Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Calendar

New calendar time! 
Yea, me!

    I got a new calendar today. I was going to wait till April when they’re cheaper, but Kay told me I could buy a cheap one now at one of the dollar stores. I don’t know how she knows stuff like this. Anyway, I got two of ‘em.

That happens to me a lot. When something is really cheap, I’ll buy more than I need because of the savings. That almost made sense when I was a kid. Over time, I learned that when you buy something you can’t use, you’re actually throwing money away. I learned that, but I’ve always had trouble applying wisdom.

No worry. I’ll try to find a home for the second calendar after I’ve hid it away somewhere for a few months. I’ll eventually find it at the bottom of some papers on one of the shelves. It’s a challenge to find someone to take a calendar that only has five unused months.

Both of my new calendars have 16 months. The bad news is, the extra four months are September through December of 2015. If I tried to schedule something for October of last year, Kay would have me committed. When I walk around looking for my glasses while I’m wearing ‘em, she usually reaches for the phone. – “Please tell the doctor that he’s doing it again.”

Uh, where was I? Oh, cheap calendar. Do you have any idea where one-dollar calendars are made? No, not Scotland.  Both of my cheap calendars have a logo for a company in Atlanta Georgia. However, below that logo, in small print, you can see “Manufactured in China/Fabrique en Chine.” That last part was a foreign language. I’m thinking Urdu, because it’s used a lot in my crossword puzzles.

Hiding the name of the country of origin has become an art form. I was all set to buy a three-pound bag of shrimp last week. I had the bag in my cart when Kay walked up. I immediately showed her the name of a coastal U.S. city printed on the side. Kay took the bag from me, studied it for a minute and then pointed to  “Farm raised in Thailand.”

I love the Thais as if they were kin. But, like my kin, I don’t trust their farm-raised shrimp. I imagine I eat Asian shrimp a lot in restaurants, but I don’t know that for a fact. Few restaurants advertise where their food came from. And, I appreciate that.

What I don’t appreciate is that one of you got me off track again. I was talking about calendars. My new calendars have pictures of landscapes on each month. Pictures on calendars? Who thinks of stuff like that? Unfortunately, my cheap calendars don’t say where the photos were taken. I’m assuming they didn’t want the copywriters to be able to trace the photos. Again, the calendar only cost a buck. 

 The paper used in the Chinese calendar is the thinnest you can find that’s not wrapped around a four-inch cardboard tube and hanging in your bathroom. That tiny hanger hole is not going to hold the weight.

    I’ve decided to hang the calendar titled “Beautiful Landscapes.” I particularly like August. It’s got a picture of tall, pointy rock formations with conifers growing around ‘em. In the background is a mountain range. No idea where it’s located. Unfortunately, the beautiful photo won’t do a thing to make August enjoyable. It’s one lousy month. That’s why the French take off the month of August. They want to sleep through it.

My second calendar has a verse from one of the Psalms printed on each photo. The verses were taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Reading from the King James is like trying to decipher 66 plays of Shakespeare. A tough read.

When I was in the sixth grade, I was awarded a King James Bible for memorizing something. Whatever I memorized has really stuck with me. It was my first very own bible. I was so proud that  I decided to read through the entire book. Started it when I was 12 and finished it three years later. Much of my motivation was thinking that putting myself through such an ordeal might just keep me out of hell.

Here’s an example of the language of the King James. I’m going to read from the calendar the verse for January.  It’s from Psalm 24:1. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” I would’ve written -- “This planet and everything on it belongs to God.” It loses a little of the poetry, but it’s something a kid could understand it.

I’m going to put the Psalms calendar away and use the other one and go with the Beautiful Landscapes. I’m drawn to August. The Psalms calendar? I’ll set it on a shelf and run across it again in May. I’ll try to find someone who needs only seven months of a calendar. Perhaps they’ll be drawn to the scripture for the month of May. -- Psalm 34:4. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Any rewording of that verse would be no improvement. – Next time.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

new years resolutons

swap new years resolutions

    Do you happen to know how many New Year articles I’ve written? A lot. BUT, I have never done what I’m getting ready to do. This could save or destroy your marriage. If you’re dating, this could steer you toward commitment to marriage, or to singlehood. Friendships will blossom or nosedive if you follow my example, here.

