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Resolution Guy (by Billy Coffey)

I was once a Resolution guy. As in New Year’s. As in, “This year, I’m going to ______,” or “This year, I’m going to stop ______.” It was an important thing for me to do, and something I didn’t take lightly. A new year is a great thing full of possibility. It’s a chance to wipe the slate clean. Or, in some instances, to add to what’s already been written there.

But the thing about making resolutions was that I wasn’t very resolute. It’s easy to say you’re going to do this or stop that, harder to actually do or stop. Things are always simpler in our heads, where we imagine our goals without many of the roadblocks that will inevitably appear. Much of life is lived in that gray area between what we know we should do and what we do anyway.

That’s why my New Year’s resolutions always failed. When the many big ones I’d settled on went by the wayside, I thought I’d try just a few big ones. Those failed, too. So I tried many little ones. When that didn’t work out, I thought I’d try just one little resolution, one tiny thing about me I thought I could improve. Nope. As it turned out, those small, single promises to myself were often broken faster than the big ones.

Change can be a tough thing. Changing yourself, the toughest of all.

Trust me. I’ve tried.

There are a great many things I’d rather not be that I am. Nothing major, I suppose, but certainly a lot of minors. And I often catch myself thinking that if I could just take care of those minor things, my life would be so much better. I would be happy. At peace.

Maybe. But of course if I did manage to correct those things, others would be waiting. It’s like climbing a hill and finally reaching the top, only to see endless more hills in front of you.

We may all not want to be perfect, but a lot of us do. And a lot more of us know we never will be, but try anyway.

Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I know enough to realize I can and should be a better person. I’ve also learned to take it easy on myself when I’m not.

That said, I’m still a Resolution guy, though maybe not for the same reasons most are. I don’t just make them every January 1, either. I make them daily. Sometimes they come just before my day starts, other times just before the day ends. My mind will wander to those times I stumbled and fumbled, and I’ll make a promise not to let it happen again. Sometimes I keep that promise, sometimes I don’t. And when I don’t, I remind myself that a broken promise still has some merit. It means I cared enough to try.

Trying always matters.

So I’m going to take a moment to remind myself that even though this is a new year, it’s still the old me in it. The me that’s fragile and fallible, who will fail more often than he succeeds, who will crash more than he flies. But that’s okay, it really is.

Because I’m going to try anyway. I’m going to promise. And even if that promise is for naught, I’ll count it to my credit that it was made.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website, follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey, and visiit his author page on Facebook.

Hearing the bell (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The irony of Christmas (at least on the purely materialistic level) is that one waits all year for something that’s over in five minutes. Or rather, four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. That’s how long it took for my children to rip through the wrapping paper that covered their gifts. It looked like a blizzard of gold and green.

This wasn’t lost on the kids, whom afterward sat among the empty boxes and shredded paper wondering aloud if there was more. There wasn’t. Both were fine with that—their gifts were more than they expected, and neither have ever been the greedy sort. They simply wanted to stretch the moment out as long as possible.

I couldn’t blame them. As dramatic and exciting as the days leading up to Christmas can be to a child, the moments afterward can border on the depressing. Soon, the tree and the outside lights will be taken down. The snow will melt. School will resume. Life as they knew it would begin again in all its pall color. The magic would be left behind.

For a brief moment, I saw those thoughts on their faces. And I felt them on my own.

_________

They’ve been watching The Polar Express a lot this year. It’s the new classic in the house, worthy of placement alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. If you’ve never seen it, the plot revolves around a boy who has lost his belief in the magic of Christmas to the point where he can no longer hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh. It’s a fantastic movie, and quite spiritual in some places. At the end, the boy’s sense of magic is restored. Santa grants him the honor of receiving the first present of Christmas, and he asks for a bell that’s fallen from a reindeer harness. A bell he can hear ring once more.

I say that to say this:

When I walked upstairs on Christmas night to get some writing done, sitting on the top of my desk was one last present for me.

A bell.

No one would take credit as the Giver. Even now, two days later, I have no idea whose idea it was. But I’d like to thank him or her for it. It’s a reminder that Christmas doesn’t have to end on December 26th. The giving and the joy can continue on through the weeks and months.

