So, for weeks now we have been after Cheri/Mom to give us some sort of hint of what she might want for Mother’s Day this year. I’ve mentioned before that when these kinds of holidays roll around, we like to make a big deal about it – that is, I like to make a big deal… Cheri works so hard, and is very much the glue that holds us all together in a wonderful home, that when there is a day that is “her” day, then it only seems right that we would shower her with all sorts of good things.
The trouble is, the woman won’t make up her mind, or even consider something she’d like to receive. When asked, “What would you like for Mother’s Day?” her response is always, “Let me think about it…” Now, that’s a fair response perhaps one or two times, but when asked daily for three weeks, it becomes a bit thin. The good thing is, the boys and I are relentless in forcing her to come to some decision…
So, we have squeezed out a few different things, with some of them actually things she might like to have. Since it’s not Mother’s Day, and there is an outside possibility that Cheri might read this column, I’ll not go into details, but suffice it to say that we have secured a few “goodies” that we think she will like, and of course she will be surprised because she has never asked for them! It’s kind of like when we thought we should change the cats’ food after a number of years of the same thing. They really liked the new stuff, but you could almost see in their little brains how they were thinking, “This is really great!” and “Where did this come from?” and then, “Why haven’t we had this before now?”
So, things were coming along pretty well – she did say that she wanted a coffee cake for breakfast on Mother’s Day. That’s a little unusual, since usually that is a cake that becomes her birthday cake in December, but if she really wants it, I can take next Saturday and make one up for her. We have not yet cracked the code of what she might want for a Mother’s Day meal – can you see how crazy hard it is to celebrate her? I don’t know how many of you have ever had to reach inside to the back of a crocodile’s mouth and try to pull one of its molars out, but that kind of “pulling teeth” is pretty much evident here.
And then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, after of course we have ordered and bought and stowed away all the different Mother’s Day presents to be, yesterday the Woman of the House mentioned, “I know it may be too late and everything, but I was wondering if for Mother’s Day, I could get a new recliner for the bedroom…” Now the truth be told, we have had conversations about this before. Right now in the corner of our bedroom is a good sized wicker chair with a cushion. I expect I bought it at a farm auction years ago for a couple of dollars, but it’s a very pretty chair. The trouble is, it’s a wicker chair, which is nice if you are sitting in an airy sunroom sipping tea in the afternoon. However, if you have awakened in the middle of the night, and the bed that is supposed to help you sleep has turned into either a slab of concrete, or a bed of nails, like the ones yogis sleep on, the old wicker chair is not going to be very comfortable.
Like I said, we have talked about getting one for Cheri to use in those middle of the night times, but that’s all it was – talk. So, when she actually seemed serious about wanting to get a recliner, I pounced on the idea. Today, as we are doing all the errands we need to do on a Friday, I have laid out two or three furniture stores that may indeed do the job.
However – do not kid yourself. This campaign will fall into the category of “shopping,” not “buying.” That means I have all by myself opened the door to most likely needing to look at probably 90% of the recliners for sale in the Fargo/Moorhead area. I’m not silly or naïve enough to believe that we could just walk into one store, look at two or three recliners and then buy it and go and have coffee somewhere. Oh no – I envision rows and rows of possibilities. Hundreds of chairs, which will all do the very same thing, but now this one will be “Cheri’s throne,” and as such will be required to meet very high standards, and of course never be the first one we see. It will be a long day, to be sure.
But what is Mother’s Day, if not a day to celebrate sacrifice? We will take the steps necessary to make sure the right size, right fabric, right tension, right cushiony headrest, right level of feet getting raised up – right everything happens. I will begin working now to keep from saying, “That one looks nice – how about just getting that one…?” My job is walk behind a couple of steps, like Prince Philip used to do with Queen Elizabeth, and be ready with the credit card when indeed it appears that we have settled on the perfect chair.
So, we will be intentional. Very intentional. Excruciatingly intentional. But I figure another word for today’s campaign – is love.
I hope everyone out there who is eligible for a Mother’s Day next week will be treated well – they/you all deserve it. Cheri will wave to you, hopefully from a cushy recliner…
Word for the day: orotund. Pronounced OR-ah-tund. It’s actually a word today that came from the fusing of two Latin words in an old Latin phrase, ore rotundo, which is literally, “round mouth.” What it implies is a way of speaking that is a “well-rounded phrase.” Someone who is orotund has a rich, clear, full, resonating voice. That’s usually an alto in women and a bass in men. Perhaps the best examples of orotund speakers in our time would be James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman.
First of all, let me say once again, for the record, that I absolutely detest the coronavirus. It has destroyed so much of what was once a “normal” life in this country and in this world. It has framed plans for the future – like in our instance, going on a huge trip to celebrate both my retirement and our 40th anniversary together – and it has allowed political forces on both sides to mismanage our nation’s resources under the “excuse” of the pandemic. It has also just make doing the normal stuff of daily life a huge task, or requiring a bunch of additional steps, which, especially when you are thinking of heading out into the world, you have to almost think twice, even if you are totally vaccinated. By the way, don’t get me started on the situation in which millions of Americans went through to get the vaccinations, and now are told that we are still required to wear face masks in public…
I know there are tons of important and significant things that people are having to do that require a lot of sacrifice, but I am still irritated when it comes to trying to do something very simple, and “normal.” I just want to go out for breakfast.
Cheri has today off, and so we move into a far different schedule than up very early, get her to work, and then do the daily stuff until evening rolls around. When she’s home, we really do try to do different things – even though she likes to take on all sorts of chores and tasks, I like to find simply fun things to do that hopefully will get her to unwind a bit from the stress of working in a women’s clinic and dealing with anxiety and all the “needy needertons” that come to see her. One of those things in the past was to take the morning, and do some leisurely shopping – and to have breakfast out somewhere.
When the stupid pandemic hit, it crashed a bunch of our normal stuff. Restaurants were closed or did take out only. That’s fine if you are getting a burger or a chicken sandwich somewhere, but you know as well as I do that breakfast is a pretty fragile menu. Nicely fixed eggs and toast, and pancakes and even bacon tastes wonderful as it is served to you piping hot, but to pick up a meal in a Styrofoam container, and take it home, means that when you get there about 20 minutes later, you have dried up, slightly wet from the steam condensing, kind of cold food. That’s really not what I like to order. So as a result, we went months without going out for our day-off breakfast excursion. Yes, I know I’m whining, and there are far worse things, like respirators and intensive care units and not being able to taste or smell – but I just wanted some normal breakfast, that’s all.
Even sadder, with the closing or limiting of places to go and have some good food over the past months, some of our favorite places have just shuttered, gone out of business, and called it quits. I haven’t done a study, but it sure seems like there were more places that offered breakfast that croaked than others. Three particularly favorite spots have just gone away. Most recently, the one very good place – Village Inn – which was only about 5 minutes away from our house ended up selling their building in order to have a new bank be built on the site. Now, I’m not one to interfere with normal commerce, and I know that things get sold and bought continually as the need arises, but when you stand on the corner of 25th St. S and 32nd Ave. S, at present you can count five banks within a block of each other. Now, of course, you can count five banks, and a closed up restaurant, which over the coming months will become the sixth bank. You know, I may be wrong, but I don’t see a lot of folks standing in line to go into yet another bank. They aren’t serving pancakes – that’s for sure.
