Culinary Apprentice

I once heard that the path to success in any work is to find the “best of the best” and pick their brain about what steps they took to get where they are today. Hard work, God’s Will, a great mentor and plenty of presumed failures are all specific answers that may be mentioned in these conversations.

 
With the current situation we are faced with, our oven has surely been working overtime. When I say overtime, I mean like your old man when he walks in the door after taking extra six hour shifts for a week to cover the expenses for your senior trip.
We actually figured out all types of cool bells and whistles over the past month or so that I may never have realized under normal circumstances.

 
Did you know that they make stoves with a built-in light switch? Who knew you could see if your rolls were browning without even opening the Whirlpool?

 
Whirlpool! I didn’t even know they made ovens. Maybe I’m not the only tax paying American who doesn’t immediately think of culinary science when I hear the word Whirlpool. My immediate thoughts progress to an oversized jacuzzi bathtub, the one that may be mistaken for an indoor swimming hole.

 
Our oven is also equipped with a clock and a timer. Both of which you must hold a current mechanical engineering degree to operate. Some sort of combination of dots blinking or not, and pressing clock again to ensure the current time is registered. The power went off a few weeks ago, I set the clock to read 8:05, or so I thought. The door bell rang sometime later, I was still in 8:05 mode. I guess it’s not appropriate in our neighborhood to answer the door in your pajamas after lunch. The UPS Driver’s facial expression suggested I should probably find the operating manual for the Whirlpool appliance we use for the families’ time piece.

 
Either way the stove in our house has been used more in the past month or so, than the entire three plus years we’ve lived here.

 
If we were to have some sort of data collection process of what dishes were prepared around the world in and on top of stoves, I’m willing to bet my 1983 Topps Dan Marino rookie football card that our information would register a record amount of frozen pizzas and ramen noodles prepared in this time period. If you would like a crispier crust on your Totinos Supreme flavored pie, adjust the temperature to 450 degrees and cook for approximately fifteen minutes. Ramen noodles have various flavors that all begin to run together after weeks of consumption. Take my word for it, adding cheese, bacon bits or tortilla chips does nothing to enhance the experience.

 
Plenty of our immediate family members have reached culinary expertise, at least in certain dishes. My cousin makes fried rice that I could literally eat everyday for the duration of my lifetime. My mother-in- law makes a strawberry cake that I would literally consume in its entirety in one sitting. I could go on and on about great dishes mostly prepared by the women around me. These mentors have tried to enlighten me about their strategies and practices, but mostly to no avail.

 
My grandmother would make buttermilk biscuits when I was younger. Rubbed in butter and dipped in syrup, I committed the sin of Gluttony many mornings when visiting. I attempted a recipe recently to recreate these famed breakfast treasures. She did it so gracefully. I don’t remember her kitchen looking like someone hid an explosive devise in the baking cabinet. Flour on the counter, all over the floor, in the utensil drawer and I believe the dog’s water included a sheet like film of white dust.

 
The recipe called for me to pour buttermilk into the flour and mix by hand. I never liked swimming in rivers or ponds due to the texture of the floor beneath the water. So much so that I actually wore tennis shoes when I swam with friends in these situations. Now they are asking me to put my hand into a similar consistency. Bake at 500 degrees. That’s something new, not sure I was aware of the capability of our household range reaching that temperature.

 
The finished product wouldn’t have passed the appearance criteria in Baking 101 and the taste wasn’t exactly how I remembered, but a valiant effort for my first attempt.

 
Hey, at least the oven was used for something besides displaying the time of day.

Before You Tie the Knot

 

I am not licensed to give any type of therapy sessions related to marriage. No one is offering me hundreds of dollars per hour to sit on a couch in a small room for input on how to deal with issues that go along with transforming from two individuals to a functioning couple. However, after reading this work I can provide PayPal account information if you feel led to donate.

Any of you potential grooms out there, I’m going to give you a few scenarios that maybe you haven’t thought of that could potentially prepare you for this important path.