I believe that. I do.

I will keep this bell here on my desk as a reminder. On those lightless days when the world seems drear and heavy, when the words will not come, I’ll pick it up and give it a good shake.

I figure as long as I can hear the bell ring, I’m okay.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website, follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey, and visiit his author page on Facebook.

The battle of the Chandlers (by Billy Coffey)

ChistmasDecorations-SantaTommy and Betty Chandler have been together since high school, almost forty years ago. They’ve endured recessions, job losses, three children, six grandchildren, and one bout with cancer. They’ve also endured each other. There are those around here who say that’s the miracle. You would also be hard pressed to find two people so diametrically opposed in both taste and personality.

Their two-story farmhouse sits at the entrance to my neighborhood and is a wonder of style and sophistication, thanks in large part to Betty’s knack for having things Just So. That may well be Betty’s motto in life—Just So. Everything in its proper place in an anal-retentive sort of way. Tommy doesn’t seem to mind, though he did confess this to me one lazy afternoon:

“Betty’s a freak.”

Said in a loving way, of course. Tommy adores Betty and Betty adores him right back. They’ve reached a sort of balance over the years, a compromise designed with toleration in mind. Betty can do whatever she wants with the house, but the garage is Tommy’s alone. Manland, he calls it. Where there are tools and dirt and grease and where Longaberger baskets and frilly placemats go to die. Betty never ventures into Manland. It’s sacred ground. And Tommy is the benevolent, all-powerful, all-knowing ruler.

All of this goes to show that love really can overcome differences. Usually.

Betty’s taste for Christmas decorations is much like her personality—Just So. Tommy, however, tends to lean toward Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Not a good combination. But as the house was agreed to be Betty’s domain (the yard too, since she contends it’s an extension of the house), Tommy can’t do much with his decorating style (big and gaudy) but sulk.

However.

Two days ago Tommy happened upon a huge plastic Santa at the hardware store. Complete with silly grin, blinking lights, and a continuously waving hand. And thanks to a motion sensor under his cap, he even turned his head and shouted “HO-HO-HO!” at passing cars.

It was without a doubt the most overpriced, over-hyped, overdone monstrosity Tommy had ever seen. And also the most beautiful Christmas decoration he could have ever dreamed of putting up at his house.

Tommy knew what Betty would say. Didn’t care, either. He brought it home strapped to the bed of his truck, slapped it smack in the middle of the yard, and dared his wife to say one word about it.

Betty took that dare.

She said Tommy had better get that no-good, white trash, trailer park hunk of ugly out of her front yard now. And said Tommy had about as much sense as the idiot who dreamed up such a travesty of a Christmas decoration, and that he’d better thank God Almighty that she was around to keep things respectable around their house.

The Santa is no longer in the front yard.

“Sometimes in a marriage, you gotta do a little sacrificing,” Tommy told me.

But the story doesn’t end there. Tommy still had one card to play. Driving past his house just a little bit ago, I noticed the garage doors on the Chandler’s house were open. Tommy was on a throne disguised as an old lawn chair, presiding over the kingdom of Manland. He wasn’t alone, either. Right beside him blinking and shining and Ho-Ho-Hoing to all was the ugly Santa, safely out of reach of Betty’s rigid standards. After all, Manland is sacred ground.

I blew the horn as I drove past. Tommy toasted me with his can of beer and patted Santa’s belly.

I smiled. Two refugees from Prim and Proper Land, seeking asylum in a place where it’s Come As You Are. I liked that. There’s a certain rightness in being accepted despite the fact you’re not quite up to snuff.

I think we often get the impression that God’s in Tommy and Betty Chandler’s house. That if we want to see Him we’d better wipe our feet and dress nice and have everything Just So. But I don’t think that’s true. I think God’s out in Manland with the dirt and the grease, sitting in an old lawn chair with Tommy and admiring his Santa.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Make a joyful noise (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

If you were standing here with me in the bedroom, you would hear what I’m hearing. It’s plain as day, too, despite the fact that between us and the noise there is a door, a fan, and running water. And you would likely grin as I am grinning. I always do when my son sings in the shower.

