Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘humor

RS Interview

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Relative Something just landed a scoop interview with *the* John W. Hays delving into a variety of topics he was willing to discuss with us. Out of respect for his personal privacy, we are leaving out the questions he declined to answer. Here are some selected excerpts where we talked about the pandemic…

RS: How are you holding up under the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic?

JWH: Hanging on by a thread? I say that as a question because, even though I am coping rather well, it feels a bit shaky much of the time. I am acutely aware of a diminished buffer between my sensible self and my flip-my-lid self as I go about my days. A total meltdown looms large on the fringes of every day. It’s just grace that has allowed me to keep from blowing a gasket over the simplest of foibles, like a napkin slipping from my lap or inadvertently catching my toe on a perfectly flat floor surface and suffering that universal “D’oh!” feeling.

RS: Have you heard of anyone in your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the virus began impacting the United States?

JWH: Not at the closest level, despite several reported situations and symptoms that triggered reasons to be tested. None of those have become known positives that caused me concern about a need I should self-quarantine as a precaution. There have been some reports of second-person or third-person cases, and just recently dear friends in another part of the world who have the virus, so it doesn’t feel very far away from me. I still take my temperature every morning and log how I’m feeling on the COVID Near You site. So far, so lucky, is the way I interpret my days of being spared.

John & Mike socially distanced in the great outdoors, autumn forest bathing.

RS: Do you ever think about how the last seven months might have been different if there hadn’t been this global pandemic?

JWH: Maybe in a few fleeting retrospective moments, but really, that’s a luxury that serves no purpose. The harsh realities we are coping with every day leave little space in my head to go there. Equally, it has sapped much of my energy toward looking ahead to plan anything in the future. Despite my attempts to remain as positive as possible, I all too easily fall into a “what’s the point” despondency about making any plans until the virus is under control.
Luckily, I have Cyndie’s precious energies enriching my life with her willingness to make some things happen. With masks on our faces, we have achieved several socially distanced get-togethers with some key people who have helped to keep me from becoming a complete shut-in hermit on days I’m not at the day-job.

RS: Will the pandemic affect how you vote this year?

JWH: We already voted! So, no. For the previous election, Cyndie was going to be out of town, so she requested an absentee ballot. It was so flippin’ convenient that I ordered one for myself. It was a no-brainer for us to go that route again for this election, except, with the very noticeable disruptions in our Postal Service recently –including delaying the delivery of our chicks, which cost the life of one of them– Cyndie chose to drive to the home of our township clerk to hand-deliver our ballots.
I don’t know that they’ll be properly counted, but I’m satisfied that we did our part to get them there. We’ve been reciting a mantra of “Fifty-Blue-States” to envision a landslide so obvious that a certain person finally gets the message he has to accept the results. However, just last night it occurred to me that 50 blue states would be so unbelievable it would serve as a justifiable reason to question the results.
I just hope the popular vote is what determines the outcome and not an electoral college or the Supreme Court.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Supreme Court could put an end to the pandemic? Declare the coronavirus unconstitutional!

RS: Hard to object to that.



Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Five Seconds

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From the looks of the scene by the barn where Cyndie has been leaving a feed pan for the three hens, wild critters around here appear to adhere to the ol’ five-second rule when it comes to food touching the ground. By that, I mean they are showing no interest whatsoever in the copious amount of spillage kicked out and lying on the ground everywhere around the vicinity.

All-day long there are a variety of squirrels and birds that stop by to feast from within the pan of chicken food beside the waterer. Not once have we found them picking up the stuff that has fallen on the ground.

There’s a big pigeon that comes from the barn and occasionally tries to bully the hens over access to the good stuff still in the pan.

I don’t know why the overnight raccoons are steering clear. I’m even surprised there isn’t a passing dog that has trespassed in the night. No signs of any coyotes, nor skunk or stray cat. Not even deer, who wander around in groups almost every night.

All of those are creatures we have seen visiting our land over the years. None of them seem to like eating chicken food that has been laying in the dirt for more than five seconds.

Who’d of guessed they would all have such highfalutin’ standards?



