1/31/14

Triangles . . .

This morning marked my daughter's last morning at the apartment. The little place was often cozy, sometimes too small, occasionally perfect, and - frankly - filled with fun and moments that I'll probably always appreciate.

One of my FAVORITE things about the "magic" we tried to build in to the place was two triangles where the sidewalks from my backdoor and the neighboring unit's backdoor met the driveway. Each had a random crack that made triangles at the meeting point (mason work and Wichita heat and cold extremes make awkward bed-fellows).

I convinced my daughter the day we moved in that if you stepped on the triangles you WOULD make the garage door go up or down. And for 18 months, without fail, I've made her believe that to be true by secretly pressing the button on my key-chain garage door opener as she stepped on the triangles.

There have been times I've had to wrestle groceries and hot tea to get to my keys as she ran to the triangle. Come sleet, snow, heat, rain, and hail - I hit that button. I once just blindly hit my own leg as hard as I could and hoped to depress the right button. Some days I would wait inside and watch her walk, gingerly, to the triangle thinking I was otherwise occupied. She's double tapped and I've had to keep up. There were even a few times where I needed to make up excuses for why I didn't hit the button at the right time. Little things like pine needles on the triangle effecting the sensor or the shoes (little girl "high" heels) she was wearing making her too light to push it down properly.

No matter what crap I had to do or come up with on the fly - that garage door went up or down - as promised. I'm not a great dad. I'm not actually a magician. I'm not even all that crafty or creative. Yet - every now and again - I can make magic happen for my kid and that gives me hope.

1/28/14

State of the Union . . .

Tonight, my fellow Americans, is a bad night for your regularly scheduled network television programs (whatever you crazy kids are watching these days) but it is one of the BETTER nights of the year for guys, like me, that love the theater of politics for tonight the President of the United States will make his way down Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and every member of the Supreme Court and the Presidential cabinet but one (my favorite part of our National Security as relates to this evening) and hundreds of guests.

I love the State of the Union address. If I'm being honest, it was President Bush's State of the Union in 1991 (we were "at war" with Iraq during Operation Desert Storm at the time and I had to know what he was going to say) that first really turned my mind to the power of politics. While the candidacy of William Jefferson Clinton a few months later turned my boyish crush in to a passion - his speech (about 48 minutes if Wikipedia is correct, I remember bits of it myself) was a catalyst for me to love politics. Not everyone loves the event, clearly.

I've loved them ever since. The "sides" and the "fight" don't matter. The art and the strategy and the chess that goes in to it is what draws me. While me personal politics are somewhere "left" of "center" I will say that I don't love everything about President Obama or his policies but I DO love the fact that he still talks BIG ideas, BIG gestures, BIG picture. That is what a Commander in Chief (in the Oval Office or the shift manager at the local burger joint) should do. He swings for the fences and he's a very nice rip-off of JFK's oration style (a great speaker, a horrible President (sorry, Mother)).

Tonight SHOULD be the 23rd straight State of the Union I watch. I've watched them in my family living room, my college dorm room, a restaurant just a few hundred yards away from the Capitol rotunda (twice), large auditoriums, small bars, and even in my bedroom with my daughter on my lap (one of the first people outside of family she knew the name of was "Brockohbumma") and I think I've genuinely passed the "bug" on to her. She'll be with her mother tonight (who I also, proudly, got interested in the speech many, many moon ago) and I think they'll watch.

The question is will I rush home from class to watch tonight or will I go back to packing and watch it much, much later thanks to the "power" of the World Wide Web.

Watch tonight's speech. It doesn't matter your politics or your political interest. The agenda laid out in the remarks and the response from Rep. McMorris Rodgers or the "other" response from whatever Tea Party awesomeness shows up in front of the camera will influence the politics of the coming year and, if you look historically at some of the fights born out of these events, the path and history of our national dialogue. Have your spouse watch. Get your kids in front of the TV. You might not love it but you'll learn something and you'll roll your eyes, and you'll laugh, and you'll - in the one great moment hidden in the event (even if it is the ceremonial walk to/from the podium) that really strikes you - feel a pang of Americana that might just get you excited about politics.

1/27/14

Moving . . .

Welllllllll . . . after 18 months of living in a home that most people would find too small, I'm moving on to a place that is - in my mind - dramatically bigger than what I have had and, candidly, what I want or need but it feels like the right thing to do.

When I first moved out of our "family home" it was because it was time. Like most decisions made when "it is time" there were assumptions, presumptions, hopes, wishes, and prayers involved. I had no idea what a budget would look like. I had never really imagined what it would be like to share a child. There were huge question marks on what would happen with the house we shared and, frankly, its contents.

I am pleased to say that everything really did work out about as well as one might have assumed, presumed, hoped, wished, and prayed for. Candidly - I LOVE my little home. You know who doesn't? The kid. As great as a playground across the street, a park, grocery store, restaurants, stores, etc. we can walk (or ride razor scooters) to has been she has come to feel like there is not enough space for both of us in my house. And, if I'm being honest, she is right.

It was an interesting moment when my daughter came to me and asked for us to move complete with solid argument, poised body language, and everything short of a PowerPoint "deck" to put me away. I still remember the first time I held her - I weighed 80x what she weighed (literally). I didn't think the day would ever come that she would be able to influence me, make me think differently about anything, to make me move.

Yet - here we were - thirty minutes of chat later, we had a clear vision of what she wanted/needed (yes - we will even have a playground across the street from the new place (insert horribly inappropriate joke here about how all my homes are within 100 yards of playgrounds and elementary schools)) and a plan to make the move as soon as possible.

This was a "watershed" moment in my life's progression. I can think of maybe a dozen moments in my stubborn, self-guided, glib life that another person has approached me and said "THIS is what WE are doing" and I've agreed. It suffices to say that this was the first time it was a seven year old that pulled it off. It is also worth noting that her mother, a formidable woman in many ways, can lay claim to five or six of the remaining eleven moments (and it is also worth nothing that every one of those was because she really did have a better perspective, idea, etc. than I had on the same issue).

