Halloween Past

At a very early age, while growing up in Iowa, I discovered I was almost as fond of Halloween as I was of Christmas. I don’t know which came first: Halloween or candy, but as a boy with an enormous sweet tooth I really had no choice but to fall in love with trick-or-treating. It was impossible for me to ignore the fact that I could accumulate more candy, roaming the streets of my small hometown on Beggars’ Night, than the amount Santa Claus could leave in my Christmas stocking every 25th day of December. My stocking could only hold so much, and many times an apple and an orange took up most of the important space I thought was strictly meant for candy. It didn’t matter how many sugary treats I acquired during Halloween because the goodies were always unwrapped and inhaled within a mere couple of weeks. My older sister was disciplined enough (unlike me) to ration her supply of candy in the same manner a stranded cowboy in the desert would conserve the water in his canteen; therefore, she had plenty of candy leftover well into the next year. To a sugar junkie such as myself that concept was completely foreign to me.

Dressing up for Halloween was always exciting, but dressing up at Christmastime usually meant putting on an itchy sweater and uncomfortable shoes to attend (or possibly star in) some sort of holiday pageant. Knowing beforehand what attire I’d actually be wearing on Beggars’ Night was nearly impossible. In general, my siblings and I each had a couple of costumes in mind, up until about an hour before we were to be unleashed into the dark of night, because we weren’t positive what type of weather we’d be facing until the final hour came. We never knew for sure whether we were going to have decent weather, rain, sleet, snow, or the bitter cold to contend with until the time for trick-or-treating had finally arrived. The famous line, “if you don’t like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change,” has never been more pertinent than during late Octobers in Iowa. Most Halloweens we were forced to wear our winter coats over our costumes, so I don’t know why we even bothered getting dressed up.

There were a few foreseeable things my siblings and I could expect every year as Beggars’ Night drew closer. The city would deem 6pm-8pm the official time for trick-or-treating, and my parents would be sticklers for honoring that guideline. We weren’t allowed to leave the confines of our home at 5:45pm, 5:55pm, or even 5:59pm, and it didn’t matter if the other neighborhood kids, dressed as ghosts and goblins, had already come to our house and received a teat from us. I’ve never been too keen on patience, so being all dolled up with no place to go (at least not yet) was just about enough to drive me insane. We couldn’t barrel out the front door until 6:00pm, so barrel out the front door at 6:00pm is what we did. There was so much candy to be had and so little time.

Another thing we could always count on was my mother going to the extreme when preparing Halloween goodie bags for all of the anticipated trick-or-treaters. She would begin her ritual, a day (or sometimes two) before Beggars’ Night, by baking dozens of cookies and popping several batches of popcorn. My mother would place one cookie in a sandwich bag and then she’d add a specific amount of popcorn to that bag with the help of a measuring cup. I would swear each bag was purposefully filled with precisely an equal number of popcorn kernels because my mother aimed for fairness. She apparently didn’t want to cheat anyone or possibly start any feuds amongst siblings who might be comparing their gifts with one another when they got home. My mother typically finished each goodie bag by adding a fun size candy bar, a roll of Smarties, a caramel square, and a sucker before ultimately cinching the sandwich bag with a piece of orange or black ribbon. I always hoped there would be plenty of her famous treat bags leftover and awaiting me at the end of the evening.

My favorite Halloween, while growing up in Iowa, was also my last year of trick-or-treating as a child. I knew well beforehand it was going to be my last year because I was in the sixth grade, and my parents were adamant that once a kid entered junior high then they were too old to be donning a costume and begging for candy. Again, they were sticklers, but this time it was about who should and who should not be trick-or-treating. The weather was perfect for my “last hurrah”: no heavy winter coat to weigh me down or clumsy snow boots to slow me down. I was no longer constrained by my parents to chaperone my younger brother and sister, although I still couldn’t leave the house until 6:00pm, and I had learned the previous year that using a pillowcase was the optimal way for collecting people’s offerings. The newfound method was much better than the old way of using either a cheap plastic bag or the traditional small orange pumpkin (with the stapled black handle that inevitably would come undone by night’s end), so I was all set to hit the streets one last time.

