a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!
Back to Blog
Always read and follow directions; that’s what we’re told. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve also been told that men[TP1] don’t follow directions - and why would we, when we’re constantly told we don’t.
Lately, I’ve found myself reading them more often, mostly for the entertainment value. For example, shampoo instructions say: apply a liberal amount, lather, rinse, repeat. Do we keep repeating until the bottle is empty? It doesn’t say when to stop. On the carton it says to avoid bacteria, cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Firm? How am I supposed to enjoy my eggs over-easy? Apparently, some people read that label because I’ve been to restaurants where the cook had no idea what over-easy meant.
Last night my brother Dan watched while I prepared chicken kabobs for the grill. I randomly skewed meat and various vegetables. “You don’t have a system, or an order in which you put meat or veggies on the skewer do you?” He asked.
“No, I don’t, I just keep adding things until the stick is full.” I explained. “I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it. Just be careful with the mushrooms because if you split them, they’ll fall off the skewer on the grill” Maybe there is a right and wrong way.
With my curiosity roused, I pulled out the package of skewers to read the directions. There were none at all! “Wow,” I thought to myself, “without directions, someone could stab their finger or skew their hand.” Sometimes I don’t read directions because the idiocy is too much for me to handle.
Yesterday, I decided to read the directions on a pail of drywall finishing compound. It says to let the mud dry completely before applying another coat. Really? Who knew? Sometimes the directions are so obvious that reading them seems to be a waste of my time. But there have been times when failing to read the directions, left me in a bad situation.
After a long day of strenuous physical labor, I was tired. I took a shower and went right to bed. My muscles ached so badly I couldn’t get to sleep. I got up, went to the bathroom and took a tube of Icy Hot from the cabinet. I slathered my biceps, shoulders, neck, lower back, thighs and calves with the gooey cream. I set the tube on the vanity, put my pajamas back on and returned to bed. I laid out a hand towel to keep the Icy Hot from getting on my pillow.
The smell was so strong, I thought someone had shoved an entire jar of Vick’s Vapo Rub into my nostrils. The product began to work its magic as the heat was penetrating into my body – more and more. Pretty soon I felt like it was two hundred degrees. With concerns of spontaneous combustion, I thought about taking a shower to wash it off but that stuff could end up running to parts of my body where I really didn’t want it. “I wonder if it’s possibly to apply too much of this stuff? Maybe, I should have read the directions.” I kicked off the covers and turned on the ceiling fan then laughed myself to sleep thinking, “Fanning flames only makes the fire hotter.” I didn’t sleep very well.
In the morning, I was very groggy when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I put the toothpaste on the brush and brought it too my mouth, but the smell of the menthol was still very strong. I set my toothbrush on the counter, put on my glasses and picked up the Icy Hot to read the label and see how long the smell would last, but I inadvertently grabbed up the toothpaste. I picked up my toothbrush and sniffed the paste, “Holy smokes! I just put Icy Hot on my tooth brush!” Try as you may, you can’t get the smell of that stuff out of the bristles. I threw it away and got a new brush.
I started reading the label: Do not apply to eyes, nose, mouth or… Avoid taking a bath or shower within 1 hour after you apply to your skin. Warm water can increase the burning sensation caused by capsaicin. “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t shower last night.”
I read on: After applying the medication, wash your hands unless you are using this medication to treat the hands. “Good point Captain Obvious. Geesh.” Do not take internally. “Well, I wasn’t going to on purpose.” The tubes were lying next to each other, front side down, and looked very similar, how was I to know I grabbed the wrong one? This was not my fault. I determined these directions were too simple for me to read.
Maybe I didn’t heed the advice, always read and follow directions, because nobody told me. Or, maybe they did but I didn’t hear them. But that falls under the category of men with selective hearing, and that’s another story for another time.
Back to Blog
Surely, you've heard the old saying: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. The other night while surfing the internet, I came upon a really cool one. It was a five-gallon bucket with a trap door in the lid. Mice would scurry up a ramp to get the bait placed on top of the pail, step on the trap door, and WOOP! Into the bucket, they fell. The guy caught sixteen mice in one night!
