Bumps and Petty Annoyances

There once was a humble Lord who refused the high stature, fame, and glory that he so rightly deserved. He lived with his beautiful Lady in a quiet manor deep in a thick forest. The two had a dog who rarely barked, save at pillaging squirrels – and that was just fine because the Lord hated squirrels nearly as much as he detested noise.noise

Slowly, however, noise crept in. It started with a small bump on his Lady that grew and grew until the bump turned into a baby. How proud he was of this little bump. It cooed, it giggled, it smiled… and it cried. It shattered his peace with its colicky wails and while he loved this little bump, the Lord yearned for the peace it had stolen.

From time to time, snuck off to the porch, basement, or rolling meadow to get away from the ruckus. As time marched on, the little bump became mobile. For some reason, it loved the Lord of the manor and would follow him to any retreat and destroy the silence he sought.

Three more bumps put an end to any refuge on the grounds. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no square inch of silence to be found. The bumps may have shattered his peace, but they brought him laughter, love, and joy he hadn’t known before. He loved the little bumps more than he ever thought possible… even though they were loud.

All four little bumps grew in stature and decibel until they could no longer be called little. In fact, the time came for one of them to strike off on its own. It was the oldest and loudest bump that left home in search of her destiny. Both Lord and Lady were sad. There was but one comfort in her absence, some measure of quiet returned to the manor.

In the evenings, while the other three bumps pursued wordless interests, the Lord sat back in his easy chair and relished the silence. This newfound peace lasted several days before he realized something was missing. Something he had previously considered an annoyance was gone. He should have been happy. He should have rejoiced over the removal of the thorn. But instead, he felt a different way.

So it went until a long weekend came and the oldest bump burst through the door with a very large bag of laundry. Beside her stood an equally loud jester she suspiciously called “boyfriend”. They sung, hooted, hollered, and raised the excitement of the other bumps until the Lord of the manor had to hold his ears. Now he knew what was missing. Though his head did ache, his heart was full enough to accept even the added noise of her jester friend.

In this merry state, he wondered what joys had he missed over the years simply because he had loved silence over substance.

Petty annoyances can be dangerous things, don’t give them more credence than they are due.   

The Fine Line between Grocer & Gangster

Going to the grocery store is akin to walking down a city street where a guy in a pinstripe suit says, “C’mere… I needs to have a word witcha.” If you follow him down the dark alley, you’ll stumble back out pennyless.

A grocer is just a gangster in an apron. They act like your friend, but they are only there to rip you off.

Take toilet paper. We all need it, but they stymie you with choices and ridiculous descriptions that make no sense! Double rolls, triple rolls, soft, extra-super soft – what does all that mean? I got the Delicately Quilted Super Cuddly Teddy Bear Soft one time and it felt so good the whole pack was gone in a day. The kids wiped when they hiccuped just to feel it and our septic tank backed up from all the quilting. Forget that, now I buy the thinnest, coarsest paper I can find – single ply and unscented. The stuff lasts forever because it’s almost a punishment to go to the bathroom. Some kids refuse to use the toilet at school, mine hold it until they get there.

Another hang-up I have is laundry detergent. It’s so stinking expensive! It’s just soap! When did they start charging by the fragrance? My wife is very particular about her lavender scent. Me? I’m just partial to clean and really not immovable on that point. So, while at the store, I made the command decision that we needed a new scent at our house. Out with the lavender and in with the wonderful smell of whatever the store brand that’s half-price. It’s gotta be good, it says it is Trustworthy right on the box.

I worked out savings on paper products, hygiene, and hair care all before tackling food. 1024px-Man_grocery_shoppingThere I found some pretty good bargains in meats. The store has this whole refrigerated section of half-priced meat. Some of it seemed slightly discolored and the expiration date was fast approaching. But as long as we cook it real well and have 3 – 5 pounds with every meal before Friday, we should be fine.

Yesterday’s bread – check.

Dented cans – perfect.

Brownish bananas – Viva Variety!

 

By the time I had my cart filled, I noticed the apron-clad robber standing in the dairy section watching me. He worked a toothpick with his stumpy fingers as he sized me up. The plethora of orange clearance labels in my cart told him I was onto his little game. We squared off like gunslingers in the Old West. Time stood still. Mothers pulled children out of the center aisle in slow motion, afraid of the impending showdown. From the back of the produce department I heard the signature ominous whistle and somehow, the slap of saloon doors. I cracked my neck, rolled my fingers, and readied for the call to draw.

But the old grocer was yella. I had him beat and he knew it.

couponsI checked out to find I had shaved $87 from our weekly bill. Genius. Street genius. The little old lady behind me nodded proudly as she fingered through a thick wallet of neatly cut newsprint. Intrigued, I inquired about them and learned all about these things called coupons from my new friend, Mildred.

Turns out they save you even more money! Who knew?