I treated my final experience as a trick-or-treater as though I was an aspiring Olympian. I sprinted from house to house, zigzagging back and forth across the street, while leaping over anything that got in my way including flowerbeds, hedges, and even a few fences. I was guilty of ignoring all trick-or-treating etiquette, and I blatantly disregarded the sidewalks altogether. The sturdy pillowcase got much heavier as the evening wore on, but I managed to somehow tough it out since I knew it was saving me from having to make time-consuming trips back home to unload. I surely mirrored Christopher Columbus as I explored many new territories on my quest for candy. Eventually I found myself over a mile away from home and realizing I had entered the Berg area (aka the rich part of town). I had heard the rumors that some Berg residents handed out full size candy bars on Beggars’ Night, and I was fortunate enough to find out it was true. I decided I should retreat from the rich neighborhood after receiving more than a couple of complaints, from potential donors, about the time now being well beyond 8:00pm.

I tossed the large pillowcase, filled with tasty donations, up and over my shoulder and headed home. I’m certain I resembled some sort of scary Santa Claus toting a bag full of toys, for all of the good girls and boys, but everything in my bag was all mine. My final year of trick-or-treating provided me with a stockpile of candy lasting longer than the usual couple of weeks…but not by much. I could hardly wait, as a sugar junkie needing a fix, for the real Santa to replenish my candy supply, and I was hoping this time the jolly old elf would forget about the apple and the orange when filling up my stocking.


A New Halloween

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Beggars’ Night until I moved away from Iowa and made Arizona my home. My first Halloween in the desert was quite a learning experience. It was approximately twenty minutes into the two hour time frame our city had allotted for trick-or-treating, but my wife and I had not yet given out a single treat. I could not help wondering why we weren’t being solicited by any ghosts or goblins (It’s the one time of year I don’t mind strangers knocking on my door). Our porch light was on, and only the screen door separated any trick-or-treaters roaming outside from the fun size candy bars awaiting them inside our welcoming home. For a split second I thought maybe we had the wrong evening, but I quickly dismissed that notion since both my wife and I are perfectly capable of deciphering a calendar.

I began contemplating that maybe the Scary Sounds Of Halloween cd, I had purchased for the special occasion, was too frightening for a little princess or super hero who might be traipsing through our neighborhood. A half an hour or more had now elapsed, and we definitely could hear some intermittent commotion going on outdoors. Every so often the obvious voice of a child could be heard passing by our house, but no one came to our door asking for a goodie. I finally decided to brave the unknown, on the other side of the screen door, in an attempt to solve the mystery. I did not need to enlist the help of Scooby Doo (and the gang) to crack the case wide open because once I got outside the overwhelming evidence was crystal clear although it was something I had never seen before.

All of our neighbors, who were participating in the annual event, were sitting in chairs at the end of their driveways and handing out holiday gifts to every passerby who was wearing a costume. I immediately cranked up the volume on my stereo system, so the “scary sounds” emitting from the tower speakers could easily be heard outdoors. I grabbed the large bowl of candy, brimming with Butterfinger and Snickers, a couple of lawn chairs, and I set up shop at the end of our driveway. I went back inside for a cold beer before easing into one of the comfy lawn chairs for the evening. For me, after discovering craft beer, Beggars’ Night isn’t complete until I’m sipping on a Four Peaks’ Pumpkin Porter.

Every Halloween, since being apprized of the proper trick-or-treating protocol, we’ve had well over 100 guests expecting a handout. We have now experienced seven Halloweens in Arizona, but my wife and I are still amazed at how many parents, accompanying their children, wear costumes while trekking through our neighborhood. Most of the chaperones donning costumes don’t ask for candy, so I suppose they simply enjoy “dressing up.” Some of them can be seen enjoying adult beverages as well. We continue to be a bit perplexed by the number of parents who have newborn children and are willing to push a stroller up and down the streets in hopes of receiving some free candy. Who is it for? The toothless “sleeping beauty” occupying the stroller? Sometimes the baby isn’t even wearing a costume. Regardless, I always oblige the new parents because I figure it’s only candy, and if they’re willing to beg for it then I’m willing to accommodate them.

