Saturday, December 21, 2013

League of Extraordinary Bloggers: Ghosts of Christmas Past

I've been seriously neglecting my duties as a member of the League of Extraordinary Bloggers for a while now, but I figured I'd chime in on this particular topic this week, and see if I couldn't get back into the swing of things a little bit. And what, you may ask, is the topic of the week for the LoEB? Let's take a look:

This week’s assignment from the League: Ghosts of Christmas Past

Looking at my past Christmases, it would be easy to pick one from my childhood where I got THE GIFT... the year I got the G.I. Joe Mobile Command center for instance... or the year I got my entire collection of Real Ghostbuster toys... favorite childhood memories like that... but instead, I decided to go with something a little more raw, a little more recent... just 5 years past in fact.

At the time, my wife and I had only 1 child, and we were waiting for our second to arrive. I was on my way to work early one morning (I had to be at work by 4:30 am and had about an hour commute, so this was right around 4 am because I was about half-way there) about six weeks before the baby was due, when I got a call on my trac-phone, and my wife asked me to come back home. She was having the baby. Of course, this was December 9th and he wasn't actually due until mid-January... But regardless, I turned around and went back home, took my wife to the hospital, and she did in fact have the baby.

But... right away, things were weird. They didn't let us hold the baby right away, and instead whisked him off to the nursery and put him in an oxygen tent. Of course, no one was really telling us anything, because why would they? But long story short, it turned out that because my son was born 6 weeks early his lungs weren't completely done developing and creating surfactant. So he was having trouble breathing. We didn't really get what all this meant, but it meant that he was going to be transported about an hour away to the NICU in Bangor. Via ambulance. And we couldn't go with him. 

We ended up having to stay the night in Ellsworth (I stayed with my wife so I could drive her the next day) and then going to Bangor first thing the next morning. We had decided to name our son after these guys:

So we began to process of waiting to see if our son would live or die for about 2 weeks. For the first two nights, we were put up at the Ronald McDonald house, and I am forever thankful that we had that option for the first couple of days. Then we decided that we would have to go home. Our daughter needed us, and we would commute every day back out to the hospital to be with our son throughout the day.  

Each visit to the NICU would begin with a harrowing tale of how our son had very nearly expired in the night. We would stand there and listen grimly while the doctors and nurses would fill us in on his status. My wife and I had gone through a miscarriage about a year and a half before trying to have this child... and now we were sure we were going to lose another baby. But then something AWESOME happened...

Hmmm... maybe I'll stick around.
I survived being born premature for THIS!?!?!?
As December crept along, our son began to show improvement. He began to get healthier. We started to get the idea that our baby was not, in fact, going to leave us. He was here to hang out for a while. His lungs opened up, he started breathing completely unassisted... he was going to come home with us. He might even make it home... before Christmas! And then, we got the news: We would be bringing him home on Christmas Eve. CHRISTMAS EVE!!!

Doesn't he look excited?

Here is my daughter holding him in bed on Christmas Eve of 2008. I'm sure SHE might not agree... but I can tell you right now that bringing my son home healthy (and as happy as a newborn can ever seem to be...) on Christmas Eve officially makes him the best Christmas gift I have ever gotten. 

My daughter was pretty convinced her best gift was this big-a** purple unicorn, and NOT a new baby brother (She was even less excited when her second baby "bother" showed up two Decembers later). Anyway, here he is now, celebrating his 5th birthday just this past month:

He's healthy and he loves his Trash Packs.
He is a soulful, sensitive, polite, and intelligent boy. He makes every day special in a different way. I can not tell you how thankful I am to have him and my daughter, and my other son in my life. They are all gifts. It's just that THIS one came home on Christmas Eve.

Let's see what the other Leaguers are remembering about Christmas:

- Nerd Out With Me remembers the BIG CHRISTMAS STORM.

- That Yellow Duck remembers Monkey Bread and Ace Duck.

- Tintod over at JunkFed remembers the ghost of Jacob Marley... in various different forms.

- Our fearless leader Brian over at Cool and Collected remembers something so HORRIFYING that I cannot tell you here because it will ruin the surprise. JUST GO READ IT.

And speaking of Brian and Cool and Collected... the Cool and Collected Magazine is officially OUT... IN PRINT!!!

Cool & Collected Magazine now available! 

