Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time



How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” 
(Dr. Seuss)

It should not be so difficult to accept the fact that we have entered into the second trimester of the months most of us consider to be autumn.  The calendar states that it is now October whether any of us is ready for it or not . . . states it right there in big bold letters that it is October.  Yeah, I know . . . it is hard to believe.  It seems as if it was only yesterday that we were enjoying the Indian Summer days of September . . . where did September go?  Time sure has been moving fast . . . it will be December before we know it!

Now, I know better than to say that as I have gotten older that life seems to have gotten faster . . . I know better because it just is not true.  Time doesn't change . . . it does move any faster or slower than it ever has . . . it is still the same despite my perceptions of it.  Sixty seconds is still sixty seconds . . . an hour is an hour . . . a day is a day . . . and, unfortunately, a year is still a year.  Time just keeps chugging away at the same old rate that it always has whether or not any of us wants it to.  My getting older doesn't mean that time has sped up as much as it means that I have probably slowed down.  Getting old sort of has it means of slowing us down; but, time remains consistent.

The problem is that it is just too darn consistent . . . and, I'm just too darn slow.

This year my oldest son turned thirty years old . . . thirty years old!  He has passed into the realm of approaching "old fart" status with those under twenty-one.  I must have blinked because I never saw it coming . . . the wife reminded me (as usual) that one of our children was approaching a "milestone" . . . thirty!  It doesn't seem that long ago that I was chasing him around the yard, going to his sporting events, cheering him on when he graduated high school, and standing beside him in his ups and downs in life.  Now the little fart is balder than his father and is thirty!  Where did the time go?

Later this month the youngest granddaughter reaches the four month marker in her young life . . . she is constantly changing . . . growing and becoming more and more active.  She is about at that stage that my father, and her great-grandfather, would say that she is fun.  I remember seeing her in the hospital for the first time a few months ago and now she is too big to throw back.  Where did time go?

How did so much time slip by . . . quickly in my mind . . . that I missed so much of what was going on around me?  To see children grow.  To see grandchildren grow.  That is one of my complaints about time . . . one that seems as if time is moving faster than I can ever keep up with it.  Time does not stop for anyone.

I think that the problem may lie more with me than with time.  There is only so much time in any given moment and it is up to me as to where my focus happens to be . . . I must have been looking the other way when all the ones I loved grew . . . I must have been off chasing other dreams, hopes, and potential promises as the ones I love got bigger and older.  I just did not notice because I was off attempting to get ahead of time . . . which is impossible to do.  I guess that is the price one pays when looking to the future . . . you sacrifice the present.

Another problem I have with time is that it is consistent . . . it doesn't change . . . it remains the same no matter what one attempts to do with it.  Sixty seconds is sixty seconds . . . an hour is an hour . . . a day, a day.  It never changes. Knowing this reality then one should also know that a person can only do so much in any allotted time frame.  If a person can only do one thing per hour then there is only the potential to do twenty-four things in a single day.  Knowing this . . . why do we insist on scheduling ourselves in such a way that we can never accomplish everything that we want to do in any particular time frame?

The wife is good at setting up this quandary for me on a regular basis.  Recently she wanted to go critter creeping on a day when I had to mow the grass, clean flower beds, write a sermon, create a bulletin, go out to lunch, and be back home to cook on the grill for the family that was coming over.  We I tallied everything that needed to be done I had like a gazillion minutes worth of stuff to do and only a couple of minutes to do it in.  When this happens someone is going to be disappointed . . . usually the wife.  When the wife ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  Sort of lends itself to a disaster in the making.

Happens all of the time no matter how many times I explain it to the wife or anyone else . . . there are only so many hours in a day to get everything done.  When there is not adequate time to do everything we always seem to think that it because we "ran out of time".  We can't run out of time . . . time is always the same!  It never changes!  Again, maybe I am getting too old . . . too slow . . . too distracted . . . too something . . . to keep up with time.

