Spaghetti Drama (She Said) . . .

Welcome to the first (but unlikely to be last) version of "he said/she said" here on Crack of Sean. 

For this delightful trip down memory lane, we will be regaling you with tales of the biggest, dumbest fight (of the four official ones we've had in the nearly three years we've known each other) we’ve ever had. Ever. And this should give you context in to how we actually roll at the Amore home - for better or for worse.  

Presented, without additional ado, is the "Great Spaghetti Fight of 2015."  Since chivalry is not (yet) dead in our life . . . let's get the "she said" perspective first. Presented below (with the ONLY editing done being removing my daughter's name from the post (long story short - I made a promise to her mother years ago to stop naming my ex-wife or our daughter by name on the blog (don't ask)) is SLF's memory of the incident in her own, eloquent words:

It was the evening of Saturday, May 2, 2015. In several hours, this man, whom I love dearly, would embark on his second half-marathon – the culmination of MONTHS of dedicated training. Seriously – he gets up at 4:45am most mornings to run for a couple of hours before he comes home to begin the day. Dedication. With a capital D. He also tends to get a little, shall we say, ramped up about big life events, so the mood around our house that evening was a bit tense to say the least.

So it’s evening. Sean and the kiddo were in the den, no doubt with some mind-numbing YouTube video playing in the background. I asked if anyone had any thoughts on dinner. No one did. I went into the kitchen, took an inventory, and decided to make spaghetti. I figured pasta=carbo-loading – everyone wins, right? Now, to be fair, I did not share my plans with anyone. No, “Hey, I’m gonna make spaghetti – any objections?” shouted into the abyss. I just went about my business. I’ve also been at this rodeo before, so I did not combine all the ingredients into a big pot of spaghetti like a normal person would. Instead, once the food was ready, I took orders. “Who wants just plain noodles with butter and cheese?” (Read: The eight-year-old) “Does anyone want just sauce and cheese (Read: The semi-kashrut Jew at the other end of the couch)?” Sean responded that he wasn’t interested in any of it. 

Thus began the fight.

I was annoyed. He hadn’t had any thoughts on dinner 20 minutes ago, but now he clearly did. But I wasn’t MAD yet. Just annoyed. And admittedly, being a bit passive aggressive. He came into the kitchen and asked if I was mad. In an effort to honor my promise to be more forthcoming with my “feelings,” I responded that yes, I was a little annoyed. To fix my annoyance, he started aggressively filling a bowl with ALL the spaghetti ingredients (while also storming around and swearing). He proceeded to eat it in silence over the course of the next hour. In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear, dinner conversation that evening was minimal.

Fast forward a few hours. The kiddo was in bed. Sean and I were still not speaking. At some point, I heard him vomiting in the bathroom, without mention. He eventually went to bed. I followed shortly thereafter, but not before completing my nighttime routine, which on this particular evening included cleaning regurgitated spaghetti sauce off the back of my toilet. So at this point, I realize that this man has eaten the spaghetti and then thrown it up. Which pissed me off WAY more than if he had just not eaten the spaghetti in the first place. Seriously. Grown man. Knows own limits. Ate spaghetti out of a) some misguided attempt to undo my annoyance, or b) some even MORE passive aggressive attempt to demonstrate what a bad idea spaghetti was, or c) spite alone. I. Was. Livid.

I don’t recall speaking to him upon entering our bedroom. I crawled into bed and stayed as far away from his as possible (which, frankly, is a surprising distance given that we are two morbidly obese people in a queen-sized bed, but whatever). There was no good night kiss, no “I love you,” no “Good luck with the race tomorrow.” Just anger. And at some point, this man, whom I love dearly, literally TEXTED me, “Good night. I love you.” From the other. side. of. the. bed. Which I blatantly, completely, overtly ignored. Livid.

The next morning, he got up and left for the race. I think I said, “Good luck,” but I’m not really sure. We met him at the finish line, proudly, supportively, lovingly. By this time, my anger had mostly subsided. I was also comforted by the knowledge that his angst about the race would be gone and we could get back to our regularly scheduled programming. And I was right. We had a very straightforward conversation in the car later that morning where he disclosed a story from his adolescence that ended in eating WAY too much spaghetti to the point of illness. It all became clear. (Truth be told, learning that made me ever-so-briefly even angrier with him that he KNEW he would have that reaction and ATE THE G.D. SPAGHETTI ANYWAY, but I got over it – ish.)

So the bottom line is, we don’t eat spaghetti anymore. Or lasagna. Or goulash. Or anything resembling pasta, tomato sauce, and meat. And I’m OK with that. If I have a brilliant idea for dinner, I also run it by the key stakeholders first to make sure there are no lifelong food aversions that will rear their ugly heads. And occasionally – OCCASIONALLY – we are able to joke about texting from the other side of the bed.

