I’m Baaaack!

Well, according to the calendar it’s been seven months since my last post.  It was a completely unintentional hiatus, brought on by several things working together to mess up my creative mojo.  Okay, some of it was procrastination.  If you’ve been reading these posts any time at all, you know that’s one of my weaknesses.  Or strengths.  I’m really good at procrastinating, so you decide.

After my mother-in-law passed away, I had to focus more on things at home – namely, keeping my wife occupied so she didn’t have too much time to sit around and think.  We went to the gym a lot, watched some movies, and took in a few comedy shows.  I think I might have been in a few of them.  The comedy shows, not the movies.  Maybe someday.

In May, we went to Florida to scatter Jane’s ashes in the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a well-needed break from the routine, and before the week was out Jane had the last word.  The beach was fairly crowded that day, and we didn’t want to take care of business too close to the other swimmers, though I have to believe they would have cleared a spot for us – real fast! 

So we found a stretch of beach that was mostly covered in underwater rocks, a safe distance from those who would prefer not to know what we were doing.  My wife and I waded into the water to begin what should have been a solemn ritual, but Jane had other ideas.  The first wave that came along knocked me to my knees.  The next one knocked me on my butt.  As I tried to stand up, the waves kept rolling in.  Everybody on the beach was laughing hysterically, and by the time I finally got to my feet I was covered in ashes – my wife had emptied the bag while I was fighting the waves to regain my balance.  As I said, Jane got the last word.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

So here we are, seven months later and I’m finally getting back to the business of writing.  I found out the hard way with my earlier posts that trying to write a new article every day was too much, so this time around I’ll keep it to a more leisurely pace.  Meanwhile, I’ve launched the new Health & Humor website (www.healthandhumor.org).  I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.

Life has had its share of ups and downs this year.  Four weeks ago today I was laying in a hospital cardiac ward recovering from one of the worst nights I’ve ever had, followed by a test that brought me to the brink of what I perceived to be imminent death.  It started with a dull headache that lasted ten days.  I finally realized I should check my blood pressure and it was higher than it’s ever been.  Well, until the next morning.  At 245/157, I knew I had to go in.

One of the first things they did was give me nitroglycerine.  They said it would “relax” the blood vessels in my heart.  Yeah, like an instant burst of air “relaxes” an old balloon.  Pop!  The problem is, my heart needed the extra blood flow, but my brain didn’t.  And apparently, nitroglycerine doesn’t know the difference.  My head throbbed for the next three hours.  Later that night the nurse asked if I was having any chest pain – I lied through my teeth. 

They gave me different medicine all through the night, but by morning my blood pressure was still way too high.  Next came the stress test.  They started with a radioactive dye, then put me on a scanner.  As I stood up from that test, I almost passed out.  Apparently all the medicine had finally kicked in, and my blood pressure was crashing.  I was supposed to walk on a treadmill, but I couldn’t even sit up.  So they finally decided to give me a chemically-induced stress test. 

All I can say about that is I’d rather fall down on the treadmill and get shot off the back.  The nurse described symptoms I may feel, but said some people don’t feel anything.  Well, good for them.  As she pulled the needle from my IV, I thought I was one of the lucky ones.  Two seconds later I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  I couldn’t breathe, I was about to pass out, and my whole body was on fire.  I seriously thought if I passed out I would die.  It was that intense.

The whole time the nurse was trying to calm me down.  “Stop squirming!  You’re fine!”  That’s easy for her to say.  It’s like a flight attendant saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve begun our final descent.  You may have noticed that the aircraft has gotten really quiet – that’s because both engines fell off and this plane glides like a rock.  Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their full upright position and secure any loose items.  We’ll be on the ground shortly.”

After the test, my blood pressure was so low they couldn’t read it.  An hour later, I was finally able to sit up without getting dizzy.  As it turns out, the test was “normal” – meaning I didn’t die on the table.  By that afternoon my blood pressure was still in the safe zone so they handed me a couple of new prescriptions and sent me home just in time for my birthday.

So what caused all the problems?  It was stress, pure and simple.  Too many things were going on all at once, both at work and at home, and I let them get the better of me.  Meanwhile, I had decided maybe I didn’t need all the medicine I was taking, so I dropped one.  As a result, my blood pressure slowly crept up until it hit the critical zone.  If it hadn’t been for the ten-day headache, I might not have known until it was too late.  Lesson learned.

A week after I got home, I took a trip to North Dakota and Minnesota to do eight comedy shows with an old friend.  The shows were great and we had a really fun morning radio appearance with the DJs at Rock 105 in Fargo, ND.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  Okay, the doctor probably would have pitched a fit, but my mind and body loved it.  Since I came home, my blood pressure has been running around 117/70.  Meanwhile I’ve seen my cardiologist, and he gave me a clean bill of health and said I can go back to the gym.  Problem solved.