How cool would that be to catch that many mice alive? Especially if you had snakes or other pets that feed on mice. Or, you could go release them in the front yard of your nemesis. I'm sorry, I digress. This story is not about mice nor plotting against anyone. It's about flying pests.
Since the creation of the world, man has not stopped looking for a better way to keep mosquitoes at bay, metaphorically building a better mousetrap.
We have lotions and sprays, but people have become less thrilled about putting chemicals on their skin. My grandfather kept vanilla extract in his tackle box. I applied that, and it only made me want to lick my own arm, and the bugs seemed to like it as well.
We've designed screen houses, but the skeeters crawl under the edge, through the grass to come in and join the people. Another device produces a high pitch frequency that humans can't hear and mosquitos don't like. If we can't hear it, how do we know it's working? There are citronella candles, smoldering coils, and gadgets that produce offensive scents to the little bloodsuckers!
My wife inherited a classic Bug Zapper from her grandfather. It looks like a two-foot-tall carriage house light with small, blue fluorescent tubes inside. There's a wire mesh around it to keep curious people from touching the pretty colors. The openings in the mesh are big enough for a good-sized bug to enter. Once they come in contact with the blue tubes, ZAPPO! There's a quick electrical shock noise, and they're goners. When the occasional June bug or a moth gets inside, it sounds like fireworks on the fourth of July!
The Bug Zapper has provided many hours of summer entertainment at campsites, in back yards, and on decks and patios worldwide; it's a spectator's sport. Family and friends would gather to enjoy a beverage and watch bugs get zapped. Over time, people wanted and demanded more from this sport. They wanted something interactive; thus, some genius invented the mosquito racket.
Having the appearance of a racket-ball racket, the mosquito racket is electrically charged and more dangerous. When swung through the flight path of a wayward skeeter, the lethal contraption will bring the zap to them; the bug no longer has to fly to the stationary zapper to die.
Originally designed to offer relief from mosquitos and gnats, the zapper racket has become a full-contact sport for many. We were first introduced to the device when my brother-in-law Jeff came to visit.
Northern Minnesota is well known for its honorary state bird of jest – the mosquito. Tall tales about how the size of Minnesota's mosquitoes are told. But honestly, they aren't any larger than those from any other state; we just have more of them – a lot more of them.
Sitting on our deck one summer night, the mosquitos started to come out. Jeff was well prepared; he pulled out his racket and began swinging from his deck chair. Pow, pop, zap, zap. "What the heck is that," I asked, and he explained. "That's really cool. Can I see it?" I began waving the device, and the skeeters started dropping.
Melissa came out to the deck and saw me waving the racket. Z-zap, zap. (I got two at once) "What is that?" she queried, and Jeff explained. "That's really neat. Let me see that," she said as she took the racket against my will. I told her I wasn't done with it yet, "I'll be just a minute," she said. "be patient."
She began moving as gracefully as a ballerina lightly dancing across the stage. A few zaps later, she was going at the mosquitos like a ninja warrior in a severe battle. Zap, Zap, pow, pow, pow, BANG. "Weegee! Woohoo!" she hollered in full action. I don't believe Jeff, nor I held the racket again until his visit came to an end. "We've got to get a couple of these," she said while reluctantly surrendering the weapon to its rightful owner at his departure.
On Monday, we drove to Duluth and purchased a pair of the rackets at a discount store. We got two of them for less than seven dollars each. Mosquito rackets are not all created equal, and these were junk. The mosquitos were winning. Melissa went online and ordered a good one. "Twenty bucks?" I questioned.
"I researched them. You won't get a good mosquito racket for less." She justified.
When the package arrived with only one racket, I questioned, "What about me. Where's mine?"
"You have those two over there," she said, pointing to the dysfunctional rackets, "one for each hand." She began swinging her new toy; zap, zap. "YeeHaw!"
Last weekend we were in Mason City camping along the Winnebago River. Our daughter, Annie Jo, joined us at the campsite. I'm sure you've heard the old saying: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. Well, I'm not sure if it's better, but it definitely had more options. Annie pulled out her brand-new rig; Melissa was in awe.
"How much was that?" I asked, looking at the fancy gadget.
"Twenty bucks," Annie replied, "I researched them; you can't get a good one for less than twenty bucks."
