2013 Resolutions . . .

As 2012 ticks to nothing but memory, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the year that was and put things ahead to the year that might be. The following are my 13 resolutions for the coming year. Now - keep in mind - I do NOT make "resolutions " each year. I have made only a handful in my entire life. To "resolve" to do things is to imply we can change . . . and we can't (no offense, Linda). But we can try to improve on ourselves, right? Without further adieu here are a baker's dozen ways I'm going to enhance my behavior toward my best self . . .

  1. I will eat less CheezIts (and other things). I gained a shit load (that is an actual unit of measurement, I think) of weight in 2012. It was a stressful and frustrating year but I'm making excuses in saying that. I lost 300 pounds between 2007 and 2009. Time to get this creeping heft back off again. This will involve less food in and more movement out. I get that. I'm ready for that. The ladies like me leaner, right? Right. 
  2. I'm going to slowly remove myself from the Twitterverse. Not only because the word itself is super annoying but because I dumped Facebook last year and it is time to do the same with Twitter. I'm working on my real life - the digital version needs less attention.
  3. I'm going to get divorced. I've been in this grey area since late 2010. We told our families a year ago. It is time. We both - and the daughter we share - deserve better. Let's begin our own lives in this new year. The ladies like me single, right? Right. (And on this use, I shall retire the joke.)
  4. I'll roll my eyes no more than 10x/therapy session. My therapist is a dreadful, dreadful woman who has extensive credentials, my best interest at heart, and is being paid to challenge the way I think, talk, behave, and view the world. Time to start honoring those things and treat her with a little respect. But only if she gets some better magazines for the Gee-Dee waiting room. Cosmopolitan? Really? That helps self esteems everywhere, I'm sure. Dullardly woman with the horrible shoe collection!
  5. I'm going to "Go East" more often. I need more time with my family and I need to see my college and my DC friends. Time to get back parts of my life I've shed over the last decade. Mark my words - my PERSONAL travel will skyrocket this year.
  6. The words "penis" and "vagina" will no longer make me giggle. I've been alive nearly 37 years. The words were never actually funny. It is time to acknowledge that.
  7. I will stop saying "_______ makes me want to kill myself." or "If ________________, I will kill myself." or anything more of the sort. Much like the tween version of me that referred to everything/everyone as "retarded" - I just needed a little perspective to realize what a horrible, horrible "throw away" expression the above really is. Let's all stop. 
  8. I'm going to see more movies. I used to LOVE going to the ciniplex (?) for entire weekend days and seeing four or five movies in a row. I can get back to that and it FEELS like the need for Hollywood to simply continue, reboot, reimagine, prequel, and otherwise rehash old ideas is falling away. That and Fast Six is coming out in May, bitches!
  9. I will start directly confronting people who were berets in public for irony or genuine want versus just muttering about them from afar. This policy will exclude any/all military personnel.
  10. There will be progress made on my vision for a microhome community somewhere in the Wichita vicinity. We do not all love these 6000 square foot houses that look like every other one on the cul de sac and we don't all want to live in high rise apartments either. Energy and space efficiency should be something we welcome here in the heartland.
  11. I'm going to steal a work of art from a public/semi-private place (office building, government facility, Denice Bruce's home, etc.). And I will love it and display it in my home. And return it, eventually. Maybe.
  12. Host at least 12 game nights at the apartment. At LEAST. Time to finally shame Mary at Connect4. I think she cheats.
  13. Genuinely enjoy life, people, time, and opportunity more than I have in years. This is a perennial challenge and commitment. But this. Is. The. Year.  
There you go. My resolutions. I hope you make the most of New Year's Eve. Kiss someone you love (or call them and tell them as much). Do NOT drive if you've been drinking. Hit the ground running tomorrow and please, for the love of G-d, no FAD diets. Stay curvy, baby. We love you best that way!


Les Beaux . . .

In the second-to-last reader-suggested post of 2012, I wanted to give my thoughts on lesbians. Yes. Just thoughts on homosexual females. Any and all of these thoughts follow . . .

1) I have no actual thoughts on lesbians. I never found them a "double your pleasure" treat in late-80s/early-90s porn. I don't find them awkward or horrifying. I don't find them to be any more or less interesting, as couples or sexual oriented individuals than I do as individuals.
2) I wish they, like their gay male counterparts, could enjoy the full rights and privileges of their heterosexual counterparts. And by that I don't mean marriage, specifically. While that would be NICE - I would MUCH rather see things like easier paths to parenting, access to medical and financial benefits, health insurance coverages, the ability to make decisions in medical crises, etc. Marriage is something heterosexuals, like me, have been casual in our dedication and have largely ruined the institution anyway. More than half of them end in divorce. Being able to truly love, provide for, protect, and structure a life together is far more important (in my never humble opinion).
3) I think lesbians are far more socially "acceptable" (and by that I mean the small minds are less freaked out by the ladies than the fellas) because of the way they have been stereo-typed and portrayed by the media.
4) Subarus are fantastic cars. I can see why "those people" love them so much. I kid - but the sales figures don't.
5) I've said it before, I'll say it again - homophobia is the stupidest of ALL the phobias. At least an arachnophobic COULD be attacked by a spider.

I think that is it. Every thought I've ever had on Lesbians.

I want to congratulate my friends Jenny and Aimee on their non-binding, ceremonial nuptials that will take place in the next few days and I want to, more importantly, thank them for being a couple that seems to really, truly enjoy and love each other (in all the strains and joys that come with the label) and for being such wonderful souls to spend time with.


I Made My Bed . . .

Another reader suggested post of the year is an interesting challenge that I was happy to dig in to . . . The question (paraphrased) was "How do (I) reconcile myself to the reactions of others to (my) unpopular choices and decisions?"

This one is actually very simple (shockingly enough considering I can do 800 words on my favorite thing about Arbor Day) . . . I don't care. I don't mean to imply I am apathetic to the world around me (I sorta' am) or that I think my critics are below/beneath me (7:9 are) or that I don't think I can occasionally make mistakes (I'm laughing/crying over the mere idea). The reality is that criticism (constructive or c-wordy) is vital to me. I live for it and I am truly a better person for it but I don't absorb the observations/feedback/input of others in a way that forces any rectification  Why? I make decisions, chose paths of action, and say things based on a very quick analysis of what is BEST FOR ME IN THE CONTEXT OF THOSE DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN MY DECISION.

Let me give a few examples . . . I try to minimize swearing on Twitter. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a certified vulgarian in my real life but I have lots of folks that I truly enjoy that don't love the four-letter-tossers in their stream. I try to respect that. But I make no apologies when I do let a good one fly. Better example? I can't bring myself to quit things even if I'm beyond annoyed, feel I'm being ignored, have no clear path on how to rectify things, and I don't think I'm being respected? Why. I typically think it is when you are surrounded by people that frustrating that you HAVE to stick it out. They can't "do it" without you. They are in their own way not your way. Really? That example sucks? Fine. How about THIS - I don't say, think, or do anything (except when the lights are low (giggidy)) without thinking about Ava anymore. Would she be proud of me? Does this give me and her a better shot to be happy? Sure there are moments that fall well short but a MAJORITY of those are in contexts that she will never see/hear/experience. And the rest of them . . . I'll explain it to her some day. And hope she understands. I try to think of my parents in the same context. I used to put Joy at the center of my decisions. I'm not ALOOF to the rest of you - I just don't think most of you have enough "skin in the game" to get a real "say." Nothing personal.

I live my own life by my own standards and I'm very comfortable with this position. I think I'm at/slightly above average intelligence. I have book and street smarts. I have a good understanding of history, business, politics, religion, time, and space. I allow all those factors to come in to my thinking and to even help direct it. I don't break laws. I don't hurt people. I don't steal. I don't cheat. I don't jaywalk (often). I'm not putting my wants and needs disparately far before others (remember - I put myself in the context of those involved in my decisions).

