Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Men In Lawnchairs

Where I last left you, it was the 4th of July parade in our hometown.

You can take a historic tour of our city on this trolley. I think that sounds fun.
I know, history nerd.

It has been a tradition that roughly the same people gather at the same corner to watch the parade each year.

Monte always sits near a friend, Kevin, so they can swap jokes and comments about the floats, politics and current events.

It’s a tradition that all the high school class reunions happen over the 4th of July holiday. Each class reunion has a float in the parade for the classmates to ride on.

Monte and Kevin LOVE to yell out just how old 
the people on the float are.

Those are our friend’s parents in the front seat of the golf cart.
When Monte and Kevin hollered out their age, Joan was quick to yell back
that she was young for her grade.
Love it!

I think one year, they got the age wrong 
and were quickly corrected.

No one thinks Monte and Kevin are funnier than Monte and Kevin.

They are amusing, I’ll give them that.

Last year, when we were packing up the chairs after the parade was over, they mentioned making a podcast of their parade commentary. 

We all laughed and left it at that.

A week or so before the 4th,  Kevin contacted Monte about “going official” with their from-the-sidelines commentary.

He decided they should be called Men In Lawnchairs (with a sign to prove it) and have a sound system for all to enjoy in their humorous parade banter.

They decided to meet before the parade 
and go over material.

The wives decided to put some parameters on the Men In Lawnchairs.

Don’t be mean.

Don’t go political.

Monte carried a little notebook around so that he could write jokes and one liners in as the inspiration hit.

After dinner he’d go out on the patio and “try them out” on me.

I had him scratch A LOT of jokes out pertaining to King George.

(Yes, there was more than one.)

I explained that just because we were reading “Alexander Hamilton” 
and watching TURN like the history nerds that we are, 
doesn’t mean anyone else was.

Monte decided that he didn’t need to fill the entire notebook.

He wanted his commentary to be “spontaneous" and "ad-libbed."

I got nervous.

Two guys showing up with microphones, chairs, a sign and an amp uninvited?

I got really nervous.

I told a few key people of The Men In Lawnchairs plan with the hopes that they’d try to talk him out of it.


They thought it was a GREAT idea and started offering material for his notebook.


The night before the parade was our block party.

Monte openly talked about his parade commentary intentions.

Again, it was received well.

Too well.

The weather forecast was grim with the threat of a thunder storm during the parade.

I secretly prayed for GOD’S PROVISION to literally wash this idea out by canceling the parade.


We woke up to gray skies 
but no rain.

Monte walked down to the parade super early with his notebook and chair to “set up.”

I rode my bike down later and parked it in a spot where I could make a clean get away if the Men In Lawnchairs started to bomb.

Meaning stink up the place with their material.

Not kablooey.

Either way, I was NOT going down with the ship.

It was my 4th of July too and I did NOT want to spend it cleaning eggs off my house or picking toilet paper out of my trees because of Monte and Kevin’s “spontaneous" and "ad-libbed" commentary.

It generally takes the parade about 30 minutes to get to our location so there was time for trivia and parade float rules and regulations to be announced.

Men In Lawnchairs just seemed LOUD as people filed in.

Some moved their chairs quickly after realizing there were two guys on microphones next to them.

Some stood, chairs in hand, waiting to see if they wanted to stay or go.

Some laughed right away.

Some moved closer.

I stayed back, hands on my bike, ready to take off like the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz the second the crowd turned on the Men in Lawnchairs.

I was sure down to my core that the crowd would turn on them.

I was not going to handle that well 
so my plan was to pedal like the wind 
and put a For Sale sign in our front yard.

Our girls and their friends couldn’t take it and took off to find seats down the street.

See ya!

But the crowd didn’t turn on the Men In Lawnchairs.

It helped that all the military groups were first in the parade and Monte and Kevin were able to thank them, some by name, when listed on the side of their vehicles like the man who was in Pearl Harbor.

