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I’m Becoming the Grumpy Old Neighbor…

This past holiday I realized that I am quickly becoming the grumpy old neighbor that I used to despise during my own childhood. For example, I like to go to bed around 9:30 or so most work nights and was recently confronted with a situation that made me question my patriotism and my general nice-guy disposition.

Since the Fourth of July fell on a Tuesday this year, most of America still had to go to work the following Wednesday morning. At least that was my initial thought until my neighbor started lighting fireworks in the road around 10 PM. What job afforded them the opportunity to stay up late, drink beer and shoot off fireworks late into the night? Oh yeah, he is a police officer. Yep, my nuisance neighbor is a cop. I was unprepared to deal with this situation. I can imagine how the conversation would have played out.

Here is me walking out in my shorts, flip-flops and a tee shirt to the middle of the cul-de-sac to confront the noise offender.

“Um sir, I know it’s Independence Day and all but do you know how long you are going to keep shooting off fireworks? I mean I love our country and all but I do need to get up pretty early tomorrow and the noise and light of the fireworks you’re shooting off is keeping my wife and me up.”

“What?” he responds with a stifled belch and a stupefied expression on his face.

“You know, the fireworks that your lighting off in the middle of the street. They’re kind of loud and bright and it’s keeping us up.”

“Oh those. Don’t you want to celebrate the Fourth of July?”

“I mean I do, or rather I did a couple of hours ago, but now I just want to go to sleep.”

“Oh, well I don’t have too many left and my kids really are enjoying the show. How about we knock it off before midnight?”

“Midnight? Yeah I guess that sounds reasonable. I mean it’s not too late I guess.”

And then I would go back inside and grumble to my wife exactly how midnight was not a reasonable hour and the guy should stop shooting off fireworks immediately.

So instead, I did nothing- except close the blinds as far as they would go down and think evil thoughts about my neighbor accidentally catching his roof or garage on fire. I mean, I didn’t really have any other feasible options as I saw it.

Should I have called the cops on their fellow officer and complain about his illegal firework show- on the Fourth no less? I’m sure that would have gone over like a ton of bricks.

“Oh hey man! It’s you.” the police officer says to my neighbor as he pulls up in the cruiser. “We got a complaint from someone in the neighborhood about you shooting off fireworks.”

“On the Fourth of July?” my neighbor asks incredulously. “What kind of unpatriotic shit would complain about shooting off some fireworks on the birthday of America?”

“Apparently one of your neighbors. To be honest we drove out here as a courtesy but we are way too busy with real crime to be concerned about a little display of patriotism. Just do us a favor and try and wrap it up sometime before midnight.”

Pretty much the same outcome but now my neighbor knows that someone was annoyed enough to call the police on him and he will probably figure out who it was pretty quickly. Just what I need, a cop with a grudge against me living a few hundred feet from my house.

So I opted for the least confrontational option and will instead secretly harbor resentment towards my neighbor for months to come. That seems like the true American way. Or at least the Mind of Drunkle way.


Cleansing Your Aura…

Life is seldom boring. Take today for example. It was an average work day until one of my coworkers started passing out little plastic bubble tubes for her “cleansing ritual.”

If anything about that last sentence confuses you, rest assured knowing that I was also as equally confused when it happened. Apparently this employee had some “bad aura” that she felt the need to be cleansed of and the ritual that she decided to use to cleanse herself of this bad juju required her coworkers to at some point blow bubbles towards her.

There wasn’t much else by way of explanation. I guess most of us deemed it impolite to inquire exactly why she felt the need to be cleansed of this bad aura but we were all definitely wondering what this employee had done in order to dictate that a cleansing ritual was needed at all. Was she mixed up in some kind of witch’s hex? Did she play with a Ouija board and inadvertently caught the eye of some malevolent spirit? Or did she simply break a mirror or have a black cat cross her path?

We all had lots of questions. Answers to those questions were less forthcoming. You have to imagine the scene. We work in a typical office setting with rows of cubicles and this woman starts passing out white little vials of bubble solution with hearts on top of the wands to her coworkers in the middle of the work day. The bubbles were obviously intended for a wedding and she tells us they are for her cleansing ritual.

