Scouting Out the Perfect Cookie


When I was still working in an office environment, it was about this time every year that I had to start hiding from co-workers. There were about a half dozen or so people in my office that had daughters in the Girl Scouts and every year they would ask me to buy cookies from their kids. I felt like every encounter with these parents resulted in an awkward conversation.

Co-worker: “Do you want to buy some cookies? My kid is in the Girl Scouts and gets free shoe laces if she sells the most boxes.”

Me: “Maybe. Let me think about it.”

Co-worker: “What’s to think about? They’re delicious. How many do you want?”

Me: “I’ll get back to you.”

Co-worker: “Here, just take the sign-up sheet. Write down what you want and then give it back to me.”

Me: “Uh, sure.”

Then I had to find a time that they were away from their desk and sneak the form back to them so they couldn’t question me about why I hadn’t ordered anything.

I used to receive group e-mails, get post-its on my desk, and find sign-up sheets lining the walls in the break room. While I do enjoy the cookies and have no objection to supporting a fund raiser for the Girl Scouts, it always meant having to choose which kid to buy from. I could either buy a box from six different people, or get several boxes from one scout and ignore the rest. Either way, someone was going to think that I was cheap, or just rude.

I used to think that this annual dance was a problem. I didn’t know real problems until I retired from that job and started working out of my home. Now, the cookies don’t come to me anymore. I have to go to them.

I can’t just wait for a cookie order form to fall into my lap, I have to get in my car and start cruising the shopping malls like a junkie trying to find his next fix. And it’s a lot harder than it looks.  When you don’t want cookies, there is a Girl Scout fund raising stand every six feet, but when you’re actively looking there isn’t anything but empty sidewalks for miles.

Last week, I decided to go look for some Tagalongs, because I’m human and who doesn’t want a block of peanut butter and chocolate every now and then? Those calorie bombs are delicious.

I pulled into a parking lot at a local grocery store and saw three kids covered in green outfits and merit badges with two adults hanging out on the sidewalk. They were all standing beside a silver van and loading a folding table into the vehicle.

I jumped out of my car and asked if they were still selling, but was told that they were done for the day and headed home. I suggested they could make one more sale before they left, but one of the parents said they were mostly sold out and what was left was already packed away.

I repeated my request slightly more emphatically, but it was met with equal resistance. I may have said something slightly inappropriate at that moment as I suddenly realized that two of the kids were crying and the third had simply turned around and run away through the parking lot. I decided it was time for me to leave.

Being arrested for verbally assaulting a pack of pre-teens is not exactly at the top of my to-do list.

I drove by the same location a few days later, hoping it would be a different group of people manning the cookie table, but I saw a couple familiar faces and decided to keep driving. I think one of the girls might have recognized me, but that could just be my own guilty conscience.

I found another cookie table a few miles from the first, but when I asked if they took credit cards, they told me they could only accept cash. I very politely explained that I did not carry cash and I would greatly appreciate it if they could please take a check or let me use my credit card. I was again forced to leave empty handed, fleeing a pack of crying children.

I really need to curb my use of profanity in the presence of minors.

Despite my failure to procure any cookies, I did learn three things this year during my hunt:

One) Thin mints are as addictive as crack and someone should be trying to find out exactly what is being baked into those things.

Two) Workplace fund raisers are only annoying until you realize that you actually want the items being sold.

And Three) Screaming at a 12-year old is counterproductive to reaching a desired outcome.

Okay, being a parent of two girls, I already knew that last one. Maybe I should clarify, screaming at someone else’s 12-year old is counterproductive. And, probably slightly illegal.

As of now, despite my searching, I have still not located any Girl Scout cookies for personal consumption. I am not sure that I will be able to find any before this year’s window closes, especially since I have been banned from the stands I have so far been able to locate.

I believe my only remaining option is to appeal to the kindness of my readers. So, if there is anyone out there reading this blog that has a daughter selling Girl Scout cookies, please send me an order form. I can make it worth your while.

And I promise not to yell at your kid.




