Vacation . . .

The girls and I are off to a wedding in Kansas City and then an adventure through Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, and my beloved Upstate New York while seeing my family and friends. I'll resume blogging on/around Monday, August 10th. Be well. Stay cool. Drink plenty of water. Read something good.


Packing . . .

I'm 39 years sold. I am estimating I've been on (not including sleep-overs as a kid) one hundred different trips in my life.

That means I've packed at least one hundred times and every time. Every. Time I've screwed it up.

I'm that classic buffoon that significantly overpacks the first time and then overcorrects and tragically underpacks the next time and I always take 300 power adapters but never the ONE that I need and I always forget the belt that matches the shoes so I'm just constantly trying to figure out how anyone packs or real and pulls it off.

I'll admit that I'm getting better. I took exactly one pair of underpants for every day of my last trip. I had a toothbrush AND toothpaste when I unpacked in the hotel. There was no issue with socks and shoes. There were enough sport coats and running clothes to keep everything moving forward. Of course I had to wear the same oxford shirt every day of the jaunt and I am still not sure exactly when I decided one pair of navy blue penny loafers would work for work and casual stuff. Alas . . . here we are.

So now I'm packing for a vacation that includes a wedding weekend and a random week of schlepping around the northeast United States. I'm sure it will be fine. Can I use flip flops for an eight mile run?


Be Ready . . .

I would like to think I'm one of those "always ready"sort of fellas. I carry cash. I have jumper cables. I never fly without gum while flying (ear popping). I can spend the forty five seconds before a meeting getting ready for said meeting (that I had a month of notice on). I can Google a solution to just about any problem.

I am ready. I am prepared.

Yet - fast forward to a few days ago when I found out my ex-wife is already remarried (I thought I had until December).

Now I know that I'm better off at this point in my life and I know she is too. I know that we've done all the right things at the right time for the right reasons. The rough stuff and the hurt and horrible is over . . . long over and yet, like any good crisis that doesn't involve having a spare dollar or a smart phone, I was not sure what the heck to do.

I did the only thing I could. I made a crass, coarse joke. I changed the subject. I nodded my head and pretended to be part of the rest of the conversation. I waited until I was alone. I had a good cry (that song is just taking advantage of a chance to make you listen to some classic Brian McKnight). I fell in to a funk for a good 48 hours. I got in a spat with SLF over whether I should go to the emergency room or just make a doctor's appointment for a malady (turns out she was right - ignoring it might have been deadly - I'm on my way to fine now, thanks for inquiring), cried again (because I spatted with the greatest person my life has ever been blessed with over some bullsh*t) and I moved along.

The best part about being caught off guard is that I couldn't be in my own head any longer than the reaction phase. Being unprepared is the new black.


Newport Folk Festival . . .

Every year, it seems, there are more and more summer music festivals to clog up our calendars and fill our heads with the loud, loud noise of above-middle-aged men (Eagles? Rolling Stones? U2? C'bawwwn, suhn) and their tunes.

There is ONE music festival (as old as time itself - even older than Woodstock) that is something different. It caters to audiences that are above-middle-age (in actual years, maturity, or life outlook) and is decidedly quiet in the grand scheme of things. I give you, here, ten fun acts about the Newport Folk Festival.

  1. While not exclusively "acoustic" in nature, the festival - attended by 30,000 not-so-screaming, white-wine-sipping, lawn-chair-bringing, sustainability-concerned, upper-middle-class folk (and bluegrass, and blues, and country, and traditional, etc.) music lovers annually - was the first place that Bob Dylan ever "plugged in" (50 years ago). It was quite the scandal at the time. 
  2. The Newport Folk Festival is in Newport, RHODE ISLAND. I've loved and wanted to go this event for as long as I can remember. I honestly always thought it took place in California (seems more the vibe, no?).
  3. Newport, once the most elite alcove along the (US coast of the) Atlantic Ocean, is home to some of the country's great estates and mansions.
  4. There is only ONE way (by car) across the Narragansett Bay/in and out of Newport proper - it is the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge. It was designed by the same guy that figured out the "other" Verrazano Bridge in New York City (Brooklyn to Staten Island).
  5. Some of my favorite artists in the world play at the Newport Folk Festival (My Morning Jacket, Jason Isbell, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Brandi Carlile, The Avett Brothers, The Lone Bellow, etc.) almost every year if not every year.
  6. The show is not nearly as expensive as I thought - you can get a day pass for like $130 (parking, tolls, water and white wine and $400/night hotel rooms not included).
  7. There are four stages at the formal venue (Fort Adams) and the kick-off/Friday Night concert is held in downtown Newport at the International Tennis Hall of Fame (does it get any more stuffy than THAT?).
  8. Many performances from the concert are streamed live by NPR and NPR member stations (okay - it just got more stuffy . . . I love it).
  9. The show was a "for-profit" event for a while and was underwritten by Ben-n-Jerry's and Dunkin Donuts (among others). Now it is back to non-profit status (and relies on white wine sales to keep it going).
  10. I am TOTALLY going to Newport Folk Festival next year (if SLF will let me (she said I could)).
There you go. Now you know. 


Happy Ninth Birthday . . .

My daughter woke up this morning a nine-year-old. Technically she won't be a full "nine" until 4:02 PM CT this afternoon but - you can explain to her why she can't be on cloud-f*ckin-nine at 6:20 AM CT. To say that my kid's birthday is emotional for me is obvious and trite and cliche. She's the greatest (in terms of quality, quantity, challenge, joy, reward, cost, etc.) that has ever happened to me and I am more than happy to let her have "her day" alllllll day once  year.

