The Reluctant Cat Whisperer (Reblog)

Cats seem to always find a way into my life. I usually say I’m a dog person, but the cats keep coming. For some reason, they like me. If I take a walk around the neighborhood, at least a half dozen cats come running up to me, just knowing that I can’t resist giving them a scratch behind the ears. I have the same effect on dogs and babies, but it’s the cats that have me under some kind of control. I have accepted the fact that I have become a complex cat whisperer.

ME (whispering): Ca-a-a-a-t…

CAT: Meow

When I was much younger, I used to have a job driving a forklift at a local wheel & rim company. Every morning I would get up, shower, get dressed, then snap my fingers. When I would snap my fingers, my cat Munchkin would jump onto my shoulders and go to work with me. I worked just a couple blocks from my house, so it wasn’t too bad.

Let me describe Munchkin. He was the runt of the litter of six kittens and the only one we kept. I claimed him because I felt bad he was so small and even then I knew cats liked me. In true “runt of the litter” fashion, he grew big. He was black and weighed in at about 25 pounds. He was like a miniature black panther and we were inseparable…or perhaps I should say, he followed me everywhere. If I left in my truck, I usually took him with me, but if I didn’t, he would sit in the yard until I came back. Then after a few minutes of pouting, he would rub and purr all over me until I couldn’t stand it.

Anyway, one winter day we walked to work like usual. We went through the wheel yard and entered the building where everybody greeted me and Munchkin. Even the owners liked him and never asked me to leave him at home. After all, we provided the entertainment. You see, when I climbed into my forklift, Munchkin would climb on top of the cage covering the forklift. The rest of the day I would load and unload trucks while he surfed just above me. I guess it was so much fun to watch, the owners would often bring back business people and sometimes customers for the show. It was especially fun to watch when I would roll in and out of the truck, that’s where Munchkin would crouch like he was really surfing to avoid hitting his head. Good times.

I’ve had other cats through the years, although only a few stood out. There was Munchkin. There was Maynard (not my cat, but my son certainly laid claim…please read my post Herding Bees). We had a diva Calico cat named Pumpkin. Oly, a unintelligent grey tabby who was loveable and endearing because of his ignorance. Then there’s Good Girl, my current cat. I whispered to all of them…

Oly’s greatest adventure came during a rainstorm late at night. I went to the door to let him in for the night and he wasn’t there. I checked a few more times before I got worried. Then I heard a far off yowl when the rain subsided for a bit. I followed the yowl as I walked up the wooded road. About 200 yards away, I heard the yowl off to my left. I had no choice but to climb the embankment and go through the woods. About fifty feet in, I heard the yowl from above my head. There he was, about 10 feet up into the tree, caught in ivy. I could just catch his little face poking out. So I whispered:

ME (once again, whispering): O-o-o-o-l-y…

OLY: Meow

There was no doubt now. He was stuck. Oh, what I didn’t mention was that my left arm was in a sling from dislocating my shoulder. The cat was 10 feet up. I didn’t feel like going back home to get a ladder. So I climbed the ivy, one arm dangling until I could just reach his little nose. Then I reached around his neck and pulled…nope, he was really stuck.

ME: You’re really stuck…

OLY: Meow

Then I saw the twitching tail. What goes in must come out, right? I felt like a dentist as I said my next words:

ME: You’re going to feel some discomfort…

OLY: Meow…MEOW…ME-YOWL!!!!

It was a long uncomfortable walk for both of us going back home. Oly kept giving me looks to say he was sorry and I had to keep pulling my shorts out of my butt crack because I was soaked. That was Oly.

On the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum is my current cat, Good Girl. She might be the smartest cat I’ve ever had. Someday I’ll blog about her, but until then, I’ll give you an example of her smartness:

ME: What’s the square root of 144?

GOOD GIRL: Meow

See that? I should’ve named her Einstein!

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Herding Bees (Reblog)

My youngest son has always been a free spirit. Even as a toddler, generally accepted rules never applied to him (as an adult, they don’t apply to my wife either…but that’s another blog). I don’t mean he’s a criminal or anything like that…except, maybe, if somebody leaves a pumpkin pie laying around. No, what I mean is that he began to walk his own path very young.

A good example is bees. Most people see a bee and walk away, run away, or just hold still until it goes away. Not my son. I went out the back door to check on him one day when he was barely 3 years old and saw him in the flowers. He appeared to be talking to himself and moving his fingers around the petals. I moved in for a closer look and saw what he was doing. He was petting the many bees that were busy working the flowers. He had no fear and apparently no idea that these things could hurt him. Of course, a lesson was learned later when he tried to pet a yellowjacket, but even then, he just looked at the yellowjacket like he’d been betrayed.