Written by johnwhays

September 4, 2020 at 6:00 am

Scared Chicks

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While Cyndie is away at the lake, I am filling in for her as “chick mom” when I get home from work each day. I think they had me figured out the first moment I stepped into the role. I can see it in their faces.

“You’re not doing it right!”

“Mom always cuts the crust off.”

“We don’t strip down to our underwear for naps.”

I’m definitely the dad in this relationship. They have a heat lamp and some water. They’ll be just fine.

While staring at them romping around like a bunch of 3-week-old chicks for a while the other night, I mindlessly belched a frog-voiced burp. I scared the daylights out of them!

Never saw twelve chicks move so fast all at once like that before.

In a blink, the scattered puff-balls instantly became one tiny pile of little heads squeezed into the smallest possible space at the other end of the brooder, frozen in a motionless defense move that looked like an attempt to appear invisible while maintaining absolute silence.

We both held our positions until I broke the spell by speaking to them in my best falsetto “dad-charming-chickens” voice to let them know it was just me and everyone was safe. As quick as they froze together, they went back to fluttering about as normal.

“Say ‘excuse me’ Dad.”

Excuse me.



Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Everything

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What really gets to me is this: everything! I mean, one minute the threat du jour is murder hornets and the next it’s not. Really. Are they a thing, or not? Can someone just make up their minds on this?

Oh, let’s start playing professional sports games again, except for the teams with too many players testing positive for coronavirus. They can go on quarantine. Those who play can just be careful and take appropriate precautions, except for the baseball teams that opt to do a bench-clearing brawl.

Have you sneezed into your facemask yet? Lovely. Just lovely.

Whatever happened to ethics commissions? Are they still a thing? I heard some politicians don’t even release their tax returns anymore so the public has no idea where financial improprieties may be happening. I guess nothing matters anymore. We can all do whatever we want. Except if you are black, or poor, or an immigrant or your mere presence causes discomfort to small-minded people who have one specific narrow view of how the world should conform to their perceptions.

It’s no wonder this video his so perfect for everything we are facing this year.

How’d that distance learning go for you last spring? It’s a good thing the schools will have a back-to-school plan all worked out by fall so parents don’t have to worry about …everything associated with having school-aged children during a pandemic.

For that matter, everyone should spend a little time with Julie Nolke and her explanation to herself about the pandemic. It’s only been viewed almost 12 million times since April.

I admit I’ve watched it over and over. How does she perform this scene so convincingly? Probably just riffing off the other actor.

Why do white supremacists get so angry when they see BLM protests? Can’t they just feel sorry for other people who disagree with their racism? I mean, if they truly are superior, can’t they just pity the rest of us?

I tend to feel sad and maybe a notion of pity for people who profess their allegiance to hate groups.

In contrast to that, I am feeling a certain sense of outrage over the systemic strangling of our US Postal Services and the abrupt mid-pandemic rerouting of coronavirus data reporting away from the CDC to a private technology firm. It happens right in front of everyone’s noses. A few news stories mention the audaciousness of the questionable actions, but that’s about it. Oh well. That happened.

Why do there never seem to be any consequences for the craziness that flies at us faster than we can drink it all in?

Maybe in the end we will discover the antidote for coronavirus IS the murder hornets.

I want to write a song like the one above that elementary music teacher, Liz of makeshift.macaroni  did.

About everything.



Sunlit Visibility

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That low angle sunlight of early morning or late afternoon makes for some of the best photo opportunities. It can also be helpful when washing a window or dusting surfaces. Normally invisible detail becomes extraordinarily highlighted to a surprising degree.

Think about all the floating particulate in the air that suddenly becomes visible when the beam of sunlight cuts past you at an almost horizontal pitch. A second before that, breathing was unconscious and easy. After the sun lights up the parts-per-million of little particles, the brain wants to overrule that inhalation reflex.

It’s interesting how much debris we usually get away with inhaling that can be seen when illuminated, yet the much smaller coronavirus COVID-19 has become the microscopic threat that forces us to wear masks.

About dusting, a friend offered up this quip:

“I dusted once. It came right back. Won’t fool me again.”

I can be embarrassingly fastidious about wiping the 1-inch exposed flat surface perimeters in front of me that gather dust, using one bare finger that subsequently gets brushed off on my pants. Beyond that level, I possess great abilities to feign blissful ignorance for long spans of time.

