Candy Crush Flatulence


I posed a simple question on Facebook last night and based on my expert analysis of the replies, I have concluded that playing Candy Crush Saga on FB must be a lot like passing gas – few seem to want to admit to stinking up the room.

But I can’t stop thinking that those who secretly play the game are giggling into their hands every time I receive an invitation to join them.

If it seems like I’m trying to avoid you …


thermostatLeaving the house lately has been a lot like being faced with the “Walk of Shame.” In fact, showing my face anywhere right now fills me with trepidation. All I want to do is put on a hat, slip on some shades, duck my head and get through it without talking to anyone.

But I can’t.

Because everyone knows I caved. At least, all my Facebook friends know. And now, if you read further, you’ll know, too. And then you’ll want to ask questions I’m ashamed to answer.

My first mistake was making public my campaign to not be the first in our house to turn on the air conditioner. But posting about it on Facebook was a small blunder compared to the most fatal, grievous, calamitous and downright crushing mistake I made.

I eventually implied in my Facebook posts that I was in a battle of wills with my ultra-competitive wife.

She just didn’t know it.

Not at first, at least.

She eventually found out last week when I informed my FB friends that it was so hot and humid inside our house that my wife appeared “close to breaking,” and that I thought I would soon “claim victory for lasting the longest without turning on the AC.”

When a mutual friend tagged her in a comment that post became my downfall. She turned to me and said, “I didn’t know we were competing.” Then she calmly told me that “if this is a contest, you know you’re going to lose.”

Actually, I’m sort of surprised she hadn’t busted me sooner. The post that ignited her competitive side was just one in a series I had been writing on Facebook.

It started innocently enough with a non-confrontational status update wondering “how long I could resist the siren call of the air conditioner.”

A few days later, I followed it up with another fairly innocuous post expressing relief that cooler temperatures were in the forecast.

A friend of mine then posted a picture of a box fan set up inside a window to encourage a cool breeze.

It went back and forth like that until I finally crossed the line. Last week, I mentioned my wife for the first time when I said I thought we were playing “a sick game of who can last the longest without turning on the AC.”

If I had just left it there, I wouldn’t be going incognito in public right now. But I had to follow it with posts and replies suggesting my wife and I were engaged in a supreme struggle that would scare even our soon-to-be teenage daughter, who is no stranger to conflict.

And then my wife discovered the “close to breaking post” and made it clear that she was anything but.

I spent the next few days gently suggesting that we put aside our contest, that if our tongues hung out of our mouths any further we might be mistaken for our thoroughly miserable dog, Rodney.

But she had a “you started it, I’m finishing it” attitude.

Even our kids were no help. Our daughter took my wife’s side and even wanted a cost analysis between running the air conditioning and all the fans I had running full blast throughout the house. Our teenage son, meanwhile, was oblivious to the whole thing. He spends most of his time at home in our comfortably cool basement pretending he doesn’t live with us.

Eventually, I caved and now I’m suffering the ignominy of having flipped the switch at a moment of craven weakness.

You might be wondering, if I’m so ashamed, why am I admitting to all this?

It’s for husbands who have ultra-competitive wives like mine.

Never let them know you’re competing with them if you want temperatures to cool down at your house.

My Life In Lists


As I settled into my favorite chair to begin fleshing out this column, my wife, as if on cue, rushed out the door for work promising to send me a list of things to get at the grocery store.

Unless she somehow read my mind, she couldn’t have known I was planning to write about how lists seem to have:

1) Taken over my life, specifically.

And,

2) The world, generally.

Can anyone escape lists these days?

They are ubiquitous.

Lists are splashed all over magazine covers in check-out lines everywhere. The Internet is littered with them. Even The Journal publishes a “Top Three Things to Know” each day.

At least the lists my wife sends me are more immediately relevant. Without their guidance, I’d probably end up stuck in the bathroom because I forgot to bring home toilet paper … again.

Since I’m not likely to ever be rid of lists, I’ve decided to join the crowd and come up with one of my own.