I can’t recognize the tune—he likes to make up his own songs, which sometimes rhyme but most often don’t. I heard a reference to Santa a minute ago, and something about macaroni not being as good without the cheese. A deep thinker, my son.

He likes to sing in the shower. My daughter and wife, too. Me, I’ve always been more of a truck singer. Give me a good song and an open road, and I can really belt it out. And I’m a pretty good pew singer, too, though I’m conscious not to raise my voice so high that others take notice. In my head I sing like Harry Connick, Jr., but I’ve heard I sound more like Homer Simpson. I try to take that as a compliment, which takes some effort.

Still I sing, and often. And no matter who you are or how gruff you appear to be, the odds are good that you sing upon occasion, too.

But have you ever asked yourself why? On the surface, singing has no practical purpose. We use words because we must communicate, we laugh and cry to show emotion, we use our thoughts to order our world. So why sing rather than talk or laugh or think?

I’ve asked my son that question. His answer came by way of a furrowed brow that said, Don’t be stupid, Daddy.

Still, I wonder. We don’t need to sing in order to lead productive and fulfilling lives, so why do we?

I think this season tells us.

Christmas was made for singing. There is music everywhere. In stores and on street corners and on the radio (as I write this, Brad Paisley is singing “Away in a Manger”). They are songs of joy and peace and hope and goodwill toward men. Songs that when sung take your eyes off what you see and put them on what you cannot.

Like this, for instance:

Maybe that’s why we sing.

Because when we give melody to voice we communicate and emote and order all at once. Because the contents of the heart are so many that sometimes they cannot be dripped out, but poured forth. Because there is joy and longing and love and passion that words alone do not suffice.

We sing to reach our deeper selves and ascend to the highest heavens. It is thanksgiving and praise, a call for healing and inspiration. Thousands of years later, the words of Isaiah still ring true: “Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth.”

That’s what I think. And to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s Handel or “Jingle Bells.” It’s one of those precious things in life that always makes you feel better in the during and the after.

Just ask my son.

Please take one (by Billy Coffey)

jiminy-cricket(The following is one of my all time favorite posts from Billy. It’s also the very first guest post on my blog. If you’ve read it before, I hope you’ll indulge me for posting it again.)

The toy store downtown is one of those mom-and-pop deals that you can get lost in, the sort of place where you can find things that Toys R Us would never think of stocking. Good things. Great things. Things that really, really make me wish I were a kid again. Which makes shopping there both a pleasure and a curse. A pleasure because there is so much I’d like to get my kids for two weeks of chores well done. A curse because I can’t make up my mind what to get them.

So, there on a Wednesday during lunch, I wander. And in my wandering I happen to spot a Longaberger basket sitting atop a wooden display of toy soldiers (Toy soldiers, I think to myself. My son would love some toy soldiers).

In the basket is a pile of those long, thick pretzel sticks. The sign above them says PLEASE TAKE ONE.
Given the fact that it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry, that’s exactly what I do. I take one and munch while I walk. Through the Legos, the building blocks, the books, the dolls. Through the Tonka trucks and coloring books and Play Doh.

And I am back to where I started. At the basket of pretzels.

Still unsure of what to buy and still hungry, I decide to restock and take another trip around the store. I reach into the basket for another pretzel. And as I bite it, I see something out of the corner of my eye.
Standing beside the stuffed animals about four feet away is a little boy. Sixish, not much older than my son, and staring. At me. He holds out one fist and raises his index finger.

One, it says.

I wrinkle my eyebrows, unsure of what his attempt at sign language means.

One, again.

“What?” I ask him (which actually came out as “Wamp?” because I hadn’t swallowed yet).

“You took two pretzels,” he says.

“So?”

“You’re only ‘posed to take one.”

“Who are you” I ask, “the pretzel police?”

“It’s what the sign says,” he states, now using his index finger to point. “Mama said the sign says ‘Please take one.”

I look at the sign, then back to him. “No,” I answer, “the sign says ‘Please take one.’ There’s a difference. It’s all a matter of emphasis.”

