Saturday, March 27, 2010

I should have exposed myself in front of more people.

March 27, 2010

March Madness is all but over. My Xavier Muskateers gave the tournament a valiant effort as they made it to the Sweet 16 only to lose in dramatic fashion. It was a double overtime thriller with Xavier losing in the end 101-96. As I look at the remaining teams in the Elite 8, 3 are teams that XU lost to during the regular season-Butler, Baylor, and Kansas St; and the rest are big time programs that are the top teams in their conferences-Kentucky, Michigan St, Duke, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Perhaps you have heard of some of these programs. So when I evaluate Xavier's season, I judge how far they should have gone based on how they compare to the teams that are left. Xavier is one of the best 16 teams/programs in the country and proved that this year. Thanks to Chris Mack and the players. Jordan Crawford, please come back next year.

As far as Madeira Middle School's March Madness, that has ended as well. CJ has not received his grade yet, but he and his team performed well.   There were some other groups I found to be impressive as well, but of course, Stanford University was the best.  They had a Christmas tree set up to serve as the unofficial mascot, they had some red and black mylar balloons, and some peppermints with "S"s on them.  CJ toughed it out and did well.  He has always been better at oral presentations than I was at his age.  He proved it once again.

I was not exposed to presenting in front of people at a young age like the kids are today.  When asked to present our baseball coach his gift certificate at our after season party, I handed it to him and said, "I ain't no good at givin' speeches".  My father beamed with pride.

When given an assignment in 8th grade to give a persuasive speech, I chose a topic about why cigarette and beer commercials were banned from television.  (Maybe it was just cigarette commercials, I think I saw about 659 Bud Light commercials during the tournament).  There should be plenty of ways to make this exciting and make an emotional plea.  Filling 4 minutes should have been no problem.  I failed miserably.  I think I filled 240 seconds with about 296,345 ums.  You have to um very quickly to make that happen.  They blend together so you are actually not umming anymore, you are sounding more like stereo speakers with a bad hummmmmm.  Remember stereo speakers?  We had them in the 70's when I was in grade school.

I finally overcame my public speaking fear due to the following phrase, "Attention Kmart shoppers..."  My first job out of college was as a manger with Kmart.  They had the reputation of having a great manager training program, so I thought I would do that for a bit until I had enough experience to get out of retail.  Apparently, I do not have enough experience 23 years later, as I am still in retail management.  The best laid plans of mice and  22 year-olds gang aft agley.  Anyway, I was asked to go to a store that was closing/relocating to close the old location.  This involved running the store while the old team went to set up the new location.  Myself and a skeleton crew would process transfers for the good stuff and try to sell the not so good stuff.  All the other stores in the district sent us their not so good stuff to sell as well.  Talk about a clearing house for crap.  First, it was Kmart merchandise (pre Martha Stewart), second we were selling Kmart not so good stuff.  Therefore, to get rid of this stuff, we had to run a lot of Bluelight specials.  Remember those?  They used to be kind of a  big deal back in the 80's.  Without making this even longer with my editorials about Kmart in the 80's, I will just share with you that I was the guy on the intercom saying "Attention Kmart shoppers..." around 20 times per day.  While it was over a microphone and not technically in front of a group of people, it did help me overcome my fear of public speaking.  I was very lucky to not have told people to "come on over to the men's department where we are taking our pants down.." like some other announcer I knew.  It may have gotten a bigger crown over though and given me less stuff to transfer out later.  Ahh, hindsight really is 20/37. 

So the madness is over, and I have to return to work on Monday.  It should be AWESOME!!!  I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yes, you have to go to school, and no you can't throw up in my car!

March 24, 2010

The March Madness continues. I wish I were just talking about the basketball tournament. I love this time of year when college basketball rules, especially when my Xavier Muskies are in the Sweet 16. However, CJ's school has decided to emphasize the Madness part of March Madness.