The same goes for the high school and college age kids we inevitably have wandering our city’s streets on Beggars’ Night. Heck, I’d gladly join them (even at my age) if I thought I wouldn’t get hassled so much by those who think trick-or-treating is strictly for the little ones. It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a massive and most-likely abnormal sweet tooth. I easily can eat piece after piece of deliciously rich cheesecake or pecan pie, and I certainly am able to devour a half dozen or so assorted doughnuts in one sitting. Sometimes I think even sugar needs to be sweetened. Therefore, I probably should not be the one in my household in charge of buying the bags of fun size candy bars for Halloween…but I always am. In addition, I’m a bargain hunter, and I clip coupons (I’ve rarely paid more than $1.50 per bag), so there’s no question there’ll be plenty of Butterfinger and Snickers leftover after the last trick-or-treater has come and gone.

I possibly went a little overboard last year (even by my standards). I began buying bags in late September, when the sales first started, and before I knew it I had amassed a pretty significant amount of candy. We ended up with 23 bags of fun size candy bars. We used 8 of them on Beggars’ Night. I know what you’re probably thinking, but you would be wrong. I do not prematurely open the bags of candy and then have to go back to the store to buy more. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I’m disciplined when it comes to refraining from partaking of my stash before Halloween. Afterwards though is definitely a different story. You would think the remaining 15 bags would at least last until New Year’s, but again you would be wrong. The sad thing is my wife doesn’t care all that much for candy, so the person in our household with the sweet tooth is literally left holding the bags. However, you won’t hear me complaining. With me in charge of the Halloween candy supply, whether in Iowa or Arizona, there will never be a shortage of Snickers on my watch.


It Makes No Sense To Me

I had heard the rumors, but I did not believe them. I’m a fairly rational guy, and I pride myself on being open-minded and listening to both sides of an issue (if there are two sides) before taking an adamant stance one way or the other, but this hearsay was something I could not even fathom. My son said it was true, and my wife said it probably was true because she had heard it many times. Who was I to argue since she works amongst the living, in the service industry, whereas I prefer spending the better part of my day isolated at home. However, I still wasn’t completely convinced something so ludicrous could actually be the truth, so imagine my surprise when shortly after hearing the rumors (and questioning them) I found an opportunity to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

I was invited to a fancy birthday celebration, and sometime during the evening I was introduced to a fine-looking, young “couple.” They were definitely cozy with one another although I had no possible way of knowing if they were boyfriend and girlfriend based on all those rumors. I figured there was no harm in asking them the “million dollar question” but if there was then so be it because most-likely I’d never see either one of them again. I began my inquiry by obtaining a little background information on the young “couple” sitting next to me. The lady was nineteen years old and the gentleman was twenty. I discovered at least one of them was a Christian. Next, I asked the pair if they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and the answer was yes.

Our discussion was going very well, so I decided it was finally time to ask the question I had been itching to propose. I boldly asked, “Does one of you have to ask the other ‘will you be my girlfriend’ or ‘will you be my boyfriend’ before you’re considered to be dating one another?” They answered, in unison, an emphatic, “yes.” It was true! I was disappointed yet fascinated by my findings, so I continued interrogating the official couple for a smidgeon longer. I found out a guy and a gal can hold hands, kiss, spend every waking hour together, and even engage in all sorts of sexual activity, in today’s society, without it meaning anything. They simply are not dating, or a couple, or committed to each other until the mandatory question is asked and answered. Up to that point they are only “talking.”

My lovely wife of 27 years, by today’s standard, isn’t even my girlfriend yet. We’re still just “talking.” Back in what I guess can now be described as the “good old days” the only question ever needed to be asked was, “will you marry me?” Everything else was already implied and did not need to be said. I have now been enlightened as to what is “proper” and considered “normal” concerning today’s young adults and their so-called relationships. I will never understand or agree with this generation’s way of thinking on that subject. It makes no sense to me.


A Fire Story

The year was 1981. It was a typical summer day in Newton, Iowa: hot and humid with not a whole lot going on (at least not yet). I was mowing the front lawn, but I can’t recall if I had volunteered to do the job, out of sheer boredom, or if my father had insisted on putting his eldest son to work that day. I do know I was pushing the old lawnmower back and forth, aiming to keep straight lines, from one end of the yard to the other. I kept going back and forth, over and over, seemingly caught in a lethargic state. Once in awhile I’d mix it up by following a square pattern, instead of the boring straight lines, to avoid falling asleep while manning the heavy piece of machinery. There was a time in my young adult life when I actually enjoyed performing the tedious task. I don’t think this was that time.