So. We move. Bigger space. Better collection of spaces and things that will keep us happy for a while. We started packing yesterday - and by "packing" I mean purging (we threw six trashbags in the trash, took three to the donation place, and earmarked a dozen more things for the trash heap). We're only taking the things we need and love.

We'll fill the new space with new things that we want and need and love. We'll continue to grow in the new house. We'll move forward. We'll move onward. We'll move.

Obviously I'll be deep in my self-dug "rabbit hole" most of this week so I'll try to get back in the flow of regular posting next Monday. If you want to be able to someday brag "I lived in an apartment where Famous Person and All-Around Big Deal Sean Amore Once Slept" - NOW is your chance (again). Take a look at the place and let me know what you think

If we don't type - enjoy the rest of January, y'uns.

1/26/14

Sunday Funday . . .

The Civil Wars can even make "You are My Sunshine" (a song my father used to sing to the three of us as kids to my great, true delight) sound melancholic and vaguely morose - to beautiful effect.

1/24/14

My Career . . .

Now THIS is some whack-assed clip art.
I celebrated a milestone on Tuesday. My career turned 18. Yes, yes. My professional life can now vote, buy tobacco products, be tried and found guilt as an adult, and have relations with another adult without fear of having to register with the local authorities. All these things are exciting . . . and you know what else I found exciting - I've been working for EIGHTEEN YEARS!

In the interest of full disclosure, the first five months of my career was my final internship. I was not paid (I did get some random checks here and there for various accomplishments so I shan't complain). I had no title. I had no glory. I had no power or authority but, because it was a very small company (there were four of us for most of my internship) I had direct access to the President/Owner of the company and that felt really cool to me. I enjoyed that direct (and sometimes tense) relationship for eight full years before I moved on to work for a little company called International Business Machines.

The rest of my career, since leaving Strauss Radio (now "Media") Strategies, has been fantastic and I have no complaints (including a six month unemployment spell that kept me hungry around this time last year) but it is that first year or two of my career that I will always think the most important.

I was working full time (and by that company's standards - at least 50 or 55 hours per week) and going to graduate school full time (four night/week). I shared an apartment with between one and three other guys (depending on the month and how much we all wanted to divide space and utility bills). I was not making very much money and I was becoming an adult by firey trial but I was happy and learning.

In those first years I had some amazing experiences that very, very few professionals might ever have.

The first business trip I ever went on was to Nike's corporate headquarters. The first client meeting I attended to just "observe" was at the Old Executive Office Building (adjacent to and where the real work of the White House is done). I had a client call me one day just to tell me what a cocky jerk I was and how she wished me nothing but harm and suffering. I blew off deadlines. I lost clients. I learned how to pitch new business. I learned how to use Microsoft Excel and Access. I learned how to create charts with intricate tabs in Microsoft Word. I also learned how to think strategically.

I was once left in the Maryland suburbs of DC with no wallet, no cell phone, and no clue where the nearest Metro station even was (it was an honest mistake on the part of the person who left me - I didn't know my bag with all my stuff was in their car until it was too late). I had to answer questions (from colleagues, clients, vendors, and others) far above my actual skill set and experience in real time because I earned the trust of my boss good and early. I had to understand subject matters that were far, far out of my 22-year-old life experience so I could be an effective public relations professional.

All that is well and good but here is the point of this post . . . I learned how to trust people in those first few years of my professional life.

I had anywhere from three to ten colleagues in that time. We were all young. All underpaid (some dramatically). We all came from various socio-economic backgrounds (my favorite night of the summer of 1999 was the night I learned what Asian Glow was while giving an 18 year old UCLA Freshman copious amounts of booze on his first night at a bar). We all had various dreams and ambitions. We all had varying work ethics (we hired one woman who worked for exactly two days, took some "sick time" and never, ever came back). We all had various degrees of sexual tension (I never actually hooked up with a colleague but I had plenty around me that did). We all had various reasons (not) to trust each other. We didn't all like each other. We didn't all even enjoy each other. But we TRUSTED each other.

That lesson seems lost on young professional today. I don't know if it is a mindset shift or if there are just too few jobs and too many of them but I don't always feel like there is a bond of trust between younger professionals and now - as a mid-career professional - I have lost some of my trust, too (life is too short and marketing careers are even shorter).

I have really enjoyed the first 18 years of my career. I'm certain I have at least 18 more in me. I think the better ones are still to come (which will be tough) and I appreciate the men and women that have helped shape, inform, improve, and enhance my career to this point. You all have my trust . . . and 92% of you have my like . . . and 18% have my love . . . and 7.2% have my lust/love.

1/23/14

Lovable . . .

Love. Exciting and new. Or something I just can't get. I've been trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me for a very, very long time.

I have looked in all the normal places - my parents were negligent, my head and heart were trusted to the wrong people, I don't get enough iron in my diet, that one time in the third grade when I was completely IGNORED while picking teams for kickball, etc. etc. etc. No dice. Apparently it is something deeper than that.

My shrink (and I'll not criticize her here under threat of losing her highly-valued services and counsel) seems to think that my wiring - like the circuit I tried to build for the Electronics merit badge in Boy Scouts - is just not enough to earn me an embroidered patch (my words). Fine. I get that. And I understand that there are probably things I can do (self-help books, retreats in the Ozarks, group hugs, asking for and absorbing criticism on how I behave in relationships, etc.) that could help me maybe fix the wiring if ONLY enough to get the LED to blink green when I flip the switch on the last day of Boy Scout camp. I could learn. I could practice. I could try.