The point to this is, even a guy like me who makes humor a huge part of his life can fall victim to stress and anxiety.  Bills pile up, vehicles start making noises, family demands increase, and rigors of the job slowly begin to consume what little brain power is left.  And the thing is, none of those things can be avoided completely.  All we can do is find a healthy way to deal with it.  And there’s nothing healthier than finding the humor in the situation and allowing ourselves to laugh.  Try it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and I fully realize that many of my readers celebrate this season in other ways according to their own faith.  In fact, some don’t celebrate it at all, and that’s okay.  I would wish every one of you a wonderful day every day of the year, so I have no qualms about wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  May you find peace and happiness wherever you are.  See you next week!

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Never Too Old To Rock

My wife and I are doing something tonight that we haven’t done in a really long time.  It’s something we’re really looking forward to.  I just hope she enjoys it as much as I do.  Most of all, I hope she doesn’t get a headache.  That would ruin everything.  Because there’s nothing worse than sitting through a rock concert with a headache.  What did you think I was talking about?

About a month ago, I mentioned that my wife and I were going to see Bob Seger.  Well, tonight’s the night.  For us, it’s like a trip down memory lane.  The last time we saw Seger in concert was 1978.  Suffice to say we were a bit younger then.  Everybody was.  Through the entire show, which included three opening acts, we stood on the field of the Miami Baseball Stadium forty feet from the stage, and nobody got tired.  Music has an energy that never seems to fade.

The band has changed, so I’m told.  Most of the originals have moved on, quietly fading into the sunset.  The same is true of the audience.  As I look at pictures of the stars who entertained us in the seventies and eighties, it amazes me how old they look.  Funny, I don’t see that in the mirror, and I don’t see it in my wife.  It’s like we’re the only two people who haven’t really aged.

But last night at the gym, my body spoke up and informed me in no uncertain terms that I’m not the spring chicken I used to be.  It was a combination of heat and humidity (the air conditioning wasn’t working right) and sore muscles from a weekend of painting.  And age.  Regardless of what I see in the mirror, Mother Nature has the final vote and she’s about as tactful as Simon Cowell.

It’s funny, I used to go to concerts all the time.  My first was Chicago in 1975, then in 1976 I saw Bob Seger and the Doobie Brothers.  Over the next two years, I saw at least a dozen shows, with names like Boston, Kansas, Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yes, Foreigner, Jethro Tull, and Blue Oyster Cult.  These weren’t reunion tours – they were the original bands doing brand-new music back in the heyday when tickets cost less than most items at the concession stand.

A lot has changed since then.  I’ve only been to a few concerts in the past twenty years, so I guess my perspective is a bit limited.  And my street smarts aren’t what they used to be, either.  I’m the guy who would be stupid enough to fight my way to the front of the stage, only to find out later that there’s this thing called a mosh pit and I’m right smack in the middle of it. 

I guess I’ve never quite understood these things.  I grew up in a time when Volkswagen buses were adorned with multi-colored daisies, peace signs, and slogans like “make love, not war.”  Back then, the area in front of the stage was filled with people dancing, singing, and sharing things the police didn’t confiscate at the door.  It was a setting of Utopian harmony.  According to an online dictionary, a mosh pit is the scene of “controlled violence.”  From what I’ve heard, it’s completely out of control.

But I’m pretty sure there will be no mosh pit at tonight’s show.  Age has a mellowing effect, and I have a feeling gray hairs will outnumber purple tonight by about a million to one.  And that takes into account the heads that don’t have much hair to begin with.  As Seger has aged, so have his fans.

Several years ago, my wife and I went to see Elton John.  There was no opening act, and no backup band.  Just Elton and his nine-foot grand piano with a crowd of ten-thousand middle-age fans.  When I say “middle-age,” I mean halfway between newborn and 100.  At the concession stands, popcorn and beer had been replaced by granola and Ensure.  And those diaper-changing stations in the restrooms were getting a workout.  Use your imagination.

There were two young girls sitting behind us – I say that from the perspective of somebody who was old enough to be their father.  I think they were there on a college assignment where you have to listen to your grandparents’ music and write a dissertation on the social implications.  They studied the people around them as if we were lab rats about to be exposed to some kind of controlled stimulus.  They were in for an awakening.

The first few songs were slow and mellow – he opened with the classic Your Song, followed by a few more easy-listening hits.  At first we just sat there mesmerized.  It was like being on another planet.  Slowly, we began to snap out of our trance and move with the music.  And as the tempo increased, we never skipped a beat.

About the time I was wondering how a sixty year-old pianist with no backup band could rock the house, he launched into an extended version of Honky Cat.  And he set the place on fire.  He did things on that piano that I didn’t think could be done.  A backup band would have been a distraction at that point, something to take focus off the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen.  It was truly incredible.

Halfway through the song, I looked at the girls behind us.  All the old farts around them were jumping and singing and rocking out like teenagers, as they sat there in a state of utter shock.  I think they were genuinely afraid somebody may have a heart attack and fall in their lap.  The show lasted a little over three hours and we never slowed down.  And the only pills being passed around that night were Geritol.

I often wonder if those girls enjoyed the show as much as the rest of us did.  But even more, I wonder if they went home with a different perspective on older people, maybe even a sense of anticipation for their own middle age.  I hope so.  Most of all, I hope they realized that age isn’t the debilitating barrier some people make it out to be.  It’s just a number.  Our looks may change, but our ability to enjoy the moment never goes away.