    Let’s see… I’ve already forgotten what I was going to say. Oh, yeah, a plan for 2016. Did you know that 74 percent of the adults in this country make New Years resolutions? If you knew that, you know more than I do. I’d guess 62 percent, but I’ll go along with you on this.

But, with my plan, something’s got to give. You see, you’re not going to make a resolution for yourself. You’re going to make resolutions for your spouse, your significant other, or a  dear friend. And, visa versa. The dynamite is in the “visa versa.”

    When I told Kay about my idea, she said, “You’re that tired of the marriage, are you?” Not to worry. When I get something in mind, I’m like a black hole. I drag in everything around me. Just ask Virginia. On this occasion I dragged Kay into the plan.  In fact, I told her to start it off.

Kay wants me to work towards better organizing my coffee making supplies. Ouch. I’ve been brewing coffee forever, and she’s just now telling me to work on being neater. I have devoted one fourth of our cabinetry surface to my French presses, the Tupperware container holding my ground coffee, the metal canisters of  sugar and Coffee Mate. Then I have my new Keurig, K-cup carousal, paperclip box for unclogging my Keurig and my framed picture of Ward Clever. – I made up the last one.

    Some people can make their coffee in a coffeepot. I’ve evolved way past that. I’m way out there. All the while I thought Kay appreciated my mastery of coffee brewing. Now she hits me with this shovel. 

So, it was my turn. I told Kay to work towards being more deligent in checking me out before I leave the house. I am a humiliation walking. What little hair I have is forever sticking out in places it doesn’t need to be. Kay doesn’t notice stuff like that. I have to hear about it on the street. Pants unzipped, shirt buttoned wrong, rip in the armpit of my shirt, chili on the seat of my pants. Need I go on? Oh, remember the time the Courier Wine Guy, uh, Ron Saikowski, stopped me on the street and asked if my wife ever knows what I’m wearing when I leave home?

The constant berating could be prevented if Kay would take time to notice me. Perhaps she wants me to look bad so women will stay away from me. Or, maybe she thinks it’s impossible to make me look better. I had myself near tears on this one.

Kay countered with violent TV programs. She thinks I should resolve to stop watching ‘em. She says they’re bad for me. That they might make me think I’m tough enough to beat somebody up. Ridiculous. When I hear an accordion it doesn’t make me want to polka. 

I struck back by telling Kay that she needs to learn to put stuff away. Of a morning, she’ll chunk a shredded wheat bisket in her cereal bowl, and leave the box on the cabinet. I put away the shredded wheat box 172 times last year; not that I’m counting.

I don’t care if Kay is sitting next to a wastebasket, when she rips an insert out of a magazine, she’ll set it her chair or on the coffee table. I intentionally sit away from the wastebasket ‘cause I like to toss trash into the basket. Napkins, peach pits, junk mail… I’m shooting 31 percent from my recliner. At least I make an effort.

That resolution suggestion won me no points. Kay caught me off balance by telling me to resolve to dismantle the Jungle Gym. That one stung. I’ve been meaning to take that contraption down for about 15 years. I’m never up to it. I’ve had people tell me they’d like to have the wood and metal when I do finally tear it down, but they never volunteer to take it down themselves. People are so thoughtless.

Kay was way ahead after that one. So, I changed strategy and told her that this should be the year that she starts painting again. She’s had little art training, but she’s good. What’s weird, is that her first painting is my favorite. She watches that painter guy on TV. Excuse me a second. – “Kay! What’s the name of the painter guy on TV?” – She told me to ask Ron Saikowski. – Oh, here it is in my notes.  It’s Jerry Yarnell. Jerry lives in Oklahoma, so I think Kay should take lessons a little closer to home. She’s got an arty eye.

I really covered a multitude of sins with the painting resolution. Kay told me that I was sweet. Then she said she didn’t want to do anymore resolutions. I’m fairly sure she couldn’t think of another one.

The thing to note is that it could’ve been a lot worse. Here it is three hours after the resolution swap and we’re still living under the same roof. Not sure about the sleeping arrangements, though.

All in all, I’d have to call the experiment interesting. Your’s may be more so. Please make it a point to let me know the results of your resolution-swap. My e-mail address is at the bottom here. If I get much feedback, I may do a marriage-counseling article next week. That ought to make things right. -- What?


Saving seats

“Star Wars seat save"

    I’ve always prided myself in being a well-adjusted person. Just look at me. I reek of well adjustment. That’s why it troubles me to say that I absolutely hate to save seats in a theatre… or anywhere else for that matter. I’d rather watch your two-year-old while he’s teething than save your seat.