Apparently, every year the 7th grade has a project called, you guessed it, March Madness. During the project the students are split into groups of 4 or 5 and given a school that was in last year's tournament (or the University of Cincinnati since they are local and can't seem to get into the tournament), and assigned a project leading up to a presentation. The project includes researching the school as if you will be selling it as the place to be for high school seniors. You find facts like enrollment, tuition, academic credentials, organizations and activities, and the perks of living in whatever city your college campus is in or near. It is a neat idea, and takes place over a 3 week period, but has turned into a real stressfest. I was thinking that leaving retail and becoming a teacher might not be a bad idea for me, but watching this ordeal may have been the mind-changer I needed. Getting 13 year-olds to coordinate this whole thing and turn it into a finished product is a lot like herding a bunch of cats onto a bus to go to the circus.

So being on vacation has enabled me to be a parent volunteer for a couple days of madness. I went to the school yesterday and listened to five of the groups practice their presentation. I would have given a couple A's, a B, a C, and a none of the above. Hopefully, the tips I gave each of the groups will bump them up to a good grade in the teachers' eyes. I am going back today as there are about 20 other groups that were not ready to practice yesterday. I am wondering how hungover the teachers are going to be today as I am quite sure they needed a visit to Happy Hour after school yesterday.

As for CJ, my non-biased opinion is that his group would get one of the A's yesterday. They have done a nice job of selling their school, Stanford. I am glad he got to learn something about Stanford as he will never be attending this fine institution. It is very far away and their admission standards are above where I see CJ headed in the next 6 years. Not that he isn't a good student or loaded with potential greatness, I am just not sure it is Stanford level greatness.

The stress is really getting to CJ though. He looked a bit liked death warmed over yesterday and woke up asking to stay home from school today. Staying home is not an option as his group has to present their stuff today and he had the poster board, school logo, and Stanford balloons here at home. We gave him some caffeine (my cure for everything), a throat lozenge, a pain reliever, and a pep talk. Since I will be there until lunch time, the bone we threw him is that if he makes it until lunch, I can bring him home with me then. We will see what happens. So far, so good as I drove him to school and he did not throw up in my car.

One of his group memembers is a friend of his named Kristian. Kristian has the energy of a 3 year-old at a Twinkie festival, so I am hoping that CJ can feed of of him this morning. Hmmm, twinkies, maybe that would have worked better than the Mountain Dew.

Well, I have to go to the school now, and perhaps stop at the grocery store on the way....

Monday, March 22, 2010

The GoGos got it right

March 22, 2010

It is now spring, and all I ever wanted is a vacation. CJ and Beth do not start their spring break until next week, but as it is the week before Easter, I could not get that week off work. So I am on vacation this week. It is much needed and off to a good start. This weekend Beth and I did some shopping and actually bought furniture for our house. It isn't that we never buy furniture, it is just rare. Even more rare is that we bought furniture to help us get organized. We were at Ikea and found a couple pieces to get our dining/everything room organized as well as our laundry/dressing room. The piece for the dining room is a Hemnes sofa table in black-brown color. It has cubbies and we can put our newspapers, school stuff, and assorted stuff in there and then actually have a dinner table to eat off of. If you saw the size of our dining table (approx. 4x7), you would know it is too large to be so covered you can't eat off of it. However, once we put the computer on there, the Sunday paper, and CJ's homework, we cannot find eating space anymore. It is not like the show Hoarders (there is some scary stuff), but still too much of a mess for us. Not any more, thank you. Sure, the cubbies of the new piece will soon be overrun with papers and stuff, but let's not angst over that right now.

The other piece is a dresser for the laundry room as that is where we get dressed after showering. It's been more practical for us to leave all the clothes down there. However, the piece we were using was an Organize It piece from Target that has not proven to be as functional as necessary. That is, unless you like the fact that the fronts of the drawers are coming off. While this does fascilitate its use, it's not really what we had in mind.

So I built the sofa table today. It took me about an hour or so and turned out really nice. If you ever come over to our house, please do not sit on said table. It is not that I did a poor job of assembly, it is that any ready-to-assemble furniture is generally held together with dowels and screws. Not strong enough for sitting.

Also today, I went to the gym, ate Wendy's for lunch, and played some Call of Duty. I know, pretty exciting vacation so far. As staycations go, this is all I really want.

