Letting Your Kids Fail . . .

I just read a great piece in The Atlantic titled "Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail." I would strongly encourage any of you who are (currently or aspire to be) parents - no matter the age of your children - to give it a read but here is the summary:

Don't overprotect or over-intrude in to your children's lives to keep them from "harm" . . . it only serves to harm them more in a) their development and b) when troubles do come and you're not there.

We used to call these parents "helicopters" but now we handle it far more sensitively. My secret presumption is that it was realized, a few years ago, that just about ALL parents of just about ALL of the "millennial" generation is guilty of it and - as any Rambo movie will tell you - you can't have too many helicopters in too finite of air space. It gets dicey - fast.

I don't blame parents. It is totally natural and normal. Can we all accept that the main reason we try so hard not to let our kids fail is because - when they do, it is somehow a trickle up failure on us? That we didn't prepare them right/enough? That we didn't do our jobs?

I'll criticize myself here . . . I have a 6 1/2 year old and I constantly find myself intruding. I gasp and shadow hold the milk when she pours a glass. I still help her shampoo her hair when she's missing spots. I will introduce her to other kids on the playground when she doesn't do it quickly enough. I will "fix" her crayon drawings when her attention is distracted (a stool - with TWO legs - come on, kiddo). To elaborate, I don't let her play with matches, forks and electrical outlets, or balls in traffic either. The later examples and the protection of SAFETY (and, by extension life and well being) are not in dispute. That is WHY we are here as parents, I think.

But the earlier examples . . . that is a me problem. I need to get better at it. Because a 6 year old that can't say "hello" to kids her own age and introduce herself and make chit chat is a 16 year old that has no ability, is a 26 year old that doesn't even try, is a 36 year old that . . . you get my point. So she can learn to hit all the spots on her head with her shampoo NOW or tomorrow her hair might not feel quite right and she'll do better the next time.

I can't stress enough how fantastic my parents were. My mother and father, themselves educators who were trained in child development and (loosely) psychology but - more important - had seen hundreds of kids go through stages before they became parents and thousands by the time my brothers and I headed off to college - were very good at letting us fail. I remember, well, the night before a big project was due and disclosing to my parents that I'd not started it and them simply asking what was needed - making sure I had (approximately) the resources in the house and going back to what they were doing only to get up extra early that next morning for quality control. That was a ME problem to rectify. Not their problem. When I became an Eagle Scout, I wanted to let it be a "surprise" to my parents so I was challenged in preparing the paperwork, prepping for the interview and board review and even, frankly, getting to the review on time. I failed my first attempt. Miserably. I told my parents and, while they were honored at the gesture, they were quick to point out it would be all the harder to impress the next time around to get it done.

Even today, as an adult who is a professional and parent - when I struggle with things my parents will talk, ask questions, give advice (generally in the spirit of - you will figure it out, you're smart and we raised you to solve your own problems) and then they will happily help me pick up the pieces when stuff goes bad (like, oh I don't know . . . divorce) with the same general approach . . . what lessons have you learned, how can you fix it, what will you do.

They are not "cold" in any way. The opposite. They are warm, loving, kind, and frankly funny in how they interact with me. They tell me - now that I'm an adult - what life was really like when I was a kid and thought they were touched and blessed with constant happiness and gifts for success and they share with me the troubles and travails of the children of their friends who may have similar experiences behind them, etc. They are wise. And getting wiser. And they inspire me.

I don't know what sort of parent I will be as my daughter gets older. I'd like to think I'll echo my parents and their graces and talents with managing failure and the lessons that came through it but I also know that it will be harder for me - I am not yet comfortable enough with the Father part of myself to realize that I have a smart, self-aware, capable kid who just needs a little failure in her life to rebound from, to give ME the confidence that she's going to be just fine and, by extension, so will I.


Band Names . . .

I often tell people, genuinely, that if I had not chosen to be a professional communicator, I'd be doing one of three things . . .

Funeral Director
University Employee (Admissions or Academic)
Professional Xylophone Player

All three professions are actually very similar (and not that different from my actual racket) in that they are all aimed at being the best I can be in the context of a larger community and trying to improve other people and their days/lives in one way or another. It is cheesy and melodramatic as all "get out" but it is true.

Simple fact though: only ONE of these professions would allow me a chance to realize my ULTIMATE dream in life (Funeral homes have horribly boring names and Colleges/Universities are generally named for geography, founder, subject matter, or a hybrid of the above) . . . to co-op the greatest band name ever and then make it a household name. To that end - I present to you my current (the list is regularly updated) list of the 20 names I'd WANT to put on my band with some context as to what we'd play and just how AWESOME we'd be (the number in parenthesis is a ranking on a scale of 0 - 10 groupies - there WOULD be groupies . . . they DIG a dude who can strike a bar with a mallet).

  1. Diet Sprite and Grape Syrup (4) - Lounge act. Mainly covers of mid-90s pop-rap.
  2. Spin-Gauz-E (2) - Dueling DJs (like at a piano bar) for the 12 - 4 AM set.
  3. Khaki (8) - Vampire Weekend meets One Direction only older. Way older. 
  4. Maudlin Mark and the Woe-Is-Mes (2) - Like Nirvana. Only acoustic and without the whiny,  suicidal front man and jovial drummer-turned-front-man. But with the cardigan sweaters. Only more of them.
  5. GENIUS (5) - Emo-pop with an app for concert goers to "hang out" and "Live Tweet" the show as though they were all in the same room. Which they would be. But they wouldn't know because they'd be on their phones and tablets the entire time. Hashtag - #Genius.
  6. Fartbreeze (1) - Grungy takes on classic pop ballads where the word "love" is changed to "hate" unless the lead singer (himself twice divorced and balding) met someone nice on POF.com that day.
  7. PTI (6) - Middle-aged bald men with deep knowledge of sports and an affinity for pop culture share a stage and just talk over a bed of soft, instrumental, smooth jazz.
  8. Diet Pepsi is for Quitters (9) - This would be a quick rise to fame and a short-lived-tenure at the top (patent lawyers being as they are) but the four crooners, known for their a cappella ballads and earnest eye contact with doe-eyed middle-aged divorcees with low self esteem and ample bosoms (hence the high groupie count).
  9. Zippy the Wonder Perv (5) - Just a guy with a microphone, a karaoke set up, and an energy drink buzz trying, very hard, to make people dance. Again tonight. For the 19th consecutive open mic night at a local coffee shop. 
  10. Trade Show Trinkets (7) - A collective of chamber musicians who want to put some old spin on new hits. Very smart, pinkies out people can suddenly appreciate Katy Perry's "Firework." 
  11. Enn Oh Pea (5) - A girl band collective (I'd be one of several male musicians that never had any lighting on us) that writes songs, in the spirit of P*ssy Riot, that aim to strike fear in the hearts of the establishment and loathing in the minds of those who hear them live. But - here's the trick - they are all stunningly beautiful. Like the Spice Girls. Only at healthier weights.
  12. Shoots and Laughers (2) - A hip hop epiphany in the spirit of an Odd Future and De La Soul love child with a focus on white kids in the suburbs (like ANY good hip hop collective has) and a merchandise deal with an athletic apparel company to buoy their videos and tour stage. 
  13. Uglies Bumped (9) - A band with a perpetually rotating host of lead singers who all had (and sing only) one BIG hit. Rumor has it Stevie B. is in rehearsals with Uglies Bumped as. we. type. Bring a spare pair of underpants to toss, ladies.
  14. Quintiple Double (1) - Can you keep a secret? It is really just Del Amitri with a different moniker. Don't tell anyone (and - to be clear - NO ONE will just notice on their own). 
  15. Kevin Hallacy (6) - A tribute band but not in the spirit of covers and adoration of other musicians. Nope. A constant tribute to my favorite workplace Mijo of all time. Of. All. Time. Groupie points are high because every woman that meets Kev-o seems to like him best. Immediately.
  16. Arms Wide Open (10) - Hair band. With genuine emotion and deep, deep lyrics. The perfect storm of music and showmanship. We'd never sell a single album but we would be FANTASTIC in concert. And the Creed reference is totally intentional.
  17. J.J. and the Abraham Lincolns (3) - Like Sufjan Stevens without the appreciation of history and music and history. Just a lot of thinker's stuff and that is fantastic listening but it's not going to help with the ladies. Keep me honest, Sufjan.
  18. Nice Setta' Lungs (8) - Euphemism. Straight euphemism. And the music and showmanship back it up. This is fantastic, angsty stuff. Think of Prince in his hey day. And recently again, oddly.
  19. Amy Kremer Express (5) - The de facto "head" of the Tea Party joins us on stage to sing a wide range of sylish songs about her puppies, her love of Chanel pearls, designer handbags, and pantsuits, and her vision for the future of America. (Sidebar - No judgement implied here, the woman OWNS her political mindset and I have to respect that).
  20. Arts-n-Crafts (0) - Think of They Might Be Giants and Lisa Loeb and all those other former legit magicians that decided they wanted to make music for the KIDS of the people that used to like them. Blatant money grab and crap music. No one hooks up with the band they brought their children to see.