So, this morning, with black armbands still being worn and flags at half-staff for the Village Inn, Cheri and I began to think about going out for breakfast, since the powerful and great ones have allowed us to actually sit in a restaurant and not have to shove food through our facemasks. The question arose then, as to where? One thing I have discovered in all of this mess is that if the food wasn’t particularly good in a restaurant before the pandemic hit, it hasn’t improved. I consider three points of importance: food, atmosphere and noise. Yes, I know the last two are very similar, but I’m writing this, so I get to count it this way.
So, way up on the north end of the city is The Shack, which many believe to be the greatest all-time breakfast place in the known world (maybe there is one in the Amazon jungle, but it’s not been located). Occupying what was once a Country Kitchen, it is a pretty good place – the only trouble is, it’s about 40 minutes away, and the tables are perhaps 6 inches from each other, so you can easily see and smell what the folks next to you are eating. That’s ok, unless you ordered pancakes, and they are eating onion rings and broccoli.
Two other restaurants that are about 25 minutes away are CJ’s diner and Perkins. Now, again, CJ’s purports to be the greatest breakfast place since toast was invented, but I believe the whole place could fit inside my office – and the din, especially from different senior citizen groups that come in and order the “senior breakfast,” which is something like a half a pancake, half a piece of toast, half a piece of bacon and half an egg, all seem to have hearing problems, but refuse to invest in hearing aids, so their practice of communicating is better known as “yelling across the barnyard.” Perkins is nice, and is the exact clone of every other Perkins in America. I still hate the idea of adding nearly an hour of driving to my life, especially if we aren’t going to shop anywhere close by afterwards. Everyone of course likes the blueberry muffins…
That leaves us with one more breakfast diner place that doesn’t require a short plane flight. It’s only about 10 minutes or so away, which sounds reasonable. Unless you want to park in the back, however, and have to put on your hiking boots to get to the only entrance, which of course is on the opposite side of the building from the parking lot, you have to try to score one of the ten slots in front of the place, which must have been put in by engineers from San Francisco, since the angle of the parking spots requires you to put on your emergency brake, and hang on to the car when you step out. Now, this is in Fargo, where the only change in elevation is the dike by the Red River, where the kids go sledding in the winter. There are no hills – no rises – no high spots, except at the restaurant.
Even worse, it’s called “Randy’s” – which you would think would immediately tell everyone how great a place it must be! Unfortunately, the last remodel of the place looks like it happened about the year I was born, with duct tape over the tears in the vinyl seats. Whenever I have suggested going there to Cheri, her response has been, “Really? Didn’t we try that once?” And we did. And six years later, it’s not going to happen again. Sorry, Randy’s.
So, I did decide to have breakfast at Randy’s this morning. In our kitchen, as I whipped up some eggs, and enjoyed them piping hot. The only thing is, on a day when you really just want to go out for breakfast, it feels like the pandemic won a round, when instead, you are at home, and are your own cook, customer and server. Again, not complaining – just a little.
Some of our decisions in life are between two wonderful options – either one will be wonderful and enjoyable. Sometimes, however, our decisions are between two options we’d rather not select at all. If we are living an intentional life, we can always choose the third way, and perhaps say that some other day we will try again, and to simply enjoy the good parts of what today brings, instead of wishing it would be something different, like an open Village Inn… this will eventually change, and then we will all have a reason to celebrate – big time.
Word for the day: amphibology. Pronounced am-fih-BALL-uh-gee. Kind of neat word that describes a particular part of our language. From the Greek, two well-known words, amphi, which means “both,” and ballein, which means “to throw” (probably where we get the word, “ball”). Put them together, and you have the word that means a sentence or a phrase that can be heard at least two different ways. “Nothing is good enough for you!” can mean that you are never pleased with what you have, or it can mean that all you deserve is … nothing… The scientific term is “syntactic ambiguity,” which again is simply the confusion or uncertainty as to how a sentence is to be understood.
I remember for years during the Christmas Eve service when the bible story was read, to be very careful with the sentence, “And they came at once, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.” I would always pause after, “Joseph,” just so folks weren’t hearing that it must have a been a very crowded situation in the manger…
First of all, I’d like to address the engineers who design car seats. I don’t mean the ones that babies use – that’s up to them – I mean the front seats that human adults sit in. I’m sure they are designed by committee. In the dark. Blindfolded. Let me tell you the story.
About every two or three months, I will climb into the car (by the way, why do we always say you have to “climb” in, as though you were scaling Mont Blanc or something? The biggest part of climbing is just swinging your hip and dropping down on to the seat…), which happens to be a Mazda CX-5, so bucket seats of course. As I go to sit down – occasionally, for some reason, my keys will slip out of my front pocket. No reason for it to happen – it’s not like I have them hanging out, waiting to fall – but for some reason, at the angle of getting into the car, and the angle of my left pocket, the keys just kind of go ker-plunk and fall out onto the floor of the car. Well, at least that’s what I would hope. Actually, they fall out into the tiny crevice (what you might call a “cranny”) between the actual seat and the body of the car. Frankly, I don’t know how I could be that good of an aim, to always get them right in that little crack, instead of just lying on top where you could easily pick them up. But our dear car seat designers have made that whole side of the seat and car like a penny arcade game. You have buttons to adjust the seat, and railings for the seat to move back and forth, and all sorts of grease and springs. It’s a laugh riot. So, I can almost imagine them getting together and saying, “So, if the person’s keys were to simply fall out of their pocket, how difficult could we make this whole area as they try to retrieve them?” And they do.
This morning, I sat down in the car, and heard the metallic sound of keys jumping out of my pocket. I looked down and saw them in the crevice, and foolishly thought I could just grab them and go on from there. Oh no. You see, part of the engineering is that once you touch the keys, they plunge even deeper into the side of the door and seat, eventually falling to the floor under the seat itself. Lovely. Except, as you try to reach under the seat to get the keys, you realize you are going to need 6 foot long arms, since the keys decided to slide to the lowest part of the floor, half way between the back seat and the front mats.
I am not a morning person. I like things to move slowly into a new day, and playing around with lost keys really fries my potatoes. Fortunately, my car starts with the key fob being somewhere within 10 feet inside the car, so I left the stinking keys to wallow in their pit while I pushed the button, and then took Cheri to work. I’m in charge, I said.
When I got back home, I parked the car, and then had to “climb” out of the vehicle and get on my knees on the driveway, where a perfectly placed little rock came between my knee and the ground. Since I couldn’t see the keys, I had to reach around under the seat, around the grease, below the springy cushions, until I felt something that shouldn’t be there – they were hiding. Fortunately, my arm between my elbow and my wrist is long enough, so I was able to snag them with one fingertip, and drag them sight unseen toward the front of the seat, which by the way has a dam or levee of some sort, most likely to keep other stuff that fall under the seat from rolling forward and going under the brake, which in turn would cause a cataclysmic crash. Engineers.
Oh, did I mention it all happened, just as the sun “climbed” over the house, so that the morning sun’s beam cause me to go temporarily blind as I was on my knees in the driveway. I know I probably should have taken the opportunity to offer a prayer, but frankly, my heart just wasn’t in it at that moment.
