Changeup, Chapter 21

Joe knew he was breaking the rules, but he didn't even hesitate for a moment as he turned on his old transistor radio.

He turned the volume all the way down, and then back up just a hair. He didn't have to waste any time finding the right AM station; his dial never moved from the broadcast of the Dukes, his hometown minor league team.

He couldn't cheer since it would alert his parents, but he could silently pump his fists in the air toward the invisible ceiling in his blackened room. Every hit, every stolen base, and especially every run was celebrated with the fervor of Christmas. Every strikeout, every double play and every long fly ball that didn't quite make the fence filled Joe with dismay.

Joe's folks sat in the living room. Joe's dad read the paper while Joe's mom worked a jigsaw puzzle.

"Ed? Did you hear that?"

"I know."

"Are you going to go talk to him?"

"No. Let him be, at least for tonight."

"You say that most nights."

When they finally headed off to bed, his dad stopped and opened Joe's door. He smiled as the light from the hall showed little Joe, in his footed pajamas, hugging the transistor radio as nothing but static eminated from the speakers.

He kissed Joe on the forehead and gently placed the radio on the dresser.

As he tucked him in once again, he whispered, "Good night, Buddy. Love you."

.

Giveaway: The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting

The last giveaway went well, so let's do it again!

Tell us your funniest kiddo story. It can be about you as a kid, or about your own progeny.

Examples:
  • Grocery store meltdown
  • Embarrassing church moment
  • Bathroom mishap

Two lucky winners will receive a copy of The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting, by Bunmi Laditan.

This giveaway is sponsored by Bunmi and her publishers - THANK YOU!


Edit: Congratulations to Chad Jones and Rob Shepherd!

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Changeup, Chapter 20

Renee sat across from him, frowning nervously.

With one hand, she slid her appetizer around and around her plate. Her other fidgeted and rubbed an earring. No genie appeared.

"What's wrong?", Joe asked.

Renee's frown immediately dissolved as she glanced up at Joe. She smiled slightly.

"Nothing's wrong. I'm just nervous. It's a big night."

Joe laughed.

"I wasn't nervous when I met your dad."

Renee chuckled. "You planned that one right! Had I brought you to meet him, you would have had every reason to be nervous."

Joe smiled. "I'm a planner."

Renee laughed again.

"But really", Joe said. "You don't have to be nervous about meeting Mom. She's great. Easy-going."

"Am I?"

Joe stood and pulled out the table's only empty chair.

"Mom, this is Renee. Renee, this is my mom, Bee."

The waiter topped off drinks as initial pleasantries were exchanged. They ordered, then talked about Joe.

Joe hadn't quite seen this one coming. He thought he'd have to guide the conversation to make sure the ice was broken. Instead, they laughed like old friends. Renee listened to each of the stories Joe's mom told with enraptured interest, interjecting only with a question here and there. It turned out he wasn't really needed except to turn red and explain himself now and then.

He sputtered the embarrassing back story to the infamous giraffe escapade. After the laughter died down, Bee said to Renee, "Joe tells me you're a baseball nut, too."

Renee nodded enthusiastically. "Grew up on it. My dad didn't know how to relate to a little girl, so we bonded over baseball."

The conversation turned to the good old days.

Bee said, "What do you miss the most?"

Renee thought a moment. "Announcing."

Joe looked puzzled. "Announcing?!? You never told me you were an announcer."

Renee blushed. "I wasn't. But sometimes Dad would put on a big league game with the sound off and let me be the announcer. Seems silly now, but it was a lot of fun then. It made Dad enjoy the games no matter who won."

Joe turned to his Mom. "What do you miss?"

"Watching you. You loved it so much. You were never much of a pitcher, but I remember the first time you got put on the mound. Your team had a good lead, so the coach was kind enough to let some of you try out positions you wouldn't normally get to play. You pitched the last inning of the game."

Joe beamed. "I remember that! I was nervous, but settled in quickly. I struck out one of my friends on the other team. I couldn't believe I did so well!"

Joe's mom laughed. "No, you were terrible! You struck out your friend, but gave up 6 runs beforehand. You struck him out the second time you faced him that inning! But you didn't care; you were just excited to take the mound. You smiled ear to ear, from start to finish. I've always wondered what that felt like. I was so happy for you"

They stayed so long, they shut down the restaurant. They walked to their cars, the conversation hardly interrupted. Joe opened the door for Renee. The handle jammed. He sighed, embarrassed.

"Guess I'll have to finally replace this old thing."

"Why?", asked Renee.

"Runs fine", said Bee. "Don't toss something aside just because it's not fancy."

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Team Coverage of the Zip Line Straitjackets

How many of us aren't sick of the local news? It's 3 minutes of Gloom 'n Doom, followed by a 2 minute medical report telling you to avoid bananas because they cause cancer but to eat lots because they aid in weight loss, and capped off with 17 minutes of Live Team Coverage of the Fact It's a Tad Bit Windy Outside.

Sometimes I go back through old messages on my phone to clean out junk I don't need. I'm looking at a message right now from an old friend. It says, "Right on buddy, stay in touch." It's from January 18th. I never replied.

I have never heard the song Christmas Shoes, but I have heard everyone complain about it. It still can’t be worse than The Little Drummer Boy. The reindeer should have run over the Little Drummer Boy, not Grandma. Per rumpa pum THUMP.

When the Boss asked for ideas for 2014, apparently she wasn't looking for awesome ideas like “Install zip line from roof to parking garage.”

Sometimes when I’m dancing I forget the work elevator has cameras.

Curse Allen and his wrenches. Long live King Philip!

Straitjackets get a bad rap. A little re-branding and they’d sell like hot cakes to parents of toddlers. I mean, it worked for the leash, right?




What's your best idea for 2014?.

