A waste of fuel?

This morning at the gas station, I observed a full sized diesel truck left unattended with its engine running parked directly in front of the store's entrance. As I walked up to the main doors, I glanced into the truck's cab to see if there was anyone inside. It was empty and had been sitting there for a while.

I must have had a judgmental expression as I walked by. One of the gas station clerks had stepped out for a smoke break just before I arrived. When she saw me inspecting the idling vehicle with my judgey face, she chuckled and told me, "I wouldn't leave a diesel running like that either."

When the driver emerged from the store, he broke the typical North Idaho truck driver stereo type. He was dressed like an aging GAP model - the kind who probably irons their jeans and polo shirts. And his smile was the definition of smarmy; you could look up that word in any dictionary to find his grin. He winked at the cashier that was outside smoking - despite her appearing to be 15 years his elder. He also motioned one of his hands into a shooting action - fingers pointed like a gun, and even made the clicking noise to accompany the gesture.

Between the smug expression, the preppy clothing, the strut, and the creepy wink & finger pistol flirtation, everything about him reflected the behavior of an 80s era fratboy who has failed to grow up during the past three decades. He could easily have been one of the Alpha Beta antagonists in Revenge of the Nerds. This was not the kind of dude that liked to get dirty. I would be willing to bet the most strenuous work his truck ever endured was driving over speed bumps in a golf course parking lot.

Now you must forgive me. I generally try not to be a judgmental jerk. Yet it happens every now and then. I will pull on my critical pants and start concocting wild and villainous background stories for strangers I find annoying. Yes, I am fully aware that the measure to which I judged this random man in the gas station parking lot is the same measure in which I will be judged.

Yet despite my snap assumptions about him based on his appearance, I still cannot get over the audacity it takes for someone to leave the engine in a hefty rig running for an extended period of time. I find such actions to be mind boggling stupefying. I do not understand.

My argument could be based on environmental concerns. The careless waste of a finite resource. The wanton disregard of the pollution created. But this is North Idaho. There is a significant population in these parts who believe the science behind climate change is a hoax. A save-the-earth argument would fail around here.

My bewilderment is solely the result of pure financial waste. With the price per gallon in a gas guzzling vehicle, letting it sit idle on a mild spring morning is economically impractical. They might as well use twenty-dollar bills as kindling for a campfire.

Last week, when a friend of mine told me she waited in the drive through line at the coffee shop for 35 minutes to get her daily latte, I had nearly the same visceral reaction. Somewhere in my gut, I could sense that waiting in any drive through for more than a half hour with your car running is ridiculous.Park your car. Go inside. Be social. Get your coffee. Even if it lasts the same duration, you would save a half hour's worth of burnt fuel.

Of course, I could be over-reacting. Maybe letting your car or truck run idle for obnoxious spans of time is no big deal. There might be a perfectly innocuous reason this upstanding member of my community allowed his truck to rumble while vacant and awaiting his return. Perhaps I am nothing more than a judgmental jerk eager for any excuse to relentlessly mock a complete stranger.

But ...

I could be right.



Recent personal revelation: when I get nervous, I speak in monotones.

It doesn't happen often. One of the side effects of parenthood has been increased difficulty in certain emotions. I do not scare easily. It takes a lot more to startle me. And I rarely get nervous. Fear, shock, and awkward nerves were all far more common for me before I started raising little humans.

So I do not often feel nervous. Stressed out? Frequently. Anxious? Sure. But nervous? Not so much. I walk a tightrope between confidence and insecurity so deftly that the two extremes might as well be conjoined.

In fact, it has been a long while since I have genuinely felt nervous for an identifiable cause. (For reasons unknown is a different story.)

When, a couple weeks ago, I found myself in a cramped office interviewing for a possible promotion, it surprised me when I was suddenly struck with the curse of Ben Stein.

image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Why? I was confident in my past experiences, qualifications, and ability to do the job for which I applied. Yet once the first question was asked, inflection suddenly became a forgotten skill. I answered questions as competently as I could, but with a flat and even tone that would make any Toastmaster cringe.

I understand why I was nervous. The people conducting the interview were mostly colleagues I have known and worked with for years. I was placing my fate into their hands. What if their preconceived opinions of me skew their views of whether or not I could fulfill the role they need? What if they already knew who they were going to hire and they were only interviewing me as a courtesy? What if I overestimated my own abilities and I am completely unqualified for anything more than what I am already doing? What if there is a massive government conspiracy controlling not only my employer but our entire industry?

Yeah, forget about that last one. Sometimes, I get carried away.

Nervousness appears infrequently enough that the sensation is unfamiliar. But at least I am able to identify why I felt that way. What does not make any sense is the sudden onset monotone.

Why did I suddenly turn into Ben Stein to compensate for my fragile nerves? Unsolved Mysteries.


Worms: A Love Story

My sweet girl, today is your birthday. For the last nine years, I have enjoyed observing your adventurous approach to what it means to be a girl. Living in your world has been a blessing and a constant source of joy.