I think we'd ALL be happier if we stopped allowing everyone to have a (literal or figurative) "say" in our decisions. If we made up our own minds on what is "right" or "wrong" for us while being AWARE of the people impacted, I think we would be happier, they would be happier, we'd all improve as a group dynamic, and there would be less crime and/or punishment accordingly.


Chivalry Should Die, My Good Lady . . .

In one of the final reader suggested posts of 2012, I take a look at the notion and the VALUE of chivalry in the year 2012 - and beyyyyyoonnnnnnddddd (voice trailing off and echo effect turned on)!

Some background - two friends sent me a link to an article about Mitt Romney's "woman problem" in the 2012 election. Their proposed post was far more direct - talk about Mittens. My response? Let's talk about ALL of us . . .

Here's the thing - in my personal life I'm a RAGING liberal. I believe we should take care of those in need, I believe the governments should prop us up when we are down, I think our civil liberties should be kept in the context of the larger good, etc. I do not believe we're all created equal (maybe we once were but the poker chips have been reassigned over time). I think we should do more to ensure that we all have an equal chance at success. NO WHERE in that position, does the world need chivalry.

Let me clarify before you hairy-pitted, sandal wearers (crass dismissive stereo-type inserted for fun and frivolity) get your sensible cotton panties in a bunch . . . I'm NOT attacking employment practices that fall within affirmative action and I'm NOT condoning sexual harassment in the work place. I'm NOT pro rape or objectification of women (despite my previous post about women that make me crotch happy). I'm NOT saying women should all be barefoot, pregnant, and in the proverbial kitchen (or the literal). I'm talking about SOCIAL chivalry here.

The notion that men "should" hold the door for a lady. That we "have" to take her by the arm as we walk a crowded street, that we "might" let them order first at the table or HORROR OF HORRORS we "could" even order for them. I tried this once on a date. Early in my adult years. I actually said "The lady will have . . . " and the woman grabbed her purse and left. It's cool - I ate what I ordered for her when it arrived. (post script - I was KIDDING in the gesture but my sense of humor was not as finely tuned then as it is now)

That being said, my mother and father raised me right. I WANT to hold the door (I'll do it for a man or a woman). I would LIKE to help people through a crowded street (I don't take a dude's (said to establish heterosexual discomfort) arm), I usually let the person the waitstaff looks at first order first and I don't actually think for a second that any woman is even aware of these things. Because if she is, I've failed.

It is not the GESTURES of chivalry I have a problem with. It is the MANDATE of them. It flies in the face of being genuine and sincere. It falls short of making a woman feel truly special because you're doing these things for her. It makes you look like you think she's weak, needy, submissive, or - worse - in to that sort of treatment. And if you are, ladies . . . oy. You poor things were born too late. Our manners have sailed in this world. Except in the Deep South, maybe.

I'll say this - let's forget chivalry and the "need" for it and, instead, focus more energy on how you women can take better care of each other and support each other more and be more kind to each other. Let the fellas off the hook a little bit and stop talking trash, making each other insecure, allowing each other to make you insecure (I got you, self esteem queens and Life Coaches (capital letters to show respect for a bullshit profession)). Maybe some of you should take more time to hold the door for each other, help each other through a crowded environment, and order for each other at the restaurant.

And cut the crap with the salads. We know you do not WANT to eat one. Maybe that is why men used to order for you.


Merry Christmas, Yuns . . .

Well. It is here - once again - that day that so many have been talking, typing, Tweeting, baking, saving, shopping, and Facebooking about since August. You've spent your money. You've made your plans. You've burned or built your bridges. You've loosened your sans-a-belt pants. You're awake. Hell - if you're like most Americans it is alllllll over by now. Regardless, from a former Christian to my largely-Christian Nation MERRY CHRISTMAS!

You will probably expect me to be cynical here. Talk about how silly you all are for your gifts and your traditions and your stockings hung with care and you'll probably expect me to talk about how annoying all of you are. Nope. Not going to happen. Fact is - I love the promise of today.

I don't care what you call the customs, trappings, habits, behaviors, or quirks of today. The stuff that makes you warm and gushy or that makes you livid at your core - they all boil back to one thing . . . tradition. Somewhere in your family's lexicon someone decided that Christmas Eve dinner would be all appetizers. That you would each open one gift before bed. Sleep was minimal. You would do Santa Stockings, Santa gifts, big breakfast, family gifts. That you would take turns and go round-and-round, one gift at a time until every gift was opened. That you would have no cell phones. But if the home phone rang, you would answer it "Merry Christmas" and everyone would talk as long as they wanted. Somewhere, somehow - that happened. Or it did at The Amore home. I don't know what, if any, of the above traditions live on in my parent's home or in the homes of my brothers. None of them followed to the Amore home that I built with Joy and Ava. We had our own things. They were special in their own right. Every house and home - even those people who are "alone" (Grrrrrrrr!) have TRADITIONS. And they all, for all of our bitching about the secular commercialization of Christmas, boil back to the original Christmas miracle - the Gift.

I'm no biblical scholar (take a minute, let it soak in) but here's what I think Christmas was once about. There was sin. We were all going to hell. We had it on us from the errors of Adam and Eve. But God (this is Christian lore here, we'll talk Judeo or Islamic theory some other time) said "I'll give you f*ckers one shot. Here's my son." and that was the whole thing. I don't know that Jesus hanging on the cross for our sins was the point of His Only Son. I think it was the birth. Some kid freezing his duckus off in the Middle East (hey, it could happen) while his earthly parents did their best to surround him with love, warmth, family, and charity. It was the HOPE and the PROMISE that we could be, even in rags/swaddling clothes/whatever, warm, loved, enveloped, cherished, and excited about what was to come. We do NOT need much. We just need a little time, a little space, a little promise of a better tomorrow, and a dude to crucify (I kid, I kid - but seriously), and maybe a few family and friends and piles of gifts around us to keep us in touch. To keep us renewing that promise. To keep us hopeful and warm and bright.

This year has been crazy. A record number of people, for me, have lost children, husbands, fathers, wives, families, savings, homes, jobs, marriages. It has happened in blessed ways and horrible happenings. I often wonder if we go through these stages (like when moderately famous people die in threes (I always get nervous for Betty White)) in our life for a reason. If the sufferings of those around us (even good people suffer - just ask Job) is somehow intended not just to make them stronger but also for US, as observers, to feel more appreciative for what we have. And that is why today is here, in my never humble opinion. To bring us back to the table. To bring us to the ones we love (even if only in voice, Tweet, status, or "like") and to remind us that it is going to begin again, go through another cycle, become part of lore and tradition. Be something eventually celebrated if only the honor and memory of those no longer with us.

Now - stop bitching about your family and Netflix being down, get off the friggin' computer. Go have another slice of pie and hug the shit out of your Grandma. And give her my number. Seriously.


How Was Your 2012? . . .

I always enjoy the last days of each year MAINLY for the exhaustive number of "best" and "worst" and "recap" lists of the year that was. I'm not going to lie - 2012 was NOT my best year. Personally, professionally, emotionally, etc. It was not my worst (and I will have worse, I'm sure) - but simply not my best.

I've cried very little this year. Stubborn resolve, I suppose, as much as anything. I don't like the notion that the only thing I can do is throw up my hands and let my hydration be challenged. But I've always been comfortable with the happy tears that come from being pleasantly surprised or touched in unexpected ways (no, not like that).

This video? This video left me a slobbering, blurry-visioned mess.

I hope whatever happened to/for/from/around/within you in the last twelve months was informative, impactful, enriching, and worth it. Let's all take some time in these last days of 2012 to reflect back (no need for video montages, if you don't have the time) to honor the year that was and set ourselves up for a strong 2013.



Firewall . . .

How much better would THIS be than the stupid "stress balls" that got me through my 20s? Or the Paxil that I swallowed for my mid-30s? And what will I do to stay calm in the rest of this decade and the ones that come? Is the world really ending tomorrow? Did any one REALLY think that toddler-snatching-eagle video was real? Do the girls from 2 Girls 1 Cup have any regrets? Why am I freaking out?!

