May 10

Hello, my name is Adventurer Rich, and I’m fat.

There needs to be a twelve-step program for fat-o-holics.  Food is most definitely a drug, and I’m addicted.

Ever since the holidays, I have had a bit of added stress in my life.  And by “bit” I mean I’m genuinely surprised my heart hasn’t exploded.  I don’t deal with the regular old stress of daily life very well, so when stress is added that makes me wonder what in the hell I’m going to do with my entire future, I don’t hold up too well.

And I eat.

I wish I were one of these people whose appetite just disappears when they get stressed or depressed.  You know the type, people who fall into a funk and they lose like twenty pounds because they are too depressed to even eat.  If I was one of these people, given my predisposition to look at the darker side of all situations,  I’d be super-model thin.  I am, however, the complete opposite of these lucky sons-a-guns who can’t eat when they are down.  When I’m in the dumps, I eat like a pig.

  • Can’t figure out how I’m ever going to be able to retire?  Eat some left-over pizza and it doesn’t matter as much.
  • Realize that most of my life has been wasted giving up on dreams?  A roll of summer sausage and a tin of Pringles make the pain go away.
  • Wondering how we’re going to cover the mortgage and other regular monthly bills plus the plethora of medical bills that recently reared their ugly heads while adding a teen driver to our insurance?  PB&J with triple PB sounds about right.
  • Job situation a little shaky and not sure what is going to happen if that falls apart?  One-pound block of sharp cheddar, take me away…

So, needless to say, I’ve packed on a few pounds over the last few months.  The problem is, I not only eat when I’m stressed or depressed, I eat when I’m happy too.  Proud of the older boy for his performance at a soccer game; celebrate with a fast food treat!  Proud of the younger boy for earning his next belt in karate; stop by the bakery and get some donuts!

So, whether I’m winning or losing, I’m gaining weight.  The more I weigh, the higher the old blood pressure gets, the more I feel like crap, the more my self-esteem slips, the more I eat, the more I weigh…

See the problem?

I love food. Food is a great way to celebrate when you are happy and it makes you feel better when you are down.  And any food that doesn’t taste like butt makes you fat.

So I am fat.

I exercise, but exercise just makes me hungry.  The more I exercise, the more I eat after exercising.

So I am fat.

I was trying to lose weight last June, and I wrote about it.  I actually weigh more now than I did then, and that sucks.  I am officially “obese”.

Actually being obese frees me in so many ways…

  • I can wear my pajamas to Walmart… I can probably even use Walmart’s little scooter/shopping cart and park it in the middle of an aisle while I take my sweet time deciding which flavor of Doritos I want.
  • I can let my feeling of guilt slip away while filling that seventh plate at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • I can drop ten bucks at McDonald’s ordering only from the dollar menu… all for me… for a snack between lunch and supper…
  • Celery no longer needs to take up any space in my fridge.
  • Screw the diet pop; I’m going full-on high fructose corn syrup!  I don’t even need the carbonated water to thin it down.  Just point me directly to the high fructose corn syrup and some Red Bull: the breakfast of champions…
  • Elevators and escalators will no longer be the “fun” way to get where I am going; they will be a necessity to prevent stroke or cardiac arrest.
  • Trips to the YMCA, long having been a pain in the butt, are no longer necessary.  The sooner I let my obesity consume me, the sooner disability and a life of leisure can kick in.
  • I may be shortening my life, but I’d rather live a short, happy, fat life than a miserable, long life eating things that make my taste buds cringe and my poop green.

I used to think I could get in shape.  I used to think I could be healthy.  I used to think a lot of things…  I try not to think anymore.  Thinking hurts.  Smart people can think and it doesn’t hurt, but it hurts me when I think. I must not be very smart.  Being not very smart is kind of depressing… pass the pork rinds…

 

 

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Sep 02

I’m a happily married dude.  I am about to embark on, most-likely, a once in a lifetime adventure with my family: a cruise to the Bahamas.  However, when I discovered that almost a third of the guests on Royal Caribbean’s  Majesty of the Sea were attendees of some sort of fraternity leadership conference that Royal Caribbean was happily ($$$) hosting, the wind in my sails diminished just a little.  Even though I’m happily married, I am not dead.  I had some preconceived notions of what the view around the pool on that cruise ship was going to look like.

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the Dream

This is not what frat boys look like.

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My “notions” were quickly replaced by reality.

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the Reality

This... I'm afraid... is what frat boys look like.

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Yeah.  Disappointing, to say the least.  Anywho, now I can try to focus on actually enjoying the family time, right?

The ship is amazing.  It’s like 14-stories tall, and it travels across the ocean; this in and of itself is utterly amazing to me.  There are two formal dining halls, a buffet, a pizza place, a deli, and a burger joint.  Everything except the burger joint is included in the cost of the cruise (you have to pay an entrance fee of like $5 to get into Johnny Rockets).  There was a full-fledged casino, two or three lounges, an awesome weight room with a spectacular view of the ocean (which I promised myself I would use… but never did), a teen hang-out area, a little kid hang-out area, two small swimming pools (constantly full of frat boys), two hot tubs (constantly full of frat boys), a basketball court, a climbing wall, a ping-pong table, and the Chorus Line theater which had nightly live entertainment.  The center of the ship was kind of like a mall, with various stores selling various expensive items: a Caribou Coffee, a jewelry store, a liquor store, a gift shop and the like.  Each day, in the area between the stores, they were selling different garbage that looked expensive and was ridiculously inexpensive.  The wife and youngest son each got a watch for like $10 each, and they looked like they were worth much more.  We’ll see how long they actually last :)  Needless to say, the ship itself was pretty cool.  Our room, on the other hand, not so much.

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Stateroom

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Standard rooms on a cruise ship are extremely small.  I cannot stress enough how small these stinking rooms are.  It’s a good thing you pretty much just sleep in the rooms, because, in a family of four, someone would end up dead if you had to spend too much time together in those stinking rooms.

So, we check in on the ship and go through a “muster drill”.

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Muster Drill

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A muster drill is where they make everyone get outside by the lifeboats and tell you what to do to avoid dying if the ship starts to sink.  Great!  Now that we are all now terrified, let the fun begin.

