Friday, July 9, 2010


I recently participated in a blind orange juice taste test. No, that doesn’t mean the oranges were blind or the tasters were blind. It simply means we had no idea before hand whose juice we were being served. We rated each juice and we made comments.

Now this posting is not about which juice was the best and which was the worst. Although I do feel compelled to announce that the best tasting orange juice was …

Natalie's Orchid Island Juice

Not surprising, since Orchid Island’s orange juice has been a taste test winner numerous times across the country.

What I found fascinating about the taste test was the comments.

Oh, not the usual stuff like, “Tastes like oranges,” or “tastes like fresh squeezed,” or even “yucky,” or “tastes like citrus crap.” Those kinds of comments are expected and typical.

It was the almost editorial-like comments that were the most interesting, and worth sharing with you, for your reading entertainment.

Consider the following …

“When I was a kid, my momma would sing me to sleep. It was as comforting as it was peaceful. This orange juice was like that.”

“If this is supposed to be what ‘fresh-squeezed’ tastes like, then they failed to mention that they squeezed rotten oranges.”

“This juice was better than what I imagine sex would be like.”

“I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to make what should be a sweet liquid taste as flat and dry as the Bonneville Salt Flats.”

“If Effen Vodka is the connoisseur’s top choice, then Orchid Island is the f-in’ top choice to make a screwdriver.”

“They used to say, ‘A day without orange juice is a day without sunshine.’ Well, this juice was a day that went pitch black. Stay in bed. Sleep through the day. And wake up tomorrow with somebody else’s orange juice.”

My choice for the best comment regarding what the taster thought was the worst orange juice ever, goes to the writer of this …

“Fresh-squeezed from the finest oranges?? More like fresh-stomped by dirty feet wrapped in stanky, crusty socks, on the dirt floor of a cow barn not cleaned in a month, using the deadest, moldiest oranges we could find in the dumpster. Please, these people ought to be arrested for impersonating an orange juice company and you sponsors ought to be arrested for attempted murder of my taste buds. Shame on them. Shame on you. Shame on me for taking a second taste because I couldn’t believe ‘orange juice’ could really taste that bad in the first place.”

And my choice for the best comment regarding the taster’s best orange juice ever? Definitely this one. (I wish I’d written it myself.)

“This is the juice of legends. It is as if the juice-makers had one opportunity to make the finest juice they could for God, knowing that if He were pleased, they would enter Heaven. And knowing that if He were not pleased, they would be condemned to hell. And God tasted it and said, ‘Oh. My. Self. This is absolutely heavenly. Well done, good and faithful juice-makers.’”

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Simplifying your life is a very trendy thing to do these days. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites dedicated to one aspect or another of simplification. And they are all essentially saying the same thing.

You don’t need everything you have.

Give away what you don’t need.

Repeat as necessary.

And yes, it does become necessary to repeat. For numerous reasons, people seem to continually fill their space, at least in this country.

So let me offer what I consider one of the best anti-stuff-collecting measures one can take to achieve and maintain an uncluttered life.

Stop watching TV.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


“Mornin’ Mike,” I said as I walked into one of my local hardware stores. Mike was a kid who had been working there for about three years. A good kid and usually helpful when I had questions. “How’ve you been?”

“Good morning, Mr. E,” he greeted. “Ehh, things have been better.”

That was an unusual response from Mike. He never complained. Even though we’d known each other for a few years, conversations were always about tools, or supplies, or advice on how to deal with a home maintenance or improvement issue. He was friendly. I was friendly. And even though we liked each other, it really wasn’t personal. It was always business. So his unusual response was quite noticeable and took me by surprise.

“Problems, Mike?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know the answer.

“Ohhh, I might have to get a different job.”

“How come? You doing okay here, aren’t you?”

“”That’s just the thing,” Mike said. “I’ve been here three years and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Other guys have been here less time and they’re moving ahead of me. So-o-o, maybe I just need another job. Somewhere where they’ll recognize my talent or something.”

I made some rather innocuous statement of encouragement and he helped me find the filters I needed.

But as I sat in the car, getting ready to drive on to my next errand, I took a few moments to think about Mike’s situation.

As I said earlier, Mike is a good kid. He’s polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. As far as I knew his bosses didn’t have a problem with his job performance. But I wondered about his appearance, especially compared to the other employees who had moved ahead of him, despite their shorter length of employment.

Mike was, a sort of dirty kid. His hair was unkempt and often looked greasy. His jeans looked like he worked, slept, worked, slept, worked and slept in them for too many consecutive days. His fingernails were usually too long and sporting impacted dirt underneath them.