That being said - there is a a heaping-handful of things that I'd like to admit here, on the occasion of her formal childhood reaching its half-way point that drive me truly nuts. I loathe them. I am anxious and excited for them to stop. Without additional adieu . . .

  1. "Fear" of the Dark. The kid cannot even walk through a room without turning on a light. And I meant this at 9:30 PM or 3:30 PM. Sun doesn't count. Must. Burn. Electricity.
  2. Ignoring Her Chompers. How can someone "forget" to brush their teeth every morning and every evening. I can forget your name, your birthday, and your favorite color. I can't forget that my mouth feels and likely smells like garbage in the morning and the last thing I want to do each night is take all the garbage I all day off my teeth.
  3. Never Picking Up Anything. Ever. No need to clarify or elaborate. 
  4. Up-Talking. Yes. I said it. I'll say it again. I'm absolutely, positively "policing" my daughter's voice. I'll keep on doing it. She shan't grow up an up-talker. 
  5. Apathetic and Disconnected. She's too apathetic about too much stuff. I don't want her to be obsessed with every. little. thing. I just wish she was a little more engaged with a few more things. 
  6. Inconsistent. I am not sure if her favorite color is pink or purple. She is not either. I know she'll grow out of this but . . . I'm anxious for it to happen sooner vs. later.
  7. Country Music. She loves it. Which makes me kuh-raaaaayyyyy-zee. 
  8. YouTube. She will watch hours and hours of other people playing video games, working on Minecraft, or opening "stuff" but she won't play those games, work in Minecraft, or open/play with "stuff". Generational shift is hard.
  9. Made Up Words. She's getting much, much better about it but we still hear the occasional "imputereteded" without a hint of hesitation.
  10. Prince and Michael Jackson. She really, truly, honestly believes them to be the same people. In sound, voice, impact, and persona. Let's be clear - Prince > Michael Jackson. Yeah. I said it. Because it is true. 

I love you, kid. I wish you 103 more birthdays and all the joy and happiness they can bring you. Thank you for being the best thing that's ever happened to me. I promise to always let you be the only person and thing on that list.


Sunday Funday . . .

This is decidedly not "fun" but I adore this song.

Even if I (and everyone else who has listened to it and knows of the demise of her former duo "The Civil Wars") think it is a not-even-remotely-subtle dig at John Paul White,

I will also use this opportunity to, self-indulgently, point out that there is a really nice feminist and self-empowering tone to her debut solo album "VENUS" that I find sorta delightful and something I wish we had more of AND I think the clarity and beauty of Joy Williams' voice is something we should all take a few minutes to swim in.


Family Photos . . .

In eight short days, I'm going to a wedding. Not just any wedding. No-no. THE wedding of 2015. Special Lady Friend's sister is marrying a dude named Nutter. No-no. That is NOT a nickname or a friends and family label . . . that is his last name and he is a WONDERFUL young man (I'm a huge, huge fan). His bride-to-be is lovely, too. I'm really, really excited about the wedding and the whole adventure of it (seriously - there is no joke coming).

Here's the one thing I'm NOT pleased about . . . photos. It seems that - despite not being in the wedding party (nor assigned so much as handing out programs, escorting grandmas to the restroom, or lighting half of the unity candle (the job I really wanted)) that I'm expected to be in photos. Apparently I'm part of the family (insert collective "aweeeee"). This is, of course, complete bullsh*t.

I get why people think (think - not "know" or "have logical reasons and facts on their side") wedding photos are important and they probably were - in 1862 when a wedding was the only time the whole family (the 24 year old parents and their 18 year old children - all well on their way to the grave) was together including a break from John III and Mathias laying down arms from opposite sides of The Civil War to come home for lil' Sarah's nuptials to the second-richest-man in town's son.

THEN they were important. Families had about three TOTAL photos of themselves and their family. And they all looked painful and miserable . . . like we are on the inside now.

But this is, with all due respect to lil' Sarah and Tobias Jr., 2015. I was with these people a few weeks ago and I'll, statistically, see them every few weeks for the rest of our collective time here on earth. The last time I was together I took 31 photos of these people and had my image captured four times - without anyone even trying or thinking about it. We share these photos on social media within seconds of them being snapped and they are "liked" by more people than will be at this shin-dig by the time the date on our phone changes. I can access LITERALLY 832 photos of SLF's youngest niece with a few mouse clicks. I don't NEED a family photo session.

We won't even hang these photos, realistically speaking. We'll make sure we get "copies" (and by that I mean binary approximations of them) and we'll back them up to our Google Drive account and we'll move along. No one is going to pour over them. No one is going to "oh" or "awe". Nope. This is a box to check on the ol' wedding "to-do list".

So WHY, again, are these photos of the family being taken? Why am I being included in them? Why? Why?? WHY?

Oh. That's right. Because Nutter is an amazing man. His (almost) wife is wonderful in every way. I've got a woman who loves me enough to want to have photos of us taken together. And family is a blessing that we should appreciate and have moments with captured in some way every chance we get. This holds true for the Civil War or peaceful Saturdays, 150+ years later, in the Kansas City Suburbs.


Where'd You Go, Bernadette? . . .

Earlier this year I committed (in an action that was labeled "sexist" by a friend of mine) to read more female authors this year. My first toe in the water of estrogen-fueled words (now THAT is sexist) was the highly recommended "Where'd You Go, Bernadette".

I am really glad I made this my first effort toward promising diversity in the gender of my authors for at least the balance of this year. It was a wonderful, delightful read.There is also a certain amount of mystery surrounding the Fox family but they are planning a trip to Antarctica anyway. You read that correctly.

