And The Winners Are….

Who will be the lucky winner? Will it be YOU?

Who will be the lucky doodle winner? Will it be YOU?

Holy schmoley cannoli! You guys sure like my doodles!

I am surprised and delighted to report that my Win A Doodle! Hooray! post was the most commented-upon post in my blog’s four-year history – handily breaking the former record holder, A Natural Cure (which had an unfair advantage as it was Freshly Pressed).

So wow. Just wow. You guys are wonderful!

And your vacation tales were delightful! And horrible! And delightfully horrible! I loved every last one of them.

In fact, if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you head back to the post to peruse some of the anecdotes. Your morning coffee will be pouring out of your nose in no time.

But enough of my yammering! It’s time to get down to business!

Let’s find out who will win a Custom Made Mike Allegra Doodle!

Our esteemed judge took his position before the Penguin Ice Bucket of Impartiality…

01 the sorting bucketHe dumped the entries inside…

02 the ballotsHe wielded the Tongs of Selectivity-ness…

03 the tongs of impartialityAnd stirred.

04 stirring...And stirred.

05 stirring...And stirred.

06 stirring...*Sigh* And stirred.

07 stirring...I’m growing old, kid.

08 and the grand prize winner is...And the winner is…

09 Alicia something!ALICIAJAMJAAS!

(How do you pronounce that, Alicia?)

Congratulations, Alicia-Something, you are the winner of a Mike Allegra Doodle!

BUT WAIT!

There are two other prizes!

The mother of Thanksgiving! Woo!BOTF_Hi-Rez-CoverThe Second Prize-Winner gets to select one of my books!

And the Third Prize-Winner gets what the Second Prize winner didn’t want!

So! Let’s continue!

Oh, crap, that means more stirring, doesn’t it?

10 shake Nope. Shaking.

11 shake shakeWhy didn’t I ever spank this kid?

12 shake shake shakeMy parents spanked me and I turned out fine. And obedient.

13 shake shake shake shakeStop shaking! For the love of God, STOP SHAKING!

14 the second prize winner is...And the Second Prize winner is…

15 Giff!GIFF MacSHANE!

Congratulations, Giff! You have won an autographed copy of Sarah Gives Thanks OR Blood on the Floor!

And the Third Prize winner is…

16 third prize is...also Giff?Um. Also GIFF MacSHANE?

OK. That’s never happened before. Apparently that outcome is possible when you throw multiple ballots into a bucket.

So the judge and I had a consultation.

After much deliberation, the judge decided that as much as we love Giff (neither one of us knows Giff, but both of us concluded that Giff is probably someone we would love to go bowling with) it would be unfair to give her two prizes.

SO! We’re giving this another go!

And the Third Prize winner is…

17. the real third prize winnerOh, you gotta be kidding me.

*Sigh* The Third Prize winner is my bloggy tormentor/cat fancier/Brussels sprout eater/punk kid raiser JILANNE HOFFMANN!

I knew we should’ve given both books to lovable Giff.

18 congrats!Congrats to Alicia, Giff, and Jilanne! Please head on up to the  “Hire Me!” menu and send me an email.

Thanks to everyone who entered! See you next week!

Win A Doodle! Hooray!

IT IS TIME FOR A CONTEST!

Here’s your chance to win an official Mike Allegra custom made doodle!

But first, a word from Giddy Happy Mike:

This is the cover of the July 2015 issue of Highlights for Children.

Highlights coverIsn’t it great? I especially like this part:

Highlights cover detailThat’s my story!

“Harold’s Hat,” is in the latest issue of Highlights (which is awesome)! And the editors decided to promote it on the magazine’s cover (which is awesomer)!

The issue arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. My son took one look at it, turned to me and said, “You are so cool.”

Best Fathers’ Day Present Ever.

The entire magazine is fantastic, by the way (Highlights is always fantastic). So be sure to pick up a copy for the little ones in your life. OK?

Thank you for indulging me. Now where was I? Oh, yes…

THE WIN A DOODLE CONTEST!

IF YOU WIN, I WILL GIVE YOU A DRAWING OF WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Don’t believe me? Then just take a look at these recent doodle commissions!

Sarah wanted a Caffeine Gnome, so I gave her a Caffeine Gnome. (Click to enlarge.)

Sarah wanted a Caffeine Gnome, so I gave her a Caffeine Gnome. (Click to enlarge.)

