1 Comment

A Saint Patrick’s Day Primer

The calendar once against says today is March 17th. You know what means, right? It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, aka, the Feast of Saint Patrick, the one day of the year dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, a man I’m pretty sure was canonized more for his conversion of Irish pagans to Catholicism than anything having to do with slithering limbless reptiles.

But, hey, what difference does it make? Let’s get wrecked!

Look, I get it…everybody likes a good “bar” holiday. His holiness the Dalai Lama certainly knows I do. In fact, I’ve written about it on several previous St. Patricks’ Days. There’s (probably) nothing wrong with getting sloppy drunk on a weekday. I mean, the NCAA tournament starts today, anyway, so it’s kind of a given, regardless.

But there’s no reason to be sloppy drunk AND disrespectful to an entire culture, you know? So, here’s a quick primer of important things to keep in mind while you’re considering how abusive you’d like to be to your liver:

  1. This is St. Patrick’s Day, the liturgical Feast (or Festival if you’re a time traveler from ye Olden Days) of Saint Patrick, that theoretically falls on the traditional anniversary of the dude’s death. Please bear in mind, then, that all those shots of Jameson you’re popping are intended to commemorate an actual person, who at absolutely NO POINT IN HIS LIFE went by the name “Patty”. Paddy, maybe, although I doubt it. But “Patty”? No. Patty is pretty disrespectful to a fella named Patrick (aka, Padraig), even if he was born in Roman Britannia. So, just…here, read this.
  2. You might be tempted to reference a leprechaun, play some silly leprechaun game, or have fevered, beer-induced dreams of catching a wee, green-jacketed fairy and forcing him to pay you in gold. Don’t. Just….don’t. Can you imagine if some yokel saddled America with a fairytale gremlin mascot? We’d be putting troops on the ground of any nation daring to make even a passing reference to the orange-skinned American Drumpf fairy, who speaks the promise of any wish you desire, but instead steals your mind and soul, leaving you mad and filled with hate.
  3. To honor Saint Patrick’s Day, we recommend ordering one (or more) of the following:Guinness murphysspdsmithor even, I suppose killians

(if you absolutely must, although Killian’s Irish Red is about as Irish as I am. Which is to say, there’s a whisper of Irish descent in there somewhere, but, really, just, no.) Whatever you do, for the love all things holy, pagan, or otherwise scaly, There Is Absolutely No Good Reason For2

bad green beer

Seriously, if you find yourself drawn to watery beer with a few complementary drops of food coloring this year, fine. But don’t tell yourself it has anything to do with trying to pay homage or respect to Irishy things. It doesn’t. A weird jello-green tint in your American beer is much more about you getting shammered than it is about Irish anything. And while I’ll be the first to say there’s (occasionally) nothing wrong with getting your drink on until someone’s face melts, If that’s what you want to do, please do us all a favor and drink your preferred Watery American Lager in it’s natural, nearly colorless hue and instead maybe raise a toast to the Puritans who set up shop in New England in an effort to flee religious persecution. Sure, those settlers will likely have had better beer than you1 (which begs the question of who exactly is the “settler” here), but at least you’ll still get drunk, without offending an entire culture.

And now that I’ve likely offended you, the Irish in general, and probably the Puritans, too, I’d say my work here is done. Time to go find myself a nice Irish stout.

Pud’n


1 Yes, the drank plenty of alcohol. Alcohol was safer and cleaner than the water from that stream yonder that probably had a family of deer pee in it yesterday morning.

2 Seriously, I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I wrote my finest poetic work ever, I Do Not Like Green Tastes Beer

3 Comments

The Slow, Torturous March  to Parental Obsolescence, Part I

A few nights ago, after brushing his little, seven year-old teeth while wearing a set of colorful, seven year-old’s pajamas, my youngest son bounced up to me to make an announcement. The bouncing wasn’t a surprise, of course; when you’re seven, if your movement from place to place isn’t primarily bounce-driven, something needs a band-aid, someone’s angry, or a trip to the pediatrician is in order. The bouncing, then, was quite par for the course. The announcement, though, was a little more unexpected. He looked over at the book shelf in his room where we keep the bedtime book we’re currently reading, and then crushed me with a few simple words.

