Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gardening Is A Fine Punishment For Sinners!

I know Summer is almost here because my wife and I are arguing about gardening again. We have had this same argument since we got married 13 years ago. I'm quite certain it won't get resolved until we are both dead and standing before the Almighty.

I should give you a bit of background into our dispute by telling you that even though I claim Iowa City as my hometown, I spent my first 13 years in Utah. My wife on the other hand had (up to that point) lived in Iowa all her life. If you are at all familiar with the Midwest, you probably know that agriculture is the driving economy in most states, so it shouldn't surprise you that a lot of Midwesterners are ferocious and talented gardeners. To use a farming phrase, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That's where my wife's story starts and mine ends.

For Lisa, Spring and Summer romantically meant gathering together at Grandma and Grandpas house to till up the fertile Iowa soil and plant all manner of fruits, vegetables, tubers and other fancy and exotic foods. It was a dreamy, weekly reunion and the whole famn damily would hold hands as they'd hoe row after row and acre after acre of bliss wearing old time straw hats and singing those golden oldies of yesteryear. Ohhh yes, songs about about livin' off the land, puttin' yer back into it and reapin' what ya sow. Such a delight! Why the highlight of the day was shuckin' sweet corn on the cob before hunkerin on the porch for delicious home squeezed lemonade complete with sugar cane freshly processed from the days harvest. OR you could opt for the silky smooth ice tea that had been brewing from the kisses of the suns rays all day long *batting eyes*. For additional fun you could stay inside and make MORE memories by snapping beans with grandma over the kitchen sink. It's what they did on weekends... EVERY weekend. When she talks about it, you almost want to run out and buy a sturdy John Deer tractor so that you too can have corn that is "knee high by the 4th of July."

My family also gardened but not ANYTHING like that. There is a REASON why you don't see farms in Utah. Take for starters, that it's a desert here. That's why no one bothered the Mormons when they first settled up the street... no one in their right mind would try to start a community out here, much less FARM. Hell, even the Indians were smart enough to keep moving. Utahn's do however EXCEL at growing rocks, boulder's and other assorted geological formations. For my parents, (who are incredibly smart) this should have been a cluuuuuuue. But every year we would sit at the dinner table and discuss the need to follow the religious advice of our leaders and plant a garden. After all *key dreamy wife music* a garden builds character, togetherness, love for God's creations and of course, self-reliance. Can you say PARTY?!?!? So each year my mom would agree to a garden but on ONE CONDITION. It needed to be small, manageable, about the size of a kitchen table. A few cucumbers perhaps, some cherry tomatoes and a stalk or two of corn... to the neighbors it would look like we were at least trying. Ahhhh delightful indeed! We all agreed that this kind of garden could be LOVELY

I will never forget the SECOND year we gardened. My dad took me on that fateful trip to Sears with two of our neighbors in tow. They got this BRILLIANT idea to all chip in 1/3rd the cost of getting a rototiller. A rototiller would make it TONS easier to unlock Nature's Nutrients by making the soil ohhh soo much more fertile for our coming miracles. I watched as each man studied every floor model, kicking tires, pulling levers and handles before huddling together like hero's of the gridiron and deciding unanimously on the Goliath 5000 Series Rototiller. It of course, was the biggest model they had and took up half the store. Sears gambled their entire years profit on selling just one unit. I watched with amazement as a 50 foot crane loaded the behemoth crate into the back of our neighbors small pickup truck, immediately lifting the front end completely off of the ground. As we drove down the street people would frantically pull up alongside us screaming that he tailgate was dragging on the pavement and sparks were shooting out from the muffler. One of us would always nicely wave back and say "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, WE'RE FINE!" Since no one in the crammed pickup truck could see anything out the front windshield but telephone wires, my dad had to poke his head out the passengers side window to look down onto the street below and shout instructions to the driver on when to go, when to turn and "BREAK damn it BREAK! You almost hit that kid on the Big Wheel!" I really did see each man grin on the drive home, thoughts of a Fall Harvest dancing in their minds.

The problem you see, is that a rototiller that size can chew up a a plot of ground the size of a dinner table in about six seconds. "Hardly worth the trouble of even getting one" my dad would announce. "Shucks, if yer going to spend that kind of money on a tiller, you should get your money out of it and till up something bigger, say something along the lines of a FOOTBALL FIELD." So off goes my dad, donning leather work gloves, old sneakers and jeans to conquer the world of gardening. Secretly, I think my mother was abhorred at what was about to happen, but somehow she managed to put on her nervous-supportive face.