Changeup, Chapter 19

Tryouts lasted a week.

Joe watched on and off, but did not offer any input. He had expected most of the hopefuls to be hacks simply having a good time. He was surprised at how many had showed up with talent as well as a glove.

On the last day, he sat in a dugout watching with Mr. Finnigan. Mr. Finnigan was pacing, again. He was angry and more than a little anxious with the approach Joe had taken to fill the shortstop position.

"Tell me again why we're putting on this circus instead of bringing in a pro."

"A 'pro' is one thing, Mr. Finnigan. A washed up star coasting into retirement is another. Not only would that be more expensive, but nobody fitting that description could be expected to try as hard as a rookie."

Mr. Finnigan paced, his scowl growing.

"We're making fools of ourselves. I'll bet the other owners are laughing themselves to sleep every night knowing we'll put anybody on our team."

Joe smiled.

"I bet the other owners already have shortstops."

Lou came into the dugout, a stack of bats over his bony shoulder.

"Who would you pick, Lou?"

Lou looked up at Joe, started.

"Me?

Lou glanced nervously at Mr. Finnigan, and then said, "I'd pick that Carson kid."

Mr. Finnigan snorted derisively. "Him? He's 17!"

Lou's eyes narrowed and his jaw set as he said, "He's quick on his feet. Nothing gets past him in the gap between second and third, and he attacks sharp hits instead of flinching from them."

Mr. Finnigan laughed, but his tone was curt. "He swings at everything. He had no patience at the plate."

Lou was undaunted. "Doesn't matter. Comes with experience. You can't teach someone hustle or drive. I can teach him patience."

"Not your job, Lou. Leave the bats in the corner on your way out."

"It is now", said Joe. "You're fired, Mr. Finnigan."

Review of Ender's Game

I wasn't going to bother you with this. Honestly I wasn't.

But then one of you asked me to write a review of Ender's Game, the film adaptation of one of my top three favorite books of all time.

And then another asked.

And another.

So here we go.

--
I've waited a long time for this movie to come out. I've followed the blogs, podcasts and Twitter feeds of the actors and producers. I made my pregnant wife sit through a late showing on opening night after standing on her feet for a twelve hour shift. There wasn't even time for dinner between when she got off work and when the movie started.

You could say my expectations were high for this film.

The fact that I didn't hate it and walk out of the theater griping is quite a feat in and of itself.

I rated it an 8 out of 10 on IMDB.

I'll start with the bad first, to get it out of the way. And yes, there may be spoilers. But that's one of the beautiful things about Ender's Game - I've read it a dozen times and loved it each time. The plot isn't interesting solely on the twists, like The Sixth Sense. Ender's Game is about the characters.

We don't see much of Peter, Ender's older brother. In the book, he is pivotal in shaping Ender's outlook on life. They try to touch on it later, but you don't really understand the depth of his impact on Ender.

The Battle School portion of the story is so rushed, you'll feel dizzy. In the original story, this is where Ender becomes a leader. He earns every promotion and he earns every friend. He slowly builds relationships and trust. His friends and followers are loyal to the end, because he is the sort of leader that's worth following. In the film, he shows up at Battle School and the kids just seem to start liking him after a bit. While this moves the story along quicker, it diminishes the impact of the climax of the story.

All that being said, I was still blown away.

The special effects are nothing short of astounding. They had to invent new ways of doing things in order to make this film. People have been talking lately about how great the null gravity scenes are in the movie Gravity. What they don't know is that Ender's Game was filmed first and they borrowed and then adapted their methods largely from Ender's Game (with permission).

The Battle Room has been changed from the original vision laid out in the book. This was a brilliant move. How it looks and works on screen is stunning.

The climactic scene was jaw-dropping.

But none of the effects diminished or eclipsed the brilliance of Asa Butterfield.

Ender is a tremendously difficult character to portray. It would be easy and understandable for any actor to make him come off as simply petulant, pouty or psychotic. While the movie cannot show us what's going on in Ender's head, the book does, and I can vouch for every nod, wince, smile, tear, etc. Asa Butterfield absolutely knocked this one out of the park. I cannot say enough about his performance.

The movie cut some things and tweaked what it had to, but added nothing. Every major event from the book is in the movie. Huge relief!

Having read the book kept me from getting confused during the movie. So, if you can, read the book first and then see the movie. They complement each other nicely. But if you can't, then enjoy a very fast but compelling movie.

I'd recommend following the PG-13 rating. There are some intense scenes and heavy stuff to think about. It's not merely eye candy.


Have you seen it? What did you think?
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Changeup, Chapter 18

2400 people showed up for the open tryouts.

The press showed up in such great numbers that Joe spent much of his time answering reporters' questions.

"Why did you fire Dempsey?"

"Why are you holding open tryouts?"

"Did you know your AAA farm team shortstop, Frank Hampton, is upset he didn't get called up?"

Joe had sat on the roof of the third base dugout to watch the tryouts. He'd been trying to stay out of the coaching staff's way as they weeded out the hopefuls, but his poorly chosen spot was quickly seen. He finally turned to face the reporters.

"These tryouts are open. I don't see Frank Hampton here. Guess he didn't want it that bad. As for Dempsey - he cheated, so he's gone. Every one of our players will be required to sign an addendum to their contract agreeing not to cheat in any way. If they're caught doing so, their contract will be voided. As for the tryouts - I've just been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why not pass that opportunity along?"

Joe hopped off the dugout into the field and walked away from the reporters. He wandered down the left field line, thinking.

He startled a bit when the left field fence popped open. He looked up and saw an older man, carrying a bucket.

"Sorry", Joe said. He stepped to the side to let the man go through.

"No problem. You must be Joe." The man stuck out a wrinkled hand. "I'm Lou."

Joe shook Lou's hand, which was surprisingly strong.

