Sunday, September 30, 2007

Democratic Writing-Installment 1

For an explanation of this project, please read my previous post. Otherwise, enjoy! And PLEASE-provide feedback, and ideas for the next installment! Let's make it a fun project!

Consciousness dawned slowly as light gradually filtered past my hooded eyelids. Long damp eyelashes sticking to each other gave the impression that I was behind bars.

My right arm ignored the command from the brain to bring my hand up to wipe my eyes. It was as if the arm was absent; I felt nothing. I focused, tried mightily to remember where I was and how I’d come to be here, but it felt as though someone had packed my head full of pillow stuffing. I could think of nothing other than the fact that I no longer had a right arm.

The room came slowly into focus. The flickering light hurt my head. I had to clench my eyes to shut it out, but not before I saw that I was lying on my side, cheek resting on cracked terracotta tiles, some missing in places- grimy, strewn with the detritus of neglect. Corners and crevices were piled with dirt and trash.

The tile ran up the walls (although numerous pieces were missing there; in falling off, the missing tiles had torn away huge chunks of sheetrock, so that, in some places, rotted framing showed through). Pipes stuck through the wall in various places-small pipes. From one, brackish water dripped

dripdrip dripdrip dripdrip

steadily, running across the uneven floor, then pooling about a foot in front of my face. Mouse droppings floated in the pool.

As the room began to register, my thoughts came into focus. I heaved myself onto my back, then I lifted my head. Somewhere deep in my head, a jackhammer began working desperately to break its way out. I clenched my eyes shut, let my head fall back to the dirty tile floor and rested for a second, let the clamoring in my head subside.

This time, I rolled my head to the right, opened my eyes slowly, and used my left arm to search about for my right. I groped about, then, screamed involuntarily. My right arm was gone. My heart beating frantically, I felt for the stub- then breathed a sigh of relief; the arm was apparently asleep. It was twisted abnormally behind my back, and was pinned beneath me. I used my left arm to push my body off the ground enough to swing my lifeless right arm around from underneath me. It lay cocked off strangely to the right, but almost immediately, a painful tingling started working its way up from the fingertips.

I let the fingers of my left hand feel for my legs, and having confirmed the presence of all appendages, moved on in my mind to the next pressing issue: Where was I?

I used my left arm (and my still weak right arm) to grab a pipe sticking from the wall, and pull myself against the wall. A lifetime later, I’d pulled myself to a slumped, sitting position, back resting against the wall.

The room had no windows. The single door in the far wall looked to be made of steel- painted and repainted, then repainted again-countless times it appeared, as virtually every color in the rainbow, and every variation thereof, showed through somewhere on the door. It had no handle, knob, or visible lock of any sort.

The wall I rested against had a line of pipes sticking from it. One of these was the one emitting the steady drip of water. There were holes in the floor too-in fact, at some point in my gradual awakening, my olfactory senses had returned. From these holes in the floor emanated the most offensive of smells. Had I any strength, I likely would have vomited. As it was, I barely had the energy to smell.

The light came from a bare bulb attached to the ceiling. A string hung down a few feet, well within reach were I standing. From the floor though, it might as well have been 100 miles away.

I looked down at myself. I had on a torn sweatshirt, grubby jeans, socks and no shoes. I can’t recall having put any of this on, but the clothing was mine. I looked around for my shoes. No shoes in the room.

I tested my strength-leaned forward and rested my upper body weight on my arms. They wobbled, but held. I bent forward, pulled my legs around behind me, and duck-crawled toward the door. The door couldn’t have been more than ten feet from where I rested, but it felt like ten times that. I stopped and rested twice during the journey. When I finally reached the door, I rested my weight on my elbows, and used my head to push against the door. Solid. It wouldn’t budge.

I pulled myself into a sitting position, rested my back against the door, and pushed. Still no movement. It was locked from the outside.

I’ve never thought myself to be phobic, but the thought of being locked alone inside this dirty, cramped room, immediately pushed the remaining cobwebs from my mind, and replaced all rational thought with raw, stark terror.

I screamed. Long and hard. I must have cried because at some point, I looked down to see fresh, wet drops on the front of my sweatshirt. I don’t know how long I screamed, but it was enough to make my voice hoarse, my throat raspy.

My energy finally spent, I sat, gasping for breath, almost hyperventilating. I found myself staring, but not seeing, back at the opposite wall. The human mind, I think, has a built in mental defense mechanism, because I don’t recall any coherent thought penetrating the stark fog that enveloped my mind. I think that when we run up against a mental roadblock, a situation or circumstances that are utterly incomprehensible, the mind begins to shutdown to protect itself, otherwise insanity begins to set in. It only allows rational thought once the mind has begun to take in and organize the situation.

Here I sat, in an old, abandoned bathroom. Nobody, it seemed, had been here in the recent past, except for me and some number of rodents (although the building still had electricity and at least one working light bulb). The door was secured and locked from the outside, seemingly impenetrable. I had no idea whether it was day or night. I had no idea, in fact, what day it was. I didn’t recall dressing in these clothes, or any circumstances that led to my being here.

And I was alone-completely alone.

This time, I wept silently.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hot Dog

This morning, Shawna told me she needed some time away, and asked if I could watch Lex and Gentry while she went to town-to "get away" for a few hours. I, being the wonderful husband and father that I am, said of course; the time away was well-deserved (although, it has been quite a while now; if any of you happen to see her around, tell her we miss her and we'll be good; we just want her to come back home).

At any rate, I took the opportunity to work around the house. I was cleaning the garage (although you can't tell it; I've resigned myself to the fact that the garage is a project for a bigger man than me), and the kids
were climbing the tree in the front yard.

I heard one of the kids run up behind me. I turned. It was Gentry. "What's up, Bub?" I asked him.

"Did you put Chloe in the oven?" he asked.

"What?" I asked (Chloe is our Dachshund).

"Lexis said that you put Chloe in the oven," he said. "Did you?"

"Of course not Bubs. She's in the backyard."

"See Lexis. He didn't," he yelled at his sister, as he ran back toward the tree.

She just cackled.

Sometimes she concerns me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Giraffes on Horseback Salads

I was reading this evening, and came across a news story online that outlined some of the strangest requests received by hotel concierges.

By far the strangest request ever received was by the concierge at Le Meurice, a famous, very exclusive, hotel in Paris. Salvador Dali, famed surreal artist, was a regular guest at Le Meurice; in fact, he stayed at the hotel, on average, about one month each year. His regular companions? His two tamed ocelots!