I just do not seem to have enough time.  On the one hand it seems as if time is moving too fast, but it really isn't.  It can't move any faster, nor can it move any slower.  Since time cannot move any faster or slower, I guess it is up to me.  I assure you that I cannot move any faster . . . I am too old and tired to move any faster . . . besides my body lets me know what a pain I am when I attempt to move faster . . . the aches and pains are good reminders to slow down.  I suppose I could move slower, but then it seems as if time has sped up even more.  Whatever the case, the fact is that in my life I do not seem to have enough time to do all the things that I want to do . . . and, to top it off, I am not very gracious in accepting the fact that I can't accomplish everything that I want to do.  I am my own worse enemy.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is quite simple . . . "be still and know that I am God."  I confess that I cannot tell you where that is in the Bible despite the fact that I am an ordained minister . . . I don't have time for such trivial matters as book, chapter, and verse . . . I have other matters to attend to.  Yet, this verse says a lot about this issue of time.  It speaks of being still . . . speaks of being present . . . of being still and present in the moment.  When it comes to time that is all we can do . . . we can be still . . . we can be present to that moment . . . and, we can embrace it for what it is.  It is a gift . . . a blessing . . . a time of being in the presence of others, and more importantly, in the presence of the Holy.

It really is not a radical idea . . . mystics have known this forever it seems.  But it is a tough idea to embrace when one is caught up in the time trap.  And, yet, it is the only way to really get a handle on time.  In the stillness . . . in the presence . . . one comes into the moment for what it is and what it can become.  It can become a memory.  A memory stands outside of the realm of time.  In that it is a gift and a blessing.

Yeah, I do wonder how it became so late so soon . . . how I have missed so much of life around me.  Yet, I have the key to change all of that . . . stillness and presence in the moment that is at hand.  I need more blessings in my life . . . time can never take those away.  It is never too late.  Be still and know.  Enter into the blessing and know . . . time is what it is.  I guess it is all a matter of how we look at it.  Be still and know!                            

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marauders


It began innocently enough . . . first one showed up.   With its bright blue grayish body it was a pretty bird to watch . . . especially in the winter against the snow and grayish skies; but, little did I realize at the time it was only the beginning . . . the beginning of the battle of wills.  My will against the will of the Pinyon Jays.  It is a battle that has been waged going on nearly eighteen months now.

That is the name of this beautiful bird . . . Pinyon Jay.  It is a pretty bird, a beautiful bird in fact.  I love to photograph the bird because it is always a wonderful contrast to anything else that might be in the picture.  Alone, I appreciate the bird . . . the problem is that the Pinyon Jay rarely travels alone.  No . . . it travels in packs . . . it travels in gangs.  This ornithological wonder is an opportunistic marauder.  A marauder, by definition, is one who roams or goes around in quest of plunder or to make a raid for booty . . . the very essence of the Pinyon Jay.

It turns out that that single Pinyon Jay who innocently appeared at the bird feeders at the Keener Homestead was actually the scout whose task it is to find and relay new sources of food to the rest of the pack/gang.  I am not sure how it did it . . . whether it was some sort of shortwave radio or a type of science fiction mind meld; but within ten minutes, approximately another fifty of its buddies showed up and proceeded to lay waste to each and every bird feeder in the yard.  Several pounds of seed gone within a matter of minutes . . . these are the feather piranhas of Mother Nature’s design.  It was an awesome sight to witness as they stripped clean every ounce of bird seed available.  Swoosh . . . it was gone.
Now, I believe that the birds that we support through the Keener Welfare Program deserve and need our support to survive.  I believe that, for the most part, we support pretty much all the birds that make an appearance . . . and, we have quite an assortment of birds passing through our feeders; and, that includes the Pinyon Jays.  At least that is what I thought when they first appeared.  I figured that they would take what they need and head on out.  HA!  They fooled me.

It seems that this species of bird has a bottomless pit for a stomach . . . an insatiable appetite . . . an addiction to free food.  I think that their only purpose is to wipe out any source of food, shut out the other birds, and to establish world domination in the ornithological sphere of existence.  They do it so well.