People always say age is a state of mind.  I guess that depends what you’re doing at the moment.  Because when I take my body to the gym, age is a physical reality.  That’s not to say I’m letting it get in the way – I refuse to give up that easily.  But it’s safe to say my days of running a marathon are pretty much behind me.  Or running the bases for that matter.  I’ve tried running.  It’s not pretty.

But when I take my body to a concert, or an amusement park, or a picnic, or a school play, I take my mind along with me.  And my mind is as young as I want it to be.  If I could take back anything in my life, those moments when I chose to act like an old man would be at the top of the list.  Because age truly is a state of mind.  We’re not as old as we feel – we’re as old as we allow ourselves to feel.

And tonight, I’ll take my mind back to 1978 when my wife and I saw Bob Seger together for the very first time.  The faces may have changed, but the song remains the same.  That’s the beauty of music.  And we’ll be rocking like teenagers.  If we happen to throw a few joints out of whack in the process, it certainly won’t be the first time.  And even more importantly, it won’t be the last.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Flirting With Disaster Or Just A Close Shave?

As I was riding my motorcycle to a doctor’s appointment, I noticed the car in front of me weaving back and forth like a child on a bicycle.  Giving the car a wide berth, I passed cautiously.  As I drove past, I saw the problem – the driver, a woman a few years older than me, was steering with her elbows while using both hands to compose a text message on her cell phone.  I almost dropped my sandwich.

An hour later and six miles away, I passed the same car in front of a busy shopping mall.  I recognized it by the large sticker in the back window advertising the source of the driver’s education.  Apparently this college didn’t require an IQ test for admission, because the car was weaving back and forth for the exact same reason.  I have little doubt she was still working on the same message. 

Over the past several years, distracted driving has gained a lot of notoriety, and for good reason.  From cell phone usage to eating, reading, putting on makeup, and turning around to smack the kids, distractions have caused a lot of mayhem on our highways.  But last year a woman driving through the Florida Keys took distracted driving to a whole new level.  She raised the bar so high, it may never be touched again.

It seems this woman was on her way to visit her boyfriend in Key West.  Apparently she was in a bit of a hurry, because in the haste of packing and putting on makeup, she forgot something that’s become much more important in the 21st century than it used to be – she forgot to shave her nether regions.  You heard me right.  And with little time to spare, she broke out a razor while driving her Thunderbird down the Overseas Highway.

No, she wasn’t stupid enough to do this while driving.  Well, not technically.  I mean, she was sitting behind the wheel with her foot on the gas, but the actual driving was being done by her ex-husband in the passenger seat.  Let me say that again … her ex-husband in the passenger seat … while she was shaving her you-know-what to make it more presentable for her boyfriend.  I’ll bet Jerry Springer was drooling over this one. 

And I’m sure the ex-husband was completely focused on the road ahead.  Uh huh.  No distractions here.  So I can’t begin to understand how he missed the SUV in front of them.  Oh, he saw it just before impact.  But when he tried to jam on the brakes he realized the pedal was on the other side of the car.  And honestly, she couldn’t move her feet very fast with a razor in such a precarious position.  I hope she was at least able to move the razor.

And here’s the best part.  After she rear-ended an unsuspecting motorist, the most the investigating officer could do for that particular offense was cite her for reckless driving.  Because apparently there is no law in the state of Florida that specifically prohibits shaving your privates while driving.  Of course, she was also driving on a suspended license, having been convicted of driving under the influence one day earlier.  Go figure.

Okay, so this story is a bit more risqué than most of my posts.  But in the context of distracted driving, it can’t be completely ignored.  I mean, I used to get onto my daughter all the time for sending text messages while driving.  But after reading this one, I had to put things in perspective.  There are, after all, varying degrees of stupid.

So far, thirty states have banned texting while driving, and eight states don’t allow drivers to use a handheld cell phone at all.  These laws are backed by accident statistics and studies that suggest a driver using a cell phone is as dangerous as a drunk driver.  I don’t think they did a study on shaving.

These studies involved drivers of varying experience levels behind the wheel of a simulator.  Not surprisingly, the drivers were much more accident-prone while talking on a cell phone.  But what is a bit of an eye-opener is that their reaction time didn’t return to normal for almost five minutes after the call ended.  If that’s true, some drivers are never quite “sober.”

According to the researchers, the fact that one hand was occupied with a phone was inconsequential.  But we only have a certain number of brain cells available at any point in time, and phone conversations tap into that resource pool.  And as we’ve already seen, some pools aren’t all that deep to begin with.

The state of Ohio is considering a ban on texting while driving.  Already the news blogs are buzzing with heated debate.  I read them, not because they’ll have any influence on pending legislation.  I mean seriously, politicians listening to their constituents?  Get real.  But these blogs are just plain funny, if not a little scary.

Invariably, someone will claim they’re especially gifted behind the wheel, that they can safely drive a car with no hands and with both eyes shut.  According to them, the “real” problem is other drivers who are eating, putting on makeup, or talking to passengers.  Oddly enough, nobody mentioned shaving.

