Category Archives: Gift

Two Gloves For Rosen

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As I neared the last corner on the way home, I saw my Marshallese neighbor in the lateral sideyard playing ball with his son. They were using a tennis ball and running across the yard, laughing. Unlike some of the neighbors, they were careful. It was a great late morning for such games, with a temperature in the upper 70s, a light breeze washing over them, and a sun uncharacteristically cool.

Seeing them frolic made me realize that I found a home for another of my keepsakes.

I drove past the few remaining houses to mine and parked in the driveway. I backed my wife’s car out of the garage and then used the drop-down attic staircase to go up. I shifted the bins around until I found the one with my two baseball gloves and a special baseball. A few years ago, I reconditioned both gloves and sealed them. It surprised me that I had not found a good home for the gloves before today.

When I was younger, I learned to catch using whatever glove was available. For most lefties like me, especially poor ones, I either used my bare hands or learned to rapidly remove my glove and throw the ball. The positive result of this was that I could catch perfectly well with either hand and bat right-handed.

Until today, I’ve waited to find a new home for my gloves. I didn’t want to give them to someone who wouldn’t appreciate them. Having them unused in the attic bothered me a bit, though. I’m violently opposed to owning such things without using them. Gloves are meant to be used. As terrible as a sports fan that I am, the simplicity of playing catch, hotbox, or hitting balls in the summer sun is something that I loved doing when I was young. Like most boys, I participated in versions of baseball anywhere that we could manage, from dormant municipal baseball fields to cow patches where large apartments now tower above the land.

I walked down to the corner. Rosen, the younger Marshallese owner of the house, walked up to meet me. His young son stood on the lawn, wondering what I was up to. Another smaller boy sat on the chair under the small covered porch on the front of the house.

“Hey, do you remember me? I’m the one who gave you the weedeater and spoke Spanish to you?”

Rosen nodded yes, and then said, “I know you have a strange name, but I can’t remember what it is.”

I showed him my work badge and told him, “X.” Seeing it written out sometimes gives people the right context to understand what I’m saying.

“Rosen, I want you to have my gloves. One if for lefties, and the other is for those who use the wrong hand to catch. And the baseball is a special one I’ve kept for many years. I want you to keep them and enjoy them.” The look on Rosen’s face told me that I had once again surprised him. When I moved to the new house a few years ago, I walked down and gave him a new weedeater. He was shocked then and surprised now.

“Wow, thanks X. We’ll definitely go to a ball field and play. We’ll use the tennis ball right now.”

I laughed. “Okay, but if you really want to repay me, you’ll break out a couple of windows of that neighbor’s house.” I turned and pointed to a house across the street, a house that is well on its way to becoming a version of Boo Radley’s house.

The residents of that infamous house are using every page of the ‘Asshole Neighbor’s Playbook.’ If the human underarm could become a house, it would be that one.

Rosen laughed, too.

He might not know the significance of that ball or what it meant to me, but if he uses it even for a single shared afternoon with his son, the honor will have been paid in equal measure.

I walked away and heard one of the boys say, “Dad, who was that nice man?”

I smiled, wondering what ripple effects I had unknowingly set in motion by my gift.

Random Act of Ice Cream

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Random Act of Kindness: I stopped the ice cream truck as it slowly trolled the neighborhood. I handed the driver a pile of money and told him to give the neighbors down the street a few houses on the left whatever they wanted. I don’t know the family, but there were 6 or 7 young children outside playing. The woman watching the passel of kids reluctantly approached the ice cream truck as he waved and said, “It’s free!” I heard one of the kids scream, “Papi! Free ice cream!!” All the kids ran en masse toward the van, dancing and singing as only young children can. Mom and Dad ended up with ice cream too. I went back outside a couple of minutes later to see the children still excitedly comparing selections and laughing with complete abandon.

I didn’t do much today, but I managed to give a few children a moment of complete joy. Not only did they each unexpectedly get a treat, but they were able to choose whatever their heart desired. Despite my age, I can remember what such a rare treat felt like when I was young in heart and body.

P.S. I teared up a bit.

Dunder Mifflin Canvas Art (Suitable for “The Office”)

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Because it is hard-wired into every white person’s DNA, I love “The Office.” (The TV show, not the place of servitude so many of us inhabit during a routine workday.)

We recently started re-watching the defunct series. Since we’re old, not only are we newly surprised by the antics of the workers of Dunder-Mifflin paper company but in many ways have found a new appreciation for the themes. Every story transforms into something new as you grow older. The hard-and-fast world of the known and certain turns to mist as the sublime supplants it.

