Weekend Getaway: Up and At ’em

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5:09 am- I wake up. My body doesn’t seem to care that my alarm clock is set for 5:30, just like how on weekdays, no matter when my alarm is set for work, or how late I stay up, I always manage to wake up, to my dismay, earlier than I need to. I normally wouldn’t get up this early on a Saturday, or any day for that matter, but I’ve got a full day ahead of me, making the early start imperative. My wife and I are going to Branson, Missouri, traveling the five plus hours from Memphis to meet my mom, grandmother, youngest brother, and his girlfriend to spend the day at Silver Dollar City. After spending fifteen or so years not going to Branson, this will be my second time going since September, and I’m pretty excited about it. It might seem like a long way to drive only to make that same five hour and eighteen minute drive the next morning, but I think it will be worth it. We’re getting on the road early enough that we’ll arrive in Branson before noon, so it won’t seem like we’ll be spending most of our day driving, plus, once we get there we’ll be at an amusement park, which is obviously more fun than anything I would be doing at home, so between a day of fun and excitement, or a day sitting on the couch watching college football bowl games that I don’t have any interest in, the choice cannot be any easier to make.

The rides and everything will be great, they were last time, but the park closed at six, and although we had a lot of fun, we weren’t nearly ready to go yet, and tonight we won’t have to. Once six o’clock rolls around tonight, the fun will just be getting started, because Silver Dollar City, much like many other parks this time of year, has a christmas lights displayed throughout, meaning the park will stay open until nine. I’ve been to six flags, universal studios, and even disney world a couple of times, but I can’t think of a single time that I rode amusement park rides after dark. That’s what makes the fair so much fun. I’m not huge on fair rides, but there’s just something comforting and exciting about the atmosphere of being at the fair, surrounded by all those lit up rides at night, so I’m very much looking forward to experiencing that in Branson, only with christmas lights, which are like, a billion times better than boring, regular lights.

I’m going to go ahead and wrap this thing up because we’re about to get on the road, and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but it’s kind of difficult to drive and type at the same time, not that I can’t do it, but it’s just an unnecessary distraction that I don’t need to have in the early hours of the morning. Make sure to come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about Branson and Silver Dollar City. Until then, be well.

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I Spy: Christmas Edition

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Who wants to play a game? The weekend is here, so rather than writing a traditional blog, I thought I would do something more exciting, more fun, or as much fun as one can have by solving riddles and searching for things. Before you get all excited, this is basically Where’s Waldo, but much less difficult, with the added fun of solving a riddle to find out what you’re supposed to be looking for. Sounds fun right? What else do you have to do on a Friday night? Go out and have a social life? Please, don’t be delusional. You’re sitting at home right now, bored out of your mind and looking for something exciting today, and it’s your lucky day, because Dr. Kendall has found the cure for your boredom. Let’s play.
 
Okay, we’ll start off with a simple one so you don’t get scared off right from the onset, and give up before you even begin. While I do want you to exercise your brains throughout the process, I do want it to be fun, at least at the beginning.
 
This ornament proves I’m the perfect son.
 
My mom had three boys and I’m number one. I’m going to give you a minute to ponder it, to really think about it before I help you out. Oh man, you should see your face right now, actually believing that I’m going to “help you out.” This is so easy that babies without a comprehension of words could solve this riddle, so if you actually think that I’m going to give you any other clues, or will actually give you the answer, you should probably just quit now, because you’re hopeless. For those of you left, who aren’t crying your eyes out into your pillow because the game just seems so complex, did you figure out which ornament I’m talking about? If so, you may continue on.
 
These often line the rocky coastline, ensuring all boats arrive just fine.
 
So what do you think? Do you like the rhyming? To be honest I’m really enjoying it, like I’m a rapper or a poet or something, rather than some boring 9 to 5 bank worker. This one might be even simpler than the last one, but believe me, I’m going to crank up the heat after this one and make it harder on you, so you’d be wise to enjoy this while it lasts. Okay, if you figured it out, which if you didn’t you should be deeply ashamed and embarrassed, you may move on to round three.
 
Pere’ Noel flies on Christmas Eve Night, over the structure that emits a bright light.
 
