I lay in bed half-dead to the world from some temporary illness that rendered me incapable of doing anything but playing Unreal Tournament 2004 Online and reading my spy novels (it was a very odd and selective illness that I had). But, the minute we put him to bed, he started crying and such. This went on until about 11:45, after which he quieted down and slept the rest of the night. 


This morning, he wasn’t his usually happy self upon waking and when CareerMom tried to leave him at daycare, he just fell apart. Knowing this wasn’t normal and suspecting he had a bit of a fever, she took him to the doctor where they proceeded to diagnose a fever, a bad ear infection and an ulcer that, “…you should keep an eye on in case he is getting Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.”


I’m pretty ignorant regarding most of these conditions, so parlay that into a Google search term for the chronically lazy typer, and here’s what you get: “foot mouth disease”


Holy Crap! My kid’s gonna die!


But wait…it says, “not to be confused with hand, foot and mouth disease…”


A huge effin difference people of the medical community who name diseases! Gimme a friggin heart attack why dontcha?


So, worst case scenario, he gets a bunch of little bumps on his hands, mouth and feet and we have to keep him home from daycare for a while. I mean, not the best scenario I could imagine, but certainly better than the alternative. I’m just sayin’, couldn’t they just call the bad one “livestock disease #453”?  Then, there would no confusing it with a common infant malady at all.

To your good health!

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This being the big campaign season and all, CareerMom and I are constantly on guard that we don’t fly off the handle against those who speak ill of our country’s medical woes. To be sure, medical care is expensive; I don’t think anyone is discounting that, but I don’t think the average person understands what drives this medical economy so hated by “the lower and middle classes.” 

But perhaps I should explain: CareerMom works for a pharmaceutical company. There, I said it! 

My mom was here this past weekend for our son’s birthday. Her husband and her brother have a lot of medical issues, and as a result, they take a lot of drugs. For reference, I used to take approximately 30 pain pills for my back in a month’s time; her husband takes 120. I honestly don’t know how the guy functions, but it does explain why all he does when he comes and visits is sleep.  

My mom’s older brother has a heart condition compounded by other, as of yet undiagnosed problems, and the best the doctors can do is keep trying different medications. So, they both have a lot of medical costs and to be fair, neither my mom, nor her husband work for companies with great medical coverage, and her brother, though still in his 50s, is technically disabled and on Medicaid. This weekend, mom and her husband both lauded the praises of Barack Obama, but like so many Democratic voters, didn’t really back their praise up with any reasons other than, “We need a change.”  

They also made several comments against doctors and drug companies, and I gently tried to remind them who CareerMom and I can thank for our blessings (other than God of course) and how we can provide for our children like we do; my career notwithstanding.

But what I REALLY wanted to tell her, were a few facts. Perhaps I’ll share them with you: 

1. To develop and bring a new drug to market, it costs a drug company, on average, more than $800 million dollars. That’s regardless of whether the drug is something exoteric like a pain pill, or something more niche such as an anti-depressant. And after spending all this money, only about 5% of drugs that go through research and development, ever make it to the market.  

2. CareerMom’s company has been working on a drug for almost ten years, and it is probably not going to ever see the light of day because the FDA wants even more clinical testing that will cost approximately $300 million, which is more than the projected market will ever pay back.  

3. Depending on the type of disease(s) the drug treats, the patent life on a new drug is usually only about 5-7 years. Which means that in those 5-7 years, the drug company really needs to recoup most of its money spent on developing the drug before cheaper generic drugs come out and wipe out their profits. 

So when people complain about the cost of drugs, I have only one question for them, “What would happen if drug companies gave away their drugs at the price that would make most people happy?” 

The answer is, “They would lose money.”

If they lose money, what happens?

They can’t invest in new drugs.

If they can’t invest in new drugs, what happens?

Drug companies go out of business and even more people suffer and die.  

It’s very simple really if you follow the logic rather than simply reacting from the gut.  Just something to think about as you listen to your favorite candidates.

