Rosemary & Thyme . . .

I can't tell you how much I enjoy things intended for middle aged women who prefer elastic-waisted pants. It really, truly is one of my favorite things. You give me a (late-90s) episode of "Days of Our Lives" or an episode of "The Golden Girls" or "60 Minutes" (say nothing of knitting needles, red wine with ice cubes, and discreet sex toys - er MASSAGERS) and I'm in. ALL the way in.

Something else I love more than drinks on the lanai? TV shows about detectives and sleuths. "Poirot"? "Psych"? "Murder She Wrote" (I'm even more shocked than you that I've never done a post on Angela Lansbury's splendor)? I'm in. For that matter - Terriers, Monk, Columbo . . . line 'em up.

FORGET anything that combines my two real loves (in this context) . . . detective shows targeted squarely at middle-aged women. Enter my latest obsession and binge watch . . . "Rosemary & Thyme" and all its magic.

Let me explain (because I'm willing to bet you've never heard of this gem of the mid-naughts). Rosemary Boxer, at show's start, is a well-known and beloved academic who specializes in plants and is on romantic "holiday" (the show is British) with a fellow professor. Laura Thyme, a devoted gardener and horticultural perfectionist, is seen - at show's start - leaving her home after he husband left her for a 23-year-old tart (her word, not mine). The two women turn out to be house guests for the same wealthy businessman and an unlikely friendship is borne out of the death of their host. Along the way Rosemary loses her job and Lara discovers she might be okay without her husband, too.

By episode these women - until recently perfect strangers - are business partners in a gardening business specializing in clients about to come in to murder and they share bedrooms everywhere they go (all guest rooms in England, apparently, have two single beds ready to go). They build a fast friendship, they are paid to remake grand, beautiful, historic gardens with nothing more than an old Land Rover and a few hand tools to help them. Every client is either murdered or part of a murder - but no one ever wants to delay the rebuilding of the gardens.

The dialogue is not great. The acting is mediocre. The costumes and sets are wonderful and charming. The storylines are serialistic. The gardens are truly amazing. The tweed and linen is everywhere. There is a fanny pack in most episodes. What's NOT to love?

Get yourself a free weekend and bang out some Rosemary & Thyme. You're welcome.


Good, Bad, Otherwise . . .

DISCLAIMER: This post may feel like me giving a sermon or getting all religious on you. I make no apologies for that.

About a month ago I was openly bummed out and feeling very frustrated. Being a person of considerable self-antagonistic nature I could not just sit and stew in my bummed-out-ed-ness (not a word) so I had to look for some solace and I found it in a book I bought during my conversion classes but never finished . . . Kushner's "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". NOT because I'm a good person that something bad was happening to (I'm pretty average and average things happen to me all the time) but because the word seemed, momentarily, stewed in the bad/good conundrum.

Full disclosure - I've STILL not read the entire book (and probably never will) but I read enough of it to figure something out . . . my own answer to the question "If there is a G-d and he is responsible for everything does that include the good and the bad?" (or whatever more/less snide version of the question your own thoughts on G-d allow for.

Here is what I figured out/settled on. G-d doesn't just cause all things to happen (which I believe he does (yes, in my mind G-d has a gender and it is masculine (long story for another post)) but, way more importantly, he gives us all the ability to either deal with all these things . . . sorta.

Why do some people rise to the proverbial occasion while others fall short? Why do some rebound so quickly while some dwell? Why do some push and others pull? I'm pretty sure it is tied to how they perceive (if at all) G-d and what form of G-d they ponder and believe in (or don't). And that is NOT to imply that those "without" G-d are worse off . . . I think maybe the opposite can or might be true. Those people have said "Eh, you know what . . . I'm good with just me." while others are so deeply beholden to their perception of G-d that they can't just contextualize things without scripture or ministry. Which is also, in my never humble opinion, not "bad".

There is no right or wrong because, as stated above the real question (for me) is not who caused X to happen but how should I deal with X and how did I arrive at that solution. I truly believe it is the exercise of chewing that over that keeps me moving forward and/or comfortable in the moment. This is new perspective for me, folks. I'm growing up - I fear.


The Conun-Trump . . .

MUCH has been said, written, cried over, prayed over, and otherwise devoted and dedicated the the "Trump Candidacy" and the "surprise" of Trump's success in the early, early, early (almost premature) goings of the 2016 campaign for President of These United States.

While I won't flinch in saying that my first love (after the things that are actually keeping my weak heart and dark mind afloat and going toward the light) is politics, I don't pretend to really be a true expert - particularly at figuring out how various candidates do and do not appeal. But I have to admit here (someone braggartly) that I have this Trump "thing" figured out. And I don't like my conclusion.