The bright sun, coming finally after a good week of gray, dark, rainy, gray (did I mention that?) skies, meant I needed to get to our living room rather quickly. We have a wonderful bank of windows that look out to our backyard, but they face east, and when that sun shines, it beams like a laser into the room. Nothing wrong with that, and in fact, our Siamese, Thor, loves to bake in the sun. However, over the years, we have collected some pretty old antique furniture – an 1810 Sheraton secretary made out of walnut, a painted red corner cupboard from a Norwegian cabin on the Sheyenne River, an oak book trunk from early 19th century England, and a small gaming table, with inlay from about the 1770s. It’s amazing how all those pieces can sit in the direct path of the hot, bright, kill-all-wood-finishes sunshine. I know it’s just stuff, but it’s our stuff, and I like to take care of it.
So, at about 7:30am, the light filtering shades get pulled down, protecting our stuff, until about 9:30. At that point, I raise up one of the shades, and halfway of the second one, to allow Thor to lie in the sunshine on the carpet, safely away from the antiques. Again at 10:30, and finally at noon, we can open the shades completely, and lighten the room. I guess that’s why I am retired – so I can put shades up and down, and find lost keys. What a life’s mission.
Still, each day we are invited to live accidentally, or intentionally. Now, accidents like dropping keys happen, and that requires an intentional solution. And being aware of the world – and the sun – around you invites you to take charge in making sure the things in your life are well-cared for. That’s all. The mantra we should follow is: think ahead, be aware, and act with conviction to do the right thing. Then you can sit back and have another cup of coffee, with the keys on the desk, and not on the floor.
Word for the day: iridescent. Pronounced ear-ih-DESS-unt. It’s a familiar word, used often, but the root is interesting. It actually was formed from the Latin word, iris, which means, “rainbow.” God of course, just for fun, gave each of us different “irises” of color in our eyes, so we would be interesting. The Greek origin is the goddess Iris, who was the goddess of the rainbow. Her job was to take messages back and forth from Mt. Olympus to earth using her rainbow as a staircase.
Today, the word simply implies the ability to produce displays of rainbow-like colors, which always capture our attention, as they glow.
Everybody knows what that word means. It’s from an Old English, with strange lettering, but it means very simply: Thief. It’s a despicable profession, to say the least. The whole construct of the world of a thief is that someone acts when another isn’t looking, or paying attention, and takes what does not belong to her or him. They don’t “own” what they stole – instead, they just hold on to something that is not theirs. Thieves are truly rotten.
So, it happened again. Early Sunday morning, like every morning, I log on to our bank’s website, and check balances and record any expenses in our checkbook. I know – we are kind of a hybrid, using both the internet and the old fashioned check book, but it works pretty well for us. Anyway, as I was looking at the checking balance, I saw a “charge pending,” dated that Sunday morning, for $135.23. Now, it’s not unusual for me to not immediately catch all our expenses, especially when on a Saturday, if Cheri and I go different directions. She had to get her hair done, and I filled up the car and did some other shopping, but that amount seemed kind of hinky to me, for some reason. So, I asked Cheri if she had spent that much anywhere, and she quickly denied it. We have ordered some different things off internet sites, like more jigsaw puzzles, and the chairs for Cheri’s mom for Mother’s day and such, but those were pretty small purchases.
So, I decided to look at the “description” line. This is where things break down, in my opinion, with online banking. You see, you can figure out some expenses, like “McDonalds,” or “Hornbacher’s Foods” or even “Widman’s chocolates” – which by the way are home of the fantastic “chippers,” which are ruffle potato chips dipped in wonderful chocolate – you can buy them by the pound, or by the truckload if you like – all hand done at the chocolate place here in Fargo, which also, by the way, offers chocolate dipped jalapeno slices. Yes – believe the dream.
But I have wandered. Like I said, for most of the expenses, you can figure out the code well enough to remember what you threw your money at the day before. However, there are times, like this time, when what was “described” wasn’t really a description at all. The line read: PP*SHARIGTRx2244 KYUSCARD. I’ll give you a minute to figure it out. Ok – are you as baffled as I was? I sort of assumed that “KYUS” meant Kentucky, USA, but since we had not ordered Kentucky Fried Chicken in a while, it seemed a bit extravagant to buy $135 worth… you know, it would have maybe been better off simply writing, “It’s a secret – and you will never know what it means…”
What really irritates me about thievery is that not only is something taken away that belongs to you, but you then have to go through a whole lot of work to try to get it back. Really? I’d much rather have a thief just come up to me and ask, “Can I have $135 and change? To which I would reply, “Heck no!” and at least that would be over and done with…
So, since the bank we use, I was sure, would want to know that something underhanded, sneaky, no-backbone-to-stand-up-straight-and-face-the-world-as-something-more-than-a-two-legged-scavenger had occurred, I called them up, even on a Sunday morning. You see, the thing said, “pending,” which I had hoped would mean they could shut it down before someone started putting their sticky fingers all over our money.
Of course, it was an 800 number, which sent me into a computer guessing game to decide which button to push that would take me into another cyber-room to try to fix things. I did notice that none of the selections included, “Some rat is trying to take money from our checking account.” I finally, after a couple of tries, got what I thought was the right door to open, and after giving all sorts of personal information to the computer, it let me speak with a human.
Nothing derogatory, but if she were actually on American soil, she was still enrolled in an English as second language class. It was rough. I’m pretty sure she read from a script for all the answers. Trouble is, I was asking questions that didn’t match what she was answering. I wanted really to know what the code was on the expense description, since I figured the bank wrote that out and put it there. Nope – couldn’t break that wall. The most I got was that the “PP” stood for “PayPal.” Since we never use PayPal, I was convinced that it wasn’t just some charge we had forgotten. (See how long this was taking?)
Finally, after a good 40 minutes or so, with her also having to speak with Cheri, since we each have a debit card for the same account that has a different number for each of us… we all decided that, first, the charge didn’t belong to us, but instead was the product of a low-down, miserable, rattlesnake jerk. (My words…) She said she would start the process of stopping the expense – which I thought would be pretty easy – just hit “delete.”
However – and this is what takes so long – since somehow one of our card numbers was used in this nefarious scheme, it was going to be necessary to block both of our debit cards – just shut it all down, to make sure nothing else came on – and then we could either have them mail us new cards, which would take 10 days in the mail, or we could go over to one of the bank’s branch locations on Monday and they could quickly give us a new card. We went with door #2. After all that work, I hung up and waited for the change on our checking account.
I guess pushing the delete button might have been a bit too simple, since checking throughout the day, absolutely nothing changed on line. This was not met with a smile, but I did count it against it being a weekend (although I have noticed that when there is a real charge made, it is immediately debited against our account – not a moment of time wasted…).
Monday morning, I got up, fired up the computer, and checked my checking account. Indeed – something had changed! Unfortunately, what had changed was that the charge had moved from “pending” to “actual.” I went a little bit nuts. I called once again, and walked through computer land until I was able to talk with another human. This time, Erica was incredibly helpful. She apologized, but explained that they don’t take off the charge while pending, in case something more were to be added, or another development might occur. Now that it was actual, however, she promised me that she would immediately remove the charge. I think she probably owns the bank.
