Say Something . . .

I posted a week or so ago, as my divorce was finalized, about how marriages were work - hard work - and how the key was to stay present and talk and work and focus and take it seriously . . . BOTH partners.

In the meantime, I've had no less that FIVE friends (six, technically) tell me their marriages (or serious, long term relationships) are either ending, on life support, or struggling due to external distractions and wants and needs. The KICKER? Only ONE of those challenged relationships involves both partners knowing about the problem in a definitive "Yes, we have had 'the talk' and they agree." way . . . and one of my friend's spouses only found out because the proverbial feces hit the proverbial air circulation machine and they HAD to be told.

Let me say this definitively . . . FIGHT! Argue. Scream. Yell. THROW STUFF (not at each other - that is stupid). Demand a conversation. Air grievances (it is Festivus somewhere). Put it all out there. Unless you are being actually abused (at which point get the F*CK out of there NOW!) there is no reason to not try talking it out first.

Don't be a coward - and it IS cowardice - and just sort of slink out the back door. Don't start something new. Don't let distractions become the focus. Don't let that person that you vowed to love, honor, and cherish until death did you part find out that they are expected to keep on living without you on court papers, by e-mail, text message, voicemail, or through the grapevine. YOU are better than that - even if your spouse is not.

Look them in the eye. Say the words "I am leaving you because of _______." Want to do that? NOPE. No one ever does. It is a sentence that should never, ever, ever be uttered. And certainly not happily or with an upbeat heart.

A better idea? DO NOT say the above. Sit, instead, take their hands in your hands, look them in the eye and use one of the following phrases or expressions (or make up your own) instead . . .

  1. "I miss the way you used to ___________."
  2. "I would love it if you put that phone/tablet/Internet porn addiction down and came to bed with me."
  3. "How about you and me go to lunch on Saturday. Just the two of us. I wanted to catch up."
  4. "Do you still think I'm beautiful? I don't remember the last time you told me and I miss hearing it - you telling me felt good."
  5. "I'm lonely and sad. Are you? Can we spend more quality time together?"
  6. "I'm distracted by the things in my life that are not you. We are supposed to be center to each other's lives - want to get back in my middle again? How do we do that?"
  7. "Am I doing enough?"
  8. "Are you doing enough?"
  9. "What flavor edible underpants do you like because I'm totes buying a pair for this evening - come home early."
  10. "I was going to ditch the kids Friday evening and see a movie. You want to join me? It is _________ - a movie I feel like you might like. After we can just talk for a while."

I say these things from first hand perspective. This is not me just sort of talking trash about people who are thinking about doing something I did. This is not hypocrisy. We said ALL the things above (expect number nine - that one is just for humor value) in our home long before we threw in the towels.

I don't care what you say or when you say it but sit your spouse down and say something . . . cue the crappy pop music:


Gift Giving . . .

There is a cliche in a remote sub-culture of nomadic sheep herders of Romanian lineage that now live in the western suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio that, when loosely translated in to English, says "Gifts are hearts and souls on sticks." I know - that makes NO sense. But here's what does make sense . . . these crazy wool farmers think that gifts are an extension of the heart.

And you know what? While their culture origins are false, their anecdotal wisdom is true. Think about it - what is the last really, truly GREAT gift you received. And don't say it was your newborn baby 22 years ago today - I'll actually drive to wherever you are and backhand you, politely, with a leather glove. No - seriously. What is the last AMAZING thing someone just gave to you - special occasion or not? You have a mental picture of it? Good.

Three questions . . .

1) Who gave it to you?
2) Why did you love it so bad?
3) How much time do you think the person spent picking the gift?

I'd be willing to bet that in almost all cases the person who gave it to you is someone that you share love with (a parent, child, spouse, etc.) and you love it because it was intensely personal and well matched to you (something to extend a collection, or empower a passion, or ignite a new fire) and I would bet, finally they either spent a TON of time or NO TIME AT ALL.

Let me clarify that last one . . . if gift giving is a heart on a stick that means it comes with love and giving with love either means it is an AUTOMATIC gesture (you know "exactly" what they want or need) or it is something that takes LOADS OF TIME (you will take great pains to get it "exactly" right).

I got some amazing Hanukkah gifts on Wednesday. They were perfect in every way. Before that, the last really, truly amazing gift I got was my Roku. It was Christmas, 2011 (my last Christmas). I had picked it out and essentially bought it myself but receiving it made me so intensely happy I can't even explain it to you. The last spontaneous (without my prompting) gift I was several years earlier and it was a piece of glass art that I still own and cherish.

I would like to think I'm a good gift giver. I like to take the time and pick things out (of course I'll take the automatic route, when possible) and get it just right/make it special. I am sure that not all of my gifts are really home runs. Candidly I would accept that a good number of the gifts I think are exactly right leave the recipient just sort of wondering what the heck I was thinking. I can and DO nail the card though - every stinking time. And mixtapes. My mixtapes are fantastic.

I was actually thinking Wednesday, as I opened my Hanukkah stuff, how the quality and "spot on"-edness of gift giving ties directly back to passion . . . after all passion is a form of energy and great presents takes energy. When you are early on in a relationship, it seems so much fun and so effortless to give gifts. You listen so closely to everything someone says. You take cues. You process. You value. You reciprocate. Then time starts going by. Maybe you don't listen as closely. Maybe you don't pay quite as much attention. Maybe you stop noticing that your husband switched brands of golf clubs or that your wife no longer likes that particular brand of luxury purse. Perhaps your brother already has that Stephen King book. Your sister doesn't even like 1Direction (that much) any more. You get what I'm saying.

I guess the point is that there reaches a time in any relationship where the idea of giving gifts or presents . . . an extended heart on a stick . . . becomes less fun. It gets old. It gets maybe a little boring. You get too comfortable. You stop trying so hard. They stop trying so hard. Before long your presents reflect your lack of presence.

Moral of the story - listen to the sheep herders and give better gifts. Doing so implies that your heart is on the stick and your thoughts and energies are in it.


Thanksgivukkah . . .

So today is a very rare thing . . . the intersection of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. You may have heard this is the only time it will ever happen (not true but is certainly the only time our lifetimes) and you may be unclear what it really means to you so I would simply offer you this thought . . . appreciation.

