Mr. Fix-It

Note: this article was originally posted on 7/31/2008, when my son was 4 years old. It came to mind last night while I was busy repairing a toy for my youngest daughter, who is also now four. Times have changed, but the theme remains the same. I have re-posted with a few edits. Enjoy… 

Yesterday my son brought home a little plastic magnifying glass that he had been “rewarded” as part of a summer reading program at the library. He had his little heart set on a “bug cube” for weeks, but apparently changed his mind after his sister and another girl chose “grab bags”. Of course, life has taught most of us not to gamble what you have in hand for that which you cannot see. I believe the folk saying is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  Having not yet learned this lesson, he traded his little cube for the promise of a grab bag.

Life lessons are funny things. Certainly we’ve all had them over the years. But I never thought my heart would ache for a little guy who chose a grab bag over a bug cube. You see, while my daughter’s bag was full of neat little bendy toys, my son’s bag contained a cheap plastic magnifying glass and a compass ring. And that’s all. What’s worse, while innocently playing “detective” at the store with his magnifying glass, the handle broke. He enjoyed his reward for all of a few hours before insult added to injury. Thankfully, his sister chose to give him one of her bendy people. Now that’s love!

Daddy, please fix my toy!
One of my favorite “fix it” requests. This one from my oldest daughter, Grace (around the 1st-grade time-frame)

It’s an old cliché that many dads fix everything with duct tape. Unfortunately, I’m not that talented. It sticks to itself. It sticks to me. I end up using twice as much as I need, and rarely get the results I’m seeking. But you see, I have another weapon which has resulted in the misguided opinion from my kids that I can fix anything: Superglue. I have diminished several tubes of this magical resin over the past few years, and have actually gotten some pretty amazing results. The stuff really is good (though not much fun when your fingers are stuck together)! With it, I have swelled with pride as the smiles returned to the faces of my children. Daddy fixed the toy! Disaster averted, tears forborne, superhero status claimed!

So with my son’s little magnifying glass in hand, I retreated to my hero’s lair (a.k.a. my garage) last night to restore what usefulness I could to this cheap little vessel of spying greatness. I did my best to reconnect the pieces with my “magic glue”, but the results are still out. I did the best I could, but it may not hold for long. Any doctor will tell you that you can’t always save the patient. What matters most is that you tried. But perhaps there will be enough life in this trinket for one more adventure, and one more smile.

Of course, I realize my “hero” status is dubious, at best. As the kids get older, they’ll realize that daddy can’t really fix everything (something my wife has already tried to convey). They’ll realize my “magic glue” is available at most stores for just a few bucks, and they can use it themselves if necessary. They won’t even need me to try and fix things. But regardless of that, hopefully the sense will stay with them that I just might have that ability, even without the glue. And I know some things, like broken hearts, cannot be mended with glue.  But if things get too broken, hopefully they will know they can turn to me for help. Disasters will be averted, tears forborne, and superhero status reclaimed.

~Mike

Perspective

Reddit has a fascinating feed known as “Shower Thoughts” — a stream of random thoughts and nuggets of wisdom that were, hypothetically, conjured in that brief span of time each day we spend cleansing our minds and bodies. Some of these really crack me up and are just pure humor. Some aren’t as funny as the writer intended. Some just give you a “ha! Never thought of that!” moment. But interestingly, the ones that intrigue me the most demonstrate the use of perspective. Sometimes when you look at things from a different angle, you see them quite differently. And by ‘things’, I don’t necessarily mean physical things (though, that too), but the intangible things.  For example:

“You know you’re getting old when you agree with the antagonist in teen movies. The principal in “Ferris Bueller” was just trying to make sure a troubled teen got an education, and he’s the bad guy?”

Now, if you’re a kid reading this, you’re probably thinking “Who the heck is Ferris Bueller?” But if you’re an adult, like me (as in, not old, but old enough to remember being a kid), your reaction will likely be similar to mine. Ironically, I was just thinking something similar the other day while listening to Simple Minds “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, which made me think of watching Breakfast Club.  It struck me that “wow – Principal Vernon was just trying to help those kids and they really worked him over!” While once I sided entirely with the kids, now I find myself empathizing with the adult. (In writing this, I discovered an awesome blog discussing this exact point – check it out!)

What's your perspective?So what changed? Simply put, it was my perspective. As a kid, I could only see things from a kid’s point of view. Now that I’m grown, I’ve discovered the other side of the fence. But I’m not forgetful, either.  Some folks are — they lose touch with their ‘inner child’, and forget what it was like being young.  Or they are so ‘set’ in their current position that they can’t bend to look and see what the view is like from elsewhere. But aside from reflecting on childhood, the ability to recognize perspective can have a great impact. It can teach us about things like right and wrong, good and bad, and forgiveness and tolerance.

