New Year’s Retribution

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions.  In fact, I usually scoff at the very concept of suddenly making a decision to change some aspect of one’s life, especially on a night that, for many folks, involves staying up too late and drinking beverages made of fermented organic matter.  I mean, really, the most important decision these people should be making is how to navigate their way to bed without ruining the carpet.  But this year is different.  I’ve decided that at 46 years of age, it’s time to make some significant changes in my life.  And why not share them with people who have nothing better to do than to read a blog written by a guy still in his pajamas at 12:56 PM on New Year’s Eve?

Speaking of pajamas, my first resolution is to clean out my underwear drawer.  We’ve all been there.  It’s 6:00 AM, our bodies and minds are barely functioning, we are in a pit of depression at being up at that hour, and we just grab whatever’s  on top in the drawer where we think we crammed our clean underwear that last time our wives made us put them away and stop getting dressed in the laundry room.  It might be a pair of underwear that has so many holes I’ve contemplated using it to strain pasta. (Try getting that image out of your brain.)  It might be that pair that I’ve had since my senior year in high school and now fits like a giant pressure bandage.  It might be the pair that is extremely comfortable, but the fabric is now so thin it has gained the quality of complete transparency. (There’s another image for your brain.)  Or it might be the pair whose waistband has lost any semblance of elasticity and by the end of the day becomes an extra pair of socks.  Life is just too short to wear underwear that I don’t like, and by golly, if I had to choose, I’d rather wear none at all. (One last image for your brain.)

My next resolution involves the way I spend money.  In 2016, I spent far too much money on animals.  Now don’t get me wrong; I love animals.  In fact, when I was a kid, my hero wasn’t the Six Million Dollar Man, The Fonz, or one of the Duke boys. (I did kinda like Daisy.)  No, for me, it was a toss- up among Grizzly Adams, Jacques Cousteau, and Marlin Perkins.  They were my 70’s “Dream Team.”  Sure, they were all old, weird, and made questionable fashion choices, but they all loved animals-and I did, too.  But that’s no excuse for how I’ve allowed my finances to be affected by various costs associated with animals this past year-with purchases involving a horse, a dog, a cat, hedgehogs, hamsters, mice, and my daughters.  I never dreamed that I would be spending this kind of money for the privilege of constantly handling poop of various sizes, and it simply has to stop.  In 2017 I am resolved to avoid acquiring any new creatures that aren’t already trained to use an actual toilet and spend their own allowances to make purchases- without whining about it.

Next, I resolve to be more realistic about the condition of my own body.  I try to do some kind of exercise each day, and other than maintaining the current contours of my love handles, it seems to have little effect.  It’s about time that I resign myself to the fact that no matter how much Jazzercise I do, how many Sweatin’ to the Oldies videos I watch, and how many reps I do on the Thighmaster, I am simply not going to look like Jason Momoa, The Rock, Joe Manganiello, or even that guy who starred in the latest crappy Tarzan movie.  Instead, I think I’m destined to look more like a close relative of Ed Helms.  Rather than a washboard stomach with a six-pack, I’ll settle for a belly that resembles a package of deli meat-not too fatty, not too tough, and full of sodium and other delicious ingredients.  Caring for one’s physical condition is important, but not at the expense of a trip to Pizza King.

My final resolution relates to my family and spiritual life.  This next year, I am resolving to act a lot less like Donald Trump during a Twitter outage toward my wife and kids when something doesn’t go my way-like when I have to go to work, mow the yard, or go to Wal-Mart.  I have a tendency take out my frustrations on my family when I am in a bad mood.  This usually takes the form of requiring (and not in a sweet voice) that my daughters promptly go to their rooms with a back hoe and hazmat equipment, and begin cleaning, or I will immediately put all of their pets on eBay.  I then complain to my wife, who handles our banking and laundry, about the fact that I don’t know how to write a check or find my favorite pair of underwear (see above).  Instead of engaging in these unpleasant outbursts, I will stop and pray.  And I don’t mean pray in the King James version, differentiating between my “Thee’s,” “Thy’s,” “Thou’s,” “Thine’s,” “Yee’s,” Yay’s,” and “Yeehaw’s,” but pray in my own words and about my real issues.  I trust that when the Lord is finished rolling His eyes and making jokes with His friends about all of my petty complaints, requests, and weaknesses, He will help me adjust my attitude according to His will.  I just hope that if He decides to send me on a mission somewhere, it will be a place with hot showers, air conditioning, king-size beds, and Tex-Mex.  Maybe He will be impressed by the fact that I capitalize His pronouns-but probably not.