We spent the first night at sea and just enjoyed the boat and tried to avoid the drunk, potty-mouthed frat boys.  Man, when the frats were sober, they were bearable, but once they got liquored-up, we pretty much had to walk with our hands over our sons’ ears to block the f-bombs.  Thanks, Royal Caribbean!  Thanks for not warning us our cruise was going to be a floating college party full of frat boys with no chicas for them to concentrate their alcohol-fueled, testosterone-driven horn-doggedness on.  I actually overheard a frat boy talking to a girl who appeared to be about 16-years-old, and he was trying to talk her into going to one of the lounges with him.  She kept shaking her head, looking around for someone to rescue her, and I heard him say, “I keep forgetting you’re under age.”  Man, that girl’s parents (as well as almost every parent with a daughter on that cruise) had to be loving Royal Caribbean for that week.

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Really?
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The next day, we ported in the Nassau.  Pretty cool, if you could look past the poverty that was prevalent everywhere.  We got off the ship and were immediately accosted by numerous people trying to get us to take a taxi or go on a tour or buy stupid toy turtles.  One old guy even asked me if I needed something to smoke, and when I told him I didn’t, he got pissed and stormed off.  We walked around the streets of Nassau.  Me loving people the way I do quickly grew tired of the people constantly in our faces, and we returned to the ship after a short time.

Later that afternoon, we went on a snorkeling tour.  We got on a boat and left the port area to an area where we could check out the corral.  We boated past a lot of really nice houses and the tour guide dropped a few names while cruising past these mansions.  Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan had houses there, along with a bunch of other people whose names I don’t remember.  Can’t imagine owning a mansion of such incredible grandeur surrounded by such intense poverty.  Nothing like rubbing it in the face of the locals, huh?

The snorkeling was kind of lame.  On the way, they warned us that people had seen lion fish in the area we were going to, and lion fish are apparently quite poisonous.  Coolest thing about snorkeling was that I actually found a lion fish.

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Lion Fish

This isn't the actual fish we saw, but it looked almost exactly like this.

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I got both of my boys and the wife to see it before one of the tour divers discovered it and scared it away.  Bastard!

That was pretty much the day in Nassau.  The next day, we relaxed on the beaches of Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco Cay.  This was, by far, the most relaxing day of our adventure.

Swimming in the ocean…

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Swimming at Coco Cay

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… playing with the conch…

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Good Eating

These ugly suckers are surprisingly good eating

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…tearing it up at the water park

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Ocean Fun

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… avoiding the killer seagulls…

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Killer Seagulls of Coco Cay

These suckers will attack a hot dog like their lives depend on it

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… or hanging out in the hammocks…

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Dream Hammock

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…oops, I forgot… stinking frat boys…

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Reality Hammock

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Overall, a very good day.  Then, back to the boat for a relaxing evening and lots of eating.

The next day, we ported in Key West, FL.  Can you say “tourist trap?”  Of course you can. I really felt for all of the foreign (non-US) guests on the Majesty of the Sea when we ported in Key West.  Every single one of them had to take part of their day to go through US Immigration, whether they were getting off the boat in Key West or not.  The immigration officers apparently set-up shop in the theater and the lines were horrendous of families waiting for immigration’s approval.  I imagine those vacationers wasted hours of the last day of the cruise waiting for US Immigration to check them out.  Honest to God, it’s no wonder why so much of the rest of the world hates the United States.  Sometimes, our laws are just retarded.  I really thought it was cool how there were different people from all over the world on this cruise and, except for the frat boys, we all got along just splendidly… up until “Homeland Security” kicked in and the US made sure there wasn’t someone vacationing from Japan or France setting off a dirty bomb in Key West (or someone who has just spent thousands of dollars on a vacation trying to sneak into the country… if they can make that kind of money, they have brains and a good work ethic… let ’em in!) by making every man, woman and child go through an immigration checkpoint.  I didn’t feel safe, I felt embarrassed for our country.  Why not allow these people to enjoy the last day of their vacation and check them out after the cruise in Miami?  I didn’t have to go through immigration in the Bahamas… and I could of been planning to buy some crack from that dude who wanted to know if I needed a “smoke”… or something!!!

Anyway, back to the non-crappy part of the Key West visit.  We did a little sight seeing

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ahhh... art

Nothing says "art" like naked chicks... and NO, that's not me lying on my back looking up. He's part of the "art"... and my wife wouldn't let me lie beside him...

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… did a little shopping…

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Key West

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… ate some conch fritters…

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Conch Fritters... yummy

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… enjoyed frozen chocolate-covered Key Lime pie on a stick…

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good stuff

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and overall had a touristerrific, sunshiny day!

Then, back on the ship for the last time.  We had a wonderful evening of eating lots of food and swimming with the frat boys… and then eating some more.  I crap you not, I gained 10# on that stinking cruise!

When we woke up the next morning, we were in Miami.  Up and at ’em and off the ship.  We spent an entire day at Miami International Airport (’cause we had to watch our luggage… we could have “checked” it at this storage place, but they want to rape you and kill your first born as payment for that, so we said “screw it, airports are fun”).  We discovered that Miami isn’t too exciting when experienced from the airport, so airports aren’t really that fun.  Didn’t even get to see Tubbs, let alone Crockett :(

Finally, a turbulent flight back to Denver, a late-night hotel stop on the way home, and finally back to the Craphandle.  And then, back to work with another year until the next real vacation.

Crap man… I just realized how much I miss my ΣAE buddies…

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Sep 01

Have you ever dreamed of the perfect vacation?  Have you thought about it for years and years, and then made the decision that you were going to make it happen?  Well, the wife and I did just that: we planned for, saved for, and made happen our dream vacation.  We went on a cruise to the Bahamas.

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Bahamas

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Yippee-ki-yeah!

First off, I have to give a big shout-out to the wife.  She is the one who squirreled away money (tax refunds, Christmas bonuses, a little extra cash-flow every month, etc) to make our dream become a reality.   I want it to be known that the time I had with my wife and two sons was much more enjoyable than I am about to make it appear.  In fact, given the opportunity, I would remain with my wife and sons on that stinking cruise ship with the stupid frat boys until the day I die (if given the choice), and I would be one of the happiest dudes alive… until I died on the cruise ship, and then I would be one of the happiest dudes… uh… dead, I guess.

