Sunday, December 2, 2012

Your Regularly Scheduled Blogging will Resume Shortly

Friends, family and valued readers,

I must apologize for my sudden disappearance from the blog. I abruptly stopped writing so I could continue my education with the hopes of graduating within the school year.

I am on schedule to receive my bachelor's degree in Communication Studies this coming May. I plan to resume my writing after this semester is over, and more regularly through the coming semester.

Until then, I simply ask for continued patience. I will be scripting more stories in the near future.

I would like to share a brief story with you, though, while I have a moments peace from homework:

Several years ago I was working overnight shifts at a nursing home. My direct supervisor was a charming old lady whose smile was nothing more than less of a frown. She was stingy on generosity and had a lightning fast response to goofing off. Her number one rule was no phones while working the floor.

It was midnight and I was writing up the menu for the next day's meals. Right next to me, Nurse Ratched was setting up the medication for her next rounds. Wouldn't you know it, but my cutesy chime sounded a new text message.

I held my breath as I glanced over at her. Her furrowed brow indicated that the chime did not go unnoticed.

"Was that you?" she scowled.

"Um, yeah." I said, without really thinking, "I farted."

For the first time, I saw a genuine smile grace the face of the nurse. She walked away without another word. She eventually became my favorite nurse to work with.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birds of the Air

When I was little, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. A bird. Everytime I was asked, I said I wanted to be a bird. I was convinced if I worked hard enough, I would sprout wings and fly over the trees to make a nest for my family and me.

That didn't happen. I work in a call center right now. That doesn't mean that the desire has gone away. One of my favorite things in the world is to fly, and I do it every chance I get. Which isn't terribly often.

As I started understanding more about biology and the way the human body develops, I realized that wings were not on the table for me. I watched a movie, I believe it was called "Fly Away Home", where a girl took a gaggle of geese and taught them how to fly. She had to migrate with them, so her dad built her a small aircraft so she could fly with her children to a warmer climate. At that moment I realized that if I were to fly with birds, I would be required to have a machine to do the flying for me. I was a little disappointed.

Since then, I haven't really figured out what I want to do with my life. Dana and I have dreams of living overseas and working in community development, or investing in a certain community to love the people there, but what does that look like? I guess we'll figure that out when we get there. Wherever "there" is.

Sometimes I think it's awful to ask a kid what he or she wants to do with his or her life at a young age. It takes a bit of the fun out of being a kid. What do you want to do when you grow up? I don't know. I don't even know what I want for dinner. I don't even know what toy I want to play with next. Leave me alone and let me be a kid!

Kids are really good at living in the moment and as adults, we lose sight of that. We're always looking at what we're going to do, rather than what we are doing. We should encourage living in the moment. If they want to become a bird, then we should ask what type of bird rather than shooting them down.

That doesn't mean we get to avoid planning and being responsible with our time and resources. We do need to be conscious of staying in the present at the same time.

Today at lunch, I was observing birds. They were swimming around in the Mississippi, then they got out and cleaned themselves. They then propped themselves up on one foot and took a nap. How is this a bad thing? I was very tempted to follow suit until I looked at the murky river and decided I would rather not contract a vile disease.

I still want to be a bird, though. That desire will probably never leave. I can't decide if I would be a bird of prey with the mountains as my home, or a sparrow that can dart in and out of tiny spaces in a blink of an eye. I'll get back to you on that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time is not on Your Side

How many months of the year have 28 days in them?

All of them.

It's interesting how time passes. Some days seem to just drag when you're doing something you find extremely boring, or if you're waiting for a big event like your wedding in 18 days (shout out, Charles and Ruth!). Despite these dragging days, suddenly the summer is over, you're about to graduate college and you've been married over a year (shout out, Dee!).

I remember in middle school I would go baling with my great aunt. Her baler was broken and didn't push the twine completely out of the way of the oncoming grass. I would have to jump off the tractor after every bale and pull the twine 6 inches to prevent it from tangling in the next bale.

One of these long baling excursions, I was bored almost to tears. I consoled myself by saying that time isn't actually slowing down, I just think it is. By the next day, I would be doing something infinitely more interesting and soon enough, I would never have to do this again. Here I am, several years later, still very thankful that I'm not standing on that tractor anymore.

I didn't hate being with my great aunt so much as the fact that my presence was unnecessary. On several occasions, my dad and uncle both offered to fix the glitch, but my aunt liked the company. She refused every time because she didn't want to bale alone.

When I got too big to sit on the tractor, I would drive behind Harriet in her Rendezvous, in AC, listening to music that I brought with me. My aversion to baling with Harriet quickly diminished.

Time is interesting in other forms, too. There are seasons in life that seem to take forever to get through. Like college. I thought I'd never obtain my bachelor's degree, but I'm now beginning my final year at university. By May, I will be the proud owner of a diploma stating my eligibility to work. I don't know what type of work I will be eligible for, but I will be eligible to work.

This summer has been interesting to get through. In June, I wasn't sure I would be able to survive an entire summer sitting in a cubicle, then racing off to a second job afterwards. Three months of 50+ hours of work every week can really get to someone. Granted, I know a lot of people who work a lot more than that, but when it comes to being at work and paying bills, I'm weak. This Friday marks the end of this season, and I am very excited about it.

I was waiting to go on break this morning. I watched the clock go from 9:58 to 9:59. OK, one more minute and I can clock out. Has anyone ever told you that a watched pot never boils? Well, that's not true. Nor is it true that a watched clock never turns 10:00 am, but I'll be damned if it was only sixty seconds.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bobbing in Coffee

My Grandpa once told me a story about a time he visited the local Dairy Queen. As he was waiting to place his order, a lady came up to the counter to complain about her coffee.

"Sir," she said to the server, "my coffee is cold. Will you please fix a fresh pot?"

"Oh no, ma'am, you must be mistaken. We just made this pot a little bit ago. It should still be hot."

"Yes, I'm sure you did, but the fact remains: my coffee is cold and I would like a new cup."

"But ma'am, there is no possible way for your cup of coffee to be cold. I made the pot myself, and it wasn't that long ago. I assure you, it's hot."

Grandpa was watching this conversation between server and customer while waiting for his burger. He was astounded by the young man's persistence, but couldn't help but think that he was as daft as a two bob watch (his words, not mine).

The next thing Grandpa noticed was that the customer had actually placed her finger directly into the cup of coffee and was on the verge of yelling, "Sir, make me a new cup of coffee. This is cold!"

I don't know how many times they went around until another worker came to the counter and asked what the altercation was all about. Both of them erupted into their own story about the coffee and how it was hot or cold respectively.

The other worker looked incredulously at her two-bobbed co-worker, shook her head and made a new pot of coffee, apologizing profusely to the customer for her co-worker's daftness.

Not long before this scene happened, I had been an employee of the fine establishment. The entire time I worked there, we brewed strictly Folgers coffee. Replacing a cold cup of Folgers with a hot one, in my opinion, doesn't enhance the taste in the least. It seems that the customer was a few bobs short of a watch herself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Sound of Triumph

Yesterday was the first day that I ate at the cafeteria in the bank where I work. I had no idea what I was doing. I had been told that one can purchase two sides of vegetables rather than ordering the entree, but I didn't see where the sides where. I started panicking because it was almost my turn in the queue. There were a lot of people piling up behind me, so I had to make a decision. I couldn't wait anymore. The chef was looking at me. "What'll it be, bub?!" Oh no! "Uh...I'll...I'll have the Rachel sandwich!"

I said it so fast and loud that the kitchen hushed for a moment. I'm sure my neck turned scarlet. I quickly looked at the floor and ignored everyone until someone tapped my shoulder.

"Hey, she didn't hear you. What are you ordering?"

I said it again, quieter this time, and she asked if I wanted cheese. Yeah, sure.

As I watched her prepare my sandwich, I started thinking about my restrictive diet. I don't eat meat. I don't eat dairy. If it weren't for eggs, I'd be vegan, really. Then I watched her smother my rye bread with 1000 Island dressing. She was getting ready to put the cheese on my sandwich when I realized that I have to be at work for at least another 4 hours. How will I survive if I eat a bunch of food that my body will surely reject?

"May I retract my request for cheese?"


"No cheese, please."

"Oh, sure."

I got my sandwich. It came with fries, which I was not expecting. I love fries. I went to pay for it. Another line of people who knew how to work the system. I noticed they all were paying cash. Interesting. What a different mindset we live in. I can't imagine carrying cash with me when I can just use my card. Oh well. Different strokes, am I right? Here you go, nice cashier lady. You take my card and I'll take my food.

"We don't accept cards here."

That explains the different mindset crap. And I thought I was being so philosophical.

I set my food down and went running to the ATM. I come back and wait in line again. I got my food and finally I made it to the river - my favorite lunch spot.

I opened my box of food hesitantly. Maybe I shouldn't have ordered this. I don't know how my body will react to it, and I don't want to spend the rest of my shift...shall we say, "indisposed"?

Well, I had forgotten my lunch that morning, so I needed to eat something. I wasn't able to take my time through the cafeteria, so there I was, sitting next to the river with a sandwich of meat and dairy-based sauce. I dove in head first.

My first sensation was delicious sauerkraut exploding over my taste buds. Then the thousand island came to mix a gentle harmony climaxing to the victorious arrival of hot grilled turkey. It was intoxicating. I couldn't help noticing my anxiety melt into a small, pitiful form of loss. How have I lived all summer without eating animals and their byproducts?

