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Billy F’n Joel

I am home, back with the wife and kids.  It was a long two months away, but everything is back to normal(ish).  We have done some family things like buy stuff from Target, eat some food, go to the botanical gardens and watch movies since I’ve been back.  There were a couple posts I published using my phone, but decided to wait until I was back at the computer before publishing the rest.  Over the next few weeks, or months, I’ll be cranking them out to catch up (personal goal).  This little ditty was from about a month in, a couple weekends after my wife came to visit and the world almost ended (previous post). So grab a whiskey, beer or juice box (for you underage types) and enjoy.

I’ve been in my hotel room for a month now. I keep it low key mostly, mainly gym and laundry (no tanning salons within walking distance). I’ll go to the driving range a few times a week to break up the monotony. This past weekend I decided to adventure to Chicago.  I had scheduled an appointment with my stylist at Trunk club for Friday afternoon. I stopped at the farmers market and brewery in Lake bluff, then hopped on the train into the city. Once the train arrived at Ogilvie, I hoofed it to Trunk Club. It had been a couple years since I had visited.

Trunk Club is a service I began using back when I got divorced.  I wanted to upgrade from jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops. Basically, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try something new (tends to be the M.O. of most newly single individuals).  My stylist Brittni has done a great job since I became her client, and it will be a bummer not to be able to continue on with it while in Japan.  Anyway, back to adventure time.

After meeting the front desk associate, he directed me to the bar where I received a complimentary whiskey-ginger. IMG_2855A couple minutes later, Brittni came by. We exchanged pleasantries and made our way to one of the fitting areas (I guess that it what you call them?). I was in the market for some golf shirts and maybe a nice button up. She came back with a cart full of clothes to try on.  After a bit, I narrowed it down to a couple golf shirts (snagged one at a discount) and a sweet, comfortable Vineyard Vines Crosby shirt (I have come to appreciate nice clothing and it lasts a while to boot).  I paid the man and was on way.  It had been a pleasant stop-in at the club.  As I was leaving, my stomach began to make some noise. I decided it was calling for pizza and made my way to the nearest pizza joint, called Pizzeria Ora. I am a huge fan of pizza, but this place wasn’t my jam. I had a small deep dish and it didn’t meet my expectations.

By this point, I had already alerted my cousin I was in the city. She asked if I had any plans and if she could get another ticket, would like to go see Billy Joel. I responded with a resounding “Hell yeah!” (obviously she did get another ticket, otherwise I would just be wasting your time) Regardless if I had gone or not, I still wanted to drop my bag off before any further adventuring happened. I caught an Uber and headed to her house (Uber should pay me for referencing them so much, ha). As soon as I arrived, I ditched my bag and hopped in another Uber with my cousin’s husband (she followed us a few minutes later) and headed to dinner prior to the show (looks like another ticket was scored, high five!).

We arrived at Fahlstroms Fish Market and met one of his friends. Since I had just eaten a less than delicious pizza, I tried the tuna tar-tar, and it hit the spot. After my cousin arrived, we had a couple drinks, exchanged some witty banter and rolled out. Did I mention this concert was at Wrigley field? We walked from the restaurant to Wrigley. It was a madhouse, I had to beat up a family of four just to make it to my destination! We arrived at the outfield entrance gate. After a quick security check and a couple left turns, we walked out onto the field.  While the field was covered with an interlocking plastic floor, it was still an amazing sight and feeling to be standing out there.  The stage was erected in left-center field and our seats were 7 rows back.

The crowd went nuts when the lights went dark. The cheers were deafening. The piano began to ring out a sweet intro. A single light appeared on the piano. It. Was. Him.

The intro finished and he welcomed to the crowd.  He was blown away that he still sells out his concerts since he hasn’t produced anything new since 1992. The fans were a mix of young and old, but mostly older.  There was a younger cat a few seats down who could not contain his excitement. He was sweating by the second song from partying so hard.  Billy Joel wrapped his main set. The crowd of course called for an encore, the stadium lit up with cell phone lights. It was a neat sight from where I was sitting.  IMG_2864Moments later, the crowd was once again jamming out to more of Billy’s sweet music (Check out the clips below).  He played some more hits and we bounced before the main mob left.  After some zig-zagging and skirmishes we arrived at the car. The consensus was we needed a snack. We went to the Wiener Circle, famous for charde-dogs. The ladies who ran the joint were rude, but you could dish it right back.  Soon we were stuffing our faces with fully loaded Chicago dogs. There was some small talk and we headed back to the house.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. 

The wrap up for this post has been a struggle. My notes are all over the place and ramble on.  I was in full fly by the seat of my pants mode. It’s been my usual since being here up at Great Lakes for school.  It’s not every day you get to attend a Billy Joel concert at Wrigley Field. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I jumped on board.  It was a simple decision, because I was the only person I had to worry about at that moment.  Now, you’re probably thinking, is this guy going to break-down a fun time, over-analyzing the circumstances, and math and stuff? Yes. Yes, I am. If my circumstances had been different, I may not have jumped at the opportunity. Whenever situations like this arise, I like to ask myself “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Or as my Theresa (my cousin) and I discussed as she gave me a ride back to my hotel, how does this situation nourish one in an emotional or mental way (her way is more hippie)? Just because the opportunity is there, doesn’t mean you have to take it.  You could be acting of pure emotion with zero logic, and that could lead to disaster. But then again, it could be the best decision ever (debatable) and give you a great story.  So, jump at the opportunity. Or don’t. You won’t know until you decide.