And yours truly, Mister Goodwill Geek (aka Derek Ash) has an article included... "What a Character: Superman!" (You might notice its ON THE COVER). Go buy a dozen copies and give them out Ebeneezer Scrooge-at-the-end-of-A-Christmas-Carol style this Christmas!

SO much blogging to catch up on! I'm pretty much going to maintain radio silence until the New year... with a small exception for Mason over at D.I. Treasures, I simply cannot wait until after the holidays are over to share what he sent me in trade recently. BUT! I will be back soon (in 2014) with more Geeky Goodwill Goodies! until then, Happy Hunting!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

So Far Christmas is in the Blog-o-Sphere... Just not here.

Dear readers, I have been feeling a bit ragged around the edges lately. My plans to rev up the engine on this blog the week I was off from work after Thanksgiving never really took root. I think part of my problem is that I am knee-deep in the Christmas season here... and I am not feeling very festive this year. Not really one little bit. So far this season:

- We've dug the Christmas books out of the attic, and have been reading one every night to my boys.

- We've got the tree up and decorated.

- For the first time since being in our new house, we hung lights, holly trimmings, and a big ol' wreath outside to decorate.

- My daughter has had her Christmas concert at school (she sung beautifully by the way...)

- The Christmas parade in town went marching by on a particularly cold December morning last weekend.

- I've attended not just ONE but TWO work Christmas parties... one AT work, for everyone to attend, and one OUTSIDE of work for just the people I work directly with. Both were fun and festive.

- We have watched a handful of Holiday specials, not the least of which happened to be the Garfield Christmas special, which has been scientifically proven to be one of the very best Christmas specials ever made.

- My wife and I hosted a Polar Express read-aloud at our local small-town library. Fun and hot chocolate were had by all.

- Our Christmas shopping has almost been completely... completed.

- Two birthday parties were celebrated! Not Christmas-y I know... but work with me.

Based on all of this, you would THINK that I would be BURSTING with effing Holiday cheer and GOLL-DURN Christmas spirit. But... Hmm. I'm certainly not feeling Grinch-y or Scrooge-y... but I am not feeling warm and aglow as I feel I should.

WELL. I will NOT poop on this season! Right now, I am going to share with you some of my favorite Christmas-y... or just fun holiday themed posts from around the blog-o-sphere. I may not be "feeling it" just yet, but some of these folks on my blog feed certainly are! Here we go in almost no particular order:

1. The Trash Man

The Trash Man over at Pop Pop! It's Trash Culture shares a handful of images from his bootleg VHS of the He-Man She-Ra Christmas special. But not only does he share these... he also shares the shameless tale of how he acquired the particular copy in his collection. Trash Man is ALL about the old VHS and the nostalgic... nostalgia. And Christmas. I just really like this post. 

2. Mason

I like to mix my Christmas with my creepy from time to time, but I've never been a big blogging supporter of Creepmas. I have no problem with it, and in fact, I really enjoy following some of the blogs that partake. Mason over at D.I. Treasures has jumped in whole hog this year, and was counting down the 13 days of Creepmas with gusto (which just ended on Friday the 13th! How cool is that!) I think my absolute favorite entry of his out of his entire countdown was this one about candy canes. Who doesn't have a childhood memory of whittling a make-shift shiv with their own saliva and a peppermint stick? 

3. Michael (Miss M)

Michael, (or Miss M as I still affectionately think of her) has a toy persona who's fictional history is as long and convoluted as any daytime soap-opera, Joss Whedon-verse show, or 80's anime import series combined. This particular episode of the Diary of a Dorkette finds the Dorkette having visions of a deeply troubling alternate world, shopping for used opera books for anthropomorphic rats, and over-coming her own obsessions in order to make Christmas better for some unknown but lucky (and presumably sentient toy) child. If you get nothing else from Miss M's blog, it's this: Here is a woman who unashamedly PLAYS with her toys in a cathartic, and creative way. I genuinely love that. 

