Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Summer Shift - James Harrison

Last summer something changed in me. Something big. 

 I want to share with you a bit of my recreational life. I am a pretty easy-going guy most of the time, and I’m content to read here and there, play sports when the weather’s fine, and even ride my bicycle around. Now, if there’s a free or cheap place to swim, I’m in! But usually, when I’m not working, and especially if the weather’s not good, most of my time is dominated by video games. Be it PlayStation 2 or on my PC, I’m swinging a bat, shooting bad guys, or strategizing world domination all through my fingertips. The hours fly by in this way, and very rarely—if ever—do I laugh out loud or play these video games with friends. It is quite a lonely hobby the more I think about it. 

 See, growing up in the city I never had my own car (well, there was one for a bit that my brother gave me, but it broke down at least a dozen times) so I was pretty grounded if I wasn’t with friends. Outside of sports, my after-school time was spent playing video games. Video games are interactive and I found it much more preferable to watching tv for hours, since I could have control, creativity, and stimulation. 

A few years later I came to a 9-to-5 job in Alberta, Canada, where the weather is typical mountain weather—unpredictable; and the winters are excruciatingly long. The best winter remedy? Leveling up my Dwarf Champion, suiting him with armor, and gaining a legacy defeating digital foes! See, there was exploring, fighting, equipping, and even socializing; a recipe for fun. 

 When summer finally hit I was given the job of grounds keeper. This involved mowing the whole property regularly and making any improvements I wanted. Without any attempt, vow, or oath I simply stopped playing video games! For months! I was out of the office and in the sun; I was tired at the end of the day, getting hard hands, and learning how to change oil, fix and maintain a riding mower, and most of all, do what I deemed best. “Those trees are a pain to walk under—I’ll trim off the lower branches!” “These bushes are out of control—I’ll cut them down to height!” “Say, this basketball hoop is a joke—I’ll build a new one! I don’t know how now, but I’ll learn.” 

 Work became life-giving because I was being creative, stimulated, and I was exploring and learning the details of the property. I came to own something. That’s never happened to me before. I loved it! So without trying my recreation time became reading, writing, playing and creating songs on the guitar—things that give me life! I have the chance to be the grounds keeper this summer, and I know God will move in my heart again. Though I still play video games, last summer was the first time I’ve ever felt like I was spending my time, living my life, like an adult… like a man. I felt capable. There was a shift. I was changed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ahh, Summertime - Tina Barrentine

    When I was little, my family would go camping at Big Trees State Park. It had a crystal clear river, large boulders that begged children to climb across their time-worn faces, and (as the name suggests) big trees. Really, really big trees. I know what you’re thinking: “Tina is very short. Even shrubbery would seem like big trees to her.” Wrong! I have stood at the base of trees that towered 200 feet above me and asked them how the air was up there. They had little to say in return. Big trees just don’t get my sense of humor.

    The list of cons for this summer wonderland was short, but significant.  I got two words for ya. Porta. Potties. I was cursed, even from a tender age, with impeccably high bathroom standards. The practice of collecting communal excrement horrified me then, and does still, to this day. The pungent aroma offended my delicate, six-year-old sensibilities to the point that I refused to use the facilities. For three days in the summer of 1982, I stoically held on to my principals and my bowels. In the interest of honestly, I suspect (though, don’t remember) that I found liquid relief in the no-longer-crystal-clear river.

    On the third day, the good Lord saw fit to ease my suffering and sent my deliverer in the form of The Maintenance Man from Heaven. He came down like an angel from above and cleansed the pit of despair, making it pine-sol fresh and fit for decent, God-fearing human beings. I marched boldly to that porta-potty, determined to be the first one to use it just as soon as the MM from H finished purifying it. And there, already standing in line, was my cousin Lori. She was a grown-up 13 year old, and I didn’t have sufficient seniority to bump her in line. I sent up a desperate plea to my creator and prepared myself for warfare. I pulled a knife from my boot and lunged at my opponent who had craftily hidden a pistol in her fanny pack. She dodged my attack, lowered her weapon at my head, and asked, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

    The memory, I’ll admit has gotten a little fuzzy over the years. It either ended with Lori killing me in cold-blood in the mountains, or it ended when she saw the desperate look on my face and said, “You wanna go first?” 

Ahh, summertime.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Love Letter to My Wife - Aron Smith

How do I love thee?  Let me text the ways.

It may seem  like the most hackneyed, gaggingly syrupy sentiment to say that I love my wife, but I do.  Can you still be in love with your wife after thirteen years of marriage?  It must be against the law or something.