If you want to check out Intentional Nourishment, I recommend it.  I have been a repeat customer for the past couple of years and have learned a lot about myself when I take a dive into her programs.  Hell, it was after I did the first cleanse through Intentional Nourishment that I bought the domain name shortsandsweatbands.com and started me on this path I am on today. (Here is the link to a post about it: www.intentionalnourishment.com )

Also, if you feel the need to step up your wardrobe and don’t know where to start, check out Trunk Club. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t like it. If you use this link, you’ll get a $50 credit (I get one too, thanks!).

https://www.trunkclub.com/my/invite/J7WQVJ

Do work, be rad

Mustache

The World is Ending: an adventure in things not going your way

We missed the train. The first part of our weekend in Chicago was ruined. The world began to crash down around us. The station didn’t have AC (it was hot, humid, and stuffy inside) and the next train wasn’t due for another 2 hours. Literally, forever, in this age of smartphones and twitter. The sandwich maker was beside herself and a sketchy looking dude was staring at us. It was a terrible start to some well needed “us” time.

During the last few days of July, Krissi left the kiddos with the grandparents, hopped on a plane, and arrived in the city known for being windy and getting shot. Before she arrived, the most time we had spent away from the kiddos was a day with an overnight stay. This trip gave us the opportunity to cut loose, be adventurous, get together with close friends and relax. I have a bunch of notes compiled from the weekend, but I am just going to stick to this one instance for now.

I’ve had to alter my approach to publishing my writing (touched on it with my last post). I used to translate my notes from my Bieber book straight to the computer. The last post I wrote was on my phone. It was a pain. So I decided to finalize my notes using a bigger notebook before I thumb away on my phone. School has been “school” so I took up a new hobby…GOLF (more on that at a later date). Enough about all that, let’s get back to the tragic events of missing our train.

After we spoke to the ticket attendant, we exited the station and walked down to the sidewalk. The wife was ranting about how everything was ruined and we should just call it. Just go back to the hotel. We had two hours to kill and no car to go anywhere (Uber would have been $175 to the city). We started walking. There happened to be a running/bike trail that ran parallel to the train track. At first we were going to walk a short distance and come back to the station. After checking the maps on our phones, we discovered that the next station was only a mile or so down the way. As we walked, we face timed the kiddos, dodged some bikers and I watered some plants (Krissi is a terrible lookout). As we approached the Lake Bluff station, we noticed a small farmers market and Krissi got excited. She is a sucker for a farmers market. We checked in at the station. There was not a ticket attendant. There were, however, instructions on how to download an app and purchase our tickets. We still had a hour and a half until the train arrived, so we made our way to the market. It was your typical hipster/basic white bitch vibe. There were vegetables, meats, cheeses, crafts and someone sharpening knives. There was a white gazebo, children playing in the grass, and a guy jamming on his guitar to a small audience. There were moms drinking wine out of tumblers, pushing their strollers. If we had been on our way back to the hotel, we probably would have grabbed some veggies to cook. After our walk perusing through the market, we began to check out the store fronts across the street. There were a couple restaurants, a bank and, wait for it, a brewery.

Lake Bluff Brewery is a sweet little spot. They had just finished renovating the tasting room and it was nice and comfortable. The only person inside was the bartender (they had just opened) and he was rocking to some classic country. We grabbed some seats at the bar and let the conversation fly. We talked beer, adventure and music. The bartender happened to be the manager. He also worked at another brewery, helped brew the beer, and runs his own concert photography/blog website. Our future adventure to Japan came up. He had just returned from a concert tour in Japan. He told us it was one of the raddest experiences of his life, and he couldn’t wait to go back. The only music in the whole joint was played on vinyl and the coasters were made from retired records. We traded artists to check out (he was already a fan of Townes Van Zandt), and talked trash about new age country. It is the worst. I had the Black Squirrel Bourbon Stout. It was delicious. I forgot what the wife had, but it’s not important. We finished our beers, paid our tab and said goodbye. We had 15 minutes before our train arrived and we weren’t going to miss it this time. We boarded and took our seats. This gave me the perfect opportunity to take a nap. I woke up at our destination ready to rock and roll.

Plans and expectations. We all have them and do our best (or not) to make them happen. Our plan was almost derailed (pun intended) because we missed the train. What happened afterwords was an unexpected find and a new connection with someone. We also discovered a rad little spot to grab a beer close to the hotel. We turned our misery into something spontaneous and fun. When it comes to spending time with your loved ones, plans are cool, but you may want to throw them out of the window to make some rad memories. If you expect things to go a certain way, and they don’t, you can either get frustrated and stew about it or adapt and overcome. So, maybe missing the train every once and a while, could turn out to be a cool little adventure.

Also, check out this website run by the bartender from the brewery. Enjoy!
http://www.patothornycroftphoto.com/

Do work, be rad

Mustache

70 dollars for an UBER: a story of first world problems and meeting new people.

I haven’t put finger to Word in a while now. We took a sweet family vacation to the upper peninsula of Michigan a few weeks ago and now I am going to school up here in Great Lakes. I usually jot down some notes in my Bieber book and transfer them onto the computer. There has been a lack of computer access, so here I am, thumbing away on my phone, hoping to avoid misspelled words and typos. I have plenty to transcribe from my book, but was avoiding using my phone for this. There is a lot I want to publish, but with the moving prep and traveling over the past couple months, it has been a low priority. I have been at Great Lakes for a couple weeks now, going to school for the man. The flight up here was nice. There was time for a pre-flight beer (hydration is key) and I was stoked about checking 3 bags with no extra cost. The flight was also delayed for about 45 minutes, so I was able to get a good jump on a book. It’s called Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? by Fred White. It was a bargain book I picked up at Barnes & Noble. It has gone over some basic ways to keep your mind engaged and creativity flowing. It’s interactive with exercises to get the juices flowing. With all the free time I have right now, figured it wouldn’t hurt. We will see how it pans out.

