Seven Years a Kansan . . .

I will happily argue there is NOTHING more beautiful than the Flint Hills
at dusk. I welcome anyone who wants to nominate another champion.
Seven years ago today (this evening, to be specific, at about 5:30 PM CT) I arrived in Kansas to make it my home. My then-wife and daughter had come ahead and I stayed on the sofa of a dear friend for a few months while I job searched.

I have talked of this, frequently, here on the blog and elsewhere but I love being a Kansan. While Solomon Northrup and I are both New York natives our experiences, despite the in-poor-taste subject line of this post, could not have been more different.

I am truly at home here. I've adjusted. I've calmed down. I've gotten accustomed to just about every aspect of Kansas life and, frankly, most of it suits me very well. MOST of it.

THANK YOU, fellow Kansans, for (eventually) accepting me and for making my life here so full and rewarding. I've seen great friendship, love, and support. I've been welcomed in to homes and communities. I've been assimilated in the best possible way.

That being said, I am going to spend the next several posts talking about the things that I'll never understand and never just "accept" about life in Kansan.

I mean these critiques with love and I hope they are taking as "constructive criticism" to help my home and those who I live among.


Vote "Yes" . . .

I don't typically like to use this blog for political soapboxing (yes - that is a joke) but there is something very important happening here in Wichita next Tuesday that I felt compelled to nudge all my Wichita-based readers on (the rest of you can read or not, no worries either way).

Tuesday, nationally, is election day. Millions of Americans will head to the polls (many under false pretenses if our Secretary of State is to be believed) and they will decide on leadership and ballot initiatives and the future of many things. Wichitans will vote on OUR future.

Here's the thing - I LOVE this city. I am proud to call Wichita home. I don't ever pretend to really know the future but I don't have any plans to ever not live in and consider Wichita home. I have a daughter who was born here and, after a short stint in Connecticut, returned here. It is the only home she has ever known.

I moved to a town called Groton, New York when I was nine-years-old. Groton, with a population of 3,000ish was once a proud, bustling town. We used to make Smith Corona typewriters and just about everyone in town worked the company. The rest of the town was agriculture-driven or people drove to nearby small cities Ithaca and Cortland to work in various industries - many blue collar, hard working jobs and companies. It was apparently great!

Then . . . Smith Corona shut down its Groton facility. While many folks started working at the Smith Corona facility in Cortland (which also, not long after, closed) the town has truly never recovered. Today - on the lot that once employed hundreds and hundreds, sits a gas station/convenience store/pizza place that employees maybe a dozen total folks. The rest of the lot is just empty. Still.

My parents still live in Groton but they all-but insisted my brothers and I leave. We had to go away to college and, while we were welcome to come back after, we realized that there were no jobs for our chosen professions for us in Groton. The three of us still go "home" and still love the years we spent there - yet, for me, I have to feel guilty for leaving . . . more specifically . . . for feeling like I had to.

What am I rambling about? I want my daughter to see the world. I want her to have the opportunity to go anywhere and be anything. I want her to find her passions and follow them. I want her, frankly, to feel like if that means Wichita . . . she can have that option.

The opponents to the tax initiative say we should "wait" but I can't figure out why. There is no indication that Wichita will soon be blessed with flood-like rain nor a population drop or usage drop so significant that water is not precious. We are a metropolitan area of 500,000-ish. There is no reason for our roads to not be paved (every inch) nor to think we don't need to improve our roads and enhance them for bikes, buses, and hoverboards. There is no reason to think we should not protect our mass transit system. We should grow it. There is no reason to believe we don't need to figure out how to create more jobs. THOUSANDS of Wichitans have lost their jobs these last several years. Aviation is not going to reboot itself in this town (without help). The amazing incubator and entrepreneurial community is not going to flourish without help.

One penny. One cent for every dollar spent. Yep. A 14% boost from our current taxes.

For me, it is a small price that I will happily pay if it means that my daughter will have a vibrant home, should she chose, for life. I will pay it if it means a better future my city. I will shell  out every last penny I have it means my beloved Wichita doesn't go the way of my beloved Groton.

If you want to learn more, check out the site built by the "Yes Wichita" campaign or go to the horribly misleading-in-name "A Better Wichita" site to read the opposition (fair warning, there is very little there beyond fear language).


Dear Beyonce Fans . . .

You're dumb and I finally have proof! I've said (crassly) for YEARS that the only good thing to ever come out of Beyonce - Jay-Z put there (the grammar on the joke is a nightmare but you can't lead with the punchline) and FINALLY there is actual academic proof to substantiate my musical snobbery.

Now I know, I know . . . Jay-Z (and my beloved rap genre, as a whole) didn't do much better than his wife and the Dave Matthew's Band (a favorite from my college years) didn't exactly counteract all the (let's call it medicinal) marijuana I smoked during said phase but Ben Folds . . . for smart people. John Mayer (hate alllllll you want) would get you in to a solid, private school with a business program your parents could feel good about.  The Shins and Guster (whom I've long loved) are going to get you GRE pre-qualified by graduation day. And oh, oh, oh . . . LOOK! Coldplay and Sufjan Stevens are high on the chart and present to the right of average.

I am not saying this musical chart is "spot on" but I'd like to point out that I made gentle love and put a baby up in the ACTs and I was so rough on the SATs we needed a safety word and I giggled my way through the GREs.

I am joking, generally, about my smarts being verified by my musical tastes (everyone knows I'm a dummie and let's be honest - there are people who like bad/lower-scoring music for ironic intent and people who like good/higher-scoring music for aspriational intent) but it is interesting to note that, statistically, you looked at the chart above and either felt validated or criticized in it - hopefully the latter.


Holiday Schedule/Shuffle . . .

A year ago (almost to the day) my daughter's mother and I finalized our divorce.

While it wasn't "pretty" and there was lots of emotion and awkwardness - I would dare say it is in the 95th percentile of peaceful divorces. No lawyers asking for every e-mail or text message sent. No depositions. No overly-dramatic stand-offs in the driveway over the muffin trays or the toaster oven. We didn't argue about money. We both simply wanted it over and fair financials, equal access to our daughter, and peace in the land of Amore.

If I'm being honest . . . the fight was all but gone - from both of us - long before we moved to settlement.

However there was ONE thing we fought over . . . clarity.

The little, petty emotional pangs that nag and pick at the back of your brain when things fall apart. Not just the 20/20 of hind-sight that makes you wonder what you didn't see, hear, know or when and where the trust broke, etc. but - more importantly - the questions about what things might be like moving forward.

While we never really socialized as a couple there were those moments when life presumes a spouse or a family unit . . . wedding invitations, school concerts, parent/teacher conferences, falling in the shower (to clarify - one of the most horrifying realizations of being "alone" in my 20s (and perhaps forever) was the scene when Miranda falls in the shower and has to call Carrie for help . . . who sends Aidan instead) or catching a cold and just needing some GOT-damned soup. Those moments were always "us" and we rose to the occasion. Another time we would at least put on the smiles and be together as a family? The HOLIDAYS!!!

Yes, yes. The season is once again upon us (or has been since f*cking July if you ask an end cap display at Target) where "THE Holidays" are a subject of conversation and scheduling torture. Unlike the last several years where I didn't care who I might have spent the days with, I wanted (and GOT) NO ONE around me. I've taken my daughter to Denny's the last few Thanksgivings for breakfast (really a quite nice tradition, thank you very much (we both love breakfast food more than fat men and their daughters love breakfast food)) and then she has spent the balance of the day with her mother and her mother's family and whomever else surrounds the table.

Christmas - which is really little more than a secular tryst with stockings and Santa gifts that will soon exhaust itself in our family - was spent the same way. Some Santa action and then breakfast. I'm telling ya', we love Denny, his food, and his hospitality. Following a little time the kiddo, once again, spent the balance of the day with her mother. I, a Jew who never really "got" Christmas even when I was in the fold of believers spent the balance of the day with movies, reading, Chinese food, and lounging about.

Okay . . . to the point. THIS year is going to be (once again) weird. You see my daughter has two parents who are both in what seem to be happy, healthy, adult relationships with people who seem to have happy, healthy, adult relationships with their families (the kid's head might actually explode surrounded by so much love and good cheer) and everything is great other than the nagging notion that her parents are missing that one thing that plagued us for so long . . . clarity.

