Posted in Stories

A little home improvement with my grandson

I’ve been spending a few days at my son’s house to help with a few house projects: repairing some bathroom tile, replacing baseboards, and some painting. My six-year-old grandson has been there every step of the way to keep me company and help out a little. He’s good at measuring and getting me tools. And he loves going to Home Depot.

Our first shopping trip was for for the bathroom: tile, thin set, grout, trowel, and some backer board. He got to push the cart with everything else in it so I could load up the heavy board. The guy at the cash register let him scan all the items. He loaded everything in the van and brought everything in when we got home.

Today, we went back to get baseboard. I had to cut up some of the 16-foot boards so I could get them home. He was right there to hold the ends for me.

He really wanted to paint with me, but everything I had to do was up on the ladder today. I’ll save him a few spots to roll at his height tomorrow.

My wife sent him a tool belt and a few tools. He was outfitted and ready to go this morning. I asked, “Hey, you have a screwdriver there?”

“Which kind?” He held out a regular and Phillips.

“Can you measure along that wall for me?” He used his tape measure for that and a lot of other measurements throughout the day.

I’m blessed to have some time to spend with him.

Posted in Stories

Remember: It’s an adventure!

As the pilot announced, “We’re starting our initial descent,” the mother in the row ahead of me explodes at her daughter, “I’m gonna bust your butt when we get off this plane!”

Giggling, her little girl kept poking her mom’s ear, pinching her cheek, and grabbing her hair. “You’re gonna get an ass busting. Right in the bathroom. I’m serious. You’re getting a spanking.”

It was like no one was on the plane except this seven year old by the window and her middle seat momma. I’ll bet they’ve had this conversation before. At home, in a car, or while shopping. I’ll bet few butts had ever been beaten. These were empty threats. The kid knew it. She was running the show here.

I know it’s harder to travel with kids. You’re not going to be reading a book or snoozing. They’re going to need extra attention. And you better be prepared with snacks, games, movies, more snacks, and drinks.

Traveling with children is special. They’re excited. They’re in awe of huge planes, real pilots, views out the window, the roar of engines, and going someplace new. They remind us that it’s an adventure!

Keep your sense of adventure. Be in awe. And bring lots of snacks!

Posted in Stories

I’m done; he’s just getting started

When I arrived at the gym on Saturday, I got there just as a man about my age was fumbling for his key fob to get in. I said, “I got it,” and swiped mine for the both of us.

He then signed in on the same clipboard as I do, a Silver and Fit membership that I get free through my insurance. I said, “Oh, so you’re the other old guy.” He didn’t answer.

I get right to work at the gym. My workouts always start with squats, so I find a rack and start doing warmup reps with an empty bar and then increasing weights until I get to my working weight. It only takes me a few minutes and I’m ready to begin my five sets of five reps.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him slowly and deliberately get ready to work out. He sat on a bench and unpacked his duffle, laying out his gear. He took off his sandals, put on socks, and pulled his knee braces up. After he put on his shoes he hung two weight belts over a bar on another squat rack. He certainly was well-equipped.

By this time, I’d finished my squats and moved on to overhead press.

In between sets I watched him set up his phone on tripod and aim it carefully at the squat rack where he would be working. He sat for a few moments, writing in a notebook. He found a few plates and loaded up the bar. Finally, he started doing a few warmup repetitions.

Having finished my presses, I moved on to deadlift, which for me is only a few sets. I was done by the time he began his workout.

I know it’s good to be prepared, safe, and methodical. Take your time, and make sure your form is correct. Everyone has their own style. I just don’t have that much time to be in the gym. I get in and out as quickly as possible.

Some people say they don’t have time to work out. Guess why?

Posted in flash fiction, Stories

The plant spies

“Will you take ten for both of those?”

They were my last two plants. Crotons. Each was marked six dollars. I had been out there all morning, so I was ready to call it a day. I said, “Sure,” stuffed the ten in my pocked, folded up the table and headed inside.

I wish I had thought of this before. Just piggyback on the neighbor’s yard sale. Every one walked by the table on the way to their cars, and many stopped to look – and buy. Plus, it was nearly pure profit. I propagated plants in pots I already had. Some I grew from seeds. A few had blossoms on them. Those always go first.

But that’s not the best part.

A few hours later, I opened up my laptop to see where the plants had ended up. The map was speckled with green dots. Some were still. Others were moving quickly on highways. Each nanobot, absorbed from the soil through the roots, gave me real time GPS locations.