Hanukkah is about the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem at around the time the Maccabeas were doing their thing. The eight day long celebration of light speaks to the notion that the people, land, and nation of Israel and the Jewish faith would/will go on.

Thanksgiving, while we believe it to be about gluttony, is really (sorta) about appreciation for a bountiful harvest that would get people through a long, forth-coming winter and the notion that the people, land, and nations that partook would go on.

BOTH holidays are religious at their core. BOTH holidays are about struggle through adversity. BOTH holidays are about family, friends, and appreciation. That everyone eats super, super well for both (keep in mind the theme for Hanukkah is oil so the latkes and the donuts (sufganiyot) and all the other fried food awesomeness rivals the carb-heavy greatness of a pre-winter meal) is just gravy. See what I did there? GRAVY!

Anywho - as these two holidays are coinciding this year many people have asked me (as though I speak for alllllll the Jews) what "we" are doing for Thanksgivukkah. Well . . . since you asked . . .

  • We. are. ready. 
  • We have our Menurkey (lit the first candle last night) . . .

  • Later this morning, we will hit "play" on our Hanukkah play list, slice up our challah loaf for French Toasting and we will read Hershel (for the 90th time . . . I love it)
  • After my daughter goes with her mother for Thanksgiving dinner and all the festivities that go with it I will either spend the afternoon with friends who have been wonderful enough to invite me to spend time with them or do a little reading and/or watch a little Netflix or The Hebrew Hammer on DVD. 
  • The kiddo will be back with me in the evening, we'll light candle number two and then - by Friday morning - it will be JUST Hanukkah. 
I hope, whatever you are doing or however you are spending the holiday(s) you take a few minutes to pause and reflect on the many, many things we all have (no matter how crappy things fell in the moment) to really, truly appreciate. They are everywhere and, like how long a flask of oil might burn, we make too many assumptions and take too many of the great things and people in our life for granted. 

ONCE every several thousand years - as these holidays overlap - we should take a minute to right that wrong. From all of me to all of you - HAPPY THANKSGIVUKKAH!


Favorite Childhood Toy . . .

Yeah, ladies. That's really me. With toys. Meow!
As we get ready to kindle Hanukkah's light at sundown, I thought it might be a good time to reflect back to my own childhood (no - there is no direct connection between Hanukkah and childhood) and my favorite childhood toy.

I wasn't really all that toy-crazy as a kid. Never owned any toy guns. No sports equipment (that I can really remember) and no really electronics devices or video games. I did own and go through a lot of dolls/stuffed animals/action figures and arts and crafts supplies and costumes and things that helped me with my imagination and creativity. There was ONE toy that I loved, loved, loved that combined the physical act of building stuff and the creativity that dominated most of my playtime . . . CONSTRUX.

Made by Fisher-Price for the bulk of the 80s . . . these plastic toys were like erector (vs. erection) sets but with less metal and more moving parts. I owned THOUSANDS of pieces of CONSTRUX toys. Many, many thousand. And I would sit for hours and hours and hours and play with them. I'd build houses and cars (like the one I took to my family portrait session (above)) and maybe boats and planes. Bridges. Nuclear shelters (it was the mid-80s, we worried about that crap). The occasional rocket ship. A robot. It didn't matter. As long as I had my CONSTRUX, I was happy.

I think they are still at my parent's house. I should find out and have them sent to me if they are. I wonder if my daughter would enjoy playing with them (which is code for "I could play with them again the 50% of the time she is with her mother.) and I wonder why all this 80s nostalgia and "everything old is new again" bologna has not put these toys back on the toy shelves.

Regardless - they were a strong part of my childhood and for that, I thank them.


Career Plans . . .

I did a call for blog post suggestions a few months ago . . . one good one fell through the cracks but it came top of mind again last week when someone asked me for some career advice (they are trying to figure out what they want to do) so I thought I would answer the initial question . . . When you were younger - what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

I'll be honest - I never wanted to be any of the standard dream professions (cop, firefighter, singer, actor, model, twerker, Kardashian, etc.). No. I was born an old, practical soul and my career urges followed suit. So here (in no particular order) are the only jobs I remember ever really wanting to have.

Interior Decorator - Yes. Totally true. It was short and fleeting. I took a test in the eighth grade and it said I might be good at it so I fell in love with it. Then I realized you had to get math and ratios and proportions to be good at it. Moving right along . . .

Priest - Yes. Also totally true. I was way, way in love with the Catholic Church for my entire childhood and most of my adolescence. My parents have a very good friend who is a priest ("Uncle Bill" to us "Father Brennan Joseph" to the his flock) and he was just such an amazing guy and he seemed so happy and admired and wonderful, etc. I thought I might be able to pull that off. But they told me there were no women allowed and, well, that seemed absurd. No - I don't mean that I could not sleep with women or get married I mean women could not be a priest. That really is absurd, right?!

Advertising Creative - I mean COME ON. It does look pretty amazing, right? You get to wear jeans and black t-shirts to work every day and you have no responsibilities or deadlines and you get paid for your ideas and putting them on paper. How hard could it possibly be? Answer: FRIGGING hard. Almost as hard as a life of celibacy.

Professional Xylophone Player - Turns out there are like three of them in the ENTIRE world. I loved playing but I was NOT that good. Practicality kids! Chase ONLY the dreams you can catch.

Undertaker - I have an intense desire to put people at ease (unless I don't like you at which point I have an insane desire to put you at un-ease). I think there is no better form of kindness than to support someone through grief and loss of a loved one. There is such beauty in it. I don't have any issues with dead bodies. I like seeing all the ways people honor their dead. It is the one option from the stack that if I HAD to change . . . I would change to.

Political Consultant - Here was my actual plan at one point . . . undergrad in Communications/Political Science. Masters degree in Political Communications. PhD in Political Theory and Communications. Piles and piles of money. Fame (TV interviews done in front of fake bookshelves). All the women the priesthood would not allow. An eventual drug problem and redemption to follow. I'd be a kingmaker. Then I realized a PhD is a TON of work (I got in to some pretty impressive schools) and I was done with formal education after 18 years of it so I settled on working for a PR firm that did a ton of political consulting. I miss politics but I live in Kansas where I can take cheap shots from the cheap seats and piss off my Congressman's PR hack . . . er FLACK via Twitter.