Frustrated . . .

What. A. Week this is shaping up to be.

I feel a baby made by Nick Nolte's mugshot and the floor mats AFTER people take their shoes off at LAX with colic, a diaper rash, and teeth coming in all at the same time. While on a road trip. With adoptive parents (my biological parents can't actually care for me) that listen to and sing along with "Photograph" by Nickelback. Loudly. And an older sibling that is a 3 year old kid that likes to stick Legos where they don't belong. In the summer. With the air-conditioning on the fritz. And a dookie in my diaper.

What is wrong with me? Who really cares! Let's just say that there comes a point in every middle-aged, middle class, obese, balding, white man's life when he wants to have a little control back. He just wants to feel back in charge. He wants to be less frustrated (I'll let Ray Romano explain frustrated to you . . . because he'll be far less vivid in words, tone, and volume).

But here's the thing . . . it will all be fine. I KNOW it will. Soon. It is all manageable stuff and, like any good domino set up it just needs one tap of the forefinger or one more no-attention paying muhfuggah to back up in to it, bump it, set things in motion and not apologize or even take responsibility.

Why? Because that's the beauty of frustrations. They dissipate. They resolve. They get swallowed up by happiness or further angst. They seem trivial and self-perpetuated and eventually you can have a good laugh over them. Once you get all those dominoes picked up and put away. Unless you step on them, barefooted, first.

Oh man - I'm making this worse.


Ju-Ju . . .

I want to address, head on, one of the great crises of our time. I am not talking about cancer, AIDS, bicyclists who "dope," football players and fake girlfriends, the economy, the housing market, the glut of college graduates with no job prospects and a crushing sense of entitlement, the twists and turns of Downton Abbey, or even the ongoing concerns over the shortcomings of the Arab Spring.

Nope. I want to address a REAL crisis here, folks. One that you and me (well you, mainly - I'm already doing my part) can actually address. Perhaps, collaboratively, we can even END this crisis. The crisis of JUJU!

I know, I know. I need to calm down. Be less aggressive. Live and let live. NO. I do not. It may be overwhelming to you pessimists but I TRULY believe I can - no NEED - to solve this problem. Let's start at the origins . . .

Juju is actually slang for Western African religions. It is a way to dismiss a religion as hooey or crap . . . juju was witchcraft. It evolved to include putting a spell on someone to ensure compliance (think of Nigerian women being trafficked to Europe as a prostitute/slave and having juju put upon her before she leaves). There is no more eloquent or well thought out definition or tradition to the word or phrase in my somewhat extensive learnings (including a quick Google) on the subject.

So WHY do we ASK (BEG?) for "juju" in this world? Particularly in social media settings? A few theories:

  1. It is way shorter to say "Send juju" than to say "Please take some time and energy to think genuinely positive things and perhaps even extend yourself to make a true difference in my plight." (particularly helpful on Twitter with the 140 character limit.
  2. It is something that someone said to you and you just sort of extended on without ever actually asking any questions or learning what the word meant (sorta' like believing your friend really lost their kidney after a bender with some shady characters).
  3. We have become so unsure of our friends and support systems and their genuine interest in us that we want an equally disingenuous toss-away to imply we may want or need some help.
  4. People have become truly embarrassed at how much/quickly we ask for people to get involved in our challenges and ordeals and how little people are willing to actually give/do in response to those requests (boy that cried wolf, anyone?)
Now - I don't meant to question to motives or general intelligence of people who ask for and or, lest I seem judgmental  EXTEND "juju" upon request. Not at all. If it makes you happy, insists Sheryl Crow, it can't be that bad. I hope the juju you seek and receive brings you much success in your adventures. I truly want nothing but the best for each person in the transaction and hope that, if push came to shove, anyone who offers juju would also offer an afternoon of lifting heavy stuff, an honest letter of reference, a few spare bucks for a car repair, or a cup of coffee and at attentive ear for an hour or two of true conversation.

I am not so egotistical as to imply juju will ever actually end. I can't do it alone. But I AM just narcissistic enough to think that by simply pointing out the lunacy of the exchanging of juju that a few of you will join me in my campaign. And then a few folks will join you. And a few folks will help them. You know how these things get started.

If you want to join me - it is simple. Ask for HELP (vs. juju) the next time you are truly in need and offer HELP (vs. juju) the next time someone asks you for your juju. 

I feel better already. Now bring me a syringe, my bicycle and the French Alps and send your best juju for my never-met girlfriend and her terminal illness. She could really use it. 


Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close . . .

I had dinner tonight with a fellow marketer and a guy that I know more professionally than personally yet I like and respect him a great deal on both fronts.

As you have probably picked up by now (and if not - what the hell is wrong with your powers or perception?) I am biased toward communicators in this world. It's not that "we" are better than "you" non-communicators, it is just that WE like to talk, share ideas, mix it up, and debate more than you (lower, lower case). It's cool. I'm sure you are fantastic at what you do and would tell us all about it  but we can't understand your Excel flowcharts. And your graph color choices are horrible. And that font? Come on . . . no one likes a serif font on a chart or graph.

What was I talking about? Oh, right . . . talking. So I was chatting over dinner and an shared an observation - that people generally assume me to be on the "dark" side of life. I was prattling on (as I'm oft to do) and was presented a simple observation . . . is it maybe because I am so LOUD?!

I am not sure if LOUD was meant in terms of decibel volume or volume of communication. Either way - my friend was right. My whole life I've been accused of not just talking but yelling and not just yelling but yelling prolifically. I can not whisper. Truly. I try. Super hard. I don't think I understand the physics/application of it because what I essentially do when "whispering" is deeply, breathily exhale at the person I am trying to quietly chat with while lip-synching my intended words like a bad extra in a high school play just saying "Peas and carrots, carrots and peas, canned veggies for yous, fresh veggies for me." when "chatting" in the background of a production. But it is not for lack of trying.