"Good to meet you, Lou. What do you do here?"

"Little of this, little of that. Right now's I'm raiding the bullpen for some more balls. We're using everything we can find today."

Lou touched the tip of his hat and stepped around Joe as he headed back toward the field. He stopped, and then turned back slightly.

"Gotta hand it to you, Son. Ain't never done it like this before."

Joe nodded. "I've never done it before at all!"

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Hit Me With Your Best Tot

Today, we're doing a giveaway!

Tell us your funniest kiddo story. It can be about you as a kid, or about your own progeny.

Examples:

  • Grocery store meltdown
  • Embarrassing church moment
  • Bathroom mishap

The grand prize is a Kindle copy of The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting, by Bunmi Laditan.

Runners-up prizes include lots of laughs.


Update: Congratulations to Bryan and Amie Logan! Check your inbox for your Kindle copy of The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting!

Fine print: This giveaway is by me, not Bunmi Laditan. I have not been compensated, bribed or given pizza in order to do this. I just love this book and want to pass it on.
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Como se Dice?

I'm trying to learn Spanish.

I've tried before, in school. I took a combined 3 years of Spanish, but don't remember much beyond "hola", "gracias", and "Lo siento, pero no comprendo, por que soy Gringo. Donde esta los banos?" I only passed the high school classes because of my long neck, and I passed the college one because I made the teacher laugh during my conversational final exam (see potty joke above).

If I put in the same effort as I did in school, I'm sure I'll still not know any Spanish when I'm done. This doesn't bother me because I'm listening to a weekly podcast that covers the basics, taught by two people from Scotland. I'll just wait a moment while you have fun imagining the accents.

I tried to learn Irish from a different podcast a couple years ago, but all I learned at the time was the word for 'ditch', which I can't remember any more.

Perhaps I would have remembered the Irish word for 'ditch' if it was taught to me by Spanish people.


If you know a fun word in another language, leave it in the comments and I'll try to guess what it means. I promise I won't Google it - not because I'm that honest, but because I'm that lazy.

Go!
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Changeup, Chapter 17

"GO, JOE!"

She sat on the uncomfortable bleachers, which were rickety and hardened with time. Though she was swimming in it, Joe's tiny mom wore the team's t-shirt. "Sunrise Little League All-Stars" was printed in large red letters on the front. She hadn't complained the only size left was an extra large. She'd just smiled with pride.


Normally, Joe's mom was shy; quiet and reserved.


Not today.


Though she'd sat at hundreds of games, today was different. Her son had made the all-star team.


Joe could hear her over the crowd after every play he made; every swing he took.


When he stole second, she was on her feet.


And when he dove into home, safe by a hair, he was pretty sure she lost her voice.


His team lost that day, but Joe found it hard to hang his head as he gazed towards the bleachers.


There stood his 5'2" mother, beaming and tall on her 7 foot step stool of pride.

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Changeup, Chapter 16

Joe studied the list.

The number of names surprised him. He knew a baseball team was more than the starting nine, but he hadn't thought the number of people who now worked for him would be this high.

Ticket takers. Parking attendants. Cleanup crew.

Human resources. Physical trainers. Stats analysts.

Travel agents. Media relations. Sales and marketing.

He looked up from the list, sat back in his chair and sighed. He glanced at the man sitting across the desk from him.

"And where do you fit into all this, Mr. Finnigan?"

Nathan Finnigan was a tall man. He wore a tailored suit and his shoes shined. Not a hair out of place on his middle-aged head. Joe imagined he'd fit in better on Wall Street than in Kansas City.

"I make sure it all runs smoothly, Joe."

"So everyone reports to you?"

Mr. Finnigan smiled and waved a hand in Joe's direction.

"Not everyone."

"So what do I need to know, Mr. Finnigan?"

"You need a new shortstop, but you need him cheap and temporary."

"Why?"

"Your current one is out for half the season."

"Injury?"

"Suspension. Used performance enhancing drugs. But the good news is you don't have to pay him while he's suspended, so you have $9 million freed up to find a temporary replacement."

"We pay our shortstop $9 million a year?!?"

"$18...9 is for half the season."

"If he's a cheater, I don't want him. Cut him."

"Can't do that, Joe."

"Why not?"

"Harold Dempsey is still under contract. Cutting him means paying him, big-time. Besides, he's your star player."

"Then what do you suggest? How do you bring in someone good enough to play shortstop, but expect them to do their best knowing they're not going to stick around?"

"Easy. Find a star on his way out, an old-timer. Offer him $3 million for a one season contract. He'll play half the season, and then go on the injured reserve for the second half, but he won't mind because he's collecting for the entire season."

"You can put someone on the injured list if they're not injured?"

"Someone's injured when I say they're injured, Joe."

Joe stared at Mr. Finnigan for a while, absorbing the facts of life. He decided to switch topics for a moment.

"I want to make tickets more affordable for families, Mr. Finnigan."

"Of course, Joe! We have a family night every other month. Tickets for $5 a person."

Joe stared again.

"Cut Dempsey. And general admission tickets are $5 a person. Every game this season."

It was Finnigan's turn to stare, but he quickly recovered.

"I'll need to know who you want me to replace him with. I'll have a list of eligible players to you by the end of the day."

"Don't need a list, Mr. Finnigan."

"Who do you have in mind?"

"Not who, Mr. Finnigan, what. Put out a press release. Open tryouts for starting shortstop start tomorrow."

.

Motorcycle Butterfly Stowaways

Scene:

3:30 AM

All household occupants are sleeping peacefully.

Except the smallest, a stowaway named Evan.

A piercing scream pierces the quiet, piercingly.

The groggy male caretaker is instantly on his feet, scrambling to the scene of the crime.