I ate fast. I couldn't look up or take my time to savor it. It was too delicious to wait. I could look at the river later; right now Brother Bear is eating!

As usual, I was reminded why I make the dietary choices I do after eating said lunch. There are things that my stomach and taste buds just will not agree on, and my stomach almost always wins the the battle. Yesterday my taste buds were rewarded for their persistance with the delights of meat and dairy. In nearly no time at all, my stomach lashed back in avengence.

Sweet, sweet vengence.


Segways. I've noted in past posts how much enjoyment I get from making fun of them.

I have thought in the past that I should probably take a Segway tour before I pick on them, but then I thought about my dignity and decided I should just make fun of them. Most things deserve a benefit of the doubt. Not all.

The first thing I think of when I see a Segway is GOB from Arrested Developement who is rarely off of his Segway. He conducts himself in such a shameful manner which gives the impression that Segway drivers are conceited, arrogant (redundency empowers the insult) jerks who only come down from their high horse (or wheels) for a free chocolate covered treat from the banana stand - in which there is always money.

I also cannot help but think of the owner of the Segway company who died in a freak accident on one of his own machines. These "scooters" are not here to help the world get from one place to another. They are here to take over the world one multi-millionaire at a time.

"Help the world get from one place to another"? That's an interesting statement. These wheelie-pods are 6 inches and a heart attack away from walking. Here's a novel idea: bikes. Sometimes you can rest while still moving forward, yet still get some of that much recommended physical activity.

Dana and I were at a park on Sunday watching not one, but two Segway tours go by us. Both groups had nearly 30 tourists brimming with pride and glee as they sped through the park in a single file line. I shouldn't have stared, but they were just as much a spectacle to ogle at as the Mississippi, Stone Arch Bridge or downtown skyline.

The faces were rather fun to interpret, too. There was an older woman who looked like whe was having the time of her life. Her discontented husband looked like he'd rather have stayed downtown to find another corn dog to smother in ketchup. It looked as if they had come to a compromise. He must have told her that he would be willing to go on one of those stupid tours she had been talking about for months before the trip to Minneapolis as long as he didn't have to walk. He would be willing to take a bus, train, horse and buggy - anything but walking. But he woke up that morning to his beaming bride holding a brochure and two tickets to a Segway tour.

"That's not what I meant!"

"Doesn't matter! You said anything but walking. We're not walking, dear, so get your shoes on. It's starts in an hour!"

Now that I think about it, her smile may have had a touch of smugness in it.

There was a small family, too. Two parents, two little girls and an early-high-school-aged boy. A high school boy on a Segway tour with his parents and little sisters. Imagine his face. Moving on.

The tour guides had smiles plastered on their faces like a row of flight attendants thanking their passengers for flying Segway Air. I could see a hint of stress behind their eyes, though. They knew that the highly-read man wearing an archaeologist's hat was going to continue his barrage of questions until the last of the procession had parked his or her shiny Segway and the tour security had ushered the questioner off the premises.

"This is what I have to look forward to until the end of the summer. God help us."

If cleanliness is next to godliness, Segway-ness is next to laziness. It's probably the only time that standing will require a helmet. At least I hope it is.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blanket Fort

Of all the bad habits I should be giving up, sleep is the one that seems to have been successfully kicked. Couple that with the fact that today is Friday, the golden child of the week, and all I can think about is going home. Since I got to work at 8 this morning, I've been signing off my calls by telling the customers to have a good night. No one has challenged me on it, mostly because I hang up immediately after saying it, and I keep thinking that the day is going to be over in just a little bit. I look at the clock to see it's merely 10:15 am.

Then I answer questions as I hear them, not as they are asked, confusing these poor people more than they already are. Today I'm more interested in playing Draw Something rather than focusing on the caller at hand. I've been tempted to use my blanket as a pillow and fall asleep at my cube. Then a fulltime staff member asks me what I'll do if I ever get a "real" job.

Hopefully my mind will be engaged in my "real" job. So maybe I should engage my mind here? Well, I have. This is what I've come up with:

I'm going to build the coolest blanket fort ever known to the cubicle world. I'm going to bring in piles of blankets from home and build a canopy over my desk. I'm going to bring in strings of lights and lava lamps, because no blanket fort should be without a lava lamp. I'm going to bring in a bean bag and I'm going to put my computer on the floor. I'm going to bring in popcorn and a GameBoy Color, even though I hate popcorn and I've never owned a GameBoy, color or otherwise.

I'm going to answer phone calls as if I am an airport claims agent from London. " 'Ello, love, Benedict here from British Air. We've got a claim here for a lost bag which I'm quite sure I told you personally to toss in the hatch before we left Heathrow." You'll have to imagine the accent on that one. It's quite convincing in my head.

Or as if I am an astronaut. "Houston? Are you there? I can't hear you very well from Mars." Click.

Or maybe like an angry father. "Who are you looking for? Janice isn't home right now. Besides, she doesn't want to speak to the likes of you! Good day, sir! Oh, it's ma'am? Pardon me. Janice will be right with you." Then I'll hang up anyway. It's their own fault for interrupting my game of Zelda.

I had a friend working here until midway through the summer. His goal for the last week of work was to get fired. It didn't work for him. I'm going to show him how it's done.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tear Down This Wall

Who coined the term "Hit a wall"?

"Dude. I just hit a wall. I have to go to bed."

Really? Punching walls does that to you, eh?

Well folks, I've hit a wall. It's the end of summer and my tiredness is borderline consumptive. I have less than three weeks to work at the bank, then I start school again. Change will be good, but I'm really just trading one form of busyness for another. Does life slow down, or do I just look for new and exciting ways to be busy?

"I'd love to hang out, but I don't have time! Maybe I will when I'm retired. See you in 40 years!"

I don't think it's worth it. Hitting one wall after another. Two week vacation here, three day weekend there. To what end? Big house, big truck, big yard, big fence, big headache.

I don't think there is anything wrong with these things. I think it would be wrong for me to strive for them, because it would be inconsistent with what I want to do with my life. I want to live with poor, broken people who need someone to love them. If that means owning a giant house, ok! Let the people come live with me. If that means a big vehicle, fine. I'll tote people around who don't have a car.

This type of life is what makes me come alive. While I'm trying to pay bills by sitting in a cubicle, direction can get muddled; purpose goes down the toilet; I start hitting a wall.

Then I remember that life is full of seasons. I won't always hit a wall. I may just have to break a few more down before I can be done.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

City of Mirrors

I spent some time working at a hostel in Berat, Albania. Berat Backpackers is a fantastic little hostel, which I recommend you visit. If not the hostel, at least the website. There are some beautiful photos of the city and surrounding areas which will enhance this story for your imaginative pleasure.

I was volunteering at the hostel. I did some landscaping, cleaning, registering guests and a little shopping for the kitchen.

It was the end of the season, so the hostel was closing up. We helped board up doors and harvest some veggies from the garden and deplete the left overs from the kitchen.

The locals would come hang out with us in the evenings. We found some speakers and had dance parties every night. The bar was full at the beginning of the week. We did well at "depleting the leftovers."

When the week started wrapping up, we went out to celebrate a successful season, though my friends and I had just arrived. We went to a local bar and had dinner. Then we stayed until 5 am drinking delicious wine that stained our teeth purple and dancing to whatever pop music the make-shift DJ put on.

The next afternoon, my travel companions and I decided to go for a walk through the city. As you can see from the pictures, it's a gorgeous city with a lot of things to see: castles, mosques, orthodox churches, white washed houses with a wall of windows, cobblestone streets that only people and donkeys can pass.

As we strolled through the city, it was completely silent. It was during the afternoon call to prayer. I could hear it being sung from the speakers on top of the mosque. Our shoes clacked on the cobblestones, reminiscent of an old movie; the ominous clapping of shoes in a large corridor. Suspense.

But this was not suspenseful. It was peaceful. The birds welcomed us and sang to us. The white walls seemed to warm to us as we approached. The flowers sitting in their pots turned their faces towards us to say, "Hello! So glad you came to visit!"

It was warm and sunny. The singing from the mosque came to a close, and people started appearing, smiling to us, asking us questions that we couldn't understand. We visited the orthodox church. The doors were open and the sanctuary was empty. The carpet and pews were bright red. There were golden ropes to guide people where to sit and worship. Dried flowers were sprinkled on every ledge giving off the faintest hint of a garden aroma. The ceilings were high and intricately adorned. Mostly in gold.

We stopped at a cafe for lunch. We had sandwiches and coffee. People came to talk to us. Some left because we couldn't speak Albanian. Others wanted to practice their English with us. Most were friendly. Some were creepy.

Later that day, I was sitting on the patio at the hostel reading Dostoevsky's The Idiot and smoking a pipe. I was enjoying the scenery that spilled out in front of me. We were on the side of a hill facing a small valley. There was another hill opposing us. The houses crawled up the side of that hill. Every wall was made of large windows. The sun was setting behind me and the windows were singing her beauty. I was getting a little hungry. I leaned back in my chair and picked a pomegranate the size of my head. I cracked it open and thought, "I will never leave Albania." I truly believed, as I still do today, that I had found a magical world not of this planet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week Stomach

I woke up this morning with a song stuck in my head.

I stumbled out of bed singing "I believe I am fixin' to die." I was singing in the shower. Singing as I drank my coffee. Singing as I put on my shoes and gathered my lunch.