I remember in the past pleading with my parents, on more than one occasion, in hopes of coercing them into allowing me the privilege of experiencing the customary chore that every adolescent boy dreams about. A few of the younger fellas in the neighborhood had already encountered the time-honored task and were even getting paid for it, so I confronted my father with that arsenal of information. It did not matter to him how the other fathers were raising their boys because under his regime I was still too young to mow, and he thought it was utter nonsense to pay your own family for helping out around the house. As an adult I can understand and respect that sentiment, but as a teenager desiring some cold hard cash I just figured he was being a cheapskate.

I continued pushing the shabby but capable lawnmower, while dreading the approaching embankment that assuredly gave even my father fits from time to time, and flinching every time I ran over a rock, twig, or numerous other items hidden in the tall grass. (Oh that’s right, I was suppose to inspect the yard for such things before starting the engine.) My little brother had been entertaining himself, the entire time I was mowing, by riding his bicycle in circles out in the street in front of our house. Suddenly, he pulled up along side of me and nonchalantly said, “I think our garage is on fire.” My brother then peeled out back to the street and continued riding in circles, but this time he added a few figure eights to his repertoire. I wish I could say I immediately took some action at that point but I didn’t. I’m not sure if I thought my brother was joking or if the startling information I had just received only added bewilderment to my current lackadaisical state.

Only when my brother almost immediately returned and made the same declaration did I suspect there must be at least some validity to his disturbing claim. I turned off the mower and dashed over to the garden hose, already hooked up to the spigot, located at the front corner of our house. I decided to take a quick peek around the house before turning the water on to see what exactly I would be dealing with. My eyes widened and my jaw surely dropped when I saw one whole side of the garage engulfed in flames. I dropped the useless “weapon” after realizing the dire situation at hand would be comparable to me bringing a knife to a gunfight. I was wise enough to know (even as a youngster) that I was no firefighter. I was barely old enough to mow for heaven’s sake.

A few neighbors had witnessed what was happening and called the fire department, so I could already hear the distant sirens from the fire trucks coming to the rescue. Fortunately, nobody was inside of our nearby house at the time, but I remembered our two dogs, Ginger and Lucky, were helplessly corralled in our fenced in backyard. I rushed to the wooden fence and hollered at the family pets to come away from the spreading fire. For once in their lives they eagerly minded me as they trotted over to the opposite side of the yard where I was nervously waiting. I hopped over the four foot fence, and I must admit I felt a bit heroic as I lifted each dog up and over the barrier to safety. A substantial crowd had now congregated, out in the street in front of our house, to catch a glimpse of the burning inferno. The onlookers were a mixture of concerned neighbors and ambulance chasers. My brother and I joined them. We didn’t know what else to do.

While surveying the situation and standing in awe of the roaring fire, that was consuming the two car garage and its contents, I spotted my parents up the street. About a half an hour earlier they had walked to our local elementary school to vote. My father’s curiosity, of the emerging commotion, undoubtedly was getting the best of him because I noticed his strides were getting longer and longer as he got closer and closer to the alarming spectacle. Eventually my father was in an all-out sprint, leaving my mother behind, after realizing the magnitude of the unwelcomed occurrence and where it was taking place. He instinctively sprung into action by grabbing the garden hose (I had deemed useless) and began spraying down our neighbors garage, only inches away from the blaze, so their property would not be damaged.

The fire department finally arrived and swiftly doused the flames before the garage fire could spread any further. Thankfully, there were no injuries and our home was spared, but the garage and practically everything in it was considered a total loss. The brown-paneled Ford station wagon, our family of six would cram into on the weekends to watch a double feature at the drive-in movie theater, was lost. The green Honda motorcycle, my father thoroughly enjoyed giving all of his children rides on (my mother wasn’t a fan), was lost. The Christmas decorations, acquired over many years and stored in the garage’s roof rafters, were destroyed. Every single handmade ornament crafted (with love) either at church or at school, for my parents by all four of their children, was reduced to ashes.

My little brother and I were almost reduced to tears, a day or so after the fire, when the town’s Fire Chief summoned us for questioning. He was investigating the cause of the fire and for some reason assumed we knew something. The intimidating man probably interrogated us for only ten minutes although it seemed more like ten hours. The Fire Chief kept insinuating my brother and I had to know something about how the fire started. He strongly suggested we were either setting off fireworks or experimenting with cigarettes before the fire erupted. The Chief then artificially tried befriending the two of us, after failing at his attempt of getting a confession, by saying there was no shame, and he would understand if we had lit some fireworks or had engaged in underage smoking. Neither my brother nor I gave in to the Fire Chief’s persistent hounding because we had the truth on our side.