Here's the thing - the experts are saying and I agree (because they are experts and that is what we do) that Trump's popularity, at its core, comes from three things/places/motivators.

  1. He is believed to be genuine, blunt, and brutally honest - even when unpopular.
  2. He is a self-made man who is rich beyond your wildest dreams because of hard work.
  3. He speaks to the older-than-our-country-itself mindset that we "might as well kick all the bums out and get some fresh ideas in 'there'."
But, in reality, all three of these reasons are flawed and, I'm sorry to say those millions of you that (allegedly) support Mr. Trump - essentially untrue or unsustainable. 
  1. Donald Trump is a sexist, small-minded, racist, who says things that are directly inflammatory and inciteful for the sake of attention. That is the definition of "popular" and everything genuine and honest is not. I guest blunt and brutal - two adjectives no one since Genghis Khan has aspired to - are still in the mix. 
  2. Donald Trump is rich because his father was rich and he's used the laws and rules and financial loopholes of our proverbial system to protect his limited assets. He is, at his wealth's core, no better than those "bastard" bankers that we wanted to round up and castrate when they gave us those mortgages we could not afford for the houses we didn't need in the neighborhoods out of our reach a few years ago.
  3. He is, by his own admission, a serial and long-time political donor to everyone and every party and he requires their favors and favoritism in his dealings and desires because of it. He is not the insider but he is the exact cliche of why the "Beltway Insider" is so loathed. He is proof that our politics are flawed and our politicians, largely, for rent/sale. He would not make a difference. He would want the same buy-outs and kick-backs and make the same bows and gives in exchange.
Now. I know . . . I know . . . that's all BS and it is the liberal, hateful, small-minded loser in me that is attacking poor Donny Trump. No. It is not. 

I can see the conundrum. I can see why people are drawn to him. I feel the frustration. I straight up hate our Governor in a way usually reserved for vegetables and teeth brushing among small children. I get it.

I am all for the NOTION that we need new ideas in power. I'm fully in favor of people looking for alternatives to the status quo in DC. I love when politicians and candidates talk about things that aren't popular or easy. I like when our elected officials don't fall from the cookie cutter onto the buttered tray of their party and their donors. 

I'm just not for the distraction and chaos that has lead to so much disgust for all politicians and candidates in 2016. I'm not for people having to stoop down and throw mud to get attention in the discussion. I'm not in favor of people chasing the attention and adoration of the populus instead of presenting ideas that people gravitate to.

Luckily . . . I have Bernie Sanders


Sunday Funday . . .

I have been very open about how I went from HATING Taylor Swift (who was never here for me to enjoy or have an opinion on anyway) to LOVING Taylor Swift (who still doesn't make music for me in any way, manner, shape, or form) but this cover . . . Ryan Adams doing BAD BLOOD?! Damn.

Sidebar . . . he covers the ENTIRE "1989" album to haunting and wonderful result


Kora . . .

As you know, perhaps all-too-well, I'm prone to fits of obsession. Running. Archery. Hebrew. Jewish novels. Jewish text. Boobs. Bikes. Kayaks. These things all run in to my mind and stay stuck there just long enough for something else to come in and bump them along.

My latest elbow-high? The KORA.

What, you ask, is the kora? It is a "21-string lute-bridge-harp." And WHAT, you ask, is THAT? It is an instrument, resembling the beautiful love child of a harp and a guitar that is very popular in Western Africa and in my mind.

The instrument, because of its parallel string structure allows you to play 11 strings with your left had and 10 with your right so you can have two totally different rhythms, harmonies, and pieces going at once - or just have one with a slight lag, etc. for musical effect. Because it is two instruments in one it does not technically fit into any characterizations/categories of traditional instruments which is odd considering it has been around for thousands of years (that know-it-all-teenaged-punk the saxophone, by contrast, is only a few hundred years old) and can be made from the fanciest of materials or just a few sticks, a gourd, and some string (we'll say dental floss as something the musical MacGyver would reach for).

The instrument is also extensively used (and here is where you might see the tie to my other obsessions) in Jewish music both traditional and current - particularly with Jewish congregations in tribal Africa (if my readings are correct).

Who is the greatest kora player going today? Seckou Keita. Who will, in time, be the greatest kora player in my house? ME (presuming Seckou Keita comes by for dinner - and I really, really want him to come over for dinner).

Here he is doing his thing in a live setting and I would highly suggest his album "22 Strings"


Frustration . . .