And they have a point.  Any distraction is unsafe.  I think when we sit behind the wheel of a moving car, we have an obligation to focus on the task at hand with both hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road.  Because it’s the only way we can dodge these idiots who are too busy typing to drive.

As I mentioned earlier, I ride a motorcycle.  It changes the way you drive.  You notice lots of little things you never noticed before, because your life may depend on it.  I’ve always said riding safely means looking at every car around you and asking yourself, “What’s the dumbest thing that person could do right now?”  You’d be surprised at how often those prophecies are fulfilled.

And I can honestly say that every time a car has drifted into my lane or started to pull out in front of me, the driver was chatting on a cell phone.  Every single time.  About half of those were hands-free, which makes me believe those studies were correct.  Holding a phone isn’t the problem – it’s the lack of focus.

I don’t usually rant in my blogs – I save that for my wife and kids.  But the underlying purpose of these articles is to share thoughts that can make life better, and few things can mess your day up quicker than being involved in an accident, especially one that could have been prevented. 

I’m no different from most other people.  I have a pretty high opinion of my driving ability, and I can safely do things behind the wheel that would lead a lesser man into the arms of disaster.  Just ask me.  But age has a way of making me realize it’s luck, not skill, that’s kept me out of trouble so far.  And I know that could all change in an instant.

The point is, that’s true for all of us.  It’s not good to go through life afraid of everything, but we do have to at least acknowledge the risks in the things we do.  Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before we fall victim to them.

Odds are most of us will go through life without ever being involved in a serious accident.  But we can tip the scale by taking our focus off the road, and some things are more dangerous than others.   So text if you must, but do the rest of us a favor – leave the razor at home.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Child-Proof The Home, But Not The Kids

My grandson cut his finger yesterday.  It was the kind of cut that only comes from a nice sharp pair of scissors in the hands of an 11 year-old boy who’s not sensible enough to open a pack of sausage biscuits without a weapon, and not patient enough to make sure his fingers are out of the way before he begins the assault.  I’m pretty sure he learned a lesson.  And the blood loss only made him a little sleepy, so I think he’s okay.

It’s funny, when he was a toddler we had the whole house child-proofed.  Or so we thought.  We had outlet covers, cabinet latches, doorknob covers, folding gates, swing locks, electric beams, silent alarms, magnetic force fields, and four pairs of eyes watching his every move.  Not that it did a lot of good, but it made us feel better and kept a few people employed at the child-proof products factory.

We did everything we could to make sure he was safe.  But he had a way of finding the weakness in any situation.  Most kids do.  Take the coffee table, for instance.  I built it myself, with rounded corners, soft edges, and non-toxic finish.  And I made it out of soft pine so it wouldn’t be as hard as steel.  Thank God. 

You see, our little angel had a way of venting his frustration more physically than verbally.  Whenever he got upset, he’d slam his forehead into the couch cushion.  It was funnier than it should have been, and reasonably safe.  Until one day when the couch was full, so he smacked his head into the coffee table instead.  We were sure he’d knocked a few screws loose.  I think he hurt his head, too.

He was the kind of kid who didn’t miss a thing – he watched, and he learned.  I remember getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach one day as he sat in his car seat studying my every move as I put the key in the ignition, started my truck, put it in gear, and drove down the street.  It was like seeing an escaped convict sneaking around the house with a camera and notepad.

Finally it occurred to me that all this child-proofing really wasn’t necessary.  All I had to do was take one of the wheels off his walker.  He got plenty of exercise, but stayed in a small circle in the middle of the room.  You just have to be creative.  Okay, he broke the walker and I was too lazy to fix it.  What can I say?  Some of mankind’s greatest inventions came from destructive toddlers.

The thing is, none of it really worked anyway.  The folding gates were no match for his Little Tikes car, and he figured out pretty quick that if he smacked those doorknob covers just right with his plastic hammer, they’d split open like a sun-dried tennis ball.  And the cabinet latches were such a pain we just emptied the cabinets and put everything in the pantry.  We put the bad stuff out of his reach, but a determined toddler can make a pretty effective ladder out of boxes and pans. 

The only thing worth the money was the outlet covers.  They worked.  They worked really well.  They fit so tight, you couldn’t get one out with a jackhammer.  Oh, I finally figured it out.  But guess who was standing right behind me the whole time?  I came into the living room the next day and caught him slipping a screwdriver in sideways as he uttered a few words that would make a sailor blush.  Monkey see, monkey do.

It wasn’t the only time he got me in trouble.  He spent a lot of time in his high chair because his playpen was full of stuff we’d taken away from him.  By the time he was three, it was filled with toys, old shoes, mangled outlet covers, a baseball bat, and a complete set of steak knives.  So when we needed a break from chasing him around, we put him in the high chair.  How could he get into anything from there?