These birds are smart . . . they are organized.  Besides the scouts they have those whose role is to hop on the feeders and knock the seed out as others gather on the ground to catch the falling seed.  They have sentries posted to warn the pack/gang of intruders who might be a threat.  With a quick caw they are out of there . . . at least it seems that they are out of there; but, they are not.  They leave behind spies who watch for that moment when the coast is clear and then send out the message . . . again through short wave radio or mind meld . . . calling all their fellow marauders back to the scene of the crime to plunder, pillage, rape, and strip whatever remnants of food are left.  They are methodical in their marauding.

Loud noise scares them off . . . for a while.  Throwing rocks at them scares them off . . . for a while.  Sending the mighty guard dogs, or at least as mighty as two Dachshunds can be, scares them off . . . for a while.  I thought about play Justin Beiber music loudly over loudspeakers, but I don’t think anyone—including our feathered friends—should be inflicted with such inhumane torture.  I think popping a few of them with a BB gun would slow them down . . . you know, hang a few dead bodies around as a message to stay away . . . but, the wife won’t let me shoot them.  I thought maybe a shot gun blast would help . . . but, once again, the wife wouldn’t let me; and, besides we are not allowed to shoot off firearms within the town limits.  It seems that no matter what I do, the Pinyon Jay has become a part of the bird welfare system whether I like it or not . . . they are here to stay.

For a pretty bird they do not represent my preconceived idea of birds.  Most of the birds that come to the Keener Homestead are cordial little fellows who only take what they need and leave.  Pinyon Jays are gluttons . . . feathered pigs . . . who eat until they pop!  They are bullies to the rest of the birds scaring off their competition with numbers.  They are noisy . . . which is often their downfall because it announces their presence.  Which makes me think that they are arrogant . . . which fits their marauding personalities.  It just rubs my fair-mindedness the wrong way.

At the present time the war is at an impasse.  My sneaky foe appears less frequently, but is still doing major damage to the bird feed we are putting out.  I am not sure that it is anything that I have done personally to curb their marauding . . . I think it is the new neighbors . . . they have a cat . . . a cat that likes to eat birds . . . which is a whole other post on this blog down the road.  Since Sam has showed up the Pinyon Jays have quit showing up like clockwork to pillage the feeders.  I noticed that Sam looks as if he has put on a few pounds since moving into the neighborhood.  Whatever the case, it is a vicious cycle . . . and, I will be damned if I am going to let some feathered creature, lower than me on the food chain . . . win!

But, the birds have got to eat . . . even the Pinyon Jays!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kicked and Kicked Again


"Do no harm."

That is the creed and foundation of the helping professions . . . do no harm . . . and, yet, it is broken on a consistent basis without most of those who are attempting to help even being aware.  Instead of minimizing the trauma, the trauma is unsuspectingly multiplied.  Unfortunately it happens all of the time.

As stated in an earlier blog, I hit a deer with the car I only bought a few months ago . . . yes, my new car.  It was pretty traumatic for several reasons.  One is that it happened in my new car and did what I could see was a lot of damage . . . turns out to be about $6,5000 worth of damage.  Though the auto repair shop promises that the car will be as good as new, it will never be the same . . . it will be damaged goods and I will know it whether anyone else knows it or not.  Another reason is that I am the one always warning family and friends to "be careful out there because of the deer" . . . and it was I who hit the deer.  Makes one feel pretty stupid no matter how many people attempt to reassure me that it was not my fault.  I also think about what could have happened . . . happened to all those who were riding in the car with me.  We were lucky that I did not lose control of the car . . . lucky I did not swerve the car into the lane of another approaching car . . . lucky I did not roll the car . . . lucky that I did not kill anyone except the deer--of which I do not think the deer thought it was so lucky.