Along with all of my own resolutions, I truly wish a blessed new year to all of my family, friends, and readers with nothing better to do.  I’ll close with a traditional Irish blessing for 2017:

“May your pillow always be on the cool side;
May your server always keep your chips and salsa refilled;
May your Saturday mornings be free of children’s birthday parties and sports competitions;
May your checkout line at Wal-Mart be free of sales-ad Nazis,
And may you find this blog funny so that I will continue to feel good about myself.”

Amen, and Happy New Year!

One of those Christmas Card Letters

Dear Friends, Loved Ones, and Random People Who Are Bored Enough To Read This,

It has been an eventful year in the Graves household.  One major change is that we have all aged several months since last Christmas, and we have all grown in various directions.  Susan and I continue to pretend to stay in shape by depriving ourselves of sleep several nights a week while riding a recumbent bike and wallowing around on an exercise mat in our bedroom-regrettably, not together.  Our nightly futile exercise regime usually ends with both of us too exhausted to get up off the carpet and go to bed-and that’s after we put on our workout shoes.

Susan is thriving in her position as the CFO of a small telecommunications company amid my hopes that she will eventually earn a salary high enough for me to retire.   Until that happens, I am enjoying my fourteenth year at Kilgore College, serving as the Language Development Department Chair and proving to my dad that my English degree wasn’t a complete waste of my time and his money.

Susan and I also are still serving as Sunday School teachers of my daughter Abbie’s third-grade class at our church.  We have been teaching in the elementary department for several years now and had considered moving up to teach in the youth department with our other two daughters, but the church leadership decided that the elementary area was more suitable for my maturity level.  I’m looking forward to next week’s Christmas lesson when we will debate whether Joseph was willing to help Mary with diaper changing, or if he was too busy begging the Little Drummer Boy not to leave the drum as a gift for Jesus for when he was old enough to bang on it in the house.

We have also contributed many thousands of dollars to the American economy this year through the Wal-Mart corporation, Petco, Chick-Fil-A, Cracker Barrel, Starbucks (gross), Sonic, and any number of interchangeable establishments that serve free chips and hot sauce (our version of saving).  Another major expenditure has been the purchase of a pre-owned Ford Expedition-also known as mobile equipment storage unit for adolescent females.  I really wanted an brand new vehicle, but Susan assured me that buying one would require her to sell one of my kidneys.

Perhaps our most consequential purchase this year has been a horse for our eldest (and most expensive) daughter, Ally.  Yes, I bought a horse.  Until this happened, I thought it was linguistically impossible to string those four words together in a sentence.  However, since Ally was convinced that she couldn’t go on breathing (and spending my money in other ways) without one, we caved in to her dreams.  The name that came with the horse is Dos Equis, and after first balking at the price the owner was asking, and the fact that the horse is named after a brand of Mexican beer, I felt better when she assured me that he is the “most interesting horse in the world.”  Those good feelings were soon dashed, though, when Ally reminded me that the horse would actually require food, housing, and occasional veterinary care.  Suddenly, the black market organ trade didn’t sound that far-fetched.

While I’m on the subject of pets, we also acquired a puppy for my daughter, Anna. (See previous blog post.)  Despite all of my efforts, the puppy continues to eat and go to the bathroom.  How is it that in this age of technological advances, we have Siri, but we don’t yet have a live dog without teeth, or a digestive, intestinal or urinary tract?  I guess we’re actually pretty lucky.  So far the puppy has only destroyed two electric blankets, the legs of five bar stools, and the cord on a $100 flattening iron.