Annie showed off her Inteleable Bug Zapper, Mosquito Killer. This USB rechargeable bad boy packs a 4000V grid with Safe to Touch 3-layer safety mesh. (I sure would have appreciated that the day Melissa popped me with her racket, but that's another story.)
Annie's racket has a detachable flashlight built into the handle and another LED light near the head, giving the user an upper hand during nighttime battles. It had more buttons, toggles, and switches than a '62 Buick Roadmaster (also known for killing masses of bugs). Why just its black and blue, sleek design alone is enough to scare a mosquito to death!
Annie switched the unit to the ON position and went to battle, but no sounds were made. Seeking the advice of a well-seasoned mosquito racket operator, she told Melissa, "I don't think this thing is working."
Melissa looked over the high-tech device, "Even with the switch turned on, you still have to hold the little button to charge the grid." She explained. Without supplying a charge to the grid, Annie had basically been beating and bludgeoning bugs to death.
Annie depressed the button and swung the racket: zap, pow, pop, zap. "Now, this is camping!" She declared. Soon the two were in full action. A person passing by, unfamiliar with this tool, seeing two women swinging wildly through the air at apparently nothing, would have to assume they were on something – or just crazy.
After zapping all the bugs, the girls turned on one another. Each with their left hand on their hip, presenting a racket in their right hand, commenced fencing. They would charge one another, then retreat as the opponent advanced. This went on back and forth like a choreographed dance.
With my trusty dog, June, at my side, I sat in a camp chair, spectating. The dual continued. I drank the last swallow of my beverage, then stood up, "June, do you want to go for a walk?"
We weren't fifty feet down the road when I slapped at the back of my neck. In my palm was a squished, bloody mosquito. "Darn it! He got me," I complained. Meanwhile, June was biting at a black fly on her side. "Maybe we should get a couple of those rackets," I suggested to my dog.
"Dad, I don't have opposable thumbs. How would I hold a racket?"
"Trust me, June, someone will come along and build a better mousetrap. It's just a matter of time." We shared a good laugh about that and kept walking through the campground.
Back to Blog
What an exciting time of year. Young men and women all across the country have completed a task that seemed to have taken an eternity – nearly three-quarters of their lifetime. Family and friends will gather as festivities are held across the land, acknowledging the accomplishment of these students graduating from high school. One such celebration led us across the state to celebrate with our niece, Libby.
We traveled to Hutchinson, with our Scamp in tow, accompanied by our dog June and our cat, Edgar Allan. Arriving around sunset, we set up camp in the city campground along the south fork of the Crow River. The picturesque park was stereotypical of the Midwest.
Hot temperatures of the day were subsiding, making way for cooler air moving in for the evening. A young man on the center bench seat of a small boat was rowing as a young lady sat in the bow. She seemed to be enjoying the effort he put into courting her. I wanted to holler out to her, "If you'd sit on the back seat, you'd see the googly eyes he's making at you." But it was probably best I left these two love birds alone.
Geese, ducks, and swans moved gracefully over the water. Cutting a gentle V-shaped ripple in the smooth water, they created a path for their young chicks trailing behind. Flowering blossoms on the trees and bushes released a sweet fragrance adding to the romantic ambiance and feeling of love in the late springtime air. Of course, it also adds to the suffering of those with pollen allergies.
Just before we went to bed, I let June out to potty. I dipped a scoop from her food container in the van and poured it into her bowl, taking it into the camper. I didn't want to have to get out of the Scamp around six a.m. when she woke up and wanted breakfast. I set the bowl up on the counter so that she wouldn't help herself to it in the middle of the night.
We settled into the Scamp with the vents and windows open; a cool breeze flowed through the camper. Eventually, it got cool enough that we pulled up the covers. Normally, I would consider these ideal sleeping conditions, but several factors contributed to me not sleeping well.
I was beyond chilly, feeling cold. My wife struggled to breathe due to the heavy pollen, and June and Edgar were constantly moving about the camper. I could hear Edgar eating his cat food while June kept coming to the side of the bed, putting her paws up on me and giving me kisses. Without success, I rubbed her head, trying to get her to lay down.
I finally sat up and looked at the time. "Four-thirty in the morning," I turned off the ceiling vent fan, closed a couple of the windows, and said, "Will you two knock it off and go to sleep - it's going to start getting light in a half hour. Enough already!"