Goodonya', love. But TOMORROW - I tell my side.


Advice for Me . . .

I am thoroughly bummed out by the last 24-or-so-hours.

Two people were shot and killed on live TV and the world wants to watch video of their murder from BOTH angles. Their murderer, for the record, ended out just killing himself anyway (making me AGAIN wonder aloud why the homicides first). A guy was sentenced to return to jail for failing a drug test and choose to kill himself - in the courtroom - instead. A double homicide took place at a convenience store. That was just the murder part of the day. Headlines were full of rapes and racism and hate speech and divisiveness. A baby panda even died at a friggin' zoo.

So here's my post for the day. Simple advice from me - to me (and you're welcome to take it, too).

Keep perspective.

The world lost six good people and a murderer too cowardly to face justice for what he did yesterday. But it also lost thousands of people in other, less-violent ways. Surrounded (in theory) by those who love them. Moreover it gained thousands of people born surrounded (in theory) by those who will love them. ALL those loses are horribly tragic and sad and can and should and will be mourned. But they didn't happen to or in front of you.

It happened yesterday. It will happen today. It will happen, again, tomorrow. It will happen until - eventually - you and those you love are in the count of those who go. Just hope that you're in the latter camp . . . surrounded by love and at peace. And "peace" means not too freaked out by how deadly things seem to be on random Tuesdays in August.

In the meantime - something that made me smile and cry (the good tears) at day's end. Good advice for anyone, at any age.


Double "Standards" . . .

Our horrible show, that no one has been talking about, is getting attention for
us making a pedophilia joke, Yay us, right? Yay. Us. Right.
A disclosure - I do not find Amy Poehler funny. No. Not because I'm one of those dicks that doesn't think women can be/are funny - I just do not enjoy the particular brand of humor she brings to the proverbial party.

I would be a liar if I said I've never laughed at her urging or actions or words or efforts or whatever but I would also be a liar if I said I got it/her.

I tried (TRIED) to read her book "Yes, Please" and while I found it to be a little too allllll over the place (think of an awkward memoir mixed with comedic vignettes married to a funny, pixie-dust covered "Lean In") something did stick out for me . . . Poehler seemed genuine in her desire to help girls feel more empowered and aware of themselves and their opportunities.

True to form - Poehler also has a venture called "Smart Girls" (you can tell it is her initiative because where it might be most impactful to just call the venture, well, Smart Girls this one puts her name first). The group is actually pretty great (he says, the father of a young daughter) and their site and social media offshoots have lots of things that might grab the attention of or inspire young girls (like the aforementioned daughter). NO complaints there - but here's why I'm confused.

Poehler, a self-appointed icon (maybe not her word) of 21st Century Feminism (and more power to her and all the other feminists at sea) but she is, in her free and professional time, a comedian, writer, director, producer, etc. While maybe it is not fair to presume - I presume (anyway) that she would marry those personal values and professional values with cohesion. Agree? Read on.

Poehler is the producer of a new show on Hulu (stop laughing) called "Difficult People." The show is based, as one might presume, on two generally unlikable, self-absorbed, obtuse people who float around New York City making snide, cynical comments about people and things and life as a whole. The humor is "dark" and "edgy" and there are "no rules" and blah, blah, blah.

I'm fine with this. Many of my favorite comedians skew "uncomfortable" (George Carlin, Louis C. K., Richard Prior, Amy Schumer, Mel Brooks, Moshe Kasher, Tig Notaro, Jim Norton, etc.) and they push and pull at our expectations to great effect. The key is that they don't pretend to be shining examples or empowers. They act as people with little more than observer's glasses and megaphones as their cherished belongings. That works for them.

I get that this tone and dark voice are what Poehler and her show's stars (both extremely funny, according to their respective camps and fans) are going for. But they can't, in my opinion, get there.

HERE is why I'm upset (600 words in to the post) . . . in an early episode of the show (in its first and let's presume/hope last season) the female lead on the show Julie Klausner is upset because she Tweeted a joke (on the show - not in real life) that made a bunch of people upset. She's confused by their scorn. I, of course, see this as internal dialogue (the show goes out of its way to show that the joke is wrong and unfunny and will upset and seems almost seems to want that reaction but then they tell the joke) and her male co-star (Billy Eichner) asks what she said she here is the joke

"I can't wait for Blue Ivy to be eighteen years old so R. Kelly can piss on her."