Firewall from Aaron Sherwood on Vimeo.

The Best Part About Getting Older . . .

I don't know exactly when it happened that I stopped being a "young" man in terms of how the world or treated perceived me. I would assume, much like our collective awareness that Gwyneth Paltrow simply can NOT act, it happened over time. It was another year of aging for me, View From the Top for her. etc. I'm not one of those neurotic people (and, to clarify, it is NOT my birthday nor are we anywhere near it (put the cake, candles, and noise makers down) that obsesses over these things. Hell - I'm not even BOTHERED to be perceived as old. In a weird way, I'm thrilled. 

I think I have always been "old" in my old head. I have always dressed like an old man. I've never really enjoyed the trappings of the young and spirited (fads, trends, catchy music, the ability to identify each of the Kardashian sisters, etc.). I've never really wanted to rage against the aging process. I'm too lazy and disinterested to even worry about my grey beard and balding head. I spend more time looking at life insurance, IRA options, 529 accounts, and the clearance section at Jos A. Bank than I do online porn (but let's be clear - I spend a lotta' time looking at porn too. Divorce is rough, yo!).

I would hold back one thing . . . I'm living proof that aging and maturity are not the same thing. I just made back to back porn jokes. NO ONE is confusing me for a real ADULT at this point. But I do have things that make me adult like. I've graduated from college and earned my master's degree. I fell in love. I courted a woman and got married. I became a father. I bought and sold a few homes. I have built a career I am proud of. I'm an uncle. I'm separated. I'm getting divorced. I have a hair line SPRINTING away from my eyebrows. My beard is way more salt than pepper. I read for fun, again. I can't even tell you who is on the Top 40 charts. I don't even care what TV shows people are talking about. I plan on seeing Les Miserables. ON CHRISTMAS. I'm old. I'm boring. My kid seems fine with that. My parents seem to appreciate it. The friends that tolerate me seem to be comfortable in my life status. 

But the key takeaway here is that the rest of the world is finally seeing me the way I've always seen myself. Old. Grumpy. Grizzled. Wise (hence the photo of sage - above and to the left - bonus points if you got that on your own). I'm glad you all caught up. I'm glad you joined me on this plain of awareness. 

Because that is the BEST part about getting older. You are finally in a position where people can come to you. You're not chasing the love, affections, acceptance, and support of a majority of the world. Every day age, get older, move ahead, advance - that is one less day you have to earn. Lessons learned and filed away. Mistakes made, remedied (in theory) and the lessons/morals processed. You have one more day behind you. One more thing seen. One more thing done. That's one less thing in front of you. That's one less chance to misstep, err, or get distracted. You get what my meanings are. 

The BEST part about getting older is that you're no longer young. You're established. You're able to guide those who are following you - and THEY are the ones with risks, errors, missteps, distractions, trendy distractions, etc. that you can help them through. THEY are the ones you can prevent from wasting all that time on bad porn. 


Sean's Top 10 "Heynow" Women of The Moment . . .

Another user-recommended post today (and I'll apologize here if anyone is offended. But I won't really mean it. And you should not really be offended.) . . . I was asked to list the women that make my blackened, dead heart go pitter-patter (different words were used but I softened the tone and intent for your reading pleasure). Here, at urging of at least one very strange reader, are my ten favorite ladies in world of women (that I think you'll all know - in reality there are lots of not-so-household-names that I prefer but that is another blog post altogether). Yes. I know some of these choices are creepy (who is on YOUR list?) and I also know (pain in heart) that I'll never meet or stand a chance with anyway. Let the lusting begin . . .

10) Melissa McCarthy
AGE - 42
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly
WHY I LURVE HER - She's super funny, very sweet in demeanor, and has eyes that you can actually bathe in. Not literally. Figuratively.
9) Christina Hendricks
AGE - 37
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - Mad Men (Let's be honest.)
WHY MY HEART LUSTS FOR HER - Not since the actual hour glass was conceived has the world known such physics-defying dimensions. And she's sexy. Sex. E.

8) Jennifer Coolidge
AGE - 50
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - American Pie OR the Christopher Guest movies (not a ton of audience overlap here, right?)
WHY I THINK SHE'S LOVELY - Um. She IS. The "original" MILF. And still the champ.

7) Adele
AGE - 24
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - 21. And any time you turned on the radio in 2011 and early 2012.
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - 19. I was early on the bandwagon.
WHY SHE DESERVES MY CREEPY ADORATION - She's wayyyyy too young for me. I get that. I accept that. But she seems to have a maturity beyond her years and her voice sounds actual, liquid butter. If you've never seen her live concert DVD, watch it. You'll be smitten by the end. And perhaps in tears.

6) Debra Monk
AGE - 63
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - Statistically, you probably don't but you've seen her in a MILLION TV shows and in various roles, etc.
WHY I THINK SHE'S LOVELY - I'm not totally sure (she's probably an equally odd choice as Adele) but she is beautiful and always seems so kind and sweet. If I had to pin it, I THINK it is because she loved/married Sipowicz and helped him through his darkest phase on NYPD Blue. My heart will always perk up for strong women who can see the good in flawed men. Very attractive. Especially to us men with the good stuff hidden way, way inside.

5) Monica Bellucci
AGE - 48
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - You probably do not but you should. She was Persephone in The Matrix and she was Mary Magdalene in The Passion of Christ.
WHY I KNOW SHE'S BEAUTIFUL - An Italian woman needs only the credentials of being an Italian woman (duh) but Ms. Bellucci goes well beyond basic minimums. She's curvy in all the right ways and if you've never heard her speak Italian . . . oh . . . you're not living.

4) Meryl Streep
AGE - 63
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - She's Meryl friggin' Streep!
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - Sophie's Choice is the first movie I remember her in but I fell (hard) for her in The Bridges of Madison County
WHY SHE'S IN MY TOP FIVE - She's beautifully and brillitant, she's friends with Hillary Clinton (there you go, Jill), she's humble, and speaks with just enough affectation to keep it interesting. She's sort of sexy in a hard to adjectivize way too.

3) Susan Sarandon
AGE - 66
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - I don't know . . . Rocky Horror Picture Show or anyone of the other countless movies and/or political stands she has made
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - Bull Durham and White Palace
WHEN I BEGAN MY OBSESSION - Bull Durham. And White Palace. She may truly be more beautiful now than she was 10, 20, or 30 years ago (she reminded me of her allure in Arbitrage this fall) but there is something just . . . yeah. Yeah. Susan Sarandon. Yeah. Call me. Seriously. That kid you play ping pong with can't last forever.

2) Nigella Lawson
AGE - 52
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - Her cookbooks and/or Food Network or other TV appearances and shows
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - I don't know but she's just sorta' always been "there"
WHY I LOVE HER - Boobs. Curves. The fact that she can make pouring a glass of water sexy in the way she talks about it. The accent. The boobs. The curves. The fact that she can make pouring a glass of water sexy in the way she talks about it. And her boobs. And her curves . . . I don't care, Ward's Wife, about her ears (smile)!

1) Connie Britton
AGE - 45
WHERE YOU KNOW HER FROM - Probably Nashville. Maybe Friday Night Lights. American Horror Story (season 1)?
WHERE I KNOW HER FROM - The Brothers McMullen. Yes. The movie that "gave us" Sarah Maclachlan also "gave" us Connie Britton. Yet you're just getting to her now, 17 years later. What the HELL?!
WHY SHE TOPS MY LIST - While far less curvy and a a little less bossomy than my normal cup of tea, Constance Womack (as the trivia nuts and creeps-like-me among us will already know) is stunning.  Simply stunning. There's not enough time or space on the World Wide Web for me to really elaborate beyond that. But  . . . stunning. That sums it up. And, unlike in EVERY advertising/marketing use - it is appropriate.