Groggy Male Caretaker: What's the matter, Bubs?

Evan: It HURRRRTS!

Groggy Male Caretaker: What hurts?!?

Evan: I wanna hold it!

Groggy Male Caretaker: Hold what? What's going on?

Evan: The butterfly! Wanna hold the butterfly! Wanna hold it!

Groggy Male Caretaker: Don't we all, Son. Time for bed.

Evan: Nigh-nigh, motorcycle!

Groggy Male Caretaker: Good night, Son.

Groggy Female Caretaker: What was the problem?

Groggy Male Caretaker: Butterflies.

Groggy Female Caretaker: Again?

Groggy Male Caretaker: Can't trust 'em.


Weirdest late night experience - Go!
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Vegging Tales

The plot to every episode of Thomas the Tank Engine can be resolved by getting rid of Thomas. If I was Sir Topham Hatt, I would sell him for scrap or pay James to nudge him off a cliff. Super Why! is the most annoying and ridiculous kid's show ever. The theme song has about 4 words and gets stuck in your head all week long until it makes you stabby. Example plot: kid in class is asked what 3 + 2 is. He then ditches class with his friends and goes to their top secret command center, where they don superhero costumes and start researching books for the answer. I turned it off at that point. Seriously...it would have been easier to stay in class, yes? Evan was watching Little Einsteins on the iPad the other day while I was cleaning. He came running up to me, crying his eyes out. "SCARY! Rocks are scary!" Curious, I picked up the iPad to see what was going on. The Little Einsteins were trying to stop an asteroid field from destroying the earth. Yikes! "That IS scary, Son. Let's watch something else." Evan selected The Magic School Bus. I started it and headed off to finish cleaning. His wails brought me trotting back. Tears were dripping off his chin. I picked up the iPad and sure enough, they were flying the school bus through an asteroid field, talking about how they could be destroyed any second. So basically I'm teaching my son to fear an imminent death from space rocks. Go me.

What kids' shows do you love or hate?
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The $287 Bill

The man approached the bank teller with confidence.

He handed him a crisp bill with Lincoln's face on it.

Man: Hi. I'd like to get change for this.

Teller: Will five ones do, or do you need quarters as well?

Man: No, I'd like 14 twenties, and 7 Susan B. Anthonys.

Teller: What? This is a $5.

Man: No, it's a $287 bill.

Teller: There's no such thing!

Man: But there should be!

Teller: And yet there isn't!

Man: *Grabbing a pen* There is now...pass over my Susan B. Anthonys!

Teller: Just because you write "287" on it and cross out the "5" doesn't make it a $287 bill.

Man: Sure looks that way to me! What gives you the right to decide?

Teller: This is a $5 bill. That's what the U.S. Treasury intended it to be. No more, no less. I don't make the rules, Sir. I don't have to like the rules, but I do have to comply.

Man: But I would be a lot happier if this was a $287 bill! Why don't you want me to be happy?

Teller: I'd like for you to be happy, Sir. I just would like for you to be happy with a $5 bill.

Man: You bankers and your rules! If you all would just relax, we could all have our own way and be happier. What do you care if this bill is a $5 bill or a $287 bill? It doesn't affect you. You wouldn't be giving me your own personal money as change; it would be the bank's.

Teller: If everyone made their $5 bills into $287 bills, inflation would make the $287 bill the new $5 bill. We wouldn't accomplish anything but driving prices higher. And I don't know about you, but I don't want things to cost more. I'd have to live in the world you created, which isn't the way things were intended to be. That's how it affects me.

Man: You're so hateful and judgmental!

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Superphone Tasty Cologne

When I first found my son standing in our shower, sucking on the cap to my cologne bottle, banging the bottle on the shower door, I was annoyed. Then it occurred to me - what else are you going to do when you're two and Mom and Dad won't turn on the TV for you or let you use the iPad?

I used to call the gym "the Hurting Place". I don't do that anymore since I stopped going when we bought an elliptical machine. Now I walk up to it and say, "Hello, Newman."

Buying the new iPhone will give me superpowers, yes? I seem to remember that's how it works.

We got our refrigerator 9.5 years ago. It has a water dispenser in the door. I have never changed the water filter for this dispenser. I prefer the water from the refrigerator dispenser over our tap water. Either this means the filter is still good, or I prefer water filtered with yuck. Let's go with option 1.


What have you been lax about lately?
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Things My One-Year-Old Used to Be Able to Do...

This is what sunroofs are for.

My one-year-old used to be able to:

  • Sing "Amazing Grace".
  • Count to 6, using most of the numbers along the way.
  • Name all the letters in the alphabet by sight.
  • Drive Grandpa's Corvette around the cul-de-sac.
  • Use an iPad, iPhone, iPod or iAnything like a pro. Including turning on the magnification feature no one could figure out how to turn off.
  • Build a lawn mower and a truck at Home Depot.
  • Somersault down a flight of stairs and ask to do it again.
  • Show off his vocabulary - turquoise, onomatopoeia, arrivederci, Isotopes.
  • Ask us to take him to a baseball game, then say "OK!", and go wait by the garage door.

Sadly, my one-year-old can no longer do any of these things.

Because, today, he's two.

Evan, I don't know where the time goes, but I do know this:

We love you.

Now, get in the car - we're going to a baseball game!


Sappy, precious memories...go!
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A Glimmer of Hope

This post is part of The Caper Challenge. Follow the link to read other's caper stories.

--
It mocked him, hanging there like a shining, unreachable star.

Glenn sighed and turned away. He shuffled on down the road. The road to nowhere, it seemed.

He was tired.

Tired of walking to work since they couldn't afford a second car. Tired of working the night shift as a custodian in a skyscraper stuffed with cubicles. Tired of never being able to buy Trixie anything nice. Tired of struggling.