The wife and I planned on going on a cruise for our 15th anniversary.  It was going to be a really special treat, and we had been looking forward to it for years.  The problems that led to us not being able to make that happen were like the perfect storm of CRAP that transpired in the few years leading up to the 15th year of our ultimate declaration of love.  We had started a little business together, built it up to a level of creating a decent profit,  and had recently sold that business to a clueless chick who ended up declaring bankruptcy and screwing us out of a lot of money. At that point, we should have declared bankruptcy ourselves, but decided to take the higher road and repay all of the debt we owed.  Some “sage” at some point in time made me believe that repaying your debts will benefit you in the long run.  Yeah… I’m still waiting to reap the benefits of that stupid little piece of advice.   Shortly after being screwed in the candy business, the economy took a major tank; and shortly after that, reductions in pay (as opposed to raises) were the trend of the day.  Some of the employers had the balls to call it what it was (a reduction in pay), while others called it a “pay restructuring” or a “new compensation plan” and made you read Who Moved My Cheese.

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Who Moved My Cheese

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Needless to say, the 15th anniversary cruise was suddenly a pipe-dream.

Shortly before the 15th anniversary, we had started to save for the dream.  When we realized that it wasn’t going to happen at the 15-year mark, we decided to prolong it a couple of years and make it a full-family-free-for-all.  In other words, we were going to take our sons.  Much less romantic, absolutely NO hanky-panky,  more full of farts and body odor, and multitudes of inappropriate comments at the absolutely most inappropriate times.

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Chubbies

Mommy, is that big lady in the bathing suit pregnant, or is she just fat?

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Sounded like a relatively fair trade to me.  Don’t get me wrong… I likes me that there hanky-panky… but I likes me thems there farts too…

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Fart:)
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… theys makes me giggle… and giggling is good for the soul :)

So, we have it all planned to go on a cruise to the Bahamas.  We decide on Royal Caribbean, and we were ready to set sail on the Majesty of the Sea.

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Majesty of the Sea

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MS Pool / Day

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MS Pool / Night

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Sounds pretty cool, right?  Sure does.  Of course, we have to get on the ship in Miami, and we live hundreds and hundreds of miles from Miami.  So, we have to fly.

I hate flying!

I hate the fear of having no control of anything while soaring at 30,000 feet above the earth (or, as I like to think of it, about a 40 second nightmarish fall to a certain, messy, instant death).  My palms get clammy and my stomach doesn’t feel too swell just thinking about it.  I also hate getting to the point of being able to get on the stinking plane,  You know, the whole TSA nightmare.

“But they are just keeping us safe!” says the nincompoop who likes the TSA.

“Flying is a privilege, not a right,” says the government advocate.

I’m gonna call BS on both of those statements.  They are not keeping us safe by patting down small children and old ladies.  They are not keeping us safe by subjecting us to radiation.  They are not keeping us safe by making me put all of the liquids I need in 3 oz bottles and limiting them to a 1 quart bag.  This is all retarded.  This is all “shock and awe” in an attempt to make us think that they are really keeping us safe… and, in the meantime, they are stepping all over our civil liberties.  But it’s all in the name of “stopping terrorism,” so the vast majority of us just let it slide. And when there are armed National Guard in front of Walmart making sure we aren’t trying to bomb super centers, that will be all right too.  And when they start reading our mail and listening in on our phone conversations in the name of national security, we’ll be fine with that as well.  And when the civil unrest finally starts, those involved in the unrest will be hauled off to “camps” to protect the rest of the population from the “extremists.”

Rant much?  Why yes, thank you, I do.  Anywho, I hate the TSA.  They are just people doing a job, right?  Yeah, so are the buttmunchs who send you unsolicited spam, and the jerkwads who call you at 7:30 on a Saturday morning trying to get you to buy their auto insurance.  Personally, I’d rather flip burgers at McDonald’s than help implement the military state and invade citizens’ civil liberties… but hey, that’s just me.

So, we get to the airport in Denver, check our bags, take off half of our clothes, get radiated, and make it through security.  We get on the plane, and we fly to Miami.  Well, we fly to over Miami, and then we circle over Miami for like an hour because of some storms.  Then we fly to Ft. Lauderdale because we’re low on fuel.  Then we sit in the plane on the tarmac for like an hour getting refueled and waiting for the okay to fly back to Miami.  Then we fly back to Miami and land.  My least favorite parts of flying, other than the turbulence and the extreme heights and the small seats in “business class” and the fat-assed flight attendants who bump my shoulder every time they walk down the narrow aisle (I thought flight attendants had to be petite… now they’re all fat or dudes and most definitely like banging into passengers) and the narrow aisles and the small restrooms and the long lines to the small restrooms and trying to pee in turbulence… the parts I hate the most are taking off and landing.  Taking off and landing are where most accidents occur.  Well, on the trip to Miami, what was supposed to be a 4-hour non-stop flight from DIA to MIA turned into an almost 7-hour ordeal with two take-offs and two landings.  We really got some bang for our buck on that stupid flight.  So, instead of having an afternoon to check out Miami, we went straight to the hotel, grabbed some supper, and got ready for bed.

The next morning, after feasting on the hotel’s all you can eat breakfast buffet (just the beginning of us gorging ourselves), we take a cab out to the port.  Going through the boarding process is quite a bit less intimidating than the airport security, but still kind of sucks.  Finally, we get on the boat and are ready to really start enjoying our vacation… when I notice them.

Dudes… young dudes… rich-looking young dudes… everywhere.  Preppy guys looking like their ready to get their drink on.  What the…?!?  And they all have Greek letters on their shirts.  Frat boys… seriously… everywhere!  Most of them appear to be ΣAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), although there are some something-with-a-Deltas there, and a something-Kappa-something or two as well.  EVERYWHERE!!!  It’s nothing personal against young gentlemen in fraternities, God love ’em.  I just have a very strong aversion to guys who are almost guaranteed success because they have rich daddies and like looking down on those not in their group.  I had to deal with frat boys when I went to college, and I didn’t much care for them then… and now, almost 20 years later, my dream vacation is in jeopardy of being tainted by an extremely large ship FULL of them…

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Frat Boys

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… and not a sorority girl in sight :(  It was shaping up to be a long week.

to be continued

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Jun 10

Remember when you were a kid and you had all kinds of friends?  Well, unless you were the kid who accidentally pooped the pants in 3rd grade during math and everyone knew about it; then you maybe didn’t have so many friends.  Maybe you were the girl who had her first “Carrie” moment during 6th grade English, and none of the kids understood why you left school early,  upset and crying; until someone spotted the evidence of the early dismissal on the seat of your chair… your adolescence may have been a little rough.  Or you were the boy who got caught enjoying Baywatch just a little too much when you thought no one watching… you may have had a few rough years.  But aside from those few sad instances indicative of the cruelty of other children, many kids have lots of friends.  And as you grow from adolescence into high school and up through college, you make more and more friends.  By the time you get out of college, you probably have tons of friends… and I’m not just talking acquaintances, but real friends… you know, the kind of people you wouldn’t hesitate to call if you needed a good bailing out of jail.