4. Matt


Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula is just a complete slave to the holidays. He extensively covers all things Halloween from about September 1st until October 31st and then almost immediately switches gears to Christmas. His entire blog just oozes sticky, old, smelly Christmas memories to the point where I have a hard time selecting just one... but his recent review of Cranberry Sprite has me completely ga-ga for cranberry flavored ANYTHING now. I need it like I need air. See Matt has that way of stirring up the CRAVINGS for all things HOLIDAY themed. Since reading this post I have had four 20 oz. bottles of Sierra Mist Cranberry, finished off a 2-liter bottle of Cranberry Canada Dry ginger-ale, and a jug of that Ocean Spray Cran-apple (both of those last two I had help from my family with. I didn't just sit swigging on those until they were empty all by myself). I have not yet tried a Cranberry Canada Sprite Mist... but since it is the holiday drink equivalent of the McGangBang I feel our destinies are inevitably intertwined.

5. Erik

Erik Johnson, illustrator of Erik Johnson Illustrator has finally revealed his 2013 Christmas Card artwork to the general public. And I absolutely ADORE it. Erik is a brilliant artist, and one who is very good at explaining the behind-the-scenes process behind his techniques in laymans terms that are actually interesting to non-artists. AND he doesn't stop there. He actually answers the one question most artists seem to find unforgivably horrible: Where do you get your ideas? Which I have to admit I really do find fascinating. His post walks you through the entire trickle-down of inspiration, and its a great experience reading about where the nutty little guy pictured above came from. 

6. Chris


Chris Tupa is another shamefully talented artist who puts a ton of his content online. To celebrate this season he put out his own version of the old Sears Wish Book, including a bunch of old toys he either wanted as a kid, or found out about as an adult but WOULD have wanted as a kid. It's an awesome walk down memory lane, and it really does evoke those Christmas morning memories where each and every wrapped up present had the potential to be THAT toy... the one that you'd been begging for ever since seeing the commercial for it at the beginning of the holiday season. 

7. Laura

Laura Huey has a great blog over at Boo Bobby you guys. I know I've gushed about it on here before, and I go over to her blog and leave gushing comments where I tell her how great it is... but there's a reason for it. And this post just high-lights (ha!) it so well. Laura takes simple pleasure in just about everything she encounters. This post is all about her enjoying Christmas lights in her neighborhood and on her own house. She makes me WANT to feel Christmas-y so BAD right now. And... I'm getting there. But it's a process I guess. 

Anyway, check these guys out and they're Ho-ho-holiday spirit! I'll be back (semi-)soon with some Geeky Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Hunting! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Goodwill Geek Mailbag: Holiday Cheer from Boo Bobby Blog!

So the other day I received a padded mailer envelope from my friend Laura, over at the Boo Bobby Blog. It contained these:

Here we have an Applause PVC figurine of Bert carrying Christmas packages while ice-skating (and people accuse him of being boring?). He has no date stamp so I'm not sure when this was produced. He's just adorable though, and he is most likely going to end up being turned into a Christmas tree ornament. 

The little pink dust-mop to the right of Bert is a Fry-Gal, from a set of bendies produced by McDonalds back in 1988. These are actually really hard for me to find info about online, but apparently there was a set of six, including Ronald, the Professor, Hamburglar, Birdie, and Captain Crook. 

The point though is, THANK YOU LAURA!!! As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time should know, mini-figures are a sweet spot for me. Mini-figures based on Sesame Street and McDonald Land just push me right over the edge. I was so excited to receive these awesome little guys! 

For anyone semi-new to the community here, PLEASE check out Laura's blog. She's a part of a great network of bloggers I've met around the internet who specialize in thrift-shopping, and writing from their hearts. These include: 

- Laura herself over at Boo Bobby Blog

- The Trash Man at Pop Pop! It's Trash Culture

- Mason at D.I. Treasures

- Jon at Clawful Punch

- Miss M at Diary of a Dorkette

- Rob at Robbie Go Easy on the Pepsi! (Appears to be... doing something... to his site, which is sort of empty at the moment. I'm leaving the link up for now, because he's got some great stuff to share)

- And Op Shop Mama over at... well, Op Shop Mama.

There are others, LOTS of others, and if I left you off the list, please don't be offended, just pop a URL in the comments below so folks can check out your site!

This is it for me today guys, but I'll be back with more Geek Goodwill Goodies in no time! Until then, Happy Hunting!

Monday, December 2, 2013

THIS is why I love Goodwill so much. THIS EPIC FIND.

I'm on vacation this week. I have so many things that I should be blogging about... but I'm not getting around to yet. Instead, I want to talk about something I found TODAY. At Goodwill.