I think they earned the crowd’s respect early.


Monte confessed his fear of clowns and announced that the word clown was French for “mentally ill.”

A group of college guys hung around nearby saying things like,

“These guys are great!”

People laughed.

People waved their friends over so they could hear.

Our neighbors couldn’t believe Monte actually was doing it.

One commented that the sign made the whole thing legitimate to her.

Good call, Kevin!

The people in the parade were confused by Men In Lawnchairs.

Some just smiled and waved.

Others came up and talked with them.

Abraham Lincoln grabbed the microphone from Monte.

I’m not sure what he said but something about an umbrella.

I guess at some point Kevin mentioned that Mary Todd was crazy.
Abe may or may not have given him the stink eye.

We noticed that if it was a martial arts group,

they’d stop right in front of Men In Lawnchairs to show their wood breaking skills.

Or if it was a street float,

they’d make sure every bell and every whistle was in full function as 
they drove by Men In Lawnchairs.

One of the neighborhood floats.
Picture by Beth Markwood.

Right in front of us, the doors behind that cross opened and revealed an operating room.
The surgeons were “operating” on a girl impaled by a flag!
She waved.
Picture by Beth Markwood.

Even the OSU alumni band made sure the batons were tossed and caught right in front of,

you guessed it, 

Men In Lawnchairs.

It wasn’t until later that we figured out they must’ve thought Men In Lawnchairs were parade judges.

It made for a great show for our
little corner of the parade route!

About halfway through the parade, there was a pause between floats.

I decided to pedal home fast to use the bathroom.

Just as I was pulling up to our house,

I saw the Shriners in their little cars buzzing up the road 
by our house.

It was a bit surreal.

By the time I grabbed my camera, I only captured three of the Shriners
but the entire street was filled with them.
For a moment it was like I was living in a Dr. Seuss book
 and Thing 1 and Thing 2 and The Lorax were all 
going to be waiting for me 
when I walked into the house.

Which would terrify me, 
by the way.

When I rode back to the parade, I saw people leaving and asked if the parade was already over.

They said there had been a delay due to a child falling off of a float.

As terrible as the thought of that, Kevin and Monte used the extra time to interview people from the crowd.

One was McDaniel’s friend, Ser, visiting from Pennsylvania.

Men In Lawnchairs doing what they do best.

After the parade, I took off to start lunch.

Monte said people came up to he and Kevin and thanked them for entertaining them. Some introduced them to their friends from out of town who said it made the parade for them.

No one booed Monte as he walked home.

We hosted a lunch cookout for friends from out of town after the parade. 

Most of our friends missed Men In Lawnchairs but were completely in favor of it and thrilled to hear every detail.

One was disappointed I didn’t record it and offered up better equipment for the next year.



I thought this was a one and done deal.

Now they are talking bigger and better.

With possible t-shirts.

The girls gathered with friends at the park to watch the fireworks. Kids from school started approaching them about Men In Lawnchairs.

They quoted them!

They thought they were awesome!

They thought McDaniel and Ellie were awesome 
because their dad was in fact one of the Men In Lawnchairs!

Ellie said it was the closest she’d ever 
come to actually feeling famous.

Who would’ve ever thought…

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Epicness of 4th of July

4th of July in our town is epic.

Not Bitmoji me in a black pantsuit  holding a flag riding an eagle into fireworks epic.
But epic nonetheless.

I have an entire box of decorations and dishes.

We each have a red, white and blue wardrobe that we add to continuously. 

Monte tried to throw away an old board from the garage but I saved it, cut
and painted it for more 4th of July decorations.

McDaniel babysits a girl on our street.

They came over last week and I could tell they were bored so I gave them paint and brushes and told them to touch up the stars on our driveway.

The stars in our driveway.

I came outside to find this:

They decided to paint an entire flag in our driveway!

I talked them into making it smaller than they had originally planned.

The bear paw above the flag was a fundraiser for the football team. Our high school mascot is the Golden Bear.