Well, his high chair sat next to the microwave cart.  He couldn’t reach the microwave, but as it turns out he was able to reach my bottle of Jim Beam.  He carefully removed the label, as if that somehow made it legal, then knocked down a couple of shots.  Well, okay, more like a thimble-full.  But at that age, it doesn’t take much.  All I can say is thank God his mother hadn’t yet discovered Jagermeister.  It’s more expensive and the hangover would have been a lot worse. 

Now I know some of you are probably shaking your head, wondering what kind of grandparent would leave liquor where a child could reach it.  In my defense, he wasn’t in his high chair when I put it there.  I guess I could have measured his arm and made sure nothing was within reach, but kids’ arms stretch.  It’s a medically-proven fact.

Also, think back to when you were a kid.  Did your parents child-proof the house?  Did they hide everything you weren’t allowed to play with?  Mine didn’t.  Instead of outlet covers, my mom had a flyswatter.  It served pretty much the same purpose.  Later in life I learned it had another use – swatting flies.  But it kept me out of trouble.  For the most part.

I still have a pretty vivid memory of the day I found two metal suitcase keys on a chain and decided they were the perfect size to fit into each side of a 110-volt outlet.  Oh, they didn’t stay there for long.  Neither did I.  Mom found me on the other side of the room with crossed eyes.   The outlet was burned and the fuse was blown.  We never did find the keys. 

The point is, I survived.  And so did my grandson.  We all did.  There may have been scrapes and bruises, maybe a few cut fingers or broken bones.  But despite what we’re led to believe by an industry that thrives on making parents nervous, the overwhelming majority of us come through childhood with a full set of arms, legs, fingers and toes, and two functional eyes.  Go figure. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to keep kids safe.  I just think some people take it to an extreme.  It’s one thing to cover outlets and block their access to household chemicals.  That’s prudent and responsible.  It also feeds their imagination as they try to devise ways to get around those safeguards.  And believe me, they will.

But sometimes we’re so preoccupied with safety that we forget to let them experience the magic of childhood.  Kids learn about their world by exploring, and sometimes that means making a mess or playing with something that’s not an officially approved toy.  Sometimes it means taking a fall, and some of those falls hurt.  It’s all part of growing up.

I think as adults, we need to spend a little more time sitting at the kids’ table.  We need to remember what it’s like to build a fort, to play in the sprinkler, to make up new games, or tromp through the woods.  It’s amazing what a good old-fashioned pillow fight can do to rejuvenate your youth.  Try it.

And in the process, we’re teaching our kids that it’s acceptable to have fun, within established boundaries.  We’re teaching them that play isn’t just for kids.  We’re teaching them to use their imagination and explore new things.  And that means taking a few risks.  More importantly, it means letting them take a few risks.

Nothing in life is completely safe, including life itself.  We can shield our kids from the obvious dangers.  But if we try to shield them from everything we’ll just breed a generation of grumpy adults with no sense of adventure.  And looking around, I’d say we already have enough of those. 

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Don’t Be Afraid To Laugh

Yesterday I wrote about the onset of spring.  The sun is (has been) shining, the birds are (have been) singing, and the first dandelion popped up in our flower bed yesterday – right through the “weed barrier” that’s supposed to keep it away.  Perfect.

Today the skies are gray, and we may have to pay homage to Mother Nature for the weather that will soon welcome us into the great outdoors.  The forecast is calling for strong thunderstorms most of the day.  And in this part of the country, thunderstorms in late March and early April are cause for concern.  Some of those clouds have a way of reaching down and knocking things over. 

I’ve been in more tornadoes than most storm chasers, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One was a pretty direct hit, two were skipping overhead, and one was breaking up as it crossed the house.  Yes, I’ve been lucky.  And no, I don’t care to test my luck again any time soon.  Four times is more than enough.

I watch these shows where people chase the weather, trying to get as close as they can to a tornado, and act like they’re on a carnival ride the entire time.  Maybe that’s because they have the advantage of computer simulations and Doppler radar that tell them the winds aren’t strong enough to pick up their car and toss it like a beer can.  Or maybe it’s because they’re just plain stupid.  I’m not quite sure.

It reminds me of something comedian Ron White once said.  He was talking about an elderly athlete who tied himself to a tree in a hurricane to ride out the winds.  Ron said, “It’s not that the wind is blowing 150 miles an hour … it’s what the wind is blowing.”  You see, tree limbs don’t weigh as much as a car.  The smallest tornado can pick them up with ease.  And most car windows don’t fare well against tree limbs.  Food for thought.

But unlike a storm chaser, I don’t have the advantage of knowing what I’m up against.  In fact, I’ve only actually seen five tornadoes in my life, and none of them were the ones that came after me.  But when you’re driving down the road at sixty miles an hour and all of a sudden find yourself in the middle of a blinding white vortex, feeling your full-size pickup try to spin in a counter-clockwise direction, the Fujita scale means nothing.  At that point, it’s the big one.

I try not to worry too much about the weather.  First of all, I can’t do anything to change it.  All I can do is respond.  And I’m the guy who sits in the front window admiring the lightning, and runs to the porch when the tornado sirens go off.  I want to see it.  But because of the landscape around my house, if I ever do see one it’ll probably be too late to run.  They’ll find my remains in the merry old Land of Oz.