If you did NOT make the Top 10, ladies. Fret not. You're number 11. Or 12. Okay - ONE of you is number 89 but you're ALL on the list and, trust me, I love you best.


Crayons . . .

Another great reader-suggested post for today's blatherings. The question: Why do you like crayons so much, anyway? Well - sit back and relax. I'll tell you.

When I was a wee child (let's presume I was at least four since those are my earliest true and real memories) my favorite thing in the WORLD was to sit at a table with a piece of clean/blank construction paper (as we called it in my homeland) and a pile of crayons.

They could be a new, fresh box (the SMELL of that first open - so nice, so, so nice (also available as cologne here (No, I'm not kidding, click on the link) or it could be a coffee can full of broken, battered, labelless remnants or it could be the one or two less-desirable colors the kid across the table would kick to me but, no matter, I was happy.

Crayons were freedom. You could draw, write, shade, color, blend, invent, create and not even worry about going off the edges of the paper. You could put a yellow crayon across orange paper to get a weird shade of toxin or you could put black across white paper for lines so deep and clean you'd have thought they came pre-printed. I used to color, and color, and color as a kid. I remember giving and receiving them as gifts (the first time I got a box of 96, I wanted to actually MARRY the girl that gave them to me) and, speaking of romance, I can remember making Valentines with crayons. My friend Tristan's mother used to help us make candles out of old crayons.

I can not remember a time I did not OWN crayons. I kept them in my locker throughout junior high and high school. My drawers in college had boxes upon boxes. I wrote a paper in graduate school about how Crayola navigated the "corporate crisis" that was their Indian Red wax stick. I had them on hand the whole time I lived and worked in DC (in my desk at the office and in my apartment). I gave Joy's niece Lexy a 150 crayon, telescoping carousel as a way to hopefully make a great first impression (she was as unimpressed nine years ago as she is today, sadly). You can imagine how hard it was for me to not give an infant Ava crayons to just gnaw and otherwise expire upon. Today there are probably 300 crayons in my desk at work, 500 or so in my apartment, 100 or so in my car, and another "emergency" box of 8 in my nightstand.

I still have not answered the question of WHY I like them so much. Answer - simple - they are the easiest, cheapest, most readily available form of "color" on the market today and there is no one that doesn't just automatically know what to do the minute you put one in their hand. I've spent thousands of hours (I think that number may be fairly accurate) coloring, drawing, writing, and creating with crayons and I hope to never see the day that I don't immediately in good times and bad, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, etc. NOT grab for a box of crayons the minute I have a free minute.

What's NOT to love about that?


Sharing "Our" Loss . . .

Let's not beat around the bush - something horrible and unspeakable happened in rural, beautiful, otherwise-tranquil Connecticut on Friday. There is NO way to "explain" it. It will never be "understood" and there is no way to ever "accept" what happened, why it happened, or the motivations and reasons of the gunman (who is a subhuman piece of shit and if you even know his name, much less speak it, you're doing yourself and those dead children and adults a great disservice (Google the Samuel L. Jackson rant if you want more elaboration here)).

HERE is another way you are doing yourself and the lost a great disservice . . . by obsessing.

Do not misunderstand me. The death of anyone, much less the massacre style shootings of innocent educators and children, is a true loss that deserves to be felt, absorbed, thought upon, absorbed by, and otherwise washed over with BY THE FRIENDS, FAMILY, and COMMUNITIES that survive the loss. I know I'm emotionally damaged so I probably don't have a leg to stand on here (and feel free to comment on this post but please know I will not be debating proper mourning etiquette with any of you) but I don't understand why WE (as a collective American public) "need" to know the names, faces, basic bios, and general happenings of those killed. Fact - We do NOT. There is NO benefit to any of us in it. We won't sleep better. We won't feel better. We won't "heal" faster as a "nation" and we don't help defray the mourning or pain by knowing exactly who we are praying for and extending our hearts on behalf of.

I had a "moment" on Friday. While working for IBM, my then-wife and I owned a home in Bethel, CT. The town adjacent to Newtown. We looked at houses in Newtown. We almost sold our Bethel house and bought one in Newtown but, instead, moved here to Wichita. If we'd have bought a different house, and stayed in Connecticut, our daughter would have been IN THAT SCHOOL and perhaps (as a 1st grader - and I'm pissed at myself I even know enough to know that was the class massacred) IN THAT CLASSROOM the day that horrible sack of shit went in and did his worst. I was shaken by that. But only for a few hours. Then I was (again) able to say "Everything happens for a reason" and I was secretly thankful that Joy hated Connecticut and that I was a neurotic mess working for Big Blue and that we made the decision to move to be with Joy's family and to make friends here versus be alone in the Nutmeg State. It may have saved my daughter's life.

What is the point of that? Here's my ONLY take away from the shootings . . . that my daughter is fine. That YOUR daughter is fine. That YOU are fine (unless you are reading this in Newtown, CT and - in that case - my condolences on your loss). That THIS has very, very little to do with you beyond reminding you to be appreciative for what you have. These shootings did NOT happen to "us" as a people. They happened to a handful of families and a community that surrounds them. "We" are not impacted by these shootings beyond how we want to be (the mercy in that should not be lost on all you people obsessing and sharing what we do NOT know for whatever reason you feel the "need" to).

Here's what I want you people that are Tweeting, Facebooking, LinkedIning (word?), and otherwise blogging your rage and sadness over this incident, our gun laws, our failed justice system, or whatever else you are indignant about. STOP IT!

Seriously. STOP. Put the Internet, TV, newspaper, magazines, radio, and blogs down (or turn them off, more accurately). There is NO solace coming in the "continued coverage" of these media outlets. I could not even get ready for work today with my beloved KMUW-FM/NPR's Morning Edition as they seemed to be fixated on telling us all that there is still NOTHING known and that it could be a long time before any details emerge that can say we KNOW anything. Instead they, and so many other media outlets and so many individuals in Tweets (Friday is another day where I'm thankful to not have Facebook in my life) just do piece after piece after piece (I gave it three and then I turned it off, sorry Brianna) on what we don't know or rehashing the little we do. It reminded me of September 11, 2001 when the media had 15 seconds of total footage and just kept showing and showing and showing it (you know the footage - it is burned in your brains).

STOP watching. STOP obsessing. And for ALL that is good and holy STOP trying to make yourself part of this tragedy. GO hug your children. Call your kid's teachers and thank them for all they do for your children's general well being. Better  yet - take them all lunch today. Let's FLOOD our schools with lunch, gifts, support, and appreciation instead of calls about safety, guns, and estimates for metal scanners. Here's one better - if you want to let the teachers just teach . . . Talk to your children (tweens to late-60s) and see if they are really okay (and not in the context of Friday but in the context of their lives). If they are not - figure out what you can do with and for them. Don't let people hurt. Don't ignore what you can do while wasting energy on what you can NOT.

Need an active outlet for your self-imposed angst? Call a restaurant or floral shop or any business in Newtown - give them your credit card number and tell them the next $X spent in their store is on you. And demand you get no credit or recognition. Have some time later today where you think about someone in your life that may be sad, angry, anti-social, distressed, miserable, or otherwise unsteady and see if there isn't something you can do to protect them and the people around them. Call them. Go see them. Hug them. Urge them to get some help for their sadness or whatever is keeping them from "normalcy." Take this tragedy and turn it in to kindness. Don't waste your time with the misery. Focus your energy on trying to make sure your life is insulated and warm.

September 11th, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City, etc. All these dates and places have a thing in common . . . all have wonderful, beautiful, amazing things to offer but have been co-opted as the names of tragedies heaped on us by people who don't deserve our attention and pain and destruction for pockets of people who may never fully recover from what happened in their lives.

And here's another thing I might urge - enough with the gun policy blather. You're NOT going to get guns off the streets any more than you are drugs, or you're going to keep tobacco from kids, alcohol from pregnant women, and cats from unloved-feeling lonely women. Should we have regulations and safety measures in place? Sure. Why not. We already DO. Goodonya!