If I am honest, being the father of a daughter occasionally makes me nervous. As you are aware, I was raised in a house filled with boys. My childhood consisted of Tonka trucks and baseball gloves, skinned knees and muddy shoes. By nature, I am far more adequately prepared to parent your brothers than I was for you. Hair ties and bobby pins were foreign objects to me. Dolls and princess stories were of alien origin.

Yet you surprise me nearly every day. As you grow and learn and mature, you reveal greater insight into the person God design you to be; these changes have provided me relief that I do not need to worry about how to style your hair or squee with you over new boy bands. It has also made me excited to see where your future takes you.

What are these surprises? The fact you know the roster of Marvel superheroes as well as you do the residents of My Little Pony's land of Equestria. Or the speed at which you pick up on the melodies and lyrics of music I play while we drive around town. Or how every now and then, the only song you want to hear is Ben Folds' Gracie because you know it is one of the songs I used sing to you when you were little. Or how you erupted with delight upon seeing the cuteness of a Godzilla shaped money bank. Or the way you vibrate with energy while watching inspirational sports movies when the underdogs win their game. Or in the fierce pride you have for your heritage. Or how you are far more likely to be found playing in the dirt than either of your brothers.

Perhaps it is the latter of those examples which caught me off guard the most. You were never afraid to get grimy. You have always lived as if the most fascinating environment is the ground upon which you walk. Time and time again, I have found you on your hands and knees curiously experiencing the sensation of the earth between your fingers.

In many ways, you remind me of the child I used to be. Watching you explore and play brings me back to the afternoons and evenings I would spend building mountains or digging holes in the backyard of my childhood home. Your love of nature mirrors the summers I spent wading through muddy creeks and wandering trails in the Cascade Mountains. Every time I recognize your need for a bath, I am reliving roles my parents once played when they complained of my grass stained jeans and the dirt in my hair.

However, you engage in ways that are unique. You chase after grasshoppers. You catch beetles and ladybugs. You play with worms. I never did any of that; I always felt a bit of revulsion toward those creepy crawly creatures. You do not share my sense of disgust. Instead, you approach them with fascination and respect. You honor them as important members of creation.

You are not afraid to get your hands dirty. Sometimes, that means you are corralling a worm, picking it up and showing it off to anyone around who could witness your prize, and holding it in your cupped hands to feel it squirm in your palms.

When I was growing up, I never enjoyed playing with worms - I did not want anyone to think I was weird and most girls I knew were scared of worms. Now I have you - a daughter who knows no such fear. When you pull those annelids from the dirt, your eyes beam with pride and your smile radiates joy.

When I became a parent, I never imagined having a daughter would be so messy. I did not anticipate raising a girl so daring and willing to try anything. I never knew I could be capable of so completely loving a girl who constantly has dirt under her fingernails and roughhouses with the boys. You have defied every expectation and I would not want to change a thing about you.

I have learned a lot while watching you play with worms, climb trees, dance at the beach, and dip your feet into the pond. As you celebrate your ninth birthday, I want nothing more than for you to see what I have discovered about you.

You are stronger than you realize. You are braver than you know. You are smarter than you will ever understand. This world is yours for the taking. Besides, you have already conquered the realm of invertebrates.

For you, my love, I wish the happiest of birthdays to my favorite little girl on the planet.


In absentia

This place feels neglected. Somewhere along the way, I lost momentum. My head has been functioning with a series of idioms, proverbs, song lyrics, and silly clichés. For example: When it rains it pours. Which might be my unintentional theme for 2016.

Not that I am letting it bring me down. I am busy convincing myself that life goes on and I just need to keep my head up. It's not the end of the world. We've got to hold on to what we got, it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not. I got two choices when I do this - make moves or make excuses. Always look on the bright side of life. ***

Yet, while I have been away and allowing cobwebs to gather around the corners of this blog, life has consisted of more than me listening to Eye of the Tiger to psyche myself up and bingewatching motivational TED Talks. (Although, I have admittedly engaged in both of those activities.)

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and near acrobatic juggling of schedules. Between the kids being on spring break, plotting and preparing for the looming threat of summer vacation, the onset of warmer and sunnier weather and the adjustment to wearing shorts again, hanging out with friends and getting a jump start on our summer bucket list, beginning a new workout plan, crunching lots of math (yay budgets), consuming my spare time with biblical study and reading my way through the stack of Dean Koontz books my folks sent me last fall, and trying to figure out the best way to cook chicken and rice (my current favorite is steaming some spinach with the rice) ... writing has not been on my mind. And that is OK. Because in this mad season, I have been blessed to spend a lot of quality time with three of my favorite humans on this planet.

I could complain. And often I find myself doing just that. But realistically, I have no real reason to whine.

*** And in case you missed it, my trio of lyrical references were from Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer, Andy Mineo's You Can't Stop Me, and Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. You're welcome.