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Armadillo Terminator

A number of years ago, my beautiful wife Kendra’s magnificent Aunt Fran was a recruiter for Hardin Simmons University, situated in majestic Abilene, Texas. Her own three sons having attended Hardin Simmons, Aunt Fran was the ideal woman to tell their story of superior educational opportunities.

Aunt Fran loved her job, mainly because she believed wholeheartedly in their mission and purpose. But, as with every vocation, there’s always a downside. In Aunt Fran’s case, it was all the driving. Her position required that she tool all over the great state of Texas (and to parts beyond) to spread Hardin Simmons’ good news. She had this teeny little car. (I believe it was an Isuzu Impreza or some such, but honestly, it could just as easily have been a Toyota or Mazda. The point is, it was small and efficient, and apparently a joy to drive.)

One day, Aunt Fran was blasting somewhere through the Texas panhandle, across a desolate no-man’s-land populated primarily by mesquite. Oh, and also small critters. As is typical of that region of the State That No One Should Mess With, she hadn’t seen another car for probably 30 minutes or more.

She was barreling around a long curve, pretty much at full bore, when suddenly she locked eyes with a desperate creature: A lone (star) armadillo was standing, dumbstruck, smack in the middle of her lane. She only had an instant—not really enough time to swerve. And even if she could have swerved, it would not be possible to ascertain whether the creature had been appropriately trained by its armadillo momma what exactly to do in such circumstances anyway.

(I suspect armadillo madre likely smoked a little “wacky weed” with special rolling papers from time to time—or at the very least engaged in some other miscreant behavior—having never had the good sense to teach her precious armadillito that it was sheer folly to stand in the middle of the highway in the first place. In fact, if my own life experiences with armadillos offer any indication, I find it highly unlikely she was even married to her offspring’s daddy. Not that I’m judging.)

But all of that is I suppose irrelevant. Whether it was mommy’s lack of parenting skills or his own stubborn rebellion which placed him in that most unfortunate situation, results are all that matters. And the immediate result was that Aunt Fran plowed right over him at circa 70 MPH—although honestly it’s impossible to know for certain her precise velocity at the time, as she was mercifully slamming on her brakes.

She came screeching to a halt. Slowly, with great sadness, she lifted her eyes to check his condition in her rearview mirror. What she saw was a little gray ball rolling for several moments in slow motion, until his body finally came to a full stop, limp, arrested there in the center of the highway. Saintly Aunt Fran sat panting, her heart still pounding within her chest, her eyes locked on the motionless crumpled heap. And then it moved.

It wiggled just a little at first. Then he fully unfolded, clearly bewildered, and began staggering drunkenly toward the side of the road. Her heart sank. He was wounded. He was suffering. And she felt responsible. So she did what any merciful human being with the love of Jesus fully alive in their heart would do:

She cranked that little car into reverse, threw her arm up on the passenger seat, turned so she could see out the back window, hammered the accelerator, and plowed clean over the top of him again, this time going backwards. It was the right thing to do, of course. It was pure mercy.

Wha-bam-FWUMP! Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump!

She screeched to a stop again and watched out the front windshield, waiting. Again he rolled. Again he fell limp and lay still. For much longer this time. And again he twitched. Again he unfolded. Again he began to stagger. Only this time more desperately. With greater conviction. Very likely wracking his tiny armadillo brain, thinking,

“My…God! Who IS she?!? What did I DO?!? She’s trying to KILL ME!”

Did he owe her money? Was she part of the Jackrabbit Mafia who controlled this region of the panhandle? Was she being initiated into a gang? “Why, God? Why?!?”

And of course Aunt Fran knew: “The poor little thing! He’s just going to suffer and suffer and drag himself off somewhere into the mesquite and die a horrible, painful, long death… Unless…
I can get to him first!”


And she steamrolled right over him a third time, mashing the brakes once again as soon as she had cleared him…checking the rearview.

