Tag Archives: Musings

Why I Might Store Summer Squash in my Butt <–best title ever!

15 May

zucchini boat

If I could bottle a day I would pick this past Monday. The weather was perfect and I felt fit, productive, and content. The only thing missing was a head first dip into a tub of melted chocolate. Cooled off, of course.

All kinds of good stuff happened. I dug a small garden and planted four tomato plants and two pepper plants. I pedaled down the heart of Glen Carbon, from Enterprise to Panera, without being squashed by a truck. I even avoided two common, negative occurrences: cutting my finger with our sharpest kitchen knife and having my nose pierced by our puppy’s razor teeth.

In the evening with my trike and trailer I hauled home a bag of soil, four zucchini plants, a pineapple sage plant, and some other obscure herb I can’t think of. We’re already members of a food co-op, so I’m sure we’re going to have zucchinis falling out of our asses this summer. (It’s much more comfortable than when they’re going in. I’m kidding and it’s a small miracle I allowed this joke to stay in because, well, “that’s not right,” which is something I hear people saying quite often.)

The problem with my good days is that they’re usually followed by days of spectacular crapiness, just a shit-storm of crap. I’m totally open to follow great days with medium quality days if The Universe is open to that. What do you think? Universe?

If I ever experience two almost-perfect days in a row, I’ll probably fill my pants with moist zucchini muffins from the shock. And we all know what that feels like, don’t we?

But seriously, I know that happiness is, like, a choice or something. At least that’s what I’ve read. If a cat barfs on my keyboard, I can choose to smile and laugh. If I crash my bike into a bush and emerge with a dog turd stuck to my cheek, I can choose to smile and laugh.

So . . . our assignment for today: to smile and laugh (even when you don’t feel like it).

Does One Guy Need Ten Plaid Shirts?

8 Mar

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As 2013 arrived my closet held ten long sleeve, buttoned shirts, including a yellow one I bought in Kohl’s over three years ago. It’s certainly the only yellow shirt I’ve ever purchased and probably the last. It was not a smart buy because I wore it, like, three times.

I held onto it longer than I wanted because of what I paid for it, which was probably over $20. That’s not a lot of money for a shirt unless you’re someone like me who prefers to shop in thrift shops. So instead of pleasing me, the stupid thing produced guilt–just a tiny bit–when I saw it hanging there day after day begging me to slip into it.

Yellow Shirt: Hey Mike, why don’t you wear me today?

Me: Oh. Um, well, I was thinking about wearing my gray sweater today.

Yellow Shirt: You never wear me. Why’d you even buy me? You must be shitty with money.

Me: Well, for one reason, you fit like a medium, but your tag says “small.”

Yellow Shirt: So why don’t you give me to someone who’ll wear and appreciate me?

Me: Fine, I’ll donate you to Goodwill.

It’s so much easier when your stuff asks to be donated. So that shirt’s now gone, along with seven others who also asked to leave. I’m left with two such shirts, pictured above. Love is too strong a word (for me) to use referring to clothing, so–I really like these two shirts.

When I’m on auto-pilot, I don’t see a closet full of waste. I see a collection that needs to be added to. It’s this whole process of mindfully evaluating each item that kicked me in the nuts and made me see that I didn’t need so many freaking plaid shirts. I know, it’s weird, but that moment of realization gave me a thrill, as did yanking the eight shirts from their hangers and throwing them onto the “outgoing” pile of fluff.

And now those eight discarded shirts are available to fellow thrifters at Goodwill for a couple of bucks apiece. Who knows, that yellow shirt might become someone’s favorite shirt this week.

Also pictured above is sort of a rain coat for my head–a cap that sheds water instead of absorbing it. It’s for warm weather jogs in the rain. But now that I sit here thinking about it (auto-pilot=off), I realize I rarely wear the stupid thing and will probably get rid of it. Forget I brought it up, okay?

(Can I somehow recover the dough I’ve spent on things I didn’t need?)

But one can hardly live without at least one belt, right? I have one brown and one black. Jennifer bought them at Goodwill in late 2012.

(If you’re new here and wondering what the hell the following numbers are for, go here or check out the minimalism category.)