With all the rocks we had, it was always an event to stand on the patio sipping a cup of grape kool-aid and watch the tiller grab hold of a small rock (about the size of a Volkswagen) and practically launch my old man out of his Nike's and through the handlebars. As the tongs would dig in to the bolder, the five million horsepower engine would groan under the weight, wince, and then violently lurch forward, my dad looking like a human flag as he held on for dear life. Much MUCH later in life, I gained an appreciation for my dads athletic ability to not get flipped over the fence and into the neighbors front yard and grotesquely EATEN by the Goliath 5000. In an ironic twist to this celestial story, a lot of the swear words I now use as an adult where learned as a child watching my dad till up the rocky top soils of Orem, Utah. Of course, dad mostly tilled, us kids had the blessings of hauling "God's little miracles" to the rock pile. In the end, the rock pile was the only thing we consistently grew year after year and in MASSIVE quantities I might add.

I have to admit that by the end of the day we did have a serious looking garden. Neat little rows of STUFF planted, dad pulling out little rocks the size of footballs from the tiller tynes while mom watered the seeds. I can still hear the sweet sound of rocks gently tumbling down the now larger and settling rock pile in the corner of the back yard. Even as an adult, avalanches remind me of gardening...weird!

In our third year of gardening, I learned to breathe the first day of gardening all in because I knew this was as beautiful as it was going to get. The problem with gardening is that *gasp* weeds also enjoy the same kind of soil! In most cases, the weeds loved it MORE than the crap we were trying to grow because the weeds always flourished like sin! So a word of wisdom to all you perspective gardeners out there, unless you are dedicated to dressing and tending to God's wonders you have a great chance of growing weeds... a LOT of em. My family was great at planting but mistakenly thought that the weeds would respect the hard work we had put in and whither away.

So here's the crux of my story. Since weeding is a tremendous pain in the ass, this glorious experience was handed out to whomever was in dutch at the moment. See, unlike my wife's family, in MY family you weeded the garden whenever you got into trouble. This idea of holding hands and singing songs ended the moment one of the other two neighbors came to pick up Goliath to till their own rock fields of heaven. Since I was the one who was getting into A LOT of trouble back then, I spent countless days and nights weeding the $*&#! garden! I hated it, it sucked doing it alone and I began to secretly cheer for every manner of insect to devour everything we had planted, including the weeds. "Eat the lot" I would curse. In these hours and hours and days and nights of deep reflections and soul searching I vowed that I would NEVER have a field of Satan on any property that I owned!

So there you have the polar extremes of our gardening experiences. Every year my wife begs and pleads with me to help her start a garden using new Jedi mind tricks each year. This year the justification is "it would be such a great experience for the boys!" It's hard for me to crush her puppy dog eyes and audible yesteryear tunes playing in her head. To her credit she has worn me down to the point where I am open to HER having HER garden in the corner of the yard. But I won't plant it, I won't weed it and I sure as hell won't till it.

So kudos to all of you green thumbs out there who love to stick your hands in the dirt and make salsa out of your banana squash. I applaud your need to get closer to Mother Nature. As for me, I think gardening stinks and I am more than willing to be inconvenienced by the two block drive down the street to find the sweetest tomato's of my choice at Wal Mart for .10 cents a bucket. It surely beats spending thousands of dollars on MULCH and Miracle Grow to plant a bunch of stuff that I am going to never eat and eventually stick in a brown paper bag to "give" to the neighbors. God bless you Wal Mart, you are full of God's abundance and are evidence that the Almightly loves us. I only hope that in Heaven the Wal Mart is as close to me as it is to me now!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yoga, Tai Chi, All Kicking My Ass

My good friend John finally got me going to the gym again. Actually its not a gym, it's more like a 5 star resort. It's truly amazing and our kids probably have as much fun as we do. Anyway, I usually do 40 minutes of cardio a day and then sit in the dry sauna for about 20 minutes and listen to guided meditation podcasts on my ipod. Ohh yeah, Joel has totally gone granola but when you listen to screaming kids fight and bicker all day long, the sound of ocean waves, sperm whales and birds chirping is a welcomed change!
So the cardio thing, well I don't like to run so I mostly set my treadmill for "fat burn" hold on to the sensors and let the machine raise and lower my fat ass according to my heart rate. I also do the bikes, rowing machine and elliptical while watching ESPN on the mega screen tvs. It's nice.

Last week John and I went to see Dr. Wayne Dyer lecture and found out that he used to run 8 miles every day for like 20 years. The many years of ground pounding had taken its toll on his knees and joints so he had to give it up. During this time he found Yoga and said "I get as much of a workout doing Yoga as I do running 8 miles a day." I found that very interesting and wondered if Dr. Dyer was full of crap.