Now, I say “we” in reference to bedtime reading there, but there’s usually very little “we” about it. I mostly do all the reading every night. Not because he needs me to, by any stretch. The kid can read better than many adults I know. Heck, I’ve always thought I was an advanced reader in the 1st grade, and he puts me to shame. But for whatever reason, he has always preferred for me to read to him before bed every night anyway.

That is, at least he used to.

“I want to read to myself tonight.”

I blinked. I’m pretty sure I felt a knife twisting somewhere in my chest.

“Uh, okay, buddy.”

“You can tuck me in and turn off my light and I’ll read with my lamp on. I’ll turn it off when I’m done.”

“Yeah, okay. Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Bounce.

Just like that, my career as a bedtime reader was over. No warning. No pink slip. No severance pay. For more than a decade prior to that moment, I’d read something – usually something well-read and familiar, at least to me, because, let’s face it, everyone knows you read the dinosaur books and Mike Mulligan at least once a year! – to one of our four kids almost nightly. The count of (mostly consecutive) bedtime readings had to have stretched into the thousands.

Up until last week.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, I suppose. As I said above, the kid can read extremely well, so I should have expected him to be reaching for independence. But I think that understanding perhaps required a level of honesty with myself I wasn’t nearly prepared to demonstrate.

Hello. Reservation for “Willfully Ignorant”, party of one?

At any rate, the little guy climbed into bed and flicked on his lamp while I pulled up the covers and turned off the overhead light.  Then I shuffled over to the door, listening.

“Chapter Six. The first grade class…”

I didn’t hear anything more after that, I’m guessing because I’d somehow become temporarily dumbfounded by my own sudden obsolescence. As I kneaded my feelings like a mushy lump of sourdough for the next few hours, it occurred to me that this sort of thing, was, in the best case scenario, the entire point of parenthood. You have kids, you try to teach them things hoping that they’ll eventually be able to manage themselves without you, and with luck, by the time you’ve reached Valhalla, they carry on by themselves.

Except, that’s not really how it works. What really happens is something a little more insidious. See, if you’re serious about actual parenting, by which I mean, “raising humans capable of humaning for themselves” as opposed to “raising adult-sized dependents who never quite learn to manage their own time or use a steak knife properly1“, your little hatchlings will likely express their desire and ability to fly alone long before you’re prepared for them to hop out of the nest. More specifically, what happens is: you have kids, you try to teach them things, they learn them, and then tell you that they can do it on their own, without you.

At which point you realize that success as a parent necessarily means making yourself mostly kind of obsolete.

Which is the kind of realization that goes well with a sympathetic spouse and a bottle of moscato. Or, lacking either of those, a stiff draught of Arrogant Bastard.

But the funny thing is, even as you succeed at making yourself unnecessary, the sting of it lasts for only a moment. The pride of knowing that you made the picture below possible, that a thousand other books might take the place of the book in his hands over the course of his life? Yeah, that feeling stays with you.

Pud’n


1 Apparently that’s a terrifyingly popular methodology operating under the guise of “parenting” these days

2 Comments

The Story of How I Broke My Arm In 4th Grade

I wrote a post today on Middle Grade Minded about writing for middle graders, and, more specifically, why I do it. If you’re curious, go check it out. As part of that discussion, I made reference to the time I broke my arm in the fourth grade, just as school got out for the summer.

I later wrote an essay about the event, but for the first time in my young life, I approached the retelling the way a storyteller would, not the way a 5th grade writing an essay would.

My teacher loved it. 

I loved it too.

Of course, what I wrote that day has been gone for more than thirty years. But I still remember exactly what happened that day when I broke my arm. I can still play the movie of it in head, all these years later. And despite years of seemingly trying to damage my memory on purpose, most of the details are as sharp as the day it happened.

