REO Exclusive! Chipotle Announces Groundbreaking “No cups. No straws. No waste.” Beverage Dispensation Policy

Denver, Colorado: In its continued efforts to combat the rise of Global Warming and environmental devastation, the popular Mexican cuisine restaurant chain, Chipotle, has made dramatic changes to how it serves beverages to its customers. Read the press release here first:

“The science is settled! We have long known how damaging and horrible plastic and Styrofoam cups are to the environment. We now know the terrible toll that plastic straws exact on our oceans and waterways. Chipotle has always been at the forefront of social and environmental improvement, which we have proven with our ahead-of-its-time switch to biodegradable paper cups and our strong support for all disenfranchised communities. We believe our latest initiative is just further proof of how innovative, progressive, and dare we say it, inspiring we are. Starting in the Fall of 2018, we are unveiling our new “Communal Drinking Spout” at all our locations nationwide. Our new policy, “No Cups. No Straws. No Waste” is as follows: As customers get thirsty, we ask that they come to the front counter, tell us what drink they ordered, and we will spray said drink directly into their mouths. “No cups. No straws. No waste.” Just thirst-quenching, environmentally clean deliciousness. We trust that our loyal customers will see the benefits of this new plan and adapt their eating and drinking habits accordingly. We see it as a true win-win scenario for our customers and for Mother Earth.”

 




Five Classic Toys of Our Youth

Ah, the days of youth, how quickly they flew away. They were the days that we spent hours of fun enjoying our toys of choice to the fullest. Here are five classic toys members of REO loved in the days gone by.


Slip’N Slide

South Carolina is insanely humid in the summers and while I was blessed to have a local public pool to go to and regular beach trips, some days you just wanted something cheap and convenient to help keep you cool (when you weren’t working out in the field, that is). If whatever this was also happened to be fun, then you had done the impossible.

Enter Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, a marvel of an invention that millions of kids all over the US have enjoyed for decades now. The set up is so simple: water, a garden hose and a thin sheet of plastic a few yards long. Yet it felt like you had your own water park in your own backyard. Hours and hours of fun were to be had, changing up the way you slid and watching and cheering on others and they did the same. The very name conjures up images and memories that bring nothing but the joy of youthful innocence to this middle-aged heart. (Gowdy Cannon)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m still not sure exactly how much of my childhood fascination with the Ninja Turtles was fueled by how much I actually liked the show. I tried to go back and watch some of the original cartoons a few years back, and it hadn’t held up in my mind exactly like I remembered it. The hype at the time, though, was real. And the toys that I played with gave an added physical dimension to the cartoon. One where I created my own stories and added to the lore that was already there.

My favorite toy of them all was the 1989 pizza thrower tank/van. You inserted little plastic pizzas into the top slot, and then a big grey button on the side would launch a pie right out the front, knocking down whatever toy was in its path. The poor foot soldier figurine that I had took regular pizzas to the face, only to be then pummeled constantly by the turtles and friends. Shredder usually put up a better fight, if I recall correctly. I would string zip lines up around my bedroom and have them slide down and crash into the enemies below.

For a kid my age, they were spot on. The toys articulated enough to show lots of expression. They came in tandem with a show that was marketed directly toward my demographic, and they were bigger and bulkier than the G.I. Joes…but in a good way. I probably earned half of my collection by not crying when I had to get a shot at the doctor. My mom always promised me a new toy if I was tough. And for a brand new ninja turtle? Not a speck of moisture would dare pool up in the corner of my eye. (D. A. Speer)


Transformers

It’s cool that the Transformer toys have come to the new generation. It really is. But the new vision has yet to become the bulwark of awesome that is the 80s transformers toys. Although I ever only owned one. It was Jazz – the greatest toy I’ve ever owned. Took me about two months to perfect the transforming process though.

I largely enjoyed every other Transformer toy through my friends. At my elementary school, Transformer toys were huge. Classmates were constantly bringing their newest robots in disguise to school to show the masses. If I was lucky one friend, in particular, would invite me over for a slumber party where we could play with his armies of Autobots and Decepticons all night long. My favorites of my classmate’s toys included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Sound Wave, and all of the Dinobots.

It may be me just glorifying them in my mind, but the T-toys of that era seemed so much cooler, more durable, and way more complex than the cheap stuff you see at the store now.

I also loved the cartoon, but somehow in my mind, I was able to keep the two separate. That is, I would have liked both just as much if the other never existed. But if I was forced to choose one, it would have been the toys. Truly, my friends, they were worth more than all the gold in Erebor. (Ben Plunkett)


LEGO

I grew up in Panama. The country. Not the city in Florida. Naturally, things were different for me as a child than for someone who grew up in the United States. With that said, I had access to pretty much all the popular toys. My brothers and I played with G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and anything else we could get our hands on. And we got our hands on a lot of toys. I probably owned as many as 70 different G.I. Joe action figures at one time.

When I was in the third grade, we spent half the year near Asheville, North Carolina and the other half in St. Louis, Missouri for what was called furlough at that time. (The name has been changed to “stateside assignment” for missionaries because “furlough” sounds like a vacation.) While in St. Louis, I attended a Christian school. My classroom had the largest collection of LEGO bricks I have ever seen in one place – outside of a store. Inspired by years of watching cartoons like Voltron – where five robot lions join together to form the giant robot Voltron – I decided to create my own giant robot made out of smaller robots all constructed using LEGO bricks. I spent hours working on it – every recess, every break. Each robot had the same design, though some were bigger than others depending on what part of the body of the giant robot they were to become. It was glorious.