And yet . . . I don't. It is not truly spite that keeps me from this effort. Nope. It is the fault of those that come in to my life. Yes. That's right - I blame you (No, really, I don't blame any of you but I wonder if maybe you could hold me to a higher standard that forces me to be better). Here's the thing . . . despite my general lack of interest in it, there seems to be a very, very small portion of people in my life (approximately the same number of people, proportionally, to the world's population that believes in the tooth fairy and/or the Tea Party movement) that find me "lovable".

What does that mean?

"Lovable" is defined as "inspiring or deserving of affection". From there, the word's defining traits and characteristics quickly devolves to contexts like being "cute" or "captivating" and an adjective that, while I adore as a word, makes me crazy "winsome".

So - to be clear - lovable means that you deserve a hug or two. If affection is a physical, tangible thing (and we'll go with hug here since this blog is PG-13 at its worst) than I am worth of that. Wow. That's quite the ringing endorsement for who a "lovable" person is at their core.

I want to re-define lovable (are you listening, Misters Merriam and Webster?). I want it to be "inspiring or deserving of your 'lifeline' call from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, your one call from jail, the primary benefactor of your estate in the event of your untimely demise, someone you would change your Facebook relationship status for, and - finally - someone you would be willing to take a punch to the face for. From a very large, very strong man with an anchor tattoo on his forearm and spinach on his breath."

I'll be candid (and this is not smoke blowing) . . . I would still love the people in my life that I claim/profess to love under this new definition. Maybe I would love them more if it carried this weight. Sure, sure . . . I would be less casual with my use of the word love (sorry people who I claim to "love" solely because you are funny on Twitter or make good music, movies, etc.) but my REAL love - my familial and or relationship love would stay in tact. I would still love all of them/you. I don't know how that would work for my phone calls - some of you are smarter and some of you have more fluid assets and patience for bailing people out of jail but my estate is not all that flush anyway so . . . I digress.

I don't know what makes me or anyone else lovable. I think I get more than I deserve on most days. I have no doubt that I am love-able (that is the grammatically correct way to state that I am able to give love, yes?) and I feel very good about giving my love and affection and feeling good about the people I give it to but I don't know how many more weekly sessions it will take before I feel lovable. That number is likely in the hundreds. But I appreciate the fact that some of you will heap your goodness on me in the meantime.

1/22/14

Pashtunwali . . .


At its root, Lone Survivor is a "military" movie. It is the retelling of a real mission where four highly-trained, highly-skilled, highly-brave Navy SEALs are sent to verify the presence of a higher-level al-Queda operative, responsible for the death of lots of US soldiers and natives in the mountains of Afghanistan. Once they verified that the earlobe-less guy was there, there was supposed to be a flood of military support to take out the operative. I, as a naive and grateful US citizen presume missions similar to this happen every day in the world as a way to keep my lazy, office working ass safe, warm, and cozy.

If the mission went off without a hitch it would probably still be a thrilling 130 minute ride. That just about nothing went as planned made it a "better" story to tell and Peter Berg (an actor, writer, and director I first became really aware of when he put Friday Night Lights on NBC many years ago) did a great job with the material. I went to see Lone Survivor, candidly, because I knew it would be "about" a military operation as much as Friday Night Lights was "about" high school football . . . barely to not at all. I was not disappointed.

Lone Survivor is made beautifully and intensely. There are scenes in the movie where the SEALs are free-falling down a steep, shale mountain and the "realness" of their bodies striking rocks, trees, branches, and dropping through open air felt so intense that my body actually ached at the thought.

But, like a show not about football, this movie is not about war. In my opinion the movie is about loyalty.

It starts early - the opening credits feature a montage of SEAL training where candidates are challenged in a way that makes my internships and early professional life seem far easier. They vomit, cry, pass out . . . endure. Those that can't put their helmets on the porch and ring the bell three times. The rest "get" to put their lives on the line for you and me in ways that they can't even really tell their most inner circle about. They do it because of the sense of loyalty to each other, their families, and their country.

Once the movie itself starts loyalty becomes an intense theme . . . an engaged SEAL's fiancee wants an Arabian horse for a wedding gift and he wants her to have it. A married SEAL's wife wants sunset honeydew tile for their home and he wants to understand her home renovation craziness. A foot race between friends leads to discussion of "punishment" for losing, a new SEAL fulfills the rites of passage to fully belong. And that is just in the first 10 minutes or so.

Once on the mountain, the four men are truly legion. Not long in to their work, they are discovered by three herders with their own loyalties. The soldiers debate loyalty to themselves, each other, their country, the rules of war, the reputation of all SEALs, the codes of conduct that govern all of the above. Failed communications make the SEAL support teams uneasy in their loyalties and responsibilities to their brothers on the mountain. A shortage of military equipment and the complexities of the mission put loyalty and responsibility in the context of the laws of supply and demand. It is worth noting that a shortage of equipment is the only time in the movie, except the disclosure of the cost of Arabian horses where loyalty is not seen as just a mental/emotional item with limitless reserves.

Later there are intense, long firefights where dozens of men, with loyalty to their nation or the al-Queda forces that rule sections of it, try to kill these strangers without even knowing why they are there. I noticed one thing that struck me - these brave soldiers were all shot at least five or six times each and they fell down mountains but never once did they express the level of their pain or fear of what was going to happen (with the exception of one scene as a soldier is slowly bleeding out). When pain is brought up it is dismissed as something that the soldiers must push trough. The loyalty to survival must trump the loyalty to the body's threshold for pain that makes most of us stop running on the treadmill the minute the cramping begins.

There is MUCH blood shed. Almost too much in a way. I don't like violence and I avoid it in media so I've been re-sensitized in a way so I cringed and groaned a lot during the film. Three of the four SEALs are killed (the name of the movie is LONE Survivor - no need to consider this disclosure a "spoiler") all three in ways that showcase the loyalties that carried the men on to that mountain side. All three died thinking of things they were loyal to (or so Berg tells us).

