Halloween . . .

Today, as the fully costumed adult in the cube next to you probably made clear, is Halloween. Now if you have children (or are the person in the cube "next to you") you have known Halloween was coming for weeks. And if you are an American consumer, you've known for months.

Between the "pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING" revolution, the fact that masks, costumes, hair spray, specially packaged candy, and limited edition/seasonal candles started showing up on end cap shelves in MAY and the fact that we've taken on this sense of National Pride (caps to show respect) around the holiday, Halloween has become top of mind.

My mother, a teacher and all around creative and amazing woman, would make (with a sewing machine and, some years, plaster of Paris) our costumes. My father, the principal at the elementary school, would lead the Halloween parade. My brothers would get in to the holiday (first in costume - later in mischief). My family loved the holiday.

I grew up in Upstate, New York. By October 31st, the world had turned dark and cold. I don't remember a single Halloween as a kid where I didn't want to sit home in the warmth instead of put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy. Let's be clear - if MY house has a vat of candy just inside the front door and YOUR house has a vat of candy just inside the front door and THEIR house has a vat of candy just inside the front door can't we all just stay home with our candy instead of fumbling around in the dark to get a small sample from each vat? Why don't we teach our kids efficiency anymore?!?!?!

I digress . . . Halloween. Yes. So . . . we live in Wichita and Halloween here is far more seasonable (most years) and, specifically, I live in College Hill where Halloween is BIG (I heard a woman saying last year she drove her kids in from El Dorado (30 minutes-ish away) to Trick-or-Treat in Wichita. It might be anecdotal but I really do think Halloween is a bigger deal here in the heartland than it was in the hills and valleys of the Empire State.

Regardless if it is the time zone, the water, or the cultural shift in generations . . . my daughter LOVES Halloween. Her mother LOVES Halloween. I could not care LESS about Halloween . . . the day.

(Please) don't invite me to your Halloween party. Certainly don't expect me to show up in costume if I come to the event itself. I won't be bobbing for apples. I won't be telling you (be you male or female) how quaint I find your "pick female occupation and add 'sexy' to the front" costume (unless you really do work it well at which point, gi-guh-deeeee).

I'll HAPPILY do a little decorating around the place. I'll buy and carve pumpkins. I'll even buy candy to leave on the front porch in a vat (yes - swing by my place, you are on the honor system and I don't care how quickly the candy disappears) but the whole notion of putting on a costume and/or knocking on the doors of people we live near/next to/around but do not KNOW and would not otherwise interact with seems very, very strange.

I mean - I do it. Five times or so. I am a parent. I HAVE to Trick-or-Treat. Five times per year. Yes, yes. I'm that much of a curmudgeon. I help get our daughter all costumed up (this year she is a Vampire Queen . . . not to be confused with a Vampire. Or a Queen. Or a seven year old girl that dresses like little girl things) and I take pictures and I smile and laugh and then I go to a few houses and her mother takes "it" from there. I am not even going to pretend I stay home to hand out candy. I won't even lie and say I stay in to protect our home from trickery. I won't even tell you that I have some other reason to sit at home beyond apathy for the whole thing.

Part of my disregard for the holiday, I think reinforces that, in my heart, I've always been Jewish. Part of it is that I just don't get the idea of wanting to escape in to some other person/thing/costume/etc. for a few hours (or days as it seems is the growing trend as we have Halloween parties and events throughout the month).

I'm happy being who I am in my own clothes, in my own house, without a vat of candy just inside my front door (it is on the porch - I don't eat modified sugars). I have NO problem with the holiday or people (Yes, even you adults get FULL PERMISSION (not that you need it (smile)) who get excited about and love it - two of the most influential women in my life do - but it is not meant for me. I'm not looking for a "trick" or a "treat" . . . I am just looking forward to November 1st.


Love and Forgiveness . . .

Ladies and gentleman (the rest of you fellas are scoundrels at best), Mary J. Blige . . .


Literate Woman . . .

A book in the hands of a woman with her own sense
of style? RUN! You might just like her!
I'll push aside the normal trappings of my blog posts for a day to talk about something actually important - women. No. Not in some "we should covet, acquire, collect, and dismiss them" way but in a "there are two types of girls in this world way" (if my Grandmother Coyle were still alive I would clarify that there are MILLIONS of "types" of "girls" in this world but she's not and she would not accept any crap I tried to tell her anyway). But - for sake of argument, let's assume there are just two types of women in this world.

First . . . read this. Go ahead. I'll wait. Take your time. It is totally worth it.

Okay. You back? Good. Whadya' think? Oh. You didn't read it? No? You just want me to paraphrase and summarize? Okay. Fine. You win . . . sorta' and you are "girl number one". (The two types of girls are those that read and those that don't).

So, this guy Charles Warnke has written his ass off in a piece about why you should NOT date a girl who reads (he uses girl not in a condescending way but in a way that makes a point - calm down, empowered womyn of the world). His argument is simple . . . if you get caught up with a girl that has put her nose in a book once or twice in her life she is going to be way, way more difficult to fool or simply apease for the rest of your life than a simpler woman who is happy with whatever life you might carve out and whatever promises you might make or keep - and if you fall short? Eh. She won't really know there is anything better out there.

But a woman who reads, as Warnke's closes the piece . . .
"You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. Or, perhaps, stay and save my life." 
It is a weird thing to think about all the things that make a woman who she is or is not (and that makes her attractive or not) and what makes a man who he is or is not (and that makes him attractive or not) and then to ponder all the things that might make the woman and the man (or the man and the man, or the woman and the woman - calm down, empowered homosexuals of the world) then find each other attractive or be disinterested in each other.

I had someone tell me the other day they actually think boobs are a hugely important thing for me in a woman. WHAT?! I mean, sure - they are great - but really?! I'm allegedly that simple? I'm somehow that plain? Am I the illiterate BOY that Warnke would warn women about? No. No chance. I read at least 26 books every year - I read blogs, periodicals, websites, e-mails, short stories, plays, and - recently -  Judaica, and the Torah on top of it. I'm not "that guy" that thinks a woman is her body at all. Sorry to burst your bubbles, smaller "chested" women - you're not off the hook that easily (smile). More importantly I'm a large, balding, divorced man. You think I can even lift the stones inside this glass abode? Nope.

But lots of people don't live in glass houses. Lots of people are in homes made of concrete and forged steel. Those people can afford to be simple. They can afford to be superficial. They can, frankly, afford to forgo the challenge of a demanding, dream-fueled, and adventurous partner because they look good enough for someone more vapid to desire them back. But MOST of the people I know (and maybe my social circle is just too "literate" for its own good) are attractive enough to be simple in their preferences but are, more importantly, evolved enough to understand and appreciate the complexity that comes with a "literate" partner.

But what if everything that was or was not attractive or love-inspiring about a person was ONE factor? Eye color? Contact lenses. Hair color? Dye. Chin(s)? Plastic surgery. Number of limbs? Stuff happens. But something mental . . . something emotional . . . something about the ability to see and process and dream and have expectations and to know what it is like to have them dashed . . . that is something, right? That is something that you could put a weight on. If I had to pick ONE attribute about a woman that I would find attractive it is her mind and the things that fuel and fill it so - yeah - I vote LITERACY as the most important thing in the world of choosing a partner.

I like minds and brains and emotions and challenge. I like acuity. I like complexity. I like challenge. I don't know if (and doubt that) I'll ever have any "real" or "romantic" relationships again but I know that, if I do, it will be with a woman who loves me "for me" almost as much as she loves to read for her. My life is already full of wonderful female friends that carry these traits (and books) so a woman would have to exceed that "minimal" bar of exceptionally well read women to stand out.

I've honestly never found a woman attractive that didn't have a swollen brain between her glorious, gently drooped dear lobes. My ex-wife read. She dreamed. She had expectations. She had context. She's not even the only smart woman I've fallen under the spell of . . . as my shrink once joked I have a way, way higher rate of PhDs, MDs ,and JDs in my history than the average man.