Another thing he was fond of was taking a nap at his own schedule. Like outside after a long day of petting bees. He would just lay down where he was and sleep. Where we lived, there was an outdoor cat we called “Maynard.” He wasn’t our cat but belonged to the owner of the house we were staying in. Just like his owner, Maynard was an individual. Just like with his owner (okay, does anybody really own a cat?) he was an individual in a good way. We were sitting down to dinner one day when we heard a loud noise by the sliding door. Maynard had launched himself up onto the screen a good 4 feet up and was looking at us as we looked at him in amusement. Then his eyes went wide as the screen detached and fell with him still attached. That was funny. Anyway, I was talking about my son’s unique napping patterns.

Now I’ve heard and seen kids who could fall asleep at any time and anywhere, but that’s usually because they just fall over after fighting off the sleepiness for so long. Not my youngest. He planned his naps. He would find some soft ground, call for Maynard, then proceed to use Maynard as a pillow. The poor cat would just lay there and let him do it, not moving until he woke up.

As my son grew, he seemed to form a bond with almost every animal he met. They could sense something about him that made him a friend. Granted, he’s fuzzy and looks remarkably like an otter, but it was still awesome to watch. He didn’t limit himself to animals, however.

We had just moved to a tiny town in Northern Wisconsin, so tiny that they crossed off the population number from the welcome sign and added us to the total…ok, I made that last part up…and welcomed us with open arms…well, at least they welcomed him. While the rest of the kids and I unloaded the truck, my youngest son wandered around to check our new home. When we finished, I decided to take the kids for a walk to a restaurant to eat. The whole way, different people were greeting my youngest son by name. It was like he was some rock star and the rest of us were simply his entourage.

I finally asked one of the greeters how they knew my son’s name and they informed me that he came to their door and introduced himself as new to the neighborhood. My best guess is that he knocked on at least 30 or 40 doors to do this. He was 4 years old.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Mr. Dazeodrew, you must be a lousy dad to not know what your 4-year-old was doing while you unloaded a truck.” Guilty, but in my defense, we didn’t have the same worries about our little ones back then as we do now. Instead of having the television or game console to babysit, I preferred that my kids play outside and actually talk to other people with words spoken from their mouths, not from a handheld device. The way things are now, the sky could turn pink and half the people wouldn’t find out for days and only because they finally looked up from their handheld device.

Anyway, my youngest continues to be a free spirit but has had to learn to adapt to the world now that he has bills to pay. Adulting comes at a price.

About the bees? He still pets them…even yellowjackets at times.

Moral of this story? Just because one individual in a group stings you, it doesn’t mean all of them are going to sting you. Don’t demonize a group for the actions of one individual. Except yellowjackets…and hornets…and killer bees…

Is This Bad Daddy? (Reblog)

You know, kids say the darndest things. Not only do they say the darndest things, they do the darndest things. I guess if we use basic logic, we can conclude that kids ARE the darndest things. I ought to know, I’m the proud owner of some of those darndest things!

For example, a number of years ago, I was sitting at my computer typing away when my four-year-old son (child #3) approached me with his middle finger up in the air. Needless to say, I stopped typing. It’s not like I haven’t been flipped off before, I have, but usually by teenagers or adults. My initial reaction has always been to flip them back…you know, as if I lived in New York where flipping off is considered a formal sign of greeting.

FLIPPER: @#&! %#@*! (said while flipping me off).

ME: Oh, hello! How are you? (said while flipping off in return).

But you have to understand that it was my innocent little four-year-old (once again, child #3) who was using this formal expression of sign language to tell me to have a nice day.

CHILD #3: Is this bad, Daddy? (asked while struggling to keep that little middle finger extended).

ME: Where did you learn THAT? (sternly asked while stifling a smile).

CHILD #3: Um… (whipping his hand down behind his back quickly).

ME: Did you learn it from your older brother or sister?

CHILD #3: Um…

ME: Was it your brother? (I know how to play the “Um” game).

CHILD #3: No.

ME: Was it your sister?

CHILD #3: Um… (case solved).

Now before you think my daughter is some sort of cussing brat, it turns out that my four-year-old was practicing holding out each finger (I don’t know why) and my daughter informed him not to do the middle finger because it was bad. In his defense, he had to make sure. After all, it was his sister who gave him the information.

Sibling information is always suspicious. It was when I was a kid and remains that way today. The government can’t fix THIS issue, although promising to do so during a political campaign is apparently allowed, along with other lies.

POLITICIAN: I promise to enforce sibling truth laws if you elect me! (applause from the crowd, many wearing “Make Families Great Again” hats).