All the moody, "who cares" millennials (and Paula Poundstone - herself a woman who pleaded "no contest" to child endangerment on molestation charges in 2001) go nuts with laughter.

Not only is the joke NOT funny (in any way, manner, shape, or form - and, trust me, I WANT to laugh at it because I fear it otherwise proves I am softening in my old age) but it seems rather difficult for me to square away.

How does a woman who is a feminist and wants girls to feel empowered, etc. make/allow that joke? How is she fine with humor about a girl being pissed on by a known pedophile? How does she think sexual assault and other crimes committed against women are funny?

I know, I know. Double standard. Judd Apatow has a wife and kids and he makes sexist, snide jokes in all of his movies (none (that I can remember), I'd like to point out, about sexual assault of a minor) and I don't know who the above named comedians laid down with at night or what they really love behind the scenes. But here is why I don't think it is a double standard on my part . . . none of them, to my knowledge, claim to want to empower anyone beyond professional networking and generous tipping.

More over - why NAME the little girl? Why does this girl (the child of famous parents (Beyonce Knowles and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter), for the record) have to be used in a joke? And why clarify that you want her to be 18 when the golden showers fall? Does that make you less of a creep?

Here is the real question - reverse it. Would Amy Poehler allow the joke to stay in the show if they said they can't wait for one of Poehler's two sons (Archibald (7) and Abel (5) if Wikipedia is to be believed) to be old enough to be pissed on by a pedophile? Would she let Tina Fey's daughter be named in the joke? Would those three kids be named fodder in a send up of being humiliated and assaulted by a rapist/pedophile? No.

The answer is a simple "no." NO chance it stands. NO chance it goes. Poehler would have shut that down - and with GOOD reason. Yet Poehler, who claims to be an advocate for all girls (old and young) will allow this joke to fly with another girl in the mix.

I say and do a lot of unacceptable things about a lot of people, places, and things. I do it for laughs. I do it for indignance. I do it for genuine frustration. I do it for a host of reasons. But I don't pretend to hold those things precious or dear if only so they are close by when I want to strike out at them.


False Regret . . .

No. Not tears of remorse. Tears of joy over getting a yellow jacket and a
place in Canton, Ohio in the NFL Hall of Fame.
You may (or may not - and if NOT, BLESS YOU, good people) have heard about NFL alumni/Hall of Famer Cris Carter and a presentation he made (while sitting alongside NFL veteran, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp - himself twice arrested (once for domestic abuse, once for soliciting a prostitute) to NFL rookies on how to avoid trouble.

While it is actually laughable that the NFL pretends to care about these issues, they "do" and they force incoming NFL players to participate so that guys that have been through the proverbial fire can give real tips and advice on coping with the pressures of the league. I know, I know, I know. How fantastically rich that a league that punishes players more for soft balls on the field than hard punches on the jaws of their spouses wants to be proactive in helping their players be model citizens.

Anywho - here is the rub . . . Carter advises these young players to establish a "fall guy" that will take the jail time if drinking or other criminal activity catches up with the player and his "crew." He even jokes about that they will do it because they are sucking at the teet of the player and that they will do it for the huge cash payout the player will give them to keep them and their reputation clean.

The BEST part of this lunacy and absurdity is - for over a year - the video was available on the NFL's own website. You can watch the "highlights" of the discussion (the NFL has since deleted the video from their site, I'm SHOCKED to report) here.

What lead to the removal? A player who was highly coveted and recruited and then spent one year in the league and retired . . . because of concerns for long-term health concerns about playing in the league mentioned the presentation in an interview. It seems he was so uncomfortable in a room where two "Legends of the Game" were behaving in unacceptable ways that he wanted to leave.

But here is the BEST part since the story broke a few days ago - more disingenuous crap from the NFL and Hall of Famer Carter and the league that admonished him.

Here is the league's response:

"We completely disagree with Cris's remarks and we have made that extremely clear to him. Those views were entirely his own and do not reflect our company's point of view in any way."

Oh - but don't worry - they had invited Mr. Carter back to speak at another symposium since and they left the video on their site for over a year. A strong, strong disconnect from the sort of disappointment I might show in similar positions.

Here is Cris Carter's blather (via Twitter, I'd like to point out):

Wow, Cris. Strong sense of self there, buddy. But in the video he seems very proud of himself and his advice. He seems very sure in his positions. He seems very comfortable. But, yeah, in a world of "Hashtags and Re-Tweets" (S. Carter) he is going to get by on that. 