If I were a simple man - it would be a question of library card, not bra size.


Forbidden Fruit . . .

I've been thinking a lot lately about the book of Genesis. No - I don't mean the entire catalog of the rock group . . . I mean THE book of Genesis - as in the start of the Torah, the Judeo-Christian Big Bang Debunker.

Specifically about one part of the book - the forbidden fruit.

A couple of disclaimers . . .
1) There is literally no way the forbidden fruit was an apple. It was either carob, a fig, or a pomegranate - I like the fig theory, I'll allow for an ultra anti-oxidanty pomegranate (I'm no biblical scholar, I just blog about crap that pops in to my head).
2) For this post to make sense you have to believe that there is a G-d(s) and that they/he/she/it created everything.
2) The whole notion, in my never humble opinion (see disclaimer immediately above) that if the earliest of humans were not supposed to eat the forbidden fruit than G-d would not have put the fruit in the garden is absurd.

Of the above disclaimers (with a nested disclaimer) only ONE really interests me (you want to believe the forbidden fruit was an apple . . . go crazy. Seriously. And if you don't believe in G-d that's fine, too, but believe in SOMETHING - please (family, kids, chocolate eclairs, shoe sales) . . . the notion that we would somehow not "see" or "want" things that were not meant for us.

Want proof? Here are just a few, off the top of my head, examples of things we are not meant to see and yet are out there . . .
  1. Gifts from "Santa" hidden away in the garage attic or other places your parents hid them
  2. Nude selfies of a buddy's special lady friend (former or current)
  3. Your grandmother, topless
  4. Your grandfather, bottlomless
  5. A couple ending their relationship (regardless of how unfunny the acting is) in public
  6. Pacific Rim (the motion picture)
  7. Where Chicken McNuggets come from
  8. Anything Cameron Diaz will tell you she's "proud" of making
  9. Katie Couric getting a colonoscopy on live, national, morning television. Thrice.
  10. The way the New York Giants are playing this year. 
  11. Katie Grover use her fingers to approximate the size of a Cesarean incision (she has NO idea how large a fetal skull is . . . NONE . . . and is pregnant with her second child).
  12. Bourbon Street at 6:45 AM. On a Tuesday. In July.
  13. Angela Merkel "making love" (unless it is with you, at which point it is a beautiful moment you should be fully present in)
  14. Hobby Lobby's Hanukkah section
  15. Parsley in one's teeth LONG AFTER the date has ended
Okay. We good? Can we all agree that we've seen (or can imagine seeing) everyone of those things and yet we know they are not meant for us to see? Okay. Cool. More importantly - going back to the Garden of Eden - can we agree that the world is full of things that G-d put (t)here that no one is meant to see, have, experience, etc.?

Why am I rambling about G-d and if he/she/it/they would taunt us with things? Simple . . . because temptation, in my never humble opinion, is the entire point of life. It has to be present and it has to be seen or heard or felt or smelled or tasted (the weakest of all the senses as you loyal readers know) for us to stay on the proverbial rails.

If you are a competitive swimmer, you have to see the person in the next lane that is about your size and shape but four seconds faster than you to keep you working harder. If you are a chef, you have to see that bastard down the street getting a James Beard award . . . again . . . to keep your cuisine fresh. If you are on a budget you have to see a Coach purse you love (or whatever material object you covet) to get you to save a little something that you might some day have it (or new brake pads - which is what you'll probably end up buying). If you are an aspirant politician you have to have an election on the horizon you can/might/should/win (until you realize your past is not that far buried).

But here's the rub - for this to work it can't all be attainable. It can't all be had. It can't all be "allowed" by the forces of nature that push us along. You have to lose. You have to walk (swim?) away. You have to be compelled to push your emotional urges (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, and envy (I'll let you keep SOME pride)) down and you have to be able to see the lesson or moral or value in missing out.

And you will miss out. You'll see something you really want. It could be Angela Merkel on Bourbon Street at 6:45 AM. It might be a new car. It might be as simple as a book out of stock on Amazon.com or it might be as complicated as woman or man that captures your attention or it could be a fig/pomegranate/apple in a garden FULL of food (and turkeys - if the painting above is to be believed).

You can't have those things. You have to see the value and the lesson in not getting them. You CAN still have so many other things in the world. Remember there was ONE tree and ONE fruit (by extension) excluded from the riches of the Garden of Eden (where all plants and animals were).

You should look at that forbidden fruit and admire it for its isolation and appreciate it in context. Then go eat a banana or an orange or some grapes or something. Heck - get ye a kiwi fruit. You'll eventually be better off for it . . . granted your anti-oxidant level will be lower.


Favorite Teacher . . .

Okay, FINE! Facebook DOES provide value - I found a
picture of my favorite teacher drinking a beer.
When I was eight years old, my father got a new job. He had been the Superintendent of a small school district in Upstate New York following years in the classroom. I was too young to really "get" it but I gather he was just not a huge fan of having so much removal from what he loved about being an educator - the kids - and that he had a hostile board and some difficult teachers that added to the frustration. Long story long, it was decided to be in the best interest of the entire family that we move.

So - we did. The summer between third and fourth grade (I had turned nine in the meantime) we packed it up and headed to Central New York and the place I consider "home" when people ask. And I HATED it! HAY-TED!

Now . . . fast forward a decade or two and I'll figure out that I had significant anxiety and OCD issues as a kid and the notion of moving and changing houses, schools, friends, zip codes, bedroom placement in the house, and everything else was just tooooo much for me (I remember feeling physically ill the first time we went to our new church and I discovered it was carpeted (that's a true story)). BUT my father, being the elementary school principal had a plan . . . he'd put me in the room with the fourth grade teacher that was "best aligned" to what I needed (yes - this will shock you - principals pull favorites for their own kids). Was he right? Heck no.

I hated (hay-ted) my fourth grade teacher more than I hated moving and the carpet at the church . . . and padded pews. Seriously? G-d gave his only son so Catholics could sit on cushions? I digress . . . I endured the year and did the best I could (as did that teacher - I didn't make it easy) and my parents, much to their credit, were amazingly supportive and encouraging and went way out of their way (almost to the detriment of my brothers (9 and 4 respectively)) to make me comfortable.

So fourth grade ended and I got ready for fifth grade (which is really awesome when you think about misery and loathing and the imminent onset of puberty) and I showed up on the first day to find Mrs. Satterly as my teacher. Now I KNEW Mrs. Satterly by this point. Technically I knew her daughter, Barb.

You see when you're the principal in a small town in Upstate New York you hire your teacher's daughters to babysit your three kids and they give positive feedback despite the fact that your sons are MONSTERS to them! We had already gone through Mrs. LaFrance's, Mrs. Walpole's, Mrs. Morse's, and Mrs. Ludlow's daugthers (and by "went through" I mean Heidi LaFrance required surgery from where I blew her knee out chasing her around the house) before Barb(ie) Satterly showed up on a Friday night. She was amazing. She had brothers - she was not shocked. She was not afraid of the Amore boys. She once punched me in the leg so hard it bruised almost immediately and I limped for two weeks. She was AWESOME! Anywho - I was super excited, based on how much we loved Barb, that I would be with her mom for a year. How much different could she be? Apple/tree - right?

He's what you need to know about Mrs. Satterly - she is a white haired saint. Figuratively (the white hair part is and was literal). I had never before, nor never since (in the dozen or so more years of formal education I went through) had a teacher that got me so excited about school and not just the sitting in the classroom and reading and crunching numbers and learning about science and where babies come from (5th grade = sex ed) but SCHOOL! The social part, the challenge part, the building and respecting boundaries part, the girls-sure-are-purdy-part. And she did it all with style and grace and she was always firm yet kind.