Communicator - I like to tell and listen to stories. Always have, always will. I prefer to be passionate about the subject matter but sometimes the challenge of telling a story you don't PERSONALLY care about is where professionalism is born. I met a sales guy on the first plane I ever flew on. He was such a good story teller . . . I wanted to be like him. I still want to be like him.

I can honestly say I've never regretted choosing "communicator" when it was all said and done. Fifteen years of public relations, marketing, and advertising experience later I'm still learning every day and enjoying it every day.


Talking On a Date . . .

Get it? DATES!
Thanks to the power of social media and my recent KMUW pledge efforts, I went on a "date" a few weeks ago. I use quotes not to disrespect the woman I sat across the booth from but because I didn't arrive at said booth with any expectations that it was going to be a real "date" (with the quotes again . . . ). I didn't think she did either. I thought it would be more like friends-of-friends sitting down and chatting.

NOW - if you've never broken bread with me there are a few things you should know before you continue reading this post.

1) I have NO social filter. NONE. There is no topic taboo or verboten. There is no issue too sensitive to touch. There is no gap too wide to jump. No sea too deep to dive down through.
2) If we're having food you can NOT just reach on to my plate and take what you like. You can HAVE anything on my plate but you have to ask for it or at least extend some non-verbal cues that you'd like it so I can offer it to you.
3) I'm loud. I don't mean loud like "when he gets excited his voice will raise above the din of the rest of the establishment" I mean I'm loud as in my whisper is like your normal speaking voice and it only gets worse from there. I am not "proud" of this (that I can't be quiet is nothing I extend with braggadocio) but this is simple statement of fact.
4) I don't suffer politeness for the sake of politic. I don't WANT to fight with you. I don't WANT to disagree but I'm not a Kansan by birth so I don't have your "polite" gene that allows me to watch your body language tell me you are not telling the truth or that you are only giving part of the story and not press for the rest.
5) I mean you no harm. I mean that in the sense of the discussion we might have, the walk out to the parking lot, or the the way I'll later blog about our dinner for all the world (or the 100 or so people a day that stop by here) to read.

NOW. You're embarrassed FOR me. I get that.  So here's what I am willing to do . . . research. I've been on only a handful of proper "first dates" this CENTURY. All in the last 24 years of the previous century (76 baby, yo!) and you're only adding a handful MORE of those proper "first dates" to the pile and I know the rules of dating have changed so I wanted to be hip, cool, and with it (the kids DO say that stuff) when I arrived at that booth. So here are ten "rules" of dating that I found (across various sources - I chose my favorites and then reformatted them for voice consistency) online.

  1. Do try to be on time. If you are late, come up with a "good" reason for being late. 
  2. Do not offer to pay for the entire meal or presume the meal will be entirely paid for.
  3. Do not discuss past relationships or expectations for future relationships.
  4. Do not discuss money, politics, religion, love, or sex.
  5. Do stick to only things that are logically discussed - family, friends, career, activities and interests, etc.
  6. Do not use tools like social media to learn about the person before you meet. Let them present themselves on their own terms.
  7. Do offer to share food and beverage as a way of bonding with the person. It fosters trust.
  8. Do discuss mutual likes but then let the other person make the plans for the first date. It will help them be more comfortable.
  9. Do not tell stories that are any longer than a minute long. It will impede real discussion and exchange.
  10. Do not ask for a kiss at the end of the date. The rules for physical contact have changed. They will let you know if they are open to being kissed.
So there you have it . . . dating on the eve of 2014. Do those rules sound good to you? Great. We should never, ever-ever date (or get back together (Taylor Swift reference - HOLLLA and fist bump if you got it)).

So here, ladies and gentlemen (if there are any of you good souls left) are MY never-likely-to-be-implemented-by-the-masses rules for dating (or just sharing a meal) in 2014 (you still have a month or so to follow the above).
  1. If you're going to be/are late - own it. Be honest. You couldn't pick out the right sweater, your car died, your probation officer came by for a spot urine test, you got lost. Truth is all we have. Start sharing it good and early.
  2. General rule of thumb - if you ask a person on a date - you are going to pay. NOW the other person can offer to pay for part/all of it but the asker (regardless of gender) should pick up the check. Otherwise the expectation for sex seems bold. I kid, I kid, I kid. Sex is gross. Seriously, though. Once you are in a RELATIONSHIP the paying math becomes fuzzy. First date . . . bill goes to the initiator. 
  3. If you two are middle aged you have lots of previous relationships. There is GOLD in them-thar-hills. You want to wait for the second date? Cool. But if you bristle when asked how you and the ex-get along (that is NOT an invasive question) you are not an open person. It will get worse.
  4. Talking about money is gauche. Politics is who we are. If you believe in G-d (and which version) and how much push and pull you think he/she/it/they has/have is a core value set that should be known. Sex and love are toooooo much fun to not discuss. If you don't want the person across from you to know where you stand on the above issues until "later" - how do you think it will be more or less important "later"? And why? Truth is all we have. Start sharing it good and early. There are NO topics that should be off-limits going in to a date. 
  5. Do use things that are logically discussed - family, friends, career, activities and interests, etc. to bridge other conversations and manage the silence.
  6. If you don't use a quick Google and/or overlapping social media "friends" analysis of a person before you show up on that date, you're glib. I'm not saying you should destroy the mystery and/or say "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know" to everything they try to tell you but don't you at least want to know your parachute is packed and how/when to pull the string before you jump out of the plane?
  7. Do share food and drink when asked - it is good for showing you're not a selfish tool. Now forks and straw sharing is entirely subjective.
  8. If you want to have a date with a person talk with them to determine mutual likes and then make a recommendation for how to spend your time. If they don't sound excited, modify it with their input. You are asking them - give them a solid, full ask they can respond to.
  9. Tell stories in their entirety and ask your date to do the same. Really listen to them. Relish the details. There is NO relationship in this world that is truly 50/50. Someone has to be the talker, someone the listener. Ideally you'll get the ratio somewhere around 2:3 vs. 10:1 but that is life.
  10. You want a kiss? Ask for one. You don't want to give a kiss. Say no. Since when does the world belong to the timid (they will INHERIT the earth - but only what the bold don't leverage/consume/enjoy/exhaust first). 
There you go, kids. No go out there and enjoy each other. But be safe. And remember - sex is gross. 


Gift Table . . .