And I don't just talk for talking's sake (okay - MAYBE I do). But I'm not a dark person. I'm not angry in a general sense (some things make me crazy) but I will admit that I'm quick to share my (I almost always informed) decisions. I'm more than happy to admit when I am wrong and to learn when/where I can and I have changed plenty of my opinions over the years (e.g. spinach,  classical music, hummus, life in the high plains, etc.). I think there is a GIFT for you poor, poor sufferers in the way I communicate - you never have to WONDER where I "sit" or how I "feel" on an issue. Even if you don't like my perspective or stance - you will know it.

And that is way more than I can say for the frustration I feel when trying to have an honest and candid conversation with one of you vegetable loving whisperers. This is why my life is filled with communicators, I suppose.


Honeypie . . .

I love The Weepies. I don't love every single thing they've ever done but I really like it all and love a good 89% of it. One of my favorites of all time is "Be My Honeypie." It is a silly little song about how receiving the love of a person is so important that, without it, one might die.

I don't believe this is a real thing for a minute but - for all the romantics in the world that do - I SALUTE you. Anywho, a cute video of all sort of couples (young, old, heterosexual, homosexual, etc.) accompanies the song. You can watch it below.

I mention this song, and the notion of death without validation from another, because it has become increasingly obvious to me that a LOT of people in my life seem to believe this is a real thing. That love from another is vital to one's own happiness, success . . . delay of mortality. I don't know where this notion comes from but I remember sitting in health class in high school - a former alternate to the US Olympic wrestling team droning on - and learning that we all need love, contact, intimacy, and interaction to survive (he gave some horrible example of well fed and watered puppies in a box in a closet all dying from loneliness). I get that we need love - that we need the pitter patters that a "honeypie" might offer but I don't really believe it has to come from any one person nor do I believe I'll die in a closet if I don't have a honeypie.

Give me a hug from this person, a nice conversation from that one, a kiss or two from this woman, a cause to care about, a project to complete, and a few dollars in my pocket and I'm fine. I'm fine. Always have been - always will be.

But for the rest of you . . . love that Honeypie. And Honeypie - love them back. They need it.


Great Use of 2 Hours . . .

I love (and own just about) all the Studio Ghibli movies. While Spirited Away is my absolute favorite (the kiddo prefers Howl's Moving Castle), they are all certainly beautifully made versions of (generally) classic stories and the partnership between Ghibli and Disney seems natural and I hope it continues forever but I have to say what I like best about the films is the music. The scores, largely composed by Joe Hisaishi - who has 100 scores and albums to his creit - are spectacular and this live concert performance will make you a fan, if you are not already.

Go ahead and play it. You don't have to watch the whole thing but he's such a joyous conductor and the musicians seem so happy to be playing and singing his work that you might just find yourself mesmerized.

When you're done - go watch Spirited Away. Or any of 'em . . .


The Funeral . . .

There are certain moments in life that we get "up" for. We put in a substantially different amount of time and energy in to what is otherwise a benign activity. I'd argue getting dressed before prom, or a wedding (the picture at the right is a family (mother centered) waiting for a Greek bride to appear, for the first time, in her gown and descend the stairs). We also do it for first dates, meetings with our probation officers, important holidays (we cook for six or seven HOURS for an average eating/meal time of 35 minutes on Thanksgiving, for instance).

It is a curious human trait. We like to get dressed up. We like to present ourselves. We like to be seen and to have an audience. Depending on your profession, you may find yourself presenting on a regular (if not nearly constant) basis. Models must look "just so" at all times. Bartenders and wait staff typically have to look clean and well kempt. Then you have communicators like me - sales people, marketers, advertisers, public relations folks, etc. We are, for better or for worse, an extension of ourselves, our businesses, our clients, our brands, etc.

I would be a liar if I pretended that I preen over my hair, skin, clothing, and physical self every single day because of what I do for a living but I'd also be a liar if I didn't admit that a) I do put some time and a wee pride in to it and b) I am very, very intent and focused on my words, thoughts, actions, and general interactions be "just right" at all times. After all, NO industry was impacted more by the economic downturn and slow recovery of the last six years than mine and no other craft has a shorter lifespan for professionals that don't constantly evolve, focus, develop, and bring "it" every day. There is no malpractice insurance for us, folks.

So how do I handle this? How do I prep for my professional interactions where I'm truly selling myself and/or something bigger at every meeting and conversation? I remember (and listen to - frequently on repeat) the words and music of the great Band of Horses . . . "At every occasion, I'll be ready for the funeral."

Morbid? Yep. The rest of the lyrics in the song The Funeral (below) are even more morbid but there is a simple truth in the song that gets me fired up, focused, and ready for interviews, sales pitches, meetings with investors, etc. and I rely, heavily, on the song the way a bride does her Matron of Hour and "Bride"-on-the-ass bedazzled velour pants on her wedding day.

You see to be "ready" for the funeral implies that you have no regrets. You have no hesitations. You have nothing left to give or to have or to wish more time for. You're doing "it" to the best of your ability at all times and the only left if to realize you did NOT need to be ready for the funeral - not this time, at least.

Nope. You'll (99.999% of the time) live another day. Have another conversation. Get another chance. And be BETTER and MORE READY for the next day, the next opportunity the next . . . funeral.


House vs. Home . . .

There was a fantastic pop duo (I really did enjoy them) in the 90s called Charles & Eddie. They had a handful of hits but one was aimed at the distinction between a "house" and a "home." The key difference, according to the gents, is that without love and affection a domestic structure is just a house.

Stands to reason - "home" is where the heart is. But, wait, "home" is where you hang your hat too. Hmmm. Let's agree that "house" feels far less emotional and void of any/all "warms" and "fuzzies" as where "home" feels like an emotionally welcoming and embracing place.

This is a picture of a house. It is a nice one. It has a few thousand square feet. Three bathrooms. Four bedrooms. A full basement with a kitchenette. Two car garage. Bright red front door. It is a house full of potential and nice attributes. Alas, it is just a house.

It was a home. It was when I, then happily married and moving my family to Wichita, first entered it. Holding hands with my wife and her carrying our daughter (just shy of a year) in her arms. It was an immediate emotional reaction to a house - it felt like not just "a" home but OUR home. We envisioned Christmases in front of the fire place, the banister festooned with pine. We could hear the (eventual) piano being played. The one bedroom on the ground floor was "perfect" for a playroom. The other would be a guest room for all our company. The kitchen and adjacent dining room would play host to countless Thanksgivings, Christmases, Birthdays, Family dinners, evenings with friends, etc. The basement would be where we'd watch movies and the dark cherry, high efficiency, washer and dryer would always keep us in clean clothes. It would be perfect.

And it was. For a few years. We had the dinners. We did the laundry. We enjoyed the family room and huge master bedroom. Our daughter learned to escape her crib in the nursery. We got a dog - then a cat. We decorated for holidays. Had friends for evenings in. Hid Easter Eggs (still looking for the 24th egg of 2009 - if you see it). We laughed, sang, talked, dreamed, improved, decorated, and tried to be perfect all in the safe confines of our home.

Today it is a house. None of us officially live there. It will be on the market imminently and the little amount of stuff still in will be dealt with - if it just awaits a box, a dumpster, a pick up, or a trip to the donation dock is the only consideration. We've already removed our hopes and dreams. We've already transplanted our child and her toys and her physical trappings. By a year from now we'll have had a cycle of holidays and special events in two separate places (house vs. home is still to-be-determined).

In time, I pray, we will eventually erase (or minimize) the negative moments and happenings inside this house. We'll, hopefully, emphasize, revisit, and hold on to the positive things that we enjoyed in this home. We'll have no more financial or physical connection to the place and our emotional connection will fade. Some other family will make it their home. And I hope they have more time and positive moments to have their visions and dreams come true.