Then Dana told me that I was not going to die, it's just Monday.

Fine. I'll go to work then.

I used to think people who complained about Monday were just whiny. They were stuck in a job they didn't like. If they just tried to find some enjoyment in their job and the people they worked with, Monday would actually be a good day! "Hey! I get to go to work this morning!" I was sure they would sing as they crawled out of bed.

I don't know if I completely agree with that anymore. I do not hate my job. I actually rather enjoy it. It's painfully boring, but I get to do things while I sit in my cube. I write, read, listen to music. Things that I would be doing at home, but here I get paid for it.

I'd rather be home, though. I'd rather be sitting on my couch, in my unders, with a bowl of chips. Not every day of the week, but I do on Monday mornings when the thought of getting out of bed makes me sick to my stomach. Like someone who walks past wearing far too much cologne. And not good cologne, either. Something like Bod. That's what it's like Monday morning. Bod cologne.

Tuesday, though, seems like a completely different story. The days aren't nearly as busy; getting out of bed isn't nearly as difficult, though my wife may disagree with that statement; and I feel as though the weekend is just around the corner. My co-workers don't seem to appreciate it when I say, "The week's almost over!" on a Tuesday. I don't know why...

I'm not convinced Wednesdays exist. I never remember anything that happens on a Wednesday. My supervisor told me I shouldn't put so much Bailey's in my coffee on those days, either, but I don't think the two statements are related.

Thursdays are slow. Not painful like a Monday, but it's the day before the day before the weekend. It's the armpit of the week. If Monday through Friday were a set of bathrooms, Thursday would be the dingy outhouse that no one wants to go to because a spider might crawl up his or her nether parts. There's not a lot one can do to spruce up a Thursday. It should probably just be burned.

Then the glorious Friday. The day that gets far too much credit. The day that is grossly overestimated. The day that holds her power over the other days of the week like an older sister with her first set of car keys. With her first un-shared bedroom. With her cute little sundress that mommy and daddy bought her. Everyone adores her and she knows it. She's a diva. She would be the bathroom with a clawfoot tub in the middle of the room. Just because she can.

I feed right into Fridays. I love Fridays. I try not to, but I can't help it. I get to go home and veg out for the next two days. Or go out of town. Or whatever I want. How is this a bad thing? And sometimes I get paid on a Friday. Those are the Fridays worth working for.

But, for every Friday comes a Monday. And these are the mornings that I wake up to face death. Or phone calls. Whichever comes first. I couldn't tell you which would be worse.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nectar of the Gods

Dana and I went to visit a friend in San Diego a couple years ago. It's a 40 hour drive from Minneapolis to San Diego, so we stopped in Iowa to pick up our friend's dad. Val is a great traveling companion.

We took the drive in two days. We slept for a couple hours in Texas, and drove another 20 hours the next day. It was awful. I will never look at another Nutrigrain bar without feeling a bit nauseous.

We stayed almost a week with Laura in her SoCal house with her SoCal friends and her SoCal beach. It was pretty great. The last full day we spent with Laura, we went to Balboa Park.

Lets start at the beginning of that day, though. Laura worked early that morning, so Dana had to prepare the picnic. I probably should have helped, but I didn't wake up early enough to go to the store with her. Then, when I got out of the shower, Val and I started talking about the trip. Dana was making sandwiches and salads.

I went into the kitchen and said good morning. I gave her a kiss and asked if the coffee was ready.

Bad idea.

No, actually, the coffee is not ready because there is no coffee to get ready. And then I saw a side of Dana that I had not yet met. The side of her that probably instigated the nickname Dana-saur. The side that shouldn't be asked if the coffee is ready when there is no more coffee left.

We walked to the tram silently. Val is a morning person. He loves to chat and tease and enjoy the morning. I was trying to keep up with his chatter, but I also was feeling the effects of driving coffee-less. Dana was scowling. I shouldn't have left her to get us ready like little boys needing to be sent off to school, but I didn't want to chop the peppers! I wanted to hang out with Val!

We met Laura at Balboa Park. We were a little late, despite Dana's efforts to get us out the door on time. Laura had just finished her shift at the coffee shop and was feeling just as chipper as her dad.

Dana and I tried to enjoy the park. It was built when the World Fair was hosted by San Diego, so there were a lot of interesting nooks to it. People were allowed to set up little shops inside to sell food, artwork or whatever other craft they set their hands to. It was pretty cool.

Yet Dana couldn't smile. She was interested, but she didn't join in the conversation or pictures. She just looked royally pissed.

Val asked, "Dana, can I buy you a cup of coffee?"

"Oh, it's ok. I don't need coffee, I'll be fine. I can buy my own, too, you don't need to..."

"Here. And one for you, too, Benj," as he handed us our paper cups.

It was still too hot for Dana to take a sip, but she took the lid off and smelled the brew.

Something sparked. I was watching her very closely, because I thought I saw something flash in her eyes. Yes! There it goes again! Something was definitely taking place. Her brow was less furrowed. Her chin seemed a bit more relaxed. And wait... Dear Lord! I think it is!

She smiled! She laughed! She started bantering with Val and talking with Laura! She held my hand! It truly looked like she had come out of Lazarus' tomb to join the land of the living once again.

The rest of the day was amazing. Arguably the best day we spent with Laura that week. Never underestimate the power of a cuppa.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Seven Minutes of Rushing

Every night I leave my cube and go to the basement garage where my bicycle is parked. There are special doors I have to go through to get to the garage. Only one person can enter or exit at a time.

Every night, a little after 5pm, I see the same girl running from her car to the door. There are windows. One of us ends up waiting for the other to go through the door first. It has become such a routine, that we've taken to saying hello to each other. She is a cleaning lady coming in for her evening shift. I am a cube rat trying to get home to my wife. We smile and pass each other. Every night.

Her accent tells me that she's from Africa. I'm not sure where in Africa, of course, but that's not all I've noticed. Every night she is running - literally running - from her car to the doors. And it's never before 5 that I see her. Always six or seven minutes after 5.

These few details of my new friend have gotten me very curious as to what her story is. I don't believe I will ever hear it, so I decided to write one for her. Meet Adimu (ah-DEE-moo):

Adimu, which means unique in Swahili, is 22 years old. She comes from a country in east Africa, I think Ethiopia. She grew up going to school at a Catholic mission where she learned English and got a high school education. Her parents didn't have much money, but the priest was very helpful in finding resources for them and their community.

Adimu has two older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister. They have always been very close. Literally and figuratively. They grew up in a two room hut. Mom and Dad got the second room. They all went to school together. They did everything together. Not only the siblings, but the entire community.

There was so much love among the neighbors. When one family was hurting, the people came together to mourn with them. When another family was rejoicing, the community was there to party. A little different than the lifestyle we attain to in America. Not better or worse, just different.

When high school was over, the mission got a grant to send some kids to America for a college education. A few colleges across America were giving scholarships to help these kids get through school and have a little extra for living expenses while here. There was a raffle to see who would be able to go. There was only enough money to send five kids from the village, so all of the eligible students put their names in the drawing.

As Adimu brought herself to the table to submit her name, her mind was fluttering with fears and excitement. She wanted to go to make a way for herself and perhaps bring her family if she worked hard enough after school. She wanted to stay because the thought of leaving her siblings and community was too much to bear. In the end, she submitted her name because it was the only hope of building a better life for her family.

Her older brothers were too old to put their names in. Her older sister had already put in her slip of paper. Her younger sister was still in high school.

And then came the dreaded wait. Adimu joined her family in the audience and waited until the priest came out to address the crowd. He made a speech about how blessed the community was to have this opportunity to send a few of their kids to college. Adimu didn't hear a word of it. Her stomach was in knots. She didn't know what she hoped for. Any outcome would be treacherous. Any outcome would be exactly what she wanted. She just had to wait and let the fates decide.

Adimu was the second name called. Everyone started cheering. Her family was hugging her. Every eye was damp with tears. She felt ecstatic. She felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. She couldn't talk. She just cried and hugged her mom. "What's going to happen to me?" she thought.

She prayed that her sister would be called, too, so that she wouldn't be alone, but that didn't happen. After the last person was called, people stuck around to congratulate her and tell her how much they would miss her. She just smiled and nodded. No words came to her mind. Pictures were taken and slowly people filtered out.

A month later, Adimu and four others from her village were boarding the plane for America. Some were going to New York, one to California and one to Kansas. Adimu was placed in Minnesota. The little she had read about Minnesota was that there was something called snow, which was supposed to be very cold, and that everyone was Lutheran.

She had the toughest time with the cold part. The Lutherans didn't seem to make themselves known. School was difficult. She had to work to keep herself fed and send some money back home for her family. Everything was so expensive that she had to pick up another job while studying full time.

She quit sleeping so she could keep eating. The grant money covered most of rent, but not all of it. Transportation and groceries were extra. She worked at the university library, where she could study, and an overnight job cleaning big buildings downtown. There are three sections to a day: school for 8 hours, work for 8 hours and sleep for 8 hours. Adimu had to fudge the numbers a little bit to make ends meet. School kept its 8 hours, but work demanded at least 12. That left about 4 for sleep. Amidu has kept plugging along and this May it will all pay off with a shiny new degree from the University of Minnesota.

She hasn't seen her family in almost 4 years, but they talk constantly. They are saving some money so her mom can come for the graduation ceremony.