Remember when you were a child (and if you are still a child you should no be reading this blog - go find some porn like the rest of your peer group does)? Remember how much fun birthday parties were? Yeah . . . you remember! You'd show up either at someone's house or some amazing venue that offered things like roller skating, mini golf, municipal swimming, organized athletics, video games, or - if you had the greatest friends EVER all. of. the. above. And you'd show up and just dive in!

Run, jump, kick, sweat, cough without covering your mouth, make new friends without even asking for their name (you knew they dug the twisty slide too - what else mattered?) and eventually - just as energy levels would dip . . . bring out the cake, ice cream, and punch. And maybe the crappy, overpriced pizza (big spenders, the Joneses!). And no matter how short or long the party was it never felt quite long enough. It was just the most amazing thing in the world to spend a Saturday afternoon trashing around and giving no f*cks!

Fast forward a generation and now you are the parent . . . oy vey. Parenting. I do love it but some days I have no idea what I am doing. When I go to these parties now I realize how amazingly fun these things are for the kids and how POTENTIALLY fun they are for the parents. I think the key . . . like with playing any game or navigating the hallways of Junior High School is to know the rules, know the expectations, and have at least one or two friends to help you out.

I went to a party on Saturday with Ava. Great time. My friends Justin and Jennifer had a dual (vs. duel) party for their two kids. Ava and I were excited to be invited and I was lucky to have at least one other friend there to hang out with (and they introduced me to a few other parents and guests). My trip from Math class to American Literature was a success.

The point being I sat down at one point - during the cake and punch portion of the party - and realized that I don't really know of/have any group activit(y/ies) in my life right now that makes me as jubilant as kids at a birthday party. And I don't know why. Let's be honest - I never really liked sports so why would a group baseball game thrill me? Friendship. I love to roller skate but the communal nature of the footwear, even at an early age, made me uneasy (I would wear two pair of socks - because that was allllllll you need to stay clean (hint to you kids still reading - this rule does not apply to condoms)). Video games always just showcased how horrible my hand-eye coordination was (I would use my entire body to make Mario jump on the Nintendo console - and I'm not talking about the Wii version). But I loved those parties.

I guess I'm just a different social person now. I think I have become "less" social in a weird way. I appreciate alone and parenting time more and more. I have found running to be an amazingly enjoyable "waste" of time. I like to sit here on my laptop, in the middle of the night, and blog. I like to read and read and read. I will go to any party I am invited to/can make (they are now filled with board games and coolers of beer and bottles of wine and really delicious foods and maybe, just maybe, some mellow music in the background) but I still find myself huddled up with two or three people at a time . . . and sometimes I will talk with only those two or three people for the duration. I like to have lunch or dinner with just one other person so I can really focus on them. I enjoy smaller groups when groups is the expectation, etc. The chaos of running around with 25 other peers (kids in this analogy - presuming I were young again) does very little for me. I wonder if this is a normal part of growing older or if I am an outlier.

Bottm line - I enjoyed chatting with the other parents and guests at this party but I don't know if I would even go to a "kid's" birthday party today if "kid's" parties were still thrown for adults . . . I'm way too fat for the bouncy house anyway.


Long Time, No Post . . .

Since a few of you have asked (and not to be melodramatic here) but I am not blogging as "actively" as usual (I try to do six posts per week) because my brain is a little fuzzy with some stuff these last few weeks.

Nothing bad or concerning - just stuff that is probably not best for this forum (one day I'll make some of my drafts live and you can all collectively scold and or envelop me in a long, warm hug).

I'll get back in a rhythm one of these days.

In the meantime - here is my wonderful daughter doing silly things with the alphabet on an airplane at 30,000 feet.

I share it for NO apparent reason.


Types of Love . . .

I've been doing some work lately (and by doing some work I mean trying to wrap my little, tiny brain around) the notion of "love" - not for any other reason than because I think it is so super, duper subjective that to try and even try to pretend that it is not is sorta' cute. So here - for the other nearly nine billion of you that don't have my thoughts in your head - here is the DEFINITIVE categorization of love. You're welcome. Well, not all of you . . . some of you owe me one now.

Pizza Love - This is the sorta' love you had in second grade when you confessed you "loved" pizza and your friends would chide you that you should go ahead and marry it . . . and you got disgusted at the mere notion. Let's presume that all human beings with average (emotional) intelligence and a heart open to love are probably in "pizza love" with a dozen things, places, people, and ideas at any given time. I am in pizza love with hummus, books, CheezIts, and my running shoes right now. It is simple infatuation. It is the love that excites us and makes our little hearts flutter. It is the "gateway" love.

Platonic Love - This is the love between familial bonds and the love shared by true friends. It is the love that allows you to feel warm and fuzzy about shared ideas, ambitions, thoughts, and goals. It is the sort of love that would make second grade truly special - if only pizza could return it. And that is the beauty of platonic love . . . it is reciprocal. It is easy. It is encouraging. It is everything a Boy Scout should be (except reverent - it doesn't have to be that at all).

Red Hot Monkey Love - This love is also known as "horny teenager" or "midlife crisis and your secretary" love. It is the "love" that is not love at all . . . it is lust. It is physical and pheremonal and, at best, the part of your brain that controls every emotion but actual affection, love, and appreciation. This is the sort of love you should avoid like the proverbial plague. It is NOT real. It is a temporary illusion and a momentary blip in between loneliness and an unwanted pregnancy and The Clap (caps to show respect). I'm not saying there is anything WRONG with this love (it has a time and place) but it needs to be kept "time and place" and something you move through.

Mature Love - This is the sort of love you can have only twenty years after you first fall in love with pizza in the second grade and long after the burns on the roof of your mouth from that slice of pizza just after college have healed. This the love of couples that have been through at least one or two significant storms and have maybe even lost their way in said storm(s) only to find themselves later. This is the love that your Grandparents will tell you about and because they lived through the Great Depression, a World War, several other wars, and so on . . . they will know.

Comfortable Love - The "holy grail" of love. It is the sort of love where you go to bed each night and wake up each morning knowing that the love you give is the love you receive and knowing that you can weather storms, burns on the roofs of mouths, and warm and fuzzies. It is the sort of love that you can't rush and can't build (it sort of happens) and you can't ever shake it once it sets in. Comfortable love, like pizza, is forever.


DonaSean Update . . .