The cause of the 1981 garage fire remains a mystery to this day. I did not know at the time of the fire that a beautiful girl, new to town, was amongst the spectators gathered in front of my house. Who could have known another fire would ignite, less than two years later, after I formally met and then began dating the “new girl.” It’s still somewhat surreal, after all these years, knowing that one of those ambulance chasers eventually became my lovely wife.


Something So Disturbing

The other day I was in my car and minding my own business when I observed something so disturbing that several hours later I still could not erase the frightening image from my memory. The more I thought about what I had seen the more it kept haunting me. I couldn’t help but ask myself an array of questions after witnessing the harrowing occurrence, and I continued pondering the situation until eventually I felt like I should share the alarming experience with my wife. She wasn’t nearly as freaked out by what I had noticed, but she did understand my concern. I’m sure most people probably wouldn’t have given the matter a second thought, but to a curious and analytical person such as myself the phenomenon was very unsettling. What I saw was a person driving an older model minivan with numerous dents, at least on the driver’s side, and a handicap license plate affixed to the vehicle’s back end. Although the thought of being handicapped can be unnerving that is not what made my skin crawl. It was the seven bumper stickers randomly placed on the back of the van that were so distressing. The political statements featured on all seven bumper stickers unmistakably had one common theme with two of the more friendlier stickers declaring, “pro-America, anti-Obama,” and “worst president ever.”

I suppose at this point some of my Republican friends are pumping their fists in the air and yelling, “Right on!,” while many of my Democrat friends are most likely saying, “what a loser.” I’m not here to debate our President’s policies or his job performance (not today anyway), and I certainly am not going to attempt to figure out who the worst President in our nation’s history is although I did hear George W. Bush referred to as that a time or two during his presidency. Apparently our country has had about 14 years of the worst president ever. Anyway, what I find so troublesome about “minivan guy” is what I perceive to be as someone so proudly consumed with hatred, for another human being, that he desires to have those feelings of anger known to anyone and everyone around him. I realize the chances are pretty slim of this guy’s vehicle being his “pride and joy,” but seven similar bumper stickers gracing the back of any one van seems quite excessive. He should at least add a few of the classics into the mix like, “my child is an honor student,” “I brake for garage sales,” and “my other car is a Ferrari,” so he doesn’t appear to be so monotonous and grumpy.

I am guessing the aforementioned gentleman spends the majority of his time at home watching Fox News, so actually it was good to see him out and about. I have never seen Fox News. My household does not have cable or satellite television, but I’m sure I wouldn’t watch that “news” show even if we did because it is my understanding Fox News is severely slanted towards conservative viewers although I have heard some Republicans refer to the station as the “only news.” That reminds me of another bumper sticker, decorating the angry man’s van, which read, “I don’t believe the liberal media.” I doubt if he has even watched a liberal network for his “news” before, so how could he have ever had the opportunity to believe the liberal media anyway. It’s really not that difficult to differentiate between fact and opinion, but many people tend to hear only what they want to hear instead of listening to all of the facts. My advice to everyone would be to watch your free local television stations for the most accurate and unbiased news. In addition, I would recommend ignoring the opinion pages when perusing a newspaper. Those often scathing letters to the editor and editorial pieces are simply other people’s opinions, and I don’t need to read them because I already have my opinions.

That being said, even though I’m an overzealous channel flipper I do admit to pausing on The 700 Club, starring Pat Robertson, every great once in awhile when I need a good laugh. I have found this program to be the epitome of biased “news.” The show’s Co-host, Terry Meeuwsen, usually will report on a specific topic and then she’ll ask the former Republican presidential candidate what he thinks about the situation. Mr. Robertson’s typical response is either, “Well, if Obama” or “Because of Obama.” Whether the duo is speaking on the important issues of the day or discussing seemingly harmless topics such as food, sports, entertainment, or even the weather, eventually President Obama is the only one to blame in Pat Robertson’s opinion. Let us not forget Mr. Robertson once claimed that the death toll from 911 was God’s response to the homosexuality running rampant in America; therefore, I put no stock in what Pat Robertson has to say on any issue.