Starting with another person’s concept and picture, I created a 16X20 canvas of the main characters of the show, as a gift for my wife. She certainly wasn’t expecting THIS. I’m going to have to nail it to the wall before she changes her mind. On the other hand, I still have my 16X20 wood panel in my bathroom, the one of Jeff Daniels from Dumb And Dumber on the toilet. It still gives my bathroom that touch of class that all American bathrooms desperately need, the kind that guest towels and little bowls of soap can’t seem to convey.

For those who find it to be sacrilegious instead of humorous, I say, “Look away,” an approach which works amazingly well for those who are capable of implementing it.

Signed,
X Teri, Amazing Artist & Doubtful Decorator

Happiness And the Flimsy Bath Towel

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Oddly, one of my biggest Christmas surprises this year was a gift that arrived a few days late. My wife Dawn managed to find the most horribly perfect set of bath towels, ones so flimsy that they can be used as Confederate flags of surrender. Naturally, I love them. Unlike normal people, I prefer smaller, non-plush towels. Some people use hand towels bigger than these bath towels. The towels are white with a single blue stripe on them, similar to what you might find at a really bad massage place or in a bathhouse frequented by savages. The towels probably shipped with a little white slip of paper marked, “Failed by Inspector 456.”

Years ago, I used a similar set until they were so threadbare that you could play tic-tac-toe in the threads. I had visited Tulsa, staying at a Ramada Inn near downtown. After showering, I was amazed at how small and flimsy the towels were. Naturally, I wanted a bunch of them, no matter what the cost. The housekeeper had left her cart down the hall and I took a stack of them. I left an outrageous amount of money on her cart, to let her know that they were in payment for the towels I had no intention of returning – or a tip for her. Later that afternoon, as we passed in the hallway, she smiled a huge and knowing smile at me. I just nodded, a happy co-conspirator. I’ve forgotten almost everything about that trip to Tulsa except for the handsome set of hotel towels. I’ll also bet that the housekeeper in question remembers the crazy hotel guest who paid her $50 over cost for the worst towels ever made.

Once those towels turned into loose threads, I’d catch myself asking at places like Target, “Do you have anything THINNER?” The clerks invariably looked at me like my cheese had slid from my cracker. “Uh…no,” they would utter. I’d reply, “These are too plush and comfortably large. Anything smaller?” These conversations tended to go badly, as the average person thinks towels are supposed to be as plush as bed comforters and fit four per dryer load. Over the years, I gave up hope of ever finding a suitable set of replacements. I forced myself to use good towels, even as I cursed the universe for my first world problem.

I threw in the towel, in other words.

I won’t bore you with arguments regarding ease of use, storage, cleaning, or laundry bulk. The truth is I don’t care about any of the utilitarian arguments in favor of using smaller, thinner towels. I just like them, like burned toast or popcorn, or dry fruitcake.

My wife Dawn solved my problem, though. This new set of towels is so perfectly thin and small that I shall delight in their use. As you foolishly use the equivalent of your grandmother’s quilt after your shower, I’ll be laughing and enjoying the worst towels in human history.

The picture is of all 6 of them, stacked no higher than a plate of Waffle House pancakes. It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it?

Most of you will look back and remember your new television or instapot. Not me. I’ll be nostalgic for this beautiful stack of horrid towels, the ones which made me instantly happy.

I think I need another dozen of them, though, just to be safe.

A Photo Puzzle Gift and Evening of Espionage

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My wife Dawn & I have decided that our nascent career in spookery and espionage has already faltered. Just attempting to quickly and efficiently exit the vehicle in an attempt to switch places was almost enough to do us in, never mind the furtive ‘chase’ across multiple lawns or the horrific sight of me as I ‘ran’ to escape being caught ringing a friend’s doorbell and fleeing.

While I scampered away to avoid detection, I imagined a neighbor calling the police and excitedly telling them, “There’s an old man wobbling through the middle of my yard. I think he might have done something he shouldn’t have, like have an extra serving at supper.”

By the way, we know our careers in sneakery are additionally suspect because it would have never occurred to us to attempt such a surprise under the cover of darkness.

I had spent an inordinate amount of time devising the perfect 1008-piece customized puzzle iteration, using a couple of hundred distinct pictures, and it arrived unexpectedly today. The finished puzzle is 20″ x 26″. It seemed like a moral imperative for us to drive over and surprise our unsuspecting friends with it. I think we had more fun devising our plan than actually being able to say “mission accomplished.”

Portrait Puzzles does astonishingly great work if you find yourself in need of a really, really complicated and personalized puzzle. They’ll customize the tin the puzzle arrives in, too, if you think that it’s advisable that the people intending to assemble the puzzle might need to know what the finished picture might look like.The one I had made will probably cause either partial blindness or intense bouts of spontaneous vomiting. It’s pretty complicated, is my point. At my age, though, getting to the point is more of a goal than a requirement.

