The “Ugh” of Coming Home…

Like most everyone, after being in eSwatini for weeks, I was ready to go back home. Being as domesticated as any American, I missed my couch, my TV shows, Wifi and a large “Kitchen Sink” from Baby Jake’s Pizza. I guess its the missing of these things and how much I missed them that is so disappointing to me . . . They are all so un-important when contrasted with what is missing in eSwatini.

There is a part of me that has changed since my first trip to Africa. It’s what causes the Ugh when I think of coming back home to my couch, Wifi and pizza. When you leave eSwatini to come back home, you are leaving a land of tragedy and hope to return to the land of excess and arrogance. There is something electric about a land of tragedy and hope. Part of me never wants to leave.

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I love the United States. I think it’s the greatest country on the planet. I don’t like so much what we’ve done with it. I don’t blame the country . . . I don’t even blame politics . . . I blame us for what we’ve done to us. We’ve become so content that we really have no idea what things are important in life. Our standard of living is so high, even for our poorest, that it leaves us completely out of touch with the rest of humanity.

We like to sit in our homes and solve the rest of the world’s problems, and that solution usually sounds like this . . . “They should just be more like us” . . . Almost as if we as individuals had done some great deed to earn our lifestyle . . like some decision we had made is what afforded us four TVs, a new car and pizza whenever we want . . . but we really didn’t. Sure, we go to work and earn our money, but that is no different than what most anyone else on the planet does, or wishes to do. The vast majority of us simply utilize a bounty that we were born into. We like to say that our country is blessed by God, and it certainly seems is it . . .  but I have to wonder how long that will continue when we don’t truly recognize just how blessed we are.

This is what makes me so sad about myself. I’ve been to Africa and been transformed, inspired and had my eyes opened . . . yet I still sit here thinking, “I need to hurry up and  finish this post so I can go get another couple Oreo’s before Dr Who starts”.

Compassionate Life

 

 

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.

The Danger of Pancakes

I love pancakes. My kids love pancakes. Sometimes I make them shaped like animals because my girls think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Sometimes I make pancakes for dinner.

The only problem with pancakes is that pancakes involve maple syrup. And maple syrup involves stickiness. Even as an adult, I cannot manage to get through a pancake meal without being plagued by stickiness. I try hard to contain the syrup and its stickiness properties to the end of my fork, but without fail, it will work its way up to my fingers. From my fingers, it will then travel to forearms, face, shirt, the table top, and even the dogs head.

My young girls fare even worse. By the time they have finished their animal shaped pancakes, their sticky hands and faces have collected pancake crumbs, lint, dog and cat hair, small pieces of napkin, and whatever else happens to be a floating around. They end up looking like a mop just before you rinse all the crud out of it. And heaven forbid the syrup gets stuck in their hair.

If one is not careful, the stickiness can spread from my daughters to the table, chairs, pets, door knobs, toys, and nearly every other surface in the entire house. On pancake day, it is not uncommon for one of our cats to be seen running around the house with a sticky pancake fork stuck to its back, and leaving sticky pancake crumb paw prints.

I’ve often thought that a man could get rich if he invented syrup that wasn’t sticky. But until someone does, a next best remedy might be to make young children eat pancakes naked in the bathtub. That way as soon as they are finished, you can just turn on the shower and wash all the stickiness away.

……

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And the war rages on.

So my war on restaurant condiment crimes rages on. . . . Arby’s lady, not only could you not keep the Buffalo sauce contained within the confines of the bun of the Buffalo Chicken sandwich, but you somehow managed to get it all over the outside of the bag you put it in.

WORSE YET . . . I know that after you handed me the bag containing my grossly over-sauced sandwich, you most likely reached immediately for a napkin to wipe the sauce off of your hands that came from handling the saucy bag. . . . I would think this might be a prompt for you to think about the poor slob who has to eat this aberration of a sandwich in his truck. . . HE MIGHT WANT A NAPKIN TOO! MAYBE A DOZEN!

Gluten saved my Marriage.

For some mysterious reason, I have successfully fooled the kind folks over at Sweatpants and Coffee into thinking I’m a real writer. I’ve somehow become a bit of a regular. Here is my latest creation that they have posted . . . . (If you go check it out, don’t let on that I’m only a pretend writer).

Gluten Save My Marriage

 

Sweatpants & Humor | Gluten Saved My Marriage

The Way it should BE.