This one is a little tougher, but I’m confident that if you’ve made it this far, then you’re capable of decoding this hint, and once you do that, it should be very easy to find on the tree. Did you find it? If so, you may move onto the final round of the game. If not, please get out of here before I call the cops for trespassing somewhere that you don’t belong.
 
Look very closely and you will see, the beginning point of the mighty Mississippi.
 
I fully expect all of you to fail on this one, so assuming I’m correct, congratulations! You all lose. If you somehow got lucky and stumbled into a victory, don’t get too cocky, because we’ll play again soon, and it’s not going to be quite so easy. I would say that I hope you all enjoyed the game, but I don’t. I hope it was horrible and frustrating and you are still looking back at the picture trying to find the ornaments. Have a good weekend.

The Work Holiday Dinner

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When you work with a bunch of people that are as indecisive as I am, coming up with plans for a holiday dinner probably shouldn’t have been left to us. The original plan, suggested by our manager was to go to Fox and Hound, a sports bar like two minutes from where the bank, after work and have dinner last week. For whatever reason, the day came and went without much explanation given about the cancellation other than to say we weren’t going there anymore, and needed to come up with something else. Days passed without another plan forming, either because nobody could come up with ideas or more likely because nobody wanted to be the scapegoat, should their suggestion turn out to be a disaster. Tuesday the plan was suggested by the manager that we go to Houston’s, which too, is only a couple minutes from where we work, so it would be close and convenient, and it sounded good to everyone, so the plan was set, Houston’s the following day after work. Wednesday arrived and it turned out that one of our coworkers wasn’t going to be able to make it after all, thus began the process of the manager questioning the entire plan and trying to scrap it for another date which wouldn’t work for everyone any way, so finally after too much confusion for a simple dinner, it was decided that the plan would go ahead as planned, Houston’s after work.
 
4:15 is too early for dinner if you ask me, but since the bank closes at four and since we work right by the restaurant, it only made sense that we head over right after work, and it’s not like we were seated right away, because for some reason, Houston’s was popping at that time, so we had a short wait before the six of us were led to a booth in back near the kitchen. The ambiance was nice, as it always is at Houston’s, the low lighting and the soothing music, all contributing factors to the warm environment, allowing yourself to forget about the outside world for a little while. The budget was set at twenty-five dollars a piece, which is lower than the price of most entrees, but I wasn’t paying, so I guess I can’t complain. At Houston’s I normally get the Hickory Burger, which is my favorite burger in Memphis, but I wanted to try something new, and with the price restrictions, that left me to choose from  some salads, a few sandwiches, and exactly one entrée, since I’d already blown a few dollars of the budget on iced tea. I could have ordered something over twenty-five and then paid the difference myself, but I wasn’t trying to turn a free meal into a bill for me. I guess you can call me cheap, but I prefer thrifty.
 
     I decided on Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich, consisting of a piece of buttermilk fried chicken, baby Swiss cheese, spicy slaw, and tomato, which I got with a side of fries, which are near the top of my list of my favorites here. Never having ordered it before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was a lot of food, and it looked absolutely delicious. I dipped a fry in the ramekin of spicy mayonnaise on the side of my dish, and the meal began. For me, mayonnaise used to be one of my least favorite things in the entire culinary world. The mere smell of it would make me start gagging until I ultimately regained composure, or more often, threw up from the disgusting aroma, but as I’ve gotten older and my tastes have evolved, mayonnaise doesn’t disgust me the way it used to, although you’ll never see me voluntarily adding it to anything, the exception being the spicy mayonnaise from Houston’s, which is more like a chipotle sauce, masking the traditional flavors of the white goop with a spicy kick. I can just imagine my dad’s disappointment at his only son eating mayonnaise.
 
The first thought that popped into my head as I took the inaugural bite of the sandwich, was that there was too much on it. The flavors weren’t bad, per se, in fact that were really good, but there was just way too much of the spicy slaw, and that combined with the tomato, caused everything held within the confines of the bread, to try and slide it’s way out with each bite, making the process of eating the sandwich more difficult and a lot messier than it needed to be. When you eat at a barbecue restaurant, a pulled pork sandwich topped with a thick sauce is expected to be a messy meal, so you go in mentally prepared, but I wasn’t prepared to have creamy slaw falling like raindrops in a monsoon from my sandwich, completely covering portions of my plate. That was my biggest and only complaint about the sandwich, which was otherwise good. The fries however, for the first time at Houston’s, were disappointing, so I’m not going to right them off for one poor experience, when I’ve experienced a lot better quality on every other occasion that I’ve ordered them. It tasted like they were old, had been sitting out for a while. The weren’t hot, and they just had that taste of fries that had been reheated, which is horrible, and why everyone knows not that you don’t reheat French fries because they just aren’t the same.
 
