Ben… A Recovering Idiot (who often relapses) Friend of many (or so he thinks) Foe of one, two or maybe a few (hundred) Grandfather of twelve (and not a bad one in the bunch) Father of six (that he's been notified of) Married for 38 long, arduous and worthwhile years (readers of The Book all agree it’s a miracle) Husband of one (which is fairly unusual for a Mormon) Jack of no trades (and master of none) Inventor (who’s not that successful but keeps the bills paid) Dodged certain death at least 5 (00 times) Broke 27 bones (and wondering which one will fail next) Missing only two fingers (and had just one lobotomy up to this point) Over the hill (and can’t remember if he was ever really on top) Legal owner of Michele and this blog (his favorite?...depends on the day)

This is the shortest post of my life.

My blog life, that is.

As I lay in bed this morning, contemplating a very large and difficult job I have to do today, I told my wife that I wouldn’t wish this job on my worst enemy. She said “Wait a minute, you asked me last night if I would help you today.”

I felt a little sheepish as I responded that I guessed I had.

I then mentioned that I have this tendency to take on challenges that nobody else would even consider. I thrive on dreaming up and tackling jobs that no one in their right mind would touch, let alone tackle. I do this on a regular basis.

Michele said that that was a great quality. I said it is also a fatal flaw. Or it should be but I just haven’t got the job (you know, the fatal thing) done right. Yet.

No pictures today. I haven’t posted for a week or two so here you go. I’ll report back if I make it back.

A few weeks ago I thought I’d give one of my sons an opportunity to expand his commercial graphic artist abilities and make me a logo. I sent him a picture of a very rough drawing I made of the project I’m working on to see if he could come up with a logo.

The smart-aleck responded as follows:

 

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That’s the last time I ask him to do a logo for me.

Speaking of steam, we’ve had some of that in this house lately.

We’ve lived in the same shack for the last 34 years. The outfit that hammered it together is a good friend of mine and had lived here for two or three years before we took over. Through the entire time of raising six kids in this abode and then breathing a giant sigh of relief in an empty house and continuing to reside here, we have lived with the same water heater. That trusty heater is getting close to it’s 40th birthday. We threw it a going-away party yesteday.

Every decade or so, I’ve had to replace the bottom element in this heater. This little job is not all that fun because the pressured valve going into the heater doesn’t close completely. Each time I pulled the old element out, I got a somewhat significant flow of water out the bunghole until I could get the new element back in and secured.

We used to have a Rainbow vac that worked great for sucking water up but my wife gave it away. Admittedly, it was a little cumbersome and heavy but I bought it because I like the principle it had of sucking air through water instead of a filter. We’d had it for years after I succumbed to a Rainbow vacuum salesman and paid about 50 times as much as what a normal vacuum would cost at Harbor Freight.

For the newcomer to Harbor Freight, this is the place where you buy tools and other items so cheap that you buy four times as many as you need because the price is so good. You also buy that many if you are aware of how long the items will last.

Harbor Freight tools generally break while you are transporting them home. And if you’re lucky, you might get a good five or six minutes of performance out of them before they give up the ghost. When you go shopping at Harbor Freight, you can’t help but focus strictly on the price. When you use the tools, for your mental well-being, focus strictly on the price.

So the two thousand dollar Rainbow vac was gone, thanks to a Craig’s list rendezvous give-away my wife had with a Walla Walla lady in the Costco parking lot. Bottom line, working nowadays on our water heater involves a lot more cleanup with only rags to suck up the bucketloads of water.

So back to the steps of replacing the water heater element.  After pulling the old element out and before jamming the new element in the hole, I have to stick my finger in the heater and try to scrape out the deposits of hard water stone-like deposits. Each time I make this transition, I can see the old element has shorted out from the lime deposits. LSS (Long Story Short), this soaking wet job is never something I look forward to.

Because I hate cold showers and food from dinner-the-night-before caked on my morning breakfast platter, I always made sure I kept the hot water flowing. Thus, a changing of the Element Guard with all it’s pomp and pagentry occurred on a regular basis.

So a couple of days ago, the hot tap water started manifesting itself in a luke-warm fashion. I knew once again it was time to slip the waders on and head for the tank.

After purchasing an element at the hardware store, I went through the process. LSS, the tank had been through the element-changing regimen one too many times and refused to seal. Unfortunately, I was under the mistaken impression that it had sealed and didn’t get back to check on it until several hours after installation and pressurization.

As I made my way to the heater for a final inspection and mop-up (literally), I noticed a wet spot on the downstairs carpet. This mysterious anomaly was soon forgotten when I got to the heater tank and was unpleasantly surprised by a high-pressure stream of H2O coming from around the bottom element.