Trixie. His dear, sweet Trixie. Trixie who didn't need anything fancy; who was content. Trixie who encouraged Glenn to have hope, to try harder, to laugh more. Trixie, the light at the end of his tunnel. She'd even made it a point to pick him up from work whenever it rained, just so he didn't have to walk.


She deserved better than living paycheck to paycheck, playing hide-and-seek with the landlord for a few days past their rent's due date every month. She deserved better than the shabby, leaky and smelly apartment a custodian's paycheck allowed.


Trixie always made the best of things. Glenn remembered sitting on the roof of their apartment building. Glenn had been on edge, but after just a few minutes of Trixie's smile, he was relaxed and enjoying himself. In fact, he had almost forgotten that they were on the roof in an effort to avoid the landlord's incessant pounding on the front door.


They had watched the stars.


He couldn't get the image of the necklace out of his head. It hung in the window of the jewelry shop day after day. Every day it shined for him to see, twinkled for him to wish. He wanted it for Trixie.


Glenn pulled his badge from his back pocket as he approached the doors to his skyscraper. He paused on the front steps.


He couldn't do it. Couldn't muck his way through another shift wiping toilets and dumping bins for ungrateful cubicle dwellers. Couldn't stand dusting around their smiling family pictures and Dilbert page-a-days. Tonight the ingrates were peacefully dreaming at home again and he couldn't stand it anymore.


The wind picked up and it started to rain. He pulled his hood over his head and groaned.

Just perfect.

He turned and marched back the way he had come. He didn't know he had a plan, and surprised himself when he hurled the rock without a moment's hesitation. The glass shattered, sparkling in the moonlight as it glittered to the ground around his feet. But it didn't sparkle nearly as stunningly as the necklace. His gaze wasn't even distracted by the blaring of the alarm.

He grabbed it quickly, snapping the fish line it dangled from. He held it close to his face, trying to examine it in the dark.


Fake. "Of course", he thought. It's in the window, easy to snag. He stepped up and in, glass crunching under his work boots.


It was too dark to hunt for the real one. Besides, he hadn't much time. He methodically began to smash every display case. He grabbed and he grabbed, discriminating against nothing. He filled his coat pockets and then his pant pockets. There was still more, but he couldn't fit it anywhere. Quickly, he pulled his socks up over his pant legs and began to fill the pant legs with more jewelry.


He heard the sirens, but couldn't run. He'd lose all the jewelry, and he had no idea where the necklace was stuffed, if he even had it at all. He walked as quickly as he could down the alley behind the jewelry store. He turned down another alley, thinking only of distance, no real plan in his mind.

He reached the chain link fence at the same time the police squad car reached the alley. He was trapped. The fence separating the alley from the junkyard was too tall to climb.


The squad car had its flood light on and was sweeping the alley. He crouched in the corner with nowhere to go. If he hadn't been seen yet, he would be very soon.


"Psst!"


The voice immediately behind him startled him. He glanced back, through the fence. An old, skinny man stood there, beckoning. A scraggly beard pretended to cover his face.


Glenn stared dumbly at the fence.


The old man snapped, "Just push it!" He turned and began walking away.


Glenn pushed on the fence. It bent in at the bottom. He scrambled under and let it snap back in place. The flood light illuminated the spot he'd been in just two seconds earlier. He turned and followed the old man as fast he could without losing all his loot.


"Why did you help me?", Glenn asked.


"'Cause I ain't the cops! Plus, it'll cost you a cut of whatever you're packing. You look like the Michelin man!"


He led Glenn to a shack near the entrance to the junkyard.


"On the table."


Glenn hesitated for only a moment, but the old man did not. He was holding a dirty revolver in his hand.


"Now."


Glenn started emptying pockets and pant legs. The old man's eyes grew wider and wider as the pile on the table grew taller and shinier.


"You can have it all", Glenn said. "Except this."


He gently pulled out the necklace. It glinted brighter inside the shack than the dim single bulb hanging eerily from the ceiling should have allowed.


The old man chuckled. "That's funny." He raised the revolver an inch or two. "Hand it over. Now."


Glenn gripped the necklace tighter. "Please. It's why I did it. It's for my girl. Trixie deserves something special. Please."


The old man squinted at Glenn. A long moment passed. He glanced longingly at the necklace one last time and shifted his gaze toward the sound of the sirens


"Take it and get out of my sight, or my bullet will find you faster than those cops."


Glenn shoved the necklace into his pocket and hurried from the shack. He sprinted home, not slowing the entire way. He took the stairs up to the apartment. Didn't want the ding of the shaky elevator to wake the landlord.


Eight stories up. It wasn't until he approached his apartment door that he began wondering what he'd say to Trixie. How would he explain why he wasn't at work? What would he tell her about the necklace?


He stopped at the door and took a deep breath. It didn't matter what he would say. Trixie would know what to do. She always did.


He pushed open the door, but instead of Trixie's warm smile, he found himself looking into a wolf-like sneer. Two detectives had a bewildered Glenn in handcuffs before he could say a word. They led him to a car.

"How did you find me so quick?", he asked from the backseat on the ride downtown.


"You're an idiot, Glenn. We found your badge in the middle of the jewelry store, right next to the rock you tossed through the window."


Glenn sighed. The badge must have fallen out of his pocket in his haste to pack in the jewelry. He was so focused on getting out of there he hadn't even thought about checking to see if he'd left any evidence.


--


Trixie stared at him through the glass, the phone against her ear.


"You stood me up, Glenn."


He stared back in surprise, and then realization washed over him.

"You came to pick me up."

"And saw everything!"

Glenn hung his head. "That figures," he thought.


"It was worth a shot, though," said Glenn despondently.


"Well, that's not how I would have planned it. I guess I'll have to teach you how to spot a real diamond from a fake. I'll wait for you, Glenn. We'll both be here when you get out."