Know what else we should do? Fix mental health. Let's put every drop of our collective sadness in to demanding better access to, understanding of, and acceptance for mental health treatment and the professionals and patients that fuel the system. I've been in counseling, off and on, my entire life. Has it "fixed" me? Nope. Does it help? Yep. Does it keep me from just wallowing in whatever misery I feel? Every. Frigging. Day. And here's another one . . . let's make it the norm that parents don't just let their pathetically miserable children go off to school or out in the world with their problems because - hey - the parents did their best and that kid is 18 now. Bullshit. Bull. Shit. There is not a single person that has committed any of these acts that did not put some blood back on their parent's hands in their acts. I have one child. I pray NIGHTLY that she'll grow up to be well adjusted and generally happy (I know it won't be easy with the parents she has and the divorce she is surviving) but I will be damned if she's NOT happy and I just figure that she'll figure it out magically. Parenting never ends. Just ask my mother and father that leave me the sweetest, most loving and supportive voicemail messages EVERY time I ignore their calls (smile).

Let's recap . . .

1) Feel the loss in sympathetic terms vs. trying to make it about you.
2) Hug your children.
3) Thank our educators.
4) Do a mental checklist to see if everyone in your life is happy and healthy. If not - DO SOMETHING to help them.
5) Forget gun policy - focus on mental health policy.
6) Do something kind for someone today, tomorrow, Wednesday, etc. etc. etc.
7) Stop using the name of a fucking piece of shit who decided to waste all those bullets ending innocent lives versus just putting one through his own head like he cowardly did after his rampage anyway.
8) Have a nice day.

There. My thoughts on Newtown. As angry as you probably expected - and for THAT, I thank you.


Best Book of 2012 . . .

I have gone in streaks in my life where I read a ton and then I go for what seems like ages without reading anything. I can honestly tell you that being in formal education for nearly 20 straight years has both FORMED and DESTROYED my love of reading. At the ripe age of 36.5, I have a million excuses, distractions, and reasons (with varying degrees of validity even in my OWN head) to NOT read. One thing that I will make me MORE likely to read is if I can learn something and take something away from the book. It is this near-mandate that has my nightstand, Amazon wish list, bookshelves, toilet back (gross, I know), and even the time I spend in Watermark Books filled with NON FICTION with a special warm, soft, and glowy spot for narrative non fiction like the spectacular writings of Erik Larson with particular emPHAsis (on the wrong syLLAble) on my all-time favorite book The Devil in the White City.

I digress . . . again . . . the MORAL of the above paragraph is that something made up and spewed on paper better be pretty damned good to capture my attention much less be my favorite book of the year (a year in which I read more than I have in a long, long, time (11 books, if memory serves correctly NOT including my Jewish conversion texts or any work-related reading).

Enter the fantastic Gone Girl. The book is about something fairly simple - and completely complex. A married couple (Nick and Amy), with a troubled marriage, goes away to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary on the shores of the Mighty Mississippi and Amy just, well, disappears (enter the title Gone Girl).  There are signs that Nick may be responsible, but there are lots of things that Nick won't tell that might make him look less suspicious (I've always been horrible at talking about things like this without giving them away). The story, sort of a love story ("What are you thinking, Amy?" is the most common question asked of Amy by Nick, according to his narration) in many ways, jumps backward and forward and is narrated by both Nick and Amy and there are lots of fond memories between them, juxtaposed with extreme misery. Make no mistake - this is neither chick-lit NOR guy-reading. It is both.

There is dark humor, fantastic writing, suspense, sadness, hope, and murky waters of the mind, body, and river to carry you through the book and I promise you, by book's end, you will be as surely confused as you've been in a while. I think Gone Girl showcases the new form of "romantic love" between couples where sacrifice and expected sacrifice get complicated by indirect answers, doubt, and distrust between the people in that love. I do NOT think this book, in ANY way, echoes my failed marriage. In any way. I didn't see myself in Nick or Amy but it was intriguing, for me, to see that as much as my love has gone astray . . . it has not veered anywhere near as far of course as it did for Nick and Amy.

Read the book, love your spouse, be honest and direct in expectations, words, deeds, and response. That's all you can really do.


Kristmas with Krispy Kreme . . .

I don't think I ever wished for a box of brownie mix but - if that's what Krispy Kreme wants it (and Illmatic - maybe the only album of its genre that truly deserves all the hype it is bestowed and makes most of the rest of what Nas has given us all the more disappointing) I'll allow it!

What's on your wish list this year, kiddies?


GUEST POST - A Solitary Man . . .

We take a  break from my diatribes for a guest post from former colleague, current friend, and genuinely GREAT guy, Justin Hoppock (that's him, following in the footsteps of the Family von Trapp there to the right). 

To set the table - I recently used Twitter to request topics for blog posts and J-Hopp (as I like to occasionally call him) sent over a few ideas off the top of his head. Most were related to boobs (shocking, right?) but what struck me is that Justin ASKED if he could guest blog (a RESOUNDING yes to him and to ANYONE that might want to).

He told me that I could suggest a topic. Instead, I posed a challenge . . . 

My FAVORITE thing about your comfort w/ you. You travel alone, pick up and move, you're not married, you're not freaking out. Why is THAT?

So, why am I comfortable with myself? I’m not. At least, I don’t think so. I think I’m like everyone else…with maybe a little less fear. I have a million insecurities. Wrists skinnier than a 7th grade girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Sean! Girls don’t find that shit sexy. The thought of public speaking makes my windpipe cinch up. And everyone I know has qualities I covet.

I know what Sean is getting at and my best guess is a combination of confidence, a never ending desire for adventure, choosing what to believe and being a social-loner.

Confidence: Even though I fail every day and I question myself, I can always pull from a sturdy foundation of confidence my parents instilled in me as a child. My parents did everything they could to put me in positions to succeed. My successes instilled confidence and made me feel worthy. Whether it was Mom forcing me to study my spelling words every morning or Dad giving me the “hot spot” in the field when hunting pheasants…my parents were setting up the opportunity for success. I sure felt like hot shit, that first time I knocked down a bird in front of all the guys in my family. I still remember it clear as day. In a world that constantly looks for justification that I meet their definition of a man, I can look back on the validation my parents gave me. Maybe this is just a small part of the reason why I feel like I don't need a wife to validate that I'm a successful man.

Adventure: Life is so much fun…my excitement and internal desire to experience as much as possible overcomes any fears that I have. The more I travel, the more I realize how much I don’t know….and it creates a bigger desire to travel more.

Maybe I’m hard to satisfy. I get bored easily and need new challenges to look forward to. Adventures excite me more than the fear of anything else. I told my parents that my next big adventure will probably be Singapore and Thailand. A couple of months later, they brought up their concern of me traveling there alone. Why doesn’t it seem scary to me? Maybe I think I’m invincible. Maybe I think, if something bad happens to me, it’s an opportunity for me to learn from that story and be a tougher person. That bad thing, while it sucked at the time, made my story more interesting. Maybe that’s what freaks me out…that my life will become uninteresting. And nobody will want to read my story.

Choosing What to Believe: I'm not even going to attempt to try and explain myself here. I will suggest, keeping an open mind, challenging social norms, thinking for yourself, saying "yes" as much as possible and reading  anything by the Dalai Lama helps me.

Social-Loner: Maybe I'm just more of a loner than most people. I love learning from my co-workers, making new friends, listening to Sean's stories, but I also enjoy going to the bar on a Tuesday night and watching the game without having to engage with anyone. Balance is key - everything in moderation, right? I can't answer why I don't feel like I need somebody with me at the bar to justify my existence...I just don't care if somebody thinks I'm weird. I enjoy my alone time. People can get on my nerves and sometimes I'd rather be alone with my thoughts. However, I do agree that it is more fun to have adventures with someone. To be able to look into a friends' eyes and say one line that takes us back in time and brings a smile to our faces is...(insert MasterCard cheesiness here). 

