“Backyard Hockey” By Chad Robert Parker
You can tell the difference between an elementary school in Minnesota and anywhere else that I have lived by the accompanying hockey rinks. With snowy weather for more than half the year hockey is the predominant sport. Coming from California I spent most my recess spread eagle on the ice, feeling more like the puck.
I remember one year it snowed a couple feet. My dad got a shovel and started clearing a patch of grass. We thought he was crazy. He instructed us to help shovel the snow into a rectangular border a few feet high. We packed down the inside. Then we really thought it was crazy when he let the water run at one end. Before long we had a layer of water throughout our snow pack. He turned off the water line for good for the rest of the winter, but by morning we had an ice rink in our backyard. I got a lot better at ice skating and hockey that year.
“Frozen Highways” by Chad Robert Parker
No where that I have lived has snow plowing and snow driving figured out quite like Minnesota does. You can build a snow man the first snowfall that won’t melt for 6-8 months later, yet I rarely saw a snow day to allow us to take off from school.
Utah has light fluffy snow that is great for skiing. The snow rarely stays in the valley for more than 2-3 weeks and there are only a handful of days each year where driving is tough. It seems like the drivers forget from year to year how to keep control without sliding off the road with the first snowflake.
Indiana has the chance for lots of snow days in rural areas where plows are few and far between, but even worse where the wind blows freely across unobstructed flat farmland. It can easily get packed down and make for icy roadways. The cold days are somewhere between Minnesota extremes and Utah’s mild flurries, but one time the whole freeway froze over.
I’m not talking about black ice. There was literally a 6-inch frozen ice layer stretching from our little town in Covington, Indiana for 8-10 miles or so to the Illinois border. Cars and trucks were backed up even farther. It was like a 4-6 hour crossing because no one was moving most of the time. Most people were outside of their cars talking. Many were making snowmen.
We tried to go to the family warehouse that day and put in a few hours work. We tried to take the backroads to our Illinois place of business. It did not work out. The back way was also backed up. I remember a trucker was handing out food from the back of his truck because without his truck running he couldn’t keep it fresh anymore anyway. By nightfall it started to get cold. We enjoyed a snack or two before we realized there was no chance we would be going to work. We returned to the comfort of home and the warmth of a fire.
There was still a line of traffic not moving on I-15 the next morning.
“Three Dollar Fix” by Chad Robert Parker
I’m the first one to admit that I am not a handyman. I am thrifty, however. If a fix sounds easy enough I will attempt a do-it-yourself project.
My tub spout started leaking. I worried that the drip might be mostly going back into the wall, so I purchased a new spout and went to work. When you have followed every instruction to the “T” and it still leaks, that’s when you know you really have a problem. What do you do then? I checked “google” to see if any others experienced the same complication. None had. Online videos showed that the task was easy enough. No one seemed to have had any trouble, whatsoever, with the three dollar fix. Although, as I investigated further, I realized I did have a similar problem as others. Turns out my original leak was actually coming from above in the handle. There was one of two possibilities. One would require a professional the other one was another DIY option. I took the handle off and found out I would have to call a plumber after all.
“Never Say Never” by Chad Robert Parker
I visited the Philippines 5 times in 3 years. Since most of my vacation time is around Christmas I missed out on having a white Christmas for those three years. Being single I didn’t really mind spending the actual Christmas Day in the airport. Besides spending time on tropical beaches is quality time off.
Truth be known I had a few different girlfriends from the Philippines through that time and I made a point of visiting whenever I could. After the relationship ended in 2013 I didn’t think I would be back. After the friendship never got off the ground in 2014 and then cancelling a three month stay for which I had already bought airplane tickets with the intent of investing more time person to person, I really thought I would not be back.
In 2014 you could say I had an unwritten New Year’s Resolution to not go back to the Philippines. They say you should write a goal down if you expect to keep it. Well, you guessed it…At the end of 2014 I was back in the Philippines spending time at Christmas getting to know my future wife’s family.
In 2015, however, I enjoyed a white Christmas with my lovely wife by my side. She has experienced a lot of firsts in America, which I enjoy experiencing with her. She has made all of the difficult experiences of my past, on the path to finding her, completely worth the challenge of any failed (or successful) resolution. We have loved facing challenges together, rather than facing Christmas apart.