Yes. I make my child volunteer at KMUW.
As was my constant utter for a few weeks a few weeks ago, I'm a huge fan of KMUW! I wanted to, again, thank everyone for their support of the station and SPECIFICALLY thank those that participated in DonaSean 2013. We (my little corner of the world) had a record-setting campaign and we beat my overly absurd expectations with very little "matching fund" help and for that - I'm grateful.

Of course there is housekeeping. An update on where I am with my part of this grand bargain.

$500 Level - I DID help. You helped. THANKS.

$750 Level - Apparent there are NO "paint your own" pottery places in Wichita so I'm working with CityArts to get in to one of their classrooms to do a little glazing.

$1,000 Level - Coffee drank. Repulsive sh*t, people. Truly. But I did it. Every day.

$1,250 Level - The "boobs ban" continues. We're over 18 months in to it. I can barely remember what it was like to be HONEST about my obsessions at this point. You're welcome, those who don't like a little titillation in their Twitter feeds.

$1,500 Level - I went. I bought. I even ate the sugar-free brownie. The truth? It was not horrible. But the "Sugar Sisters" (whatever combination of them are involved at this point) is/are. Blek.

$1,750 Level - We'll do the Q&A on Friday, November 29th at 5 PM CT. Yes. That is intentionally chosen. NO ONE wants to do this one, right?!

$2,000 Level - If I'm being honest, I thought my friends Justin and Bailey were going to make the "go on a date with a woman" portion of this challenge absolutely horrible. And they (Justin, specifically) tried. BUT thankfully Justin has a wonderful wife named Jennifer and she has a great friend that was willing to "take one for the team" and I actually enjoyed the evening. And have plans to see her again. So THERE!

$2,250 Level - I'm waiting for instructions from Megan but I did play a little "defense" by getting my hair cut short enough that it would not really take a dye and it was not long enough for extensions to be woven in. BAM!

$2,500 Level - I ordered these bad boys last week. They are on back order. I know, right?! As soon as they get here - the friction begins.

$3,000 Level - I went swimming in the Arkansas. I will someday be known simply as "Patient Zero."


$3,500 Level - Friend and fellow marketer Jennifer Szambecki cast the $3,499th dollar (a bonus donation - she gives big to begin with) and she opted for us to run a 5K together in December. She is way faster than I am so we'll only see each other at the start line but we'll run on December 14th. PLEASE join us. The more the merrier. That is a holiday 5K pun, people. You're welcome.

$4,000 Level - I've been looking at these alleged professionals (I'm more and more dubious with each website, candidly) but there are apparently 1,000 officially certified "life coaches" in Wichita alone and there are plenty of others who dare offer their services (ahem) without so much as a bought-and-sold certificate. I'll get with one of them. Soon. I promise/fear/resent.


It's Over . . .

I got a horrible piece of mail today. Nope. Not a bill. Not an invitation to hire a landscaper. Not even an offer to renew a magazine subscription for five years for just $10/year. NOPE. This was a really, truly horrible piece of mail. My marriage is officially over. Just as Tompkins County in New York state blessed the union seven and a half years ago, Sedgwick County in Kansas blessed the breaking of the bond just the other day.

A blog is a horrible place to share this sort of crap. I only mention it for context because I've shared much about the ups and downs of married life, navigating co-parenting, trying to end a marriage in a respectful, positive, and loving way and - perhaps most importantly - stopping being the husband of a woman you still truly love, admire, appreciate, and find indispensable.

MANY think I'm still "in love" with my ex-wife. I'm not. I have not been in a long time (she knows this - if you are a "friend" to her that reads and might use this post to hurt her - please don't) but that is because we stopped focusing on stoking, feeding, nourishing, and nurturing that part of our love. But there is still a love between us.

We focused on the other things that filled our lives. Jobs, friends, our families, money, cars, the house we shared, the hobbies and recreations and educational pursuits we both valued . . . our child. We made the classic/rookie/veteran/eternal mistake of presuming if we just got everything else in order our love would thrive and burn bright for the rest of our earthly sentences. Pro tip for those of you married or considering it - that does not happen.

So here we stand . . . divided. I can honestly tell you I have more love, affection, respect, appreciation, and spirit for her today that I had a year ago and certainly 15- or 18-months ago. She is an amazing force of a woman but our love has to now shift, regroup, re-focus, and re-establish itself in to whatever form of "love" it will be as we continue to share a child and our earthly sentences accordingly.

Never stop working on your love or your marriage. It will fail. Never take your spouse for granted. They will grow to resent it. Never presume you are heard, seen, understood, or fully accepted. You are not. Never go to bed angry. Never refuse a genuine kiss or a hug. Never stop telling someone you love to have a good day or asking them how their day was. If you do, they will start sharing those moments with someone else. Marriage is not simple. Love is not easy. Relationships are not intuitive. Survival is not guaranteed.

Do. The. Work. Love and be loved. Every day.

For my ex-wife on this . . . the first (mail-confirmed) day of our unmarried-yet-shared life . . . I dedicate a song that I've played for you 1,000 times but not nearly enough times within your earshot. And for that, on top of the other failings, I am sorry.


Getting Some Flaming Lip . . .

The kiddo and I had a wonderful time in DC with my family and we even saw a few friends while "back east." I was more than happy to be heading back to my regular life by Monday afternoon (I have a smidge of anxiety about changes to my schedule and routine (that is sarcasm)).

We boarded the plane in DC confident that, just six hours later, we'd be back in the loving, warm embrace of the three-one-six (as the Wichita gangstas' call it). Then . . . we got to Chicago.

We dropped in to the Windy City (given its name because of its boisterous politicians - not its moving-air-off-the-lake). and were greeted by winds, rain, damp snow, and very low temperatures. And that is where our travels for the day ended. After rescheduling for Tuesday morning, we boarded a bus heading for a hotel and a long afternoon of being stranded with no clean underpants in our suitcase. I digress.

I won't complain about the detour (the American Airlines people were amazing, the Hyatt people were great, even the woman at Starbucks who gave Ava a free hot chocolate made the day easy-breezy (that is a Chicago pun, folks)) but I would be remiss if I didn't share one random aside . . .

The lead singer from The Flaming Lips is an utter bore. How do I know?