A combination of first hand story-telling (from the perspective of Bee Fox, the 15-year-old wunderkind that we learn has survived a heart condition, several surgeries, and some very eccentric parents to be a highly-coveted-candidate for Choate), several e-mail and instant message exchanges between various characters (that left me scratching my head as to how Bee came in to them - until all was revealed in due time), press clippings, and hand-written letters (which, again, are explained). There is also a party being planned for perspective parents (Mercedes Parents) for the school Bee attends and - as part of that - you get to read some HILARIOUS e-mails between the school's fundraising guy (who uses actual lightning bolts in his note) and the mother planning the party (Bernadette's arch-nemesis) and the school's parents in general.

You also meet great characters like a remote assistant (who helps plans the trip), a helicopter mom from school who happens to also work for Bee's dad, a local weather man who takes his job very seriously, and some spunky teenagers who work a gift shop in Antarctica. I digress.

Here's the basic thrust of it - Bernadette (a woman we want to immediately believe is depressed, anxiety-ridden, anti-social, and maybe an actual whack-a-doodle until we find out she is a certified, award-winning genius) marries another genius programmer and they leave LA for a life in damp Seattle (Microsoft job). They buy an otherwise condemned property and promise to eventually make it home. They raise a daughter (one of the reviews I read said they are "helicopter parents" but I actually found them to be engaged and empowering (they don't fight Bee's battles or cut the crust of her sandwiches and you'll learn why they are so focused on their child). All seems to be going right for Elgie (the dad) and Bee (off to Choate) and wrong (Bernadette) and forward (they are going to Antarctica, damn it.) Along the way Bernadette, clearly struggling with something from page one-ish, does her best to just manage "life". Not always well. She has issues with other parents (she hits one with her car), issues with the school (she just drops Bee off vs. walking her to her classroom), issues with strangers (the poor landscaper), and people otherwise intending to help,

The book is a mystery. Around the end of the "second act" of the book Bernadette does, in fact, disappear (as per the title - no need for a spoiler alert). That is the core of it but this is, in no way, your typical mystery/whodunit (no one is murdered - rest assured). It is very, very funny and it is sharp and shrewd. The characters are sharp and clever. The use of various "source materials" for the book keeps it interesting and gives you multiple voices and perspectives, and the emotional complexity of a wife/mother disappearing leaving her frustrated husband and loving daughter behind is deftly handled.

All will be illuminated in the end and you'll be glad you stuck around. I will say this (observation vs. criticism)  the book had a softer, slightly "happier"ending (specifically the last few pages) than I expected. Most of male authors (at least the ones I read) would not have been quite as "and a bow on top" about the resolution of 300 pages of complicated, confusing things but that's just me being sexist. Again.

Go read this book. Seriously. Good summer reading.


Prison . . .

We've been binge-watching SCANDAL at the house lately. Truth-be-told we do it every time a new season becomes available of a variety of our favorite shows (SUITS, House of Cards, et al). I won't give away any part of this current batch (season four) but there is one thing about this season that sorta freaks me out . . . prison.

Sure, sure - every season has a lot of people in prison (frequently only for a partial episode but - still) but this season is particularly incarceratory in nature. And this freaks the crap out of me. I'm afraid of just a handful of things in this life (many of which are factitious anyway - no one is TRULY afraid of choking to death on a bowling pin) but one of them - a MAJOR ONE of them - is going to prison.

Seriously. I am not a "good" person and I don't always act like an actual upstanding citizen but I absolutely, positively do not break any real laws (speed limits are for chumps) and I don't ever put myself in situations where I could ever get arrested and charged with a conviction-worthy offense that comes with "hard time". But that is only part of it . . . you have to watch out for the random thing where you look down at your phone and look up just as you are running over a dozen nuns innocently crossing the street or an email asks you to sit on a few million dollars for someone trying to immigrate to this country and wind out guilty of some serious wire fraud. Even worse? You remove tags from your pillows without reading the fine print or you don't return library books or that affordable, friendly pro you hire to do your taxes turns out to be up to shin. an. uh. guns.

Next thing you know . . . you're in prison. For a long, long time.

And there are all-sort of homophobic and violence-driven reasons most people fear a prison sentence. Sure, sure. Those things are fair concerns but here are the reasons I would not make it in "the joint" . . .

  1. Nudity. You have to shower in front of people. I can't do that. NOT because of other people's naked bodies or fear of being violated but - far more importantly - because I have a deep, deep loathing of my own body. NO crime justifies having to see me nude.
  2. Jumpsuits. I don't wear uniforms and I certainly don't wear one-piece outfits that zip or snap up the front. This body should never be seen naked NOR in onesies with coarse construction.
  3. Slippers. No. Just. Plain. No.
  4. Ink. So many tattoos. So many poorly conceived or executed. So many permanent reminders of how horrible life on the inside is. And - yet - I have to believe I would allow someone to break open a BIC(TM) pen and break open the sanctity of my ever-hidden, jumpsuit clad body.
  5. Boredom. The libraries probably suck. They will never allow me my Roku or to blog. The probably won't let me have any real fun. I have enough trouble living by the rules of life out here . . . in there. Fughedaboud. 
  6. Religion. The Jews are not all that popular in any representation of locked-up life I've ever, ever seen. Ever. Cliche becomes such for a reason.
  7. Cellmates. I have enough trouble sharing a 3,000 square foot home with SLF and my daughter half the time. You're putting me back in bunk beds with an open-air toilet? Nuh-uh. No way. Not now. Not ever. 
  8. Food. Wait, wait, wait . . . I can't just swing by the kitchen and grab something? There aren't crackers and jelly beans at ready avail.? I don't want to go to the Inmate Store. I want to hit the pantry.
  9. Music. Will they let me have "Hip-Hop Friday" in my cell? No. No they would not. But they'd let me wear friggin' house shoes.
  10. Voting. Poorly-kept secret. You lose your right to vote when you spend time in the clink. You can get the right back after your service but hardened criminals like me won't even skip the City Mayoral Primary. I'm not going to make it without my "voice". 
So - yeah - there you go. I'm not going to prison and I don't want to wait this long for more episodes of Scandal. 