I'm sorry I've been a little less-than-inspired with my blogging these last few weeks.

I'm distracted by work. My running has me tired. I've got some personal stuff that is weighing on me. I'm trying to figure out my goals for the coming year (which I'm nearly done with) and I'm trying to just stay off this stupid computer as much as I can.

That being said - I re-caught the bug over the HHDs and my regular form should return next week and I've got about 40 drafts started that should help get me through the end of the year including the always controversial (?) "Favorites" and "Best" and "Worst" lists. Thanks for your patience.


Yom Kippur . . .

The really, truly great Ian McEwan has written several books and (nearly) countless articles and other pieces over the last several decades. I've read a few of them and enjoyed them all ("Black Dogs") was a wee pitchy for me. My FAVORITE of his books is "Atonement."

Atonement, while twisty-turny (as most McEwan work is), tells the story of a day in 1935 when a little girl, tired of being overshadowed by her older sister, relays that she's seen her sister be assaulted by the son of the family's housekeeper/cook/etc. I don't want to give it away (too much) but it suffices to say that everyone loses and everyone has to pay for what they've done (or not) in the years that follow.

Which brings me to the point of today . . . Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur - the Jewish day of atonement. It completes the High Holy Days and the Days of Awe and, in the spirit of the "best for last" it is the highest/most important day of the Jewish year but it is also the most important day of last several (if not ALL) years and the most important day of the coming (if not EVERY) year. It is the day that we, observant Jews stand before G-d and say "Hey. We're here. We're wicked sorry. We're going to try and be better in following your rules . . . chief among them to 'Do onto others -'. We're really appreciative that you are - seemingly - going to give us another year to do better."

We also spend the day(s) leading up to and including Yom Kippur thinking about us and our relationships and our community and how we have failed or honored them and how we can do better.

And we do this in honest intent (or it is another sin) and we do this with open hearts and embarrassed demeanors. I'm going to spend most of today in the sanctuary. I'll not have anything to eat or drink. I'll abstain from leather shoes. I'll do all this with ease and humility. I'm one of millions of Jews that will spend the day this way. It is the least we can do - it is an easy, easy way to atone.


Summer 2015 Playlist . . .

While I was off on a work trip and enjoying the High Holy Days, summer (at least on paper if not in mercury) gave way to autumn. To that end . . . here is the Summer 2015 playlist. Please to enjoy.


Rosh Hashanah Reflections . . .

Monday and Tuesday (of last week - I'm way behind on blogging) were the first and second of days of Tishrei and, accordingly, are known as the "head of the year" for Jewish life and start our High Holy Days. This being my fourth lap around the HHD track - I feel like I finally have enough perspective to publicly reflect on the days and their meaning.

Here, in no particular order, are a handful of thoughts on the early going of the Days of Awe of 5776.

  1. Erev Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish Christmas Eve. Imagine all the happy, glowing faces and the excitement of seeing old friends and family and sharing an hour or two in the sanctuary having prayers, songs, stories, and reflection followed by apples and honey. Now replace all this with gifts, a decorated tree, and some egg nog. They feel the same. They both feel wonderful.
  2. Rosh Hashanah SHOULD be Honored All the Way. It is a two day event (sundowns to sundowns so it stretches three days total). Most Jews (on the middle/liberal side of the sliding bar graph of Jewdom) only honor the first day and - even then too many make it only through services (which wrap up in the early afternoon of the first full day). I take the entire 48 hours. I try to observe the traditions, customs, and rules (no electricity, no work, limited use of labor, room temperature foods, etc.). It feels really, really good.
  3. Tashlich Is Underrated. The simple ceremony (meaning "letting go") is just you, a quick prayer or two, some stale bread and a moving body of water that can/will carry away the things that you symbolically cast away. We might have 200 people at the Rosh Hashanah service and perhaps 20 at Tashlich. That ratio feels way off for me. A beautiful, simple way to reflect and honor the pain, sadness, anger, resentment, and woes that you carry.
  4. Rules Need to be Made. There are five sermons during the High Holidays (optimally - sometimes more, sometimes less) and there are announcements after each. They include upcoming service schedules, thanks for special gifts and donations to help with the HHDs, etc. New rule . . . the announcements can only take 10% of the time of the sermon (we had a 66%-er the other day . . . broke my heart).
  5. We're Here By Choice. No one puts a gun to our heads or forces us to go to the semi-lengthy services and they are the highest, most important days of the year anyway. We deserve no reward nor pat on the back for the attendance. Nor should we seek it. 

Anywho . . . Happy New Year. May the coming year be sweet, meaningful, and blessed.