So without further delay here are the “Top Six Things I’m Thankful for As Thanksgiving Approaches.”

1) I’m thankful my friends on Facebook haven’t yet seen fit to give me a number. I in no way want to feel obligated to share a list random facts about myself online. I’d much rather do that here in the newspaper.

2) I’m thankful I haven’t had to borrow the neighbor’s ladder. The roof over my head hasn’t sprung any leaks, lately. However, the next big storm that blows through may prove me wrong.

3) I’m thankful that our ancient heat pump is still in working order. It may sound like a wheezy old man when it kicks on but it still coughs up enough heat to warm the house … sort of.

4) I’m thankful that my lawn mower made it through the summer. It’s also teetering toward wherever lawn mowers and heat pumps go in their old age, but it made it through another summer without a white sheet being thrown over it.

5) I’m thankful that our kids seem to be okay despite being outed on a regular basis in the newspaper.

And,

6) I’m thankful that my wife is back at work.

I’m especially thankful for that last one.

My wife started a new job this week. But between leaving her old one and starting her new one, she had a week off.

Which means she was home with me.

Which means she probably saw right through me.

Because I work nights and weekends, I usually have time during the day with little distraction from things like the Doctor Who marathon on BBC America, which is preparing for tomorrow’s (Saturday 11/23) 50th anniversary special.

But with my wife home last week, I had to appear busy. So among other things I:

1) Made the bathrooms sparkle.

2) Vacuumed the carpets.

3) Rearranged the furniture in the family room to her satisfaction.

4) Took care of the grocery shopping.

And,

5) Somehow managed to trick her into thinking I helped accomplish the tasks on the list of “Things To Do” she keeps in her head.

It was exhausting. And, if it had gone on any longer, my kids would not be the only ones outed around my house.

By the end of the week I came to this conclusion — if there is one thing that tops a list of rules to live by as my wife and I look toward the future, it’s:

1) She is not allowed to retire.

Because if she does, my scam is over.

Getting a Clue


I readily acknowledge being clueless about a lot of things.

For example, when I sat down to write this column, I had no idea how it would turn out.

I was out of inspiration. Nothing occurred to me remotely worth writing about.

I usually write on Thursdays. But I went to bed the night before worried that I wouldn’t make the paper’s deadline. Then I spent more than an hour at the Spring Mills McDonalds late Thursday morning, still out of ideas while waiting for my son, whose high school marching band has already begun rehearsals.

However, after a while I just started stringing sentences together. I wrote the greater part of this column sitting beneath the restaurant’s flat screen TV. President Obama was on CNN at the time. He was making remarks about his health care law.

I carefully chose my perch, picking a space I thought would keep me out of the way of most patrons. But then the lunchtime rush hit and the restaurant filled up fast. At one point, a mother and her four young children crowded in close to me happily devouring their happy meals.

I probably should have gotten up to make room for others to sit. But I’m clueless, remember?

It’s a flaw.

I apparently have trouble reading subtle and not so subtle hints from others. Either that or, as in this case, I simply (selfishly?) choose to ignore them.

My wife might agree with that. She spent a long time training me to fold laundry.

Among the ploys she uses to get me to fold clean clothes without actually telling me to involves leaving them piled high in a basket in front of the chair where I sit watching TV.

I used to just scoot the basket out of the way, a fruitless balancing act not unlike trying to move a house of cards. It often ended with my wife arriving home from work to clean clothes strewn all over the floor, no longer freshly laundered.

laundry

These days, I make sure our clothes are folded by the time she strides through the door (I still draw the line at matching socks, though).

My cluelessness got me into a little trouble earlier this week when my wife posted a cell phone text on Facebook.

It was from our daughter:

kc text

Our daughter made that observation as we were leaving the mall. I had taken her there because she needed to get her BFF a birthday present.

We got in, she got what she needed, and we got out. I still don’t know what she was complaining about.

Clueless – except when it comes to my car.