    “Look, we’re going to be 15 minutes late, so save us some seats.” – I don’t care what time they arrive, they’ll find me sitting in my car, ‘cause I ended up a bit late, too.

     Some people enjoy seat-saving. I’ve got a sister-in-law who thrives on confrontation. If somebody says, “Dardon Ann, we’re going to be about 30minutes late, so don’t worry about us.” She’ll say, “No worry, I’ll save your seats. What are there, 19 of you?”

    I just don’t have the chutzpah to tell people where they can and can’t sit. When I was teaching high school, the principal ordered me to check ticket stubs at the football games. He just walked into my classroom carrying a clipboard and said, “Mark, I’ve got you down for Section D tonight.” – Sick mother, dead uncle, night court jury duty… I couldn’t come up with anything.

    I tell you all of that to tell you this. Kay and I went to see “Star Wars” yesterday. The movie has been out well over a week. It’s been showing at The Grand, The Woodlands Big Cinemark, Market Street and probably even the place where you can get a pizza delivered to your seat.

    Each theatre is showing the movie on multiple screens. Do the math and you’re looking at 27 screens showing the same movie every minute of the day. That’s 17,324 people watching the movie every two-and-half hours. (I’ll check those figures next week. Probably.)

    Kay and I originally wanted to see the movie in 3:D. The giant Woodlands Cinemark has “RealD 3D”, “XD3D”, “D-Box 3-D” and “D-Box Reserved Seating.” They also provide “Digital Cinema” for all the losers. I don’t know what a D-Box is. I imagine you sit in a cubical and wearing a helmet with goggles?

The D-Boxes were all sold out for the entire day, so I’ll likely never know. The price of one D-Box movie viewing with popcorn and a drink would probably make a house payment. So, Kay and I decided to go to The Grand. We bought tickets in the place for losers. Digital Cinema. We entered the auditorium with 15 minutes to spare, yet I still had to ask this guy if the three seats next to him and his daughter were saved. They weren’t. Since there were only two of us, Kay got to sit next to the person on the other side of the gap. She likes doing that.

    All was well until three minutes before the previews started. That’s when the guy and his daughter had to take a break. “Hey, save our seats, would you?” That’s what he said. I don’t know him from Eve, yet he wants me to save two seats in a packed theatre that’s getting more excessively packed by the second.

    Sure I’ll save your seats. Be glad to save your seats. I won’t save a seat for my sister-in-law, but you’re special. When the man and his daughter got up to leave, the daughter wanted to carry her Icee or Slushee with her. I had to put a stop to that. I told the guy to have his daughter put her cup down in the cup holder next to me, so  people would realize someone was sitting there.

The little girl apparently didn’t trust me. She gave me the ol’ stink eye and put her cup a cup-holder two seats away from me. All the while I was thinking of the scripture that tells you not to be mean to kids ‘cause their angels constantly see the face of God. That thought kept me from drinking that girl’s medium Slushee.

The second they left their seats, I moved the girls cup closer to me. Didn’t matter. People started coming up the steps to the three empty seats. I was pretty sure they could see the two cups in the cup holders on the way up, but it didn’t matter. Once the previews started, the lights went low and people still kept coming to scope out the seats. I wanted to trade places with Kay, but she didn’t want to move. All of a sudden she liked where she was sitting.

Let me tell you, I missed some really good previews. This summer there will be another “Independence Day.” The aliens come back. I heard Jeff Goldbloom’s voice, but couldn’t tell if Will Smith was there. – I missed the rest because I was too busy saying, “Yes, they’re saved. Three Sheriff’s deputies.”

The husband-daughter combo made it back just before the start of the movie. At that point I had to go to the restroom. I could’ve gone earlier, but I had to save seats. Remember?

Midway through the movie I had to go get some popcorn and soda ‘cause the concession stand was too crowded when we arrived. There were 9376 people in the theatre, yet only three people manning the concessions. When I left the auditorium there were only two. Neither of ‘em would let a customer leave without asking, “Will that be all?”– A guy is standing with three grandkids and asks, “Do y’all want anything else?” -- Again, I imagined angels.  

Oh, and the movie? It was pretty good. My attitude? Slightly maladjusted. 