Sometimes we rush to put folks on a pedestal, and we lose our perspective. We ‘whitewash’ the elements of a person that we want to forget, usually those which do not fit the image we want to have in our minds. This typically occurs with famous people, especially the likes of those who have done ‘great things’ or who are well-accomplished. It’s easy to highlight the lines we want to read and skim over the rest. For example, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, Dr. Martin Luther King plagiarized (and cheated on his wife), Mark Wahlburg was once charged with attempted murder for a racially motivated attack that left a guy blind, and Kim Kardashian made a video (that I will not link here) that should definitely prevent any girl from looking up to her. But yet, people still flock to these people. Why?!

In three days, Donald Trump will be our 45th President. Maybe you voted for him, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you like him, maybe you don’t. Maybe you preached unity and tolerance until the election turned out differently than you hoped. Maybe you fear the worst, or just you just know things will be bad. Or maybe you think the next four years will be just what the doctor ordered. Do we really know? I can say one thing with certainty, and be 100% correct — I really do not know. None of us truly do. We can only speculate, based upon how we view past events. We paint pictures based on what we see — but does yours looks like everyone else’s? Is the other person wrong because they saw something different? Does your painting have any shades of gray? After all, who amongst us can predict the future?  So regardless of where you stand now, maybe your picture will change with time (for better or worse). Perhaps all we need is to find is a little perspective.

~Mike

Keeping Cool(er)

Since college, I’ve had an old Igloo ‘playmate’ cooler that I lovingly referred to as my ‘cowboy cooler’. This is because it is my cooler that I use to throw drinks, etc., in when I’m going somewhere. It has been to a lot of places and accumulated several stickers over the years that has given it a unique personality. Unfortunately, 20 years seems to have been enough. The liner is starting to separate from the shell, it no longer seals, and it doesn’t stay latched well. It’s also subject to spilling if it gets tipped over a bit, and does not keep ice for long.

Given that, I decided it’s time to retire the old cooler and get a NEW ‘cowboy cooler’ for the next 20 years of my life. If this one lasts ’til I’m 85, then I think I’m covered. This needed to be a relatively small cooler I could port about, throw in the back of the truck, a canoe, etc. I wanted something that was spill proof that would hold ice for a couple of days. My first choice was a YETI Roadie cooler?! Who wouldn’t want one of those? I sure would! But honestly, for $250, I can’t touch that. I mean, if I saved long enough I could, but even then I’m not sure I’d WANT to spend that much on a cooler. YETI is awesome, but I kinda feel like you’re paying a lot for the name.

Enter the RTIC 20 cooler (below)! Let’s be honest, these are 100% a YETI knockoff.  Enough difference to not be a precise knockoff, but mostly the same. However, RTIC has built enough of a following that their products HAVE gotten decent reviews. And reviews on YouTube have shown them to be of a similar quality.  Sure, the RTIC coolers might lack a little in finish (and warranty) from the YETI, but for less than half the price (MSRP $125), it’s well worth the difference. For this price, I was able to cash in some of my Humana ‘go365’ bucks and order one up (in tan color)! They are on sale right now, so I managed to get mine for $106 (@15% off) with free shipping! A good deal made great!

Now I just have to find some new stickers… Happy Friday everyone!

~Mike


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RTIC Cooler (RTIC 20 Tan)


Features: Keeps Ice Up To 10 Days (See Details on RTIC), Size: 20 Quarts – Great for job site – Weekend or short trips – Campsite, kayak, canoe ATV or golf cart – At the big game, Seemless Roto Molded Construction -Virtually indestructible, Integrated Locking System – Keeps your contents safe, Heavy Duty Rubber T- Latches – Smooth trouble-free closure

List Price: $199.99 USD
New From: $199.99 USD In Stock

Sentimentality

(Note: this entry was originally posted on 03-30-2004 on a earlier blog. I passed this place again Sunday and remembered this old entry. Sadly, the place is now falling apart even more, and will likely soon be consumed by time)

Off to the left of I-64 West, near Jasper, IN, there’s an abandoned farm that sits nestled in the trees, along a bubbling creek.

Notice I said farm. That’s because the whole place is there — house, barn, outbuildings, everything. Bit by bit it’s starting to crumble and fall. In just the past few years, the large barn has collapsed. The wood on all the buildings is weathered and old. Nature is slowly reclaiming what were once well-worn pathways and barnyards.

I’m not really a collector of “antiques”, but old things bring me pause. I can’t help but to let my mind drift when I see abandoned homes, old furniture, or forgotten heirlooms. I wonder about the people and families who once owned and cherished these items. What were they like? Where were they from? What happened to them?