Well, after Cheri got off work, we moseyed over to the bank store, and turned in our old cards, and they printed up new ones after about 15 minutes, which on balance wasn’t so bad.
So now we have new cards, a correct balance, and we were able to stop the thief in his/her tracks. All that, for only about two hours’ worth of effort. I’m glad I am retired…
You know, when we strive to live intentionally in this world, but especially to live intentionally honest and good, unfortunately, we can be assured that from time to time, there are those finks who will come into our lives to take what we do not offer. Fortunately, however, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s still a lousy thing to have to endure. I expect that’s why God told us, “Do not steal.” Besides it being an inherently bad thing that makes a train wreck out of peaceful society, it also takes a whole long time to fix the tracks and put the train back on schedule. So – don’t steal. Also, be sure to do and don’t do all the other nine commandments. It’s a good way to live.
Word for the day: breatharian. Pronounced breath-AIR-ee-un. So, just looking at the word, you can guess it means a follower of some sort of philosophy or religion. This is a new word to me, actually – it comes from a small sect of Hinduism, which states they believe it is possible, through the right meditation, to reach a level of consciousness where you don’t need any food or water to exist. That’s right – all you need is air, and sunshine. You gather all you need from those two essential things filling your body.
Now – I respect those beliefs that are different from mine, even those that seem a bit unusual, or at the far end of the spectrum. However, it’s my assumption that folks that take on this meditation eventually die. Of course, we all do, but if I had to become a breatharian, I think my prime meditation would be how to find something to eat or drink. I mean – coffee? But whatever works…
Well, it’s a pretty significant week up here in the Northland – at least for Cheri’s family. Cheri’s mom will turn 88 next Tuesday, so kids and grandkids decided to have a nice birthday party this weekend. Now, I’m always pretty amazed to read of people in their mid to upper 90s still alive and kicking in this region – whether that’s the Scandinavian genes, or the fact that everyone lives in sub-freezing temps for a good half of the year, so they are preserved like a pail of ice cream, but folks do live a long time. Cheri’s dad’s mother lived until she was 93, and Cheri’s mom’s mom lived until she was 95. Of course, both of them by that time had moved into a world that includes a lot of memory loss, and other rationale thought loss, so I continue to remind Cheri she is going to live a very long time – she just won’t know it.
Right now, however, Cheri’s mom is doing pretty well, both physically and mentally. By the time my mom turned 88, she had been bedbound for a couple of years with lymphoma and other heart issues, so to hear that Cheri’s mom just got her driver’s license renewed is a little…. Interesting, to be sure.
So – it’s time for a party. Just a bit of framework: the temps on Saturday will be in the 70s, and it will be May, so any reasonable person would know that all the farmers should be in the field, planting and such, but a birthday party means they get shoehorned out of the work, at least for a couple of hours. Also, there are some grandchildren who now live far away, so their duty is to call their grandma and wish her well. The rest of us, however, will haul food and pop and cake and plates and such to what is now Cheri’s mom’s home in town, and we will sit around eating sub sandwiches and chips, and having fifteen different conversations at the same time. Sounds like most every other family on the face of the earth, actually.
If it is nice enough, we will open up the back sliding patio door, and a sub-group could end up sitting around outside. This is where we get into a little bit of a problem, because there are three categories of chairs that end up on the little patio. The first group are of course the dining room chairs that get hauled outside, but it they get hot in the least, the 40 year old varnish starts to melt and entire wardrobes will become fused to the chair itself. Ick. The second group are those canvas camping chairs that have been sold for the last 20 years or so. We have a bunch up in the storage in the garage, that we used to bring to the soccer games. They look pretty jaunty as you carry them with a sling over your shoulder, but I have always found that they are meant for people who are usually less than 5 feet tall, since they end up opening with the seat about five inches off the ground, and if you are of normal height, your knees are pretty close to your eyebrows. To get out of the chair requires you to kind of roll out onto the grass. A little awkward.
The final group of chairs of course are the dinosaurs. Every family has or had a couple or a few of them. They had light aluminum frames, which over the years ended up feeling kind of gritty and pitted. If they still had their little plastic arm rests, they were usually broken, and hanging on by a single screw. They would fold up to carry, but somehow no one ever thought to oil them so they could easily open – either that, or over the years they were so loose that they would open up as you tried to carry them with one arm, and the entire lunch in the other. Best/worst of all, they became chairs through the magic of having plastic webbing woven in the back and seat of the aluminum frame. These were usually green and white, with the added reality that at least half, if not three quarters of the webbing, being left out in the rain and sun for months at a time, even over winter when they were left behind from being put away, was frayed, or split, or outright missing. I remember one time watching my younger sister sitting in one, with three or four of the webbing strips hanging down under her seat, and then in slow motion, we saw the rest of the seat give way, as she drifted right through the frame, and ended up sitting on the ground, with her feet above her head. They really were related to those rope bridges that always existed in the jungle adventure movies, when the hero (and his girl) are being chased by the bad guys, and they have to go across the bridge, only to have the very center of the bridge, right over the 100 foot chasm, to break or split or get chopped by the bad guys, and the hero ends up hanging by one arm, holding the rotting rope until miraculously he can swing himself back up in time for the bad guys to go falling through the huge hole in the bridge.
That’s what it’s like sitting in the web chairs. Cher’s mom, of course, brought three of them in from the farm, all in various stages of splitting and decay. They really are splendid accidents waiting to happen.
So, this morning, as Cheri and I were imagining the party this Saturday, I mentioned the chairs, and then just floated the idea of increasing her mom’s birthday gifts to include a couple of new web chairs, which hopefully will last about another 10 years. Cheri was immediately on board, and so I jumped online to order a couple of them.
Do you remember when they cost about 15 dollars apiece? Well, I can attest to the fact that they don’t cost that much anymore! In fact, where before, if you were industrious, you could buy the replacement webbing, and on the hottest day in the summer, with sweat pouring out of every part of you, in the middle of the sun, you could replace the split seats with brand new strips of woven plastic. I remember one year when Dad decided to do just that, but decided that only half the webbing was completely corrupted, so he just changed half the web. Of course, they were of two drastically different colors, so when he was done, it looked like an evolutionary experiment gone completely wrong. At least we knew no one would ever attempt to steal them… Anyway, the replacement webbing today costs about what two whole chairs cost back in the 60s and 70s, which as I think about it, was nearly 60 years ago, so I guess things do change.
We bit the bullet and bought two new ones – they should be delivered to our house on Friday, to take up to Grafton on Saturday. That’s our plan, and hopefully, all will turn out well. Otherwise, watch out rope bridge…
At least we are working to be intentional, and making good plans and good decisions to create a good outcome. Yes, things could go wrong, which is not unusual as we live in life, but hopefully, we are closer on the side of a good time, and not something worth forgetting. Enjoy your week!