“Here. These are for my cleansing ceremony.” she stated as she passed the bubbles out to each one of us.

“Um, okay.” I didn’t really know how else to respond.

“They’re for later.” she chided another of my other coworkers that had started blowing some bubbles right away.

And so we returned to work with bubble tubes sitting on our desks. Then about an hour or two later, she called us together to tell us it was time. I was unfortunately on a teleconference at the moment so I couldn’t actively participate in the ceremony although I did watch with some amusement as the event played itself out.

Step 1

Get a coworker to hold an egg and then pass it around your head a couple of times while reciting some kind of incantation about negative energy.

Step 2

Have the same lucky employee waive a sage bundle around your body while reciting some other equally esoteric phrases.

Step 3

Invite the rest of your coworkers to form a circle around you and blow their bubbles towards you as you stand in the middle.

Needless to say, I have lots of questions. Here are just some of the things that I would like to get answers to:

  1. Does the color of the egg matter? Does it have to be a white egg or could it be brown? Does it matter if it’s hard-boiled?
  2. Shouldn’t the sage bundle have been smoldering? In every horror movie that I’ve seen that used sage as a cleansing agent, it is always smoldering and emitting some bluish smoke. Does the ceremony still work even though it wasn’t on fire? Would it have been preferable to be smoldering but the building’s fire code prevented that?
  3. Was it actually sage that was used? I was standing a fair distance away, but it kind of looked like she used a stalk of celery instead. Would that have changed the result of the cleansing?
  4. What is the significance of the bubbles and what role do they play in the cleansing?
  5. How the hell do you know that the cleansing worked? Do you have to pop a certain number of bubbles to ensure the ritual was effective?
  6. What possessed this employee to think that her coworkers would be amenable to this type of nonsense?

After some very brief research (meaning one Google search,) it appears that this ritual is actually a thing. Although to be fair, my first result was entitled The Gypsy’s Tricks for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection. After reading this article, I am surprisingly still not convinced that this ritual has any real or measurable effect- other than reinforcing your coworkers belief that you are mentally unhinged.

All that being said, one benefit I did get out of this little ceremony was that I do find it immensely entertaining to think of what trio of components and objects I would include if I were to have a ceremony to cleanse my own aura. So far, my top favorites are a cantaloupe, a pitch pipe and an old pair of shoes. Or maybe a snorkel, a Bavarian pretzel and mosquito repellent. Or a doorknob, a #2 pencil and uncooked wild rice. Because, let’s be honest here, if I am going to enlist my coworkers to help me participate in some nonsensical bullshit ritual, I’m at least going to try and make it more interesting.

The Joys of Gardening

This year I have decided to try my hand at gardening. But just not any type of gardening. No, I decided that if I was going to try and grow some vegetables and spices, I was going to go about it the right way. Enter “Square Foot Gardening.” For the uninitiated, Square Foot Gardening is a method of gardening developed by Mel Bartholomew that promises to “grow more in less space.”

The basic concepts are pretty simple and can easily be summarized in several key points:

  • Plant in raised beds. Basically this means instead of trying to plant your vegetables or flowers in the ground, Mel suggests creating structures above the ground that hold your soil. The simplest structures are really boxes without bottoms constructed out of four boards that form a four by four foot square that has a total area of 16 square feet of growing space and are filled 6 inches deep with “soil.”
  • Use Mel’s Mix. He also advocates that instead of using simple potting soil or your garden’s top soil for planting, you should use a special mix of one-thirds compost, peat-moss and vermiculite as your soil medium. The idea is that this well-balanced “soil” will have all of the nutrients required to grow your plants, be able to retain moisture due to the high peat-moss and vermiculite content and still be friable enough for the plants to take root and flourish.
  • Space your plants according to his recommendations on a square foot grid system. Here is where the method gets it’s name. Mel proposes that to ensure optimal growth and yield, you should follow his carefully researched system of how many plants should be included in each square foot of your garden. For example, larger plants such as broccoli should each have an entire square foot to themselves- so one broccoli plant in the center of a twelve by twelve inch square. Smaller plants such as onions should be planted 16 to a square foot or spaced evenly 3 inches apart.