“What’s empkasis?”

“Never mind,” I say.

“You shouldn’t have taken that pretzel. Mama says God watches us.”

My mind takes a sudden detour to those old Disney movies, where the older, bigger kid was always accompanied by Jiminy Cricket, Mr. Disney’s version of a conscience. I’m starting to think this kid is my Jiminy Cricket. Or maybe just aggravating. I haven’t made up my mind yet.

“Your mama’s right,” I answer, wondering where in the world his mama was. “But since God knows the sign says ‘Please take one,’ I think I’m in the clear.”

“Please. Take. One,” he corrects.

There we stand in the middle of the store, staring down one another like two gunslingers in a Western wondering who would draw first.

PLEASE TAKE ONE. An invitation to me, a rule for him. Which was right? I’m not as sure as I was a few minutes ago.

How do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Easy.

Go ask the owner of the store.

“Excuse me,” I say to the nice lady behind the counter. “I was wondering if you could shed a little light on a problem this youngin’ and I are having.”

She perks up and joins us, happy to have something to do.

“We were wondering about this sign here,” I say. “Is it please take one, or please take one?”

The owner gives us both a strange look. “Well, I’m not sure. No one’s ever asked.”

“It’s preyin’ on our minds, ma’am,” the boy says.

“Preyin’,” I add.

“If you’d like a pretzel,” she says, “please take one. If you’d like another, you can take one, too.”

Excellent.

“Can I have a pretzel?” the boy asks.

Situation resolved, the three of us part ways. Him to his mother, who had been preoccupied with the books, the owner back to the register, and me to finish my shopping.

Funny, I think, how three words led us this far. But I am sure of this: if two people can disagree over something as simple as pretzels, it’s no wonder why we disagree over the important things even more—politics and God, right and wrong, war and peace.

Who’s to know which is right and which is wrong? Or even if there really is a right and wrong? How do we settle our differences, put away our prejudices, and find the truth?

Maybe, I thought, we should all do what that little boy and I ended up doing.

Maybe we should all go the Owner of the store and see what He says.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Stemming the tide (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

You could call Jimmy Henderson a lot of things—and many people have—but everyone agrees that above all, he is prepared. And in his mind we all should be, given the evil that lurks about.

Jimmy keeps an eye on all that malevolence. Drive by his house, and you’ll see no less than four newspaper boxes. His magazine interests range from the far left of the political arena to the far right, including such publications as Field and Stream and Backwoods Living. “Just in case,” he says. “Because you know they’re coming eventually. They’re coming for us all.”

In Jimmy’s case, They is the government (or some secret shadow puppet government, I can’t really remember which). He weathered the Carter administration well enough and barely got through eight years of Clinton, but Jimmy thinks he’s met his match with the current resident of the White House. He’s seen the documentaries and read the books, and he’s genuinely scared. So much so that Jimmy’s starting to worry that his Tea Party membership and flying one of those “Don’t Tread on Me” flags in front of his house just won’t be enough to stem the tide.

And he’s not alone. Lots of people are scared now. Bad times breed bad thoughts, and sometimes we see monsters where only shadows lie. For every person like Jimmy who’s convinced President Obama is about to bring down the country, there is another who thought the same about President Bush. There is an inherent distaste for government in most people. It isn’t easy for us to trust those in power, and I think there’s good cause for that. I also think the reason why our country has been so important for so long is because that inherent distrust was shared by the very men who created it.

But to be in power doesn’t necessarily mean to be in charge, and I think that’s where Jimmy’s confused. And I think his fear was born from a sense of powerlessness that can creep up on everyone when we begin to feel as though the world is crashing down. What frightens Jimmy more than black helicopters and government conspiracies is the simple fact that he thinks his voice doesn’t matter anymore. It’s being drowned in the deluge of spin and the shouting in the public square between parties.

It isn’t very often that I delve into the political in the things I write. It’s a subject that’s too touchy, and rarely is there anything of worth that can come of it. But I’ll make an exception in Jimmy’s case, if only because it’s something applicable to anyone, whether liberal or conservative or independent.