Look. I hate the NFL. It is a league that is literally profiting off men hurting their bodies and minds and shorten their own lives and reducing the quality of them for - on average - very little actual compensation. It is a group that protects and empowers domestic abusers, gun brandishers, drunk drivers, rapists, statutory rapists, deadbeat parents, and overall bad people (among thousands of men who do their job and act like we would expect any adult to act). This group still, miraculously, is adored by millions and millions of people every Sunday and year-round. They have it all - the money, the adoration, the untouchability. And "we" cheer for them. We enjoy the hypocrisy of men telling other men to get a "fall guy" at a place designed for them to learn their real responsibilities. We let a league distance themselves from statements in a hotel ballroom while protecting others who punch the actual breathe out of their future wives. We enjoy men shorten and degrading their own lives for our entertainment (unless they drop a pass - then we boo them). We love the false regret because "we" have no regrets about loving it to begin with.


Hold On . . .

There are parts of parenting that are wonderful and blessed and full. When your child can ride her bike to and from a spot without fear or endangerment. When reading at night becomes a 66% her, 34% you proposition. These are all terrific things that you work and wait and struggle and aspire to.

The delays and the wait are well worth it. You don't really think about it and you don't stress over it - you just sort of let it happen. THEN there are the parts of parenting that require patience that make me super, super grumpy.

Case in point . . . "Hold" and "on" are the most uttered words in the Amore household. And never calmly or in a controlled or musical way.

To be clear, the words can be beautiful and musical:

Wilson Phillips wants you to do it (for at least another day or so) . . .

The Alabama Shakes what you to do it . . . 

Tom Waits is fine if you decide to do it . . . 

Drake insists you do it (in 2015 or 1985) . . . 

Dierks Bentley is doing it (for a truck) . . . 

Colbie Caillat is being implored to do it . . . 

The Buble is there for you if you want to do it . . . 

But in our house it always sounds like some nasal explosion of angst, frustration, and procrastination.
  • "Time to go." . . . "Hold on."
  • "What is 3 x 9" . . . "Hold on."
  • "Would you please turn that off so we can get going" . . . "Hold on."
  • "I need help with this homework." . . . "Hold on."
  • "I'm not sure how much more I can do." . . . "Hold on."
  • "The car broke down and we're halfway over this cliff and there is a lion coming to eat us. I'm going to get help. Just hold on."

You get the point.We can and should all be better about it - both the sense of urgency and the appropriate context for that urgency. 

I guess, in the grand scheme of things there are worst dual-syllabic utterances we could toss back and forth but I'm growing impatient with the hold on. 


Sunday Funday . . .

I don't care about this song (I'm at least 20 years too old) and Justin Bieber is far, far from captivating but this video is sorta mesmerizing.


Balding . . .

Wish as I might, I'll never look like Stanley Tucci
I've ranted and raved for years and years about a simple crisis in America . . . that men and women (this is not just a sexist problem forced upon women) obsess over their hair. I'm not kidding. It is an actual problem. If only half of the average Americans in the world spend eight minutes a day on her hair (a statistic I just made up) 21.2MM hours per day . . . PER DAY are wasted on the pursuit of coiffed perfection.

And why? So the humidity, wind, activities, and nature of the day can destroy it. This sounds like late-80s stand-up but if you've ever been late to a function or waited and waited for the preparation of the perfect hair you'll know that it can feel like 21.MM hours each day, each person.

You know who gets their 21.2MM hours per day back? Bald men. And bald women. And bald babies. They give zero f*cks and enjoy those eight minutes doing more important things - like trying to figure out why the four slots on their toaster all toast at completely inconsistent levels. Or maybe that is just our home and my use of the time.

You see, dear reader (and I hope you're sitting down) I am a balding, American man. Don't worry. I've got an asymmetrical face and fat body to keep me sexy for years and decades to come. More importantly - I don't care about my general appearance.

No, no. This is not one of those "I'm too important to care" or a "I've got a wonderful person who loves me so my appearance matters not" or a "Protest as much as you can and hope Shakespeare doesn't point out how odd that is" things . . . it is truly something I'm comfortable with and okay with.

It started when I was 19 (twenty years ago) and it has been slow and gracious and I had a TON of hair to start so - for much of my regression no one has really noticed (and many have even argued) but I got ahead of it and have owned it.

I started "buzzing" my hair over a decade ago. First with a "six" guard (6/8") and then a five, etc. all the way down to my current conundrum . . . to move from the two (1/4") to the one (1/8"). That is the final hoorah for me. That last real optional step down. From there it is the 1/16" guard (basically to stop you from gnawing the crap out of your own scalp) and then, deep gulp, it is safety razors and lavender lather for the rest of my beautiful life with a wonderful person who loves me and doesn't care about my appearance.

But, hey, I'll have eight minutes to obsess over my toaster, sleep, or gripe about the world around us while you're working that thick, luxurious mane you're burdened with. Suckers.