The rest of the eve was spent shutting off, unpressurizing, loosening, repositioning,  tightening, repressurizing and then like the song says…Back, Jack, do it again. By the end of the night, I gave up and decided a new water heater was in order.

Heading back upstairs to hit the hay since it was after eleven, I noticed the small wet spot in the carpet had been well-nourished during the time I had been working on the heater. It had grown into a large and impressive black hole that normally can only be found in outer space but was now in my basement. The normally light brown carpet was now a large black circle.

The new discovery piled on to my already sky-high dread concerning the water heater. Since the wet spot was 2 rooms away from the leaky but brand new-elementized but soaked tank room, I figured I had a completely new problem on my hands. I decided that during one of the times of turning the water back on and hearing the water pipes shake as they tried to clear the air pockets out of the system, a water line under the house had broken.

I knew that under the carpet was a solid concrete floor. I figured Bill, the former owner/constructor of my home, had laid the water line under the concrete and it was now blowing high-pressure water through a crack in the foundation  and was also probably washing a sink hole in the dirt underneath.

I grabbed a flashlight and threw some sandals on my bare feet. The temperature was a chilly 21 degrees outside but I figured I better conduct a search for  escaping water that sooner or later would have to make it’s way to the surface.

I searched in vain around the house foundation for the new river. I was relieved to see the house had not started dropping down into a sink hole. I was tired but didn’t want to go to bed and wake up in China. So where was that carpet soaking water coming from ?

Even though it was late, I called Bill, the builder of the 40 year-old house. Racking his brain for something that happened decades ago, he was pretty sure there wasn’t a water line under the house in that location. I felt a bit better even though I had no hot bath to luxuriate in.

The next morning I decided to head for town and get a new water heater. A guy named Dirk had been writing me from Belgium, wanting a couple of YankATanks. The shipping charges were going to be over two grand alone plus customs and unit charges. The total bill was $5500 dollars. He said he had wired me the money but my bank hadn’t gotten anything.

I hate making trips to town so I decided I would kill two birdies by grabbing a water heater and sending the 270 lbs of YankATanks to Belgium even though I had no proof of payment. I knew if I had to go to Belgium to collect my money, I would probably end up in jail on some trumped-up charge like breaking Dirk’s kneecaps or stealing Dirk’s hubcaps.

I left Michele to go through our complete inventory of dry towels and mop up the black hole madness. By this time I realized that the leaking pipe under the floor was extinct. The water had seeped from the water heater room, under the walls and carpet and finally appeared in a location that made the water-witching diagnosis difficult.

This was a good thing! At least our problems hadn’t multiplied.

The trip to town went well. I delivered the units to Fed Ex at the airport and bought the heater. The three people at Fed Ex treated me well. I think it was because I had paid for their month’s paycheck with my Belgianese shipment.

This story is getting too long. I’m going to wrap it up with a few succinct sentences.

I got the new heater home and started dismantling the old one. It was still water logged, weighing in at a little over 500 lbs. Unfortunately, the water was scalding hot, thanks to the new element I had installed the night before. There was no place to drain it so after I disconnected the piping and contained the leaky valve, I started leaning it over and trying to catch the outflow with a bucket.

Naturally, I needed some help to manage the bucket while I handled the quarter-ton tank. I looked high and low through the house but the only person I could find was Michele. This was a plus and a minus. A plus because I love her and couldn’t live without her. A minus because she is not adept at handling a five-gallon bucket full of scalding water.

As I would tip the tank and groan under the massive weight, she would use phrases like “This stinking water is so stinking hot!” and “I can’t stinking get the stinking bucket where you stinking want it!” I heard not one swear word through the 2-hour ordeal but I heard a fair number of “stinking’s.”

As the stinking tank got tilted lower and lower and we dumped stinking bucket after stinking bucket of stinking hot water into the stinking toilet, our patience with the other partner started stinking. At each step of lowering the tank, she really struggled trying to follow my heavy-laden and exasperated because of the hot pipes instructions. Let’s just say Michele has a stinking hard time following my mechanical instructions.

Finally, we reached the point where we could stand back and say “Mission stinking accomplished!”

That is until I pressured up the system and walked into the bathroom to turn the hot water on in the bathtub. Right about then, I heard Old Faithful down the hall. I ran down the hall, to the doorway and quickly sized up the situation. An awesome plume of water was rocketing up from the top of the new tank and then cascading down. I sacrificed my dry clothing and dove through the falls to shut the valve down. “Stinking” was not one of the chosen adjectives I picked.