Besides adding a puppy to her personal animal rescue center, our middle daughter, Anna, has decided to play on the basketball team at school.  Unfortunately for her, she appears to have inherited all of my natural athletic skills.  The benefit of having her play, though, is that we are learning together.  For example, we have discovered that bouncing the ball while running down the court with the ball isn’t optional-“dribbling” they call it. How ridiculous and inconvenient!

Our youngest daughter, Abbie, has experienced a year of medical drama.  Early in the summer, we noticed that her left eye was turning in.  I assumed it was a condition caused by her constantly rolling her eyes at me when I try to be funny.  But her doctor sent us to an ophthalmologist in Dallas who informed us that surgery would be required to correct it.  Once the paramedics revived me, we scheduled the surgery.  I’m happy to say that the procedure was successful, and after a couple of weeks of nurturing recovery, I’m doing fine.

Overall, 2016 has been great, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year holds for my family and bank account.  For those of you who have hung in there and made it to this point in my annoyingly long “letter,” I wish you God’s greatest blessings for Christmas and a new year full of chips, hot sauce, and a complete set of vital organs.

Sincerely,

Jase Graves (A Guy Who Was Bored Enough To Write This)

 

Thanksgorging

Thanksgiving this year began as it typically does in the Graves household, with everyone getting out of bed just in time to see Al Roker make his final insufferably corny joke at the conclusion of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade of Lip-syncing One-Hit Wonders.  We did manage to watch the Westminster Dog Show while I cooked two side dishes for whipped cream and Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream, otherwise respectively known as pumpkin pie and pecan pie.  (These are two of the few menu items we are entrusted to contribute to my parents’ Thanksgiving feast, probably because they are almost impossible to ruin, and the only culinary skill they require is the adept use of a can opener.)  We spent most of the dog show trying to find a dog like our new puppy, but apparently they don’t include breeds from the worthless group.

Once my pies were done, my wife prepared a corn casserole that gives the illusion that we can actually cook something that can’t be made in an Easy Bake Oven. I suppose at some point we will be forced to consult some mysterious book of spells that will reveal the dark arts of cooking turkey and dressing, but as long as our parents are able, we’ll gladly stick to the Thanksgiving equivalent of heating Pop Tarts.  It’s at this point when we began our annual mad dash to get to my parents’ house before Thanksgiving officially expired and my dad accused us of personally putting him at risk of malnutrition. Unfortunately,  arriving anywhere on time with my wife and three daughters ranks right up there trying to split an atom with a popsicle stick.

Once we did finally arrive at my childhood home, we prolonged my dad’s agony by forcing my daughters to participate in a family photo session in front of the old magnolia tree in the front yard before they had a chance to soil their outfits with cranberry sauce and ketchup-yes, ketchup.  The whining and wailing that ensued when we mentioned taking photos probably made my parents’ neighbors suspect us of some kind of grave child abuse-like forcing our kids to pose for photos.

After the torture of the family photo session, we proceeded to the main event-Thanksgiving dinner.  The meal always begins with a prayer, which almost always (ironically) is my responsibility.  When I prayed this year, I thanked the Lord for my family, the food, and all of the other blessings He has given us.  Looking at the spread before us, though, I should have prayed for an IV drip of Pepto.  My parents prepared enough food this year to cause all of us to die of a gravy overdose.  They undoubtedly spent hours the night before and Thanksgiving morning cooking for us, so we felt obliged to test the capacity of our internal organs.  And still, when I pried myself out from between my chair and the dining table, my dad asked accusingly, “Is that all you’re going to eat?”  What choice did I have-other than to say, “Of course not,” and head for the pie.

I truly do have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.  My family is healthy, we have more than we need, and we get to sleep until noon for three days straight. The Lord has blessed us all, and I truly look forward to the day when I can host Thanksgiving for my own grandchildren and we can sit down together for a delicious meal of pie, corn casserole, and Pop Tarts.

