Fathers’ Day Find

My new hobby.
My new hobby.

When Fathers’ Day rolls around, I always feel a little left out. I don’t feel this way because I don’t embrace my fatherly responsibilities, because I do. The reason is because I can’t relate to any of the gifts that stores say are “Perfect for Dad!”

I don’t like football or watch a lot of TV, I don’t drink beer or want to learn how to brew it. I don’t wield barbecue tongs. I don’t camp. I don’t want to read thick tomes about Eisenhower. I have no desire to bench press anything. And I avoid neckties at all costs.

See what I mean? I am a dad, but I don’t do anything stereotypically dad-ish.

Until now.

I play golf!

Well, not really. What I mean by “golf” is that on my lunch hour, I stroll on a nearby course in search of lost or abandoned golf balls. It’s kind of like fishing in a stocked lake; as soon as I’ve plucked the course clean and head back to my office with my pockets full, new foursomes of lousy golfers tee up, thereby seeding the field for tomorrow’s search.

I recommend this hobby to anyone. You get good exercise and fresh air, you don’t have to drag a big ol’ bag around with you, and the quality of your walk is not at all dependent on how well you tap a little ball into a little hole. Also, there are hardly any rules to follow; I have only two:

1. Cracked or broken golf balls are not collected, for they are garbage.

2. Balls still “in play” are off limits, for I have no desire to spoil anyone’s game.

This activity also relaxes my body and mind. And when your body and mind are relaxed, some marvelously creative ideas can come to you. So I reserve a small space in my pocket for a notepad and a pen. You just never know when inspiration will strike.

But even without the mind and health benefits, I’d probably still collect golf balls. I’m not sure why, exactly, but if I were to guess, I’d attribute my newfound fanaticism to a childhood trauma:

Every year, my two cousins and I would take part in The Family Easter Egg Hunt, which was held in the cramped quarters of my grandmother’s living room. Cousin Celeste, who was only slightly older than me but alarmingly muscular for a girl, was very competitive on all matters large and small. (“I have never lost a game of Scabble!” she often boasted when we were kids. This was true, but the reason she never “lost” a game of Scabble was because whenever her competitor managed to wangle a seven-letter word, she would fling the game board Frisbee-like down the hallway.) Celeste saw Easter egg hunting as a full contact sport. Before my Great Uncle Bill would even finish saying, “On your mark!” Celeste would hip check me into Grandma’s coffee table.

My other competitor was my cousin Jason, who was younger, smaller, and fleet of foot. He could outrun anyone and had spent the bulk of his young existence learning how to dodge Celeste’s attacks.

To add insult to Celeste-inflicted injury, I was also a pretty crummy egg finder. This is a genetic flaw that my son has inherited. Fortunately, Alex has not had to suffer for it. Today’s kids live in a gentler age; The Family Easter Egg Hunt, now held in Auntie Susie’s finished basement, is no longer the free-for-all gladiator sport of the past. Now there are four jillion eggs to find — plenty for everyone! Every participant ends up happy and far, far richer for the experience. (Literally! Auntie Susie sticks dollar bills in some of those eggs!)

Back in the 1970s, however, the eggs numbered maybe a dozen and I was lucky if I could get three. Ever year I reaquatinted myself with the agony of defeat. I must have carried this agony into adulthood.

As I now patrol the golf course for stray balls, I have evolved into a sharp-eyed finder. Not only do I effortlessly scoop up the balls that had disappeared into the tall grass, but also the ones ground into the dirt by cheaters who didn’t like the look of their lie.

I have uncovered evidence of a lot of cheating, actually. Knowing that so many adults cheat at a game kind of disgusts me, but I’m also kind of glad the course is home to so many cheaters. Do you know how hard it is to find a half-buried golf ball? Those cheaters have turned me into a Finding Master.

All this leads me back to what I want for Fathers’ Day. It’s not a gift that one would find on a store’s “Perfect For Dad!” table, but it’s a gift that’s certainly perfect for me. I want another egg hunt with Celeste and Jason.

I have trained. I have become formidable. I have the eyes of a hawk. I have the Fire in the Belly. I no longer wear orthopedic shoes.