Unfortunately, I’m all too aware of its flaws, and when its engine light comes on, I get nervous.

That’s because history has taught me that I’m in for major repairs, the latest being a new transmission nearly two months ago.

The engine light came on as I was taking my son home from marching band, so I dropped him off and headed straight for the dealer where I sat in front of another flat screen television with CNN on and wrote the rest of this column.

There’s nothing like waiting for your car at a dealership to motivate you to get a clue.

***

By the way, I had a chance to see the Apollo Theater’s production of the popular musical Annie this week. It’s being presented by the kids who are participating in the Apollo’s Youth Summer Theater Workshop. My daughter is in it. What more do you need to know?

apollotheater

What I Should Have Said To The Class of 1982


My gut told me not to do it, that speaking at my old high school’s commencement exercises would end up being a bonehead move.

But my wife told me to suck it up (my resolve, not my gut, although now that I think about it she probably meant that, too).

Now, I’m left to deal with the aftermath of what will probably go down as the single most cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever done, topping even the time I persuaded Mitt Romney to do a quick interview only to have the batteries in my mini-disc recorder die.

He patted me on the shoulder and said, “Well, maybe next time” and hustled off.

Last September, I received a phone call from my old high school – George Washington High in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. The president of this year’s senior class left me a voice mail, offering a prime speaking spot at his graduation ceremony. He wanted me to deliver the keynote address.

I wanted to say no.

I very nearly said no.

When I called him back, no was on my lips – mainly because speaking to an auditorium packed with actual people staring back at me is not my idea of a relaxing way to spend an evening. I may speak to a nationwide audience as a radio newscaster, but I don’t have one in the studio watching my every move while I’m doing it.

But since my wife encouraged me to accept, I threw reticence to the wind and spent the next seven months constantly worried that I would find a way to embarrass myself.

And. I. Did.

As fate would have it, on the day I was to deliver my remarks, I noticed on Facebook that some of my classmates from 1982 were posting about how proud they were of their kids who were in this year’s graduating class.

I thought it would be nice to mention my old friends and praise them for a job well done.

My tribute to them was among the first words to come out of my mouth after I stepped up to the podium.

They were also among the last words to come out of my mouth.

As I was wrapping up my remarks, I could not for the life me, recall what I had done just five minutes before. So I made a spur of the moment decision and repeated, word for word, what I said at the beginning of my speech.

I’m sure there were some in the audience who thought I’d been drinking. But I remained oblivious to my slip-up through the rest of the ceremony. It was only later, when I started replaying my speech in my head that I started to wonder. Then I messaged a friend who had been in the audience and his three word reply was, “Yes, you did.”

I’ve had time to think about what happened and have come up with what I would say if I could all do it all over, again.

I would still wrap things up by addressing my 1982 classmates in the audience.

But instead of offering praise, I would have apologized for spending the years immediately following our graduation running away from them, for trying to put as much distance as I could between me and George Washington High School, for attempting to reject and forget the years we spent together.

I even tried to reject our reunions, dismissing them as a waste of time.

But the truth is, I’ve never missed one and I figured out why after speaking to the Class of 2013.

It’s because I care.

I care about my classmates.

All of them.

They are the kids I got into trouble with so many years ago and they are the kids who are a part of me now.

I’m just bummed it took a bonehead move in front of a hometown audience for me to realize that.

If you’re interested, here’s the text of my remarks to George Washington High School’s Class of 2013.

First off, I’d like to thank Jihad Dixon for his kind introduction and Principal Aulenbacher for bringing me in to speak to you tonight.

I’d also like to offer a shout-out to my friends from my graduating class – the Class of 1982. I understand a few of you are here tonight that you have kids graduating. Congratulations. You got them through it.

I have to admit to some nervousness and it’s not just because I have this irrational fear that I’ve been somehow been found out and that GW has called me back to this stage because it wants its diploma back.