Word for the day: imbroglio. Pronounced a number of ways, but most often, it is im-BROIL-yo. Doesn’t it just sound Italian? And Italian, it is, from the verb, imbrogliare, which means “to tangle.” A phrase used lately is “a hot mess.” An imbroglio is a very complicated situation, or an altercation with no clear resolution, or a big confused heap of circumstances that seem to keep getting more and more tangles the more you try to sort things out. I remember when I would take the boys fishing when they were little, and sometime during the outing, one or both of them would come up to me with a giant ball of fishing line attached to their reel, with a hook somewhere inside, and asking me to “fix it.” A pure imbroglio. Often, the best I could do was to take out my knife, and re-thread a new part of line and start all over. Unfortunately, when the imbroglio deals with people all tangled up in an argument, it rarely works to take out the knife…
Well, it’s not that I have traveled around the world extensively, but I have been blessed to be able to visit a number of cities and towns and areas all over the United States and a good bit of the world. Everywhere has their “best place” for things you might want to eat or buy. For instance, when Cheri and I honeymooned in Quebec way back nearly 40 years ago, we would stop by little bakery shops and buy what are undoubtedly about the best croissants you could ever have. In New Orleans, if you are going to order a po’boy sandwich anywhere, you want to make sure that they serve is on Leidenheimer bread. Unmatched anywhere in the world. And of course, beignets and chicory coffee at the Café Du Monde. I’ve had all sorts of pastries and rolls, and especially donuts, and while some of them only served to fill up a hungry stomach, some were unbelievably delicious. I’ve told before that before I got married, I worked part-time at Lone Star Donuts in Dallas, making apple fritters and what seemed to be thousands of donuts, three dozen at a time on a big wire rack that I would lower into a massive vat of oil, over and over again, and then glaze with a trough. When I was in college in Grand Forks, I worked at a hardware store on the south side of town, and even in the middle of winter, I would walk the 2 ½ miles each way to work, stopping at the Mr. Donut to have a hot cup of tea and an angel cream filled donut to make it the entire way. How did I not know that was a burden?
So, we have a great donut place here in Fargo. It’s called Sandy’s Donuts and in recent years they have expanded to a new store on the south side, which also meant they do a nice little delivery service, especially on Sunday mornings as the family slowly wakes up, and needs a donut to greet the new week. I have to say – they are really, really good. So, around noon on Saturday, if I can remember, I’ll go online and order a dozen donuts, which actually will carry us into the middle of the week, since eating any more than one donuts classifies you as either starving, or with a little oinky nose.
Yesterday I remembered to do just that, and as I picked out the dozen choices, including the filled ones for me, and the maple long john for Cheri, and Bavarian cream round ones for the boys, I came to the end of the selection, and tried to check out. It wouldn’t let me – I went back and counted all the selections, and with 12 in the “basket,” I tried again. No luck. Finally, I looked at the bottom of the screen, and a small announcement said, “you have selected 12. Make another selection to complete your order.”
It was then I remembered that when you buy 12 donuts, you actually get 13 -- the old “baker’s dozen,” as it were. So, I picked out a Norwegian sour cream, and finished the order, and looked forward to this morning, which indeed, at 6:45 this morning, came the lovely sound of 13 donuts being dropped on our front porch.
However, I became curious as to the old “baker’s dozen” tradition, and decided to do some research. With your indulgence, this is what I found…
In the 13th Century in England, during the reign of Henry II, it apparently became commonplace for bakers to cheat their customers by selling them loaves of bread that were “light.” Maybe extra yeast, or some way to create a loaf of bread that was a bit less than then “normal loaf.” Henry decreed a trade guide known as “The Worshipful Company of Bakers,” which first of all determined that bread was to be sold in line with the price of wheat. Loaves were sold by the pound, not by the piece. The penalty for selling “light loaves” was either a fine, or flogging, or in most dire circumstances for repeated offense, the baker would have a hand cut off. Not the best way to spend a Saturday.
That got the baking industry’s attention, to say the least. Since the bread was sold by weight and not numbers, when a dozen loaves were sold, the bakers would throw in an extra loaf, just to make sure it all had enough weight. Better to lose a loaf than a hand, the old saying goes… or should have gone. It was called at that time, the “vantage loaf,” in order to avoid a beating. It was even the case, if someone were to buy only one loaf, the baker would add in an extra slice, or tear off a piece and put it in the bag as well – just to make sure.
And here, only 800 years later, it is often the tradition of bakeries to continue with the “baker’s dozen,” which is more than a dozen, just to make sure. I can thank Henry II for the Norwegian Sour Cream, I guess.
This historical information, however, only set me to thinking a bit more. Why only bakeries? I’ve never heard of a “ribeye steak dozen,” or and “eggs dozen,” or for that matter, a new car’s dozen, or a fine jewelry’s dozen… seems a bit punitive to pick out only one industry and clamp down on their sales. Of course, even though we don’t have a “gallon of gas” dozen, you can see careful certification on every pump, that assures you that when you use their measurement to pump out a gallon of gas into your car’s tank, it’s a gallon, and not three quarts…
What I expect, although I haven’t read anywhere, is that if nothing else, people need bread. They probably grew their own vegetables, but maybe not baked bread. Cheating on the weight of bread affected the very poor the most, and maybe ol’ King Henry was aware of that… or maybe he got cheated once himself, and decided that con game was going to end. Whatever the reason, the impact of that one decision, that one decree has affected the world with the understanding that things need to be fair when we deal with one another, because frankly, it is easy to cheat and take more than our fair share.
So, beside my extra donut, I then wonder how we might go beyond the bare minimum in our dealings with others. In providing something to someone else, could it be that we would be able to do just a little more, because it’s the right thing to do. We had some friends once who, when they would take us out to dinner, and pay for the meal, would spend a huge amount of time, figuring out the tip to leave the server, so that they wouldn’t end up giving too much – as though that extra quarter, or even the extra dollar was the difference between life and death.
I even think sometimes how some folks will do lots of calculations, taking the actual net income after taxes, to decide what percentage they will give as an offering to God. Better not give too much? Because certainly God has not given an abundance to us first?
Maybe it’s time for each of us, no matter what we do, to engage in a baker’s dozen of living our lives, generously – not to avoid a beating, but because we can do that good thing, offer that bit extra – live with grateful hearts. It’s an idea at least 800 years in the making…
Word for the day: ostracize. Pronounced OS-tra-size. No, it has nothing to do with a large flightless bird. It’s another example of a word arising out of the tool or item used to do something. In this case, the Greek, ostrakon, meant the broken shard of a piece of pottery. Pottery was broken regularly in ancient Greece – that’s probably why they invented Tupperware. Anyway, the broken piece of pottery was used as part of the democratic process in Greece. When a member of the community was seemingly dangerous to the population for whatever reason, be it political upheaval, or physically threatening, the populace would take a vote, and they would write the name of the person who needed to be banished from the community, by scratching the name of a piece of broken pottery. I guess there were no notepads. When the votes were tallied of the ostrakon, the person could be banished from their home for 5-10 years. They were ostracized.
By the way, the word, “ostrakon” also meant something that looked like a shell, and an animal that lives in a shell? The oyster, of course.
I’m sure you are aware by now that I really enjoy taking a particular date, and reading about what important things happened on that date earlier in history. Today is no exception, especially for one year in particular – I’ll get to that.