But, you know, it’s a hardware store. Most guys don’t seem to really mind that, because it’s a store about work. And not to be sexist, I’m going to guess that most women probably wouldn’t object that much either, for the same reason. It’s a store about work. People who work often get dirty.

But I think there may be a problem with the shop shirt he wore. While the other employees started their day with clean shirts, Mike’s was typically already dirty. As if he hadn’t washed it for a week, even though he was wearing it every day.

And yes, there was the hint of old sweat and body odor. And on particularly hot and humid days, the hint gave way to palpability.

So while Mike’s personality, dependability and work ethic worked for his success, his personal appearance probably worked against it.

I thought about going back into the store and sharing my thoughts with Mike, but questioned the appropriateness of it. After all, we weren’t family or friends, just a regular customer and a friendly employee.

So I went back in.

I asked Mike if he would like me to share some advice on how he might get ahead in his job, even if it meant hearing some things he might not particularly like.

Surprisingly, he agreed. We decided to meet at the corner café after his shift ended.

I learned a couple of things about Mike. He’d been living on his own for the last two years. He didn’t make a lot of money. In fact, he didn’t make enough to eat well or buy “extra” stuff like haircuts, shampoo and detergent, among other things.

So I told him that for the next six months, I would pay for a monthly haircut, buy a couple of extra shop shirts and pairs of jeans, and pay for his personal hygiene supplies, detergent and laundromat expenses, if he promised to pay daily attention to his personal appearance.

He asked why I was willing to do that. I simply told him, that’s what a good Samaritan does. He said he didn’t know what a good Samaritan was, but if I was willing to do that for him, he would commit to improving his personal appearance.

Six months later, he was still neat and clean every day he went to work, he had been given a promotion and a raise in pay, sufficient to take care of his own expenses. As good as his attitude had been, it was even better.

Why bother sharing this story with you? It’s not for any accolades or pats on the back. It is done with the hope that if you see someone with a need you can meet, to encourage you to go ahead and meet it. You might be surprised at who really benefits from the simple acts of understanding and compassion.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


The mother and child were speaking French, engaged in what sounded like a rather deep conversation. Her son looked to be around 6 or 7 years old. Every now and again I would hear the names Descartes, Kant and Aristotle – icons in the world of philosophy.

So what was a 7-year-old doing discussing philosophers? I’ve no idea, really.

Perhaps he was a child prodigy.

They left for a while, headed toward the history, or reference section.

After about 15 minutes, they had returned. It almost seemed like she was quizzing him.

Except now they were speaking Spanish.

And I’m beginning to feel a little less smart. Mensa-qualified or not, I still only speak one language. I like to think I speak it imperfectly but well. And sometimes I like to think I speak it perfectly well. But it’s still only the one language. (Not counting gibberish, which I am actually quite fluent in.)

But discussing philosophy in French and whatever they were discussing in Spanish? Not in my repertoire.

And then a breakthrough. At least for me. I heard English spoken.

“Mom?” the boy genius asked. “Can we take a break soon?”

“Langston,” his mother intoned. “You want to get into Harvard, don’t you?”

Okay, a couple of “problems” here.

First, who names their kid “Langston” anymore? Oh, I’m sure it has some family importance, or perhaps some historical reference, but this is the 21st century. And Langston doesn’t even break in the top 1,000 names for popularity. Not that popularity is the only or primary factor in naming a child, but what does his nickname become? These are considerations that parents need to be making.

Second, the kid is six or seven years old. And he needs to be concerned with what college he needs to matriculate?? Talk about getting the bum’s rush out of childhood.

But then, Langston’s true genius shone through.

“Can I be a kid once in a while too?” he asked.

Hallelujah. Profound insight noted. Courage to speak also noted.

Mother, either blind and deaf, or just plain oblivious.

“Langston,” she says, apparently in all seriousness. “You can be a kid after you graduate from college. If you think it’s still important then.”

OMG. Somebody call the living-vicariously-through-your-children police for intentional assault and battery on a childhood.

I get it. Parents want the kids to have a better life than they had. Or at least equal to. And yes, I will concede that I am passing judgement without having all the facts.

But seriously, parents need to let their kids be kids. And if the boy genius is smart enough to recognize the importance of that, then this is one instance when the mom needs to listen to her son.

It made me want to run out, find a big puddle, jump up and down in it, get myself all muddy and wet, and then go to Culver’s for a chocolate sundae with marshmallow topping.

Because acting like a kid, once in a while, is, yes, still important.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Just kidding. Feel free to smile, giggle, chuckle or laugh all day today.

Your Monday Morning Chuckle.