On Tuesday I went to the club and took a "Fusions" class that mixes Tai Chi, Yoga and some
Zen stuff. I got my mat and hid in the back. There was one other dude in there, the rest were all skinny bitches. I think I weighed more than half the class combined. Our instructor was Abbey and
let me tell you, she is some kind of genius. As she walked us through some of the different "poses" she kept an eye on me and sent extra encouragement as I kept falling out of my "Downwards Facing Dog and Monkey to Chair poses." About 5 minutes into the class I start breaking out in this MASSIVE sweat. I thought I was standing in the shower! After 20 minutes I was soaked to my shorts and I hadn't stepped more than three feet away from my mat. By the end of the class it looked like I had been drug out of the pool for lifesaving CPR (I don't think any of the skinny bitches sweat at all). It was amazing and I decided that I needed more.

After the class I thanked Abbey profusely and told her I would be back for more. When I mentioned that I was sweating like a whore in church she laughed and then told me that Yoga is one of the best things you can do for weight loss because it burns fat like crazy. I liked that PLUS the fact she had this incredibly soothing voice that made me want to do anything she asked me. She encouraged me to take more classes and I agreed since this was much more fun than lifting weights with a bunch of fat heads.

I went to a Vinyasa Yoga class yesterday that was taught by this very handsome black guy John. He had the same soothing voice! For a moment I had wondered if I was turning gay because he sounded like Barry White and I found myself willing to do anything he asked just to keep him talking. I figured out later that he had to be soothing because he was laying the silent hurt on me "Now I want you to lay on your stomach and place ONE hand under your belly and lift your entire body off of the floor. This is called the oh-my-hell-this-is-kicking-my-ass pose. That's right...GOOOOD. Now just balance and breathe... YESSSS" Sweat is pouring down my face like a tsunami but I feel impressed to hold myself into this torture position just to keep John talking me through it all "Gooood, YESSSSS, WONDERFULL!" If John had been a jerk, I would have picked up my mat and walked my Yoga ass out the door to rejoin the fat heads.

So does it work? I have to tell you that I am impressed enough that I have signed up for all of the classes throughout the week. My body is pretty beat up today but I feel really really good for the first time in a long time. Maybe it's the Yoga, maybe it's the Tai Chi and the Sun Salutations. I think that has something to do with it, but for now I'll do whatever it takes to keep the soothing voices talking. Yes Abbey and John, I am GOOOD...WONDERFUL....INCREDIBLE...YESSSS!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Forgiving, Even When You Don't Wanna

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you" -Lewis B Smedes

I typically don't like to talk about serious topics, but this one just won't leave me alone so here goes. My sister is going through a particularly hard time with her extended family and the traded barbs have reached a new crescendo. I don't know all of the details about how it started or why, just that my sister is disappointed and I am heartbroken for her. It pisses me off too! As the oldest child, it is my knee jerk reaction to defend my family and wield my sabre with extreme prejudice.

As a close knit family, we expect to occasionally fight like cats and dogs between us, but when the attacks come from outside of our sacred circle they take on a very different element of seriousness. As my mom has said "It's like throwing rotten tomatos into an armed camp"

So I find myself caught between my base emotions of wanting to tear someone a new one versus taking a more Christlike approach to the situation. I was at a meeting once with a woman who was experiencing similar emotions. What she shared changed my life. "I decided that I needed to see this person through Heavenly Fathers eyes, and not my own. It made me change the way I felt about him." Her comment was powerful and life changing for me. It made me wonder, 'How DOES God feel about my enemies? Surely he can't love THEM the way he love ME... but He does... maybe even more... well that sucks!

The scripture of "judge not lest yet be judged" Matt 7:1 rings in my head all of the time. When I stand before my Maker and watch every detail of my life unfold I hope, hope, HOPE that Mercy kicks in. I'm going to need it, A LOT of it because honestly, it's going to be my only chance to get in. In my mind I would like to believe that I have done more good than bad but the horrible truth is that there is some nastiness in what I have done in this old life and I'd just as soon not think about it and just pretend I am oblivious to it What are you talking about grass up the nose? Someone stuck grass up Logans nose as part of Chineese torture? What the hell-Me? Seriously.....Ohh yeah, I kinda remember that... I believe parts of that can be whitewashed but only so far as I am willing to forgive others.

So for the past five years or so I have tried to be less judgemental and more understanding of other peoples shortcomings. It's hard for me, but when I remember to look at an offending person through Heavenly Fathers eyes it help me to soften, to forgive to "let go and let God." It helps me stay at peace with myself. So, if I have offended any of you, I am deeply sorry. I'm trying not to be THAT person anymore.