Even though we wrote out and signed off on a plan that was stamped by the good judge and the power vested in him by the district court of the great whateverdy-doo . . . we are both suddenly freaking out that our child might actually have, this year and for the great beyond, OPTIONS for where to spend her holidays and more than just two parents to spend them with.

So our verbal commitments that modify the alternating calendar we are legally agreed upon suddenly seems to be nothing more than words and - well - words are not exactly the clarity we seek in this family dynamic.

So here we sit . . . a few weeks away from the first official "Running of the Holiday Bulls" and we have a sorta plan that seems overly self-protective and generally petty (on both sides) of the fence that basically arrives at what will someday be our daughter's conclusion . . . I'm scared that you are moving on with your life and that might, indirectly, challenge back to the life we once shared and the home we tried to build and the roles we enjoyed as Mother and Father (big M and F - for self-indulgence) and the presumption that no one else would ever challenge ANY of that . . . much less the last part. The only part we still have left. The thing we know we'll let go of soon enough.

The good news? There are six weeks of this chaos each year and they proverbially fly by.

The better news? EVERYONE in our new, strange, expanding family appreciates breakfast foods and Denny's.


You Smell Purrrrdy . . .

Can I get all "middle-aged pervert" with you for a minute? Sure I can. You're not even within arm's reach . . . no need to fear it.

Let me say something highly inappropriate . . . I'm not going to do it. Turn back now!

You're still here? You can take it? Here it goes . . . 

I love how women smell. 

No matter what they smell of or like. I think women's eternal is extended through the air in a code only deciphered through the nose. Smell, I am told, is the ONLY sense that is routed through a different portion of the brain (from the other four) so you form connections to and memories of smell faster than other senses. Smell. Is. Special.

Why else would the perfume industry be worth billions a year and so automatic that countless celebrities, barely "talented" enough for whatever it is that makes the famous to begin with make the first extension of their "brand" a scent or two . . . where female fans or devotees, who have (statistically) never been in the presence of their idol to know their aroma think they might smell "like" them for just $80 a bottle (and, seriously, if you wear a Kardshian scent let me know - I want to get you out of my life). 

Let's get a few things about a woman's smell straight . . . it ain't always pretty. Women, like their lesser counterparts in Eden, can put the funk out. It is just part of life and that is okay because it is far more rare and far less horrifying than the man-borne equivalent even when it catches a breeze. 

Why are women more and better smelling? Their lives (and the products that govern their hygiene regiments) are just more perfumed and in better ways. A casual search of the Bath & Body Works website found 13 scents "for men" and 44 "for women" (either stated or implied by not being "for men") . . . there are more "fall" scents than "men's" scents on the site. Women are forced to smell like Tahitian Mornings - men like moss-covered wood. Which one seems better to you? Look at the shampoo aisle. Check out the deodorant options. Give the lotion selection a perusal. Note the feminine hygiene products with built in aromas. Ladies can't (easily) get away from smelling like some chemicals . . . often MANY of them (my OCD brain and super sensitive skin are too conflicted to use more than one scent "family" in the morning - currently citrus). 

Scents hang differently on every person and "perfume" and "cologne" are just terms to differentiate in marketing. Oils and alcohol-spritzes are gender-neutral. I hate to burst your bubble, fellas, but you COULD wear "Warm Vanilla Sugar" lotion if you wanted to, fellas. I get more compliments about my "cologne" on the mornings I accidentally roll on my daughter's perfume than when I hit my pulse points with my own roller ball (which is also, technically, a perfume) which is a distant consolation prize from the smell I used to love and be loved in (I truly miss Sapera and all your Cirmes stuff, Andrew Fuller.). 

So WHY do women smell "better" than men? I. Don't. Know. They just do. And for THAT, we thank you.


Sunday Funday . . .

A profane and catchy tune (it starts in earnest around 2:20) but NO way to deal with your problems, young lady.


"Ugly As Sin" . . .

I read THIS the other night and about blew a gasket. "This" (for those who want the short and curlies) is a piece about a male Republican New Hampshire state representative went on a rant on his blog (who the heck blogs in the year 2014 anyway?) about a female Congresswoman (that is the group that meets in DC for the politically confused) up for re-election being . . . well . . . let me QUOTE the guy (and his dreadful sentence structure):

"Let's be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congresswoman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven't offended sin."

Still not sure this guy is Douche of the Week? There's more . . .

"How ugly is Annie Kuster? Sad to say, but the drag queens in Montreal are more attractive than Annie Kuster . . . Annie Kuster looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag. Ouch!"

Right? This f*cking guy. What prompted the rant? How could he possibly justify such horrible speech? Well . . . nothing.  But his stupidity was spent on fact's tab. You see Rep. Vaillancourt's larger point was about the embattled  leader of NH's 2nd district (Kuster) who is likely to lose in a few weeks to Marlilinda Garcia and he was on to some horrifying truth that plagues politics.

You see Kuster, who is 58-years-old and opponent Garcia, 31, look nothing alike and there are plenty who believe that Garcia is far more fetching (Google her for yourself, you pervert.) and that is why she is getting support and making a real run at the first-term incumbent.

The truth? It is very, very possible. Polling data in New England has shown that the appearance of the younger upstart is relevant to voters. Sure, the challenger (Garcia) went on the record saying she was horrified by his remarks but that she realized she and her opponent had the unfortunate curse of being female politicians.

But is that fair? Is it about gender? Not exclusively . . . There is TONS of scholarship to suggest that we factor in general appearance of any politician (man vs. man, woman vs. woman, man vs. woman) when we choose candidates and cast votes.

FDR was rarely photographed or recorded in his wheelchair. It would make him look "weak", he feared.

What about JFK vs. Richard Nixon in 1960? Nixon, a far more seasoned politician, was ahead of JFK in many polls until the two men appeared on a TV debate where Nixon, white and clammy from a cold and an anxiety disorder was washed out in a grey suit and pale blue tie while JFK - my least favorite president of the modern era and one who's legacy is only buoyed by his premature and violent death - was tanned, relaxed, and fresh from banging half the women in the green room popped in a navy suit and red tie (it was black and white TV but grey scale still matters). The RADIO audience for the debate said Nixon won (ideas and words and delivery). The TV audience said JFK won (that dreamy muh-fukkah). The rest is history.

Want more history, more recent? Michael Dukakis out-polled his opponent, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush in 1988 with undecided women who used words like "nice looking" and "warm" and "friendly" to describe him while undecided men saw Bush's steely glare and nasally wisdom more compelling.

Want more? Fine. The ladies . . . Sarah. F*cking. Palin. I dare you to justify ANY other reason the McCain camp chose her other than all the good choices saying "No" followed by her gender (strategic - I'll allow it) and her appearance. I know, I know . . . she's got that "can do" spirit and folksy presence but come on . . . COME ON!

Even more recent? Let's talk about the Michelle Obama vs. Ann Romney pieces. They. Were. Not. Even. Running. Their. Husbands. Were.

We're all guilty of it . . . it is human nature, sadly. We trust, are more comfortable with, and want to see success for and from better-looking people. If we were not so base, Hollywood would have never actually succeeded and the world would know nothing of the Kardashian sisters.

I digress . . . I don't know which woman is better for New Hampshire (or for all of us - as Rep. Mike Pompeo drones on and one . . . he represents not just Kansans but all Americans (The. WORST.)) and I don't know what we do about this political spread.

We are losing really, truly great thinkers and leaders and strategists because they (or their family) don't want the spotlight. We are choosing and building candidates with image consultants and fashion advisers (I've noticed a candidate for Secretary of State here in Kansas is looking more Talbot's than Dress Barn lately) and we are missing the whole point that the wooden toothed (perhaps) Washington carried with him to Washington when he talked about how and why men (it was a different time, relax) should lead.

The voters of the Granite State will settle their race soon but this "relevance" of appearance in politics has always been here and likely will always be here.

The worst part of all this is that - for his part - Steve Vaillancourt (Google the troll, if you'd like to.) looks like the creepy uncle no one wants at family dinners and/or the substitute gym coach that wants to hug all the students . . . but he is on his way to another easy re-election because, well, life is not fair.


Running . . .

No, no, no. Not THAT kind of running (but I am back to doing that and have many, many miles to cover in advance of next May's Prairie Fire (Half) Marathon). I'm talking about the other kind of running.