32. Shirt (bright blue, long sleeve, buttons)

33. Shirt (dull blue, long sleeve, buttons)

34. Belt (brown)

35. Belt (black)

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It’s distressing for me to have a complete suit hanging in my closet, but people tend to marry and die, forcing me to yank it out and slip it on from time to time. I have two neckties and they’re both in the photo, but I’m donating the maroon one you can barely see.

36. Shirt (dress, gray striped)

37. Suit jacket

38. Necktie (purple)

39. Pants (suit pants)

A Thorn in my Arm is but one of the Thorns in my Arm

20 Feb

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If you ask a hundred Americans to name their favorite flower, eighty-five will say the rose. The remaining fifteen won’t hear you because they’re texting or playing games on their phones. No, seriously, I’m not sure about those fifteen people, but I would guess that they were somehow involved in the rose production process, which includes watering, weed removal, pruning, and wringing blood from socks caused by multiple, severe thorn injuries.

I worked with roses for three summers in a greenhouse the size of six Walmart Supercenters. A greenhouse–you probably didn’t know this–is a glass structure where humans are baked for eight hours a day at exactly 325°.

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Gertrude “A rose is a rose is a rose” Stein

On this most fragrant of flowers, Gertrude Stein nailed its essence when she penned “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

Wait, what?

Let’s forget about Gertrude for a moment because the glam metal band Poison said it much better in their 1988 Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” when they whined “Eeeeevery rooose has its thoorn.” I remember it well because radio stations packed away their OTHER songs to dedicate a solid three months to this ode to faded love.

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Radio DJ: And that was Poison singing their hit song “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” Next, we’re going to shake things up a bit; we’re going to play Poison’s hit song “Every Rose Has its Thorn.”

But as I think about it, Poison didn’t know a thing about this popular woody perennial of the genus Rosa of the family Rosaceae. I mean, did they really believe every rose has just one thorn? Idiots! From experience I know that one rose stem brandishes no less than nine hundred thorns, which were all embedded into my skin on any given day.

Still, you’re probably thinking how wonderful it would be to work in such a beautiful, sweet-smelling environment, like your ultra-thoughtful partner is surprising you with roses all day every day. I have just one word for you: shut up! Two words- whatever. Who is this “Gertrude Stein” anyway and what did she know about greenhouses? Nothing!

Gertrude Stein, if working with me during the summer of 1990: “A rose is a rose is a rape of my nose.”

Sure, in my first hour of hard labor I thought “Wow, it’s so pretty in here and it smells so awesome!” By lunch it was “Roses are the stupidest woody perennial in the world and they smell like a pile of decomposing rats!”

Today, after putting so much thought into this matter, I have decided to sue Illinois Roses Ltd. for stealing my ability to enjoy the rose flower. Forget that it was over twenty years ago, that every sliver of glass is now gone, that Illinois Roses Ltd. is no more. The crime on my nose is too large to ignore for even one more decade.

Before that summer I enjoyed–no, I really, really loved–sticking my schnoz into the midst of soft rose petals and inhaling with all my sniffing strength, occasionally ingesting a petal or two. What I did NOT do was duct tape a dozen roses to my face and wear them around all day. I took one good sniff and moved on, like any sane person would.

Sadly, I can’t even surprise my wife with a fistful of daisies because it reminds me of how much I hate roses. So you see, the damage is widespread and very . . . damaging. And I’m going to do something about it.

But first I’m going to listen to that one-thorned Poison song because it really is a nice tune.

Add Meteors to the List of Things I’m Scared of

18 Feb

All of a sudden it appears I have to worry about–along with such important matters as getting enough pickles on my 6″ Veggie Delite–being smashed by a meteorite, not to mention the need to learn the difference between meteor, meteoroid and meteorite, which, until last week, I could give two shits about. (Whatever that means. Does giving three shits mean I care even less? Aw, who gives a shit!)

Here’s a short guide to meteor terms by me, your not-to-be-trusted source: If a giant space rock is going to smash you into nothingness, but, for the time being, hasn’t reached our atmosphere, it’s called a meteoroid. When this deadly rock reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s a plain ol’ meteor; many people call them shooting stars. Finally, when the celestial chunk finally ends your life and saddens your friends and family, they’ll be calling it–if they’ve done their homework–a meteorite.