At this point, we’re set!  We have a plethora of friends and a brand-spanking new education just waiting to be developed into a life-long career of happiness!  Guess what happens to many of us then.  We pack up our belongings and move half-way across the country and start completely fresh in a community where we don’t know a single soul!  Sounds exciting, right?  Sounds like a true adventure, doesn’t it?  Yeah… not really.  It sucks, and years later, you will find yourself pretty much friendless as you roll through mid-life.

When I first moved to the panhandle of Nebraska (almost 20 years ago), I figured I would fast make new friends.  And right out of the gate, I met a few people my age and we became buddies.  Considering that the people in this community are very cliquish (which is something I didn’t discover until later), I was lucky.  One of these buddies actually introduced me to the woman who is now my wife.  So, yeah, I thought I was on a roll.  Now see, where the problem comes into play in my example is the fact that I moved to a community where the young people are anxiously leaving in droves.  In the small town of Glasgow, MT where I grew up, all of the kids always talked about how they wanted to get the hell out of Glasgow and actually do something with their lives.  Scottsbluff and Gering Nebraska are much the same.  Kids see what their parents have accomplished living here, and the kids want nothing to do with it.  The kids want to actually find some measure of success in their lives, so they bail on the communities at pretty much the first available opportunity.  My problem: I moved in as everyone else my age was trying to get the hell out.  I escaped from one community where all the kids and young adults wanted to get away to another community where all the kids and young adults wanted to get away.  The destination of my escape was another destination from which to seek escape.  Most of those original friends that I made when I moved here have long since found more fruitful paths in other areas of the country.  There are still a couple in the area, and I really enjoy hanging out with them, but the second thing to come along and disrupt the friendship cycle is kids, and I’ve got them.

Having children is one of the most rewarding things that a person can do.  I don’t want to make it seem otherwise.  However, having kids puts a huge crimp in any sort of social life that you may desire.  You aren’t able to go out in public nearly as much once you have kids, especially while they are young.  You’re at home trying to catch some sort of rest and instill in your kids the basics of being a functioning member of society.

Then the kids hit school, and through school and other extra-curricular activities, you are forced to confront other parent of other kids who are pretty much in the same boat as you.  Once again, you start forming some relationships.  Maybe you find a church or other civic organization, and you begin attending regularly, and you form some relationships there as well.These relationships, however, are more along the lines of “strong acquaintanceships” than they are the true friendships you had  in your youth.  In other words, these are people who are fun to hang out with while the kids are off playing and whatnot, but these aren’t people you would feel comfortable calling to bail you out of the joint.

Even these strong acquaintanceships you have developed through the parents of your kids’ friends and through your civic activities (and maybe even co-workers from your job) soon seem to slightly dissipate as your kids grow even older and their activities seem to encapsulate more and more of your free-time.

My wife is from the panhandle.  Once she finished college, she really never had a strong desire to leave.  However, neither does she have a strong desire to stay.  She is constantly telling me that if I can find us a life somewhere outside of the panhandle that would make me less… uh, “grumpy” would be a polite way to put it, I guess… she would be more than happy to make a move.   She, however, actually has some of the friends from her past here.  Not many (most moved away), but she is occasionally able to have a “girls night out” or get together for coffee with a friend or two.  I still have a lot of really good friends, but, for the most part, they are spread out all over the nation.  If it weren’t for Facebook, I probably wouldn’t even know where most of them are.  They sure in the hell aren’t close enough to bail me out of jail, if the need were to arise.

So, what’s next?  You got me.  My kids actually have some true friendships, and they are doing well in the local schools (even though the schools tend to piss me off from time to time).  I’d hate to disrupt their potential growth in a selfish effort to find some sort of friendship or contentment in my life, so moving isn’t the most attractive option at this point.  Doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, just means it’s not the most attractive option.  I try to keep in touch with the friends of my youth… at least those on Facebook.

I’m guessing that once my kids have joined the mass exodus of young people who leave the panhandle of Nebraska to better themselves in different areas of the country, the options for the wife and I will increase.  We will be free to move wherever on God’s green earth we want to live.  We will be short two mouths to feed as our college-educated boys head out into the world to try to figure out how in the hell they are ever going to repay all of those student loans.  Of course, our bodies will have deteriorated even further, and God only knows what the status of our health will actually be in 10 or 15 years.  I’m guessing that will be the next point in the cycle where new friends are made.  We will probably find them at the clinics and doctor’s offices and pharmacies and, later, in the retirement communities.  We will all sit around and reminisce about our kids, about the friends of our youth, and about all of the opportunities we probably missed by living in the panhandle of Nebraska.

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May 18
Graduation

Every year, thousands of small birds are inexplicably killed near commencement ceremonies :(

WARNING!!!

Recent high school or college graduates, please don’t read this post.  I don’t want to be held responsible for harshing your mellow at this time of great accomplishment in your lives.  As you travel the road of life ahead, you will have plenty of time to discover the truths held in my words for yourself.

The wife and I took our boys to our niece’s high school graduation this past weekend in North Platte, NE.  So, we spent a weekend watching young people being recognized for their accomplishments. This all got me to thinking… thinking how much people could accomplish with their lives if the stinking real-world didn’t have to come along and jack everything up.

