Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog Constipation


The title of this post is the short-'n-sweet summary of "Sometimes I Forget to Blog for a While and then All my Ideas Come Piling out like some kind of Freakish Blog Constipation." Because of this, you will be forewarned that this post will be link-and-picture heavy.

Our place got flooded, again. This time it was far, far worse. Those giant wooden spools that laughed at the previous flood were completely carried away by this flood, which, by the way, trumped the Great Flood of '93 in almost every aspect. I suppose that means nothing to those of you that weren't living in Johnson/Washington/Iowa county in 1993, but it's a pretty big deal. The waters came up so high, they took away my front step. Not the entire set of stairs, just the bottom landing that was practically a fancy pallet. The water levels got about 12" up the skirting on my trailer before finally peaking and then receding. Before receding though, our driveway was two feet underwater, and the LP tank was nearly carried away, had it not been for the incredible foresight of my landlord/father, who lashed that errant Petroleum Pig to a tree with a stout chain.

Our pets, vehicles, and valuable items left in harm's way were spared, thanks to the hard work of many people, including my roommate Victor, my parents, Shane's parents, and others.

My poor little saplings were underwater for a few days, but I have confidence that they'll survive. The flood uprooted two of them (Kermit and Hugo), but I quickly replanted them in a cinder block full of potting soil, so hopefully they'll thrive as well. Does submerging a tree stunt its growth? Hopefully not. 

 In this image, you can see the gas line Dad put in place above-ground to keep our place warm. The conduit coming out of the ground marks where the tank was originally.
 Hugo and Kermit, sunning themselves. In the background, you can see a member of Shane's newest endeavors: chicken farming.
 I feel pretty proud of my saplings, since the majority of them stayed firmly in the ground, which is more than can be said for this particular tree.

I didn't get any photos of the flood itself because I was in Ohio when it happened. The only crazy weather that we experienced there was a balmy 80 degrees on Thursday, immediately followed by THIS on Friday morning:

It would seem that Ohio suffers from the same Schizophrenic weather that plagues Iowa. The green lawn and I were entirely confused by the sudden appearance of snow.

The Take Back Your Life conference in Ohio was splendid. I learned many, many things, identified some spiritual root issues that were affecting my life, and enjoyed some much-needed days and nights with Jesus. The sessions were like spiritual fire hydrants. Biblical truth was blasted at us for 10 hours a day for 4 days, but it was incredibly refreshing.

I went out to Ohio with my roommate Shane and his ladyfriend Alaynna (who, by the way, totally didn't let me know that she was planning to date my roommate when I was writing this). We had a wonderful road trip out there, and I was glad they let me tag along.

At the conference was my excellent manfriend Doyle. He had contacted me and strongly urged me to consider going to the conference. Doyle's advice is always sound, so I agreed to go.

During the 4-day conference, I stayed with Doyle at his relative's place, which was truly beautiful. I'm glad I've got an awesome family, otherwise I'd be tempted to sign myself up for adoption into the Byler family.

Matthew showed up completely unexpectedly at the conference, immediately after I sighed and said "It woulda been great if Matthew could have come..." He had a sneaky grin on his face, like he had been plotting to surprise me all along.

I had just hung out with Matthew at Doyle's in Minnesota, but they're both such nice chaps, it wasn't a burden to spend time with them again. :)

The conference almost became a SMBI class reunion, because my good friend Tanisha was there (since her parents founded the Door of Hope ministry, she's at every conference). Only a few key members were missing, but it was probably good they weren't all there. Otherwise we would have roused too much rabble. 

I got to spend some quality time with my roommate Shane's cousin, Kermit. I didn't know about Kermit when I was naming my sequoias, but his personality fits the tree so well, it's uncanny.

This is a rare photo of Kermit without his cowboy boots and cowboy hat.

Kermit has a knife holster in one of his cowboy boots. HOW COOL IS THAT.

Even though the conference was wondrous, I was glad to get back home and see what the flood had done in our absence. When we got home, there was a large-sized pond in our yard again but the driveways were above-water. Dad had hooked the gas up, so we enjoyed two things we thought we'd be without: a working furnace and hot water.

