Solutions

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A Bull in a China Shop: Most people try to move the bull. That’s the hard way. Have one person hold the bull’s tether closely and feed the animal from an oat bag while the other person boxes and removes the china from the shop. Relocate stock to new location. Remember to leave “We Have Moved!” sign in window.

A Wet Hen: The mistake most people make is trying to dry the hen off with a towel, which moves it immediately from mad to furious. Hens prefer to dry in natural sunlight, so try heat lamps and a blow dryer, with some Yanni in the background and soft lighting (candlelight is good, but go unscented).

Nervous as a Long-Tailed Cat in a Room Full of Rockers: Jump up on one of the rocking chairs, tuck your tail, and go to sleep. You’re a cat, for god’s sake.

Off Like a Prom Dress: What the hell is going on here? I thought we raised you better than that, missy. Put your dress back on and march yourself out to the car. You are so grounded.

A One-legged Man: Get a stool if you plan to have any sort of hope in this contest. It’s all about the ass kicking, which you can’t do if you need your only foot planted in order to remain vertical. You can’t kick asses from the ground — not effectively. So get a rhythm going — hop on stool, kick ass in front of you, slide off stool, move stool to next available ass. Do that and you might have a shot at this thing.

A Chicken With its Head Cut Off: It’s her own fault for getting so upset over a little water.

Sweating Like a Whore in Church: You won’t be so nervous if you just stop, take a breath, and break down why you’re nervous. You’re obviously not a pious woman, or you wouldn’t be living the whore lifestyle. So you don’t fear His wrath. It’s probably the societal disapproval that’s got you jittery — but whores, by definition, require partners, and I bet a few of them are here, so look them right in the eye and dare them to say something. Don’t worry about how you’re dressed, all the kids dress that way nowadays — it’s whore chic. You do have to worry about a confrontation with a woman whose husband you’ve slept with. The conservative surroundings and perceived support she receives from a place that reinforces her belief system may embolden her to shout, “Jezebel!” and slap you a good one right across your overly rouged cheek. Come to think of it, you should probably just leave.

Dumb as a Sack Full of Doorknobs: Stupidity is not a curable condition, unlike ignorance, which is simply a lack of education. The stupidity of inanimate objects, being absolute, is particularly insurmountable. This one cannot be solved.

Both Hands and a Flashlight: Put down the flashlight. Even in the dark, you don’t need it. People believe just because they’ve been given a flashlight, they have to use it, which is just the kind of thinking that earned you this reputation.

Bleeding Like a Stuck Pig: Among mammals, pigs actually suffer from poor circulation. A pig spouting blood in any notable quantity has almost certainly been stuck in the Anterior or Posterior Vena Cava. Luckily, even arterial ruptures, caught early, are easy enough to staunch. Cover the stuck area with a towel and apply steady pressure. The primary concern here is actually infection. A pigsty is a nasty, nasty place. Remove pig to a more sterile environment as soon as possible, apply anti-microbial ointment to wound area and begin a precautionary round of antibiotics.

Not Playing with a Full Deck: How is that possible? I just opened that deck. Give it here. Well, well, well. It seems that in the short time this deck has been unsealed, an ace has gone missing. How odd. We’ll just have to open another deck. I’ve got my eye on you people. I don’t know, Roger, did it seem like I was looking at you when I said that? Shut up and deal.

All She Wrote: Well, seven books is a lot for anybody. I’m sure she’ll write another one after a suitable break, maybe even another Harry. In the meantime, have you tried the Philip Pullman books? Go read those.

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Dear Future Matt

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Friday

Dear Future Matt,

How are you? Wow. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since Youth Group Retreat, when Rev. Mark asked you to write a journal to yourself one year in the future. If you don’t remember, Youth Group Retreat was amazing. Rev. Mark planned a lot of fun activities, like Bible Jeopardy, Prayer Circle, Team-Building and Scavenger Hunt. They all ruled. Everyone was really nice, especially Josh and Tim, even though they play football. What am I saying? You guys are probably best friends by now. Nice job.