So if I like being alone, why go to the bar? I like being where the action is at. I like being around people and taking in life. Sometimes I just don't feel like engaging. Life is beautiful and I like to be out in it experiencing it.

If I know that it's more fun to share adventures with friends, why do I travel alone? I can be selfish, controlling and don't like to sacrifice my wants. I'm not a very giving person (one of those qualities I see in others that I covet).

Those rationales are my best guesses. Below are questions I try to remember to ask myself when making a decision about what I should do next.

“If somebody were to write a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?”
“Life is short, if it doesn't make you happy, why are you doing it?”

Did I come close to answering your question, Sean?


Yes, sir. You did. And then some. THANK YOU for sharing your perspective and for being one of the most fearless (and skinniest, as you pointed out) dudes I've ever had the company to get to know. As T.I. once said - live your life (eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-ehhhhhh.) 


The Nutcracker . . .

One of the few real "traditions" we have in our little family is The Nutcracker. For five straight years, Ava has sat in the seats at Friends University and watched a group of very talented students (at Friends and younger) and a few random professionals alllll the way from New York City (echoes Newyawkcity?) dance one of the most beautiful and random (Mother Gingerbread, anyone?) of the holiday traditions enjoyed not only in the 3-1-6 but the world-round.

I really, really enjoy going with Ava. I really, really enjoyed going to Syracuse to see the ballet with my parents as a child, for that matter. Truth be told, I love the ballet. And the opera. I know, I know . . . I digress. I'll make a confession - I'm way more in to the MUSIC than the dancing when it comes to The Nutcracker (as you probably know, the dancing was added far later than the music was written unlike a common pairing at creative inception).

I'm not alone in my love of this work though. Not even close. How much of a tradition is The Nutcracker in the American Holiday psyche? There were 14,000 known productions of the show in 2011. How about Wichita's psyche? There are THREE productions of the ballet in production this weekend. THREE! And that is just fine with me. I wouldn't mind four. I also wouldn't mind if the WSO just did the music sometime while that random fake snowy stuff fell on them (hint, hint).

Anywho - if you can't pry yourself away from your other "to do" list to see a live production of The Nutcracker here in town (or in ANY town you actually live in - I KNOW it is being produced there, live) here is the whole damned thing performed by some professionals at the Royal Opera House.  Please to enjoy . . .


Favorite Movie of 2012 . . .

According to my crack-pot Google talents, there were over 900 movies in "commercial release" in 2012. That includes everything from summer "Blockbusters" that open on thousands of screens and that random film, from an undeveloped Asian nation that bowed on three screens in neighborhoods full of emigrants from said third world Asian nation. I'm not even going to PRETEND like I saw more than 2% of them (if memory serves me correctly, I saw 14 movies this calendar year so I'm at about 1.5%) NOR will I pretend to have a discerning palette for film or what makes for a good one.

That being said, I enjoyed almost all the movies I saw this year (I'm trying to only be critical of other PEOPLE on this blog so I won't name names on the stinkers) but one stood out . . . my Favorite Movie of 2012 (and the suspense should have ended by now based on the photo to the right) was Beasts of the Southern Wild.

This is a movie that LOTS of people saw but it would not win any awards for box office receipts  it won't even stand a chance at any teen choice awards (no surfboard trophies for you, artsy-fartsy film) and I would dare say that even people who ARE taste makers in the world of film would have mixed reviews on this gem but, critics be damned I LOVED it.

What is it about?
In my opinion (there is much debate or potential for speculation here) the movie is about how where you are from imposes your world view and how little we allow for, understand, accept, or encourage world views other than our own and how hard it is to translate our world view in to another world (as in across a levee to another part of Louisiana).

Who is in it?
No one you've ever heard of, blissfully. But the cast is talented and the little girl (she's 6, I believe) who plays Hushpuppy embodies her character so amazingly that if she does NOT get nominated for some awards, I'll cry foul (to no one listening).

Why do I love it?
Ever felt like a fish out of water? Pun sorta' intended here but I've felt like I sorta' belong and sorta' don't the entire time I've lived here in Kansas. And when we lived in Connecticut and I worked for IBM. And when I lived in Baltimore and tried to assimilate to Joy's group of friends. And when I lived in DC. And when I was at Quinnipiac. And in high school. I've always felt this way? Hmmm. The best part about the movie - for me - is that no one from the bathtub (as Hushpuppy et al call their community) has any interest in people joining them or their community and they have no urges, that I can see, to make the people in the rest of the world take on their culture either. They just want to live, be happy, and be at home in the world. I've been lucky. I've always been pretty well accepted and I've found comfort and a niche and a group of people that "get" and "accept" me anywhere I go but some days . . . some days . . . I just want to be back in the bathtub where things are simple and happy.

If you can't relate to that - I'm sure Katherine Heigl has a movie in the works that you're sure to love. NO disrespect/offense (okay, a LITTLE bit).


Wise Words . . .

According to the research firm Uhnderbiht and Outspint (not a real group) who release annual research data on the "Inspirational Quotes Industry" (not a real report or economy pocket), Americans spent $3.67T on "inspiration physicalities" (not real things) in 2012.

These physicalities include, but are not limited to posters, mugs, journals, tattoos, t-shirts, e-mail signatures, Twitter "RTs", B-level speakers, tote bags, parking tickets, and jumbo tron projections ALL designed for one, unique, purpose - to remind people to be their best selves.

Where we find inspiration is deeply personal, boundless, and often absurd. Utterly absurd. People tell me they see it in their children, their annual reviews, the shoe section and Nordstrom Rack, Pinterest, and - of course - the blogosphere. Don't even get me started on the PEOPLE that are thought to be inspiring. I've got my share of favorites (hypocrite alarm sounds ever-so-gently) that say and do things that make me want to be better . . .  Seth Godin, Simon Sinek,  Ina Garten, LBJ (don't judge - dude KNEW his power, and how to use it) and, of course, Shawn Carter.

I don't care what bright and encouraging words, actions, things, or passions make you want to get up and seize the day (Carpe Diem, anyone?) . . . I'm here to burst your bubble and make your part of the aforementioned $3.67T useless - ALL roads of inspiration lead back to the Bard . . . Mr. Willy Shakespeare himself (or whoever actually wrote the stuff he put his name to) and ONE of his many, many contributions to the above referenced (twice) $3.67T.

Are you ready? Here it is . . . To Thine Own Self Be True. (all caps for printing and framing ease). That's right - Polonius . . . counselor to King Claudius and father of Hamlet's ill-fated love, Ophelia, dropped the ultimate knowledge on ALL OF US in  Act 1, Scene 3 (4?) (stop laughing - I went to school and a few things stuck with me but it was long, long ago). 6 little words. That's DOUBLE what it took for Naughty By Nature to ignite all our passions in the early 90s but a very, very succinct message none-the-less.

That's it! That's your inspiration. That's the sum and total of it. Bam. Done. FIN (as the foreign films would tell you). Take ANYTHING out there that inspires you. Person, place, thing (bigger or smaller than a breadbox), emotion, sense, touch, bottle of hooch, etc. Ask yourself WHY you are inspired by it or WHAT it means to you and I promise that, boiled back to its very, very basics it will be that you are reminded of yourself and the fact that you can and will and should be a better version of yourself - as soon as you finish the lukewarm coffee in your cute kitten coffee mug.


The Giving Tree (Life Lessons Abound) . . .

When Billy Joel and I wore a younger man's clothes, I grew up in a Catholic household (the shivers run up the spine just typing it (smile)). There were LOTS of things I liked about the Catholic Church, and, more specifically, about the parish I was a member of - CHIEFLY was how engaged in the community we were as a parish.

One of the many traditions of the church, which my parents helped organize, was The Giving Tree. Not to be confused with the Seussian classic, this was more of a "Secret Santa" thing where my father (who was the elementary school principal in town) would provide a list of children in need in the town (just gender, ages, sizes, and approximated wants/needs) and then those children (some of whom were classmates for Patrick, Ryan, and me) were given numbers and put on a tree for families to take to give a gift to. NOT the most original/unique idea in the world but a damned nice gesture during the Advent Season.