I don't remember any specific moment, hour, or day in Mrs. Satterly's classroom. I don't know exactly what about being in her room made me so happy or whatever. I don't really remember much about fifth grade at all (except, you know, the sex ed part) but I know that I was released from therapy by the end of fifth grade.

I stopped crying every day. I made friends with kids who would be my best friends for the next eight years (and some are still friend today). I was able to stop being such a drain on my parents that my brothers could actually get some attention. I discovered a love of reading that I still have room in my heart for today.

I don't know if Mrs. Satterly remembers me nearly as fondly as I do her (I saw her last fall at my brother Ryan's wedding and we chatted for just a few moments). She probably was a favorite to MOST of her students. I will always think of Mrs. Satterly when I think about great teachers. She was wise, caring, attentive, boundary setting, and did a good enough job teaching us that I can't remember anything specific other than the love of learning she imparted.

THANK YOU, Mrs. Satterly, for being so friggin' great and for sharing your daughter and her killer Charlie Horse talents with us, too.


Frowny Face Day . . .

I know I don't often admit to having any of these things you mortals call "emotions" but I'm having a "sad" day . . . with that in mind, I figured I'd dig out a playlist I made for myself a year or so ago. Because, yeah, a mix called "The End?" will help turn this frown upside down. 

Hope YOUR day is a great one. 


Taste . . .

No. This is not my tongue - nor is that my cold sore
there on to the right of the tongue. You nasty, boo!
"Taste" is a weird thing. It is, of course, one of the five official senses but it widely believed to be the "weakest" of the senses (in an "ideal" human being - a person with glasses or a hearing aid might not be able to argue their vision or hearing is superior) because it is "tied" to its upstairs neighbor - smell - and the context of scents and flavors.

"Taste", of course, is also something we talk about as people's subjective preferences in things of all sort . . . food, of course, but music, books, clothes, women, men, etc.

I know LOTS of people who think they have great taste - I know people who think they are straight up taste makers - and I know people who are so sure in their preferences they won't even try different "flavors" in this world for confidence they WOULD be disappointed. Now, conversely, I don't know anyone who thinks they have horrible "taste" in anything (except people at the end of a relationship that say they have horrible taste in (wo)men - before starting another relationship with a person of the same approximate "flavor" shortly after) but I know lots of people who will argue that they KNOW people with horrible taste in music, food, books, clothes, the opposite sex, sporting clubs, shoe styles, usage of emoticons in text messages, etc.

So - what is the truth on "taste" in the world outside your mouth? It is the same thing as on the tongue itself . . . contextual. You tell me you have great taste in music - I want to know what you do NOT like (and you'd better have entire genres you can rule out because that helps me figure out what you might like and where that preference comes from). You tell me you have excellent taste in art - tell me your favorite piece in the world (or ONE of them) and then tell me why (I want to know what speaks to you). You drop on me that you have excellent taste in food, tell me about the most universal of things about food . . . how great food makes you feel and why.

What am I rambling about? Context. The things you "do" and "don't" like and the things that help you make decisions, feel superior, feel inferior, feel worldly, feel local, feel legit, feel smart, feel smug, etc. are really only as important as the context and the "smell" of these things. If you can't give your preferences some weight in the world around them - they aren't really your opinions . . . they are just the smell of decision.


Rudeness vs. Politeness vs. Honestness . . .

In my continued effort to fill my life with good people, good food, good times, good music, and good hugs from busty women, I've recently been spending more and more time socializing.

This may not be a revelation for most of you - the human is a social animal, after all. And for MOST of my life I've been near the top of the Social Human Pyramid with a network of people that inspired, challenged, fulfilled, benefited from, and occasionally (busty female or not) hugged me. The last few years? Not always "so much" . . . sure I have had friends during my "Shadow Days" (a colleague today told me this is my theme song - I disagree THIS is my theme song. Not really. THIS is. No. Seriously. This is. Really. This one is.) That last one (two?) really is. I digress . . . there have been lots of great friends that have sort of stuck through things with me but now that I'm starting to feel human again, I'm excited to be meeting new people and starting new relationships. PART of that challenge is sitting down with people and figuring out who people really are.

What do I mean? Enter my arch nemesis . . . social media. We all have these "friends" and "relationships" that are completely facadical (that is not a word - I know it is not - I am using it anyway . . . don't like it? Get your own blog!) and based on what people want you to see, hear, think, experience. Think about how many times a day you just see pictures of cute kids doing cute stuff. No one EVER posts photos of that same kid talking trash, throwing tantrums, and setting fire to the guest room curtains (and if you know people that do - have them send me a "friend" request because kids acting up is near the top of my list of favorite things (just under kids swearing)).

What does this have to do with the price of dryer sheets at the laundromat (that one is going to catch on - I can tell)? Nothing. Oh wait . . . yes it does. It has EVERYTHING to do with the price of static cling repellent for people like me? Why? People think I'm RUDE (apparently). Yes. I know. Sit down. Grab a paper bag. Breath in and out slowly. Let it sink in - as hard as the lie might be to accept. But, I have to say (yes, I occasionally read my own crap and I can admit that I MIGHT come off as very opinionated, black/white, antagonistic, and even critical. Yep. I own all that.)

But here is something I will say that is important . . . I'm HONEST. I share my opinions and I will criticize opinions that are contradictory to mine (particularly if I think the other position needs to be contrasted). I have no real filter. I told a woman earlier today that I thought she was beautiful (and not even in a leading way) and you could have heard a pin drop as she pondered when the other shoe would drop and if it would be innuendo or direct cavemanery. I frequently dislike and mock opinions, actions, words, and deeds. I rarely (more and more all the time) criticize PEOPLE (the flesh, the abilities, etc.). I have no issues having direct and uncomfortable situations. I WELCOME people to bring me their issues with me. I ENCOURAGE dialogue. I INVITE critique (it makes me better and stronger).

I am NOT rude (in an objective way - certainly subjectively I could be very, very guilty) but you know what I think is RUDE? Politeness. No. I'm not talking about simple and good manners or chivalry. I'm talking about the sort of politeness where you pretend to agree and you grit your teeth and you resent what is happening because it would be impolite to speak your mind and be candid.

I, like all my fellow stinky cheeses, am an acquired taste. I get that. And as I try to meet new people and fill my life with people who are also HONEST and DIRECT (and occasionally rude/polite in  context) I am thrilled to sit across a table from someone and have them tell me they may have been wrong about me and that I might be more kind and open and giving and caring than they had presumed. I don't think those confessions are rude at all . . . they are downright polite . . . and honest.

PS - Yes. I also know "honestness" is not really a word. Get your own blog if you don't like it.


Like . . .

Well - it has happened again - the world of social media has let me down. I know, I know. Pick your chins up off the floor, stop rolling your eyes, move my soap box to the middle of the room and buckle up kids - it is Sean's School of Social Interaction time and I've got a TED-ish talk to spew.

Picture it. Sicily, 1922. I kid. This was Wichita, 2013. Here's the scenario. A friend (Yes, I know her in real life. I've had lunch with her several times. I consider her to be a truly wonderful human, wife, mother, etc.) lost a pregnancy a few weeks back (months by now?) and then - in the spirit of the Morton Salt Girl being always right - her father died last week. Now these are two things that are truly tragic and these are things that you sort of have to go through to get (I've lost a pregnancy - my father is still doing his "thang" in Upstate) and these are things I would never wish on anyone. Literally. NO ONE should go through either of these things. And yet we do. We do . . .

ONCE upon a time (2005 or before) this is what would happen . . . (crinkle noises as newspaper is shuffled over breakfast table) "Oh crap," says the head of household. "Seems our friend has lost their parent." "That is bad news," says co-head of household. "We might go visit the survivors, perhaps take some comfort food - no one has yet decided they have a bullshit wheat allergy so everyone will eat up and feel better about their lot for a few hours." First co-head of household responds: "Right good idea, partner. Right good. Says here the calling hours are in the coming days. I'll call the funeral home, listed here, and see who in the family might be the best person to call about bringing some food by and I'll order flowers. Children, eat your oatmeal. The bus is coming soon."