They signed their work.

Around here, the 4th of July isn’t just about fireworks.

There are the fireworks downtown called Red, White and Boom that is always earlier than the 4th and kicks off the season.

There is our block party that is always the evening of the 3rd.

There are breakfast gatherings BEFORE the parade the morning of the 4th.

And then the parade, which starts at 9:00 am. 

And after the parade lunch cookouts 
and before the fireworks dinner cookouts 
and then the fireworks.

Since most of the streets are closed for block parties,

the mode of transportation is walking, 
riding bikes 
or renting a golf cart for the weekend.

It’s a very “on vacation” kinda vibe.

Monte and I just watched a special on TV about all the happenings in our city during the Independence Day holiday. Our town was highlighted for a few different reasons, one being the parade float competitions.

Each street or organization can enter a float into the parade that will be judged and announced at the fireworks in the park party later in the evening.

Oh yeah, you can rent tables in the park to watch the fireworks 
and there is a table decorating contest.

It’s quite competitive.

The float decorating, not the table decorating.
(Although, I have no idea. I’m sure there are rivalries there too.)

There is a parade theme that is announced in the spring.

There are brainstorming meetings.

And sketches. 

SOURCE:  Columbus Dispatch

Funds are allocated.

People work so hard.

SOURCE:  Columbus Dispatch

Look how the above float turned out:

And the digger part MOVED up and down!

People are secretive and protective of their floats.

One street acquired an old bus that they use 
as the base of their float each year.

A diner theme!
I love seeing what Fairfax Road comes up with each year.

It’s a beautiful thing.

And it’s been a tradition since something like 1938.

Our street participated in the float building when our girls were younger.

We even won honorable mention one year which got us a snazzy sign on our street.

Oh my goodness, was that really before Ellie was born?!
I know we did floats after that, we just didn’t win.

Some streets look like this:

SOURCE:  Columbus Dispatch
Show offs.

The parade route is about 3 miles down Northwest Boulevard.

Conveniently, it is at the end of our street so we just walk to the parade every year with chairs in hand, although we usually stand most of the time, talking and visiting with people.

Other people don’t have the luxury of that convenience, so they, starting sometimes 2 weeks before the parade, set up their chairs along the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. Monte calls this the swail.

The city calls this theirs so it is fair game for anyone to stake a sitting area claim.

Even if it is right in front of your house.

Another reason people start setting chairs up so early.

Real estate listings on Northwest Boulevard always include 
the added amenity of being “on the parade route."

We live in a pretty safe area, so the chairs stay put except for maybe a few teenage pranks of swiping them and tossing them into a yard a few doors down.

Monte and I have always thought about rearranging them. 

Taking the chairs from across the street and switching them with the ones from the other side.

But people take the parade watching VERY seriously and I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.

And by anyone, of course, I mean Monte.

He’d be the one in the dark of the night switching chairs 
and be caught red-handed in some sort of booby trap 
and recorded for all to see on You Tube.

Speaking of…

I haven’t even gotten to the point of my post yet.

Monte and a friend decided to do something a little different during the parade this year.

But since the post set-up was far too long, 
I’ll write a separate post about that.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Gravity Chair, Fried Chicken and the NBA Championship

Hope all the fathers in your life had a great day Sunday.

Monte decided about a month before Father’s Day that he needed his gift right away.

A gravity chair.

I think Nigel likes the chair every bit as much as Monte.
I’d never heard of them before but Monte sure had.

Bed, Bath and Beyond had a gravity chair that was 
20% wider than a normal gravity chair.

The “Big Boy” as I like to call it.

This extra 20% enticed Monte right into using our 20% off coupon to get it before it was even June.

The name confused me at first.

Gravity plays into every chair when you think about it.

If it didn’t, we’d have no need for one.


But for the sake of Monte’s extreme enthusiasm, I’ll play along.

This chair doesn’t work like a regular patio lounge chair where you have two or three positions to prop yourself into.

