Stop Posting Your Food Pictures!

Technology advancements over the past two decades is contributing to the decline of civilization as we know it. The amazing computing power available through mobile devices enables the common idiot with nothing to say the chance to inform all of us (strangers) of their latest choice for tomorrow’s turd.

What drives the urge to share your menu choice with the rest of the world? Are you so privileged that you must show off your wealth by capturing your meal with the expensive piece of hand-held electronics you possess?

“Look! I can afford to eat out at a restaurant! I can also take a picture (annoying other diners with the camera flash) and share it with the world! Nanny, nanny, boo-boo. I got mine. How about you?”

Keep your flashes to yourself. Even if I too have gone out to the same restaurant to enjoy a meal away from home, I am not there to flaunt it. I definitely did not choose to share the experience with your arrogant, self-promoting gloating.

I have no interest in your meal selection. Despite the proliferation of food television shows and the exploding popularity of angry chefs yelling at hopeful future angry chefs, food is still just food. Fuel for the body. Fertilizer for the soil.

How about you sit there (much more) quietly and simply enjoy the meal. Moderate your decibel level to a civilized volume in consideration of others around you. If you loved the food, tip well and inform the staff. They will appreciate the encouragement.

Think about an object, an activity, or a cultural phenomenon you really don’t like. Now write a post (tongue in cheek or not — your call!) about why it’s the best thing ever.

Lame is the new Prompt

Experience is my son’s new teacher. Amazing how kids will not listen to their own parents, but when one of their friends’ parents offer advice, it is received like an inspired bit of wisdom. In fairness, it may be genuine wisdom and perhaps I am just a little jealous because another parent beat me to sharing it with him. Parental competition aside, there seems to be no equal to experience.

#1 son recently had a car accident. No one hurt. His fault. His car is a total loss. Insurance coverage was minimal and will not be paying out for a replacement.

He had saved for almost one full year to afford that car. He refused to get a loan. He chose to pay for it in full. He reached his goal through hard work and fiscal discipline. We watched the market for months leading up to his actual purchase. He saw cars come and go. Some were enticing, others not worth his time. He continued to drive his 17 year-old car with a bent frame and tires that could not be fully aligned and required more frequent rotation to extend their life while he saved for the next car.

We spotted a good deal and the timing was perfect. It arrived on the local scene just as his bank account reached his target amount. He would be able to buy it, pay the taxes, and go from a beat up junker to a nice car with lots of options. It was almost nicer than my own car. Same make and model year. Only 15,000 miles more on it than mine. He bought it.

He quickly settled in with it and was happy. Until that midday Friday moment where it all ended in metal meeting metal, deploying side air bags, and shattered glass for good measure. The other vehicle? Barely a scratch. His car? Passenger side caved in. He was driving alone and on the side away from the low-speed impact.

Now, he has to restart his savings goal. Once again, set the target. Work hard and remain disciplined to reach it. His friends encourage him to just take out a loan and make payments. He refuses. They want to siphon away small amounts of cash on restaurants and movies. He partially relents and chooses one or the other, not both, saving the difference.  The path is a long one for him. His determination will serve him well.

Click over to your favorite blog, and pick out the 4th and 14th words (that aren’t “the” or “an”). Drop them into this phrase: “_____ is the new _____.”

Flying Dream

Steve ran across the open field. The hot summer sun warmed the ground and the clover brushed against his shins leaving pale green stains. Bees floated from blossom to blossom and loaded their legs with pollen. A thistle rose above the other grasses and offered its purple bloom to the sky. Butterflies hovered around milkweed stalks, some landed to gather the sticky white sap.

Steve ran on. He passed the muddy creek that drained from the pond into the lower swamp. He chugged up the hill after that and passed the manure pile. Flies swarmed the stinking mound in a thick cloud. He ran between two boulders and turned left for the lane to the back pasture.

The raspy buzzing of a wasp’s wings passing his ear caused him to duck and lurch awkwardly. The wasp turned and arced back into his left arm. Steve instinctively slapped where it hit and instantly regretted his action. The stinger burned where the poison went in. He sucked in his breath and gritted his teeth at the pain.

As the initial shock passed and he gained control of the pain, Steve heard something strange. He thought he heard a voice. It was faint and raspy. It said, “I am a magic wasp. Keep my wings after I’m gone. They will give you the ability to fly.”

Steve stood dumbfounded. Did he really hear that? Was he dehydrated or something? He looked at the ground where the wasp’s body writhed in death spasms. He thought he heard one final phrase “…I chose you…” come from the wasp before it became still. Steve knelt and watched it for a moment. When he was sure it was not moving anymore, he picked it up and held it cupped in one hand. He turned back and began walking home.

That night he slept with the wasp in a plastic sandwich bag under his pillow. The sting on his arm had settled into a red welt. His mother had put ice on it for 20 minutes when he got home and let him have a brownie before dinner to cheer him up. She did not know about the wasp carcass or what it had said to him. He barely believed it himself.