Since arriving, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with some guys I served with at past commands and build some new relationships with those I have met. Last weekend, I made my way to go see a movie. I figured it would be simple. Walk to the front gate, catch an Uber, and enjoy my evening. While I did enjoy my evening, it turned out to be the most expensive movie I have ever seen. The man has a funny way of restricting operations of certain businesses and Uber is on of them. I went to schedule a ride and was given to options, UBER black or premium. The black was $70! I assumed it was because I was scheduling a ride vs looking for one on the spot, no big deal. I ventured out to the main gate, periodically checking for Uber availability. The price kept dropping, but only by a dollar here and there. Nothing significant. When I reached the main gate area, the price had come down to around $60, and no Uber X option. I saw some people get dropped off in Uber’s but no pick ups. After about 10 min of observing and refreshing my Uber app, I decided to call a cab (the movie wasn’t going to wait for me after all). I struck up a conversation with the driver as soon as he picked me up. He was a Navy vet who enjoyed motorcycles (he looked the part) and we swapped some sea stories. We talked about Uber and I found out how it had been banned from picking people up due to a few instances where the driver had been a crook. It’s always fun and interesting to hear what the completion (cab driver) has to say about their opposition. After a quick detour due to the flooding that occurred earlier that week, he dropped me off at the theatre. I always base my cab/Uber rides on how the conversation goes. I gave it an eight out of ten.

They had a bar at the theatre, which was a win. A couple whiskey/gingers later and I was off to see my movie. I stopped by the concession stand and picked up a chicken and waffle sandwich. It was a good pickup. Tender fried chicken in between two waffles with curly fries. I watched the new Spider-man movie. It was entertaining and I liked the new spin they put on the story and character without losing the audience. It was dark when I exited the theatre, maybe around 9. I was able to grab an Uber to ride back to base.

My driver was one of the more interesting people I have met in my Uber travels. We talked about his life and where he wants to go. I asked if he drove part time and what he did as a day job. “Boy, do I have a story to tell you,” he responded. Besides driving for Uber on the side, he sold insurance, is a published poet, has some songs on iTunes, and was in the process of casting a play he had written to premier next year. The songs on iTunes are part of an album he is putting together and his book on amazon is a collection of poems he has written. He was pumped to tell me about all his endeavors; his enthusiasm got me excited to check out his work. His book is called Listen 411 and his play is called a A Youth Served, check them out. I wished him well once he dropped me off and began the trek back to my hotel room.

It was good to get some “me” time outside of my hotel room. It cost me more to get a ride there and back than it did for the movie, but it was worth it. I appreciated the opportunity to meet these two gentlemen and and hope the best for them. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and strike up random conversations with those you don’t know. You may find a new perspective or meet the love of your life (or your next ex).

Do work, be rad

Mustache

The Whirlwind of Life: This old house, the grief it causes me, and the big news

I took the wife shooting a couple of weekends ago. It was her first time shooting a gun. While she was a little hesitant, she took instruction well and I was pleased with how she handled herself.  She didn’t particularly like my gun, it isn’t sandwich size.  I think when we get back into the U.S. we will get her one that’s easier to handle.  I also worked my first shift as a waiter/bus boy at the 619 Cantina with my wife.  I had a good time with all the hustle and bustle. In High School, I worked as a pizza delivery boy at Romano’s Pizza, but waiting was a different animal.  The whole weekend was a rough one.  It started off with a surprise (see below) and ended with the loss of the Bearded Lady.  She was our king hen for a while, until she was dethroned by one of the black ones (they don’t have call signs).  I was doing a count today and noticed she wasn’t around.  I had left the coop open this past week, to let the ladies stretch their wings.  Don’t know what happened to her exactly, but I didn’t find a body.  She either ran off with Juan from down the street or was the victim of a hawk. The hard part will be telling Kash about it when she gets back from her dad’s house.  It was probably her favorite chicken to wrangle up and carry around.  Either way, the chickens will have a new home in a couple of months because of some big news that I am sharing with you today.

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Everyone should have a pink flamingo in their garden.

It’s official, the Clemens Clan is headed to Japan.  The man has decided it’s in his best interest to send us there.  We found out in January, but it wasn’t until now that we were sure of the move.  It should be a fun one.  I’ll mostly be working, but the wife and kids should have a blast exploring the area.  This will be the first time in 11 years I have moved.  I have been in the Hampton Roads area since 2006 and have about a month left. The Sandwich Maker and kiddos were born and raised here.  We have already begun the prep to make the trip, like getting passports, coordinating what we want to get rid of, and making preps to get the house rented out.  The house has been the biggest hurdle.  While most of the work is simple, there have been a couple “oh shit” moments when diving into the work. This past Friday provided the biggest one yet.