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A Quick Trip to Frisco

My good friend and fellow writer, Wes Blalock, called me up a while ago and asked if I would like to attend the San Fran Golden Gate Writers Event with him and his wife. While the event sounded like it might be a nice outing, I was hesitant about going to San Francisco to attend. Having grown up in Northern California, I am very familiar with Frisco, and I must say that I have no great love for it.

I am also aware that many residents of the city do not like the term “Frisco,” however I have chosen to use the moniker because it is the nicest “F” word I can think of to describe my feelings for that city.

Yet, despite my reservations, I relented and said I would go.

Last weekend, my wife and I met Wes and his wife in San Jose. We all hopped into his car and he drove us into The City. Initially, it went about as I expected. We dropped our wives off in front of the hotel hosting the writers event, then Wes and I circled the neighborhood in the car for about a week and a half looking for a place to park. As my blood pressure began to climb, Wes tried to calm me down by reminding me that San Francisco was not the only city that had traffic and parking problems.

He told me, “Just take a few deep breaths and think about puppies, or something else you would like to kick.”

Eventually we did find a place to park and were able to join our spouses in the hotel. The San Fran Writers Event is an annual gathering of romance writers who sign autographs and promote their newest books. While romance is not a genre I typically read or write, it was still a pleasant gathering and an opportunity to meet and talk with other authors.

I did feel slightly out of place at times, as I was one of only about four men in a room packed with a couple hundred people. But I tried not to feel too self-conscious as I carried around my complimentary, hot-pink, tote bag and dodged between the various posters of half-naked men advertising what books were currently for sale.

On a couple occasions, I had to nudge my wife along as she paused to “browse” the available selections. She told me she was just looking for something to read, but I’m not sure that you actually have to run your hands over a poster to decide if a book is going to be any good. I am not an expert, however, so I could be mistaken.

After a couple hours, we left the hotel and Wes suggested we should have a bite of lunch before we drove back home. I agreed, but only because I had momentarily forgotten we were still in San Francisco, where rents are exorbitant, and the minimum wage is fifteen bucks an hour.

We ended up in a small diner that was just big enough to squeeze in a half dozen tables and a bar. It was early afternoon, a slow part of the day for restaurants, so we easily found an open table and sat down. The four of us ordered burgers and sodas and an appetizer to share. Service was good, and the food was simple, but tasty. It was a nice meal for the most part, but I almost choked on my last couple of fries when the bill hit the table.

$120 for four burgers and drinks.

Again, Wes had to talk me down off of the ceiling and remind me that San Francisco was not the only city with expensive restaurants. “The owner is just trying to stay in business,” he told me. “You’re making too big of a deal over this.”

 I made a few more unpleasant comments about the town as we paid the bill and then walked back to the car.

When we reached our vehicle, Wes walked around to the back of the car to open the trunk and put away his jacket and the swag bags we had collected from the hotel. When he stepped off the curb, he put his right foot down in a large pile of … well, let’s just say a large pile.

Apparently, while we were enjoying our lunch, one of the fine upstanding citizens of San Francisco had squatted down behind Wes’ car, dropped his pants and left us all a present.

As Wes tried to scrape the worst of the human detritus off his shoe, he looked up at me and said:

“Yeah. F*ck this place.”

Before I could say, “I told you so,” my wife decided to add a little insult to injury.

“It’s a good thing you didn’t fall down in it,” she told Wes. “We would have left you on the curb and driven home without you. Don’t worry, though, we would have called you a cab before leaving. We’re not heartless.”

Wes took off his soiled shoe, wrapped it in paper towels and tossed it into a bag before getting in the car and driving us home. When we arrived back at his house, he threw the bag and shoe into the garbage. While I don’t fault him for disposing of the shoes – I would certainly never want to wear them again considering what they had been through – I do wonder why he put them in the car with us for the hour and a half it took to drive home.

It certainly wasn’t for the refreshing smell.

All in all, it was a memorable outing. I managed to have a good time while reminding myself why I will not be returning to San Francisco anytime soon.

I don’t think Wes will be in a hurry to go back, either.

Shoes aren’t cheap these days.




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Valentimes Day

Happy Valentimes Day. The day when we all celebrate the time of the Valen. This is a holiday steeped in history and tradition going all the way back to the Vikings in the eighth century.