To say the least, it still stings . . . it still bothers me.  Makes me sad.  Makes me mad.  The car is sitting in the driveway--in its crumbled form, waiting to be taken to the auto repair shop.  Every time I see it those feelings and emotions pop back up and it is as if I just hit the deer again.  It is a visual clue that I have not really gotten over it.  There is also the questions . . . always questions wanting to know what happen . . . by those who care and those who want to help.  Questions that can only be answered by telling the story one more time . . . reliving the event one more time.  Each time the story is responded to with words of support and empathy and care . . . but, I am the one reliving the story and the trauma one more time.  It is difficult to move on when one is constantly reliving the experience over and over again.  It is like being kicked and then kicked again.  I know people are trying to be helpful . . . trying to make me feel better . . . trying to show that they care; but, it is just rubbing salt in the wound despite their best intentions.  They don't mean to do it, it just happens.

I also witnessed this with my number three child who has Epilepsy after a recent trip to the emergency room.  Having had a seizure and fallen, the number three child gashed his eye lid . . . blood everywhere!  It was a nasty gash and one that required medical care.  Since no one was with him, his mother and I asked the usual questions about what happened . . . to which he recounted the whole experience.  In the emergency room both he and I got to retell and relive the story over for every medical person who saw him . . . in an hour we probably told the story over at least six times.  Not a good practice when one is embarrassed over what happened . . . angry about what happened . . . and, when one gets sad and depressed because this sort of thing seems to happen to him all of the time.  Plus, he also gets to retell the story of his battle with Epilepsy for the millionth time.  Kick and re-kick even though everyone is trying to help.

What this seems to do is to add to the frustration of it all.

When I am working with others to help them be better helpers I share with them story of Job and his three best friends.  Job's story is found in the Bible and is a favorite of many.  Job is just the pawn in a bet between God and Satan . . . Satan bets God that given enough hardship in one's life even the most faithful of God's faithful will pull the plug and renounce God.  God points out Job and tells Satan that the bet is on.  Of course, Satan throws the kit and caboodle at Job to get him to renounce his faith . . . takes away all of his wealth, all of his family (except his wife, but I think that the writer of the story showed some comic genius in doing this as she becomes one of Job's primary antagonists) . . . takes away everything including his health.  Yet, Job will not get mad at God and renounce his faith.  Instead he crawls off to the town dump to mourn his loss.
This is where the friends come in.  Job's friends were good people and even better friends.  They come to Job in the dump and they sit with him as he mourns his loss and situation.  They sit there for hours and days in silence . . . speaking no words . . . they are just with him . . . they are just being.  This is good . . . this is what they should be doing . . . the best thing that they could be doing to help Job.

For most people, silence is torture . . . silence is uncomfortable . . . just being still makes people un-at-ease.  After several days of sitting around, being quiet, and doing nothing, Job's friends had had enough.  Inquiring minds had to know . . . What did you do, Job?  What did you do to deserve such punishment from God?  They started grilling Job . . . they wanted to know.  Job's response was simple: "I did nothing."  Which, of course, is not what the friends believed.  Job had to be guilty of something to have been thrust into this situation.  From the questioning they move into blame and wanting to fix.  This was not what Job needed.  The friends meant no harm, they honestly thought that they were helping their friend.  This was the wrong thing to do.  This only compounded the trauma.  Here the friends kick and kick again the one who has fallen.

This biblical story is one that should be shared in all of the helping professions because it shows what to do and what not to do.  It is one that I like to read and reread because it serves as a wonderful reminder of how people can help other people . . . and, about how easy it is to forget what true presence is in times of trauma and how easy it is to re-injury another in their time of need without even realizing it.

I believe that most people care and are actually attempting to help others in their time of crisis or trauma . . . I honestly think that they are trying to help; but, I also think that we forget.  We forget how deep the wounds of life can be . . . forget how painful those wounds can be . . . and, forget that time heals all wounds, but scars always remind us.  All of us have had trauma in our lives . . . all of us have been hurt.  All of us have been kicked and kicked again when all we really wanted was someone to be with us until the pain goes away.

"Do no harm."

I realize that hitting a deer with my car is not a major trauma . . . that it nothing compared to a person being physically abused in a relationship . . . of a person suddenly divorcing another to run off with someone else . . . of finding out that one has an incurable illness . . . of losing someone who that was loved deeply.  Those are experiences and stories that are hard to tell over and over again without having to experience and live them one more time . . . of feeling the pain one more time.  There truly are no words that will ever help ease the pain . . . only presence.