It was a great home. It will be a great home again.


Quiet . . .

Today is a BIG day in Washington, DC. There are 500,000 people on the National Mall, 1,600 people on the VIP stand alone, 3,000 law enforcement officers are ADDING to the thousands and thousands that will protect the proceedings, millions and millions of dollars will be spent on media coverage, travel, parties, clothes, food, drinks, and stylish overcoats all for the show that is a Presidential Inauguration.

We do it because this is AMERICA, G-dammit! We like the show. The pomp. The circumstance. The bunting. The flags. The stylish overcoats. We want a reason, every four years (even if it is just swearing back in the same-ol' President), to gather around a television (or computer monitor/smart phone/tablet) and to share in a common experience that - each round - gets bigger and bigger (although this year, curiously, the number and size of balls and parties is down - this is a GOOD thing, in my never humble opinion). Today's ceremony (the thing that does grow) will feature 90 minutes of scheduled entrances and introductions and an Invocation from a black, female lay-person. The poem will be read today, for the first time, by an openly gay, immigrant. Kelly Clarkson is going to sing. This is going to be HUGE.

But here's the important thing . . . it is all for show. Just for a reason to hang the bunting. For President Obama, as you probably already know, was sworn in for the second and final time YESTERDAY. With only the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and his family (officially) present in the comfort of his own (loaned) home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It was just them and the promise and obligations of the office.

We can make the parties, the process, the parade, the pomp, as big as the National Mall itself but - ultimately - today (yesterday?) is about a man who is agreeing to hunker down, live four years under constant scrutiny and without a hint of privacy for him or his family. He's going to sacrifice all that "we" ask him to and he'll ask us for the same because, after all, there was a BIG party today to reward him - but now it is time to return to work. The quiet, quiet task of civil service.

THANK YOU, Mr. President (and all those before you and all those to follow) for your willingness to sacrifice so much that we might continue to be a great land and great nation that should be PROUD to fill "the" mall every four years to honor OUR President and his quiet duties - in his stylish overcoat or otherwise.


Fast, Furious, Fantastic . . .

A lot has changed in my life in the past decade. I've moved, four times, I've met, fallen in love with, courted, betrothed, married, and divorced a woman, become a father, and I've seen TWO sets of front teeth poke through that kids gums. We've had two Presidents (four terms, as of tomorrow). Technically I could clump the fall of the World Trade Center in to this ramble but that's not very respectful as I'm going to wrap this up saying ONE thing has stayed constant - Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto - or "Dom" as his friends call him.

Dom and his gang of rough, tough, street racing, car stealing, money motivated (and stealing), hard drinking, hard loving, hard punching, always on the run yet very attractive friends and family (you should SEE his fictional sister) have given me FIVE strong movies (yes, Vin Diesel was IN Tokyo Drift and while it was my least favorite of the franchise, I stand PROUDLY behind it (and still want to try it with my car)) of utter madness and insanely impossible happenings. And for THAT - I love them all.

Now I know what you're wondering - how did YOU, Barry and Levon, get $240 worth of pudding - and I know you're also probably confused as to how I (master dismisser of ALL franchise films and open loather of just about every piece of pop culture that the masses have embraced despite dismissing Vin Diesel and his REAL impact on our society and general car knowledge) could possibly enjoy these films despite my clear lack of any knowledge of cars, speed, or the cultures connected to them - simple. They. Are. Awesome.

Consider the trailers of each film . . .

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

2 Fast, 2 Furious (2003)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast Five (2011)

I know, right? Yeah. I'm right. Here's the thing - they are not "good" movies. They have no redemptive value. You don't leave the theater more in touch with yourself or the world around you. No one is enlightened by them. No one saved or furthered or spurred to action. They don't have the greatest actors in the world (but let's all agree Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has some legit comedic chops under those muscles) and I don't know that anyone believes for a second any of the story lines or happenings are real but for two hours every few years (who am I kidding - I rarely go more than a month without watching one or more of the films from this franchise), we can all escape and be really angry at high, high speeds.

And here's the BEST part . . . next Sunday during some overhyped football game we'll see the TRAILER for FAST SIX (officially titled "The Fast and the Furious 6" but, come on)! And on Friday, May 23, 2013 (just 123 days from the moment I'm typing this I'll be in an IMAX theater watching the 11:00 AM showing on the day of its release to the general public). BAM!

You can keep your Spider Mans, your Hobbits/Lord of the Rings, your Avengers, Iron-Mans, and Before Dusk/Dawn/Midnights, your Sex and the Cities (ugh), and even your Sherlock Holmses (as much as I do enjoy those too) - I'll wait, patiently, 730 days between each of my Fast/Furious films until Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have nitro packs on their Rascal scooters and the "skirts" they chase are called "housecoats."


Don't Worry, We're Fine . . .

The neighbor just stopped by. No. Not my landlord/guy I share an interior wall with. The other neighbor. The one that lives 50 feet away from my all-doors-and-windows-closed apartment. He didn't seem to really know why he was here. His wife sent him. She was concerned, apparently.

He didn't even introduce himself at first - just sort of pushed past me and came inside. Looked at Ava - asked if she was okay. Looked at the kitchen counter and saw blood spotted cotton swabs and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. The dish rack was overturned, a broken glass in the sink. He repeated his question "Are you okay, sweetie?"

Turns out my neighbor's wife was walking to the garage about 10 minutes earlier and heard Ava screaming bloody murder and heard a glass break. I applaud her for doing SOMETHING. A lot of people would have just hopped in the minivan (that really is what she drives) and driven, quickly, away. I'm also VERY glad she didn't just call 9-1-1 (her original urge).

You see (as I explained to her very calm and, if I'm being honest, more annoyed with her than concerned about my daughter or myself) the sum and total of the crisis and the screaming and yelling was very simple - earrings. Yep. Just a divorced dad who has never had his ears pierced (no judgement, fellas) trying to coax a scared 6 year old with a clearly infected right ear lobe in to giving up the stud in her right ear, letting me clean it out, and then put in something sterling silver vs. nickle-free, surgical stainless steel, to maintain the hole while we got it all cleaned out.

This seems to be my burden - being woefully out of my element to manage some of these mini-crises that, I presume, most married dads push off on to mom. Hair in the morning? You gotta' be kidding me. Talking to her about the boy in her class I saw her holding hands with at her musical program? 0 to officially uncomfortable in 2.4 seconds. Overseeing the piercing process on Black Friday? I cried more than she did. I  even need confirmation from women/moms (who are strangers) who have daughters of approximately the same age when I buy clothes, shoes, and earrings for the only girl that ever really loved me.

I do 98% of the dad stuff just fine. I'm present. I'm emotionally available. I read with her. Talk with her. Listen to her. Art and craft with her. Play with her (stink on ice when the dolls and dollhouse come out). Encourage, and support her. Taught her to swim. Work with her on her grammar and sentence structure. Laugh at her knock-knock jokes. I do homework. Cook with her. Listen to the music she wants in the car and at home. I buy and help her put on APPROPRIATE makeup (lip gloss, nail polish, etc.).

I'm not worried about me as a father or person to have a young person entrusted to in ANY regard. She is more than safe and in more than capable hands. I got the earring replaced. I got the mess cleaned up. I hugged and kissed her cheeks until the tears had stopped and the angst worn off. I calmly explained all this to my neighbor (literally - this ENTIRE blog post was nervously spat-and-sputtered at the man) and he just looked at me and said "I have daughters. And granddaughters. My advice? Get remarried. Fast. It only gets worse, buddy." He shook my hand. Smiled. Said "Take care of those ears, sweetheart. Your daddy is worried and doing his best." Smiled again and walked out.