Be prepared to continuously move the toilet seat up and down when using the restroom. Remember this, if not you may wake up to a splash and screams in the wee hours of the morning. What follows is an invitation to take a trip to the luxurious resort inside your living room named “Le Couch.” I never quite understood why the females of the house wouldn’t return the favor of lifting the toilet lid back towards the tank when they have completed their experience. I mean that’s only fair, right?

Be prepared for magnificent date nights. You know with candle lights, flowers, freshly made hors d’ oeuvres, the finest steaks and the finest service that you can think of. All of that may well be the case in some households, but I’m going to give you a clearer picture of what happens more often than not. Babe, let’s get something to eat tonight. Oh, you don’t care where we go or what eat. Ok, I’ll make arrangements for around seven. At approximately 6:53, you will still be sitting on “Le Couch” waiting for your significant other to complete last minute make-up and hair adjustments. Upon arrival at the dining establishment at approximately 7:15, we find out that our reservations have been given to another couple. It was probably a good thing anyhow, come to find out, she doesn’t find the local Waffle House a desirable destination for a date night. So, for the next thirty to forty-five minutes, you will ride around arguing about eating at a place called “I Don’t Care,” only to arrive and find out that wasn’t the exact “I Don’t Care” that she fancies.

Be prepared for two sets or rules. When we are trying to “quiet the monsters” also known as our children for their beauty sleep, there are unwritten rules that the parents and older sibling know to abide by. If you want to see a dark side of the lady of the house, make any type of noise while she is rocking or laying with the children at bedtime. The wife has superpower hearing during this juncture in the evening. Our oldest child had a near death experience just the other day for merely “blinking” too loudly. Which brings me to last night. While trying to get our daughter to sleep, my spouse proceeded to: laugh obnoxiously while attending a virtual prayer meeting (praise Jesus), did I mention that the volume on the phone made the conversation seem as if the Pastor was shouting at me personally (forgive me Lord), and lastly she began mixing batter and banging pots in the process of making banana bread. My life insurance is paid up for instances like these when the tables are turned.

Couples have to make sacrifices and compromise. I hope this has helped inform some of the gentlemen out there what may lie ahead. I love my wife dearly and while some of this is truthful, some may be slightly exaggerated. Proverbs 21:9 states, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. I choose not to live in the corner of any housetop, but if you need me anytime soon I will be at the resort “Le Couch.”

K-9 Family Adventures

Dog people look at life a little different. Let’s take my wife for instance. She is “all in” for allowing dogs to sleep in our bed, frolic over the entirety of our indoor and outdoor furniture, and basically live in a hotel with room service located near South State Highway 123 in Newton, AL. The crazy thing is that she used to be a “cat lady” with little to no interest in the K-9 friends. Today, she painted their dog mansion with a mixture of stain and sealant. She may have obtained more of the liquid dye on her skin than on the plywood itself. Mineral spirits does wonders, but can leave a lasting odor when portioned over the majority of your body.

 
Other than the miniature species, the medium to large dog breeds tend to present issues when trying to bath, walk or train them to follow direct orders. Today my wife and oldest decided to walk one of the land monsters who reside in our backyard.

 
Have you seen the unprepared family riding the toy dinosaur amusement rides at Disney World or even the Go-Carts at the local track? The faces of these passengers in a still shot would reveal a mixture of emotions as the cart seems to be spiraling out of control or running faster than to be expected. The members of our family are not quite strong enough to handle the brute strength of the sweet little puppy as he leverages all of the power in those four legs.

 
During the walk, the smallest of the K-9 babies decided to chase a mere butterfly. He is into capture and destroy methods. We haven’t quite gotten to the retrieve portion of this activity. Insects, small animals and birds, plenty of birds. You can imagine the excitement and barking when a small bird directed his path. Attention to land obstacles were of little concern. The scene was remotely similar to watching someone trying to roller skate while holding a rope attached to a four wheeler: on pavement, through tall grass, down hills and through water hazards. Eventually the pup would come to a halt, leaving the human needing immediate medical attention via oxygen supplements.

 
According to Webster, force is defined as strength or energy that causes motion or change. In this scenario, the pooch forced his owners to move at a pace conflicting the normal rate or anticipated muscular exertion.