Then, as sly as a fox, she brushed her hair back from her neck discreetly revealing an unmistakable glimmer. She hung up the phone, gave him that warm smile, stood and walked away.

Glenn smiled. Trixie, his love, shined as bright as hope itself.




Special thanks to Jana and Jane Anderson, who helped me immensely with this story.

--


What did you think?
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The History of Words

A long time ago, people used them too. They still do.


The End


Give me a brief history of something.
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Brilliance in the Basics

My wife recently had to take an IT exam for her job. I think passing this exam should be a prerequisite for obtaining computer support. Here's a sample of the questions. Please put your answers in the comments.


Curses!

You can't do this in real life

It's still a left click, even if you're left-handed

It doesn't do anything until you turn on the PC by clicking the power button

I don't want to; it's HP. I might break it.

Safety Tips!

Never kiss a shark on the lips.

Always wear a seatbelt. Except for when you're not in the car.

Go ahead and bring that knife to the gunfight, but bring a gun too. That way when everyone's out of bullets, you'll have an edge.

Don't eat poison. That stuff's poisonous.

Never tell secrets to a spy. The hard part is knowing who the spies are. So if someone comes up to you and says, "I'm a spy - tell me all your secrets!", you should resond, "No, thank you". They won't be mad, because you were at least polite about it.

If someone points a gun at you and says, "Give me all your money!", you should comply...but ask if they accept checks.

Don't play in traffic. Parks are safer and more fun, assuming it's not one of the new ones with no swingsets.


Give me some safety tips!
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Changeup, Chapter 15

"You want to do what?!?"

"You heard me, Mike."

"I don't even know how to go about it. As you can imagine, I've never dealt with a client that had this much money. I've never handled this sort of transaction. There's going to have to be brokers, lawyers and consultants involved."

"Look, I'm not expecting you to be the expert or do it all yourself. I just know that I can trust you and I was hoping you'd coordinate this whole thing."

"I'll put together a valuation and then send you over a proposal to approve. This isn't going to be an overnight process, Joe."

"I understand. Thanks, Mike."

-

It didn't happen overnight, but three months of meetings, contracts and negotiations later, Joe dropped his pen on the desk, the ink drying on the last signature.

The baseball season was over, but it still took the top headline in the paper:

ROYALS GET NEW OWNER

Joe smiled as he glanced at the article. He only skimmed, as there weren't any details he wasn't already aware of.

He had butterflies in his stomach as he stepped up to the podium. He found it funny this was the part he was most nervous about. He'd just completed a purchase he could only have dreamed of 6 months ago, and he was sweating a few journalists. The irony made him smile, which made him look far more relaxed than he felt.

The questions came fast, and Joe's head swam. Where had he gotten the money? Were there other investors? Did he have any experience running teams before? No college degree? Would that put him at a disadvantage? Would the team stay in Kansas City, or did he plan on moving them?

Joe tried to keep up, but his one and two word answers only let the questions queue faster.

Finally, one journalist in the back caught his attention. "You're the youngest team owner in baseball history. What do you think you'll differently, and why?", she asked.

Joe paused to collect his thoughts. He thought about the games he'd seen with Dad. He thought about the thrills he'd felt watching the World Series and the All-Star games. The players he'd looked up to - Rickey Henderson, Joe Carter, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan.

He stepped around the podium, slowly but confidently, like a pastor preparing for an alter call.

"I love baseball. Have since I can remember, and probably before that. My dad was a great man, and that's what we shared - baseball. Playing, coaching, watching, analyzing, cheering; we did it all."

"Baseball was about believing. Believing you could get the hit. Believing your team would win the Series. When they didn't, you believed there was always next year."

"It was affordable. It brought communities together. Even during the Great Depression, stadiums were packed with families. Today, I look around and over half the stadium is empty...just like baseball is today."

Joe paused while he fished something out of his coat pocket.

"This is the ball my dad and I played with since I was able to sit up and roll it across the floor to him. It's signed by George Brett and Whitey Herzog. You may have heard of them; they're in the Hall of Fame. The cover's coming off and it's far from the shiny white it was when they signed it. That's because we played baseball with it. Today, someone would simply sell it on eBay and pocket the cash. Then it would sit in a display case on some soulless executive's desk in a gray high rise."

"I want kids to enjoy baseball again, like they used to. I want families to turn off the TV and put down their PlayStation controllers and come to the ballpark. I want them to bond and build memories as fond as mine."

"Baseball used to be the national pastime, and if I have my way, it will be again."

The Cobbler's Buddy

I have a lanyard for my work badge.

Evan likes to play with it. He calls it "Daddy's necklace".

The other day Jana and Evan came to my office to have lunch. Evan started begging Jana to give him "Daddy's necklace". Thinking quickly, she clipped the badge from his Sunday School class to his shirt. He
stuck out his chest with pride.

Evan just wants to be like me. He follows me around the house, intensely interested in whatever I'm doing - from dishes to taxes to restroom breaks.

He looks to me as his daddy, his friend and his role model.

I was sick the other day. I was lying in bed, miserable. He climbed up into the bed, laid his head down on the pillow next to me and placed his hand on my cheek.

"Hi, Buddy", he said.

Am I training him well? Do I encourage him enough? Do I set clear boundaries? Do I live up to the trust he blindly gives me?

My dad is the best dad anyone could ask for. He has very large shoes to fill.

Am I making my shoes big enough?
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Changeup, Chapter 14

Joe stared at the computer screen.

It was one thing to imagine a sudden windfall. The fancy houses and fast cars, parties and carefree living. It was quite another thing to handle the brass tacks and decide what to really do with it.

He knew most folks with sudden money blew through it in the blink of an eye. He'd been entrusted with too much to want to throw it all away.