Sue wanted a great dane protecting puppehs. So I gave her a great dane protecting puppehs. (Click to enlarge.)

Sue wanted a Great Dane protecting some puppehs. So I gave her a Great Dane protecting some puppehs. (Click to enlarge.)

Jenion wanted a cyclist. So...well, you're getting the idea.  (Click to enlarge.)

Jenion wanted a cyclist. So I gave her a cyclist. (Click to enlarge.)

Pam wanted a writer in a yoga pose petting an angel dog.

Pam wanted a writer in the sunshine in a yoga pose petting an angel dog. So I gave her a…well, you get the idea.  (Click to enlarge.)

And the less said about this salamander, the better.

And the less said about this salamander, the better. (But if you must know…)

So, yes, your doodling wish is my command.

There is one exception, however. I will not draw whatever you want if whatever you want is pervy. I am a children’s book author, bucko, so take your dirty, filthy business someplace else!

HOW TO WIN

The winning name will be drawn at random. The draw-er is this guy.

Breaking Bad boy No. 2He is apparently a fan of gritty AMC dramas.

HOW TO ENTER

To get your name in the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment below answering ONE of the following questions:

What was the best vacation you’ve ever had?

or

What was the worst vacation you ever had?

If you choose to describe your worst vacation (and I really hope you do!) please provide some detail to illustrate all the awfulness, OK?

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING

Want me to stuff the ballot box in your favor? OK. I’ll add two more ballots if you announce this contest on your blog and link back to this page. That’s three chances to win!

Don’t have a blog? No problemo. Then you can get one extra ballot if you announce this contest on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.

PRIZES (PLURAL!)

As I mentioned, the Grand Prize-Winner will get a custom made, one-of-a-kind, Mike Allegra doodle (suitable for framing or lining birdcages).

But I have other prizes, too! Our esteemed judge is going to draw two more names from the hat!

Second Prize: This winner may select a signed copy of my picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks, OR a signed copy of the anthology Blood on the Floor: How Writers Survive Rejection (I have an essay in there).

Third Prize: The winner gets the book the Second Prize-winner didn’t want. Hey, it’s better than nothing.

DEADLINES, ETC.

Your entry is due on or before Monday, June 29. The winner of the drawing will be announced on Tuesday, June 30.

That’s it! Answer a question and get going!

GOOD LUCK!

The Long Goodbye

Celebrate Haircuts-2Summer is almost here. It is time to break out the swimsuits. It is time to pretend you’re eating ice cream to “keep cool”. And, yes, it is time to get your hot weather, extra short haircut.

Summer also means it is time for me shut down the blog until September.

I’m gonna miss you guys!

I’m gonna miss you guys a lot.

You guys are wonderful, really.

Really wonderful.

In fact, you guys are so wonderful…

I’M GONNA HAVE ONE MORE “WIN A DOODLE CONTEST” BEFORE I LEAVE!

Check back here next Tuesday for a chance to win a gen-u-wine, custom made, Mike Allegra doodle!

Tell your friends, enemies, and frenemies! Spread the word!

It’s gonna be fun. I promise.

A Celebration Resuscitation!

As some of you know, I like to draw “Celebrate” stamps. The first such stamp (Celebrate Cows!) was drawn in 2009 for my then-three year old son. Head on over to this post to learn more. (Go on. The post is short — and it has pictures!)

On a related note, if you wish to see a stamp commemorating flatulence, you need go no further than here. (You’re welcome!)

It has been years since I’ve done the stamp-drawing thing, but both my son and I missed it. So I decided the time was ripe for some more stampy celebrations. Below are a couple of new ones for your viewing pleasure. (Do forgive the faint pencil lines; these are works in progress. Click on each image to enlarge.)

Years ago I doodled stamps that celebrated both farts and snot. How I overlooked burps is beyond me. Fortunately, burps have finally gotten the recognition that deserved.

Years ago I doodled stamps that celebrated both farts and snot. How I managed to overlook burps is beyond me.

Remember the post I wrote about Butter Boy? He is an excellent low-rent substitute for an Elf On The Shelf. And, unlike the Elf On The Shelf, it is socially acceptable (and encouraged!) to shove dairy products up Butter Boy’s butt. So there’s that.

Remember the post I wrote about Butter Boy? He is an excellent low-rent substitute for an Elf On The Shelf. And, unlike the Elf On The Shelf, it is socially acceptable (and encouraged!) to shove dairy products up Butter Boy’s butt. So there’s that.

