Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sticky by Kelley Kay #CallMeDaddy

In anticipation of the release of Call Me Daddy, I asked for memories about family, the good, the bad, the funny. Author Kelley Kay decided to get "Sticky":       

 I feel like a horrible mother about five times a day. My voice gets screechy or I snap at one of my two little boys right after I’ve SWORN in my head, not two minutes earlier, to keep a calm tone in all my interactions.
            I will say, though, that at least I’m thinking about it. My job as a high school teacher and now as a writer give me the advantage of a certain consciousness and reflection on my behavior, and I’m trying, every minute, to do it better. One of the ways I’m trying to do that is by being more aware of my boys just in terms of inhaling their funny and fabulous behavior and interactions: with me or anyone around them. I’m working on appreciation and gratitude, and this blog comes from one of the situations I ‘imbibed’ early after this resolution.
            A five or seven year old boy is not incapable of intelligent conversation, really he’s not. It’s just that there is something inherent in his nature that guarantees, especially if he’s talking to another little boy, that after two or three minutes the conversation will devolve into something related to poop. Fletcher (my youngest son) has a close friend named Stone. For their transitional kindergarten year (he was 5) they got shipped across the way to another school, so a couple of times a week I picked Fletcher and Stone up after their half-day school day.
            During these days I would turn the radio up a bit and tune out their chatter. I listened a little, but absentmindedly, reminding them when they start talking about killing people that we don’t do that, and to stop talking about poop. Sometime in January I figured out this was another example of me not getting the most out of their childhood. I didn’t start conversations with them, oh no! Instead I just listened. These two five year olds were masters of nonsensical conversations, and from that point on I just inhaled their jibberjabber. I relished every moment of the drive home for the rest of the year, and while reproducing all of their conversations would not be something for you as the reader to relish (plus I didn’t write everything they said down—we  never would’ve made it  home), I hope this personal favorite will make you smile if not giggle out loud. Here goes.
Stone: San Frisco we go to San Frisco and my mommy goes, but I had a dream that dinosaurs came there.
Fletcher: Did the dinosaurs eat your mommy?
Stone: Don’t be ridickoolus, the dinosaurs ate San Frisco! I ate San Frisco I ate his FACE!
Fletcher: I think we should do a zipline don’t you want to do a zipline? My fingers are sticky. (He looks at his fingers.) Hey I like that word: sticky sticky
Stone: Don’t be ridickoolus, sticky sticky sticky
Fletcher: Hey don’t interrupt sticky sticky sticky
Stone: Don’t YOU interrupt!
Fletcher: Don’t YOU interrupt!
Stone: No you! Don’t YOU interrupt!
Fletcher: (giggling) Don’t YOU interrupt!  Interrupt interrupt interrupt (and they go back and forth, loving the word interrupt and getting louder and louder until I have to calm them down.)
Stone: Ridickoolus. Let’s do a zipline in San Frisco. (He giggles fiendishly here) Hey we can’t the dinosaur ATE it remember!
Fletcher: The dinosaurs ate your FACE! Hey, mommy!
Me: Yes?
Fletcher: Me and Stone ate…
Me: Stone and I (Yes, I do this. Ad nauseam.)
Fletcher: Stone and I ate a whole swimming pool, did you know that?
Stone: (Chortling) and a car! Didja know we ate a whole car? Vroom, vroom, yum, yum.
Me: Hmmm, and how did this car taste?
Fletcher: Sticky!
Stone: Sticky like chocolate and red vines
Fletcher: And cupcakes and salt water and Willy Wonka Nerds. Hey my favorite is the green what’s your favorite?
Stone: Nerds nerds nerds! Hey didja know I ate a fire engine? A fire engine in San Frisco.
Fletcher: Ha ha ha! And I bet it was so sticky!
            We always arrived to find Stone’s nanny and his little brother Maxwell sitting on the driveway. Fletcher would roll his window down and yell “Bye Stone!” starting from the second we drove up to the time the nanny closed the garage door.
            Stone and Fletch are both back to the school we’re supposed to be in, and while I think they still play at recess once in a while, I miss the afternoons when they both explained their voracious appetites for inanimate objects. And ridickoolus ziplines in San Frisco. Sticky, sticky.