Sunday Funday . . .

Want to feel fat, out of shape, out of control, and otherwise mesmerized by the athletic prowess of a stranger? Sure you do. Watch this guy make all this look vaguely "doable" . . . if not "easy." Sickening (me, not him).


What? The? F*ck?

I just want to clarify that this woman (Paula Deen - America's favorite type-two diabetic, type-two racist, type-two Southern Charmer) not that long ago (as though there is a statute of limitations on racism and hate speech) used horrible, unspeakable, unacceptable racial slurs to describe and identify her own employees.

She's since posted photos of her son in "brown face" and cried and cried the biggest crocodile tears in the history of false regret time and time again - when she wasn't refusing to do the interviews she volunteered to do to answer questions and face her critics and critique.

Yet - f*ck it, right? We live in America. Our attention spans are short. Our memories bad. Our want/need to forgive strong. You're sending a clear message, ABC and your "Dancing with the Stars" show (now in its 479th season and using the loosest definition of "stars" in the history of stardom).

I get that these are my "Days of Awe" when I'm supposed to believe in starting again and second chances and new beginnings. I am well aware that it is technically a sin to not extend these opportunities on to Ms. Deen (who I have to presume is not at all Jewish (unlike the equally Southern, far more talented (in terms of cooking, history, context, and insight), far more black, and far less racist . . . and generally great Michael Twitty)) but I just can't. The good news? I'm in the very, very, very small minority on this one. I'm the only one in my HOUSE that thinks Paula Deen should take her many, many millions and go be racist on her own time and in her own private world.

But, hey, 'murrukuh. It turns out you can say and do whatever you want, Paula Deen.

We'll make time for you on prime time, broadcast television and let you put on a sequined gown and dance your racist ass off. Sell some pots and pans. Say "y'all." Spray tan. Whatever you want, love. We've got your back, you horrible racist.

PS - I just learned that Arnold Schwarzenegger (the one who fathered a child with his maid and then kept it a secret - for well over a dozen years - while also being the Governor of California and doing NOTHING truly leader-worthy for that state) is the new host of Celebrity Apprentice. So, yeah, a PROUD day for American pop culture. 


Sunday Funday . . .

A fantastic mashup of dozens of random movie(s) and scenes where actors and characters (including some actors visiting their former selves) all meeting up in the same, horrible night club.

ALSO - I will not be blogging tomorrow or Tuesday in honor of Rosh Hashanah. Type ya' Wednesday. L'Shanah Tovah!


Remembering 9/11 . . .

This will sound odd but I don't really "remember" 9/11. I lived and worked in DC at the time, you'd think I might.

I remember parts of it - hearing about the first jet hitting via the Howard Stern Show. How freaked out my colleagues were. How long it took to realize this was not an accident. Being escorted from our office building. Waiting at a nearby bakery for the Metro to die down because there were too many people and too little trains, tracks, platforms, and calm underground. The walk from the Metro home. The sheer lack of food and beverage in our apartment. Going to bed that night very early.

I never, once, turned on the TV on 9/11. My colleagues did (we listened to Stern and WAMU/Morning Edition, too). I never saw the footage that played 9,111,911 times that day on every channel. It took me days to hear the name Osama bin Laden. I felt not need to embrace the images, sounds, and sensations of what happened that morning in New York City, a field in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon across the river from me.

I remember my roommate being really freaked out (I later learned he was engaged with a kid on the way - another story, another time). I remember being really disinterested. NOT in an apathetic way but in a way that felt more like "this didn't happen - at least not to me."

I reached out (or tried, at least) to a few friends who lived and worked in and around NYC that day. That made me feel a little closer to it (only enough to confirm I was not too close). I went to bed early. I never turned on the radio or TV. My boss called at one point and wanted to chat about it. I blew him off.

It was too much for my little, tiny, rubber band-powered brain. I remember being horrified at the sheer volume of people who didn't get that comfort. The people who could not and would not find friends and family. The thousands and thousands who have, truly, never gotten their calm and comfort back. It is too much for my brain to ponder.

About a week later (head still firmly planted in the sand on the real scope of the horror)  I was thumbing through a special issue of Time magazine (oh, yeah, I subscribed to Time magazine in 2001 - your dentist did too, don't judge). I should not have done that.  It was a "special issue" dedicated to the images of that day. The first few were rough. Then BOOM - I remember it so clearly - I picture that spanned two pages and it was just the image of a person dropping by the cold, steely exterior of one of the towering twins that fell that morning. If you rotated the magazine 180 degrees he looked like Superman rising up from the street to fight evil. Alas . . . he, and many others (I learned in that moment) opted to decide their fate vs. let fate decide for them and he had jumped from the compromised building.