Contrary to Pat Robertson, I have the utmost respect for former GOP and Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. I am aware Mr. Buchanan is a contributor on Fox News, but I am referring to the sensible and open-minded Pat Buchanan I admire as a regular on The McLaughlin Group. It’s not too difficult for me to be fond of this guy because his more recent political views almost always mirror mine. I do not base my opinions on what Mr. Buchanan says, as a panelist on the long running PBS show, but I am thrilled when he agrees with me on the subjects they are discussing. The conservative author and syndicated columnist’s views, on many subjects, appear to be opposite of those held by his Republican counterpart, Pat Robertson. Pat Buchanan will question and sometimes criticize President Obama’s policies and job performance, but he is quick to praise the President when he believes it is well-deserved.

Similarly, I strive to seek out the validity on both sides of any given issue before shaping my opinion. The optimum goal of this blog, when discussing any controversial topic, is to share my thoughts with you (whether you agree or disagree with them) and try to explain how ultimately I arrived at my steadfast opinion. I refuse to be so angry and so unwilling to consider all the facts, when contemplating an issue, because I don’t want to somehow miss the actual truth along the way. I never want to be like the “minivan guy!”


A Dream Come True

I was beginning to think it was never going to happen for me. The desire I held for one day obtaining my dream job had been in place for several years, but it wasn’t until more recently when my yearning morphed into a full-fledged craving. I did not need a college education or any special schooling. I did not have to fill out an application, send out a résumé, or take part in a grueling interview. I did not have to struggle, scrimp, or save either. In fact, I practically had given up hope when the offer seemingly came out of nowhere. Sometimes it simply is a matter of who you know in order to get ahead in this world. Out of the blue my one and only son called and asked me if I would be interested in owning a football team, and it wouldn’t cost me one red cent. I accepted his offer, after the initial shock wore off, and am now the proud Owner of Mac’s Motley Crue of the NFL Fantasy Football League.

It may not be the most opportune time to be associated with the National Football League, but I knew I was definitely up for the challenge. The first step as a new owner would be to assemble a competitive team which would occur all over the world on “draft day.” The draft is conducted through a website, so the team owners do not have to be in the same room, or even the same state, during the drafting process. That was indeed the case with my particular league’s “drafting party.” I have heard of men (and I suppose women) having spectacular parties on “draft day” and treating their extravaganzas as though they were a once in a lifetime event. I would compare those “drafting parties” to when normal folks wear fancy hats during the Kentucky Derby, get all dolled up for the Oscar Awards’ ceremony, or feast on tea and crumpets during a Royal Wedding. I was with my son on “draft day,” but I have no idea where the other four owners in our league were or even who they are.

I do know all of the team names in our modest league. They are the aforementioned Mac’s Motley Crue, Big Macs (my son’s team), the Arizona Ruff Riders, R3D B1RD PR1DE, 12th Man Frenzy, and Show me ur Tds (isn’t that one cute?). Think about it. My son gave me an overview of how fantasy football works and offered me a few tips. I’m sure he didn’t want me to embarrass him, but I’m pretty sure we all know that ship has already sailed. Every team in our fantasy league consists of a starting quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, a defense, and a flex position. The flex position is determined by the owner by inserting either an additional running back or a wide receiver into the starting lineup each week. Every team is also allowed to have a few backup players at their disposal. An owner can then determine to use a substitute when a starting player has been struggling, or they may wisely decide to add them to the lineup whenever a starter has a bye week. The objective is to accumulate as many points as possible each week, with your starting lineup, and to beat whichever team from your league you happen to be playing against.

It was about an hour before the draft, and I could not believe how nervous I was when realizing the impending ordeal was like a good first impression: you only get one chance. I started second guessing myself and the limited research I had done on all of the key positions and available players. I also began wondering if playing the part of an NFL Owner was beyond my realm of expertise. My son joined me in the “draft room” (my living room) acting as though the approaching event was no big deal. He then began laughing at my obvious apprehension and looming doubt of the situation. I asked the young but veteran owner a few questions about the draft, and he did a fine job of explaining how he thought the drafting process would work even though he wasn’t positive because he had participated in numerous fantasy leagues in the past, and they weren’t all alike. The lack of any specifics at that point only added to my discomfort. I continued interrogating my son with every question I could think of, so I would be as prepared as any rookie owner possibly could be, and he continued laughing at me.