So, how did I break my arm in 4th grade? Well, it goes a little something like this

The boy finished pumping the pedals of his burnt sienna brown Huffy at the third house from the start of the cul-de-sac, down at the bottom on the hill. That was as far up as he was allowed to climb without asking someone for permission to go further. Not that the “Land beyond the Third House” was undiscovered country or anything, but any more and he’d be beyond sight of his own house down below.

He swiveled his bike towards his family’s bi-level and straddled the familiar vinyl seat. The hill was so steep. In his 10 years, he’d never seen a steeper one with his own eyes. And this one was his. He could ride it everyday, zooming towards that concrete circle below at break-neck speeds. The sensation of flying down it must be like what those ski-jump guys at the Olympics felt.

No use waiting. With a shove of his Keds, he pushed off and started the familiar descent.

Once at a stable speed, the boy let go of the handlebars, reaching his arms out to both sides. He was a ‘T’ shape now, cutting through the warm spring air like a odd-shaped knife. Halfway down, and short of actually flying, there couldn’t possibly be a better feeling on earth. Hands free, letting gravity do it’s job while his Huffy lead the way.

But, then, why did he only ever let go of the handlebars? What would it be like to stick his feet out too? To be tethered to the bike by nothing more than the connection of that vinyl seat cover? Wouldn’t that be even more like flying?

Not wasting a moment for second thoughts, his feet abandoned their assigned posts at the pedals, and now instead of an ‘T’, he was an ‘X’, careening towards the bottom of the hill. The houses below were getting bigger and bigger. He felt like a bird. a powerful, graceful, majestic one. Like, an eagle or something.

And yet…

The scary part loomed ahead. A jagged, bumpy pad of concrete where the hill met the cul-de-sac, cracked in places and always full of gravel. He rocketed through it, bouncing across the uneven surface. He’d done it a thousand times, and it had never caught him up before. It was nothing to worry much about. 

Except this time wasn’t like before.

This time, he was only barely in control of the Huffy under him.

The bike hit a crack and shimmied to the right. Without hands or feet in place to control it, he reacted by instinct and shifted his whole weight left.

Too much. The biked leaned precariously, nearly tilting in process.

Panic – a grown up-sized sharp, electric jolt – shot through the boy. His feet found their designated assignments again in half a heartbeat, and his hands squeezed the familiar, cracked plastic grips of the handlebars. He tried to turn the Huffy, shifting it back to the right, hoping to bring it back into balance.

Too late.

Or, maybe, too much.

He’d turned it too hard, and the wheels lost their purchase on the pavement below him. The whole bicycle slid sideways, taking him with it. He was going down. It was going be a rough one.

And then the boy’s mind…lurched.

Time.

Slowed.

Crawling.

By.

But yet, as he looked to the sky, a spring-time palate of piercing blue and cottony white spiraled around and around over head. The whole world was spinning a thousand miles an hour. How could the sky possibly move THAT fast? Had the Earth been launched from its orbit?

But wait. What was happening? Something else was going on, right? As if he was watching the entire thing play out like a movie, on cue, the scene wiped from one view to another. An arm…someone’s arm, or maybe no one’s?…stretched out in front of his eyes,

falling,

falling,

falling.

Pavement — hard, angry, sun-baked concrete – raced upwards to meet it. No force in Heaven or Earth could stop the two from meeting, from crashing against each other.

A scream split the air. 

Only much later would the boy realized it had been his voice.

The arm, his arm, smacked against the concrete, which showed all the tenderness of, well, a slab of concrete. And even still, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst thing was when that arm bounced. The elbow struck first and popped, lurching back up towards the sky like one of those rubber super ball or a fake chicken or something. It had been nearly flat, held straight out, when the arm first touched the ground. But after that bounce, it wasn’t any longer.

It bent the wrong way.

The angle of his elbow pointed to the sun overhead.