My boys are growing up!

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The 19th was my youngest son’s first birthday, but we did a little celebration on Sunday eve instead. Being his first, we didn’t make a big deal of it. I’m sure he won’t remember it anyway, so why go through the expense. CareerMom ordered from Olive Garden and despite their deplorably hokey commercials (“Just because it’s Monday!”), the food was actually very good and everyone had a great time. 

If you have Publix grocery stores around you, you know that if you buy a birthday cake, they give you a smaller smashable one for the child to destroy. I don’t know what size kid they feel the need to make this big ol’ smashable cake for, but hey, it’s their flour (and my money I guess).


 Like my oldest son’s first birthday, my youngest didn’t really smash the cake; only mushed it up with his fingers a bit before attempting to get it in his mouth and mostly getting it ON his face.  But he’s a year old now. He’s walking; he’s doing some limited sign language to tell us what he wants, and before long he’ll be talking and dating and having “the sex!”  Oh Lord, make it stop! 

Sometimes I want them to hurry up and get out of this “hold me” all the time phase, but then when I think of the alternative, I want to freeze this moment in time. Boy do I love these little guys!

What’s NOT in my wallet

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For years, my bank of choice was Bank of America (BOA). I had my checking and savings account with them for nigh on eight years. Due to selling a house, and a couple of rather nice tax refunds, a few times I had enough money in my checking account (albeit temporarily) to qualify for a “Gold” account. Rather than asking me if I’d like to upgrade, they just did it. Subsequently, after I moved the money, usually within a matter of days, they turned around and fined me for not meeting the “Gold” account’s minimum. After the third time they did this, I got fed up and cancelled everything I had with them.


If you track financial dealings at all, you’ll know that BOA is now one of the largest players in the banking industry. My last credit card (a Platinum rewards card) issuer was bought out by BOA last year and because I liked the card, I stuck it out with BOA. Until recently.


I made a payment on the 8th of last month, then I made another payment on the second of this month. Unfortunately, my billing cycle apparently runs wonky and rather than having made two payments in two months, I made two payments in one month. To make a long story short, BOA ticked me off with a late fee that they refused to remove, so I quit them…again. 


I need a credit card for sundry monthly expenses and just because these days you need a credit card. So, I went online to a couple of these Credit Card compare Web sites and eventually settled on a “Diamond” rewards card from Capitol One with a fairly low rate. I applied, and thanks to my 784 credit score, was approved immediately. 


When I got the card in the mail, I reviewed the details. Everything looked hunky dory until I got to the “Credit Limit” field and it said, “$1,000.00.”  

A thousand dollars? I couldn’t even buy a refrigerator with that, much less book a vacation or finance my takeover of a third-world country. Thinking that maybe this was some kind of introductory, “Call us and let us try to upsell you a toaster, and while you’re on the phone we’ll up your limit” kind of thing, I called their no-customer service line only to be told that nope, $1,000 is my limit. When I asked what they based it on, they said my credit score and my credit history with Capitol One.


Well, I DON’T HAVE a credit history with Capitol One, so I guess that outweighed my perfect credit. So, I told the fellow on the phone to cancel this card too. He was staggeringly unconcerned, “Thank you sir for calling Capitol One, is there anything else I can do for you?”


I hung up.


Without going through the litany of debt I have held and/or paid off over the last 15 years, and my current situation, $1,000 is an insult. Though I’ll admit, I never thought I’d get upset over not being offered enough credit. I often scoff at the commercials that use the buzz phrase, “Get the credit you deserve” thinking it stuffy and pretentious, but I’m coming to realize that I fit that demographic. At this point in my life, there are few things I think I deserve:

         15 minutes of quiet bathroom time each day (What? I read…)

         A guilt-free day of golf once every month and a half

         A fine cigar if I’m out with the guys

         Good running shoes

AND some friggin CREDIT!

Otherwise, what the heck am I working so hard for?