Overall the meal was good, and it was nice spending time outside of work with people that we spend eight or more hours with, five days a week. As far as sandwiches go, the Hickory Burger is better than Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich, but if you’re in the mood for chicken, it’s a good option. I wouldn’t be deterred by my experience with the fries, which probably had something to do with the fact that we were there at an awkward time, between lunch and dinner, so perhaps that could explain the old fries. Like I said, it was a large portion of food, and I took a lot of it home with me for my wife who was very appreciative, because she might be the one person I know that likes Houston’s more than I do. If you haven’t been, you should definitely go. Tell the hostess Kendall sent you, and I guarantee she will treat you like she has no idea who I am.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

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With less than two weeks until Christmas, I thought it was probably about time that we decorated our Christmas tree. The tree had been up for several weeks, the boring and monotonous part out of the way, with nothing but the fun part of decorating the tree looming ahead, yet for some reason we kept putting it off. It’s not like we had anything better to do, we watched TV and read most nights, nights which could have easily spared an hour or so to decorate the tree, but it just didn’t happen…until last night. The boxes full of decorations had been sitting in the living room for nearly a month, so all we had to do was open the boxes and begin decorating the tree.
 
We started with the lights. It seems like a lot of people are opting for “white lights”, which are actually more yellow than white, on their tree, but personally, I love multi colored lights. Sure, “white lights” are nice if you’re trying to make your tree look perfect and extravagant, if you’re in some kind of contest or having your tree photographed for a magazine, but it’s just not as fun as the different colored lights. “White lights” are more grown up, mature, but blue, green, red, and yellow lights are more relaxed, taking you back to a simpler time, when you were a child and Christmas was full of childhood wonder. My wife and I wrapped two strands of multicolored lights around the tree, spacing it out as evenly as we could, my wife often correcting and redoing my poor work, because some things never change.
 
One by one, my wife and I placed ornaments on the tree, trying our best to space them out, both so that it wouldn’t look too cluttered, and also to distribute the weight more equally so our fake tree wouldn’t topple over and make a real mess. Each ornament tells a story, like the mouse ear ornament that says “Happily Ever After”, the ornament my wife and I got at Disneyworld on our honeymoon. Okay, so it’s not the actual ornament we got on our honeymoon, because our box of ornaments mysteriously disappeared when we were living in Florida with my in-laws, but it’s a replacement that looks exactly the same, so it’s still special. There’s the Dallas Cowboys ornament with Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Marion Barber, all celebrating after a big play, which takes me back to some of my happiest times watching the Cowboys play.
 
Of course there’s all the Christmas ornaments we’ve collected from different vacations. There’s the wooden bear from Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota, the globe filled with sand and seashells from our trip in Destin, and the Cape Hatteras lighthouse from my trip to North Carolina’s outer banks eight years ago. There’s one from Orange Beach, one of my favorite places in the world, as well as an Eiffel Tower, commemorating my two trips to Paris, which is my favorite place in the world. There’s ornaments with all of my favorite teams, the Grizzlies, Cardinals, and of course the Cowboys, which probably outnumbers all of the other ornaments. Decorating the Christmas tree is a fun Christmas tradition, and even though we waited longer than usual, we still had a good time putting up the ornaments and reliving some of those vacation memories that we’ve shared together. Now we only have to get some of our presents wrapped and put under the tree, but we still have twelve days to get that done, so maybe I’ll put it off a little while longer.

Three Books: A Review

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At the beginning of this year, like most years, I came up with a list of goals to work towards this year, and just like every other time, I’ve failed on just about all of them, but there is still one that I have in my sights. Although it will be tough, and is very unlikely, there’s still a chance that I can achieve one of my goals, reading 52 books in the year, averaging one per week. After starting the year off strong, reading ten books in January, it’s been downhill from there, wherein there are some months, like November, where I didn’t read a single book, but still, the goal is within reach. As of today, December 12th, I’ve read 40 books, which means I’ve got twelve more to go, with nineteen days left, and I’m almost finished with the book I’m currently reading, so that really only leaves eleven. My point is, I’ve got a lot of reading to cram in here at the end of the year, which means I’ll be reviewing more books through the rest of December, so bear with me. On the bright side, I’ll be giving you some good gift ideas for the book lovers in your family. You can thank me later.
 