He was walking in his super skinny grey jeans, grey suede bucs with day-glo green soles, his grey jacket/shirt/scarf combo and his grey hair while being a rock and roll singer and he, without even seeing her, crossed over my daughter's path - essentially tripping her up in the process (she recovered her footing - no actual injuries were involved). What did he do? Just sort of looked down with a relative amount of disdain that his overall grey appearance was crossed into by a child drinking a free hot cocoa from the nice Starbucks woman.

I don't know how I knew it was him (it was - he mentioned something to someone who seemed to be a fan about being in Ithaca the previous night and on the band's website it had them performing at Cornell's Barton Hall Sunday night) and I don't know why I care (if it had been any other random man or woman I would have just ignored it) but it bugged me. A colleague suggested he is probably just not used to having people be in his space (insert joke about his fixation with performing inside large, plastic balls here). But I can't imagine that is it. He actually seems moderately humble and good natured (my obsession with the interaction coupled with a long afternoon in a hotel room in the Chicago suburbs found me Googling him and reading/listening to stuff).

I don't ever want to be famous. You can't even walk through an airport and accidentally cut off a kid without some douchy bore blogging about it. Then again - I've never cut a kid off in foot traffic without apologizing to them and their adult escorts. Maybe that is why I'm NOT famous.


First Time . . .

I'll put a more appropriate pic on this post when you admit
the Virgin Mary was a lot of things . . . but NOT a Caucasian.
I did a quick, one night business trip last week to Atlanta. I am normally not all that chatty on the plane (being the fat guy you tend to keep your arms crossed, your bladder full, your snacks out of sight, and your exchanges cordial) but as I sat on the tarmac to leave Wichita the kid next to me seemed nervous.

I looked over and asked "Are you okay?" Normally this a question I would only ask people I truly care about - any answer beyond "yes" is otherwise too much for me but I felt like this kid needed to be engaged a little.

"Well," he said. "I've never left Kansas before and I've never been on a plane and I'm heading off to basic training for the Army National Guard and I'm scared, sir."

I did the only thing I could think to do. I put his hand in mine and squeezed gently. No. I didn't really do anything even close to that.

I told him that the world outside of Kansas is actually not all that different than the world inside, that I've probably flown 100 or more times and nothing bad has ever happened to me and that, while I had no idea what awaited him at his training I was sure he would survive that too. I then thanked him for his service and went back to listening to my podcast (the beauty that is the loosened portable electronic devices rules - THANK YOU FAA!). For about five seconds.

"You see, sir," he continued. "I'm fifth generation military service in my family but I was the only one that didn't want to do it and the only one that put it off after high school hoping to find something else. But I couldn't find anything else so my parents made me enlist on my 20th birthday."

"Well," I responded. "The jet will head out a bit and then sort of stop and pivot and then the pilot will give it the gas good and hard and we'll jerk a little and as soon as he hit speed he'll pull up and we'll be airborne and you can say you've flown in a plane before and you can thank your parents for giving you the experience of flight . . . and in a few weeks, months, or years, the experience of service." Headphones back in.

"Do you think it will be okay?"

(Deep breath) "Yes. Just two hours to Atlanta and then you'll be on your way. Just try to relax and enjoy a free soft drink or two. Heck (I'm trying to purge H-E-Double Hockey Sticks from my vocabulary) I'll buy you some booze if that will help take the edge off."

"Did you know my Great Grandfather was a high enough ranking official that he would have people come to the house even after he retired and the rest of the family would have to leave the house while they talked?"

"No. I didn't even know you three minutes ago. Would you like a magazine? I've got some CheezIts. Maybe a stick of gum - your ears might pop during ascent and decent. Do you want to borrow my iPad and play a game? Maybe you want to just rest?"

"Yeah. That sounds good." (NOTE - NO indication which of the many options he was interested in.)

"Okay. Good. Let me know. I promise you're going to be fine."

Then we did the stop, pivot, hit the gas, ascent thing and as soon as we were airborne I remembered when I was 13 and flew for the first time. I was going to Disney World with my family. I was the odd-person out and seated with a stranger. A man who was a salesman (admittedly talking with him was the first time I realized people made a living making and leveraging relationships and in that moment a fire was probably sparked). I was scared to death and I was about to go to the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! I could be more patient with this kid. I could talk to this kid. I could help this kid. I could provide some comfort to this kid. So I put his hand in mine. No. I didn't really do anything close to that.

I simply took out my headphones and spent the next two hours chatting with a kid who has had and will have a life so completely different than mine I can't even ponder we had anything at all in common beyond the time and space we shared in that aircraft.

When we got to Atlanta and were exiting the plane, I shook his hand. (I really did put his hand in mine that time) and I gave him the rest of my pack of gum (he seemed really in to it and had no cash on him), I thanked him for his service. I wished him well in the experience awaiting him and the years of service ahead of him. I told him to handwrite his mother a note on the bus ride to the base telling her all the things he loves and appreciates about the life she has nurtured in him and the woman she has been to him. I gave him $20 for a stamp, a postcard, and maybe some grub and I walked away.

I then walked through the airport with colleagues - hundreds (thousands?) of other people passing us as we walked through the nation's busiest airport every one of them with their own life, experiences, origin and destination point, and things they were afraid of and confident about.

And then I realized that was the first time I'd ever really pondered such a thing . . . first time.


Thank You For Your Service . . .

To all those who have put on the uniform or sat at home and wondered and worried about someone who did. For all those who have sacrificed so much as a missed Kindergarten play or given their lives. For the people brave enough to protect the ideals, beliefs, interests, and commitments we Americans hold so dear. For those that do it even though the rest of us rarely really give what that means a second though - THANK YOU! For your service. For your courage. For your sacrifice. For your patience.


Gone Touristing . . .

No blog posts until Tuesday. The kid and I are going inside the beltway / one of my favorite places on earth to spend time with family and friends.

This photo was taken during our last trip in February. We didn't bend space/time to post this photo as we sat on a
layover in Dallas. As far as you need to know. Seriously - we bent the world this morning. You're welcome.


Sweater Weather . . .

Sing it with me . . . "It's the most wonDERful time oftheyearrrr." Yes, yes. I'm sure the song was about a holiday season that fell on us on Friday and will last through January 7th for all your Christmas lovers (secular and otherwise) but for me the most wonderful time of the year is right now . . . sweater weather.

Yes. The days a schlubby man lives for are upon us as v-necks, crew necks, cardigans, and sweater vests can finally come off the shelves and get on my shoulders every, single day. And. They. Shall.