Lost at Lost Pines

Occasionally, I am invited by  to travel to a conference to develop myself professionally.  Most of this involves the development of my patience as there tends to be lots of sitting and wondering what they’ll have to eat next.  Sometimes these buttock-callousing events take place in exotic locations, like Baltimore or Atlanta, but this time I journeyed to a remote hamlet in Texas-somewhere between Texarkana and Brownsville-called Bastrop.  The main claim to fame for this locale, other than the vast Lost Pines Resort where the conference was held, is that there is a Buc-ee’s convenience store nearby.  (At least there wasn’t shortage of jerky or pork rinds.)

The actual conference took place at a palatial complex nestled in a thicket and accessible only by an incredibly long and winding road through woods so dense that I expected a hillbilly assault at any moment.  I feel certain that this isolated location was chosen to deter conference attendees from being distracted by more cosmopolitan temptations, like Chick-fil-A.  The only apparent diversions available at this resort involved exercise or eating.  One out of two ain’t bad, I guess.

Eating at most professional development events is an adventure-at best.  The featured dinner entree is usually conference chicken with seminar sauce, accompanied by green beans that taste and feel like they came out of a Hasbro kitchen play set.  Imagine my surprise when the first plenary supper included a medley of blackened redfish and fillet mignon.  Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the fish seemed to be seminar chicken wearing a fish costume, and although the steak was edible, it was about the size of an eyeball.  Thankfully, I could console myself with the gelatinous chocolate cake made out of raw brownie mix that had sat uncovered in the fridge too long.  At one of the conference lunches, I actually got really excited when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a display on the buffet table that read, “Burgers.”  Once again, though, my hopes were dashed when I got in line and realized that it was a vintage metal sign used only for decoration.  The actual menu consisted of deep fried conference chicken and the second string fish that sat on the bench the night before.   I guess the theme of the display was “Things you wish you were eating.”  The only other notable menu item was at breakfast on the final day of the conference.  They were serving roasted potatoes mixed with chunks of smoked brisket.  At any other time of day, this combination might be tolerable, but if I ate that at 7:30 AM, I’d have to go back to bed immediately or make life miserable for the person sitting next to me at the conference for the rest of the day.

In addition to the culinary excitement of the conference, I did attempt to participate in the only other available resort activity to avoid my mealy hotel sheets for the night-exercise.  I decided to go jogging.  In other words, I decided to avoid running while still being able to claim that I had worked out.  When I went out into the muggy Texas night wearing my Nike shorts to make me feel more athletic, I noticed a thick fog in the air that reminded me of something from a horror movie.  Pushing such childish thoughts aside, I bravely began my jog and was abruptly halted by something truly terrifying-a small herd of deer.   On every patch of grass surrounding the jogging trail, there were at least two of these wild-eyed creatures glaring at me through the mist.  I had always thought deer were skittish animals that would bound away at even the slightest scent of a pair of Nike shorts (especially mine). Apparently, though, these were the deer that bullied all of the other deer into giving up their milk money, and I appeard to be their next victim.  Needless to say, my workout ended prematurely.  After all, I had already jogged about 100 feet, and I didn’t want to harm the local wildlife.

When the conference ended, and I was trying to avoid falling asleep in the car with my head back and my mouth hanging open, I reflected on what a real privilege it was to be asked to attend a conference at such a beautiful facility, and I really did learn a lot.  I’m  actually looking forward to my next trip, and this time, I’ll be packing my DVD copy of Bambi.

The Haunted House

In our family, we’ve always tried to focus on the fun, lighthearted aspects of Halloween.  Imagine Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin, or Winnie the Pooh going trick-or-treating with Piglet.  Our Halloweens have been filled with candy treats, cute costumes, apple-bobbing, pumpkin carving, etc.  And occasionally, Susan has convinced me to allow our three girls to join in.

This year, though, I discovered that, upon turning thirteen, there is some kind of unspoken requirement that a child be allowed to attempt to scare herself to the point that she reverts to jabbing her kneecap into her father’s kidneys as she wallows in her parents’ bed all night.  Yes, Ally, my eldest and the drama queen of the group (wonder where she gets that from?), took advantage of my main weakness-my inability to say “no” to anything that doesn’t clearly violate one of the Ten Commandments-including the local haunted house.

