Ice Cream Research

We lived in Texas for several years. While there we were surprised to learn the term “Cokes” refers to any carbonated drink. At a restaurant, the server asked, “What kind of Cokes do you want?” We’ll have Sprite, or Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. Sprite Cokes, Dr. Pepper Cokes, Root Beer Cokes. That was Texas.

There are two things you don’t mess with. One is coffee, the other is ice cream. I have had coffee all over the country, and a few other countries. The coffee in Louisiana is served “dark” or “light”. The dark is heavy enough you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Good stuff. In Australia we asked for coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were crazy. She brought us coffee with a bowl of whipped cream. There, you ask for flat white, long black, short black. Not coffee with cream. Gracious.

Ice cream is a serious matter. So serious, that recently we began doing research. We investigated local Dairy Queen’s to discover whether they were creating a proper Mocha-Chip Blizzard. The first time we asked if they could make a Mocha Blizzard, since it wasn’t on the menu, they said, “Sure!”, like it was a stupid question. We were delighted. When we received the non-turned-upside-down blizzard, we were less-than thrilled. It was vanilla ice cream with little flecks of chocolate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe the chocolate flecks were mocha flavored.

The unset of the research project required us to search out other Dairy Queen’s to discover whether the first Dairy Queen had made a mistake. When we visited another DQ, we asked the same question, and received the same response. We were thrilled to receive a golden-brown swirl of ice cream, standing tall in the cup, about a half-inch above the rim filled with the familiar chocolate flecks. It was delicious! A rich espresso flavor. We knew we were on the right track.

So, that meant we were required, of course, in the interest of proper scientific discovery, to revisit the original DQ, to inquire about their ingredients for what they called the Mocha Chip Blizzard. Obviously, to do a proper statistical investigation, to find whether the null hypothesis was true with regard to the number of chocolate flecks that were in each blizzard, we would have to completely melt the blizzard, count the chocolate flecks, then do the same with a Mocha Chip Blizzard from the first DQ. We decided our research would not reach to that depth. Taste preference would be enough.

At great risk, we took one of our grandsons with us, back to the original Dairy Queen, for the final test. We ordered two Mocha Chip Blizzards, and an Oreo Reeses-Pieces Blizzard for our grandson. When we arrived at the drive-thru window, I asked how their Mocha Chip Blizzard was made. The server said, “With Tiramasu Sauce and Chocolate Chips.”

Once again, we were disappointed. There was no noticeable espresso or tiramisu flavor. Only the familiar chocolate flecks.

At long-last, our ice cream research was complete. The second Dairy Queen served a proper Mocha Chip Blizzard, with a deep and wonderful coffee flavor, enhanced by the chocolate flecks. The original DQ needs to work on what they refer to as a Mocha Chip Blizzard. Like I said, don’t mess with ice cream.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.

How to Eat McDonald’s Pancakes in Your Car

There is a proper way to eat pancakes in your car. Get it wrong, and you’re going to have a mess, all over your lap. You’ll have to go home and change and be late for work.

Eating pancakes on your lap is not for the faint of heart. You have to be bold, willing to take a risk, unafraid, ready for action. You’ve come to the right place to learn the steps to successfully enjoying McDonald’s pancakes, in your car, regardless of weather, while listening to your favorite radio station, savoring each bite, and overcoming the sadness when it’s gone.

The photo is a little deceiving. McDonald’s pancakes only come in threes.

Step one: Find the right McDonald’s. You have to know where it is, how to get there, when it opens, and where to park. You don’t want any sense of anxiety before you even get your pancakes.

Step two: Your order – “I would like pancakes, without sausage (that’s important), EXTRA SYRUP, and a medium coffee with two creams.” It’s best to memorize the script before you order for the first time. If you stumble during the order, you might end up with donut.

Step three: Sitting up straight, remove the pancakes from the bag, and place the plastic tray on your lap. No need to put a napkin tablecloth on your lap. The container is tough enough to keep anything from seeping through onto your clothes.

This is vitally important! Do not open the flip-top on your coffee until you are ready to begin eating. The proper coffee temperature is necessary for the entire experience to be enjoyed fully. Preparation, ready, set, flip-top, eat. In that order.

Step four: (The remaining steps should be completed quickly, so it is important to have everything at hand before you begin.) Open your knife and fork. Unfold your napkin. Pull the tops back on your two packs of butter. Carefully open ONE syrup. Now, and only now, remove the top from your pancakes.