POLITICIAN’S BROTHER: Yes! About time! Now maybe we can finally find out if the mailman really is your father! And those kids you claim look nothing like you, maybe we can sort that out too! (Hint: If running for office, pretend you’re an orphan).

Another example of darndest things are the “infamous” swear words brought home by the two older siblings (child #1 & child #2). In fact, I once overheard a conversation between them (I wasn’t eavesdropping…honest) and it went like this:

CHILD #1: So and so (I don’t divulge names because Johnny Henderson is grown up now and I certainly wouldn’t want to embarrass him) said the “P” word in class today!

CHILD #2: So what? I heard the “Q” word today!

CHILD #1: That’s nothing! I heard the “X” word AND the “Z” word today!

CHILD #2: Oh yeah? Really? Well, I heard the…

And so on and so on, you get the picture. There sure are a lot of new words since I was a kid, but then again, when I was a kid my parents would’ve washed my mouth out with soap if I uttered the word “sucks”. Now you can hear that word while watching children’s’ cartoons on television. As a parent, I think that “sucks.”

Isn’t it funny, though, how some things never change with kids? Here’s an example of when I said something funny, at least I thought it was funny, to the kids. The boys laughed, but this was my daughter’s response:

DAUGHTER (the child formerly known as child #1): That was so funny I forgot to laugh…

Like I stated, some things never change. That was a popular line when I was a kid, but to hear it for the first time from my daughter kind of floored me. I remembered having a handy retort for this line years ago, but like I said, she caught me off guard. Now I was curious.

ME: Did you learn that at school?

DAUGHTER: Yeah, I hear it every time I repeat one of your jokes. (Kids are still the darndest things at age eleven, aren’t they?).

ME (trying not to appear hurt): Well, do you want a handy retort when someone says that to you?

DAUGHTER: Is “retort” really a word?

I could tell that the years of teasing and telling of funny, well, I thought they were funny, stories had built a wonderful atmosphere of trust between my daughter and I.

ME: Yes.

DAUGHTER: Will it get me hurt?

ME: Um…

I guess some things have changed since I was a kid after all. I was going to have her say in retort (yes, it is a real word!) “Well, you’re so stupid you wouldn’t understand the joke anyway,” but it probably would get her hurt. Besides, as retorts go, it wasn’t good then and it probably wouldn’t be good now.

White Chocolate (Reblog)

For the last 19 years, I have rewarded my wife for putting up with me by getting her an espresso drink every morning. No matter where we lived, no matter where we were, and no matter what the weather, I’ve managed to come through almost every time. The only times I failed, I was out of town working. Yes, I really, really, love my wife. Recently, we were in the Cascades in Oregon and the nearest espresso was 30 miles away…I went. It’s an obsession to come through for her, even though she doesn’t expect it, especially when we were in the Cascades.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been using the same espresso stand located at my favorite grocery store. I’ve gotten to know all the baristas and watched them come and go. I’ve even run into some of the former baristas and we talk like time never passed. It was about 2 years ago that I seem to take an extra step in my relationship with the baristas, one in particular. She’s a sweetheart and never fails to make me smile when I see her. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all sweethearts and treat me very well, but this one began something that lives to this day. She gave me a nickname.

One day, I went in and they were trying to guess my name. I let it be a mystery, so I was given the nickname “White Chocolate,” after the drink I get my wife every morning. It took them nearly three months to figure out my name…it was my debit card that betrayed me…and even some fellow customers knew me as White Chocolate.

At first, I was touched, but as time went on, I began to feel funny about the nickname. It made me think of something dark and dirty, like I was a star of questionable movies or something…

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.

ME: Why hello (I say in a deep smooth voice), I’m White Chocolate.

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ohhhhh…

See what I mean? It could be taken totally out of context! I’m a good loyal husband! I would never be in one of those movies…unless, of course, the pay…wait! No! Never! Besides, I do not have a deep smooth voice! I’m blessed with an old southside Milwaukee accent! It would ruin the whole movie!

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.

ME: Hey dere! (I say in a thick southside accent), I’m White Chocolate. Wanna head down dere ta da lake and have a buncha beer, hey? Wait! Let’s get a barrel-a-beer and get all da guys down here!

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ummmm…

It just wouldn’t work. I’m not cut out for that line of work.

As time has passed, I’ve found myself liking the nickname. It creates a lot of conversations in the coffee line. Walking into the store unannounced usually doesn’t happen anymore. The minute I walk through the doors I’m greeted with, “Hi White Chocolate!” Then everybody and anybody in hearing distance has to stop and take a look at who this person is that gets such a greeting. I can live with most of the looks of disappointment (what were they expecting?) but sometimes I get a talker.