The wife was prepping the back bedroom for paint.  For a little history, the back bedroom was the room we always talked about renovating, but it always seemed to invite storage stuff instead.  It doesn’t have carpet but does have a hole in the wall.  Wasn’t going to be a big deal, the wife enjoyed using the joint compound to fill holes.  She came to one hole that needed a patch kit.  The kit she bought wasn’t working so she asked me to look at it.  I felt the wall and was able to push it in with my fingers. I decided to make the hole bigger and clear away the suspect drywall (or plaster).  I was going to use a piece of drywall I had left over to make a patch.  I began to tear away at the wall, following the weak spots.  I removed a good chunk of the drywall and thought I was good to go.  I then looked above the window and noticed a bubble in the paint and began to investigate.  IMG_2292Slowly I began to tear into the wall and noticed that I was meeting the hole I had started at the bottom.  It was apparent at this point that I had some serious water damage.  I continued to dismantle the drywall until I had found zero signs of damage.  I had busted up about a third of the back wall, including the window (the window is an old cast iron counter weight system and had rotted a little bit).  We were both in shock.  It was apparent that this had been going on for some time.  We called our siding guy (who also does windows) to come and check the size for a new window.  He swung by and grabbed the measurements.  He has been a big help for us knocking out some of the “to-dos” on our list.

Since the wall wasn’t going to get fixed this weekend, we emptied the room closed the door.  There was another pressing another job to tackle, knocking down a useless chimney that had caused its own water damage in the laundry room.  It had been in the work queue for a few weeks.  The weather had not been cooperating.  Finally, I had about 5 sunny days in a row, which was plenty of time to knock out the chimney and repair the wall. IMG_2281 I had already reinforced the indie with some help from a buddy.  Framing is new to me, so I needed some guidance.  I tend to learn better by watching, then doing (that’s when I really learn how to do it).  The chimney came down fairly easily.  There was a point when I had to kick the shit out of it on the roof because the flashing (which is where the water seemed to be getting in) wasn’t playing nice.  I finished in the late afternoon/early evening.  There is now a huge mess of bricks behind the house that I am hoping someone wants to come pick up.

I still have plenty of projects to knock out and limited time.  Most of them are small “after work gigs”, but the walls will take a little more thought and effort.  Even with all the grief this house has caused me (I’ll tell the story of how the bathroom remodel started another day), I am going to miss this place.  I am comfortable here.  But it’s time for a new adventure, and the family and I are looking forward to it.

Do work, be rad

Mustache

Note: Since I wrote this post and sent it to my new editor who works for weekly calls and Factiming (Is this a real word yet?) with her grandkids; I have finish tearing down the rest of the wall where the chimney was. A friend came by and we spent yesterday (Monday) ripping it down, inhaling soot from the chimney rubble and installing some plywood. 51899952732__BE3AF3CE-4D47-4CF7-900B-9510710BF3FE

An adventure, the devil, and great-grandma

This trip snuck up on us.  We had planned it a couple months out, and next thing you know it was here.  I almost wanted to break this story into two parts, but then I stopped being a little girl and finished it.  I become impatient when I write sometimes, especially when my message or story in my head gets ahead of my notes.  I know how I want it to end, and sometimes rush to get there.  I am listening to Childish Gambino (Camp), drinking a Cattywompus (it’s a fancy IPA by Devils Backbone), and Hot Rod is in his high chair eating some cheerios next to me.  Kash was a party pooper (she felt a little under the weather this evening) and fell asleep watching Zootopia on the couch.

I began finalizing this on Memorial Day.  I have found the best way for me to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, is to no let their death be in vain. Celebrate them, raise a glass, and continue to live your life. Enjoy the freedoms you have, but never forget those men and women who have died defending those freedoms.

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James River off of the Monitor-Merrimack Bridge Tunnel

It was 430 AM on Saturday morning.  The sandwich maker and I rolled out of bed and drug our ass’s downstairs to get ready for our mini road trip. I immediately went for a quick shot of strike force and took a shower. We quickly loaded up the jeep (we forgot the watermelon) and started on our short journey to Krissi’s great-grandmothers house. The kids had spent the night with Maw-Maw, and rode with her for the duration of our trip.  For the record, Krissi’s mother is a lunatic and in denial. And no, we are not talking about the river in Egypt. But, we love her anyway. She is a great Maw-Maw and is always down to take the kids off our hands. The kiddos love here and Gran-daddy (probably because of the brownies the eat over there, ha). We wouldn’t trade them for the world. It gave Krissi and I some adventure time without the kiddos.  The drive up was relatively quiet, minus some a-hole driving dangerously around some 18-wheelers.  We stopped for gas in Crozet, VA and had a quick bite at Legacy Markets. This ended up being the best gas station ever. Made to order breakfast, walk in beer cooler, and an upstairs patio to enjoy the view.  The breakfast burrito I had was delicious and so was the coffee (if you are ever traveling on 64 near there, check it out).  We hopped back onto the highway and continued on towards Natural Bridge State Park (we were stopping the before going to grandma’s).  We met up with Maw-Maw at the Pink Cadillac Diner for some more breakfast.  Another neat joint.  It was very 50’s-esque and the building was, wait for it…… pink. There was a small wait, enough to make Hot Rod antsy and fussy.  He had been satisfied through the trip thus far, but he was itching to move around.  He attempted to eat most everything he could get his hands on, but soon discovered how some things aren’t that tasty.  Once we sat down, it took both Krissi and I to keep Hot Rod from tearing down the building.  Kash was focused on eating her food and “brought her manners,” as she says. Lincoln figured out he could stand in the restaurant high chair (it didn’t have straps) and would attempt to grab anything but his food. He somehow was able to snatch a piece of toast off Krissi’s plate (he really just caught a moment when Krissi and I weren’t watching him).  Once he had that toast, he was content. He propped his foot up and chowed down.  We wrapped up breakfast and finished our trek to the natural bridge.

