MONKEY TRAPS

Want to trap a monkey? Put a banana in a cage with a hole large enough to fit an outstretched hand but too small to fit a closed fist.   Donkey Kong will grab the tasty treat and refuse to let go.  BAM!  You’ve got yourself a monkey….and you didn’t even have to climb a tree.  Easy right?

yellow banana on hand
Photo by Kimona on Pexels.com

 

 

Now, how in the world would you catch a human? The exact same way!  Have you ever heard of car dealers offering a free vehicle by way of stick-to-itiveness?  It looks like this:
(1)  A group of contestants place their hand on a coveted vehicle for as long as they can stand it.
(2)  Short 10 minute breaks are provided periodically – leaving insufficient time to accomplish bathroom breaks, eating, sleeping, stretching, etc.
(3)  The last “man” standing wins.

Sounds easy, but most people will tell you it wasn’t worth it. And why would they?  It’s a monkey trap.  It’s not like they competed for a few minutes, not even a few hours, try keeping your hand planted in one spot for a FEW DAYS!

Do contestants get a few moments of fame? Yup.  But who’s the real winner here?  Sure, the attention goes to the contestants, but the SPOTLIGHT is on
(1) The car dealer
(2) The sponsors
(3) The media outlets

Many of the so called “winners” don’t even get to keep the car; they just get to ride it around until the lease runs out. My point?  Just like the monkey – we REFUSE to let go, even if we get the short end of the stick…or should I say banana?

We aren’t far removed from President Trump’s campaign trail. What was his strategy?  To let roll off his tongue whatever words were necessary to dominate the press.  He in turn got lots of free marketing.  He made it very noisy for competing voices to break through and deliver an alternate message (you know…the stable kind).  The media became the monkey and it couldn’t let go.  Voters only knew one title, “Crooked Hillary” – so they voted Trump.  The media loved all the ratings during the campaign, but they didn’t get to keep the car.

Enter the perfect storm. Coronavirus + Donald Trump.  This here is the ultimate monkey trap, and MOST hands are stuck inside.  Turn to the media outlet of your choice and you will undoubtedly find a headline or two, or five, or twenty-five about the virus and or how the president is reacting to said virus.

You know what’s crazy? We can turn it off and tune it out.  Really!  The ENTIRE globe is thinking about this math problem.  Unless you are the one coming up with the cure, maybe consider letting everyone else do the thinking on this one.  You can go solve other problems.  Be of service.  Educate yourself.  Organize your garage.  Do some spring cleaning.  But DO NOT live in fear.  I’m not saying be reckless or clueless – but you can pull through just by following the CDC guidelines and recommendations from local leaders.  Or maybe that won’t be enough.  MAYBE YOU WILL DIE – in which case you can revisit this post.  But, either way, you will die, so holding onto this banana is no way to live.

THE CHALLENGE: Let go.  Get your hand out of the cage.  Stop giving attention to the car dealership.  You could be mastering your craft in order to buy your own car in cash and while you’re at it, fill it to the brim with bananas.

 

TWO-BEE-CONTINUED

Awhile back I wrote a few words about bees. You can read my encounter here.  I would like to share two quick lessons from bees.

macro photography of bee on flower
Photo by Thijs van der Weide on Pexels.com

LESSON #1) Bees sting. If you are old enough to read this, chances are you’re a victim.  Remember that first bee you ticked off?  Remember the buzzing dagger catapulting towards you from a striped kamikaze Hymenoptera?  Remember the inflamed pulsating welt it left behind?  Remember your inability to catch your breath from crying too hard?  Remember grandma pulling out her home remedy book suggesting a treatment of mud, honey, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, toothpaste and a wet aspirin tablet…none of which seemed to work?

It didn’t take long for you to realize that you hated bees – rather passionately too. You warned everyone that came near a bee to get in a defensive posture, saying “Watch out, you’ll get stung!”

But, we all know bees aren’t bad. We know the war we waged against the fuzzy buzzy pollen packer was unwarranted.

“Just because you are allergic to bees doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the honey.”