I’m a sentimental nut… I don’t know who owned (or now owns) this farm. I don’t know why it was abandoned, or why it still stands. Perhaps flooding from the creek eventually drove the owners to higher ground. Or maybe tuberculosis rendered the family unable to care for the place. Slowly it fell into disrepair. Slowly it was forgotten.

But someone sawed the boards for that house by hand, and nailed them in place with pride. Someone meticulously laid that stone fence by hand. Someone carved the ornamental dresser with care and detail. And someone once shined that pocket-watch daily, winding it gently to keep it in time.

Legacies live and die… The Cracker Barrel restaurants have great food and an inviting atmosphere, but I nearly despise their decor. It makes me sad to see the portraits and pictures on the wall. Our ancestors dressed and posed with dignity, only to be forgotten generations later. Faces without names. The fruits of their labor now forgotten, discarded in favor of the present.

Have you ever wondered what your mark upon this world will be once you’ve left it behind? Have you made provisions to ensure your children will know where they came from, and how they got here?

Next time you are in a Cracker Barrel, do more than glance at the pictures. Look into their eyes. See their hopes and dreams, pain and suffering, love and loss. Remember these were once living, breathing people — not decorations.

Then ask yourself… in 100 years, will this be me?

Saving Sears (it’s too late!)

It was announced today that ‘Sears Holdings Corp.’ is closing 150 Sears and K-Mart stores and (*gasp*) selling the Craftsman brand to Black & Decker (for $900 million!).  This makes me sad, really. I spent a lot of time as a kid thumbing through the Sears catalog for my Christmas wish list. I spent just as much time as a young adult, thumbing through the Craftsman catalogs for my next tool that I had to have. The Craftsman quality and guarantee are what pulled me in and kept me coming back.

So what happened with Sears? I think they got too big for their britches. Sears started off selling goods that people needed through catalogs. But their decline, I think, really started when they stopped issuance of the catalog in 1993. The Internet wasn’t even a factor yet!  It was how people shopped from home BEFORE the Internet. Sears’ failure, from my perspective, was the ‘go bigger’ mentality. To me, this is the failure of many public companies, who are always chasing the elusive earnings-per-share increase. Sears became a ridiculous amalgamation of companies that had NOTHING to do with retail. They tried to make their stores bigger. They bought other chains, such as K-Mart and Lands’ End. Bigger, bigger, bigger! Their website has been a mess for years, when they tried to become a ‘marketplace’, selling from unreliable sources that are not related to Sears. They became a store that had no identity. Was it an upscale department store like Macy’s? A discount department store like K-Mart? A hardware and lawn/garden/patio store? Or was it an appliance and electronics store? Inevitably, they were the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.

To me, they truly missed the boat with their ‘Sears Appliance & Hardware’ and ‘Sears Hometown’ stores. THAT could have been the future of Sears, and probably would have been great for long-term growth. Instead of going BIG, they needed to go smaller. There’s a reason that retailers such as Rural King and Tractor Supply Co. are growing. Their specialties are more narrow, despite offering a variety of things (hardware, home/garden, pet/livestock, clothing, hunting/fishing). But in typical Sears fashion, they half-@ssed it. They converted former K-Marts or opened these stores in bland buildings. They operated them like discount/outlet stores. They had no identity.  They failed to offer an EXPERIENCE, which is what shoppers want today.
Continue reading Saving Sears (it’s too late!)

I love my Ninja!

I drink a LOT of coffee. Maybe too much, but not more than a pot per day. Up ’til recently, I had a regular ‘ol coffee maker. It did the job, but it was rather… meh. I wanted the ability to make a single cup, and was leaning toward a Keurig, but they don’t make a big enough cup of coffee for me (even the 2.0). I also don’t like the wasteful k-cups, which the inventor regrets ever making.

Enter the Ninja coffee maker. I had seen this bad boy on the shelves, but never thought I would own one. But my wonderful wife decided to give me one for my birthday! She gave me the original ‘CF080Z’ version, which I really liked. But there were a few features that needed refined. So when I saw the ‘2.0’ version (model ‘CF091’), I traded up (Sams Club rocks)! Honestly, you can’t go wrong either way. This thing makes great coffee, and has a lot of various options! The only thing I don’t like is that the permanent filter makes ‘muddy’ coffee, so I still use the paper filters. But it’s still great. I can make a small cup, large cup, travel mug, BIG travel mug, half pot, full pot, iced… it’s truly a ‘do everything’ machine!

For someone like me who works from home, you simply can’t go wrong here. It’s a bit of a pricey investment up front, but it’s cheaper than going to a coffee shop every day! And if you only need a single travel mug, it will make that for you without the excess/waste. And if you’re an iced coffee drinker (I thrive on it in the summer), you can make a whole pitcher!

~Mike


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Ninja Coffee Bar Glass Carafe System (CF091)


List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: $169.99 USD In Stock