I laid down and pulled the fleece blanket up snuggly under my chin. Every time I started to doze off again, I swear there was Edgar, lapping up another chunk of cat food, crunch, crunch, crunch. Then, I would hear the food rattle in the stainless-steel bowl as he pushed the nuggets around with his nose, deciding which piece to eat next.
I no more than got to sleep when my alarm went off at six-thirty; I hit the snooze. I planned to get up and go to church early because we had a graduation party to attend just afternoon. Ten minutes later, the alarm sounded again. I hit the snooze again, and ten minutes later, the alarm was going off. "Are you kidding me? What are you doing?" My wife sat up, not a happy camper. "Either get up or shut off your alarm! Enough already!" She punched her pillow a couple of times to adjust it and laid back down. Ten minutes later, my alarm went off again. "Grrr. Tom!"
June was finally lying quietly next to the bed. Edgar curled up between my arm and chest and was purring contently. I conceded I was not getting up for the early mass. I would go to the eleven-o-clock service. I shut the alarm off and tried to go back to sleep, but it was light outside. I laid awake until seven-thirty and decided to just get up. Edgar was not happy with me moving him. "Hey! What's going on? Can't a cat get a nap around here without people rudely moving around and bothering him? Enough already. Go to sleep!"
Edgar relocated himself, snuggling up next to my wife, who was once again sleeping soundly. "Creep," I muttered - to the cat, not to my wife. I got dressed, "Come on, June. Let's go potty."
Outside I took a deep breath of fresh air. It was a beautiful, cool morning; the daytime highs were forecast to reach the mid to upper nineties. "June, let's go for a walk before it gets hot."
Usually, June would be thrilled to go for a walk, but she was confused, "Um, isn't the routine, potty and then June food? You know, the morning meal? Am I missing breakfast?"
Initially, I planned to walk for about a half-mile, but it was so gorgeous, we kept going. June was enjoying sniffing about, finding the scent of new animals. I noticed all the homes in Hutchinson had perfectly manicured lawns; June used a couple of them. Being an advocate of responsible pet ownership, I had "dooty bags" with me and cleaned up after my dog.
We walked all the way to Saint Anastasia Church, where their sign said the mass was at ten-thirty, not eleven like as I'd read on the internet. We continued our quick pace back to the campground, walking about three miles total.
After the forty-five-minute walk, June enjoyed a healthy drink of water. My wife was just getting up; I told her of the time change, then picked up the dog food bowl from the counter and looked inside. I was puzzled, "Did you already feed June?" Melissa said she did not. "There are only five or six pieces for food left."
"Are you sure you filled the bowl last night?" She asked.
"I'm positive!" I replied. My wife said she assumed I fed June and that June didn't eat all of her food. That's not very likely. There was clearly a thief among us.
As the investigation began, Edgar slithered under the bed. "I heard Edgar eating all through the night. Do you suppose he would have been eating June's food?" My wife didn't think that would have happened.
"June kept putting her front paws up on the bed through the night – do you think she was reaching up and taking bites from her bowl." My wife reasoned the bowl was all the way to the back of the counter, and our dog couldn't reach it there.
I looked under the bed, "Edgar," I accused, "did you eat June's food?"
"No." He replied adamantly, "I'm a cat, and cats do not eat dog food. Gross! Besides, you can tell by my trim figure, there's no way I could eat that much food. That dog is a glutton!"
I interrogated June, "Did you sneak into your food in the night?"
"No, I did not. There's no way I could reach it up there, but Edgar was on the counter last night. I'm sure it was the cat who ate my food." June replied with hungry, pitiful eyes.
"Well, a full bowl of dog food doesn't just vanish into thin air!" I ranted before going to the van to get another scoop of dog food, "June's breakfast is missing, and I am going to get to the bottom of this if it takes all day."
When I returned, June approached the bowl sheepishly the way she does if Melissa feeds her a second breakfast, not knowing I'd already fed the dog. "Do you swear you didn't eat the missing dog food?" June assured me she did not. Edgar was now sitting on the bed, "Do you swear you didn't eat the dog's food." Edgar rolled his eyes and reconfirmed, he's far too refined to eat dog food.