The original celebration was a Norse feast known as the “Phalentroen” which later was adapted by the English as Falentine or Valentine. Phalentroen, in ancient Norwegian, is loosely translated to, “day of massive overeating to stave off depression.”

Of course, absolutely none of that is true. I just wrote it to see if anyone would get mad enough to scroll down to the comments section of the blog and tell me how badly I’ve screwed up the history of this hellish little holiday designed to make women feel unloved and men feel inadequate. And, yes, I realize that it is “Valentine’s Day” not Valentimes Day. But, I figure if you’re going to lay down incorrect facts, go big or go home.

The reality of where Valentine’s Day comes from, if anyone is interested (or even if you’re not, here it comes), is that it was based on the story of a Roman priest who was executed in 270 A.D. The priest, Valentine, was attempting to help Christians escape the Roman prisons where they were being beaten and tortured. When his activities were discovered, Valentine himself was imprisoned.

While in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young woman. Some versions of this story believe the woman was the daughter of Valentine’s jailor, but there is no real evidence of that, so believe what you like. Anyway, before Valentine was put to death, he sent the young woman a letter to say goodbye. At the end of the letter, he signed his message, “from your Valentine.”

The whole thing is very touching. It is also very confusing, as I am left wondering how we got from the story of a man dying in a Roman prison to a day where we are expected to hand out cards, candy, flowers, and God knows what else to our spouses or significant others to celebrate our love for each other.

Valentine died alone in a prison. How does that require me to go to a supermarket and purchase a red Mylar balloon in the shape of a heart to commemorate his death?

And it isn’t just people who are married or dating. The day has become so popular that we require elementary school children to celebrate it by handing out cards to all of their classmates. And, I mean all of them. Don’t forget to give a card to that weird kid that sits in the back and eats the erasers off of his pencils, or else you’ll be at the center of a parent/teacher conference discussing your intolerant behavior.

Nobody wants that.

How did this happen?  Why is it a thing? And, how do teachers explain this phenomenon to the kids?  That must be an interesting conversation.

I imagine it probably goes something like this:

Teacher: “Billy, do you remember that old Roman dude that got his head chopped off two-thousand years ago?”

Billy: “No.”

Teacher: “Me, either. But because he’s dead, tomorrow you have to give every one of your classmates a cheap paper card with candy taped to it.”

Billy: “Everyone?  Even the weird kid that eats his pencils?”

Teacher: “Yes, him too. But you can give him the card that got ripped when you opened up the pack.”

(Yeah, I know that seems oddly specific. But I have deep seated issues I’m still working out. Why do you think I write a blog?)

Regardless of where the actual celebration came from, I believe it is time to do away with it. It is an archaic practice that only puts pressure on relationships by artificially mandating bizarre mating behaviors that would not otherwise occur. It can completely destroy new relationships by causing premature proclamations of devotion that aren’t true, or by compelling one party or another to make some sort of “grand gesture” to celebrate the occasion.

What I’m saying is, if you’ve only been dating for six weeks, don’t propose marriage just because the date happens to be February 14 and it feels romantic. That’s a rookie move.

To everyone reading this blog, I suggest a complete boycott of Valentine’s Day. Don’t go out to dinner. Don’t buy a card, candy, flowers, or (God forbid) jewelry. Just treat it like any other day.

Come home from work, put your feet up on the coffee table and watch the news in your underwear. If you’re spouse or partner asks if you have any plans for the night, tell them, “You’re lookin’ at it.”

If they get mad at you, hold your ground. It’s important to squash these foolish Valentine’s expectations completely if we are ever going to make this holiday disappear. You might end up sleeping on the couch for a few nights, but I promise you, the end results will be worth the temporary discomfort.

Stay strong and remember that I am with you one hundred percent in the struggle. If you need me, you can find me at the store.

I’ll be the one buying chocolate and flowers, because I’m not a complete idiot.




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A Thorny Problem

wild rose bush. a collections of thorns with a few small red flowers.

This week, I went to war.

I met the enemy in his own stronghold and did not flinch. Although my foe was firmly rooted and did not give an inch without taking a measure of flesh in return, I emerged battered, exhausted and bloody, but victorious.