What do we do NOW?! FACEBOOK! I mean why not?! I GET (and accept) that it is a free and immediate communications tool to immediately notify every one you've ever friggin' known that you've had a death in the family (or what you ate for friggin' lunch). I get that. The SHARING of the news on Facebook is not what has me in a lather. No, no. It is the RESPONSE!

Within 20 hours of this woman sharing news of her loss (granted she DID wrap up the status with something about hugging the people you love so I'll allow that people only half read crap and there are two conflicting messages in the status) THIRTY NINE people had "liked" the death of a woman's father.

NOW - I get that people will say that they "LIKED" the status because she wrapped up her status with something positive but . . . it's like a court case I remember hearing about in college 11(I tried to Google it but can't find anything here). Here is the gist - a young woman was raped by three men on a college campus and they were able to break the case because one of them had a very specific watch on and she remembered the watch. The news anchor came back from the package and talked about how "lucky" the woman was to recognize a great watch when she saw it.

Okay, fine. It is NOTHING like that. But here's what it is like - another nail in the coffin of sincerity. What ever do I mean? How friggin' EASY is it to click "like" on a status and feel like you've done your part to support and console? And how friggin' TACKY is that?! And you people who copy/pasted bible verses or went to her wall to write something not in the thread or those who said something half-assed like "So sorry. I hope you're not a Celiac-person because someone will bring you something to eat real soon." . . . you're no better.

PICK UP THE PHONE. Buy and send a card. Get in your car - once you've touched base with the family and have approval to do so - and visit. Take something starchy and comfort foody. Stay just long enough to ensure there are no immediate needs in the house and turn Ghost like Swayze shortly after (they don't really want you just hanging out). Do something that requires some actual time, effort, attention, and sincerity. Make it meaningful.

Last fall a friend of mine went through something horrible in losing her husband. It was the first time I've really gone through something exactly like that. I was at the house within minutes and I didn't really leave for about 48 hours. I stayed long enough to help restore order to the house, to allow family to arrive to truly share in the grief, and to make sure that everyone had what they needed. I was back at that house several times a day for several days and, eventually, I would just call or text to see what was needed. Once it was apparent nothing was needed - I just let my friend and her daughter be. And they reached out if they wanted or needed anything. I got HIGH PRAISE from people for all my effort and blah, blah, blah. I did some MINIMAL stuff for those women. They lost something so important and vital and all I did was organized food drop offs and airport runs.  I got genuinely salty when people would say I did something even worth mentioning. I did exactly what I'd seen my parents do and my grandparents do. I did what was right to do - helped out in a genuine way.

I don't want to judge people for how they react to death. It is tricky and subjective and never something that a rule book truly helps with. But I'll judge us, COLLECTIVELY, for losing touch with sincerity. For becoming lazy in our relationships. For letting the click of a mouse be the sum and total of how we help someone in crisis. I don't think I'm a jerk for that. I don't think I'm a curmudgeon for wondering if my daughter will live in a world where the ONLY way you get any support or validation is through technology.

And I wonder how difficult that will be on her - especially when I'm no longer able to help console her because - after all - I'll be dead. Like my friend's father is today.

Eyes on the Prize . . .

Sorry I've been so lazy about blog posts the last week. I've been sorta' regrouping on a few things and I've been focused in on KMUW/DonaSean, etc. I promise I'll get back to normal, (near) daily posts this week.

In the meantime - here is a super close up picture of the genetically imparted unibrow and horrible skin I fight every. single. day. Vanity . . . always arriving, never arrived.

PS - Yes, I'm WELL aware that it is super creepy to post a photo like this on my blog. Yet here you are.


Pledge KMUW . . .

A few years ago . . . but the same level of insanity remains.
As many of you know, I'm sorta' obsessed with my KMUW. How obsessed? Let's just say that I won't see a movie Jim Erickson doesn't favorably review (that is not true) and the only woman I share my morning naked time with is Kate Clause. Not enough? I follow Lu Anne Stephens REAL Twitter account and Chandra Stauffer and I share a BFF necklace (I swallowed her half so she could never lose it). FINAL proof? The only man my daughter is allowed to marry is Jedd Beaudoin.

But it is not just the people of the station I'm obsessed with . . . it is the programming and the fact that NPR (through local, regional, and national programming) is the only broadcast outlet (and among the few outlets period) that gives long, deep looks at topics and subjects from breaking news to why the Nobel Prizes go to the people they go to. I don't think we'll ever be able to OVER support the things that are important to us but I sure do try.

I'm honored to, again this semi-annual drive, be involved with the station's pledge drive efforts. I'll be doing a few on-air shifts, I'll be answering phones, I'll be helping out with social media harassment and I'll be doing another round of "DonaSean" (as in donation but with the shun pronounced as Sean - I'm super, super crafty with the words and the English language and the stuff).

What is this year's theme? Self humiliation. Want to help? Here is how . . . we keep a running tally of how much my own little corner of the world gives to #PledgeKMUW efforts and as we pass the following thresholds, the following things happen . . .

$500 - I'll never pretend that I can help make a difference in my community again. And I'll shame you all for the rest of my life. Seriously, people.

$750 - I'll go to one of those Paint Your Own Pottery places and glaze something awesome and then sell it on eBay and give the proceeds to KMUW. How is that shameful? It's not other than the fact that there will be pictures of me wearing an apron and glazing pottery taken and shared. I don't like having my photo taken. I don't like aprons. I certainly don't like both combined.

$1,000 - I'll drink a cup on hot, black coffee with no cream, no artificial sweeteners, no flavorings/spices/syrups, no NOTHING. And you should know that there is no smell I dislike MORE than coffee (okay, fine, there are lots I like less but none that everyone else claims to love) and the taste of coffee makes my tongue angry. And you wouldn't want to see my tongue angry.

$1,250 - I'll go another six months without openly obsessing over my two favorite things in the world (boobs) on Twitter. You roll your eyes but it takes EFFORT for me to stay strong on this one.

$1,500 - I'll go to Sugar Sisters and buy something. I won't eat it but I will patronize their business and I'll smile while doing it and Tweet about how wonderful the experience was.

$1,750 - I will answer any question that can be asked in a one-hour period by contributors (we'll schedule it out ahead of time) and in a Tweet with no holds-barred or limits. Don't think that would be hard for a guy like me who lives as an open book? Try harder, dig deeper, make it horrible.

$2,000 - I'll go on a date with the (willing) woman of Justin Londagin and Bailey Blair's choice (start campaigning now, ladies). I'll take carnations to her when I pick her up. She can order anything she likes on the 2-for-$20 menu at the chain restaurant of her choice and she can have the entire dessert (I'm a generous suitor) AND I'll spring for one alcoholic beverage (she'll need it). I'll hang on her every word for the entire evening and won't even try any funny business. I'm still technically married.

$2,250 - I'll let Megan Lovely decide what I should do with my (remaining) hair. No cut, color, direction, or decision will be vetoed as long as the work is being done by a trained and licensed professional (she doesn't get hedge trimmers and a blindfold).

$2,500 - I'll wear fine waled corduroys until the fabric wears out or an actual fire sparks between my thighs. The mere thought of it is horrifying (and by "it" I mean fine waled corduroy on a man my size).

$3,000 - I'll go swimming in the Arkansas River. On November 15th. NO MATTER what the weather is like or the pollution scare on that day. And you can take photos or video. The EMTs might need clues as to what is actually wrong with me.

$3,500 - I'll let whoever casts the $3,499th dollar in to the pot decide. (Some restrictions apply, see store for details.)

$4,000 - I will meet with a "Life Coach" and bring a box of Kleenex, an open mind, and participatory intention - I make no promises on what happens after that but you can imagine . . . can't you?!

(WE DID IT! $4,141 (including some matching funds) - THANK YOU, people!)