Dali made a number of odd requests of the Meurice hotel staff: for the staff to go out to the garden and capture flies for him; he requested the concierge find him a horse; and most bizarre-he requested a flock of sheep be brought to his room, so that he could shoot them with his pistol (loaded with blanks, of course).

I read that, and, I have to admit, my curiosity was piqued. So I dug around a bit on the net, researched Dali a bit, and found that he was not only a painter; he also wrote!

I was, understandably, excited! Apparently, in the 1930's, Dali met the Marx brothers, befriended them, and wrote a script for a Marx Brothers movie. MGM Studios (the Marx Brothers had an exclusive contract with MGM) declined
to make the movie, citing it as being "too surreal"; hard to believe coming from Dali!

So, I poked around a bit more, and found excerpts from the script. Go, read it; and I'll leave you with a few of the more notable excerpts here.

Can you, honestly, blame MGM?

From "Giraffes on Horseback Salads", by Salvador Dali:

While love tears at Jimmy's heart, Groucho tries to crack a nut on the bald head of the dwarf in front of him... Although the guests show surprise, they try for a time to continue their meal, which is, however, brought to an end by showers of rain. In a panic, the guests rush in all directions, while from the hall a torrent of waters washes in, bringing with it all sorts of debris, including a drowned ox. A shepherd makes a desperate effort to collect his flock of sheep, which climb up on the sofas and the bed in an effort to avoid being carried away by the water... Meanwhile, the Marx Brothers announce that a great fĂȘte is going to take place. For this, large preparations have to be made. Four acres of desert are cleared of cacti and of all vegatation and flattened out like a tennis court... There is a competition for the person who can ride a bicycle the slowest with a stone balanced on his head. All the participants have to grow beards. .. Before the spectacle begins, the vegetation around the fields is set alight. This prevents the spectators in the stands from seeing anything at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's Working!

MyndFood is having an affect on the overall population folks!

Wrigley recently embarked on an intensive advertising campaign-Gum Is Good-in which they outline the positive affects of gum-chewing. According to Wrigley's, gum improves oral health, is an effective weight loss program, improves concentration and alertness and relieves stress. All sheer balderdash, obviously, given my prior post about gum chewing.

The point, though, is that, obviously MyndFood is working! Wrigley's, a behemoth of an organization, is running scared, and forming major marketing campaigns to offset the effects of this blog!

Thank you all! Together, we're making a difference!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sleep Deprivation Makes You Happier

Reuters reported yesterday that research has recently shown that lack of sleep may be deadly. A 17 year study of over 10,000 government workers showed a high correlation between lack of sleep and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. According to the report, individuals who decrease their sleeping from 7 hours per night to 5 or less per night "face a 1.7 fold increase in mortality from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death."

An interesting report, to say the least (as I sleep very little-as evidenced my the timestamp on many of my posts). But reasonably unclear, I think. First, I don't know how it can be said that lack of sleep increases mortality rate. Ultimately, no matter how long you sleep, the chances of "mortality" are 1 in 1. That is, we're all going to die. So, to say that the chances of dying increase by 70% just because I sleep less? It's absurd.

Perhaps, on the other hand, what they MEANT to say was, people tend to die younger if they sleep less. That's a concept that, whether I believe it or not, I can wrap my mind around. Keep in mind, the study didn't report that at all (at least as I read it), but what they DID report is asinine-beyond the point of discussion. So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that they meant that short sleepers die earlier.

Assuming that, I have to ask: how much earlier? Do they die, on average, five minutes earlier than those who sleep 7 hours per night? Is it one year earlier? Five years? Twenty? My guess is that it's likely closer to the lower end (that is, assuming you die earlier if you sleep only five hours per night, my guess is, on the average, it's no more than a year or two).

And those who are only sleeping five hours: what are they doing late at night? Barhopping? Partying? And, if so, wouldn't that lifestyle be a far greater contributor to the "mortality rate" than the amount of sleep they're getting? You see my point? In a way, it's another example of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

But that's not really my point. Consider this: assume I opt to sleep two fewer hours each night from the time I'm 20 until I pass away at, say, 70. 50 years, 365 days per year, 2 hours per day: 36,500 total hours-spent doing something I enjoy, I love. Like interacting with my family, or reading, or writing, or blogging.

Conversely, I could force myself to sleep those extra two hours, and gain an extra two or three years of effective life (which would, likely, be spent without many of my loved ones, children having moved far away; inarguably, diminished quality of life). Do you realize that, spending those two hours every day netted me just over 4 years of "living"? That is, those two hours, added up over 50 years, equate to a total of 4 years-in the prime of my life, with family and friends around me, doing the things I love!

So, in my mind, less sleep may in fact contribute to reduced life expectancy (arguable, at this point, to be quite honest, but I'll give the the benefit of the doubt). But, by sleeping less, I'm a happier person over my life-in that I have four more years of doing the stuff I like to do, with the people I love doing it with.

Why wouldn't anyone choose less sleep?

It's said that Michelangelo, inarguably one of the most accomplished individuals in history, would sleep no more than 45 minutes at a time. He worked, it's said, around the clock, breaking every four hours or so for a 20-45 minute nap. And look at what he achieved.

You can't argue with that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Car for Sale

Variety, they say, is the spice of life, and I have always tried to put just the right amount of variety into the free fodder I whip up here on a regular basis (my apologies to you folks who have stomach problems; I hope it's not TOO spicy).

At any rate, to keep it interesting, I thought I'd let you all know that my wife's car is for sale. Rather, her 2002 Toyota Sequoia Limited (Summit White with Grey leather interior, fully loaded-including dual electric front seats, moonroof, seat warmers, and "SHANIQA" vanity plates), is for sale-a bargain at $17,900 (or best offer). If you're interested, you know where to find me!

The reason, though, that I tell you this (aside from the fact that it's free advertising), is that when we sell the thing, she's going to take my car (it absolutely kills me, the number of miles I've racked up in only 18 months), and I'm going to get something new.

What am I going to buy? Why, I'm glad you asked! I have, to be quite honest, a few choices. The first-and the preferred, is this car that Dad emailed me. It's currently up for auction at eBay. It is, I'll warn you in advance, a little price prohibitive, but if I can get enough for the Sequoia (and get a few of you to make some reasonably generous donations to MyndFood; c'mon-you tip your waitress at the Cracker Barrel, for goodness' sake! How about donating a few dinar to the cook here at your favorite digital restaurant?), I think I might just be able to wing it. It's a beautiful car, isn't it?