As the lone survivor wrestles with his own survival  (grammar?) he is ultimately rescued by locals. They endure language barriers, mutual fear and concerns, and even the wounds sustained by the SEAL because of a form of loyalty I had never before heard of . . . pashtunwali.

Pashtunwali is older than religion, the written word, or any cultures that govern this earth today. It is simple and beautiful . . . it is the obligation to be hospitable and loyal to those in need even it if it as your own expense. The men that welcomed this US soldier in to their homes did so knowing they might all die for gesture - and those they loved, too. They clothed, fed, watered, bathed, and protected the soldier while one older man set out with nothing more than a cane and a confirmation of location and identity for the survivor . . . and many paid the ultimate price for this loyalty.

I highly recommend seeing Lone Survivor. It is a tough subject matter. It has its flaws but it is beautiful (the score by Explosions in the Sky is powerful and the closing credits featuring "(We Can Be) Heroes" redone by Peter Gabriel playing over a montage of photos and videos of the SEALs involved in the mission left me sobbing gently in my popcorn bucket). It is humbling to those of us that don't have the physical or mental strength to risk their lives for strangers. It is a great reminder of how hard military life is for all involved and the risks and challenges facing our soldiers.

It is something that will remind you that loyalty in the world is all around and is powerful in many, many ways. It will make you want to know more about the idea of pahtunwali. It will leave you looking at your own life and if and where you have hints of pashtunwali as a giver or recipient. It will make you glad such a thing exists. It will make you want more of it.

To the men and women out there risking their lives and well-being to keep me and other strangers safe . . . THANK YOU!

1/21/14

Hot Shower and Cool Whip . . .

I acknowledge, with no great pride our flourish, that I am a stressed out person.

I don't know if I am just wired for anxiety or if there is some weird "take this on, beat it, be stronger" yearning in my soul, or if I am just not as confident as I want the world to believe (that is NOT it, for the record) but I get stressed and grumpy "on the reg" (as the kids never really were saying).

What do I do when I'm stressed? A variety of things . . .


  • Get quiet
  • Get loud
  • Eat allllll the fried foods
  • Listen to profane music at slightly uncomfortable volumes
  • Scream
  • Yell
  • Scream and yell
  • Scream, yell, and eat all the fried foods while profane music plays


Know what I do NOT do?

Grab a tub of Cool Whip and hit the showers . . . but I know someone who does. Yes. You read that correctly. I know a person that deals with being overwhelmed with whipped ingredients (And am I the only one that can NOT say Cool Whip without thinking of Stewie Griffin?) and a hot shower . . . for a long period of time.

Now before you get all dismissive and cynical (you read my blog so I know you are not opposed to such behavior) please note that there are NO ways of dealing with stress that aren't equally laughable.

Oh yeah? You go shopping? Expensive. You go running? Don't even get me started. You do your "breathing exercises"? What are you exercising, exactly - your lungs? You call your mother and talk with her? She's really, truly over that - you are in your 40s for the love of something greater than all of us.

So - to the woman in the 32nd row who likes whipped topping and hot showers when life becomes too much . . . WE salute you!

1/20/14

Do Unto Others . . .

Do unto Megyn Kelly?
Of all the things I've learned in Jew School (and I've learned a ton and loved every lesson) my favorite is the Hillel's proselyte story. Read the Talmud to get the official version but here is an approximation . . .

A guy challenged a Jewish Scholar to explain the entire Torah to him while he stood on one foot (in other words - hurry up, my balance is not that great). Shammai played it cool and said (paraphrased) "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. The rest of the Torah is elaboration."

As great as THAT is - the truth is the basic tenants of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is that same, simple rule (Yes, yes, yes extremists in all three camps screw up that beautifully simple logic every. single. second. of. the. day.)

I fancy myself a "descent" person but I am not in any way perfect and I certainly fall well short of this ideal I would aspire to on a regular basis. Sometimes in more extreme ways than others. The "good" news is that I'm usually aware of myself when I botch life's simplest rule and can correct for it. Sometimes, I miss the mark.

An example . . . I had an awkward interaction with a stranger in a gas station the other day. I recounted the exchange to a person I respect and love and they told me that the whole thing made me look "unkind". Normally immune to criticism (I kid), I had to at least absorb that it is NOT very "unto others" to be unkind to others, right?

I tried to understand this criticism (it was part of a larger conversation so I may have taken this part too much to heart) and clarified that I treat people with the context of a situation and that I try to give people what they want/need from me and what I want/need to give them in return. To elaborate, I give the people that sell the hummus my every penny. I give the woman that takes a blood a firm smack. I give the dude that cut me off in traffic the proverbial bird. I give a stranger in QuikTrip a pat "Have a nice day."

The rebuttal was sort of inspired/inspiring which was that a BETTER way to behave is to be the same person to everyone you interact with. To hold yourself to the same standard, same behavior, same mindset, and same discipline no matter what. Of course this does not imply that if you kiss one person you must kiss allllll the people. It is more about establishing a base of who you are and interacting with people in that context (if I could presume it would mean that I'm the guy who gets things off the high shelf for the short people no matter how well I know them or how I perceive them as a person.)

"A basic level of courtesy and civility." (I think) was how the behavior was summarized.

I barked back "I guess I presumed that was implied."

On that note the Torah's lessons were felt, we each put our second foot down and we went back to talking about Megyn Kelly in a way neither of us would ever want her to talk about us . . . and, yes, the irony was noted.

1/16/14

Tu B'Shevat . . .

As the sun set last night I, and Jews around the world, marked Tu B'Shevat. Not "just" the 15th day of the month of Shevat on the Jewish calendar - Tu B'Shevat is the Jewish New Year for trees.