And that’s pretty much it. Sure, Mel goes into much more detail and provides expert advice about rotating crops, when to harvest and plant specific vegetables, how to create structures for climbing vegetables and a whole host of other useful information but the main ideas are surprisingly simple.

The benefits to this method are that you don’t have to worry about trying to improve your existing soil via fertilizer or tilling, weeding becomes much easier as it is readily apparent which plants are weeds and which are your desirable flowers or vegetables since the plants you are raising are all planted in a nice grid, and you have positioned your plants to produce the most yield without worrying about overcrowding or nutrient competition and it is much less labor-intensive than traditional row style gardening.

For my garden, I adopted his square foot gardening methods but instead of using a four by four grid, I used two waist high planters that are about 1 foot wide by 3 feet long. In this arrangement, I have planted 3 tomato plants, cilantro, rosemary, spearmint, chives, and oregano, as well as multiple varieties of peppers including tabasco, serrano, banana and ghost peppers. As you can tell, I went heavy on the peppers- mostly because I don’t care for many other types of vegetables but mainly because my wife really enjoys spicy food.

So what joys are there in growing your own spices and vegetables? I can count several. There is something inherently satisfying knowing that you can actually grow things that you can eat. It is also pleasurable to see the progress of your vegetables. I check my plants daily and watch over them like a mother hen over her chicks. Any signs of sickness or bugs cause concern whereas watching a pepper growing bigger day after day brings me a sense of accomplishment.

In this day and age of technology and instant gratification, it is nice to be able to slow down the frenetic pace and enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening. I would highly recommend this method to everyone that has an interest in growing their own vegetables.  It really is something that almost anyone anywhere can adopt to their own space limitations, whether you have just a few feet of outdoor space or an entire back yard.

Now all I need to do is water, weed, and wait. The magic of nature and time will do the rest. I’ll also keep you posted as to how it turns out when I secretly introduce a ghost pepper or two into a crock-pot full of my chili. Let’s just see how spicy my wife really likes her food…

“Let’s Refinish the Table” She Says…

I love my wife. I do not love every aspect of my wife however. For example, she always wants to start projects on the weekends that I would rather rest than tackle her latest time consuming scheme. This weekend was no exception.

This weekend she got it in her head that we should refinish the kitchen table- not because it was in bad condition but rather that she had seen some pictures of some refinished tables on Pinterest and thought that we should attempt the same type of refinishing job on our table. So instead of enjoying a relaxing Easter weekend, instead I got roped into helping her with her latest project. The conversation went something like this:

“So I was thinking that we should refinish our table. I saw some really cool looking tables on Pinterest and I think we should do it.”

“Oh really?” I asked in me best non-committal voice. I already had an inkling then how this conversation was going to play out.

“Yeah, just look at these pictures. Doesn’t it look nice? We could do the same farmhouse distressed look to our kitchen table. It doesn’t sound that hard.”

“But we have a perfectly fine kitchen table now. Besides, this weekend is Easter and we really should take the time to reflect upon Jesus’ death and resurrection instead of working on a project.” You can see my subtle use of religion to try and sway her- she was undeterred.

“It won’t take all that long” she opined. “We’ll still have time to go to church on Sunday if that’s what you’re worried about.”

I was not worried about that in the slightest. I was worried that my weekend of slacking off, sleeping in and playing video games was about to get cancelled.

“It’s really not as easy to refinish a table as it looks. You have to sand everything down and then paint and then sand some more to get that distressed look you like. And like I said, our kitchen table is fine the way it is. It goes with our other furniture.”

“But don’t you want it to be better? Just imagine how nice it would look once it’s all done.”

At this point I had reconciled myself to being sucked into this project whether I wanted to be or not. Once my wife has an idea in her head, come hell or high water, she will stick to it.

This sometimes is a great thing, like when she decides to deep clean all the bathrooms or scrub the floors on Saturday. This was not going to be one of those solitary ventures however. Mostly, because I know that she has a sly way of starting a project, realizing that she is in over her head and then “recruiting” me to help her complete it.