From my reclined vantage point during one of the sunny mornings the previous weekend, I looked up to discover the bright sunshine hitting the stones around our fireplace was revealing a noteworthy cobweb construction effort.









My first reaction was to think how great it is that beyond those fleeting minutes of direct sunlight, it doesn’t look like there is anything but untarnished stone on that wall. Unfortunately, the second thought was that, if there are that many cobwebs on that little fraction that was lit up, how many of the other rocks must be similarly covered.

Then I noticed one of the crossbeam logs supporting the vaulted ceiling.

Visible in the solar high-beam was a strand for the makings of a giant spider web crossing the significant expanse of open air.

I think we should just cover all the furnishings below with white sheets and embrace the look of a vacant dwelling.

Either that or make sure we never entertain company on sunny days.

We dusted once. It came right back.



Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Completely Forgot

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My poor brain can’t keep up. I expect it must be dropping old information out the back each time I try to stash something new in the front. I was just blessed with an opportunity to discover that I had forgotten entirely about a very valuable lesson learned through experience. I even blogged about it at the time for good measure. Granted, this was from 5-and-a-half years ago, but still…

In a humorous message exchange yesterday with my friend, Rich Gordon, I thought he had me mistaken for someone else. He had asked “What’s the best stuff to use to lubricate my garage door springs? I saw you had a repairman over recently.”

No. No, I haven’t had anyone here recently. I guessed that he had me confused with someone else. My response was to answer with a smartass quip in jest, figuring he would notice he meant that for someone else.

When he came back to ask in all seriousness, we discovered the miscue. Rich questioned his sanity for thinking he had just read about this in my blog and that triggered my scouring the “Previous Somethings” archive for the time our door spring broke. I confirmed that I did write about it, just not recently.

I’m guessing the old post from November of 2014 probably showed up as an auto-generated link of similar post suggestions that Rich inadvertently clicked without realizing he was delving so far into the archives.

As I reread my old writing, I was embarrassed to see I had clearly pointed out the need to lubricate the garage door spring, but soon after, I completely forgot anything about it. Out of sight, out of mind, even though I use our garage doors almost every day.

The icing on the cake of this whole memory failure appeared in the comments under that original post. Way back then, Rich and I already had this same discussion about what to use for lubricating the spring.

Guess what just moved up near the top of my home maintenance “to-do” list?

Garage door springs are not something that should be included in the category of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” chores. Somehow, I spaced this one out entirely. It’s nice to have gotten a laugh out of it, but there’s an element of nervous laughter threaded through it. The power of those springs and the amount of weight they are counter-balancing is not something to be trifled with.

Now, if I could somehow figure out what important detail just dropped from my memory after bringing the door spring back to the front, that would be just great.



Neglected Properties

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It’s a shame that the neighboring houses around ours have fallen to such neglect. It reflects badly on the value of our property. I wish those responsible would put in a little effort to maintain the integrity of their homes.

I think maybe birch bark isn’t the most durable choice for roofing material. That unit is probably a little drafty.

I’m going to light a fire under the owners to inspire them to make some repairs to those houses before the tenants start spreading bad rumors about our neighborhood.

After Sunday’s initial excitement of making progress on the garden terrace using reclaimed fence posts, Cyndie pointed out the creosote smell of the wood posts. It reminded her of the railroad tracks by her grandma’s house.

A little research has us both feeling disinclined to proceed with burying the chemically treated posts in the same dirt we plan to grow our future food.

It will be a lot more work, but I’ve suggested making a low retaining wall of rocks. A more feasible alternative that holds promise would be to use the cedar planks we removed from the deck last fall. Although much of the ends of those boards were rotting, there is probably enough solid wood to serve our purposes.

Whatever we end up choosing, I hope it will look classy enough to offset the derelict birdhouses around here that threaten to give this place a bad reputation.



Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2020 at 6:00 am

Unforeseen Complications

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Far be it from me to point out another problem during this pandemic shelter-in-place directive, but I can’t be the only one facing this new dilemma. While people are panicking over the possibility they don’t have three months’ worth of toilet paper stashed somewhere in their homes, a whole nother kitchen calamity is looming large on the horizon for those not cooking new meals every day.