No, no, no. Not running my mouth. I won't stop because I can't stop. The running all over Hell's half-acre "running" as in "never sitting down or just enjoying a few minutes of peace" type of "running" is the running I mean.

I know a woman who once told me she didn't have time for a relationship because she spent too much time working, exercising, and sleeping. I made the argument, foolishly, that a little less working out and a little less sleeping and a little more relationship could mean a happier, healthier person. I was verbally berated and physically assaulted.

I don't have that problem . . . the "I don't have time because I put too much time to ______" problem. I'm the opposite, especially lately. I find myself over promising and under delivering on the hours in the day.

At least 45 minutes a day for running or working out? I try (I am at three days a week - I need to get to five). Seven hours a night for sleeping? Ideally. Nine hours to the work day. Check. An hour for homework, reading to my child, and playing math games? Every night I have her. 30 minutes a day for blogging? Generally. Quality time? Yep. Bing watching random TV shows on the Roku? Nearly bottomless time for that. Hebrew time? Ummmmmmm . . . yeah . . . so. Talking with my parents and brothers weekly? The time difference is . . . an excuse. Staying close with friends from my previous lives in college and DC? I mean . . . so there . . . um.

So - it is about priorities. I get green beans (for my guinea pig) and bananas (for me) every. Single. Week. Never miss. WHY? Crucial. I always find time to be a parent. Work is important. Running is something I will give time to . . . the rest of it? It is priority and focus. I lack focus and just don't prioritize well enough, I suppose.

But I keep running and trying and hoping and praying. One day . . . I'll pull it all off.


Body Hair . . .

Seriously, though. Without trimming . . . 
You would not know it by looking at the top of my head (thank you maternal genetics, stress, poor diet, and apathy) but I'm one of millions of American men who suffer from a condition called "phukkinhairybahdee".

While not as well known as the flu, diabeeeeetis (as the oatmeal guy would have it said), erectile disfunction (or "ED" as that vaguely-attractive, overly-breathy Lauren-Hutton-ish minx would have you identify it) or ebola (which is so far removed from a real concern it makes me meshugganah (come to read the rants, stay to learn the Yiddish)) . . . this condition is a merciless killer of self-esteem, intimacy, and the ability to wear sheer, form fitting clothing with confidence.

Phukkinghairybahdee will lessen the quality of life for as many as 1:3 American men, 80% of Greek men who work in food service, and 100% of all men born in the former (and perhaps again to be collected) satellites of the Soviet Union during their lifetimes.

Yet the villain has no natural predator and modern medicine has all but ignored the plight of the victims. Sure, sure. You can go get waxed, lasered, and professionally shorn by professionals with a soft touch and a strong, intestinal fortitude but that is costly, temporary, and embarrassing. If I am being honest I think more men should be upset hair removal is not covered by Hobby Lobby insurance.

So what are we men to do? There are options out there, fellow sufferers.
  1. Go back in time to the late-60s/mid-70s when body hair signaled virility and your gold chains and lover's fingers could get lost in your thick, bathmat of chest hair with confidence.
  2. Isolate yourself like Big and Little Edie (if you don't get that reference, get yourself Google and some time to be horrified).
  3. Find a society that believes men should completely cover their bodies from head to toe (none exist but keep looking).
  4. Find a mate that truly loves you for who you are and will accept your bushy, sweat and funk holding body, and live a life of personal happiness surrounded by a deep, wide moat of social and professional shame 
  5. Do what I do and get yourself some dog grooming clippers.
Now I know . . . I know. Human clippers, like those issued on a stylists first day at Great Clips should suffice? Sure . . . until the third week of using them when they are not so much cutting the hair as yanking it out from the root and then pouring ketchup and rock salt in the vulnerable follicle left behind. Trust me - go DOG clippers (available online and at most pet retailers nationwide).

Got your dog clippers? Here is what comes next . . . lower the blinds in your bathroom (no one in the neighborhood needs to see this), close and lock the door (if someone walks - like your mother might have while you made passionate love to tube socks as a teen - you will never be able to make eye contact with them again), and turn on some music. No, no. Not for mood or romance (at no time and I suggesting flame with this hair floating around either) but for noise. To cover the "bzzzzzz" of the clippers and the gentle sobbing of a man trying to find his skin like so much buried treasure. Strip ALL the way down. 

Take out the ear and nose hair first. Get in there. Really work from the elbow! No guards needed - just take it down.

Put the "one" guard on the blades. Take back your eyebrows. Seriously - you look like a less-alive Morley Saefer.

Then - just like Zoe's last line at the end of House of Card's first season - "Go to town, bitch." Take it ALL out. Armpits (you don't need the sweat and hormones to pool there anyway) all the surface of your arms and even the backs of your hands and, if you are especially cursed like me . . . fingers. Then your chest and stomach. Hit your shoulders and as far down and in on your back as you can reach from the top or sides. Then do your legs and buttocks (seriously - that whole soft as a baby's butt thing is aspiration to chase) and . . . if you are (once again) cursed like me the tops of your feet and toes. 

You've never been more disgusted by me and the way I look and the things I say, have you? Don't answer that.

You'll notice I left off one part of the body . . . nope . . . just giving separate instructions for your most cherished posession. Put the "two" guard on (to minimize potential nicks) and go ahead and trim the bushes, hedges, around the bottom of the mail box stand, and up and down the sidewalks, too. I'm going to let you in on a little secret . . . that hair is the most revolting hair the body makes and keeps . . . it needs to be kept at bay. Your lover will not complain.

Once you've finished this regiment (often taking 15 - 20 minutes to do the "right" way (but much more and your clippers will be too hot to handle so don't eff around)), turn on your Shop-Vac (I forgot to tell you to put it in the bathroom before you started grooming) and get up as much of your crime scene evidence as you can. Take a shower. Scrub. Clean the drain trap 100x or so. Dry off.

Get back in the shower. Do it again. Clean the drain trap 50x more. Dry off.

Put a nice oil or lotion all over your body (your may have nicked yourself or at least irritated parts of your skin with the clipper guards) and you'll want to treat yourself (here is a personal favorite) as a way to heal the pain - like ice cream after a Little League loss. Get dressed. Return the Shop-Vac to the back of the garage.

Enjoy the next two weeks of your life as though you were one of the lucky ones . . . the men who aren't proof of evolution and all its faults and errors. 


A Figurative Milestone, Literally . . .

As I continue to fumble my way through the best way to "parent" a child (eight years, two months, and a few weeks and still no negligence, blatant harm, or ill-intent) I often have moments where I feel good (like at a parent teacher conference). I have moments where I feel frustrated (like when I can't get my child to believe me that the outfit I picked out for her matches - even though it DOES). These are fine . . . I am comfortable with them but then there are also moments when I pause and think . . .  "This is real. I'm (helping to) mold a real person who will someday provide (I hope) great value to herself and the world around her."

Witness Sunday evening when I had this moment.

The kid, being of sound mind and body, is pretty independent for bath time. I still draw the water and add the oils/bubbles (she has a tendency to make it too hot or too cold (to dangerous levels) and/or to put bubbles in to fill the house or oils enough that the surface becomes truly dangerous to stand on for weeks to come) and I lay out her towel and PJs (I can't let her grow up - sue me) but then I just sort of do what I'm doing and she bathes . . . for 45 - 60 minutes.

I listen . . . in that "too silent - must be trouble" way, mainly. And I hear the randomest things! I was walking by the bathroom and I heard her say "I will figuratively break you in half" (to one of her toys - she rarely threatens to harm my person and, even when she does, it is in good fun).

So I stop in my tracks . . . dead in my tracks.

Did she just say "figuratively"? Properly? In a world where kids, adults, pundits, and even world leaders confuse their intents and actions as being "literal" all the time . . . does my kid know the difference?

This is a vocabulary and grammar nuts dream come true! This is like the dad who had his athletic career cut short seeing his kid hoist the state championship trophy before taking over the family business. This is HUGE!

I press her . . . "Hey - uh - can you repeat what you just said?"

"Sean-Daddy," she says (that is her thing for me) "You know that I would not literally break my toys. I just want to threaten this fish toy so he's nicer to that fish toy."

Tears. Of. Pride.

"So if I said 'I will literally break you in half?'," I asked.

"I would be upset because I don't want my toys broken or ruined."

