100 Word Challenge | The Unseasonal Weather Meant…

The cold snap was almost enough to make Frank Lumly give up on the orchard altogether.

Since his was just a family farm, without all of the expensive equipment the larger outfits had, the unseasonal weather meant that most of this year’s crop would die.

Frank looked out over the frost-covered buds and saw a vision of his own frosty corpse.

“What are we going to do?” asked Harriet, Frank’s wife. “Cut down the trees and sell firewood?”

It was her joke, the one that she always said. But this time, it didn’t sound as funny.

“How do you feel about retirement?” asked Frank.



On the Origin of Mortgage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy wife and I bought our house just before the housing bubble burst. At the time, we thought we were getting a pretty good mortgage rate. Oh, those were the days.

Since then, we’ve been chipping away at the mortgage, suffering through PMI, and hoping against hope that we might qualify for some sort of refinancing miracle to bring our rates down. Now, we aren’t struggling to make ends meet or anything, but the more we can apply to the principle of our mortgage, the faster we can pay it off, and that is just good sense.

At a recent visit to the bank, we brought up the question of refinancing to the bank employee. Things still don’t look great for the miracle mortgage reduction, but the whole process got me thinking about the word “mortgage” itself.

When you trace it back to its Old French and Latin roots, mortgage is a compound word that is literally translated as “dead pledge”. The pledge part is understandable in reference to the modern use of the word. When we take a mortgage out from a bank, we are pledging, or promising, to pay the money back to the bank. So where does the dead part come in?

Simply stated, if you die before paying off your debt, the bank retains full ownership of the property. And if you pay off your debt to the bank, the debt is considered dead. Either way, something dies.

Just like I did a little inside when I heard what our house is currently worth according to the bank’s estimates.

I am resurrecting Ivor.

I have decided to start donning my Russian alter-ego again, Ivor Klinkinov. If you remember, I first used a Russian accent to my advantage when I was a waiter at Big Boy. The tips were bigger, the customers more patient; it was beautiful. Thanks to comedian, Dan Soder, I just figured out why everyone was nicer to me.

They were scared!

It all makes sense now! Anyway, since I am not alone in my belief that using a fake Russian accent is a good life-hack, I am bringing back Ivor. Obviously, it will be useful in potential mugger-related situations, and I already know that it is good for customer service. But how else should I use my skills?

What are your suggestions? Maybe I’ll grab a video camera and test one out.

4 Ways to Make Time

RelojDespertadorThere aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things that you want to do.

  1. Hire a Substitute – Teacher aren’t the only ones who can get subs, you know. Just find someone who looks more or less like you and pay them to do your job for the day. Even better, see if they are willing to do your job for less than you make. That way, you can take off all the time you want and STILL make money! Just don’t let management find out that you are overpaid and/or not working, since they might just cut out the middleman (you).
  2. Stop Doing Housework – You know what takes less time than vacuuming, doing the dishes, and cleaning the toilet? NOT vacuuming, doing the dishes, and cleaning the toilet. Sure, you’ll live in squalor and there’s always the chance of creditors taking your house away, but every reward has its risks.
  3. Sleep Less – Let’s face it. People waste a third of their lives on sleep. Invest heavily in caffeine, friend, because sleep is one of the hardest addictions to break. Of course, there’s a good chance that after three days without so much as a nap, you’ll be criminally insane. Just channel that insanity into a productive form so you can do the things you want to do, only better.
  4. Abandon Family & Friends – It’s time to go into Hermit Mode. People love spending time with you because you are funny, smart, and attractive, but you need to know when to say no. Sure, you will probably lose friends and anger those who love you most, but that’s okay, right? I mean, you have your all-important time to do whatever it is you wanted to do. That makes it okay, right?

So there you have it. All the time in the world. Do all four things and you’ll be amazed at all the time you were wasting! You won’t even have to try smarter approaches like re-prioritizing!

As always, thanks for spending your precious time reading my blog.