Step five: Place one dob of butter between the pancakes, place the remaining dob on top. Pour the entire syrup container over the pancakes.

Step six: Enjoy your delicious, mouthwatering, perfectly prepared pancakes. Only after a few bites, open the second syrup pack and pour it onto the area you have already cut. This will cause the syrup to seep into the pancakes.

Warning: I do NOT recommend using your knife. You will risk cutting through the plate without knowing it, and a small seepage of syrup will drip onto your clothes. You will not discover this until you are in your business meeting and doing your presentation before the board of directors. They won’t be listening to you. They’ll be staring at the syrup.

Step seven: When you are finished eating, you will obviously feel a sense of loss. This is to be expected. It is normal. However, what you do now will determine how the disappointment affects you long-term. Here is the key: As you sip your still-hot coffee, immediately begin thinking about the next time you will have pancakes in your car at McDonald’s. If it helps, write it down on a sticky-note and put it on your dash. Now you will begin to feel better as you look forward to your next trip.

The world would be a happier place if everyone took time for McDonald’s pancakes!

There you have it. You can now enjoy McDonald’s pancakes in your car, on your lap. Savor it!

You’ll have to excuse me now. I have to find a McDonald’s.

Loving Tennessee

Recently, we enjoyed a week in beautiful Tennessee. While we were there, we visited the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, TN. What a fascinating place!

The early morning air was cool, but by the time we had been exploring the park for an hour, it was plenty warm. I did purchase a “Old Stone Fort” hooded sweatshirt, just to be sure.

The Old Stone Fort was built hundreds of years ago. The land in the area was used by Native Americans. It is incredibly interesting, and somewhat haunting to walk through what is left of the building. To think that the stones were placed so many years ago, and remain where they were carefully laid is amazing.

While we were there, people were fishing along the river. I don’t know whether they were successful or not. The beauty was smudged just a little, by some careless folks who decided to toss sandwich bags and plastic bottles along the rocks. Some thoughtless parent even left a dirty diaper laying by the water. Unbelievable.

Wooden stairways say so much. How many feet have used these steps? I wonder what the people were talking about. How many children complained of sore feet?

I was intrigued by this old sickle bar mower that was left to rust into oblivion along the river. I actually looked up the serial number and Google returned actual photos of the old machine. History.

If you make a trip to Tennessee, take some time and travel to Manchester. The Old Stone Fort State Park is well worth the drive. On a sunny day, the beauty is unmatched.

It’s time for coffee.

Lonely Docks and Sea Glass

I have always loved wooden docks. I love looking down at the water, watching the fish.

There is nothing quite like climbing into a boat while it is tied to the dock, starting the motor, untying, and heading out onto the lake. In the early morning, the quiet sound of the water curling back from the bow is so relaxing!

Lake life is wonderful. The beauty of the water with the sun glistening off the ripples is unbeatable. Walking the beach while no one else is around provides a quiet time for thought, or just time for nothing at all.

I don’t know what fascinates me so much about this pole with the light. I don’t know if the light works. There is an antique wooden pulley hanging from the top. At one time, it probably held huge sharks recently caught. Except it’s on a lake. So, forget that.

With the Great Lakes water levels being higher than they have been in many years, the beach has changed drastically. Some people don’t have a beach in front of their cottage at all. The lonely tree out in the water (above) was totally out of the water just two years ago.

We love searching for sea glass. Some people call it beach glass. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and we have a jar of pieces we have found. These were taken from the lakeshore just this morning.

This morning the lake was so calm we could hear the sounds of boat engines far out on the bay without being able to see them. The water was like glass. So beautiful!

The water, the sun, the sand, and a few clouds passing slowly overhead provide a gentle rest from the noisy world around us.

It’s time for coffee.

Awareness of Your Personal Value

How are you feeling today? What kind of day are you going to have?

Whatever you have decided about the day and how you’re feeling in it so far, it is possible to make it better. Not perfect. Better.

When you decide your personal value is the foundation of every judgment and decision you make throughout the day, you are immediately on your way to having the kind of day you want instead of reacting to the day that happens to you.

Economics is based on scarcity. If everyone has the same thing it has no value. The item might be extremely useful, appreciated, necessary, but as far as monetary value is concerned, there is no demand because everyone already has it. If only a few have it, the demand is high because everyone believes they have to have it, and the price is high because there is not enough. That is economics, advertising, commercialism, and the common understanding of value in a paragraph.