Adimu is planning on staying in the States for now to pay off the little bit of debt that has accumulated and get some experience in her field. She's thinking about grad school, but wants to spend some time with her family before pursuing another degree.

For now she will continue to rush into work immediately after finishing at the library. Her manager is very forgiving, even though she shows up 7 minutes late every day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reinstate Playtime!

What happened to play time?

Children have the life, don't they? They wake up and play with their toys and mom makes them breakfast. They go to school and play with their friends. They run around like yahoos reeking havoc on the playground; screaming to their little hearts content. And what do they have by form of responsibility? Sometimes they have to clean their rooms. Maybe feed the dog. That's about it!

They chase each other. They tickle each other. They play board games together. They make up games together. They tell stories together, which usually make no sense, but are funnier than anything I could produce. They've got it made!

Then they get old. Some will hold summer jobs in high school. Many go off to college and get real jobs afterwards. Whatever a "real job" is. And somewhere along the way, playtime stops.

"Don't tickle me. That's childish."

So?! Children understand, so says my philosophy, how to accept people different than themselves; how to love their friends (because they don't know what an enemy is); how to be decent human beings to one another. We adults have so much to learn from them!

Politics don't rile children. Economics don't keep them up at night. Religion is truth to them, and questioning it doesn't seem to cross their beautiful minds.

I'm not saying that responsibility is a terrible thing, though there is a delightful chant my friend Lalei and I say to each other when it seems too heavy a burden to bear. Without going into specifics, we say "Hang it all!"

With responsibility being a necessary evil, such as money and politics and oil changes, we've allowed it too much power over our leisure time. Responsibility requires a mature brain. It does not require a stiff attitude, though. Be mature, but let a childlike spirit be your outlook. Don't talk to strangers. Rather, talk to friends you've not yet gotten to know. Talk to people as though they were neighbors. Treat them with respect, but allow the conversation to be playful. Make someone laugh when they are frustrated. And not in a malicious way.

I believe we can find a happy medium between playtime and responsibility. I don't believe they have to be distinct from one another. I think if everyone adopted my philosophies, the world would be a better place. But, maybe that's my inner child talking. He still thinks the world revolves around him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You may need ear plugs for this one.













Dark Circles

While I was finishing my Associates degree, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in for a Bachelor's. I was into photography and I was thinking about doing photojournalism. Luckily for me, there was a class being offered on that very topic. So I signed up.

I then needed to figure out what to do about my final class. I noticed there was an opening for Film Photography, black and white. Sure. Why not?

My photojournalism class was a digital based class, so I bought a Nikon. My film class obviously required a film camera, so I bought a Phoenix.

I learned how to use Photoshop in my digital class and a dark room for my film class. The two are polar opposite from one another. I believe the dark room ruined me for digital. Something about the dark room just clicked with me, and the teacher was incredible. Her teaching style catered to my learning style in a way my photojournalism teacher couldn't compete with. I couldn't figure out how to adjust my digital work, but I could spend hours in the dark room without even realizing it; I loved being there.

It takes a lot of time to print a quality photograph in a dark room. I would look at my clock and think, hey! I've got a couple hours. I can print my assignment for next week's class and have time to see some friends before bed.

I would then proceed to spend upwards to 6 hours in the dark room thinking I had a lot of evening left to do other homework. I would pop in my iPod and get lost in the dim red glow and chemicals swirling around the air. My pictures turned out pretty good, but the rest of my homework was pushed to the back burner.

Now that I don't have a dark room at my disposal, I miss it terribly. I still shoot with my Nikon, but I've lost the affinity to shoot film if I have to let someone else print it for me. I probably could find a dark room somewhere in Minneapolis, but my schedule just doesn't allow for it. Maybe when I'm rich and famous I can build a dark room in my mansion on top of a hill. I'll keep you posted on how that works out for me.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I am reading Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

She is a British author who writes in the deadpan wit that stems from a gloomy climate. Her comedic style is so dry it's almost sticky.

They joy of reading a British author is imagining them reading it aloud. I often have an almost pretentious accent of ongoing monologue in my head while I'm reading. When I put the book down, it often comes out in my speech.

I have been told on more than one occasion that when I get nervous, usually when talking in groups of people whom I don't know, I will feign an English accent. I wonder if it's a defense mechanism? "If I don't wow these people with my stories, they'll think I'm cool anyway because I talk British!"

It doesn't often work, but it's worth the shot, right? No? Oh well.

The other interesting thing about this book is the fact that the description of the book found on the back cover has a detailed story of a panda on a murderous rampage in a cafe. Not to mislead the reader, the book is about punctuation. Not about panda bears, or murder. There's not a lot of mystery in the meat of the book.

Nonetheless, it is a delightful read for cynical writers such as myself.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Office Drones

Summer is coming quickly to an end. Winter is knock knock knocking on our door ready to blow it over and fill our lives with frigid air and beautiful snow.

After last winter, I can't complain too much. We got off easy here in the Twin Cities. Did we have any accumulation? At any rate, I could not wait for summer to begin. I love the heat.

This summer has been rather different than previous summers. For the past two years I have been inspecting houses either for insurance purposes, or for hail damage. Not great paying jobs, but I was outside enjoying the heat everyday. This year I am in a call center. I will say right now how thankful I am for my job, so there are no misconceptions.

I do miss being outside, though. If I stand up in my cube, on my tip-toes, I can get a glance out of the window and see a great view of the Mississippi and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge located on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. I take every opportunity to go down to the bridge during the day. I get a morning break, afternoon break and a lunch break. Pretty typical, I guess.

These breaks are spent at the river talking to ducks, chiding Segway tours or just going for a leisurely stroll along the embankment. Rain or shine, I spend my time off the phone outside.

The trade off for working in an office has many more positives than negatives. I have not had coworkers for almost two years. My coworkers keep my days very interesting. I get weekends off. I get to ride my bike into work.

Now, someone once told me something about bikers and motorists. Drivers hate pedestrians. Pedestrians hate drivers. But bikers hate everyone. Including themselves.

I have learned the truth of this statement by becoming a regular biker. I wish everyone would just pay attention like I do! And then I will almost run into someone's car and feel like an ass. So it goes.

Now that my temporary position is winding to a close, I am having mixed emotions about it. I am ready for school to start back up again, but I am not ready to cut my income. I am ready to have a more relaxed schedule, but I don't want to lose touch with my new friends.

Someone said every good thing must come to an end, but he didn't say I have to like it. I guess I'll deal with it when September rolls around. For now I'm going to go throw bread crumbs at ducks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Man vs Food

It's hard to believe that it was 7 years ago when my health began to fail.

In February of 2005 I got the flu. It was the worst flu I have ever had. I stayed on the couch for the entire month and refused to eat. Whatever I consumed caused great bouts of pain and nausea that would last for days. One meal every other day, as you can imagine, produced much weight loss. I lost 30 pounds that month. For those of you who know me now, I don't have 30 pounds to lose, but I did at the time. I was a short, chubby boy.

The beginning of March pulled me out of the flu. I was able to go back to school for the last couple months of my junior year at high school, but I never got my appetite back. I was still dealing with sickness whenever I ate.

I started going to the doctor to try to figure it out. I was in for testing almost every other week. They shot me full of fluids to watch it go through my system. They drew blood constantly. My veins were shy, so one poke of the needle would never do. I remember coming home from a simple CT scan with seven new holes in my arms, feet and hands. All were patched up with puffs of cotton.

Moose Lake clinic reached its limit with me and sent me to the children's hospital in St. Paul. More testing. They fed me radioactive eggs one morning with a touch of salt for flavor. They weren't very good. They put me under for the procedure.

As I was laying on the operating table, I saw the anesthesiologist lift my IV and insert a needle. He asked me to count backwards from 10. Like an old movie, my peripheral vision began to fade to blackness. It quickly took over the rest of my sight and the next thing I knew, I had woken up in a dark room. My mom came in and I asked her if they were going to start the procedure yet. She told me I had been asleep for 4 hours and we were getting ready to go home.

Nothing came of it. No answers. Just more pain.

My friends and family were getting worried about me. Every time they saw me, I was looking more and more like a skeleton. Food was turning sour in my mouth and my energy was sapped. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do anything. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch tv. Reading required more concentration than I could afford.

More testing. No new results.

In September, my doctor sent me to the Mayo Clinic. I can only attempt to describe the hell they put me through.

It began with more radioactive eggs. Then they strapped me to a table and electrocuted me. No joke. They were testing the rate at which my body sweat. They strapped a tube around my chest to rate my breathing. They tilted the table I was lying on to measure my blood circulation. Day in and day out. They did more tests than I thought possible, but by the end of the week, they had some answers.

"Your stomach doesn't expand when you eat."

Well that seems simple enough. People have stomachs that are approximately the size of their fist when empty. When we eat, that fist expands and digests the food. Then it shrinks down again. But not mine. It holds its form and when it's full, it's full. That's it. You can imagine what kind of problems that would create.

I started eating small snacks throughout the day. Slowly it started getting better.

Two months later I was in my living room doing homework. Something came over me rather suddenly and I couldn't figure out what it was. I felt empty. There was no other word that could describe the feeling other than emptiness. I tested the word "sad," but that didn't quite fit. There was something amiss. It was more of a physical emptiness rather than emotional. I wanted something. I wanted it immediately. But I had no idea what "it" was. Did I need to take a nap? No. Did I need to go outside and get some fresh air? Not quite. I was getting edgy. Cranky, even. What was it?!