Yes. You read that correctly. There are at least four "New Years" on the Jewish calendar and this one is for trees. Let me explain . . . there has been (and remains) a tithing system in place for all produce-bearing trees in the Holy Land. But the question was once raised . . . how do you figure out when to "charge" for a tree that can be planted any time, might take different amounts of time to produce fruit, and might have various life spans for fruit.

The simple answer? A universal birthday for all trees - in other words - if you have a tree that gives fruit ON Tu B'Shevat . . . you are paying for that tree. Make sense? Don't say "no" - your own birthday is nothing more than a symbolic marker of another trip around the sun on the date you emerged from the womb of your carrier. Does THAT make sense?

Without further controversial dismissal of birthday tradition - here are some of my favorite fun facts and things to do tied to Tu B'Shevat.

  1. Tu B'Shevat is probably a pre-cursor, in many ways, to Earth Day as it is a celebration of the relationship between man and the planet and the gifts of nature.
  2. "Orlah" is the forbidden fruit of a tree that has not yet blown out three candles on its Tu B'Shevat cake but that gives way to "reva'i" the fruit of trees four-years-old or older 
  3. As a celebration of life, eulogies, fasting, and penitential prayers are forbidden. Only happy, positive, growth-related stuff is allowed by those who mark the day
  4. Tu B'Shevat is a lesser holiday in most Jewish communities. If the Kabbalists had not grabbed on to it many centuries ago it might not even be marked by the diaspora but it is a fun one that I'm, personally, glad has some legs in the year 5774
  5. The most delicious of all my favorite Jewish things . . . food . . . gets a special send up with a Tu B'Shevat Seder that celebrates wheat, fruits, and produce in general. Also - you can eat cake FIRST at a Tu B'Shevat meal
  6. There are typically four glasses of kosher wine consumed during a Tu B'Shevat celebration. They range from red (first glass) to white (fourth glass) with a dark pink mixture of red and white (more red) for the second and a light pink (more white) blend for the third glass
  7. The four glasses represent the four types of fruit . . . a) Fruits with shells (citrus, walnuts, etc.) that must be penetrated to get to the fruit. b) Fruits with pits (olives, apricots, etc.) that must be discarded. c) Fruits that we eat entirely (grapes, figs, etc.). d) Processed fruits (preserves, jellies, etc.). The symbolism is probably clear but it is to show that the fruits/gifts from G-d come in many forms and require various work to provide their associated pleasure
  8. Planting trees (or donating to groups that might if your land is frozen over) is a very appropriate tradition on this day
  9. The "Tree of Life" is a seriously complicated diagram showing how all the stuff ties to the other stuff and stuff.  
  10. It wouldn't be one of my Jewish Holiday countdowns without some awkward rap, right?

HAPPY TU B'SHEVAT, y'uns!


1/14/14

Guitar . . .

The kid and I got invited to a birthday party Sunday morning. We got invited on Monday night. I get that people are crushed, rushed, and crazy with time so I don't mind that but what I did mind was that I am HORRIBLE at getting gifts for kids and I felt this "pressure" to get a gift quickly.

I called to RSVP and even asked the kid's mother to call me back with any direction she might offer (my child, for her part, insisted the ONLY thing the girl likes in the "whole world" was One Direction and tobacco products). No returned call.

SOOOOOOOOO - we got the kid a guitar.

Literally.

To be fair it is a "child-sized starter" guitar (as per the box) and we got stickers and puff paint so the kid could decorate it and make it her very own.

It isn't a Harry Styles doll or a journal with all the boys on the cover but, since it was not a banner f*cking year at the old Bender house, it was also not a carton of Malboro Reds. Is it a "polite" gift to give a child? No. Is it a quiet, small, manageable gift? No. Is it a gift that I would want my kid to get at a birthday party? Heck yes.

I am not trying to imply that this small gesture on our part will awaken some great, musical passion in this girl who will go on to fame, fortune, and eventual rehab stints or public scrutiny. I'm not trying to pretend that she will give my daughter a "jellyfish tailed fist bump" because it will be her favorite gift in the history of toys, books, arts and crafts supplies, and tattoo parlor gift certificates. Nope. I'm just trying to get a gift that she might enjoy, that might give her some pleasure, and that might prompt a call back to the next parent who wants some simple advice on what to buy a kid for their birthday.

1/13/14

Pigeon . . .

So the other day we the kid and I were heading out to run a few errands and help a friend who had just had surgery get out and do a few things, too.

As we left my driveway I noticed something in the nearest intersection . . . a pigeon getting picked at (literally) by two other birds - specifically some big, nasty crows. I pulled over to see if the bullied bird (let's just extend bullying on to the bird community and leave it alone) was at least dead enough to be a meal. It was not.

If I had been alone, I would have probably just moved the bird (with a clearly broken wing and some newly minted additional wounds) out of the intersection and let Darwinism and boorish black birds do their collective things but the kid was with me and was immediately concerned for the well being of this winged rodent that provides no human (to the best of my knowledge) with any benefit or value. "Wellllll, sh*t!" (I thought.)

I found a cardboard box and scooped up our new dependent, put him in the back of my borrowed truck and off we went. We picked up our passengers (who seemed very surprised that, how, and why we had a bird in tow) and headed out to do our things all while my daughter worried, openly, about the bird.

Some suggestions . . .

1) Bandages and splints
2) Veterinarians and insurance co-pays (we could apparently claim the bird was her for sake of coverage)
3) Hospitals
4) Teaching it to fly again
5) Killing the other birds for being so mean (this one was quickly retracted, thankfully)

We ultimately used the coincidental convenience of having to stop by a local hospital anyway for me to remove the box from the back of the truck and leave it outside an Emergency Room. No, I do not know what happened to the bird - I presume its wing and wounds miraculously cured themselves and that bird is living a fuller, happier, healthier life today. No. I don't.