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The bridge isn’t bigger than her personality

The Natural Bridge was amazing.  Words and pictures will not be able to capture it’s size and glory.  As you walked underneath, it would rain on you and there were plenty of smalls streams along the trails.  We were able to borrow a toddler carrier for Lincoln and we used the Boba for Kash.  The toddler carrier was perfect.  It was easy to get him comfortable and simple to adjust for comfort. It was rad listening to Lincoln baby talk his way throughout the hike.  I would occasionally use my phone to see how he was doing (I later discovered a small mirror attached to it, after the fact) and record his monologues. He would play with my hat and want to touch the surrounding nature.  The layout of the trail followed Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River.  Along the trail was a living history camp set up.  It was of the Monacan Indians, and it had a few hut’s, frontiersman trading post and live cooking demonstrations.  One lady was building a new hut, tying together the timber used to build the bones of it. We continued on along the trail to a creek crossing. I took advantage of a sweet bench by the bank to put Hot Rod down for a few minutes. IMG_0321Kash saw a bunch of snakes and of course wanted to pick them up.  They weren’t deadly and seemed used to the traffic, they didn’t flinch at all when you got close to them.  The trail doubled back from that point, continuing along a limestone wall on one side and the creek on the other.  It was a fairly straight shot from there until the end.  I gave Lincoln the opportunity to touch the rocks, and of course he tried to eat them.  Once we made it to the end (or turn around point), we sat down and took some obligatory family pictures where the kids weren’t looking and I have the same smile in all of them.  Both kids were tired at this point. Kash didn’t know if she wanted to ride in the Boba or walk and Lincoln was upset when he couldn’t touch anything.  As we headed back, Lincoln fell asleep.  Kash pressed on, enjoying the ride on Krissi’s back.  IMG_0362We passed by all the attractions we had seen before, but once again slowed down and took in the sight of the bridge.  It still hadn’t lost any amazement. The real kicker in the trail is climb up the stairs you walked down in the beginning. And it’s a steep climb. My legs were burning at the end.  We loaded back up in the vehicles and made our way to grandmas’.

We didn’t initially realize it, but we had driven past her (grandma’s) house and hour before we arrived at the Natural Bridge.  So, on our way there, Krissi and I broke off to go check out Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company.

Devil’s Backbone makes one of my favorite beers, the Vienna Lager. It’s a go-to beer for me.  Their other brews are delicious, but not as common as the lager.  We pulled into the parking lot, and immediately became excited to see where the magic happens.  The crowd was small, as they had just opened. The tasting room was smaller than expected, but the assortment of beers was great (as it should have been).  We went super-touristy and grabbed a flight (for those who don’t know what that is, it’s a sample of X number of beers to see which ones you like).  There were fancy beers and down to earth beers, all were delicious. At the brewery is where I began to jot down my notes for this post. Once we were finished, we grabbed a case of beer (for $20, I might add) and set out for our destination.  We finally arrived at g-ma’s house.

We took a load off and Krissi’s brother gave me a tour of the place. There is a lot of history in that house. From the foundation (it was literally built on a rock) to the pictures of relatives from the late 1800’s.

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The rock

We checked out the shed’s and garages and found some neat (in my opinion) stuff. There were some old woodworking hand tools, an early model chainsaw, and a dead snake.  Grandma showed me her porcelain doll collection and some of the tools needed to make them from scratch. Later on, in the evening, Krissi and I went out to dinner in Harrisonburg.
One of her friend’s son goes to JMU and works at a local joint in town. We had some food and drinks and made our way back to the house. By the time we got back, everyone was asleep. It was like being an adolescent again, sneaking through the creaking house hoping not to wake anyone.

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Block plane

The next morning, we held a small surprise breakfast birthday party for Krissi’s great-grandmother.  All of the aunts and uncles on Krissi’s mom’s side of the family showed up with some food and conversation.  I cooked the bacon and Krissi coordinated the rest. The whole family crammed into the tiny kitchen to sing her a happy birthday. Once the cake had been dispersed and reminiscing had quieted, the crowd began to filter out.  Kash was outside with her cousin, attempting to bust open a geode we bought at the natural bridge. Krissi used a pick axe to break it open finally.  Hot Rod had some fun with all of the relatives and crashed out in his pack-and-play.  Around noon, Krissi and I loaded up the Jeep and headed home. We hit fog early on and stopped in at one of the scenic views to check it out. It was smooth sailing until we hit Ft. Eustis. Typical fender bender causing a ridiculous amount of traffic. Once we got home, we unpacked, showered and relaxed until the kiddos arrived.  It was good to have them home. Kids went into the tub and then it was movie time.  We all crashed early that night. All the fun and adventure of the weekend had finally taken its toll.

 

Do work, be rad

Mustache

The Whirlwind of Life: Hot Rod

This past weekend was a good and productive one.  I had a good friend come over and school me on a house repair I was new to.  There is a chimney that I need to knock down at the rear of my house. It isn’t structural, and I thought it was causing a wall to buckle. We started by tearing into the wall on the inside of the house. It yielded a lot of damage I wasn’t ready for.  There was evidence of termites and water leaking from the top of the chimney (got to love a house from the 40’s!). None of the studs were holding up any weight, they had been destroyed. Once we got rid of all the plaster and termite poop, you could see where the water had been leaking in for who knows how long.

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How this wall was still up, I’ll never know.

We reinforced the wall with some brand-new studs and I can now rip down the chimney and fix the outside wall.  The wife and I also installed a new throne (toilet) upstairs. It’s a Koehler, no big deal.

