Writing prompt #03: What does this image spark in you?

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This week’s writing prompt from Death to Stock is about seeing an image and writing about whatever it is that the image makes you feel. I saw a story about two kids discovering the car and having an adventure. 

We found it there just as it must have been thirty years ago under the big Oak tree and about 45 minutes walk south from our back door. Even though we knew the owner hasn’t been around in decades, we still searched for tracks as though some mystery was about to unfold in front of us. I think Katie first decided to classify it as evidence.

“Don’t touch anything!” she yelled. “We have to dust it for prints.”

Katie ran around to the back of the car to where my backpack was sitting in the grass. She pulled out a napkin from our lunchbox and put the lunchbox back in the pack. She began rubbing the napkin in the dirt.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

She stood up and began patting the door handle with the napkin like it was fingerprint powder.

“I’m seeing if we can find any fingerprints,” she said. “Go around to the other door and open it using your sweatshirt. Make sure you don’t touch it. See if there are any clues inside.”

“Clues for what?” I asked.

She didn’t answer. She was moving toward the back of the car and dusting the whole thing; door handles, windows, the rims, everything was evidence on the car. I opened the passenger door, careful not to touch it with my fingers. I got in and noticed an old glass bottle on the floorboard, and some dried leaves on the seats and dash. I noticed the flowers hanging from the mirror and there was a broken picture frame in the back seat. I reported my findings to Katie.

Katie open the door on the driver’s side and sat in the driver’s seat. She had dropped the evidence napkin and seemed content disrupting whatever evidence might be on the steering wheel. I got in, picked up the bottle from the floorboard and shut the door behind me.

I looked at Katie through the glass bottle and she was holding on to the steering wheel. She was staring through the front windshield and seemed frozen in the moment.

“I wonder why they left it here,” she said. “I wonder how long it will be before someone else finds it again.”

I put the glass back on the floorboard where I found it and looked through the windshield at the sun peaking above the treeline.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But I’m glad we did.”

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I’m Over the Facebook Food Hacks

Dear Facebook friends who share food hack videos,

I want to start off by stating my love for food. I love food. I like eating it, smelling it, and looking at it. I bought a French Laundry coffee table book that had these high-end food recipes when I graduated college because I thought it would not only make me look cultured to people who came to my house, but because I genuinely liked just looking at the food and imagining how good it must have been to eat.

I also want to say I like “hacks.” Lifehacks are like little eureka nuggets that, even if I never use or think about again, give me a little “how ’bout that” moment in the day and makes me appreciate people’s creativity.

What I don’t like is scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing 30 second food hacks about making pizza pretzels out of Pillsbury dough, jalapeno poppers in the microwave, soda-batter mini corn dogs, cheeseball dusted oreos, or whatever else kind of things you people post.

They all look the exact same and none of you actually make them. I feel like if you post one of those videos, you should be required to show proof that you ate that for dinner that night.

Remember when Twitter came out, and no one really knew what to do with it, so they just took pictures of their dinner? That is kind of what it feels like when I scroll through my FB feed and see a food hack video.

They all start with one of two things: someone whipping up eggs in a white bowl or unrolling pre-made dough. Quick hands pull it away from screen and heat/freeze. Add cheese. Again with the fast hands and dust with melted butter. Fast hands. 15-20 minutes and hey look, you have candy-corn homemade butterfinger balls. Do you know what would actually happen if you melted candy corn? It would take on some kind of mixture of toothpaste and wet cement. Add peanut butter? Now you have a poo-colored gluelike glob of mess that I guarantee you will look like a turd in the fridge. Seriously. Someone is going to come over, open your fridge looking for some La Croix or something like that, and see some little poo nuggets and never come over to your house again.

“Oh don’t mind those, they’re just candy corn and peanut butter butterfinger balls. The fun thing about those is that they look the exact same going in as they do coming out, and with as much -ucose that is in them, they probably won’t even digest at all!”

You know what would be a cool food hack? Take your white bowl, remove all eggs, candy corn, and sugar, take the bowl outside to your garden, and put some carrots in that bowl. Quick hands it inside, wash the carrots, and that’s it. Less heating, cooling, melting, and microwaving, and you won’t have to worry about the stomach ache that would come later with those other food hacks.

I just can’t people.

 

My golf game is negatively affecting my handicap

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In these modern times, you can make much ado about nothing over just about anything. If there isn’t a solution to a problem, there’s probably an app for it and there can be no blame for anyone regardless of what the problem may have been. Fault is a four letter word and as long as you claim pure-intention, than the small print was too small to hold you accountable for anything. In an era where participation trophies are the norm and if you can’t get what you want it’s somebody else’s fault, I would like to formally issue a complaint with the USGA regarding my handicap.