My parents would, themselves, take three children from the tree and my brothers and I would each give up a few gifts that might otherwise be ours each year to approximately donate by proxy (we basically got 99,999 gifts each instead of a cool 100k). This was fine and well and was part of the annual tradition in our home. But one year - ONE YEAR - the whole thing took on a whole new meaning.

One year there was a family in particular need and my parents decided that we would gift the entire family and that the three of us would deliver the gifts to their home. We all pinched our Christmas stuff and we made a special trip to Wegmans and on Christmas Eve we loaded up the car with probably thirty gifts, ten bags of groceries, a hot meal that was ready to be served, some books, and a few other random things (I think my Mother gave a Bible - solver of allllll the problems that family had, for sure) in my mother's sweet-assed Dodge Grand Caravan (which was red, in her defense) and we headed out in to the night.

What happened next was sort of amazing for the three of us. We pulled up in front of a house that didn't look like our home. There was stuff in the lawn (to clarify - Upstate winters are REAL winters where 99.9% of Christmases are white and about 40% of Mother's Days are white), the porch littered with trash, the door ajar, no curtains on the windows, etc. We went in, carrying all we could and we were greeted with less than enthusiastic energy (they knew we were coming and we had their permission to give them things). I looked around the house at stuff that seemed broken or on its way to being broken. The house smelled faintly of onions, and what I presume was liver. There was a TV BLARING in the back room. The temperature inside was barely warmer than the outside and in the entire house I saw one light on. The tree was a real one with paper ornaments and no lights upon it. This was NOT the was Christmas Eve looked, smelled, felt, or rolled out.

I can honestly stay this was the first time I'd ever really understood that not everyone had Christmas like we did. I had friends who maybe didn't have all the clothes and crap my brothers and I did and maybe their homes were not as nice or comfortable but I guess I just presumed that, right around December 22nd, everyone's house magically transformed in to a friggin' Hallmark card and the gifts multiplied and Santa had all he could handle to find room to stash his crap among the trappings of the season. I did not feel "sadness" for the family. They seemed to love each other and seemed content and comfortable (the house was not filthy, there seemed to be no real suffering, etc.). I did not feel "pity" (only asshole 16 year old kids express pity to strangers). I simply felt an appreciation for the fact that my family could help this family out. For at least the next few weeks they'd have food in the pantry/fridge. They had new clothes, some books, some toys, and some household items (I think we gave them a toaster - which I remember thinking was odd until I realized they may not have had one). They were going to start 1993 better than they spent most of 1992 (and not ONLY because "I Will Always Love You" was just hitting its stride).

We gave over the packages. We wished the family a "Merry Christmas." We backed out the front door, returned to the minivan and rode silently back to our own house where cookies were being baked, the thermostat was at 72 degrees, the fireplace crackled, the tree glowed and every, EVERY light in the house was certainly turned on.

We took of our coats, told our mother of the house and the family (not critically - but from concern) and my mother (my dear, sweet, overpoweringly wonderful mother), realizing that the moral/lesson had already landed on us simply smiled and said "Go get ready for mass. We'll eat when we get home." And eat we did.


Hebrew Alphabet . . .

Seriously . . . if you thought learning the ABCs was tough . . . oy. Oy vey. OY VEY!

My 10 Favorite Things about Hanukkah? . . .

I got a great e-mail from an Twitter friend yesterday saying that they have always "known" about Hanukkah but do not know what, exactly, it is - particularly in the context of Christmas and/or other Jewish holidays/tradition. They said a quick Google had a million theories and ideas and reasons - many of which conflicted with the others.

I'm no Jewish scholar (I know, I know - take a minute - let it sink in. Truth is pain. Pain is love.) but I've been obsessed with Hanukkah since 1994 and here's a few things I've learned that I BELIEVE are actual FACTS that might make the Festival of Lights a little brighter for you:

1) The finding of one jar of ceremonial oil in tact after the desecration of the temple and the bravery of re-dedicating the temple and the LIGHTING of the oil is the miracle of and reason for Hanukkah. It is as simple as that. All the other stories and lore is just flavor and coloring on top of the basics. Sort of like Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Boil it back, right?

2) Dreidel is a lot of fun. It is simple to learn and you can play for hours and hours if you start with enough things to put in and out of the proverbial pot. If you don't like to play games in person (how very 2012 of you) you can click on this link and play online. Ava and I played for an hour last night. Then we went to see The Nutcracker at Friends University for the 5th consecutive year.

3) It IS a menorah but, more accurately, it is a hanukkiah. Menorahs have seven candles or oil lamps. The one in the middle, typically elevated, is for the Sabbath (called Shabbat when being celebrated). Jewish tradition states that Shabbat is the 7th day (when G-d rested) but it is the CENTER of the week. We spend three days preparing for Shabbat, one day honoring it, and three days reflecting on it. Rinse, repeat. The hanukkiah has NINE prongs. One for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and a ninth (typically elevated, offset, centered, or all of the above) that is used as the "servant" candle that is used to light the other candles. Hanukkiah candles are NOT to be used to light each other. That is "doing work" and the light of Hanukkah is not for working. You only place candles in your hanukkiah for the number of the day. You place them right to left but then light them left to right. You let them burn all the way out vs. blow them out (so 11" pillar candles are probably not ideal).

4) Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday. It is in no way tied to Christmas or a competitor to it. The potential mimicking of giving gifts to children during the Festival of Lights is largely a reflection of their friends at school having Christmas to look forward to. Hanukkah does begin on the 25th of Chislev (the Jewish calendar is lunar so that is why the start date changes on our calendar but always stays constant on other calendars), but that is just random co-inky-dink (as my mother says).

5) You are under no obligation to be Jewish or even know a Jew to celebrate Hanukkah. You can slap up a hanukkiah and get your Festival of Lights on no matter your mindset or religious bent. Just remember that the lights of the candles are only for observation and reflection. They are not intended to illuminate or do work by so you should not eat dinner or decorate your Christmas tree by them.

6) The duration of Hanukkah is eight days long because it mimics the length and tradition of Sukkot. While the harvest festival is a lesser occasion in the current Jewish calendar - at the time of the re-dedication of the temple, it was THE High Holiday. Sukkot and Hanukkah, I might also point out, are two of the HAPPIEST celebrations in the Jewish year. Both celebrate survival of the culture, faith, and people.

7) Gelt does not taste good. At least not the traditional stuff that is wrapped in gold paper and sold in orange, mesh bags. I'm eating the sugar free stuff but Ava tells me the "real thing" is not much better. Use Hershey kisses, miniature peanut butter cups, peanuts, or anything else instead. Seriously. And shame on YOU, gelt makers of the world.

8) The Maccabees, who re-dedicated the temple and got the Hanukkah ball rolling, were some bad-assed-muh-fuckahs. Not only did they not take the occupation of Judea as something they had to accept - they LITERALLY fought their enemies with hammers. And won. I am not a violent person but, at heart, I may be a Maccabee.

9) Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is a great book. It's like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas without the annoying, made up words (no disrespect, Seuss fans) and, like the holiday itself, you don't need to be Jewish or be raising Jewish kids to enjoy the read together. Also a good one Ava and I just started? Lemony Snicket's The Latke That Couldn't Stop Screaming that puts Hanukkah in the context of Christmas (something Ava seems to appreciate).

10) Latkes (potatoe (shout out to Dan Quayle) and Sufganiyot (jelly donuts, shout out to donut lovers) are traditional foods of Hanukkah from the European (latke) and Mediterranean (donut) traditions of the culture that have one thing in common . . . they are both fried. In oil. Making the whole holiday edible.

Chaag Hanukkah sameach!


I Go To Sleep . . .

A little Ben Folds Five this Saturday morning presented without additional commentary (except some lyrics pulled out for mystery).