Secretly, I did look up air fare and hotel fees for Salt Lake City, Utah last night. I got caught up a little in Xavier's birth into the Sweet 16, and thought that might be a good road trip. Then I found out it would cost me around $1000 for a one night stay and round trip air fare. Does anyone who reads this blog live in Utah? Want to give me a place to stay and tickets to the game? If I start driving now, I could make it.

Since no one reads this blog, the chances of someone stumbling upon it who actually lives in Salt Lake City are around 46891076351983365 to 1. I did the math. Check me if you want.

CJ just got home from school and I just got done telling him not to sit on the new piece of furniture. Apparently, it is the perfect height for sitting on. The odds of it falling apart if a 131 pound boy sits on it are around 4-1. I took physics never, but I read how to figure out the probability of full-force CJ on top of RTA furniture has to do with volume and mass and the amount of air in the room times the number of sandwiches the subject (CJ) generally has at McDonalds.

Please do not sit on the table.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It was an electric boogaloo

March 6, 2010

Do you ever look around your house at all the projects that need doing, and wish your significant other was handy? I know Beth does. It's not that I have never done anything around the house, but you can certainly tell which projects were done by a professional, and which ones by me.

The toe strips in our living an dining rooms that are separating from the wall and weren't measured very well-yeah, me.

The "extra" holes in the wall behind wall hangings from where my measurements were a bit off the first time-yeah, me.

The electric outlets that are upside down compared to the rest of the house-yeah, me.

The light switch that does nothing, while the one on the back porch turns on the dishwasher-only a slight exaggeration.

However, I have had some successes.

I fixed a toilet so it stopped running all the time by replacing its innards. Still works today.

I am a decent painter-the wall kind, not the Picasso kind.

I have changed many an outlet or light switch from the two hole kind to the three hole kind (was that too technical?) without getting culture shocked.

Quick funny story though. I did not learn any electrical/handyman type stuff from my father. If our home ever needed anything repaired, we just moved. It is difficult to repair anything with a smoke in one hand and a highball in the other. I think a beer makes it okay, but highballs come in glasses, not aluminum cans. Anyway, so I learned how to change outlets when we moved into our first house. I am smart enough to notice how things are wired when I pull them out of the wall and try to rewire it the same way when I put it back in. While my success rate is not 100%, I am tracking around 90%.

So this one time, my father-in-law and I were replacing a chandelier. We had already replaced a ceiling light in the hallway, and Beth came home from shopping and was excited that it was up and looked semi-normal. She had been looking for one that did not look like a big boob on our ceiling, and had succeeded. So Beth turned on the light switch for the hall light and remarked at how great it looked lit up. As Charlie and I were about to rewire the chandelier, it dawned on us that both lights were on the same breaker. Fortunately, we figured this out before either of us flew across the room or looked like Albert Einstein. I think we made it through all the projects with no injuries. That, to me, is a victory.

So why all this handyman talk? Well, we had a light switch that broke. It had nothing to do with my installation, but somehow Beth had broken the actual toggle doohickey away from the rest of the switch. Fortunately, it was in the on position, otherwise, we would have had to apply our deoderant in the dark.

So it came time to change out said switch and I asked CJ to help. He agreed, and I handed him the screwdriver. I told him this project was his, and I would coach him through it. Excited was he.

He found the right breaker, he unscrewed, he rewired, he screwed back in, he broke nothing, and the light came on. Sure, the first time all we had to do was flip one switch and both the light and fan came on, but we started over and got it right the second time. It turned out terrific. The only thing CJ did not do correctly was curse like a sailor whenever he would drop a screw. He may have learned that part better had he learned the task from his grand dads. "Well H***", or simply "*%#& a duck" were some standards from our dads.

Nonetheless, I was a proud papa and he was pretty proud of himself as well. Little does he know, my plans to send him to trade school instead of college are underway. Someday, we will need to sell this house and I need some cheap labor. Sure, he should be destined for a college education and may have the smarts to cure cancer, but this house really needs some drywall work and the kitchen appliances replaced. Do you think he will cut me a deal?