If that doesn't work out, I'll give this Prius a shot. Probably the more practical choice, seeing as how I'll not get much use out of the Maybach's reclining back seat (since I don't have a driver; donations accepted, now that I think of it, to help fund a driver). Oh-it gets slightly better fuel economy as well.

Either of them will, I think, be far preferable to most of the cars I've driven. My favorite was a brown Nissan (I can't recall the model for the life of me-some number and letter combination, I think), a 1983, I believe. The prior owner had lowered the car using a sawzall, a plasma cutter, spare lumber and some wire ties. They had, I think, neglected to replace the springs or shocks, so that it felt, driving down the road, as though the car had the suspension of a roller-blade.

And the ambitious-but mechanically challenged-prior owner had begun a comprehensive overhaul of the car's sound system. Status of that project, at the time of my purchase (to be fair, I'm ashamed to say, for the low price of $325), consisted of the removal of the stereo, all speakers, all wiring that appeared to be associated with the car stereo-as well as the removal of all upholstery from the back seat (including-I kid you not-the seats themselves). Well, actually, the padding for the seats was there, folded up in the trunk.

Needless to say, the car wasn't the greatest ride in the world. I still had plenty of people wanting to ride with me (I'm not sure, though, whether that was because of my dynamic personality, or the fact that, for some strange reason, many of the young adults that we interact with have an eerie aversion to actually getting a drivers license).

The car, alas, was short-lived. Driving back to work from lunch one summer day, I noticed a strange smell. I thought that, perhaps, my tacos were a little overdone, and I contemplated driving back to Jack-in-the-box, and giving them a piece of my mind. I decided against it; overdone tacos were preferable to even a single extra mile in that car. I pulled into the parking lot, parked, and realized that a great deal of smoke (more than was normal for the car) was coming from beneath the hood.

I jumped out, popped the hood, and realized that the engine was on fire. I looked frantically around. The only liquid in sight was my extra large Diet Coke. I hesitated, to be honest-for two reasons. First, just how much damage would it take before the insurance elected to total the car, and I'd finally get to cancel my standing Thursday appointment with the chiropractor? Second, what an utter waste of 42 precious ounces of liquid bliss!

Alas, I decided to do the right thing, and tossed my soda on the fire. I ran to the office, refilled with water, tossed that on the fire. That did the trick.

All in all, that car was probably the best investment I've ever made. The insurance company decided the thing was worth $1800! I've been looking for another one ever since.

My point: I'm not extremely picky when it comes to cars, so either of the two choices will suffice, I think. But, any help you can give in helping me to realize my dream of traveling in the inimitable comfort of a Maybach Model 62 (with reclining massage seats, refrigerated soda compartment, and individual screens for the rear passengers), would be greatly appreciated!

Democratic Writing

This week, I am introducing a new concept to MyndFood, and I wanted to take a few inches of utterly inexpensive digital real estate, and explain the project to you.

Most of you know by now, I have aspirations of someday publishing some fiction. And, as that is a goal of mine, I've started playing around with short-stories (in fact, I'm-shhh, don't tell anyone!-sending one off to a magazine or two for potential publication-cross your fingers-next week). A scene came to mind, though, earlier this week, that sounded like something I'd like to try to put to paper. But I didn't have a story to put it in. So, I thought that I'd work with you as my co-writers, and we'd write a story together!

So, later this week (stay tuned; I don't think you'll want to miss this one), I'll post the first installment of this story that we're going to write democratically. I want you to read it-read it through a few times. Then comment (or email), your thoughts on the writing, the descriptiveness, and the overall quality of the storytelling.

Then, I want you to give a brief synopsis of where you think it should go next (that is, how the story progresses-not the whole story, just the next step). I'll then take all of your comments/ideas, and make a decision, and incorporate them into the story. Then I'll bring that next installment back to you for the same input.

Please participate. This exercise allows me practice that I'll not get elsewhere, and gets a real-world perspective that I'll not get from anywhere else. So your input is valued-in fact, valuable.

Thank you, as always, for reading! You make it fun!

The Winner Is...

A few weeks ago, in a post entitled "Name That Character" I presented a contest, in which I asked you to name the work and author associated with a number of different character names from popular works of fiction.

A number of you responded-thank you! I truly enjoyed your responses!

We did have a winner, though. Steffanie Russ, a faithful reader from Georgia, sent me the full list of answers-all correct, just a few hours into the contest!

A number of you, though, also sent complete responses. I was, I'll admit, VERY impressed by the number of the answers you knew without looking them up! On the average, each of you who responded knew far more of them off the top of your head than I did!

The others who responded were, in order:

-Katie Booker
-Elden Bankston

Steffanie will, as promised, receive a free MyndFood definition t-shirt. But I was so impressed with the other responses, that I decided to offer each individual who responded a discounted definition t-shirt!

Each of you, email me, if you're interested, shirt size and shipping address, and I'll email you details on how to receive the discounted shirt.

Thank you all who participated! I enjoyed it; I hope you did too!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quote of the Week

Typically, I allow my "Quote of the Week" posts to speak for themselves; but this quote struck me in a way that, if you have read MyndFood with any regularity, you'll understand.

I'm not afraid of much; I believe that the only thing fear is certain to do is ensure possibilities never become reality. Sometimes, though, it-fear-creeps up on me, and before I know it, it's paralyzed me. And when that happens, dreams tire...

"When your dreams tire, they go underground and out of kindness that's where they stay."

-Libby Houston

Foolish Me...

The videos below are of Clive Wearing. It hits you in the stomach, hard, when you see his struggle.

I urge you to take a few moments and watch them both. If nothing else, they've humbled me. I'm a fool to hop on, and post depressed thoughts here on MyndFood, when I've gone through nothing anywhere nearly as difficult as what this guy has been through.

Forgive me for even implying that I wished (at any level) to have his malady. I do not; in fact, I thank God that I don't.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thank You!

Contrary to shegazelle's protestations, I actually received a gift from my wishlist!

Thank you Katrina and Nannette! I'll start reading it tonight, I'm sure!

The rest of you could take a lesson from them...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hope Deferred

The other evening, Ketarah and Nannette (two college students who are friends of ours, and regular-I hope-readers of MyndFood), were telling us about a guy they discussed in their psychology class. I discounted their story initially, but then went to Wikipedia, and found that the guy actually exists.

