El Shaddai Children’s Home could use Your Help.

Pictured above is a “Jojo” or water tank that stores the water supply that the El Shaddai Children’s Home relies on. These Jojos are filled from water that is pumped from a bore hole located on the neighboring mountain.

Last week, heavy rains and wind caused an electric wire to short at the El Shaddai Orphanage resulting in a small fire and destroying the water pump and breaker panel that supplies the orphanage with water as well as two refrigerators. Repair costs are estimated to exceed $4000.

Please be in prayer for resolution to this problem as El Shaddai has been without water since the storm. Donations to help address this unexpected problem can be made at www.james127.org Or on the Compassionate Life Facebook Page and are greatly appreciated.

The El Shaddai Children’s Home is home to over sixty orphans left in the wake of Swaziland’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. This small country in southern Africa currently has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS in the world creating a staggering number of children left with no parents or family. Many of the children who have found a home at the orphanage were rescued from homelessness and near starvation.

 

The Cat Who doesn’t like me to watch TV.

I’m a cat guy. I love all animals, but I particularly like my two cats Schnitzel and Phoebe. I think they like me. But for some reason, Schnitzel is determined to interrupt my television watching as much, and as often as he can. He’s actually gotten quite good at it.

You might look at the picture above and think, “I don’t see the problem. He’s being considerate enough to sit where can still watch your show, ” which is a true statement. However, he is more devious than you think. He’s sitting in right in front of the TV’s “eye” . . . the eye that sees the remote control’s signal. So while I can watch my show, I can’t change the channel, or turn the volume up or down during commercials. It’s quite ingenious on part.

Another one of his favorite TV sabotage tricks is to fight with our other cat, Phoebe, behind the TV stand where all of the cords plug into the TV, cable box and DVD player causing them to be yanked out of their spot where they are supposed to be plugged in.

You might be thinking, “Oh he’s just being a cat. He isn’t intentionally trying to disrupt your TV watching.” But you are wrong! He knows exactly what he’s doing.

His best trick is to wander around the couch and step on the remote that I have sitting next to me. Somehow, he know exactly what buttons to push that will take me to some place in the TV or cable menu that I have never been to before . . . and takes me five minutes of button pushing to find out how to get out of whatever strange mode he sent me to. . . . are a surprisingly large amount of smart TV and cable nether worlds that I am  unfamiliar with.

The Second Marriage Dimension.

“Why did you change lanes?”

My wife doesn’t like my driving, and I don’t like hers. I thought that we had established this long ago and had an unspoken agreement that we would suffer our dislike for each other’s driving in silence. She had broken the code of silence.

“You know we have to turn left right up there don’t you? You are not in the right lane to turn left,” she added with no sign of stopping her lane change protest.

This is the point at which our marriage reality splits into two separate dimensions. There is the normal dimension, which we are all used to, where I switch back to the lane that my wife feels is more suitable for turning left. But there is also another dimension that is ruled more by thought and impulse. Every marriage has this second dimension.

In the alternate marriage dimension, I continue driving in the lane I had switched into, and my wife continues to express her dissatisfaction for my lane choice. I reached over and grabbed her nose and turn it slightly to the left. This changes the channel so that her voice is suddenly turned into music, and her mouth was a speaker. I continued driving and nodding my head to the beat of Led Zeppelin’s Good Times, Bad Times emanating from my wifePod player. I reach back over and pull down slightly on her right ear, increasing the bass level of the music. Once the song ended, her voice returned and picked up right where she had left off in her protest. Without a word, I reached up to the dashboard and hit the eject button. Instantly, a panel slid open in the roof of the car, and my wife, seat and all, was rocketed skyward towards an unknown interstellar destination.

Not everyone is aware of this second marriage dimension, but we all utilize it. After dinner last night, I set my plate in the sink without scraping the remaining dinner scraps into the garbage. When I turned back from the sink, I came face to face with my wife . . . the same wife who has made it abundantly clear that all food scraps are to be scraped into the garbage before dishes are set in the sink. She looked at me, and then at the plate in the sink with food on it. She frowned.

Once again, reality was parted and two separate dimensions began unfolding simultaneously.

In the normal reality, I quickly turned back around and grabbed my dish to scrape its contents into the garbage. But in the alternate dimension, I didn’t have time to correct my mis-step. My wife’s frown was actually a result of her charging up her plasma vaporizer weapon located just behind both of her eyes. With a strobe-like flash and whooshing sound, a beam shot from her eye sockets and struck me squarely in the chest. Instantly, the atoms that made up my body were separated from each other and scattered to the wind, leaving a pile of clothing on the floor where I had just been standing. My wife whistled cheerfully as she scraped the food from my plate into the garbage and fanned away the puff of smoke that my de-atomized body had left hanging in the air.