So, what’s the big deal about April 24? Well, over 3200 years ago, in 1184BC (that would have been almost 200 years before Jerusalem was established), the Greeks entered Troy with the Trojan Horse. Lots and lots of other wars, and popes and dictators came to power on this date through history – it must be something about Springtime. In 1800, however, The Library of Congress was established with a $5000 allocation. I’m sure someone also donated their collection of National Geographic at the same time. In 1888, Eastman Kodak was founded and for more than 100 years, they ruled photography. In 1913, the tallest building in the world at that time opened as the Woolworth Building in New York City. It was 792 feet (60 stories) tall. Today, the tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is 2,716 feet tall, or able to fit almost 3 ½ Woolworths in its height.
Just because it’s a cool name, in 1929, Thorvald Stauning was elected premiere of Denmark. He had a really cool beard, too. In 1954, 1955 and 1959, a number of television stations went on the air. In our neck of the woods, it was 1953 when WDAY went on the air here in Fargo.
In 1969, Paul McCartney told the world he wasn’t dead.
In 1990, the Hubble Telescope was launched – 31 years ago.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI was inaugurated.
But the biggest thing about this date happened in 1898, when Spain declared war on the United States. The USS Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbor, leading an entire generation to call out, “Remember the Maine!” – which hardly anyone does anymore, which is also part of history. Anyway, the result of the war, which only lasted about four months, was that Spanish rule in the Americas was over, for the first time since Columbus landed.
What’s perhaps more important, however, was that a 15 year-old named Harry Serviss, born in late 1882, somehow weaseled his way into the Army, and fought with the US troops during what was one of the shortest wars in our history. The good news was, Harry survived his tour of duty, and then came home and in 1899, not quite 17 years old, he married a young woman named Winnifred Blanche Van Wie, who herself was only 16, and they were married until Harry’s death in 1970, almost 70 years. Of course, it didn’t hurt that their first child was born in January of 1900…
Harry and Winnie were my great-grandparents. They lived until I was 13, and I so I had a wonderful opportunity to get to know them as true grandparents. I only wish now, over 50 years later, that I would have had any presence at all to ask them questions about their lives growing up, to hear the stories of a couple who started even their adult lives in the 1800s. Unfortunately, that knowledge is gone forever, except for facts and dates in census rolls and marriage licenses.
Still, what can never go away is the fact that a kid, really, who loved his country, and was caught up in the drama and glory of a war was able to talk someone into letting him serve his country, even in Cuba. I have a yellowed picture of that 15 year-old, in uniform, certainly clean shaven because he probably hadn’t started shaving yet, with the three-button sleeves, knee high leather boots, a jaunty military hat with one side swept up, and what looks like his pistol on the floor behind him. This kid had calm, clear eyes, no smile, because it’s war and you don’t smile because you are pleased with yourself – and you don’t want anyone to ask whether a young smiling boy should even be in the army.
So, on this day, 123 years ago, nations put into place actions that must have changed my great-grandfather’s life, and life beyond that. When we are able to identify the stories and the tales of our ancestors, it doesn’t change anything, but I believe it changes us, at least a little, as we become more centered into a time we will never know.
I hope this is a good day for you – not necessarily life-changing, but at least one that would be worth remembering. Take a picture.
Word for the day: epoch. Pronounced EE-pock. It’s a word you probably are acquainted with, but often we don’t recognize it until it has already become history. From Greek, epi, meaning “on,” and ekhein, meaning “to hold,” it sounds like something you hold on to, right? Well, an epoch is a fixed point in time, where you can identify a particular period, or stretch of time that is significant and creates history of sorts. Like the Spanish-American War, for instance – a life changer and a moment in time. Right now, although we don’t really like to identify it, we are engaged in the CoVid-19 epoch – an historical moment that really has changed not only our lives, but the world as a whole. We will find in later years, the definition of time and history in terms of what happened before, and what happened after this “epoch” found its way into our lives.
When in the course of human events, it happens that Spring shows up, and homeowners start thinking about some possible around-the-house projects. And in the course of all that, visions of new, improved, better looking and easier to use stuff starts to dance in their heads (I know I mixed up Christmas and the Declaration of Independence, but stay with me).
So it was that a couple of weeks ago, Cheri and I started thinking and then talking about what it might look like if we changed out the big bamboo roll-up blinds in the gazebo. The current blinds, we are sure, went in probably when the thing was built back in the 1990s. By the time we inherited them, they were still in pretty good shape, but they are very heavy and dark, and the cords that create the superstructure for pulling them up and down have frayed a bit, and the outer covering on some has been stripped away, so that now we basically have kite string being sawn through the little pulleys. Now, if we were simply out on a desert island, we might not care about how things look, but that’s just not the way it is here in the big city. Granted, in the last five years, besides Cheri and the boys and I, we have had only about ten other people even sit in the place, but that’s besides the point. The time had come for us to make a change.
There are seven big blinds, four foot wide and about 6 foot tall. Like I said, by changing them out, we would have the opportunity to maybe lighten things up a bit, and have them be nicer to use when the hot summer sun comes pounding in on us. If the sun ever decides to shine, and the temp get above 60 degrees, at least.
So, with having some money set aside over the winter, we began to look around. We actually found a nice bunch of blinds on Amazon, and with free shipping, it seemed like a winner. We decided on the right color, selected 7, and pushed “order.” They would be delivered in about four days, and about 20 minutes later, we would have them hung and be enjoying our new look.
If this were a movie or television show, what I just wrote would have been a dream sequence, with fuzzy edges, and happy music. In reality, it wasn’t four days – it turned out to be 8 days, because for some reason, CoVid hijacked the trucks and kept them ransom until Amazon paid them off – those pandemic thugs… but eventually, we had seven slender heavy boxes on our front porch, so we hauled them in, and opened up a couple of them with the firm belief that they would have come with two small eyelet hooks that would fit perfectly on the hooks that were in the gazebo, just like all good bamboo blinds have. Not so. When we opened up the plastic wrapping on one, and unrolled the blind, a package of hardware dropped out onto the table. No instructions – just a myriad of metal and screws and wing nuts.
This was not what I had expected, to say the least. As I tried to figure out the contraption, it looked like we were going to have to drill three holes for each blind in the ceiling of the gazebo, and then somehow slide the wooden valance through some small slits, and attach the wing nuts… oh, you get the picture. Of course, we would do this, all the while with 20 pounds of bamboo being held over our heads – by which I mean my head – and we would get to do that same process six more times.
I am not easily defeated, but I did not buy into a ten stage process that indeed may or may not really work. In my mind, I went back to the simpler idea of just unhooking a blind and hooking up a new one – two minutes at most, with no drilling. I’ve always liked the gazebo – I didn’t want to start resenting it. So, very quietly I suggested to my darling wife that these were not the blinds we hoped them to be, and perhaps we could send them back. She agreed, fortunately.
I went online to Mr. Amazon, and lo and behold, the return process didn’t seem to be very difficult. We repacked the open boxes, and were instructed to take them over to the UPS store where they would scan a little code and ship them back to Amazon with no cost or fuss. Outside of trying to haul seven boxes through a door to the store that for some reason has a spring strong enough to hold it closed in a hurricane, we kissed the boxes goodbye and went to stage two.
We decided that instead of ordering the blinds, we could go over to Home Depot or Lowes or another big home improvement store, and shop off the rack. Apparently, none of those stores, at least up in North Dakota, do a brisk business in bamboo blinds – this isn’t Florida for crying out loud – and so after looking all over the dumb stores, we found store clerks – none of them over 22 years old – who informed us, “Nope – but I’m sure we can order them for you.”