Crisis officially averted. And without law enforcement. I breathed a sigh of relief when he left but I'd be lying if I didn't admit there are moments - few, and far in-between - where/when I wished I, at worst, had a sister growing up and, at best, still had my daughter's mother under the same roof when these things happened. NOT so I could dump her off on her mother. I would never do that. I'm a better man for being a father - in good times and in bad. Nope . . . I would just like two more hands to restrain this freakishly strong kid and a soothing voice to compliment my gritted teeth begging when troubles come (smile).

SIDEBAR - I have already spoken with Ava's mom about this entire incident and she was very supportive and did clarify, if I had called, she would have happily come over to help manage through the entire ordeal.


Happy Place . . .

Any time I hear of people doing horrible, unspeakable things - I have to immediately pretend I have the might to condemn those that did it to hell (sorry, knee jerk reaction) and THEN I go to (or distract myself toward) a happier place.

When I have the Internet handy, I go straight to THIS (below) video.

Why? Because it is people doing fantastically wonderful and fun things (none of this is special effects or digital imaging - there really are nearly a quarter of a million rubber balls rushing down the streets of San Francisco in this video) that are bright, happy and without any negative impact.

PS - The song is fantastic.


Cheese . . .

I want to talk to you about something near, dear, and (if I'm being honest) likely to STOP MY heart . . . cheese. Cheese, glorious cheese.

My best friend from college had a theory - there is NO FOOD in the world that can't be improved with the addition of butter, whipped cream, or cheese. He clearly - to that point in life - had not had nearly enough Asian food and he clearly did not live a Kashrut life. But BOY did he ever have a point among those of us that grew up in the good ol' USA as Christians in Appalachia. And all you lactose intolerants can take your bottle of whine elsewhere (smile).

I'll save the many, many uses for butter and whipped cream for later posts (giggidy) but - for now - let's skip straight to my favorite . . . CHEESE!

Let me get a few things out of the way here, food snobs . . . I KNOW that American Cheese is not really "cheese" at all - but it is still delicious. I get that Velveeta and other shelf-stable awesomeness like jarred queso and canned cheese is not really "cheese" - but YOU know that they are all still delicious. I won't even bother to try to and defend the imitation stuff . . . I'm not going to win any hearts there - where I'll put my energy is in the cold, shrink wrapped, greatness that is the CHEESE CASE!

You've got your soft cheeses . . . Your medium cheeses . . . Your hard cheeses . . . Your smelly cheeses . . .  Your spiced and fruited and infused cheeses . . . Your smoked cheeses . . . Your "baby" cheeses . . . your sliced cheeses . . . Your brick/block cheeses . . . Your wedge cheeses . . . Your imported and domestic cheeses . . . Your shredded and sticked cheeses . . . Your - holy crap we should all just meet up and gnaw on a pounda'cheese each and talk this out.

Bottom line - you aren't going to find me a better way to destroy a diet than cheese. And you're not going to find a better food that can stand alone OR be added to a myriad of recipes and dishes to make them better. I'll lay my whole argument here . . . the greatest sandwich you will ever eat. Ready?
  • Go to a bakery. Get their crustiest and meanest-looking baguette and/or pretzel/crusty roll. You want something bland with no taste and all texture. Crusty. It has gotta' be the type that flakes when you tear/bite it.
  • Get some of the sharpest cheddar you can find. Sliced razor thin (I've never understand "razor thin" - by the way, someone explain it to me). 
  • Get a RED onion. Slice it up. Pop the rings out of each other. Cut them all in half so you have smiley/frowny faces when you're done.
  • Slice the bread. Put about two ounces of cheese and a small handful of onions on the cheese.
  • Close the sandwich and eat (no meat, no condiments, no other flavors or ingredients).
  • Repeat as necessary. 
IF you are not completely satisfied and converted to my Church of Cheese by the last bite - let me know and I'll pretend to issue you a full refund and I'll insincerely apologize for sending you astray. But make no mistake - you just took bread and red onion and made it DELICIOUS by simply adding some cheese. You can't do that with peanut butter, roast beef, tuna fish, or Peeps.

For the rest of you (that GET IT) - let's all head to the cheese counter at Dillon's Marketplace (on the east side, don't be silly) and/or Ziggy's (and one of you digital marketing types should help them get a website that is a) findable and b) doesn't stink on ice) for a Cheese Johnson (each). STAT!


Success . . .

I've been shaking my network tree the last few days. Reaching out to old colleagues, friends, peers, people I respect. People respected by people I respect. People who have casual, passing contact with people who know people I respect. People who once served coffee to people who have casual contact with people who know people that I vaguely know. I kid. I'm not so crazy as to think anyone that is not a direct contact of mine is in my network but I am crazy enough to go far too long in between touching base with folks.

Of the four or five people in this world that I consider "professional mentors" (and you should all have one, even you stay-at-home domestic types), three of them have NEW (different - they are far from waiting for their business cards to come in) jobs and one of them corrected me on the name of their employer (Elliott School of Communication (no S at the end - theory vs. application)). The fifth one is still doing the same old thing but - dude's owned his own company for 17 years - I'll not exactly sniff, in that self-satisfied way, at that.

It is great to catch up, get some face/voice time, hear what everyone's been up to and - perhaps most importantly (my ego being what it is) what they think I've been up to. I don't mean to imply I asked them what I had for lunch yesterday or what the status of my Netflix Instant Queue is. I, instead, updated them on my professional pursuits and asked them for advice on how I can continue to grow and advice. Some OUT OF CONTEXT advice/feedback/thoughts include:

  • "Dude. I have no idea what ANY of that means."
  • "Do you ever NOT speak in industry garble?"
  • "You're still a bit of an 'acquired taste,' I might presume."
  • "BIG personalities in the world are two types - those that alienate, those that blend."
  • "There is nothing you've set out to accomplish that you have not. Can't imagine that would stop now."
  • "Hmmm. Repeat that exactly - but use different words."
  • "You jerk. You said you wanted to talk about football. I would not have called you back to talk about you."
  • "You might consider adjunct teaching. I think you'd be great at it."
  • "Just be yourself and be honest about who you are and you'll not put yourself in a spot where you can not succeed."
If you're horrified by any of that (some of them are not the most positive) - remember that these are people that I have self-identified as professional heroes. They are going to have a bit of an "edge" to them accordingly. And/or be so completely comfortable with who they are and the career they have that they have  become highly coveted, beautiful sea glass. I'm 15 years in to the tide here, folks - I could stand some edge dulling. Of the hours I've spent on the phone with folks in the last week - one thing has been consistently echoed and it is that last bullet up above . . . success comes only in self-awareness and self-presentation.

I'm loud. I'm aggressive (I would say assertive in some environments/contexts but I'm generally more aggressive). I'm confident. I'm direct. I'm honest. I'm passionate. I'm afraid of just-about nothing. I give credit where it is due. I'm a team player when I'm on a true team where the weight is being equally shared/pulled. I'm inclined to swear. I have a work ethic that makes a lot of people crazy (hint - never ask or expect anyone to do anything you would not do yourself . . . and if you would do it yourself - maybe you SHOULD do it yourself). I think of myself, first and foremost, as a professional (even in the context of fatherhood - I think of myself as a provider, an example to emulate or avoid, a person in full, etc.). I am not afraid to be the sore-thumb and lone opposition if my experience and the facts support my differentiation. 