My grandson is certain every storm will produce a tornado, and it’ll make a beeline for our house.  Or his house.  Or whatever house he happens to be in at the time.  As far as he’s concerned, Mother Nature looks for him and says, “Go there.”  Thunderstorms scare the daylights out of him.  If a single cloud appears in the sky, he’s flipping the TV to the Weather Channel.

I’ve tried logic.  I’ve explained to him that thunder is just noise, the residual effect of something that he already survived.  But he knows lightning strikes are like bill collectors – where there’s one, you can bet another one won’t be far behind.  And I’ve explained to him that a tornado, though very powerful, is small and compact, and only affects things that are directly in its path.  Of course, the same can be said of a runaway bulldozer.  Except bulldozers can’t throw cows.

I think it’s good to have a healthy respect for the weather, among other things.  But it’s easy to let respect turn into fear, and that’s not always a good thing.  Should we be afraid of a tornado?  Absolutely.  Should I be afraid of poisonous snakes?  Without a doubt.  Besides, I know there’s no such thing as a “harmless” snake.  In the heart of every snake lies a rattlesnake, just waiting for the chance to take a bite out of my life.  You’ll never convince me otherwise.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is we all have fears.  To a storm chaser, my grandson’s fear of thunder is probably amusing.  To a herpetologist, my fear of snakes is probably hilarious.  That’s okay.  To me, they’re suicidal idiots.  And to the person who experiences it, fear is very real and completely rational.  Just like the ghosts who visited my mother-in-law every night.  In her mind, they were there.

The thing about fear is to recognize it for what it is – the expectation of something unpleasant that may or may not ever happen.  I’ve seen some pretty wicked clouds pass overhead with little or no fanfare.  And I’ve seen a clear blue sky spawn a squall that had me wondering if we’d make it to shore alive.  When you’re in the middle of something like that, fear is inevitable.  But I can’t go through life expecting every blue sky to drop the hammer.  I’d rather enjoy the ones that don’t and deal with the ones that do.

I think a sense of humor helps calm a lot of those fears.  Maybe not when you find yourself in the middle of a frightening situation, but before and after.  People joke about laughing in the face of death.  I don’t think anybody ever stared into the face of a hungry tiger and laughed.  Okay, nobody sane.  But the ability to laugh about the situation later, to even make jokes about it, can clear your head and make the next encounter a little less stressful.

Fear clouds our judgment and makes us do things that may not be the best in a given situation.  But the ability to laugh about something, even though we may not laugh right at the moment, makes us look at things just a little differently.  If nothing else, it takes the edge off just enough to let us think clearly and rationally. 

And here’s the thing – you can’t wait until you’re in a dangerous situation to give laughter a try.  It won’t work.  You have to cultivate those mental reflexes long before you need them.  You have to exercise your sense of humor every day.

To laugh requires using our imagination.  Nothing is inherently funny – well, except watching me try to run.  The people at the gym get a good laugh out of that.  But otherwise we have to imagine what’s going through a person’s mind, or how the situation may have transpired differently, or whatever. 

And using your imagination exercises your mind.  The brain is like any muscle – the more you use it, the better it works.  And laughter is just one of the things we can do to exercise our brain.  Besides, it’s fun.

I have no idea what the weather will do today.  I do know this – no amount of worrying will change what’s to be.  Besides, as I was writing yesterday’s column I broke a tooth.  So now I have to go to the dentist.  And if there was ever anything to be afraid of, that’s at the top of the list. 

So far the sky is calm, and I’m pretty sure the Land of Oz will get by just fine without me for another day.  Let’s just hope the visit to the dentist goes as well.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Laughter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wheezin’ Season

Well, springtime is officially here.  At least that’s what the calendar says.  And for the moment, my outdoor thermometer agrees.  The weatherman isn’t so sure.  I don’t like the weatherman.  I say let’s send him someplace really cold so he’s got plenty to talk about. 

I want to live someplace where there’s no need for a weatherman.  “Tomorrow’s forecast – sunny and warm.  Like it ever gets cold here.  Everybody else gets to report snow and storms and tornadoes, but not me.  Nooooo!  I’m stuck here in Pleasantville where EVERY day is sunny.  That’s all I ever get to say – sunny and warm.  Back to you Jim.”

 Those of you who have been with me for a while know how happy I am about the onset of spring.  And that’s especially true this year.  First of all, it’s been a long, cold winter.  In Ohio, we got less than our annual average of snowfall, but we made up for it with ice, rain, and temperatures that made all the red in the thermometer run for cover.  I looked out every morning and all I saw was a little red ball with nothing much rising above it. 

Another reason I’m ready for spring is because this year I’ve decided to really get out and enjoy it.  My grandson bugs me from April through October to go for a bicycle ride or throw the ball.  And honestly, he got about six hours of physical activity out of me last year, not counting the day at a theme park.  In my defense, my body was really sore most of the time.  As it turns out, the bathroom scale wasn’t feeling so good either.