TALKER: White Chocolate, eh? (said while leaning in a little too close into my personal space).

ME: Um, yeah.

TALKER: Why do they call you that?

ME: Well, it began…

TALKER: That’s a strange thing to call a person.

ME: Yeah, well it…

TALKER: I had a milk chocolate once.

ME: Oh, well, they call me white choc…

TALKER: Not sure where it was made, but it gave me the trots quite awful, know what I mean?

ME: Oh, I’m…really? You got the trots from chocolate?

TALKER: Happens all the time (he says while grabbing his drink).

ME: So that double pump chocolate mocha you just…

TALKER: Yes, sir. Good chance it’ll run right through me in the next half hour or so.

ME: Um…

TALKER: Hey? You want to hang out or something? I’m a good listener!

So, I guess I have mixed feelings about the nickname at times, but when it comes from the baristas, I know it’s meant in a good way. Besides, it’s nice to be greeted so warmly every morning.

BARISTA: Hi White Chocolate!

ME: Good morning!

OLD LADY IN LINE (whispering to her friend): I think I saw him in a movie once…but I think his voice was different…

War & Peas (Reblog)

There are times in one’s life where one has to stop being humorous and take a serious view about certain things…don’t worry, however, this isn’t one of those times. Today I will write about the war. Which war, you ask? The WAR! You know, the war at home. The war most of us have to wage weekly. The war at the supermarket. You know, the STORE WAR! Of course, if you no longer have kids, it’s more like a skirmish. This story took place over 25 years ago when I took my 4 kids to the grocery store.

There’s nothing like the heat of battle to get your blood pumping. I feel it every time I maneuver into the parking lot and search for the ultimate launching point for our assault. You know…a good parking space. Not too close, yet not too far. It needs to be accessible for a hasty retreat if needed. Before exiting the vehicle, I turn to the kids to give them their pre-assault briefing.

“Men…” I begin.

“I’m a girl,” my daughter, the oldest, my second-in-command, aptly pointed out. A stern look usually corrects this kind of insubordination. “Sorry, dad.” I forgive her because she usually is dependable in crucial situations. I look back at the other kids.

“We’re about to enter the brunt of the battle,” I continue. “I expect you all to perform with honor and valor!” I paused for effect, but all I saw was bewildered faces.

“Huh?” my four-year-old asked. As usual, my second-in-command daughter translated.

“He means not to touch anything, not to beg for anything, and not to goof off.” Nods of understanding followed her explanation, except for the one-year-old. He seemed to be more fascinated with something on his finger. His inattentiveness was ignored because he was pretty good at his role of just sitting in the shopping cart and looking cute. His military skills as a decoy were unparallel.

We left the security of the vehicle and began the generally fruitless search for an Urban Assault…um, shopping cart (for you non-military folks) that worked as intended. Settling for one with only one wobbly wheel, a functional seat belt, and only a trace of grime, we assaulted the building.

We were hit immediately by the smell of the battlefield. The moist heavy smell of the produce sector, the deceptively soft billowy aroma of the bakery sector, the cold frigid feeling in the freezer sector, and the putrid smell of raw flesh in the meat sector. Ah, the memories of past battles, both won and lost, wafted through our, well, at least my mind. It was as if I trained my whole life for this moment! But first, we had to traverse the dreaded sale sector. This is where the enemy hits you with their heaviest artillery barrage…you know, stuff for kids.

“Look, Daddy!” my four-year-old says as he starts to succumb to their trickery. “Kool-Aid Bursts! Can we…”

“Don’t give in to their commercial warfare tactics!” I cried, a little panicked.

“Huh?”

“Medic!” I yelled. My kids just looked at me strangely…even the one-year-old tore his eyes from whatever was on that finger of his to look at me strangely. We rolled on as I noticed the kids weren’t the only ones looking at me strangely. Just a bunch of civilians caught in the crossfire, I thought.

Anyway, as in most military operations, there was always something ugly that had to be done. Many men out there know exactly what I’m talking about and no doubt still suffer lingering nightmares over it. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded feminine hygiene product sector, a place usually avoided by most males. Some of us, namely me, think we have a good plan for the extraction of this product without detection. I simply hover about near the aisle until it’s empty, quickly roll through and grab the package, then hide it under the other groceries until the moment of truth…checkout. It’s a dirty business, this war stuff.

Of course, it could go very badly at checkout. If you ever watched the movie, Mr. Mom, you’ll know what I mean. The scene where the cashier did a price check on the feminine product traumatized me. What if that ever happened to me? What would I do? Would I crack under the pressure? Is there even a military training protocol to handle this situation? I don’t know and I never aim to find out.