And sweater weather is not just good for the obese. No-no. It is good for skinny people (you all get super cold, super easily, right?). It is good for the young. Good for the old. Good for the fashion forward and the fashion neutral. Good for the goose, good for the gander. (Seriously, ladies - just get yourselves a Land's End catalog and know you'll look fantastic all the days of your lives.)

The only people sweater weather is NOT good for are people with hearts full of hate and toxic sludge. Okay - that is not true - but STILL! Have you ever met a sweater you didn't like? Have you ever seen someone in a sweater and not thought . . . they look pretty darned good? No. No you have not. You should not have at least. Is your heart full of hate and sludge? It is, isn't it?!

I really don't know why I love sweater weather so much but I am only going to analyze it as much as needed to justify picking up one of those pumpkiny-salmony numbers there, second from the left, in the picture.


Taking a Break . . .

Yes. Those are green tea KitKat bars. Yuhhhhmay!
There was this vaguely popular sitcom in the 90s and early 00s called "Friends" and on the show, if you've never seen it (you know this is all sarcasm, right?) there was this group of six friends in their 30s (for most of the show, I think?) and one set of them - Ross and Rachel - had this weird up/down love thing that ran the entirety of the show with one particularly awkward section where they "took a break" because their relationship was not going the way they wanted it to. 

Anywho, Ross had sex with another woman (I think the woman that worked at the copy shop (if I'm right, I'm going to be embarrassed and proud)) and when Rachel found out she was really upset because, well, she just thought they were on a break. I guess that meant no other activities with any other people.

Millions laughed that Thursday night but somewhere in America (and by somewhere I mean in thousands of homes) there was an awkward lilt in the chuckles as at least one person on the couch thought "Huh . . . a 'break' would be interesting."

Sure, sure, sure . . . you've seen the movie Hall Pass. That crap doesn't work (and by that I mean a movie about a Hall Pass) but you have still probably wondered what it would be like to "pause" a relationship, go do whatever you wanted to do and then come back to the relationship.

I'm not talking about physical or emotional affairs, necessarily, but I'm talking about the notion that you could leave a relationship and return to it exactly as it was with no repercussions when you were done with your "break".

Would you do it? Would your partner? What about a friendship? What about a parental relationship? What about colleagues? What about spiritual leaders? What about wives and husbands? Think about it . . . from both sides of the proposal - would you LET someone take a break? Do you think they would let YOU take a break?

Let's be more specific here . . . WHY would you want a break? What about any relationship in your life is not going the way you wanted that you want a break? Is it getting out of taking the trash to the curb? Is it no more laundry? Is it not having to smile by your husband's side at yet another work function you don't want to be at? So all of these things seem break worthy. You should be able to skip them every now and again and the world still spins.

How about bringing home a paycheck? You want to buy video games or bubble gum or a water balloon launcher instead of paying the mortgage. What about not showing up at an important client meeting when your colleagues expect you to make the pitch? What about just not showing up to bring home six kids from a Boy Scout camp out? Grey area on these ones, right? I mean the world would still spin but there would be questions . . . like how old are you that you have a mortgage and want to throw water balloons . . . and how much is a water balloon launcher anyway? Your mortgage?

So now let's get down to it for real. What about a sexual affair? 48 hours - no questions asked. What about an emotional affair? 48 problems shared and talked out with another - no questions asked. What about taking a year off from being a parent? And the kid won't resent you for it (remember - there are no repercussions in this hypothetical). What about running away with someone else for a few years and setting up a totally separate life and then, one day, just getting in the car and driving back to your old address in time for dinner? Would you bring a bottle of wine or some flowers?

I don't know why this is on my mind. I guess because I don't think even in a situation where I could get away with any of the above (and none of the above are even remotely interesting to me - except that damned water balloon launcher anyway) that I would. I don't think I would be able to enjoy any of it. I would not trust that my life would snap right back when the break was over. I would not trust me to let whatever freedom or indulgence the break brought just sort of "end" and I don't know if I would have enough clarity to accept it was over anyway. I think I'd just want another break in the future. 

I don't think I'm alone in this. Most people don't want pause buttons or breaks. They don't want a chance to just step away and burn calories. I don't know many people who would GRANT the above requests (despite some who might make the request) anyway. 

So, yeah, breaks aren't real. You don't get them. You can run out to the parking lot and have a quick smoke during the workday. You can gather your team around you at pee wee soccer to remind them which goal they are supposed to be kicking the ball at. You can hit the button on your remote long enough to run and pee or make more nachos. THOSE breaks and pauses are real . . . but not the ones in relationships. 


Sunday Funday . . .

The most magical time of the movie year is here . . . awards-bait season. Let. It. Begin.

PS - John F*cking Goodman!


#30DaysofThanks . . .

Well . . . it is November. That means the holiday season is in full swing, a majority of the leaves are off the trees, the suddenly-cool temperatures have become simply the temperatures and it is time to hunker back in to a reflective and appreciative mood. While the HOT thing on social media this November seems to be giraffe avatars, Bitstrips, and "liking" statuses that detail death of family members - there is still a small percentage of people who chose to spend a few minutes each day this month to express gratefulness for something in their life.

Good news? I have loads to be thankful for. Bad news? I didn't have a blog post in mind so, again this year, here is my list in one concentrated blast.

1) My Daughter - The kid abides. The kid challenges. The kid pushes and pulls. The kid hugs like a world champion and has the earnestness women five times her age might seek. I don't know what is nature and what is nurture but she has my number and I love her for that.

2) Rhetoric - I've been engaging my brain, words, strategy, and passions more and more lately. I'm thankful that I have friends who are smarter, wordier, more strategic, and more passionate than me. It helps keep me on my toes.

3) My Ex-Wife - I can't say enough good stuff about a woman who took me on a decade ago and is still, in many ways, by my side today. We'll always share a child but - more importantly - I think we'll always share a love and respect that got lost for a long time and that we're both happy to see back in our dynamic.

4) My Family - Every Sunday I rattle off a ten sentence note to my parents, brothers, and sisters-in-law. Most weeks that is the entirety of the communication I have with them. It is an improvement over the frequency and quality of communication in years prior but I love them and I appreciate that they read those notes and leave me alone with only sharing what I want to.