I remember graduating from high school feeling like the whole world was out there waiting for me to conquer it. I remember having the same delusions at my graduation from college. At my niece’s graduation, I could read the same thoughts in the faces of all of those graduates. They were imagining their futures filled with limitless opportunities. Give them a few years. They will find the limits. Actually, the limits will hunt them down and stomp many of them into the ground.  I know.  The graduating class speaker was a well spoken young woman who reminded the graduates that they were solely responsible for their own futures. Graduates and school administrators say that kind of stuff at graduations. Graduates and school administrators believe that kind of stuff at graduations.  Now, with graduates being young and naive, such dreams are expected.  School administrators, on the other hand, should know better but are extremely biased in their perception of the true value of “education.”  Aside from the field of education, I can’t think of a single line of work in the United States of America where further education guarantees higher earnings, seniority, and advancement.  A large percentage of people employed in the field of education seem to have lost touch with what it is actually like outside of the field of education, and those people probably should not be allowed to speak at commencement ceremonies; they paint an unrealistically-rosy picture.
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Well, I guess we want to give these young people hope for the future, right?  No need having them give up when a very small percentage of them are going to accomplish those dreams.  As for those who will not accomplish their dreams, they will have plenty of time to figure out what their futures hold.

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Soon enough, most of these optimistic young people will be just like the rest of us… wondering why everyone misled us about how bright our futures were.  For the kiddos, when someone tells you that you may need to set “new goals” or dream “new dreams”, this is them gently telling your dreams and goals are unrealistic (see, they lied to you at graduation… you can’t accomplish anything you want).  Pick something less-hard to accomplish, or maybe just settle for what you have.  Less hard and settling are what most of us do on a daily basis…

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Apr 09

We have a local YMCA here in Scottsbluff, NE.  I didn’t have access to a Y growing up in rural Montana.  In fact, the Y here is the first one I had ever been to.  I had heard of the YMCA as a kid, and I thought of the Y as kind of a place where a fellow who was down on his luck could get a cheap (or even free) room until he got back on his feet.  Apparently, this isn’t what the modern YMCA offers (at least not in the USA).

Scottsbluff has a country club for the wealthy.
country club
The Scotts Bluff Country Club is the kind of place where the rich can go to get away from the common filth of society (you know, the rest of us) and surround themselves with fellow rich people with whom to golf and dine and talk about what rich people talk about.  I’m not rich, so I don’t know exactly what they talk about, but I’m assuming they talk about money… and how much those of us without a lot of money suck.  At least, that’s what I’d talk about if I was rich.

The YMCA here in Scottsbluff is kind of like a country club for the middle class.  Oh sure, they have some sort of reduced-rate program for those at a lower income level, they just don’t advertise it very prominently… and they don’t really tell you what it is.  I guess you have to go in and ask so they can look down at you to convince you that you really don’t belong at the Scottsbluff Family YMCA.

My family has a membership to the Y; not because we can afford it, but because it is a benefit my employer offers.  Hell, it’s almost $500 a year for a family membership.  I don’t know if I could afford that on my own.  Not only do they get you on the membership fees, they charge for everything extra that the Y provides.  Want to have your kid play t-ball?  Only $12 if you are a member.  How about you and the wife doing the co-ed volleyball?  Only $15 per person… if you are members.  Yeah, I grew up thinking the Y was a place where those without a lot of money could socialize and get fit.  I was wrong.  The Y is a country club for those who can’t quite afford the real country club.

I go to our YMCA almost daily.  I have done this for a few years now.  I go and I get on an elliptical and I sweat and breath really heavy for about 30 minutes.  I started doing this in an attempt to control my blood pressure and to lose a little weight. I burn 500 to 600 calories and get my heart rate up to around 170 beats per minute almost every day.  I have not lost a single pound, and my blood pressure was 170/130 when medical people put me on blood pressure medication a few weeks ago.  So, it looks like I go to the Y for nothing.  Well, nothing except to see all of the skinny people and steroid-heads walk around looking at themselves in the multitude of mirrors that surround the circuit room.  I hate these people.  With a passion.  Here I am, sweating my ass off (in theory, not in reality) and bringing myself to the verge of a heart attack almost every day for the past three years in an attempt to squeeze a couple more years out of my miserable existence, and I’m surrounded by skinny people in their designer work-out gear

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and steroid-filled muscle-heads in their… well, their muscles and crap!

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Roid-head.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fatties like me sweating at the Y as well, but why in the hell would I waste time looking at them.

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If I wanted to look at a fattie all day, I could stay home and look in the mirror.  No, I want to create the most severe case on envy imaginable.  I want to look at the people who I will never resemble.  I want to make myself feel as worthless and insignificant as possible.  After all, hate is what drives me, so the more hate I harbor, the worse I feel, and the more I feel like I’m accomplishing what I was put on this earth to do… whatever that is.

Man, if being surrounded by the fit middle-class at the YMCA can make me feel this crappy, imagine what being surrounded by the snotty rich at the actual country club would make me feel like?  Especially if I was in a position where the rich snotties could really talk down to me?  Maybe like a dishwasher… or a janitorial position? Yeah, that’s it.

Some rich doctor would run into me in the hall and he’d be all like, “Boy, there appears to be a toilet clogged in the men’s room.  Get on it, post-haste.  Cheerio!”

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snotty.

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And I, of course, would get right on Dr. Snotty’s clogged toilet!

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Future?.

And the hate would grow!

Man, I wonder if they are hiring?  I put my current level of mid-life-crisis misery on par with about the 5th ring of hell.  A servitude-type position at the country club could move me all the way up to the 9th ring, and the crisis could be complete!

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Mar 28

The worst thing about being an adult is not being able to speak your mind at all times.  There is a certain social etiquette that dictates times when we have to internalize our thoughts.  I don’t know who came up this social etiquette, but he or she and all of their relatives should be flogged with wet noodles throughout eternity.  Social etiquette sucks.  In fact, many aspects of our current society suck.  At least to me, and that’s all that really matters.  See, we all feel pretty much the same, but we aren’t allowed to say so, because social etiquette dictates that it isn’t proper to say that you only want what’s best for you.  We have to think of the good of the whole.  Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?

Oh sure, I care about others.  I don’t like children suffering around the world, and my heart goes out to the people of Japan.  I wish that everyone had a decent job, and I wish poverty and war could be eradicated from the face of our planet.  But none of this changes the fact if I want to send out a smart ass email at work, I shouldn’t have to worry about who I offend.  I’m a smart ass.  Period.  When I send an email, having to hide my smart-assness only limits me from being who I really am.  But social etiquette dictates that I cannot be a smart ass in business related email… or with coworkers… or with customers.  Screw that.  Life is too short to have to pretend you are someone you really are not.  But, I will continue to be polite and try to hold back on the smart ass comments while at work.  We all need a job, right?  And social etiquette dictates that we have to behave a certain way in order to perform that job, right?  Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?