I’d also like to congratulate you on the one year anniversary with new girlfriend, Leslie Springer. It’s weird how you met at Youth Group Retreat and how she was really hot and popular and you were more big-boned and intellectual but still, you two totally fell in love. You guys are probably reading this together, laughing about how everything is so awesome. Which reminds me: As you are most likely a wonderful lover and this letter is kinda long, go ahead and take a sex break. Glad everything is so awesome.

Your Self,

Matt

* * * * * * *

Saturday

Dear Future Matt,

How are you? Man, it’s a good thing you, Tim and Josh are such good friends now. You might want to jokingly remind them about how, one year ago, they wouldn’t let you join their Team-Building team. But it was probably some sort of secret test, to see if you would be all like “whatever,” which you were.

You also did awesome at being “whatever” when Tim let you fall during an impromptu trust fall and then high-fived Josh. Perhaps you somehow knew that in the space of a year, you would lose 50 pounds, have that growth spurt and take his place as football quarterback. And now when you let a water bottle trust-fall onto the ground, you trust he’ll pick it up.

You may not remember this, but you smoked fools in Bible Jeopardy. Rev. Mark was really impressed but no one else gave you props, not even your future lover Leslie Springer (a current embarrassing fact for her, I’m sure). But when Rev. Mark broke out the guitar and asked if anyone knew how to play, Josh played pitch-perfect J. Mayer and you heard Leslie Springer say, “OMG. He’s so cute.” That’s ironic now, because Leslie Springer is yours (YOURS) and remains faithful even when you’re busy touring with your platinum-selling emo band. It’s so cool how she understands, but I’m sure your first hit, “Hey There, Leslie Springer” didn’t hurt (and also, sex breaks). Glad everything is so awesome.

Your Self,

Matt

* * * * * * *

Sunday

Dear Future Matt,

How are you? You are probably laughing right now, remembering the one year anniversary of the most ironic day of your life.

If you remember, at morning prayer circle, you just happened to be holding hands with Jessica Bramford, who was right next to Leslie Springer, and told Leslie Springer that you had sweaty palms and also smelled. It’s cool that you have no hard feelings. Besides, she probably apologized sometime before she died of that aggressive leukemia. No worries.

It’s also ironic that one year ago, your future best friend Tim decided to ransack your Star Wars sleeping bag in the middle of the night and give you pink belly in front of the entire Youth Group Retreat. And when you were not, I repeat, not crying on the floor, Rev. Mark told you to stop embarrassing yourself. I’m sure this is all ironic now because as everyone found out, Tim is secretly gay with Rev. Mark and they give each other pink belly every night. Who saw that coming? Answer: you did. But it’s cool you’re all “whatever” about it and are still friends. Nice job.

It’s also ironic that during scavenger hunt, you found the following: a green bench, a basketball, Tony’s Pizzeria, a blue dumpster, Josh and Leslie Springer making-out and a giant tire.

I’m sure this is such a minor bump in the road that you probably don’t even remember, but you kind of lost it and called Leslie Springer a “whore.” And then she said, “I wouldn’t date you if you were the last guy on earth” which, at the time, really seemed like a road block to your future happiness.

But who would have guessed that every guy on earth (including f-ing Josh) would be made infertile by that freak testicle virus? Everyone, that is, except you. Nice job. So, for the future of humanity, you two better take another sex break. Glad everything is so awesome.

Your Self,

Matt

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How to Argue With Your 12-Year-Old

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“I’m not going to guitar lesson.”

Why argue at all? Because pre-adolescence is a candy-colored swirl of hormone spurts and murderous scowls and, from time to time, we must open the door to our jolly friend, reality. Plus, it’s not like you’re winning any arguments with your wife these days.

Potential gambits crowd the mind. Fine, you owe your teacher sixty dollars…That’s it, I’m unplugging cable…If you practiced a little more, you wouldn’t be afraid to go. All of these have their pitfalls, chiefly the onslaught of premature tears that lure your better half to throw her weight, tag-team style, behind the opposition. Best to take a more conservative tack.