I could name many of my wife’s sterling virtues, but certainly the one I most appreciate is that she has somehow managed to put up with me for all these years.  Let me tell you, that is no small feat.  You see, it’s easy for me to love my wife.  She is a thoroughly delightful woman who it would be difficult for anyone not to love.  But me?  That is another story entirely.  So it amazes me that she loves me despite the fact that I’m turning brown at the edges and starting to rot like a peach that’s spent a little too long in the crisper.

How do I know that my wife still loves me?  By her texts.

Don’t laugh.  I didn’t even have a cell phone until a few years ago, so it’s not like I cut my teeth on texting along with my pablum.  I suppose I may have an increased respect for the technology because I experienced half a century or so of living before I came to it (or it came to me).  The whole reason I obtained a cell phone in the first place was to keep in touch with my many nieces and nephews.  It was easy to see that if we were going to have any kind of relationship, it was going to have to be on their terms.  And so I learned to text.

So do I ever hear from my nephews and nieces?  Very rarely.  But fear not, my little pocket phone has not gone to waste, and my texting is in top form.  So who do I text?  My wife, of course.

Unfortunately, my phone doesn’t hold a lot of messages, so I have to delete them and start over every few days.  I was about to perform this function today when I was stopped dead in my tracks.  I began reviewing my recent texts, and that’s when I realized that they hold the proof of my wife’s love.  I mean, you can tell we’re an old married couple.  Allow me to show you what I mean.  It’s in a foreign language, so I’ll translate as I go along.

Wife’s Text:
Leaving Albs.  Cart needed.

Translation:  I’m leaving the grocery store now and heading home.  Get out here and lug this stuff  inside.

Wife’s Text:
Appt for car on Sat between 8-9.

Translation:  Guess what you’re doing this weekend?

Wife’s Text:
Putting my eyes in.  I’ll text you when I leave.

Translation:  Yes, I’ll pick you up for lunch!  Crap, I gotta mess with my contact lenses first.

Wife’s Text:
Want me to bring you food?  I can go to Del Taco if you want.

Translation:  I have put a lot of time, effort and creativity into making a lovely dinner for you, which has long since gone cold.  However, I understand that it’s 8:00 at night and you’re still stuck at work.  Let me feed you, honey!

Wife’s Text:
Need anything?

Translation: I know you’re having a very hard day.  How can I make it better?

Wife’s Text:
I hafta complete this form.  Can you help me?

Translation:  I know I’m perfectly capable of doing my own paperwork.  But I want you to feel needed, so come rescue this damsel in distress, you big stud, you!

Wife’s Text:
Spent $65 at Smart & Final.

Translation:  I’m out spending your money, haha!  Having a good time, wish you were here!  You don’t mind, now do ya?

Wife’s Text:
People are waiting.

Translation:  Um, you’ve been in this public rest room a little too long and a line is forming outside the door.  They’re starting to adopt a lynch mob mentality and may be about to bust the door down.  Hurry up and flush!

Wife’s Text:
Did you hit the F key that turned off the Internet?

Translation:  You are so inept with anything technical!  Now quit being a whiny baby and pay attention.

Wife’s Text:
I’ll sell it on eBay.

Translation:  So what else is new, you’re bringing home another worthless piece of detritus.  Never fear, I’ll parlay even this thing into a couple of bucks for us.

Wife’s Text:
What are you doing?

Translation:  I’m having fun shopping with my mom and sister.  Do you miss me?

Wife’s Text:
How’s it going?

Translation:  I miss you!

Wife’s Text:
Gagging scho

Nonsense phrases, you say?  Not at all!  This just proves that we’ve married long enough that we have our own language that only we can understand.  Translation:  I’m waiting in the car for you and it’s hot as Hades!  Get your bohonkus out here!

Wife’s Text:
I love you.

Translation:  I love you.

Husband’s Text:
Me too!

Translation:  How on earth did I get so lucky?  God is good!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Beach Birds - Shelly Wason

Find more of Shelly's beautiful perspective at

Nothing says "summer" like hitting the beach
and soaking your toes in some surf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eternity - Dave Skene

 Ghost Dancin' 

 Rumblin', from across the street. 
Was that my old man or a train rollin by? 
One in the same I guess. 

The ghosts are restless tonight. 
Comin' and goin' like chronic malaria. 

Ghosts are free from everyday life where predictability is a chosen cousin to death. 

 Winter in Montreal, saw a ghost in the kitchen. 
Her words whispered through me, “transformation is linguistic.” 
I guess this dance is a prayer, every movement is conversation with eternity. 

 Ghost Dancin'