I watched nine videos of this Russian meteor over the weekend from really cool dashboard camera footage. After the seventh I stopped and thought “Hey, why don’t I have a dash-cam?” Then I sat there wondering why Russians get the cool dash-cams and Americans, for the most part, do not. That led me to where everything leads me–Google. (Because I don’t know shit and The Google knows everything.)

Google suggested I hop on over to The Washington Post where they would be happy to tell me all about Russian dashboard cameras. So I did. When The Post told me the myriad reasons Russians have dashboard cameras I thought “Well, shit, no wonder everyone’s driving around Russia with dashboard cameras.”

Apparently, Russia is a place where–if you want to be safe–it’s always best to stay indoors, preferably under a sturdy bed or table. A helmet wouldn’t hurt. And whatever you do, don’t put yourself near an automobile or a road unless you are brave or stupid. Here’s what I learned about this suicidal activity called driving in Russia:

  • The roads are terrible, among the worst in the world.
  • The drivers are terrible, so now you have terrible drivers on worthless roadways.
  • The traffic cops are corrupt.
  • Pedestrians commonly throw themselves onto windshields at crosswalks and lie on the ground faking injuries.
  • Drivers of previously dented vehicles will hit another car and yell “Look what you did to my car! Give me money to fix that!”
  • Hit and run incidents are common.
  • Road rage in Russia is worse than in the United States.

Well, shit, no wonder everyone’s driving around Russia with dashboard cameras.  (They also comes in handy when you forget your conventional recording devices: “Hey kids, stand in front of the car so we can get a video of you eating your ice cream.”)

Luckily, nobody’s ever jumped onto my car at a red light. Our roads are decent. I’ve never been throttled by a road rager. I’ve never been collision-hustled in a parking lot. And I’ve never encountered a corrupt cop.

But if I can get me a dash-cam I’ll be ready when that meteor is zipping towards me.

The Stuff in my Life

23 Jan

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Well, I’m counting my possessions again. I wasn’t going to, but that was because I had too much to count; now I don’t. If you’re wondering why the hell anyone would want to do such a thing, click on the above link or read all about this “movement” called minimalism. In as few words as possible, for me, it’s taking a stand against rampant consumerism, one thing that’s messing up the planet. If you’re skeptical about going to the extreme of counting your stuff, I get it. In a way, it’s totally pointless for me to do this because I live with three other people. I live with their crap too.

The kids want to keep every scribbled on piece of paper and every little rock they pick up. Last May, Chloe packed away a big box of her 6th grade work. I’m all for keeping the best of the best, but a big box for each grade? No way. Maybe I’ll get rid of the 6th grade box when she packs up a new box this Spring.

And Jennifer just took over one of my closet drawers. An ongoing concern is that as my junk recedes, she’ll fill the void–erase my gains–with that insidious need some of us have to fill in the empty gaps of our lives.

But still it feels good. Feels light. Liberating. Over the years my neurotic obsession with blank journals and notebooks of all sizes had manifested itself on a cheap snap-together shelf to the left of my office computer. This was the closest thing in my life you could call a collection. I’m not a collector, obviously, so I jettisoned several of the notebooks regardless of where they came from or how new they were. My rate of acquisition has been greater than the speed in which I would fill the pages. Like I said, liberating as hell.

This “challenge” will force me to examine every single item in my life. Another example: I’m not into jewelry, but I’ve had this thumb ring in my life for years. I would look at it once in awhile. I’d move it around the house, not sure of the best place to keep it. I’d pick it up, slide it on each thumb–marvel at the way it fit one thumb perfectly and hung loosely from the other–and then I’d put it back down. This weekend, looking at it like a “minimalist,” I decided to get rid of it. It wasn’t adding a damn thing to my life, except a tiny amount of guilt for never using something I paid money for.

Even today (last example, I swear) I’m wearing a light brown pair of Old Navy pants that are going into the Goodwill pile tonight. I’ve never been big on brown pants. When I’m in my favorite blue jeans, I don’t think about my pants. When I’m wearing this brown pair, I’ll be busy with something else and I’ll glance down and think “Oh, I’m wearing brown pants today.”