I am upset with my high handicap and feel that a lower, more attractive handicap be issued to me.

I can’t be expected to keep up the level of play I expect of myself every round I play. This winter, I traveled to Florida and played two different courses in which I shot +27 and +29 (respectively). Not only was it the first time I’ve played in literal MONTHS, but the grass was (in all likelihood) different than I’m used to — the soft mowed-too-short grass in Ohio plays completely different than the tangled grass in Florida and I shouldn’t be expected to know how to differentiate between the two. And to that point, neither should my handicap!

What’s more, I have a reputation to consider when discussing my handicap with others. At my best, I was teetering on the single-digit range, and in my mind and in conversations with other golfers I meet, it is still right there (likely nine and some change in most conversations). The fact that I didn’t play college golf only makes my version of my handicap that much more impressive. I believe that rounds should be thrown out if the following scenarios factored into a round:

  1. I was hungry and didn’t eat at the turn – professionals are afforded with the luxury of pretty much naming whatever sandwich or Clif Bar they want and they don’t have to worry about putting it in their bag; someone else does it for them. If I don’t remember to pack a snack, my handicap shouldn’t suffer because of it.
  2. Never played the course before – how am I supposed to know if there is a creek that crosses the fairway, or whether I’d be able to fly it had I known to begin with? How should I know that the best way to approach a par 5 is from the left side of the fairway? I can’t be expected to buy a yardage book every time I play. Plus, yardage books are flat, and the last time I checked, real courses are in 3D.
  3. I get paired up with strangers – when you’re paired with strangers, part of you has to do a little bit of detective work to see what kind of person you’re playing with. Is it a part-time pro, is it someone who wears an untucked shirt and backwards ball cap? Maybe their brother just died, and it would be rude if I were to make a par because he’s in mourning and letting him win a few holes might be just what he needs. The point is, you don’t know and your handicap shouldn’t suffer because of the unknown.
  4. I had to rush to get to the course – I don’t need a lot of warmup unless I feel like I need a lot of warmup, but having to rush to the course, hurry up and pay, run down to the tee box and tee off in two seconds is hardly fair when judging my ability to score. If I don’t have at least 15-20 minutes to properly stretch, hit a few balls at the range, mark a putting green off with tees and get a feel for the greens, handicap isn’t going in the system.
    1. Also, if the putting greens are not the same speed as the actual greens, no dice on the handicap
  5. Slow play on the course – I get that pros deal with slow play sometimes when they’re behind Kevin Na, but they also can afford shrinks, consultants, and the like to keep them mentally sharp from 1 to 18. I have to worry about work, getting home to let the dog out, not having a pair of golf shorts that fit me… Now you’re telling me I have to play behind the Wendy’s women’s league? No. NO! Round don’t count!
  6. Being rushed on the course – If Johnny Bravo is behind me hitting into me when I’m lining up a putt, I’m not going to make it. Same goes if I’m in the fairway and he’s teeing off. Same goes if I’m in the fairway and I get the impression that he’s waiting on me. Same goes if I started 5 holes ahead of someone and now they’re on the green behind me as I’m teeing off. I know what they’re thinking and it’s forcing me to pull the ball.
  7. Too drunk or not drunk enough – I have a sweet spot (provided I’m teeing off after 9a.m.), and until I hit it, I’m not playing to the best of my ability. One beer too many, I was never playing serious anyway. Either way, handicap don’t count.
  8. The etcetera clause – Just like Congress defines porn as “they know it when they see it,” so too does this rule when it comes to something not counting against my handicap. I might not be able to put it into words, but if I’m on the course and I feel something isn’t right, I should retain the right to not count it against me.

In summation, all the above items are things that professionals don’t have to deal with and I’m pretty sure Old Tom Morris, or whoever invented golf, didn’t consider being paired up with Beth and Betty on Sunday when you have to meet your wife for dinner in 5 hours. In fact, the only time I feel I should count my handicap is when my game is where I expect it, my playing partner wrote me down for a score or two better than I really got and I forgot to correct him, and I put the score in a day or two later when I don’t have the scorecard in front of me, and I was pretty sure my score was just three or four over for the round.

Yes, I watched “Making a Murderer”

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Image courtesy of http://www.mirror.co.uk

Social media peer-pressured me into watching “Making a Murderer.” In fact, social media peer-pressured me into buying a Netflix account and watching “Making a Murderer,” and now my wife wants to starting watching old episodes of “New Girl.” I fell into the trap because I saw headlines on Twitter of articles I refused to read until I watched the show that suggested the film makers receive Nobel Prizes for what they were able to do with the show.