It’s also because I’ve got a lot of eyes staring back at me. You wouldn’t think that would bother me too much considering that I make my living talking to people on the radio. But the thing is, I normally do my job by myself – it’s just me and the microphone. Tonight, it’s me, the microphone on this podium and all of you. I’m simply not used to an audience.

I’m also a little spooked because – well, let’s face it, I keep up with the news. It’s my job. So I’m aware of the issues you’ve been facing over the past few months.

These are issues that strike at the core of who I am as a journalist.

I was asked back in September to be here tonight – mainly, because I am someone who has achieved some small measure of success.

I had planned on delivering a standard speech and still do – one intended to inspire and perhaps amuse as you accept your diplomas on this stage tonight – the same stage where I accepted my high school diploma 31 years ago.

In the time between then and now I became a journalist. That means I have an obligation to report facts. It’s not my job to make judgments about them. I’m a journalist, not an opinion writer.

But I can say this.

I am encouraged that there is a debate going on within the G.W. Community – over issues that form the cornerstone of journalism.

I believe these issues need to be hashed out from to time to time – if only to remind ourselves that we are Americans.

And frankly, the debate that has engulfed our school reminds me of why I became a journalist and the opportunities that my chosen profession has given me.

I’ve talked to movers and shakers — governors and presidential candidates; state lawmakers and congressmen; union members and business leaders.

I’ve experienced the excitement of anchoring newscasts on election night and the anguish of going live on-air in the middle of the night with an NPR reporter who was stationed a world away just after a devastating earthquake struck China.

I’ve covered issues big and small.

I even got to talk to a former Russian cosmonaut once and for someone who is as obsessed by Star Trek as me, let me tell you, that was one of the high water marks of my career so far.

But the most important story I ever told was that of a woman who had just lived through the trauma of a devastating flood in southern West Virginia. I interviewed her while she sat on the front porch of her damaged home. It was probably going to have to be torn down. But the most heartbreaking thing? She had just lost her husband the month before.

It was a privilege to bring her story out and it’s why I got into journalism in the first place – to give a voice to the voiceless and to shed light on the human experience.

I’d like to leave you tonight with something my mother once told me.

She borrowed a line from a man who I would say is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Joseph Campbell. She told me to “follow my bliss.” To be happy in what I do. Mainly because I’m going to be doing it for a really, really long time.

That’s when I started to realize that my mom wasn’t as stupid as I thought she was when I was high school.

My mom told me to pursue what makes me happy at a time when I was struggling and thinking that perhaps journalism was not the right path for me to take. But I took her advice to heart and while I may not be as financially gifted as some others that I graduated with back in 1982, I am incredibly happy with how things turned out. And, I have my mother to thank for keeping me on track.

Now, the thing about pursuing what makes you happy is that you have to know where you came from – and for people like us – people who have a shared history – George Washington High School is a big part of where we came from.

Look around you. The people you are graduating with tonight helped shape who you were yesterday, who you are right now and who you will be in the future.

You all are members of a huge extended family and I would urge you not to forget that.

Besides, when you least expect it – GW has a way of reeling you back in.

Here’s what I mean by that.

After my wife and I moved our family to the Eastern Panhandle and I started commuting to my NPR job in Washington, DC, the last thing I expected was an immediate reminder of where I came from.

My wife came home one day and asked me if I had gone to high school with a fellow – let’s say his name is David Smith. She said she had just met him and that he lived a few doors down from us.

I thought it couldn’t be the same guy. But sure enough, I was out walking our dogs a few days later and there he was.

This particular David is a year older than me – so he was in the class that immediately preceded mine. We didn’t know each other well when we were in high school, if at all, but we do now.

And, after just having moved into our neighborhood and starting a new job in Washington, DC, knowing that a fellow GW graduate was just down the street helped get me over the feeling that I had cut myself off from everything that had gone before.

GW will reel you back in when you least expect it. And, I’m glad of it.

I’m also glad to be here with you tonight. It’s been a pleasure. And from the class of 1982 – I wish the class of 2013 all the luck in the world.