Running out of potential suspects, I looked at my wife with suspicion. I was going to demand to smell her breath. She'd already had a cup of coffee and was now eating a bowl of Cheerios. The combination of the two would have masked the scent of Iam's Mini Chunks. Besides, to even ask would be taking reckless chances with my safety and wellbeing.
The investigation was turning cold. Perhaps years from now, we would see the case featured on television's Unsolved Mysteries. In the meantime, I needed to shower and get ready for the graduation party.
The party was a huge success! Libby was on cloud nine as she bounced around the room, from guest to guest, visiting with family and friends who came to join in the celebration.
Her older brother Andy and I settled in at a table near the pasta bar. Elbows Allowed, Distinct Catering provided the meal, and the food was fantastic. Andy and I each had the fettuccini with chicken alfredo sauce. We both agreed it was delicious but wanted to confirm we'd made the right choice – the only way to know for sure was to go back and get a plate of the penne with meat sauce, which we both did. It was a definite tie.
I met Mary, the owner of the catering service. Her breadsticks were much better than mine. I immediately began fishing without seeming too obvious; I tried to get her to talk about her recipe and technique. She was on me and not giving up any info other than to say they make them from scratch.
Andy and I made our way to the desserts. He picked the white cake, where I opted for a dark chocolate cupcake. We discussed which was better and mutually agreed; there was no way we could know without each of us trying the other flavor – so we did. We may have returned for a third and fourth opinion before concluding – it was another tie. Dangerously close to a food coma, we retired our forks. We visited with other guests as they came by our table since we basically could not move.
The party was a smashing success. When it was over, plenty of people stayed around to help clear out and clean up the venue. Afterward, we went to Melissa's brother's house and continued our visit.
When we finally made our way back to the campsite, I let June out and fed her dinner. Before bedtime, I went back to the van to dip a scoop from her food container so that I wouldn't have to get out of the Scamp around six a.m. when she woke up and wanted breakfast. I looked at June and Edgar, both sitting by, watching so innocently – and my wife doing the same. I began trying to figure out what or who happened to that bowl of dog food.
I returned to the van and poured the food back into the big container, "I'm not falling for that trick again." But you can bet your bottom dollar; the next time we go out in the Scamp, I'll be better prepared. I'll put another bowl of dog food on the counter to lure the perpetrator. The trail cam with night vision, will provide hard evidence in the morning as to what happened to the missing breakfast.
Back to Blog
An old friend of Melissa's came to visit – well, not an old friend, but one she's known a really long time, most of her life. They'd been friends for many years before I met Melissa. Saturday, the three of us went to the Anchor Bar in Superior to feast on their legendary burgers for lunch. Later, we would head home and put kabobs on the grill for dinner. I cut and seasoned the meat before we left home so it could marinate for several hours.
a local brewery in the Lincoln Park District, on Duluth's west side. Melissa had boasted about their ciders and was disappointed when they didn't offer their most popular flavors on tap. We ordered a flight of samples and found a table. The ciders were all very good. Even if they weren't what she was expecting, we each chose our favorite.
"They've changed their logo." Melissa noticed while studying the sign on the wall. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, "No wonder they didn't have the other flavors; this is Duluth Cider. We're at the wrong place." We all shared a good laugh about that. We were now committed to stopping at another cider brewery – but not before the girls bought a growler of Trailside and Sour Pineapple Cider to take home.
Wild State Cider featured a live band. We liked their sound and stayed longer than expected. A stop at Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors was also planned on the way home.
An iron ore boat was departing the loading docks at Two Harbors, so after our beverages we drove to the harbor to watch. It was nearing sunset, and the lighting was perfect. The girls took off down a trail to take photos of the boat and the lighthouse. Between the burgers and brews, the band and the boat, and all the bull… oops, I mean stories being told, we ended up getting home way too late to put kabobs on the grill. That was fine; the longer the meat marinates, the better.
It was fun to listen in as they shared memories of years gone by, stories from the past. In a way, I was jealous because I didn't know my wife back then, and I wish I could have been a part of that era too. Sometimes, while hearing of their tales and shenanigans, I'd shake my head and ask, "Did you really do that?" Other times, I feel a bit outside because I wasn't there when such memories were being made; they shared stories so quickly, I'd get lost trying to keep up. As much fun as it is to hang out with them, I try to make sure they have time alone together as well.
