Byway

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Byway: (n) a road or track not following a main route

Introspection is beneficial as long as we’re not afraid of discovering untended wounds.

They are there.

They annoy us, but unless we track them down and identify the pain, generally speaking, we assume that we are trapped in our destiny.

Somewhere on the highway of life, we all get hurt. The speed limit is just too fast. People are trying to get to their destination and don’t mind being rude. There aren’t enough rest areas, stop-offs or gasoline stations to keep us safe and well-attended.

We become cynical. The road continues without seeming purpose, except for the dissolving of mile markers.

That’s why I tell you that nothing good ever happened in my life on the highway. Everything of quality that has been brought into my soul appeared on the by-way.

Those times when I had the courage to depart the majority opinion or the flock of determined sheep, and exit to find my own thoughts and grazing, I birthed something of quality.

You see, it’s not that small towns are better than large towns. It’s just that there are too many roads that flow into the big city. Traffic control becomes more important than people’s feelings. When there is only one blinking light in town, you stop because you want to look both ways. You’re not trying to avoid delay, but instead, appreciating the chance to test your brakes and peek around.

It was Frost who talked about “the road less taken.”

It was Jesus who warned us of the dangers of the “broad path which leads to destruction.”

If we really do believe that life has a quality to it, then we should be in search of that treasure. If we think the journey on Earth is a perpetual popularity contest, then we’ll probably avoid the byways–and in so doing, find ourselves crammed up in traffic, cursing the nearby competitors.

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Bunny

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Bunny: (n) a rabbit, especially a young one.

It seemed completely implausible.

I have no idea where my parents found it–but it was a box containing forty-eight chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies.

It was given to me as my Easter present when I was ten years old.

I had an immediate dilemma. I would have no problem eating all forty-eight in one sitting, even though I wouldn’t have been able to rise. But I wanted to pretend I was making them last.

Also, I had one little quirk when it came to chocolate-covered bunnies. I don’t like them soft and mushy, but just a little bit chewy–so you have to bite on them and pull a bit before the head separates from the torso. To achieve this, the bunnies must be willing to sit around, uneaten, for several days.

I took the box and hid it in my closet underneath some books. My thought was that needing to remove the books to get to the bunnies might prevent me from gorging.

The theory was incorrect. Turns out I was more than happy to remove some volumes to get to the treasure.

So by the time my bunnies reached their perfect texture, I only had two left.

That was on Monday afternoon. That would have been one day after Easter.

So the next year I asked my parents to buy my box of bunnies a week early before presenting them to me. For some reason they took offence to this.

I got no box of bunnies that year.

What I received was a seven-inch-tall rabbit, which was supposed to be solid chocolate, and ended up being full of air.

Thus the promises of life.

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Briefcase

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Briefcase: (n) a flat, rectangular container, typically made of leather

Mine was an old, cheap, black variety, torn places all over the fake leather, with bent hinges.

It was my briefcase.Dictionary B

I carried it officiously, thinking it made me look…well, I guess, important.

When I began writing my first novel, I made sure that every time I stopped typing (yes, this was back in the day when we actually used typewriters) every page was placed meticulously, nestled into my briefcase of safe-keeping.

I was so proud.

I had actually written maybe a third of my first great American manuscript when one night, somebody broke into my van and for some inexplicable reason, stole the knobs off my radio–and lifted my briefcase.

I didn’t have anything in there except the first draft of this work and some pictures my kids had drawn of sunsets and oddly-shaped horses.

It was totally useless to the person who stole it, but to me it was gold. I felt like I had lost part of my life.

The idea of having to start over again to regain the energy and thoughts already spilled out onto paper seemed extraordinarily arduous, if not impossible.

Fortunately for me, a friend who had been retyping the material had kept her old copies. Therefore, all of the inspiration which had poured from my heart was salvaged.

Once I received that reprieve from the prison of my fears, I gained a little sense of humor about the whole affair.

I wondered what the thief thought when he pried open that briefcase, thinking he might find treasure, and discovered 102 pages … of poorly-typed novel.

 

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Basilica

Basilica: (n) a building similar to a Roman basilica, used as a Christian church.Dictionary B

The battle will always rage.

It is the confrontation introduced by Judas to Jesus when he felt that the Master was foolishly spending money on unnecessary expenses instead of giving alms to the poor.