The Tupperware storage cupboard.

With trips to the store now a risky health hazard, I have taken to mining the depths of our freezer for containers of home-cooked meals put up in the recent past for just such occasions. Although, I don’t think Cyndie ever expected I would be dipping into these delicacies every single night for 4-weeks in a row.

After a couple of weeks of finishing each meal and washing the containers, I became aware of a growing challenge. I was starting to run out of space where the plastic containers are stored.

There’s probably never been this long a period of time where we only emptied containers without also putting some back into service again, storing leftovers.

Luckily, I quickly figured out a temporary solution until Cyndie gets home.

I don’t drink coffee, so the cupboard directly to the right where she keeps coffee mugs isn’t getting much attention. There was plenty of open space up above the coffee cups.


This only needs to work for six more days. Soon after, with a real chef back in the kitchen, we’ll be putting many of those stashed containers back into service again.

Last night’s dinner: Parmesan Chicken with pea pods and long rice. It was as tasty as the original night Cyndie made it and packaged up the leftovers for later.

I have been surviving this shut-in period with no other people in my home but that hasn’t been all bad. In particular, it’s allowed me to develop a great new appreciation for our freezer.



Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Now This

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Last night, I received notification that the single organized group-bike-tour that I participate in every June has been canceled for 2020 due to some virus pandemic. The Tour of Minnesota will take this summer off. My intuition tells me there is a good chance my pedals and spokes won’t get much of a workout this year.

That tour was the incentive to get me spinning those wheels as early as possible every spring, oftentimes against my preference to rather not.

“I’m too tired today.”

“There are too many other chores I should be doing.”

“The weather isn’t ideal.”

“I don’t feel like riding right now.”

Despite those and other excuses, whenever I overcome the resistance and get myself out on the bike, I am always incredibly happy to be riding.

Without the incentive of the impending week-long trip of high daily mileage to drive my actions, I fear my endless collection of excuses will override my pleasure of gliding along country roads, especially during times of social distancing. Riding alone is nowhere near as fun as riding with a group.

On the bright side, now I won’t be thinking about a risk of becoming symptomatic with a virus that compromises lungs while needing to pedal for multiple 70-mile days and sleep overnights on the ground in a tent.

I picture myself choosing some less-taxing adventures close to home in the months ahead. For some reason, I keep seeing tree-shaded hammocks swinging in this vision.

That must mean Cyndie will be doing the lawn mowing.

“Don’t forget to wear a mask, hon!”



Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Don’t Cough

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We’ve all done it. Accidentally inhaling our own saliva. It seems to happen at the most inopportune times, doesn’t it? I was near the front, center rows at a funeral service when I choked the choke that triggers involuntary spasms of coughing. You know it’s going to be bad, so you give it a couple of quick, full coughs in a vain hope of dealing with it all at once.

It rarely works. Then comes the following cough urges that you assume can be ignored by sheer will, but which subsequently get forced out as groans or squeaks that are probably worse than if you just let the coughs out naturally.

My lungs tend toward asthmatic, so I am prone to a daily period of throat-clearing and am no stranger to a random urge to cough throughout an afternoon. It’s usually an unconscious habit, but not anymore.

In the midst of a global flu pandemic, coughing is met with suspicion. I have no idea if I will sense a difference between my usual handful of coughs in a day and an early symptom of being infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, but now when I feel an urge to cough, I’m noticing the question comes to mind.

I’m also noticing a little more self-consciousness about my tendency to cough.

“Don’t cough,” I tell myself. You will scare the people around you into worrying you may be spreading THE virus.

You know how well that works. Go ahead and try to suppress the urge. There is an inverse correlation in that the more you try not to cough, the more intense the urge to cough becomes.

Maybe I’ll start practicing the art of announcing my morning body temperature reading with each cough. Kind of like the “Excuse me” courtesy often uttered after burps, hiccups, coughs, and farts.

[cough!] “97.4.”

That’ll reassure them.

I’m not sick.




Written by johnwhays

March 25, 2020 at 6:00 am