Only YOU can keep my Twitter stream "boob free" for another six months (it has been two full years now so I feel like we can keep the streak going) so SPREAD THE WORD! Any pledges FULFILLED that are tagged "DonaSean" on the pledge (you can enter it in the special comments blank through the website or tell your volunteer on the phone or in person) will be credited to the total and every dollar helps (but every thousand dollars is way, way more fun) AND that are Tweeted at me (@SeanCAmore) or e-mailed to me (SeanCAmore-at-Gmail-dot-com) or mentioned as a comment on this here post will help.

CALL 6AM - 6PMish      10/16 - 10/26ish - (316) 978-6700
PLEDGE ONLINE          Click here

I'll keep everyone updated on how we are doing against our goal (which is a big $4,000 this drive).

THANK YOU for your patience as I go crazy for the next two weeks over this drive and THANK YOU (even more) for breaking out your piggy bank, coffee fund, boob job savings, or "walking around money" and giving it to KMUW.

Sunday Funday . . .

Ah, Google. You not only power and inform my digital life and communications but you make me cry on a good day. Suck it, Apple fans.


Camping . . .

I like living "simply" - let me clarify what that means (to me) . . . owning the things you value and that are special to you, having enough to feel grateful but not enough to feel overwhelmed or entitled, able to access the comforts you value without having them feel simple.

I've talked a lot about my ambitions to eventually build and live in a tiny home. I can't WAIT to do it, frankly. My ideal living situation is about 600 square feet (the loft makes it sorta' like having more). And I'm in training . . . my current home is just 400 square feet but I have a basement for storage and things like my hot water heater, heater, laundry, etc. so I get to sort of cheat in that regard.

I am truly happy and at peace in my home and everything in it makes me happy (except the pile of mail that I never seem to open).

So the question becomes . . . how is living the way I try to live (dis)like camping? And do I like camping?

A) No. The two things have nothing to do with each other. MOST campers are only out there doing it for a few days (or a weekish) at a time. They take great pains to pack everything and they make shopping lists and they plan to "walk in" to the woods and be completely self-reliant for the duration of their camping fun. They eat sparsely (or at least in terms of prep and serving - I know people who eat like ROYALTY when they camp). They sleep on the ground (or things very close/similar to it). They quietly hump in sleeping bags along side their friends who are either humping or sleeping quietly - or they are Boy Scouts at which point very little humping is going on.

No. All those things considered - I don't think there is much overlap between camping and tiny home living at all. The idea of light supplies and only what you need is consistent but you sacrifice very few creature comforts BUT space in a tiny home.

B) I love camping. I really enjoyed it as a Boy Scout (fun fact - I was an Eagle Scout at the age of 16. Boxed up all my crap, sent it to the national office and told the Boy Scouts to never contact me or count me in their ranks again after they "successfully" defend their rights to be homophobic biggots before the Supreme Court) and I even worked at a Boy Scout camp for two summers (staff cabins are a marked improvement over tent living and they might be more like tiny home living if not for the roommates. Upside? I smoked pot for the first time at AND got to know the Peter Gabriel version of Genesis (very different band, people) while a camp counselor. I've since camped a few times for a night or two. The last several years my camping has only included several one-night stints in the backyard with my beautiful daughter (tents in the lawn with extension cords, wireless Internet and fans doesn't exactly count as camping or tiny home living.

All that being said - I hope to do more camping in the future. Except I hope I never do the quiet humping in a sleeping bag thing. It just doesn't seem all that fantastic or special.


Math . . .

Math. I loathe you. LOTS. Why?

You are rules, order, structure, absolutes, and givens. You are things that have been figured out (in bits and pieces and/or summary) for a long, long time and you are just being put next to, against, on top of, below, and next to each other at this point for the exercise.

No one is discovering any new math. It has been a LONG time since a number or integer was discovered. No one is coming up with a new, simpler formula for advanced trigonometric functions. It is unlikely that anyone will come up with a variable placeholder superior to x. As the Beatles once pointed out - there is nothing you can say (about math) that can't be said.

So math - you bastard child of numbers, shapes, and functions - I hate you.

Sure, sure, sure. It is probably at least in part due to the fact that you have vexed me since I was a mere lad (yes, I was a "lad" for the purposes of this blog post). It probably has nothing to do with the fact that you were the only subject (well, your jergov friend Science too, I suppose) that I didn't love in high school, college, or graduate school. I am positive it has NOTHING to do with the fact that statistics is the only class I "earned" a C in during the entirety of my formal education. Nope. NONE of that.

It is because you are boring, and controlled, governed, and masterable. Why can't you be English with the billions of possibilities of word, punctuation, structure, and intent? Why are you not History that - while fact-based - is full of stories, perspectives, distractions, subplots, and things to be repeated? You're not even a foreign language that twists my tongue. At least with science you can blow up test tubes in the lab or make people's ears bleed in the studio.

You stink on ice, math. You are the worst. And screw you for that C, stats and polling instructor.


Reflections . . .

The most peaceful part of Sunday morning - and the water was running
pretty chaotically (for context). A beautiful morning to be a Wichitan.
NOTE - This is a SUPER long post. I suggest you read it in sections (I wrote it in sections).

Sooooo, my half marathon has been run and that means my Start2Finish training through GoRun Wichita and my PFMJoes work with Prairie Fire Marathon is complete. I did it. No mercy killings on the back miles. No golf cart rides to shorten the course. No white flags.

I have complex and competing feelings about what that really "means" and how I "feel" about that and I don't know how to really summarize them in a coherent way so I'm going to just answer some of the questions people have asked and let you figure out what any of it means (let me know if you figure it out - I'm still wrestling with it).

So? Do you feel like a runner now?
No. Same answer as always - runners, life floor gymnasts, competitive karaoke singers, and people who like salt water taffy, are part of a culture and a shared mindset. I have yet to feel running creep in to my blood. I have yet to want to invite myself in to a club of people who make running part of their lives versus something they do with part of their lives. It is disrespectful to a lifestyle I came to understand and appreciate to throw myself in the mix.

How did you do?
I executed MY race nearly perfectly. I used pacing to make the first half of the route go exactly to plan (I was a few seconds over the 1:30 mark at the 6.5 mile point) and I finished the race in 3:06:21 (just 3% slower than I had hoped to be). I was the 109th male in my age bracket (out of 111) to finish and I was the 1,555th person to cross the finish line overall. I feel FANTASTIC about that. I don't have a drop of shame, remorse, regret, or woe.

What was the race like?
I got to the starting point/runners village really, really early (about 6:15). There were already a lot of people there and the energy and vibe was pretty relaxed (save the DJ who was already playing thumping bass lines and pop garbage at a high volume). I putzed around and walked around for about 50 minutes - I ran a few hundred yards down by the river. I geared up. I talked to a few folks, etc. and then my body decided it had to go to the bathroom. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to go to the bathroom and I was literally in a porta-potty when the airhorn to start the race sounded. This was not really an issue for me. I wanted to start at the very back of the pack and I can honestly say I was the last person to step on that rubber mat to get the party started. It was only THEN that it hit me - I never actually stretched and my calves don't like not being stretched.

The first two miles were interesting. I was still sorta' in the pack (the tail of it) and I had people who were slow runners, people who were fast walkers, and people using walking/running for pacing all around me so I was fixated on my Garmin for my own pace (by the way - ladies out having a girls' morning - stop walking only until the fat guy catches you and then run for a while and then walk again until I catch you - that's not cool and I really enjoyed blowing by you in mile three). I had a very strong mile three (I was running in College Hill where a lot of my friends live/were spectating and I didn't want to suck wind in front of them). I was still feeling very strong until about mile nine at which point I realized I was not eating enough and my hydrating had slowed, too. I was not yet concerned - yet.