Kelley Kay is the author of Death by Diploma, an excellent cozy mystery that you all should check out! In fact, it is on sale this week for only 99 cents, so Feed Your Kindle! 
You can find Kelley here:
Kelley Kaye on Facebook
And her novel here:

Death by Diploma Description:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Not So Worst Camping Trip Ever by Avy Packard #CallMeDaddy

In anticipation of the upcoming release of my novel, Call Me Daddy, I asked for stories about family: the fun, the inspirational, the heartwarming moments that make us part of a family. Author Avy Packard shares her thoughts and tackles a subject that is a parents nightmare: the thought of leaving our children too soon.... 

This is not an original blog topic. I am not the first person to know someone who has unexpectedly passed away. Still, I am shaken by it, and every menial task I do has a little extra weight pushing back at me today.

But let me back up.

We went to our lake cabin this weekend, which on any given weekend in July, is usually a safe bet for summer heat and water play activity. We had a lot of water, but not of the playing kind. It drizzled, and then it poured. We couldn’t get dry and we couldn’t get warm. We burned through our propane heater fuel within a few hours and we couldn’t get a campfire to flame anything past a sickly wet smolder. As you can imagine, our sleep quality was cold, damp, and intermittent.

We cut the trip early and took off after breakfast the following morning.

When we got home the following evening, I felt romantic and giddy about my warm king sized bed and wanted nothing else but to fall into a rock hard sleep. Before I rolled over to intersect with dreamland, I heard my phone receive a text. It was from my teenage daughter. She asked if I read the email about Sarah’s mom. Sarah who? Sarah from dance. No, I hadn’t. I pulled it up and discovered a mass email sent from the dance program director informing all the parents that Michelle, Sarah’s mom, a dance mom, one of us, had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and had been in a coma for the last two weeks and that her family had made the difficult decision to take her off life support tomorrow.

I couldn’t even pretend to want to sleep anymore. I tried to distract myself with TV for a while, but my legs were twitchy. I left my bed and stumbled around the kitchen. I absently ate a crescent roll while staring at the floor. I went back to bed and eventually did fall asleep and dreamt I had cancer but didn’t know what kind or if it was fatal. When I woke up this morning I wondered if it had already happened, if it were over, if she were already dead.  And every time I looked at the clock throughout the day, I again, wonder the same thing.
Michelle is one of several fellow volunteers that work the trenches of backstage dance recitals, which is far more frenzy and sweat than sparkles and lipstick. We are Dance Moms, for better or worse, and we follow bun-headed girls around with dance bags and bobby pins and fluff their skirts and tell them when it’s time to line up. When we’re not being recital warriors, we’re resigned to being taxi drivers, shuttling our kids back and forth to dance class six days a week. She and I chatted many times, mostly small talk-----what time is the next rehearsal, are you going to NUVO this year--outside the doors to one of the dance studios as one or two of our daughters rehearsed to the point of blisters, tears, and impressive calf muscles in the name of ballet.

As I write this, it is nearing eleven o’clock PM, almost twenty-four hours since I’d read the email, and unless a miracle has occurred, Michelle is surely gone by now.  It’s hitting me a little hard. Not because we were great friends, we really didn’t know each other that well, but because we could have been the same person. We went to the same high school. We graduated the same year. We both have multiple daughters in the same dance program. We both know what it’s like to be “plus sized” in a room full of agile and thin size-zero dancers. And now she’s gone. And if she can leave that abruptly, if she could log in her volunteer hours at the recital, then two weeks later become reliant on a machine to breathe for her, and then to stop breathing, her last breath snatched away, gone by consensus, then so could I.  How easy would it be to interchange our names on the mass email sent to the parent committee?

Who knows why I get to live another day, to see my daughters faces, to lecture them on the price of gas, leotards, and leather ballet slippers, and then to watch them completing a perfect pirouette, and she does not.  I am blessed that I got to spend a rainy weekend with them hunkered together in a tiny cabin instead of squeezed tight in a hospital room. I am saddened to the depths of my soul to know that while my kids are in their rooms right now listening to music or snapchatting with their friends, her kids are grieving at a level I cannot even begin to comprehend.