I never completed the giant LEGO robot. I arrived at school one day, with just a few more parts to finish, only to discover that all of my robots had been dismantled and placed back in the bin used to store the bricks. To this day, I have no idea who decided to destroy my work. Why had they waited until I was this close to finishing? Why did they hate all the good things? It left my third-grade spirit broken and miserable. It was okay though as I learned an important lesson that day: Bad things happen and when they do, the best way to deal with the sense of loss and disappointment is to go obliterate all competition on the dodgeball court. A nice dodgeball to your opponent’s face is a healing balm. And trust me when I say this, I healed so much that day in recess playing dodgeball. So much. (Phill Lytle)


BRIO Railway

From 1985-87 my family and I lived in the St. Louis, MO area (across the Mississippi River on the Illinois side), and one of our favorite things to do was visit Union Station. My favorite part of Union Station (besides eating chili dogs at the now non-existent O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor) was visiting the toy train store. I enjoyed watching the model trains running all around the store; but, most of all, I loved playing with the BRIO wooden train sets. My parents could’ve dropped me off there and left me all day, and I would never have noticed they were gone. I’m pretty sure they never actually did that…

When I was a kid, those wooden train sets were exotic; and, as far as I knew at least, only BRIO made them. Now, of course, they are very commonplace and affordable. Many children own their own train tables and multiple sets of tracks and trains. I, however, had only the trains at the train store in Union Station, which I had to share with strangers and only got to visit once a month or so. Until…

It was either Christmas of ’86 or my birthday in early ’87, I don’t remember which, I was absolutely shocked to receive not one, but two BRIO train sets of my own. I’m not sure how my parents were able to do it, but it was probably my favorite present of all time. One set was a figure eight track with a small bridge and a small station with little wooden passengers waiting on the train. The other set was a larger bridge.

I have played with those trains for countless hours, possibly more than I’ve played with Legos, possibly more than I’ve played video games. I’ve cared for those train sets with much love. Even the original packaging lasted until just a few short years ago. Yes, I still have them, 31 years later. I’ve passed them on to my own children, adding on some cheap generic trains and tracks from Ikea and many, many trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. All of the original pieces from my childhood are still there, surviving the many purges of moving. And, now, I think I must dust off the conductor’s hat and go play… (Nathan Patton)


In the comment section below, tell us about your favorite childhood toys. And if you enjoyed reminiscing with us, feel free to share this article with your friends.

 

 




Ranting Ever On: Bad Drivers

I am an angry driver most of the time. It is something I have to work on constantly. I wouldn’t even consider myself an angry person most of the time – though I do have a very angry resting face. (That’s an article for another time!) I am not even an impatient person in my day-to-day life. But on the road behind the wheel, I am all those things. Plainly put, most people have no business driving a vehicle. They have no idea how to control their own vehicle, let alone be aware that there are other vehicles on the road around them. This is all very annoying. It is also dangerous. I could live with the annoying part, but when you factor in the dangerous aspect of bad driving, that sets me off. I never took Driver’s Education in school. My small school didn’t offer it. (To give you some idea how small my school was, I was in a graduating class of one.) My parents taught me when I was 17 years old and it made a world of difference. They taught me to pay just as much attention to those around me as to my own driving. They taught me to follow the laws of the road – novel idea it seems. They taught me to be a “defensive” driver. I have done my best to take their lessons to heart. I don’t speed. I use my signal lights. I do all the little things we are supposed to do when we are drive our vehicles. And it bothers me that from all appearances, most other drivers do not do these things.

Complaining about bad driving is too general to make a good rant. If I want this rant to stick, it needs to be more focused. With that in mind, let’s look at the art of driving conscientiously. Little things like letting cars merge, not following too closely, slowing down and moving over a lane when there is a stalled car on the side of the road, acknowledging when another driver lets you merge. These are the little things that make driving better and safer for everyone on the road. Too often though, these are the first things that are thrown out of the window by most drivers. Comedian Brian Regan has a really good bit about acknowledging other drivers that is not only funny, but also makes many valid points. You can watch that clip here if you so desire. Warning: Some might find the advertisement before the clip offensive.

I have had many similar experiences. One in particular stands out. On my way to work, I was in the right turn lane and I could tell that the car to the left of me was going to need to get over. They did not have their signal light on, but I could tell. How? It’s just one of those things you learn to recognize when you pay attention when you are driving. Naturally, I slowed down and gave the driver a chance to switch lanes. They didn’t. I thought for a brief moment that perhaps I was mistaken that this driver needed to change lanes. My faith wavered. I doubted my skills. Not for long though, because finally, at the last possible moment, the driver flashed their turn signal once and then quickly swerved in front of me. That last-second signal light was both infuriating and laughable. It was pointless but I’m sure it made the driver feel like they had done everything correctly.

So, I had allowed the driver to merge – and believe me, it was not easy. The very pleasant and patient person behind me was not less than thrilled that I slowed down. They showed their displeasure by honking at me and then giving me a friendly hand gesture. (Maybe they weren’t angry and were trying to tell me that I was Number One?) Even after all of this, I had a faint hope that the driver I had allowed to merge would acknowledge my help and perhaps wave to show their appreciation. Nope. They did not wave. They didn’t even look in the rearview mirror to see the kind man who had made their turn possible. They continued to do the thing that had put them in the precarious position from the very beginning: They talked on their phone. How did I respond to this ugly and distasteful display of incivility? I waved at them like an idiot and continued to wave (with a giant, completely over-the-top grin on my face) for the next three or four minutes. I have no idea if they saw me. I don’t really care. Actually, I do care. My secret hope is that they saw me and realized what they had done and when they got to work, felt so bad about how they treated another human being that they curled up in the corner of their cubicle and cried themselves to sleep. No big deal – just total and abject shame and guilt.