I had neglected to screw in the stinking pressure relief valve.

The next morning I took a hot bath. I then got on the computer and informed my Belgian friend that I had not gotten his wire transfer. I didn’t tell him I had already shipped his units. He wrote back and sent me a picture of the copy of the wire transfer. This brought relief and concern. He had paid me but not near enough. The bill was around $5500 and he sent me $4482.81.

 

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Why the guy hadn’t sent the entire amount was beyond me. He was taking a chance by sending a chunk of change, hoping I would send him YankATanks. I was taking a chance sending him YAT’s that hadn’t been paid for. If either of us were of the character of some of the character’s I’ve dealt with in the past, our goose would have been characterized as cooked.

But I still had a problem. I was short a thousand bucks and my YankATanks were on the plane, never to return. What was I to do? The only thing I could think of was maybe I could do like Roger Daltry thought about doing in the last verse of the song Summertime Blues. “Gonna take my problem to the United Nations.” 

I had my doubts however. The UN usually causes more problems than it solves.

So I started penning a missive back to the Belgian discounter named Dirk, asking him why he had shorted our agreement. Just before I pressed “Send”, Michele asked “Are you sure that he sent you American dollars?”

Once again I had jumped the gun. It’s an old habit of mine. Dirk had sent me Euro’s. He had paid in full. I hurriedly looked for the “Unsend” button. It’s been an hour now and I’m still looking. Dirk is a man of his word.

Can anyone tell me where the stinking “Unsend” button is?

 

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I’m going to share a couple of little miracles we’re enjoying in our family and keep praying for another big miracle that is a much larger and pressing problem, also in our family.

The first miracle is pictured above. Sammy is our five year-old grandson in Phoenix who kicked in three goals today. Not such a big deal except the first three years of Sammy’s life were occupied by emergency room visits, inhalers, medicines and breathing apparatuses.

It seemed every time Michele and I visited Phoenix, Sammy couldn’t breathe. It seemed every time his family came to Washington, he couldn’t breathe. It was scary and seemed to be getting worse. Last year when we arrived at the Phoenix airport late one night, Sammy was once again in the emergency room.

I chalked up a chalk mark in my head giving Sammy pretty low odds of recovering. It didn’t look good from his history. To see the poor kid fight for air was scary.

But guess what? For the past year, he has been able to stay off the air mask and hospital visits. Pursuing activities that used to put him down now seem to make him stronger. I consider it a miracle and a cool development.

The next miracle is pictured below.IMG_3462

This picture is a new idea I’ve developed. I think I’m going to call it a “selfie”. Mark my words, people are going to copy me and it’s going to spread like wildfire.

It also marks Michele and my 39th year of staying married. If you’ve read my book, you’ll understand how hard it has been for me to hang in there and put up with Michele’s antics and shenanigans. We observed this anniversary by working in the temple pictured just behind us. Personally, I’m convinced the temple is one of the big reasons we’re still together.

We kill almost a full day each week working in the temple. It is the highlight of our week. I’m not bragging about any of this, I’m expressing gratitude that my life has turned out like it has. The faith I’m hooked up with answers so many questions that nobody else has the answers for.

Anyway, just like Jack Benny, we are grateful for the 39 years we’ve had.

The day before our anniversary was Valentine’s Day. We celebrated by going for breakfast to Cameo Heights with a couple of my sisters and their husbands.

One of my brother-in-laws has very dry skin. It’s so bad that this fastidious relative quit drying between his toes after he showered. He hoped that the moisture between his little piggies would promote a more normal skin moisture content. I don’t think it did.

So I asked him at our breakfast what his most favorite thing in the whole world was. He held up his little container and said: “My skin moisturizer!”

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Unfortunately, my sister heard him and came stomping over. I thought I better help get Tracy out of hot water so I asked again, “What is your favorite thing in life?”

He did a little better this time around. He said “My skin moisturizer and then my wife.”

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I’ve known Jill longer than I’ve known Tracy. She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and just seemed happy to be included in the mix of Tracy’s favorites.

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After breakfast, we got the proprietor of Cameo Heights, Alan Fielding to snap a picture of us. My other brother-in-law Todd finished brain radiation a few weeks ago and had his kidney out week before last. So far he is doing great. I’m not sure if his glow is from the radiation or the great spirit he has.

He is the big miracle we’re hoping and praying for. My other brother-in-law Scott in Alaska with pancreatic cancer is also foremost in our thoughts and prayers.

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This is the winners playing ping pong after Todd and Lisa beat Michele and I at the Mansion. The only reason they beat us is because Todd had extra zing on his serves, I think it was solely attributable to the radiation boost.