Now that I’ve watched the 10-episode, 10-hour “documentary” about Steve Avery, a man who was falsely accused of a crime he spent 18 years in prison for, only to be released and charged one year later with first-degree murder, I don’t feel satisfied. I wanted to have a hard stance one way or the other about whether or not he did it, and the truth is I still don’t know. No matter how entertaining “Making a Murderer” might have been, I want to feel like I got something out of it for dedicating 10 hours of my life to learning this guy’s story. If I went to the gym and spent 10 hours there, I’d want to see some results, or at least feel like I’m on my way to seeing them. Watching “Making a Murderer” is like going to the gym for 10 hours and just looking at the equipment and making sure it works.

The online world is on fire with this documentary, which really only presents Avery’s side through following his family and his lawyers around as the case finds it’s way to the present day. People are calling on President Obama to issue a presidential pardon for Avery, as two separate petitions have been sent through whatever channel those petitions are sent. I think the same people who needed something to fill the void the first season of “Serial” left (sorry season two) have latched on to “Marking a Murderer.” There is now a militia of couch detectives that are seeking justice and are tweeting hot fire until they feel vindicated. And the truth is, I don’t blame them. Again, ten hours of concentration is no easy task for this generation of millennials.

In the end, the best thing I can say is that yes, I watched “Making a Murderer.” I can renew my pop culture card and carry on a conversation with the hip kids at the party who want to debate the merits of the prosecution’s case.

“But where was the blood, man? If he did it, then where was the blood?”

I should be clear. I didn’t dislike “Making a Murderer” at all. In fact, I enjoyed my time watching the show and trying to make up my mind on the “if not him than who?” aspect of the show. My only regret is that the intellectual gains I was hoping to get from watching the show are as lacking as my biceps from having sat on the couch for ten hours this weekend.

The Best Things about Being an Adult

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When I was a kid, like most kids, I thought that being an adult was joyless, full of work, and you wore the inability to have fun like a cape on your back for all to see. Having turned 30 this year, I feel like I am finally a real life, actual adult, and I have learned that while it’s hard to be as excited about everything as I was as a kid, there are still some things that make being an adult A-OK.

I find joy in things I never thought I could as a kid. When I was young, the things that brought me joy either beeped or cost a lot of money. Not only do things that beep or cost a lot of money now scare me, I find joy in the opposite of those two things. One of the best things about being an adult is finding the things that bring you the most happiness don’t cost anything at all.

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For me that is family, running and being outside, and playing with my dog. But the things that don’t cost anything aren’t the ONLY  things that bring me joy as an adult; I do have a full-time job that doesn’t afford me the luxury of owning a Porsche, but does give me a little extra scrap to spend on this or that. When you’re not an adult, you can’t justify spending an extra dollar for bacon on your burger, but when a waitress says the guac on your burrito is an extra $2, you don’t even flinch (you also saw that coming, Chipotle). But having enough behind you to let your instinct answer and not have to think about it is a good thing.

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It’s also fun to realize all the misconceptions you thought about adults isn’t true. I remember being young, and thinking all adult conversations were boring and about work or business or the stock market or newspapers. When you get a little older, you realize there are still fart jokes to be had and most adults in conversations about politics just nod and rehash information that isn’t any deeper than a headline they might have seen on Twitter.

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You can go on vacation by yourself. Don’t get me wrong, family vacations are fun, but so are vacations you go on with one person (hey babe!), or maybe just one other couple. You will experience places entirely differently if you don’t have to worry about hiding alcohol in your suitcase or going to Magic Kingdom twice in a week. Now, I get to go to a swanky bar so I can nurse a $8 bottle of Miller Lite for an hour and talk about how much fun it was.

“Do you want to have one more or go somewhere else?”

“Already tabbed out. Let me help you with your coat.”

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All in all, being an adult has it’s drawbacks. As much fun as those quiet, cost-less moments are, there are equally as many boring ones where there isn’t anything to watch on TV but Flip or Flop or Wives with Knives. Money is a lot of fun, but bills, budgeting, and not being able to pull the trigger on a pair of running shoes despite the fact that yours have a huge tear in them all aren’t very much fun. But, in the end, and for as much fun as I had when I was younger, I wouldn’t trade where I’m at for anything. Plus, and maybe the best thing about being an adult, is being able to look back at everything you used to do and remember all the great things that led you to where you are today.

What Feels like Magic to you?

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This is part two of Death to Stock Photo’s writing prompt series that I am writing both on Medium and WordPress. The prompt was “What feels like magic to you?” and below is what I think feels like magic to me.

Magic is a funny thing because in order to feel it, you have to let your mind give up on trying to figure things out. The first thing I think of when I think of “magic” is the guy on stage with a black top half either making something disappear or pulling something out of thin air. Your first thought is always “how did he do that?” The younger we are, the more willing we are to just call it magic and believe.