But this time was different. He made it! She caught him in the mirror clawing desperately into the brush. Apparently, he had escaped her murderous intent. Or so he thought…

She backed up to where she thought she had seen him leave the road, got out, and searched all around for him. She says it was because she just felt so bad for him, and she couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering. I don’t know what she was thinking she was going to do. I mean, did she have a baseball bat in the trunk or something? Was she planning to just finish him off?

I picture him crouching under a mesquite bush nearby, still able to see her, tucked just out of sight, panting, bleeding, sobbing softly, trying to keep quiet, thinking,

“Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod! Please-please-please-please! Why? Whyyyyyyyy?”

Fortunately for both of them, Aunt Fran never found him. She got back into her little car and continued on. And the question that haunts her—haunts us all, really—it is in fact the question that drives us:

If Aunt Fran had run over him just the one time, would he have survived?

DISCLAIMER: This is a story told from memory, without first conducting my usual rigorous interview process, which I routinely use to maintain historical accuracy and veracity. For this reason, I reserve the right to one day revisit this topic for corrections. I’m actually going to see Aunt Fran today, so I’ll run it by her and see how she remembers it.

What’s the most vicious, pernicious animal you’ve ever attempted to off with your car? (Let’s assume they had it coming.) Have you ever been to the Texas panhandle? If so, for the love of God—why? How do you think armadillos have survived the Interstate onslaught?

Midget Disillusion

Early in our marriage, Kendra taught third grade at a 99% minority school. It was important to her for me to come and visit her class at least a few times each school year. The picture below shows several of her kids from 1994 or so. (On the day this picture was taken, her other eight kids were in Lab.) Now, I’m gonna be honest: I had been reluctant to visit this particular school, mainly because it was so different from anything in my own experience. I was nervous how her students might receive me. But of course our relationship was really important to me—or at least I had convinced myself of something like that—so I promised I would come. Kendra started building anticipation, brainwashing them about how great I was.

Kids from Kendra’s Class

She kept hounding me: “When? Can you get some time off work? When are you coming? They’re crazy excited to meet you.”

I really just didn’t get it. It wasn’t like I was an astronaut or anything. I was just a completely ordinary guy with a completely ordinary job. (Extremely foxy, of course, but entirely ordinary otherwise.) And her kids knew pretty much exactly what to expect. She had already told them all about me. She even had a picture of us from when we were dating (below) prominently displayed on her desk. But she assured me that they were absolutely normal third graders. They just loved their teacher—everything about her—so they just couldn’t wait to meet me too.

Kendra and Brannon Dating PortraitSo finally I went. I had been to Kendra’s school before, during the days before classes started, helping her carry boxes of teacher stuff into her classroom. So I knew where I was going. Although her school was like every school—smelling of an unholy blend of industrial cleaning products, that fresh, woody smell of sharpened pencils, and various kid odors—I walked awkwardly down the green mile from the office to her room, feeling somewhat like a unicorn in Manhattan. I was totally out of my element.

When I was about twelve or so doors away from her room, a young gentleman of about eight years passed me in the hallway, sizing me up with a long, slow, menacing glare. I smiled back brightly. But my pleasantness apparently only disgusted him all the more. He went on, disappearing around the corner ahead of me.

As I turned down that last hallway and forced myself the few remaining steps to her room, I drew in a deep breath. I cranked my charm up to eleven and strolled nonchalantly through her door. All eyes turned immediately to me. I heard an audible gasp—and then the room fell deathly silent. Only Kendra smiled, proudly introducing me and then telling me animatedly a little about each child. I could tell she was enjoying this rare opportunity to tease and embarrass them. Once Kendra was satisfied that I’d served my time, she announced that I had to leave. Their frowns clearly communicated that nobody cared. I thanked them for having me, lied that it was great to meet everybody, and left. If anything, the entire ordeal had been anticlimactic.