A whole pile of other things have been happening lately. Here's some of what's been happening:

My brother Shane turned 17 on March 28. Happy birthday, brother! Quit getting older.

My brother Shaylon turned 11 on April 18. Happy birthday to you too, young man!

True to my word, I put my recently-acquired video game system up for sale on Craigslist. I completely quit video games cold turkey on April 13th, due to convictions about how I spend my free time. I truly thought I'd go into some sort of withdrawal, but God has kept me busy and I haven't regretted the decision. The video games haven't sold yet, even though I've been given some particularly interesting trade offers:
(1) a riding lawn-mower, provided I throw in "some cash" for the difference in value
(2) a different video game system
(3) a 20-gauge shotgun. (I asked if the young man would sweeten the deal with a little cash, but he backed out entirely.)

Is it okay to pray that these video games get sold? I don't want someone else to get mired down with a time-waster, but I could certainly use some funds right now. Remember how I looked at a text message and slid into a snow bank? Well, that little blunder has racked up expenses WELL PAST $1,100 so far. Blaugh.

What is the longest you've waited for something to arrive? Something that you paid money for? It always seems to take forever for packages to arrive, but this one actually took a really long time. I ordered a gun kit from a company online, and they finally sent me one, albeit the wrong color, after I diligently waited for 8 months. While I was waiting on the kit, I sent in the gun's bolt to get reworked. See, the kit was for an ancient bolt-action gun I possess.

The gun on top is my friend Nate's Mosin Nagant. The gun on the bottom is my Mosin Nagant, placed inside a fancy-pants kit.

I couldn't fire the gun without a bolt, so I borrowed Nate's bolt. You can see it sticking out of my gun (Ladies, it's the shiny knob near the back of the gun).

Well I waited and waited and waited for my bolt to get "bent", (that is, altered to fit the kit better) so after a month I sent an email to the bolt bender. He replied, "I'm behind 3 months, which I mentioned to you already." I looked back at our previous conversations, and sure enough, he had told me.

So I waited three months and a week, and asked him for an update. He replied that
Hurricane Sandy had delayed things and it would take him another month. After THAT month, he complained about having the flu for 20 days and being super busy at work. Here's where I realized that bolt restructuring was his hobby, not his job. Ugh.

Six months and two weeks after I sent him the bolt, it arrived back at my place.

It looks magnificent.

I've been doing a lot of mudding on my 4-wheeler, which definitely makes up for the inconvenience of having my yard flooded. Other people were out mudding too, but I'm not sure they tried it on purpose.

I was chatting on the phone with my sister Shelley while I was surveying this vehicle. While I was gawking, I was sucked into a mini-quicksand mudhole that came near to the top of my boots. I let out a holler that worried Shelley, and rightly so. I could have been stuck fast like this SUV, which sat neglected for a week while the roads dried up.

Heh, those kids that think All-Wheel Drive makes them invincible.

My faithful steed. I had to walk the last 100 yards to the SUV buried in the mud because I feared I would sink the 4-wheeler to the headlight in flood mud.

There's nothing wrong with my pants. Why would you even think that? Stop looking at them.

Shane and I were just recently informed (by way of Iowa Public Radio) that women are attracted to men speaking in a monotone. Neither Shane and I believe that, but in the spirit of fairness, I'm gonna give it a try. If, in the course of speaking like a dead fish, anyone becomes irresistibly attracted to me, I'll inform them that they fell for my incredibly boring voice.

 I found a baby garter snake. I don't think I've ever seen a baby snake before. I let him live, because a) I really like snakes and b) he/she will eat bugs around my place, and I appreciate that.

There was this one time an Amish man visited our shop and tied his buggy to our Dumpster, but that was a while ago.

I asked a Wal-Mart employee where I could find gerbil food. He pointed and said, "You can find it over by that picture of a man and a toilet."

It's a woman and a washing machine, but what did I expect from a Wal-Mart employee?

One of my friends similarly decided to sell his video games. When they didn't sell, he ran his Xbox through a log splitter TWICE, just to make sure he didn't get tempted to play it. I admire you, Quinten.