The first truly frightening aspect of this haunted house was its location-out in the country, where there promised to be lots of dirt and a lack of proper restroom facilities.  Once we managed to find the entrance of the haunted house without an encounter with the local residents or even a single rendition of Dueling Banjos, we were confronted with the second scare of the night-parking.   The parking system consisted of a pasture and a couple of husky teenagers with flashlights, John Deere caps and enough snuff lodged behind their lower lips to start their own earthworm farms.  After Billy Bob Bubba directed me to squeeze my vehicle between a monster truck and an antique Capris that had a lovely primer finish, Ally and I found our way to the ticket booth where we were greeted by one of Ally’s friends and her dad, who seemed to be looking forward to this almost as much as I was.  At least I had someone with whom to commiserate.

Purchasing tickets constituted the next terrifying component of the haunted house.  With trembling fingers, I found myself handing over my credit card to pay $20.00 apiece for the privilege of being startled repeatedly by some guy wearing a pillowcase over his head and who would undoubtedly laugh at us later.  I actually had to stifle a small scream when I saw that I could pay $30 for a VIP ticket and be first in line at each of the haunted venues.  Naturally, I ran away in horror.

The first venue we experienced was the Haunted Cemetery.  The ticket puncher at the gate recited the rules in a contrived scary voice that sounded like an elderly woman who had smoked too many cigars: “No running, no touching the actors, no profanity, and no touching the props.”  “Darn!” I thought, “I was really looking forward to giving everyone in costume a hug.”  As we crept through the path of the pre-built cemetery, I was actually impressed with the sets that had been artfully constructed.  There were aged tombstones, a crumbling mausoleum, and even a well-dressed funeral director pricing caskets.   However, I soon realized that the second-string actors had been brought in tonight, probably because it was Friday, and every third person in East Texas was at Mecca . . . I mean a high school football game.  Most of the actors appeared to be under the age of 10 and were about as scary as my youngest daughter when she wears  her Hello Kitty blanket over her head.  Ally proceeded to ask each of the actors to be her best friend and told one that he had bad breath.  I felt sorry for the actors and told her just to play along.

The second venue we visited was The Haunted Manor.  Again, I was impressed with the set.  All of the haunted houses I had ever attended were actually old, abandoned houses that were actively violating every safety code in existence, but this one had been specially built to relieve me of my money.  There were several gruesomely decorated rooms and more than one floor in the house to navigate.  Again, though, it was amateur employee hour in The Haunted Manor.  Some of the juvenile actors even looked bored.  At any moment I expected one of them to ask me if I had an extra piece of chewing gum.  There was one moment in the Haunted Manor that did give me pause.  The kitchen was manned by a full-figured woman with a bloody meat cleaver screaming at us to get out of her kitchen as she chopped up something grotesque-like celery.  As we exited the kitchen and walked down a long, narrow hallway, I could hear her waddling close behind me.  I glanced back a couple of times, and she was still there-smiling at me.  What gave me the chills, though, was that it wasn’t an evil glare, but an expression that suggested she wanted to have coffee with me later.  I almost told her that I was married and the whole zombie scullery maid look just wasn’t my thing, but I thought better of it.  (I knew I should have made Susan come along.)

After The Haunted Manor, we mercifully found the final haunted venue, The Labyrinth.  There was a short line outside this venue, which suggested that, perhaps, there would actually be something spooky within.  Once again, however, I was disappointed.  Maybe it’s just that being in my late forties, the scariest thing I can think of is our new puppy pooping in the living room before I can get her outside.  (Last night, I saw her squatting to poop, and as I scooped her up and made my way toward the door, she turned into a tootsie roll dispenser-truly horrifying!)  But I digress.  At the end of The Labyrinth, I saw what all of the hubbub was about-scary clowns.  The room was decorated like a demented circus,  but the teenaged clowns were just wandering around aimlessly with noisemakers.  I’ve been dealing with scary clowns all of my life: Bozo, Ronald McDonald, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and every seventh-grade boy I ever had in my English class when I taught Junior High.  Now, seeing a clown just makes me hungry for a large order of fries and gives me the urge to grade a poorly-written essay.