His name is Clive Wearing. He was an accomplished musician and conductor in Britain, in his mid-forties and at the height of his career when, in 1985, he contracted herpes encephalitis (the virus that causes cold-sores in the mouth). For some inexplicable reason, though, the virus affected him in a profoundly abnormal way. Essentially, it attacked his brain-specifically the hippocampus-causing a condition known as anterograde amnesia.

The general affect of anterograde amnesia (it's extremely rare) is the inability to form new memories. Amnesia is generally construed as the "erasing" of memories (i.e. amnesiacs often cannot remember a specific period in their life). Anterograde amnesia is substantially different in that there is really no erasure of memories. Rather, it's as though the goings-on of the moment are almost immediately forgotten. Imagine a computer with only RAM memory (that is, memory that is lost every time the computer is shut down), and no hard drive. All the work done is a particular session at the computer would be completely erased immediately on completion.

Such is Clive Wearings mind. He is said to keep a diary, and the diary has entries such as:

8:31 AM: Now I am really, completely awake.
9:06 AM: Now I am perfectly, overwhelmingly awake.
9:34 AM: Now I am superlatively, actually awake.

Page after page of these entries exist in the diary. And as he goes to create a new entry, he crosses out the prior entry, in that he has no recollection of having written it, thus he thinks it to be innaccurate. He purportedly greets his wife (whom he married one year prior to contracting this ailment) enthusiastically every time he sees her, even if she stepped out for only an hour to go to the grocery store, because the last time he recalls seeing her is in 1985.

Such is Clive Wearings life.

I listened as they told me about Clive, and then read about him on the internet, and, I'm ashamed to say, there was a small part of me that envied him. Because, as I implied yesterday, the inadequacies and sins of the past tend to follow us; no, not follow, to rest heavily on our shoulders. And the deeper we get into life, the more there is to carry. Until we find ourselves almost paralyzed, so completely weighed down by our past, that we can never experience our future.

And, oh, what I wouldn't give, on those days when the load of failures past is too much for my weary mind, and hope is all but obliterated-what I wouldn't give on those days to have Clive Wearings problem. Because every so often, as his mind resets itself, he starts a new life. The desperation and hopelessness-the trappings of the past, are wiped away, and his mind is, for some short period of time, filled with wonder and hope for a future that is unmarred by sins of the past.

But, alas, we're not given that luxury. We are forced to live with ourselves. And so, while I struggle, always, to be a better man, my primary struggle must be to do as Paul said:

"...forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize..." -Philippians 3:13-14

Dan Zadra made a profound statement:

"Resentment is one burden that is incompatible with your success. Always be the first to forgive; and forgive yourself first always."

You see, I think I was probably right when I wrote, some time back, in a post entitled "Forgive Us...As We Forgive" that choosing to forgive releases one from the burden of hurt and grief. It's true in forgiving others, and it's true in forgiving ourselves.

So, take a lesson from Clive Wearing: forget the stuff that follows you around and drags you down. Use it only as a steppingstone to a higher level, but don't ever let it drown your hope. Because, as Proverbs 13:12 states:

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick..."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Today I am twenty-eight.

Birthdays are, I think, lifes way of rubbing it in; a subtle reminder of everything not accomplished.

A few times, growing up, I remember receiving a report card that, in the teachers comments section, had a comment like, "Paul has such untapped potential..." These are the reports cards that I was ashamed of. The grade didn't matter; it was that there was some ability, some hidden nugget that I had neglected to uncover.

And so, I sit here, literally 28 years, to the moment, from my birth, and contemplate all of the times that I've allowed that potential to sit untapped. And think about what I've done between September 19, 2006 and today (or rather, what remains undone that shouldn't be).

And I'm embarrassed.

So please, don't send me birthday wishes (although the thoughfulness of so many of you is truly humbling; thank you all so much). Rather, take this as an opportunity to dig down, and try to find those areas of potential in you that have lain dormant far too long. And make your next birthday an opportunity to smile for the potential that you've turned into reality.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A song, they say, is one of the most expressive forms of verbal communication. So then, what must a music video convey?

A friend pointed this video out to me, and I have to say that, in a humorous way, it illustrates some of what I was writing about in my prior MySpace posts.

I'll not rehash the issue. I'll let Brad Paisley tell you about it.

The song is called "Online"



A colleague told me yesterday about a news story he came across while watching the news recently. I thought it odd, so I googled it, and sure enough, I found the story.

Apparently, Pepsi Co, in their infinite wisdom, has distributed a new product in Japan. It's a cola, with a slight twist: the name of the new drink? "Pepsi Ice Cucumber."

That's right, folks! Cucumber flavored soda!

So, I have to ask: did Pepsi simply make a huge mistake? Because, quite honestly, I don't think that I'm the least bit interested it trying cucumber flavored soda. I don't see ANY market for it here, domestically.

And I know that the Japanese have different tastes-in some ways, their tastes are somewhat eclectic. But cucumber soda seems a little extreme.

Can their tastes be THAT different?

I think that the truth is, Pepsi has recognized that that market is inclined to make "fad" purchases. That is, they'll by anything that is perceived to be trendy. And so Pepsi has attempted to create a "trendy" cola. The equivalent of Tazo Tea, or Starbucks coffee.

I have to say, the soda would bomb here; I think that's inarguable. We like to be trendy, but not at the expense of total personal comfort. Which is why it's not been introduced here.

The true test will be, in a few months, looking back to see whether it was a successful product there in Japan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Today Is A Holiday!

Sound the trumpets! Today marks the third-year wedding anniversary of shegazelle (one of my favorite people out in the blogosphere), and her husband hegazelle.

Stop by her place, and wish her a very happy anniversary!

Did Somebody Order Chocolate Cake?

I collect photos of particularly funny t-shirts that I see. I think a few of you were in desperate need of something "fun" to eat, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you. My guess is that, taken in their entirety, they say something about my mind; if they do, don't tell me!


One final one for all you MySpacers out there!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Will Backflip for Food!

Alexis is, without question, my daughter. Saturday (after going to bed very late Friday evening-we sang at a special event), we woke up early (too early, if you ask me), and piled into cars, and made the haul, with a group of teens and young adults from church, to San Francisco.

A whirlwind day: BART ride from Pleasanton into 'Frisco; an immeasurable time shopping at Union Square; a cramped bus ride across town to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf; a boat ride (for some in the group), Ripley's Believe it or Not museum for others; a nice dinner at Rainforest Cafe. Then a limo ride across town, BART ride back to the cars, and a VERY difficult drive back home.