The above (with balding, overweight, stunningly handsome, and a few other physical descriptors thrown in) is WHO I am. I have been successful (yeah, I said it) to this point in my career because I know this. I own this. I'm comfortable with this and if my success will continue for the 30 years of work I think I have in/ahead of me - I'm going to have to stay comfortable with this fact and make sure I'm in an environment that will allow me to be. 


As MC Hammer Said - We Pray . . .

I had someone ask me the other day, rather pointedly (and deservedly), WHY I was converting to Judaism. The answer to that question is no more or less simple than any other "why" question people have asked me in the last year so I turned it back on them . . . Why do YOU think I am?

Their response was less than inspiring . . . "Attention." Yep. True story. My cynicism and my narcissistic nature have officially become a perfect storm of open loathing from my friends and fellow man. I was more than happy to a) catch my breath b) tell them that my reasons (plural) were a little less selfish than they had presumed. Then I mumbled something about their mother and Honey Nut Cheerios. But they offered one more theory . . . you have "found" G-d. Nope. I was raised Catholic. I "found" G-d at conception (just ask my parents) and have never once questioned the presence of a force/being bigger and smarter than any of us and have also never (even in my aforementioned ego) once questioned that everything in my life (good, bad, ugly) has happened for a reason and to keep me on a path of my larger life.

So WHY become a Jew? I started talking trash about the Catholic Church in my early teen years and have, admittedly, been very critical of almost all organized religions and a good chunk of people that feel they must carry their faith in to their daily interactions in often uncomfortable ways. (Example "Have you heard the good news? He is risen.") So why (I have blogger's ADD, clearly) . . . simple. I need some focus in my prayer.

Yes. The DIRTY little secret in my life (okay, one of several hundred) is that I am a prayer (as in someone who prays - not the utterances of those that do it). Let my friend Kosha Dillz play as you read on . . .

I've never prayed to any particular G-d. I've never really focused on the Santa Claus Wish List Prayer Camp  (Jesus, please bring/give/allow/afford me . . . ). I've never made prayer about me or what I want. I've always made it about what I NEED. Simple prayers have been my guide "Please help me make sense of ________." "If you could help me understand _________." "I would appreciate if I could be given some context for __________." Sure. I fill in those blanks with the occasional selfish want. Okay - I semi-regularly make it about selfish wants. I'm human. If the Judeo-Christian model is correct, "he" wants me to be a little fallible anyway, right?

Anywho - one of the many reasons I want to fully endorse and be accepted in to the Jewish religion/tradition/culture/approach to life and faith is that I want focus in my prayers. One of my biggest failures as a Catholic (yes, I'll own this) is that I never read the bible. I never really bothered to learn how the Old Testament and New Testament really worked together. I never went beyond simply MEMORIZING the prayers and the commandments and the doctrines. I never allowed them to be absorbed in to my life so I could say "No worries on why my wife and I lost this pregnancy, big guy. I get why based on ______ in your Good Book."

As a full grown adult, I need a way to get focus. I'm ready NOW to allow a religion to be my baseline. My jumping off point. My peaceful place. I figure there is no religion in the world more maligned, misunderstood, put-upon, or tested from-which to draw some basic perspective and it is, just a few months in to the conversion process, paying huge dividends for me. I honestly think all the challenges that have fallen in to my life the last six - nine months would have easily overwhelmed me a few years and certainly a decade ago.

Prayer allows me to just be quiet, to focus, and to ask for appreciation for the good, learning from the bad, patience for the delayed, and perspective for the confusing. Prayer allows me to know that it will all be "fine" and that it will all be "okay" and that - as I've said 1,000,000 times in the last few days . . . This too shall pass.

I'm sorta' at a loss for how to close this post out so I'll leave it in the hands of Canada's Next Poet Laureate in his song Pray. "I close my eyes and pray. I close my eyes and I can see a better day." - Justin Bieber


What The Internet Is For . . .

I'm a generally "happy" person (despite my deep cynicism and skepticism). Few things really "bug" me or get me "down." A few exceptions . . . 
  1. People who enjoy/love/find attractive and talented Beyonce
  2. Those who think "West Coast" is better than "East Coast"
  3. Uninteresting trivia (eg. "Did you know that if Barbie were a real woman she'd struggle to even stand up.")
  4. Monopoly. The business practice AND the board game
  5. Domestic abuse and people who perpetrate the act(s) and their defenders
  6. Equal and Sweet'N Low (Splenda 4 Eva, yuns)
  7. The Lord of the Rings and any of its prequels, sequels, reboots, merchandise, brand extensions, et al
I could go on - but then I'd never have another post in me . . . instead - here are the TOP five (Internet streamed videos - there are a million top five lists that could be put here, and may eventually be put here) I will reach for when I need a good giggle or to turn that ol' frown upside down. (DISCLAIMER - The sharing of potentially offensive language is in no way an endorsement of said language. We good?). Feel free to bookmark this page, if you find any comfort in any of the shares that follow.

5) My Drunk Kitchen . . . (I like them alllll but we'll start at the top.)

4) Aziz Ansari's Cousin Harris on Facebook . . . "His senior quote's going to be 'TNT Knows Drama'."

3) Froggy Fresh (who will ALWAYS be Krispy Kreme in my heart) . . . "Everybody gets scared when I front flip." 

2) Drinking Out of Cups . . . "Who's this guy? Mr. Balloons. Mr. Balloon-hands."

1) Mini Daddy . . . I have NO idea what this kid is even saying but, in my heart, I hope Ava brings this kid home some day (many, many years from now). Gotta' appreciate the swagger. 


Overcome . . .

Think you have things in your life that hold you back, minimize you, or limit your potential . . . tell that to this blindskateboarder. Kid does something I don't have the courage to do with two working eyes and a relatively low level of "apprehension" (it helps that I know I have no athletic ability or hand-eye coordination). He uses sounds, the feel of the board/wheels and his comfort and enjoyment to minimize the fear and the thrill of the tension relief of success to keep him going.

Inspiring video but my favorite is the quote . . . "Falling is a skill you get good at." I like the quote mainly because he follows it up saying that if you have security (safety equipment) in place, you don't have to be afraid. You can just focus on the benefits and thrills of whizzing around an empty pool. Or something like that.

Seriously - who wants to go skateboard blindfolded?


גם זה יעבור. . .

To clarify - since I got so many questions . . . the subject of the post is "This Too Shall Pass" in Hebrew. A reminder that all physical things, challenges, good times, bad times, anxieties, romances, etc. shall eventually move through and become the past.


Network . . .

The last few days have reminded me of the power of networks. I don't care if we're talking about electrical grids, quilting circles, a group of friends, professional acquaintances, a spy network, a loose collection of celiacs, or a - as long as we're NOT talking about Lifetime, I am PRO network.

The reality is, I think people often misunderstand what it means to have a network. A network - in its truest sense - is not something that has to be CONSTANTLY groomed, manicured, and engaged. It is merely something that must be kept. You have to make an impression, be memorable, keep the memory alive, and not abuse the dynamic. It is something filled with contacts. Truly populated. Dozens of legitimate people that have the same relative expectation of you that you do of them.

To clarify . . . A NETWORK is something you can lean on, get support from, trust, and provide support and a listening ear to. A CONTACT is a person within that network that will give you the above - and perhaps more (drug cartels are networks, after all) in a pinch.

The key to getting the most out of a network is to see that it is more than just one or two contacts, it (and its members) is/are best used sparingly, and you should only ask from the network what you do/would put in to the network.