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See those cracks in this grain bin? Every bin makes these cracks every year and it’s a constant fight for the bin operator to keep the rain water from coming off the roof and seeping into the grain inside.

I filed a patent for a new gizmo to fix this problem. Sold my first units to fix the problem this last week and am pretty pumped about the possibilities. Every other week I have a new idea that’s going to fix the world. I wonder when one of them is going to pan out?

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We went to the Country Mercantile today to celebrate our 39th. I delivered 20 books there a couple of weeks ago and they were down to three today. After we ate, I dropped off another box.

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While we were eating, a guy bought a book and came over to our table and asked me to sign it. I was surprised he recognized me since I had my head in a vertical position while eating lunch.

Maybe I should start going down there everyday for lunch, sit on the stairs, crane my head around the corner and offer advice as to which book they should buy. By doing that, my head would be at a 90 degree angle and more recognizable to book buyers. That chink in the sheet rock would be perfect for me to rest my chin on.

However, I’d probably get thrown out for loitering unless I kept buying more sandwiches. I’m not sure the book sales would keep up with the sandwich purchases.

I guess I’ll never know if I don’t try it. Stay tuned.

Mail or Female?

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My wife just turned into a mail.

In case you hadn’t noticed, she’s turning right.

But I better set the table for you. Since she can’t.

As recounted in my book, you may remember the time I took out six mailboxes in one drive by. I spent the entire afternoon replacing all six. Here they are 20 years later. Several have been replaced again since then.

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Our box is second from the left. It’s worn out. The lid is operating on just one hinge and is quite a challenge for Michele and our mail female to open and close. I told Michele to order another one.

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That’s how she ended up in the mailbox. I decided to try to teach her a lesson. Whenever she buys from Amazon, she buys the biggest item available.

I walked in the other day and saw this huge box on the table. I asked what was in the box and she said it must be mine. I opened it and informed her that it was the mailbox she ordered. She vehemently argued with me until I pulled it out and showed her.

Just the day before she ordered a pencil from Amazon. You can see it behind her in the corner.

The girl is always telling me I’m a pack  rat and I need to minimize. I tell her she needs to come to terms with her inferiority complex and quit trying to impress people with her big things.

I will never send her car shopping by herself again. If I do, I’m afraid I’ll come home from work and find an Abrams tank or a Freightliner in the driveway.

I’m also afraid Michele’s inferiority complex is going to spread to all our neighbors when I put up that monster of a male box. I’m not sure Karen, our mail lady, is going to be able to open it without assistance.

So the other night Michele and I dropped in for a bite to eat after spending the afternoon and evening in the temple. We had seen some old friends, Karl and Kathi, also at the temple earlier. They were already seated but I asked the girl if we could have a table for four. She took us to the table and then I walked over and grabbed K&K and dragged them over.

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We had a nice dinner. And then Karl, totally out of character, pulled out a credit card and tried to pay for everyone. He acted like he didn’t know how to use the card so that I would jump in and say “Here, let me pay.”

Kathi kept saying “You usually never have trouble doing that, Karl.”

I just sat back and watched him supposedly struggle with the card reader for 10 or 15 minutes without saying a word. Finally, he got the job done.

Finally, I was able to say “Thanks, Karl.”

I really meant it. And I was so glad I asked for a table for four.

 

 

 

Some people work in fields that they really shouldn’t. Kind of like a one-armed drummer.  Kind of like an Afghan recruit doing jumping jacks.

Kind of like me running a business. Or being a Boy Scout safe-driving merit badge counselor. Or telling friends how they should invest. Or trying to count to ten using my fingertips.

Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

I could go on and on about the many hats I’ve worn, each of them far bigger than my head can fill.

When I was in college, I wasn’t sure what it was I should do so I took a vocational aptitude test. After testing, I was given one job that my test recommended fit me. It was…

A merchant marine. I had no clue what a merchant marine did but I figured it included a lot of bouts with sea sickness so I never enlisted or whatever it is you do to join up. We didn’t have Google back then (1976) so I’ve always been in the dark about the job. You know, the job that I should be doing.

We finally got Google so I looked up the job description of a merchant marine…

The unlicensed deck hands, also known as sailors or seamen, are in charge of loading and unloading the ship’s cargo, keeping the ship clean and performing minor maintenance duties. They also take turns on watch to prevent collisions with other ships or objects.

Here’s a picture of some merchant marines back in the day:

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I think I would fit right in.

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Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

I wonder if anyone else takes vocational aptitude evaluations? And if of them landed anywhere close to what the quiz predicted they should be?