"I should warn you, I go to sleep.
I know you don't know what that means - yet.
I get upset or happy, I go to sleep.
Nothing hurts when I go to sleep.
But I'm not tired, not tired. I'm not tired. I'm not tired."

Watch the whole thing here and see if it makes more sense. And get some sleep - you look horrible.


Don't Be An Earhole . . .

I am in no way "unique" in saying that music is very important to me. I like to have it with/near/around/overwhelming me while I work, walk, read, chat, fall asleep, tap a keg, rescue families from burning buildings, birth calves, solve the world's problems, attempt to dance, and rattle off all 50 states in alphabetical order to delight my child.

But I don't just like songs intent on teaching children basic memorization. Nope. I like the stuff that swears, contains naughty lyrics, tells of heartbreak, lost car keys, merriment, award winners, and, of course, boobs. Here, in order, are my favorite 25 songs released in the year 2012 (based on plays on iTunes and Spotify). Please to enjoy . . .

25) Emergence Exit, Freelance Whales. Just good music. Let it flow over you.
24) Locked Down, Dr. John. A fantastic album from a man who's been making music longer than I've been alive. This song makes me want to live the turbulent 70s as something other than a zygote - toddler.
23) Cosmic Trip, Air. I can't explain this choice. But it was catchy enough to stick around.
22) Primitive Girl, M. Ward. "If you ask how she's doin', she'll say 'I'm doing WELL.'" Women that know not to answer "good" to that question are total keepers (no offense, Laura!).
21) Not the Same, Tanlines. I generally resent 80s music and bands that make 80s music 30 years later. In this case, I'm pro-Casio keyboard, Very pro.
20) Soon or Never, The Punch Brothers. You can keep Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and all the other dudes that record music today that belongs in a coal mine and/or a jar of moonshine 30 years ago. I'm keeping The Punch Brothers. Happily.
19) The Bed Song, Amanda Palmer. She's like Tori Amos without the angst and baggage. Or just different baggage.
18) White, Odd Future w/ Frank Ocean. MOST of Odd Future (or whatever their full name is) gets lost on me but this song, probably because of Frank Ocean, is something I can comfortably grab on to.
17) Let the Light In, Bob Scheider. I imagine Bob wishing he could go by Rob (seems too laid back to be a Bob) if not for that assclown from Saturday Night Live. Love this song and its lyrics that sort of force you to listen (rap lyrics to Wizard of Oz references, anyone?). Makes me long for the days I liked people.
16) A Flat Ground, Aural Histories. Classical music derived from samples, clips, audio cues and some non-instrumental sources. Weird and wacky stuff. But enjoyable.
15) Mine Tonight, Dum Dum Girls. I don't know why I like this song. Truly do not. But I do. And that has to count for something.
14) Archipelago, Miike Snow. (not a typo on Miike) A little bit Vampire Weekend, a little bit The Shins, a lotta' bit great song.
13) Guardian, Alanis Morissette. I'll never NOT enjoy Alanis Morissette. This song reminds me of the best we can offer each other in our relationships . . . protection.
12) Candles, Rufus Wainwright. Because you will probably had a birthday in 2012 and that is something to be celebrated. Unless you are me. Hate birthdays. So stupid.
11) Hold On, Alabama Shakes. "There must be someone, up above, sayin' c'mon Britney. You gotta' come on up!" Prayer through music. The way it should be. Just ask the movie Sister Act. But not Sister Act 2.
10) Phoenix, Brandeis University Voicemale. If you don't like A Capella, you should stop reading my blog. For real. This song makes me a little teary. It's that damned good. I mean, Brandeis is not even an Ivy but these boys overcome.
9) Am I That Lonely Tonight, Justin Townes Earle (also KMUW host and Ava's most recent crush Jedd Boudoin's favorite song of 2012)
8) Sky High, Ben Folds Five. I would have been happy to simply get some new Ben Folds. That it was Ben Folds FIVE was even better. That it was the best album from either identifier in years and years was what made it perfect. This was my favorite song from the album that I hope ushers in an era of great BFF music.
7) All Waters, Perfume Genius. If I'm going to ever love another woman (heaven help her), this song is going to be to blame.
6) Die In Your Arms, Justin Bieber. Yep. He's on my list. Here's why - the day this CD came out Ava listened to this song 1,000,000 times and sang to me that she wanted to die in my arms. Some day (hopefully not before 2024) another boy will get that attention and longing. In 2012, it is alllll mine.
5) Shadow Days, John Mayer. FACT - My Shadow Days are over. I'm totes leavin' 'em in 2012.
4) Your Ghost, Jherek Bischoff. Hands down my favorite ALBUM of the year - for all its kooky goodness and classical genre bending - this was my favorite song from the album.
3) Once Upon a Time, Sara Barielles. A very underrated voice and beauty, Sara Barielles teamed up with my FAVORITE dude ever (Ben Folds) on this EP. This song reminds me of my exwife and her longing to be bound to someone and something and yet free at the same time. Hauntingly good song.
2) Wicked Games, The Weeknd. (not a typo on Weeknd) I know I'm not the target demo for this guy and his friend Drake and I know that there's no reason to enjoy this song but it struck a cord with me and the notion that sometimes you just want someone to tell you it is all going to be okay - even if you know they are a liar for doing so.
1) We Are Young, Fun. w/ Janelle Monae. I'm not young anymore. This song reminded me of the days when I was and how it felt to go out with a group of friends, scan the room, try to find someone to talk to and let them know "Hey, if you get no other offers tonight - let a dude know." And then to go home alone anyway. Well, with your friends. And that is alllll that matters.

I'm looking forward to lots of great music in 2013. If you want to stream the entire playlist - just click below.


Hanukkah Wish List . . .

It's time for my FIRST "official" Hanukkah and while I realize this is not at all traditional (and, to be candid, somewhat disrespectful to the occasion) - I wanted to publish my 5773 (or 2012, if you prefer) Hanukkah Wish List in time for the lighting of the first candle at sundown on Saturday (the 25th of Chislev). Just think of it as my traditional Christmas Wish List post just, well, with a different perspective (and shorter list of demands).

1) Art - I don't know why but I spend HOURS Etsy some nights just looking at the beautiful things people with actual talent make/sell. This painting, for instance, is something I love. A lot.
2) Hitchcock DVDs - I am very, very late to the "Let's all appreciate Hitchcock" fan club. Better late than never.
3) Entertain more - Have people in my home for the evening. I'd cook. Play music at appropriate volumes. Light candles in appropriate quantity. A good time would be had by all. These books will help.
4) Backgammon - My former roommates Ben and Michael would play frequently, once upon a time, but I could never get in to it. I preferred to just mope. Now I want to play often. And to win.
5) Oxfords - The shirts and the shoes. In every color and combination.
6) Haggadah - Make any seder more meaningful.
7) Culture - "Jewish" is the only religion that also has a culture. I want to cook like one of those sweet, sweet Jewish Grandmas (and not one of the annoying ones). I am Irish (50%), Italian (25% - Paternal Grandfather gave me the gift/curse of the last name . . . it means love (to clarify)), and Yugoslavian (25%). I have no real connection with or affinity for any of those cultures and Ava is multi-ethnic and multiracial (NO overlap with me) and I can't even pretend to relate to some of that but this culture . . . this is one I can own and set my relationship with. Maybe bring the kiddo along.
8) Time - Two years ago, Ava bought me a Weekender (disclosure - I bought it, she picked it out and told me I HAD to buy it) and I've worn it a handful of times. The little pin thingy that keeps the face and strap in contact broke and I keep neglecting to take the 2 minutes it takes to get it fixed for $5. I want some more straps and to wear it ALL the time (well, evenings and weekends and Casual Fridays - it is not really a "work" watch with these straps (obviously)).


PS - No one buy me ANY of this stuff. Seriously. I know you all want to shower me with gifts (totally natural, don't feel ashamed) but that is gauche, yo!