What's hilarious to me is that the League of Extraordinary Bloggers' topic for this week is Wishlists. We did the same topic a year ago at Christmas time, and in fact, we posted stuff we were looking for this past October as well. The items I'm looking for have stayed pretty consistent... but I can FINALLY cross one of my holy grail items off that list. And how.

My wife had to go observe a classroom today for one of her college classes. So I was home with the two boys. I took my older boy to preschool and then asked the younger boy what he wanted to do. He wanted to go to Dunkin' Donuts. So we did. And I almost just drove home right then and there. Almost. But any time I'm in town and I have the opportunity, I like to go to Goodwill. I almost didn't though. Just want to point that out.

Michael Caine did a much better job of explaining this in Mr. destiny than I am right now. 
Today could have gone so much more different than it did is my point. But instead, my two-year old and I went to Goodwill and browsed around. I didn't find much at first. We went to the toy department first. Not much there. I did find a Homer Simpson's Head Rubiks Cube that I picked up, then I browsed the case and hit the books. It was around this time that my 2-year old started whining that he wanted to go home. I didn't blame him, so I told him we would soon. I took a stroll through the rest of the store, checked the glass-wares aisle to see if any other McDonalds glasses had sprouted up, and then my son asked me the magic words: "Can we go look at toys again?" 

So we did. Can you SEE all the what-ifs in the paragraph above? What if we had left right then? What if we hadn't gone back to the toy department? What if what if what if. 

So we went back to the toy department, and I let my son get out of the cart again so he could paw through all the junk we'd already pawed through. I didn't mind, and it made him happy. And then one of the girls who works at Goodwill rolled up one of the carts they use to stock the shelves. And that cart? It contained this:

Castle Grayskull for me, is one of those things that represents my early childhood. Some of my earliest memories involve Fisher Price Little People, Star Wars Action Figures, and Masters of the Universe. I had an Aunt that would sit with me for hours and play He-Man. I would ALWAYS choose the bad-guys and make her be the good guys. I would spend hours alone, looking closely at every detail of Castle Grayskull, tracing my fingers over the face of the skull and looking at the teeth on the drawbridge. I look at this toy now and I remember it as clearly as I do the skin on the palm of my hand. 

Not me. Or my toys honestly. But you get the idea. Isn't that kid a TV actor?

I saw the girl coming, and I saw that castle, and my heart STOPPED. I mean, I started eye-balling other customers in the vicinity to see who I was going to have to wrestle to the ground or "shiv" in order to take this thing home. I also held my breath waiting to see what the price tag would say. If it was in the double digits, I was going to have to think hard before I brought it home (I still would have brought it home, I would just have had to think hard about how to explain it to my wife). And you know what that price tag said? 2.99. That's right folks. 3 measly dollars for the Castle Grayskull, one of my personal Holy Grails. Before she had the chance to even pick it up to stock it, I asked her if I could look at it. Looking at it consisted of putting it directly into my cart. I remember vaguely hearing her, in the background of my mind as it screamed inside my skull like a train whistle, warning me to be careful of the bag, because it wasn't taped or something. SO I look back down and what do I see? This:

You may notice right away (if you are familiar with MotU stuff) that there are Castl Grayskull accessories right there in that bag. And some weapons. And some Moss Man. And some G.I. Joes. Wanna see what else was in that Grab-Bag for 1.99? Let's take a look:

First up there was this pile of MotU accessories. Battle Cat armor, weapons and items that belong in the Castle play-set. Various other sundry weapons and accessories. Awesome. 

Then there was a random assortment of G.I. Joes in that bag as well. I owned the two on the left when I was a kid though I can't remember either of their names (and in fact, I now have a duplicate on the second guy on the left). But I recognize Tiger Force Dusty at least! The two on the right are completely unknown to me, and I was too lazy to Google them before writing this. But the REALLY exciting Joe in that bag? Here he is:

Sergeant EFFING Slaughter!!! I loved Sgt. Slaughter as a kid!!! After the G.I. Joe Movie especially. He was one of my favorite "good-guys" in general. But besides the weapons and the Joes there were also these two jokers:

Moss Man and Rokkon! I actually love the look of both of these figures, even though I understand Rokkon is not exactly a fan favorite. Moss Man's flocking is in amazing condition as well, though he does NOT smell like pine. Of course, the castle and the grab-bag were not the only things the girl was putting on the shelf. There were these for .99 cents APIECE!!!:

Roton! I loved this one as a kid, and this one is only showing some minimal damage. Mostly just the fact that a couple of the spinning red spines have broken off. He even still has his evil red eye stickers!!!