Fortunately, we all experience our marriages and relationships in the first dimension. If it were the second alternate dimension that was our marriage reality, there would be very few marriages left intact. Divorcees, widows and widowers would be the commonplace as the result of spouses being silenced, paralyzed, vaporized, flung out of moving vehicles in ejection seats, and many other forms of spousal impulse justice.

In the second dimension, I never got to hear the funny comment she made about lady whose wild hair matched the hair of the dog she was walking down the sidewalk. Her mouth was loudly playing Led Zeppelin music right up until she was ejected from the vehicle.

In the second dimension, my wife and I didn’t end up sitting together on the couch eating our favorite ice cream and watching an awesome movie together that evening. I had been vaporized shortly after dinner for my food covered plate transgression.

In the first marriage dimension, there are second chances and I’m sorry’s. There are happy endings and long lives spent together. The next time your mind instantly transports your spouse to the epicenter of an active volcano for saying you spend too much time watching football, just remember, somewhere in another marriage dimension, you are about to spend the rest of your life alone.

 

This story was originally published on Sweatpants and Coffee

 

 

Were We just tougher back then?

All across Michigan, schools have been canceled due to the extreme snow and cold. This means that Facebook will light up with us older, tougher folks complaining about school never having been canceled for snow and cold when we were younger. I might have joined in on the chorus, but truth be told, I’m jealous.

When I was younger, school was never canceled because of extreme snow and cold. If it had been, I might still have my best friend, Jimmy.

Jimmy and I would walk together to the bus stop, which was eight and a half miles away. Neither of us had coats, so we would steal newspapers from driveways and paper boxes along our trek to stuff in our clothing to act as insulation. On the worst of the cold mornings, we would light our newspaper coats on fire for extra warmth . . . it’s just what you did back then to survive.

On one particular minus-forty-two degree day, Jimmy and I were making our way through the chin deep snow towards our bus stop. We had already successfully warded off an attack from one of the roving packs of rabid neighborhood dogs, and escaped the gang of kidnappers who would prey on children walking to the bus stop. . . . so it had actually started out a good morning. Making the morning even better, we had just found the last roadkill carcass needed to strap to our bare feet to act as snowshoes. After fashioning our carcass snowshoes, Jimmy and I continued on our way.

A mile later, we in the middle of our third frozen-river crossing required to make it to the bus stop, when suddenly, the ice began to crack, and Jimmy fell through. He flailed wildly, trying to keep his head above the frigid water, but despite his efforts, he was beginning to go under.

Using a technique that I had learned earlier that year from a bus stop safety film, I fashioned a rope out of thread pulled from my burlap underwear, and was able to pull Jimmy from the icy river waters. He crawled to the shore, thanking me repeatedly for saving him, but deep inside, I knew it would probably have been more humane to simply let him drown.

Even if he did survive, I could tell from the pale blueness of his fingers that he would no longer be able to use them to complete the eleven hours of homework that was assigned to us every night, let alone, be able to hunt the possum, needed during our walk to the bus stop, for food to keep himself alive. I kept these thoughts to myself.

It was still another mile to the bus stop, so I knew I had to keep Jimmy moving. I switched out his wet insulation newspapers with some of the dry ones from my shirt and covered his head with a hat I made from some of the corn husks that my mom had sewn together to make the pants I was wearing.

I did my best to prod and encourage Jimmy’s shivering body to keep walking. I gave him bits of carcass jerky that I had ripped from my roadkill boots, but he was fading fast.

When we were a few hundred yards from the bus stop, Jimmy finally collapsed from exhaustion and hypothermia. I tried to get him back on his feet, but to no avail. I could see the headlights of the bus in the distance. There was no way I could get Jimmy there in time.

“I’ll never forget you, Jimmy!” I said tearfully, as I quickly covered him with the remainder of my newspaper insulation and lit it on fire to keep him warm in his final hours.

“Please don’t leave me,” he pleaded. But I knew that if I missed the bus, it would be Jimmy who would succumb to the kinder fate by freezing to death.

I kissed him on the head, and skin tore my lips having frozen to his icy hair . . .  and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. As I sat down in my seat and looked back down the road through the window, I could see a truck stopping near Jimmy’s collapsed body. I knew I would never see him again.

Back in those days, there were greedy opportunists who would drive the roads on such dangerously cold mornings looking for the bodies of kids who had frozen to death along the bus routes. They would load up the victims and sell them to dog food manufacturers to be ground into dog food.

For thirty-five years now, I have sadly thought about Jimmy every time I fill a dog dish with food. So complain about school being canceled due to cold? Not I. I thank the Lord that my kids will never have to live the rest of their lives with the image of poor frozen Jimmy being loaded into a dog food truck.