As people who care we need to learn to be a presence in the lives of those we care about . . . of those we love.  We need to learn to be with those who have been traumatized . . . in time they will let us know what we can do, but in the meantime . . . we are just to be with them.  We are to stand by their side . . . we are to do no harm.    

Friday, September 19, 2014

Darn Bambi!



State Farm recently published their annual “odds of hitting a deer” report.  Using its claim data and state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration, state that the chances of hitting a deer over the next twelve months is one in 174 . . . which is actually down 4.3 percent over a year ago.  The insurance giant states that it is not that people are hitting less deer . . . there are more drivers on the road compared to last year.  As the number of drivers goes up, the odds of hitting a deer go down.  Last Saturday evening . . . I beat the odds and hit a deer.

Actually, I missed the first deer, never saw the second deer, and smacked that booger into the next dimension.  It was not pretty and I am still pretty mad at it . . . even after I backed up and ran over it a second time!  Darn deer!

State Farm claims that between July 1, 2012 and June 39, 2013 there were 1.22 million deer car collisions which is down 3.5 percent over the year before.  I think that my contribution to those statistics will boost that number when they figure the odds out for the next year.  I guess I am just doing my part in adding to the rising cost of insurance. 

I also think that I am doing more than my fair share of contributing to the auto body repair business.  Those guys are eating it up, padding their bank accounts, and going on cruises while I scrape up the deductible to get my car repaired.  Just like in beating the odds of hitting a deer, I blew the top off of the average property damage cost of these incidents . . . the average is around $3,500 . . . my auto adjustor quoted a cost of about $6,500 to get my car repaired.  Thanks to my smushed friend, the deer, I am an over-achiever!

The odds were against me from the beginning.  The national odds are one in 174 . . . Montana drivers odds are one in 65.  For the second year in a row the Big Sky state finished second to West Virginia where the odds are one in 41 . . . which actually represented an 8.3 percent improvement for West Virginia.  I guess when one looks at the odds in Montana . . . well, I am not really much of an overachiever after all.  The states that follow West Virginia and Montana in the top five are: Iowa (#3), South Dakota (#4), and Pennsylvania (#5).  With my contribution, maybe Montana will move up in the next year and finally overtake those Mountaineers.

State Farm also shared the states where people are the least likely to hit a deer: Florida, California, Nevada, and Hawaii.  I guess I could improve my odds of not hitting a deer by moving to one of those states . . . but my odds would go up in hitting an elderly snowbird in Florida, someone famous and in the entertainment industry in California, a gamble in Nevada, and a surfer or tourist in Hawaii.  I risk the odds in Montana . . . besides none of them have the beauty of Montana or its big skies.

Of course, State Farm, wanting to prove that they actually car about people more than money, has published an infographic detailing how drivers can avoid a deer collision.  How thoughtful of them . . . the fewer deer hit, the fewer the claims, and the fewer the claims the less money they are putting out.  Under the title Deer Safety 101 they share these tips:

--Be aware of posted deer crossing signs . . . as if deer actually cross at those stupid signs!  I have never come across a deer crossing at one of those signs.  Like some woman once argued, “If the deer would only cross where the signs are there would be fewer accidents!”  Duh!  Deer can’t read . . . signs are worthless.

--Deer are most active from 6:00 to 9:00PM . . . but, they warn, deer and other animals can be on the road at any time.  Duh!  Maybe the deer need a telephone hotline for drivers to call to find out when they are going to be the most active . . . I have hit deer in the afternoon, after 10:00PM, and whenever it seems to be a full moon and rutting season is in full swing.  Horny deer have no respect for motor vehicles!

--Use high beam headlamps . . . this suggestion is to bring more illumination to the areas from which deer will enter the roadways . . . which won’t be where the deer crossing signs are!  After reading the advice in the previous suggestion, that critters can be out on the road at any time, I feel pretty stupid driving in broad day light with my high beams on.