At Pier 39, Lex decided that sh
e wanted to try out some bungee-trampoline contraption that they had there; and she wanted me to go too!

So, we did! She's unbelievable! A miniature trapeze artist! The guys running the thing taught her how to do backflips-she thought that was cool! So she did backflips!

And then it was my turn. I couldn't get the backflips quite right. The guy running the thing asked if I wanted my daughter to come teach me how.

So, I redoubled my efforts. And finally got it down toward the end.

Lex and I contacted Ringling Bros. today about a part-time gig as trapeze artists.

They accepted her, but she told them that her dad was part of the package; we go together. I love that girl!


A link here to a very touching music video. Please visit, and watch the video.

The group-Five For Fighting-made the video, and two kind benefactors have committed to donate $1.00 (for a total of $2.00) for each time it's viewed, to the fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

So, four minutes of your time will bring the world $2 closer to a cure for this horrible disease. A worthwhile investment, if you ask me.

Good News!

I just checked the shipping policies on Amazon, and-good news! They have shipping options available that will allow for next day shipping.

Which means that you still have plenty of time to purchase an item off of my Wish List, and get it shipped directly to me in time for my birthday on Wednesday!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just A Stupid Rant

Someone told me tonight that they don't read my blog anymore, because it's just "a rant" about stupid things like bubble gum.

So, I looked up the word "rant" up in the dictionary, and found various definitions for it, including the following:

rant (n.)
1. A speech or piece of writing that incites anger or violence
2. To speak or write in an angry or violent manner
3. To talk foolishly, rave

And so, I looked back over everything I've written here, and, I have to say, I'm hard pressed to find a single piece I've written that is anything close to any of these. Even some of the most controversial pieces, like Bubble Gum, and MySpace-even the Hugo Chavez piece, are nowhere near rants.

So, then, I have to ask myself: is it just that this individual doesn't agree with my point of view? Or are they intellectually unhealthy? Because, you see, at the end of the day, the stuff you find here may be different than the stuff you find most other places, but, for the most part, it's intellectually stimulating. It's intended to broaden your mind-which is healthy. And an unwillingness to participate tells me that, perhaps, this individual simply isn't interested in wholesome food for thought.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that if someone doesn't read MyndFood, they're intellectually lazy. I can accept that my points of view may not resonate with everyone (although, for the most part, the things I write are pretty wholesome; so if a person wholeheartedly disagrees with me, across the board, I'm a little concerned). But, I can accept that a person simply doesn't like what I have to say, and would rather get that sustenance elsewhere.

But to simply dismiss the venue as "a rant," and to move on with life? It's scary, if you ask me.

And leads, I think, to a mind that has a tendency not to expand; which is probably the classic definition of "narrow-minded."

I ask for your thoughts on this one, fellow diners. It honestly means a lot to me.

As always, thanks for dining here! I'm honored to have you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I found this amazing, yet not surprising post today on The link to the original post is here, but I've excerpted the text below:

Why I am a Small l Libertarian

My wife and I wanted to put an addition on our house here in the City of Los Angeles. Our general contractor told us that the first thing we had to do was get up-to-date zoning and property information from the Building Pemits Department. He recommended that we hire a "fixer" who was used to dealing with the bureaucracy. That was 2 months ago. Today, we were informed by the City zoning department that they could not give us the necessary zoning information ... because, according to zoning records, our house does not exist! On top of which, the zoning folks also had no record of the street on which we live.

I was speechless until it occurred to me to ask why, if our house doesn't exist, we have to pay property taxes and so on. The answer? "That's another department." Back to being speechless. I then recovered enough to ask what we had to do to have the existence of our house established, which I thought would be a simple process - after all, you can see it on Google Earth. I was told we would first have to have a hearing to determine whether the street that runs in front of our house is a public street or private road. Given the backlog, it would be about a year before that process could be completed. Then we'd have to have another hearing to establish the existence of our house. Then we'd have to apply for a building permit, geological inspection, etcetera etcetera. At which point, I gave up in despair. After all, I was starting to have visions of being told that we'd have to tear our house down because it doesn't exist, which was getting kind of metaphysical. Anyway, goodbye addition.

True story.

Amazing, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lego-As Media?

Found this fascinating video on Yahoo! news:

Do you think those who fancy themselves "real" artists are insulted by this guy?


Yesterday evening, after work, I dug around in the depths of our hall closet (where I keep the clothes that I rarely wear), pulled out my overalls and my favorite flannel shirt, threw them on, along with my favorite, sweat-stained straw hat, and went out to build a fence.

Yeah, the fence on the south end of the property was in a terrible state of disrepair, and Shawna was worried that the livestock would begin to disappear, so...

Ok-stop that! You're laughing at me!

Ok, ok! The truth is, I don't have a pair of overalls (or a flannel shirt, for that matter-cringe), nor a sweat-stained ANYTHING, let alone a straw hat! And the south end of the property is a 10'x25' section of backyard-on our 7,000 square foot city lot. Oh, and the livestock? Our two dogs: Rowy (a 2 year old chocolate Lab), and Chloe (an insanely hyper 1 year old Dachshund, who has a strange affinity for laser pointers and watch reflections).

But-I DID go out and work! I know, I know-those of you who actually know me have a VERY hard time believing it. To be honest, Shawna didn't believe it either. In fact, when she pulled up to the house, she sat in the car for some time; I kept right on working. A few moments later, my cellphone rang. It was Shawna.

"PJ: where are you," she asked, "because there's a tall guy working out behind our house, building a fence. He's built kind of like you, pretty good looking, but I don't know who he is. I don't want to get out of my car! Should I call the police?"

"It IS me, Shawna!" I said.

"PJ-I'm serious! This guy's working; why is he in our yard? Did you hire him?"

I convinced her, and she ran in to grab the camera so that she could show all our friends and family that her husband does, in fact, occasionally do physical labor. She forgot that she sold the stinking camera at the yard sale this weekend, so you're gonna have to trust us on this one (by the way: whomever bought our kitchen table, if you're reading this, I'll pay you $20 more than the amount you bought it for if you'll bring it back; I'm getting so tired of eating on the floor. Thanks a lot shegazelle!).

But, as I worked there in the yard, building the fence, I started thinking about fences, and why we build them, and I have to say, sometimes a fence is just a lazy man's substitute for discipline.