This works more like an outdoor recliner.

A “Big Boy Lazy Boy” if you will.

That just came to me and you can bet 
I’m using that again.

Once you are in your optimal state of recline, you have to put the brakes on to lock in your position.

I haven’t quite figured out the brakes yet and just a few weeks ago made myself 
motion sick trying to lie back and read a book.

It moved around like crazy!

I almost needed a root beer.

Monte refers to the whole brake system with various forms of the word engage.

“Did you engage it?”

“Now disengage!”

“You want me to do what? But I’ll have to disengage…”

That last one is getting old.

I even heard him say “disengage” to absolutely no one (since he was all alone in the backyard) as he sat up in the chair.

That man loves his gravity chair.

He brings it out and shows everyone that comes over.

He makes the men sit in it.

Our friend Mark took a nap in it.

It’s definitely a man thing.

Ellie tried to get comfy in it and realized it isn’t for her.

FYI:  do not lie like this in the gravity chair. It’s extremely uncomfortable.

We usually go to Indiana on Father’s Day weekend to be with my dad but they were busy so it was just us.

McDaniel’s bus from Young Life camp got home in the wee hours of the morning Saturday so while she caught up on sleep

and I tackled ALL THE WET CLOTHES in her suitcase, 

Monte decided to turn the “Big Boy Lazy Boy” 
into a suntanning tool.


Dear. Word.

I did make him put a bandage over his nose because he has to have more of what they think is the beginning stages of cancer scraped off in August.

And I’m just guessing that more sun 
wouldn’t be good on top of it.

The girls made Monte breakfast in bed Sunday morning.

Scrambled eggs and a turkey and cheese panini.
After breakfast we had only 15 minutes to get ready for church so we decided to skip and not rush.

We sat outside and Monte read us a list of “Dad jokes” that he found online.

They were so bad but he laughed so hard.

I guess that proves he’s a card-carrying Dad.

Then a bird pooped on his shorts.

I know!
It was funnier than any of the jokes.

Except it was the purple “I just ate a berry” 
kind of bird poop.

So I had to tend to that stain IMMEDIATELY.

Monte and I went to the grocery store to get steak for Father’s Day dinner and the store was giving out free samples of fried chicken.

I don’t mean small pieces of fried chicken,


We sent this picture to McDaniel to make her jealous.
Fried chicken is her love language.

It was so good we ate it like cavemen by the salad bar.

We made such a mess.

We tried to clean it up as best we could but there’s only so much you can do with greasy chicken skin and a wadded up napkin.

We had a great steak dinner and finished the night watching the most exciting NBA championship game ever.

Mainly because I can’t remember if I’ve ever actually watched an NBA championship game.

If I’m going to watch basketball, 
it’s going to be college, 
not NBA.

Monte asked me to watch just a few minutes with him since it was Father’s Day.

I went in neutral but was quickly told in a series of texts from Julie and Sumita that

 I MUST root for Cleveland if I were to remain living in Ohio

and stay a friend.

It was such a heart-pumping good game that I watched every second and worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

But then I remembered that I am me 
and sleep was no problem.

Congrats, Cavs, on winning the title after 52 long years!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Beyond the Flimsy

Saturday night Ellie decided to burn all the paperwork related to school.

It made quite an intense flame for a bit.

Cool picture.

But it died down quickly until we fed it again with

science worksheets,

social studies homework 

and math.

All that flimsy paper began to fly through the air,

raining charred bits of 8th grade all around us.

The yard is still a mess with all the bits of burnt paper.

I’ve tried to pick them up but they disintegrate the moment I touch them,

making a bigger mess.

It’s like that with most flimsy things.





They all eventually make a mess 
blowing around out of control 
all over your yard.

It’s no accident that things with substance,

weight to them,

are the things that bring warmth.

Cause us to bring our chairs closer.

Make us want to linger.

Roast a marshmallow.