It was now less than 5 minutes away from my first draft ever and from me making some of the most important decisions of my life. Do I draft a running back with my first pick, as suggested by my son, or do I go with my gut instincts and choose a quarterback? As a new NFL Owner I had already decided I would not be at all concerned if my team included domestic abusers, drunk drivers, drug users, rapists, or even murderers as long as my players were able to earn me some points. Calm down people. I am just the Owner of an NFL Fantasy Team. We turned on our computers, and I fumbled around for a piece of paper I had hurriedly jotted down a list of my preferred players on (that resembled chicken scratch) a day earlier. My son then yanked out two pages of notes from somewhere, neatly typed and organized, and applied his game face. We apparently were no longer father and son. We were NFL Owners thinking only of ourselves and aspiring to acquire the best possible team in the League.

With sweaty palms and my mind racing the highly anticipated draft finally began. I was given the 5th and 8th overall picks in the draft (by the luck of the draw) to begin with. My son had previously informed me he thought each owner would be allocated 3 minutes to make their selection or else they would lose their turn for that round. The whole drafting process really didn’t seem too difficult. That is until almost immediately I noticed Mac’s Motley Crue had appeared on my computer screen, and the large clock in the corner was counting down. The four owners choosing ahead of me evidently were seasoned veterans since each of them only needed about 5 seconds to complete their first transaction. Making matters much worse was discerning I had 2 minutes, instead of the assumed 3 minutes, for making my all-important initial pick. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my desired first choice, Quarterback Peyton Manning, still available. With the touch of a finger I now owned him.

The next thing I knew I was “on the board” again, and I could hardly believe my second choice, Wide Receiver Dez Bryant, had not yet been chosen as well. With another touch of a finger I now owned him too. My son advised me, before the draft, he had learned over the years that drafting the best running backs in the NFL was the key to having a successful fantasy team. I had said to myself, “whatever,” because everybody knows the quarterback is the leader of the team and the most important position. Besides, the League is laden with running backs, so I was content in drafting them after the QB and WR positions I had identified as being much more important. Ultimately when the time did come, for me to enlist a couple of running backs, I must admit the players left were pretty slim pickings. However, I certainly couldn’t complain about my team’s roster after landing arguably the best quarterback and wide receiver in the NFL.

Being an NFL Owner and selecting players for Mac’s Motley Crue on “draft day” was both exhilarating and exhausting. As I was admiring my finalized starting line-up on the computer screen and comparing it to the sheet of chicken scratch, I was barely even able to glance at during the draft, I became alarmed and nearly freaked out after noticing I had forgotten to draft a kicker for my team. I guess the lowly kicker receives about as much respect in the fantasy league as he does in real life. My son assured me, between his intermittent chuckling, I could rectify the near catastrophe before my first game. I merely had to submit a request, to the Fantasy Football gods (whoever they are), for dropping one of my players from the squad and adding one of the remaining undrafted kickers in his place. The gods granted me permission the very next day, so I was back in business.

My inaugural season as the Owner of Mac’s Motley Crue in the NFL Fantasy Football League is only a quarter of the way finished, and apparently I am just an average owner (my current record is 2-2). I’m still reeling from this past weekend’s loss to my son. The League’s leader, and only undefeated team, humiliated me by accumulating a whopping 162.32 points to my dismal score of 78.18 points. Ouch! I am painfully now aware that father does not always know best, and my dream job as an NFL Owner is not all it’s cracked up to be.


The Cost Of Raising A Child

I had never before seriously thought about the cost of raising a child until the United States Department of Agriculture recently released some staggering statistics on the subject. The USDA’s research excluded all of the medical costs associated with the pregnancy and the birth of the child which I found to be interesting. The Department of Agriculture’s report also omits the price of a college education, but it does include 30% of the parents’ housing costs which I also found to be somewhat intriguing. I would think the study would’ve concentrated more on the costs of having a child and their continued education than focusing on how much their parents pay for housing, but I suppose the unconventional formula does give us a fair and accurate picture, of the true cost of raising a child, in the end. The findings of the study are a bit unsettling nonetheless.