Consider EVERYTHING you encounter in life as a proverbial bee. It has some pros and cons.  It might buzz around your head, it might sting, and it might even bring an army after you.  On the other hand, it might pollinate your plants and provide an abundant harvest.  It might bring you honey.  It might show you its waggle dance, and quite possibly sting that annoying dog next door.  Now, whether or not you wage war on a particular “bee,” that is up to you.

LESSON #2) Bees don’t fly in a straight line. Okay, technically they do when they head back to the hive – they “beeline” home.  But when they forage, they fly around in an erratic pattern that looks similar to a bathtub scribbled on by a two-year-old.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a defense mechanism against predators.  Maybe it’s because their brains are similar in size to a housefly… (the same thing that bounces itself into your window for several hours at a time).

Looking back at my individual journal entries, I see that I’m similarly erratic in a number of areas. For example, there have been several times that I thought I knew FOR SURE what career path I wanted to follow.  In no particular order, I wanted to be a Disney animator, a website developer, a journalist, an author, a nurse, a cop, a cook, an entrepreneur, a salesman, a carpenter, a rapper, an Independent Duty Corpsman, and an arborist. I have even considered jobs such as a tattoo artist or bartender (both completely incongruent with my values and beliefs).  Then again, bees don’t always land on flowers.  Sometimes they land on moving windshields, or get stung by a cactus.  I think we can all admit to perching on a “cactus” or two throughout our lives.

THE CHALLENGE: It’s okay to meander your way through life.  Try new things!  Explore!  Plan your life in pencil – not permanent marker.  30 years ago I had no idea that I’d be where I am today.  I imagine the same will hold true 30 years from now.  So just focus on gathering pollen, staying dry and getting back to the hive – i.e. Stay close to your family and serve them.  And while you’re at it, try not to sting anyone…it will probably hurt you more than it will hurt them.

CUSTARD CURES

Imagine with me for a moment that the world was coming to an end, or that society was saaaay….upside down.  Envision people running to and fro crying out that nobody could tell them what to do or how to live, not the government, not a prophet, not God himself, that all that stuff is just madness. 

Image that all the while, people failed to stock their shelves with the necessities of life and failed to plan ahead.  Imagine they purchased the fruit, but not the fruit tree (and only after the Fudge Rounds were sold out).  They bought the bread, but not the flour to make the bread.  Imagine that it was like Black Friday every… single… day…, but instead of toys, people were buying toilet paper…and LOTS of it.  Not for friends and neighbors,  but for themselves.  Imagine there was no toilet paper left on earth, as if there were a deadly plague going around.  Surely the children of Israel cried out, “Who needs Moses when there is all this toilet paper?!”  Not that the world is coming to end or anything.  But, lets face it, your life is (sorry fam)…and probably not from the virus that’s making you scoop up all the Scott and Charmin anyway – so stop dwelling on it.

Besides, I’d rather have dish soap.  Yeah, yeah, TP can wipe the brown custard like substance off your crack (as well as being a useful fire starter).  But dish soap is much easier to store, can wash a virus off my hands, can wash my clothes (not to mention dishes), can ALSO remove the custard like substance from off my crack – and even BETTER than tripple ply Cottonelle (it’s called a shower people), and Dawn does a darned fine job at shining my jewelry… in case the virus DOES kill me (Who doesn’t want to look their best in a casket anyway?)

Today my beloved wife scraped her knees when my lazy dog played dead between her 8.5 minute per mile feet.  My thoughts in order were:
1)  I hope she’s okay
2)  That was embarrassing
3)  Life goes on

(Sorry if my stoicism offends you.)

Yes, people are dying all around you from COVID-19, but it doesn’t mean you won’t scrape your knees today. People are dying all around you for a plethora of other reasons too (and having birthdays ruined).

Today, someone is likely to die from a vehicle collision, cancer, heart failure, snake bite, spider bite, shark bite, and even choking on a bagel bite.  Someone will fall off a ladder, slam their finger in the car door, loose a finger at the saw mill, and accidentally poop their pants while searching for toilet paper on an empty Walmart shelf.  You are not immune from any of them

THE CHALLENGE:  Worry about the stuff that matters!  Be a responsible citizen, Coronavirus is indeed the “F” word, but don’t stop living your life because others are dying. While you are on lock down, put the Fudge Rounds away and try learning something new – like how to be self sufficient. Maybe try baking a loaf of bread or learn how to grow something edible. Just in case, you know, the world decides to come to an end.