Despite my jaded attitude toward the haunted house, Ally seemed to have a good time, and that was the whole point.  She even slept in her own room all night, which made me a little sad.  I guess my girl is growing up.  Pretty soon, she may not be interested in the fun of Halloween at all, which means that, once again, I’ll be bobbing for apples in my Winnie the Pooh costume all by myself.

Puppy Breath

I’ve always considered myself a dog person.  Whereas cats remind me of sullen teenagers who prefer to be left alone (except when they want something), dogs are perpetually happy-go-lucky Kindergarteners (who never were quite potty trained).   After raising what would become the worlds oldest pugs for sixteen years and watching them both cross the “rainbow bridge” (Who came up with that image, anyway? I guess it’s better than what happened to Old Yeller.), I thought I might be done with dogs.   They are, after all, filthy animals who prefer their own poo to most high-end dog foods.  I assumed I would just rest in the sweet memories of the dogs I’d had as pets throughout my life and the relief that I might never again be jolted out of my sleep in the middle of the night by the sound of pre-barf canine hacking.

But, alas, my peaceful reminiscence was short-lived.   My animal-crazed daughter Anna once again took advantage my utter failure as a parent and my apparent subconscious desire to turn my living room into an organic fertilizer processing plant by convincing me to get her a puppy.  The puppy was originally supposed to be this year’s big Christmas morning reveal, but Santa assured me that if I waited two months in an attempt to time a new puppy to coincide with Christmas, I would probably have to purchase a pure-bred animal that would cost me roughly the same as a new transmission on a Lamborghini.  Instead, I decided to go for the first litter of “free” puppies I could find.  My goals were simple.  I wanted a dog that, fully grown, would remain no larger than a roll of toilet paper, never shed, and relieve itself as little as possible.  Basically, I was looking for a stuffed mole rat.

Instead, what I found (with the help of a family friend who enjoys laughing at me) was a litter of little, black fuzz-balls that looked like the love child of an Ewok and an an Elvis wig.  Apparently, they were actually part toy poodle and part terrier breed that shouldn’t be left alone with a poodle.  I had told Anna that we were only going to “look” at the puppies, which is like telling me that we are only going to a Mexican Restaurant to “look” at five to seven servings of chips and salsa.  Needless to say, we left with a puppy.  Anna named her Bailey, even though I was partial to Booger.  I think giving animals human names is weird.  Oh, did I tell you about the turtle I owned as a child?  Steve was a best turtle a boy could ever want.

When we got home with Bailey, I soon realized that God created puppies for the purpose of ruining carpet.  Approximately every 30 seconds, some bodily substance was exiting a puppy orifice and redecorating our flooring.  Apparently, this problem can be solved by taking the puppy outside exactly 700 times a day.  (I haven’t been outside this much since my parents potty trained me.)  Despite the mess, though, the puppy was awfully cute running, hopping, biting, licking, biting, snuggling, and biting as we rolled around on the floor with her. Our cat, which was the result of another parental defeat six years ago, simply looked on with annoyed indifference.  In other words, she was the same as always.

All of the biting and licking gave way to that odor that only a baby dog can produce-puppy breath.  Puppy breath is a bit of a paradox.  It has been described as the sweet smell of mother’s milk in a puppy’s mouth untainted by bacteria.  I think people say things like that because puppies are cute enough to look past the fact that their breath smells like a loaf of freshly baked bread that has recently run over a skunk.  Breath like that wouldn’t be celebrated in any other animal.  Just ask my wife when I try to kiss her first thing in the morning.