Something similar did happen to me on that day, however. We hit the checkout lane with a false optimism that we were going to win this battle today! The kids were good, the aisles were free and clear, and we were making incredible time. I was feeling pretty good about our chances of getting away from the battlefield without casualties until I began to load the conveyor belt with our spoils.

The only child in this story not to be mentioned yet was my eight-year-old son. Until now, he was quiet. In hindsight, he had been a little too quiet. I should have observed this earlier, but ended up paying for my lack of attention with his betrayal.

“I thought we didn’t need diapers?” he asked, his little hand reaching for the feminine hygiene product I had just smoothly placed on the conveyor belt as if it were a bag of noodles or something. I grabbed his hand before he could ruin everything. I had mentioned this fact while we rolled through the battlefield, but I didn’t realize it would turn into such a grave tactical error. I panicked and told the truth.

“They aren’t diapers,” I said quietly, very aware of the civilians both in front of and behind us.

“Then what are they?” he asked loudly. Wouldn’t that kid shut up? I could feel all the civilian eyes turning to us. I looked at my one-year-old decoy with pleading eyes. Do your job, I thought, but he just stared at me with a smile, as if he could sense my discomfort.

“Something for Mom,” I informed him, thinking that answer would pacify him.

“What do they do?” he continued. I clenched. I’m pretty sure the checker clicked the PA button by now and the whole store was listening. I imagined my entire life was put on display and it was time to take my measure as a soldier and as a man. This was to be my heroic moment, I thought, if only I could just shut that kid up!

“Um, you can ask Mom when we get home,” I answered tersely. Why should I have all the pressure?

“Why? Don’t you know?” he asked as I swear thousands of spectator civilians gasped. The checker stopped what she was doing and looked visibly nervous. If I didn’t get ahold of the situation, there was a chance it could blow up and create an international incident. As a parent, I always prided myself in knowing most of the answers to most of the questions my kids would ask, something I learned from my dad. Now, how would he answer?

“Um, sure I do,” I answered with a wink. “Let’s just see if your Mom does.” Sighs of relief surrounded me. The checker went back to work with a smile. Disaster avoided, mission accomplished, battle won…at least until I got home.

The Wrestler that made Milwaukee Famous

Some of my earliest recollections are of waiting.  I’m sure most kids have to deal with this, but it’s my story so I’ll talk about it as if I’m the only one who ever had to wait.  It could have been worse.  I know my older brothers’ sometimes wished they could be waiting instead of translating for our parents, but my being the youngest had perks.

Usually, whenever we had to wait, we would go outside.  For example, if my mom had a hair appointment, I would go outside and wait.  If my parents were with the tax people, I would go outside and wait.  Apparently, pedophiles weren’t as common back then so it was safe for a little kid to wait outside.  Besides, I usually had an older brother or two to wait outside with me.  Pedophiles prefer single kids.

We generally didn’t travel far for most things.  The grocery store was just a few blocks away, the bank was just next to that, and most other things were just a little further.  It seemed like church was the only long trip we had to take, other than my aunt and uncle’s house in Grafton.  Whenever we went somewhere new, it was an adventure.  At least it was for me.  I loved maps and geography and it was exciting to compare what I knew to places I had never been to.

One day we had to make a trip to South Milwaukee.  We generally didn’t head in that direction, but there was a loan place my parents had to go to and someone had told them about a place that would help them.  I was young enough not to care about the reason, nor understand it, but thought it might be my only chance to see South Milwaukee and I was all for the trip.  When we got there, I was disappointed to find that South Milwaukee looked a lot like the south side of Milwaukee, where we came from.  There were more trees, but the houses looked the same.

As usual, my parents and my oldest brother went in while my other brother and I stayed out.  We amused ourselves by kicking little rocks on the sidewalk.  The discovery of a little anthill in the crack of a sidewalk interrupted the rock kicking, but there are only so many ants you can step on.  We were back to rock kicking before long.

After five days, it might have been only five minutes but felt longer, we were about to advance to the next step.  Throwing rocks.  You know how it goes.  You start with a light pole, argue about who hit it first, then move on to rock warfare.  We never made it that far.

On the corner, there was a bar.  This is not too uncommon in Milwaukee and the same holds true for most towns in Wisconsin.  You can find a bar on at least half the corners of Milwaukee, or at least it seemed that way growing up.  In fact, on Halloween, bars were some of the best places to get candy.  Anyway, on the corner there was a bar.

One never knew, especially as a kid, what kind of person will walk out of the bar.  It could be a drunk.  They were fun to watch.  It could be an angry wife after failing to talk her husband into coming home.  It could be a nice old couple that only went to the bar to socialize.  Or it could be a famous wrestler.