As I walked in the door after my long day at work, I was met by my two daughters.

“How was your day, dad?” they both asked as they gave me a big hug.

“It wasn’t too bad” I replied, “What smells so good?”

“Oh, Natalie and I made nachos, tacos and burritos for dinner . . . after we finished cleaning our rooms and doing our homework.”

“That’s wonderful girls!” I said, giving each a big hug.

After a quick shower, I returned to the dining room where we all sat down to one of the best meals I had eaten in quite some time. In fact, it was so good, that after eating each delicious taco, I would get up and hug my wife and daughters and they would hug me back, telling me how wonderful my taco breath smelled.

Upon finishing the excellent dinner, the girls cleared the table and washed the dishes, and then the four of us retired to the living room to relax and watch a little TV. My wife brought out a heavenly double chocolate cake that had been made for desert.

“What should we watch?” I asked.

“How about something with rocket launchers and zombies!” replied my daughter, Hannah.

“Yes!” added Natalie, “and with fast cars and explosions!”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “Don’t you girls want to watch your stupid teenage drama shows?”

“No father, you have worked hard all day, we want to watch your show.”

“That sounds wonderful” I said as I hugged and kissed both girls.”

As I turned on the TV, my wife brought me a huge piece of the chocolate cake and my slippers.

“Thank you my lov- . . .”

Before I could finish my sentence, I was interrupted by a loud crash and a sharp pain in my nose. I winced in agony.

When I opened my eyes, my wife was gone . . .  and there was no sign of the chocolate cake she was about to hand me before the loud noise and the pain. Instead, I was lying on the couch with my daughter Natalie sitting on my chest. My daughter Hannah was standing at the end of the couch near my head, violently swatting at her sister with a tennis racket. Natalie was kicking back at her with her feet, in an attempt to ward off the blows. And with every second or third kick, her leg would come down with a thump on my face. Hannah’s racket aim left much to be desired as well, in that every other swat would crack me on the nose with the follow through. There was also a half-eaten piece of pizza lying face down on my forehead.

“WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!!!!” I demanded.

“Hannah stole the last piece of pizza!”

“Well Natalie keeps changing the channel from my show!” Hannah answered.

“I thought you girls wanted me to watch my zombie movie . . .” I said, somewhat confused.

Both girls looked at each other as if I had just spoken to them in Latin.

“Where did you get pizza? Aren’t you both full from the dinner you made me after you cleaned your rooms?” I asked.

Again they looked at each other and then both broke out in loud maniacal laughter.

“Made dinner? Cleaned our rooms? HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

I was more confused.

“Remember? You said I had worked hard today, so I could watch my show, and you guys made tacos and nachos and burritos for dinner, and we were hugging, and you said how wonderful my taco breath smelled . . .” I sputtered.

I stopped talking as my brain began to piece together the facts.

The girls started in with their wild laughter again, “HAHAHAHAHA! You’ve been a dead lump on the couch since you got home! HAHAHAHAH, he said his breath smelled good! HAHAHAHA!”

As the girls walked off, laughing hysterically, I began to realize that it had all been a dream. There was no taco dinner, or hugging or even chocolate cake.

My wife sat across the room with an amused smile on her face. I tried telling her about my dream, but had to stop when she began laughing as hard as the girls had been.

Being disappointed about not actually having a taco dinner or hugging, I decided that I wasn’t going to miss out on the chocolate cake. I rose from the couch and went to the little diner down the road from us, where I ordered a large piece of double chocolate cake . . .  a man can only handle so much disappointment in one evening.

Condiment Rage.

One thing that annoys me to no end is poor quality control in the condiment application department at fast food places.

My double cheeseburger had so much ketchup on it that the inside of my truck now looks like a gruesome murder scene . . . Including the bloody footprints and the red sliding hand print on the window.

I think I can even see some ketchup on the windshield of the car behind me.

Shopping with Children

Even before our children were born, my wife and I had decided that she wouldn’t work until both girls were at least in school. We felt that those first five or six years were very important in a child’s development and didn’t want those years to be spent in a daycare.

During those few years, I often worked long hours to make up for the loss of one income, and as a result, I wasn’t always aware of all the day-to-day details of raising two active young girls.

My chance to experience many of these daily triumphs and tribulations came one fall day when my wife ended up coming down with a particularly bad virus that left her incapacitated for nearly a week. During her recovery, I decided to take a few days off from work to fill in as the child minder.