He researched lottery winners. Very few could still be thought of us 'winners'. One went bankrupt, got divorced and ended up living in the woods behind the mansion he used to own.

He searched for 'how to spend a fortune'. Basically every article could be summed up with the word 'Carefully'.

Joe sighed and closed the laptop lid. He set the laptop on his coffee table, stood and stretched.

It had been three weeks since he'd gone to a ball game. He'd been focusing on handling the stock certificates. He was burnt out on money matters. Time to relax.

He picked up the phone and dialed Renee.

"Of course I'll go to a ball game with you," she replied. "But I'm worried."

He frowned. "What for?"

"Are we just baseball buddies, Joe?"

He was glad to be on the phone, since his face was now quite red. "I...uh...I'll pick you up in an hour", he stammered.

Driving over, he changed his mind. They'd gone to the minor league games a couple times now. Money wasn't an issue - why not a big league game?

He was whistling as he walked her back to the truck and opened her door.

When he turned toward downtown Kansas City, she finally asked, "Okay, Joe. What do you have up your sleeve?"

"We're seeing the Royals tonight!"

Parking was $10. Joe had never understood paying for parking. It was like buying a ticket for his truck, who didn't care for ball games all that much.

"Got any seats by the third base dugout left?", Joe asked the attendant behind the counter.

"Sure do. That'll be $61", came the response from the microphone.

"We can sit somewhere else," Renee said. "I don't need to sit up close for $60."

"$61," the microphone corrected.

"It's okay," Joe replied. He figured it would take some time before he stopped feeling sticker shock every time he bought something.

"Per ticket", the microphone added.

Joe grinned a grin he did not feel and slid his card under the glass.

"Joe, I don't want you thinking you have to impress me all the time. We can have fun anywhere."

"I appreciate that, but today's special. We're celebrating!"

"Oh? What's the occasion?"

"New opportunities! Fresh starts! Hot dogs!"

$20 later, they each had a beer and a hot dog.

They watched as the Royals took on the White Sox in a pitcher's duel.

"What are you going to do now, Joe?", Renee asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you've been out of work for a while, and it's been a little over a month since...", her voice trailed off, tainted with uncertainty.

"Since Dad", Joe finished. "Well, to be honest, I haven't decided yet. I've mostly been dealing with paperwork and taking care of Mom."

"But you can't do that forever."

"No, I can't. I'm just not sure what's on deck for me."

Their conversation was cut short by a spray of soda and a howl of frustration. A man in the aisle behind them had tripped while returning to his seat. The meal he was trying to bring his family was scattered everywhere.

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

"It's okay", Joe said. "Here, let us help you clean up."

The man was beet red with anger and embarrassment. His wife was seething.

"I can't believe you did that! Now what are we going to do? Can't afford to buy anything else, and the kids are hungry!"

Joe handed her the rest of his napkins and headed back towards the concessions area for more. After drying himself up a bit, he bought more hot dogs and a couple large sodas.

"Here you go", Joe said as he distributed the food to the grumpy family.

There was a chorus of surprised "Thank you!"s. That seemed to cheer them up, Joe thought.

After he sat back down, the man and his wife began chatting with Joe and Renee.

"Everything's just so expensive these days. I remember when I was a boy, I could see the Yankees play the Dodgers for $2. And a hot dog was a quarter!"

"These days, we can either buy the 'cheap' seats and sit so far up we can't tell what's going on, or we have to pay through the nose to sit here. So we can only afford to go to one game a year."

They commiserated for several innings, telling of favorite players and games.

Joe glanced around the stadium. It wasn't even half full.

What had happened to it? The game he loved. It had no spirit anymore. It was nothing but a machine.

For a moment, Joe felt depressed.

Then a sudden play on the field; the Royal's runner rounding third and charging for home. The crowd on its feet.

And the boy behind him, screaming with unfettered excitement, jumping in anticipation, followed by furious fists of victory.

And Joe knew what he was going to do next.
.

Robotic Teacher Agents - Guest Post for Jan Moyer

Robots.

Robots, I say!

ROBOTS.

Sheesh, if you haven't already clicked here to read my guest post about ROBOTS ROBOTS ROBOTS for Jan Moyer, then I don't know when you ever will.

Now?


Thanks! Knew that would work.
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5 Uncomfortable Truths

Today I'm guest posting at Katherine H.'s Grass Stains blog.

That's a lie.

This actually posted Monday, but I'm a schmuck and didn't put up a link.

You're obviously not here for my reliability and competency, so head on over and let me know what you think.
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Nesting

Nesting.

I forgot about this phenomenon.

Last time, it involved shopping for groceries for hours until the store closed at midnight. This was an emergency and could not be put off until daylight hours, even though the baby wasn't due for two more months.

This time it's projects. Replacing lighting fixtures. Fixing the fountain pump in the back yard. Putting together the bookcase for the new office. Buying Evan's "big boy bed" and picking out Just. The. Right. Bedding. Painting the room. Painting the guest room. Painting our room.

I didn't want to paint our room. It's been fine for 5 years. I asked Jana what color she wanted. She said she liked the color we have now. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then she finished her sentence by saying she wanted it to be a semi-gloss finish instead of flat. We currently have flat. So apparently the goal is to have it look the same, but feel different. You know, for all those times we feel our walls.

The list is growing. The costs are mounting. I'm getting overwhelmed. I think it's time to get some help. I need another me.

Not a twin, though - someone who's handy. I'm the opposite of handy. I'm footy.

And I cannot wait to meet this new addition to our family.

Oh...I forgot to mention - we're having a baby!


Tell me stuff.
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The Perfect Storm - Guest Post by Jan Moyer

Today's tasty treat is a guest post by Jan Moyer. Jan is hilarious. She's Canadian, and I didn't have time to remove all the extra U's in her post, and for that I apolougize. Check out Jan's blog, Tough Bananas, and follow her on Twitter.