I had mentioned earlier that we were a family of wrestling fanatics.  If there were somebody that could stop us in our tracks or rock-throwing in this case, it would be a famous wrestler.  Not just any famous wrestler, but THE famous wrestler from Milwaukee, the Crusher.  Later I learned he was really from South Milwaukee and that explained why we met him that day.

He walked out of the bar and headed right toward us.  We froze.  Words escaped us.  This was undoubtedly the greatest day of our lives.  Then he spoke to us.

“Throwing rocks?” he asked.  We were speechless.  Even sign language would’ve failed us.  We just stood there.  He nodded and smiled slightly.  Then he looked at a car that was parked near the pole we were throwing at.  “Did you hit dat car?” he asked in a strong South Side of Milwaukee accent.  His gaze returned to us.  I nearly crapped my pants and both of us let the rocks fall from our hands.

“N…n…no, S…sir,” my brother answered.  I was so relieved that he found his voice.  Now I could enjoy another of those “being the youngest” perks.  I stood there cowering.  The man seemed larger than life.  He squinted an eye.

“Are you sure you didn’t hit dat car?” he asked again.  We both stood there shaking our heads.  I was sure he was going to body slam us.  I slid behind my brother.  Better him than me.

The wrestler’s big hands suddenly darted out towards our heads.  Here it comes, I thought.  He was going to crush our little, or in my case fat, skulls like they were paper cups.  Instead, he roughly tousled our hair.

“Dat’s okay,” he said with a smile.  “Dat’s not my car.”  We relaxed a little.  “If it was, I’d a crushed your skulls.”  We tensed back up.  He quit rubbing our heads and walked down the sidewalk laughing quietly.  We watched him go.  He turned the corner and we just stood there for a second before looking at each other.

“You were scared,” my brother said to me.  “You probably crapped your pants.”

“No, I didn’t!” I yelled.  I knew where this was headed.  I reached down for the rocks I dropped.  I was never able to use them because my parents and oldest brother came out of the building.  We both started blabbering and signing at once, but I’m not sure if anyone believed us.

Once we started driving, my brother sniffed a couple times and said, “I smell crap.”  This was not one of the perks of being the youngest.

Moving sucks

I’ve had to move a lot in my life. Some were moves for the better, some were moves out of necessity, and a couple were “Quick! We have to get out of here!” moves. The one common factor in each of these moves is…moving sucks.

With the exception of the military, we’ve had to do all the moves ourselves. It’s tedious, back-breaking, and no matter how much you plan ahead, something inevitably goes wrong or breaks. There’s only so much bubble wrap and packing materials you can use before turning the item into something unidentifiable. You’ll be loading the truck and then come into the house and see a blob of bubble wrap.

ME: What’s this?

WIFE: What’s what?

ME: This thing, um, this giant ball of bubble wrap?

WIFE: I think it’s just extra bubble wrap.

ME: Oh, okay. I’ll just move it out of the way. (This is followed by the sounds of breaking glass).

WIFE: What was that?

ME: Um, does bubble wrap break like glass?

Some of the other hazards of moving are accidentally packing something you need at the moment.

ME: Have you seen my toothbrush?

Appliances are some of my favorite things to move. Besides the bulkiness and stairs, they sneakily cause other problems.

WIFE: Why are these boxes of clothes wet?

ME: What boxes?

WIFE: The ones that were next to the refrigerator in the truck?

That’s when I’ll find out that all the defrosting and shaking of ice-maker lines failed to dislodge a giant bubble of water somewhere up the line. That bubble waits until everything is packed and cuts loose. It’s kind of like taking a long trip with kids.

ME: Everyone ready to go?

KIDS: Yeah!

A few minutes later, usually just after you entered the freeway.

KIDS: We have to go pee!

ME: Can’t you hold it?

KIDS: Oops…

ME: Really? All of you just peed your pants?

DAUGHTER: Not me.

ME: Good girl.

DAUGHTER: I’m wearing a dress.

ME: Um…

Another fun thing to do is change your address, transfer utilities, cable, and internet.

ME: Hi, I’d like to move my cable and internet to my new house.

CABLE: Are you aware your bill is due?

ME: Oh, yeah, I’ll get it paid by the end of the week.

CABLE: You have 24 hours.

ME: Well, I’m in the middle of moving and…

CABLE: Would you like it if your job decided to pay you whenever they wanted?

ME: Um, no, but…

CABLE: It’s important for everybody to do things promptly and on time.

ME: Um, ok. I’ll pay it today. Now when can I get my new service at my new house?

CABLE: Our first opening to send a technician out is 3 weeks from now.

ME: 3 WEEKS?