So I gave her five or six scenarios where "figurative" and "literal" might be confused . . . "I am literally the hottest person in the world." (she actually said it was figurative unless the person was in an oven) . . . "I am figuratively exhausted." (could be either, she pointed out . . . what have they been doing) . . . "I am so hungry I could literally eat a horse" (some cultures eat horse meat but few Americans do - it can be very tough for chewing).

She may still grow up to be a disaster like her old man but . . . for right now . . . she's at least got her figurative head in the clouds and her literal feet on the ground.


Pledge KMUW and DonaSEAN 2014 . . .

I make no bones about or apologies for my love of KUW (Wichita's public radio/your connection to the world). I can honestly say KMUW is a part of my life and my daughter's life. It educates and entertains us and occasionally starts conversations between father and eight-year-old that probably need to be had. The station and its wonderful people and programming do a lot for me.

Part of my small, small way of giving back (I am not a rich man despite my collection of penny loafers, my bowing bookshelves, and my tendency to "make it rain" at the local Jimmy John's) is beating the proverbial drum for the station twice a year during their pledge drives with a little something I call Seandraising and/or DonaSEAN (depending on the season). 

I basically harass my friends and family - who may or may not give or listen or like or even be aware of KMUW - to give to the station in exchange for me embarrassing myself publicly. Does it work? You betcha, Sarah Palin. Last spring nearly 1.5% of the total raised . . . over $4,600 (NOT including matching money) was added to the total earned by the station. 

Here is what is what is on the line this drive . . . 

$1,500 - If we can't get to this total, I'll never try to do this again. 

$1,750 - I will stop trashing social media (while returning to regular use of it at the same time) for the next six months. Heck - we can even be Facebook "friends" again (yeah - I probably unfriended you a few months ago . . . awkward.)

$1,760 - NOW we're cooking with gas. Alas the station is at 99.9% of goal and will wrap up in the AM. There is still time to do your worst!

$2,000 - I will once again stop publicly talking about my two favorite things in the world for another six months (for the record - it has now been years and years since I last did this). Hashtag: Growing Up Is Hard To Do

$2,250 - Anyone who gives $100 or more of the first $2,250 raised will be a guest on one of the first episodes of the podcast that Walker Schwartz and I WILL start (and do regularly) in 2015. Even if you don't want to be . . . seriously, we're going to need people. 

$2,500 - Anyone who gives in the first $2,500 will be invited to join us at Sugar Sisters and I'll buy the first round of baked goods for everyone that shows up and, you know, wants something to nosh on. And you're welcome to want something from there. Seriously. 

$2,750 - You can run with myself and JSzam (presuming she wants to do it) at the Santa Shuffle on Saturday, December 13th. No. I am NOT wearing the hat, beard (I don't do costumes), or t-shirt (no serious runner wears the shirt for the event to the event (unless it is from a previous year)). 

$3,000 - I'll sit through an entire Sunday of NFL games with anyone that gives $100 or more (presuming we get to at least $3,000) and not throw a single fit the entire day. I'll even buy snacks. We're going to need snacks to fill my pie hold if I can't use it to trash the NFL and all those who enable them by watching their product. 

$3,250 - Any person who gives at least $50 in the first $3,250 earned will be able to nominate a single woman in Wichita, Kansas City, or in the middle to go on a date with Nathan J. Carr and I'll make him show up and pick up the tab (up to $100, hourly motel room not included). Why is this a punishment for me? He hasn't exactly agreed to do this . . . or even been asked. 

$3,500 - Anyone that gives $100 or more of the first $3,000 earned will be invited to a pizza party at Ziggy's (Wichita's best pizza, by a mile) and I'll pick up the check (within reason - how much cheesy garlic bread do you need before the pizza even arrives?). 

$3,750 - Whomever gives the 3,750th dollar will get full reign over my Twitter and Facebook accounts for 96 hours. Not a big deal? The winners in the spring got me in trouble with no less than four people in the same amount of time last spring. 

$4,000 - Give $100 or more of the first $4,000 earned and you can write a post for this here blog about anything you like and it will be run - with a disclaimer at the top - unedited. You can take any position you like on any issue you like.

$4,250 - Give $250 or more of the first $4,250 (limit four winners for this prize) and I'll bake you no less than THREE family-sized Jewish desserts for your Thanksgiving meal. I'm actually a descent cook/baker (if no one is watching) and NO ONE does sweet carbs better than us. Believe that!

$4,500 - I am running the Prairie Fire (Half) Marathon in May, 2015 and will do it in under three hours (that is already established) but if we hit this amount, anyone that gives to DonaSEAN 2014 can contribute to my race day shirt (think of it like a NASCAR vehicle, only bigger, with better logos, and without the risk of vehicular homicide to make it undesirable). 

$4,750 - If you give at least $1,000 of the first $4,750 will get a neck nuzzle from Megan Lovely. I don't know what that means either and I don't know where my punishment comes in to play but . . . she has volunteered and seems to think the price is fair and it will change the recipient's life and I believe in her

$5,000 - If we hit this amount I WILL have a party and people WILL be invited and it WILL be awesome. I promise. Seriously this time. For real. 

Seem like a good time? I agree. ALL you have to do is give (to clarify I give just enough, each drive, to get my free TEA mug so don't think you have to max out your credit cards to get my respect). You can do so through:

By Phone - 6 AM - 6 PM Thursday, 10/24 - Saturday, 11/1
By Mail -  Attn: Pledge Drive, KMUW, 3317 E. 17th St. N., Wichita, KS 67208
By Foot, Car, Bicycle, Teleportation - (address and hours above)

. . . and then let me know you gave. You can Tweet "at" me (@SeanCAmore) with the hashtag "#DonaSEAN" or you can DM me through Twitter. You can message me through Facebook. You can e-mail me (my Twitter handle with (at) G Mail dot com after) or you can text or call my mobile telephone . . . No. I'm not going to post my phone number here but it is not hard to find it. Just let me know how much you GAVE (vs. pledged to give) and I'll add it to the totals. 

Now let me get in front of something here . . . I was NOT very good about honoring my obligations from the spring drive. While I DID fulfill a good chunk of the stuff and there were other things people had to do to get it started (ask questions, etc.), I fell short on being the mensch the offer might imply. For that I am sorry and I will be making amends post haste. PLEASE, I implore you, do NOT punish a valued local institution for my own laziness and generally anti-social behavior this last summer.

Let's make this our most successful drive yet! The station and the overall value the community receives from it NEED you.



Sunday Funday . . .

I'm still going to go see this (enthusiastically)) but I don't remember Moses being an antagonistic braggart while in Egypt . . . even at Sinai he seemed frustrated vs. entitled. Maybe I need to revisit the Torah.


Songs for Falling Leaves . . .

It has been a while since I last shared a playlist and I figured this is the perfect time of year to share some music made for sitting outside, mug of tea on your knee, book in your hands, and nothing but happy stuff on your mind.

Please to enjoy by clicking here. (And if you don't have Google Play All Access Music (worst. name. ever.) . . . sorry).


Soup . . .

There are few cliches in the world that I really enjoy . . .

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? How are we defining "value" these days?
  • The best offense is a good defense? What are we talking, soccer?
  • Vial of your lover's blood around your neck? Seems very unsanitary.
  • I can't drive 55? When is the last time there was even a zone with a 55 MPH speed limit?

I could go on (and get increasingly less compelling in my chosen examples of a cliche) but, instead, I will get to the point and tell you one cliche I DO get my large, bulbous ass behind . . . October is SOUP WEATHER!

Now I know what you are thinking . . . "Really? A post about soup?" Yes. Did you not see the subject line above? What SHOULD you be thinking? "Well, soup really is f*cking delicious."

Because. It. Is.

Soup, for the record, is one of the few "universal" foods. While certainly not every culture in the world has the equivalent to a bowl of matzo ball soup (because Jew food is the BEST food - that is why!) every part of the globe has at least the pureed vegetable and/or the broth variety soup somewhere in its pantry/bag of tricks.

Soup can be sweet (a nice watermelon gazpacho on the roof of the Hotel Washington (turned W) overlooking the White House, for instance) or savory (bean and chicken sausage stew . . . with the kale AND the beans (let's make love)) or comforting (chocolate chili made by a racist) or jolting (Give me a #5 with the hot and sour, yo. Pick-up. 10 minutes.).

It can be made in 90 seconds (just peel back the metal tab and replace the plastic lid) or take seven or eight hours (slow cooked greatness).