Not run for cover picking burnt up tissue-paper thin shrapnel 
from our hair and clothes.

Here’s to a summer of substance.

To skipping the shallow part of the pool and diving into the waters of the deep end.

To talking soul-to-soul, not just face-to-face.

To laying down a foundation for your life that won’t blow away as soon as the spark dies down.

Here’s to things that last.

Friday, May 27, 2016

So Ready for Summer and Some Other Things

McDaniel finished her last final yesterday and Ellie graduates from the 8th grade this afternoon.

Yes, McDaniel is in her pajamas. Her back is to the camera because she just
woke up and she was nursing a bloody nose. Again. (She has a cold.)
But I took the picture anyway because these are the pictures I love the most.

After the graduation ceremony at the middle school,  it’s SUMMER!

I’ve been singing “School’s Out For Summer” all week. 

Yeah, the one by Alice Cooper.

I’m not an Alice Cooper fan.

But I’m very fond of summer.

We’ve been knee-deep in all that is the marathon of May.

On the third night in a row of meetings at the middle school, one of the dads mentioned to us that May was turning into the new December.

I just couldn’t agree.

Because where are the parties 
and presents 
and food 
and good cheer
and peace on earth wishes
and celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior?!

Because all we’ve had over here are choir concerts 
and track meets 
and sports banquets 
and meetings 
and school trips to pack for 
and pay for 
and finals.

On top of making lunches 
and normal homework
and an enormous amount of laundry. 

Here are a few things I want to mention since it’s been so long since I’ve posted.


I may have mentioned once or 45 times that Monte and I are reading "Alexander Hamilton" (very slowly).

Just to make that process even slower, Monte came home from the library with the first season of AMC’s TURN.

It’s a TV series about the use of very normal people as American spies during the Revolutionary War. It goes along well with Alexander Hamilton. Except we’ve gotten so hooked on the show that we aren’t reading as much.

It’s intense and I have to look away during ALL THE KILLING. 

It’s war, after all. 

But the storyline is so good!

And one of the British soldiers is so well cast as a villain that I may or may not have screamed at the TV for the Patriot to “KILL HIM!” when he had the chance during a duel.

Bad guy.

Alas, he did not because it was just the first season.

It really shows how even the Loyalists got sick and tired of the tyrannical rule of King George.

He was NUTS. 

And all those pompous soldiers in white wigs barging in 
to live in American homes and ceasing their guns
without much courtesy or gratitude.

It’s no wonder our amendments are what they are
and the order in which they were written.

 It’s so interesting to see our country in its infancy and how it was being molded and shaped. I see some of the same struggles are resurfacing today as our country is growing into adulthood. 

• Cats

McDaniel’s good friend, Charlotte, who played Mary Poppins a few years ago in the high school production, was in a local production of Cats recently.

McDaniel and Charlotte.

So the girls and I went.

Monte said something about being allergic to cats 
and stayed home and hosted poker with the guys on our street.

We went to a beautiful theater and had second row seats!

Look at the theater ceiling.

We did not know what Cats was about.

I know!

You’d think with the amount of times I sang the signature song from Cats in choir concerts in middle school and high school, I would’ve picked up a few plot points from the musical.


We thought maybe it was a metaphor ABOUT cats.

I know that I’ve seen the actors all made up like cats but I didn’t realize that they’d be 

Like, never breaking character.


We were right up there in the second row--they didn’t break character.

Ellie was so shocked by this fact that she could not stop laughing. The woman beside her gave her a few side eye glances and the woman in front of us, flat out gave her the stink eye.

Judging by how much she cried during the entire musical, Cats was very personal for her.

Ellie meant no disrespect. 
She was just caught off guard.

The outfits they wore were basically leotards. The girls were quite uncomfortable with our good seats when a “male cat” was up front and close to our eye line.

I never did figure out what the plot was but Charlotte sang and danced beautifully.

The woman/cat who sang “Memories” blew it out of the water!! Amazing!