CABLE: Yes. We’ll need you to be available from 8 am to 6 pm.

ME: ALL DAY?

CABLE: Oh, I’m sorry.

ME: I would imagine…

CABLE: It’s 8 am Monday until 6 pm Thursday that you’ll need to be home.

ME: Wait, WHAT?

CABLE: Also, keep your phone near you in case we’re running late.

ME: LATE? You mean like, Friday?

CABLE: Oh, no, you couldn’t possibly have somebody on Friday. It’s deer hunting season, you know. It would be the next week from Monday through Thursday. We’ll call if that happens.

ME: WHAT?

So there it is. Moving sucks.

Not on My Watch

Sometimes I get a kick out of civilian use of military terms. Phrases like “Not on my watch” or “In the trenches,” get used a lot. I know there are plenty more like “I got your six” or “On the frontlines,” but we’ll just make fun of the first two…unless I get on a roll, then we’ll add some more.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying these terms can’t be used by civilians, freedom of speech means just that, freedom to say what you want. I’m just saying that sometimes it’s just plain silly how these terms are used. As usual, I’ll give some examples.

UTILITY MAN: I’m here to shut off your power.

HOMEOWNER: Not on my watch!

UTILITY MAN: You didn’t pay your bill.

HOMEOWNER: Yes I did.

UTILITY MAN: Not my call. You’ll have to talk to someone up my chain of command. I’m just the guy in the trenches.

HOMEOWNER: You can’t do anything? That’s FUBAR!

UTILITY MAN: Hey, I’m just the guy on the frontlines. Um, is that an old lady with a shotgun behind you?

HOMEOWNER: Grandma?

GRANDMA: I got your six!

UTILITY MAN (on his radio): Charlie Mike, I have a situation…I might need some air support on the double! (pause) Roger that!

HOMEOWNER: Grandma! Stand down!

GRANDMA: Like hell! (cocks the shotgun).

UTILITY MAN (on his radio again): Mayday! Mayday! Use the nuclear option! On my coordinates…

Sounds silly, right? I might’ve exaggerated the situation a little, just a little, but I’m sure you get my point. Like I said, I get a kick out of it.

What I don’t get a kick out of is when politicians use the terms to describe what they do. I have to admit, it irritates me a little.

POLITICIAN: I’m in Washington for you every day, fighting for you! I’m kicking and clawing my way through the trenches, boots on the ground, on the frontlines, fighting for you! When I get back there, I’m going to roll my sleeves up and work tirelessly, fighting for you!

CROWD: Yay!

Then when I look up their history, or bio, I find this: Graduated from Ivy League College, Captain of the Rowing Team, Interned for Congressman so-and-so, Served on State Assembly, Elected to U.S. Congress, Inherited stock from family fortune, Really doesn’t have to work a day in their life, but works tirelessly for you, Sacrifices daily to make sure your voice is heard in Congress, then votes to erode your benefits and raise your taxes at the same time for our greater good.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant and I certainly don’t mean to put down all politicians. There are some good ones out there that actually have been one of us in their previous lives. Some are veterans, some come from blue-collar backgrounds, some had to earn their way through college, and some really do work tirelessly…although I’ll bet they take a nap on occasion, like on the flight to Washington every week, but I won’t begrudge them that. I also sleep on flights, but I don’t claim to be tireless. I feel tired all the time.

It’s the politicians that have never had dirt under their nails or had a sore back from actual labor that bug me when they use those terms. If they want to relate with us, they need to come and spend an actual day with us. All of us. Workers, laborers, office people, manufacturers, assembly line workers, law enforcement, firefighters, military, farmers, fishermen, nurses, clerks, stay-at-home moms and dads, and so on and so on. You know, people who actually work hard just to make ends meet.

Narnia

One of the earliest series I read as a kid was “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C.S. Lewis. Even though I didn’t realize at the time that these were Christian based books, the lessons in the stories truly rang home with me. I enjoyed these books so much that I re-read them every five years or so…they just never get old. Also, as an older person and a Christian, I can now clearly see the connections to my faith that was implied in the writing. Even if you aren’t a Christian, these are just excellent books.

In these stories, C.S. Lewis is able to entertain us with simple basic lessons without getting preachy or theological. The biblical messages are there if you really look, but the stories are entertaining without knowing anything in the bible.

When I first read the books it was Summer and my favorite reading spot was in the backyard on a lawn chaise. Next to me was an old tv tray where I kept my soda and box of Mr. Salty pretzels. Also, strangely enough, I liked to read while listening to music back then. Because of that, certain songs will remind me of those books and I get the urge to read them all over again.

