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Stress Bubbles


Years ago I managed a stable/equestrian center in central Texas as a side job to my public safety career. I enjoyed it immensely, and someday I’ll return to a more agrarian setting. I have a dream to take in abused horses and let them live out the rest of their lives in peace. Wouldn’t that be amazing?


But I digress. This is a story about stress bubbles, which I believe will help heal the world.


Back at the ranch (circa 1998), a woman who had been boarding her quarter horse mare approached me one evening to ask if she could skip the stable fee for a month or two. Now, a good boarder is a valuable asset for a small stable business, and a client who has run into a bit of financial difficulty isn’t someone to simply throw off the property, horse and all, just because she got a little behind with the payments. Besides, she’d come to me with an alternative proposition. She, too, ran a business, and she offered to barter stable fees in exchange for two spectacular birthday parties for the boys.


She was in the bouncy-house rental trade, and she had a beauty of a line including a bouncy-house castle, a bouncy-house pirate ship, and a bouncy house…um…square. The boys were three and four at the time, and I thought it a grand idea to let the boarder host unforgettable parties for each of them when it came their turn. A deal was struck.


Full disclosure: Neither boy remembers their party. I remember the second one like it happened in 1998 and still haunts me today.


We had fun, but it was also super stressful. Children’s birthday parties are already high tension as a general rule, which is why so many parents walk around with sippy cups filled with Gray Goose and pineapple juice, thinking no one else knows why they keep sucking on Pikachu’s head. Add in two bouncy houses, with all the liability and inevitable fractures, and the deal I struck no longer seemed sound. Then the pump for the air-blow-up thing gave out, at which point the castle and the square went as limp as a sock with holes at both ends. I’d horse traded and gotten a cracked-hoof, bloated-belly nag with bad teeth that had been put up wet.


I’d had it at the end of that day, and I recall there was discussion of boxed wine and/or of trying in earnest to learn which mushrooms growing out in the pasture were of the mellowing-out kind and which were of the poisonous variety. I’m not sure I cared much one way or the other at that point.


That was when I spied the bottles of bubble solution we’d handed out as party favors. They sat in little blue and yellow bottles on a Batman table cloth, ripped and drenched hours earlier in the first of two rain showers that day, amidst the clutter of bent and leaking cardboard cups (the kind with the fold-out finger holder loops which are splendidly useless at a kid’s birthday party), spilled Hawaiian Punch, and one forlorn hotdog that would remain uneaten because it had fallen in the dirt on the way to the castle.


On a whim—because by then I only had energy left for one or two whims—I unscrewed one of the little blue bottles and blew a damn bubble. Because, truly, I’d had it, and blowing one stupid bubble seemed like something to do instead of stab the castle and the square…repeatedly.


One bubble blow, that’s all it took, and suddenly I realized I was staring at something designed by God to be mesmerizing and produce a smile. HE knows his stuff when it comes to things like bubbles, and half a dozen bubble lofts later, I’d ascended out of my little birthday party hellhole and felt like a dad once more.


I learned something that day; that bubble blowing is as good a way to blow off steam as just about anything else. No kidding, I kept a bottle with me for the next twenty-something years. It got me through car chases, shootouts, child abuse and murder investigations, and parenthood.


I am in no way disparaging wine or ganja, meditation or medication, monthly massage or weekly yoga. All I’m saying is that blowing bubbles once in a while sure can’t hurt. A bottle for every human being on Earth, I say. I bet we’d see world peace in less time than it takes to blow up a pirate ship.


Those of you who follow this blog know Melissa and I are about to be grandparents for the first time. We could not be more thrilled or excited. Soon I’ll take my son his first bottle of “dad bubbles.” He’s gonna need them.


Be well, my friends. Enjoy your spring.

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