Moral of this story: Be nice to other people when you are on the road. Or, in the words of the famous fictional rock band, Wyld Stallyns, “Be excellent to each other.”  Bill and Ted believed it. Jesus did too. Driving would be less stressful and the roads would be safer if we just listened to Bill, Ted, and Jesus.




Five More Sports Movies We Love

The best movies tell unforgettable stories and introduce us to legendary characters and performances. So it is no surprise that in a culture obsessed with sports, some of the best films of all time are about them. Sports prove that truth is indeed better than fiction quite often–you will notice below and on any list of sports movies how many are based on or inspired by true stories. Movies, for their part, make us interested in sports we as Americans often are not obsessed with, like boxing, karate and hockey. The two together have given us exceptional entertainment.

Today our staff discusses five more sports films that we love. You can read our first article in this series here. This is not a Top Five list; just five selections that impacted us deeply…as sports fans (most of us), moviegoers and human beings that love to be inspired.


Remember the Titans by Phill Lytle

Maybe this one is too obvious. I’m not sure that matters that much to me. I love this movie. I love the story – even if the filmmakers took liberties in telling it. I love the performances, with Denzel doing what he does best, the young cast of football players/students bringing life and personality to the team, and to the unsung heroes of the film like Will Patton as the assistant coach. Everyone brings their A-game to the movie and it shows. The music by Trevor Rabin is earnest and epic which only serves to help everything mean a little bit more.

This is a movie that calls its shot from the very beginning and unless you have never seen a sports movie before, you will know where it is headed. You anticipate the beats, the dramatic flourishes, and the building climax. None of that matters. This was Disney firing on all cylinders, perfectly delivering on their tried and true method. That might sound cynical of me. Trust me, it’s not. I unapologetically love this film even if it does pretty much exactly what you expect it to from the opening frame.

It’s a movie built on moments, speeches, emotions, and inspiration. It sets out to tell a heartwarming and uplifting film and it pulls it off without a hitch. Remember the Titans is a Titan in the world of sports movies and deserves to be on everyone’s favorites list.


A League of Their Own by Gowdy Cannon

“There’s No Crying In Baseball!” put this film on the map so to speak, but after about 10 viewings I can say that it is so much more than Tom Hanks at his comedic finest. It’s a perfect storm of untold history, tense family drama, riveting sports action and timeless storytelling that joins a pantheon of exceptional American screenplays. To me it is not just one of the best sports movies of all time, but one of the best films of any genre of all time.

Hanks is his typical scene-stealing self. Gina Davis is great. Lori Petty is perfect as the insecure younger sibling (as the 4th of 5 children, I am fully qualified to make that call). Unheard of Megan Cavanagh, who doesn’t even have a picture on her wikipedia page, is unforgettable. Even modern punching bags Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are good in their support roles. And they all have tremendous chemistry.

Not to be lost is without of doubt my favorite Jon Lovitz performance ever, as the scout Ernie Capadino. Essentially 100% of what he says makes me and my mom laugh out loud, even after repeated viewings. To this day I can look at her and say “You see the way it works is that the train moves and not the station” and we will crack up.

If a litmus test for movie grade is how rewatchable it is, A League of Their Own gets an A.


Space Jam by D.A. Speer

Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now! A few years back, shortly after my wife Kate and I were married, we thought it would be great fun on a whim to hold a Space Jam party. We invited friends over, had some snacks, and watched the movie. You never really know just how well a movie will hold up over the years, because over time, a movie can seem so much better in your mind than it actually was. We took the gamble…and it held up well!

At lunch today, I asked my wife, “What is it that made Space Jam such a good movie?” She looked at me for a second and said, “What about it isn’t a good movie?” I had a hard time answering. On paper, I’d have expected the movie to be a failure. MJ teams up with the Looney Toons to challenge aliens for their fates over a theme park. What could possibly go wrong with an idea like that?

Well, somehow director Joe Pytka was able to pull off movie magic. The story is compelling enough to make it fun. The music inspired everything from couple’s skates at the local roller rink (I Believe I Can Fly), to endless current-day internet remixes of the theme song by Quad City DJ’s. The star power is perfect for the time. This is right in the height of Jordan mania, after his first return to the NBA. As a teenager, I had a poster of him on my wall, slamming in it with his tongue out. Would I want to see him play against cartoon monsters? Psh, I could have watched him shoot free throws in practice and would have been enthralled. Bill Murray is there. Charles Barkley is there. Larry Bird is there. Heck, even Newman shows up.

Yeah, it’s not the most epic movie by today’s standards, but it will forever be a classic in my mind, half court dunks and all.