It was definitely worth it to see.

•  Chewbacca Woman

What a hoot! 

I love seeing someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and has an obvious joy for life. 

Jennifer Dukes Lee is a gifted writer/blogger who wrote a wonderful article about the mask wearing woman and how her instant viral video shows our thirst for joy and laughter.

What I don’t understand is why so many people feel the need to be unkind to this mask wearing, laughing, joy-filled woman?

To poop on her parade and say hateful things on social media? 

It’s so sad how cynical people can be over something so innocent.

• Bitmoji Mishap

Monte and I enjoy playing around with the Bitmoji app on our phones. It allows you to make an animated version of yourself that you can send with messages.

Usually my Bitmoji is in workout clothes but I decided to shake things up and go with a pantsuit
since I’d never wear one and why not make my Bitmoji a more daring version of myself??
Julie encouraged the bright red lipstick. And other things I won’t get into right now.
Here’s Julie:
There are SO MANY things that I love about this!
But mainly the fuzzy furry vest because Julie has
one exactly like it.
We were in Miami for Monte’s 50th birthday when my girlfriend back home sent me a Bitmoji with a message.

The animation looked EXACTLY like her! 

I asked her to tell me everything about how she came about this and she pointed me to the app. For the next hour, Monte and I sat in the lobby of the hotel laughing and designing our Bitmojis. It went from a crowded pre-dinner lobby to just us. I’m sure people thought we were nuts, staring at our phones and laughing.

I like to send Bitmojis to Monte at work. Especially if I know he’s in a long meeting or conference call. It breaks up the day.

I’m tap dancing.
And apparently winking or sporting a black eye.
Either way, this makes me laugh.

Monte likes to send me Bitmojis back.


McDaniel and I were in Barnes & Noble last week looking for a graduation gift when I decided to show the sweet older lady up front the title of the book on my phone so she could help me find it.

As she was typing the book title and author name into the store computer with my phone in hand, I heard her say,


and her expression changed 
and she started tapping my phone.

I thought maybe she lost the image of the book so I took my phone back to see this:


I just clicked off of it quickly and said nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Luckily, McDaniel had walked away 
to check out the journals.

We shared a long, wordless stare and the woman finally said,

“So that book is going to be in the Christian section…”

I bet she put me on her prayer list.

• Nose Band Aid

Monte had something removed from his nose yesterday at the dermatologist’s office. He sent me a picture of himself with a band aid on his nose.

There really is no hiding a band aid on your nose.

It’s an attention grabbing zone.

We have Ellie’s graduation today, two graduation parties tomorrow and a wedding tomorrow night.

All with Monte wearing a nose band aid.

I tried to comfort him by reminding him of me wearing ALL THE BAND AIDS on my neck when I gave myself a chemical burn trying to rid myself of a mole with some Frankincense.

It didn’t help.

So I resorted to Bitmoji.

Seriously, what are the odds that Monte got a nose band aid on the day called Red Nose Day?!

• Crying Soldier

I saw this picture online today and it made me stop and read the article. This soldier was captured on film crying at his graduation from West Point.

He was overcome because he was realizing in that exact moment the camera clicked that he was the American dream. 

An immigrant who moved to America with the hopes of a better life. He was accepted into a prestigious school and will go on to be a pilot after graduation.

His gratitude for the opportunities and freedoms of America spilled down his face. 

His willingness to serve and protect America is apparent. Not because it’s perfect but because he is a proud citizen.

I love it.

We need more of that.

There are people threatening to leave America 
if Donald Trump is elected president.

Read “1776” 
or “Alexander Hamilton.”

We have survived so. much. worse.

•  Ann Bogel’s Summer Reading List

Ann writes a blog called Modern Mrs. Darcy. She recommends and reviews books.

Each year, she releases a summer reading list that is full of great books ALL of which she has read.

Here’s a link to this year’s list:

I’ve picked out a few that I’d like to try.

Happy Summer!