I have learned that almost anytime that she asks me a question about a project, the conversation will almost inevitably lead to several trips to Lowe’s or Home Depot to pick up supplies and will certainly escalate from a few hours project into a full-blown weekend-gobbling endeavor. Thanks Honey. Here are the before and after pictures. I will let you decide if it was worth it or not.

Table Before

The Kitchen Table Before…


And the kitchen table after…

Table After

The Kitchen Table After…

Playing with Yourself

I like to play with myself. And no, I don’t mean that type of play- you deviant readers. Since I was a child, I have continually kept myself occupied by setting up small games that I try to “win” throughout my day.

For example, I try to see how many bottles of water that I can carry from the garage to the refrigerator in one trip. I have found that if I carry them in a pyramid fashion, I can consistently carry 9 bottles at a time and still not drop any. My high score is 10 bottles on one especially good day. What rewards do I get when I win these games you may ask?

Mostly the satisfaction of winning the challenge before me. I may not have a high profile job or a vast following for my blog, but I do find satisfaction in constantly striving to win the games I create in my head. The trick however is to make the challenges sufficiently difficult that it takes some level of effort or skill to accomplish them.

I have also found that I like to create scenarios where there is some aspect of fortune-telling associated with them. “If I can throw this empty water bottle into the trash can from the garage steps, I will be a millionaire one day.” Things like that. Maybe it reveals my goals in life but I find that I often set up games that revolve around money. Or sometimes they are less directly tied to money, but rather to popularity or future fame.

“If I can spit from my porch to the shrub in front of my house, I will write an award-winning novel before I die.” No doubt these games reveal my baser wants and desires in life, but I do find that it keeps me sufficiently entertained through some otherwise boring and monotonous days.

Upon reflection though, it does seem that these games are more of a diversion from setting real attainable goals in my life. Maybe these games display a true weakness. As opposed to having specific and measurable goals, I spend a fair amount of my time concocting elaborate situations in which I have to exert little to no real effort into accomplishing them and my only real skin in the game is that I might have to pick up fallen water bottles.

I think that this is a major problem with much of America today. Most of us are comfortable where we are. We don’t tend to think much beyond achieving something just a little bit better than our current situation- let alone setting goals that will actually improve our quality of life or give us a lasting benefit or sense of accomplishment.

As opposed to thinking of actually rising above our current condition, we exchange our goals for vague, pie-in-the-sky dreams without thinking through how we might actually accomplish them. We tend to think of lofty, easy changes instead of measurable, small steps to achieving our goals. We skip ahead in our thinking to the end result without ever thinking how to get there. It is much easier to think in terms of how five thousand dollars dropped in our lap could change our lives than to plan how we could reasonably save the money instead.

Sure, I would love to have thousands of blog followers, but do I really want to sit down and think of how that can actually be accomplished? The short answer is no. Instead, I would rather dream of the end state instead of planning an actual path to accomplish this goal.

All my life I have been told that I have potential, but potential is not reality. It does no good to dream about making it big when I won’t put the effort into actually planning a way to make it happen. Instead, I would rather play games with myself than putting in the hard work it would entail to make it a reality.

Sorry if this wasn’t the type of blog post you were looking for, but I think it was something that I needed to write for myself more than for you to read. Besides, I am pretty sure that if I can pee continuously for more than 30 seconds the next time I urinate, this post will go viral anyways.

Living with Foreigners: Part 8 – Work It

Spring is officially here in Ohio or it is according to the calendar at least. And while the weather doesn’t quite feel like Spring yet, I find myself already dreading the list of things that need to be done. Pretty soon it will be time to start mowing the lawn again, planting flowers and doing all the other tasks that always seem to crop up around this time of year.

My wife is already talking about Spring cleaning which I admit I’m not sure exactly what that entails but I am convinced she will tell me soon enough. Probably it means that the walls need painted, or that the grout needs redone in the bathroom or we should wash the dishwasher or some other ridiculous task.

Living with foreigners has taught me that no matter how tired or sick you feel, you should still always be working or at least feel guilty about not working. It is as if growing up in another country automatically makes you tougher and more dedicated to the idea that relaxation is for the weak- or lazy.