Black Lives Matter . . .

There has been much discussion, lately, about the Twitter hashtag campaign #BlackLivesMatter. Here is how I understand the intent of what is not a "movement" or a "catch phrase" or a "slogan" but is, instead, a simple statement of fact . . . and it comes from a movie (that is almost twenty years old) based on a book (that is nearly thirty years old). Here - watch this for five minutes.

Actually . . . even though you've already done that - just watch the last 16 seconds. Literally. Start the clip at 4:43.

There. That's it. That is all, in my naivety and awkward attempts to pretend I have a perspective larger than my own, know about any or all of this . . . the reason the "Black Lives Matter"  reminder is vital is because too many of us (regardless of our gender, race, age, or perspective) assume that some things do and/or do not happen to certain people of specific gender, race, age, or perspective. Including, tragically beyond WORDS, that violence and murder are things that the black community can and/or should just observe.

Hear me - please - fellow middle class white people . . . to say "ALL Lives Matter" is disrespectful. It is shortsighted. It is harmful. It is antagonistic. It perpetuates the problem. The only acceptable reason to modify the statement to cover all of us would be when/if the problem was relevant to all of us . . . that we were too busy presuming black lives matter to see that, despite how far "we" have come in many corners of our developed, first-world, technology filled world, they do not. At least not enough to respect them and show them the same general decency - without fail - we would expect for our WASPey friends and family.

You can roll your eyes at some applications of the "Black Lives Matter" reminder (and let's all - ALL - admit that it is not a one-size-fits-all utterance) but we can't co-opt it and we can't dispute it and we can't ignore it. We have to let it carry enough weight to eventually have meaning and to eventually - long, long overdue - lead to it being something we truly can take for granted.


Yard Work . . .

I've mentioned this on this-here-forum several times before but there is very little in this world I hate more than manual labor (Mental labor? I dig it. Emotional labor? Why not. Spiritual labor? It makes you stronger. Maternal labor? I've seen it once - looks horrible but ends beautifully.). 

And yet - there are things in this world we know. The sun will rise. Lena Dunham will pop up in an episode of Scandal and be equally unlikable in that role as her every other. That Psych was cancelled too soon. That chinos are the thinking man's blue jeans. Facts. Plain and simple. Facts. So it should come as no surprise that I am well aware that buying a house brings a certain amount of domestic labor with it and, yet, I still avoid it like the plague. 

My parents once notoriously hired a guy to come to our house, climb a ladder, and change the bulbs in the flood lights that illuminated our driveway at night. I like their style almost as much as I like their offspring. 

Well . . . the piper swung by yesterday to be paid and pay I did. You see I tried to take the easy way out. I hired a teenager (for as much as I resent the millennials I am even more afraid for what awaits us when this next generation with their emoji-obsessed, please don't speak when you can digitally communicate, I'm going to just hang out here until something finds me mentality) to mow our lawn every two weeks with weeding/edging every other time (every four weeks).

So there was not a single time that things went off without a hitch (mowing once ever six days, ignoring the edging part, not being able to find the money for payment - that was left under the ONLY THING (which is a very distinct thing - for the record) on our porch for them. And then we hit rock bottom . . . paying the extra money for the edging, reminding them for the third time that our lawn includes the area around the garage, and still coming home to a half-mowed, half-assed lawn. 

Shame on us. So yesterday I did the "right" thing. I rose at a descent hour and went outside for what I presumed would be an hour or so of my time and sweat. Well . . . three hours and twenty minutes, and a broken extension cord, a flooded lawn mower, three steps in dog crap, and five or six bee stings later (I unearthed their nest - my bad) later I finally decided to shut it down when the rain started (and proceeded to last three whole minutes). 

The good news is that the lawn looks great, I'm going to fire those teenagers (let their next client just find them and they'll never again have to search, in vein, to find their money) and I'll, henceforth, suck it up and do manual labor - at least 20 or 30 minutes (our lawn is TINY) every fourteen days or so, eight months-ish out of the year.

Stupid lawn. Stupid manual labor. I'd rather birth a baby. I'm kidding. Clearly. 


Sunday Funday . . .

Not much "fun" in it but worth the watch. Seriously, people . . . if you're NOT worrying about our bee population - you're missing something urgent.


The Black Bird (Cocktail) . . .

This is a black - space - bird vs. a blackbird.
On my first New Year's Eve here in Wichita we had a dinner party that involved several courses of food, drinks between each course, and fun for everyone.

As a non-imbiber I was not directly involved with the losing of the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle but I was very proud of the cocktails and other "adult" beverages I served up to my dinner (which was, on a cuisine level amazing to say the least) companions.

Wines, beers, a shot (as an amuse bouche, for the record) and the finale to beat all finales . . . a near-frozen concoction that smelled amazing and clearly tasted as good. 

Enough with the build-up . . . the ultimate night cap for those running alongside the wagon:


3 cups fresh strawberries
3 cups fresh raspberries
3 cups fresh blueberries
1.5 cups cranberries
10 oz. pineapple juice
10 oz. brandy
12.5 oz. triple sec (Cointreau)
10 oz. lemon vodka
6 cups superfine sugar

Put everything in a bowl. Stir, gently, with a wooden spoon for a few moments. Put the bowl, covered with Saran Wrap, in the freezer for 48 hours stirring every few hours (during waking hours - no need to interrupt your precious sleep). 