Through it all, Bailey has already become yet another part of the family-that my wife and children like more than me.  She is irresistible, which makes going through a 50-gallon drum of Resolve carpet cleaner every three days more tolerable.  I even made it through her first trip to the vet last week, which reminded me that there’s truly no such thing as a “free” puppy.  The vet assured me that he would only need to see her eight to ten more times in her first year of life.  Oh, well, I’m just glad I’m able to help him with that new transmission for his Lamborghini.

Once Upon a Display Mattress

The next time you feel the need to  render yourself psychotic enough to spend a couple thousand bucks on a pile of cloth and foam, go mattress shopping.   After 15 years of supporting my favorite sedentary activity not involving chips and salsa, our mattress began to take on the shape of a sadistic landscaping project, my wife and I each occupying our own drainage canal on either side of a steep ridge of no-man’s cushionry.  Once I could no longer muster the energy to hike up Mt. Lumbago to kiss my wife goodnight (much to her relief, I’m sure), we knew it was time to shop for a new place to spend as much of our lives as possible.

Our first stop was one of those mattress superstores emblazoned with “72 Months Financing with No Interest!” posters all over the windows.  We should have known by the inflatable air dancer flopping around outside what lay in store-a lot of hot air and awkward gyrations.

After convincing the mattress-pusher harassing us that we weren’t interested in the section of the store featuring mattresses that, based on the prices, were apparently stuffed with gold bullion, we were directed to the affordable mattresses- for people who don’t really want to be comfortable.  The mattress-pusher encouraged us to lie on the mattresses to get a feel for the softness level we required.  I like a mattress that offers plenty of cushion, but enough firmness to give me the leverage to get up and go to the bathroom, which tragically and inevitably happens each morning exactly two minutes before my alarm goes off.  I have my alarm set to play a Christian radio station to discourage my temptation to curse loudly when the dreaded time comes. (As if I had the energy to curse at that time of day.)

As I lay on the preferred display mattress thinking about all of the bodies that had lain on the mattress before me and wondering where I would go to burn my clothes afterwards, the mattress-pusher encouraged my wife and me to position ourselves like we do when we sleep.  This suggestion presented two problems.  First, for me to lie in the middle of a mattress store like I do while sleeping would probably result in my arrest.  Let’s just say I don’t exactly “pajama up” at bedtime.  Second, my position changes approximately 500 times within the first half hour of my attempt to get to sleep, which would cause me to work myself into a sweat if I didn’t keep our thermostat on permafrost. Neither of these facts dissuaded the mattress-pusher from looming over me and my wife, and insisting that we make ourselves as comfortable as possible-while he watched.  At least it wasn’t weird, or anything.

While my wife and I were being ogled in bed by the mattress-pusher, two of our children were busily irritating everyone else in the store by playing tackle football with a cluster of balloons while their older sister (who claims to have a phobia of balloons-or at least uses that as an excuse to scream) accused her sisters of being terrorists. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who let their children become a nuisance to others in public.  Thank goodness ours only do that when we’re trying to nap under the supervision of a desperate mattress salesman-or we’re at the mall, at church, at a restaurant, etc.

When my wife asked about the special financing deal mentioned on the window posters, we were informed that the deal only applies to customers who spend enough to open their own mattress store franchise, have different colored eyes, and were born in 1900.  Needless to say, we took our unruly children and the DNA of countless other mattress samplers to another establishment where we went through an almost identical ordeal, this time ending with the actual purchase of a mattress and the death by boredom of at least one child due to a lack of balloons.

When the mattress was delivered a week later, we suddenly discovered that mattresses are much thicker today than they were in the nineties, and we had apparently ordered the wrong size of box springs.  As a result, the mattress sat so high on the bed frame that when I lay in bed, I could actually smell my attic and have my toenails trimmed by the ceiling fan.  It really wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the nosebleeds.

After finally getting the box springs sorted out and recovering from altitude sickness, we are thoroughly enjoying our new mattress. It has enough cushion and just the right firmness to offer me the leverage to get up in misery for work each morning.  And on those glorious Saturdays when we sleep in, I can just roll over and dream of giant inflatable air dancers offering me 72 months of interest-free financing, with not a balloon in sight.