Despite my strong desire to remove one piece from the puzzle in the gift tin, I resisted. I think I might have killed someone doing this a few years. How was I supposed to know her chronic OCD would flare up if she spent 22 hours assembling a puzzle only to find that it was missing one critical piece?

The friends getting the puzzle are two of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet. I didn’t get to know them until fairly recently, in part due to their wise aversion to hanging out with people like me. I lived a little of their lives with them, though, all these years later, as they trusted me to digitize thousands of pictures of their lives. It was an honor and I hope they get a little bit of the magic of the lives back as they relive it, piece by piece. I hope they have enough sense to go lie down for a moment if they begin to hallucinate from the effort.

To the residents who live over by Pin Oak, I apologize if you were unlucky enough to peer out your window while I was up to my usual shenanigans in your neck of the woods. I think I lost a shoe in one of your yards. You can keep it, though, to remind yourself that not everyone should run through wet grass or attempt to commit acts of sneakery in broad daylight.

Love, X

 

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Another Beautiful Wood Panel from Snapfish

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My latest 11×14 wood panel/picture, which Snapfish custom-made for me. Just in time for Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this picture will remind me of not only the perils of an authoritarian government but also the dangers of letting me have photo editing tools at my disposal. I must admit that I totally rock the dystopian red outfit, though.

When asked how my wife Dawn sees the future with me in it, she replies, “…with eyes closed.”

 

#handmaidstale  @handmaidsonhulu

Earwax Candle Kit For Christmas

 

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These fun PrankPack boxes are awesome. I bought a few this year to wow friends and family. This “Create Your Own Earwax Candle Kit” is going to be a surprise for my mother-in-law.

She loves being pranked and nothing says “I cherish you” like a horrified smirk followed by a laugh. (She can’t see this post…)

This kit allegedly comes with an earwax collection hat and a collection reservoir for your ounces of nightly earwax.

I wonder if such a candle, were it possible to produce one, might waft a lightly-scented aroma of yuletide inner ear around the house for Christmas?

 

The company offers several styles. At least one of them will make you laugh. I promise.

P.S. If you want to order your own for a future bit of fun, here is the website:

PrankPack Website

A Christmas Villa In The Living Room MMXVII

My wife Dawn greenlit my enthusiastic wish to build a Christmas villa in the living room this year. Using several hundred pictures, 100+ boxes, innumerable lights, a couple hundred ornaments and bits of crazy, a universal remote to control it all, a Festivus pole (for the rest of us, of course), hidden gift compartments, a house cat who daily prays for a gift to fall from above, and a huge dose of yuletide spirit… we present the most unusually-decorated living room you can possibly see all year.

I shot this video with Dawn performing the role of director. I drank 17 cups of coffee prior to shooting and I now regret telling Dawn her version was too jittery.

P.S. I wrote this version of “Carol of The Bells” myself so that social media sites couldn’t claim copyright. I hope you like that part, too. Writing music is another one of my hobbies, one which requires a commitment of time.

My living room has a vaulted ceiling, so the drunken rectangle I created piece by piece is approximately 8′ high, 15′ wide, and 20′ long. It’s difficult to grasp the scale unless you walk through the front door.

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A gallon of my patented Elf Juice, one which grants the imbiber the ability to decorate one’s domicile in the manner of Buddy The Elf.

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A necessary part of the structure is a cat bed constructed into the base of one of the 8 9-foot vertical columns. (Our cat’s name is Güino, given that he was a shelter cat, one rescued from the Feline Witness Protection Program.)
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The green-and-yellow picture is a wanted poster for my stepson Ty. A list of mostly imaginary crimes is listed at the bottom. To the right, you’ll note our infamous family portrait, just us two monkeys posing for the camera. (Dawn is on the left in the portrait, by the way.)
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Anyone who thinks I don’t like pictures, please take a note at this point. Despite ordering several hundred before I started, I found myself needing more as I neared what I thought would be the final push to completion.
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The columns are all tall and each one is connected in a drunken rectangle around the entirety of the living room. Looking back, it was a lot of work but if Dawn didn’t lose her mind watching me meticulously create each box, each column, and apply every picture and detail, I will look back on this in years to come and ask, “Why didn’t anybody stop me?” 🙂

There are both visible and concealed Christmas-themed quotes from some of my favorite books and movies for the season, too.
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Don’t be distracted by the backward clock. It comes in handy when visitors foolishly try to determine what time it is. Note the handsome couple in the background of the clock. Anyone with a spider phobia needs to walk around carefully, as the million streamers often touch you unexpectedly in the neck as you pass.
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What’s not visible in this barrage of pictures and Christmas insanity is my appreciation for life, one given to me in daily wonder and amused amazement.

To have the time, energy and ability to creatively express myself is a luxury which I don’t take for granted.

I have to admit, though, that this is a spectacle.