Part of the training for social etiquette begins when we are young.  Schools, at times,  seem to like focusing on social etiquette more than teaching things of real value.  I have a son in middle school.  That son recently fractured his foot in PE.  So, he can’t participate in actual PE activities until his foot heals.  In order to pass PE, he needs to show up and pay attention.  Sounds pretty fair, right?  Well, the son recently was docked points in PE.  Was he docked because he didn’t show up on time?  No, he arrived in a timely manner.  Was he docked because he wasn’t paying attention?  No, he was paying as much attention as could be expected from someone sitting on the sidelines and not able to participate.  He was docked points because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in.  Seriously, because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in, he lost participation points for that day.  Social etiquette dictates that if your teacher makes a rule, you must follow that rule, even though the rule was put into place so that middle school boys can’t look up the shirts of middle school girls during various middle school PE activities and said rule really doesn’t apply to you… because not only are you not participating because of an injury you received in PE… but because you are not a girl.  But, of course, social etiquette dictates that you can’t have a rule for girls that you don’t have for boys; that wouldn’t be fair.  Social etiquette is all about fairness for the masses and doesn’t really allow for individuality.  The whole incident hasn’t really led me to question why my son didn’t have his shirt tucked in.  This incident has got me to thinking about why I had to pay my son’s medical expenses.  I mean, if I were hurt at work during a work related activity, my employer would pay my medical expenses.  My son was hurt at school during a non-optional school activity, shouldn’t the school pay for it?  Just wondering.

Social etiquette is all about learning the rules and learning to do things in a manner so as to not upset someone else.  Often, following social etiquette prevents someone else from being upset, but it leaves you really pissed off.  In my 41+ years of life, I have usually tried to follow the rules of social etiquette.  How has it benefited me?  Well, high blood pressure and a constant upset stomach seem to be about the only things I can think of  that have been the result of following social etiquette.  In other words, social etiquette sucks.  I haven’t made a fortune following social etiquette.  I don’t have a plethora of adult friends because I have followed the ways of social etiquette.  I don’t feel personally or professionally fulfilled because of the wonders of social etiquette.  I haven’t gained respect through following the mystical ways of social etiquette.

I desire for my kids to think outside the box… to be independently successful on their own terms… to never have to answer to someone they have no desire to answer to.  I want them, if someone is pissing them off, to be able to tell that person to take a flying leap.  In my mind, this is the way to true happiness in this life.  Selfish?  You betcha, and each and every one of us would like to be able to do it.  The schools are going to keep right on teaching social etiquette.  The schools are going to keep enforcing the same rules that I thought were stupid when I was a kid… and I still, as an adult, don’t see the value in.  I guess if we all want the same cookie-cutter society that we have had for the last century, this is fine.  But we aren’t given the same promises in life that our parents were offered.  My employer doesn’t offer a guaranteed pension, does yours?  Social Security isn’t looking like it’s going to play much of a role in my retirement (even though I’ve paid into it every year since I’ve started working).  I have a retirement plan, but not much is going in, and it sure isn’t growing too fast.  At the current rate, I will not be able to retire (which, as far as I can tell, is when you can tell the whole social etiquette thing to take a hike).  I want to be the crotchety old man who always speaks his mind and doesn’t give a crap what anyone else thinks.  I may never get to that point, so at least I can wish that for my kids.

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Mar 18

I have really big plans for this blog.  Someday, I will make enough money with this blog that I can spend all of the time that I now devote to my job doing nothing more than bitching about stuff here all day.  You know what they say, do something you love, and it won’t really be “work”.  Well, bitching is about the only thing I do that I really enjoy, so this has to be the answer to my prayers… at some point… right?  Oh please, let it be so.

Okay, so to make money with a blog, you have to… uh… COME ON!  There has to be a way to make money with a blog! Every once in awhile, I put a link to something on Amazon on here.  I’m an Amazon Associate, which means I can get commission if someone clicks one of those links and actually buys something from Amazon.  I have been an Amazon Associate for about two years, and I have actually made some money doing it.  Of course, I haven’t seen any of that money yet.   Amazon won’t actually pay anything out until you have built up at least $10 in commission… and I haven’t hit that mark yet.  In another three or four years, I should get my first $10 check from Amazon.

$10

I’m stoked!

There is also Google Ads.  I could have a list of stupid links on the side of my blog with Google ads and I would get paid every time someone clicks one of those links.  Happy Stinking Joy doesn’t really have a lot of visitors, and, at this point, I’d rather have you stay and read my thoughts than get distracted by the ads on the side and leave my site.  Also, it would mess up my ultra-professional layout… or something.

I haven’t exactly had an onslaught of individual advertisers approaching me with bids for some of the precious real estate on my site.  I guess rant sites aren’t real popular with traditional advertisers.  Before I’m going to see any real revenue from this site, I’m going to have to get more than a handful of people coming here on a daily basis.

Most popular blogs seem to fall into a couple of categories, the first of which is the “expert” blogger.  You know, these are the Seth Godins of the world who share all kinds of free insight into crap that they are experts about.  Their whole ploy is to give you “free advice” to make you feel like a friend, and then they try to sell their books to you or try to talk you into hiring them to do consulting or speaking engagements.  Well, my forty-one-years of life have not exactly led me to become much of an expert at anything.  I know a little about a lot, but a lot about little.  I have been too busy chasing the next-step-up in middle-class pay to stay with any one company in any given field for more than a couple of years.  If your current promotions and pay increases aren’t getting you where you want to be: quit, and maybe the next job will take you where you want to go.  Of course, the next job never does.  So, I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of interesting people in many different fields, but I haven’t stuck around any of them long enough to actually have become an expert at anything.  I’m an expert bitcher, but companies aren’t going to hire me to give a “bitch seminar” to their workforce… at least not yet.  I figure if I pray about it long enough, God, if nothing else, will get tired of me asking and either give it to me just to shut me up or strike me dead…

Strike me Dead

… either of which would lead to no more Monday mornings dreading work.

The other major category of successful bloggers seems to be those who cover current events.  Whether it be Perez Hilton covering the latest embarrassments of the rich and famous, or any of the slew of Yahoo! bloggers covering the latest in world events; people who get the story first tend to get a following.  I think this may be the route I need to follow.  I need to get the hot stories first.  Of course, I live in Nebraska, so the celebrity fodder may be a little out of my grasp.