I eventually got my best friend to read the books as well and he became as smitten as I was. We were still pretty young, so our imaginations were on full speed. Near our house was a patch of woods by the train tracks that lied between the tracks and the AMC plant. To play there, we just had to sneak past the watchful eye of the train watchman at the switching station where the tracks split. We called this patch of woods “Narnia.”

A group of us would often play in these woods and we even built a treehouse. Whenever we played Narnia, the treehouse would be Cair Paravel, the famous castle of the kings and queens of Narnia. We would all play different roles with my best friend always picking Reepicheep, the valiant fighting talking mouse from the books. The smaller kids were usually dwarves with an occasional talking animal thrown in. We had a blast.

Sometimes we would get invaded by some rotten kids from the other side of the woods and it would turn into a fight of sorts. Lots of rocks were thrown but things really got serious when I brought my slingshot one day.

What made the train tracks so cool was that they were used by the iron ore companies up in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to transport little iron ore pellets to places like Chicago and so on. The pellets were the size of marbles and heavy, the perfect slingshot ammo. They also hurt like heck when you were hit by one, even without the slingshot.

Anyway, the day I brought my slingshot was the day the fight turned ugly. I had hit a couple of the rotten kids in the legs and they ran off crying. We thought we had finally won and freed ourselves of those kids, but they came back. They came back with some big kids. Two of the big kids had BB guns. The previous skirmish had turned into a full-fledged war.

We all ran from the BB gun onslaught, but me and my best friend stopped and climbed into the treehouse. We decided to fight. The rest of the kids kept going. So now it was the two of us against about seven rotten kids. I had a full bag of the iron ore pellets so I knew we could last a little while.

We would duck behind the larger tree branches after every shot, me firing my slingshot and my friend throwing rocks and whatever he could find up on the platform…mostly though, he ducked. I was hit twice in the arms by BB’s but since we were a distance away, it didn’t hurt as bad as it could’ve. I managed to hit each of them at least once and you could tell it hurt by their screams. Then we were assaulted on a different front and the rotten kids ran away. We had forgotten about the train watchman and his salt rifle. He was yelling and chasing the rotten kids and never noticed us up in the treehouse. When he was far enough away, we slipped down the tree and ran home. I wasn’t about to use my slingshot on the watchman.

Just like the children in the books, we got older and we grew out of hanging out at “Narnia.” The world took over and our innocence deserted us like it does for most of us. To this day, however, the lessons I learned from reading those books remains.

Johnny Cash

My wife absolutely adored Johnny Cash. She saw him as a good Godly man who had done a lot of bad things when he was younger but redeemed himself later in his life. His songs almost always had a meaning behind them. In other words, the lyrics always had substance. Whether he was telling a story or singing a cover, it always felt like he meant what he sang about. He also never shied away from controversial issues in his songs.

When she was very young, she began a scrapbook with everything she could find about Johnny Cash. It was something near and dear to her and something she could claim as her own. Everything else she had, dolls, toys, money, and even clothes were subject to being taken by everybody else in her family. They didn’t seem to have an interest in her scrapbook.

One day her mom picked her up from school along with her siblings and she had a new car with a trailer behind it. They couldn’t afford to pay rent that month so her mom wrote a couple of bad checks and decided it was time to move. My wife asked about her scrapbook and her mom told her it wasn’t important enough to go back for. My wife was in disbelief. It was, up to this point in her life, the only thing she had that was valuable to her. She still talks about missing it to this day.

For me, Johnny Cash made me a fan with just one song…”A Boy Named Sue.” I loved that song and it caused me to look for other songs he had written or sung. I loved the stories. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good riff as much as any other metalhead, but I also love lyrics. Johnny Cash was the king of lyrics as far as I was concerned. I could listen to his stories all day long.

What made me write this post at this time was my wife. She was in the kitchen making Strawberry Banana Bread…mmmmmmm, yum…when she played some music by Johnny Cash. She began with the cover of “Hurt” that Johnny Cash basically made his own when he recorded it. Then this was followed by “The Ballad of John Henry.” We love that song and we love that story. When it comes on, I find myself stopping what I’m doing just to listen to the story…again.

One of our favorite movies is “Walk the Line,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Even though Joaquin couldn’t copy Johnny Cash’s voice perfectly (who could?), he pulled it off as good as anybody could. We also both agree that Reese Witherspoon sings better than June Carter Cash ever did. Of course, June Carter Cash always said she didn’t sing as well as the rest of her family so she decided to be funny. I personally think she was good at both.

So there. Now you have my review of Johnny Cash. Now I must leave this post because I believe the Strawberry Banana Bread is finished. I know you’re supposed to let it cool, but who can honestly do that? I just need to wait until my wife isn’t looking…