Hear me out: part of the reason we're building the fence is so that our kids have a place to play. Fair enough, except that the act of building the fence doesn't actually create space for the kids to play. It creates a space that we feel comfortable allowing them to occupy, without having to worry about their running out in the street. An admirable purpose, as a parent, to be sure; but consider this:

Imagine with me, if you will, for just a moment, that we build this fence, and allow Lex and Gentry to go out back every day and play to their hearts content. Imagine this goes on for a year...two years...five years...ten. At some point, they're tall enough and curious enough to reach the gate latch, and begin to try to get the gate open. They, naturally, want to explore-to see what's on the other side.

But Shawna catches them in the act, and calls me at work, and asks me to run to Home Depot on the way home, and pick up a padlock. I do, and we lock the gate, keep the keys in our pockets. A few more years go by, and always, in the back in Lex and Gentry's mind, is this thought that good or bad-the other side of that fence must be something to behold. I can't wait 'til I'm tall and strong enough to climb over.

And so it goes. Don't get me wrong: It's natural to want to explore the other side, to see what marvels (or dangers) might exist there. But I have to ask myself: have I, in fact, done my children a disservice? Because at some point, we'll let our guard down, and they'll get over, around or under the fence. And make their way, in fascination, out to the street, to stare at the large objects on wheels that go speeding by.

You see, I don't think you can build a fence tall enough, or wide enough, or deep enough, to keep my children out of the road indefinitely. There is a desire, built into each of us, to explore, to understand (not necessarily to be stupid-and don't get me wrong, running out into the street is flat stupid-but to really comprehend).

Proverbs 2:11 says this: "Discretions shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee."

You see, in my mind, the fence is a temporary measure that is effective for only a short period of time (at least when it comes to protecting Lex and Gentry). In the long-term, the only thing that's going to keep them-protect them, is true understanding.

And so you ask, why are kids/young people today so prone to veer off as they hit young-adulthood? This, in my mind, is a key contributing factor: because we, as parents, have, for too long, allowed fences to do the parenting for us.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Taboo, By shegazelle

Dear partakers of this hearty, sumptuous fare-Myndfood: I extended, recently, an invitation to a fellow blogger, shegazelle, whom I admire greatly, to write a guest post for publication here on Myndfood. She obliged, and I present here, in it's entirety, an essay that perfectly encapsulates the theme of her blog, Normal is BROKE, I wanna be WEIRD.

taboo, n.- a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure

Such is the subject of money. And why? Is it because differing philosophies on the subject may give way to a disagreement? We talk of politics regularly in our society, and disagreements on that subject don’t seem to deter from the discussion of it.

For some reason, the discussion of money seems to be generally forbidden. With one exception- it’s always ok for one to proclaim they are broke. Strange. It’s acceptable in the office lunch room to say you are broke, but somehow it’s not ok to say your financial plan is working better than you had planned.

I’ve feigned ignorance long enough in this post. The bottom line is this: Americans in general have no plan for their money, have no financial education and are BROKE- and they don’t want to talk about it.

Well, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of being a part of the club where no one talks about maxing out their Roth IRA for the year, where everyone has a lot of “stuff” they’ve financed (and are revered as “well-to-do”,) and no one has a dime saved for an emergency. Normal is broke, and folks, I want to be WEIRD.

I have committed myself to a life free from debt and filled with wise investments, but somehow, the people with more and newer “stuff” around me at my place of work are receiving the kudos. It’s a real good thing I don’t care what they think, otherwise I’d surely get peeved every time a coworker asks with a taunting tone, “Did you have enough in your envelope for that?”

Somehow the silence has to be broken, and I believe that slowly it is. There is a sect that has become nauseous with their low financial IQ, and are doing something about it. I recently read a book by a very wealthy man that stated people who have money, talk about money. People that don’t, act like stinking ostriches with their head in the sand.

It’s a shame that people who are winning with money have to wait until people are financially hemorrhaging before they can share the very plan that would have stopped the initial bleeding.

Not only am I willing to talk about money experiences and principals, I am eager to listen to others with a plan for their money.

I challenge you to start the conversation where you can, whenever you can.

I have found it is easier to breathe when you pull your head out of the sand.

shegazelle is an outspoken critic of the "American Way"-that is, the credit trap, and strongly advocates debt-free living. She posts about it regularly on her blog, Normal is BROKE, I wanna be Weird. Look for future posts from shegazelle here on Myndfood.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Taming of a Heart

Shawna, the kids and I, along with Mother and Dad and a few other friends, went, this weekend, to see The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare. A group of budding thespians has, for the past few years, put together a Shakespeare Festival, showing various plays at an amphitheater in a local park.

They did a fine job-in fact, we plan on seeing it once more before the festival ends. For those of you who've never read the story, nor seen the play, you'll not understand the context of the passage quoted below, but it's not really necessary to be quite honest. The thing to note is that this entire passage is a speech by Katherine, a key character in the story, to an entire group of friends and acquaintances. She uses the venue to chastise her sister, and another friend, for their irreverent treatment of their husbands (or, to be more fair-and perhaps, politically correct-disregard of their husbands).

But, I'm not trying to make a point here about the appropriate behavior of a wife. The passage struck me-hard, in fact. Because, in my mind, it speaks directly to the spiritual condition of so many Americans. Religion is popular again, but I'm afraid that so many of us have religion, or more specifically, relationship with God (because, really, that's the purpose of religion) completely wrong. But I'll let Katherine tell it.

Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?--
I am asham'd that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toll and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband's foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.

And, so, I ask you: does this passage, in your mind, tell the story of religion in modern America? Explain, if you will.

Friday, September 7, 2007

We Must be Doing Something Right

We went shopping today for some household items, at the same store that we visited on Sunday. Lex was in school, so it was just Gentry, Shawna and me.

As we walked up and down the aisles, at some point Gentry caught sight of the toy area, and realized that he needed at least one more toy gun to add to his arsenal (in case, I think, Janet Reno, the FBI and the ATF invade our home; he's got fortification plans drawn up as well). At any rate, I calmly told him no, that he wasn't getting a gun, or any other toy today. I think that he was initially inclined to argue, but a warning bell must have gone off in some corner of the head, and he realized that the last time we were at that store, he'd tried that tactic, and it hadn't exactly worked out well.

He let it go. I was proud.

As we stood in line at the checkout, waiting for the checker to finish with the customer in front of us, we heard some commotion behind us. We listened and watched out of the corner of our collective eyes, as a young boy, about eight years old, told his mother he wanted a candy. She must be on the Dave Ramsey plan too, because she declined to purchase a candy-or anything else, for that matter-for him. He raised his voice, and expressed in no uncertain terms, just how important it was for him to have a candy, that very minute! Mom raised her voice right back, and told her son that he WAS NOT having a candy!

