Cafeteria

Cafeteria: (n) a dining establishment in which customers serve themselves

My mother wouldn’t let me. (There are innumerable possibilities to go along with that statement.)

But in this case, it was eating in the cafeteria at school. Growing up, we lived so close to all of my schools that she insisted I come home
for lunch. So as is often the case in childhood, what you are forbidden to have becomes the source of your lust.

As I prepared to walk home to my house to eat my meager sandwich and soup, I would see all my friends on their way to the cafeteria to enjoy a mutual feast–and I assumed, great frivolity.

I felt cheated. I felt like an alien. I felt I had been presented a privilege which offered no visible benefit.

Then, one week my mother was going to be away helping out her sister, who was ill. She didn’t think it was right for me to come home without her there, so she gave me 75 cents a day, to eat in the cafeteria.

My joy knew no bounds. I was bouncing off the walls in anticipation. My friends squinted at me, confused about why I was so enthralled with eating at the common trough. They tried to explain to me that it was really pretty bad, and that I would be greatly disappointed.

But as I shuffled through the line, watching how my friends conducted themselves while conversing with the old women in hair nets who were dipping out the provision, I immediately noticed two obvious problems. All the food looked a little bit gray, and there wasn’t much of it.

For the first couple of days I pretended to enjoy the cuisine, but by the time Day Three came around, I found myself yearning for my fried bologna sandwich and tomato soup (with a few crackers.)

I made it through the fifth day, and when my mother returned on the weekend, she asked me if I would like to continue to eat in the cafeteria. I think she thought it was a pretty good deal–especially since she wouldn’t have to play cook and waitress for me at lunch time.

Inexplicably, I broke out in tears and was very embarrassed, but sobbed, “No, I wanna come home…”

It was pathetic.

But it was better than eating over-cooked macaroni, processed cheese and room temperature fruit cocktail.

 

 

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Available

Available: (adj) able to be used or obtained

There are a few great principles that just make life work better.dictionary with letter A

Fortunately for us mortals, they are simple.

  • Our attempts to complicate them do not actually improve their quality.
  • Our instinct to ignore them does not negate them.
  • Our decision to embrace them brings a sense of true joy to our hearts which greatly increases our power to endure.

One of these primary precepts is this: happiness is when we begin to believe that what is available to us is our blessing.

Just imagine how content we could become if we thought a box of macaroni, eight slices of cheese and a can of tuna were the makings of a meal instead of symbols of our poverty. Tuna and macaroni and cheese. It is edible, you know. And if we access the spice rack, we might just be able to turn it into a delicacy.

I am only miserable in my life when I convince myself that I am cheated by what is available.

I become giddy with my journey when I take what’s available and turn it into the “Magical Mystery Tour.”

So what is the trick? Here’s what I choose to believe:

What’s the harm in using what’s available until something better comes along? Who knows? What is available may be enough.

And if not, I would rather fill my time being inventive with my resources … instead of bitching about them. 

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Anvil

dictionary with letter A

Anvil: (n) a heavy steel or iron block with a flat top and concave sides, and typically a pointed end on which metals can be hammered and shaped.

I took a long moment to think this one through.

I like things that make me think because thinking is admitting that you don’t know and you aren’t afraid to learn if any information is actually available.

Here’s what I came up with:

You’ve got one big piece of metal in your hand in the shape of a hammer that’s hitting another piece of metal really hard to put it in shape, while a very sturdy piece of metal beneath it withstands the blows and remains firm so as not to inhibit the shaping of the object.

They’re all metal.

Some of them just have to be stronger than the others to sustain the pressure.

I know that appears to be too philosophical, but if you pause for a moment, it really isn’t. It’s just practical.

For a brief season, we have children who are brought into this world and must be molded, guided and shaped into human beings. I must warn you, they do not arrive human, but rather, as self-centered, egotistical, overly intelligent little monkeys who need to be removed from their jungle environment and taught the ways of true humanity.

There’s a lot of debate today on whether there’s some hitting and beating needed in that process.

Let us agree on the following four points:

1. There are moments in raising a child when you are well prepared to kill them, and if you got the right jury, who had also parented, you might get off for time served.

2. Since the sensation is common to us all, what sets us apart from those who end up damaging their children instead of helping them is what we might call “holy restraint.”

3. Holy restraint is not achieved without pursuing something holy. To do that means you need to invest your brain more than your brawn. The advantage we have over children is that they’re just not as smart as we are yet. And the second advantage is that we control the macaroni and cheese.

4. A child who learns is like a piece of steel that is squeezed between the hammer and the anvil. Since both of them are stronger, he or she will eventually find a reason to comply.

Now, I realize the analogy doesn’t work well because the hammer actually hits the steel against the anvil. But since our children are made of flesh and blood instead of iron and alloys, it might be a good idea to adjust the strength projected to the object addressed.

As flesh and blood, they need wisdom and guidance from people who know how to outsmart them.

Parenting is more about trickery than it ever is … about spanking.

 

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Antique

dictionary with letter A

Antique: (n) an object such as a piece of furniture or work of art which has a high value due to its considerable age.

For a brief season in my life I had more money than I needed and therefore convinced myself that I needed more money.

It’s amazing how greed does not go away when you find yourself in the black after bills are paid, but rather, settles as a black cloud over your soul, convincing you that if you don’t lay up more treasure, you will be swallowed by some catastrophe in the future, yet unseen.

So even though most of my journey has been spent clapping my hands in glee when the electric bill has been paid and cleared the bank, during this particular odyssey of finance, I became obsessed with a new word.

Investment.

Yes. Everything needed to be an investment.

So I was told my counselors (who were many since they discovered they could siphon off my wealth via giving advice) that houses were a good purchase.

I was told that if I bought a beautiful white grand piano, it would only appreciate over the years.

And of course, it was necessary, since I was now a person of worldly ilk, to go antiquing.

I was supposed to go to little storefronts which were jammed to the gills with fishy deals, and listen to someone explain how “this table was once in the den of Johnny Appleseed,” and had “already trebled in value and would certainly continue to do so.”

Having an untrained eye, to me it looked like a beat-up piece of wood which should have been broken up to fuel a fire years ago.

When I pointed this out to one of the enthusiastic “antiquers,” he stood back in horror and said, “It’s old. So it’s worth more money.”

I explained to him that I was getting older, and no one found me more valuable. He laughed a little (after all, I was still a potential sale).

Here was my discovery:

  • I bought houses and barely broke even on the turnaround.
  • That white grand piano had to be sold for less than half of its original value.
  • And all the antiques I purchased were viewed by garage sale people as worthless clumps of nothing instead of the posterity of Mr. Appleseed.

There is a bliss to poverty.

You don’t have to wonder what you’re going to do with all your money.

Macaroni and cheese still tastes good on Day Three.

And most importantly… you don’t have to deal with antiques.

 

 

 

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