Well, that should do it for now. In the future, I'll do my best to keep from piling up ideas until they burst out in an entirely chaotic fashion.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Prank Texts

Some of my friends think it's hilarious to send me anonymous texts. Granted, it's a crafty ploy because I'm terribly curious by nature and almost always respond to the anonymous texter. One friend in particular does it more often than others, so I usually end up blaming him when I get a text from an unidentified number. His primary tactic was to use the display phones at U.S Cellular to send me texts and confuse me utterly. Lately he's discovered an app that allows smartphone users to choose an entirely random phone number to send prank texts from.

The other day, I received several messages from different numbers, so in order to keep them straight, I labeled them Mystery1 and Mystery2. Following are the transcripts of those conversations; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation preserved. (texts starting with a (`) symbol were mysteriously removed from my phone so I recreated them to the best of my memory, but they may not be word-for-word.)

Mystery1: Are you trying to tell me something

Shawn: I'm not sure. Who am I speaking to?

Mystery1: Thats for me to know and you to find out

Shawn: Well then how can i know if i'm trying to tell you something? Although I've narrowed your identity by 50%. You must be a female. :)

Mystery1: If you say so. I'll bow to ur wisdom

At this point I realized this person sounded a lot like my manfriend, Christian. He likes to say "bow to your wisdom" a lot.

Mystery1: (two hours later) Ignoring me? Thats that very gentlemanly

Mystery1: Not very*

Shawn: Forgive me. What would you like to talk about?

Mystery1: Hmm, where you from?

Shawn: Since we both have a 319 area code, you already know that i live in the coolest state of the US.

Mystery1: Oversight by me. Epic fail.

Yep, definitely Christian. He stopped sending texts from that number.

In the same day I started receiving texts from a different number, so I naturally deduced that Christian was just being REALLY creative with his free time.  But this texter had a different attitude.

Mystery2: Hello sexy buns ;)

Mystery2: (The next morning) Yolo?

Mystery2: Honey buns

Shawn: Nothing like getting complimented to start the day out right. :)

Mystery2: Shawn, right?

Shawn: Yes, ma'am/sir.

Mystery2: Ma'am. At least to the best of my knowledge

Shawn: That's a relief. I wasnt sure how to take favorable comments about my posterior from a man.

Mystery2: That actually wasnt a compliment. I want some honey buns. Could you bring me one lol

Shawn: Haha, that makes sense. Anything else you'd like while I'm at the grocery store/gas station?

Mystery2: Could you also grab plan b? Just wanna be safe after last night ;)

Waaaaaaaait. My friends don't talk like this.

Mystery2: Dont worry, I'm kidding. I'm already on the pill so we're safe

Shawn: But i thought we both wanted heaps and heaps of babies...

Mystery2: Umm. Don't remember saying that. And I don't wanna get pregnant while in college

Shawn: Well then I suppose the most logical solution is for you to drop out of college. :)

Mystery2: I really hope you're joking cause they wikk not f'ing happen.

Mystery2: *that will*

I'm entirely bewildered at this point. I had been joking along with this texter but now I'm afraid this is more than just a prank, this is a wrong number. So I tried one last time to show that I was just innocently joking.

Shawn: I'm sorry, Gwendalyn, but this is the end. I need a woman willing to stay home with my potential 20 children.

Mystery2: Wtf. Whatever. Go %&#@ yourself. Hope you get herpes next time.

Shawn: Easy now. Whats this all about?

Mystery2: What the $&^% you think its about? If you wanted it to just be the other night, dont give me your number.

`Shawn: I've only been conversational because I don't know who you are. I havent given out my number to anyone.

Mystery2: Oh $#!&. Please say your the shawn from tuesday at the fieldhouse?

`Shawn: Nope. Sorry, but I haven't been to the field house in years.

Mystery2: Umm. Sorry. I'll be leaving you alone. So sorry

`Shawn: Wait, so there's some dude running around with my name and number, taking advantage of women?

Mystery2: Umm. He actually didn't give me the number. I just knew his name was shawn and apparently got the wrong number. So sorry again

`Shawn: Well, I'll be praying your day goes better!

I'm really grateful that God has spared me from premarital sex. Despite being innocent of all wrongdoing, the whole ordeal left me shaken up. So when I started getting texts from another strange number, I was about to pitch my phone through the nearest window.