Better yet, I now have a desk drawer full of small, hard, and wonderfully hurl-able projectiles.

Game on, suckers.

My Crafting Crisis

Ho-Ho-Holy cow I don't have the strength for this.
Ho-Ho-Holy cow! Crafting is really hard!

Susan Rocan over at mywithershins is a lovely person and a fantastic creator of homemade greeting cards. Every Wednesday she posts whatever craft she’s working on and I, without fail, am dazzled by what I see.

It wasn’t long before I decided that just had to have one of those cards. So on one impulsive day this past fall, I begged Susan to put me on her Christmas card list. She, being lovely and Canadian (but I’m being redundant), happily agreed. I was delighted.

It then dawned on me that by asking Susan for a homemade card, I was agreeing to make a homemade card for her. This didn’t delight me so much. I haven’t made anyone a card since I was a tyke. I didn’t know where to begin.

So I did what I usually do when I need to shove an unsettling fact out of my mind; I repeated my time-honored mantra:

“I’ll come up with something.”

This mantra hasn’t failed me yet. But my confidence wavered when my birthday approached and I got this in the mail:

Holy schmoley!
Holy schmoley!

The photo doesn’t even begin to do the card justice. The level of detail is incredible. The subtle color blends, the textured papers… I was amazed.

I was also touched, for Susan didn’t just make a card and send it to me; she made a card specifically for me. To construct this card, Susan used paper made out of elephant poop. (Perhaps I should explain: Once upon a time, Susan mentioned on her blog that she bought some sheets of elephant poop paper. Ever since, I have repeatedly commented on how I would loooove to get some elephant poop paper of my very own.) Also, I don’t know if you can see it in the photo, but the lower right corner of the card sports a tiny goat! Oh, how I love goats!

After receiving this card, my mantra changed slightly:

“I’d better come up with something.”

I played around with the idea of a pop-up card. It didn’t work. Not even close. I tried a collage. It looked terrible. And as I continued to experiment (and fail) precious time slipped away.

By the time my despair tank was about half full, Susan sent me a note asking what color my eyes were. “Oh, Dear God, what is she working on?” I asked aloud to no one in particular.

I had no choice but to jump back into my comfort zone. I doodled. I didn’t know what to doodle or how my doodles would work in a card, but I doodled away and hoped for a Christmas miracle. The miracle never came, but I eventually found myself with an appealing Santa sketch.

That’s was when Susan’s Christmas card arrived:

Oh, you gotta be kidding me!
Oh, you gotta be kidding me!

Can you believe it? And, much to my surprise, inside was an apology.

“I looked all over for brown googly eyes, but I couldn’t find them. Hope black is okay!”

This is what happens when you exchange cards with a Canadian. They do something amazing and they still think they need to apologize.

Just look at it! Those gingerbread men are my wife, my son, and me!

It should also be noted that, somehow, Susan made the card smell like gingerbread. I have no idea how she did this, but if you told me she took a trip to the Serengeti, fed elephants Christmas cookies, and then loitered around the area with a shovel to collect their droppings, I’d believe you.

The pressure mounting, my time almost up, I finally came up with this.

Here it is!

It looks simple, and compared with what Susan gave me, it is. But making this thing was far more involved than I ever could’ve imagined. After making a satisfying Santa doodle, I polished it up and photocopied it onto a piece of résumé paper – which gave me a nice enough texture to add color. Then I cut out the jolly fellow out with an x-acto knife and pasted him onto a sheet of Bristol vellum. Then I meandered around an A.C. Moore for what felt like 96 hours puzzling over Christmas-themed papers. Then, using my beloved Royal – and its very Christmas-y red ribbon – I typed out my greetings on the Christmas-themed paper and pasted the paper in the card.

I have always been impressed by Susan’s skills, but now I am impressed to the tenth power. Thanks again, Susan, you amazing crafter, you! I will hang onto your cards always. Do forgive my modest effort; it wasn’t due to lack of trying, that’s for sure.