It can  be served by the spoon (amuse bouche . . . pinkies out . . . fancy!), by the mug, the bowl, or the vat.

Crackers? Generally. Bread heels? Whenever available. Salt? The kosher shakes, yo (fun fact - all salt is technically "Kosher" it is the large crystals that will soak up blood in the meat it is coated in that makes the grocery staple Kosher (think of it as a facilitator)). A spoon? If that is the biggest thing you've got to get that good stuff from "here" to "there" (my belly).

I am not kidding when I say this . . . I've blown off social engagements to make soup and I've had people come to my home for the soul (not a typo - this is spiritual, yo) purpose of making soup for them. I've never ONCE had an argument over, around, near, or because of a bowl of soup. I've never been mad at soup. I've never been betrayed by soup. I've never been jealous of soup (more the people that have it when I do not).

Long story long . . . do yourself a favor. Take stock of yourself this year. Put all your woes and worries in a pot. Put a little heat under them and yourself. Stir things around. Get it rolling. Find some good company. Eat, be full, be warmed, be happy.



Ebola . . .

There is a serious, serious health risk plaguing Americans today. I don't want to alarm anyone but while we slept and carried on something took hold that will kill as many as 1 in 76,000 of us. What is it? A swarm by bees and wasps. Don't laugh - not funny.

Seem unlikely? Okay . . . something more dangerous that lurks all around us? 1 in 37,000 of us will stab ourselves or be stabbed - FATALLY.

Still not alarmed? Fine, fine. 1 in every 1,400 of us will die from fire and/or smoke inhalation. You don't seem nervous . . . how about 1 in 7 from cancer or heart disease? Did you just quietly look around the room and take your odds? Sick bastard (which is code for "I like your style!").

We don't actively fear any of those things (well - most of us do not).

Yet something else that is (said to be) looming in the world . . . ebola. But, if you are feeling uneasy, here is the statistic you need to know. SO FAR only four Americans have been officially diagnosed with ebola (if my stats are correct) with only a few hundred more Americans under quarantine or even watch for potential development based on exposure.

Yes. Yes. Two Americans have died (one in July - an American citizen was in Africa visiting, got ill, and never came home and one, who brought the disease home deep inside him, a few days ago). So, to crunch the numbers - 1.34 (I'll round up) in every 100,000,000 (that is 100 Million if you are zero-challenged) has been diagnosed with the disease and 1 in every 150,000,000 of us has died.

Sure, sure . . . 50% of those that have been diagnosed have died! And that is where the problem begins. That number, out of context, is SUPER scary (fun fact - unless you are the Virgin Mary herself, you are not getting out of this world alive).

The American media and a handful of Americans (check out this delight that tried to bring a knife to the nuclear weapon testing range that is my Twitter feed . . . he quickly went back to re-Tweeting racist, sexist, and hateful things when pressed) are making this a real "thing" because, well, there is an appetite for it.

Let's be clear . . . Ebola is HORRIBLE. NO ONE wants Ebola (or cancer, or to die from smoke inhalation, or the death penalty, or wasp attacks) but how many people know what it IS?

Ebola, for those that have not dug past the headlines to learn, is a bodily-fluid spread (and ONLY bodily-fluid spread) disease that can hide in a human for two to 21 days. It starts out as a fever and sore throat. Before long you are throwing up and you might develop a rash. Your liver and kidneys will start to fail you. You will bleed (internally or externally). Between seven and sixteen days after the disease presents itself - you, statistically, are dead (70% of those in the current epidemic in Africa have died) from organ failure and/or shock. If you are "lucky" enough to fight through the disease, it is because medicine, tender-loving-care, luck/intervention of the divine/etc. (depending on your belief system) have kept you alive and your body overcame its attacker. You have the ultimate bar tale to tell and I want to buy you a beer and hear it.

In the meantime let's alllllllll relax.

Some other numbers that you might care about (if you are worried about ebola here on planet earth). As of 10/8 (sorry - the stats are hard to come by) there were:

  • 7,500 cases have diagnosed ebola in SEVEN of the world's countries:
  • Liberia - 3,875
  • Siera Leone - 2,400
  • Guinea - 1,200
  • Nigeria - 20
  • United States - 1 three of the cases "here" were brought back from Africa)
  • Senegal - 1
  • Spain - 1 (and MOST running from the disease are heading to Spain so keep that in context)

That means about 0.000001% of the world's population has ebola and 0.0000005% of the world's population has died from it. For context . . . 0.000002% (double the ebola deaths) will die or be wounded while going to, attending, or traveling home from a sporting event in 2014.

WAY more likely to scare you . . . in the same time as this outbreak (now in month four) cancer, bike accidents, serial killers, ladder falls, suicide, drunk driving, negligence, poor home repair of a glitchy electrical outlet, and forest fires have all killed more people (individually and/or combined).

Yet here you sit . . . reading this blog . . . not worrying about a thing. As you should be.

I don't mean to diminish the dead or their value (there is nothing above that does that) and I don't mean to mock the scared or overcautious (there is lots above that does that) but I do think that we need to be more contextual and less scared. There MAY be a time and place for ebola-based panic - it is not today and it is not the United States.


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge . . .

This summer was owned (What is this "pwned" thing all about, by the way? You crazy kids and your Internet slang and VD.) by the insanity of the ALS ice bucket challenge.

MILLIONS (115, to be precise) were raised. THOUSANDS of gallons dumped. THOUSANDS of people gasped for air after the jolt of the dump. But for what?

Was it "worth"? I'm a marketer. We look at awareness as a key threshold for engagement which is code for action (either asking/learning more or buying something, etc.) but awareness implies you learn OF something and that sparks an interest.

To that end - I am declaring the Ice Bucket Challenge a failure. I know, I know . . . SO much raised. SO much good could come of it (for the record even the ALSA is unsure of exactly how they will spend the money) because very few really learned anything. They just saw something "viral" and wanted to be part of it (giggle, giggle - get the camera!).

I'm wrong? Okay. Let's test the theory.

Here is a quick, five question, quiz about the benefactor of this summer's biggest hit. NO CHEATING . . .
  1. What does ALS stand for?
  2. What percentage of ALS sufferers overcome/beat/survive the disease?
  3. How frequently does ALS claim a life in the US?
  4. How do you "get" ALS?
  5. What are the most encouraging possibilities for treating/curing ALS today?

How did you do? I'll bet that you - like most people - got no more than two questions right and I'd double down on a bet that most would get just one (number four - am I right?).

The point? Money raised is great for a non-profit. Money given to a non-profit is a great gesture but, like with sex with strangers . . . a little information and knowledge going in makes for better decisions and fewer burning sensations later.

Why did we open our checkbooks following "likes" on Facebook? How many would give $100 to a cause just to do it? I was shocked to learn that over 95% of American households give SOMETHING to charity every year and the AVERAGE donation (per household) is nearly $3,000. That is way, way more than my cynical heart presumed.

That is great. There are thousands of good, pure, honest non-profits (I give annually to the United Way, The Arc of Sedgwick County, KMUW, KPTS, my congregation, my kid's school's PTA, and a few other random things every now and again) because I care about each of those causes/things, they put the money back to use in my community, and I want to protect all those things. If you really care about ALS (and we all should - it is pretty horrible), give to them. If you do not (or if you care more about something else) give to THEM.

And for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY will you people please learn that holding your phones in the "portrait" orientation makes for far more compelling video? At least Ray-J and Kim Kardashian got THAT right.


World Cup . . .

In June of 1994 I was a senior in high school and took a drive to Connecticut for my college orientation.

The date? June 17, 1994. It was an odd day, to say the least, but a very sports-oriented day. Following a full day of activities many of us gathered in TV Lounges to watch the games and events of the day and soccer was heavily discussed.

I knew NOTHING of soccer (we had a women's team in high school - my alma mater has since added a men's team) but I never went to any games (I only ever went to sporting events in high school when marching band, to be a statistician (for cross country and track) or friendships compelled me). I tried, very hard, to get excited about this tournament happening in these United States. It didn't work. Four years later, I tried again. Failed. When the women's World Cup (complete with historic sports bra-clad victory moment) was played DOWN THE STREET from my home in 1999, I couldn't care less. I just don't like soccer.