It is this:

In this country we have neither king nor queen, merely representatives of our own wills who must abide by the very laws we adhere to. Their jobs are just as dependent upon us as our jobs are upon their policies and committees.

If there is a tide that must be stemmed, it cannot be done through fear and anger or accusations and snipe. It is instead done in the privacy of the voting booth and in the sacredness of our homes. It is done in the raising of our children and the desire to end each day as better people than we were at the start of it.

Because what is true for Jimmy is true for me and for you—in the end, the future of our country doesn’t depend upon what goes on in the White House, but what goes on in our houses.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Without us guys by Billy Coffey (repost)

As a teacher, my wife has corralled fourth-graders, mentored high schoolers, and endured the rants of countless bemused parents. As a mother, she has changed dirty diapers, cleaned vomit off the couch, and has no reservations about sticking her hands into the goop that collects in the sink strainer after the dishes are washed. She is a courageous soul, yes. There are none braver. I honestly believe this.

But she has not ventured near the mailbox for about a week now. She’s scared, she says. Because lurking there far in the back corner is a spider has taken shelter from the cold November air.

My wife does not like spiders. Not just the tarantulas or the black widows, either. She’s afraid of the teeny ones, the daddy longlegs, and those little furry black ones that like to hop, too. They are evil, she says, though she lacks the evidence to back that up. On those infrequent occasions when my wife has nightmares, spiders are often the primary antagonist. They’re in her hair or her food, and once they were even in our bed (it’s never a good thing to be awakened at three in the morning by a temporarily insane spouse exclaiming, “They’re going to eat us!!”).

Taking care of the spider was my job, which was done easily enough with the rolled up edge of the day’s Wal-Mart advertisement. It didn’t seem like a victory, not even a small one, but as I flicked spider guts onto the grass my imagination kicked in and I began to ponder.

What if I wouldn’t have been there?

Various scenarios were played out in my head. My wife would have never again checked the mailbox. Days upon days of junk mail and catalogs and bills would have piled up. Especially bills. Bills that would go unpaid, which would eventually lead to the electricity being turned off and then the gas, and then the water. Foreclosure would soon come. My wife and children would have lost everything, abandoned to a life of homelessness and destitution. All because I wasn’t around to kill the spider in the mailbox.

Okay, so maybe not. Maybe my wife would have ended up asking a neighbor to kill the spider or she would have just paid the bills online. But still, my responsibilities around the house to ensure domestic tranquility seemed at that moment pretty amazing.

I keep the yard and the vehicles up. I do the painting and hammering and sawing. I fix what is broken (and occasionally break what is fixed). I unstop the toilet. I kill the snakes and scare off the bears. I shovel the driveway and seed the grass and take the trash out.

When my kids go to bed at night, it’s me they wanted to make sure is in the next room. Not their mother, as important as she is. Their father. Because in the eyes of children, every father is a freaky combination of Old West gunslinger and Jedi knight—big and strong, wise and unflappable. At least, that’s the way it should be.

Men have a tough go at it nowadays. We’re not really allowed to be the people our father’s were, strong and stoic and tough. People in these modern times expect men to be in touch with their feelings, to be softer and not harder. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe. I don’t know.

But I do know this: in the corner of the dining room, right by the backdoor, another spider has taken up residence. I saw it this evening. And I’m pretty sure it saw me, too. I doubt that spiders hold men in high regard. After all, we’re the only people keeping them from overtaking the world.

***

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

And the winner is…

Sheesh! Apparently these questions were quite a bit harder than I thought they would be. Heck, even Billy got one of them wrong! But here’s Billy with the answers:

Question 1:Writing wasn’t Billy’s first career choice. What were his career plans in high school?
a) Mail carrier
b) Professional baseball player
c) College professor
d) MMA cage fighter
e) None of the above

The correct answer is B, professional baseball player. And you know what? All these years later, I’ll still have dreams at night that I’m hitting a baseball.

Question 2:Billy loves his Blue Ridge Mountains, but he also feels at home at:
a) The Rivah (or “The River” for you non-Virginians)
b) The beach
c) Richmond, VA
d) Washington, D.C.