Warrior by Phill Lytle

I hate MMA, or mixed martial arts. It’s one tiny step up from to-the-death, gladiatorial combat, and I honestly don’t understand or appreciate its appeal in the least. Which makes my reaction to Warrior, a movie about two brothers who are MMA fighters, so perplexing. I never thought I would love a movie about MMA fighting, let alone like a movie like that, but Warrior defied my expectations and had me from very early on. The story is nothing groundbreaking – if you have seen any boxing movie or many sports movies for that matter, you can sort of guess where everything is going – but the execution of the story is what makes this film work so well. Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton give amazing performances as a father and his two estranged sons. I’ve never been a huge Nolte fan but he is incredible in this film playing a very damaged and broken father. Hardy is just pure intensity and he brings a real menace and danger to his character, but with just enough cracks in his facade to show that there is a lot more to him than just anger and passion. Edgerton plays the most “normal” role, but he gives his character so much depth that I hate to classify it as normal. The fight sequences are well shot – they are brutal and very effective. The film is shot low budget style which lends the film more realism and immediacy. The music is great as well, with a song by The National that closes the film perfectly.

Warrior is first and foremost a movie about a broken family trying to find healing. That is what drew me in and what knocked down my walls. I was prepared to hate this movie due to my hatred of the sport it showcases. I was not prepared to fall completely for it.


Over the Top by Gowdy Cannon

Millions know Sly Stallone from the Rocky and Rambo series. Far less remember him in this movie about an estranged father, his spoiled son and….arm wrestling? How many movies about arm wrestling are there? I don’t know, but when you’ve conquered the world as Rocky and Rambo, you get to take these risks. And while I may be in the minority, I think it yielded a reward. The superbly named Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) has the lovable humility of Balboa yet is still very much a unique character. And the journey he embarks on to earn back the love of his only son and to win an arm wrestling tournament (Really! It’s about arm wrestling!) is one I have enjoyed numerous times.

A few years ago I began a tradition of having a “Man Movie Night” with other men at my church and this was the first one I showed. Because most people have seen Stallone’s other work and this is a hidden treasure to me. Yet despite its manliness, I think the heart of father-son reconciliation can appeal to most people.

The movie has some faults for sure, like the arm wresting (arm wrestling!) tournament format of double elimination is not consistent, and the drama is at times pretty contrived, but Lincoln’s secret finger re-positioning weapon vs. Bull Harley in the final and all the memories he makes with with his son son along the way render all the flaws forgotten.  Complete with a fantastic antagonist role by Robert Loggia and some of the best terrible wonderful cheesy 80s sports montage music ever, I adore this movie.


There you have it. Five more sports movies we love. Our last list got some pretty strong feedback – both positive and negative. Hopefully this one will as well as we always enjoy a good back-and-forth with our readers. Use the comment section below to post your praise or ridicule of our selections today.




Go Big in the Little Things

A few years ago (nearly eight to be specific) I wrote about cereal on my personal blog. At that time, my boys and I ate a lot of cereal. We still do – them more than me. You can read that story here.

My middle son still eats cereal every day. He gets up in the morning, fixes a bowl of cereal, sits down on the couch, turns on the television (WKRN – Channel 2 – in Nashville), and gets caught up on the morning news, the weather, and the traffic. He is 13 and 75 all at the same time. He also eats a bowl of cereal most evenings as well, after we have finished supper. And occasionally, he gets a bowl for his afternoon snack. He eats a lot of cereal.

My oldest son eats just as much, if not more, simply because he just eats more in general than his younger brother. Between the two of them, plus whatever the rest of us in the family eat, we go through 6 or 7 boxes of cereal a week, give or take a box or two. And if you read the article I linked to above, you understand that is okay and part of the plan. My goal as a child was to have a pantry full of cereal boxes. Seinfeld levels of cereal boxes.

My dream has been realized for sure. I have passed along this dream to my children and I hope they pass it along to theirs in the future.

But this isn’t about cereal – as awesome as it is. I don’t think it would be in anyone’s best interest for me to write another article about cereal. (We have a Top Ten Cereal List already published on REO. Read it here.) No, cereal is not the point.

I am the one that handles grocery shopping for my family. My wife and I used to do it together but she doesn’t enjoy it and I was willing to take on that responsibility. One of my great joys in life is to come home with the groceries and see my sons’ reactions when they help unload all that food. Before they unpack anything else, they find the cereal. They are desperate to find out what cereal I brought home. Especially the middle one. I can make or break his day depending on my cereal selection. If I do well, he is bubbly and dancing and smiling. If I do poorly, he gets quiet and mopey. Because of this, though he is learning to not allow minor things like this to affect his emotions, I do my best to bring home at least a few kinds of cereal that I know he will enjoy. I do this because I love him and I enjoy seeing him happy. I realize it’s a little thing, but I believe if we try hard in the little things, over time, they become building blocks for the big things.

My wife loves McDonald’s Coke. She is a woman of virtually no vices, but she has a weakness for a cold Coca-Cola from McD’s. (Their mix is the best around.) If I am on my game as a husband, I will remember to stop by a McDonald’s on my way home and pick up a Coke for her. As with the cereal and my kids, this is not a big deal. In fact, it’s such a tiny thing that it would be easy to overlook. But I think overlooking these little things is a good way to take things for granted, and trust me, I overlook these little things way too often. It’s a learning experience for sure. But by doing the little things, it helps me be aware of and attentive to the bigger things.

There are a million ways you can go big in the little things. I buy gum at the grocery store every so often because I know how much my youngest son loves it. My wife rubs my head when we are watching TV together because she knows it relaxes me. These little things take many forms. It could be anything really. The important part is that you are paying attention. And that “paying attention” is appreciated and will not go unnoticed. The big things will take way more time and energy and focus on your part but if you have been doing the little things, you’ve built the foundation for the big things already. You’re ahead of the curve. None of this is to say that if you do the little things you will handle the big things well. I’m sure there are people who do all the little things but still mess up big time on the big things. (No pun intended.) Yet I am confident that if you don’t do the little things well, you probably aren’t knocking it out of the park on the big things either.