Fourth Grader . . .

It is hard to believe but I have a fourth grader living in my house. Yesterday was her first day of school and she gave her teacher and emphatic "thumbs across" (apparently she loves dogs and clog dancing but took away recess time because some kids were talking).

More important than her neutral review of a woman she's only known/toiled under for seven hours of her life - she was really excited to be back in school and seems thrilled to be a fourth grader.

I've mentioned before that fourth grade was my LEAST favorite year of school. I didn't like that we moved. I didn't like my teacher. I didn't like any of my classmates (they were new - we all wound out friends). I didn't like anything about the whole thing.

The kid is already off to a better start. I knew I didn't like my teacher before the year ever even started. There was nothing "neutral" about my review of her and it only got worse from there.

I like that my kid has her own perspectives and opinions and likes and dislikes. I like that she's comfortable enough to give a mixed review to someone. I like that she's my kid. I like that she's her own person. I like that she likes fourth grade.


Progressive Kansans . . .

I saw TWO things Saturday morning that made me feel good about Kansas. Sure, sure. I ALWAYS feel good about Kansas and believe in her and her people but there are days and moments where the actions of our elected officials (or the fact that people have elected them or chosen not to vote at all - essentially voting for their least favorite politician in the void) when I get nervous but I saw these two things Saturday morning that made me realize that everything is going to be okay . . .

1) An Old Couple Holding Hands While Walking

So I'm barely in to my eight mile of my Saturday morning long run and I round a corner and - in front of me - is the cutest, sweetest couple walking down the street. Two older men (probably in their 60s) and they are sorta' silhouetted by a still-rising sun behind them in the east and they are clearly holding hands as they walk and talk and laugh. I make eye contact with both of them (a thing in itself as I rarely even acknowledge other people exist - much less look them in the face - while out running) and they smile at me and keep walking and holding hands. Now, I don't look intimidating (especially while dripping sweat and unable to breathe) but I have to presume that these men both knew times in their life - maybe not even long ago - when they might not have been so likely to hold hands while walking down the street. Yet there they were . . . happy and enjoying the weather and the cling of the other's hand.

2) This . . . 

Seen on the front door of The Spice Merchant on east Douglas. No doubt a nod to any pizzeria or bakery that might refuse to cater a gay wedding or a business that might want to be included under this absurd Executive Order from "our" Governor (which is not intended for businesses, for the record).

Love Wins, Kansas. Love wins.


How Do I Live (Without You)? . . .

It was eighteen years ago - this time of year - that I returned to college for my senior year with plans to make two songs my new unofficial anthems . . . "It's All About the Benjamins (Baby)" by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs featuring the Notorious B.I.G., the Lox, and Lil' Kim (specifically the far superior "rock remix" (start the video at 2:28, you won't regret it) and the ballad "How Do I Live?" by the one and only LeAnn Rimes. Or so I thought.

It turns out that at the same time I was hoping to woo the ladies through the warble of Ms. Rimes, SLF was in the heartland trying to woo the fellas under the effort of Trisha Yearwood . . . while she sang the same song. 

So here is a sorta answer the age-old questions that we never knew needed to be answered (but has become an oft-revisited source or debate (not "argument" - "debate" in our house) until now - which came first, and who did it better? The history of "How Do I Live?"

First . . . the facts.

Release Date: Tuesday, May 27, 1997
Copies Sold: +3,000,000 hard copies (+4,000,000 more in the "digital age")
Billboard Positioning Success: Entered the charts on June 14, 1997. Peaked at #2 (behind Elton John's tribute to Princess Diana) but spent 32 weeks in the Top 10 and a total of 69 (giggle) weeks on the Billboard "Hot 100" (a fete bested only once since). The song remains the fourth-best selling single ever and is the most successful song in the history of the Billboard charts by a female artist (take THAT, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You"). 
Awards and Accolades: The song is still the most commercially successful country song in the history of the genre. Her version was nominated for a GRAMMY for "Best Female Vocal Country Performance" 
Official Video:

Release Date: Tuesday, May 27, 1997
Copies Sold: 300,000 hard copies (Almost 2,000,000 more have sold in the "digital age")
Billboard Positioning Success: Entered the charts on June 14, 1997. Peaked at #23 on the charts and left the charts within 10 weeks
Awards and Accolades: Nominated for and WON "Best Female Vocal Country Performance", Won a Country Music Award ("Female Vocalist of the Year") and was nominated for an Academy Award/Oscar (it lost to a little, barely-heard ballad from a small, independent film called "My Heart Will Go On" from the film Titanic") and won her an Academy of Country Music award for "Female Vocal"
Official Video:

So how did all this  happen? Two versions of the same song, written and produced by the same people and label coming out on the same day and one being hugely successful to some and the other being superior to others? How did one do so well on the charts and the other so well with awards? As different as Nicolas Cage and John Cusack? As various in placements as Con Air and Days of Our Lives? Simple. 