By the mile 11 marker I figured out those crafty bastards in charge of the race had built a HUGE wall that you would only hit if you were not watching out for it on the course. I can honestly (and with minimal embarrassment) tell you I WALKED .8 of mile 11 (to that point I'd walked a total of just .2 miles (both times while going up hills)). The "wall" for me was as very mental. I remember arguing with a volunteer (she seemed okay with my gruffness - I was respectful) about how she should best fill my water bottle for me and put in my Nuun tablet. I had just nicely gotten my proverbial sh*t together when a dude dressed as Superman came out (at about mile 12) and started telling me I was someone's "superhero" for doing what I did. I actually made a fist - decided not to swing it. But seriously - wherever that dude is - pound sand. And never talk to me again.

Now . . . mile mark 12.6 through 13.1 (the final 1/2 mile) . . . I remember looking at my Garmin and thinking it was over - just had to get across the line. My pace was slowed way down, my physical and mental energies were spent, my spirit (and this will sound like old, moldy cheese) was the only thing that kept me moving forward. I was all but ready to give up at 12.7 miles - I should not admit it but it is true. I was ready to walk the rest of the way in and take whatever crap might come (mainly my own self regret - I did not anticipate boos from the crowd).

THEN, running toward me, I saw my sworn enemy (friend?) Lacy who got me in to this whole thing anyway and she gave me a fist bump and we spouted off about The Goonies and I just started to cry (to illustrate how real the emotion was - I'm crying while typing this, 36 hours later) and I don't know why (will share a theory below). I ran again - pace in the mid 13:00s. I had JUST gotten my crap together when I saw, at 12.9 miles, Kevin the co-owner of GoRun Wichita. I am not sure why (he had a hand out for a high five) but I just hugged him and started to cry and it was that cry that you think is joy but it could be sadness and you are not sure if stopping the hug will help or hurt . . . Kevin politely encouraged me to finish the race and I let go of him.

I remember trying to tap the 13 mile marker (I had kissed my hand and tapped every mile marker this far (some sort of respect/OCD thing (remember, I have a running nail))) and I just whiffed on it. Straight up missed it. And that is the last thing I really remember until several minutes later when I was sitting on a concrete wall near the Hyatt (looking at the water wall pictured above) with my daughter and still sorta' wife sitting next to me and that feeling of sitting and knowing it was over (there was a medal around my neck) felt amazing. Probably as good as it felt for those "present" as they stepped on the rubber mat of victory.

Here's what I think happened in the middle . . . I clearly crossed the finish line on my own two feet. I have been told I refused my finisher's medal (not sure why) and passed on a bottle of water offered by one volunteer only to ask the next volunteer (who was handing out Gatorade) for a bottle of water). I had a lovely woman try to put a foil blanket around my shoulders (that didn't happen as she intended) and I reached my gross hands in to a tray of orange wedges to help myself to some fructose. She convinced me to get my hands out of her oranges and to go get my medal. There were photos taken of me (if we are "friends" on Facebook you've seen one) that I don't remember having taken and a walk over to the wall that I don't remember taking.

I just remember snapping back in to reality with sticky, orange covered fingers and a mixture of coughing, wheezing (my allergies have been brutal all week), and crying and the inability to calm down except that a woman who's been by my side for a whole lot of ups and downs in the last decade was there encouraging me to relax. I'll say this right now - the best part of that whole day was just sitting as a family on a cement wall for a few minutes. I can't think of any other person I know being able to calm me down in those moments (no offense, rest of the world) and I'm grateful she was there.

So - yeah - I was peeing when it started and mentally checked out when it ended. How was the race? Perfect.

Why do you think you got so emotional?
I don't know. I have three possible ideas 1) It was just my body and brain hitting the wall and losing a little bit of reality. 2) It was prideful tears that I had "owned" this challenge and made it all the way through. 3) It was fear that, upon crossing that finish line, I had no more direct commitment to honor and no challenge or focus or controllable thing in front of me. My gut says it was number three . . . I don't do well with change, I don't handle endings well, and I don't do well with confusion or time for it. I had settled on my next challenge (more on that below) before I ever pulled out of my parking spot to drive home and shower after the race. Just having something set in my brain allowed me to finally calm all the way down.

Are you glad you did this?
Absolutely. I was pretty open when all this started that I didn't have a ton of control over much in my life when I was asked to be a "Joe" and I was excited to try running because it was something I could control 100% and it was something that I had never really tried before and never really expected to try. I controlled running. I mastered my body as much as I could (I lost more than 25 pounds and I logged 500 miles of running) and I found such peace and tranquility and time to really, truly think while in my Brooks. I can honestly say I'm a better man (and this is not hyperbole at all - I can quantify and justify this if someone wants to challenge it) for taking this challenge and making it my proverbial bitch. Am I fast? Nope. Am I a strong, proud runner? Nope. Am I, for the first time in my life, serious about getting physically active and fit and actually having a defined muscle or two? Yep. Have I wrestled more with my thoughts and concerns and fears in this process than the hundreds and hundreds of hours of therapy I've talked through in my life? You betcha'.

My total PFM Joes training in a few random stats and figures.
Since I started running I've been hired and am months in to a great position that truly challenges me. I got a new car (after getting the job). I am weeks away from finalizing my divorce and things with the home my family shared in happier times. Those were all big question marks just four months ago. In the meantime I'm not just co-parenting but I've started to build a true friendship and relationship with a woman that I've only ever really wanted peace and support for and from for a long, long time.

I can honestly say this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and knowing I finished this commitment and crossed that finish line means more to me than my high school, college, or graduate school stage crossings combined and any other "close" to a chapter in my life. Running has helped me. Running does help me. Running has inspired me. Running owes me nothing.

Why were you so anti-support?
I'm a jerk. I don't do well with receiving kindness and, candidly, when all this started I had a very large chip on my shoulder that I had to work off on my own. I knew that if I made this a group thing - if I even went and really embraced the group runs - I would feel like this was not "mine" and I had to make it mine.

THAT being said - I want to truly thank Lacy with the marathon for asking me to do this (I really don't know what her expectations were and I don't want to know how far off the reality was from her hopes). I want Kevin with GoRun Wichita to know that his interest, support, concern, and encouragement was PERFECT coaching for a guy with my disposition (never too much in any way). I hope they are both "proud" of the time and energy and INVESTMENT they put in me for these long, long months. I owe them that.

I'd also like to really thank my still sorta' wife for being agreeable and flexible with our custody schedule and for continuing to support me in a stage/dynamic of life that is not an automatic expectation.

I'd also like to thank my friend Skibba for sharing tips and suggestions along the way (some welcome, some forced) and for loaning me everything from a water bottle to a Garmin and for listening to me complain and helping to put things in the context of what I needed to do next to improve. A very good "sherpa" that helped me a lot.

I would also be remiss to not thank EVERYONE who did anything from a Facebook "life" or a Tweet in support of me to calling, writing, talking, and encouraging me along the way. I have felt very supported and loved and coddled in these months and I can't say "thank you" in a genuine enough tone to do it justice. But I can try.

Will you continue to run?
Yes. I just bought a $170 pair of shoes - they owe me 336 miles (I kid, but only sorta'). But, yes. As mentioned previously on this blog post and elsewhere, I have come to enjoy the challenge of running but - more importantly - have almost come to depend on the time I spend running for thinking and working through mental puzzles. I will NOT be running another half (or full) marathon in the next year (yes - I am officially leaving the door open to running this race next fall . . . but it is just a small, small crack at this point). I'll do some 5Ks and I'll run a few days a week.

BUT I'm going to put running in the context of an overall pursuit of better health and fitness. I hope to continue to work out five days a week but would like to walk, run, swim, bike, lift weights, do some yoga, etc. etc. etc. If I can get myself in better shape - I'd be way more likely to run another long distance and maybe set some different goals and objectives to those runs.

For now it is about not backsliding or getting fat(ter) and sauc(ier) but, instead, taking the focus off running. I want to be fit - not ripped or swole or whatever the kids are saying these days but FIT. I've started that process. I can and will continue that process.