Rains, Pours, Whatever . . .

There are all sorts of old adages and general cliches that really don't make a ton of sense to me . . .

  • Deaths come in threes
  • Good things come to those who wait
  • Arrested Development is hilarious
  • When it rains, it pours

Let's focus on the last one . . .

"When it rains, it pours." What does it mean? Well - it is actually a  simplification (marketing speak, thanks Morton Salt) for "It never rains but it pours." This is actually an old Mandarin (Chinese) proverb that basically says trouble comes in groups. It was modified in the 18th century in Jolly Old England to imply that you can be in a drizzle or a hurricane because when "it" is coming down and you get wet - it doesn't matter how wet you are (giggidy). But here's a twist . . . in the salt context, the slogan means that even in moisture, the salt doesn't glob together and it will pour out of the cardboard cylinder it comes in. Yep. Morton is alleging that their salt defies the laws of physics in that even humidity can not prevent its salt from staying solvent and crystal.

So when "we" (the Royal) use the cliche we're being negative. We're saying that trouble comes in packs, that when you're down you're down. That when you are wet, you're wet. I don't get this. What's with the pessimism? What's with the wallowing? What's with the negativity? I've been in plenty of light mists that I found downright refreshing and the only time I've ever been in a tropical storm (the first time I went to Disney World) I had a TON of fun running around in the sheets of rain. I got wet both times - sure. My glasses got spotty and my hair appeared as bald as I really am. There are negatives to be found but only if I look. Only if YOU look.

Let's get with the advertising professionals here, folks. Take the rain. Get wet. Get damp, dank, misted, moist (worst. word. ever.) or even inundated and deluged but pour. Pour right out of it. Be SALTY but don't stick in it, don't dissolve, don't wallow.

Life will only ever give you things you can handle (rain - in any quantity) but it is up to YOU to handle it.


Where My Knittas' Is At . . .

There are lots of things about me that often confound people. I promise to address most of them at some point in any relationship that I develop that goes deeper than you reading my blog but the one that is perhaps MOST confusing the people is that I love to knit.

I know. I know. Take a minute. Let it soak in. It does not make sense (in your defense). And here's the thing . . . I said I LOVE to knit. I did not say I'm GOOD at it.

When I was young and in therapy for the first time (I have lost count but I think I'm on round eight) my counselor suggested I find ways to settle my brain, focus, and feel empowered when I got frustrated. I tried a number of disciplines. Tennis against a wall. Counting syllables in the things I say. Memorizing the state capitals. Getting very good at simple addition and subtraction of large numbers. Feverish masturbation (still practicing this one). Many of them have been short lived pursuits that didn't provide the relief I need.

Knitting has. If you were to come to my apartment and snoop around you would find a world class collection of pornography, some lotion in the bucket (for its skin or it gets the hose), and about 40 feet of what (w/c/sho)uld be scarves. But it is not. No one will ever wear or stay warm from my craft but I can say that LOTS of people have avoided sad, grumpy, angry, moody, yelly, disruptive Sean thanks to my crappy should-be scarves and that should count for something.

Everyone is capable of something. Everyone can learn new tricks and solutions to problems. Everyone can be happy if they just dial out the noise and focus in on something and maybe . . . just maybe . . . you'll eventually get enough benefit from your effort to have a wearable scarf.


Smelly Pranks and Conclusions . . .

If you've never worked in an ad agency (and statistically speaking you probably have not), what you "know" about the industry is probably limited to movies, TV shows and general pop culture. It suffices to say that NO agency in America actually looks, feels, or behaves like anything from "What Women Want" or "Mad Men" or the shorter-lived, far-lesser-known (but I enjoyed it far more than most fictional takes on my chosen profession) "Trust Me".

A personal perspective . . . working in advertising is about being told "NO!" Your client says "no" because they don't have the money for your over-the-top-idea. The creative team says "no" because you're an account service asshole, you don't have any creative thoughts. The account service team says "no" because the creative team just insulted them. The higher-ups say "no" because an inter-agency Beer Pong tournament is not something an agency budget should carry. The interns say "no" never. Ever. That is not smart, young people. If your entire professional life is about being told no . . . you seek out the YES in life. That's why there is booze in a lot of desks and closets (I had a fully stocked, complete with refrigerator, bar in my office space), few agencies that enforce drug testing (why eat their own young?), inner-office romances (and by that I mean secret sex) abound. Late arrivals, early departures, afternoons spent on YouTube (or less-desirable sites) are common. There are kickball games, happy hours, birthday parties, potlucks, and the occasional prank. None of this is "unhealthy." It is needed for balance. It is vital for team and it is, frankly, what drew me to marketing to begin with. In broader circles they call it "work hard-play hard" - for us, it is WORKING!

I was very fortunate to work for a GREAT advertising agency. Established. Mid-sized. Young, mid-career, old. Small client. Big client. Pro bono. Full-service. Etc. etc. etc. I started as a PR guy, evolved a few times and ended as the new business guy. I worked with people that frustrated and inspired the shit out of me and I did all I could to add to the soup in terms of smarts, talent, work ethic, and fun. As "fun" goes - we liked pranks. A lot. My boy J-Hopp may be the best prankster I've ever known and colleagues Rob Carlton and Kristin Brandenburgh were not far behind. I saw some legendary awesomeness go down in my four years in "Ad Land" but none of it touched my "farewell" from my colleagues.

Some context . . . I don't do well with "change." I hate it, frankly. When I made the decision to leave the agency I kept it close to the vest (telling only my new employer and the leadership team at Associated). I was unsure of my decision emotionally (it was the right thing for my career but my heart didn't want to leave).   Deep in the throws of what to do, I - shall we say - acted out. I found a bottle of the worst-smelling "air freshener" in the history of the world (it was called Gardenia but it smelled like old lady, deceased lady, potpourri, arsenic, new car, and seared human hair) and I walked around the open-floor-plan agency and just about emptied the bottle . . . then LEFT FOR THE DAY. People went home from headaches, there was dry heaving, there were angry text messages and e-mails. There were vows of revenge. And revenge was had. About two weeks later, it was time for me to go. And go I went. I packed up my office, loaded my car, and we all went to lunch (the Friday before Labor Day weekend it was a lengthy, leisurely affair).

I should have suspected something was "up" because there was WAY too much interest in when I was actually leaving the building upon our return from lunch. I had earmarked about 30 minutes from our return (1:30ish) but I was feeling emotional and just wanted to hang out so it was about 4:15 before I actually descended the stairs one last time (as an employee). My car awaited me, in a +100 degree day and full afternoon sun, just where I left it. What was inside was NOT what I had expected.

The first thing I saw was the bag of burned (both in the microwave and with flame) microwave popcorn hanging from the rear view. "Oh shit." I mused. I opened the door (I never lock my car - ever - long story why) and found cups of spoiled milk in my cup holders. The blast of "Gardenia" flooded my nose. I opened the center console to find an opened car of sardines. There was mayonnaise in cups, cracked eggs in plastic bags, olives and other canned/jarred items along the floor board. The smell was almost overwhelming. I laughed (as did my colleagues watching from the balcony above my car) and started unloading the stinkiness. I got all I could find, got in the car and started driving to my new office. The smell was paralyzing. I have no stomach so I can not "dry heave" but my senses were so overloaded that I stopped TWICE to get out with choking fits. I arrived at my new office to unload all my stuff and found what I thought was the Crown Jewel of the prank. In the back of my car was a chub pack of ground beef that had EXPLODED in the heat sending bits of cow all over my boxes, bags, and belongings.