Mystery3: Hello shawn :)

Seven long, uncomfortable, toss-my-phone-through-the-window-debating minutes pass. 

Mystery3: This is christian. I figured out how the prank people on fiver. There is an app that gives you a new number.

Mystery3: they* prank

Shawn: Dude. How many numbers can you have thru the app?

Mystery3: I think one per account.

Shawn: It wasnt you posing as a psycho one-night-stand skank yesterday, was it?

Mystery3: Haha. Sorry not on my end.

`Shawn: Your area code isn't from around here. What state did you choose?

`Mystery3: I shouldnt tell you so I can keep using this number to prank you. haha its an area code in South Carolina.

I was relieved that I knew the identity of Mystery1 and Mystery3, but I won't let Christian off easy for giving me a semi-heart attack. If you've got some free time, send an anonymous text to 252-848-5172. (This is Christian's alternate prank phone number. Make sure it's put to good use!)

In other events, the young man that took my video games last year bought me a new video game system and gave it to me Thursday. I totally didn't expect it and was really blessed by the gesture, but it came at a point in my life where I've decided to get rid of video games. I'll be posting the system and games up for sale on Craigslist shortly.

We've been hit with loads of rain lately, as well as threats of snow. I didn't see any snow but the water nearly came up into the yard again. I fretted about my Sequoia seedlings, to which my roommate Shane replied, "Well maybe that's why Giant Sequoias don't grow in Iowa. Naturally, anyway."

Clever man.

Grow, seedlings.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April Update: Pallet Fires and Tree-Hugging

Things have certainly been busy around ManCrest these days. Spring has finally arrived, and not a day too soon. There hasn't been much time for rest around here, what with many exciting events and projects taking place.


We've been making the most of each warm day by cleaning the yards and making large camp fires. This time of year is my favorite for campfires. The evenings are cool and breezy, which necessitate roaring infernos to keep things comfortable. Last night, I hosted our first (but certainly not last) Late Night Pallet Roast. Henry, my neighbor, works at the Farmer's Hen House, which evidently could also be called Broken Pallets Mart. He mentioned the Hen House's dilemma of pallet overload to my roomie Shane, who then offered to burn a sizable load of pallets if Henry dropped them off, and the rest is hair-scorching history.

Literally, the fire was so intense at one point, my poor friend Kendal got a little more heat than he bargained for and got some hairs scorched.

This is not our pallet fire. Our fire wasn't quite that large, but it WAS impressively large. Kendal kept checking Google Earth to see if our fire was being picked up by satellite, but unfortunately the government doesn't see fit to have a dedicated satellite for southeastern Iowa. A pity, to be sure.

Besides the pallets, we have a practically-unlimited amount of firewood where I live, thanks to the dense woods surrounding my trailer. We cleared 14 dead trees out of the yards last fall alone. But that sort of tree bounty won't last forever, which brings me to my next topic.


Before the pallet fire on Saturday, Shane and I awoke with distinct projects in mind. Shane had just finished whipping together a massive, sturdy work table out of wood scraps and a large A-frame shelter for my 4-wheeler, but was still itching to be productive. He then set out to build raised garden beds. Meanwhile, I had just received a long-awaited package by UPS, and was ready to start my own project: planting my Giant Sequoia seedlings.

I've wanted to plant Redwoods ever since my uncle Gene put the bug in my ear a few years ago. After some extensive research, I found that our hot-summer, cold-winter climate isn't suitable for redwoods but it's just dandy for their tree-cousins, the Sequoias. I did all the necessary research and planning this fall and winter, and the moment I felt the first warm breezes of Spring, I purchased ten seedlings from a orchard online, who shipped them out to me with speed.

The seedlings, primed and ready for planting in their little custom growth pods. The orchard kept the moisture inside the containers through the crafty use of Saran wrap and scotch tape, which was antagonistically hard to get off without snapping the poor little seedlings in half.

The instruction papers that came with the seedlings declared, "For the best results, continue to irrigate your trees for their entire lifetime (about 3,000 years). If this isn't possible, ask someone to water them in your absence or put in an automatic irrigation system." Heh, it looks like I'll have to pass the irrigation duties off to someone that's planning to live 2,940 years or more.