We live in a small town that’s the hub of Ohio’s “Rails to Trails” bike path network.  They ripped up all those old railroads that are no longer used and replaced them with paved pathways for bicycles, skaters, and people who think running is fun.  I’ve tried it.  Running is anything but fun.  Next to walking, it’s the slowest way to get from one place to another.  And quite honestly, they usually don’t smell so good when they get there.  I’m just sayin’.

I like riding a bicycle, because I get some decent exercise and a little bit of breeze to make it more tolerable.  As long as there are no hills.  Well, let me rephrase that – as long as there are no up hills.  I can do down a hill with no problem.  In fact, I want to find a path that’s all downhill and have my wife meet us with my truck at the other end.  But even with a gentle downhill slope, I can’t help looking over my shoulder and thinking about the ride back.  It’s brutal.

I told my grandson I was planning to buy some roller blades this year.  My doctor says that’s a great form of exercise.  So is the treadmill.  And the two of them together – now that’s my kind of workout.  And wouldn’t you know, my treadmill has a built-in milkshake holder.  That rocks!

But there’s a reason God didn’t put wheels on our feet.  They tend to go in directions we didn’t count on.  Sometimes they go in opposite directions, and I’m no gymnast.  Besides, the ground is hard.  Really hard.  I’ll be the guy with more pads than a tugboat, bouncing off stop signs and innocent joggers.

And even that’s not completely safe.  Pads will protect your skin, but not what’s inside.  And trust me, things inside don’t handle impact like they used to.  The day I bought my bicycle, I decided to show off by popping a wheelie.  It lasted half a second.  See, the thing with wheelies is control – keeping the front wheel high enough to impress everybody, without letting it go so high you end up on your butt with a bicycle in your lap.  Need I say more?

I learned two things that day.  First, the ground is a lot harder than it used to be.  And second, all that extra padding I’m carrying around behind me didn’t cushion the blow one bit.  I hit the ground so hard it registered a seismic event.  It jarred the fillings out of my teeth.  I was six feet tall that morning, but I’ve been 5-10 ever since.  You do the math.

But regardless of whether I ride a bicycle or strap on a pair of roller blades, I’m sure I’ll get my share of exercise this year.  My yard has a way of extracting a little revenge for not keeping it covered and warm all winter.  And revenge comes in the form of nasty things sprouting up all over the yard in the dog days of summer.  That’s a time when grass turns brown and weeds turn into trees.  And as fast as you chop one down, three more take its place.

It’s funny, I’ll buy chemicals to kill dandelions & crabgrass, and fertilizer to make the grass grow.  Then I’ll complain all summer because it worked.  But only if I time it right, because Mother Nature has a hand in this one.  Fertilizer needs rain within 24 hours, or it’ll burn up the grass.  But weed killer needs 48 hours with no rain, or it’ll just wash away.  Have you ever seen dandelions do a rain dance?  I have.

What I end up with in the middle of summer is a large patch of healthy green crabgrass dotted with white puffs of leftover dandelions, intermittent patches of dead grass, and some kind of lumpy fungus they haven’t quite identified.  And the whole time, my neighbor is standing across the fence, watering the grass, pruning flowers, and giving me that look.

This year I think I’ll get ambitious and take care of the problem once and for all.  First I’ll spray the entire yard with something that’ll kill dirt.  Then I’ll rent a tiller and plow it like a cornfield.  After that I’ll roll it smooth, plant new grass seed, and cover it in hay.  By next year, it’ll look beautiful.  Then I’ll buy a couple of goats and fence in the whole yard, because there’s no way on God’s green earth I’m mowing that much grass all summer.

Seasons change, and we have to accept the good with the bad.  Springtime brings opportunities to enjoy the things we missed all winter, so I can’t complain about a little extra work.  As I look at the mess in Japan, I’m thankful I have a lawn to mow.  It’s all about perspective.

The whole thing is maintaining an even keel, and that’s a lot easier to do if you can find something to laugh about.  Hopefully in this article, I’ve shown that humor is literally all around us.  All we have to do is open our mind and look for those hidden treasures that are right there, just waiting to be discovered. 

As for the lawn, I’m beginning to think those folks in Arizona have the right idea.  Cover it with colored gravel and get on with life.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Nest Is Never Empty

Today is my grandson’s birthday.  Eleven years ago, we were standing around the hospital waiting for him to join the family.  It was a long day, but well worth the wait.  He came into the world as spring officially arrived.  If you knew my grandson, you’d understand the significance of that event.  He brings sunshine into our lives every day.  And sometimes the aroma of a freshly fertilized cornfield.  But that’s another story.

We became grandparents at a rather young age.  I was 42, and we still had a daughter in eighth grade.  We were beginning to think of life as empty-nesters, but still had a few years to go before that would become a reality.  Did I say a “few” years?  Little did we know.

People who don’t know better automatically assume I’m my grandson’s father.  We’re really close – much closer than I was to any of my grandparents.  It’s because he spent seven of his first ten years living in our house.  He’s never lived more than twenty minutes away, and right now he lives across the street.  And I couldn’t be happier.