Then it dawned on me. This was the first time in over ten months that I had felt hungry.

I laughed. Hunger?! I've missed you!

I went into the kitchen and for the first time in almost a year, the fridge was a welcome sight.

The stomach issues were supposed to be cleared up in 6 months to a year, but now, 7 years later, it is still a constant companion. I've learned a lot about my body and how to take care of it, but I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I have a deeper appreciation for the human body. It is so intricate that a minor problem in one system will totally mess up another system.

Food has been an enemy in the past, but the meals that Dana cooks up for me are phenomenal. She's really good at finding amazing meals that fit into my strict diet with a taste fit for a king. It used to be a challenge to eat my own cooking, but it's a challenge to stop eating hers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Greatest of These

Working with the elderly is a very special job. I have worked in nursing homes and in-home care with people who need a pair of young hands to help them with tasks that they can no longer do by themselves. With patience and care, one can obtain a bond with his or her client in a way that no other job can offer. It can be very frustrating at times, painful even, but in the end it is very rewarding.

I was working at such a home in Rochester where the people in the memory ward were a joy to work with. These patients had Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

There was one lady who had severe dementia and couldn't communicate very well. She had such a happy spirit, though. Every time an aid came to help her eat, or bring her to activities, she would reach out and touch the girl's scrubs and say "So pretty!" She would do the same for the girl's hair.

When we would get Viv to her chair and sit her down, she would lean back and smile. She wanted to say thank-you, but she had forgotten how. Her face told the whole story. Of all the people I worked with, I felt most appreciated by this woman. She wanted so badly for her helpers to know what they meant to her.

A year later, Viv got very sick. She was on hospice care and we were doing everything to keep her comfortable. She had pain medication every 4 hours, though when I got into her room to administer it, I could tell that the last dose had completely worn off.

We got the meds in her, yet there wasn't a lot of relief. I was trying to talk to her, but she wasn't hearing me. She kept asking "What?" and screwing up her eyes to try and hear me. I knew our only option was to wait for the meds to take effect, but she was so uncomfortable.

Then I noticed a Bible on her bedstand. I prayed that if her ears couldn't hear me, perhaps her spirit would.

I opened to I Corinthians 13 and read it to her and my coworker who was with me. That was Grandpa George's favorite chapter. As I began reading, I could see relief seep into her face. She began to relax. Her grip on my hand loosened. While I was reading the description of love (it is patient, it is kind) a slight smile flashed on her lips and she began nodding. As I said the words, "Love never fails," Viv was fast asleep.

I finished the chapter and was reminded what life is all about.

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dancing to the Jailhouse Rock

A friend is moving to China in three weeks. She got her letter of invitation last night and put her two weeks' notice in this morning. I can see the excitement welling up. The fear of moving to a foreign country can be staggering, but at this point, Brittany is ready to just get on the plane and go.

Her grandma isn't quite as excited as she is. I can understand the hesitation her grandma is feeling. China is a big country with a lot of people. A lot can go wrong when one is on the other side of the globe. I also had a grandparent who was concerned for my safety when I went to China.

I was sitting with Grandpa George and Grandma Kathy drinking coffee and telling them about the ministry I was going to take part in. I was getting ready to spend a month in China to teach middle schoolers English. With different laws that China has, that is risky business. Grandma was excited for me. She was happy that I was able to go out and see the world, and she knew that I would be home in 6 weeks to tell them all about it.

Not so the case with Grandpa. I tried to reassure him by telling him the organization I was going with had a really good setup with the Chinese government, that the people who were sending me were going to take care of me and that I would be safe. But he had recently read stories about Christians in China being incarcerated for their faith, being left in jail for years and being submitted to torture. I appreciated his concern, but I knew that it was unlikely for me to be in any great danger.

Grandma was ruthless, though.

"Oh George, he's going to be fine. Don't scare him with your stories."

Then came the chiding. I didn't like seeing Grandpa teased when he was worried about me, but when Grandma started singing Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock," I couldn't help join in.

Grandma and I still have a special liking for that song as we remember Grandpa.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Red River Fortunes

Where I work, I speak with people on the phone. Many of them are elderly people who need an ear to listen. This afternoon I spoke with a man who was born in 1917 who asked, after we took care of the issues he was calling about, if he could tell me a story.

I had told him that I am located in Minneapolis, and that was what sparked his memory. His wife, he told me, was from Fergus Falls. He has always lived in New England.

The story:

When I was in between college and graduate school, I worked for the US Department of Agriculture climbing up elm trees, big tall trees, with ropes.

One weekend, a few of the guys and I decided we were going to go into New York City for the World Fair. We were in east Pennsylvania at the time. We all piled into a guy's truck and set off.

We didn't think about getting hotel reservations, which was stupid. The entire city was packed full. No where to sleep. Then I remembered the bowery. Do you know what the bowery is? It's a room for bums. You can get a place for 25 cents per night. We were told to keep our money in our socks, so we did.

That night we decided to go out for a few beers and a walk around the street vendors. We saw a place advertising for fortunes, so we stopped in. Ya know, everyone who is into fortunes has to be pretty gullible, and I was being an ass that night, so I told the lady her fortune before she told me mine.

I don't remember what I told her, but she told me that I was going to marry a girl from the Red River Valley. I thought to myself, I don't know anyone from Texas, so I'm free!

Well, about five years later, I meet this girl named Ellen from northern Minnesota. We started going together and things were getting pretty serious between us. I was getting ready to pop the question, but I had a moral dilemma that I had to clear up. I told her the story about the fortune teller.

I said, "Ellen, dear, I'd like to marry you, but five years ago a fortune teller told me I was going to marry a girl from the Red River Valley. You're not from Texas, so I don't know if I can marry you."

"Joe, you dummy. Don't you know that the Red River runs right through Fergus Falls? I'm that girl your fortune teller was talking about!"

They were married for 68 years before Ellen passed.

Border Patrol

This coming Monday my beautiful wife and I will be celebrating one year of wedded bliss.

Our wedding was at the Chocolate Chip Cookie Church in Embarrass, MN. The weather was perfect except for the torrential downpour that lasted 10 minutes that morning. The skies cleared up to a balmy 85 degree day of sheer joy.

After the wedding we rented a cabin in Thunder Bay, Canada, on Dog Lake. Everyday we went canoeing on the lake and hiking in the hills around the resort. We picked raspberries and took pictures of wildlife. There were deer squirrels and a ton of vultures. Something must have died. We drove into town one night, which was about 20 miles from the resort. The roads were not well maintained, so it took almost 45 minutes to get there. On the way back to the campgrounds, there was a sign that said, "Dog Lake Resort, 3 miles ahead. The longest three miles you've ever driven!"

And they were the longest 3 miles we had ever driven. The road was narrow and windy. It was hilly. When we came around a curve there was a beautiful view of the lake. It was very distracting. Oncoming traffic was a beast to get around, though there were very few cars out there. The warning sign at the head of the driveway made the trek that much more enjoyable.

When we were coming back into the States, the border patrol officer was taking his job very seriously.

"Where were you?" Thunder Bay.
"What were you doing?" Camping at a resort.
"Are you related?" We just got married last week.
"Where do you live?" Minneapolis.
"What part of Minneapolis?" Northeast. Do you know where that is? (We didn't ask him that.)

The entire time this guy was eyeing our passports as if something was amiss. Then he brought my passport to his nose and sniffed it.

"Smells like marijuana."

At this point, I had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing.

"Do you have anything to say about that?"

"Are you a drug dog? I couldn't tell with your lack of snout."

I didn't say that, either. I told him that I wear pachouli oil sometimes, but that's all I could think of.

"Ok. Drive safe."

And we were off, thankful for the security our country enforces on the borders.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

L'oeil du Faucon

Yesterday's post jogged my memory about an incident that happened while in France. It has little to do with food, but more to do with the incredible generosity many people have towards travelers.

My friends and I had stepped off a ferry from Dover, England onto Calais, France. We had taken the last boat into France, expecting everything to still be open. Sadly, everything was closed. Cafes, train and bus stations, even hotel lobbies were locked up. And no one would speak English. There weren't a lot of people around in the first place, but everyone we approached looked the other way and said, "Non!"

We started wandering in the city. It was about 10 o'clock at night. Dark. We were supposed to meet the people we were staying with that night in Versaille, which was still several hours away via train. Finally we saw a couple walking towards us. I mustered up what little French I knew at the time and asked if they spoke English.

"A little" the guy said with a thick accent.

We borrowed his mobile and called the people who were waiting for us. Our to-be hosts asked where we were going to stay that night. The hotels were closed. There were no hostels. We were going to camp in the park. We didn't really have another choice.

But the guy who owned the phone heard our plans. When Laura hung up he told us that there were gangs and drug dealers roaming the city at night. He said that if we fell asleep with our backpacks, we would wake up in the morning without them. We would be robbed, and most likely knived before dawn.

So what should we do?

"Come back to our place with us" he said. "We don't have much, but there's a couch that folds out. It's a little dirty, but it's safer than the park."

So we walked to the couple's flat. It's true, they didn't have much. They had a dog and two white rats. They had oulets in the walls, but no lights. They kept the computer plugged in so we could listen to music. Their fridge had some bread and a bit of alcohol. There was a bathroom, but there wasn't a door on it. Everyone just had to look the other way when someone was using the facilities. The entire place was littered with cigarette butts.