The end result of all this will be living in a house that has barely a sign of a fourth person living in it. And I know, most people need–or think they need–to live with a certain amount of stuff to feel secure, to feel alive. I think it’s time to get past that nonsense. You’ll find no “man cave” in our basement with pennants and old trophies and other memorabilia lining shelves and walls. You’ll see no golf clubs, kayaks, guns, or deer heads. No high school letter jacket in the closet. No magazine stacks.

An incredibly cluttered "man cave"

An incredibly cluttered “man cave”

Life is simple these days. I have my family, my Kindle, my running shoes, my laptop, and my bicycles. My days are filled with reading, writing, thinking, learning, running, walking the dogs, pedaling, and experiencing the ups and downs of two growing girls. And food! I can’t omit food from this list, for I spend so much time buying, slicing, dicing, sorting, and on and on. The battle to get whole, natural foods into those girls is as important as anything else in this paragraph.

Oh, and I thought my old blog was gone, but it’s still hanging around here. My last post was April of 2009.

Psoriasis of the Inner Glove

20 Oct

While walking the dogs last week, on four consecutive days we passed an abandoned glove in the middle of the road. Each day it seemed to move closer to the curb, closer to our side of the street. I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Until Friday. I saw it was a Seirus glove. I bought a pair of Seirus gloves at Sports Authority last year. They’re expensive. And nice. I picked it  up and looked it over. This glove was a step fancier than mine. It was thicker. I wondered if its owner was mourning the loss. I would be. I pictured some random dude out running, trying to get in shape with his fancy new gloves. But his hands get warm so he tucks his fancy gloves into a pocket. Then one falls out and is left behind, probably lifting a limp finger going “Waaaait, you dropped me!”

I’ve jogged outdoors dozens of times with gloves. I would notice if one went missing. I stood there admiring it wondering why the dude hadn’t come looking for his dang glove. I glanced around for people before slipping in on my left hand. Perfect fit. I looked around again. Am I being set up for an appearance on What Would You Do? Granted, it would be the crappiest scenario ever, but I’m paranoid like that.

Okay, you’re probably wondering why I wanted the stupid glove in the first place. They come in pairs, dummy! Well, this new glove would be an upgrade on my left hand. Sure it would be nice to have matching gloves, but I’m the type of guy who can comfortably wear mismatching gloves. My right pant leg doesn’t necessarily have to match my left. The left side of my head is superior to the right and I’m fine with that. No cosmetic surgery needed.

Besides, if I don’t take the glove it will just sit there in the gutter and rot. Eventually, someone will rake it up with some leaves and burn it or send it off with the city lawn refuse collectors.

I slipped my hand out of it and stuffed it into my hoodie pocket. Do you you know that feeling you get when you buy something awesome? Well, I experienced a little more than half of that feeling the moment I resumed our walk. I had just acquired a kick-ass glove for jogging and biking.

The only thing that could go wrong would be if the mystery runner returns, retracing his route, looking for the missing glove. Maybe he suffered a stroke after that run. My god!–what if he dropped from a heart attack right where I first saw the glove? Who cares about a glove–no matter how fancy it is–when your heart has just stopped functioning. Did I just steal a glove from a dead man? Of course, I’ll never find out what happened, so the best thing to do is to just forget about it.

I’ve worn my new glove five times. It’s, by far, my favorite glove. And I have, like, six pairs.

Update: I wrote the above and forgot about it until this week. I biked to Glen Carbon for my annual appointment with my dermatologist. (She prescribed me Tazorac, not for acne, but to make me look 15 years younger; it erases sun damage. By the way, I found this on WebMD in case you’re considering this stuff: Do not apply the medication in the eyes, eyelids, or mouth, or inside the vagina. I found this odd considering it’s use. But then I saw it’s also used to treat psoriasis. So I searched Google Images for “psoriasis of the inner theigh.” Don’t click on that link because there are some disturbing images, some unrelated to psoriasis. But now I understand the warning. And I hope to god I never get psoriasis. )

On the way home I zipped past another abandoned glove. This was on busy and fast Illinois Route 159, so I figured nobody was going to return for it. And I didn’t have time to stand around pondering the situation like before, so I grabbed it, put it on, and pedaled away. Another freakin’ left-handed glove! (I think the law of averages will kick in so when I have found my 100th lost glove, I should have a near 50-50 split.)