Miss America

Ooh… Ooh… Miss America is from my part of Nebraska, so I could dedicate my blog to digging up all of the crap I can to humiliate Miss America I did a little blog about Miss America right after she won and it was actually one of the most visited rants I have posted!  But… I have a pretty strong suspicion that Teresa Scanlan is almost as squeaky clean as you would think a Miss America should be. I bet she actually believes what she says she believes, and I don’t think that “Miss America thought about skipping church once because she was just too tired to go, but then she prayed about it and changed her mind” will draw a lot of visitors to my little site.

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So, I’ve got to find a way to get the latest and greatest news before anybody else.  This is a “must” if I ever want to make this thing my sugar daddy.  Okay, so here it goes:

Breaking news… Charlie Sheen has gone insane!  The impact was devastating.  Damages are estimated… oh, great, my kid just looked over my shoulder and informed me that this is old news.  Okay, I guess I need to find something a little more “hot”.

Alright, I just did a Google search for “breaking news” and I don’t think I’m going to be able to go this route.  It seems that all of the “news” sites already have the breaking news covered.  The news sites and a bunch of Twitter people.  I don’t tweet or chirp or cockadoodledoo… or whatever it is that those people do.  I’m not quite hip enough for that.  Besides, all I’d be able to add to the Twitter conversation would be unique things I’m experiencing.

“It’s windy in Nebraska… again!”

Windy Trees

See, it just doesn’t work.

Hmmm… I gotta figure something out.  Okay, I know, I could just make kind of creative news stories.  No, that wasn’t “make up news stories”, it was “make kind of creative news stories”.  There’s… uh… sort of a difference.

Breaking news…. There is a humongous oil leak in the… uh… Gulf of Istanbul.  Yeah, and it’s causing infertility in the… uh… Great Northern Spike-Backed Whale.  Oh, you should hear the sad song those poor whales are singing at this moment.  It would make you cry.

PETA

Okay... yeah... I don't know what Alicia Silverstone being a Vegetarian has to do with "funny whale oil leaks" either, but a Google image search came up with this. I love Google...

This just in… apparently the oil spill was caused by… uh… Miss America!  Yeah, that’s it!  Apparently Miss America was on a diplomatic mission to Alderan and she and her entourage accidentally knocked over a big oil thingie in the Gulf of Istanbul.  Anti-American sentiment is through the roof in the countries bordering the Gulf… and by Great Northern Spiked-Back Whale lovers around the world!  Check back to this site often for more of the latest…

This just may work 😉

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Feb 08

Okay, so I’m reading through the local paper, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, when I come across the wonderful advice column of Dr. Joyce Brothers.  Now, I’m a few days behind on reading the newspaper because… well, I just am.  So this is actually the paper from January 29th of this year.  I usually read Dr. Brothers’ column, think to myself how silly her advice is, and go on my merry way.  Her column in this particular paper, however, just seemed to rub me the wrong way.

The question to Dr. Brothers is from a high-school senior who wants to get a job.  The kid refers to herself (or himself) as P.A.  P.A.’s  dad does not want P.A. to get a job.  The reasoning P.A. gives is, “I am planning on working at a beauty salon after I graduate, and my dad says that is soon enough to join the ‘rat race.’  His only reason seems to be that he wants me to have fun while I can.  Is this normal?”

Dr. Brothers gives a response and answer to the question, part of which is as follows:

“It may be normal for your dad, because he’s operating from his unique worldview and trying hard to keep within that comfort zone that he has set up for himself.  Without knowing more about him, I can only guess that he has had to struggle in his life, and that he views work as something that isn’t very pleasant, just a means to an end.  He sounds like a conscientious guy who has sacrificed for his family.  He can’t imagine you being all grown up and wanting to take on the responsibilities of a job just yet.  He’s definitely got some issues.”

Seriously… what the crap… huh?  I guess all of this seems to make sense… until you get to that last sentence.  “He’s definitely got some issues.”  Is that a typo?  Was that supposed to be “He’s definitely got a point”?  I don’t think it was.  I think Dr. Joyce is casting judgement on this father because of his view of “work”.  Do most people in our society not at least somewhat share the worldview of this father?  After all, it’s called “work”, not “playtime in LaLa Land”.

I don’t think most people wake up every morning and think to themselves, “Ah, another wonderful day of work!”  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.  I really believe that most people view work as a means to an end… hopefully it has something to do with retirement.  This doesn’t mean that everyone absolutely hates their jobs; but given the choice, I think most people could find something more enjoyable to do with their time than work a job.  Dr. Brothers apparently does not fall into the category of “most people”.

I understand that there are people out there who absolutely love what they do for a living.  Those people are few and far between.  I think most of us can remember back to the days before we had to work a job.  Those were, for the most part, less stressful and more enjoyable than time spent in the work-a-day world.  Why would the father, remembering back to his pre-work days and wanting his child to enjoy those days in the child’s life, have “issues”?  What a judgmental opinion to express!  How dare she!

Dr. Brothers needs to wake up and smell the we-don’t-all-get-to-make-a-living-handing-out-our-opinions-as-advice-coffee.  There are those of us who have slight trepidation at the thought of how our children will be forced to change when they enter the work-a-day world.  It’s not about not wanting our children to grow up.  It’s all about how so many of us become cynical, bitter old farts because of the crap we are forced to deal with in life, a large portion of which comes from dealing with “work”, and we don’t want our children to go through what we have gone through.

That’s not an “issue”.  That is a point… and a damn good one.

Besides, the kid is planning on a career at a beauty salon.  You can’t tell me that working with other people’s stinky heads all day is going to be pleasant?  This father is really just trying to look out for the kid :)

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Dec 18

We had to replace our dryer.  Our old dryer just pooped-out.  She had been in a state of deteriorating health for quite some time, but we have put up with her “quirks” because… well… she was our dryer.  When the wife and I were married over 16 years ago, one of the first major purchases we made was a washer and dryer.