We stayed up extremely late talking as much as we could. He had better English than she did, but they both tried. We did too. Laura had better French than the rest of us, so we stuck to the basics. Listen to music and smile at each other. Nodding to indicate that the band currently playing is good.

We found out that they were not renting the space, which is probably a good thing considering it wouldn't have meet the lowliest codes. They knew the guy who owned the building, and he was letting them squat while he renovated it. Neither of them worked. They had finished high school and were trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

The next morning they were both gone. They left the dog and rats, but they had shipped out. They must have gotten up early. It was about 9 when we rolled out of bed to an empty apartment. We were still rubbing the sleep out of our eyes when the door opened. They had gone out to get croissants and orange juice for breakfast. I couldn't figure out how, but they scrounged enough to buy it for us.

Then they asked how we were planning on getting to the train station. We were on a backpacking trip, so we assumed we would walk.

"Non non non! It is too far. You cannot walk. We have a car. We will drive you."

Their car didn't start. They went to the street and flagged someone down so they could get a jump. It took about half an hour, but they finally got the thing running, and we were off to the station.

As we were saying our goodbyes, we offered our friends money. They would have none of it. Before we left, the guy came up to me and gave me a small polished stone with a line in the middle.

He said, "This is called 'l'oeil du faucon.' Keep it with you and it will bring you luck on your travels."

I still have that stone today.

Traveling can be stressful at times, but my favorite part is meeting the people who will go above and beyond what is asked of them. We asked to borrow a cell phone. We got a place to sleep, breakfast, a ride to the station and a token of friendship. The world has genuinely good people in it. Finding them isn't hard.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Locust and Honeycomb

I went on a trip while I was in high school to West Virginia. The team talked about all the weird things that are eaten all over the world, and one of the leaders told a delectable recipe for one such dish.

When I came home, my two young sisters and I went for a walk down our country road in the heat of summer. We stopped along the road near a hay field and each of us caught a grasshopper to bring home as pets.

Upon our arrival at home, we promptly threw our new found friends in hot water to their demise. We boiled them in soy sauce and rolled them in wasabi sauce. We then put them in the oven to get that unmistakable grasshopper crunch. That evening we added our delicacy to our tacos. For the first time, my sisters and I appreciated cuisine from around the world at the comfort of our own table.

I could go into other weird things I've eaten. Most of them were consumed in China. I've eaten cow stomach, chicken heads (beaks, combs and eyes) and my personal favorite, cat. Not really my favorite. Actually, it was rather upsetting.

In France, though I was a professing vegetarian (due mostly to my experiences in China), I did what every world traveler should do at least once: point at something random on the menu and grin. What was brought to me was thinly sliced slabs of raw, salted ham. I got about half way through it before I had to stop. My traveling companions were laughing their fool heads off with each grimacing bite.

This is the part where we indulge in other stories of what we have eaten. I've heard adventures of the menu from many of my friends. Please share more. What have you eaten that you would rather forget? Or maybe it wasn't as bad as you expected? Cow stomach, though chewy, isn't that bad!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sleeping the Night Away

I had to fight myself this morning to get out of bed. All I wanted was to pretend that it was Saturday. Call in with a cold and treat myself to a 3 day weekend. But that didn't happen. I rolled out of bed 5 minutes before I had to leave. I'm really good at getting ready really fast. I was reminded of another time when I was supposed to get up early, but my body won over my mind that time. I did not get up.

I was visiting a friend for the weekend. I was going to leave the next morning while he was at work, so we decided that we would have coffee and hang out before he left. The next morning I woke up pretty late, and realized that the brat hadn't woken me up before he went to work. Conveniently, he got off work early and was back at his apartment before I took off. So I laid into him.

"I thought you were going to wake me up before you went to work? I thought we were going to hang out and I was going to get an early start on the road? What's the deal?" I said with self-righteous indignation.

"You're not serious, are you?"

"Huh? What happened?"

"I went into your room and said, 'Ben. Ben. Benjamin. Hey! Benjamin get up!'
'What do you want?'
'Hey, get up. We're going to hang out before I go to work.'
'Mmm...nah. I'll just sleep.'
'What? I made coffee! I thought you were going to leave before I get home.'
'I'll stop at the coffee shoppe and say goodbye there.'
'You'd rather see me for 30 seconds then rather than half an hour now?'
'Yeah...that would be better.'
'You're a jerk!'
'Haha! You're just saying that because you know I won't remember when I wake up.'"

That's right, folks. My sleeping self will tell you just how important our friendship is compared to sweet, sweet sleep. My conscience is definitely sleeping during these hours whether or not my vocal chords are.

Happy Friday, friends. Sleep well this weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baseballs in the Night Sky

I was at a baseball game last night at the Twins' stadium. I should probably say right now that I don't really get into baseball very much, but I like being there to watch the people. They are a very interesting subject while in baseball field.

During the breaks, as per usual, there would be shots of people in the audience displayed on the jumbotron. This was always accompanied by some form of dance music which most people, myself included, were grooving to. Not only were we slightly grooving, but we were also watching the jumbotron to watch other people groove. It was pretty groovy.

Every time. Every time when people noticed that they were being seen by the rest of the spectators, they stopped "slightly grooving," and began this sort of convulsion of their bodies just to let peole know how much they love being watched.

I chose the word "convulsion" deliberately. Wikipedia defines the word as "A sudden, violent, irregular movement of a limb or of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles and associated esp. with brain disorders such as epilepsy, the presence of certain toxins or other agents in the blood, or fever in children." These people were convulsing. And it was hilarious.

Now, I also over emphasized the fact that it was every time someone noticed they were being recorded. That is not completely true. There was one woman who was sitting near one of the dug outs who danced like she just don' care. And the cameras loved it. I'm pretty sure she was on the jumbotron four different times. At least four. The first time, everyone around her went crazy and waved like you would expect people to do when their face was grotesquely magnified in front of nearly 40,000 people. By the last time everyone looked rather bored.

But that lady, whom the cameras couldn't get enough of, just kept dancing with no concern of who was watching her. I could see that she noticed her dancing on the screen, because she would glance at it. Her face gave a look that said, "I know, Twins fans. You wish you had no shame, like me."

That lack of shame made my evening in Target Field significantly more interesting.

Oh. I think the orange birds won the game. Orioles? That sounds about right.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Stormy Weather

    Raindrops hitting a tin roof while you're sleeping.
    Snuggled under a blanket, reading, while it's raining.
    Drinking something hot while it's raining.
    Waking up to morning rain and realizing you have nowhere to be.
    Sitting in front of a picture window watching lightning.

    There are so many negative connotations that get strapped onto rain, but these are the first few thoughts that pop into my mind when I see the sky clouding over, especially when we haven't seen the rain for several weeks. As it rains today, I can hear the dry, cracked ground refreshing itself with a cold drink. It's like soothing chapped lips with balm. It's the instant coolness that brings a flood of relief.

    Now, I understand why storms get a bad rap. Just take the Duluth flood, or when it downpours during a camping trip and everything gets soggy. Those two examples probably shouldn't be in the same sentence. One is devastating and the other is rather inconvenient. Nonetheless, the age old adage, "rain on your parade" was made up for reason.

    Just yesterday someone told me that one of the most powerful forces on earth is water and gravity. Think of the valleys and river beds that have been carved through the earth's topography because of a steady stream and downward movement. Entire civilizations have been built and have fallen due to their proximity to a river. My own city of Minneapolis is a thriving metropolis that survived years of difficult history because of help from the Mississippi.

    The amazing thing about weather is not only its incredible force. It's also the fact that in this age, we still have nothing by way of combating it or preventing it. We can be warned of it, but beyond that we just have to wait it out. Grin and bear it. Hope for the best, and deal with the aftermath when it's all over. We can sit in the picture windows and be awed by the lightening, hoping it doesn't come through said window and strike you where you sit.

    Maybe that's why we love talking about weather so much in Minnesota.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Backwoods Barns

    Have you ever wandered through an abandoned house? There is an aura about it which makes the calmness heavy. The creaking floor boards cut through the silence and the shifting walls can unnerve you. Every step is accompanied with the thought, "Will this step be supported? Am I going to find myself in the basement with a broken leg and spiderwebs all over me?" Stairs are probably the most nerve racking. If the house is old enough, there's no telling how strong the steps are.

    I explored such a house a few years back. The front door was locked, but the side door was propped open. I didn't break in. It pretty much begged me to enter. I found old news papers and spilt paint cans. The ratty sofa looked like a comfortable home for mice. I thought I would check to see if there was any beer in the fridge, but was welcomed with a smell that would turn roaches away. I saw half empty ketchup bottles and Tupperware. I wasn't curious enough to see what the containers were harboring.

    Climbing the stairway to the second level, I noticed parts of the wall more faded than others. I assumed this is where the family photos hung. Maybe a degree from a pristine university. There were two bedrooms upstairs. One still had a bed in it and another had a mostly empty dresser. There was some cheaply made necklaces and a clothing magazine from the 50's. The carpet was tan with the smell of dust and age. The wall paper was peeling and tired of dangling from the wall. The little bit of glue that still clung to the paint was ready to give up the ghost. I went back downstairs.

    I saw the pantry with rice and other bags with holes in the bottom. To avoid having a small furry animal run up my pants leg and bite my johnson, I shut the door just as quickly as I opened it. I hadn't seen a mouse, but I wasn't in the mood to go looking for one. I went out to the barn.