I clicked on one about a mile from my house, opening up a small window on my screen. Another click, and I had access to the home wifi. I only had to run the password generator for a few second, and then I could login. Sweet. Someone was streaming a movie. Another was playing an online game. A voice asked “What’s the temperature outside?” Of course, someone was shopping. Someone is always shopping.

Must be a do-it-yourselfer. They had a nail gun and a miter saw in their shopping cart. Just before they clicked Buy Now, I changed the shipping address. In a few days, the box would arrive at my Amazon pickup location. Sweet.

I closed that window and clicked another green spot on the map. This time I caught a login and password for a streaming service I’ve wanted to try. Finally, something different to watch tonight.

Okay, one more. Wow, that one’s about twenty-five miles away. I’m just going to have fun with this one. I turned up the wifi thermostat. They’ll be sweating pretty soon.

Each nanobot has enough power for a single task. I’ll look at some more tomorrow.

Time to pick out a movie.

Posted in neighbor, Stories

For your viewing pleasure: Some cringe-worthy yard art

One person’s yard ornament is a neighbor’s eyesore.

As the days lengthened with the advent of spring, I noticed what looked like a pig in my across-the-street neighbor’s yard one morning. By the time my dog and I returned, there was enough daylight to confirm the sighting. Yes, this five-gallon pig can greets me every morning when I open the kitchen blinds.

Our neighbors have faithfully treated us to a rotating display of horrendous yard art, including a green glow in the dark alien, sexy-legged frogs, and a satanic goat head. They truly believe this enhances the curb appeal of their property as they try to sell their house.

Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention their house is on the market. I’m of the opinion that any real estate agent would immediately insist, “You need to get all that stuff out of the yard!”

My wife and I have already been plotting ways to help that process along. There is a large dumpster outside a house under construction just a few houses up the street. As soon as it turns dark, we’ll just toss it in!

Another neighbor just had a yard sale. Maybe we could take it up there and add it to their inventory when no one is looking.

We thought about putting a “free” sign on it. Someone cruising the neighborhood for curbside junk would pick it up.

On a whim, I put the photo out there on eBay and Google. Nothing like it out there. Maybe it’s one-of-a-kind. Priceless. If so, make me an offer. I’ll figure out a way to get it to you.

Posted in Life, Stories

Tell me the story

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

So as I sat and listened to the story, I knew how it would end. I’ve already heard it four times. In fact, I know some of the details they’ve left out in this rendition. I don’t say anything. I try not to roll my eyes. I Io my best to listen, or at least appear to be listening. But in my mind I wonder, “When will I start telling the same story over and over? Do I already do that?”

Too many times, as soon as I recognize the story, my mind shuts off. I stop listening. I’ve already heard this.

To avoid being that guy, I’ll make sure I ask, “Have I told you about…?” Or I begin by saying, “Stop me if I’ve told you this before.”

And yet, there are some stories we enjoy hearing over and over again. As children, we haul out the same book over and over again for mom or dad to read to us. Or we’ll say, “Tell me that story again.”

Every get tired of hearing the Christmas story?

There are some stories I wish I could hear.

  • I wish I could hear the story of how my mom’s mother and father met. She was a nanny who had immigrated from England. He was a Spanish-speaking machinist who grew up in Costa Rica. While I remember her well, I only vaguely remember him. As I look back at pictures, though, I cannot imagine who these two got together. But there is no one left in the family who can tell me that story.
  • I wish I could hear the story about the birth and death of my little brother Robert. He was born just eleven months after me but only lived three months. As far as I know, we only have a birth certificate, a picture of his tombstone, and a vague description of him as a “blue baby.” He was always remembered but never talked about.
  • I wish I could hear more of my dad’s stories from his travels in the South Pacific during World War II. He kept a careful record of every island and atoll he stopped at in 1944 and 45. But like many veterans, he didn’t often share details about those days. All we have are a few of his handwritten letters home.

The people who could tell me those stories have died. They’ve taken their stories with them.

So I remind myself that these are precious moments. I try to pay attention and listen. These voices are leaving stories behind for me to remember and retell.

Tell me the story.

Posted in Stories, Travel


On our return flight from Dallas (see Back in the Air), my wife and I had middle seats across the aisle from each other on American Airlines. When I asked at the gate if we could sit together, the agent said, “Sure,” and then quoted me some upgrade costs. No thank you. The direct flight to Jacksonville, FL was just a few hours. How bad could it be?

My seat was between a woman and a young man that I believe were mother and son. I wish they had sat together because the mom had a lot to say to her son, who just wanted to sleep. I brought up a book on my phone’s Kindle app and read until the drinks and pretzels reached our row.