When the time comes, strain the fruit from the liquids capturing the liquids in a pitcher. Put a generous scoop of the fruits in a frosted glass (martini or otherwise). Muddle, if you're that type. Pour some of the fluids over the top of the fruits (equal portions - the fluids are wonky with this recipe so I can't say how much that is per cocktail).

It sounds crazy but I serve these with a spoon. Half the fun is eating the booze-infused fruit and people get awkward about using their fingers in a cocktail glass. You might also consider having more sugar (I like cubes or this) on hand should someone find their drink unpleasurably tart (the lemon vodka, cranberries, and triple sec are sours and the brandy not always all that "sweet"). 

This recipe makes about six cocktails - give or take. 


Blur . . .

This is a pop culture joke. If you get it - congrats on being around 40 years old.
In my 39 years of life there are four or five distinct phases that are most remarkable for their lack of distinction.

They were eras/phases/proverbial "moments" in time where things were just sort of flowing - on their own and with very little actual involvement from me.

These terms of my life include the fourth grade, college, June-ish of 2000 through August-ish of 2003, my formal separation/divorce - slash - unemployment/re-employment and getting stuff together again (July 2012 - February 2014), and the present day (start the timer in about February of this year . . . I'll let you know when to stop it).

I say these were times of high/no "distinction" because I don't really know how fully "present" I was for any of them. Sure, sure. I got up every day (okay - there MAY have been days in college and after graduate school when I never really left my bed) and I was "there" but I don't really remember the experiences in sharp, crisp detail.

Make no mistake - these were the best and worst years of my life. They were the most informative, influential, inspired, and insipid things I've ever been through. They really, truly made me "me" and if people who know/knew me only "before" or "after" any one of these phases (say my high school friends and my current colleagues) were to be gathered in a dive bar telling stories . . . they would not have the same person at the butt of the jokes.

Sure, sure - 20 years has passed and no one stays their adolescent self (okay - SOME do) but this is not just age and life experience. This is really, truly different stuff. Musical tastes are different, outward passions say revolution (vs. evolution), patience and affection have come and gone and come again. I learned so much from those phases and the people in them - but there were very, very few people "IN" more than one of those phases with me. Maybe on the edges. Maybe I held them at bay. Maybe they walked away. Maybe I walked away from them. I don't remember it all clearly enough to really know for sure.

The worst part is that I feel like I'm back in one of these phases right now and it bums me out. I'm sorta hitting my stride. My daughter is in that phase where she is becoming her own person and setting behaviors (she f*cking UP TALKS - help me) and dreams and goals and she is finally at a place of (semi)independence on the day-to-day of life. I've got a job that I love and that challenges and rewards me (I've had any two of the three before but this one is a total keeper). I've got a wonderful woman sitting next to me - as I type this - that loves and supports and encourages and chastises (as warranted) me. I've got some religion and faith and all the trappings of it in my heart. I've got friends that I truly enjoy. I've got plans and goals and objectives that I'm ticking off.

But I don't feel "here" all the time. I don't know "where" I "am" but I'm not here. Not present. Not really dialed in to it all day every day. I get moody. I withdraw. I ignore. Or I obsess and get overly invested. I cannot find a way to enjoy and slow it down and soak it in. 

It pisses me off. This is IT. This is the edge of contentment. This is the closest I come to that "happy" you all speak so highly of. This is the stuff that I chased for all those years that things were horrible. This is the stuff that I soaked in like so many perfect bubble baths and lost track of time and space in while things were good. This is what I have wanted. This is who I've wanted to be. This - here and now - is as good as it will probably ever get.

I should be here. All the time. I should be focused but, instead, it is sorta a blur.


Commencement Address . . .

I went to a small high school so our commencement speaker was . . . no one (Valedictorian and Salutatorian notwithstanding). Former NBA legend (and more importantly Rhodes Scholar, Princeton grad, U.S. Senator (from the great state of New Jersey (a.k.a. the "Garden State")) and Presidential Candidate Bill Bradley spoke at my undergraduate ceremony (I was literally too drunk to really remember it). The splendid (in every way) Secretary (of State) Madeline Albright spoke at my graduate ceremony (I was blissfully 800 miles away from The Elipse that day). 

I've watched dozens of other college graduation speeches over the years (particularly since YouTube and C-SPAN conspired to make it interesting) and I've seen great ones, horrible ones, and most of them - like any good bell curve - were somewhere between.

None of that prepared me for the dream I had the other night. 

I was in my hotel bed - fresh off a long Sunday, an all-afternoon/evening flight, and a 30-minute drive to the hotel - and I had a very, very real dream that I was invited (at my current age, life experience/position, and demeanor) to be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony in the Houston Astrodome (yes - I know it is no longer really used for much) for every student graduating from every school (Kindergarten through PhD) in Houston.

I looked fresh-tuh-def in my robes and floppy hat. I strode, confidently, to the podium. The crowd cheered and cheered. I was clearly a big deal and had some wisdom to drop but here is the very best part . . . I approached the hot microphone and said the following:

" . . . "

This was followed by flop sweating, cotton mouth, popping ears, and a whole lotta "ums", "ahhs", and other utterances forbidden by compelling speakers and those who coach them.

I'm sure I had something fantastic to say and if I ever sleep truly well again I might just finish the dream. If I do - I'll let you know. Class of 2015. 


Sunday Funday . . .

I loved the movie "Chef" for many reasons . . . that it provided "Sexual Healing" among them.


Soy . . .