 

“Hey Guido the Grocer, I’ve got a coupon-cutting date with Mildred on Saturday… After that, I’m coming back to town. And it ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

 

 

(This story would have ended happily if I hadn’t have changed scents. Turns out, my wife didn’t feel threatened at all by my new 84 year-old coupon girlfriend. She just really likes lavender.)

 

Photo by: By Bill Branson

Camping Out in Hell

I’ve been reading Hiking Through which is a great book about a man who lost his wife, quit his job, and set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. I so want to do that (sans the losing my wife part).

I have always viewed hiking the Appalachian Trail as a journey I probably will never be able to take. But I’d like to. I love hiking and camping but have never been able to partake much since my family hates it. Oh, they like pitching a massive tent in a state park campsite as long as we have sleeping pads, entertainment, and can get close to the bathrooms. We also can’t “rough it” too long – one night, maybe two max. My wife doesn’t care for it much at all, but has done it for me and the kids. Maybe someday.

The worse camping I’ve endured was during my Army days. I was stationed in Ft Sill, Oklahoma during the summer. I don’t think they believe in shade in that state. I’m not sure if there is a religious opposition to it or an aversion to trees, but the sun has free reign there. And reign it does. In the summer it feels like a preview to hell. The kind of place you don’t stay in (at least in that season). You just soldier through.

Regardless of if we are hiking or not, we are all on a journey. We move, we grow, we push on, we persevere. Everyone’s journey necessarily involves some hard times – they can’t be avoided, unfortunately. In the book, the author talked about being on top of a mountain in Virginia when the roughest storm he had ever seen surprised him. He grabbed onto a tree to wait it out and literally thought he might die. Hopefully, your hard time isn’t that bad. But it might be that bad to you.

I can’t know the emotional depth of your bad time and you can’t know mine. Every one is unique to the person and situation. I know one thing, the only way to get from Georgia to Maine is to keep walking on.

 

WC

 

I stumbled on that Churchill gem recently and love it. I don’t know of another quote so small yet so profound.

Keep going.

If I plop down and focus on the misery of my surroundings, they will engulf me in their flames. I have to keep going.

I am hiking through my hell. If you haven’t seen one yet, you most likely will. They have a way of sneaking up on you. When it gets hot, I encourage you to pick up your pack and keep going. Camping out in hell does no one any good!

 

This is an atypically somber post from me. I feel compelled, therefore, to leave you with my own pearl of wisdom:

It is okay to roast a wienie over hell’s fire, just make sure you have a long stick.

You Are How You Drive?

I’m just curious, do you think someone’s true personality comes out when they get behind the wheel or does the protection of a ton of metal magnify some suppressed aggression?

Everyone knows “that guy” – the one who is too good to wait in line to merge with the rest of us. So he goes as far as he can, perhaps driving in the median or passing over a solid white line before entering traffic.

Do you think he cuts the bathroom line at the fair or knocks down the old lady at the self-checkout line because she is taking too long? I always wonder.

Yes, I have a specific driver in mind. He drives a white BMW and takes the same route as me to work every day (Although I do so legally and courteously). I am a mellow driver and don’t wrestle with road rage often. When I happen to see him cutting people off, I don’t fume. Rather, I have this dream scenario where I am at the perfect angle to wedge my old truck in front of him and seal off his escape. Then I hop out and interview him like Bob Barker on a game show. Oh, I don’t pummel him (probably), I just humiliate him into contrition – showing him the error in his ways and giving him opportunity to apologize to me as representative of all of the drivers he has treated so rudely over the years.

Funny how life plays out sometimes. I was sitting in the exact spot I had envisioned when I saw him coming up on the shoulder. As fate would have it, the line in front of me started to move at precisely the right time and I had what I think was the voice of Ferris Bueller whispering “Do it” in my ear. So I lurched my truck to the right and cut the imbecile off.

mad

He slammed on his breaks and pounded the horn as I got out of my truck. I wish I’d had the skinny microphone and cheesy tie on – that would have been too perfect. I rounded my truck while he sat red-faced in his ultimate driving maching about to explode in rage. This was gonna be good!

Wearing my best disarming smile, I walked slowly toward his door. I wonder what he thought about the 6’, 3”, grinning, bald guy headed his way. Whatever was going through his dense mind, he didn’t feel compelled to roll down his window as he did in my dream.

Not surprisingly, he was kind of a little fella. I felt like I was forgetting something even though I knew my line was,“Tell him what he’s won, Johnny…. Well Bob, This rude driver will be late to work today!”  (cue applause)

I have to say it got a little awkward with me standing there waiting to talk to him and all the rubberneckers around us wondering what was going on.

What had I forgotten?

Oh yeah, BMW’s go in both forward and reverse. They actually go pretty fast in reverse and spit up all kinds of roadside crap on any wannabe gameshow host who might happen to be standing in front of the car. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. He zoomed around me with a final honk and a proper salute while I watched, dirty and alone.

It was too late for me to go home to change and get to work on time. I just told everyone at the office that I had helped an old lady change her flat tire and let them think I was a saint instead of an idiot…

 

It’s better that way.

 

She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.