The results of the USDA research represents the cost of raising one child from birth until the age of eighteen. The total amount (per child) can be reduced some, for households with multiple children, because the Department of Agriculture then presumes the cost of housing, food, and even toys would be shared amongst siblings. The report concludes a middleclass family (households earning above $61,500. annually) spends approximately $245,000 on one child. Families earning less than $61,500 are predicted to still spend $176,000. on average. The wealthy (households earning more than $106,500. annually) tend to spend an estimated $400,000. on one child throughout their first eighteen years of life. I think those results seem to be somewhat inflated. At least I sure hope so. My one and only child had everything he needed and plenty of what he wanted, yet I am certain my wife and I spent nowhere near the dollar amounts indicated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

I did the math (I easily could since it wasn’t algebra), and I estimate we spent a total of $111,325. on our son during the eighteen years he lived with us. I’m pretty sure I included everything when tallying up the amount. I included all of the basics such as housing, food, clothing, and health insurance premiums. I remembered all of his school supplies, sporting gear, band fees, and doctor visits over the years. I also added eighteen years of birthday and Christmas gifts to the mix as well, and I certainly could not forget about his braces, glasses, tonsil and gum surgeries, or his hospital stay when he contracted RSV around the age of two months old. I even remembered to include the $7,000. we spent on his first car, a sweet ’98 Mitsubishi Eclipse, and then I finished calculating the costs by adding an additional $5,000. to the total just to be safe. However, the total I came up with was far below the amount given by the USDA for even the poorest of folks.

That is probably partly why our son has accused his mother and I, more than once, of being Amish, but most likely it’s because we never had cablevision or satellite television in our home when he was growing up. We still don’t. The USDA’s statistics appears to indicate the more money parents have the more money they’re willing to spend on their children. That doesn’t make much sense to me. I think parents should set forth an adequate and reasonable standard of living, for their children, and not be inclined to expand that amount just because their paychecks may happen to increase. I confess to being an avid coupon clipper, and even if I were to win millions of dollars playing the lottery I can assure you I would not stop clipping. I would continue to find a pair of scissors each week and cut out the great coupons found inside of the newest ads. My wife and I simply refer to that as being good stewards of the money the Lord has blessed us with. Of course we have no chance of ever winning the lotto because “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

Sadly, these days I see many parents desperately trying to befriend their children by offering them worldly possessions, whether they can afford them or not, and then many of those recipients, who seemingly have “everything,” turn out to be spoiled, ungrateful, and irresponsible individuals when reaching adulthood. I’m sure the parents of the aforementioned children had good intentions, but in actuality they did a great disservice to their offspring. I will tell anyone who is willing to listen I was not my son’s friend while he was living under my roof. That was not my job, and I didn’t have to read any parenting books to find that out. I simply was his father and because of that we are now great friends. I suppose the only reason my son is not my best friend is because I’ve known his mother much longer. I would like to offer the following piece of advice to any parent who desires to have a close relationship with their family. Put the confound cellphone away, and give your children your undivided attention whenever you’re together. Do not allow your children to interact with any of their gadgets either when you’re trying to acquire some quality time with your loved ones.

My lovely wife and I are thankful our son was the firstborn amongst my siblings; therefore, we were afforded the opportunity of doing what we thought was proper for our child, whether right or wrong, without having to worry about “keeping up with the Joneses.” For instance, we did not allow our boy to have a cellphone until his 16th birthday. We didn’t think it was necessary for him to have his own phone until then. I am not quite sure what we would’ve done if our son had been one of the younger cousins and if one of his older cousins had received a cellphone from their parents before the age of sixteen. I would like to think our self-imposed policy would not have changed, but I’m not so certain. I’m glad we’ll never have to find out. This took place over nine years ago, and most children didn’t have cellphones then, so it probably wasn’t that big of a deal. However, nowadays it’s a whole different story since it appears as though most kids are on at least their second or third phone by the time they turn sixteen.

The actual cost of raising a child shouldn’t be anywhere near the amounts proposed by the USDA regardless of what the income level is of any household. I understand, as a parent, wanting to give your child more than what you received as a child, but giving to them in excess will undoubtedly do more harm than good. It certainly is true that raising a child can be costly (at times) but raising them improperly, by giving them everything and attempting to be their “buddy” instead of acting like a parent, could be even more costly in the end.


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