SLF and I have been talking a LOT lately about our diet and fitness regimes. Suffice it to say we are both in less-than-ideal physical shape and we'd like to become something a little more ideal. We don't want bikini bodies (I'll rock a Speedo now, if I damn-well-please) and we don't really care about what the fashion industry tries to force feed us in print ads and other representations of physical beauty (or, um, whatever) but we just wanna feel better, live longer, etc.

Anywho - one of the things I've long wondered (and openly opined about on this blog and in other forums) is if I could benefit from a more veggie-focused diet.

No. I don't think "meat" is the enemy and I don't think there is some holy grail to a better diet in removing meat (Oreo cookies and Fritos are both meat-free and I've known this my whollllle life). I am also not so naive as to think that more veggies and less flesh-of-the-lesser-bricks-on-the-food-pyramid. What I am SMART and EXPERIENCED enough to know is that sometimes the best way to improve your diet is to reboot your diet.

So - here we go - a public declaration (and the addition of another quantifiable objective for the balance of the year). I'm going to reduce my intake of meat (fish is not meat in the eyes of my Jewish G-d so that's good enough for me to continue to eat it) by 75% while upping my protein intake by 33% and cutting overall calories by 25% and upping my food diversity by at least 50% (No. To answer your mental quandary . . . I have no idea how I'm going to track that).

But here's the key to this whole adventure . . . Soy. Soy. And, uh, Soy.

I've LONG loved soy (and the fact that it has no real taste of its own and that it can be served in about 100 different textures and forms and folded in to just about anything) and I eat a fair amount of it now but I'm going to do more with it.

We (she doesn't know this yet but SLF is totally on board for this) are going to start meal planning and using available food, menu, and nutrition data to track what we're putting in to our bodies and the general balance and content of those things and blah, blah, blah.

So I'm not going to become "one of those" jerks (I promise this is probably not even a long-lived thing (those who know me are already trying to stop the involuntary, backward rolling of their eyes) who just talks and talks about food and fitness on this blog but I WILL - from time to time (about as frequently as I might talk about running and other fitness) talk about food and what we're stuffing in our proverbial pie holes.

In the meantime - if you're a soy, egg, fish, or "alternative" protein lover . . . share any thoughts or suggestions you might have. I welcome them ALL.


Protecting Religious Freedom . . .

COUNT the examples of horrible design in this image. I easily get to eight.
Oh, Kansas. We're in soooo much trouble. Our state, long suffering under the weight of cliche and stereotypical critique of our people and the mindset we share has a Governor that seems heck-bent on upping the ante and pouring salt in the wound.

If you were not paying attention a week or so ago, the Supreme Court (the highest, most powerful example in our land of an entire part of four governmental system that our Governor wants to get rid of by eliminating their funding) decided that it is time we cut the double-standard crap in this country and let same sex couples have a run at marriage in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

Yes, yes. "LOVE WINS". Or "won" . . . sorta. Maybe. True to form, those who seem to think their G-d divined that marriage was something for and only for a man and a woman ALSO believe, in a government literally built on the (typical) separation of church and state, that their G-d and religious beliefs are the same as how their governments (typical at the "local" or "county" level, no less) should rely on that G-d in issuing marriage licenses or whatever. Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . I'm being disrespectful of people and their religious views.

YEP! Sure am. But not because of the religion (I LOVE my religion and faith and would FIGHT you over it) but because these people can't compartmentalize. They can't understand that what is most precious to them might not even matter to or rule over others. More importantly they can't understand that LOVE is the driving motivator behind gay marriage advocates. They don't "get" that living and letting live is the key to following the "golden rule" (do unto others, for the record).

"Our" esteemed Governor has decided to use his office (that we, the people of Kansas were short-sighted enough to let him have not once but TWICE) to issue an executive order to "protect" religious freedom. So he has issued a long, drawn out, overly-self-indulgent piece of executive order CRAP yesterday. For NO apparent reason other than because he can't stay focused on the actual wants, needs, and emergencies in this state and the true problems our state faces long enough to NOT be him and be stubborn on his personal, small-minded agenda that empowers the few and punishes the many.

And the very notion that "we" (his statement indirectly states that we Kansans are ALL on board with this closed-minded, fear-driven, misguided stuff) are all more worried about empowering business owners and clergy to opt-out than we are the basic privilege of open-minded, loving, passionate adults to opt-in.

And maybe "we" are. Maybe it is 51% this or 51% that but where is the data on that? Where is the public outcry of the masses? Where is the crush of noise and voices? Where? NOwhere. That is "where". And yet here we are . . . once again going on the record as being small-minded absurdists.

And for WHAT?! So the owner of a bakery can REFUSE to make a few hundred bucks selling a cake to people he doesn't know/have context to their love? Can he also refuse a couple that gives him a bad vibe? Can he refuse a woman with a neck tattoo? Can he determine their marriage won't last (divorce is a sin in some versions of G-d's Rules) and refuse to make dessert for their sham party? No. No. and, um, no. And since WHEN do bakers have SOOOO much business that they can't take on the gay cakes? When did bakers get so successful that turning away business was a demand of the profession? I'm not saying they are all desperate and hard up nor am I saying that I would want to work with or for people and causes I don't believe in but I'm also fully acknowledging that if I provided a service with six degrees of separation (what do florists POSSIBLY care becomes of their crafts once they leave the shop?) I would not let that get in the way of me making money and succeeding as an entrepreneur.

More over HOW does the refusal to bake a cake (as, again, one of many examples that I could choose) PROTECT the religion? Or how does baking it threaten it? Does the bouncer at the gates of heaven say "Nah, man. You once baked a cake for a coupla-lesbians. Go to the end of the line."? Does the minister that Sunday, in his fanciest robes and at the pulpit, say "Do you smell what I smell, my fellow sheep? I smell a cake baked for two homosexuals who wanted to make their love official. You'll have to leave NOW, bakery owner."?