His mind snapped back into normal speed as his elbow and the rest of his arm crashed into the pavement.

Someone screamed again. This time it wasn’t him. At the same time, a strange sensation fired through him. Not pain, exactly, but something maybe a little better, and yet somehow far worse. A uncomfortable numbness where the boy knew there should instead be searing, lancing, agonizing pain.

It was years later that he found out about medical shock.

“MY AAAARRRRRM!” he shouted in a jumbled a heap beneath his forgotten Huffy, not yet having the courage to move. People raced to him from every direction. They pulled the bike off him, helped him find his feet, and gingerly cradled his arm. Someone else, an adult neighbor, guided him up the driveway to his house. By that point, the poor high school girl charged with watching the boy that afternoon had come outside to see the commotion first hand. Her face was tight, and her eyes danced in an unfamiliar way that he didn’t yet realize hinted at fear. Still, she kept it hidden, and assured the boy in soothing tones that everything would be all right. That his father would be home soon and they’d go get something called X-rays.

He staggered inside and settled onto the couch to wait, snuffling uncontrollably every few minutes. At least he wasn’t crying anymore, but that was small comfort against the odd sensation of numb pain pulsing outward from his elbow.

One of his brothers rolled his burnt sienna Huffy into the garage. He didn’t know it, but a wrapped cast, a pair of surgical pins, and six long weeks of summer vacation would all come and go before he had another opportunity to ride that bike again.

And he never rode it down the hill without his hands on the bars again.

Pud’n

A Haiku As A Lame Excuse

writing_logo_180

Work ate today’s post
Job work, homework, too much work
Puddin’s a dull boy

2 Comments

In Preparation For Snowpocalypse ‘16

If at any point, you had the grand misfortune of being exposed to your local news today – perhaps because you visited a dear, sleepy relative at Withering Acres, or you lost your remote control and were held captive for 3 frantic minutes to whatever local channel you happened to fall asleep in front of last night – you’ve undoubtedly heard something about the Great White Doom of 2016 coming for most of the southeast/eastern US tomorrow.

This post is not about that. If you ask me, wringing one’s hands over the possibility of being buried beneath a pile of frozen, crystalized rain tall enough to rival even the Greek Titans of old is about as useful as listening to my kids debate the likelihood of an off day tomorrow versus an off half-day, or even, the downright disastrous(!) full day of getting edu-macated.

[Update: Somehow, even without a single flake falling and the weather oracle of Delphi suggesting that we’re likely to get nothing until well after school hours, the school district just called to inform us that school has, indeed, been called off tomorrow already. For reasons I can assume would only be understood by personal injury attorneys.]

There’s plenty of horror to be found elsewhere, though, including the usual tales of tumbleweeds rolling through grocery store aisles where bread, milk, and, godsforfend, eggs could have been found in ample supply not 24 hours ago. Also, in cities across the eastern seaboard and midwest, some poor TV sap is digging out his/her thermal underwear, an Everest-rated ski coat, and a pair of mittens made for a Wampa, in preparation for doing a remote shot from the city’s salt storage silo tomorrow evening. You know you love the city’s salt pile report, right?

Oh, hey, did you hear that government for the state of Kentucky has already shut down for tomorrow?

Yeah, nobody needs any more of this nonsense.

So, instead, I offer you the following constructive, enriching posts about snow days. Because, dammit, people, we don’t have to freak every time that snowflake icon appears on our respective weather widgets’ forecast.

Huh. Um, so that’s about all I could find that looked interesting or helpful regarding snow. As it turns out, it seems the internet is a pretty good place to mostly just complain about the weather. Which basically makes it that old curmudgeon wasting his day down at the general store. Seems a pretty apt comparison now that I think about it.

Luckily, despite that, I also found a link about making cookies. But I think we all knew we’d be able to find a post about snow day cookies.

What’s that? You really would rather just spend your blog reading time with a maximum of whining and moaning about snow, ice, winter, and all the associated nonsense? Okay, FINE, I’ve got that covered for you, too.