As silly as cereal, Coke, gum, and head rubs seem, if they are done out of love and genuine affection for others, then they are the least silly things you can do. In fact, overlooking them (and things like them) could be incredibly detrimental to your relationships. Do the little things. Get really good at them. It’s worth it.

 

So what are the little things you do for your loved ones? What are the little things they do for you? We would love to read about it in the comment section below. We are here to learn as much as anything else.

 




Five Things Our Mothers Taught Us

Mothers. None of us would be here if they weren’t around. Am I right or am I right? But our moms are so much more than just the person who brought us into the world. I don’t know about you, but there is a universe of knowledge I gleaned from my mom. For this Mother’s Day, the REO team wanted to honor our moms by relating five of the important lessons we learned from them.


Vickie Speer

When I was around 6 years old or so, I was at the supermarket with Mom, and we had finally made it to the checkout line. I asked her if I could get some Starburst candy, and she flat out said “No”…but I just couldn’t take that for an answer. When she wasn’t looking, I wedged the Starburst in between a few other items on the conveyor belt and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

My devious plans were foiled, but not before the cashier had already scanned the candy into the register. My mom held her up from her scanning, and the cashier asked if she should take it off and shelve it. For some reason, mom left it on the bill and bought it. And then, she didn’t let me have the candy. Oh man, it was so much worse knowing for weeks that the candy was in our possession, sitting alone up in the cupboard. The poor, lonely candy. The poor, deprived child.

I probably learned my lesson: No means no. At the very least, I haven’t forgotten it. Still, once enough time had passed, I snatched the candy out of the cupboard and asked Mom if I could have some, and she just hurriedly unwrapped it and let me eat it. I think she forgot about its significance. I ate it with the weight of shame upon me. How could something so sweet be simultaneously so bittersweet? Cast your pejorative gaze upon my childhood shenanigans and learn, O reader. A Starburst eaten with a clear conscience is worth 500 eaten in shame. (D.A. Speer)


Betty Lou Plunkett

When we were kids Mom told us that “Here at The Rock, we have two basic rules. The first rule is: obey all rules. Secondly: Do not write on the walls, as it takes a lot of work to erase writing off of the walls.” Just kidding. That’s Barney Fife. Though she kept decided discipline and order, Mom was definitely not a Barney Mom, constantly spouting off rules, regulations, and long rants of “wisdom.” Mom was not one to dole out a lot of such talk and sage quotable diatribes. Her wisdom was largely displayed through how she lived. Most of what I learned from her I learned by watching her live life and interact with those around her. And I learned so much. One of the ways she most impacted me was via her enduring innate joyfulness and contentment in all situations no matter how dark. Mom had been through a lot of heavy moments in her life: Months in the hospital as a child after accidentally drinking a glass of lye soap; months worth of hours spent in the hospital with me for various reasons; raising four kids; years of serving as a home missionary, foreign mission, and teacher; and finally lymphatic cancer. Yet, for as long as I knew her (since 1973) she always maintained her contented spirit. This is not to say she never got sad or anything like that. Yet even in sadness, there was always that feeling of joy radiating from her. No matter how dark situations got, she had a way of making it feel like matters weren’t that bad. This was even true with her final battle with cancer. Like Paul the Apostle, she had learned the secret of being content even in the darkest moment. That secret was their hope in Jesus. Her contentment and joy came to a head just minutes before she died. During those moments she expressed an almost rapturous joy in Jesus, and we who were present could almost see heaven itself. (Ben Plunkett)


Yvonne Cannon

I remember once my senior year in high school my best friends Wade and John came over one afternoon on a school day – I don’t recall why – but they ended up staying for dinner even though we hadn’t planned for them to do so. My mother cooked extra without even a second thought. Then, again without really planning it, they slept over. On a school night.

The reasons these things happened is because my mother created a home environment where people felt welcomed to treat it like it was theirs. My living room was often packed with our friends on weekend nights when we were teenagers. Some of our friends didn’t even knock when they came over. People of other races and ethnicities were welcomed into our home. My dad’s hunting buddies, Super Bowl parties, Seinfeld finale parties, Bible College visitors, church prayer times…our house was (and still is) constantly being used to host people. Even though our house was well kept, even when my mother worked full time, we worried far less about stains on the carpet and spills in the kitchen than we did about making sure everyone in Turbeville, SC knew there was a place where all were welcome. My dad is a great man, but my mother was the main reason this was so.

So of the million things I have learned from her, most of them from observation and not words, hospitality rises to the top. It takes humility and sacrifice to open up your home to so many people. It’s supremely inconvenient. I wish I could say I appreciated it back then, but I do now. It’s one of the most Jesus-like things about my mother’s life. And one I hope to emulate here in Chicago. (Gowdy Cannon)


Judy Lytle

There is nothing more empowering than hearing the words “you are good at…” It may even be more important for a parent to affirm the things their children do well than to correct their short-comings. As a teen, I more or less floated through life. I am not particularly athletic, musical, or creative. I was fairly shy and just starting to take an interest in academics. Some people can do well just about anything they attempt. Well, I had (have) very few skills. I just was. When I was in high school, my mother told me that I would make a good history teacher or perhaps a good chef. Studying history and cooking were two things I did well and loved doing. That conversation with my mother established the trajectory of my life. This morning I got up early to pray with 30 of my students before taking their AP United States History exam. I also baked them homemade cinnamon rolls. It has been 20 years since my mother said, “You are good at…” but I am living out the empowerment from that conversation nearly every day. (David Lytle)