Melissa found a cabin rental that came available for one night only, Sunday night. (there's usually a two or three-night minimum, especially on Memorial Day Weekend) One evening would be perfect for a "girl's night out." Melissa and Nicole packed their fishing gear, hiking boots, growlers of cider, and life jackets. They headed out for Hungry Jack Lake on Sunday morning.
At the resort, they rented a canoe and went casting. Casting is when you intended to go fishing, but no fish were caught – zero – not one – not even a bite. So technically, they went casting, not fishing. (Just getting in a bit of jab there)
I had to drive to southern Minnesota and back Monday afternoon, and so I would be gone when the ladies returned from their outing. It was expected to be pretty chilly that evening. I knew Melissa would want a fire, so I prepared one in the woodstove with newspaper, kindling, and a few small logs. When she opened the woodstove doors, she would see my note inside, "Make sure the damper is open, then hold a lighted match to the base and enjoy." But that wasn't the only surprise I would have for them.
While the women were out casting their lines, I was busy at home. I prepared dinner by spearing cubes of marinated beef, red onions, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms on wooden skewers. I covered them with plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge along with cobs of sweet corn cleaned and wrapped in aluminum foil. All the girls had to do was light the Weber grill and throw on the kabobs and corn. But, when old…I mean to say longtime friends reunite, no plans are firm; things can change.
I thought they would be heading home around noon or so. Apparently, the two went casting again on Monday morning (another jab) then headed for the End of the Gunflint Trail. They stopped at the Gunflint Lodge and had walleye chowder for lunch. They explored and hiked some trails shooting photos of the north wood's scenery and wildlife. Later, heading south on Highway 61 along the lakeshore, they went to Cascade lodge for supper. After dark, they got home, and they were in bed by the time I got back.
When I got home, I was looking forward to snacking on leftover kabobs. I laughed when I opened the fridge, "That meat is really going to be well marinated when I put it on the grill tomorrow night." I looked inside the doggie boxes they brought home from dinner. I was hungry, but it was already near midnight, and I didn't want to eat that late.
I turned off the kitchen lights and went to the living room. I opened the woodstove doors to find my fire surprise was still intact. "They must have been completely worn out." I closed the doors imagining the carefree day of fun they'd had, then I went to bed myself.
After Nicole left for home early Tuesday morning, I went to the refrigerator to get strawberries and milk for my cereal. I saw those bright, colorful skewers. "That's a lot of kabobs for two people; maybe I should invite Aunt Di for dinner – but she eats gluten-free." Right then, it occurred to, "Hey, kabobs and corn on the cob – I've already made a gluten-free meal."
I called Di, "I'd love to come over for dinner." She said, and we made plans for five-o-clock. I thought I should make a dessert to go with our meal. I could make my mom's "Berry Patch Treat," but it would take all the strawberries I had. I put the berries back in the fridge and cut up a ripe, half-brown banana on my cereal.
The dessert has to chill for several hours before serving, so I pulled out all the ingredients and got to work right after breakfast. "Darn! I don't have enough gluten-free vanilla wafers, but I have plenty of regular wafers. What to do?"
I worked at Pizza Hut in high school, perfecting my "half and half" pizza-making skills. I saw no reason I couldn't do the same with a dessert – make it half gluten-free and half regular. I crushed the wafers, keeping them in separate piles, and began making the delicious treat.
Whenever I layer the cookie crumbs, custard filling, strawberries, etc., I always think of the scene from the movie Shrek. He is trying to explain to Donkey that ogres have layers, like onions. Not liking onions, Donkey offered, "You know what everybody likes? Parfaits…Parfaits may be the most delicious thing on the whole darn planet." I love that scene.
Yellow onions can be hard to see on a pizza; gluten can't be seen at all. At Pizza Hut, I learned to mark a pizza with two small pieces of green pepper to know where to cut it for people who ordered their pizza with no onions on half. I had to find a way to define which side of the dessert was for Di, but I didn't want any green peppers on my dessert.
I cut some strawberries vertical and the other half horizontal to garnish the top of each piece of dessert, that way, I would know which half was gluten-free. "You, sir, are a culinary genius," I said to myself as I covered the dessert and put it in the refrigerator.