In the middle of that week it became necessary to do some grocery shopping, so without a second thought I made up a list and informed my wife that the girls and I would be going shopping.

“You’re taking the girls?” my wife asked in a concerned tone.

“Yeah, that way you can relax without having to worry about them.”

“Are you sure you know what you are signing up for?” she said with an even more worrisome tone.

I began to get a little annoyed at her lack of confidence in my child management skills. I realized that taking a three and five year old pair of girls to the grocery store would require vigilance, but come on, how hard could it be?

“You just relax, I’ve got this,” I said as the girls and I walked out the door.

The short drive to the grocery store was uneventful and further confirmed in my mind that this shopping trip was a cinch.

Upon arrival, I grabbed a shopping cart and put three year old Natalie in the little flip down seat, and let Hannah take a spot riding on the front of the cart. I dug out my shopping list to have in hand as we headed down the first aisle.

Half way down the first aisle, I turned to place an item in the cart, only to find Natalie was holding a bag of navy beans that I hadn’t placed in the cart.

“Where did you get that, baby girl?” I chuckled as I took the bag from her.

Natalie answered with a blood curling scream that actually made me jump a little.

“DAD! She WANTS the beans!” Hannah advocated from the front of the cart.

“Well, we are not buying beans today,” I said in my firm dad voice and put the beans back on the shelf.

As I made the turn from the first aisle to the second, I mentally noted that I should keep the cart centered between the two rows of shelves to prevent my little grocery thief from being able to grab items off of them.

When I got down to the pasta section, I noticed that the brand of lasagna noodles that my wife normally purchased seemed to cost significantly more than a few of the other brands. But it was hard to know exactly how much because the packages contained different amounts of noodles. So I got out my phone and used the calculator on it to try figure out what the exact cost per pound would be of each brand of noodle. After a bit of difficulty remembering just how to set up such a calculation, I finally determined the costs of each.

“HAH!” I exclaimed triumphantly, “This brand is seventeen cents cheaper per pound.”

I grabbed the new bargain brand of lasagna noodles from the shelf and turned back towards the shopping cart. Hannah was now sitting inside the cart digging into a freshly opened box of cereal that I had selected from the first isle. But it didn’t appear that she was actually eating any of the cereal the she was removing from the opened box fistful by fistful . . . I assumed she was attempting to get at the prize in the bottom of the box. Large amounts of cereal were being thrown out of the box and onto the floor through the holes in the bottom of the cart.

“HANNAH! What on earth are . . . WHERE’S NATALIE?” I said in a panic as I realized that my youngest daughter was no longer a passenger on the shopping cart.

“She went to get lunch,” Hannah replied as if it was not a big deal.

“Does mom let her go get lunch when she takes you guys shopping?”

Hannah looked up from her cereal box digging for a moment and replied, “No, mom doesn’t let us out of the cart.”

“Oh crap!” I thought aloud sprinting down the aisle.

When I reached the end, I was able to determine that my daughter had gone to the left by following the trail of navy beans left like breadcrumbs. Up ahead I could see her standing in front of a lady handing out samples of some sort of food she was promoting. The lady had given Natalie what looked like a chicken nugget and Natalie was busy dowsing the nugget with ranch dressing from a bottle that I had no idea how she came to possess.

“NATALIE! I didn’t know where you were!” I said scooping her up, nugget, ranch dressing and all. Natalie screamed once again and stiffened her body in protest of my picking her up.

“She seems quite hungry,” the teen-aged sample girl said with a smile, “she’s eaten five of my samples.”

But I didn’t have time for niceties, I had to get myself and Natalie back to the cart before Hannah disappeared as well. So once again, I began to run back towards the aisle where I had left the cart and my treasure hunting daughter. But my progress was hampered by a child who was not happy about being torn away from her free lunch. I had never realized until that moment, how difficult carrying an unwilling child was compared to carrying one who was a willing participant. It was very awkward, much like running with a large, screaming piece of plywood in my arms.

When I reached Hannah and my cart, I stuffed the still screaming Natalie back in her seat and pushed on at a faster pace, ignoring the fact that Hannah was still sitting inside the cart. I hoped that picking up the pace was the key to a successful shopping trip with the children by not giving them as much time to get into mischief. However, this didn’t end up helping much at all.