Even so, when Kendra arrived home that night, she seemed much more excited than usual to tell me about her day. She hugged me and thanked me again for coming to see them. She looked like she’d been smiling ever since I had closed her classroom door behind me. Then she related the portion of my visit that had unfolded behind the scenes:

Just moments before I had walked in, Eugene, one of her boys, burst into the room, returning from a visit to the bathroom, exclaiming:

“Miss GOH-den! Miss GOH-den! There’s a WHITE man in the hallway!”

(Eugene was the charming lad from the hallway who had stared me down.) All of Kendra’s other kids began chiding him, telling him he was crazy. Of course there was NO reason for a white man to be in their building…and then I walked in.

After I had left, all of her children were uncharacteristically quiet, only occasionally whispering to each other. Although Kendra at first enjoyed this pleasant change, eventually she was compelled to ask what was going on. Clearly, I had gravely disappointed them.

Aurelius finally admitted matter-of-factly:

“Miss GOH-den, we thought your husband was a MIDGET!”

Have you ever disappointed someone because you weren’t a little person? Have you ever been disappointed because you THOUGHT you were going to get to meet a little person—but then DIDN’T? Have you ever noticed that in every posed group photograph taken since 1982, at least one person feels compelled to throw up a made-up gang sign (usually a boy), and at least one other person poses like a Laker girl (usually a girl)?

Snuggling Prognosticator

So many things in life require complex decision-making skills. Too often, we take for granted our ability to handle these kinds of things. You know me: I prefer to just keep things simple when I can. For example, deciding whether to get a haircut is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves needing to make decisions which involve our relationships with others, and these can quickly become needlessly complex. In such circumstances, I have often found it useful to map out my own thoughts and preferences. Putting them on display for the other parties involved eliminates ambiguity, confusion, and miscommunication. If there’s a chart, you can just refer everyone to it and they know precisely where you stand. (I also encourage the use of a telescoping or laser pointer to focus your audience’s attention during the explanation phase.)

So with that in mind, I present to you the Snuggling Prognosticator. I’d like to apologize in advance if it spills uglily out of its frame in your browser. I think you’ll agree that its usefulness and significance trump any aesthetic inconveniences this may cause.

Feel free to adapt it to suit your own needs. Also, don’t be selfish: If you find it helpful, please make others aware of its existence here. Thanks!

Snuggling Prognosticator

As you well know, of course I strive for accuracy and completeness here at Please share your thoughts with the rest of us in the Comments below. What did I miss? What’s YOUR process for working out complicated decisions?

Wireless iDropper

Contrary to what you may have read about me, I’m notoriously cheap. Don’t misunderstand: I’ll splurge on the occasional $15 haircut when circumstances warrant. But I HATE to pay for cell phones. This position of course has historically obligated me to sign up for 2-year commitments so that I could get the “free” phone.

Committing to these contracts is like getting engaged when you don’t really know the person. It’s like walking into the store, shaking hands with the salesperson, telling them I need wireless service, and then hopping on the express train to second base. That doesn’t happen. Except maybe in certain types of movies, I guess. (Not that I would know. People have told me, and there was that one episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler accidentally got a free adult channel on their cable, so they never turned it off. As with everything in life, TV sitcoms are one of my most reliable sources of information and ideas.)

Anyway, the last phone I had was a Nokia 6085. It was quite literally the worst phone I have ever owned. By far. (I only wish I could have a cell phone like the red plastic Porsche 924S phone I had as a teenager. Now THAT was a good phone.) At the time, I had no idea my Nokia phone was so horribly bad. I thought it was just the reception in my house. Finally, a dear friend, a network admin guy, had the courage to step up and tell me that I was dropping literally like, every fifth word. (Amazingly, the information in my spoken sentences is so densely packed that we were still able to communicate.)

These “businesses” who provide such “services” call themselves wireless “carriers.” I suspect they mean that in one sense that Merriam-Webster defines it:

7 a : an electromagnetic wave or alternating current whose modulations are used as communications signals (as in radio, telephonic, or telegraphic transmissions)

b : a telecommunication company.

However, I find them to be more like:

5 a : a bearer and transmitter of a causative agent of an infectious disease; especially : one who carries the causative agent of a disease symptomatically but is asymptomatic or immune to it.