 

Free for Imperfect Parents and Spouses.

Attention all imperfect parents and spouses! Don’t miss your chance to download my just-short-of-world-famous Ebook for FREE! Single Family Asylum is now free to download on several platforms below. Unfortunately, Amazon will not allow me to offer it for free, so you can get the book nearly anywhere except from Amazon. Amazon sucks.

If you find the stories entertaining, leave a review on whichever site you downloaded it from! If you hated the book . . . . ummm . . . just forget you read it.

Stories from the book have been featured here on my blog, as well as on many other sites such as Mamalode, Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Sweatpants and Coffee, and Parent Co.

Get the book on your phone from either the iBook’s app for Apple, or from Google Play Books on Android by searching on the title. You can also download from these sites:

Nook/Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/single-family-asylum-jon-ziegler/1123454991?ean=2940155078418

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/764903

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/single-family-asylum

For those of you who enjoyed the book so intensely that you feel compelled to pay something for it, instead of paying me, make a donation to Compassionate Life Foundation!

My wife recently took over as Executive Director of The Compassionate Life Foundation. CLF is a small non-profit that provides funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage and CLF Student Center in Swaziland, Africa. The CLF Directors and board members are 100% volunteer, so no one here in the U.S. is getting any part of donations received. We do pay some Swazi employees at the Orphanage and the care center, but their monthly income is less than most fast food workers make in a week. If you are like me, you have always wondered how much of your donated money actually makes it to the people you are trying to help. I can tell you first hand that other than money spent on office supplies and what is spent on fundraisers, all CLF donations go towards food, tuition, uniforms, maintenance on the orphanage and paying Swazi staff.

Interested? Go here: https://james127.org/

Adjusting to My Life of Privilege.

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I could see it on some of the faces I met. It was that look of bewilderment or possibly even a mild disgust. The look conveyed an inability to understand my life of extravagance. It was a look that I knew all too well. . . . not from seeing it . . it was a look I had worn myself at times.

I’m not a rich person, not here in America. My income is well short of breaking into six digits. I’m like everyone else I know who looks at the Bill Gates of the world and can’t understand why anyone would need to accumulate that much wealth. I can reason that Bill Gates has earned his money and does, in fact, give away vast amounts of it. But despite my best efforts, I catch myself in moments of resentment over him having it. Sometimes I catch myself complaining that I don’t have enough. Now, as I stood in Swaziland, Africa, I found myself being viewed with that same look of not understanding my wealth . . . I had suddenly become Bill Gates.

I own seven pairs of shoes. There are two pairs of sneakers (One normal and one pair of Chuck Taylor’s), work boots, a pair of hiking boots, my funeral/wedding shiny shoes, my winter boots, and a pair of flip flops. I don’t think my shoe owning is excessive. By many people’s standards here in the US, my shoe collection is quite modest. Bill Gates probably owns a hundred pairs of shoes. Now I found myself standing before people who owned a single pair of shoes that left their toes visible through holes worn from years of use . . . or people who owned no shoes at all.

My house is small and crappy. We barely have places to keep all our stuff. Yet, when I compared my house to the one I was invited into in Manzini, my house seemed like a palace. I had running water in my house, and a flushing toilet, heat, air conditioning, kitchen appliances. I realized that I had been taking mundane things like carpet, socks, paper towel and my seven pairs of shoes for granted. Most people here have none of these luxuries.

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Houses here in Swaziland are simple concrete or block structures, often without windows . . . unless you are visiting a shanty town, and then they are made of garbage. Most don’t have running water, or electricity. Many don’t have a stove to cook on.

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As Americans, we’ve all said, or nodded in agreement, how fortunate we are to live where we live and have what we have. For me, I don’t think I really knew what that meant until I was in Africa. I was now looking at what these statements really mean, with my own eyes. I now had a new definition for the term “life of privilege”.

I’m not going to tell anyone they should change their opinions on the Bill Gates of the world. Like I’ve said, I’ve had those thoughts myself at times. What I am saying is that we should at least be consistent with our opinions of wealthy people. If you want to hold contempt for someone who owns a hundred pair of shoes instead of seven, please feel free, but don’t turn around and take offense to someone with no shoes finding the same lack of understanding for someone who owns seven pairs. If I’m going to suggest that there is something wrong with Mr. Gates net worth, I have to accept that through the eyes of others, there is something wrong with mine. I might not be a billionaire, but there are plenty of places in the world where I can go to be considered filthy rich.

 

. . . . .

Compassionate Life Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage, and CLF student center in Swaziland.

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Dishes that are Full Bodied and Easy to Manage.