Here's the thing . . . I'm not a bad or uncaring person but I am NOT an "animal person" (I love my guinea pig, Gus and have been known to enjoy a dog or two in my days) and I am very, very loving to most of my fellow man (besides those I have zero interest or regard in - I'm being honest, people) but I don't know that I have ever sat down and talked about empathy with my daughter (her mother surely has) but it was curious to see how emotionally tied she became to this bird and how quickly.

Actual tears were released. Dozens of questions were asked. Conversations were interrupted to clarify answers to those questions. Hours and even days later there were follow-up discussions on topics ranging from "why do things/people get sick" to "what happened to the bird" to "why can't we add wild animals to our insurance coverage".

That my child has a big heart that welcomes strange, wounded animals in to it makes me happy. She'll probably help a lot more birds in her lifetime than the average person.

1/12/14

Sunday Funday . . .

I am soooooooooo confused by the gratuitous use of the "n-word" in this otherwise charming homage to these folks personal savior, Jesus Christ.

1/10/14

Chris Christie, Bully and Buck Passer . . .

As a man who proudly claims politics (the art, sport, science, and strategy) as his first love and PR and messaging (the art, sport, science and strategy) as his second love . . . yeah, yeah, yeah, kid, crayon, G-d, and hummus are in the mix too - chill out . . . I am OBSESSED with this whole Chris Christie/Fort Lee/George Washington Bridge scandal.

FORGET that Chris Christie is the Governor of one of the more populated and complicated states in the union. Forget that to survive in New Jersey politics is a well-known nightmare. Forget that he has obvious Presidential ambitions (that he pushes back at his every chance). Forget that people are obsessed with his weight, demeanor, leadership on Hurricane Sandy recovery, and his general circle of friends. Forget that he is under the hot, hot lights of national media scrutiny right now for something that - let's be clear - he probably did NOT have a personal hand in orchestrating or executing. Forget all that - all I'm going to ask you to do is focus on decisions and behavior.

I'm a man, son, father, brother, uncle, friend, colleague, and acquaintance to many people. All of them know me to varying degrees and all of them (dis)like me to varying degrees. I'm fine with this. I am actually happy about this. I like that almost every person I interact with has a varying impression of who or how I am. It means I'm not a slice of white bread with room temperature butter atop me. It also means that my personality and demeanor are consistent . . . how does that work? Pretty simple - if everyone likes you it is because, by intention or coincidence, you are boring and vanilla. I'm sorry . . . it is true. Some of my favorite people in this world are as bland as bland can be. And that is wonderful because the world needs that . . . we crave that . . . we only actually get stuff done because of that.

The rest of us - the outliers (as Malcolm Gladwell grouped a number of very successful people - I am not putting myself in their camp . . . yet) - are beholden to friends, family, colleagues, dumb luck, circumstance, and a lot of stick-to-it-ness to get anything done in this world. Chris Christie, dear friends, is an OUTLIER in the all capital letters sense of the word.

He gives exactly zero yawns of what the average person thinks of him. He gives maybe one or two dramatic pauses to what his own inner-circle (family, advisers, etc.) want him to say and do. He clearly wants the people of New Jersey (who re-elected him in an honest to goodness landslide just a few months ago) to respect him. He would like the delegates of the Electoral College to reward him for being himself in a few years. He has a LOT of work to do in the meantime.

What work? In my never humble opinion (and I should clarify here that Chris Christie's politics make me crazy but his personality, 99% of the time, makes me giddy with delight - he is not, in any way, an expected politician in the year 2014) . . . understanding the difference between personality and demeanor and the difference between leadership and power.

Personality, for me, is how you carry yourself - smiling, laughing, and having fun or dour, despondent, and looking for pity. Demeanor, by contrast, is how you apply your personality to other people. An example: I have a lot more patience for my seven-year-old daughter than I do my 23-year-old colleague. I am the same person to both of them (when I'm happy with the kid I may shower her with hugs, kisses, pet names, and offers to stay up late, eat dinner in front of the TV, or go have an adventure - when I'm happy with my colleague I lay a few pet names in and encourage her to go home early on a Friday afternoon).

Power is the authority you have. To carry through the above analogy I am a father so that gives me nearly infinite power (at least until my kid becomes a teen (heyyyyyo)) but in the office, even as a direct supervisor, I can't make my colleague do anything, I can't force her to come in early or stay late, I can't change her personality or her demeanor. Leadership is what you DO with the power. I want my child to see me as a good example of what a man might be. I want her to see my strengths and weaknesses in the proper context and I want her to know her worth because I treat her with great value. My underling needs only respect my professional abilities and intentions. I want her to want to learn, improve, take on responsibilities, and grow to a point where she's ready for another challenge.

Chris Christie has poor a great personality but poor demeanor. He is a bully. He is a buck passer. He is a "woe is me" man (he actually wanted us to believe HE is the victim in this whole bridge thing because those he trusted betrayed him) despite being the Governor of the Great (?) State of New Jersey. He has great power and he wants much, much more (and - for the record - he showed great power by firing people, getting others to resign, and impeding the professional growth of those former advisers in the process) but he is not a leader. Not yet - but there is time.

Stay YOU, Chris Christie. Just start treating those who expect great things in return for the great opportunities they have afforded you better. Better leadership and a more responsible demeanor.

1/7/14

May I Have the Word in a Sentence? . . .

Affection? All fuh-neh-tiks, all the time. 
Soooooo . . . I'm not even a lit embarrassed to admit that one of my favorite things about raising a second-grader is homework. Why? Two reasons:

1) This kid (while I am not implying she is Mensa-bound) is smarter than I give her credit for.
2) The phase in life when you first really start learning to read, write, spell, etc. (as I am with Hebrew right now - 30 years her senior) is sort of amazing to me.

Take, for instance, last night's spelling lesson. The school gives you a sheet of letters to cut up (I would just as soon use my Scrabble tiles) and then you have a list of about 20 words that the student must spell out and use in a sentence. One of the more difficult words (according to the sheet) on the list was affection.