The son asked for a Dr. Pepper. I had some ice water. The mom had a can of tomato juice which she poured over a cup of ice. For the next fifteen minutes, like clockwork, she loudly sipped and slurped her tomato juice.


“Look at this video on my phone. It’s so real.”

<loud slurp>

“It’s so clear.”

<louder slurp>

“Do you want one? We can up grade for free. From 11 to 13.” OK, we’re obviously in the iPhone universe. She had a new 13, he had an 11. (I have a 10, by the way.)

“No thanks.”

<even louder slurp>

“It’s free. You can trade yours in.”

“I’m fine. I don’t need one.”

<still louder slurp>

“What about your other phone? You can trade it in.”

“I’m fine.”

<really loud slurp>

“You could get four or five hundred dollars for it.”

“I don’t need the money. I’m fine.”

<loudest slurp>

“It’s four hundred dollars.”

“I don’t need the money. I’m fine.”

<longer, louder slurp>

“OK. Just let me know.”

<loudest, longest slurp>

She looked out the window. He turned toward the aisle and tried to go to sleep. She wasn’t comfortable for the rest of the flight, about thirty minutes. She pulled her legs up to her chest. She stretched out as best she Over and over and over, about every two minutes.

So they weren’t the most annoying row-mates I’ve ever had. They weren’t the friendliest, either.

As we deplaned, she walked ahead, he lagged behind. She was on a mission to get to baggage claim. He was clearly in no hurry to join her.

I hope you two enjoyed your ride together to your next destination!

Posted in Stories, Travel

Blase Family Farm Pumpkin Patch

Today’s outing took us to Rockwall, TX, for a visit to the pumpkin patch at the Blase Family Farm. We had been there before, probably five years ago. It’s an interesting drive to get there. You drive through some really nice neighborhoods filled with beautiful, large brick homes. Suddenly, you see the sign, pull into a gravel lot and you are at the entrance of the farm, just across the street from a gorgeous housing addition.

My daughter-in-law had made advance reservations. They are still limiting admission to ensure a little social distancing. The $9 admission did include a hayride, food for the petting zoo, and a take-home pumpkin. Not a bad deal.

Pumpkins were scattered all over the several acres open to visitors. Lots of sitting areas were set up for family photos. I am not sure if they actually grow the pumpkins on the farm, or bring them in from elsewhere. But this is a popular annual event in the area.

We headed straight for the petting zoo. The first pen contained two llamas. One dominant one bullied the other and hogged all the food. So we distracted him and fed the less aggressive one. Next in line was a pen full of sheep, including one black one. A few little pigs were happy to see us and a donkey brayed until someone paid attention to him. We came back later and made a second round of all the animals.

The hay maze was down the hill from the welcome barn. It wasn’t much of a maze, but it kept a lot of kids busy for a long time running and jumping across the bales of hay.

The hay ride was a nice jog through some of the farm and past the blueberry part of the farm. The blueberry bushes were all in individual planters, much different than the farms I’ve seen in Florida. Along the way, lots of hay bales were decorated in halloween themes.

A little trail off to the side was lined with signs telling the story of Spookley the Square Pumpkin. I think his story is one to support anti-bullying. The older kids liked flexing their newly developed reading skills for us.

By the time we left, this popular pumpkin patch was filled with families. The whole idea of a “pumpkin patch” is an interesting business. My college fraternity used to frequent them each fall in Lancaster, PA. However, when we went, it was always dark and we didn’t exactly pay admission. But that’s another story.

Posted in Stories

Mr. Spider

I almost walked right into this spider web as I was going from one building to another at work this morning. Whoa – ducked just in time, and then I saw this. A beautiful, magnificent and probably very effective web, spun by that little guy right in the center. Mr. Spider in the center is smaller than a dime, and yet, he created a picture-perfect web about 15×15 inches.

When the breeze blew, the web flexed with it, never tearing or breaking. Four or five longer strands suspended the web from the walkway roof between our building. I don’t even know how he got this started. Mr. Spider wasn’t concerned about elegance, just effectiveness when he spun his (or her) web. In the spider world, it’s all about catching food. But to my human eye, he’s an artist, an engineer, and zoologist all wrapped up into one. If I almost ran into this web, I imagine he’ll nab more than a few gnats, flies and mosquitoes in his cleverly designed trap.

So as I continue to be fascinated by his creation, I’m also amazed that no one taught him how to do this. I doubt that a spider daddy or mommy showed him what a web looked like or how to spin one. He didn’t attend web college or apprentice under a master spider. This is what he was created to do. God created spiders with the ability to spin a beautiful web like this!

I don’t know how long these webs last. I’ll check back in the next few days, and let you know how his (or her) trap is working.