I have great aspirations for my little sequoias, and I plan to give them encouraging pep talks to get them to grow to their full potential. But one can't encourage seedlings without first naming them! So I named each tree. Horace, Douglas, Constance, Sherman and Oswald are in the first row. In the second row are Kermit, Geraldine, and Hugo. The very last tree in the very last row I named Amaya. For those of you counting, that's only 9 trees. Due to lack of space (I have every confidence that these trees are going to be enormous), I gave the 10th tree to my father, who planted it at his place.

I could geek out about sequoias for quite a while, but I'll restrain myself to just telling my favorite facts about the species.

-Giant Sequoias (GS's) are the fastest-growing coniferous tree on the planet.

-The bark of a GS is fire-resistant. The trees will propagate (drop their seedlings) when scorched with fire. The fire tells the tree that the surrounding ground is free of competition.

-Given the proper growing conditions and plenty of water, GS's will grow 4-6 feet taller and 2 inches in diameter yearly.

-GS roots are very shallow and work best when they intertwine with fellow GS's.

With the proper amount of irrigation and peptalkery, my sequoias should be 100 inches in diameter by 2063. ONE HUNDRED INCHES ACROSS!

This is LG's world-record 100-inch TV. Imagine a tree trunk that large, in 50 short years.

Of course, I need to be careful not to get too optimistic. I shouldn't envision 200-foot high tree houses while my trees have been in the ground for less than 48 hours.

I really enjoy trees. I'm not a tree-hugger by any stretch of the imagination, though. Even though, most of my enjoyment comes from climbing them or cutting them down, I have to admit that it feels good to get my hands in the rich soil and plant a few trees. I better be careful, though. Who knows where this sort of activity leads? Next thing you know, I'll be protesting technology and living in a foxhole.

Bible Study.

I've been enjoying the men's Bible study that I'm part of. We've had a lot of good discussions, and it's good to visit with men my age and talk about our Spiritual walk, struggles we face, prayer concerns, and current world events. I tell you, if our men's group replaced the current White House Cabinet, things would get ship-shape in a hurry.

We've been going through the books of II Kings and Revelation, one chapter in each per week. But we sometimes change things up and watch recorded sermons and talks. Last Thursday, it was Nevin's turn to host. He recently got married and we feared that it would be the end of his involvement with our group. To our great delight and surprise, he makes a dedicated effort to be at each Bible study, and when he hosts it at his place, his extra awesome wife Natalie makes us fantastic meals.

 Parmesan-garlic potato wedges and "Armadillo eggs": cheese-stuffed jalapenos covered with barbecued hamburger.

Fish tacos, fresh garden salsa, creamy corn and peppers, and festive ricey goodness, served with iced black tea.

These two saints are trying to make me fat.

Natalie goes out of her way to make things gluten free so I can eat them. Because of this, there's a special section in Heaven reserved for her.


My friend Christopher had a birthday recently. His dad, the pastor at my church, organized a meal at a restaurant with his son, not telling Chris that he ALSO organized to have several guys come and give his son some tips on becoming a man. I was honored to be invited along with some other guys that I believe are truly wise. (My sneaking suspicion was that perhaps I was chosen to attend so that there would be an excellent example on what NOT to become as you get older.)

Jacob and Christopher, giggling about manly things.

We had a really fantastic evening, even though Chris had a stomach ache that prevented him from eating a single bite of his meal. After each of us men spoke about what being a man is all about, Chris's father handed him his gift:

A LIFE-SIZED REPLICA OF "Sting", THE BLADE FROM "Lord of the Rings".


After we gazed at it (and took a group photo), we wondered how legal it was to have a giant sword in Outback Steakhouse, but the waiters were cool with it. Despite them being so understanding, we kept the sword under wraps and took it outside in the parking lot for a photo shoot (hence the poor lighting in the photo of Chris gleefully stabbing me).

Well, that should do for now. More things have been happening but I just don't have the time to talk about them presently, so they'll just have to wait their turn.

Do any of you talk to your plants? What do you say to them?