The song was written by Diane Warren (to that point one of the most prolific and successful songwriters ever) FOR LeAnn Rimes to sing and the song was to be featured on the Con Air soundtrack in 1997. Rimes sang it and proverbially killed it. Then the film producers found out that Rimes was only FOURTEEN when she recorded it. They freaked and worried about the commercial viability about a love so strong the loss of it would crush a lover coming from a barely teenaged songstress. So they hired Trisha Yearwood (32 at the time) to do it over. The song was featured in the movie and her video for the song features footage from the film. 

LeAnn Rimes' manager (and father) was livid. He exercised their rights on the song and pushed it immediately to the pop charts to prove to the film company that they had made a mistake. 

Fun fact: NEITHER version of the song appears on the Con Air soundtrack (it is only the score to the movie) but the parent company that owned the musical rights to both versions was so worried about the success of both versions of the song eating in to the success of either version of the song decided almost immediately to stop releasing/selling singles of the Yearwood version. Since her version could no longer be bought (they printed just 300,000 copies) it could not climb the charts. So Rimes was even more successful and the staying power of the song was even longer. Poor Trisha Yearwood.

To this day, neither woman has had a hit anywhere nearly as successful. 


Sunday Funday . . .

The first country song I've enjoyed since Tim McGraw proclaimed himself an "Indian Outlaw." Or was it Shania Twain saying that "From This Moment On" she was going to be the queen of wedding first dances and very little more? No matter. This song is lovely. Sidebar - Katy Perry's (or was it Jill Sobule's) "I Kissed a Girl" this is not . . . the singer covets another woman's lover.


Bernie Sanders . . .

Before I get too far in to what I'm about to say, let me clarify that I'm a long, long fan of the Clintons and Hillary specifically. She really is, I think, the best shot we (liberals) have at getting a president elected in 2016. It won't be easy. She's not perfect and her stubborn resolve, frustration over political challenges and loses in the past, and her gender and age (just being honest) will make it tough but I think she can and will do it.

That being established - I'm sorta in political love with Vermont Senator, mensch, and liberal's liberal's liberal (because apparently being labeled a socialist makes you a bad person) Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, a Jewish politician born in 1941 in Brooklyn was raised in a lower/middle-class, working-class family. He went to college in Brooklyn and then Chicago, lived in Israel (on a kibbutz) and then moved home and tried, to no success, to start his political career in the late-60s/early-70s. He eventually became Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (one of America's great liberal cities) in 1981. He served four, consecutive two year terms. He was elected to Congress in 1990 and, in 1991, started his tenure as a federal official as an Independent in the US House of Representatives with the Progressive Caucus at his back. He served there for eight terms and then became a Senator and was re-elected in 2012.

He's spent the entirety of his elected life and political career advocating for something we should all believe in - the middle class and the opportunity for everyone to feel connected to and empowered by the American dream (safety, true equality, security, help for those in need, education, business, jobs, opportunity, etc.).

I don't know when these ideas became taboo or crazy or when they became liberal insanity. There is nothing wrong with any of the ideas or notions Sanders has believed in, fought for, and pushed at every opportunity.

I would love a President Sanders. He's not overly handsome or charming so no one will discount him for looks and slick-ness (not a word). He's extremely bright and articulate (so no one will out smart him). He's very strong in his resolve and unwavering in his positions (so no one will dupe him). He's passionate about equality (so no one will paint him in to a corner of arrogance or exclusion).

Alas . . . I fear it is not a real possibility (as much as I would love it). Hillary Clinton has 19,000,000,000,000,000 more dollars, connections, and supporters. She has all the "my turn" favoritism that fuels American politics in general and she will not be denied in 2016.

The poll numbers show Bernie serging. People love him. They love his no-nonsense approach and his direct talk. He is the calmer, more sophisticated Donald Trump (his speak your mind schtick is just a little more refined). He has all the things people should like. Yet if you look at the polling data beyond the top figures he has one huge flaw, actual electability. People want to love him they want his ideas and his positions and they'd like his reality but they don't want to vote for him because they don't think he could beat Bush, Walker, or Rubio (the likely Republican nominees - at this point (for the record no one actually plans to vote for Donald Trump as a Republican and he's quickly missing windows to change affiliations and get on the ballot in key primary states as an Independent so his run will self-implode).