I have found that all of you are delightful when I choose to focus on your goodness, on your love and how you daily enrich my life. I am SOOO blessed! I have lived a life of abundance, of pleasure and adventure. More is on its way. So God bless each and every one of you. In my opinion I don't think we will ever be able to fathom in this lifetime the love that the Almighty has for each and every one of us (ohh and Dick Cheney too!) Sorry, I couldn't resist. I told you I had a hard time talking about serious topics. Please forgive me...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Au Naturale

Spring has finally come to Salt Lake City which means I have been slowly rolling my shorts and tee shirts out of the closet. I hate clothes, really I do. It's such a terrible inconvenience to be burdened by layers and layers of clothes. Of course, with my lovely physique, I am sure there are plenty of people who are grateful for clothes, and lots of em. Eat cake I say.

Ever since our new back yard neighbors moved in last month, I have had to sneak around my house like a cat burglar for fear of being discovered nude. I never realized what an inconvenience it was to crawl around my own house ALL THE TIME because I am in the buff. Of course, the obvious solution is to just get dressed each day, or buy some blinds for the kitchen but I shouldn't have to if I don't want to right? Damn straight people, this is America and we do whatever the hell we want! Actually, I wouldn't give a hoot if they caught me nude because WE were here first and if anyone should have to buy blinds it should be them, right? If the sight of my erotic physique makes them queasy then THEY should be the ones motivated to board up all of their windows or move back to California. Yes, I'm sure that under any other circumstance they are LOVELY people but this is really affecting me in a negative way.

The quandary for me is that we belong to the same Ward. The thought unsettles me ever so slightly of being in the same chapel with them where an opening prayer is offered, a hymn is sung and I am left wondering if they have seen me in my party pajamas. I think that disturbs the spiritual environment, no? Further, I have this awkward feeling that the topic will be broached in my next Bishop's interview. "So Brother Nielsen, how do you like your new neighbors? They mentioned you a lot... I mean A LOT when they were in here last week... Even their kids talked about you and your family. Mostly YOU, but you know, your family too." It will be at that point in time where he will try and find a kind and appropriate way to bring up my nakedness and will ultimately end with my exclamation "...and if THEY don't like it THEY can take it up with the manufacturer!"
As illogical as it sounds, I continue to look out the kitchen windows every morning, noon and night to see if their light is on and if it's safe to make a dash for the fridge. At some point the law of average will catch up to me and I will get caught. I've decided that is a chance that THEY are going to have to take. In the mean time, I'll keep you posted when their new blinds go up or I get a call from the Executive Assistant asking me if I can meet with the Bishop after Church next Sunday. Till then, I'm going to embrace this new Spring weather, sneak around my kitchen like a thief in the night and most of all, let the rough side hang.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tripping Over Dollars To Pick Up Dimes (and Pennies)

Did you know that it costs our government 2 cents to make a 1 cent penny? Am I the only one who finds that well, I don't know IRONIC? So that old phrase "A penny saved is a penny earned" is reall full of doo-doo because if you have a penny you are costing everyone else two. If you see anyone using a penny you should walk up to them at the cash register, slap them across the face and exclaim "Do you have any freakin idea how much that is costing us?!?" Seriously, the new saying should say "A penny saved is two down the poop shoot." We need to re-write that phrase in the spirit of honesty.

Yeah, I guess that it has to do with the manufacturing process and the costs of material, but when I read that I had to laugh out loud. I am anxious to hear how many businesses out there survive on selling their products at a 200% loss... consistently. God Bless America.

What can anyone buy with a penny anymore? As a kid, my wife could go rollerskating on Tuesday nights if they brought in a wheat penny, but that was years ago and in Iowa. I remember penny candy but barely. I guess that a penny can make you feel incredibly rich if you stuff a ton of them in your pockets. Of course, you will sound like a dog on a leash, but it may make some people wonder if you have quarters in there. At least you will FEEL rich.

I also read that our beloved US Postal Office is raising postage stamps another (you guessed it) penny next week. Have you ever sat next to someone who was trying hard to keep their candy wrapper quiet while trying to sneak food during meetings? It's that slow wrapple wrapple sound that basically alerts the whole room to the fact that you are cheatin before the break? I feel that way about the post office. Sure, what's a penny, but I am hearing the wrapple and watching the guilty face of the US Post Office trying to keep it quiet. I actually looked this up and found out that postage stamps have been raised 17 times since 1974. In those days stamps cost 10 cents. Can you hear the wrapple wrapple?