That’s also B. There’s a certain freedom that only salt air and endless sea can provide. If I don’t get to the beach at least once a year, I’m a wreck.

Question 3:Billy once wrote that if God had made him an animal, he would be a:
a) snake
b) wolf
c) bear
d) eagle
e) bulldog

B yet again. An old Apache once told me so. And no, I’m not kidding.

Question 4:Billy Coffey has a few comfort foods. Which of the following is NOT one of them?
a) Beef jerky
b) Chocolate covered pecans
c) Starbuck’s coffee ice cream
d) Jolly Rancher jelly beans
e) Peanuts and Coca Cola

B – Who in the world eats chocolate covered pecans?

Question 5:
Billy once unknowingly tried to pick a fight with a group of:
a) Secret service agents
b) Black Panthers
c) Professional wrestlers
d) Navy SEALS

That would be D. Though in my defense, I did not know they were Navy SEALS. And thank you, Jesus, for making them very polite guys.

Question 6:Snow Day was not originally written as a novel. What was it presented to the publisher as?
a) Spiritual memoir
b) autobiography
c) self-help book
d) a collection of short stories

A – Snow Day was originally written as a spiritual memoir.

Question 7:Billy counts as one of his special talents his ability to:
a) hula hoop
b) fall asleep just about anywhere
c) ride a unicycle
d) say the alphabet backwards without pausing

B – I have fallen asleep while standing, sitting, lying down (of course), talking, and reading. I once even fell asleep in the shower. Strangely enough, I do not suffer from narcolepsy. Chalk it up to late night writing sessions.

Question 8:Billy’s maternal grandfather was a missionary. Which of the following countries did he NOT travel to?:
a) Turkey
b) Haiti
c) Russia
d) Japan

D – My grandfather never went to Japan. He was kidnapped by voodoo practitioners in Haiti and claimed to have found a piece of Noah’s ark in Turkey, but he never went to Japan. Bet he would’ve loved it, though.

Question 9:True or False: Snow Day is the first book Billy has ever written.

False. It’s just the first book I’ve written that managed to get published…

Question 10:Who does Billy Coffey consider to be his hero?
a) Jack Bauer
b) Don Mattingly
c) His dad
d) All of the above
e) None of the above

D – All of the above, and mostly because all three embody everything I want to be as a man. Even if one of them is fictional. (Which would be A).

Question 11:Billy Coffey has referred to himself as “the Cal Ripkin of not puking.” When was the last time he threw up?
a) March 31, 2001
b) December 24, 1995
c) January 1, 1989
d) Last Friday

That would be B – Christmas Eve, 1995. There are a few things in my life that I am supremely proud of. That is one of them.

Question 12:The first blog post I ever read by Billy Coffey was entitled “The Fruit Salad”. In the comments section, I referred to him as:
a) A gifted storyteller
b) The next Max Lucado
c) A jerk
d) None of the above

C – That’s right, C. Seriously people, this is Katdish we’re talking about.

Question 13:Shortly after I left the aforementioned comment on “What I Learned Today”, I received my first blog comment from Billy Coffey. It was:
a) Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice to “meet” you.
b) My grandmother has forgiven me for dropping the “f” bomb on her.
c) Please stop leaving snarky comments on my blog. Who do you think you are?
d) I. LOVE. This. Blog.

D. And that’s something she seems to constantly remind me.

Question 14:Shortly before Billy Coffey started writing his regular Monday posts here, I wrote an introduction post. What was the main reason I cited for asking him to guest post for me?
a) my desire to help him broaden his audience
b) lack of writing time due to several upcoming painting jobs
c) an attempt to class up the place
d) in increase in female readership

B again.

Editor’s Note: Lack of writing time due to several upcoming painting jobs was what I told Billy, the main reason cited in my introduction post was D - An increase in female readership. (Incidentally, my favorite comment from that post came from Wendy at Weight… What: “Using Billy as man-candy? Shame on you! Now do it some more.”