By the time I had finished the second aisle and had gotten only half way down the third, Natalie had escaped another two times from her seat in the cart, helping herself to a box of animal crackers and knocking a jar of pickles off a shelf causing it to shatter across the floor. Hannah had successfully found the prize in the cereal box, which was a whistle, and blew it loudly from her place inside the cart.

And all I had to show for all the chaos was a half-eaten, half spilled box of cereal, a loaf of bread and a bottle of liquid cold and flu medicine. I was beginning to feel light headed from the anxiety . . . but I had to press on. I could do this.

I grabbed Natalie once again and plowed my way down the rest of the third aisle and into the fourth, picking up a store employee with a mop, bucket, and broom who had been assigned to follow us around by the manager.

Progress was slow, and with each stopping of the cart brought a new disaster. I chased girls, put smuggled items back on the shelves and apologized to other customers who had become victims of items thrown or splashed on them. As I turned and looked back down aisle four, it looked like a road map of where my cart had traveled. The path had been clearly marked by a peanut butter wheel track and each stop punctuated by a spill.

I was quickly losing my grip on sanity as we made our way down aisle five. To keep Hannah occupied, I had given into her demand to push the cart. I had restrained Natalie in her seat with the seat belt that I had discovered. The employee with the broom and mop had been joined by a manager who followed along keeping a running tab of items broken. Natalie was like a demon possessed wild cat, screaming and clawing at people who passed by us.

As I walked back to return a customer’s purse that had been swiped from a cart we had parked next to in the canned vegetable section, I was startled to hear the scream of someone other than my two daughters . . . the scream of a lady.

Hannah had pushed the cart full force into the heels of an elderly lady, who now sat on the floor crying. The manager was dividing his time between seeing if she was ok and lecturing me on controlling my children. The employee with the broom was sweeping furiously, trying in vain to keep up with the handfuls of sugar that Natalie was throwing on the floor . . .  that’s when things get fuzzy.

I can remember a period of time with people yelling at me, children screaming and food being thrown, but it was all a blur. My mind had checked out. . . .

 

After an undetermined amount of time in this confusing dream-like state, the spinning of the room began to slow a bit. I gathered my wits about me.

Looking around, I found myself standing inside the shopping cart with the bottle of cold and flu medicine in my hand. The bottle was open, and apparently I had chugged half of its contents while singing “Amazing Grace” in a high falsetto voice. Around me stood the store manager, the still furiously sweeping employee, and the elderly lady who was still crying. Natalie was a short distance away sharing a box of cookies with another customer. Hannah was standing on the front of the cart holding a half-eaten carrot between her fingers like a cigar and moving her eyebrows up and down Groucho Marx style.

“You’re funny Dad,” Hannah giggled.

After quickly writing a check to cover all food items that had been spilled, damaged, and eaten, I grabbed both girls by the hand and exited the store, leaving the cart sitting in the exact same spot where I had just used it as my stage.

Arriving at home, I unloaded the girls from their car seats, and with the Chinese take-out I had picked up, went into the house.

“Where’s the groceries?” my wife asked, “Was there a problem?”

“Nope! Theeee . . . ahhh grocery store was closed, “I managed to fabricate.

“Why didn’t you just go across town to Leonard’s Grocery Store?”

“Uh, well that was closed too. I think it was some sort of grocery store holiday.”

To stop the obnoxious line of questioning, I brought my wife a heaping plate of sweet and sour chicken, and then sat down with my own plate, still reeling from the effects of the cold and flu medicine.

After a few minutes of silent eating, my wife said, “By the way, the manager of the grocery store that was closed called.”

I stopped my eating with the fork of food hovering just outside my opened mouth.

“Oh?” I said sheepishly.

“It seems he failed to charge you for the live lobsters that were apparently killed by somebody dumping some sort of blue liquid into the tank.”

I was busted. “Well . . . that explains where the fabric softener went.”

Taco-holism.

Hello, my name is Jon, and I am a taco-holic. 

Living with a taco addiction is terrible. It affects your ability to make rational decisions.

Sunday night we ate at my favorite taco place. That night I became deathly ill. This of course raises the question of wether it was the food or the flu.

Today, I took the taco leftovers out to throw them away just in case they were the culprit . . . . But I couldn’t do it. I decided that risking grave illness was better than throwing tacos away,

So I ate them.

I’m sitting on the toilet waiting . . . Just in case.