--
Teaching and parenting both involve a lot of bodily fluids and grossness. I’m okay with that. Very little gets the best of me.

Very little is not the same as nothing.

A few years back we received some tickets for the circus. My loving, bearded husband offered to take the three boys (aged 6, 4, and 2) so that I could work on final report cards for my 42 students. Sounded great to me! 

During our early dinner, (didn’t want them to waste any time getting out of the house so I could check my Facebook tackle those reports) Number Two Son said he didn’t feel well and didn’t really want anything to eat. This was unusual because he is a really hearty eater. NTS can be very dramatic so we really didn’t think much of it and chalked it up to nervousness about going to the circus. He opted to do his complaining on the couch while we ate our meal, until.....

“Uh, Jan, JAN, JAAAAAN!” BH panicked as he witnessed that little stinker puke on the beige living room carpet.

I jumped into action because according to our prenup, I’m on all Code Brown and related issues while BH owns all dead animal and rodent concerns. First, I took care of my poor little peanut (how could we ever have thought he was faking?) and then the floor.

Me: “So, did you feed the boys bologna today?”

BH: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Me: “Well, I’m just trying to figure out if it was something he ate and maybe all----”

BH: “DOES IT REALLY MATTER? I DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT! STOP IT! I’ll get the carpet steamer, just don’t say anything else.”

Me, muttering, “Well, it sure LOOKS like you gave them bologna.”

BH: “I can HEAR you. STOPITJUSTSTOPIT.”

Me: “How much chocolate milk did you give them?”

BH: “I really need you to stop.” (I could tell he meant it because he whispered.)

So I plunged ahead with the carpet clean-up, put the little angel to bed with a pail, sent the other three to the circus and got started on my reports. About 15 minutes into things, I heard a croaking call for help from upstairs. I rushed to my cherub’s side and he gave me a wobbly “thumbs up” that he had made it into the pail. He really is my secret favourite son, such a good boy.  

Approximately 45 minutes later I got a phone call from BH:

“We’re coming home. Number 3 just threw up all over me.”

Me: “Oh, no! How did you clean him up? Is everything okay?”

BH: “I don’t want to talk about it. Just be ready, we’ll be home in 15 minutes.”

Poor little toddler arrived home half naked and all red from being wiped down with those awful brown paper towels. Got him cleaned and tucked in, Number Two seemed to be okay, put the oldest to bed and back to reports.

Nope.

Every 15 to 20 minutes, one of the boys was getting sick. Number One son joined the party an hour or so after the circus incident. Sheets had to be changed, carpets scrubbed, new pajamas found. All of this fell under my jurisdiction. When I agreed to this, I never contemplated it could all happen at once. The only thing missing was someone pooping in the bathtub. Did I mention I was 37 weeks pregnant? Yeah, I thought I’d go into labour, too. 

Finally, they were all cleaned and settled in. I sat down again to work on those report cards (by this point all my students were getting “Outstanding”). Moments later, I felt something scurry by my feet. I did an amazing silent scream and somehow hefted myself up onto the kitchen counter in record speed (pregnant, remember?). 

Now it was BH’s turn to leap into action. He thought my water had broken. When I could finally catch my breath and my heart rate had slowed down (okay, I’d been crying, may as well go for full disclosure now) I told him, “Mouse - it touched me.”

BH patted my back and said, “I’ll take care of it. And, I think it might have been the chocolate milk - it expired yesterday.”


Tell me stories. Horror stories. Go!
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2013 Blogging All-Star Challenge

It's that time of year again!

It's time for the 2nd annual Blogging All-Star Challenge, where Rob Shepherd and I each pick a team of bloggers and go head-to-head.

Check out my team for 2013, and then go vote for them!

Artwork by Wes Molebash
Team Ricky

Bryan Logan is a computer programmer by day and a computer programmer by night (seriously, he doesn't forget all that stuff when he goes home). He's also a husband and father to 3 kids (again, both day and night). Bryan, along with his wife, write a blog called "The Logan's". Don't worry, the creativity is focused on the content. We write about all sorts of things. Some critics may say our blog lacks focus, but we like to point out it gives us the freedom to blog about random topics without the awkward segue. Speaking of awesome Twitter accounts, you can follow Bryan at @BryanMarkLogan.

Bunmi Laditan is a regular contributor to Parenting.com, Mothering.com, iVillage.com, and The Huffington Post. She lives with her family outside of Montreal. She writes for her personal blog as well as The Honest Toddler blog and Twitter account. She recently published The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting.

Some Guy lives in some town with Some Wife and Some Kids. He is best known for his guest posts on Jon Acuff's Stuff Christians Like, which makes for a slightly awkward competition since Jon is on the other team. During the day, Some Guy works as an engineer at some company, and he spends his nights putting kids to bed, back in bed, and back in bed again. His hobbies include running, predicting the outcomes of football games (not necessarily correctly), and translating the Bible into Facebook format.

Jan Moyer loves teaching kindergarten. She has four boys and wants to make it clear she and her bearded hubby weren't "going for a girl". She love M&Ms and goldfish, but not together. Coffee is almost her security blanket - never out of reach. She's passionate about making learning fun (at school or church). Her blog is called Tough Bananas. C'est tout!

Daniel Carman views himself as a meglomaniac in the mold of The Brain, yet too often confuses himself with quadratic imponderables. He would like to think his blog style is a cross between C.S. Lewis and Dave Barry, yet small children mock his writing, often pointing and laughing at him mercilessly. He is the father of a wonderful daughter who is working with him to both reduce the number of adjectives that he uses in everyday conversation, as well as to get him to stop his incessant whining.

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