At this point, all activity in the front of the store had ceased; all eyes were on mother and son, as they vehemently argued their respective points. Son stood at the candy stand, waving about his candy of choice, and screaming that he WAS having that candy; mom stood behind us in line, screaming just as loudly that her son had BETTER PUT THAT CANDY DOWN AND GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW! I'm thinking she must've read Tony Woodlief's essay in the Wall Street Journal today, but I think that she hasn't yet got it quite right.

As mom screamed, son suddenly stopped, looked at mom with fury in his eyes, and calmly tore open the candy and stuck it in his mouth. Mom stopped short for a moment, then began screaming with renewed fervor, that son was going to be sorry when they got outside, that he was "going to get it."

At that point, checkers began frantically trying to shepherd folks through the lines, hoping desperately to avoid, I think, an embarrassing episode of child abuse in the checkout line.

Gentry took that as his cue to ask for a candy. I cringed, hoping that he wasn't suddenly inspired, but I told him no. Again, he looked at me, cocked his head, got a disappointed look in his eye...and said nothing.

And as we walked out of the store I realized, for all the mistakes we've made, Shawna and I must have done something right.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cousin Again!!!

Below, in its entirety, the text of an email received just moments ago, from my cousin, Ashtyn Teel:


dear family and friends,
how are you all hope good. I have some great exciting news.
god has answered one of my greatest prayers. that i will be once again a big sister. for my mom and dad have just told me tonight that my mom is pregnant.
we are all very excited and nervous.please pray with us that all will go well.
I'm not lying my mom is going to have a baby.
just remember that I'm the baby of the house.
love and miss you all

Congratulations Rick, Gina and Ashtyn! Shawna, Lex, Gentry and I are incredibly excited for you! We might even make the long trek out to Georgia to see the new addition (once he/she arrives)!

We love you guys!

Shadow Puppets

I recently came across the blogosphere home of a faithful MyndFood reader, and found this fantastic post!

It has one of the greatest videos that I've ever seen!

Go, enjoy! Support those who keep MyndFood alive!

Jeans are Responsible for What?

Yesterday evening, Shawna and I heard a very strange news blip on the radio. It wasn't on a news station-it was some disc jockey talking in between songs, so it wasn't explained in depth, but the point was that scientists have statistically shown that white-collar workers who wear jeans to work, over the long-term, have better eyesight.

The jockey went on to explain that there was also a strong correlation between jeans in the workplace and employer satisfaction and decreased incidence of heart disease.

Here's their reasoning: jean-wearers have a tendency to get up from the desk more often over the course of a typical workday. This gives their eyes numerous short breaks throughout the day (from staring at a computer monitor), which is enough to keep the eyes from going bad.

Jean wearers, according to the research, since they get up more often, have a tendency to stop by their employers office more often, thus, over time, becoming better acquainted with him, leading to increased satisfaction.

Finally, as jean wearers tend to get up more often, they get more physical exercise while in the office, leading to cleaner arteries, and a lesser chance of heart failure.

To some degree, these are plausible explanations. But, in all cases, I think that they're a classic example of the latin fallacy in reasoning: Post hoc ergo propter hoc. What does that mean? Precisely translated, it means "After this, therefore because of this." Translated into real English, it means, "A happened after B happened, so B must have caused A."

This is a dangerous line of reasoning, although particularly effective-especially for politicians. Let me give you a real-life example, just so you have some perspective.

Imagine with me, for a moment, that I place a post on this blog, and within 2 hours of placing that post, my site count doubles, on an hour by hour basis. It would be a stretch, I think, to assume that, because I just posted, and within two hours, twice as many people are visiting per hour as has been the norm all day long, that my readers must have esp, correct? At this point, there's little correlation-in fact, there's no more than mere coincidence.

But say, hypothetically, that, as an experiment, I mapped out the hour by hour visits, and every evening, at the same time, I posted to this blog. And I tracked the visits, and every evening, almost without fail, in the two hours following the post, the number of visits per hour doubled. Would it then be safer to say that my readers must have esp? Perhaps safer, but it's still a very dangerous assumption.

The truth of the matter is, the simple fact that after I posted, hits went up does not mean that hits went up because I posted. We might ASSUME that-but there's just as much potential-specifically in this case-for that to be untrue as it is to be true.

It's entirely possible-indeed plausible-that the correlation here is no more than coincidence. It could be that most of my readers are employed is a similar capacity to mine-which means they probably get home around the same time I do, go to sleep within a few hours of when I do...which means they're probably going to be reading the blog around the same time that I'm posting to it!

The point here is that correlation does not point to causality! The economy improved a few weeks into G. W. Bush's term as President; is he the causal factor? Unlikely! Yet many politicians would use the old Post hoc ergo propter hoc in this case, to take credit.

Back, though, to the original point. In my mind, these scientific "proofs" are highly suspicious.

Allow me, if I might, to present to you a few equally plausible alternatives (at least in my mind).

Is it possible that individuals who wear jeans to work (in an office environment) are, in general, more laid back by nature? Given that, they're probably not going to feel as pressured by time lines, and will be more likely to spend more time walking around, talking to cohorts, instead of pushing to complete their work. This, of course, would have the same net effect on the employee's eyesight as alluded to above.

Further, it's entirely plausible that bosses in these type of companies are well-liked, simply because their leadership style, their management philosophy (as evidenced by their willingness to allow jeans in the workplace), is very free-very open. Freedom tends to satisfy people enormously.

Finally, though, we have the reduced incidence of heart disease. There are a couple of thoughts here. The first is, could it simply be, again, that the employee is more laid back? Isn't there a strong correlation between stress levels and heart disease? I think so. Further, jean-wearers are typically more "active" folks outside the office. Meaning that they have a great deal of physical activity. So, the wearing of jeans to work doesn't necessarily contribute to the reduced risk, but the fact that they are physical people, as evidenced by their rugged wardrobe at work, leads to decreased risk of heart disease.

My point is this: correlation has nothing to do with causality. Listen with a cautious ear to news reports ascribing a particular event to a specific cause, simply because there was some sort of correlation. Ask yourself, what ELSE might have led to this?

And for God's sake, please do not allow yourself to be conned into thinking that simply wearing jeans to work will make you a happier, healthier individual (and give you a better chance for a raise).