As we get older, those old magic tricks aren’t as awesome. We try to figure it out, and instead of chalking it up to magic, we say things like “slight of hand, mirrors, illusions, or trick deck.” We aren’t as willing to accept magic into our lives because as we become adults, imagination turns into reason and we over-analyze why things happen, whether its a magic trick or an accident on the highway.

There are times, however, that magic can find it’s way back into our lives if we let it. For me, one word stands out when I think of what feels like magic to me, and that word is “connect.”

When I hear a song for the first time that I connect with, it feels like magic. The other night while I was running, I heard a song (The Gambler by Fun) that made me think of my wife and how I wished we could have used that song in our wedding somehow. There is no explanation for why that song at that moment made me feel that way, just like as a kid, there is no explanation for how a someone could be sawed in half but still move their arms and feet from a separated box.

When I see a movie that I connect with, I want to go out and do something; I want to be a better person or fulfill some aspect of my life that isn’t complete (hopefully for other people who feel the same way, that movie isn’t SAW or Fear and Loathing for two very different reasons). I sign up for a race because I want to connect with some athletic part of me I miss from years back when that was a big part of how I identified myself. The euphoria I feel when I run now is magic to me.

When I read books and connect with an idea or a character I think it’s magic. Years ago, I read Anna Karenina and there is a section that deals with one of the primary characters, Levin. Levin was a farmer (more or less) who would go out and work the fields with some of the peasants he hired. The passage in the book finds Levin in a field and connecting the synergy of the world to the trees and crops, and how they all work in harmony to help the people live and survive. I remember reading that and deciding that was my idea of God. The fact that something someone wrote more than 100 years ago can change my mind on how I think about life can only be described as magic.

Whether we are children or adults, magic comes down to taking a step away from something and just accepting it for what it is. It’s not about reason, logic, or facts, but about allowing yourself to live in whatever moment you happen to be in and connect with something that moves you.

Real Men Watch the Bachelor

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Image courtesy of http://www.theodysseyonline.com

Regardless of the fact that this is a show that admittedly I began watching because  of my wife, I feel the Bachelor (and to a lesser extent the Bachelorette) gets a bad rap for being a show that other guys think only women can enjoy.  This, my friends, is not the case, and I will explain why (and how) men can and should enjoy this show.

So the premise is girly. I won’t argue that. A bunch of women who want to be famous go to Hollywood to meet a guy who a bunch of producers painted in a favorable light last season in hopes that he smells as good as he looked on TV and they’ll make pretty babies together in a year or two, in which a camera crew will follow their journey to happily ever after and somehow they will absorb money like a sponge does water through looking pretty and doing nearly no “work” for the rest of their lives. Ladies, I don’t think many of you will tell me that I am too far off.

However, in the same way that anyone can watch their favorite movie and say to themselves, “there is no way that can happen in real life, but I will allow myself to go with it for the sake of entertainment,” so to is how we must approach watching the Bachelor. Real life doesn’t mean your first date involves helicopters, private lagoons, fireworks, and an entire castle to yourself, save the personal performance by Matt Nathanson or Hootie or someone akin to that B- level celebrity who is happy to sing a love song as long as the camera is running. It’s not real life, and that’s fine. It is the only way 25+ women can genuinely believe that they are in love after dating a guy for two weeks and having a total of three conversations with him, two of which were at 3:15 a.m. before a rose ceremony.

Now, before I go on, I should apologize to anyone who watches this show differently than I do. I know that there are people like my wife who do genuinely root for some people on that show because they connect with them. Her two favorite people in the world after our dog are Shawn and Kaitlyn from last season. I don’t judge or care why someone likes a show; if my watching old seasons of Entourage means she wants to image search all the good looking guys in the show, I call that a win-win. The same can be the case for the Bachelor. If she can connect with the women and their stories while I can banter with her about how Chris Harrison clasps and unclasps his hands at least six times every time he addresses a group of people (seriously, if you haven’t noticed, watch his hands when he talks), win-win.

Lately, watching the Bachelor has gotten more interesting with the advent of FANTASY BACHELOR, a game in which you spend fake–nay “fantasy” money to build a roster of women after episode one. Points are scored on drunkenness (more prevalent in the Bachelorette, because the guys tend to get drunker earlier on that show than do the ladies), kissing (bonus points for makeouts or doubles+), roses, fights, and all sorts of other little things that make watching the show that much more fun.

Ultimately, it’s OK if the men of the world watch the Bachelor. The fact that I haven’t even mentioned that there are twenty-five 21-35 year old good looking women (for the most part) should be enough to at least allow you to watch an episode or two, especially now that Monday Night Football is on hiatus.