    The barn was less than impressive on the outside. It was just like any old barn you would expect to see driving down a country road. Wait. When you're driving down a country road. Not the barn. The paint was chipped. The siding was coming apart. The shingles that were left on the roof were packing their bags waiting for the next big storm to take them away. Then I stepped inside.

    The first glance took my breath away. The air was heavy with the dust that doves kicked up when they flew from my arrival. The cracked siding was letting in the late afternoon sun. The golden rays sang through the stuffy air. There were old tools and tractors and hay wagons that sighed at the sight of a human.

    "Is someone coming to put us back to work? We've had such a nice sleep, it'd be a pity to go back into the field now. Not sure my gears could take the strain anymore" they seemed to say.

    The floors were littered with hay and chains. There was a thick layer of dust coating everything I touched. I could smell the left over stench of cows filtering in and out of the pasture door. Strolling in for milking. Lazily walking out at the end of chores. In and out. In and out. Day after day. More grass. More hay. More milking. Blasé.

    Within a couple of minutes I was coughing and sneezing. The joys of air-borne allergies. I headed to the shed.

    Inside there were boxes and boxes of old magazines and tape cassettes of bands I had never heard of. I think most of them were country western which I derived from the pictures of the singers. Nothing worth taking home. The tapes were all damaged from moisture and neglect. There was a big fur coat and a denim jacket. There were lamps and tv stands and an old radio and dishes. Everything you would expect to see in someone's garage in the late 50's. I couldn't get to the back of the shed because it was so packed with stuff. I could see a nest in the rafters right next to a wooden canoe. I wondered how difficult it was to lift the boat up there. It must weigh a ton. Then I started looking at the rafters and slowly backed away. Did you know you could start an avalanche with nothing more than a noise? I didn't want to test the theory.

    I'm not sure how long the property had been abandoned. It looked like there hadn't been anyone there in decades. It's astounding to think of how much space we have in America that we can have places where people just don't go. There's no reason to go there. I've been in areas of the world where people are stacked on top of each other because there's no room. They can stuff a family of eight into a two bedroom apartment without AC, but I think that's illegal in the States. We have rooms to spare in the rural regions of Minnesota. Places to keep our extra fur coats. We've got space, and we like it that way.

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Such Great Heights

    I was walking downtown Minneapolis with a friend. It was the weekend and we were wandering through the skyways. Minneapolis has a lot to offer as far as indoor walking is concerned. There are miles upon miles of skyways to explore.

    We were walking through one of the incredibly tall buildings, and I asked my friend if he wanted to see the view from the top of the building. I wasn't sure if going to the top of an empty office building was allowed, but as we walked past the security guard, he just smiled and said hello.

    We made it to the elevators and smashed the up arrow. The doors opened and we stepped on. We hit the lowest floor available on that particular elevator. Level 45. That should be good, right?

    The doors closed and my heart met my bowels. I have never experienced an elevator reaching speeds comparable to NASA's Explorer shuttle taking off. We got off on the 35th floor in a matter of seconds both of us swaying with dizziness.

    What we found was several hallways leading to doors of offices and conference rooms. We could barely see through the windows and felt rather cheated by the staggering heights we had reached.

    "Well. Shall we go down?"

    We smash the down arrow. While we waited for the car I looked at Justin and asked if he'd rather take the stairs. "Kinda..."

    "Going down" said the elevator.

    "Well, since it's already here..."

    We stepped on and my heart met my throat. I was convinced I had stepped on a death drop headed straight for Dante's ninth level of hell. When the doors opened again, one could have witnessed two quivering boys curled up in respective corners of the elevator, begging the carny to let them off. Thankfully, it was a weekend and people don't frequent their offices at that time. Dignity spared.

    The rest of the day was spent in the safety of window shopping from the skyway. I will forever leave high speed elevators to those who need cheap thrills on their way to work.

    Friday, July 13, 2012


    Words are some of my favorite things. There are so many layers of communication which words are just a small part of, but that's for another post.

    Have you ever thought or said a word so many times that it sounded almost fake? Try saying the word 'foot' several times aloud. Change the pronunciation a little. Elongate the O's. Change it to a U sound. Say 'foot' fast and then say 'foot' slow. Say 'foot' in a British accent. Say 'foot' cross-eyed while looking in the mirror. Say 'foot' while doing yoga. Say 'foot' while doing dishes. Say 'foot' while putting on your shoes. Say 'foot' in your car. Say 'foot' in the shower. Say 'foot' while reading. Say 'foot' while talking to your friends. In fact, replace the word 'like' with 'foot' and see what happens.

    "So, I was foot, 'Double-ya tee eff, mate?' and she was foot, 'Hey! I don't foot it when you talk to me foot that!' and I was foot 'Girl, your foot a sprinkler! I never know when you're going to go off!' and she was foot, 'I foot sprinklers!' and I was foot..."

    Now try it with the word 'Onamonapia.'

    Hitch Hiker's Drop Off

    Someone told me about a storytelling contest that is going on at a local pub. The next theme that will be held is titled, "Road Warriors: Adventure Stories."

    Of course, this got me thinking about my adventures on the road. No, I'm not going to compete in the story slam, but here's an anecdote for your pleasure. If you can one-up me in road stories, please share!

    We were north of Navan, Ireland staying at a farm hostel. Nearby was a music festival that we went to check out. It was a bit of a dive. John and I did not want to stay. We missed Dublin and wanted nothing more than to be there. So, we went back to the hostel and packed our bags.

    It was midnight by the time we left the hostel. No bus is leaving Navan at midnight. And we were 20 minutes away from Navan. So we started walking, certain that someone in Ireland still encouraged hitch hikers to get around their enchanted island.

    We got to the main road. It started drizzling. We kept walking. We made signs that we tied to our backpacks, but no one could see them. It was midnight. I'm not convinced people could see us let alone the signs dangling from our backs.
    After about an hour of walking, we noticed a car had pulled over quite a ways behind us.

    "Is that for us?"

    "I don't know. Let's check it out!"

    By the time we got there, we noticed that it was in fact a taxicab. We told the driver that we are hitch hiking because we didn't have fare money. He told us that he stopped to pee. Not to pick us up. Oh. Uh. This is awkward.

    "Don't worry about it. Jump in!"

    His name was Malone and he moved to Ireland from Sudan after a time in the refugee camps. He offered us some money so we could eat when we got into Navan. We declined, but thanked him all the same.

    That night we tried to find the road out of Navan that would lead us to Dublin. There are exactly three main roads out of Navan all going different directions. Yes, the signs are in English, but we could not decipher them whatsoever. I closed my eyes, went to the middle of the intersection, and spun around while pointing. Where ever I was pointing when I fell over was the road we chose to take.

    For about 10 minutes.

    "Man, it's like 2 in the morning. Should we be hitch hiking right now?"

    "Probably not, but I'm not going to be the voice of reason" I said. "That's going to be left to you."

    We kept walking.

    We noticed a woman in front of us. We were trying to get to Dublin before the break of dawn (which is about an hour and a half away via bus) so we were walking rather fast. We were gaining on her, but we thought nothing of it. Until she stopped hurriedly, took off her high heels and darted to the other side of the street. She didn't stop running until she was out of sight. Even then, I'm not sure if she stopped.

    We kept walking.

    I see John swaying a little from the weight of his pack. He was not going to give in before me. Should we stop? It was almost 2:30am at this point. I ask him if we should sleep in a remote field if we find one.

    "Yeah, that sounds great. I'm hitting a wall."

    Thirty seconds pass.

    "Or how about under that bridge there? That looks safe."

    We crawl under the bridge hoping to not to disturb any other homeless folks. We find that our five star en suite is complete with cobblestone sleeping space. We tossed and turned trying to fit each rocky knot into our spine in the least uncomfortable arrangement. We never cracked the code. 

    Four hours later, we both sat up at the same time and looked at each other.

    "Breakfast?" We say in unison.

    We made our way back into Navan and found a little cafe. We eat our eggs and black pudding and start looking for a bus to take us the rest of the way to Dublin. Enough of this hitch hiking crap. It didn't work at 2am, why would it work at 7am?!

    The bus came and we settled in for an hour and a half ride with 15 drunk high school students. I was able to sleep through most of it, until someone threw an empty beer can which landed square on the back of my head. I turned around and handed the can to a very intimidated 15-year-old boy. I had a small moment of celebration. The first time someone was actually afraid of me! I was very tired.

    We made it to Dublin and found our friend's flat. The moment he opened the door, I crashed on the couch. John took time to fix a bed on the floor. No one could rouse us for the rest of the evening.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Dog Days

    Have you ever wondered what's going on inside a dog's mind? Granted, I have no proof that they think like you and I do, but there is that possibility. Do they have a stream of monolog constantly reeling? Do they ever get a song stuck in their head? Do dogs ever wonder if their human likes them as much as they like their human?

    I have to assume they dream. I know a dog that chases rabbits in her sleep. She'll be lying on her side on her pillow, then she'll start growling a little bit and bark. Pretty soon she is running full speed. At least she would be if she was standing. Watching a dog run while she is lying on her side is a perplexing image. I've never seen Emma run that fast when she was awake.

    There are 5 love languages that every person uses to show love and feel loved. Do these apply to dogs? Lets see...Touch would definitely be one of them. Quality time, I'm sure. Does feeding your dog count as Gifts? Words of Affirmation always got my dog's tail wagging. Now, Acts of Service. That's a tough one. How does one serve his or her dog? Going for walks would be quality time. Bathing the dog could be an act of service, but the dog definitely doesn't feel loved by it.