Baker’s Summer Reading Program is a Mystery

We had spring in Michigan for a few days before the snow came back. Birds were singing, the sun was out, I didn’t need to bundle up to get the mail. But then the snow came back. And so I am thinking about warm thoughts.

One of my favorite job-related tasks is creating the bookstore’s summer reading program. When I first came to Baker, the bookstore used a packaged ready-to-go summer reading program made available by our marketing group. After a year or two of that, the marketing group discontinued the program, but we saw value in summer reading programs, so we started doing them ourselves.

That first year, we chose to do a detective theme. We designed our own guide books, bought our own prizes, came up with our own activities. And it was a blast. The following year, I was asked to head up the group that put on the program. The year after that, I was the group. I didn’t mind doing all the set-up work though. For some reason, I absolutely love doing the summer reading program stuff.

2011_summer_reading_program_advance_adAs I got more years under my belt, I started ramping the program up, getting support from publishers, and doing more in-depth events. A couple of years ago, we did a program with a Berenstain Bears theme called “Character Counts,” complete with Brother & Sister Bear costumes, a visit from Mike Berenstain, and a giveaway of one of Mike’s original drawings. It was incredible.

This year, we’ve come full-circle. Our theme is “Mystery” and features the Mysterious Benedict Society series from Trenton Lee Stewart. I’m working with his publisher and publicist to create special pieces for the program. We’re trying to get him to do a Skype event for the store. And we’re doing some crossover promotion with the Tommy & Brook Book Club (from local pop radio station Star 105.7). I think it has potential to be one of the best programs yet. But what should we call it?

Here’s a few names that I’m throwing around: The Mysterious Reading Society, Sleuth: A Summer Reading Program,  and The Case of the Missing Summer Reading Program. What do you like? Do you have any suggestions of your own?

We’ll be having an illustrator integrate the name into the cover of the program guide in the style of the illustrations from the Mysterious Benedict Society books, so we’ll need to decide soon.

And while I’m asking for input, what about some games/activities that have a mystery/detective theme? Any ideas?

What I Am Learning from George R. R. Martin

I know I’ve mentioned George R. R. Martin before, so I won’t go into much detail.

I’m currently in the middle of A Feast of Crows, fourth in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. Each book in the series averages at least 1000 pages, so how is it that a person of very short attention span (I write flash fiction for goodness sake) can stay interested in such a long series?

Here’s how: The world that Martin creates is enormous. There are more characters than you can shake a sword at. But the best part, the part that I am learning, is Martin’s use of perspective. By offering a fresh point-of-view with each chapter, we readers are shown depth that could not be provided by a single first-person account. Even the omniscient third-person perspective would grow tiresome for a story of this width and depth as we would tire of the narrator before the story was finished.

And as the series has progressed, I see how Martin is stretching his writing muscles by offering chapters from lesser-known characters to show new aspects of the tale that he has established thus far.

Now, before you hear me going on about A Song of Ice and Fire and decide to rush out and buy up the series yourself, you should know that this series would hardly be welcome in Sunday School. There is violence, sex, language, and sorcery. Pretty much all of the things that would preclude this series from getting the Dove seal of approval. And if you think you can avoid some of that by watching the HBO series A Game of Thrones, don’t kid yourself. I’ve heard that HBO has done a nice job of adapting the story to film and much of the original material has been left in.

So, for anyone who is still interested in the story, and perhaps getting a glimpse of some of the characters (without reading the books, of course), here’s another option.

Thank you Annie Cardi for sharing that video with us.

100 Word Challenge | Only Fifteen More & Despite the Pounding in My Head

The following story combines the prompts from my own challenge and that of Julia’s Place. Hope you enjoy!

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She had been gone a year, but it felt like more. Time moves slower behind bars.

Ironically, it was bars that landed me here in the first place. On the night of Isabel’s disappearance, I was too drunk to drive. Too drunk to remember driving anyway.

I woke up to blood and bile. The dent in my forehead matching the one in my front bumper. But the sound was the worst part. Despite the pounding in my head, she was louder.

“This is the last straw!” she screamed, and then she vanished.

Only fifteen more years until I can start looking. To find her and apologize.