I left the windows, sun roof, and hatchback of the car open while setting up my new office. About 90 minutes later, I went downstairs to the car and it still smelled horrible. TRULY fantastic prank. I drove home and parked the car in the garage, windows open. The next morning my child and I were running errands (including trying to get the car professionally cleaned inside). I was startled when Ava asked "Daddy, why are their worms in your car?" I pulled over to find maggots crawling from a second exploded chub pack of beef under the passenger seat. I reached under that seat and the driver's seat to find more stinkies - 24 hours in to their dominance of the air in my car.

We were turned away from TWO car washing services. I vacuumed the car myself. Put a different air freshener in. Unloaded a bottle of Febreeze. And waited. Days went by. Weeks. The smell would lessen and lessen but not go away. I was a month in to my new job before I could avoid daily reminders of the people I left behind and how much I loved and missed them. It was six weeks later before their "farewell" to me officially wore off. My car went back to smelling like my swamp crotch and Ava's partially consumed drinks.

I was cleaning my car in June. 9 months later. I was finished with the outside and going through the interior. I reached under the driver's seat and found a box. It was full of partially eaten chicken tenders, some potato chips, and some honey mustard dipping sauce. On the box a note simply said "See ya, sucker."

See ya' indeed.

I could have been "mad" about this prank. Could have been livid. Could have considered it an insult and decided to never talk to the perpetrators again. I could have vowed and had my revenge. Instead, I loved it. It made me happy. It was a final act of good natured friendship-based torture from an agency of people that I'd grown to think of as family and who I left behind. I would have been more upset, frankly, if there was no prank. No fun. No torturous send off. That would have been far, far worse than any smell my car could carry.


The Power of Words . . .

There has been much talk, much controversy, and much wasted time and energy in the last few months about the over-the-top use of the "n-word" in Quentin Tarantino's latest film Django Unchained.

I saw the movie. I enjoyed it. It was as bloody, over the top, funny, well made, well acted, long, and lovingly crafted as I expected it to be. I was in no way surprised to hear the word 1,589 (or so) times in the 3 hour film. It was a movie about slavery, set in the era of slavery, made by a dude that loves to push buttons and press the envelope.

I'm NOT saying the word is okay. Nor am I condoning slavery. Nor am I saying that those offended should grow up or get over it or whatever. Heck no. If that word bothers you for any reason . . . allow it to. I'm fine with that. For without that potential for offense - I have no blog post brewing here. The point of this post (already a few hundred words in) is to showcase that words have no meaning, weight, or strength without CONTEXT . . .

Indulge me - what do each of these words make you think of? What "significance" to they have? How do you feel about them?
  • Love
  • Hate
  • God
  • Juju
  • Macaroni
  • Bird
  • Organic
  • Baby
  • Slut
  • Boobs
  • Sh*t*ass*dm*th*rf*ck*inc*ckb*y!
Ha! Trick questions. You shouldn't really think ANYTHING about ANY of the above (besides the last - that one should have you thinking I need psychiatric treatment). And I'd be willing to be in order TO "think" about those words you put them IN a context.

  • I love my family.
  • I hate Monday mornings.
  • There is God in this orchard.
  • People who say juju have mental problems.
  • . . . and called it macaroni.
  • Nothing funnier than flipping a nun the bird as she does her acts of kindness.
  • I am a far healthier eater thanks to these Organic Cheetos (yes - that is a real thing)
  • My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun. Baby got back.
  • It is never okay to call a woman a slut. Ever. Stick with whur!
  • Boobs! BOOBS!
So if you've seen Django Unchained or not (and I think you should) or if you are offended by the "n-word" or not (I think you are fine to be or fine not to be) or if you just wish I thought a little less about boobs (good luck with that) - just try to keep all of the above and other things in context.


Lucky Guy with a Head Cold . . .

I feel like a very, very lucky man some days.

I had a moment on December 23rd - deep in the throws of a (not yet diagnosed) double sinus and ear infection, with a kid who was profoundly bored to be with a sick daddy and my first non-celebrating Christmas looming.

For context - I was on my 2nd bottle of Walgreen's brand liquid hallucinogenic and my 3rd box of Puffs with Lotion (when you absolutely have to kill every last germ in your snot and don't want to chafe your face with each of 1,000 sneezes, sniffles, and drips - accept no substitutes) in 72 hours. I was sucking wind (literally and figuratively) and I knew it was going to be another 26 hours until Ava would go be with her mother and I could really, truly sleep.

Then. It happened. A text message from Joy (who knew I was sick). Simple and beautiful: "Could I take Ava for a few hours this evening to see some lights, do some shopping, and have some dinner."

My heart sang. Not just for me but for the kid (she was so bored but had been such a sport about it). In my head my response was "The love we have shared has been rekindled in this instance and I've never found you more wonderful, beautiful, supportive, or present. I think we should give this another try - or at least have sex a few more times - based on this proof of life." But the text read "Sure. Ava will love it and I'd appreciate the chance to rest."

I don't remember the five hours in between Joy picking Ava up and dropping her back off. I know that I didn't leave the bed and I know I was not conscious for a even one full minute of it. But that is not what matters. What matters most is what happened next . . . I was awakened by a very, very sweet little girl who - bathed and in pajamas - kissed my forehead, cupped my chin in her hands, whispered "Daddy, wake up" and presented me with some soup, a fresh cough drop, and her Kindle Fire with Netflix cued up.

Joy was in the door way to my bedroom. She asked if she could help any more and wished me well. She kissed Ava goodbye and the kid crawled in bed next to me, snuggled in for some dreadful, horrid, animated kid's movie and, within five minutes, she was snoring and I was back out for another 11 hours. We went directly to the Take Care Clinic (where I actually had a great experience) the next morning.

It has been nearly two weeks since those moments of kindness. The infection is gone. The antibiotics taken. The ability to breathe restored. Etc. I think I'm just now really appreciating the moments for what they were.

I was reminded that no matter what is going on and how frustrated or grumpy or whatever I feel with life, I have two women in my life - one who has shown me great kindness in love for nearly a decade and who very well might (in smaller doses and different contexts) for decades to come and one that has a lifetime of love to give and receive and who deserves the best version of a father/man/role model/prototype I can be/offer.

And the minute those infections were under control, that is what she got and continues to get.


You Can't Go Back . . .

Just a quick post today to follow up on my post from last week about decisions and regrets. I got an interesting e-mail from a dissident (I really wish some of you would "comment" on the posts so we could have the positive, constructive, ALMOST always interesting debate publicly) that said my post didn't allow for you to go back and re-do, re-try, re-connect, or re-establish if you did make a mistake.

I'm presuming (somewhat dismissively) this was in the context of buying a trendy top from Hot Topic or a bad nail polish color at the local salon but for all I know they were talking about bridge burning, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes getting married, or getting divorced, or someone OUTSIDE the immediate friends and families of both narcissist actually giving a flying f*ck about any celebrity happening, for that matter. Maybe they meant real life shit? Nah. No chance. Here's all I have to say . . .

THIS (click "play" below) CAN NOT HAPPEN (the first 1:38 or so, at least)!

No regrets. No remorse. No retreat.

I'm not saying you can't have people/places/things back in your life in the future (I might argue, depending on the severity of the reason for the schism, you should NOT but - hey - to each their own) but they will always be in the context of the happening or the "explosion" (to stick with the firework reference above) and it will be different.

Enjoy the show, folks. Wear long sleeves. Protect your eyes. Learn from the fallout. Be better for the display and all the pretty, pretty colors (and the stupid, corresponding booms).