You know, like a carrier of contagion.

Aside: Does it bother anyone else that my go-to source of all things definey, M-W online, seems to flagrantly ignore the spacing rules for punctuation, especially colons (:), that have applied to all the rest of us since middle school? I mean, I appreciate a little space around my colon as much as the next guy. Especially after a heavy meal. But if I had turned in a paper with that kind of whacked-out spacing in school, I would have found myself with knuckles reddened by a ruler, sitting on an overturned bucket, alone in the dark storage closet in our English classroom, until I “learned my lesson.” Not that that ever happened to me. What’s the Internet equivalent of that? But I digress…

(Most of) my calls aren’t that particularly hot. Nevertheless, my wireless “carrier” was dropping almost every call as though it were. Hot, I mean.

Anyway, after that ear-opening conversation with my friend, it was time. We went to our wireless carrier’s “store,” and this time I finally shelled out good money for an iPhone. (Well, not my money. I have a wealthy benefactor who sometimes offers me such kindnesses. Occasionally, I take them up on it. As in this case.) By the way, before you mock me for trading “up” to an iPhone, notorious for dropping calls when you touch the antenna on its side, this was not an iPhone 4. It’s the older model. And so far, so good.

And oh, yeah… We signed a 2-year contract.

Do you have any cell phone horror stories? What kind of phone do you have now? Do you love it or hate it? Have you ever told a friend their phone was terrible? What was your favorite phone when you were a teenager?

Nintendo and the Wheel of God (2 of 2)

(continued from Wednesday’s post)

“I…I…I…CAN’T!” It was just too much for Kenny’s little Asperger-trending social fears to overcome. He just didn’t have it in him to go up in front of all those people. I was sad. But I also totally understood.

Our dear friend Allyson was right behind us, and had witnessed our entire exchange. “Send Preston!” she offered. “You’ll go! Won’t you, buddy?”


I handed our five-year-old his big brother’s ticket, and he bolted full-tilt for the aisle, waving his treasure over his head. He charged the stage and proudly handed it over. The number was verified, and we were off.

Pastor Scott said, “Come spin the wheel, buddy!”

Like one of those testosterone-high guys spinning The Price Is Right showcase wheel, little Preston cranked that sucker as hard as he could. The crowd of thousands fell so silent, we could actually hear the rapid-fire clack-clack-clack-clack-clack of the snapping pointer from our seats, even though we were probably 200 feet from the stage.

Slower. Slower. Ever slower. Clack…clack…clack….clack….clack……clack……clack………CLACK! And something magic happened: Smack dead-center on the GameCube.

The sound was like a collective gasp, a punch in the stomach, as everyone in the crowd drew in their breath at once, just like when the tide sucks away every drop of water in the instant before the tsunami crashes the beach. A deafening, simultaneous ROAR swept over us all. I screamed perhaps louder than I ever have before. It felt like I had won a Nintendo GameCube!

The moments which followed were a surreal blur. Incredible euphoria. And Kenny felt almost instant despair at his profound loss: “It was supposed to be MEEEEEEE!”

I tried to console him: “Aw, Kenny… Even if you had gone up there, that still doesn’t mean your spin would have landed on the GameCube. Besides, it’s going home with us to our house! It’s not like you’re never going to get to play it.” Astoundingly, my flawless logic seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect.

Meanwhile, Kendra was trying to convince Preston that it just wouldn’t be right for him to keep his prize, since she worked for the church, and people would think for sure it was rigged. But he was having none of it. Besides, Pastor Scott insisted it would be a greater tragedy to take it away from him. We all knew the truth: Preston had won it fair and square.

That GameCube has quite a few miles on it now, but literally every time they take it out of the closet to play it, when I see it, it transports me again to that flashing, brilliant moment, which will probably be one of the happiest memories of Preston’s life, and by extension, mine.

Have you ever won anything? What’s the greatest prize you’ve received? Why does it seem like people always spin those wheels so flippin’ hard?!?

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