(The following is a REAL question - presented verbatim) You're a guy who seems to run from obsession to obsession and you seem to "need" to be immersed in a challenge like the world would end if you don't have something "look at me"is to point to - what is next?
Hebrew. Straight up. I can't call myself a good Jew if I can't read, speak, sing, and comprehend the language of G-d's chosen people. If I can spend 8 or 9 hours/week running, I can spend 5 or 6 hours/week on Hebrew. So . . . yeah . . . that's my next thing. It will join running, knitting, reading, Rokuing, and a long list of passions that come and go but leave their mark on me and fade in prominence but stay part of my life.

Do you have any advice for might/would-be runners?
Yes. Put on a pair of sneakers (go get fitted at GoRun Wichita but take your current kicks with you and ask them if your current pair is good enough for you to at least get started with), walk out the door, pick a direction, and stride out. Then curse the decision within a few yards. But do it again. Once you get your first mile behind you - go back to GoRun Wichita and buy some serious running shoes. The investment (it ain't cheap) will motivate you to stick to it.

I won't say "if I can do it - you can do it" but I'll say that if there is an urge in you there is NO reason to not at least try it. It physically hurts at first. It is exhausting in general. It is fantastic once you start to feel your body learning and doing what the brain tells it to. I don't think everyone should run a half (or full) marathon but I think everyone should try new and different things and challenge themselves. If that means agreeing to running a half marathon . . . that is not the worst thing in the world.

More importantly (for local people) - if Lacy asks you to be a "Joe" in the coming campaigns - DO IT! You get free kicks, free enrollment in the program, and free marathon registration . . . that's a whole lotta' free to not take advantage of.


Lazy Day . . .

NO post today. I have a few drafts started and I will be talking KMUW's pledge drive starting tomorrow and a final running recap on Wednesday but I was too physically and emotionally spent last night to write anything to show up this morning. I hope you'll understand and check back in tomorrow. Shalom.

This is what nearly 300 pounds looks like at a 10:45 pace at around
the 3.4 mile point of a half marathon. If it horrifies you in still form - imagine it in motion.


Sunday Funday . . .

This is perfect . . . right down to the white man overbite bassist and handclappers waiting patiently for their cues while chilling in easy chairs. Music . . . I love you.


In a Name . . .

The English make even the pettiest of fights sound sophisticated and worthy of the time and energy. The question remains . . . what's in a name?

How does the label we smack on a child before it has done a single thing for itself dictate who that person might be(come)? I'll admit - I'm totally guilty of this . . . I believe that a person named Heather WILL be nicer/friendlier than average. I am sure that men named Bob WILL be more handy and tinkery and mechanical than average. I have never met a Stephen (and only one Steven) that was not a little uptight and allergy burdened. I know just one Walker and, frankly, he is as mellow as the mental picture might indicate. I don't agree with Pauly Shore that all women named Lisa are more beautiful (nor with the Beach Boys/David Lee Roth that California Girls are the best). I think Shauns and Shawns got hosed on an otherwise great name. I think Ginnyfurs will spend their lives spelling their first names apologetically. Don't get me started on the kids named after food, animals, tree species, and obscure rock lyrics - because they will be the Ethels, Roses, Irises, and Leopolds of the world three generations from now.

These things, for me, are not "judgments" or "classifications" - I don't think that Heather can only be fun nor that Bob should fix my car or Stephen needs his inhaler before we head out to run errands and I know more attractive Lisas than I do unattractive. One of my favorite people on this planet is a Shawn. And I bet Ginnyfur is patient and gracious and I'll bet every kid on the playground right now that answers to Jaguar will be a great Grandfather when his time comes. Fine, fine, fine.

So what is the point? It is just a name. There is no "weight" to it. There is no "magic" in it. It is far less important to who a kid might be (or who an adult is) than a million other factors and characteristics not least among them a sense of humor about the monikers everyone's answering to all over this crazy, spinning ball.


Shock Value . . .

Wanna' see the real image? Click on the link to the left. This
blog is a family-friendly affair (rolls eyes).
Sooooo, I can't say it is the top of the headlines in America today (what with pop culture being what it is and a few things happening (or NOT, as it is) inside The Beltway) but there is a controversy brewing over the t-shirt pictured to the right.

I'll boil it down - the t-shirt is deemed "shocking" for showing what amounts to female genitalia, being (presumably) self-pleasured while said female is in the throws of her menses (yes - I find the word hilarious and I use it accordingly).

It seems the question/issue is really around this t-shirt being potentially too shocking to wear but it is also being evaluated (from a "let's figure out just how shocking this really is" slant) as to the intentions of the artist and if it is simply to shock or not.

Now - forget that American Apparel (notorious for trying to get attention and push the envelope) is selling the shirt. That is technically not the issue (for me). This is not about the grooming choices of the woman (from anything I've read, at least). And let's just acknowledge, bottom line, that ART is "about" a reaction. It can be one of a million reactions but all artists do what they do for the sake of a reaction. So if "shock" is the motivation for the reaction . . . so be it. Label it intentionally shocking - move along.

For ME the question is about the shirt itself being too shocking to wear. It's not. No such thing. I am equally shocked when I see middle-aged women in Dillons in August in Kansas wearing polar fleece "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" pants as I am seeing a sketch of a woman doing what women frequently do (touching and cycling) on a t-shirt. Big whoop. Seriously.

And please don't give me any crap about the shirt being "too much" for children. By the time they can identify a mature adult vagina and the color from it - they're not exactly naive anymore anyway. Either they've matured themselves, had "the talk," or both. While the drawing is not exactly an abstract it is something you either recognize or you don't.

No - no . . . for me this shirt and the "shock" is about a simple thing . . . why are you wearing the shirt?! What drew you to it? Is it the statement of a woman owning her body and its urges and functions and you align with that? That you want celebrate that? Or is it about making people in the mall food court squirm when you walk by?

Because here's the thing . . . they are both about reaction. Either you want the world to know you're cool with women being women (something we can all say in the right context) or you want to make people who can't say such a basic thing out loud uncomfortable.

If you're the latter - please don't buy or wear the t-shirt. Stick to emboldened body piercing or directly aggressive tattoo design/placement. Dye your hair. Do something at least semi-permanent so I can see/know that the decisions on how you'll appear and the reaction (if your piercings, tatts, and hair are "art" (as many argue they are)) are at least something with real intent and direction. Otherwise, you're just wearing your old college t-shirt on laundry day.

Do I believe in "shock value" to get a reaction? ABSOLUTELY. I have been a professional marketer for 15 years and I've been walking around as a person happy to ask for attention for 37 BUT I'll say this - people often think I'm a contrarian or an outlier FOR the attention or to shock but in reality - the shock or attention is an after effect of me having the position. I'm not a "follower" but I'm not going to try to distract/lead the lemmings if I'm not willing to walk over the cliff either.

I would not wear the vagina t-shirt. A) I look horrible in white. B) It is a woman's cut shirt and I'm a fat man. C) I don't like graphics or decoration on my clothes (of any sort). D) I don't have any personal affinity for the art screened on to the shirt. E) Whatever "reaction" me wearing the shirt might net is not the reaction I want or seek so the shock would be lost on me.

All that being said - I just blogged about a vagina t-shirt . . . more than likely for the shock value of talking about all this and more. And you fell for it . . . friggin' lemmings (meh)!


Fears and Crazy Thoughts . . .

No. I've never stayed here. But I would!
As I spend more and more time "alone" (no longer in our old, family house and with our daughter only with me half the time, etc.) I have been thinking more and more lately about the reality of being "alone" - no not in an emotional sense (we've talked about this) but in a really, truly practical way.

An example - I was relighting the pilot on my oil furnace (my appointment has this old, totally out of code, in-the-floor thing that is horribly inconsistent and a burn hazard to naked feet and the place while I'm gone) and I was having issues getting the valves to line up right (turn this one 90 degrees to the right, then that one 180 degrees to the left and then push this button, then hold this down while lighting a match, etc.) and I just kept thinking "Man, would I love an extra set of hands right now - or someone to know if I do this wrong and blow myself up."