 
Today, you can be a positive force. Although the immediate consequences of the trail ride initiated by our lovable pet didn’t seem to be extremely positive, the benefits far outweigh the negative. Your actions today can be a springboard for a better YOU. When you commit to being a positive force no matter the exterior factor, you would be amazed in the change of energy with those around you. You know, do your part to spread happiness. Psalms 144:15, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”

 
Include smooches on the side of the face from your favorite canine and what human wouldn’t be overcome with Joy!

Dear Paw

Dear Paw,
As I walked the isles of the local Piggly Wiggly today, I reminisced of the weekly visits we took to get enough ration to last until the next trip. As a young lad, I could hardly contain my excitement for that trip into town for vittles and to fill your prescriptions. More than twenty years has passed but under the current circumstances a similar excitement for our family exists. Today, this consists of freeing them from the bondage of our homestead on a mere trek without entry into the local grocery store. The kids sit in the car while I or my wife grab the items needed for the next few days. I’m not sure who gets the short end of the stick on this one. “Stay in the car with three kids” or “enter the danger zone where people are disagreeing about how many packs of toilet paper you can buy at a time.”

 

People are being infected by a virus globally. Some people have died and others fell extremely ill. The Governor has announced a stay at home order to help eliminate the transfer. In your time, these restrictions would be relatively normal.
We spend most of our days working in the yard and playing games with our children. We’ve cooked more meals in our house in the past few weeks than the entire three years we’ve lived here. The most peaceful time is when we sit in the rocking chairs on the porch in the late afternoon looking out over the farmed country side: admiring God’s creations, listening to the birds chirp, the dogs bark and the neighborhood families spending quality time together.
Boy this is an uncertain time Paw, but it feels so much like my childhood spending summers with you and your kind hearted bride.
Days went by without looking at a watch or a calendar. Cousins played ball, went fishing, fought and awoke the next day to do the same thing. We worked the fields, shelled peas and feasted on home cooked meals.
We planted a garden last week and been teaching the oldest how to run a weed eater, how to treat a woman and how God is in charge. When you were teaching me these things early in my life I didn’t completely understand the magnitude nor the importance. Now look at me Paw, I’m trying to teach these young’uns of ours about working hard for a living and loving the Lord with all their heart.
After supper, the kids watch a little television before bed. We have more options on the tube than when you were around. The strange thing is we pay for all this entertainment and we seldom watch more than a handful of shows. The subject matter is mostly too vulgar for the kids to watch and the news broadcasts a lot of negative headlines. Shows like “Dallas” and “Miami Vice” have left and came back again, only to fall in ratings to reality T.V.
The celebration of Jesus’s resurrection is this weekend. Preachers will broadcast sermons over the airwaves and through computer screens. Family gatherings with the aunts, cousins and grandparents may be hindered this year. What a great time we had actually communicating with relatives face to face back in your time. We weren’t all perplexed by highly addictive handheld digital devices.
It’s been fun talking Paw, we miss you. I wish our children would’ve been blessed to meet you and hear your stories. Things have changed since your departure, but for now I will cherish the slower pace. My children may actually experience a little bit of how we were raised.
Well, I better go. My wife is calling. No, literally she is actually calling me on that little addicting device I told you about. She is merely yards away in the kid’s room, but this is our age of communication.

 
Nathan

Riding the Strip

In the theme of Spring Break 2020, one member of my family is reverting back to her late high school and early college days.

 
She stole my primary use of transportation to head off to get the essentials at the local Wal-Mart. Usually after she takes one of the vehicles I normally drive, I would have something to say about how extremely difficult it is to get into the vehicle with the adjustments she has made to the seat. Imagine me running late for work and jumping into the vehicle only to find that my knees are stuck in the steering wheel. Now the horn won’t stop blowing and every neighborhood car alarm is blaring. The neighbor is out in his bath coat and has dialed the local sheriff’s department in an effort to catch the car jacker who has caused all this commotion. Heaven forbid we interrupt his viewing of “Good Morning America.’