And again, lazy blogging... for starters I forgot to get pictures of just the two vehicles on their own, and secondly, I didn't bother to search and see what these vehicles even are. There was another one that I left behind simply because it looked like it was actually missing more pieces than it had intact. As I mentioned above, all three of these vehicles were .99 cents apiece. So far, that brings me up to about 8 dollars total for the castle, the bag, and the three vehicles. I had some books too, but I'll feature them later in another post. 

I played it so cool you guys. I was all like: I am going to calmly take my purchases to the front like a grown-ass adult and pay for it all calm-like. But once I had my purchases in the van? And my kid was safely bucked into his seat? And we were on the road? I started SCREAMING LIKE AN INSANE PERSON. I hooted. I hollered. I cheered and whooped. I laughed. I cried. I made a fool of myself. My son cheered right along with me, never knowing why. He was just happy I was happy. 

With trembling hands I carried my purchases in the house. I am not making this next part up, I swear. I swear to you on all I find important in my life that I am not lying about this. I cannot stress this point. I had not once opened the castle while I was at Goodwill. I had not seen inside it. I didn't do this until I got it home. And this is what I found:

The bag that the girl stocking shelves had been warning me about was not the one in the cart. I had assumed she was warning me not to rip the grab-bag as I was handling the castle, lifting it off or whatever. What she was REALLY warning me about was the open bag of action figures INSIDE THE CASTLE. When I opened the castle and this spilled out, I started MANIACALLY CACKLING. Wanna see what was in there? Let's take a look:

This is everything that was contained in the castle. Prince Adam, Modulok, Clawful, Trap-Jaw, Orko, Man-E-Faces, Stratos, Roboto, Thunder-Punch He-Man, and Two-Bad!!! Now, I already own 6 of these figures. So really, only 4 of these are new to me. BUT some of these guys (like Stratos and Clawful) are in much better condition than the ones I already own, and have more of their accessories, so it's like I'm upgrading a little bit. Plus, throne, ladder, and a few other parts. Turns out, a lot of their accessories had also ended up in the other grab-bag, like Trap-Jaws belt, Prince Adams sword, and Thunder-Punch He-Man's shield, among other things. 

Here's a shot of ALL the MotU stuff I brought home today. I pad 6 dollars for this whole pile of loot. SIX DOLLARS YOU GUYS!!! (Maybe even technically 5, if you want to split hairs, because I'm not counting the G.I. Joe figures, which was sort of half of the grab-bag). 

So for about 8 bucks, I reclaimed a healthy portion of my childhood and walked away from Goodwill screaming and laughing like a lunatic. I think that was a pretty good way to spend day 5 of my vacation. I've spent the rest of today with a big, dumb grin on my face, looking at these toys over and over again, expecting them to evaporate. Expecting them to disappear like this is just a dream and I'll wake up any second. And to get them for such an amazing price? I almost passed out. The weird thing about this castle, unlike most toys I have tracked down from my childhood... it seems bigger than I remember! It's strange how so many old toys always seem tiny compared to my memories, because I'm not as small as I used to be. Castle Grayskull has some bulk to it, some height. It's just as impressive if not more so than I remember. And by the power of you-know-who, that is pure magic. 

This battle feels... unbalanced somehow.
I also wondered if there weren't other toys out in the back room, waiting to be processed and stocked on the shelves... but that way lies madness. I could have hung out all day, being a nuisance and waiting to see what else got brought out... but I decided that was a) creepy and b) greedy. It just wasn't necessary. I got a LOT of great stuff. Anything else I MIGHT have missed out on? I'll find it some other day in some other Goodwill, for some other price. Right now, I'm still just reeling from the fact that I now own a Castle Gray Skull and didn't have to pay 40+ dollars for it on eBay. And it has a lot of the accessories! It's missing a portion of floor, but I can live with that. 

That's it for tonight guys! What a find! Don't know if I can top this one really. It's the kind of find that keeps me addicted to Goodwill though. I'll be back soon with more Geeky Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Hunting! 
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