--Distractions like cell phones and eating can cause a driver to miss seeing a deer until it’s too late . . . none of the deer I ever hit, and this one in particular, was playing with its cell phone or eating.  It was too busy playing chicken with my car . . . and lost.

But the capper to State Farm’s advice for deer safety while driving was: “If a deer collision seems inevitable . . . attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of the vehicle or place the car in the path of an oncoming vehicle.”  I was taught to plow ahead . . . and, I did.  The poor deer never had a chance . . . and, I am now out my deductible!

As I stated, it still smarts to think that I hit a deer.  I like deer except when they are running into my car.  It smarts because I hit it, killed it, and it put a pinch in my wallet.  That is probably where it smarts the most.  Of course folks have been sympathetic towards my deer encounter . . . they have been reassuring that I did everything possible . . . and, they have even shared their own stories about hitting deer . . . but, it still smarts.  One guy I know even said he would say a prayer . . . for the deer.  The deer didn’t have insurance, I did.  After a week I am almost ready to forgive the deer . . . but, not quite.

I am thankful that no one—except poor ol’ Bambi and my car—were hurt.  The odds were against me and against the deer.  Seems I have a knack at hitting deer . . . but, it would be cheaper to buy a gun, a license, and everything that goes with hunting than running them over with my car.  I am tired of beating the odds.  I don’t have this sort of luck when buying my annual lottery ticket . . . maybe they need to print deer on them to increase my odds of winning . . . shoot, maybe even put a lottery ticket crossing sign!  Oh well, I am still here . . . the deer is not.  I wonder what the odds are for a deer having a close encounter with a car?  Probably better than mine!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Confessions of the Stomach




Let’s be honest . . . we are all finicky eaters . . . none of us likes everything that is called food . . . when it comes to the culinary results placed on our plates we DO draw lines on our plates as to what we are willing to eat and what we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork.  When it comes to food and eating . . . we all have our likes and dislikes. 

The wife likes to tell me (and others) that I am a picky eater . . . and, there may be some truth to that; but, at the age of 56 years old, I can admit that I have tried a lot of different varieties of food as I will try anything once.  Once is usually enough for my taste buds and stomach to make a decision that will typically last a lifetime.  That includes any attempts of trying to mask the food or present it to me in a different form.  From childhood I have always tried to at least give new foods one chance . . . or, as I have always said to my wife and others, I will try anything once.  If it fails to win over the taste buds or stomach . . . well, it is out and no amount of prodding is going to change my mind (or the mind of my stomach).  I know what I like.  Yet, the wife calls me a picky eater.  I like to think of my eating habits as being quite refined and sophisticated . . . besides, why waste time and money on something that doesn’t taste good?

If we are going to be honest . . . we are all picky eaters.

Knowing this I was surprised to see the weekly Parade magazine that comes in the Sunday paper broadcasting its lead story as being What America Eats.  According to the article the magazine shares research that shows the eating trends of the typical American.  As usual no one I know took part in the research and its survey . . . including me.  No one called me up and asked any questions about my eating habits . . . no one sent me a questionnaire through the snail mail . . . not even a digital survey in the email accounts.  No one came up to my house, knocked on the door, and asked if I could spare a few minutes to answer questions about my eating habits to be included in research on the eating habits of typical Americans.  Nope, I was not one of the lucky one thousand from all the regions of the United States to be included in the research.  There are over 313 million people living in the United States and they are presenting research based on only one thousand people to represent the other 99.9999999999 percent of the rest of us!

It is no wonder I found so much to disagree with in their research finding.

One of the first findings that I disagreed with is that the researchers stated that adults eat 1,128 snacks each year . . . 1,128!  That is a little over three snacks per day each day for a whole year!  That is a lot of snacking.  That is a lot of food.  Who would have time to work . . . to play . . . to do anything except stuff the ol’ pie hole?  If this is true . . . well, then I am way, way behind in the snack department!  I am lucky if I have one or two snacks a week, and usually on the weekend.  Who are these Americans who eat 1,128 snacks a year . . . three snacks a day?  They must weigh a billion pounds!