BUT here is why Bernie is still great (and gets monthly donations from me and his bumper sticker on my car) . . . he's challenging Hillary. He's forcing her to be more straight in her positions and intentions. He's forcing her to be more liberal. He's forcing her to take opposition seriously (she didn't take freshman Senator Obama seriously in 2008 - she won't make that mistake eight years later). He's getting her more prepared for those thee fellas waiting in the wings to take her on when the smoke clears next Spring.

Give 'em heck, Bernie. You've got my full support for as long as you're running.


For the Sake of Arguing . . .

I had after-dinner drinks on Tuesday with one of my favorite people here in Wichita. I won't name-names (as is my custom) but he's a bright, engaging, thoughtful thinker and I always enjoy chatting with him even if only for a few minutes and casually.

But this was not a few minutes or casual and we talked, for almost two hours, about one of the three things you're "never" supposed to talk about . . . G-d/religion.

My friend, it turns out, was a religion major in college and has a long, complicated, and fascinating past with religion and faith as does his wife and two sons. But none of that is relevant here . . .

What is relevant is that, as he and I were chatting and I was sucking down Diet Pepsi like an actual fiend, I realized something: I'm way, way less likely to argue and fight than I used to be. NOT that he was looking for a fight. I arrived at this at an odd moment. We were actually agreeing how silly it is when people get so dug in on their beliefs - or lack of - that they fight over something that really doesn't matter (disclaimer - if your faith/religion motivates other actions having nothing to do with a relationship with G-d it becomes relevant again) and I realized, mid sip, that I used to totally be that guy.

NOT about religion or faith. I've always been live and let live unless it is complaining about those pain-in-the-ass CAPITAL C "CHRISTIANS" that have to save your eternal soul or just be annoying about how G-d fearing they are and/or any other form of religious extremism (Jews included). Nope. About ANYTHING.

You like Mounds over Almond Joy? You're an idiot. You enjoy Harry Potter movies? Wait until puberty hits and/or I'm sorry your childhood was marred by a family member. You adore Steve Jobs and honestly believe he invented ANYTHING or did ANYTHING good EVER? Eat an actual male genital. You need Twitter and Facebook and your connections on it to feel validated? Get a hug and/or some help. And I would all but demand the person argued back. I wanted it. I needed it. I argued for the sake of arguing. Sad, really.

That was me for a long, long time (and probably up until about a year ago, frankly).

I'm not sure what has changed or why. I still RAGE OUT for 75 - 90 minutes over all of the above and way, way less important crap but not AT the person. Nope. I just do that at SLF and/or whomever happens to ask me how my day was.

It might be maturity. It might be exhaustion. It might be confidence and comfort in me finally setting in as a head toward 40. Hard to say but I like it. I like it a LOT. And I hope the rest of the world does, too. Have your favorable opinions on the Kardashians and Donald Trump, people - I won't argue anymore no matter how much I might disagree.


Iced Coffee . . .

For many years, despite living in downtown DC where there were no less than EIGHT Starbucks and dozens of places to "get a coffee" between my house, the Metro, the Metro, and my office that I never even TRIED coffee.

To prevent leaving blame at the feet of the world's largest coffee-opoly I should clarify that I never liked coffee, the smell of it, the notion of it, or the "need" mentality so many have around it. Coffee, for me, is something my father brews and drinks by the pot and something Cathy had on her, un-ironically, coffee mug. It seemed like the crutch of the masses. Not the "religion is a crutch"-crutch (which it is . . . but the best possible kind of crutch) but a crutch none-the-less.

Yet, after years and years and years of refusing (save frappuccinos (NOT coffee (they are MILKSHAKES) and frozen espresso drinks from au bon pain) to consume even a drop of coffee - in any form - I . . . one day . . . broke down and had an iced coffee (and by that I mean a few ounces of coffee, a bunch of ice, several ounces of milk and 1,000,000 packets of Splenda in a cup).

What a FOOL I had been. HOW could I have been so stupid? HOW could the world have been spinning this at this speed of obvious enlightenment and, yet, there I was just standing STILL? Since then . . . gallons and gallons of iced coffee (with the milk and sweeteners) have gone down my gullet with gusto and the crutch of support it offers is not lost on me. It is cherished on and with me.

But a few weeks ago I did something truly, amazingly, and unselfishly bold . . . I got the iced coffee without all the dairy and without all the Splenda. It took several, several sips to accept this black, satiny G-dess for what she was but when it hit me (and by that I mean the buzz) it HIT me. So I looked at the young fella behind the bar and asked "What the heck is this?" and he said COLD BREWED ICED COFFEE (with COLD BREWED ICED COFFEE ICE CUBES) and I flipped the proverbial f*ck out. Mind actually blown (figuratively).