I have always made the effort to post my ramblings on Fridays. With how my schedule has been of late, I am going to start posting on Tuesday’s.  It is difficult during the week to sit down and compile my thoughts into something you can read and (hopefully) be entertained by. This one is about the day a little man named “Hot Rod” Lincoln came into my life.  My wife swears he is the spitting image of me (when he cries he looks like her).  Watching him grow over the past year has been awesome.  He is definitely a daddy’s boy (so says my wife) and always touches the Texas A&M sign at the bottom of the stairs when I bring him down in the morning (future Aggie?). I am sitting here putting the final touches on this drinking some George Dickel and ginger ale.

 

It was a gloomy Sunday morning on May 22nd.  Krissi and I had decided to take Kash to Comic Con and see the Batmobile from the old Adam West TV show. She is a yuuuge (see what I did there?) fan of Batman, so we figured it would be a neat surprise.  During the ride there, Krissi began to have contractions. “We might be having this baby today, but we are going to Comic Con first so our girl can see the Batmobile” she told me. Kash was dressed to the teeth as Batman. Cape, mask, shirt and some sweet pink chucks. She was ready.  When we arrived, the crowd was fairly small, which made it easy to get around.  We made a b-line towards the Batmobile and took some sweet pictures with her at the wheel. Kash’s face was filled with excitement and awe.  We cruised around for about an hour. Afterword’s, we checked out what Comic Con was, as both Krissi and I had never been before.  We picked up a couple trinkets for Kash and bounced, Krissi had a work meeting later that day to create new drinks.  On the way there, she reiterated to me, “Babe, this baby is coming out today.” It still hadn’t hit me that my son was going to pop out that day.  We hung out at the cantina (Krissi’s work) while she was creating new drinks for the upcoming summer season. Kash began to start her “I’m tired, but not tired” attitude, so we knew it was time to beat feet. As we left, Krissi called her mom and asked her to pick up Kash. We were going to the hospital. It was around 530 (1730 for you military types) when Maw-maw arrived to pick up our girl. Krissi and I then loaded up and headed to Maryview. Now, this hospital has a bad rap with a nickname Murderview, but the maternity ward it awesome and the staff was amazing. It looked newer than the rest of the hospital and the staff was great. It’s where Krissi and Kash were born, and it would now be Lincoln’s place of birth.  We checked in and made our way to a delivery room. Our first nurse was thankful we didn’t bring any family/baby-mama drama with us. She had been dealing with it all day from other patients. Krissi’s contractions had been ramping up all day and were becoming more frequent. We got settled in and the nurse came in to check her out. 2cm dilated. Nothing crazy, but the nurse wanted to check in another hour. An hour later, she was 3 cm dilated. So, we were able to stay for another hour.  At around 8 pm, Krissi was 6 cm. Hot Rod was on his way out.

The staff began to make preps to deliver Hot Rod.  The anesthesiologist asked me to leave the room when it came time for the epidural (I had been warned about this, thought it was silly).  It was about 10 pm, and we hadn’t yet hit critical mass. Maw-maw came up there to be with us after Kash had gone to sleep. It was then just a waiting game. Around 1130 pm, things began to happen.  The doctor made her way in, shit was getting real.  I was tasked with holding a leg while Krissi pushed. It still hadn’t hit me that my son was on his way.  I was preparing myself for a rush of emotions and maybe a little freak out when it came time, but the whole process seemed normal and didn’t faze me in the way I expected it to. I just did what the doc told me to and I was good to go. At 1203 AM on May 23rd, 2016, Lincoln Theodore Clemens was born.

There are not a lot of things that I get emotional about, but the birth of a child (I found out) is one of them.  After, the nurse cleaned him up and weighed him, she handed him to me. He came in at 8lbs and 20in (I think).  He was a little fella then, as opposed to today where he weighs 5lbs less than his 4-year-old sister. Once my wife was done with the nurses and doc, I gave him to her to hold.  Watching her for the first time with our son is something that I will never forget.  It was an amazing visual of love. (Here I am about to get all sappy, ha-ha). I stepped out of the room to call my folks.  They knew we were at the hospital and I imagine they were anxiously awaiting our phone call.  My mom picked up the phone, and I began to ball my eyes out. “Mom, you are a grandmother, again,“ I told her.  A quick conversation followed, I composed myself, and went back into the room with my wife and mother-in-law.  My sister came up for a little bit to see him about an hour later, once everything had died down. After they made sure the wife and son were good to go, they moved us to another room where my wife would be for the next couple days.

The next day, we had some family and friends visit.  It was nice to see them, broke up the monotony of being cooped up in a small hospital room.  On the 24th, we were able to check out.  Maw-maw, who had been watching Kash the past couple days, brought her up so we could go home as a family. Usually after your 2nd child they require the mother to stay for 48 hours. We were able to leave a tad early, which was nice.  That afternoon, Mom, Kash, Hot Rod, and I made our way downstairs and loaded up in the pick-em-up truck (as Kash calls it). We waived goodbye as we drove off and headed home.

The shift from one to two kids wasn’t easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.  As Lincoln grows, he will more than likely be a terror (prerequisite: boy). He is a huge flirt and already giving us a run for our money.  He figured out how to climb up the stairs (while I was spotting him), and just wants to do that all the time now. It’s great for wearing him out.  He finally started sleeping through the night without screaming bloody murder. It’s been pleasant to hearing nothing but the weather outside lately. I look forward to him growing and learning, eager to teach him skills and watch him develop a personality. It’s going to be awesome.