 
This morning was no different except for the fact that I was not in any hurry due to the observation of Spring Break 2020 by educators across our district. In less of a rush than usual, I indeed noticed that the seat was set in short people mode.

 
What I wasn’t ready for was the volume and vivid beat coming from the speakers upon insertion of the key. I believe the volume goes to a numerical setting of 60 and she was on the verge of blowing the sub’s, burning up the amp and shattering the back glass. I don’t have an amp or sub in my vehicle but the vibrations turned the front seat into one of those massage chairs at the mall, if you get my point.

 
This is where she is having flashbacks from the late nineties and early two-thousands. The first song that came across the screen was DMX’s version of “Party Up,” I can only imagine what type of party was going on in that vehicle. With three children of various ages on a trip to the grocery store, the lyrics mention something about, “Yal gone make me lose my mind, up in here, yal gone make me go all out up in here. Yep she must’ve been hitting that middle aged white girl dance move as she was screaming those lyrics at these contrary young humans.

 
I thought maybe it was a fluke that the song came on our normally more conservative radio station, so I listened through to see what the next song would be. My mouth fell to the floor when the words came through the air waves something to the extent of a poom-poom and shake ya rump. Shake ya rump! My goodness, my daughter is learning a lot in relation to moving her backside in a rhythmic motion. So when our children do finally return to school and any type of activities involving dancing come up, just remember that my wife taught them all of her skills in that area.

 
I flipped around to various radio stations before returning for one last listen to see what type of music our children were being exposed to when I felt as if I needed to visit a confession booth for what my ears had heard. The musician was slick with his words but I did make out lyrics that resembled the phrase, “it’s getting hot in here, so hot.” Visualize the Wal-Mart store pick-up delivery associate (probably just out of high school) approaching a vehicle when he notices a mother of three hanging out the sun roof dancing to Nelly. I mean if it’s hot outside, wouldn’t you consider eliminating outside air and blasting the air conditioner instead of the radio.

 
Regardless of her shenanigans on the strip, the section of Highway 84 from Wicksburg to Dothan (a 15 minute commute), if you see an abnormally active driver or passenger with her hands out the roof and/or windows, don’t mind her. She is merely jamming out to the 90’s Pop Hits on Sirius Radio, trying to relieve any stress related to unruly children or a stubborn husband.

Loyalty

Loyalty

I planned to write about another topic tonight, but my heart has found a different direction. Life is complicated. We cross paths with people in times that only the father knows why they are there. I’m getting older. Friends of mine have passed. I am curious to why they have been taken so soon. When things happen to people who are “good to us” it is hard for us to fully understand.

When I say “good to us,” I don’t mean to sound selfish, but human nature is to cling to those who have like-minded ideas and attitudes.

I am a high school softball coach, but have sought out enhanced learning opportunities of the game through visiting the other side of the fence as a travel and recreational softball umpire through the years. I have learned a great deal of information including the management of the game, enforcement of rules and strategies for game-play for my team through experiences behind the plate or in the various positions in the infield.

More than any strategy or rule in the game of softball, I learned from a local rec. and travel director: a lesson in the realm of loyalty. A semi-final game at the Troy University Complex during a high school travel association tournament left me in the air as to if I truly wanted any part of calling games at this level. There had been a judgement call that could have went either way for a local softball expert, so to speak. This call turned south for the local and his immediate take was to slander the credibility of the said umpire.

I’ve been a part of the game for many years and can’t say that I haven’t lost my cool in the area of umpire’s judgement. In this case, the coach was as far from right as the sun was blue, but there was no telling him that. The game was on the line and he hadn’t gotten the call he desired. I tried to calm him during the controversy but to no avail, he would not back down.

Little did I know that this coach would try to ruin any chance of me umpiring games in the Troy area for years to come. It almost worked, before a tournament director and friend stood up for me in the realm of assignments for future tournaments so much that he said, “ if you will allow these uneducated coaches the opportunity to assign umpires for a travel tournament, then you should find your own officials to work these games.” Not long after, the before mentioned scenario happened and those in charge would be finding their own officials for tournaments. The director hadn’t been on the field that night, but he backed me as much to say that he would stop assigning officials for these tournaments if they banned me from calling. I’m sure other factors contributed to his decision, but his kindness towards me will always be remembered. I was so far from being this worthy of his backing, but he saw something that he wouldn’t back down from.