Steve drifted to sleep quickly. The screened windows were open to let the warm summer breezes through the upstairs bedroom.

He dreamed of the day. It was a hot summer day as he moved over the pasture.  Bees buzzed the clover, butterflies flitted around milkweed, and flies swarmed the manure. Steve floated past it all. It was all familiar but somehow different. Then he realized his viewing angle was from above it all. He was at least twenty feet in the air.

His surprise quickly passed as he heard the raspy voice of the wasp, “I chose you.”

What is the best dream you’ve ever had? Recount it for us in all its ethereal glory. If no dream stands out in your memory, recount your worst nightmare. Leave no frightening detail out.

Never Order a Spanish Nun for Dessert

A young sailor reunited with his wife after a four-month separation. The ship was still deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and currently docked in the Spanish island of Majorca. The young wife had flown alone from the United States to the island to see her husband. The ship would be in port for nine days. They were enjoying seven days together.

They spent the third day on a tour of one part of the island. The small van stopped at a stone building for the evening meal. They roasted sausages over an open fire as appetizers while the rest of the meal was prepared in the kitchen.

Neither the husband or wife spoke Spanish. He fumbled through minimal phrases and keywords in an honest attempt to communicate. There was always a great deal of gesturing and pointing involved. Tonight was no exception.

The couple shared a table with several older ladies who apparently were a retired group of friends on holiday together. They spoke Spanish and some English and did their best to include the young couple in the mealtime conversation. They attempted to offer marital and general life advice to the young couple as most older people seem to do worldwide. The young couple politely listened and did a lot of nodding and smiling to encourage their seniors.

The meal came to a pleasant end phase and the waiter came around to take dessert orders. The young sailor confidently ordered what he thought was a coffee, but his mispronunciation triggered a burst of laughter from all the older ladies. The waiter joined in as well.

The older ladies wagged their fingers at him and repeatedly said, “No, no. You have a beautiful wife. You should not ask for this.”

It took a few moments of back-and-forth explanation and clarification for the young man to understand he had mangled the word so badly it could have been interpreted as a request for a female member of the Capuchin order to complete his dinner experience.

Tell us about something you’ve done that you would advise a friend never to do.

Running on Empty (Cash)

The 1977 hit “Running on Empty” by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne used to be fun for me. With a catchy beat and easy lyrics to sing along, it could create a happy mood. Not today.

Here I was, standing in line at the credit union, waiting my turn to speak with a teller.  I needed cash and my account was very low. Too low for the ATM to dispense cash to me.

“Next customer, please.” a teller called out.

We shuffled forward. Only two people in front of me now. The song played over the speakers for the people, the lyrics muffled but still recognizable.

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind


That was me, running behind. The promotion I had received 7 months ago had actually backfired financially. No, we didn’t go on a spending spree with the incremental salary increase. In fact, we had been doing the opposite. We continued to cut our expenses wherever possible. The change in salary had come with a change in hours worked. I had been working 70 hours each week, now only 40. The impact hit harder because the hours over 40 had been 1.5x overtime pay, nearly doubling my income over the year. Now, it was gone.

We cancelled the newspaper. We turned off cable TV. We changed phone service to pay-per-call and tried to avoid calling anyone.

“Next customers, please.” two tellers said together.

I took my place at the counter and took a deep breath.

“I need to withdraw some cash from my account.” I said

“Sir, you could use the ATM outside.” she helpfully replied.

“Yes, I tried. There’s limited funds in my account and the machine will not dispense the small amount available.” I answered.

“Fine sir. I can help you. What is the amount of the withdrawal today?” she cheerily said, clearly dealing with an idiot customer who was afraid of using a machine with their cash.

“Three dollars.” I stated.

“Excuse me?” she blurted.

“Three dollars.” I restated.

“Um…okay. I can do that for you. May I ask why such an unusual amount? I mean, it’s none of my business, but you have to admit, it is an odd request.” she rambled in a flustered way.

“Sure. I’m broke. I have 8 dollars in my account. Your rules require I maintain a minimum balance of 5 dollars. That leaves 3 dollars available to me to get gas for my van which is currently running on empty.” I answered evenly.

“Of course sir, just one moment.” she responded.

“And the ATM only dispenses in 5-dollar increments.” I continued.

“Yes, sir. I see the problem. Account number please.” she said as she began to recover her composure.

We completed the transaction and I exited the credit union to the fading sounds of “Running into the sun but I’m running behind.” 

A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

Snakes for Grandma

While looking out my back window, my mind drifts back to childhood summers on the farm. Summer meant hay season. Hot days spent watching Grandpa drive the tractor around each field to mow, rake, dry, and bale the grass. Then we joined in the fun. We got to collect, stack, move, and store all those bales into the barn loft.