Hunker down. Stay warm, kids. And enjoy your cocoa.

Pud’n

Full Disclosure

So, how’s that whole “write more/complain less” thing working out for me?  Well, I will readily admit I haven’t been able to write something new Every. Single. Day. I’m eyeballs deep in a brand new work project that has me writing software like a maniac. Or a fiend, even.

Possibly even a maniac fiend!

But you know what? While no one ever told me this while I was working on my Bachelor’s in Computer Science, writing software is as much art as it is science. Having a project that demands making something new and interesting form whole cloth? Well, it’s clearly creation, every bit as much as conjuring characters and setting them free in a world that exists only in my head.

So, have I managed to write something every day so far this year? Not words, no.

But I’m feeling plenty creative nonetheless, thank you. And if you ask me, that’s good enough to call it a win.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fiddle with Google Maps so I can embed them in a webpage. In the meantime, uh, here, enjoy this picture of a festive Buddha.

Clearly, I've found my next cover photo. Possibly an author photo, too, maybe?

A post shared by Jason A Rust (@jasonarust) on

Pud’n

2 Comments

Because Friday Should Include Some Nonsense

I briefly considered writing something meaningful and profound today, because, if nothing else, I am the king of meaning and profoundness.

Also, be thankful. For roughly 7 seconds, I considered using the word profundity in the sentence above. I think we can all agree, though, there was absolutely no call for any of that kind of shenanigans. I mean, we all understand perfectly well enough already that I’m sufficiently nerdy without the supercilious use of uber-geek words on a Friday evening.

Aw, crap. Supercilious. Dammit, I did it despite myself.

Anyways.

Long story, um, kinda short, my 10 year-old daughter will be performing in the premiere of The Lion King tonight with her theater group, and they have something crazy like three more shows this weekend. There’s a pretty good bet, then, that my weekend will be filled with theater comings-and-goings. If that wasn’t enough, Son Numero Dos has the usual archery practice and a competition tomorrow. Also, I’m apparently helping him sand down some LEGOs for a Rubik’s Cube projects – which I’m realizing now might be the most geeky sentence I’ve ever written. To balance that geekery, there will be laundry. In a household with six people, the one bedrock of daily life is a constant and never dwindling pile of laundry that needs attention.

So, what I’m getting at is that I’m definitely not going to be reaching any fundamentally profound observations today or this weekend, short of something along the lines of:

I LIKE CHEESE!

Thus, instead of meaning and wonder, I leave you with this, my pseudo-weekly non-sequitur Friday tweet. Because if you can’t post a tweet of absolutely nonsense on Friday afternoon, when can you?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsHave a great weekend, and try not to burn the place down.

Pud’n


*This does not, in any way shape or form, represent my approval of man-buns, explicit or otherwise.

1 Comment

A Haiku For Web Development Nerds

Spent my day knee-deep,
Model View Controller-ing
Brain’s gone all to mush.

2 Comments

Thoughts About That Bengals Game

I’ve been a Cincinnati Bengals fans since I was 8 years old.

I’m almost 43 now, which means I’ve been WhoDey!-ing those orange and black stripes for something like 35 years.

My fandom started, not surprisingly, in 1981. When the local team goes to the Super Bowl, it tends to have that effect on a kid.

Since then, I’m afraid, it’s been a rollercoaster ride with a good bit more downhill than up. Despite that, over the years, being a Bengals fan has always given me something to look forward to on Sunday afternoon. Whether the day ended with me feeling giddy with joy over a win, or nearly crushed with disappointment, I never questioned being a fan.

Being a fan, I explained to my son Saturday when the chips were down and Bengals were on the wrong side of a 15-0 deficit, means being excited to get to watch your team, no matter what happens, win or lose. It’s not only about being happy when they come out a winner.

Never in a million years would I have expected that not even an hour later, my Bengals would test that assertion so thoroughly.