“Missing Stockings” by Chad Robert Parker
The first Christmas story alludes to the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many of the Christmas traditions we celebrate today by recognizing Christmas on December 25th, however, have more origins going back to the Christmas story where Santa Claus began. It started with a man sneaking treats into kids socks hung over the warmth of the fireplace, if I’m not mistaken. Celebrating Christmas as a newlywed with my wife from the Philippines means we are learning each others’ traditions. I wanted to be sure Christmas Stockings were a part of that tradition.
I staked out a few stores and found the Stockings to fill with nuts, candies, popcorn, and the like, along with oranges, pomegranate (which she has never tried), and a filipina twist, mango. But I ran into one problem. My last minute Christmas shopping was not going to work this year.
We have been rather busy and always together. I found my one perfect opportunity to go to the store yesterday when I had a day off from work and after I dropped her off at her job. To my surprise the stores I had scouted out before, however, had already pulled the stockings from their offerings. So for Christmas Eve I will be creating makeshift stockings to put all of our goodies into. Merry Christmas!
Update: Christmas Eve, on the 4th attempt, I happened by a store with the perfect $1 stockings to go along with our humble Christmas Day. Stockings will be hung after all (fireplace not included). Merry Christmas!
“Tasting Before Wasting Pizza” by Chad Robert Parker
Every week I came up with an activity when I mentored two thirteen year old boys who were living in foster care. It was a nice break for them and it was a fun way to serve for me. I blindfolded each boy with a tie. They grinned with anticipation. Both were sure they could tell the better tasting between a Dominoes $7.99 pizza and a $5 Hot and Ready Little Caesar’s pizza. It made me laugh when they acted like it would be embarrassing to choose the cheaper of the two. Honestly, either one is about the same to me.
We were in a hurry to eat because we were hungry or I would have staged it better. I placed a couple slices in front of each boy. They could tell by the crust which was which. That made me laugh, too, because neither likes crust and they don’t eat it anyway. I had plenty of pizza since those guys raced each other for the slices of the pricey pizza, but didn’t want more of the other. I told them they would like it just fine if it were the only option.
It all reminded me of taking them to the dollar theater to watch Disney’sMonster’s and Aliens and then to an all-you-can-eat pizza place. One of the boys saw a sign explaining a $1 extra charge for uneaten crusts. I teased him that I was going to make him foot that bill if his plate wasn’t clean. When I stepped away to get more food his crusts disappeared, rolled up in napkins, stuffed in his pockets and down his pants, and he excused himself to the bathroom where he discarded his smuggled crusts into the garbage can. It was quite funny, but you could say that thirteen year old boys just don’t always have good taste. I left the establishment a dollar in the tip jar and we went on our way.
“2 guys, 1 turkey,” by Chad Robert Parker
My brother and I did Thanksgiving together last year. Yup, just two single guys. By the title you might be wondering which one of us was the turkey, but we actually went all out and had a full on turkey dinner. At this point in the story there are surely some who feel bad for us, thinking you would feel lonely in that situation, but I have fond memories of last year. We had a great time giving thanks!
Turns out my brother and I are decent cooks. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, orange rolls, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, pies, and I’m sure I’m missing something. Oh yes, the turkey. I was in charge of that. I had cooked up ham before and pot roast, but I had only ever helped with the turkey. I figured I knew the gist of cooking it. I never even thought I could buy the wrong turkey. No, it wasn’t a live turkey with feathers still on it, or a spoiled carcass or anything crazy like that. It was actually already cooked and then frozen again.
Turns out a pre-smoked turkey is really good and it only takes an hour’s baking to revive it to great succulent, steamy, peal-off-the-bone-meat. Yeah, it cost us a little bit more but it was a good meal. We had more than any two guys could want. I would do it again, that way, but I’m ready to enjoy a spectacular Thanksgiving with more family this year, including my wife from the Philippines. This will be her first experience with the Thanksgiving Day cooking adventure. We’re leaving the turkey to the experts. We’re bringing the pies! Happy Thanksgiving!!