Today, this father, husband and friend died unexpectedly. We hadn’t been lifelong friends and didn’t always agree when he was calling our high school games, but he knew his stuff. He also went to bat for a young in-experienced umpire that didn’t even know what colored pants I should be wearing for the game. Thanks for the memories!

Seclusion

My wife is on the verge of having a panic attack. Today marks over a week since she has had the luxury of divulging in her favorite Mexican cuisines at our go-to, every other day dine-in encounter. I even tried to satisfy her craving by stopping by the local “Run for the Border” fast food establishment. Wrong Answer!!!! Local National Guard Units are on standby to provide the needed goods delivered to our home to avoid another potential crisis.

I’m not here to argue whether or not the pandemic is a hoax or if you should or shouldn’t go to the local grocery store today, simply to provide a little humor from our household in order to lighten the mood.
With a busy schedule of practices, games and school we would be what you called specialist in the field of judging local eateries. So, when word spread that local stores were running out of toilet paper with a possible seclusion strategy on the forefront, my wife decided it may be necessary to purchase a few items to fill our pantry besides Capri-sun, goldfish and lunchables. Lucky for us, two of our children have stomachs the size of oranges. The initial grocery list should last at least a few weeks. Add a teenager to the mix and I’m not sure how these children make it through a day at school without becoming completely malnourished. Example-Wake up and eat breakfast, walk outside for fresh air- snack time, watch a cartoon-brunch, trampoline fun-more snacks, water break, lunch, craft construction-refreshments, 45-minute nap-light meal, bicycle competition-supper, bath time- ice cream. We are currently setting up a GoFundMe page to support the cost of feeding the flock. My wife even set up a basket of goodies for each kid. The rules are that you were only allotted the food in your basket outside of family eating times. Once the vittles were gone, they were gone for the day. That lasted about two hours before they started sending their siblings on recon missions to the pantry. Alright John Brock, I will distract the guardians while you get the oatmeal crème pies. I will meet you behind the dog house when the mission is complete. Laylah Kate, you start singing “jingle bells” when the goods are in transition.

Hey at least during this time period they were somewhat harmonizing. Other times these children have resembled “NHL Fights of the Week” on ESPN. We’ve had baseball bats to the face, drop kicks to the face, one child even threw a full bag of garbage in the direction of the youngest. However, we are learning much about compassion and sibling cooperation. Earlier this week, the younger two agreed to illustrate their artistic ability by designing their favorite marvel characters with magic markers covering each other’s legs and arms. The middle child actually shared a piece of bacon with his sister this morning without prompting and the oldest graciously sprayed down his younger siblings while they jumped on the trampoline. We won’t mention any details about crying or whining because of shots to the face.

On a serious note, we are praying for those who are working tirelessly to help keep our country safe and those who have been directly affected by this virus. Keep these people in mind when we are quick to complain about our circumstances. Together we can get through this. Share some humor or an encouraging word to your neighbor. Of course, while keeping a safe distance.

This just in while trying to coarse the four-year-old to sleep for the night, she has hidden pink goldfish under her blanket for a late-night grub. She is willing to go to the depths of time-out in defending her opportunity for a small sample of her snack basket.

Traffic Signal

Red= According to how long the light has been red or if any other traffic is visible (especially law enforcement) determines whether or not we should actually adhere to this transportation suggestion.

Yellow= Speed up in order to prevent a few minutes of inconvenience that may exist for the time it takes for the light to cycle back to green.

Green= Squall the tires of the GMC as if we are trying to get the fastest restart time at the Talladega Speedway.

These are the rules of the road according to my wife. Anytime I play conservative for the safety of our family, I get degraded with comments such as: “come on grandpa,” “if you weren’t driving 5 miles per hour under the speed limit you would have made it through the light,” and the best “there is a funeral procession somewhere traveling at a higher rate of speed than we are currently moving .”