5) Running - I did not expect running to give me all it did this year. It was distraction and focus, start and stop, the bridge from where I was to where I am, and the greatest opportunity I've found in a long time to just think and be alone. That I've lost weight, become stronger, and learned about myself along the miles is just bonus.

6) Google+ - News, content, opinions, links, interesting people and brands . . . and not a single religious or political rant, picture of someone's lunch, or sharing of death and destruction at home. THANK YOU for being the social network for those of us who aren't looking to overshare/socialize with our network.

7) Music - From my earliest memories of things that I love, music has always been there. In this age of digital files and music streaming, I can spend $8/month and have access to just about every song I could ever possibly want to get at. The teenage version of me is envious, the geriatric overwhelmed. But the current me is very, very happy.

8) My Friends - I say this all the time but it is true . . . I'm not an easy person. I'm prickly and delicate and grumpy and gregarious. I am lucky to have a group of friends that are either as "all of the above" as me or just willing to accept me - or both. I am very appreciative for that, especially as I start carving out this new era/phase of my life.

9) Sweater Weather - I mean seriously . . . there is NO better time for a schlubby man than sweater weather. Pile on the layers and enjoy the camouflage . . . at least until there is a better option for staying warm.

10) Closure - I've had a lot of things come to a close in the last year. Not all of them happy, certainly not all of them sad. I've said goodbye to cars, jobs, marriages, homes, friendships, and professional and personal obligations but I've opened new chapters in my life for just about every one I've closed out. I'm thankful to have a new set of things to obsess over.

11) Literacy - Books. Blogs. Websites. E-newsletters. Magazines. Handwritten notes. The fact that I can read and write is something I will never appreciate as much as I should but I can at least throw it in the middle third of things I am grateful for.

12) Losing Weight - A LOT of weight gained. A LOT to lose again. It is started. It will continue. Bathing suit season is one of the many reasons I might want to get my body back in order.

13) Women - I love the maternal side of the human beast. Not in a creepy, oedipean way but in the sense that I am much more comfortable and "at home" with women than men and I am grateful to have lots of wonderful women to ask for advice, and help. That they give hugs, smell amazing, and are bright and engaging is just a bonus . . . and only slightly creepy.

14) Art - Remember that plastic bag blowing around in American Beauty? It is like that - only not as "on the nose" in why I love art. It is the conversation, the impression, the evocation, the debate. I often wish I were a creative person but I'm generally just as happy not putting my heart and soul out there for people to judge and or put a monetary value on.

15) Judaism/Hebrew - My evolution is at no point more complicated, intricate, or open for critique from those who have endured me for years than my decision to formally convert and join the tribe of G-d's chosen people. As I calmly say to those who question - if religion is a crutch, this one is the perfect height and got in my armpit at exactly the right time. I'm perfectly at peace in my faith and values.

16) Work - Six months without any work will make you appreciative for anything but I got lucky in getting hired in to an environment with a million opportunities, dozens of great people, a boss that just sort of lets me do my thing and has my back while I do, and an opportunity to re-establish myself professionally in a way that should pay dividends for the rest of my career (and I want to have a long, long career).

17) Board Games - Pick a few dates, let's find one that works for both of us. I'll provide the board game and some appetizers - you bring your beverage of choice (or let me know what it is and I'll pick it up). We'll chat, we'll laugh, and I'll hopefully at least end the evening in a tie.

18) Alone Time - As I type this it is 2:19 PM CT. I'm in my pajamas. My laundry is going. There is an episode of The Killing playing on my Roku. I've got a mug of tea in front of me. I'm otherwise alone in my thoughts and energies. Perfection. I'll have my child back tomorrow and be happy to have her but, for now, no complaints.

19) Tea - I read the other day that the stigma of American tea drinkers (apparently we were once thought to be snobs) has faded to the point where no one really cares if you drink coffee, tea, or half and half from the carton. This is progress, people. And a mug of hot tea or glass of iced tea is the reward we reap.

20) Gus - My guinea pig. My guy. You wouldn't understand.

21) The Real World - No. NOT the MTV show (is that still even a thing? I mean MTV and/or The Real World?) but the physical planet we live on and the culture and space we share. I am spending less and less time online all the time and it is wonderful to say that. There are amazing people out there - just look up long enough to see them.

22) Food - I've never had a good, healthy relationship with food. I've spent most of this year trying to correct that and I'm starting to feel like we at least respect each other. I would like to eventually be friends. Time will tell.

23) KMUW-FM - I love my public radio. It loves me. And THANK YOU (again) to everyone that took part in #DonaSean. We blew it out of the water. We'll go again in the Spring.

24) Storytelling - This is my newest obsession (that is probably the same one I've always had) . . . stories and the people that tell them. In words (written or spoken), notes and lyrics, pictures, video, or a combination of all of the above. The art of telling a good, long story is being lost. We have to fight this trend. We have to keep telling stories. GOOD ones. NEW ones.

25) This, this, and this - Just click on each "this" - you'll either get it or you won't.

26) Distractions - I may or may not (I do, sadly) have a touch (or overwhelming case of) ADD so I typically do not celebrate the people and things that pull my attention in directions I don't control but I've been fortunate, of late, to have a few things and opportunities that have been just the right amount of "confusing" and "ill-advised" to make them interesting. I'll get focused again any minute now . . . what was I saying?

27) Strong Sense of Self - Call it ego, super ego, id, hubris, narcissism, or whatever else you like . . . I like me. I'm not backing down from me. I will continue to admit that I'm not perfect and that I don't know it all but if the last year and a half has taught me anything it is that I can and will survive things and I make okay decisions even when the deck is stacked against me.

28) People Watching - Can I tell you a secret? You are all hilarious and fascinating. I could sit and watch you for hours - sadly your lunch breaks are only one hour and I have a tendency to stare vs. glance anyway. But, seriously, keep it up people in public who think they are either in private or surrounded by people too buried in their own lives and phones to notice you. I am watching and enjoying.

29) Challenges - As much as this list might seem and feel like some sort of "victory lap" over things that have plagued me lately - it is not. Challenges live on. I have lots of big and little things that are on my "to do" list and I am taking on new challenges by choice and by force. This is all good news - it means I'm still growing.

30) A Million Other Things - I mean, c'mon.

How much have I (not) changed in a year? Here is my list from last year.