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Almost everyone I know has at least one picture of honor in the celebration. Some of the pictures are irreverent, but none fail to make us think or laugh. Or think then laugh.
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You’d never know it, but there are several presents hidden in plain sight around the room. Several might require demolition to access them but as we all know, that is what Christmas is all about.
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Taken from the kitchen, looking over the counter, perhaps waiting for Santa Claus to come inside and demand a pint of eggnog and a slice of pepperoni pizza.
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The Festivus pole certainly adds a dazzle to the room, doesn’t it? In keeping with the original intent of Festivus, I don’t adorn the pole with anything to distract us from its beauty. I’m convinced Dawn wants to accidentally recycle it sometimes – or give it to someone building a fence. If this were to happen, however, I would have no choice but to replace it from Wagner Steel and add her transgression to the following year’s “Airing of the Grievances.”
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Note that my genuine Daisy BB gun sits next to our wiretap device, ready at a moment’s notice if some crazed Christmas-hating Grinch attempts to enter the house and steal Christmas from us. Hint: such a person is going to need a truck, a saw and a mean disposition.

Also, the Grinch will have to depart with it all, as I took great care to conceal hidden compartments for gifts. I kept a treasure map, but I’m not certain even I was diligent enough to note them all.

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If anyone looks at this and wonders, “Is that ME?” – the answer is probably “yes.” And, you are welcome. Several hundred pictures used in this project makes it likely that if I know you and have shared any levity in our lives that you are part of this.
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Christmas quotes, ornaments, pictures from my life, pictures of iconic Christmas scenes, vintage Christmas ads, crayons, bows, ribbons – if it is interesting or unusual, I tried to find a way to include it in this.
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The above picture is of the column containing the cat bed on the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one hidden gift in this column I forgot to take note of during the initial stages of building this.
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Here’s a link to a previous post I did, one describing the last time I did this on a really large scale: 2011 Christmas Craziness2011 Christmas Craziness
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The above was taken from the reverse side of the decorations. Note the dollar bills. Here’s a link to explain what the dollars mean: Christmas Dollars Each Year
I didn’t take as many closeup pictures of the tree this year, even though we added several fantastic ornaments. Some of them I ordered and had custom-made, some were whimsy from different stores and events from our lives this year. I’ve met many people who’ve adopted a motley approach to their Christmas tree ornaments but I’ll be ornament-to-ornament that none shares a breadth of diversity like the collection my wife and me have. People tend to look closely at our tree and shout, “THIS can be used an ornament?!” and laugh, filing away the idea for later use.
Now that it’s done, I can look at the pictures and lights, and wonder about my year and the future which follows. Another Christmas, another year.

Still a Mystery

A Thanks:
Someone surprised me with two packages from the Mysterious Package Company. As the name suggests, the giver isn’t identified. Each shipment is a weirdly-themed motley assortment of clues, information, curios, and puzzlements.

The first package definitely threw me out of the boat with curiosity. Usually, it’s me being the circumspect eccentric catching everyone else off guard. This time, though, whoever sent me these put me at a disadvantage.  Trust me, I was as confused as a dog jumping up to catch a frisbee, only to find I’d caught a porcelain plate in my teeth. I used the newsletter from the first one (after reading it and piecing together the disparate pieces) to decorate a birthday present. It was a big hit. I made ornaments out of a couple of the pieces. There were a couple of the items which bedeviled me endlessly, such as the paper and cardboard wind-up birdhouse.

These things are difficult to describe. The company making them has full-scale complicated stories which come in stages – and stand-alone surprise boxes. (You can google The Mysterious Package Company if you are interested in what craziness I’m describing here.)

If you received a strange postcard, it is because I thought you might have been the person who surprised me with these. If you didn’t get a postcard and you are the guilty party, thanks. Some of them are mailed from the future, by the way, which makes things exceedingly complicated, given that we are living in the present. I assume we are, anyway.

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Fairy/Pixie Doors – Not Just For Kids

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I surprised Dawn yesterday with a magical fairy door from someone in Quebec who makes them. It came with a corked vial of fairy dust and a magic key allowing the pixies/fairies to come and go as the whim suits them. Even our cat Güino knew that magic had entered the house. Dawn would have never guessed in a million years that I had ordered her such a whimsical gift. I think we both grew 10 years younger in spirit laughing about it. (I can think of 100 ways one of these would make a child’s life a lot more imaginative and interesting, with the right crazy adult leading the charge.)

 

(PS: The portrait of my wife and I in the above picture is still probably my favorite. It confounds people to this day when they see it.)

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The websites are on this instructional card, both the Etsy and regular website.

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The vial of fairy dust is corked and has a fairy emblem on the side. I can imagine just how inspirational one of these would be in the hands of the right kid.