What if the rules of the road resembled the game played out on elementary playgrounds all over the country? You know the one, red light means you stop, green light means you take off. The first student to make it to the goal line following the cues of the teacher becomes the winner. If you continue to run when the light has turned red, you could be forced to return to the starting point. I was always so eager to finish first that I would try to get a few extra steps in after the light had turned red. Our teacher would play a sick game with me as to get my hopes up that I would finally be the winner. Just as I would be ready to dive head first over the finish line and receive all the accolades that come along with being rewarded the gold medal of the recess games, she would tell me “son you haven’t stopped on red one time the entire race, go back to the starting line.” If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, right?

On one of the most traveled roadways of the area, I recently witnessed one of those instances that had me scratching my head long after the events had unfolded. A traffic light had turned green and maybe I was accustomed to the whiplash that normally occurs when riding shotgun with the bride, but the vehicle in front of me didn’t budge. I looked to left and to the right to ensure that travelers from the other directions were not following the red-light guidelines set forth by the woman of the family. No ambulance, no hazard lights, a tow truck wasn’t visible, random livestock weren’t crossing the major roadway and ice hadn’t formed on the highway ahead.

Things got worse as people started to scream their tires as they passed our vehicles. Of course, I was trapped because the parade of cars that had grown impatient surely wouldn’t stop to let me change lanes. Momma wouldn’t have approved of the verbal obscenities coming from the mouths of these fine upstanding citizens. Even a few hand gestures appeared, I had to explain to my child how this behavior could be punished with jail time.

After what seemed like the amount of time it takes to boil water while watching the pot on the stove, the vehicle slowly crept through the intersection. Imagine my joyous demeanor when the light flipped to red just before I could continue through the crossing. With horns a blazing from the patrons behind us, there wasn’t any need for my show of frustration. But with the extra time at the light I began to think. I realize the potential dangers in thinking on my part.

All signs are telling us to follow through the intersection as the light is giving us direction. But we sit at the crossing in life with little faith that the path will lead us to our destination. Outside sources tell us what could go wrong or how we should follow the world’s idea of what “makes sense.” We often want the traffic signal to turn green. Then we want God to physically push our foot down on the gas pedal. Finally, we want those people around us to clap their hands and pat our backs with external approval.

All of a sudden, an audible voice whispers from above, “Come on Grandpa.”

FREE CIRCUS TICKETS

The house is quiet. The rarest of occasions in a house of five humans and three mongrel pointer pups. Ceiling fans, sporadic ice cubes falling in the Frigidaire and random truck fly-bys resembling racecars accelerating in turn two are sounds of the night. When the sun makes the next grand appearance, the sounds may be vastly different. That’s when the circus comes to town.
One child awakens from hibernation as if he has slept through the winter, the spring and the summer. The first hour or so of consciousness, we aren’t sure if he is aware of even the major surroundings. Doctors say that sleepwalking is completely normal for children and they normally outgrow it by their teenage years. If the Ringling Brothers came looking for his act, his morning routine would include the art form known as miming, the use of facial expressions and no speaking to get a point across. I’m pretty sure his day begins only after he has made it through the doorway of the school and one of his friends strikes up a conversation.
The next child starts the day off with a smile and within minutes singing, dancing and laughter. Just this morning an animated conversation about our belly buttons occurred that ended with hysterics. Probably put us back a good fifteen minutes on the opening act of the day, but was well worth the delay. A big red nose and funny green hair may be in the future of this actress if she ever hits the road under the “Big Top.” Part of the performance could possibly include pranking of the mime with fake throw-up or squirting him with an artificial flower. His response? No change of his facial expression.
With some prodding, ok a lot of prodding, the last of the three of our offspring will make his presence known shortly after the alarm clock rattles. His performance as the show begins is not more or less entertaining than any of the others, but definitely more unpredictable. Bless his little heart. He wakes up with a top hat, cape and magic wand. I mean there are disappearing maneuvers, toy rabbit appearances, loud noises alongside smoke and mirrors. One minute he has socks, shoes and a matching outfit on and the next there may be two different shoes, a pair of underwear on his head and his shirt on backwards followed by shouts of all types of magic spells and potions. Keep your eyes focused on this character, if not, the clown or mime may end up with a chicken leg in their lunchbox. A raw frozen one from the deep freezer. Definitely entertaining for a spectator, not so much for the ring leaders.
We are always looking for methods to supplement annual income for our household. Maybe we hit the road along with our pets to dazzle audiences with a diverse cast and an amazing product. YouTube enthusiasts are apparently making money videoing their children and acquiring subscriptions. Not real sure how all that works, our kids have watched YouTube for years. The credit card statement hasn’t mentioned any charges paid towards “Ryan ToysReview.” Reality Television could be our thing, but I’m not sure I want a camera examining the length of my facial hair as I transform from werewolf to human and back to howling under the moonlight.
Pray for Patience they said, I just thought I didn’t have any until the Lord blessed us with children. Did I mention the other two presentations in our circus? One performer is a free style dancer who breathes fire and the other is a lion tamer. I will let you decide which one is which.