WINGS N’ THINGS

Long before the internet, there was this place called the library. If you wanted to gather information in a systematic fashion what would you use?  Google?  Nope!  Enter the prehistoric search engine, the Dewey Decimal System (Thank you Melvil, but I digress, a lot).

Going to the library was a must for me. I recall maxing out the 10 book limit on a regular basis.  My stack of books always came out of the “nature” genre, usually insects.

I was fascinated with bugs.  If I wasn’t reading about them, I was collecting specimens.  If I wasn’t collecting them, I was “conquering” them…usually with the bottom of my foot…or a magnifying glass (and a few other creative ways not worth mentioning – don’t judge – I was a boy).  Maybe that’s why my answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (An entomologist) never came to fruition.  (But I digress, again)

Have you ever noticed that ants take to the air for an opportunity to mate every time a summer heat wave strikes? After the “magic” happens, what next?  The male dies and the female abandons her wings.  What?!  What is wrong with Mother Nature?  Shouldn’t a new momma ant make herself as mobile as possible?  You know, explore the town, find the best neighborhood, maybe do a little shopping and perhaps raid a picnic?  Instead, she’s 100% committed.  She picks her nesting site and goes to work, never stopping until she dies.

THE CHALLENGE: Stop flying around.  You know what you want to be when you “grow up” right?  So do it.  Chew your wings off!  Dig in!  Do your thing!  Get to work and don’t stop.  The formula is that simple.  I already know that 99.9% of you reading this are going to look your wings in the mirror and tell yourself how you can’t live without them, and that you can’t lose them, at least not yet.  It’s a lie.  Don’t listen.

FLAKEY AT BEST

My kids grew up on Sea World – how lucky. My best animal adventure was a school field trip to Roger Williams State Zoo in Rhode Island – how lame.  Talk about apples and oranges.

While I never experienced the magic of watching people ride dolphins, I wasn’t clueless about underwater life. My older brother had a paper route and that allowed him to save enough pennies for…wait for it…wait for it…a fish bowl.  He never went without a fish.  They were sometimes gold and sometimes neon.  Eventually he discovered his favorite variety, a Siamese fighting fish.  They were terribly boring so I thought it was a good fit for him (we had our share of contention).  I can’t remember any of those fish living very long.  Unfortunately they seemed to go belly up within weeks, and while I don’t know the exact cause of death, I’m sure my generous contribution of fish flakes didn’t help.

Occasionally we took a summer vacation across the country all the way to the beehive state. We quickly learned that there was no way to frontload the fish food.  If they didn’t die from overeating, starvation was certain, even after cannibalism ensued.

As humans we tend to scoff at the scaly creature circling the fishbowl. We might suppose that fins and gills equate to a complete lack of human characteristics.  But the aforementioned observation changed my mind.  Hunger is as real as it gets!  Gluttony isn’t too far off the mark either.

Hunger makes the world turn. Let’s face it, we get up and go to work so we can eat.  Joey Chestnut got up one day and decided he would set a world record by devouring 74 hot dogs.   But hot dogs or not, no matter how full you get… it won’t be enough.  It won’t sustain.  Give it some time and before you know it that tummy starts to grumble.  Bears stock up for hibernation, but soon enough even they roll out of the cave for a midnight snack.

The takeaway (and please don’t nuke this one) is this. For anything to sustain maximum vitality and life, it needs a daily dose of nutrition.  Forget burning the midnight oil.  It’s not sustainable.  “Two-a-days” at the gym?  When did this become a thing?  How about “five-a-days” or “ten-a-days”?  Stupid right?  Work a job for the overtime?  Not for me.  Why?  Because you still have to flip burgers, drill oil, or file paperwork the next day.  Run a marathon in your 20s, cool…but what can you do in your 60s?  Maybe a mile per day, or even a mile per year is more sustainable for the long haul.