Forget the slippery slope argument where, in time, bakery owners can refuse to make cakes for fat kid's birthday parties or when minorities can't drink at a bar, etc. I don't even think "this" really makes the way for "that". Just keep it exactly what it is - the flawed, embarrassing notion that anything is "protected" in this executive order.

I'm rambling. I know that I'm either preaching to the choir or shouting at those who would not listen to me but I'm also compelled to say this - WE did this to us, Kansas. We elected Sam Brownback to office soooo many times including TWICE to live in Cedar Crest and be our Governor. WE empowered him. WE gave him the office and the bully pulpit and soap box and the braggadocio to show up in his stupid boots and asinine belt buckles and to sit (or stand) and make declarations like this one. WE screwed up so badly that - as far as he or anyone else needs to know - WE all feel this way.

Now go order up a slice of gay cake and try to keep it and eat it to. And PLEASE, the rest of the world, know that this Governor never, ever, ever, ever, EVER speaks for me. I am not part of his "we" or "us".


T-Word . . .

I had an amazing adventure this weekend. Someone called me the "t-word." And the person, I think, felt it would insult me as it left his mouth.

Wait . . "What is the 't-word'?" Well . . . guess.

Nope. Not "transgendered." Not "tranvestite." Not "traumatized." Not "typhical." Not any of the "t-words" that could actually carry weight or have an impact on you.

Nope. This was the "t-word" you presumed. The one that rhymes with snot. The one that might, at one point, carried actual weight and been an actual insult and then time and usage happened. The offense and pain and scorn it might inflict has dwindled down to nothing. Less than nothing. I think most people are in on that joke, right?

(PLEASE) correct me if I am wrong but I feel like NO ONE uses the not-yet-directly-mentioned "t-word" to hurt anyone in the year 2015.

You cannot hurt someone with it, folks. One syllable? And with a "w" in the word? HOW does that word even possibly hurt someone? And what has you soooo upset that the only thing you can bark out is that word? That word is laughable. It really, truly is.

Here's a few words that you can use in place of it that will carry equal weight: strumpet, numb nuts, zealot, who-ha, bum, twit, Gepetto, whozywhatsit, booger, douche canoe. Did ANY of those bring you pain or discomfort? Did any of them feel insulting in any way? No. No they did not. Okay MAYBE the last one because that is a graphic visual you can't readily shake.

So, good sir/stranger, let's stop using any of those words or the "t-word" with any weight or negative intent. And let's stop PRETENDING that when the word is hurled at us that we "feel" it or are "hurt" by it. We don't. We're not. Enough of it all.


Primitive Girl . . .

The word "primitive" (approximately) means something that is early in its development or evolution. The word can also mean it is not something "from" anything else (it is original).

A few examples? A sharp rock is primitive, a weigh-balanced steak knife is evolved. Smoking a corncob pipe is primitive. Smoking a peach-flavored/scented vapor eCigarette is f*cking obnoxious.

Now that we've set a base-line for primitive . . . let's discuss one of my favorite songs of the moment - "Primitive Girl" by Matthew "M." Ward. Ward, for the unacquainted, is a very talented singer songwriter from Portland, Oregon. He has done a lot of solo work and collaborations like She & Him (I like the wispy nature of it and haven't heard Zooey Deschanel sing so well since her shower scene in "Elf") and Monsters of Folk (with my beloved Jim James from My Morning Jacket and a few other talented folks) behind him.

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, this song that is in my head . . .

"Primitive Girl" is a driving little song that showcases a girl that has caught the eye and affection of the first-person narrator of the song (perhaps Ward himself - why not?). Our vocalist is smitten with this girl but he is unsure if he's a match. Sure, sure, he would like to think that he's equally "primitive" (he's using the word, I think, in the unrefined/as originally intended sense - he notes she is "natural" from head to toe but he is no way demeaning of that version of woman. There is some indication that he might mean the word otherwise - he gives a nod to her intelligence (she responds to inquiries about her "doing" with the word "well" (vs. "good")). Most importantly, he seems to think that she is ahead of him for being so behind (if that makes sense) - he never even so much as compares/contrasts her with other women - but this song is not about "them" is sit?

This is not the first time I've been obsessed with "Primitive Girl". I loved it at its release in 2012. It made me realize maybe some of the women in my past were not been very "primitive" in their approach, etc. It also made me think of how much simpler it might be to be "primitive" in a relationship. To sample lyrics from the song . . . "cut to the chase" and to "say 'it' yourself" and to be exactly who you are without a need to "boast" and to know the difference between what you "need" and what you "want" and to be blunt and direct about that.

Our primitive forefathers/mothers may have had horrible personal hygiene and they may not have ever used songs by artists from Portland, Oregon to woo each other but primitive (wo)man was probably far more honest about the need for fire, shelter, food, and love. They were probably more "present" with and for each other (if only out of fear of the dinosaurs (yes, I'm aware the two never co-existed)). They probably found the simplicity of their dynamic far more intimate and comforting.

Primitive people then - like primitive girls now - probably freed each other and those who were lucky enough to find a woman that has a "lot" to offer . . . "what 'they' call THE MOST" no less.


Summer Sport Coats . . .

I like to "dress for work" four days a week. You know that old cliche "dress for the job you want - not the one you have"? I LIVE by those words (and I still have a romanticized version of what "men at the top" wear (women have different attire) that is as old as the above cliche . . . the (male) bosses at my office wear golf shirts most days - you would think they were executives at Nike or Under Armour). And I know all of the above is odd and awkward but - it is what it is.

