A Foolish Promise


Back in February, when the kids and I visited Ireland, we couldn’t escape the topic of Donald Trump. In the car, we listened to radio news loops, detailing Trump’s quirky comments. In pubs, restaurants and shops, strangers queried us about The Celebrity Apprentice host’s political fame.

This was well before “Trump” and “presumptive nominee” shared a sentence. As of mid-February, six Republican candidates still jockeyed for the lead. And while Trump was holding the field at bay, most political pundits and media outlets treated his campaign as a farce. Trump wasn’t a real candidate; he was a titillating caricature, whose wacky remarks spiced-up a ho hum primary season. No one imagined he’d be ringleader in the presidential circus.

From my perspective, his campaign was fantastical. And on our drive to Dingle — prompted by another Donald soundbite — I declared the following:

“If Trump wins the presidency, we will move to Ireland.”

The kids lit up. You promise? they asked. I promise, I replied.

At the time, Trump had a better chance of walking on the moon than commanding the oval office.

But that was then… and this is now.

Trump’s presidential run is no longer groundless. And the kids haven’t forgotten my pledge. A couple days ago, they pondered a Republican win and lobbed out a bunch of questions:

Are we going to live with Auntie Sheep or will we have our own house? Will we move after the election or after inauguration? Can we bring Maisie? And what about the horses? Can we still go to sleep-away camp in West Virginia? Can my friends visit us in Ireland? 

I glibly answer their questions while pondering how to back-pedal out of a pinkie promise. We’ll have our own house; umm… I guess we’ll move after inauguration. Yes, we can bring Maisie, and maybe Rocky and Jazz, but not the other horses. We’ll see about sleep-away camp; and your friends can visit if they pay their own way… 

I never imagined I’d have to make good on a plan to relocate. Now I’m plotting a retraction.

Should Trump become the final one standing, I’ll renege on my decree and slather it with a heartfelt apology.

And if all else fails, I’ll pay them off.

Trump may become president, but cash is king.


The Alien Deception


Ever since I discovered a field mouse squatting in our mailbox (approximately a year after I grasped for the mail and was stung by a carpenter bee)…

I began to look before reaching.

That’s why I noticed the book in the mailbox.

I assumed it was a loaner on return, and I tossed it onto Pigpen’s passenger seat —  a receptacle for mail and the kids’ discarded clothing. (Rarely do I subject a human passenger to that unairconditioned rattletrap.)

Anyway, a week passed before I removed the dirty clothes and unearthed the stack of mail.

The book cover was forgettable, but the lump inside gave me pause. I assumed it was a note from the borrower; but it was actually a DVD entitled: Exo-Vaticana — The Alien Deception.

Now that stopped me and I scrutinized the book… which wasn’t your typical Jehovah’s Witness lit.


As for the accompanying disc… I wasn’t brave enough to stick something called The Alien Deception into my DVD player. So I turned to Google.

Exo-Vaticana is a book authored by two writers who claim that the Catholic Church has begun a global dialogue with extraterrestrial life, and that Pope Francis will ultimately disclose ET’s existence to the world. Specifically, they claim that the Pope is preparing to lead the Catholic Church to embrace the returning/visiting aliens as “space brothers of Christ.” 


In contrast, the book, Knowing God, was banal. Apparently, it’s a must-read for Evangelicals.

It brings together two important facets of the Christian faith― knowing God and [sic] God’s close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ,” wrote one reviewer.

A quote from the author J.I. Packer stated: “Christians have become enchanted by modern skepticism and have joined the ‘gigantic conspiracy of misdirection’ by failing to put first things first.

Another reviewer said that Knowing God“puts the hay where the sheep can reach it — showing ordinary folks what it means to know God.”

None of those comments wowed me.

The relationship between God and Jesus Christ? Not exactly a novel concept.

And the sheep metaphor was offensive. During our last snowstorm, I’d put hay where the sheep could reach it, and those stupid sheep were too dense to eat it. Please, select another domesticated species to represent me.

As for the “gigantic conspiracy of misdirection?” Sounds like the current presidential race.

So, what do to with this mailbox liturgy?

I found that Amazon sells Knowing God for $11.96. If our neighbors have also been blessed with this bounty, we could pool our paperback stash and make some money.

As for the homemade, pirated version of the Exo-Vaticana DVD? It’s hard to put a price on that.

So far, The Alien Deception makes a handy drink coaster.

maxresdefault (1)

Serial Shredder


The riding lawnmower and I do NOT get along.

Whenever I’m paired with it, something gets broken, knocked loose, bent or shredded. This problematic relationship dates back years ago, to its maiden voyage with me: I mowed over a metal jump cup and bent the blade.

Since then, the casualties have been less costly  — tennis balls, kids’ toys, ornamental plants and a few garden hoses. Still, Martin never asks me to cut the grass.

And he’s mystified by my inability to start the mower, despite several tutorials. I guess he figures that ineptitude hobbles my usage.

(And starting it is one reason why I hate the thing. In my defense, the icons are inane. The choke symbol — two hash marks and a diagonal line? It’s meaningless. Equally baffling is the tortoise and hare symbol for the throttle. I never know which lever should be where, and typically the engine fires but doesn’t catch.)

But on Monday, I had a stroke of luck. Martin was bush-hogging with the tractor, creeping along and stopping frequently to scrape seed heads from the radiator or to clear his lungs of the carbon monoxide, billowing from the broken exhaust.

I felt sorry for him, so I shoved the key into the mower’s ignition, toggled the levers this way and that and — for once — the thing growled to life. Success!

I commenced mowing, tracing the fence line, so Martin could witness my good deed. He was nearly done bush-hogging and soon could chill out.

I made one more pass then took a path around the boxwoods. Almost immediately, the engine shrieked and ground to a stop with a violent shudder. I sat on the silent machine as a plume reeking of burnt rubber rose around me. In the distance, the tractor was still chugging along.

I hiked into the field and flagged Martin down.

“So there I was, minding my own business, cutting the grass when suddenly, the hose by the magnolia tree flung itself in front of the mower!” I said, waving my arms for emphasis.

“Another hose?” he asked before surveying the crime scene. “Jesus, Jo! You got the hammock in there, too?”

It’s true, both yard items teamed up in this brutal attack.


After that, Martin didn’t say much. He rolled around on the ground, stuck his arm beneath the mower, grumbled a lot and finally freed the blades from the tangle of rubber and rope.


Promising to be more careful, I took off cutting grass before he could say much else.

I was on high-alert for toys near the jungle gym, and that’s why it took a minute to realize that the mower was rearing up on its hind wheels. Perplexed, I pushed the steering levers forward and the mower really popped a wheelie. So I quickly yanked it backwards and it came down, hitting the ground with a bang.

Somehow, I’d snagged the mowing deck on the two-seater swing on the jungle gym.

I quickly glanced around to make sure that Martin was on the tractor, out of sight.

He was standing right behind me, mouth agape.

What could I do?

I peeled out there, taking refuge behind the boxwoods.

I still hate that damn mower, but at least it moves fast.