So I understand that costs increase, but 17 times just seems a waste of a lot of 1 cent stamps. I would like to vote for stamps to just be 50 cents for the next 5 years and be done with it. Like taking off a bandaid, just rip it. It only stings for a minute plus I won't be so annoyed.

My final suggestion is to have the US Mint just send all of those new shiney pennies straight to the post office with a note that says "Here's your damn pennies. We have a variety of ideas on where you can stick them. Stop wrappling your candy wrappers, we all know you are cheating and you are totally busted." I think Lincoln would at least appreciate the honesty.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Drinking and Driving With The Stars

Some people would probably burn me at the stake for saying this, but I really don't like the tv show Dancing With The Stars. Are our lives so boring that we are fascinated with C-list celebrities who suck dancing the cha cha cha? Is tv so vanilla these days that we are raptured with a group of flame outs trying to make one more run at glory?

I particularly loathe the British experts who judge these horrible things..."I tot your moo-ment was bril-yunt and your swoon devyne. Luv-LAY dah-ling, ahb-sew-loot-luh luv-LAY." Remember a long time ago when we kinda got fed up with the British and like fought them? I think we called them the "Red Coats?" When did America decided it was a good time to bring them back and have them judge us on how to do it right? When people talk about the "dumbing down of America" I automatically think of shows like this.

Fortunately for you my brave readers, I have some tv show ideas myself. You want a good show? I have a great one, it's called Dancing With The Tards. My guests would be Bill Maher, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears (with super dumb dancing partner K-Fed), John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Rosie O'Donell and Kato Caitlin. The audience would be allowed to throw Molotov cocktails at any and all performers. The first person eliminated would be the first one to catch fire. Everyone else advances to the next round.

My other great tv show would be Drinking and Driving With The Stars. In this show we get a bunch of C-listers to chug drinks that are invented by the audience. They are then handed keys to a car and drive around LA with a film crew behind them taping every delicious moment and near miss. Points are awarded on car damage as well as the speed in which they get pulled over. Points are given for both high AND low speed chases and BONUS points awarded for LA Police beatings.
The show could even be sponsored by Hyundai or Ford as a way of showing off how well their cars can wrap around a lamp post (voiceover) Ford Fusion. If you drive drunk, we have darn good airbags! My C-list stars on this show would be any and all of the Osmonds (I think Marie would make a FASCINATING drunk), TV Evangelist Benny Hinn, Nancy Reagan, Lindsay Lohan, Hannah Montana and my personal favorite Stevie Wonder. (I think that Stevie would be the hands on favorite to win the whole thing.)

Well, just a few ideas for you guys to ponder. I would be interested in hearing which guests you would enjoy having on my shows. I'm grateful that Spring is here and I will soon be mowing the lawn instead of watching crappy shows like Dancing With The Stars. Although I have to admit that I like the thought of Benny Hinn in a Hyundai racing around LA intoxicated. "Put your faith in GEEEEE-SUS! GEE-SUS is my co-pilot. GEE-SUS will SAVE ME! My heavens, when did these friggin cops get armed with taserszZZZzzzzZZzzzZZZZz? GEESUS!"
Who will witness say-hallelujah?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Certified Pre-Owned, What a LOAD!

I just saw another commercial for a "Certified" pre-owned car program and it reminded me that I had to write about this load o'crap. Why do I need a certificate to know that a car was "pre-owned?" Take a look at the mileage dummy! If it has more than 22 miles on it, there is a good chance that someone else's ass was in YOUR drivers seat. You know what I would appreciate? I would appreciate a full body picture of the previous owner, that would make me feel much better about driving any pre-owned car.

If the mileage confuses you about it being "pre-owned" perhaps you should check the wear on the tires, or that giant coffee stain on the gear shifter. That massive ding on the door and scratched paint MAY have been a freak tornado that just happened to pick the car up and run it 25,000 miles down the road or *ta dah* someone else has been driving it for a few years!

The bottom line is that if someone is advertising a car as "pre-owned" there's a possibility that someone farted on your seat. If they were going to give away certificates, a "no-fart" certificate is one that I would want. "Well sir, this seat has a sniffing sensor that allows us to certify that no one has blue darted on it." Yes Mr. Weasel car salesman, I would like to have THAT certificate in an 8X10 frame. And then I would appreciate a computer print out of each and every time I violate the blue dart sensor. That printout would go in the other 8X10 frame.
So next time someone tells you about their "pre-certified" program you ask them to provide you with a certified Blue Dart Guarantee.