Last Thursday I started reading “This is Where it Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp, a book that piqued my interest on Amazon. I’m not sure how I came across it, whether it was on the list of bestsellers or recommended based on what I’d been viewing, but regardless of how I found out about it, it sounded really interesting, so with an Amazon gift card given to me for my birthday, I purchased it. When it came in the mail mid September, I opened up the book and read the description on the jacket, and it sounded like one of the most thrilling books I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, what would have been the blood chilling, shocking point of the book, was given away by the synopsis, so I knew that a gunman would be in the school auditorium surrounded by and terrorizing his former classmates.
 
Each chapter composed of four different perspectives and only spans a couple of minutes as the story is told through their eyes. It’s interesting, but a bit tiring at times. It’s a pretty good story and a quick read which I finished in less than twenty-four hours, but it’s just not that exciting since you already kind of know what’s going to happen before you even start reading the book. believe it’s Nijkamp’s first novel, and I would definitely be open to reading more of her work in the future because “This is Where it Ends” was a very intriguing concept, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations of how thrilling it would be. Later that night I began “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman, a new book I found while perusing the (somewhat) new bookstore in Memphis, Novel.
 
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is the story of a thirty year old woman who works in a graphic design office, not as an artist or designer, but in the accounts receivable department, which is as boring as it sounds, but Eleanor doesn’t mind, in fact she likes the monotonous routine of her life. She’s content to live our her days in the same exact way, until on the way home one evening, her and a coworker that she barely knows, witnesses an elderly man falling in the street, which sets in motion changes that will completely alter the course of her life, and for the better, although she doesn’t realize it at first. It’s a good story, the inner dialogue Eleanor has with herself is hilarious, and is one of the better new books of 2017. It’s not going to be the type of book that will keep you up late into the night turning the pages as fast as you can trying to find out what happens next, but it’s a good, well written and enjoyable book.
 
The last book I read over the weekend was “Sellevision” by Augusten Burroughs, his debut novel. Last year I fell in love with Augusten’s writing when I read “The Wolf at the Table” and having read several of his other memoirs, his words still haven’t lost their luster. I believe this is the only novel he’s written, and I have to say, as much as I love his memoirs, his novel can stand alone as a good book. “Sellevision” is about a TV channel like QVC or the Home Shopping Network and the employees that work there. Nothing is at it seems on the surface, and everyone has something to hide. It’s funny story and a quick read, I read it all on Sunday, and I would highly recommend, just like everything else I’ve read by Augusten Burroughs, that you should read this book. I’ve got to get back to reading, but I’ll be back again for another blog tomorrow, and most likely some more book recommendations near the end of the week. See you then.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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According to the potentially overplayed Christmas song, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and you know what, I would have to agree, so today I want to tell you about some of my favorite things about this time of the year. The cold weather, the excitement about the upcoming holidays, and the heartwarming songs and funny Christmas movies are all what make this season great to me. Yesterday morning, I woke up early, and it was freezing in my apartment, the first sign that it was going to be a good day. I took a hot shower, dressed in a couple layers of clothing, then took the dogs outside for a walk. Normally I don’t like walking the dogs because they’re not at all interested in cooperating whatsoever. Mocha, the smaller of the two rats prefers to lie in the middle of the sidewalk, content to make me turn and pull the leash, coercing her back into a standing position every few feet, while Jack wants to stop and smell EVERYTHING on either side of the path. I’ve heard the expression “stop and smell the roses” in reference to not rushing through everything but taking your time to enjoy all of the beautiful things around you, but Jack takes it too far, clearly past the point of enjoying life and just wasting everybody’s time. But, the cold weather had me in a good mood, so we went for a walk, and yes, they still did those things, but I found it wasn’t as annoying as usual, perhaps because of the Christmas spirit that is currently dwelling with me. I think I’ll do it again today, simply because I love the cold weather, and believe it or not, I love the dogs too…sometimes.
 