 

My mom is the hardest worker I know. If there is a job to do, she does it. If there is a meal to make, a person to visit, a floor to tile, a room to paint, a class to teach… You get the point. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that impressive work ethic from my mother. In my defense, no one in the history of the world has a work ethic like my mother, but it would have been nice to get even 50% of the inner drive she possesses. Also in my defense, I do work very hard if it is for something I love. But my mom works hard period. Full stop. Love or no love, she jumps into every task as if it is the most important thing in the world. And while I don’t have that same character trait, I do have the best example anyone could ask for to push me, nudge me, and even unintentionally shame me a little into working harder on things that I don’t love that much. (Phill Lytle)




Schick Introduces Powerful New Razor – “The Nuke”

In the weapons race that is the world of razors and cutting-edge shaving technology, an industry veteran has thrown down the gauntlet. Where other shaving supply companies are satisfied with 5, 6, or even 7 bladed razors, Schick has unveiled their newest creation – “The Nuke*” – a 37 blade razor that will literally destroy every hair follicle it touches.

“When we looked at the market and what our consumers are really wanting, we quickly realized that just upping the ante a little was going to get us nowhere. We had to “drop a bomb”, pun fully intended.”

Director of Product Design, Natalie O’Harra, further explains the process, “We asked ourselves a few fundamental questions. First, ‘What is better than seven blades?” Second, ‘Can we invent a razor that will make shaving a more comprehensive, robust, and effective activity?’ We firmly believe that “The Nuke” is the answer to those questions.

“The Nuke” is armed with 37 stainless steel blades, each sharpened to an edge that is capable of slicing through a shoe. But the secret weapon in “The Nuke’s” arsenal is the nuclear-powered burst of focused heat between each blade that sears the hair follicle to its root, rendering it dead and useless.

“Most men hate shaving” Ms. O’Harra adds, “They hate having to repeat this process over and over. “The Nuke” recognizes that aggravation and it makes it a thing of the past. Once you use “The Nuke” you will never need to shave again. Ever.”

Lofty goals for sure, but Schick is convinced that this is the best path forward for their company. The price tag is high since this is literally the last razor you will ever need to buy with a suggested retail price is $499.00. Is the efficacy and finality of this shave worth it to consumers? We’ll have to wait and see.

*Warning: The Nuke is a one-time use razor. Once you open the package, you have 10 minutes to complete your shave before the heated bursts render the razor a melted lump of char. DO NOT attempt to use it for longer than 10 minutes. DO NOT attempt to use it more than once as it will cause major damage to your skin, your ligaments, your bones, and your soul. Blindness will occur if The Nuke gets too close to your eyes. Avoid contact with any hair that you do not wish to permanently remove. Women should not use The Nuke as it will permanently sterilize anyone with XX chromosomes. Children should avoid all contact with The Nuke as they are weak and prone to bouts of unspeakable foolishness. Weak-willed men should avoid using The Nuke as its singular goal in life is to crush its enemies, see them driven before it, and to hear the lamentations of their women.




Ranting Ever On: The Five Edition

There are days when you just need to rant and rave about stuff. Moments when you need to get it off your chest. You know the drill. If there is something that is bothering you or getting under your skin, this is a safe space to vent. But keep a few things in mind. First, do your best to keep the object of your rant as illogical and pointless as possible. Nobody has time for a rant about something serious and important. Second, try to keep it short and sweet. Long rants wear out their welcome very quickly. Finally, be honest and transparent. Nothing is worse than a ranter ranting about something that doesn’t really bother them that much. It’s plain to everyone around that it is an empty rant, devoid of purpose and passion. Mean it or keep it to yourself.

In our ongoing effort to be helpful and generous, we here at REO have decided to give you, dear reader, a short collection of rants to help guide you in your future ranting. A primer, if you will. Here are five mini-rants about five different things that are deserving of the best we have to offer. We hope you will enjoy this Ranting Ever On, Friday Five style. And please, feel free to add your own rant in the comment section below.


How Pluto has been Dismissed As Not an Actual Planet

Back in grade school, we learned the acronym My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas to remember the planets. The truly awesome thing about this acronym is that we were getting nine pizzas. Nine! But now…now our innocence is lost. No more carefree hours of staring at that pizza planet in the sky (I don’t think we can actually see it, but we can imagine its there). Now It’s just My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine…  And that’s it. Nope, nothing, nada. But there is hope. In recent years there has been a movement afoot to include all of the dwarf planets with the regular planets. If this dream transpires it will be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Cerus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. I have seen a number of suggested acronyms if this does, in fact, become reality. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions I read have included pizza, which makes me think many people are missing the important point here. Let me suggest My Very Educated Mother Christine Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Having Mucho Everything. So I say its high time we take back our childhood. Let’s take matters into our hands and put that pizza back in the acronym as it so justly deserves. (Ben Plunkett)


Wendy’s “Fresh-Never-Frozen Beef”

Why does Wendy’s now advertise that their beef is fresh and NEVER FROZEN? It is in every commercial they do now. Freezing beef is now up there with being a Nazi as one of the worst sins you can commit in 21st century America. People freeze meat all the time. They buy giant deep freezers just so they can buy a lot of meat and freeze it.