Every day my son proves that love hurts. But I'm okay with that.

Every day my son proves that love hurts. But I’m okay with that.

 Are there any subjects that you feel deserve a Celebrate Stamp? Let me know in the comments!

 

Snoop Story

When I was young, I loved visiting Grandma and Grandpa Allegra — which was weird, really, since neither one of them ever seemed very happy to have me around.

Unlike my doting maternal grandparents, they never asked me questions or told me stories or drove me to the Five and Ten to pick out a Matchbox car. They never plied me with ice cream or candy. They never played games with me; in fact, their house had no games or toys in it at all – not even a stray crayon, which was pretty much all I needed to entertain myself in those days.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not quite sure that Grandma and Grandpa Allegra understood that I was a child. Their Christmas gifts support this theory. Every single year they gave me the same thing: cash and a box of handkerchiefs. It was a generous gift, but not a fun one.

At Grandma and Grandpa Allegra’s house, fun was never given; you had to go and find it.

No problem.

One of my favorite childhood pastimes was to snoop around people’s stuff. So five minutes after pocketing the cash and pretending to be surprised and delighted by my holiday handkerchiefs, I headed down to the basement.

Grandpa was a pack rat of the first order and his basement workshop proved it. How many overflowing coffee cans of rusty nails does a person need? According to Grandpa: seven.

Pretty much everything in that room had a protective coating of rust on it. That was especially true of Grandpa’s wide assortment of old, useless tools — such as flathead screwdrivers with flatheads as round as thumbnails. He also had a wall of saws that couldn’t cut butter, a collection of hammerheads separated from their handles, and a pegboard of petrified paintbrushes.

It wasn’t all broken tools, of course; that workshop was a museum of oddities — much of it dangerous. I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with Flit guns or those animal traps that clamped down on the legs of unsuspecting raccoons, but, really, how could I not? Besides I was careful, I donned Grandpa’s air raid warden helmet and gas mask before Flitting away. I also never put my own foot in the trap, because that would be stupid; instead I pried the trap apart, carefully set it on the ground and threw screwdrivers at the trigger until it snapped with amputating force.

The workshop also showed off Grandpa’s appreciation for art. Hanging on one wall was a framed paint-by-number picture of a prim, haughty, topless woman sitting on a rock. The image was remarkable for its lack of aesthetic or erotic appeal. The room also contained an illustration of Alfred E. Neuman uttering his iconic catchphrase, “What, me worry?” Considering the fact that this workshop contained cans of lead paint, Freon, and DDT, perhaps a little more worrying would’ve been advisable.

Buy, hey, I grew up in an era where unsupervised excursions to dangerous places was a rite of passage. If you weren’t smart enough to not drink paint, the world was better off without you.

To be fair, Mom was an attentive and vigilant parent under normal circumstances. A visit to Grandma and Grandpa Allegra’s house, however, was anything but normal. There, she had a role to play. Protocol required Mom to sit at the kitchen table and pretend she was having a civil conversation with her in-laws. Mom was always civil, but her civility was rarely reciprocated.

Grandma Allegra hated my mom. No one quite understood why. I don’t even think Grandma understood why, but hate her she did. As a consequence, our visits were never very long. After about 30 minutes, Mom would decide she had had enough passive aggression for one day. She’d deliver a sharp elbow to my Dad’s ribcage, stand, and call, “Michael! We’re going!”

That was my cue to drop everything (usually a screwdriver onto a raccoon trap) and hustle up the stairs. I understood that when Mom said, “We’re going!” it meant, “We are going now. Right. This. Instant. Do you understand me, young man?”

I did indeed. But I was always disappointed. A half hour wasn’t nearly enough time to explore such a junky nirvana.

So one day I clomped up the basement steps and announced, “I wanna stay here overnight!”

My declaration was met with stony silence. Not one of the four adults present wanted to implement this idea. Mom diplomatically brought the topic to an abrupt close with a “We’ll see.”

A “we’ll see” from Mom was really a “like hell.” The topic was never broached again.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop wishing that someday I would find enough time to get the Full Basement Immersion Experience.

Sometimes your wishes are granted. And, sometimes, when they are, you wish you never wished for them in the first place.

Grandpa Allegra died in 1991. Grandma’s mind deteriorated quickly and a decision was made to send her to a nursing home. The house was to be sold to pay her bills. Before a realtor could be called, however, the contents of the house had to be dragged to the curb. Dad assigned me to the basement.