Another one of my favorite things is funny Christmas movies, which I got my fill of over the weekend as well. On Saturday night I watched “Almost Christmas” a film in which Danny Glover, a widower has his four kids, their families, and his sister in law in his house for the holidays. I’d never seen it before and I found it funny and enjoyable and will probably add it to my holiday movie rotation going forward. Later that night, my wife and I watched “Christmas with the Kranks” my wife’s favorite Christmas movie, based off a book by one of my favorite writers, John Grisham. It’s one we usually watch every year but it doesn’t seem to get any less funny, so we shared some good laughs, but not nearly as many as we did the next night. Sunday it was time to watch one of my favorite movies, Christmas Vacation.
 
When I was younger me and my friends used to quote that movie ALL the time, but I don’t think I’ve watched it in a few years, so it was great to see it again, but there was one glaring problem. You see, I don’t own Christmas Vacation, so to watch it, we streamed it online on our XFINITY HBO streaming service, which allows us to watch different shows and movies pulled from different channels, and it just so happened that Christmas Vacation was pulled from Freeform, the channel previously known as ABC Family, that had Christmas Vacation in their 25 days of Christmas lineup. That may not seem problematic, but because it’s on Freeform, the movie has been edited for TV, and done so very poorly. Most of the cursing had been removed from the movie, making it noticeably less funny, so I’ve learned my lesson about watching movies edited for TV, an experience I don’t think I’ll be repeating anytime soon. There you have it, the extent of my holiday activities over the weekend. With only two weeks left until Christmas, I have many more movies to watch and things to do if I’m going to enjoy this holiday season to its fullest extent.

Spiritual Sunday: My Favorite Bible Verse

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Growing up I went to a christian school as well as going to church every Sunday, and through sixth grade, both of those took place in the same building. It was in my second grade school classroom, but I think the Sunday school class that met in that room was for an older age group, maybe fourth, although I can’t say for sure. On one particular Sunday morning, my Bible school teacher asked the class to write out our favorite Bible verse, which we would then in turn, share aloud with our peers. I suppose it’s not that uncommon a question, especially in church, but as far as I remember, this was the first time I was asked what my favorite bible verse was. Given that I was still young, in elementary school, I certainly didn’t have an in depth knowledge of the bible, so picking a favorite verse was akin to walking into a Chinese restaurant, taking one bite of food, then having to declare what my favorite Chinese food was. It was an impossible task given my lack of knowledge on the subject. There were so many verses that I had not read before, yet I was asked to pick my favorite verse, so unable to come up with a suitable answer, I flipped open my bible, pointed my finger at the page, and decided whatever it landed on would be my favorite bible verse, which is how I ended up with Psalm 10 verse 1.

“Why, O Lord do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” That’s the verse I picked, and true to my internal agreement, that became my favorite bible verse, memorized and recited by me on cue, whenever anyone asked. I hadn’t thought about that verse in years, but as I thought about what to write today, it popped into my head, and it seems more relevant today than it did all those many years ago. So many bad things happen in this world. It seems as if a week doesn’t go by where there isn’t some gruesome tragedy reported in the news. Whether it be a mass shooting, or some other terrorist attack, these stories are becoming, unfortunately, much too common. Things like these really make me wonder where God is, if He’s real then why isn’t He doing anything to stop it? I’ve had these same thoughts as I’ve encountered struggles in my own life, wondering why God is letting these bad things happen if He has the power to protect the innocence. “Why, O Lord do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

The words of David echo in my head too frequently, making me question the existence of a God, because it just seems unfathomable to me that the creator of the universe, a loving God, would allow innocent people to suffer if He could prevent it. But God tells us that there’s a plan, that although we may not see it at the time, there’s a bigger picture that these things are apart of, and we’re just supposed to blindly believe that what He says is true. It’s hard, but that’s what being a christian is about, believing the word of God, even in tough times, even if we can’t comprehend or see the plan. “Why, O Lord do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” I think it’s tough for Him to see good people suffer, but I also think that He sees it as necessary to the plan, whatever that may be, and although it doesn’t seem as though He’s present during the dark times, I’m confident that God is always watching over us, and taking comfort in that fact, can help us get through whatever troublesome times may come our way.