 

Do work, be rad

Ben

 

 

I felt the need to give some background on his nickname Hot Rod. It is purely coincidence that there is a hilarious movie with the same name (which I enjoy watching after the kids are asleep). When it came to naming our son, I had suggested we name him after my father, Theodore. While Krissi liked the name, she wasn’t too thrilled about having him called Ted (my dad’s nickname) or Teddy (what my grandma called him). She liked Theo, but wasn’t 100%.  She came to me a couple weeks later and asked if I liked the name Lincoln Theodore.  It had a nice ring to it and sounded strong. My middle name is my grandfather’s name, so there is a bit of tradition in it as well. Shortly after, we learned about the song Hot Rod Lincoln by Commander Cody. It fits hit perfectly and has been his nickname since before he was born, and he has lived up to it. I can only imagine how he will pay it off in the future.

What I learned from beating my kid at Candyland.

It’s a pleasant Saturday morning. The sandwich maker made me some bomb ass breakfast, then she took the girls to the farmer’s market while Hot Rod and I are holding down the fort. He has been as rambunctious as ever lately. He doesn’t like to be held and must explore at every possibility. I am drinking some Black Rifle Coffee and listening to R.E.M. This is one of those topics I began to write about and then put away for later. I had another topic I was going to use, but it may take me a while to put it together. Anyway, what brought me back to my unpublished ramblings folder was a post I saw from a good friend of mine.  It was about how he didn’t let his three-year-old beat him in a play sword fight.  While my example is a lot less rough and tumble, it still has the same message and point behind it. Kids need to learn how to earn it, so they can succeed later.

My sister came over the other night (time is relative) for dinner and brought the game candy land with her. Kash was excited, she enjoyed playing this game at her Maw-Maw’s. After dinner, we broke out the board and began to draw cards.  We played a few games and each came away with a win. Since that night, Candy Land was the flavor of the week. It’s simple enough game for her, just colors and pictures. She has fun and attempted to be sneaky, but I don’t let her get away any of it. I also didn’t let her win; she has earned it the few times she has beat me (which isn’t often). She also enjoys the challenge of a race. Kash loves to run, and she is always the first one to throw down a race challenge and doesn’t back down from one. When we are on walks around the neighborhood or park, she always asks where she can run to. I will race her at every opportunity I can. Whether it’s on a walk or from the truck to the front door of the house, it’s always on. I also don’t let her win, unless she is crafty enough too. Like when she says ready, set, go without warning and the distance is short.  Most of the time, I smoke her or win at the last second (playfully). She gets a little frustrated and tells me it isn’t fair, and she is right. It isn’t fair. She is a tiny human who is still growing.  But just because it isn’t fair doesn’t mean I am going to let her win to ensure she feels good about herself. If she wants to beat me, she must earn it. And sometimes she does, as I stated before.  But her craftiness only gets so far. The way I see it, if I let her win all the time, she will expect to win. But if she loses, she will learn how to bounce back.

Don’t let your kids beat you until they can, and they will be better off for it.  Just watch the movie Hot Rod.  Spoiler Alert. Rod’s step-dad (Frank) didn’t let him win, and look at what he achieved. He raised enough money to buy Frank a new heart. The drive and determination led him to attempt one of the most daring acts in movie history, jumping 15 buses. After that he got him a new heart and finally won a wrestling match. It was at that moment Rod earned his respect from Frank. Who knows how the story would have turned out if Frank let him win. He most likely would have died and the movie would have never been disaster. That would have been travesty.

I have learned it’s never too early to explain things to a child. They may not understand it right away, but if you explain it enough they will catch on. There are ways to simplify explanations, but it’s not always easy.  Same goes with winning and losing. Letting her win just to win teaches her nothing.  It’s simple enough, if it is earned, she will have a sense of accomplishment. Otherwise she will become used to it and think she deserves it without earning it. I am sure this is how bratty, rude, and disrespectful kids are created (along with never hearing the word “no” and always getting what they want). Kids are smart, and sometimes we don’t give them enough credit.  They can handle what lessons you throw at them, just tailor them to their age. It’s not always easy, but you’ll figure it out.

 

Do work, be rad

Ben

Life is a Gray Area: Sometimes you need to remove the stick out of your butt and break the rules

It’s been a rather quiet week around Clemdog Manor, my daughter was at her dad’s house for spring break and I am finally feeling like myself again after being sick the week before with the crud.  My son has had all the room and toys to play with and has taken full advantage of his one on one time with my wife and me.  It was good to pick Kash up this afternoon and get back to life being a little more hectic. I am sipping on a Stradka (Strike Force Energy and Vodka), it’s quite the delicious drink. My wife won a bucket of 40 airplane bottles at a fundraiser, so I have been expanding my horizons when it comes to booze (there is a lot of fru-fru flavored vodka in the bucket and Malibu). This topic was a difficult one to write, since it was easy for me to go off on a tangent and lose sight of what I am communicating.

I had a conversation with my dad the other day (let’s talk about this term “the other day” in a bit) concerning moments that aggravate us. One topic that came up was jaywalking. The main peeve is when they affect the flow of traffic on a busy street or they are expecting you to slow down and accommodate their needs (general disrespect outside of a crossing). In my neighborhood and town, jaywalking is rampant. The majority have zero-fs to give and will take their sweet ass time while traffic must come to a halt. There are crosswalks available, lights, and yield for pedestrian signs.  Just so I don’t come off as a self-righteous d-bag, I have jaywalked. When it’s convenient or necessary, I have done it. I more get aggravated when I am the driver, and I do my best to not impede traffic when I jaywalk. I also don’t do it when I have my family with me. It’s easy to become swept up in your own frustrations and not be aware of your own faults. I’ve noticed when I have taken a self-righteous stance on something, it’s come back to bite me in the ass. This is not a self-righteous rant. It’s a reflection on the rules that we impose on ourselves and feel the need to continue to create.