I was, more or less, an adult in the early 1990s and many of my adult personality traits had clicked into place – for example, my pathological aversion to filth and clutter. Other traits, however, had remained intact since childhood – like my severe allergy to mold.

To put it another way, cleaning out that basement was hell. By the end of the day, I was filthy, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, sweating, bleeding, and discovering new and exciting uses for the F-word. My fondness for my grandparents — which was never all that fond to begin with — easily devolved into a sweaty, squinty-eyed hatred.

Oh, how I hated, hated, hated them – and unlike Grandma’s hatred for Mom, I knew exactly where my hate came from. Why would anyone hang on to so much worthless crap? What kind of monsters would subject their own grandchild to such an exhausting, moist, mold-encrusted torture?

I’m much older now. The hate is gone. My views toward my grandparents have mellowed considerably. More importantly, that terrible basement cleaning experience has turned me into a wiser man.

The other day, as I sat on my bed reading, my son entered the room and started rooting through my end table drawers.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing. Just looking.”

So I read and he rummaged. After about ten minutes he slammed the last drawer shut and expelled a little, disappointed sigh.

“What’s the matter?”

“You don’t have interesting junk,” he said.

“You bet your butt, I don’t,” I said with pride. “And someday you’re gonna thank me.”

Not Very Sporting

For this photo I borrowed an athletic person's desk.

For this photo I borrowed an athletic person’s desk.

A big deadline is looming, so I’m posting a reedited oldie but goodie. Do forgive me.

And enjoy!

***

I was not an athletic child. Not even close. I was clumsy, uncoordinated and disliked sweating. More significantly, I saw playing sports as a waste of time – and not a particularly good waste of time, either. I could come up with about a million ideas that were better, and many of them – such as building a fort in the woods behind my house – kept me physically active and gave me fresh air. Moms are obsessed with fresh air; my childhood air was fresher than most.

For quite a while, this system worked out just fine. I’d get fresh air and hammer things to trees, and my parents would mind their own business.

Things were about to change. One evening Mom sat me at the kitchen table for a talk. Talking during mealtimes was common in our house, lively and something to enjoy. A kitchen table without food, however, was often the setting for bad news.

The table was empty.

Mom delivered her message the same way she removed Band Aids: fast and blindingly painful. “You’re going to play a sport,” she told me. “I don’t care what sport you play, but you are playing something.”

I tried to protest. I was too busy for sports, I told her. I needed to doodle! I needed to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons! I needed to create elaborate kitchen sink dramas with my Star Wars figures! And all those trees weren’t going to hammer themselves!

But my pleas fell on deaf ears.

I knew that Dad was behind Mom’s edict. There was no mistaking that Dad had an idea of what a father/son bond should look like. And his idea of this father/son bond involved throwing, kicking, and/or running.

In my house, Mom was The Enforcer so it was up to her to make sure the throwing, kicking and/or running happened. She signed me up for stuff against my will. Then she told me to stop whining about the fact that she signed me up for stuff against my will. Though Mom was not an athlete, she was the architect of The Allegra Family Motto: Don’t Be a Candy Ass. Whining was definitely Candy Assy. “So knock it off,” she said. “You’re playing soccer.”

In soccer, I dazzled crowds with my slow running and crooked kicking. After that season came to a merciful end, I was shoved off to basketball camp, where I discovered that I was incapable of dribbling and running at the same time. Come the spring, it was time for little league, in which the only way I could get on base was to crowd the plate and get beaned. My on-base average was distressingly high.

To his credit, Dad was nothing but supportive through all of this. He helped me practice, attended every one of my games, and cheered with gusto from the stands when I did anything that was vaguely cheerworthy. I could only imagine what an ordeal this was for him. Yes, his ordeal was self-inflicted, but it was an ordeal nonetheless.

Dad was no fool, though. He could see how unhappy I was. He could see that the father/son bonding thing wasn’t going according to plan. He wanted the plan to work so badly, however, that he stayed the course. Week in and week out, I’d show my incompetence, and week in and week out Dad would cheer as if I was doing well.

Fencing broke this pattern.

Taking fencing was my idea. I figured that if my parents were going to force me to play a sport, I might as well play a sport where I could work through my hostilities by getting stabby.

Fencing, however, turned out to be the worst sport ever. Every week all we did was work on foot positions. Then we’d run laps around the gym. Dozens and dozens and dozens of laps. I chose fencing because I thought it was a sport where I wouldn’t have to run, and here I was, running more than I had ever run in my entire life.