For example, my father-in-law who is pushing 80 years old actually went out and got himself a job a few months ago because he was bored . This is no cushy office job either. As near as I can tell, he stands on his feet for 8 hours a day making boxes for air fresheners in a warehouse working side by side with men and women less than a quarter of his age. It’s kind of hard to complain about my easy job in an office, sitting all day and working on a computer when my relatives still have that kind of work ethic.

I feel even worse when they volunteer themselves to do hard manual labor in our yard on their weekends. Basically we have a section of our backyard that has about 8 or 9 tree stumps that were left over when the previous owners had all the trees cut down. I just figure that nature will eventually take care of the stumps as they rot and that it really isn’t that big of a deal. My parents-in-law, however, took it upon themselves to dig up each and every stump in the yard using shovels, pick-axes and good old fashioned muscle.

Here’s how it plays out:

I wake up around my usual time on a Saturday around 10 o’clock (or more likely noon if I’m being honest.) I hear the distant noise of something hammering away in my backyard. I look out my window and see my parents-in-law donning gloves and bandanas desperately hacking away at a stump.

“Um, wife- what in the world are your parents doing? Don’t they know it’s Saturday? They should be sleeping in and reading books, not out there in the heat digging up stumps.”

“They wanted to do it. You should go out there and help them. It’s our backyard they are working on.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that is going to happen. I mean, I really appreciate the fact that they want to help us out, but honestly it’s too hot to be working outside.”

So I, being the thoughtful son-in-law that I am, volunteer to take them bottles of water instead and then surreptitiously survey their progress as I finish my morning cup of coffee…

“Abbabiye, what are you doing out here? The stumps will eventually rot away and you really don’t need to be doing this kind of work at your age.” Here I pause and take a sip of coffee. I admit that a part of me immediately feels like a horrible southern plantation owner inspecting the work of his slaves out in the field.

“Well, we got up early and we know that you eventually wanted to take the stumps out so we decided that we would help.” He replies.

Yeah, thanks for making me feel like a useless, lazy privileged white American dear old father-in-law.

Now my mother-in-law stops digging away at the dirt around a stump with a shovel to chime in. “Yes, it is pretty hot but we just wanted to help you guys out since you do so much for us.”

“Ugh. Okay, well why don’t you take a break for a while until it cools down some and then I’ll help you out later?”

“No that’s okay, we almost have this stump out already. Once this one is done, we’ll take a break.”

Yeah, I used to wonder where my wife got her work ethic to do all the things she does around the house week after week. I don’t wonder anymore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a video game calling my name. Besides as I tell my wife all the time, laundry really is a one-person job.

Ruling by Executive Order

Lately my wife has been trying to rule the house by executive order. In Trumpesque fashion, this past Saturday was declared to be a cleaning day for example. And just like Trump, the content of these orders is both confusing and difficult to implement.

Generally the mandates go something like this:

“The house is filthy. We really need to clean it!”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it filthy. I mean it probably could use a good vacuuming but overall I don’t think it’s that bad.”

“Do you have eyes? There is dirt everywhere. You probably dragged it in on your shoes since you don’t take them off in the house.”

Notice the subtle shift from a simple conversation about cleaning into the blame game. Granted I don’t always take my shoes off but most of the time I think it’s for a good reason- like I’m bringing in groceries from the car.

“You need to vacuum the bedroom and downstairs. And then we can both clean the bathroom.”

Now to be fair, I hate cleaning the shower and intentionally excuse myself from this duty whenever possible but I have no problem cleaning toilets or the sinks.

“Once we’re done then you can vacuum the stairs as well. By the way, we really need to get the carpets professionally cleaned. They are so dirty.”

Here is where things get more difficult as the scope of her demands start to spin out of control. Do I agree that the carpets should be cleaned? Yes, probably. Do I think that this needs to be done this Saturday? No.

“By the way, it’s really dusty in here. You should change the furnace filter.”

“Okay, grand overlord. Anything else?”

“Well now that you mention it, I was thinking that we can clean the garage too. It shouldn’t take that long.”

Yep. Nothing like planning on relaxing for the weekend only to find out that it has now been designated as official cleaning days. Then again, she does do quite a bit around the house and I probably should help her out more. And if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, never piss off the woman that does your laundry.