According to the research those snacks fall into three categories: savory, sweet, and healthy.  I am taking that by “savory” they mean spicy and salty.  Savory comes in at 405, while sweet comes in at 366, and in third place is whatever is healthy at 357.  Of course, everything that is bad for us is what we seem to crave the most as they are what we Americans eat two-thirds of the time we have the opportunity to snack.  Now, if I was a logical person—and one who is actually eating three snacks a day, I would probably try to eat one snack in each category for a healthier and more balance diet.  But, in all honesty, I would probably focus on the “savory” snacks over everything else.  Yeah, I know, it keeps my heart doctor in business.

Now one of the reasons that the researchers came up with such a high number of snacks might be for the fact that 40 percent of the snacks we consume are eaten with—or instead of—a main meal.  I call those appetizers, not snacks.  Still, that is a heck of a lot of snacks . . . 1,128!

One of the questions researchers wanted to know an answer to was: which famous person would you like to invite over for dinner?  The number one answer might shock you . . . it did me.  Ellen DeGeneres.  Yes, you read that correctly . . . Ellen DeGeneres.  She was followed by Pope Francis, Stephen King, Bill Clinton, Mark Cuban, and Beyonce Knowles.  For those over the age of 55 the number one choice was Pope Francis.  Outside of Pope Francis I am not sure that I would want to have a meal with any of the others.  Ellen DeGeneres is funny, but I don’t think I want to spend a whole meal with her.  I don’t horror novelists or anything that Stephen King wrote in that genre . . . though he did write a pretty cool book on baseball once . . . he still is not someone I would want to entertain at a meal.  I never did like Bill Clinton . . . and, besides the new Bill Clinton cleaned up his eating habits and wouldn’t be as much fun as the Bill Clinton of twenty or thirty years ago.  Mark Cuban . . . well, he is jerk.  Beyonce, well she could come and grace the table, but I don’t think the wife would want me drooling on my plate.  The Pope . . . well, since I did not see Jesus on the list, would be an acceptable substitute for Jesus.  As I said, I was shocked that Jesus didn’t make the list.  Personally, I like my family and that is good enough for me around the table for any meal.

I guess having the Pope as a dinner guest would sort of make the meal a “holy” meal.  Meals are not as “holy” as they used to be.  Only about half of Americans say grace before a meal.  The people in the South region (56%) of the United States are the most apt to say grace before a meal, then the Central section (51%) of the United States, followed by the Northeast and West (both at 47%).  At our house we say grace . . . we are thankful for the food we have, thankful for those who produced it, and thankful that we are not hungry like so many others.  And, when the wife cooks some new concoction, I am thankful that . . . well, thankful that I have something to eat, even if it is a box of cereal from the cabinet.

The researchers also took on the “five-second rule” . . . you know the rule: if an item of food falls on the floor it is acceptable to eat it if it has been on the floor less than five seconds.  Fifty-three percent of Americans says that the rule depends on what fall on the floor.  If the fried egg plant falls on the floor it can stay and the floor . . .let the dogs have it if they will eat it.  Seven percent stated that if food fell on the floor—and it doesn’t matter what the food is, it would not matter . . . they would pick it up and eat . . . unless it was fried egg plant.  Eight percent said that if no one stepped on it that they would eat it.  This would never work at our house as I always step on food that falls on the floor to keep it from escaping . . . adds a little texture and variety to it for presentation sake.  Eleven percent had no clue what the “five-second rule” even was . . . of course these are the people who eat the beans right out of the can.  And, lastly, 21 percent of the people asked the question: What am I, a dog?  I assume that no matter how short of a time the food laid on the ground they would never eat it.  How sad, variety is the spice of life and if food hits the floor it is pretty difficult to avoid picking up some sort of “spice”.