Christmas next year

“A way to do it right

next Christmas"

    I’ve got some Christmas ideas that are going to turn your Blue Christmas into a Holly Jolly one. I would’ve gotten these gems to you sooner, but I only thought ‘em up yesterday. You can’t do anything yesterday. Tomorrow, maybe.  

    So, tell the cat to scat, and you grab something to write with and on. You’ll need to take copious notes. I’m just gonna talk ‘cause I hate to do anything copious. 

    The first word to get down on your cereal box is “swap.” Or “switch.” Switch or swap; just pick a word, would you?  -- And, again, lose the cat. – What you’re gonna do next Christmas is swap your artificial tree with one of your neighbors. Swap your tree decorations, too. Let’s face it, you use the same ol’ tree and decorations every year. No wonder you get the glooms.

    Or you could do what Big Al does. He and his wife haven’t put up a tree for going on four years. And, it doesn’t matter. Tree or no tree, Al is going to have the glooms come Christmas. The rest of us can trade.

    The whole neighborhood can get involved in this. Take outdoor decorations. If you’ve been blowing up that same yard-Santa for the last six years, go grab the Smiths Frosty and leave ‘em the Claus Man. If you have a neighbor who just sticks an artificial candy cane on the doorknob every year, loan ‘em all of your stuff so he can know what it’s like to have a bunch of stuff on his house and all over his yard. And, you become the candy knobbed family this year. I think you’re going to like it. 

    You can swap any and everything. Have you ever received a gift you don’t like? If not, you haven’t got enough stuff. How about your kids? What percentage of their gifts do they generally hate? Do the eye-rolling thing. Or cry! I hate it when they cry.

Well, here’s what to do. On the second day after Christmas the neighborhood should have a Swapfest. Display all your bad gifts in the driveway or parking lot of HEB. and switch gifts with someone who wants a solar tie-holder. It beats the daylights out of taking stuff back. All I’ve ever done is swallow the loss. That’s why Kay and I quit exchanging gifts.

Oh, and speaking of gifts, did you read about the recovery of yet another Dead Sea Scroll? There’s apparently a book written by Jonah’s brother, Mort. Scribes have divided the writing into 13 chapters. In Mort 12: 17 it reads – “… and so shall re-gifting be permitted among all peoples.” That pretty much opens the door to wrapping up everything in the attic. It will cut your gift buying next year down to a minimum.

The next thing to do to brighten up your Christmas is to kill something. That’s right --  kill, snuff, whack, put down, bring about the cessation of… Obviously I’m talking about family traditions. You really need to let a few go.

If you and your extended family would be perfectly honest with one another for a few seconds, you’d likely find that there are only one or two who enjoy what you’ve been doing all these years.

Do you really enjoy eating over at Uncle Bill’s house every Christmas? There’s no room. And, Aunt Velma keeps the thermostat set on “Toast!” Oh, and by the way, you might ask Uncle Bill how he feels about hosting Christmas every year. You might be surprised.

I’ve mentioned before that when Mom passed away, the Hayters killed off a bunch of traditions. We don’t even know where or if we’re going to have a Christmas get-together. Jill or I will generally volunteer at the last minute. Last year, no one volunteered. I felt so bad about that, that I’m having the gang over for soup and salad the week before Christmas. By sticking my neck out like that, I have every confidence that they’re going to ask what we’re having at my New Years Eve party.

There was one prospective tradition that never took hold with the family. I think it was Jill who had the idea. It happened on a Thanksgiving about, oh, 35 years ago. Before the blessing, Jill said that we were going to go around the table and each person would say what he or she was thankful for. I knew it was a bad idea.

By the time we got to Al, everyone was bawling… and Hayters don’t like to bawl. In fact my brothers don’t even want you to know that they have emotions. They wouldn’t even look at one another until we started playing football. The idea never had a chance.

Please don’t get the idea that I’m recommending you kill all traditions. I just think it’d be a good idea to periodically get a consensus on the feasibility of the continuation of some of your family habits. (What a wonderful sentence!)

So, there you have it. Take these ideas for what they’re worth, and above all – consider the source. Know what I mean? – Next week I’m supposed to come out with my traditional Christmas short story. I need one of those consensus things. I don’t know what you call a consensus with only one person involved. I’m pretty sure it’s not “copious.” 


Lost Maples: Found

    UTOPIA – Adirondack chairs must have been invented during a time when people had shorter legs and walked in a backward lean. They’re relatively comfortable, but a beast to get out of. I’m planted here until Kay shows up.