Di arrived a little before five. We had plenty of time to visit while I put dinner on the grill. The beef in the kabobs was full of flavor – as it should have been after all that time marinating. After dinner, I pulled out the Berry Patch Treat. Di's eyes lit up. "I have to confess," I told her, "I didn't have enough gluten-free vanilla wafers to make a whole dessert."
Di interrupted, "I don't care. I'm having a piece of that dessert."
I laughed, then told her, "I made it half and half and marked them with differently cut strawberries so I'd know which side was which." Di wanted to know which half was gluten-free. "The problem is, I don't remember. It's going to be like playing Strawberry Roulette. I wouldn't want to give you the wrong…"
Melissa immediately jumped to Di's rescue, "You remember perfectly well, now quit taunting the poor woman and give us that dessert!" Us?
"It's two against one; this situation could turn unfavorable for me." I thought to myself, "I'd better get cutting and serving." We all enjoyed our dessert, and more conversation while I packed some leftovers for Di to take home
As I slid the meat and veggies from the wooden skewers into a to-go container, I thought about the onions and Melissa and Nicole telling stories. Each story was followed by another and another. There were layers of stories just as there were layers to their friendship. - like an onion, the layers make it stronger. Donkey said, "Not everybody likes onions, Shrek." No problem.
I put two slices of dessert in a container and thought how it was also layered, just like a parfait, or an old…I mean, longtime, friendship. I wished Nicole could have stayed for dinner too. Parfaits may be the most delicious thing on the whole darn planet, but you just can't beat Strawberry Roulette with friends and family - people you love.
Back to Blog
I wrote this story several years ago, but I want to share it again for Memorial Day.
A few months ago, Melissa and I were at a Holiday Convenience Store in Two Harbors, MN. In came an elderly gentleman wearing a hat indicating he was a Korean War Veteran. He was about my height but stood much taller than I in stature. There was a swift confidence in his step and a bright, cheerful look about him. I greeted him, "Good Afternoon, sir."
He replied by shaking my hand, "You don't have to call me Sir anymore; I'm retired from the Military." I recall he had a very firm handshake, "I served in Korea and in Viet Nam. My name is just Carl now, and if you're not careful, I might sell you something today!" We shared a good laugh about that.
Although I don't remember his last name. Carl told me he spent his post-military career in sales; that didn't surprise me with his very outgoing personality. He was very familiar with Ottumwa, Iowa, the town I was from; he had been here many times before as he was a hog buyer for the Hormel Company. "When they sold the Ottumwa plant, I was old enough to retire, but I wasn't done working. I had a lot of spit and vinegar left in me, so I kept working buying hogs for Austin, Minnesota. Do you know where that is?" He asked. I assured him I did.
We chatted for a time; he was a lot of fun to talk with. He shared with me that he was 88 years old and had lost his beloved wife about twenty earlier to cancer. His love for her was still evident in his voice. He never remarried, "There could never be another one like her, and Lord knows she was the only one who could put up with me." He laughed.
I could tell he was one of those guys who has been there and done that. Everything along the way was done by a code of high moral standards. I could have listened to his stories for hours.
Carl picked up a newspaper. Reading the headlines, he slapped the front of the paper with his backhand saying, "I didn't get shot up in two different wars and watch my very best friends die for what these S.O.B.'s are doing with this country." Carl's demeanor had changed for a bit as the conversation turned to one of a political nature.
In his eyes, I could see anger, hurt, disgust, and even a twinge of shame. After a few moments, Carl looked at me, "I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?" I said yes, and the conversation turned to happier topics. As we said our goodbyes, I knew I would never forget Carl.
On this Memorial Day, I think about Carl and all those who served in the Military. I offer my prayers for the Souls of those who gave their lives defending our country – our freedom – our world. I pray for the guidance and safety of those who continue to serve and those who will.
Happy Memorial Day, and Thank You, Carl, and to all the men and women who have served in the United States Military! Your service is appreciated.
That story was written on May 27, 2013. Allow me to continue:
A couple months ago, Melissa sent me a message with an obituary attached; "This is Carl, the man you met in Two Harbors years ago. He passed away."
God speed, Carl. Thank you once again for your service.