Blame Twitter For My New Car


School hasn’t even been out for a full week, and our oldest kid is already in trouble.

In fact, school hadn’t been out even an hour when I discovered our son had been happily tweeting for at least a couple of weeks without our knowledge.

This violates a major internet rule in our house.

It’s a simple one — social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook are off-limits to kids unless mom and dad are given the option of ruining the experience.

Since we were never informed, I made Twitter just about the last place he wanted to be.

I signed up and followed him.

Yea, I know.  I’m a real twit (sorry about that but I couldn’t help myself). But as I told our son, ruining things like Twitter is one of the joys of being a parent.

“If it makes you feel any better,” I told him. “When you get older, you can do the same to your kids. It’s part of what makes parenting worthwhile.”

I don’t think he believed me.

Our son’s decision to “forget” to inform us of his activities in the Twitterverse is not what really bothers me.  It’s more the fact that I was forced into creating a Twitter account at all.

I already waste too much time checking Facebook status updates and wondering why my FB friends think pictures of what they are having for dinner are interesting. The last thing I want to do is start obsessively checking Twitter for similar photos of favorite meals.

So what did I do to make myself feel better?

I bought a car.

I was so despondent about having to become a Twitterer, that when I drove by the dealership, I couldn’t help but stop and have a look around.

My wife and I had been talking about downsizing, anyway.  Gasoline doesn’t seem to be getting any cheaper, so with my 90-mile commute to Washington, D.C., it was either get a new car or start operating my own backyard oil refinery.

Since the whole refinery thing seems extreme, I opted for the car.

It was a good choice.  My wife is now driving our Jeep and I’m getting more miles for the money than ever before.

So why do I feel like I just graduated from college?

I guess it’s because I’m back in a small car.  When I was fresh out of college, I drove a bright red hatchback Toyota Tercel EZ (sounds sporty but it stood for “Easy to Own” and it was tiny).

Even though it didn’t have air conditioning or even a radio, I drove that car (in silence) for years.  I was still driving it when I got married, when we bought our first house and when we had our first child.

Then one day, my wife suggested I needed a bigger car.  We were expecting a second kid and she didn’t care to watch me shoehorn both our babies into the back seat.

That’s when I came home with my first grownup car.  It was a white Jeep Cherokee.  I loved that vehicle, but with gas prices and my commute, it eventually had to go, too. We traded it in a few years ago for the smaller Jeep Patriot that’s now parked in the garage.

We may be downsizing as gas prices supersize, but even small cars come with lots of bells and whistles these days.  Compared to my old stripped down Toyota, our new little Nissan is impressive.  It even has a dock for my iPhone.

In the future, maybe someone will come up with an easy way for drivers to use their cars to safely update Twitter and Facebook accounts.

That way, I could annoy my kids while keeping my friends up-to-date on the gourmet Sheetz sandwiches I pick up on the long drive to work.

Bubble Girl


This week I did what any good dad would do when he discovers his ten-year-old daughter made the front page of the paper.  I immediately posted the picture on Facebook.  Here’s the pic ….

And, here’s the link …

Helping Children Succeed – journal-news.net | News, sports, jobs, community information for Martinsburg – The Journal

The picture shows my daughter engulfed in a soap-bubble.  She and her BFF were at an event aimed at promoting kids’ health.  It was sponsored, at least in part, by my wife’s employer, United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.

Now, leaving aside our mere presence on FB,  kid pics posted by parents are what makes FB so uncool. But that’s what Facebook has become.  A place for parents to show off and embarrass their children at the same time.

So, that’s what I did.  Then I settled in for the comments.

They were complimentary, as expected.

“What a lovely girl,” one said.  Another implied that it was a good thing she takes after her mother (can’t argue with that).

Then I got a couple of comments questioning how long I planned to keep my daughter in the bubble.

My answer?

It’s pretty simple.

It’s the same one every dad would give.

For as long as possible. 

Unfortunately, she’s probably already burst it and I just don’t know it yet.  I’m always the last to know anything.