    Just as I plopped myself down in this rack, Kay headed out to a flat rock by the creek. She said she was going to sit and read. The creek is at the base of a steep slope about 40 yards from our cabin. The rocky creek (or stream) is one of over 100 tributaries of the Sabinal River. The cabin is one of several in the Lost Maples Retreat in Utopia. Utopia is a dot on a Texas map a few dozen miles west of San Antonio.

    Kay made our reservations back in September. Upon arrival we were the only guests at the retreat, and none have shown since then. Had Kay not made reservations this place would be packed. Kay’s interest in the area had to do with the Lost Maples. Lost in the sense that they’re the only big tooth maples located this far east. An intelligent person said it has something to do with the last Ice Age.

    Kay suggested we see the maples because their foliage is supposed to be gorgeous. I like gorgeous foliage, but I was really drawn more to Utopia. I’ve never experienced Utopia… or Xanadu for that matter.  Turns out, Utopia is small town of about 230 souls. It’s nice and all, but it’s not anything like the Utopia of literature. People have been nice as all get out, but they still charge you for stuff. I thought everything was free in Utopia.   

There is a post office  and several churches and a good café. In fact if anything ever happens to the Lost Maples Café in Utopia, the whole town will be in disaster mode. “Why don’t we eat out tonight?” would become a joke void of humor.

If you want to see the Lost Maples Cafe, but don’t care to drive the distance, just rent the movie “Seven Days in Utopia” which, oddly enough, was filmed in Utopia. It’s a story about golf, and stars Robert Duval and one of the detectives from “NCIS New Orleans.”

By my count, 83 percent of the population of Utopia were extras in the movie. I met Charles Bowman in the Café yesterday, and he told me he was in five scenes. The casting director said that he looked so much like a farmer/rancher guy, that he’d be great. Charles said that he got to talk to Duval for at least 30 minutes between scenes. “Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”

Our waitress this morning said she was in five scenes of the movie. “They needed somebody who looked like they had dementia, so they picked me right off,” she said. Then she showed us the look that won her the part. I wept. What a great actress. A lousy waitress, though. – Hey, I jest!

But, let’s get past The Café and the Utopia movie, and get back to the Lost Maples. Kay and I toured the park this morning. It turned out that this was one of the worst seasons for color change in the history of foliage. The reason for that is largely dependent on who you talk to.

One person said that it was caused by the dry summer. Another person said it was due to the fact there was no big cold snap to shock the trees into color mode. All they could do is just wither and turn brown… like mine do.

A co-hiker named Louis Ikerd told me that he heard it had to do with the skies being so cloudy for so long. The leaves apparently lacked enough sunshine. I don’t believe that’s what caused the lack of color, but I didn’t mention it to Louis. He was such a nice guy. Louis and his wife, Diana, are from Harlingen. They visited the Lost Maples State Natural Area, because a friend told Diana about the beautiful foliage… that appears when the Hayters aren’t around.

Kay and I met Louis and Diana when the couple followed us off the trail onto a ledge that skirted the Sabinal River. It looked like an interesting shortcut to me so I took it. I didn’t tell Kay we were off the trail, ‘cause I wouldn’t be allowed off the trail.  The Ikerds were a few yards behind us, so they just followed along like they had good sense.

    Long story short, the river was treacherous my friend. Only the spry, the fleet of foot had any business trying to tiptoe across the jagged rocks sparsely spread across the rapids. Kay and Diana had no problem. At one point, Louis lost his balance causing me to lose mine. We appeared to be wrestling in the middle of the river. I don’t know for sure who saved whom. Louis’ take on the experience will be different from mine.

    By the time we found trail’s end, we had bonded. Like many people do after sharing a life threatening experience. Now, if you talk to Louis, you’ll get a different take on the story, but I’m the only one who kept notes.

    Kay and I were so tired after our hike on The Maple Trail that we decided not to try any of the longer hikes. We missed the Monkey Rock, The Grotto and two scenic overlooks. Oh, and we missed the colorful foliage. I may have mentioned that.

    Even without the colorful leaves, the Lost Maples experience was great… as was everything else we experienced while in and around Utopia. The only downside is the pain in my gut that hit me a few minutes ago. I think I may have herniated myself trying to get out of this stupid chair. Adirondacks? What were they thinking?