Your personal value has nothing to do with economics, but you are trained to believe it does. You are constantly bombarded with messages that remind you you do not have enough, there is not enough, you can’t get enough, and no matter how hard you work, it will not be enough. The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be. You are constantly reminded that unless you have this, unless you go there, unless you’re wearing this, unless you’re eating that, unless you’re driving this, unless you live in that, you have no value. Oh, not in specific words, but that IS the message.

None of it is true.

Your value is you. There has never been another you. There is no other you. There will never be another you. We are all snowflakes! There are no two people exactly alike. There has never, in the history of humanity, been an exact repeat of anyone. Nor will there ever be.

Your value cannot be measured because there is no comparison. Your value has nothing to do with how you look, act, feel, live, think, like, dislike, hope, dream, work, play, eat, smell, run, throw, sit, or stand. Your value has nothing to do with abilities, talents, grade point averages, status, careers, awards, stars, accolades, applause, or friends. Your value is you.

Here is the key. Your value has nothing to do with anyone else’s value. You do NOT have value because someone else does not. You do NOT have less value because someone else has more. Your value is not in relation to anyone but you.

If you do not accept your value, then you will spend your life and effort trying to find it. You will value yourself when others value you. You will value yourself when you finally are able to buy that car the ads tell you to drive. Value will finally be yours when you can afford that house, get that promotion, go on that trip, receive that award, get that attention, be seen with those people. And then you will be left alone with not an ounce more real value than was yours all along. Your value is you.

The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be.

Your value is not a feeling. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your feelings. Your value is not your personality. But not realizing your value will affect whether you react or respond, whether you stagnate or grow, whether you trust or fear. Your value is not behavior. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your behavior.

Your value is you. Say it. “My value is me.” Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it a bunch more.

Dale Parsons MA LPC

How Did You Find Your Niche?

Do you have a niche? How did you know it was right for you?

I need your help. I have been writing for many years. I have written four books, somewhere in excess of a thousand total pages. I have been published many times in curricula and periodicals. I had a weekly column in a local newspaper for two years. Writing has never been a problem, except for maybe being too wordy. My motto has always been, “why say something in ten words when you can say it in forty?” I’m like a friend once said, “The only way that guy could have said less is if he had talked longer.”

Blogging is driving me crazy! I can’t seem to get it right. Maybe I have read too much and I’m making it too hard. I read, “Don’t be personal.” Then someone else says, “Make sure it’s personal.” A blog authority says, “Keep it short.” Another says, “If you’re saying what you need to in five paragraphs, you don’t really have anything to say.” Someone with a ton of followers says, “Be passionate!” A writer with even more followers says, “Make sure you’re not too passionate about what you’re saying. You don’t want to drive people away.” Ahhhhhh!!

This whole thing about “niche” is mind-boggling! I know the definition. The problem is I can’t seem to find mine. I’m a pretty smart person. I’ve had a ton of experiences in many things, probably most of which no one would care about. I’m pretty talented. (Someone said, “If you don’t toot your own horn it won’t get tooted.”) But there are lots of really talented people around no one has ever heard of.

Not only have I done a bunch of writing for readers, I’ve written a big boat-load of music. Most of it absolutely worthless, not worth the space on the manuscript paper. Putting words together isn’t the problem. My problem is settling on something as a niche and sticking with it.

I’m not interested in writing a public diary as a blog. I don’t understand people who take pictures of what they’re eating and write about it. I don’t want to be like a pinball, bouncing around from one topic to the other.

So, I need help. I’m sincerely asking you for your advice. A plebe, a freshman, a neophyte, a beginner humbly asking for assistance.

How long have you been blogging?

What was your experience when you were first getting started?

Where did you find inspiration?

How did you keep going when it seemed like nothing was working?

I’m not trying to make money. I don’t have a website to which I’m trying to drive traffic. Is blogging worth the effort just as an expression of yourself?

Anything else you can offer that you think would be helpful, I will appreciate. Thank you for your time. And, thank you for being an example of how to be blogger.

When Your Kids Outshine You

Graffiti Rock

It’s a gift to be able to watch our own children becoming all they want to be. With a daughter and triplet sons, and now a son-in-law, three daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren, it’s hard to imagine life getting even better.

Our daughter has been drawing since she was little. She used to love playing with a “Spiro-graph”, an art toy that was popular in the 70s. She was always doodling and we still have many of her early drawings.