Out of dishwasher soap, and the store is a seven minute winter drive in a car that won’t even heat to above freezing in that amount of time . . . so don’t even give me the “just go buy more.”

My only option is trying to figure out the best alternative . . .

Gas? . . . No.

Bleach? . . . Maybe.

Shampoo? . . . It can’t be poison, or you wouldn’t scrub it into your brain coverings. It says it has vitamins . . . Vitamins are good. Plus, if it does the same thing to dishes as it does to hair, my dishes will be intensely moisturized and easier to manage.

Just have to be very careful on the amount used so I don’t repeat the “liquid hand-washing dish soap volcanic eruption of ’09”.

Pasta Hoarding.

pasta

In our house, there is a delicate balance between not having enough pasta, and having way too much pasta.
 
I’m not a list maker . . . Sort of a maverick when it comes to shopping. . . So at the grocery store, while staring at the rows of pasta, I try to remember if I was last angry because we didn’t have enough of the right kind of pasta, or angry because the supply of pasta was enough for the whole county.
 
When in doubt, buy pasta . . . Although it can lead to a cupboard that looks like this.

Same Old Blog with an Added Feature.

Fear not my friends. I shall continue to bring you all of the silly stories you have come to expect from this silly blog. But, I will be adding a new aspect to some of my posting . . . Let me explain.

My wife told me many years ago, when we first began dating, that she was going to be a doctor, and that she was going to go to Africa to help children.

After we were married, and then children arrived, this dream of hers seemed to slowly move into the background. Raising two daughters (and a childish husband) required all of her time for several years.

As our daughters grew more independent, Cynthia was able to battle her way through nursing school . . . Not quite a doctor, but certainly a step towards part of her plan. Still, Africa seemed to be nowhere on the horizon.

Fast forward a few more years, and an opportunity arose for her to go on a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa. I was delighted that her dream, although seemingly on a minor scale, would be realized. Little did I know, that mission trip was just the tip of the iceberg.

A while after returning from the mission trip, the directors of the Compassionate Life Foundation, through which she went on the trip, informed her that they intended to step down, and asked if she would take over as executive director.

*Jaw hits floor*

Cynthia accepted and, to make a long story short, is why I am now killing time in the Johannesburg Airport, waiting to board my flight back to the U.S.

It has been an incredible, frustrating, rewarding, awesome journey.

Compassionate Life is a small foundation that provides the primary funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage in Swaziland, and the CLF care center in the city of Manzini, Swaziland.

There is so much to say, too much for one post, but I will share a a bit of my first experience in Swaziland with you as I sit in the airport waiting to depart Africa.

Africa is amazing. It’s like a different planet when you have spent your whole life in U.S.

The trees are foreign. The animals are foreign. The social customs are foreign.

There is fear:

Will that bug bite me causing a prolonged and excruciating death?

Do Wildebeests eat humans? And do they have the ability to get through the locked car door from which I am viewing them?

Will I do something to offend the people I meet?

If I smile and nod at someone who said something I didn’t understand, will I end up married to one of their daughters? (There are no limits to the ridiculous levels fear can take you)

After spending ten days in Swaziland, I now have some of the answers to these questions.

Our first days were spent at the orphanage located up in the mountains. I don’t know how anyone could spend time there without falling in love with the children. Most have lost parents to AIDS, some were abandoned, and others have stories unknown to us. When you hear some of these horrific stories, and then see the smiling faces that are a result of living at the orphanage, it changes you.

They love to have their picture taken, and indicate so by yelling, “Shoot, shoot” (a picture). When you ask them their name, they like to give you the name of one of the other children . . . . A sport that they find hysterical, and makes it impossible to learn their already hard to pronounce names.

The second part of our time was spent in Manzini at a center (which makes you think of some large community center building, but is a small concrete structure smaller than most houses here in the states. This center provides tuition, food and tutoring for students in the local neighborhood, and for some of the top students, will also provide money for college or trade school.

Again, there is far too much to say in just one post. I could write an entire post alone on learning to drive on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, in the busy city of Manzini, where cars, people, cows and goats are going in every direction. I’m quite sure that the expletive took several years off of my life.

Or I could write an entire post on the Swazi people, who are quite peaceful, and mild mannered.

But I will just stop here with saying that it was the experience of a lifetime. And with Cynthia now acting as director of the foundation, this will likely be just the first visit of many.

Oh, I almost forgot,

The large, scary insect was a Dung Beetle, and quite harmless . . . Unless you are a hoarder of poop . . . In which case, you may suffer losses.

Wildebeests on the game preserve we were at seem rather uninterested in eating humans.

You can certainly offend people unintentionally, but I found most times, someone will politely let you know before you have gotten too far.

I am not aware of gaining any new wives during my visit.