Just Do the Dishes

When my sons were pre teens, one of their chores was to do the dishes.  Apparently this was torture to them, because they would do just about anything to avoid it.  Nick and Neil are identical twins, actual mirror images of each other.  But, being mirror images they often have opposing views… and by often I mean always.  Even though they are inseparable, they have debated and argued for about 34 years now.  Of course like most parents, when the kids were young, I wasn’t really that interested in settling sibling rivalries… I wanted quiet… and for them to do the dishes.  My reasoning was simple.  I provided and cooked the food, so it was only fair that the two of them should do this one simple task.  “Look… I don’t care how you figure it out, or who does what.  It’s your job to come to an understanding and get this done!”  Unfortunately, that would have taken the willingness to compromise, not to mention the ability to recognize that it was in everybody’s best interest that they do so.  Oh, and they would have to shut up long enough to actually do some work. Continue reading

The Pursuit of Happiness

hammockI spent the weekend attempting to do something that is rare for me to engage in… nothing.  Lori and I traveled to Georgia, hung our hammocks side by side on the porch, poured ourselves a cool drink and kicked back with books that we weren’t all that interested in reading.  It looked like it was going to be a beautiful, quiet day in the mountains and then… our neighbors woke up.

Old Billy down the creek had apparently acquired four more hound dogs… making it an even eight.  Ironically, we call Old Billy the Dog Whisperer.  I say ironically because he loves to train hunting dogs, but it involves very little whispering and a great deal of screaming and barking.  Today, he was apparently training a dog to imitate a seal.  “ARF, ARF, ARF!”  Ten minutes later, the hound was still at it.  I lowered my book and looked at Lori over the top of my glasses.  She looked back at me with her eyes crossed.  Right!  I got up and walked over to the end of the porch and was preparing to scream a neighborly “SHADDUPP!!!” when on the other side of the ridge I heard someone crank up a chain saw.  It revved up to a high-pitched scream and then stayed that way.  Well, at least I couldn’t hear the dog barking anymore.  I went back to my hammock and tried desperately to meditate the noise away.  But after ten minutes of brain scrambling noise I sat up.  “Oh for Pete’s sake… How big of a tree is he cutting down?”  Lori didn’t reply.  “Hey!” I hollered to her through cupped hands.  Nothing, she just kept reading.   I leaned towards her and then I noticed the headphones.  She was in her own little world listening to her IPod.  How dare she not be as upset as I was about the lack of peace and quiet!  But before the “sitcom” husband in me had the opportunity to try to make sure she was as irritated as I was, I heard my closest neighbor crank up a leaf blower.  This lady has been known to chase a single leaf down her 1,000 foot drive way. Continue reading

Helpful People

“I think that burger is ready to flip,” said my buddy Nick, while peeking over my shoulder.  I rolled my eyes and looked over at Bill who was leaning against the rail on the deck with his arms crossed, smiling.  As I started rearranging the burgers I said “Hey Nick… can you do me a big favor?”  “Sure!” he answered, poking his head even further over my shoulder.  “Great… could you go outside and see if one of the dogs got loose?”  As soon as he was outside Bill locked the screen door.  We left him outside until the burgers were done. Continue reading

Sixteen Crayons

Out of paper!  I got up from my desk and snagged a brand new legal pad from the storage closet.  As I fanned through the crisp new leaves, I was struck by the familiar smell of fresh ink and paper.  I smiled.  The first day of school! The beginning of another school year meant new things.   New paper, new pencils, a notebook, clothes… Everything was different, even me.  I was taller, skinnier, my ears were bigger and my hair shorter.

Fourth grade was Mrs. O’Conner’s class at Bonita Springs Elementary.  She was tough I heard… so I wanted to be ready.  My Mom had taken me to the department store and I had filled the required supply list enthusiastically… except for the crayons.  A box of 16 is what was “required,” but then there on the shelf was the new “Crayola” box of 64… with a built in sharpener!  Being a budding artist, I saw no point in limiting myself to 16 colors, but my mother said Ms. O’Conner had other ideas and she placed the puny box in the cart.  As I rode home, sulking next to my mom, I tried to think of a reason that someone would even create a rule that limits how many crayons you could have.  I finally blurted out.  “I just don’t get it…Are you sure it’s a rule?  I mean, it sounds like a suggestion, because why would she make it a rule?  Does she think having too many colors will confuse kids?  Shouldn’t we be able to color whatever color we want?”  My mom rolled her eyes. “Look, I don’t know why it’s a rule… it’s just a rule, OK?” I looked out the window with my arms crossed, watching the water filled ditch next to the Tamiami Trail go by.  I mumbled.  “Well it’s a pretty stupid rule.”  My mom just stared straight ahead and drove a little faster.  Apparently I would have to argue my case to the teacher.