As our children were growing up, we loved spending time at Lake Huron. Actually, it’s Saginaw Bay, since we are west of Pt. Austin, the “Tip of the Thumb” of Michigan. There is a huge rock that has changed a great deal over the years, that is a favorite destination for walks along the beach. We always called it “the big rock”, but now it is referred to as Graffiti Rock, since, sadly, years of spray painting has changed it’s appearance drastically.

With constant changes in lake levels over the years, we have seen times when the rock was completely out of the water. Now it is surrounded. On the outside, the water is deep enough for brave (?) ones to jump from the top. I sure wouldn’t do it.

As a middle school art teacher, our daughter has encouraged and motivated students for many years. At the same time, she has continued to use her skills to create her own beautiful work. Recently, her painting, “Graffiti Rock”, was chosen by the National Art Education Association to be included in the NAEA Virtual Art Exhibit. Over six hundred works were submitted. We couldn’t be more proud.

Nothing makes us happier than watching and being included in the lives of our children and grandchildren. All of our kids have made us incredibly proud.

“Graffiti Rock” hangs in our daughter’s home. It’s a constant reminder of just how blessed we are.

Seniors’ Discount Coffee

Let’s admit it. Coffee is not about the taste as much as it is about having a cup in your hand. Trips go better with a cup of coffee. And it doesn’t matter how long the trip is. If you have to be in the car and actually drive somewhere, then it’s coffee time.

I am well into senior land, but the first time I received a seniors’ discount, I was only 45. In fact, it was on my forty-fifth birthday. My wife and I were in the drive-thru at McD’s, and I asked for two small coffees with one cream in each. When we arrived at the window the girl said, “That will be fifty-two cents.” I said, “I ordered two coffees.” “Right. I gave you the seniors’ discount.” My wife and I just looked at each other, I didn’t know what to say. I took the discount.

I wonder if seniors’ discount coffees are skimped in some way to make up for the loss in revenue. Maybe they pull the cup out from under the magic coffee spout just a little early and add hot water. Maybe they have a “seniors only” pot that only contains three-fourths the amount of grounds that a normal pot does.

Isn’t the idea of a discount backwards? It seems, after having four children, that there should be a range of discounts for parents with kids, depending on how many you have. For example, thirty-six years ago, we had triplet boys. Total surprise, boom! We went from one child to four. Coffee should have been free from that point until our kids were out on their own. At the window the McD person could say, “Do you have children? How many? Three? Ok, your order will be twelve dollars and ten cents, instead of eighteen dollars and forty-two cents.”

I have to admit we had the McD meal down to a science. We got one large drink, split if four ways. Four hamburgers, one large fry – four way. Loads of ketchup works like gravy or soup if you have enough.

Bill Knapp’s, God rest it’s soul that is so missed, was like heaven for us. Since our kids’ birthdays are all within a week of each other, we always headed to Bill Knapp’s. We could get a free chocolate cake for EACH child for their birthday. We walked out of there loaded with chocolate birthday cake, which lasted about a month if we froze some! Man, I miss that! No wonder they went out of business!

Seniors’ discount coffee doesn’t taste any different, no matter what they do or don’t do to it. But ask yourself. What does the seniors’ discount mean? Are we being rewarded for actually making it to this age? Are we being emotionally penalized for still being around? Are they saying, “We don’t expect as much from you, so we’re not going to take as much”? Or are they saying, “We know your taste is fading, so we’re not going to charge you as much for something you can’t taste anyway.”

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know the seniors’ discount is available. Coffee at a lower price. What could be better?

Where’s my coffee?

Travel to Australia

Have you ever been to Australia? Do you have a desire for LONG-distance traveling? If you do, Australia is a terrific destination.

We had the incredible privilege of visiting Australia. It was our first trip half-way around the world. Our son and daughter-in-law were married in Queensland and we were thrilled to attend.

We were able to make all connections originating with our local Flint Bishop Airport in Michigan. From Flint we flew to Atlanta, then on to Los Angeles International (LAX). Our flight from home was mid-morning, but we didn’t leave LAX until 11:00 p.m., which was 2:00 am home time. Obviously, by the time we were in flight to Brisbane, we were exhausted.

We flew Qantas Airlines round-trip from LAX to Brisbane. The attendants were wonderful and made our flight as comfortable as possible. We were offered dinner as soon as we boarded, but we were too tired to eat. We immediately fell asleep and awoke some hours later, far over the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas food was very enjoyable, and plenty of coffee and other drinks were frequently offered. We were able to walk around the cabin as needed to stretch our legs. There were many choices of entertainment including movies, music, comedy, and, my favorite, watching live progress of our flight on a digital map.