Now Wendy’s has decided that it is horrible to freeze beef. WHAT IS NEXT, WHERE WILL THIS END!?!?!?! (Mike Lytle)


Why Does Carey Elwes Have to Be So Much Cooler Than Me?

Yeah, Carey, I get it. You got to be Westley in The Princess Bride, getting to kiss Robin Wright, hang out with Andre the Giant, have the greatest sword fight of modern times and make women all over the world fawn. And you got a turn as the Dread Pirate Roberts, as if being a pirate isn’t a lifelong fantasy of mine. Yeah, you got to actually be on the set with, run lines with, and act in the same scenes with George Costanza and other characters from Seinfeld once. No big deal. Not like I wouldn’t light myself on fire to have had that opportunity. You got to match wits with Shawn and Gus as the mesmerizing, out-of-the-park home run recurring villain Despereaux in Psych. You even got to prove that when your role is a lame character, like Jerry on Liar, Liar, that you still make it totally unforgettable and quotable! You have the perfect looks, the sublime accent and the filmography I would die for.

And yet all of that apparently isn’t enough, as you have now signed on for Season 3 of Stranger Things. Why do you do this to me, Carey Elwes? Why do you take my perfectly content life and make me yearn for more? (Gowdy Cannon)


Clipping My Fingernails

I hate clipping my nails. It’s boring. it’s tedious, and it seems like I am having to do it more often these days. My nails just won’t stop growing! Why do they have to grow so fast? I’ll admit, I would hate NOT having nails because then my fingers would look like little fleshy protrusions growing out of my hands, but all this nail clipping is just a complete headache. Sadly, there is no good answer here. No nails and I’m a mutant. Long nails and I’m a creep. So I have to clip them. Fine nails! I’ll clip you on a regular basis but don’t expect me to be happy about it! (Phill Lytle)


Internet Lists

Do you know what we need a lot fewer of on the internet? Lists. Some lists are cool, such as this fine websites weekly list of musings from various contributors. I have benefited greatly from sitting down in the morning and creating a daily to-do list But I think the internet has really gotten out of hand and we need to stop. Every time I turn around someone is publishing some inane list of something and they are usually way more than just a few items. “Twenty-five reasons why the number two is cooler than the number eight” or “99 reasons that 1999 was the best year ever!” or “22 reasons that Barb from Stranger Things is the greatest character in the history of fiction”. I haven’t always felt this way. I remember when they celebrated 100 years of film with the top 100 movies of all time. I enjoyed watching that because it was compiled from years of cinema and it made me want to watch some movies that I had never before thought of watching. Now, however, we are just using lists willy-nilly as if they are some magic device that makes our opinion more valid. Why do we like making lists and looking at the lists of others? Is it because we like ranking stuff and seeing if others agree with us even if the things we are ranking aren’t that important and/or really don’t require any sort of ranking? Are we not content to have a group of stuff that we like that isn’t broken down somehow? Do we have to catalog every single aspect of our life and share it with other people and then find ourselves arguing over the ways their list is different than ours? Maybe it annoys me so much because I’ve caught myself ten points deep into a 35 point list that I saw on the internet and realized that my life will not be improved by knowing all of the times that Hurley from Lost proved himself to be the smartest person on the island. Lists are not bad. Lists are fine if used in moderation. But can we please show a little restraint on our usage of lists.

I hope you will revisit the site next week when I publish my list of 19 reasons why I believe that The Walking Dead is all happening inside Jack from Lost’s head. (Jonathan Postlewaite)




BREAKING: Donald Trump Issues Comprehensive Apology

Washington D.C – In an impromptu moment of transparency, one that is without precedent in modern politics, President Trump spoke to the nation last night and issued the following apologies:

“I would like to apologize that my economic initiatives have produced record low unemployment for 14 states, and near record lows for many, many others. Not to mention how many new jobs were created in my first year in office. I feel terrible that so many more people are having to work for a living. I would further like to apologize that my racist policies have created the lowest unemployment rate for the African American and Hispanic communities in the history of our country. My bad. That’s on me folks. Also, it’s totally my fault that the stock market continues to break record after record in gains. If there was something I could do to slow it down to Obummer level numbers, I would. This I can tell you.”

The President continued with off-the-cuff frankness.

“I feel terrible that for the first time in decades, my administration has actually pressured North Korea enough to bring them to the table to discuss denuclearization. Personally, I would love to live in a world where we constantly had to worry about that little guy (Kim Jong Un) having nukes at his disposal, but you can’t have everything you want. Well, I can but I’m super rich. But most people can’t have everything. Because they are not rich like me.”

President Trump closed his address with a few more moments of candor and self-reflection.

“I’m really sorry about the tax cuts. It was a great idea because it would be letting so many people keep more of their money. But the results were not that great. Not that great. Your average middle-class family will only get about $1,000 to $2,000 of benefits from this tax cut. San Fran Nan (Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) said that these cuts are like crumbs to most people. I am rich so I agree with her on that. Obviously. I was hoping it would be a lot more but people in this country make so little money they couldn’t get a bigger tax break. People just need to do a better job of being rich. It’s not that hard to be rich. Just inherit a lot of money. DONE! You know what I’m saying? Anyways, that’s all I have for today. I can make this promise though – I will continue to do everything I can, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my tweeting and golf, to make America great again. We’re getting there. We are winning right now but we will win even more in the future. Just so much winning we are all going to get tired of it.”