The next morning I was on my way to school, with a new “crew cut”, complete with a single butch-waxed tuft of hair on my otherwise barren head, a huge brand new pair of dark blue jeans that “had room enough for me to grow into” (they fit great now!) and my new school supplies, including 16 stupid crayons.  On the bus, as we were all comparing our supplies and I was taking a ribbing for my disproportionate head to ear ratio, I noticed that one of the boys had the 64 pack of Crayons.  “Arrrgh!” I yelled grabbing at the hair on top of my head that I still don’t have.  “You can’t have those!  You’re supposed to get the 16 pack Joey!” Joey shrugged as he put them away.  “They’re just crayons man.” I looked at him like he had two heads.  “What? You don’t care?”  “Nope.” said Joey casually shrugging.  I sized Joey up for a second and then instinct kicked in and I became… my father!   “Okay Joey.  But, how do you feel about… IRON MAN!”  And I pulled out a brand new comic book from my note book.  “Whoa!” said every boy on the bus.  (I’d seen my dad “horse trade” in the store hundreds of times.) I dangled the comic by one corner.  “Joey, I’ll trade you this comic book and my box of crayons for your box of crayons.” Joey jumped at the deal, which made us both happy.   Now all I had to do was to convince Mrs. O’Connor.

For days I waited for my opportunity to argue for “crayon freedom” and then finally as she was slowly circling the room inspecting our work, Mrs. O’Connor stopped at my desk.  I kept coloring, looking down, my giant box of Crayons sticking out like a sore thumb on the top of my desk.  “Nice job Benny.” she said.  (Wow, I’m in the clear!) I thought and then she tapped gently on the crayon box.  “Are these the Crayons you traded with Joey for?” I turned slowly and glared at Joey who was slouched in his chair, his face red as a beet.

Although my interpretation of Mrs. O’Conner’s “guidelines” had been correct, Joey’s parents apparently didn’t attach the same value to “Iron Man” as their son.  So, I ended up with a dog-eared comic and a box of 14 blunt and broken crayons.  My parents weren’t exactly happy, but they must have had some appreciation for my impassioned argument, because I finally got a brand new box of 64 crayons.

Sweet Crayon Freedom!

Trimming Branches

A couple of years ago while trimming the branches on some young trees that I was growing in Georgia, I came upon a small Dawn Redwood that I had raised from a seedling.  It died back in a hard freeze the year before and although I had given up on it, for some reason it had come back.  Growing up from the base of the stump were two healthy bright green limbs, both reaching for the sun.  I cut the old dead main trunk from the center and then stood back to look at the small three-foot tall tree.  The two remaining branches seemed identical in every way, healthy, beautiful mirror images.  But if the tree was to grow strong and fast, capable of surviving to a ripe old age without splitting in half, one of the branches had to be removed.  I bent down on one knee and took one of the branches in each hand.  Then, after looking up at the angle of the sun and the position of the other trees, I took the shears from my back pocket… and cut.  Continue reading

Fear and the Frog Dive

We all live with a certain amount of fear, both rational and irrational.  Learning to differentiate between the two is tricky.  Fear’s original purpose I suppose, was to keep us alive long enough to produce offspring that were, hopefully, a bit smarter than we were.  I’m not sure how well that has been working out, but fear could certainly have prevented us from petting a cute little baby Saber Tooth Tiger or failing that, provided us with the super charge of adrenalin needed to out run its 1000-pound mother or at least the caveman running next to us.   Continue reading

Just What the Doctor Ordered

waverunner2I know that waverunners make you angry, buzzing noisily around your boat while you’re trying to fish or flying back and forth past your favorite relaxing sunbathing spot, but I will make you a bet… no matter how much you hate them, as soon as you get on one, open up the throttle and go skipping across the waves you will automatically smile.  It’s a complex phenomenon called… fun.  I know, I know!  They are evil, stinky, dangerous, devil machines that many people think should be outlawed… but I’m just saying, they are fun and will make the meanest old poop grin like an eight year old.  And there in lies the problem.  They also have a tendency to make you act like an eight year old.  Case in point. Continue reading

Questionable Gardening Advice

waspWhen you’re new to an area it takes a while to become familiar with the vegetation and creatures that inhabit your yard.   Your neighbors will always be willing to help, not only because they’re nice people, but also because it’s so much fun for them to watch you try to implement bogus advice.

Lori and I were just starting to fix up our little place in Georgia, planting trees, mowing and such, when our dog Molly and I had our first experience with a paper wasp nest.   As she watched us from the porch, it took a while for Lori to figure out what was going on.  All she could see was Molly and me running for our lives, spinning around, snapping and swatting at the air like cartoon characters.  Lori’s laughter turned into sympathy when she saw Molly’s golf ball sized swollen, upper lip.  “Awww… Look at her.”  She turned to me, ignoring my one gigantic red ear.  “You’ve got to get rid of that nest!” (YES, I thought… a mission!). Continue reading

One Mans Service

At the Memorial Day observance at Riverside Park, I was tempted to talk about my father’s military service…but I didn’t.  I think it’s an important story about a unique and very American character, but it’s not the kind you would typically hear about on that hallowed day.  My father passed away last year about this time and he rarely spoke of his time in the Army, but not for the reasons one might think.  Continue reading

The Reluctant Golfer

golfGolf.  Some people love it and it consumes every facet of their lives.   Me?  I am a “hacker”.  I’m simply not very good at it and although I used to play more frequently, I now play about, oh… once a decade.  For me, being on the golf course early in the morning, the dew sparkling on the beautifully kept grass surrounded by a park like atmosphere, is breath taking.  So, to the irritation of whomever I’m paired with, I am perpetually distracted by the sprawling vistas and the wildlife, content to sit in the cart with my feet propped up, arms behind my head, eyes closed… enjoying the summer breeze and a cool beverage.  I basically turn into “The Dude” from the “The Big Lebowski” on the golf course. Continue reading