October

For our anniversary a few years back, my wife invested in a few rocking chairs for our front porch. They are a shade of green resembling the color of Mike, the one-eyed creature featured in the movie Monsters, Inc. Probably not my first choice of colors which brings me to the idea that this gift may have been one of those “US” presents. This means she was dying to have decorative chairs on our front porch and our anniversary was a great excuse to purchase them. Either way they have come into some use by our family when you can stand to sit outside for more than a few minutes. If you were somehow oblivious to the calendar system, we are currently knocking on October’s door, but stuck in July temperatures. The heat is still so bad in South Alabama that we have resorted to using non-stick cooking spray on our vehicle seats to keep our legs from becoming one with the leather.

Back to the chairs. I sat on the porch one afternoon this week and noticed a cloud of dust forming down our country road. The dust started small as if someone had just exited a dirt road, but as the minutes passed the view of neighboring structures grew more and more dim. A visitor to our area may have concerns for their safety due to the limited view on the roadways. Could it be some sort of meteorological phenomenon? A crew of roughneck cowboys riding horses through the countryside? What about Tremors (for the newer generation an early 90’s movie)?

The real reason for the giant dirt cloud is its peanut picking time in Houston County. A staple to the area known as the “Peanut Capital of the World.” An industry that has provided employment and income for many families in the Wiregrass area for years. If you’ve never indulged in a boiled ”goober” as some southerners call them, you haven’t actually lived life yet.

The cloud of dust for me personally brings about a sense of gratitude for the hardworking farmers of the area. But on this day while rocking on the front porch, the cloud of dust takes me back to a coach pitch baseball game. Thirty years ago, the pinnacle of my athletic career occurred on a ball that barely made it out of the infield. The crowd roared with the touching of each base. The game was tied and if I scored we would take home the victory. As I rounded third base, another young lad sprinted towards the plate. In a photo finish resembling the “Sid Bream Play at the Plate” in the 1992 National League Division Championship. The umpire emerged from a cloud of dust with a booming SAFE shout and signal. The Enterprise “Mets” had won the game. Our coach met me at the plate with hugs and high fives. The love for baseball began in that instant.

This week is a holiday in our family, the baseball playoffs are starting. Activities in our house that revolve around baseball include: a miniature baseball field in our back yard, trips to watch the Atlanta Braves, recent inquiries regarding a new cable provider with Dish Network discontinuing Fox Sport South (The Braves Network),  random games of whiffle ball or home run derbies and baseball gloves have a permanent spot in our vehicles. When I have drifted into an awakened state of deep concentration, my wife need not be concerned. No wandering of the mind here, just thoughts of why the Braves haven’t traded for a big name closer or if I could beat the “Freeze” between innings at one of their games.

Time has moved quickly. The dust has settled. My cleats have been retired for a number of years. We have a teenager now. When memories are all that are left from a time long passed, may there be an abundance of hugs, love, high fives, peanut boils, afternoon baseball games, concession food and laughter, plenty of laughter, when reflecting on our time together. Love, DAD