“You’re going.”

“Why? Why do I have to?”

A simple test. You had this discussion last month. Do you remember the excellent answer you gave? Unlikely. Rather than dither and give your daughter any sense of momentum, slap the ball right back. When in doubt, change the ground beneath her feet.

“Because it’s your job. We all have jobs in this family.”

“I don’t want this job.”

You are no longer talking about guitar lessons but metaphorical employment. Don’t get overconfident.

“We all do jobs we don’t want. I don’t want to cook your dinner, but I’m going to when we come back.”

“Fine. I’ll eat at McDonald’s.”

She has changed the ground beneath your feet. Show no fear.

“No, McDonald’s is crap and eating crap is not going to solve anything unless they have a special on McMusic Lessons.”

“You’re so mean.”

“I’m not trying to be mean.”

“You let Jason skip soccer all the time!”

This is a classic ruse, known as the sororital split. By introducing at least one sibling, your daughter has increased the odds in her favor. There is now a 30% chance you will take the bait and argue the merits of Jason, allowing a different child to go on trial. Carefully choose your response at this fork. The obvious “This is not about Jason, this is about you!” will automatically trigger the martyred rejoinder, “That’s right, you never think he does ANYTHING wrong.” To keep your child off-balance, allow a little poetic license.

“Jason almost died this morning.”

“How?”

“Ask him when you get back from guitar.”

Admittedly, a bald-faced lie. But you’ve painstakingly built a foundation of logic and irony and, well, a creative parent is a healthy parent. (If personal integrity remains a priority, skip to the next step.)

“Why do we have to go TODAY? It’s such a bad time for me.”

It is important to remember that you and you alone are the repository of your child’s words and deeds and thus the sole curator of glaring contradictions that will come in handy right about now.

“We already moved this lesson so you could go to Aubrey’s party.”

“Why is that my fault?”

Here we have a celebrated dialectic stratagem known as the Mazzini offense (so named for Ellen Mazzini who, at the age of nine, wrangled shrimp cocktail and chocolate milk for dinner six nights in a row through a series of cunning, accusatory tantrums that left her parents guilt-stricken for decades). This tactic draws you into a position of de facto tyranny and presupposes your own desperate need to defend your political record. An excellent time to adopt the Far-Eastern method of parenting and turn your daughter’s force against her.

“Why do you act like it’s your fault?”

“Ha ha ha.”

This, of course, is the infamous Ha ha ha. Press on.

“Look, you chose guitar. You were the one who said you wanted to switch from piano to guitar, that you thought that would be a better instrument for you.”

“Yeah, I KNOW.”

Notice the use of the PtON, or Preteen Omniscient Narrator: the haughty tone that asserts there is nothing on God’s green earth that’s going to catch her unawares or weaken her resolve. The good news: this is often the last gasp before surrender.

“Well now that you’ve made that commitment I need to help you keep it. And honor it. Otherwise it’s meaningless — and we are not meaningless people.” [Warning: Once your child is fourteen this is a disastrous path to take.]

“Fine. You have to give me five dollars.”

A naked act of desperation. Your daughter needs something to claim as a partial victory. Choose your terms carefully.

“You can have five dollars if you NEED five dollars for something RIGHT NOW. You don’t get five dollars for going to a lesson you’re supposed to go to anyway. Otherwise you can give me five dollars for driving you there.”

“Then I’ll hitchhike.”

“And you’ll be grounded for the rest of the year. Which will certainly give you time to practice.”

“MOMMMMMM! Dad’s being mean!!!”

Game. Set. Match. At this point, I’m afraid you’re on your own.

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You’re A Coyote!

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All right, kids — it gives me great pleasure as your head coach to welcome you to what I feel will be the best team in all of West Union Little League…The Coyotes!