The Other Stories of J.R.R. Tolkien

Considered by many as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for his two masterpieces of the fantasy genre: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Yet the good professor wrote so much more than just those two great books. With the recent announcement of a previously unpublished story by Tolkien that is to be released this August (The Fall of Gondolin), we felt this was a good time to shine the light on some of his lesser-known works. Ben Plunkett, Nathan Patton, and Phill Lytle discuss some of their favorite “other” stories by J.R.R. Tolkien. After you read their recommendations, stick around and tell us about the other Tolkien stories that you love in the comment section below.


The Silmarillion – Benjamin Plunkett

 

To make a huge understatement, J.R.R. Tolkien was a slow and very meticulous writer. It took him 14 years to write The Lord of the Rings. That right there is a very long time for an already published author to write a novel for an expectant editor. But that has got nothing on his writing of the text of what would become The Silmarillion. He began working on it in 1917 during World War I and kept on working on it until his death in 1973. His son, Christopher, took up the task of compiling the many texts that would ended up becoming what we now have. It was as a soldier in the trenches that Tolkien started composing the vast and rich mythology of the Middle Earth universe. The Silmarillion begins at the literal creation of Middle Earth. Much of the rest of it discusses the history of the elves, with the other races playing very key roles throughout time.

As you probably know, elves are immortal so although the book spans many thousands of years, there are elves most readers will be familiar with who were living at the time of LOTR, which chronicles a story that comes at the tail end of The Silmarillion.

Like the LOTR story, many of the stories herein are expounded upon more fully elsewhere. But don’t think of The Silmarillion as just a book of summaries. It is a masterpiece. It is probably my second favorite Tolkien book after LOTR. There is so much more of rich complexity than I have mentioned here. There is so much more depth. There is the Ainur, Beleriand, Glaurand, Hurin, Morgoth, the rings of power, Gondolin—and these are only the tip of the iceberg. But if you are not familiar at all with The Silmarillion, be warned: It does not read like a regular novel. It is first and foremost a history of Middle Earth which gives Tolkien’s vast mythological creation an incredible richness.


Mr. Bliss, Roverandom, and Letters From Father Christmas – Nathan Patton

 

Many of Tolkien’s books began as stories that he told to his own children, inspired by events in the lives of their family.

Mr. Bliss

In 1932, Tolkien went out and bought himself a motorcar and, evidently, had a series of misadventures with it that inspired this tale.

This is a silly story about a man named Mr. Bliss who buys a motorcar on a whim and experiences rather ridiculous events as a result. It is a delightful and charming read. We also see our first glimpse of Sergeant Boffin and Gaffer Gamgee, whose names, at least, we will see again in Lord of the Rings.

Sadly, this book is out of print. Even the 2007 25th anniversary edition is no longer available. (However, the audiobook version, read by the excellent Sir Derek Jacobi, is quite affordable on audible.) If you can manage to find a copy, though, you really should read the hardback edition, as it contains copies of the entire original manuscript including many original illustrations by Tolkien himself.

Tolkien had originally attempted to have Mr. Bliss published as a picture book, but his publishers deemed it too expensive at the time.

Roverandom

In 1925, the Tolkien family took a holiday to the Yorkshire coast where a five-year-old Michael Tolkien lost his favorite toy: a miniature lead toy dog.

Papa Tolkien, in order to console his heartbroken son, told him the tale of what happened to that toy dog afterward. That story became Roverandom.

It turns out that the toy used to be a real dog named Rover, who got on the bad side of a grumpy wizard and found himself turned into a toy as a punishment. That toy spent some time with a nice young boy who unfortunately misplaced him on the beach. The toy dog then meets a “sand-sorcerer” who sends him on a series of adventures including a trip to the moon and a journey under the sea.

Unlike Mr. Bliss, Roverandom is still in print and widely available.

Letters From Father Christmas

Starting in 1920, when John Tolkien, the eldest child, was three, every Christmas the Tolkien children received a letter from Father Christmas detailing the happenings at the North Pole that year. His primary companion is the North Polar Bear who is continually getting into mischief. Later letters include Snow-elves, Red Gnomes, Snow-men, Cave-bears, and the North Polar Bear’s nephews. There’s even an attack by Goblins attempting to raid Father Christmas’ cellars.

This book contains the letters from 1925 through 1938 as well as the final letter and a short note from the North Polar Bear written in an invented alphabet based on Goblin drawings. Each letter is accompanied by illustrations by Tolkien himself.

We, as a family, traditionally read the letters, one per day, in the days leading up to Christmas.

Like Mr. Bliss, the hardcover version is the way to go with Letters From Father Christmas as it includes copies of the original letters and illustrations; however, it is also, like Mr. Bliss, seemingly out of print.


The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien – Phill Lytle


Professor Tolkien is my favorite author of all time, and much of that is due to his two most popular works The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But my love for his writing goes well beyond those two. Tolkien was a prodigious letter writer, a skill-set that I fear is quickly becoming extinct. He wrote letters to friends, to family members, to fans, and to publishers. This book – The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien – selects some of the best correspondence to and from the great author. His wit is on full display throughout the book. His passion for language, faith, and family is evidenced as well. Tolkien was a man of strong beliefs and not so insignificant stubbornness. His back-and-forths with his publishers are a highlight of the book. Perhaps the best moments though, are when he engages with fans or his family and you can see the teacher, the father, and the deeply committed believer shining through. This book does a fabulous job of adding insight and clarity to his other books once you see the man behind the words.