Being international travel rookies, we made a couple significant mistakes. We didn’t purchase our visas until we were at LAX, which maybe wasn’t a problem, unless it had been. I don’t know what we would have done if they had said, “Uh, you were supposed to get these weeks ago.” When we arrived in Brisbane, it was immediately apparent we had no phones. We didn’t know about purchasing an international travel option from Verizon. Luckily, our son and his fiancé arrived pretty quickly.

The family we stayed with provided a car for us to use. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car was tough at first, but we managed. However, I soon discovered my “I know where I’m going” attitude didn’t stretch from the US to Australia. We left the rehearsal dinner and were quickly lost, but just happened to see a couple from the party on the road. We followed them to their house and they told us how to get to our home.

Our host took us to a local country club to see the resident wallabies that were everywhere. They were lying in the grass just feet away from our golf cart and couldn’t have cared less we were there.

It would have been great fun to see a koala, but it didn’t happen.

We were only able to stay in Australia for five days due to work schedules. Our trip was amazing, just not long enough. Someday it would be fantastic to return.

Bats in the Belfry

Nothing quite beats the experience of waking out of a deep slumber to the unmistakable sound of a winged creature flying around in your bedroom!

I heard about people who had bats in their home and could not imagine the horror. When we moved into a house that had a history of bats we were nervous, to put it mildly. The homeowners paid for an exterminator to come so we could be assured there were no bats in the belfry. We were so relieved!

After we settled into the house we were feeling more confident as the days passed. Certainly, the worst of the stories from years before were nothing but memories and we had nothing to worry about. My wife is terrified of birds and has been since she was five years old. The thought of a winged mouse flying around was more than she could stand.

Blood-curdling screams came from the basement!! Our daughter and her fiancé were playing pool but came pounding up the stairs with our three sons close behind. “There are bats flying all over the place!!” I wanted to throw something. The authorities told us the bats were gone!

I slowly crept down the stairs, expecting to be mercilessly attacked by the savage vampires. Nothing. I looked in all of the dark corners. Nothing. I peered in between, under, around, over. Nothing. If there had truly been bats, they were now gone.

I convinced my wife it was safe to stay in the house and not move out immediately. Since the house belonged to the church of which I was the new pastor, I was sure the perishioners wouldn’t understand if we disappeared within the first three months.

For the next few weeks we were not visited again. Then one afternoon I was home for lunch while everyone else was at school. I was sitting on the couch eating and was shocked to see a bat fly into the room. I slowly stood, picked up a pillow, and when he appeared again, I threw it and nailed him! He fell onto the couch and lay there, stunned I guess. I retrieved a BB gun and dispatched him quickly, quietly. Right there on the couch. I didn’t tell anyone.

Two of our sons had bedrooms in the basement. “Daaaaad! Daaaaaaaad! There’s a bat flying around in my bedroom!!” That’s an awful wake-up call!

Workers came and dismantled the basement, once again assuring us the problem was over. There would be no more bats. There were.

I always wondered if I would hear a bat flying through our bedroom in the middle of the night while I was sound asleep. I got my answer. I heard it loud and clear. “Honey, honey, wake up.” “Whaaat?” “There’s a bat flying in our bedroom.” “What?!!!” “Go into the bathroom and shut the door.” She was gone in a flash.

The bat headed for the living room. I started turning on lights and the bat finally made it to the den. I closed the door. The den was the exit to the back of the house, so I went around outside and came back in to confront the intruder. In a very small room, I could not find him!! Finally, I actually said, “Lord, you know where he is.” At that moment I looked up on the book shelves and realized there were spaces behind the books. Starting on the top shelf, I pounded the books into the wall. Finally, when I reached “Moby Dick”, I found the predator. The bat went the way of Captain Ahab.

After many long fights, we finally reached the level of bat-free living. When the house was built, the top of the basement wall, which was cement blocks, was not capped. Once the bats got in, many years before, they were in the catacombs of the basement walls, free to live, breed, eat, sleep, make babies, and reek havoc. The final remedy was foam insulation sprayed into and filling each of the openings at the top of the block walls.

Bats really are cute. From a distance. Having that horrible experience, which actually lasted several years, taught me how to get rid of the bats that had taken up residence in the house we bought to remodel. Lots, and lots of bats. And squirrels.

Whose idea was it to put wings on a mouse anyway?