Now clearly this is NO reason to stay married (this is a reason to get a roommate, a live-in caregiver, or one of those "Life Alert" bracelets). It is the polar opposite of why to stay married (spouses, I don't think, are intended as security blankets and status checkers) but that is not why we're chatting today (you do all know this blog is really just free therapy for me, right?). NO - this is about an OLD fear that has recently come back.

Between 1998 and late 2003 I was alone all the time - by choice. I loved it. I had roommates (to help with pilot lights and share utility bills with) but I used to really enjoy just having time all alone and one place and time I had that was on business trips.

Sure, if I went to a city where I knew people (New York City was common and I have friends and women who I used to very much enjoy seeing later in the evenings) I would be social but, otherwise, it was just time to be alone and relax. And I would . . . except for one thing.

I would never actually "live" in a hotel room. And by that I mean I would keep all my clothes (clean or dirty) neatly folded or hanging and inside my closet or suitcase. My shoes would be carefully tucked away each night. I dried every drop of water from the sink, vanity, and shower after I got ready for the day. I made my bed to the EXACT specifications I found it each morning. I took all my trash out when I was done and put it in public waste bins. I left my rooms so pristine that I once got a call on my cell phone that was an inquiry, from the front desk, to make sure I was alive and well (they feared I checked in, put my stuff in my room and just disappeared, I guess).

Why? Simple. I had this fear (that seemed very rational and real) that I would die in a hotel room and that the room would be a mess so it would compound the confusion and the chaos of the situation and my parents, who would have to come pick up my body (I know you don't have to actually "pick up" the body anymore) and they would be criticized that I was such a slob (or whatever). Yes. This was a real fear wrapped around crazy thoughts, fed through and irrational needle's eye.

But I'm alive now and doing just fine but I do think more and more about how little solace I took in just having someone "there" who cared for me enough to claim and dispose of my corpse no matter what condition my hotel room was in when she got the call.


Scenes From a Run . . .

To date, I have logged over 465 miles as part of my GoRun Wichita Start2Finish program for the Prairie Fire Half Marathon. If you're a regular reader of the blog you know that the race itself will be starting in exactly four days (pretty much to the minute). Am I ready? Yes. I think. I had a bad final long distance training run but I've done 13 a few times and my head and heart and legs should all be ready come Sunday morning. 

In the meantime, I was feeling reflective on Sunday so I hopped in the car (it was my rest day) and drove and took some pictures of some of the spots where some of my more memorable or important training moments happened. Presented here (in the order the pictures were taken - not the memories made) are a handful of the sharable things. 

Please to enjoy.

The view I have at the start of all of my weekday runs and where I stood for those long, fateful moments preparing to take my first steps on this journey in June.

This nail (in the middle of the picture) is my OCD release and the official "Start/Stop" line of my weekday runs. I touch it to start and to end every run around the neighborhood.

This traffic signal (you can't really see it - but it is there) is the 1 mile mark from my apartment. It was my first running goal and it remains a common spot for me to evaluate the early status of a run. Through the light, by the way, as 1st street climbs through Crown Heights, is my LEAST favorite "incline" to run. Not sure why.

This stretch of road, behind the Bob Dole VA Hospital, is where I gave myself the most cheesy pep talk EVER- the basic thrust "If men and women can risk their lives for their freedom - you can jog around your neighborhood." I believe and respect the sacrifice of those brave soldiers but I really did want to punch myself in the throat that morning.

These markers (you can't really see them that well) will tell runners doing the "half" and "full" marathons on Sunday which way to go. The first time I saw these markers was Saturday  morning. I got a rush of nervous energy from them. NOT because I was afraid I might make the wrong turn on race day but because it felt very real to follow the arrow.

I was out running one morning down this double yellow line - probably about where the tree's shadow overhangs the lines - (it was dark, there are no sidewalks, and there was no traffic) when a cop pulled up next to me - asked if I was running or drunk - and then told me to be safe and give my remaining miles "Hell" . . . I enjoyed that moment. Maybe a favorite in the grand scheme of things.

This fence, at 1st and Battin, was the first place I peed in public (while sober) as an adult. I've peed on it a few times since. I  have also peed on the Saddest Garage of Hydraulic (just south of 1st on Hydraulic) and in between a storage unit and a garage near 1st and Washington (several times each) during my training. My mother is so proud right now.

I ran these railroad tracks just three times. I didn't like being on gravel, I hated it was a mile between each chance to turn right or left and, frankly, it felt very Stand By Me to run this path. Yes. I've seen a dead body before. Not exciting.

These benches, on the K-96 trail just South of 21st street, are where I sat the day I "quit" training. I was having a bad run and feeling overwhelmed (it was week two - three mile run so . . . I've grown a lot in four months) and I sat there, angrily, and calmed down just long enough to realize that the 1.5 mile marker was probably 200 yards away so even if I didn't go touch the marker,  simply walking back to my car would make my distance three miles. I couldn't even justify quitting at that point. I've never really thought about quitting since.

The morning of my first 10 mile run I stood behind this building and cried prideful tears for a good three minutes. I don't know what the finish line will feel like but that morning was very emotional for me.

I truly can not say enough good stuff about the people at GoRun Wichita. I've been so warmly received and store co-owner Kevin and his staff have been very supportive and given me lots of great advice, product samples, etc. to make my running experience better. If you want to get started with running - these are your people.

This is where I got "mugged" (the road has since been paved but I was probably just about where the orange thingy separating the traffic lanes sticks up (just about the center of the shot) where/when it happened).

Hands down my least favorite part of the PFM course (yes, I've been running parts of the exact course for weeks - I have OCD). Why? It is a distance builder . . . we run three sides of a rectangle. I'll be cursing the course designers every stride of this stretch on Sunday. Also - there is a QuikTrip not far from this spot - can we leave the course long enough to get Diet Mtn Dew?

I do love my home, my Wichita. I've enjoyed getting to know so much of it on foot these last several months. 

Ah. ANOTHER BS mileage builder. The second 5K I ran required you to run the path along the river all the way to the garbage can (middleish of the picture) and THEN turn 180 degrees and run the path coming all the way back WHILE running uphill. Go eff yourselves, course designers. You're the WORST!

Douglas Avenue, downtown Wichita. The first +5K of our route is Douglas, heading due East. This is the stretch I'll use to get my pace, to let the pack leave me behind (I like running alone anyway), to get my head locked in to what is ahead and to drown out any volunteers and/or spectators around me. It is also where I'll start uttering my profanities. Because that is what running means to me - expletives.

I ran MOST of my weekday miles up and down 1st and 2nd streets. If I wanted scenery - I went East first (through College Hill) if I wanted flat and "easier" I went West (toward downtown) the metal cable you see coiled in the middle of the shot is the closest I've come to tripping, falling, and busting open my face and butt while running. I didn't see it one morning and got caught up on it. But I'm quick like a friggin' cat and recovered. Then screamed profanities at The Radio Shop as I passed it (they weren't yet open - it's okay).

This intersection (Grove and First) is where I had that dramatic moment where the motorist slams on the brakes and stops just inches before hitting the pedestrian and the driver and person on foot make saucer-sized-eye contact while the near collision is averted . . . you've seen it in TV and movies a million times. Anywho - that happend in late-June (early in my training). I totally apologized to the guy for jaywalking (running?) once he stopped screaming about what an idiot I was (he was right - 100% my fault). I am a little faster now when speeding through a "Don't Walk" light.
That's it. There are more photos and a lot more memories in my head. It will all be over in about 96 hours. THANK YOU for the memories and the support. I'll post ONE LAST running blog post next Wednesday to summarize the race itself and maybe to reflect, in words, on how much this really has meant to me.