One of the great debates at our house is on expiration dates on food.  The wife throws things away before or on the expiration date.  I, on the other hand, is a little more adventurous . . . and, cheap.  Food is expensive and throwing it away just creates a sharp pain on my backside where my wallet is kept . . . I want to get the most bang for my buck.  I am also adventurous and willing to try something once it has journeyed pasted its expiration date.  That is why you throw it on the grill and cook it until is good and crisp . . . cook all that bad stuff that could make you sick out of it.  Of course, I also believe that when I do this I should definitely make sure that I say grace before eating it . . . oh Lord, keep me safe.  According to the research . . . I am in good company.  Sixty-nine percent of the people in the United States consume food and beverages past their expiration date . . . most serve it as snacks and appetizers . . . sort of killing two birds with one food.

Apparently the chicken sandwich is the new burger.  Research is showing that it is ordered more often than burgers.  This is blasphemous.  Chicken . . . unless it is deep fat fried with the skin on to a golden crisp . . . is a choke down food for me.  For years the wife served chicken three to four times a week until my stomach rebelled.  Despite the wife’s politically correct and researched based argument that chicken is better for a person’s health, my stomach said it had had enough . . . bring on the cow!  Hey, I live in Montana where the cows out-number the people by six to one . . . someone has to support those ranchers!

I guess because people are eating three snacks a day . . . 1,128 snacks a year . . . it should come as no surprise that 41 percent of Americans stated that they have been on a diet in the last year.  You think!  Thirty percent say they have never been on a diet . . . they are liars . . . or they have no issues with their body image after eating 1,128 snacks a year.

I am also assuming that since snacks are still more on the unhealthy side of the scale that Americans are attempting to make themselves healthy through other means . . . like with health supplements.  The researchers discovered that 71 percent of Americans takes some sort of supplement for their diets.  Multivitamins were number one at 43 percent . . . fiber was at the bottom of the list at six percent.  That surprised me considering what most people eat for snacks . . . I would have thought fiber would have been a bigger percentage.  After all, regularity would be necessary after all of those savory and sweet snack.  The rest were all vitamins.  I was taught that if I eat a healthy and balance diet, exercise regularly, and got my body out into the great outdoors that I would never ever need to take vitamins . . . that most vitamins are like throwing money down the drain.

And, the last interesting research that I want to share from this study has to do with the five treats that people would like to be magically calorie-free.  Ice cream and shakes . . . of course my favorite flavor of ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia . . . good luck in getting the calories out of that!  Number two was chocolate . . . I am a dark chocolate fan.  Pizza . . . the food of the gods.  Soda . . . I have about three a week.  And, alcoholic beverages . . . oh no, my microbrews!  The truth of the matter is that the only two I probably imbibe in on a regular basis is the pizza and beer . . . can’t have one without the other.  Of course, a little Cherry Garcia after a few pieces of pizza and a couple of beers sure does top off an excellent meal.

There you have it . . . What America Eats . . . a research survey on what Americans are eating, drinking, and craving.  Or so they thought.  When actually taking the time to peruse the survey and results it actually says nothing about what Americans are actually eating, drinking, or craving.  Nothing!  What does any of this research have to do with what we Americans actually eat?  What does having a guest over for supper—famous or not, have to do with the eating habits of Americans?  What does taking a dietary supplement have to do with eating habits?  What does food falling on the ground and being scarfed down after five seconds have to do with what Americans like or dislike when it comes to eating . . . all that tells us is that we are willing to eat anything if we like it, even if it falls on the floor.  Very little of what was presented as “fact” about the eating, drinking, and craving had anything to do with the actual eating habits of Americans.  Besides, when did a thousand people out of over 313 million people speak for everyone?

My stomach and I have an agreement . . . I give it what it wants and it let me get by with little discomfort.  We also agree that life is short . . . that everything can kill you . . . so you might as well eat what you like and want and enjoy it.  Neither I nor my stomach need anyone else to tell us what we like . . . so, please don’t tell us to “try it because you will like it”.  My name is not Mikey . . . nor is my stomach’s name Mikey.  We know what we like.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes said: “Eat, drink, and be merry!”  Or was it the founder of Dairy Queen?  Either way, they were both wise in their advice.