THE CHALLENGE:  Keep it simple.  Don’t overfeed your fish!  But don’t let them eat each other either.  You have to feed the things you want to keep alive.  You want to be a great artist, welder, pilot, musician, or mechanic?  The formula is simple, feed your craft.  Sure there are times to put in a little extra, and there are times to back off.  But remember this – play the long game!  Be consistent!  Watch how many flakes you put in the bowl and don’t go on vacation for too long.

Shoot Blanks

What do most (if not all) books have in common?  A blank page defiled by the words “this page intentionally left blank.”

As if failure to declare this intention would result in a lawsuit.  But who really cares in the first place?

I’ve bookmarked, color coded, tabbed, and dog eared countless pages. But that blank page always goes without attention.  Maybe there is more to

be told on that singular page than any paragragraph in any book.  At least

one beckoning message is for us to “leave room.”

Our lives are filled with obligations and we saturate every crevice of every hour with trivial distractions! I bet one thing they are not filled with is bordom. Think about it, when was the last time you were genuinely bored? I’m not suggesting our time should be idled away. But it is worth asking, have we left any blank space – with intent?

“Boredom is good when in a creative rut, often you will find gift wrapped answers.” -Stephen King

THE CHALLENGE:  How many minutes of your day are intentionally left blank? No seriously, count them up.  Do you leave any room to just sit and think? Do you leave enough white space to find those gift wrapped answers? I dare you to stop reading this, unplug, and go experience boredom for a few minutes. String together some blank pages and note the tremendous influence it yields on the remainder of your “book.”

A Smart Question Never Asked

If you hear the term “winter fun” you might think of ski slopes and snowball fights.  For me, I prefer the beach.  No crowds, no kids dusting your towel with sand, and no barrage of seagulls stealing your snacks because the person next to you tossed out their chili cheese fries like it’s a petting zoo.  Sure it’s too cold to swim, but the vistas are all mine, the shoreline can be scavenged at will for all manner of treasures and the golden winter sunlight can’t be rivaled.

I remember Memorial Day weekend growing up in Rhode Island.  For some reason, we thought this was a good day for an annual trip to the beach.  It wasn’t – but I didn’t know that as a kid.  I thought a beach was supposed to be crowded, that you were supposed to sit in traffic for hours, that you were supposed to wait in long lines for food or to use the restroom.  I never asked the smart question, “Why are we doing this on the busiest day of the year?”

Guess what just passed?  Memorial Day Weekend.  I live five miles from the ocean and visit year round.  I didn’t think much of it.  Seemed like just another good day for me to walk the dog.  Somehow I overlooked the fact that this holiday would bring out all the beach bums.

Roughly three miles into the walk my dog quit.  She had enough of the sun, got a drink from the doggy fountain and plopped onto the sand beneath the pier – the one spot that nobody occupies due to the foul smell and lack of sunshine.

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Not two minutes pass by before a cop drives up to me, delivers a dirty look and states, “You can’t have your dog on the beach.”  Was I disappointed that the officer could not see the forest through the trees?  Of course!  He failed to ask the smart question.

Obviously, it wasn’t my choice to stand in the most inconvenient location beneath the pier.  Obviously, my dog was preventing heat exhaustion.  Obviously, nobody would ever use that section of beach.  But the officer was simply doing his job.  He waited for me to pick my dog up and place her back on the sun-baked pavement.  If it was winter time (or any other time of year) I would never have this problem.  The cops come out when the crowds come out.

APPLICATION:  My life is best lived when I abide by strict boundaries.  It makes me happy when I don’t have to rethink my decisions or compromise my standards.  My life is most enriched when I protect my goals the way this cop protected the beach.  He never had to ask the “smart question” because he had a job to do.

THE CHALLENGE:  If you intend to make a difference in this world, you also have a job to do.  Avoid asking questions that compromise the integrity of your decisions.  Get your dang “dog” off the beach!  You know it shouldn’t be there in the first place.  Perhaps the only smart question to ask right now is, “How can I be more like that cop?”  At the end of the day, excuses don’t alter performance.  When something creeps in on your goals and tries to steal your attention, give it a dirty look and wait for it to “get back on the pavement.”

Photo by: Chris Yarzab