We used a large wooden wagon and Grandpa’s pickup truck to haul the bales. One person rode in the back to stack the bales. Two or more people walked alongside to pick up and toss the bales up to the stacker. One person drove.

The driver had a monotonous but important job. They navigated around the field at a walking pace that allowed the loaders time to grab and toss the bales easily. The stacker had to carefully interlock the bales for stability and maximize the load capacity. Stops and starts had to remain smooth in order to minimize the shifts in the load. Jerky starts could cause the load to cascade down over the stacker and cause a delay as the stacker reconstructed things.

We boys were always on the lookout for anything that would add entertainment to the work. Loaders would time their bale toss to hit the stacker just as they were hoisting a bale up high. Hit the stacker in the legs just right and at the right time, you could make him fall and have their bale land on top of him. It was hilarious fun!

One of the best diversions were snakes. In all the years of haying, we never found a poisonous one. In fact, most we found were dead. We often found them embedded in the bales themselves where they had been scooped up by the mechanical baler and killed in the process. If we found one, we knew exactly where to take it, to Grandma.

Grandma hated snakes. Alive or dead did not matter. She often drove the pickup truck. She applied years of experience deftly using the clutch and lowest gears to keep the truck crawling smoothly through the field. If Grandma drove, the stacker had a stable platform for their work.

Brother found a dead snake in a bale. It was mostly intact with its head hanging by a shred of skin where the baler blade had almost cleanly severed it. He suppressed his excitement with difficulty. He carefully removed the small body from the bale and cupped it in his hands as he ran towards the truck. He approached from a blind spot avoiding direct line of sight and the truck’s mirrors. He matched the vehicle’s walking speed and crouched below the open driver’s window. A quick jump up and a casual toss and the carcass floated inside and landed on Grandma’s leg right where her shorts stopped above the knee.

The truck lurched in tandem with Grandma’s screaming. It sputtered, lurched again, and stalled. The stacker fell in the back and the load shifted ominously. Grandma was still screaming as the door whipped open and she jumped out of the now stalled truck. She ran several steps away and stopped with a shudder and dramatic stomping of her feet just to be sure the snake was off her skin.

She looked around at the laughing grandsons and launched into an angry series of sentences nobody heard. Their message was clear, she was frightened and angry. Don’t do it again!

After a few moments, the scene subsided and we resumed our work. We remained ever alert for another opportunity to inject fun in our days.

Skating Against God

“God is watching us. He wants us to go to Bible study tonight.” Mike said.

“Aw, come on. We went to church on Sunday already this week. Let’s have some fun tonight.” Tim answered. “Let’s go to the roller skating rink! We might meet some girls.”

Mike and Tim argued a few more minutes before Mike finally relented to Tim’s pressure. Mike drove to the rink, grumbling all the way.

Inside, the music thumped, lights flashed, and people moved in a counterclockwise sloppy mass. The skill level ranged from clumsy tottering, stiff-legged amateurs to fast-moving, backwards skating little kids that zipped around slower people in reckless abandon. Tim smiled as he laced up his rented skates. Mike continued to frown and mumble.

“I don’t skate very well.” Mike said.

“You’ll  be fine.” Tim replied.

They both moved awkwardly across the carpet towards the edge of the rink. Tim pushed off from the carpet and glided out onto the polished wooden floor and easily merged with the moving crowd. Mike was not so smooth. He was clearly going to be in the stiff-legged membership tonight. Tim shrugged and took off.

After a few laps, Tim slowed and searched for Mike. He spotted him on the outside edge moving cautiously and reaching out for the rail to steady himself repeatedly. Tim whooshed up beside his friend and shouted, “MIKE” as he stopped. Mike jerked at the sudden shout and lost his balance. He went down hard on his rear end. He didn’t curse, being the good churchgoing young man he was, but his demeanor darkened a bit more. He was not having much fun. That was plain.

Mike got up and continued his first lap around. Tim cruised past him several times but did not trigger another fall. Mike headed for the carpeted exit area to get out. Just then, a young boy skating backwards clipped Mike’s heel at high speed. They both fell hard. This time Mike did not get up. Instead, he held his ankle and grimaced in pain. Tim pulled up alongside his friend to help.

“I think I broke my ankle.” Mike moaned.

“O, come on. You did not.” Tim said, “You probably just sprained it. Let’s get you off the rink and get these skates off.”

The two young men worked their way over to a bench and Tim helped Mike remove his skates and put one shoe on. The injured ankle rapidly swelled and it was apparent a shoe was out of the question. Mike demanded to be taken to the hospital for X-rays. Tim agreed and drove Mike’s car there.

Later, the emergency room doctor came with the results. He looked at Tim and said, “You owe him the bet. The ankle is definitely broken.”

Mike just said, “I told you we should have gone to Bible study. Now God is punishing us.”

Tim flippantly responded, “Looks like he is punishing YOU. I’m fine.”