Never, in all the years since 8 year-old me watched Kenny Anderson almost lead my Bengals to a championship, have I felt anything like I felt on Saturday night, when my Bengals lost to the Steelers in the AFC Wildcard card.

I won’t go into specifics about what happened, because billions of electrons have already been pressed into service in blog posts and news pieces about it. In case you don’t keep track of the NFL, still live a world with elves and hobbits, or otherwise aren’t familiar with modern American sports media, all I’ll say is that in roughly 90 seconds of game time, I experienced the most heart-crushing swing of emotions in all of my 42 years.

After the gun sounded on that maddening debacle and the truth that all of it had really just happened, the best I could do was tweet this and then flee to the basement and Netflix, and as far from social media as I could get:

In roughly the time it takes to order and receive a drive-thru McRib, I went from feeling elation at knowing the game was won and my Bengals were going to advance, to revulsion at not only the loss, but how it came to be.

I didn’t want to talk about it Sunday. I really mostly still don’t. Some people can work through their grief though expression, discussion and dissecting the source, analyzing it from various angles and considering it though multiple filters.

I’m…not that guy. The only ways I know to heal include

  1. Put a band aid on it,
  2. Walk it off,
  3. Pretend it’s not there until it goes away,
  4. Write about it.

Number 4 is the only reason I’m writing this post about it now. I’m hoping it helps me stop seeing that fumble replay in my head.

Since Saturday night, I’ve been wondering if I maybe I shouldn’t hang up my orange and black boxer shorts. Wouldn’t my life be easier if I didn’t spend my Sunday afternoons gambling with my mood on a franchise that spent a full decade punishing me and the last five years pulling the rug out from under me just as I believe the footing is getting rock solid?

But I keep remembering what I told my oldest son when he was ready to give up on the game in the middle of the second half.

The truth of the matter is, I love the game and this franchise too much to walk away from either without considerable effort. I can deny and swear and pretend I’m not doing it any more all I want, but the fact is I’ll probably always want football in my life. And no matter how hurt, how raw this feeling is right now, I know, deep down, that come time for training camp next year, I’ll be digging out my tiger-striped undergarments and putting on my fanboy hat once again

But I will say this. the NFL and Bengals – both, together! – had better get this dirty, personal foul/excessive roughness/head hunting business figured out and addressed soon. Yes, I may love the game like no other, but even love can only tolerate so much feeling dirty. And that’s about the only constant I’ve gotten from watching the Bengals play the Steelers in the past month.

Pud’n

3 Comments

A Night For Last Year’s Cookies

  
On occasion, if you’re lucky, one a random Wednesday night, a seven year old who happens to live at the same address as you do might come up to you out of the blue and ask, “Dad, can we make oatmeal cookies like we used to last year?” And, sure, at first you hesitate because it’s a school night and you’re exhausted from work and the kitchen needs to be cleaned up after dinner and why can’t you just put all the kids to bed at 7 o’clock like when they were 3?

  
But then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get over yourself and realize that, you know, maybe a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies could just be the thing to transform your Wednesday from mediocre to memorable. So you clean up the kitchen and you take stock of the pantry. And sure, maybe you don’t have all the exact ingredients, being a tad short on chocolate chips and wee smidgen even shorter on oatmeal. 

  
It’s just past the holidays, though, and if you’re extra lucky, you’ll realize you have several as-yet-unclaimed chocolate bars sitting around the house waiting to be chunked into bits and mixed into cookie dough. And, if you’re super extra lucky, your cookie recipe can be adjusted slightly for a wee shortage of oatmeal.

So, then, because of Last Year’s cookies and a dollop of luck, you get to spend half an hour in the kitchen with that seven year old, baking a batch of cookies. And at the end, you earn what you were really hunting for: this smile, wrapped around a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chunk delight.

 Yeah, I’d say I got pretty lucky tonight. Not bad for 45 minute on a Wednesday.

Plus also, now I have cookies. 

Pud’n