My Christmas Card inside

Here’s hoping all of you fine bloggers (and blog readers) had a happy holiday! See you in the new year!

Three Things I Did Over My Holiday Vacation

And, in the role of Florence Nightingale, Sarah Josepha Hale.
And, in the role of Florence Nightingale, Sarah Josepha Hale.

I Broke My Big Toe

Two days before Christmas, I fell down some stairs. To be more accurate, I fell down one stair.

My life is peppered with embarrassing injuries such as this. Once, while making my bed, I tore a tendon in my middle finger. To put it another way, I had to wear a splint on my finger for six weeks just to experience the bliss of hospital corners. I regret nothing.

So I am now using a cane. This has made me instantly popular. People love to play with canes. My son pretends to be an old man, my niece tap dances with it, my coworker uses it to fondly reflect on her days as a marching band majorette. As for me, I like to wave it at punk kids playing on my lawn. Scram, you miserable urchins!

 I Ran a Successful Mouse Motel

On the morning of December 26th I discovered that we had a Christmas mouse. Adorable Christmas mice are the subjects of many holiday picture books. These books, all fail to mention, however, that Christmas mice poop.

They poop a lot.

I knew the interloper had to go, but I also knew I wanted him unharmed. I set up a few Have-A-Heart traps and waited.

The problem with Have-A-Heart traps is that, once trapped, the mouse is enclosed in a tiny little box with just a morsel of bait and no water. Because if this, I am obsessed with releasing the fellows into “the wild” (about six blocks away) the instant they are caught.

By 10 pm, however, I had caught nothing. I was soon faced with the reality that I was probably going to catch the mouse in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. I hated the very idea. The little fellow could be stuck in that tiny trap for eight hours or more. So I promised God that if He woke me up as soon as the trap was sprung, I would set up a comfortable place for the mouse to stay until I could get around to releasing him.

At 4 am I sat bolt upright in bed. I hadn’t heard a trap spring, but I knew. I hobbled up to the attic, got the Plexiglas terrarium I sometimes use to transport my pet rat to the vet, and decked it out with some comfy bedding, fresh water, and primo rat food. My rat, Lucy, always a curious sort, watched me work.

A few minutes later, Ellen, hands on hips, joined this little gathering. She was less curious and decidedly more scornful. “Getting another pet, are we?” she asked.

Remember the show The Honeymooners? Remember how Alice Kramden sometimes looked at Ralph when she caught him doing something particularly boneheaded? Ellen looked exactly like that.

But my conscience is clear. The mouse was fat, content, and happy by the time I released him the next day.

I Discovered that Bloggers Give the Best Christmas Gifts

Sarah Josepha Hale makes her guests fell at home.
Sarah Josepha Hale makes her guests feel at home.

OK, they weren’t Christmas gifts, they were prizes I won in winter blog contests – but my good fortune arrived just in time to make me feel all holly jolly.

The first contest I won was over at Madame Weebles’s place. If you don’t know Weebles, you don’t get out much. She is a Blogger’s Blogger. She is probably the best blogger there ever was or ever will be. Through Weebles, I won a pair of classic Weeble Wobbles – the good ones from the 1970s. I have named then Cornelius and Corky and they are friends with my Sarah Josepha Hale bobblehead.

The second contest was conducted by Roxie Hanna. If you write for a living you must, must, must visit her blog. She provides great leads for all kinds of writing gigs. (I personally have earned a nice chunk of change pursing a few of these leads.) Roxie gave me the gift of her editorial skills. She scrutinized one of my picture book manuscripts and provided me with a bunch of excellent comments.

The third contest was held by Sarah W. Sarah’s blog is a hodgepodge of awesomeness. Cartoons, videos, poems… Every day at her place is a delight. (Oh, and just so you know, Sarah’s daughter will someday rule the world – or at least a mid-sized island nation with a solid GDP.) I wasn’t planning to enter the contest, but Sarah made me. And then I won! So I am now the proud owner of a Cafepress mug. I slurped coffee out of it this morning; it works like a charm!

To sum up, I have an ugly toe, think mice are adorable, and am glad to be back in the blogging world.

So! How was your holiday?