NO offense to the millions and millions of people (including dozens in these United States) that love the game. I get the allure. It is about strategy and patience and endurance and grace and math and physics and luck. I will readily concede that the athleticism is higher than in the average game and - since I loathe all sports - you don't need to worry that I am dismissing the game because of its (traditionally) low scores and defensive prowess.

It should come as no surprise that Sean's Unbridled Rage was in full effect this summer as the United States once again "ushered in the era of soccer in America" with a run at the World Cup. I know, I know. Cheering for the US in the World Cup is Patriotism at its finest and all that. I say piss-haw.

Here's why:

The Roster - What I'm about to say is not xenophobia or ethnocentrism. It is a simple statement of fact. I think a "National" team should be wholly made-of, coached-by, water-boyed, and made of people from that country. ONLY in this instance (casual, semi-, and professional sports are a whole other thing).  There are 316MM people in America (let's assume, conservatively, 70% were born here - one of our GREAT traditions (which I am a product of) is becoming the home to new people ever day). That means 221MM people, 50% of which are men, 64% of which are 18 or older, make up the 70MM potential players for the squad. Of which we need 25. That's two dozen plus one.  If we can't put a roster of 25 men born in these United States on the pitch and compete . . . we should lose in the prelims and try again in another four years. Instead, we took five foreign-born, foreign-living, foreign-playing athletes to play for Old Glory in Brazil. Know who was left off?

Landon Donovan - 32 year old, California-born Landon Donovan is the most accomplished American-born player in the history of competitive soccer (in accolades, reputation, and general legend (I did my homework here) and he is the most accomplished American in the history of FIFA World Cup (goals and assists). He was willing and able to play and the coach (the German-born, still residing Jugen Klinsmann) tossed him aside from the final roster (despite his performance and role in getting the US properly qualified for the tournament (never an easy task, we're not very good at soccer)).

Expectations - Which brings me to my next point. You know all the talk about how THIS is the year that soccer really established itself as a sport in the American mainstream? Let's talk about that . . . there IS a professional league in America (it is true, you can Google it). There are 19 teams (three in Canada, 16 here). The players come from around the world (I'm fine with this - see above). Here's what you probably don't know . . . the league ONLY exists as a league/complete entity and it is wholly owned and managed by a group of investors. In other words there is no "free market" economy to professional soccer in America. One other twist? The investors are backed by the corporations that sponsor soccer and they were formed as a promise from the US government (and its Department of Futbol Enthusiasm) as a way of securing the rights to the FIFA World Cup in 1994. In other words - we have professional soccer because we wanted to host a tournament. Is the league successful? Yes. Technically. The arenas are sized based on market demand and the tickets are priced to ensure sell-outs. The media rights are negotiated by the same investors that are also marketers around other sports that the media companies that carry sports want so everyone wins. There ARE fans. They love their teams. They are loyal. You know who else loves their teams and is loyal? Cubs fans. And we don't take them all that seriously, do we?  Back on point - the US Mens National Team performed EXACTLY as well in this tournament as they did the last. We barely survived the first round and got bounced the next time out. Yep. This was the year!!!!!

I get that people love the sport and the US team and the teams in general. I am NOT criticizing you all (I love what I love and make no bones about it) but I have to worry about the hysteria around the sport and its presence and growth. Why? Because my brain is wired too - there is NO sane or rational reason I might or do.


Sunday Funday . . .

Hand Foot/Eye coordination . . . something I just don't have much of.

Watch more Soccer videos on Frequency


One Of These Things Is Not Like the Other Things . . .

Can you figure out which one of these ornaments is not like the others?
We all need a Star of David for the Hanukkah Bush, I suppose!


Wish I Was Here . . .

Years ago, I spent the fall on the sofa of a good friend in Connecticut. My (then) wife and (still) daughter had already moved to Wichita and I was job hunting and just needed a place to stay. I suspect that my awkward situation was her relief. She was unemployed and, frankly, seemed a bit bummed out and disenchanted with things.

I slept on her couch for two FULL months (to the day-ish). We had many adventures and spent a lot of time together and one thing she introduced me to was the TV show Scrubs. I was aware of the show (sorta) and Zach Braff - mainly from Garden State. I didn't know much about him. He seemed like an eternal child and I was not sure if his humor was something I would dig but, frankly, my friend insisted so I checked it out. To her surprise I didn't love it but ONE episode stuck out for me. "My Screw Up".

I won't get in to the plot line (ain't you got no Google?) but I will say that it showed a charming, emotional, cheesy side to Braff that that I DID love (despite the presumptions and my public demeanor I am - as recently described "a malt ball" that is "a thin, hard shell around a lot of soft, delicate, and surprising stuff that joins for an acquired taste and can lead to obesity and death" (that's a quote)). I digress. Zach Braff . . .

Fast forward seven years (or a few weeks later) and my life is a very different place - as is Zach Braff's. We're older. We're grumpier. We're still holding on to something and still hoping things will be perfect someday. We're equally charming and handsome yet a little more angsty. We're both doing the best we can and we both have our critics and fans (him on a much larger, MUCH more public scale).

I work in middle management of the marketing department of a hospitality company. Braff, who I think is sorta underrated comedically, hangs out in Hollywood and took to Kickstarter to make a movie about life and marriage and parenting and the journey, dreams, frustrations, moments of awe, and all the other arcs that come with it . . . enter "Wish I Was Here".

The plot summary is (loosely) in the trailer above but what the trailer doesn't show enough (as I related to the movie) is just how much otherwise-suffocating pressure Braff's Aidan Bloom feels. His father is dying, his brother is a mess, his wife is being harassed at work, his daughter is so very focused on faith and the eternal that she misses the forest and the trees of now and his son is, well, terrifically boyish.

ALL that pressure leaves Bloom doing just one thing . . . chasing his dream (of being an actor), running from reality (and a space man that keeps re-appearing) and saying the same, (admittedly by the end of the film) tired line that we all think we're going to be people that save the world when, really, we are the ones that need saving.

I presume he means we ALL think we will save but end out needing the saving. For the Bloom family - salvation is had (including for the flagging father, played wonderfully by the mensch Mandy Patinkin, I suppose) and the 90% of the film spent having it all fall apart is tied back together in a 10% montage that leaves you groaning with regret for how magical the bow on the package really is and how much you believe in it.

Make no mistake . . . Wish I Was Here is cheesy. It is trite. It is formulaic in many ways. It is cliche. It feels like it was made on a small budget (not a bad thing, here). It is not ideally cast (Kate Hudson is not my favorite - she is less than her "average" in this one). It is a little sloppy in some parts.

That being said - it has its moments. Scenes between Braff and his eccentric brother (played by Josh Gad - who I suddenly want to be in every movie that needs a schlubby antagonist) are rich and remind me of my relationship with my brothers (respect, love, a little confusion, some eye rolls). The "swear jar" and all it symbolism (a little suffering for our weaknesses today will be the strength and opportunity of tomorrow) weighed on me. Braff's struggle with his Jewish faith were really well handled (there is reverence in his spite) and reminded me of my struggles with the Catholic Church.

"Wish I Was Here" is perfect for what I wanted it to be . . . something that made me laugh (many, many times) and cry (many, many times). It was like therapy in a room that smelled of buttered popcorn and without the pressure of eventually having to double back on how/why it makes me "feel".

You have missed this one if you've not already seen it but fear not - the digital/DVD/pirated versions of the movie are coming soon and I could not suggest, more, that you give it two hours. You may hate it. You may love it. But, you will likely appreciate what Braff did with this pet project and like a sofa to sleep on and a friend that needs you on that couch . . . sometimes things just sort of have their own benefits.

Wish I Was Here is my FAVORITE movie (so far) of 2014. Also - much like Scrubs and Garden State - fantastic soundtrack.


The Blind Side (Stroke) . . .

Lest you think this blog is only a forum for me to bemoan, mock, ridicule, and criticize others . . . let me tell you an obnoxious story about your Creepy Uncle Sean (that's me - you don't actually have to be my niece or nephew to make this work).

When I was seven years old and in he second grade, there was a slight problem . . . I had my mother's vision (technically I also got her teeth, love of food, premature graying, and chin-quiver-when-crying thing) and that meant I was certifiably blind. I mean BLIND. I mean couldn't-match-a-pair-of-socks-or-find-my-way-to-my-classroom-without-a-school-of-other-fishies-to-swim-down-the-hall-with blind. My loving parents took me to the eye doctor and started my life as a "corrective vision" patient with the thickest plastic, shatter and scratch resistant lenses you have ever seen complete with "S C A" stickers on the right lens. Yeaaaahhhhhhhhh!