From where I sit in my beliefs in Christ, all these laws and rules we follow are self-imposed. They are not necessary for our salvation and place in heaven.  We have them in place because it’s our way of creating a safe environment where we may grow and prosper. They hold us accountable to each other and ourselves.  You’re not going to go to hell for speeding or jaywalking, but that doesn’t mean you won’t jeopardize the safety and welfare of others when doing so. Safety and welfare to others is a big factor when it comes to certain laws and rules in place. Lately a lot of them have been misguided and encroach on our personal liberties for the sake of a few, but we will not go down that road.

In the military, we have rules of engagement and standard operating procedures that we operate within.  We also work within in the term “mission dependent.” It’s a grey area.  You make decisions based on the information you have in front of you and your experiences.  Sometimes that means breaking the rules for the betterment of the men and completion of the mission. You may take an ass-chewing, but is it worth it to know you made the right call at the time? That is only a question you can answer for yourself.

The rules can also be viewed as the way one is supposed to travel through life and the wickets he/she is supposed to meet before taking the next step.  There isn’t a set way to be successful, but there are characteristics you must have to increase your chances (luck comes into play here as well). How one person has done it may be different than the way you need to go about it.  There are lessons to be learned from others, but the path is your own.  For instance, how my family came to be.  I went from a starter wife (divorce) to a starter family.  I had met my wife, who had a daughter. We dated for a while and then discovered she was pregnant. After that we decided to get married and focus on raising a family together. I wouldn’t change any of it, but it wasn’t the “normal” way that is accepted (by most).

At the end of the day, you need to hold yourself to a standard and accountable. Yes, you need to hold others to the same, especially when you are in a position of responsibility. Don’t confuse that with being a part of everyone’s business (AKA busy body). You also should understand when to be reasonable about a situation and break that standard/rule and do something different (socks with sandals). It’s all about perspective and the risks associated with it. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Dealing in absolutes is a fine line to follow and can sometimes holds you back when it comes to problem solving. You can be a stickler for the rules, but know when to cut loose. You can be whimsical and loose, but know when to tighten up. It’s all about balance.  Find yours, and break the rules every once and a while. It’s good for ya.

Do work, be rad

Ben

Socks with Sandals: the best type of footwear

Before last week, it felt like forever since I have really written anything. In reality, it had only been a couple of months. Regardless of how long it was, I felt the need to take a hiatus. I had become so inundated with political information and talking about it, I had lost sight of the direction I wanted to go. Everything I was writing was politically driven or an ignorant rant about something I didn’t fully understand. That’s not what I want shorts and sweatbands to be. Now and again, I will poke my two cents in on a matter that is stirring the nation into hysteria, but mostly I just want to talk about shit that is funny. Like wearing socks and sandals, telling dad jokes, and being awkward.

Speaking of socks and sandals…..

My wife made the grave mistake of buying into my want for a pair of Teva sandals. Teva’s are not hip and have a negative vibe to them. They are great for outdoor water activities and terrible for everyday life. They are also the sandal of choice to wear with socks. I received a phone call the other day from her asking what size shoe I wore. Then I received a picture of which one I liked. It was between a tan and black pair. I am not a fan of black shoes (I wear black boots to work) so I chose tan. When I came home from work, there they were. My sweet new Tevas. They came in a pretty standard shoe box, it said Tevas on it. As I opened up the box, my heart began to race. It was like seeing boobs for the first time. St. Peter’s angels began to sing, my mustache began to wav in the wind, and my pants began to slowly rise. It was pure glory. When I put them on my feet, I felt a bunch of tiny hands begin to massage away. As I stood up, I felt ten feet tall and looked down on the people around me as if they were my sergeants. My wife quickly brought me back to reality, by screaming my name for attention.

Note:This is usual anyway since I’m half deaf and have selective hearing.

She asked me how I liked them. “They’re rad, babe. I can’t wait to wear socks with them!” She gave me the death stare. “You will NOT wear socks with those!” She said. All I could think is “watch me.” I told her OK, and went about the rest of my day.

Fast forward a few days later. The wife was on her way home from work, and I was putting the kiddos to bed. I had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to showcase the rad style of socks with sandals to my wife. This was that opportunity. When I heard the truck pull up, I knew my opportunity had come. I already had in some sweet crew socks that were white, so I slipped on my sandals and waited for her to open the door. When she opened the door, she looked at me in disbelief and embarrassment. I had done one of the few things she found ridiculous. Luckily she still has a sense of humor and asked me why as she chuckled. She then proceeded to take my picture and post it all over the Facebook sharing with the world what she has to deal with. I may give her Forest Whitaker eye all the time, but she loves me.

As I am finishing this post, my wife and I are sitting at the bar on a Thursday afternoon, enjoying some kid free time together (she wouldn’t let me leave the house in socks and sandals). I have been singing sweet slutty white girl music into her ear while sipping on some Hudson Baby Bourbon. The power just went out and then came back on (at least the lights did anyway).

Some of you may be wondering why I told you some lame ass story about some Teva sandals. Just do you, don’t take yourself seriously. We all have our own sense of humor, mine just happens to be doing silly things that people find as fashion faux pauxs. If a woman can’t take your sense of humor, ditch her. I may be silly at times and drive the wife crazy with my antics, but she still lets me sleep in the same bed with her (I must be doing something right).

Do work, be rad

Ben