Apparently this is a thing . . . cold brewing coffee like so much sun tea - a mysterious joy of summer. But here's where the plot of this moment of true zen got nutso . . . it was apparently FLAVORED coffee. Cinnamon chip, no less. Cinnamon is one of my favorite flavors in the whole, wide world. YAHTZEE!

So this weekend I'm going to march (drive - I will be well in to a nine mile run before the sun even rises - cut me some friggin' slack) myself down to the Spice Merchant and get a pound (or two) of flavored coffee and I'm going to make this sorta sweet, sorta buzzy beverage part of my life.


Vacation . . .

So we left our house on Thursday afternoon (7/30) and got home on Sunday afternoon (8/9). For the eleven days in the middle, we were on vacation. I don't do "vacation" well. Yet - I have to admit - this was an amazing trip.

I don't toss the word "amazing" around lightly. Sure, sure . . . I'll declare a batch of hummus "amazing" and I will declare a book or TV show "amazing" but I am a dark, cloudy soul and I don't enjoy much that life has to offer (save pureed beans and pop culture) but it would be disingenuous of me to not acknowledge here that I had an AMAZING trip. 

Here, in simple list form (and no particular order) are my ten favorite moments/things from the trip (there were many, many more).
  1. My first Southwest flight. We got to the airport at 4:10 AM CT on a Sunday morning. The airline gave me nothing more than that to complain about. It is cliche but I'm now one of their evangelists. Eat it, American Airlines.
  2. I got to see two young people who love each other very, very much stand in front of family, friends, and G-d and exchange marital vows. That gets me every time. EVERY time.
  3. I walked and ran my hometown for the first time in the 30 years I've known the town (I was nine when we moved there) and I can tell you it is smaller than I remembered. Not figuratively - but literally. Main street is about a half-mile long. In my head . . . at LEAST a mile.
  4. We saw an amazing sunset over Cayuga Lake and felt small in the context of it.
  5. I got to spend about a week bopping around my "old stomping grounds" with the two most important people in my life.  
  6. I spent time with my entire family and SLF's entire family. These are the 23 most important people in our lives and they are all better and brighter than I deserve and they are all way better and way brighter in person than they are via digital or phone interaction. 
  7. My entire family has now met SLF and they, as I suspected knew they might would, like adore her.
  8. I found Yahweh. You just have to go to Lewisburg, PA and turn left. Of course this would be WAY cooler if this encampment was not a group of Messianic Jews (which I'm very confused and put out by - they believe that all Jews should be returned to Israel so they can be killed so that Jesus will come, again . . . ish).
  9. I ate at Ithaca Bakery. Twice. In 24 hours. And I had Sweet CORNell ice cream. And we went to Footie's Freez. And we had some of my mother's raspberry freezer jam. Dinner at Friendly's. We had Matchbox. We had Potbelly. Pizza and mozzy sticks at Pontillo's. There was lunch at Dinosaur Barbecue. And . . . well . . . we ate some good stuff on the trip.
  10. SLF and I got a date night and spent it in the shadows of the Capitol, the White House, the National Mall, and other places I loved in my DC days.
Do yourself a favor, fellow work-a-holics. Pack up the things and people you love and go see other people and things you love. It is AMAZING.


2015 Objectives (Update 7) ...

"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). 13.8 finished. I'm behind on pace but confident. My July reads made me happy and August should get me back on track.
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 16 miles/week (522 total miles - I missed some runs the last week-or-so in July. There is something going on with my feet, ankles, and shins. I'm back now, though.)
  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. I'm not doing well on weight loss. Long story - short version is that I love food and it loves me. Just ask it. Or check its Facebook relationship status.
  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 under five minutes/day (not including blogging, or efforts for work and/or my congregation). I am going to make this one work.
  9. General Nutrition. I'm starting this one. Still not sure how I'm going to quantify or track it but I'm looking at recipes and looking around at various food and options that make me happy and that can help me be more healthy. 
  10. Food Diversity. I enjoyed some soy, some nut/legume proteins, and more egg whites in July. I'm also doing more fruits and vegetables, too. And I loathe fruits and vegetables. 


Sunday Funday . . .

I'm enjoying the light and airy stuff lately. Don't hate. Okay - fine - hate.


Sunday Funday . . .

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is one of those movies that just looks "good" to me. Yes. I'll admit it - I have liked ALL the Guy Ritchie films (other than the one with Madonna on the beach (Swept Away?)) but my favorites were the Sherlock Holmes reboots and this one seems on par/ahead of those. I'm excited to see it this month!