NOW . . . I know how to spell affection. I've used the word a few million times but I'll admit that I had to, at some point, learn how to spell it (and I probably did a poor job of learning - I often struggle with double consonants (I can never spell embarrassed without hesitation, I'm embarrassed to admit)). The kid did just fine on her first attempt (photographed above) but what struck me was what happened after we, collaboratively, spelled it correctly. Her sentence . . . specifically that she didn't know how to put it in a sentence. Instead she asked a question . . .

"What is affection?"

Well . . . uh . . . you see honey . . . when a man and a woman (or man and a man or woman and a woman by early-2014) love each other VERY much. I kid, I kid. I was far more direct about it. "Affection is hugging, kissing, hand holding, cuddling, and sharing time touching someone you love."

Her follow up question (you'll spot a trend here) was less simple "So do you show affection to your parents?"

"Yes, I do." (Full disclosure the Amores are very, very affectionate and we hug, kiss, hold hands, and cuddle even as adults) "Just like mommy and I are affectionate with you."

"Do you show affection to your friends?"

"I do. (Fuller disclosure I love hugging people I know and enjoy more than the world might ever understand or accept) "You can be affectionate with anyone you love."

"Were you and mommy affectionate?"

"Yes. We were very affectionate including ways that are reserved for very special relationships and we are still affectionate." (Fullest disclosure I still enjoy my ex-wife so I still hug her just about every time I see her)

"Will you ever love anyone like you loved mommy and be affectionate with them like you were with her?"

"Spell 'preen' and use it in a sentence."

1/6/14

That Time I Passed Out and Hit a Woman . . .

As some of you know, my friend Jennifer Keller once famously harassed me in to giving my life essence to strangers. I can't blame her - it was her JOB (as the then marketing person for the local Red Cross blood bank) to do so.

That Jennifer got me to give blood is a true testament to her professional skillz (with a z) since I am afraid of only six things in this world:

1) Being naked
2) Snakes
3) Needles
4) Blood
5) People seeing me naked
6) The Jimmy Johns that delivers to my apartment closing

She had two obstacles to overcome (and I was (secretly) sure there were snakes at the blood bank anyway) and she did it. This was years ago, though. I'm proud (?) to say that I've since become a regular blood donor (I shoot for every sixty days) and I've never, ever, ever had a problem giving.

Until New Year's Day.

I made an appointment. I got a good night's sleep. I ate a good breakfast, I went to a 5K run (only spectated, didn't run) and then went to give my my A Positive sweetness. I did the screener (I really wish, by the way, that after the 15th time I tell them I did not spend five years or more in Europe between 1980 and 1994 they would just let it go), I chatted up the charming, elderly volunteers, and I even made sure they had Cheez-Its waiting for me on the other side of the chore.

I got on my table, declined to keep my vein-marker and explained to a lovely phlebotomist that I had an aversion to needles and blood so if she could just not produce any snakes, keep everything she had going on under a towel, and not tell me anything I didn't need to know we'd be in and out and on our collective ways. She agreed. I know she did.

From there things get a little speedy. I was playing on my smartphone (I forgot to take a book) and she was yammering about her style of inserting the needle through the skin, doing something operational, and then puncturing the vein and I was pretending to be far, far away. I felt the prick and sting, I acknowledged this had happened (she insisted I confirm she had broken my skin) and I went back to Flow Free (I'm kinda a big deal with that app). A few seconds later I felt TERRIFIC (and by that I mean I knew I was about to lose consciousness - a sensation I'm only vaguely embarrassed to admit enjoying). I set my phone on my lap and just let go . . .

What happened next was where our story actually picks up (with my apologies). I was sitting in a living room on a plaid couch. I was watching television - specifically daytime television . . . one of those court/judge shows. I heard a voice from my left saying "Oh, dear husband." and I looked over to see a woman, Madeline McCullough, whom  I only vaguely know (I've met and chatted with her only a few times in person and while I find her bright, charming, and lovely I have never before thought her as the next-former-Mrs.-Sean-Amore (because that is how all my marriages will end)) sitting next to me. (Editor's Note: What is etiquette on naming women who were your wives in unconscious dreams by name on your blog? Get back to me on that, would you?)

But that is not the weirdest part. The next thing I know I am snapping back to a fluorescent lit, spinning reality . . . I'm looking at a woman who is all-up-in-my-grill and she seems very agitated with me while a gentleman is running toward me yelling and waving his arms as if to intervene on behalf of this sweet, small woman. It seems, dear readers, I was awoken by her kindness and I rewarded her with an open hand of whoop ass to the face - making her lose balance and everything.

Yes. 37 years, 6 months, and 20 days (you now have all you need to figure out my actual date of birth, those who have always been curious - don't be lazy) of being able to look you in the eye and proudly tell you that I have never struck another person in my life were gone and now I will have to put an asterisk on it and say "except that one WOMAN who was doing her job, collecting my blood, and trying to revive the passed-out, re-married version of me."

The next thirty minutes were absurd. They dropped my chaise down in to a make-shift bed. They put cold, wet paper towels on my forehead and neck to "calm" me (I promptly told them it was "F*cking annoying to be wet.") and my abuse victim kept asking me if I knew where I was (I swear I did but the words and my tongue would not combine and do anything). I had people asking me if I wanted orange or apple juice (as though it matters in any way) and I had this horrible, horrible feeling I could not push down . . . did I finish giving my blood? Did they have enough? Was all this even worth it? I kept shouting like some woman in a bad movie that may or may not have given birth and can't get real answers on her baby.

The bad news (for my ego)? Nope. 80% full bag and destined only for their lab accordingly.