    There have been times when I talked to my dog for what seemed like a long time and she had a look in her eye that said I was holding her attention. She was never disinterested in what I was saying. What did she get from those conversations? "Conversation" is a generous term. She never said anything back to me. Well, not very often at least.

    "Hmm. There's my human making all these weird noises at me. Some of the sounds I recognize. But the rest sounds like a load of rubbish."

    Because my dog used the word "rubbish" in her thoughts.

    Have you ever heard a dog laugh? I've seen them smile. I've seen what I thought was a laugh. It would be a dismal existance if one couldn't laugh. Radiolab did a bit on laughter, and in it they tickled rats. A very interesting program if you get an hour to listen.

    At the end of the day I would like to say that we have a give and take relationship with our dogs, but I wonder how much we take from the love they give us? They run up to us when we come home (words? of affirmation). They nudge you with their noses (touch). They sit with us in the living room or take walks with us (quality time). They protect our property (service). And sometimes they bring us dead gophers (gifts).

    You've heard it said to love your neighbor as yourself. Would it be more tangible to say "Love your neighbor like a dog"?

    Mmm... maybe not.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    He's Just a Spoonful of Sugar

    Being sick takes the jam out of my doughnut.

    I like having time off from work. I get to sleep in. Take my time in the shower. Slip into something comfortable and inappropriate if there was anyone else at my apartment. Then I sit down on the couch with a book or the remote control and realize exactly why I am not at work.

    My head hurts. My stomach is upset. The toast I made for breakfast looks most unappetizing. The book I'm trying to read gives me a headache and the tv makes me dizzy. I can't sleep because I just woke up. Moving about the house is a task comparable to Hercules' 12 labors.

    So I sit. Bored. I'd think if the wheels in my brain weren't so rusty. I'd compose a blog if the letters would hold still on the keyboard.

    "Daannaaaa!! I want more ibuprofen."

    "Ok, sweetheart. You're going to have to get it yourself."

    "But why?! I don't wanna get up."

    "I know, but you text me. I'm at work and I can't come home to get you meds. Drink lots of water and try to sleep."

    Nuts. It was worth a shot.

    The rest of the day I continue to whine at Dana via SMS and patiently she responds with loving messages.

    "Rub my feet. Sing to me. Make my head stop throbbing."

    "I'll be home in 3 hours."

    "Come now!"

    "I'll be home in an hour."


    "I'm on my way."


    I could be described as an impish brat when it comes to illness. I have been called "princess" more than once. In the heat of the moment, I really don't care, though. I just want it to go away, and I'll tell anyone willing to listen. Interestingly, not many people are willing to listen for very long. I can't imagine why.

    What's your sick story?

    Notes from the Tarmac

    In an earlier post, I referenced a time when I went flying in a single engine plane where the thrills were cheaper than water. Today I would like to revisit the joys of flying in a passenger jet.

    "Joys" is a relative term at best. I thoroughly enjoy flying. For the first ten minutes. Then, depending on the distance to the destination, there is a delightful duration of dizzying doldrums.

    I have had very good luck on planes, I must admit. I have never had terrible attendants, nor have I been on an international flight without a personal tv that I could watch anything from movies to shows to music videos. I've never sat next to anyone who smelled of sewage or anyone who tried to snuggle during the flight or anyone who tried to convert me to his or her respective religion.

    In the same respect, sitting in coach is not sitting in first class. One time I sat on a plane to Guangzhou in China for 15 hours. My personal tv had terrible options to watch so I ended up watching the same movie 4.5 times in a row. Why didn't I sleep? It was early on in my plane riding days, and I had not learned the trick of lulling off to the constant rumble of jet engines jarring my nerves. The flight home wasn't as painful. I was able to get exactly 60 minutes of shut eye before we hit turbulence. Then again, the ride home stretched out over 18 hours instead of 15.

    The ten minutes of sheer pleasure comes from take-off. Take-off is simply lugging giant hunk of lead down a runway hoping it will take to air before too long. If you've experienced this extoling feeling, you would extrapolate that you could quite possibly expire. Yet the plane is extricated from the pavement and at that exact moment your very existance defies evolution and its laws of human flight. What's more fun than breaking rules?

    I love take-off so much that at one point I signed up for pilot lessons. I spent $50 on the application fee and I was signed up for classes. Two weeks later I had a serious sit-down with myself and decided that I had better things to spend sixty-thousand dollars on than an off-handed decision to go to piloting school. I disenrolled.

    Today, my apartment has a large south-facing window under which sits the sofa. My wife and I often kneel on our couch and watch the happenings in our neighborhood. It also permits a great view of planes coming to and going from MSP airport. This spot is where many of our dreams take form. Often we sit and relish the thought of where we will go next or where we have been. From this seat our dreams have formed into plans. Some have even made it to the budgeting stage. Others have fizzled out before we left our perch on the couch. Usually in a fit of laughter.

    Goals are the best motivation to get through dry spells in life. What are your dreams that make the mundane worth it in your life?

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Songs from a Small Town

    Growing up in a small town has its ups and downs. I am wired for city living, and I'm not ashamed of that. At the same time, I have a deep appreciation for the small town pace of life. The city (should I say village?) I grew up in had a bold population sign of 404 people. Loud and proud.

    I lived a few miles outside of town with my five siblings and a herd of goats. My parents built a comfortable home by squishing two cabins together. We lived on a dirt road where I would fight loose gravel for control of my bike tires. We knew all our neighbors and never considered locking the front door when we left.

    We would have picnics on the ruins of a nearby small town destroyed by a fire long before my grandpa was born. The foundations of old homes and warehouses stuck out of the ground in defiance of the inevitable weathering that will some day reduce it to dust.

    I spent a lot of time at my neighbor's house who made peanut butter and honey sandwiches. As a child, I described them with a grin as having "too much peanut butter and way too much honey." They were perfect. When my mouth was sufficiently sticky, my neighbor would pull out her guitar and we would sing. My favorite songs were gospel bluegrass.

    My mom's vegetable garden was my least favorite place to be. I hated planting. I hated weeding. I hated harvesting. But I loved snapping the ends off green beans. We laid out news paper across the living room floor and sat with grocery bags full of beans. We would watch WWII movies like "Stalag 17" or musicals like "Singing in the Rain" while snapping beans. I'm sure I did more watching than snapping, but I was good at hiding my idleness.  Or so I thought.

    The rate at which life goes in a bigger city is fast and rarely dull. I like the idea of going for a walk and seeing hundreds of people that I've never seen before, nor will I see again. I like having the opportunity to meet someone new every day. There is always something to do whether or not I have money. And the summers are just hotter in the city.

    I've had the best of both worlds for which I'm grateful. I grew up in small town, I'm living young adult in a mid-sized city. Now I need to figure out the best place to experience middle-age and retirement. This may stem from my small town roots, but I'm not in a hurry to figure it out.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Flying Squirrels

    Squirrels. No introduction needed. We all have a story about them, right?

    Here is Eddie Izzard's take on squirrels.

    They really are smart animals, though. They can learn from human interactions and adjust their behavior accordingly. A friend just told me about a university she attended that had a "No Squirrel Harassing" policy. If you were caught shoeing, throwing stones at or otherwise tantalizing a squirrel, you could be hit with a $250 fine. "And those squirrels had a 'tude about it!"

    Growing up, I didn't have a problem with squirrels. My dad said they were a nuisance, but I found them fascinating. I would sit at the dining room table pretending to do my homework and watch red squirrels race each other through the majestic pines that stood at the edge of the lawn. They reminded me of acrobats who didn't need a net. They were sure-footed artists that defied the laws gravity. They flew through the branches at break-neck speeds and screeched to a stop at the end of a tree branch with nowhere to go. Every once in a while a squirrel would lose her foot and slip off the branch. She never fell, though. She would hang on with one tiny foot and scramble back onto the branch. Did she learn her lesson? Did she slow down on sharp corners?

    Never. "I'm an effin' squirrel!" she'd scream in delight.

    I think have felt that speed and freedom before. Of course, it wasn't on my own power I flew threw the air, but it doesn't really matter in the end. I was in my uncle's Cessna plane. He took us for a ride. In a craft that small, it feels like there's nothing between you and the sky. There is, thankfully, but not much. Chris gave me control and said "Let 'er rip!"

    Imagine with me: A little boy who has always been intrigued with flying crafts, creatures and objects. A boy who would watch movies about planes and birds and high peaks just so he could get a sense of what it would be like to glide through the air like Superman. A boy who would draw pictures and make up stories about being miles above the Earths surface, plummeting to his death to be saved at the last possible moment by his parachute. Imagine that little boy controlling the plane that you are sitting in the back seat of.

    That's right. My (now) wife and little sister were in the back seat as Chris said those fateful words. I'm sure something sparked in my eyes because the next thing they knew, we were shooting straight towards the ground. Think of the first crest of a roller coaster, but no rollers. And a lot higher. The cameras in their laps were now floating in front of their faces. We were no longer sitting in our chairs, but were being clenched down to them by our seat belts. The girls were screaming, but not from terror. I was laughing my fool head off. Oh, the childhood fantasies being fulfilled in these few moments.

    I finally pulled up, and the engine died. For about two seconds. We flew around a bit more and Chris took us in for the landing.

    And that's what squirrels make me think about.