The "core" of my work attire is sport coats, blazers, and v-neck sweaters (during December, January, February, and March), oxfords, and dress pants all above my beloved penny loafers and socks (of varying professionalism).

There is one stretch of the year . . . commonly known as Nasty-Hot-F*cked-Up-Kanas-Summer (that runs from early-May through late-April (I kid, I kid - mid-June through mid-September)) that makes the idea of putting on a jacket to roll out to the office is less, um, desirable. Yet - I do it. Dutifully.

There are a few things I WILL change for my summer coats . . .

  • Less wool, more cotton. While it is a common MIS-perception that wool is "hot" (it is actually highly breathable) it is heavier than cotton and that makes me pissy.
  • Lighter colors. I don't like my body - at ALL - and I don't like it in whites and other colors that make me look my true size so navies, greys, browns, etc. are common year-round but the summer will find me in lighter colors and fabric weights.
  • I wear two-button coats 80% of the time. During the summer - those buttons are useless. I am NOT closing up shop in the heat.
  • Patterns get even more common. The ONLY one-color coats I own are navy blue blazers (which is redundant because ALL blazers are navy blue). Every other coat in my arsenal has at least a "tick" or "weave" in it to keep it interesting. I'll wear straight-up plaids and vivid patters during the warmer, longer days. Because. I. Can.

Sure, sure . . . on Fridays, I'll wear a golf shirt or a crew-neck sweater. I might wear just an oxford button down or whatever. That is 52 days a year. The other 208 I dress for WORK! That doesn't mean I have to suffer.


Sunday Funday . . .

I've mentioned my obsession with archery. THIS guy is (not) "why" I am obsessed nor do I have any urges or desires to be like him or to follow in his brand of of strings and sticks. Yet - you have to gree - he is pretty bad-assed (and awkward).


Independence . . .

I read this amazing article this morning. It is long (sorry, ye of little attention span) and it is not shy or timid about making a point . . . we are all our own people. We are a nation that defies the expectation and traditional definition of what "a people" and "a country" might imply.

As we start a three-day-weekend. As we ready to celebrate the anniversary (which, I'd like to point out was actually yesterday (July 2nd)) of our "forefathers" telling The King to suck it. As we ready for time with friends, family, and the fireworks stand. As we do all this let's remember (as the piece states):

"The challenge, for Americans new and old, is to make a common culture that's greater than the sum of our increasingly diverse parts."

This has been a crazy few weeks for our diverse nation. The central thrust of it is that we are becoming increasingly empowered to be our own people. We're more and more allowed to be, well, independent. This is not a bad thing.

Be excellent to each other.


Great . . .

There is this old audio clip (remember when actual attachments were the only way to share the funny stuff via e-mail) looking the definitions and uses for the word "f*ck"? Yeah, me too. GOOD times. Best of times.

Anywho - the thing was not only funny, it was true. You could/would/should use "f*ck" for a million things and in a million contexts and be right. Every time.

Do you know another word that seems to have this magical, universal meaning? "Great". But - unlike "f*ck" and the joy and thrill the word gives me . . . "great" does the opposite. It makes my face go all the way frowny. It is decidedly NOT great.

Let me illustrate . . .

  • "Let's watch TV." "Great."
  • "The car has a flat tire." "Great."
  • "We're having tuna surprise for dinner tonight." "Great."
  • "How is the new lead cellist?" "Great."
  • "I have had just enough white wine that you can do that thing to me tonight." "Great."
  • "I don't know what you're talking about." "Great."
  • "You are not the father." "Great."
  • "There are no funds available." "Great."
  • "I went ahead and gave you extra fries." "Great."
  • "How was the game?" "Great."
  • "How was the game?" "Great." (pronounced a different way)
  • "I went ahead and took a lover." (half listening) "Great."
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg on how universally applicable and utterly empty the word "great" really is. It doesn't mean anything. It carries no actual weight. It is so abused that even when you DO mean it - in the classic, positive, emphatic way - it is dismissed and minimized and, largely, ignored and undervalued by your listener.

We should broaden our vocabularies and bring more words in to discussions where every one of them has their own actual meaning and value. That would be GREAT.


2015 Objectives (Update 6) ...

"They" say that if you want to reach your goals - you should share them and your progress. Soooooo . . .

  1. Read 24 (or more) books (for ME - reading with my daughter doesn't count). 11.25 finished. I'm behind on pace but confident. My June reads were/are fantastic, for the record.
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 16.5 miles/week (430 total miles - I was also lazy in June but I'm back at it now and feeling optimistic about my training for the summer/fall)
  3. Finish a half marathon in under three hours (as many tries at it takes). Next chance at this will likely be October 11th. I may get another one on the calendar for later in October, too. Just in case. I've also got two 5Ks and a 10K scheduled for the fall, too. 
  4. Lose 100 Pounds. That's right. Get. Less. Fat. 39 pounds down (June was rough, people. I think I technically gained weight. I'm back on the diet horse, too.)
  5. Reduce wasteful spending by 10% (this is actually more about not growing my spending - I'm pretty friggin' frugal now). Reduced overall spending by 28% year-to-date. I'm calling this one a victory. 
  6. Increase savings contributions by 12.5% (I've been pretty minimal on this one lately - time to grow my future). Updated 401K, IRA, 529, Investments, and Insurance products by 113%.
  7. Earn college credits (I'm going back to school, one way or another, in 2015). I have an application in at WSU. We'll see if they accept me. Still working on this one.
  8. Reduce social media time by 25% (10 minutes/day or less). Logging an average of just over 6 minutes/day (not including blogging, or efforts for work and/or my congregation). I am going to make this one work.