I apologized profusely to everyone (including the other people giving blood and other blood components (everyone was staring at the fat, angry, vulgar man)) and I started to cry. Yes. I cried. And could. not. stop. They eventually got me calmed down. I drank three cans of fruit (apple, for the record) juice. I then ate three bags of Cheez-Its (I don't give a damn what happens in this world . . . I'm getting those Cheez-Its) and a thing of plump, juicy raisins. 30 minutes later I made my way out to the parking lot with a bandage inside my elbow and guilt in my heart.

I made my next appointment for March. I'll eat and drink more before I go in and will make sure that I tell the person who will risk their physical safety to draw my red goodness to double down on their "don't tell, don't show" policies and just hope for the best. Maybe that is how I'm approaching ALL of 2014 . . . that would not be the worst thing in the world.

Give blood, y'uns. People need it WAY more than you do.

1/5/14

Sunday Funday . . .

A mash-up of the best pop music of 2013 ("best" being a relative term). I don't even recognize all of the tunes but, in this context I dig them all . . .

1/3/14

Two Thousand and Fourteen . . .

Someone messaged me the other day and asked me about my goals and resolutions process. It is long and complicated to explain (and admittedly very, very complicated for no apparent reason) but there was a little nugget in the note that I thought made sense. It was this . . .

"If you could share even a few of your final products it might help me out."

I can do that. I will do that. I would like to do that.

HERE - without context or insight as to how or why they are here - are a few of my 19 2014 Goals and Objectives (the other 14 are more "private"):
  1. Finalize my conversion and start living a more Jewish life (reflective of the commandments and mitzvot)
  2. Finalize the chaos of the home my family shared - whatever resolution is needed
  3. Read 26 books - all with their own tone, theme, and direction
  4. Attend or host one funeral, two weddings, three parties, four game nights, and five special occasions
  5. See my best friends from college - live and in the flesh
That's it. Pretty simple. I have 363 days left to do these and the fourteen others. I feel pretty good about it. 

1/2/14

"Give Me Your Cell Phone" . . .

I was talking with a friend the other day about digital communications and this age of e-mail, texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, DMing, instant messaging, Instagraming, Snapchatting, etc. etc. etc. and how we now have relationships that play out almost entirely in binary code.

The twist being that everything is there - in black and white - and maybe we don't see our relationships and interactions the same way our friends and observers do and that, often, the difference between us being happy and healthy might be having to give up our cell phones for a specified amount of time.

From that . . . inspiration struck. I am giving you my latest, amazing idea for a reality TV show that no one would ever, ever watch (this post is date and time stamped so don't run out and try to steal this fire, kids). 

You ready? Here it is . . . "Give Me Your Cell Phone".

Here's how it works:
  • Your friends/family/colleagues/other think you are doing yourself harm in a relationship
  • They realize that they might be able to help you either get the situation resolved (happier or done) by use of the various communication tools in your phone that allow them to be "you" (texting, e-mail, social media, etc.)
  • They walk up to you, their cell phone in hand, and say "Give me your cell phone for X minutes" (we thought five minutes is a good amount of time)
  • They unlock their phone and hand it to you. You do the same
  • The clock starts
  • The clock runs
  • The clock ends
  • You return each phone to its rightful owner
  • You can LOOK at what was said and done but you can not delete, edit, update, recant or even clarify what was done
How would this "work"? It puts the pressure on your friendship and bond to do no harm. YOU have their phone and THEY have your phone. Self regulation is the key. They might text a person and say "Leave me alone" or they may update your Facebook status to say "I'm not as happy as I could be - if you have ideas on how I can be happier, let me know." and you could go through all their pictures and send the self nudes to their high school math teacher. But that is probably not what would happen.

More than likely you would spend the time reading, looking, trying to educated yourself on the communications that have you concerned so you could be a more supportive and informed friend when the phones were returned and you went back to talking about solutions. 

Probably.

So would you be more or less likely to use your smart phones in ways that might not be in your best interest if you thought someone might someday challenge you to a game? Would you think twice? Would it be like the old days where you had to say things out loud to have them be heard? Would we be more civil? More or less honest? 

What do you think? You want to play a quick round of "Give Me Your Cell Phone"?

1/1/14

New Year's Resolutions . . .

That's some sweet-assed clipart up there, right?!
Good morning, revelers. Up and attem, partiers. Happy Wednesday, those who largely treat today like any other day. Go geddem, "It is a new year, it is a new me-ers.". Settle down, resolution makers.

I am fairly insane with goals and objectives. I set them and update them religiously. I have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals for my professional and personal development (they commonly overlap but not by intent).

I make my daily goals every night before going to bed when my brain wants to settle down. I set my weekly goals every Sunday as part of my errands/groceries/laundry/etc. routine. My monthly goals are set in the late-20s of the prior month and quarterlies are done early in the last month of the prior quarter. My annual goals (which do start on January 1st . . . I am considering moving to the Jewish calendar for symbolic reasons) are set by December 1st.

Why not set them more in the moment? Simple . . . no one does their best thinking, dreaming, planning or sight setting when the pressure is on.

If you looked at your watch/cell phone/wall clock/TV at 11:59 PM last night and just threw out a resolution for the coming year - you're probably not going to make that real. It was likely too grand or small, too dramatic or dour. It was in the moment versus something you really want to accomplish (think about those Snickers bars at the grocery store check out).

Do yourself a favor if you are a "resolution" maker . . . think about it/them for the day. Clear your head. Focus in. Eliminate noise, hangovers, promises to get thin, fit, pretty, or more sex. Take a few days. Think about what you really want or need to do in the coming year for your long term well being. Take all of January. Make sure that when you look at your resolution(s) a day or so after you write them out (and WRITE THEM OUT) they still seem like things you want to knock out in the coming year.

It really won't matter how long it takes to set the resolutions as long as what you settle on is genuine, realistic, achievable, and a challenge . . . and is something you can take the balance of the year achieving.

Happy 2014, people. It is going to be GREAT!