Honestly, as ridiculous as it is to spend a lot of funds on appearances, it is equally annoying to stand on the corner and lament the choices of others.

Here’s an easy rule I use in my life when deciding if I need a “basilica”–in other words, some edifice or evidence of my success and prowess. I ask this question all the time, and find it most beneficial. I use it for small things and for large decisions, and I find that if I’m candid, I always come up with the right answer, which enables me to avoid unnecessary financial loss, and usually dodge criticism from those who are ready to dole it out free of charge.

Here’s the question: Is this really necessary?

  • I do it with my time.
  • I do it with my family.
  • I do it with my underwear drawer.
  • I do it with my socks.
  • I do it with my car.

When you stop and simply ask yourself if the latest whim to build a basilica is actually going to adv ance your cause, or just burden it with debt, you’ll be astounded at how quickly your common sense will leap forward, attempting to take back control.

Even though I have many opinions on how money is misspent or how it should be given out in larger portions, ultimately it is up to the holder of the treasure … to decide what measure. 

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Aunt

Aunt: (n) the sister of one’s father or mother or the wife of one’s uncle.

dictionary with letter AThe value of one’s relationship with an aunt is based upon the quality of the memories they have with your mother and father.

I wish I would have known that.

I had some pretty pukey aunts.They would not agree with that, I’m sure, but since they’re dead, I will risk offending their consciousness.

They were picky, they were self-righteous or they were completely disengaged.

I took it personally.

Being a kid, I tried to please them because I heard rumors at school about kids who had great aunts. Matter of fact, the abiding notion was that aunts were nicer than parents, or even grandparents, because they had so little invested in the future of the prodigy.

But my aunts were toads–and I don’t mean good toads. They just kind of sat there and peered at me, waiting for me to be either too loud or unmannerly.

Now that I’m older, I realize that these aunts didn’t have anything against me–they just didn’t like my mom and dad. So they decided to take it out on me.

After all, I was the swill that came from their bog.

I was the offspring of these people who the aunts had found fault with for years, had developed grudges against, and now persisted into the next generation.

I didn’t know this at the time. I thought I was perniciously ugly, fatally stupid or satanically infested.

It’s a good idea, if you happen to be an aunt and you’re pissed off at your sister or brother, to try to work that out with them and not pass the anger onto the kids.

Because in the long run, a good aunt is a treasure.

But a bad aunt would be better off living on the moon.

 

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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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Antifreeze

dictionary with letter AAntifreeze (n): a liquid typically based on ethanol, which can be added to water in a car’s radiator, to prevent the engine from freezing.

 

Poverty promotes poor decisions.

Aside from the obvious dangers of starvation, eviction and financial humiliation, having little money often causes one to cut corners, which leads to dumping all of your existing treasure on the ground in a big heap.

When I was nineteen years old, I purchased an old green van which had originally been used by the telephone company. It was well-worn, but I was pleased to get it for $300.

Living in Ohio at the time, I was confronted with the perils of winter. One of those obstacles was the issue of “winterizing” your vehicle by adding antifreeze to make sure that you did not literally ice over and destroy your engine.

Well, here’s the problem. Antifreeze cost $2.99 a gallon, and I would be required to purchase two such units to take care of my vehicle. That was nearly six dollars–the equivalent of the food budget for my young wife and myself for three days.

I heard through the grapevine (which, by the way, is also inhabited by some nuts) that you could add rubbing alcohol to your radiator and protect it from the cold just as easily. Now, a bottle of alcohol was only twenty-nine cents, and I felt that three of them would be sufficient to provide me with the necessary coverage.

So I poured my alcohol in. A very cold Ohio night transpired, and I rose in the morning to start my van. I decided to peek in the radiator to see how my plan had worked.

It was frozen solid.

In my late adolescent mind, I figured that the best way to unfreeze my radiator was to start my engine and let the car warm itself up. (It made sense at the time.)

After starting my vehicle, I realized that I had cracked the block.

I discovered the reason for antifreeze. It performs a function. Its six-dollar price tag saves you from spending several hundred dollars repairing your engine.

It was a very expensive mistake, and one that I never repeated again.

Sometimes you swallow a little expense … so you don’t choke on a larger lump.

 

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