At least it was a fun drive all over town, having to put on dumb facemasks and walking five miles at each store. However, if we had order them, I could do that on my own! So, back home in the comfort of my office, we picked out another set of seven blinds, these with the right hooks, and I punched “order,” and they promised another four days.
On the fourth day, I heard the UPS truck pull up and then heard a rather large sound as boxes were dropped off onto our porch again. I opened the front door, and could barely see daylight… there on the porch were three enormous boxes! By enormous, I mean they were each four foot by three foot by three foot. I pulled them inside, and opened them up. After taking the ten foot of tape off the box, inside I found one blind. Three huge boxes – three blinds. The cats loved it, since they discovered a catacomb of boxes to sit in, but the little blinds seemed out of place in the huge boxes.
Little blinds. I was suddenly concerned. I checked the info on each blind, and sure enough, as I had ordered 48x72 inch blinds, we received three 42x72 inch blind-ettes. They were not going to fit. Again. Of course, we had to wait until the next day when FOUR more huge boxes were delivered, each with a 42x72 blind.
Do you see how the human spirit can be bent, if not broken? I went back on the Amazon site to figure out how to return these, wondering how we were going to get seven huge boxes in the back of our SUV. Even worse, for us to take them back to UPS meant this time it was going to cost us $10/box to return them. Since they were all shipped separately, we couldn’t even put them all in one box, the way God intended. However, I then stumbled across another option: we could take the blinds, no boxes or shipping labels or anything except a scanner code which was already on my phone, to our friends at Kohl’s department store. Somehow, they had a special arrangement with Amazon to collect and return items, and they would box and label and send them off for us – at no charge!
So, unpacked blinds in the back of the car, off to Kohls, and after some other adventures, we “sent” them back.
Two and a half weeks after we started this process, we are now back to exactly where we were in the beginning. Older, wiser, more bent over a bit, today our task will be to try to select the right size, right color, right hook and right price (although that qualification is starting to fade a bit…), and hopefully after a time, once again we can believe that the American system of commerce actually works. If not, there is always next year. Maybe we can start growing our own bamboo…
Even when you act with great intentions, it’s possible that accidents, mistakes, errors and boo-boos will beset you. I’m glad they were only blinds, to a gazebo, which is not a major issue, to be sure. It’s just tough sometimes, as you know, to keep the grit out of the gears of normal living…I hope your day is a better one!
Word for the day: mendacity. Pronounced men-DA-sit-ee. Not a commonly used word, but it should be. It’s Latin, of course, coming from mendacitas, meaning “falsehood.” That comes from mendax, “liar,” and derived from mentior, “to deceive” and even mens, “mind.” Someone who is skilled at mendacity frequently offers the pretense of telling the truth, when indeed, it’s only a tendency to lie – about most everything.
Someone who embodies mendacity should be trusted as far as you can thrown them. When the trust between two people is broken by lies, it’s a compound fracture that can hardly be set right.
It’s pretty much a perfect storm of menus and cooking. First, as I have mentioned before, my folks enjoyed introducing a wide variety of foods to us kids as we were growing up. We had a lot of Italian, and Mexican, and Asian including Guamanian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese, and also a variety of European countries. Some of them were wonderful, and others – not so much. Add to that fact that I have grown my taste for hot spicy foods to the point that most of my balance has been pretty well burned out, and then finally, that our two sons have embraced the same set of eating principles has meant that we would continue to grow and expand our repertoire of meals other than Midwest American. I do have to say that one member of the house -- the one with pretty strong Norwegian genes and sensibilities – is NOT a fan of spicy food. I can’t even count the number of times we have ordered some food, or made it at home, and sitting down to eat, the first words are, “Whoo – that’s pretty spicy! That’s really hot!” as the chicken tortilla soup is set aside, or the whatever just has a little too much pepper in it (which means it has any pepper at all…). For instance, when we make chili at home, it has to be made with NO chili pepper in it. Basically, it’s Mexican spaghetti sauce, and the rest of us are left to add the hot stuff post-cooking, which is not really the way spices are supposed to work. But she is tiny enough that she really can’t afford to miss a meal and stay upright, so we accommodate whenever we can.
However, there are some dishes that by their very makeup and heritage require some level of heat. Chili should be included in the list, but one in particular that is growing in popularity in our home is Jambalaya. Now, I have 0% Cajun in my blood, but after spending a year in New Orleans, I found that so much of that culture’s food aligns perfectly with my taste buds. It’s good. And it’s more often than not pretty spicy…
So, when the menu rotation rolls around to an open evening, and someone says, “Hey – let’s have jambalaya!” my bride’s first comment is, “That’s fine – I’ll just have something else…” Now, we can’t do that every night, but now and then, we accept the compromise and it’s off to the races – Cajun style, that is.
If you have never had jambalaya before, it’s best described as a pile of stuff, with rice. That’s pretty much the recipe. You start off with sausage, maybe shrimp, maybe chicken – or alligator, if you can even find it (yum!), and cook the meats up in a nice deep cast iron pot. While they are cooking, you then taken onion, and as many different colors of bell pepper that you want – I like the green and red, although last time I even used an orange pepper. You chop them up nice and chunky, and then sauté them in the bottom of the pot after you take out the meat. When they are nice and soft, you re-add the meat, and cook it up for a while more. When the time is right – and you will just know when, then you add the chicken broth, and the spices – cayenne pepper, jalapeno (if you like), some salt, black pepper and some tabasco if you prefer. You see, at this point, you move from a Sunday potluck dish to a Saturday night, burn your guts and mouth out delight.
When you have dumped enough solid fire into the pot, and have it all heated up, then it’s time to add the rice. Stir it in so it’s nice and mixed up – use the uncooked long grain rice for the best results – and then put a lid on the pot, and walk away for about 45 minutes. Don’t open the lid – don’t check, and don’t wonder if maybe it’s done a little early. It isn’t. Just do the crossword puzzle, or chat about the day, and let it do what it will do.
When the time is right, you take the lid off, and if you are lucky enough to be close to the pot as that happens, you get first dibs on the aroma of the bayou. Now, I’m not self-deceived to believe my jambalaya would even be received by a true Cajun, but it’s pretty good. Also, the non-Norwegian approved spices have been cooking of the better part of an hour, and have released their little fire-breathing flavor into the unsuspecting rice and meat (oh, by the way, did I mention you should also find the spiciest sausage you can?), so that as you take that first bite of the Cajun apple, hanging there is swampy Eden, your find your mouth slowly catching fire. It’s a wonderful moment. Plus, if you care to add a few dozen more drops of Tabasco, which is grown down in that area of the country, then the fire burns even more brightly…
So, as we three boys enjoy the burn, my darling wife has microwaved her Swedish meatball and noodles frozen meal, and enjoys it, and peace reigns in the Cross household.
It’s kind of like when we were growing up, that Mom had to make two batches of her wonderful potato salad. One batch was the “normal” tasty, flavorful, the-way-God-intended salad, and the other was made with no garlic and no onions, and no pickle relish, and very little mustard. I would always ask myself, “Why bother? Just mash some potatoes up and call it good.”