Unfortunately, it’s a bit large, but it’s a nice glove, probably marketed as some type of work glove. The next time I pick up a shovel or rake, my left hand will be protected from blisters.

My In-laws Are Trying to Kill my Future Grand-baby

30 Sep

On September 22, the day we celebrated our daughter’s birthday with a houseful of people, Jennifer’s parents pulled into our driveway with an old wooden high chair. My father-in-law put it in front of our garage. I was hoping this was all part of some temporary display for the party. Sort of like a short run in a museum. But three hours later, they left; the high chair stayed.

I thought this strange because we no longer lock our kids into kitchen chairs to feed them pureed vegetables–they’re eight and twelve. I learned that Jennifer sat in that very chair and threw pasta on the floor and chewed on mashed peas and other soft foods and probably shit her pants in it a time or two. Whatever. She’s now in her mid-thirties. I wondered why the hell the high chair was still around in the first place. Obviously, the old thing has been stored away in some dark, spider-infested corner for a long time. Nobody cared about the high chair.

And now we’re supposed to care about it?

Her dad wanted to trash it, but her mom thought it’d be better to give it to us. Maybe she expects us to store it for 15 to 20 years just in case Chloe wants to strap her first child into it, assuming she’ll want to have kids. Hell, it could be Ainsley in 25 years to bring forth our first grandchild.

I know the drill, the American way. If an item has a chance of being used in the next sixty years, I’m supposed to store it in the basement, attic, or garage. I’ll watch as stuff piles up and we lose track of everything. And we will be convinced we need to stay in an over-sized house to store all of it.

Just because a house doesn’t qualify for Hoarders–just not quite scary enough–doesn’t mean there’s not a problem with this craziness.

I’m not sure what Jennifer thinks about the high chair. Does she want to store it away for a couple decades? I’ll probably ask her today. If she’s ambivalent, the chair will be in the hands of someone looking for such an item right now. Maybe a single mother who would be thrilled to receive a free high chair. Hopefully, by Tuesday, a smiling baby will be sitting in it, squishing wet cookies between her fingers.

I know, I know, most people have a different view. They scream “SENTIMENTAL VALUE!” Keep this. Keep that. When Chloe moves away to college am I supposed to hold a tiny little jumper against my cheek and cry? I can cry and remember just fine without it.

In fact, besides photos and videos that will be stored on some future computer, I own nothing that I wish to still possess twenty years from now.

There will be no auction when I die, I assure you.

If the “We have no room!” argument falls flat, I’ll point out the design flaws inherent in a 70s model high chair. Let me call it what it is–a death trap. No air bags, of course. The legs are too close together which means it will tip.

“Jennifer, do you want are first grand-baby to smack her soft little head on the kitchen floor?”

Also, it seems to be designed especially for smashing tiny fingers when the  eating surface is lowered. What kind of animal would put a child in a high chair that was manufactured by cretins back when Carter sat in the White House munching on peanuts?

Besides the safety concerns, I would be ashamed–no, appalled!–to give this to my daughter and have to say:

“Oh, I’m sorry about the Frisbee-sized eating surface on this antique piece of furniture. Just know that you’ll be spending most of your day cleaning food from the floor. Also–and you may  even remember this–I tried to get rid of this piece of firewood back in 2012. And you might remember the subsequent attempts in 2014, 2018, 2022, and that final valiant effort I gave back in 2028. I realize you can’t walk into a thrift store without tripping over modern, practical, safe high chairs available for five bucks, but you’re Granny, bless her soul, wanted us to store this for a large portion of our lives so you could–in twelve minutes–realize its many faults and hazards. You might have better luck duck-taping this precious baby to the wall. But still, enjoy.”

Note: If you were wondering how I could hand over such a hazardous chair to a stranger, you’re right. The best thing I could do for this world is to burn this high chair immediately.