31 years later, I still need glasses to see my brightly-handled-and-bristled toothbrush (which sits neatly in a holder - all by its lonesome) each morning and evening.

Why am I telling you this? I've recently taken back up with an old love of mine - swimming (another post for another time but I LOVE to swim). And that is where our story truly begins.

You see my special lady friend (that's the only term you're ever going to get here so get comfortable with it) also enjoys swimming so we occasionally go to the pool together (yeah - that's a euphemism (giggidy)) and, since we don't live anywhere near each other we will frequently meet at the pool. I know it is her when we arrive. I know it is here when we disappear in to our respective locker rooms but - from there - I have to use approximate body shape and size and vocal cues . . . I'm like Lt. Col. Frank Slade (go ahead and Google it - I'll wait) . . . welcome back.

So the other evening (NOW the story really begins - I promise) I, having tucked my flip flops, glasses, and ear drying drops safely in to a locker and taken my rinse-off shower, emerged from the locker room of the Downtown YMCA, having safely eluded the awkward train-wreck-like-allure of middle-aged, moderately-obese naked men and their droopy asses, dangling scrotum, and schmeckles allll over the place (I once saw a guy with his junk placed ON THE COUNTER as he brushed his teeth) and saw one open lane on the far side of the pool. I dove in and began my 30 minutes of laps.

As I stroked - flawlessly and with (sober) Michael Phelps-like speed - up and down the length of the pool I looked to my left, then right, then left, then right, and was very excited to have been fortunate enough to get a lane next to my swim partner (we are normally at least a lane or two apart with an 80 year old, super-skinny Asian dude with trunks in his armpits hauling ass up and down the lanes).

"Hey, gurrrrl," I gargled.

"Hey," she retorted.

- - next lap/passing - -

"You come here often?"

(no real response - it is worth noting here that most of my childish antics get no deigned response)

- - next lap/passing - -

"We hitting the hot tub after this because I am doing WORK. Check my glutes. BOOM!"

 - - next lap/passing - -

"I couldn't help but notice your breasts . . . troke. Yeahhhhhh."

- - next lap/passing - -

"This would only be less comfortable for me if we were naked right now."

- - next lap/passing - -

"Your place or mine after this? Seriously. I can't remember. And what is for dinner?"

This goes on, with escalated profanity and awkwardness (this was not flirting - this was me trying to elicit a giggle and/or a reminder that she was someone's daughter, sister, aunt, etc.) for about ten minutes.

Then, for no apparent reason, the lovely woman/object of my objectification in the next lane simple stopped swimming, grabbed the edge of the pool and popped up out of the water.

It was then - and only then - that I had been verbally harassing a total stranger who simply wanted to swim in peace.

I need contact lenses or laser surgery . . . and to learn how to be appropriate in public.


Can We Talk About "Rights"? . . .

A week (or three - I don't know how long the gap will be before this post goes live) or so ago Rob Schneieder . . . of questionable fame and comedic chops (full disclaimer - I actually find him funnier/more enjoyable than many of his "generation") became the latest person to publicly confuse the "rights" guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States (as it is officially known).

For those unaware . . . Schneider was tapped, with a number of his other SNL alumns (apparently 90s ("my decade") nostalgia has started (all due apologies)) in a series of State Farm spots where their old characters and taglines and shticks were exhumed from the grave of sketch comedy to sell policies to the masses. No. I don't see how that "works" either. I digress.

UNLIKE some of his other colleagues, Schneider's spot (linked above) was short lived because the Twitter-sphere got their panties in a collective bunch over the comedian's - who as far as Google tells me has two adult/grown daughters - positions on vaccines.

I won't weigh in on the vaccine debate here. I am not, if I am being honest, fully invested in the debate enough to learn anything beyond the surface. I was fully vaccinated. My daughter is up-to-date on her vaccines, etc. I guess that is, in itself, a position but I don't go out of my way to roll my eyes at anti-vaccers (as they are often called - why do we have to shorten everything in our text messaged driven world?) because . . .  I just. don't. know.

So come back around and now his spot - where he does nothing even remotely tied to vaccines (I guess there is a pregnant woman in the spot so you might presume that when the director yelled "cut" he tried to talk the expecting mother out of the host of shots that awaited her fetus but that is one heck of a presumption) in a TV spot and that spot gets taken out of the rotation in some knee-jerk reaction on the part of an insurance company that sells what has become a commodity at a discount rate and probably has to be mindful of every potential lost customer accordingly and since the spot won't air, Scheider won't get royalties or all those eyeballs (that fast forward through commercials anyway) that might, in due time, resurrect his career until he is eventually the Bill Murray of his generation with Oscar accolades for his every whimsical performance. But here is where the comedian loses me . . . instead of taking the Gilbert Gottfried road and making it about money and his presumption that this pursuit (getting paid) and that pursuit (caring about shots for kids) and his career (making people laugh) were not the same so screw you, insurance company - he made it about his RIGHTS!?!

I don't know much about vaccines. I don't know much about keeping my various pursuits separate. What I do know? State Farm pulling Rob Schneider's spot is NOT a violation of his free speech.

If you've ever read our Constitution (you should - it is not a long document and you will likely be surprised to see the exact syntax of the document vs. the Bill of Rights language that is in the lexicon of popular culture) let me quickly clarify that ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is technically barred from stepping on your tongue (and even then they can for various reasons/purposes/intents). There is no clause about businesses not being able to fire you. There is nothing about people not demanding you be fired. There is not even a thing that says you have to say this in the context of that for it to be relevant here or there. None of that.

Free speech, as someone who speaks his small, addled, cynical mind alllll the time, is actually quite a tricky promise. It basically says you can SAY what you want - but doesn't really go very far out of its way to clarify what can/not happen NEXT.

  • Call a woman the "c-word" . . . get hit. By her, a chivalrous over-hearer, your own mother, or anyone with a drop of decency, etc. Your rights are not violated. 
  • Yell "fire" in a crowded theater . . . you're going to be charged for a handful of crimes (presuming there is no actual fire - you may get a key to the city if there really is one). Your rights are not violated.
  • Tell a Jew joke in front of me  . . . you'd better make sure it is actually funny. My rights - nor your rights are infringed upon if the joke is not funny and someone gets upset (it would not be me - glass house, y'uns. GLASS. House.)
  • Say you're going to overthrow the government . . . hope you have a great lawyer and lots of money because even though the Federal Govt can not limit your free speech they CAN detain, arrest, prosecute, punish, and even kill you for your words (mind blown).
  • Say something contrary to public "wisdom" (let's say you tell a class of first graders there is no Santa Claus) . . . you're going to get several ears full and you deserve them all. Your rights are not violated - but some might argue you have broken the Wistful Rights of Innocence by popping the Santa bubble.
  • Have a controversial opinion about something the social media masses are passionate about (and, let's be clear, if there is anything social media has taught us it is that "passion" in the form of a hashtag, re-Tweet, "like" or "comment" is super easy to come by/under) . . . you might lose your lucrative gig with an Insurance company. Your rights are still very much in tact. 
I'm rambling (as I have been for years) but I guess my point is this (just like with so many other things where public outcry and hurt feelings intersect) . . . let's be careful how often we are "put upon" and "harmed".

Let's be cautious about claiming our rights are being stomped and that the government (or any of its arms, ambassadors, and activists) are out to get us. Let's keep some powder dry for a date and time when the sky is actually falling.

Because, to be clear, rights (to speech and otherwise) are violated every day and if we don't allow for those instances to get their due attention - they are going to happen a lot more often and to much greater devastation.

Sorry about your gig, Rob Schneider. If it matters - I thought the Hans and Franz commercial was/is even WORSE than your spot


What About Now?

Have you ever heard people talk about near (post?) death experiences where they felt like they left their body and floated above themselves . . . noticing how weird their boobs looked from 20 feet above their body laying flat on their back or ruing NOT putting on clean underwear that morning?

These people - who I have to presume are scared out of their bodies (see what I did there?) - tell often-romantic stories about how the world slowed down and they saw their loved ones and the EMTs and how they pondered their life real and imagined and the fact that it might be over.