I can remember shopping for her (the dryer… not the wife… although I vaguely remember that as well).  We went to every place in town, trying to get a good deal.  We looked at all sorts of off-name brands, but we ended up going with Kenmore from Sears.  I don’t remember the exact reasoning behind why we purchased this particular brand, but I know I have felt confident that we made the right choice.  I have never looked at our washer and dryer and thought, ‘We made a mistake by going cheap.’  We considered buying our washer at one store and our dryer at another.  “Matching appliances” that were to end up in the basement or the laundry room or the spare bedroom were never a big concern for us.  However, the particular washer and dryer that we purchased in our first year of marriage just… well… they just seemed to go together, kind of like a newly-wed couple.
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Happy Washer

Happy Dryer
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Mr. Washer and Mrs. Dryer have been with the wife and me through thick and thin.  Whether they were cleaning the bedding and lingerie of a newly-wed couple, sitting in storage while the wife and I hopped apartments in Denver, cleaning the tiny clothes of our firstborn, cleaning dog hair off of everything after we received our family’s first dog, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born (oh, the joys of a RSV-prone and mucous-filled child), or preparing the daily garb of a laundry-producing family of four people and one dog in present day; Mr. Washer and Mrs. Dryer have always tried to be good to us.  I have spent many a late night sitting downstairs watching T.V. or pecking on the computer, while Mr. Washer scrubs the whites and Mrs. Dryer fluffs the darks.

Listening to the two of them in harmony could be quite … err… interesting?!?  While Mr. Washer went into spin cycle and Mrs. Dryer tumbled her load round-and-round, there unison motions often caught my attention.  Mr. Washer would spin, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, shaking the stillness of the basement with his urgency.  Mrs. Dryer kept the same unison pace throughout, yet I sensed that they were working toward a common goal.  Finally, Mr. Washer, at a frenzied speed in search of some extraordinary outcome… stopped spinning.  I could tell he was spent.  Mrs. Dryer usually continued on, searching for her own “mission complete” banner.  Every once in awhile, the two of them would reach their goal at the same time: Mr. Washer’s final spin cycle quickly grinding to a halt as Mrs. Dryer’s buzzing high-pitched alarm screamed that her load was complete.  It was kind of exotic and erotic, in a very blue-collar and… uh…  pervy kind of way… probably like the erotic encounters of most married couples :)

Mr. Washer started having issues a little over a year ago.  He really wobbled when he went into the spin cycle, and we knew that something was wrong.  Finally, he just gave out.  Every time I tried to start a new load, he would just hum.  I tried my best to get him working on my own… which, with my mechanical expertise, resulted in several swift kicks to his nether-regions.
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Sick Washer
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Mrs. Washer did not seem to approve.
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Mad Dryer
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Nothing I did (i.e. no matter how hard I kicked) worked.  We finally called an appliance repairman.  Like $50 later, some doohickey was replaced and Mr. Washer has been working like a champ ever since!
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Happy Washer
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Mrs. Dryer has been in a state of decline ever since we moved into our new house over two years ago.  It seems her heating element has been going out… or something.  It used to be that we could throw a wet load into her and, within a multitude of mere minutes, she would have it dry.  Recently, it would take a second, and sometimes third, cycle to actually remove all moisture from a load of clothes.  Apparently, she had come down with something… something terminal.  Finally, a few nights ago, she wouldn’t work at all.  I threw a load of wet mass into her, closed her door, pushed the “start” button, and… nothing.
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Sick Dryer
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Crap!

I figured, initially, that this was something I could fix… given my exemplary track-record with fixing major appliances and all.  I gave her several swift kicks.  Although the kicks did nothing to spur her into action, I did seem to notice several sever looks-of-reproach from Mr. Washer.
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Mad Washer
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Ignoring the ire of her spouse, I decided to perform a little surgery.

I think I’ve already mentioned this, but my mechanical skills are a little lacking.  I blame my lack of ability on the fact that I don’t have the proper tools.  Convincing the wife that I needed to add to my haphazard tool collection, I headed to… Walmart… and bought a multimeter.  Armed with the necessary tool to assess Mrs. Washer’s condition, I started the procedure.

First, I tested the actual outlet she plugged into.  As the multimeter’s needle sprung to action with the insertion of the red thingie and the black thingie into  the slots that we are taught from early childhood not to stick anything into, my heart raced.  I realized that between my fingers raced enough electricity to kill the average mortal.  Feeling slightly immortal through my discovery, I proceeded to the removing-of-the-screws on the back of Mrs. Dryer.  Leaving the appliance plugged in, I proceeded to test this and that… not knowing exactly what I was testing, but feeling exilerated that I was playing with something with which I shouldn’t.  Not finding a clue as to the current condition plaguing Mrs. Washer, I unplugged her, turned the multimeter device to the “ohm” setting, and continued with my examination.

The ohm setting apparently tests the connection through different electrical components of a system without the necessity of outside electricity… or something.  The multimeter’s AA battery provides everything one needs.  All of a sudden, I’m not a general surgeon… I’m a “specialist”, as I test this component and that.  I become increasingly disheartened as my search proves more and more futile.  The wife recommends that we just purchase a new dryer.  I remind the wife that Mr. Washer was fixed for next-to-nothing and recommend that we try the same with Mrs. Dryer.  The wife points out that the average appliance lasts about 15 years, Mrs. Dryer is over said 15 years, and that we could really use a dryer with a little more capacity to dry our increasing quantity of clothes and linen-type-stuff as our boys grow.  Feeling like I had let Mrs. Dryer (and Mr. Washer as well) down, I somberly agree.  Mrs. Washer has fulfilled her purpose and her time had past…
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Dryer... Done
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Mr. Dryer was devastated…
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Sad Washer
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After quick visits to all of the major local appliance places, we settle on a nice Maytag that Home Depot was offering at clearance prices.  We brought her home, plugged her in, and tried her out.  She works great.  She gets hotter than Mrs. Dryer ever did.  The new dryer is sleek, shiny, and has great capacity.  We like her a lot. She may have been “cheap”, but you could never tell that from her appearance!
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Hot, young Dryer
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Okay, maybe her appearance screams “cheap”… but only in the softest of screams.

At first, I was afraid that Mr. Washer would hold some contempt towards our newest appliance.  However, I think he’s coming around :)
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JOYOUS Washer
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In fact, this is the happiest I have seen Mr. Washer in a long time. His spin cycle seems to be a little faster and he cleans better than he has in years… and I can’t quite seem to figure out why…
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uh... unfit couple?
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Appliances… go figure?

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