Of course, I know that each person’s palate and flavor-brain switch is different. For instance, if you can believe it, some people actually want to eat lima beans, and navy bean soup, with a ham hock in it. I’d rather be on a fast than even try it. Yuck. So, I have to regularly test and check my opinion about foods, and about persons who don’t like a spicy life. After all, I fell long ago for a short Norwegian farmer’s daughter who only later did I find out just never wanted anything close to hot or spicy or flaming, or mouth burning. My peppers and hot sauce have been easily secure for nearly four decades.
Just to end this with a little romantic thought: if I had to give up forever my spicy foods in order to keep the woman I love, I would do it. I would miss the spice, but she brings a whole other genre of spice to my life, and that’s good enough for me.
I think we are making chili tonight…
Word for the day: euneirophrenia. Pronounced you-near-oh-FREE-nee-a. Big word – pure Greek, if you can recognize it. It’s created from three different Greek roots: eu, which we know means “good,” like an evangelist is someone who shares good news; oneiro, which means “dream,” and phrenia, which is “state of mind.” Put them all together and you end up with that wonderful, peaceful feeling that envelopes you when you wake up from having a good dream. In those first few moments, not having to jump out of bed, but just lie there, and enjoy what you remember, before it fades – that’s euneirophrenia. I’m afraid lots of us carry our stress and anxiety to bed, and so our brain works overtime to clear it, which causes, if not bad dreams, then at least ones that are frustrating, without an end or resolution. I do hope for you tonight to have a dream that awakens you to a wonderful morning tomorrow.
I was going to say it was a trait of teenage boys, but I have to expand my assertion. It actually is the trait, the desire, the preoccupation of about every human male to play with fire. I remember when I was given the role of barbequeing 3-4 chickens on a Sunday afternoon for our family dinner, that the most intriguing part was setting up the charcoal in a pyre, and then dousing it with charcoal lighter – a lot of it – and then striking the match to set it ablaze. I was also relieved that I was alone in the backyard when, in those times when the fire just seemed to go out, and only a wisp of smoke remained, I would squirt more lighter on the hot coals and watch them roar back to flame. The fortunate thing was that the flame did not follow the stream of lighter back into the can. I expect that would not have gone well.
We also, as the dozens of boys in our neighborhood, managed to secure lots of matchbook from our father’s dresser, since every male in the 60s smoked either cigarettes or a pipe, and those matched were critical. We would secretly take them down to the big sandpile at the end of the street, under the canopy of huge pine trees and tons of pine needles on the ground, and just light the matches. Why? Well, to watch the fire of course – to create the fire, and to see it climb not quite into the trees. I do believe God cares for the stupid young ones in life.
When we were in boy scouts, and camping out, we would build fires that could serve as signals on a desert island – the bigger the better. I remember one time when we had a white hot fire going, and for some reason, one of the guys thought it would be neat to put a bottle half full with water into the coals, believing that when the water boiled, it would pop the cork off in splendid form. Only trouble is, no one realized we were using a screw-on metal cap. The time went on with our incredibly hot fire, until the moment came when, indeed, the water boiled and created steam trapped in the bottle, and as we sat around the fire in a circle, it finally blew – in a moment – the sound was pretty amazing, and when we realized what had happened, we saw that the fire had been blown into a wide circle around us, and the bottle was no where to be found. Again, God cares for the stupid, and no one even got a cut or a burn. We decided never to do that again.
Throughout my life, even as an adult, I have been witness to, and party to a number of arson-minded, gas-powered fires – all with good intentions, but many with thoughtless, dumb behaviors. One of the things wiser people tried to teach us was never to take gasoline and toss it on to an already lit fire. Now, visually, it really is one of the neatest, most captivating sights you will ever see, in terms of the dynamic of flame. You end up taking a reasonable fire, and transforming it into an – hopefully not – uncontrollable blaze. I don’t know of a single male who does not enjoy a major conflagration occurring in a movie, where a car or truck explodes, or the gas pouring out of a plane just happens to catch on fire. It just kind of makes you feel all right inside, that most likely another human male has managed to create such a sight to behold!
So, I have to admit it is part of our evolutionary character to want to throw gas on the fire, just to see what happens, and just to make it bigger and more powerful, and more awesome. Let me be clear, however – it is always a stupid act, full of danger and thoughtless disregard for everything else in the near proximity of the blaze.
Let me also be very clear that I really have no desire to bring judgment to what I write next. I just want to point out something critical for our life together. I used to always say to my pastors serving local churches, that their first responsibility is to NOT light a match in a room full of gas. You can understand the metaphor: many times we will find ourselves in situations that are already tense, even volatile – whether that’s a church council meeting of a conversation with someone who is already hot-headed, and ready to explode. As self-aware, and self-differentiated leaders, our first task indeed is to turn down the static, to air out the room, and to make sure all the matches are put away the moment we sense an explosive situation coming to the fore.
Now, that’s contrary to our “guts.” As humans, we like to take on power, and to somehow see some kind of reaction in a tense situation. But it’s not helpful, and in the end, it really means someone is going to get burned or hurt or terribly affected in some way. As leaders, in whatever capacity you find yourself leading, our best option is first of all to not throw gas on the fire.
You know what I mean – your words, your actions, the way you imply things, your manners are all able to create a giant fire, or bring a sense of calm and a better way to work through any situation. I always say that we have a choice for what we will do. The choice is perhaps no more profound than when we are in the middle of a conflict, of whatever size. There is always the ability to throw the gas, or to not.
Our country is going through a bad time right now. I don’t need to get into specifics, or to share my opinion of right and wrong, but I can say clearly that some of our leaders have decided to walk into the conflict carrying cans of gas. Whether they are speaking the “truth” or not, the manner in which they attempt to address the situation, and enter into the conflict has not been helpful, to say the least. Please know that I believe this with all my heart: it is always possible to speak the truth, but to do so in a way that does not destroy or inflame. It’s not what you say – it’s how you say it, and in what context you offer it. If you can’t find the way and the words to create resolution, reconciliation or peace, then I would respectfully ask that you keep your two lips sealed, and let someone else find the words.
I don’t know how this will all end up. I fear for more destruction, and harm and death. I do hope however, that in this critical time, true leaders will arise, and ask those who cannot lead to sit down. It’s then that we have any hope in putting out the fires, and in creating a safe and loving place to live.
Leave the dumb fires to the dumb kids, in hopes that God will protect them. Instead, let’s take up the cool and refreshing practice of lifting one another up, and not destroying one another. This is my prayer today.
Words for the day: gowpen and yepsen. Pronounced simply GOW-pen and YEPS- en. You may guess that they have little to do with Latin, and you would be correct. Better to imagine them from Old English, and Old German. A “gowpen” is created as you cup your two hands together. Remember when your grandpa or your aunt would give you a number of things, like m and ms to eat, and they would say, “Now, cup your hands.” They could have just as easily said, “Make a gowpen,” but you wouldn’t have any idea what that meant.
After you “gowpenned,” then the M and Ms poured into the cupped hands would be known as the “yepsen.” That word comes probably from “gap” and “span,” or the amount that the gowpen could hold. You could walk away with a good “yepsen-full” in your gowpen inf you played your cards right!
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.