I remember a line in the movie Something To Talk About where Robert Duvall said, “All our friends complain because their kids move away and they never call or come home.  How come that can’t happen to us?”  I have to admit, there are days I’ve felt the same way.  It’s all part of being a parent.  But the fact is, I like having them so close. 

Especially my grandson.  We’re best friends.  Besides, with him right across the street, I rarely have to take out the trash, and I can’t remember the last time I mowed my own lawn.  He’s at an age where he loves to help, and using the lawn mower is still fun.  We’ve been painting the past few weeks, and handing him a paint brush is like giving him a bowl of buttered popcorn.  And just about as messy.

Our granddaughter is too young to paint or carry out the trash.  In fact, she’s too young to do much of anything other than give kisses and make us smile on the worst of days.  And she does it well.  It’s funny, between the age of three and thirteen, we wish time would just stand still.  Because we know the magic of those days will soon fade into another reality.  I think God gives us those years so we’ll let them live through the teenage years. 

Our youngest daughter is 25, and so far I think we’ve spent a total of about 14 months as empty-nesters.  Otherwise, we’ve had one of the girls living with us until a few months after my mother-in-law moved in.  And for most of the time that we were without kids, I was doing comedy on the road.  It’s been thirty years since we lived alone for any length of time, just the two of us.  I’m not sure we know how.

Oh, we’ve got plans.  I still do some road work, and my wife loves to travel so the two of us will get to take some trips together.  In fact, if any comedy bookers are reading this, we would love to do some shows in Hawaii or Las Vegas.  Or a cruise ship would be nice.  Anything that doesn’t involve snow.

We started going to the gym again this past week, and we’ll do that a lot more in the future.  As soon as my body forgives me for pushing it so hard last week.  I’ve discovered that working out is a lot like drinking – you can’t take a month off and make up for it all in one night.  And contrary to what everybody says, the “hair of the dog” isn’t always the best cure.  Especially when it comes to exercise.

Something we’re learning is that, as empty-nesters, the house seems to transform.  In the movie Failure To Launch, Matthew McConaughey came home to find that his old bedroom had become “the naked room,” a room where his father went about his hobbies in the buff.  I don’t think we’ll have a naked room in our house any time soon, though it would probably keep the spiders out.  It would also make the kids call before they come over, so let’s not completely rule that one out.

I’ve written in the past about the “honey-do” list that fills my spare time just enough to keep me from getting in trouble.  It’s not an unreasonable list – it’s mostly things we’ve agreed to do, and my wife helps where she can.  As long as it doesn’t involve the downwind side of the plumbing, she’s usually right there with me.

But she just found the perfect way to get me to do everything on the list as quickly as possible.  Ladies, pay attention – this one is worth the price of admission.  A few weeks ago she said, “As soon as you get these other things done I want you to build a bar in the basement.” 

Okay, this is one of those times when clarification is necessary.  She wasn’t asking me to put up a bar for hanging damp laundry.  And she doesn’t want me to install a bar for chin-ups, or any other form of physical exercise.  She meant build a bar – a real bar, with barstools, a sink, a refrigerator, bar lights, and ice cold beer on tap.  Read that again ladies.  Ice cold beer on tap.  Care to guess how long she’ll have to beg me to finish this job?

She really used her head on this one.  Because there’s a natural progression that has to take place for me to get from this desk to my bar.  First I have to touch up the paint in our spare bedroom and get the furniture out of the basement and back into that room.  Then I have to install a new floor in the other side of the basement and move my office downstairs.  Then I have to move the furniture that’s in my future office into this room – the second guest room.  Yes, empty-nesters have more than one guest room.  At the rate we’re going, we’ll be living in the bar and we can rent out the entire upstairs to another family. 

Then I have to clean out all the junk my daughters left behind.  But in order to do that, I have to clean out the storage room in the basement.  Then I have to clean out my garage so I’ve got room to use my woodworking equipment.  And I want all of this done by next Thursday because I’m building this bar before she changes her mind!

Needless to say, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the basement.  I already have a pool table in that room, and with the addition of a bar and big-screen TV, it’s entirely possible you folks may never hear from me again.  Okay, I’m kidding.  My computer will be in the office next-door.  So you’ll hear from me on a regular basis.  I just can’t promise it’ll all make sense.  But if you drink a few beers of your own, who knows?

Anyway, that’s our plan for the immediate future.  The nest is empty and, for the first time in our lives, it looks like it may stay that way for a while.  How long?  Who knows?  Our kids and grandchildren will always have a home as long as we do.  Life has a way of pitching a few curveballs, so there’s no telling what the future may hold.

But something tells me our empty nest will never be lonely.  In fact, it may become the hot spot of the neighborhood.  I’m sure we won’t have to beg the kids to visit, and we may find a few new friends we never knew we had.  Let me repeat – ice cold beer on tap.  It has a certain ring to it.

And if it makes the kids visit a little more often, I won’t complain.  Because I’ve learned how this whole thing works, and right now we’re just putting favors in the bank.  Retirement isn’t that far away, and the day may come that we’ll need a comfortable place to live.  I’m just making sure we establish a common definition of “comfortable” before that day ever comes.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments