Category: Humor (Page 1 of 27)

Short essays that I have written

August Almanacs and the Weather

Farmers in my neck of the woods (northeastern Pennsylvania) were familiar with the “Farmer’s Almanac), which began in 1792 and contained yearly observations about weather conditions, crops, the moon, animals, superstitions and folklore. For example, “Own a rabbit’s foot, especially if the rabbit was killed in a cemetery by a cross-eyed person at the dark of the moon,” might contribute to some people having a rabbit’s foot on their key chain for luck.

Of course, for farmers, the planting and harvesting of crops was weather-dependent, so there were many comments about the weather, such as, “The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow,” or “If a cat licks its fur against the grain, a hailstorm is coming; if it sneezes rain is on the way.” And when “hawks fly high, there will be a clear sky; when they fly low, prepare for a blow.” Even the cows could help: “If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather will be fair,” but “If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.”

Today we are given regular and “up-to-date” comments on the weather, with forecasters moving clouds and winds along gigantic TV screens. In any half hour local news account there will be at least 4 reports about the weather: temperatures, allergy and wind-conditions, humidity levels, chances of it not raining in Central Texas, tornadoes, lightning, and so on, all with vivid color maps depicting ranges of severity. Forecasters are eager and determined to make even the most common day’s weather sound exciting because it can change quickly and we must be prepared.

In the Papua New Guinea highlands, I too was a weather watcher. If one of our single engine planes was headed out our way from the aviation center over an hour away, the pilot needed to know the weather. I would report on the radio about cloud coverage, rain and the possible wet condition of the airstrip, which was located at a mission station some 8 miles from us. Often the clouds hung around the ridges and made it difficult for the pilot to see the small airstrip and sometimes, due to sudden storms, the flight would have to be aborted. On many occasions our supplies were off-loaded somewhere until there was better weather at our location. Consequently, I learned something of weather patterns in the Highlands and made sure it was safe for our pilots to land.

When a major storm was coming, I could hear the rain beating heavily on the jungle trees as it came over the mountain near our house. It was awesome and wonderful at the same time.

My favorite views were the sunrises and sunsets—living near the Equator the times were always the same: 6:30 in the morning and 6:30 at night. Bright red flames of sunshine were sometimes embedded in large cumulus clouds and I would think “Before you created the hills or brought the world into being, you were eternally God and will be God forever” (Ps 90:2).

In the two villages where we spent several years the average annual rainfall was between 120 and 150 inches. There were times when it rained all day and although the sound of rain on a grass roof is soothing and pleasant, hiking in the mud is no fun. Slipping and sliding, falling ain the mud, sometimes with leeches sucking blood from your legs (which you don’t feel or realize until you see some blood), it is not the glorious life of the missionary. And if you are inclined to recite Romans 10:15 about the “beautiful” feet of those who bring the message, picture them dirty, calloused and with fungus under the toenails.

But we are in the U.S. in early August and it is as hot as a “Texas mailbox.” (I made that up.) Nevertheless, August, like every other American month, has many international days, such as:

National Raspberry Cream Pie Day

National Root Beer Float Day

National Fresh Breath Day

National Wiggle Your Toes Day

National Relaxation Day

National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

National left-hander’s Day

It is obvious that August is full of possibilities, even if we must spend most of our time at home wiggling our toes and relaxing with a root beer float.

Returning to the weather, Jesus noted that people observed it, but not spiritual conditions, so he said, “When you see a cloud coming up in the west, at once you will say that it is going to rain—and it does. And when you feel the south wind blowing, you say that it is going to gt hot—and it does. Hypocrites! You can look at the earth and the sky and predict the weather; why, then, don’t you know the meaning of the present time?”(Luke 12:54-56).

A good question for us to ponder as well.

Karl and Joice Franklin
Weather watchers

); Y=Yes more yarns (2019); E=Forthcoming

Unusual July Events

The month of July was named in honor of Julius Caesar, who was responsible for the year having 365 days—the “Julian calendar.” It has also a girl’s name and by 1900 was one of the most popular, with variants such as Julia, Jackquel, Jacquil, Jaell, Jahel, Jahli, Jalee, Jalil, Jayel and Jayla, but by 1950 its popularity had dropped considerably. 

Back in 1984 Ronald Reagan deemed July as “National Ice Cream Flavor Month” and the third Sunday of this month is “National Ice Cream Day,” so I headed to Drug Emporium and bought a gallon of French Vanilla, figuring that we could invent our own flavors for the month. So far, a bit of chocolate sauce and a few peanuts has been our flavor of the month.

There are also serious days this month, for example July 2nd was “World UFO Day,” so if you looked into the sky and saw some unidentified object, you should have immediately consulted the World UFO Day website. However, be careful: what one observer thought was the landing craft of intelligent beings from outer space turned out to be the lid of a garbage can, lofted high by Texas winds. The sighting was classified for several years.

You will not be surprised to know that July 4th, in addition to Independence Day, is “Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.” When we were studying linguistics at the University of Oklahoma one summer, we actually saw college students frying their eggs on the sidewalk. I think they were “over easy” and not scrambled—unless someone happened to step on them. We never saw anyone eat what was left of the eggs.

Although July 6 is “International Kissing Day,” in Texas, according to high government sources, masks are not mandatory and “social distancing“ will be reduced from six to two feet. This day is also cited as a direct cause for “National Mono Day.”

The children are probably going to have to forgo “Teddy Bear Picnic Day,” which is on July 10. The “day” was proclaimed a national holiday by a collectible items dealer named Royal Selangor, building on a song written by John Walter Bratton called “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” The holiday is popular in Europe and there is a ground swell among Baylor students for it to be recognized with signs near the bear pit.

Children who miss out on their Teddy bear picnics can look forward to July 13th, which is “National French Fries Day,” although French Fries should actually be eaten on July 22, which is “National Junk Food Day.”

Several July events will not take place this year: July 26, the “National Talk in an Elevator Day” is replaced by “Guess Who Has Dimples under Masks Day”. There is still debate about honoring “Yellow Pig Day,” which normally takes place on July 17, the name arising from “an intense study of the mathematical properties of the number 17.” Piggeries around the world may hold rallies and object to the use of the word “pig.”

You have probably heard of “spoonerisms,” the accidental switching of consonants or vowels and named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner. To honor him, July 22nd is “Doonerism Spay.”

But enough trivia, let’s get serious. The Catholics have over 15 Saints who are celebrated on July 1st alone, with another 11 on July 2nd, and similar additions for the remaining days of the month. For example, St. Phocas the Gardener, who died in 303, has his Feastday on July 3 and, for a more modern example, St. Maria Goretti, who died on July 6, 1902 and was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Protestants are featured in July as well: think of theologian John Calvin, who was born as Jehan Cauvin in Noyon, a town in Picardy, a province of the Kingdom of France on July 10, 1509. Calvin was a pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Reformation. He developed a system of theology called Calvinism, which includes aspects of predestination, the sovereignty of God and eternal damnation. He was originally a lawyer and left the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. During the English Civil War, Calvinistic Puritans produced the Westminster Confession, which later became the confessional standard for Presbyterians.

But this isn’t a religious contest, so let’s turn to some other famous people who were born in July: Diana, the Princess of Wales, on July 1, 1961, Koko the gorilla on July 4, 1971, Tom Hanks on July 9, 1956, Henry David Thoreau on July 12, 1817, Nelson Mandela on July 18, 1918, Ernest Hemingway on July 21, 1899. Amelia Earhart on July 24, 1897, and Beatrix Potter on July 28, 1866.

In other words, if your birthday is in July, you are showcased with many prominent people. However, if it is in December, don’t worry because Santa Claus is coming to town and will remember you. Hopefully, he will not be wearing a mask and kids can sit on his lap.

Spurious July reflections
Karl and Joice Franklin

Unusual June Holidays

This month features, among other things, Dinosaur Day and I Love My Dentist Day. I am not sure why they are both mentioned this month, but it may have something to do with teeth. I did not remember Dinosaur Day, which was on June 1, concentrating instead on Oscar the Grouch’s birthday and Donut Day.

I also forgot about I Love My Dentist Day, which was on June 2, because I have never met a dentist that I loved. My fervent wish was to get away from the dentist as fast as I can and with most of my teeth and mouth still intact.

Let me show you what I missed so far in June: Egg Day (June 3), National Frozen Yogurt Day (June 4), National Gingerbread Day (June 5), National Yo-Yo Day (June 6), National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (June 7), National Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day (June 8), International Young Eagles Day (June 9), National Flag Week (beginning June 10), National Peanut Butter Cookie Day (June 12), National Juggling Day and National Lobster Day (June 13), Pop Goes the Weasel Day (June 14), and both the Power of a Smile Day and Fly a Kite Day (June 15).

All of those took place in the first half of the month and, not so sadly, I missed them all. However, I became interested about Fudge Day (June 16), but not so much about Iceland Independence Day (June 17). I have written about Father’s Day (June 18), but didn’t realize it was also International Picnic Day.

I’ll skip some of the rest of the June holidays, although I will mention National Catfish Day (June 25), National Chocolate Pudding Day (June 26), National Orange Blossom Day (June 27), Paul Bunyan Day (June 28), Camera Day (June 29) and Meteor Day (June 30).

June also has its share of more serious holidays. In fact, according to “Catholic Online,” June is the Month of the Sacred Heart and St. Justin Martyr is the Saint of the Day for June 1, followed by Sts. Marcelllinus and Peter on June 2. There is, in fact, a saint listed for every day of June, including St. Charles Lwanga, St. Francis Caracciolo, and St. Boniface of Mainz. As far as I can tell, there is only one woman who made the June calendar: St. Emily de Vialar (June 17). However, my Latin is very poor, and I may have misread the gender of some of the names.

Protestants also have June holidays, often on Sundays. We are familiar with Pentecost (June 9), Trinity Sunday (June 16), Corpus Christi (June 20) and Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). I skipped Saint Vladimir on June 15, but he is legendary and mentioned in both the Orthodox and Catholic calendars. The Internet says that “Vladimir was the son of the Norman-Rus prince Svyatoslav of Kyiv by one of his courtesans and was a member of the Rurik lineage dominant from the 10th to the 13th century. He was made prince of Novgorod in 970.” That was not terribly enlightening to me. What did he do that made him famous? Well, if it is the same Vladimir, he united the eastern Slavs in accepting Christianity and helped Russia become a part of “Christian” nations. There are numerous legends and songs about him.

Returning to Texas, each city seems to have events in June. Houston, for example, was named “a hot spot for travelers,” even before the coronavirus pandemic. The city features the Space Center, the Fine Arts Museum and the Houston Experience Marketplace, and “much more.” We spent 6 ½ weeks in Houston some 6 years ago but saw mainly the M D Anderson hospital and the proton radiation center. I did manage to visit the Arts Museum and see the Astros play a baseball game one July 4th, with fireworks following.

Because of the pandemic, some events have been postponed or canceled in Waco and other Texas towns. However, the Dr Pepper Museum, with “the best collection of soft drink memorabilia in the world” is open, but I wonder if you can drink your Dr Pepper through a face mask.

There was no shortage of festivals in the Old Testament either. In calendar order, they were the Passover (lasting 7 days), Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits (at the first barley harvest), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost, 50 days after Firstfruits), the Feast of Trumpets (signifying the calling of Israel to judgment), the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths (a week of celebration for the harvest of grapes and olives).

There were other feasts as well: New Moon, Sabbath Year (every 7th year), and the Jubilee (the 5th year or 49 years from the last Sabbath year).

God blessed such celebrations and Jesus reminds us of another great feast.  In Matthew 8.11 and Luke 13.29, we read that “many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

No masks or social distancing will be necessary.

Karl Franklin
Awaiting that grand feast

Father’s Day

We speak metaphorically about the “Father of our country” and even about “Father Christmas.” The song, “Faith of our Fathers” wistfully refers to the founding fathers of our nation and was written by Frederick W. Faber, who lived from 1814 to 1863. The faith they had, Faber asserted at the time, is “living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.” He reminds us that it is a “holy faith” and one that we should hold on to until we die. The song is also evangelistic: “we will strive to win all nations to thee; and through the truth that comes from God, we  shall then be truly free.”

Of course, all of our founding fathers did not have such a faith, although many of them did. Today, we pray that this stanza might be true: “Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife; and preach thee, too, as love know how by kindly words and virtuous life.” Imagine, if you can, men and women in our congress standing and singing this song. Sung with sincerity and intention, our nation’s leaders could signal repentance and love and we could see the kind of change that will promote justice in our society.

I became a father on April 11, 1959, a day before my own birthday, when our son Kirk was born. His entrance into the world took place in a jungle hospital in Papua New Guinea. Holding my little son in my arms, I dedicated him to the Lord. He didn’t know that for a long time, but he had a father (and mother) who wanted him to serve God in some way. He has, and three children and three grandchildren have blessed him and his wife Christine.

It is hard to evaluate one’s own success or failure as a father—and both will be true. Our children, bless them, tell us we did a good job, with some exceptions (too numerous to mention). We lived in villages and communities where the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true. Many people in the villages and communities interacted with our kids and helped them to grow in a safe and healthy environment.

Due to a tubal pregnancy, Joice was told that she could not have children after Kirk, so  I would not be a father again. However, there are even medical false prophets and our daughter was born in 1965 in a different jungle hospital.

I don’t know what my father was thinking when I was born. It was during the Great Depression and, as the third child, he and my mom probably wondered how to survive financially. My father loved me but, if he ever prayed for me, I did not know it. Every father has a story and his was full of pain and surprises. But he was ordained by God to be my father and I am thankful for him. I don’t know, however, that I ever told him so on Father’s Day.

When our children praise me on Father’s Day, I could contradict them: I like to hear words of praise from them, even though I say “yes, but…” and remind them of some less worthy Father’s days.

Today, instead of seeing anything in the newspaper to remind me of the “Faith of our Father’s,” I read about sales and the “great gift ideas for dad.” Or a patriotic cap and a T-shirt inscribed with “Greatest Father in the World”?

If I liked fishing, they could get me a Shimano Stradic CI + Spinning Reel for only $149.97, marked down from $229.99. There are also numerous “hot buys” for dad: men’s offroad clogs, a wi-fi connected option to monitor the weather, or a S&W M&P Bodyguard 380 semi-auto pistol. I’m not off the road much these days and the weather forecast for the next three months is “hot, with a 10% chance of rain.” My bodyguard is a semi-automatic brand of deodorant, meaning that it has to be applied mechanically.

All the fathers (and mothers) who read this should rejoice in the relationship they have with their children. Hopefully, it can in some sense mirror the relationship Solomon had with the Lord, “by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David” (1 Kings 3:3).

Or, as Hallmark would say “Happy Father’s Day to the man of my heart, the father of our children, the love of my life.” “Thank you for all the ways you go above and beyond every day for our family. The kids and I are so lucky to have you.” Priceless? No, the card will cost you $5.99, on sale.

Father’s Day,
June, 2020

The New Normal

When I was studying psychology in college, one of my courses was “Abnormal Psychology.” Now I can’t remember much about it, so I went online to look at a university syllabus. I found the subject was related to clinical psychology and included client counseling, barriers, resistance to professional help, and repairing fractured relationships. Then I remembered: six weeks into the semester I wasn’t sure what it was like to be “normal” and if I had ever been that way. Some people who know me have speculated ever since.

Recently, a person wrote online that he did not like the expression, ”the new normal” because it indicated that things might not return to “normal.” But what is “normal” for us? Did things seem more “normal” because we knew what to expect from day to day? Did we know what would happen “normally” because we were in a routine, perhaps even a repetitious one? How is the “new normal” different from the old?

One major difference for many people is that, if they are fortunate enough to continue to work, it is done from their home. Also, when they go out, it has been alone or in small groups and they wore face masks and practiced social distancing. But, hopefully, all that will change. Will we then be back to “normal” again.

In the new normal, there will be surprises, just as there were in the old normal. Although we cannot know what will happen, we should prepare, to some extent, for the unexpected. We can pray for a mindset that allows us God’s peace in new circumstances, even when buying groceries, toilet paper. or obtaining food from a person not behind a barrier.

We talk about a new normal because COVID-19 suggests that we will function “differently” in the future. Despite our best hopes and dreams, experts inform us that the virus will not suddenly leave and then we will return to normal. Normality suggests the freedom of hugging and crowding, being calm around people not wearing face masks, walking next to strangers, buying fewer rolls of toilet paper, and seeing that gas is less than $3.00 a gallon.

If we have church outside, that will not be normal and if we have it inside that may not be normal either. Normal is what we once did on a regular basis without thinking too much about it. Now we think about washing our hands more than we used to, staying a little further away from strangers and probably buying more toilet paper than we need.

The new normal will be something like going to live in a different culture and learning a strange language. Depending on our motivation, we will either learn the new language and culture or we will become cynical and critical about it. We may complain and resort to our cultural practices and language. After all, we may think, “That’s not the way we used to do it,” or “We can say it better in English.” There are always things that shock us when we go to another country to live but, to make friends, we must observe and learn, even as we make mistakes.

Here is an example of an early language mistake that Joice made: the words for “man” and “husband” are very close phonetically in the language we were learning in rural Papua New Guinea. Culturally, in the village in which we were living it was not appropriate for a woman to say a man’s name, so for a few months, my wife called every male “husband” when she meant to say “man.” The people may have laughed when they got home, but they were tolerant in helping her because they appreciated her efforts. I made a lot of mistakes too, but that is another (longer) story.

We learned the West Kewa language (actually, East Kewa and Tok Pisin as well) because we were motivated to show God’s love and translate His word. Our enthusiasm and humor carried us through many tough spots. I would hope that the same thing will happen in the new normal even if we bump elbows or give a thumb’s up instead of shaking hands. We can also pray silently for people when we hear them sneeze or cough, instead of staring at them. And for those who wear face masks, we can learn to recognize their voices.

In time, the new normal may become normal again.

Karl and Joice Franklin
No longer counting the days and
Still staying 6 feet away from y’all

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