Know what they are really thinking? Ugh. This is how it ends? I never even bothered to figure out what the heck The Tree of Life was even about (see what I did there?) and I had a casserole in the oven and tomorrow is school picture day and my husband is going to let the kids wear whatever they choose.

I'm not even sure what I'm rambling about . . . So enter this piece from The Atlantic. It is part "rise of the machines" and part "we really are liars who try to present our best selves but the truth says otherwise" but, for me, it was more about the idea that there are two of us living and walking around. Our "real" self and our "best" self and the only thing that separates the two (a boundary getting thinner and less armed all the time).

So I actually played a game on hot Sunday evening in August . . . which me is the "more accurate" me (real vs. best). How did I play the game? Deep, deep introspection and meditation. I kid - I just went to my digital life . . . and you can too!

I combed through nearly 1,100 blog posts (didn't read them all - to be clear) and I perused nearly 44,000 Tweets, and I looked at nearly 6,000 photos of the last decade of my life (largely photos of my daughter - I am seldom caught/found on camera), and I even dug through years of Facebook stati and photos and interactions.

My conclusions?

1) I used to share way, way too much about my real life.
2) I don't care nearly enough about being my "best" self.

The truth (if I can be honest with you for the first time in over 50,000 digital interactions) is that, by the late days of 2014, there is not very much of either version ("real" or "best) of me floating around. I've circled my own wagons. I've been relatively quiet. I am getting older and more mature.

But that was not the game - the game was which version do I try to share and the answer, to the delight of half of you who bet pay stubs on it . . . I am trying to project my "best" self. TRYING.

I noticed a few things:
  • I am a funeral and four books off completing all my PUBLIC goals for 2014 (I have hit 11 of the 14 private ones and the other three are NOT happening). 
  • I am spending more and more time in the real world doing real things with real people and trying to be real in those moments and experiences.
  • I am a lucky and blessed person with many people who (quietly) suffer me and loads that truly care for and about me. 
Those are the real parts of me that I don't really talk about or make a thing digitally. MOST of what I share now are ramblings (I'm about 50 blog posts away from just throwing up a picture of a teenager at the mall and labeling it "Damned kids.") and redirects or music or movies or books that I enjoy. I don't talk about food, running, relationships, parenting, faith, etc. nearly as much as I did. Instead it is just superficial things like what song I listen to each morning or why I love bananas despite their high hypoglycemic index.

So, there you go. You, dear readers, are stuck with my "best" (which is mortifying to say) self. The real me is out there. I promise.

Also, rest assured . . . if I get in a wreck this evening I'll float above my body, resent my boobs, and know that my clean underwear has served me as well as it can.


Israel vs. Palestine . . .

One of the quirkiest aspects of converting to Judaism while living in a predominantly Christian nation and a very, very Christian state and community is that I don't know a ton of other Jews here in Wichita (sure, my congregation, but I don't often see them outside of temple and the context of our congregation - I don't work with any Jews, none are in my bowling league, none in my quilters circle, etc.). By extension very few people that I know now any Jews other than me.

How is this quirky? Well . . . when people, years ago, asked me what I thought about tensions in the Middle East (specifically Israeli-specific stuff (to be specifically specific)) I was answering as Sean. The guy who loves politics, knows very little about the world beyond our safe, neat borders (or inside), and who didn't really let G-d factor in to my opinions. I miss those days of blissful ignorance that was shared as qualified opinion. 

When people ask me NOW about Israel . . . they are asking me as a Jew. Like when your kid sits on Santa's lap at the mall as though he is THE Santa (or the official Ambassador of the North Pole). Only worse. Because if your kid asks for a Red Rider BB gun (you'll shoot your eye out, kid) and they don't get one you can say "Well, Santa might not have gotten the message." 

If I misspeak or misstate something for the homeland (yes, all Jews identify with Israel in three forms - its people, its essence, its physical boundaries (it is, after all, the center of our faith) and we, in the Diaspora, focus on the people/essence (generally)) that is bad for all of us. ALL of us.

So . . . here are my thoughts on the recent (let's be clear - forever have been, forever are, forever will be ongoing) issues in Israel. When all three of the world's major religions claim the same sliver of land as their spiritual home . . . stuff is going to be weird. Think about when you leave your seat at the family barbecue and come back to find Aunt Mildred (with her low cut blouse and tattoob (that is a boob tattoo, for the uninformed)) is in your spot - you get angry with your cousins who didn't preserve your spot vs. Aunt Mildred . . . or even your hunger for more seven layer dip. I digress.

Israel. Yes. Israel. Recent issues . . . how do I say this. You know how you can call your sister fat or ugly but none of your buddies better DARE even hint that she is fat or ugly? That is how I feel about Israel. I'm disappointed, to be clear, in the actions and decisions that have lead to the death of innocent women and children (I'm going to sneak men in there, too - those have died, including teenage boys on both sides of the fight - even though it is taboo to imply men can be innocent in times of war). 

I wish this would all stop. I wish the bombs and guns would be laid down and that borders and land arguments could be settled the way my neighbor and I harped over a fence years ago - in small claims/civil court and with dirty looks across the driveway. But that is not reality. There is too little land, too much tension, too many egos, and too many people who think they have a mandate from G-d to fight. You can't talk people out of that, as dismissive as you try to be.

So that is a total non-answer, on behalf of all the Jews. NO. Seriously. NOT all Jews. Just me. Just this one Jew. Just this one, schlubby, new to the tribe so what do I know anyway Jew. Sean. It is just the opinion of Sean. 


Bully . . .

Soooooo I took some time off from social media this summer to get my head right and to, allegedly, focus on real relationships in the real world. I was largely faithful to my vow to stay silent (I did log in daily to check my company's Facebook and Twitter accounts (one of my official duties) and I also manage social media for a few other things and groups I care about so I did that, too) but I made a few notable exceptions when I feel back in to old habits of wanting to scream and yell about stupid stuff in to the echo chamber.

Why am I telling you this? Again? Well, because something truly random happened to me during one of my weak moments/interruptions to my break - I was accused of being a "bully" . . . a Digital Bully (cue the dramatic music and mood lighting).

I won't get in to the details of who and how lobbed the label (that would be, even by my hard to meet standard for using said term) a bully but they felt entitled.

To be clear they are not the FIRST person for digital behavior. Nay. NAY, I say. I was labeled a bully in front of a class of students at THE Wichita State University for THIS post (many moon ago - note the screen grab of a Tweet where the sender's (and re-Tweeter's) name(s) is/are blocked). I was also labeled a bully for an e-mail I sent internally at work one time accusing the accounting department of cutting a little too loose at the company happy hour (my exact words were "Let's not shut down the work until 4 PM . . . accounting."). I have also had people reach out to me in digital and physical settings to confront me for my strong opinions and harsh criticisms of others.

Yeah. This is a real thing. I know people so fragile in themselves that they "need" the world of social media to just absorb them like so many piles of freshly washed, fabric softener scented towels and to bounce them back up with a gentle kiss on the cheek to protect them from the evils around them.

That's fine. I get it. If you believe what you hear, I have NO heart. I am not sensitivity or decorum. These things are far from true but it IS valid to believe that I am not highly impressionable. I don't really put much stock or value in the negative and dismissive opinions of others (to be very clear I DO value constructive criticism, great thinkers/thinking, people who push and pull against me in productive ways, etc,) But I CERTAINLY do not allow Tweets, in their terse character count and emotionless delivery, or comments and feedback on Facebook, Google+, this blog, etc. to impact me in wounding way.

You want to get under my skin - come find me. We can TALK about it. I will RESPECT you for confronting me. I will LEARN something from the exchange. You want to send me an e-mail peppered with screen grabs of Tweets that can be years old (I have 44000 Tweets behind me, people - have you nothing better to do than dig through them) and call me names? That's on you.

I hate bullies. I hate the notion that someone would go out of their way to make someone feel small, less than, or unaccepted. I hate the very idea that someone would lump me in with those people (most of the time - even if I am being critical or contrary I am hoping to get nothing more than a rise or a little passion out of you). I hate the idea that people are bullied and that they are made to feel less than and that they are fragile enough to let a Tweet or Facebook comment gnaw away at them.

But I also hate the idea that anyone feels entitled to take a term that has such a strong and specific meaning and impact and to hurl it around so casually because they don't appreciate my social media banter.