The Trials and Tribulations of Our 9th Anniversary Dinner

[Editor’s Note: The following story was originally posted on October 21, 2014]

My Wife: “It tastes kind of like a light olive.”

Me: “Why would I want to try something that tastes like an olive? I hate olives.”

Wife: “You might like it, just try it.”

Me: “I’ve never even heard of a caper, other than a crime caper.”

Wife: “Yes you have. Hannibal Lecter eats them, sautéed with brains.”

Me: “Wait, so you want me to eat this thing because it will bring me one step closer to being Hannibal Lecter?”

The conversation went on from there. At some point I stuff that wretched pea sized caper into my unsuspecting mouth and my taste buds revolted. Not only is a caper not “a light olive”, it’s about 10 times worse than an olive. I will NEVER eat another caper. I’ll leave capers to Hannibal Lecter. Continue reading “The Trials and Tribulations of Our 9th Anniversary Dinner”


Appreciating the Present: A Christmas Tale

This would be the last Christmas on our land. The land where we had chopped firewood, planted trees, dug a pond, raised various animals, and pulled weeds out of a huge garden. In a few months, when the trees, weeds, and cornfields would be full and green, we would move 15 miles away to a city of 13,000 people. For now, it was still business a usual, opening gifts on a cold December morning.

1981-12 Christmas Justin (4) Tractor
Me (4), Christmas 1981, armed with a tractor.

Like many toys from the era, this Ford tractor was mostly metal and could have easily doubled as a weapon—I had it for many, many years. Also, notice the large white Bible on the TV—we had it for many, many years as well. Continue reading “Appreciating the Present: A Christmas Tale”

The One Thing That Had the Greatest Impact on My Life

I didn’t know it at the time, but in January of 1981 my life changed forever. I was three years old and my parent’s marriage was entering its fifth year. Friction had turned into fire, and it was clear that my parent’s marriage was in trouble. My dad knew he needed a change in his life, and that change came in the form of Christianity.

1981-09-20 Howard (24) George (39) Sugar Creek Baptized
September 1981: Dad (24) baptized by Pastor George (39)
Overnight, my dad stopped drinking, smoking, cussing, and everything else that resembled his old life. My mom followed suit a week later—after realizing how much she liked the changes she saw in her husband. Continue reading “The One Thing That Had the Greatest Impact on My Life”

How to Look Cool in a Photo

1981-04 Justin (4) Elsie Basement Great Grandpa Chair
Me (4) April 1981

This is all wrong. I’m looking away from the camera, I have no idea what I’m doing with my hands, and I don’t know what I’m doing with my mouth, but I don’t think we can count that as a smile. The brick wall in Uncle Mark and Aunt Elsie’s basement is a nice touch, but when is the last time someone looked cool in a rocking chair? Okay, let’s see if someone else in the family can show us how to look cool in a photo. Continue reading “How to Look Cool in a Photo”

5 Reasons Why Waterbeds Made the 1980s Great

1981-05 Waterbed Justin Rhonda
Mom (25) and Me (4), May 1981
  1. They were warm when you laid down on them.
  2. You could close your eyes, do a trust fall, and feel like you were floating on the ocean for about 10 seconds.
  3. You could jump on them when your parents weren’t looking.
  4. The 24–48 hours of anticipation as you waited for the waterbed to heat.
  5. Watching your parents freak out when the mattress sprung a leak.

What’s a simple thing from your childhood that brought you joy? What’s a simple thing that currently brings you joy? Can you think of more simple things that bring you joy? The next step is to spend more time doing those things.

Did I Ever Tell You about the Time I Almost Died in a Fire?

Me (4) with the freezers of death in the spring of 1981.

My parents purchased the freezers pictured above for a total of $30—I’m told they looked pretty sweet after a cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. They were eventually moved to the makeshift shed attached to the side of our trailer. The night of the fire, the upright freezer (I’m standing next to it in the photo) was defrosting. My dad had placed a shovel under the cord to create a hump which prevented water from running down the cord and into the outlet. It was one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments that we’ve all had in our lives. Continue reading “Did I Ever Tell You about the Time I Almost Died in a Fire?”

When is a Garden Too Big?

Dad (23) and me (4) tilling the soil with Grandpa Smith’s tractor and plow in April, 1981.

When is a garden too big? Is it too big when you have to use a farm tractor to till it? Is it too big when you have to divide it into two gardens? Is it too big when you have to use a week’s vacation to pull weeds? My parents say a garden is too big when it fits all of the above criteria and there’s only two adults and one four-year-old child to tend it. Continue reading “When is a Garden Too Big?”