First off, don’t give me any grief, Coyotes. I’m doing a service to the community — “community service” as some would have me call it — and though I wasn’t anticipating having to put in 15 hours a week coaching this squad, I also didn’t anticipate that my little card game in the garage would get me indicted for “keeping a gambling place.” Again.

Now, as someone who has played a little ball (Go Panthers ’85!) I’m a little more qualified than you all to make the kind of cutthroat managerial decisions necessary to keep the Coyotes at the top of the standings. But, if you’re unhappy with your position, please let me or my extremely violent third base coach and garage bartender, “Bloodstain,” know and we’ll consider all requests. That said, here’s our lineup, by position:

First Base — Hugh Green

You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it: you’re the fat kid. And that’s okay! That’s why we’ve got first base. You’re a commanding presence both at the plate and on the diamond and if you play your cards right, someday you might come in handy as “muscle” in my garage, as you’ve demonstrated time and time again that uncanny fat-kid temper that usually translates into ultra-violence. And no, you can’t play pitcher. Oh, jeez — I can feel you getting all huffy and red. Play it cool, cheeseburger — we can’t always get what we want.

Second Base — Chris O’Hollarhan

You know, during infield drills during tryouts, I took Bloodstain aside and told him, “This kid Chris throws like a chick.” Are you angry now? Do you want to channel that anger against our insensitive opponents? Wait. I must have missed something. You are a chick. Welcome to the Coyotes then, sweetie. Let me ask you something: Can you feel gayness at this age? These kinds of things fascinate me, the whole nature/nurture discussion. Also, if you think you’re going to pitch, you’ve got another think coming.

Shortstop — Blake Kyser

Blake, I’m taking a risk here. You have absolutely no athletic ability and I’m convinced that you’re at least mildly retarded. But work with me. Are you familiar with the term “sword of Damocles?” Anyway, your old man just happens to be the league president as well as my parole officer. So needless to say, I’m in a tight spot. Shortstop is an absolutely crucial position and I have faith that through your practiced regimen of drooling and biting, you’ll be of absolutely no use to the Coyotes. So, let’s call this a fragile armistice. Oh, and if you thought I’d let you go anywhere near the pitcher’s mound, you’re out of your diseased mind.

Third Base — Joey LaRocca

Joey, you have a face like a train wreck but an undeniably smokin’ Mom. What gives? Is Dad out of the picture? You seem like the kind of menace who’ll probably snap and shoot up an Applebee’s later in life — and I like that kind of intensity — just try to keep your sociopathologies under wraps for now. But I have to ask — how are you with a knife? We get some shady characters in my garage and Bloodstain can’t take ’em all. Anyway, what’s your Mom’s name again…Sheena? And no, you can’t pitch. Please don’t kill me later in life when you crack up.

Outfield — Kevin Cummings, Hunter Rushing, Lonny von Winkle

If your parents weren’t making you do this, you’d be up to your butt in Magic the Gathering or whatever losers like you three are into. Just arrange yourselves out there so you don’t look like dicks and maybe bring a book. And no pitching.

Catcher — Owen Wiener

Owen, I know people and I can tell that you can take a fair amount of abuse. This may have something to do with the fact that you are covered in oozing carbuncles and sundry other bruises, carbuncles and scabs. What’s that thing where you can’t feel pain? Congenital analgia! (I just Googled.) Tell me you have that, kid. If not, you’re in for some hard times behind the plate. So be prepared. And don’t touch anything — you’re like a walking goiter. Pitch? Bitch, please.

Pitcher — Enrique

Bienvenidos a América! Please see Bloodstain for appropriate residency and other official documents. We’re all really excited to have you as our Coyote ace! A few quick things: I should have clarified that when I asked you to shave, I meant the moustache, too. Sorry — rules are rules. Also, try to avoid pulling up to the Little League field in the Trans Am Bloodstain “found” for you — this tends to raise eyebrows and we’re trying to keep what’s known here as a “low profile.” Finally, and this goes to the core of what it means to be a Coyote — hit the first batter in the face. This establishes you as “owning the plate” while letting my guys in Vegas know that the fix is in.

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