I am sorry this happened to you, Michelle. I hope your girls keep dancing. I know that I, along with the rest of the dance moms will cheer them on and clap as loud as we can in your place, because we know you would do it for us. We also know it won’t be enough.

Avy Packard

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Art of Embarrassing Your Children by Victor Catano #CallMeDaddy

So Kelly, your blog host, asked for us to write about family matters for her site. I was thinking about this while doing the laundry and when I pulled this shirt out of the washer, I knew I had my topic. 

This Banana Republic shirt belonged to my Dad. I remember when he got it. I was about 13 and we were visiting my Granny in Hadley, MA. He bought it at the nearby mall. 

I was mortified. 

It was an objectively hideous shirt. Big ugly banana leaves everywhere. And my Dad, who was always overweight, filled it out. He was the picture of the Ugly American tourist. Even in western Massachusetts.

Of course at thirteen, everything my parents did would embarrass me. Just existing in my presence was too much. I remember walking ten feet behind them on the streets of Toronto. We had just moved there, I didn't know a single person there. I probably looked more stupid and conspicuous for trailing behind them and trying to act like I wasn't with them. Didn't matter. I could not be tainted by their uncoolness. God forbid I be seen with them when he was wearing this monstrosity.

That ended up not mattering of course. I was uncool for a lot of reasons in ninth grade, and that had much more to do with being chubby, pimply, and into comic books and D&D than any distance I walked away from my parents. 

I grew up, in many different ways. I got taller. My parents no longer embarrassed me. At least they had to try a lot harder than simply being near me. Or wearing an ugly shirt.

Years later, I was working at a financial services firm that shall remain nameless. (Hint: It rhymes with Borgan Banley). I was miserable. The project I had spent eighteen months working on had been cancelled. Since I was a recent hire, it was likely that I would be moved elsewhere or let go. It was not a job that was anywhere near what I had dreamed of doing. It was a jobs that I took because of the money, and I regretted it. Also, there was a dress code. Shirt, tie, slacks. I hadn't had a dress code on a job since I had one that required hairnets.

During this time, eBay was just starting to become a thing. (Yes, I know. Grandpa Vic has been around a while.) My wife was an early adopter, spending late nights in bidding wars for vintage clothes and dolls. One night, while looking at some of the stuff she'd gotten and making sure it was all shipped, I came across a shirt. I'm not quite sure how I found it. It was probably in the Also From This Seller section. 

This was not just any shirt. It was a Reyn Spooner brand Hawaiian shirt, called Hula Highball. Blue and red and yellow, it had a pattern of tiki drinks and a neon bar sign with a man drinking at a barstool. And I really don't know why, but I bid on it. Maybe because I had to wear nothing but beige and grey and light blue shirts at work. Maybe because the colors cheered me up. But, I bid on it and won. I think it cost me six dollars. 

And then I thought of my Dad and smiled. I remembered how much his shirt had appalled me and now here I was buying one that was more garish. Was he at all unhappy in his job? No, he loved what he did. He worked at a university and was highly regarded in his field. Maybe he just wanted to wear a little more color than he could have gotten away with at school. 

It was the first shirt of many. I got plenty more on eBay and at thrift shops. Not long after that, I left the financial world and returned to my true love of theater. I took a pay cut and got back into my chosen field. Now, I too have a job. At a university. That I deeply love. I don't know if I'm highly regarded, but the students like me. And I can wear whatever I want, so now I'm the Hawaiian shit guy.

It seems that no matter how much I tried to avoid walking with my Dad, it couldn't be helped. 

Years after that, my Dad got cancer. It was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If you have to get cancer, that's the one to get as it has a high survival rate. it was touch and go for a while, but my Dad is as stubborn as he is caring. He pulled through, but lost a lot of weight during his chemo. He was thinner than he'd been in years, and most of his clothes didn't fit him anymore. Mom knew that I now loved the Hawaiian shirts and sent me a bunch of them. 

When the box arrived, the banana leaf one was on the top. 

Five years later, Dad is still cancer free. And I have a new favorite shirt. I don't have any kids that I can embarrass yet, but when I do I know just what to wear. 

Victor Catano is the author of Tail & Trouble, his first novel and the start of a new urban fantasy series featuring witches, adventure, and a magic bulldog. Visit him at for updates on upcoming books. 

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