After about a month; in the middle of what I imagined to be my four-thousandth lap; tired, frustrated, dripping with sweat, and repulsed by the BO hanging in the stale gym air; I asked my coach a question:

“When the hell do we get swords?”

I didn’t “ask” this question as much as yell it. I yelled it with all of my might. I yelled it so loudly my query echoed off the rafters and stopped all the lap-runners in their tracks. Everyone in that gym grasped my statement’s subtext: “Hey coach, when will I get the chance to stab you in the face?”

Mr. Fencing Coach was unperturbed. This was clearly not the first time he encountered a question that contained face-stabbing subtext. He explained that the things I called “swords” are actually “foils.” Then he told me to keep running.

Dad was in the bleachers. He saw all this go down. He heard my fourth grade self bark at an authority figure. He heard me say “hell.” Dad was not used to seeing me speak disrespectfully to adults, because, well, I never really had done so before.

But my rage had been brewing all year. It had been growing more concentrated with each passing sports season. Here I was, being forced to do something I didn’t care about – something I was bad at. And I had to show off my badness in front of crowds of parents who inwardly groaned at my every flub. And I had to sweat while doing it.

I was in trouble. I knew I was. How could I not be? I figured Dad would bring up my outburst on the car ride home.

But he didn’t.

But of course he didn’t, I thought. This was a matter for The Enforcer. When we got home, I clenched my teeth, clutched my stomach, and waited for the inevitable.

But he didn’t bring it up with Mom either. Not right away. He waited until after I had gone to bed.

They whispered about it in the kitchen. I picked up every fourth or fifth word through the heating vent next to my bed and fell asleep fretting about what was going to happen to me in the morning. Both of my parents were teachers; they did not, as a rule, tolerate mouthy children.

I waited for the matter to be brought up at the breakfast table. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t brought up at supper, either. It wasn’t discussed the next day or the day after that.

I wasn’t sure how, but I had dodged a bullet.

The following week, as I got ready for fencing practice, Dad announced that he and I were going someplace else.

“Where?” I asked with a groan. For all I knew, Mom had just signed me up for sumo wresting.

“Do you know who Mel Blanc is?” he asked.

Well, duh. Of course I knew who Mel Blanc was. Mel Blanc did the voices for the Warner Brothers cartoon characters I watched religiously every weekday afternoon – well, every weekday afternoon that wasn’t Wednesday, because that was the day I had to go to my damn fencing practice. Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam… Mel Blanc voiced them all.

“Well,” Dad said, doing a bad impression of acting casual, “Mel Blanc is making an appearance at William Paterson College and I got two tickets. Want to come?”

Oh. My. God.

Long story short, Blanc did his voices, told stories, and screened Knighty Knight Bugs and Birds Anonymous. Sure, I would have preferred to see Chuck Jones cartoons rather than Friz Freeling ones, but it was still one of the best nights of my life.

The father/son bond had never been stronger.

Although it was never formally discussed, Mom, Dad, and I understood that the grand sports experiment was over. I was free to return to the backyard and assault trees with hammers.

My sporting life was a difficult period, but it wasn’t in vain, really. For one thing, I got to see Mel Blanc. More importantly, I think my sweaty, angry adventures in the gym and on the playing field helped Dad to acknowledge and embrace the fact that he was the father of a weird kid. Dad and I never had much in common, but, from that day to this, we accept each other.

Now I’m a dad. My son has inherited my athletic ability. He hasn’t however, inherited my attitude. He finds joy in soccer. He gallops rather than runs. He kicks the ball in random directions. He pauses to watch dragonflies while the other players swirl around him. The smile never leaves his face.

Much like my dad did years ago, I cheer and clap. Not because I like sports – because I don’t  – but because I cherish and enjoy my boy’s eccentricities.

As I watch my little guy do his thing, I can feel the big, goofy smile on my face. I suspect that my expression is similar to the one worn by my dad on that fateful night at William Paterson College, when I caught him watching me just as Mel Blanc delivered a “That’s all folks!” in Porky Pig’s iconic stutter.

 

Seal of Approval

Last week, my son was given a homework assignment to create a family seal.

I couldn’t resist; I had to draw one, too.

Here's hoping this will be passed down for generations to come.

Here’s hoping this will be passed down for generations to come. (Click to enlarge.)

This begs a question, I think:

What would you put on your family seal?