Question 15:Billy’s next novel is called “Paper Angels”. It is the story of:
a) a young southern boy and his love of origami.
b) a man with a guardian angel he can actually see and talk to
c) a rookie first baseman for the California Angels baseball team
d) a murder mystery set in a small logging community

Paper Angels is about a man named Andy Sommerville, who is either cursed (which he believes at first) or blessed (which he believes later on) to have his guardian angel as a best friend.

So there you have it, folks. No one (including Billy) answered all of the questions correctly. However, the person who had the least number of questions wrong and the winner of a personally autographed copy of Snow Day is a long time reader of Billy’s writing, so it seems only fitting that she should win. Congratulations…

Joanne Sher!

I’ll have one more giveaway before Christmas, so you still have a chance to win. Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about the man behind the cowboy hat.

Billy Coffey: The E True Hollywood Story

Billy Coffey: The early years

Okay, not really. Made you look, though, huh?

I have been so impressed with the great reviews for Snow Day and excited about all the giveaways, interviews and general excitement for Billy Coffey’s debut novel.

I thought about doing a review or an interview, and I still may do the latter, but for now I wanted to give y’all a chance to win a very special copy of Snow Day—one personally autographed by the author himself.

But you’re gonna have to work for it, so I have compiled a list of trivia questions to test your Billy Coffey knowledge AND, since this is my blog and all, me. Ready? Here we go:

Question 1:Writing wasn’t Billy’s first career choice. What were his career plans in high school?

a) Mail carrier

b) Professional baseball player

c) College professor

d) MMA cage fighter

e) None of the above

Question 2:Billy loves his Blue Ridge Mountains, but he also feels at home at:

a) The Rivah (or “The River” for you non-Virginians)

b) The beach

c) Richmond, VA

d) Washington, D.C.

Question 3:Billy once wrote that if God had made him an animal, he would be a:

a) snake

b) wolf

c) bear

d) eagle

e) bulldog

Question 4:Billy Coffey has a few comfort foods. Which of the following is NOT one of them?

a) Beef jerky

b) Chocolate covered pecans

c) Starbuck’s coffee ice cream

d) Jolly Rancher jelly beans

e) Peanuts and Coca Cola

Question 5:

Billy once unknowingly tried to pick a fight with a group of:

a) Secret service agents

b) Black Panthers

c) Professional wrestlers

d) Navy SEALS

Question 6:Snow Day was not originally written as a novel. What was it presented to the publisher as?

a) Spiritual memoir

b) autobiography

c) self-help book

d) a collection of short stories

Question 7:Billy counts as one of his special talents his ability to:

a) hula hoop

b) fall asleep just about anywhere

c) ride a unicycle

d) say the alphabet backwards without pausing

Question 8:Billy’s maternal grandfather was a missionary. Which of the following countries did he NOT travel to?:

a) Turkey

b) Haiti

c) Russia

d) Japan

Question 9:True or False: Snow Day is the first book Billy has ever written.

Question 10:Who does Billy Coffey consider to be his hero?

a) Jack Bauer

b) Don Mattingly

c) His dad

d) All of the above

e) None of the above

Question 11:Billy Coffey has referred to himself as “the Cal Ripkin of not puking.” When was the last time he threw up?

a) March 31, 2001

b) December 24, 1995

c) January 1, 1989

d) Last Friday

Question 12:The first blog post I ever read by Billy Coffey was entitled “The Fruit Salad”. In the comments section, I referred to him as:

a) A gifted storyteller

b) The next Max Lucado

c) A jerk

d) None of the above

Question 13:Shortly after I left the aforementioned comment on “What I Learned Today”, I received my first blog comment from Billy Coffey. It was:

a) Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice to “meet” you.

b) My grandmother has forgiven me for dropping the “f” bomb on her.

c) Please stop leaving snarky comments on my blog. Who do you think you are?

d) I. LOVE. This. Blog.