And, oh, one other thing that I've been meaning to tell you: since MyndFood came online, gas prices, nation-wide have, on the average, dropped by about .30 cents per gallon. Thus, I, PJ, the humble writer of MyndFood, am, apparently, responsible, for your saving astounding sums of money on gasoline!

Perhaps, to express your undying gratitude, you might want to head on over to my Amazon Wish List, pick out a book, and send it to me!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Name That Character

I often force you, my faithful readers, to muddle through my clunky prose and disjointed thoughts, rarely allowing you any true fun.

So, tonight, I present a bit of literary sport. Below I have listed 25 characters from important literary works (many classics, all well-read; almost none would be classified as "popular fiction"). Some, I'll admit, ride the line between classical and popular literature, but were impactful enough to me to be included-and since I author MyndFood, I've taken the privilege of including those characters I wished to include!

That said, here are the rules: the characters are listed 1-25; your answers should be include the answer number (i.e. 1-25), the title of the literary work, and the author, as well as either "B" or "N". The appropriate format is shown below:

1. "My First Novel", P.J. Green, B
2. "My Second Novel", P.J. Green, N

One answer per line. Titles and author names should be spelled correctly, but I'm not a lit teacher, so I'll be reasonably flexible (just make sure I understand). Answers should be emailed to me (at the email address shown in the right hand column) as complete. Make sure your list is complete and accurate, as there is a prize. The first person to send me a complete list of answers, formatted as I've requested, with all answers correct, will receive a free MyndFood Definition tee-shirt. A few key details here-ALL answers must be correct. That means if any are incorrect, the contest continues. If you are the winner, I will notify you by return email within 12 hours of your submission, buy I will not necessarily end the contest at that point.

One final rule: as you can probably, with just a little effort, find every answer on the internet, and there's no effective way of monitoring your usage, there are no restrictions to the methods you use to find the answers. I only ask this: go through the list first, and fill in all those that you know. Only turn to the Net after you've exhausted your literary knowledge. Which is the purpose of the "B" and "N". For those that you actually know (that you don't have to look up), put a "B" for "out of my Brain." For those you have to look up, put "N" for "I had to resort to the interNet."

Any questions? Good! Here goes, then! Enjoy!

1. Muff Potter
2. Jacob Marley
3. Sancho Panza
4. Desdemona
5. Lennie and George
6. Carrieta White
7. Bernard Marx
8. Anne Shirley
9. Edward Rochester
10. Dr. Alan Grant
11. Long John Silver
12. Sam Gangee
13. Ona Lukoszaite
14. Simon Legree
15. Ishmael
16. The Pardoner
17. Guy Montag
18. Roland Deschain
19. Christopher Snow
20. Jing-mei Woo
21. Andrew Bolkonski
22. Buck
23. Jack Burns
24. John Galt
25. Ron Weasley

(Note: a few of the characters appear in multiple of the authors' titles. Any of the applicable titles are acceptable in that case)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Life Lessons

Sunday afternoon, between services, we drove into town to pick up a few things that Shawna needed (hairspray primarily-she said the hairspray was $1 more per can here locally, so we had to make the drive; $130 worth of clothes later, I think I see an ulterior motive).

At any rate, Lex and Gentry asked us, walking in the store, if they could have a toy. We, being recent Ramsey converts, told them no, but that they could each pick out a candy. We finished shopping, and took them to the candy aisle. Lex asked if she could have chapstick instead; we told her yes. When we got to the checkout, Gentry saw that Lex had something other than a candy, and got a little upset.

"Lex got something diff'went than a candy!" he said. "That's not faiw!"

Shawna shushed him-told him something about life not being fair, but that he should buck up, because it'll build character.

One thing I've learned though about child-rearing: the whole tantrum thing is kind of like lice-it jumps from kid to kid faster than you can kill it, and Lex jumped in on the action right away, and said that since Gentry got a candy, she should too.

"No," Shawna said, "you got some chapstick instead. That's what you said you wanted."

"But Gentry got a candy! I should be able to get a candy too! That's not fair!" She folded her arms across her chest, stuck out her lower lip and glowered at the two of us (it's this new thing she does; I think she thinks she's a teenager. That whole pouty, lip out, hip cocked, glowery-look thing brings back many memories of living with my sister between the ages of, oh-I'd say nine and nineteen).

We finished checking out, and headed out to the car, mistreated and traumatized children in tow. Let me say this: we've got good kids; they're beautiful, smart, talented and very kind-hearted. But I don't think it's cute or funny to see them act as though they're entitled to anything they desire, on demand. I've seen too many children who actually do have it rough, and heard too many stories of my fathers childhood, to allow them to grow up under the misconception that life will simply grant you your every wish because it's fair. And somewhere, apparently, we've gone wrong in that department.

So, when we got in the car, I turned around and told both Lex and Gentry that their behavior in the store was unacceptable. "Lex and Gentry: you guys have it very good," I told them. "There are millions of kids all over the world that would give anything to have everything that you guys have." It actually affected them, I think. They're old enough to recognize that they are very fortunate.

"When we get home," I told them, "we're going to take most of your toys, and put them in the garage until you can learn to be thankful for what you have." They looked at me doubtfully. "I'm serious," I told them. "Furthermore," I said, "when we go out to eat, you guys are going to share a meal! Somehow you have to understand how blessed you are, and the only way that I know how to demonstrate it is to let you live without for a few weeks." They said nothing.

We got home, showered and changed for evening service, and went on to church. After service, Mother and Dad invited us to have dinner with them as there was no school today (happy Labor Day folks). The waiter came to take our order, and when it was Lex's turn, she ordered the kid's pizza meal. Gentry ordered a cheeseburger. I paid no attention as I was chatting with Dad about work. Lex waited for a few minutes, and as soon as the waiter had had enough time to put the order into his computer system, she said, "I thought you weren't gonna let us get our own meals, Dad?"

I stared at her-not quite sure what to do (I'd completely forgotten). Lex forgets nothing, but doesn't remind until it's convenient. Mother looked at us questioningly, so Shawna explained. We decided to let it pass this time (especially since Mother and Dad were paying).

Then a few minutes later, Gentry, who'd been sitting quietly, spoke up and said, "If you put all ouw toys in the gawage, then Daddy won't have anywhere to put his caw."

It's humbling that he cares so much about my car! Sometimes I wonder: who's really in charge here?

For the record, as of tonight, my car is still in the garage...