If anybody reading this has rosebushes growing in your yard, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I think I have discussed the bushes that populate my front yard before. They are great big balls of thorns with a bad attitude. They are vicious weeds pretending to be flowers, and I have never successfully pruned those hateful brambles without requiring some degree of medical care in the aftermath.

The bastards I am referring to are not your typical rose bushes. These are called “wild roses,” which is a polite euphemism for “tangle of barbed wire designed for maximum mayhem.” The fact that this thing is even considered a “rose” is due to its periodic attempts to produce a tiny red flower that – if you stand far enough away and cross your eyes – mimics something that might loosely be considered rose-like. Don’t be fooled. These little spots of red are merely the lure this barbed beast uses to draw you in before the attack. It’s like an Angler Fish, sitting in wait for something stupid enough to take a closer look.

As I said, I believe I have mentioned them before, but I have broached the topic for a second time because this year I decided, once and for all, to do away with the malevolent monstrosities. I was fed up with the constant, annual battle to hack my way into their midst and cut them back into something resembling a manageable size. I was tired of throwing away the shreds of whatever remained of my clothing that day and then mopping up the blood on my bathroom floor like I was trying to hide a violent crime scene.

And, no longer was I willing to stand in my driveway during the rest of the year and stare at those waving tendrils of evil as they taunted me:

“It’s almost that time again. You and me, garden-boy. We’re going to dance.”

Well, this year, I vowed it would be our last dance. When it was all over, one of us would own the yard and the other would be dead in the driveway.

When the time came, I sent an e-mail to my daughters to tell them that I loved them, kissed my wife goodbye, and walked out of the house without looking back. With holstered pruning shears and a shovel over my shoulder like a soldier marching in formation, I went to work.

There were ten of them, and only one of me, but I did not hesitate. I knew what was being asked of me and I accepted the risks.

Like most survivors of battle, I do not want to discuss too many details of what occurred. It’s too difficult to think about without emotionally reliving the trauma. Suffice to say, it was utter chaos. There was screaming, prayers for strength, wails of despair, blood and tears.

There was also lemonade. That was nice. But mostly, it was blood and tears.

I recall one moment of perfect clarity in the maelstrom. I was lying on my back on the driveway, panting and feeling my heart racing in my chest. Five of my enemies had fallen against my relentless assault, but five more remained, guarding the front lines and awaiting my next charge.

Through an unspoken, mutual agreement, a brief truce had been called. It was like Christmas day in 1914, when the U.S. and German soldiers decided that although we are still at war and will soon resume killing one another, for this fleeting moment in time we will stand down and let each other coexist.

I could see a few white clouds overhead, drifting through an otherwise clear, cold, blue sky. Somewhere in the distance, birds were singing in the trees as they called to one another in greeting.

It was … peaceful.

Then I heard it. That raspy, low voice. “We gonna do this thing, or what?”

I looked up and saw the nearest rose bush waving its long, thorny appendages in my direction. Two tiny flowers shifted to gaze at me like glaring red eyes from hell.

“You gonna lie there on the ground all day like a putz, or are you ready for round two?”

Okay, I may have been hallucinating a little bit. I am really not in great physical shape and I might have been experiencing the early stages of heat stroke.

I pushed myself onto my hands and knees, and shakily climbed to my feet. It was time to show the world what I was truly made of. So, picking up the shovel one more time, I faced the remaining bushes.

We stared at each other for a long, hard second. I thought about the stories of great heroes of the past, and how they threw themselves against impossible odds. They pushed forward despite the likelihood they would not survive their adventures.

Then, I gave up.

Yup. I dropped the shovel and went back in the house. It’s a bunch of plants. They’ll still be there tomorrow.

As I write this, there are five wild rose bushes still lining the driveway. I hate them, but I know my limitations. Maybe, I’ll tackle them again next week. Maybe not. Either way, I’m going to let them sit and worry a little while about when I might come at them again. They’re not going anywhere, so I have the element of surprise on my side. I have time to scheme and plan my next assault.

Or, maybe I should just hire a gardener.




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