Question 14:Shortly before Billy Coffey started writing his regular Monday posts here, I wrote an introduction post. What was the main reason I cited for asking him to guest post for me?

a) my desire to help him broaden his audience

b) lack of writing time due to several upcoming painting jobs

c) an attempt to class up the place

d) in increase in female readership

Question 15:Billy’s next novel is called “Paper Angels”. It is the story of:

a) a young southern boy and his love of origami.

b) a man with a guardian angel he can actually see and talk to

c) a rookie first baseman for the California Angels baseball team

d) a murder mystery set in a small logging community

So there you have it. Rather than leaving your answers in the comments section, thereby allowing others to copy you, I will be accepting answers via email at katdishrich@gmail.com until Sunday, November 15, 11:00 pm EST. The answers and the winner (or winners) will be announced on Monday, November 16.

Good luck to you all. And as with all my contests here at katdish.net (formerly Hey look a chicken), please NO WAGERING.

Vehicle cleaning: No children allowed (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket. com

image courtesy of photobucket. com

I am a big believer in the value of chores in the life of a child. My kids work. They keep their rooms clean, help clear the table after dinner, dust, and pitch in with the yard work. They even clean the bathrooms. And by doing such, they are introduced to what will one day become one of the most basic tenets of their lives—if you work and do a good job, you will be compensated accordingly.

But there is one chore that requires a No Children Allowed sign to be hung from it. In big, bold letters that are underlined and italicized.

They are not to help me wash the vehicles.

Never.

The reasons are pretty selfish. I’m man enough to admit that. And it’s a pride thing, too. I like my wife’s car and my truck clean. Spotless, even. I like the windshield completely free of bug guts, the tires shined, the wheels polished. I like the fact that a doctor could perform open heart surgery on my dashboard. Such things are important to me, as they should be to any man.

The problem, of course, is that having two kids involved makes the proper cleaning of a vehicle impossible. More often than not, they’re the ones responsible for the mess in the first place—the cracker crumbs, the soda stains, the castoff M&M that has melted into the seat. Ask them to clean that up, and you’ll only wind up with a bigger mess.

Which is why I always very politely and very casually brush their pleas aside whenever they ask to help. Usually works, too. But it didn’t last night. No amount of brushing aside would silence the chorus of “Please, Daddy?” My children employed one of their most powerful weapons in getting me to do what they wanted—they couldn’t convince me, so they just wore me down.

I decided to limit the damage by prohibiting them to handle the water hose and the vacuum. Those would be mine alone to control. So while I cleaned the interior, I put them on trash detail. Everything that couldn’t be sucked up the hose was their responsibility. And as we’d driven 140 miles the day before to a wedding, there was much to keep them busy.

My son found the Star Wars action figure he knew he’d left in the dirt outside the reception hall. The momentary shout of glee resulted in my daughter dancing for him, which evolved in the two of them dancing together in the back of the SUV, which then devolved into an impromptu light saber fight with the vacuum hose as a prop. I settled them down, but not before my son claimed victory by sucking half of my daughter’s hair into the hose.

I tried to keep them on task. Couldn’t. A stray Crayon and torn napkin found under the seat was reason enough for an art lesson. A forgotten pack of Tic-Tacs started a shoving match. The heat made them tired and cranky.

Washing the outside only made things worse. My daughter wanted to be in charge of the rinsing, but chose to rinse everything besides the truck. She rinsed the driveway and the grass and the neighbor’s dog. She rinsed her brother (yet another shoving match). And my son’s wash-whatever-you-want-however-you-want-to philosophy with the sponge didn’t help.

It was all too much for one adult to handle, so I did what any mature father would do.

I snapped.

I asked my daughter for the hose and my son for the sponge, then proceeded to drown them both in suds and water. They raced around the truck to hide. I found them. My son tried to crawl through the grass and escape. I pulled him back. But by then my daughter had managed to get the hose back, and she sprayed me. I kinked the hose and held it until she wondered what had happened and pointed the nozzle toward her face. The three of us ended in an exhausted heap in the front yard. The only words were uttered by my son, who looked up at the clouds and said, “That was the most awesome thing ever!”

We didn’t get the truck washed last night.

It’s sitting in the driveway with splotches of dirt mixed with small areas of cleanliness. It looks like a mechanical zebra.

But that’s okay. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Because there is a time for chores and a time for fun, and sometimes there is a time for both.

To read more from Billy Coffey visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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