I put the magazine down. I felt stupid. I felt truly guilty for never thinking about that part of the day. All the other loss and pain and suffering. The moments and hours and days that followed and the decisions that were made or the making that was decided. The people who lost their sense of security and comfort. The people who choked or fell to death.

I was naive.

9/11 continues to be just sorta "out there" in my brain. If I'm being honest I really, really loved 9/12 through about 12/26 of that year when everyone was just a little more warm, fuzzy, kind, and happy to be alive - maybe that was just in DC. I chose to hold that more closely. I have only embraced the occult (conspiracy theories) of it. Some of the fictionalized stuff, etc., too. I think my brain wants all that to be right so none of the real stuff happened - at least not as we know it did. As the things we remember. What we can not forget. Too much pain and suffering. Too much destruction.

Too much naivety lost.

Please take a moment today. Be happy that you're alive. Be glad (if you're like the lion share of Americans) that this happened around and near you vs. to you. Be friendly. Be observant. The world needs us to honor what happened in our skies, on our soil, and in our hearts. We owe it to all those lost and still grieving.

At the same time - if you are far enough from it - be naive. The world needs that, too.


I'm Sorry . . .

The "I'm Sorry" tour continues. SO far . . . mediocre results. I don't expect everyone to just glob on to this but to not even respond to me is something I didn't see coming. I accept this, though. I understand.

I digress.

Sure, sure . . . this is a sin but I thought - for some relief - I would list out some folks I wish were preparing for their HHDs and the atonement that comes with them. I'm not saying they owe ME an apology - that is not at all okay for me to declare - but I'm saying they owe someone or someoneS an apology.

Let's roll.

1) Your Mom. She knows why.

2) GH Bass & Co. We ALL want these shoes in all the colors but, you know, budget and need state. Can't justify the indulgence . . . or can we?

3) Donald Trump. You're a sexist, a sizeist, a bigot, a bully, a racist, a hypocrite, and a megalomaniac. None of these things are okay. A simple "I'm sorry" and will try to be better and more "of" the people I'd like to lead should be manageable and should "suffice."

4) Terry Gilliam for being way, way funnier in life than his obituary positions him in death.

5) Kim Davis critics who make it "personal." In reality she did very little harm. Is she a homophobe? Yes. Is she embarrassing to us all? Yep. But that doesn't make her fodder for our personal attacks.

6) Josh Duggar. An actual criminal and a bad husband and father. I am not judging his actions, I'm judging the way he carried himself in the throws of all. those. actions. Not okay, bucko.

7) You know who owes us ALL an apology? The "boy" (middle aged man) band Blue for this version of "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word." I mean LOOK at Elton John's body language ALONE? He's in actual pain . . . and "featured" on his own song. NOT okay, fellas.

8) KU Fans and anyone else who pretended to be offended by some class-A marching band formation-gone-sloppy. Seriously, though, who among you needs an apology so badly? Apologize for pretending to need any apology. 

9) The bastard(s) in Philadelphia that destroyed hitchBOT.

10) This woman. For actually impeding refuges (fleeing horrible conditions and trying to make their way across Europe - a country that knows a little about liberation from threats) by tripping and kicking them. 

We'll wait, people. We'll wait. 


Dining Room Table . . .

Shh-sh. Do you hear that? Right now - somewhere in America (on a wired, Wi-Fi, or Internet data plan) - SLF is shopping for a dining room table.

How do I know this? She's been doing it - obsessively - for many many moons. And, for that, I admire her.

Let me be clear. Dining room tables, for me, are just below the types of grass and vegetation that grows in our back lawn or what the neighbors are having for dinner on the scale of things I care about. And just above the struggle to cure the common cold on the list of things I have an opinion on. If I'm being honest . . . I really, really, really could not care less about the table upon which dinner sits. Or where I eat breakfast. The spot where we work on homework. The flat surface where board games are played. I. do. not. care.

But she does. A lot. And she's been torturing herself since days of Underoos. She has probably looked at 1,843 tables between Internet, stores, catalogs, and magazines. Ah. Wait. Now she's up to 1,845 (like I said - she's looking right now). I'll just wait and see when and where this nets out. In the meantime, I'll continue to eat my food, surf the Interwebs, and practice multiplication tables (with the kid - I know mine) at whatever current table is currently sitting in the dining nook.


Church and State . . .

The facial glow of  a devout, compassionate Christian just trying to live.
So there is this woman in Kentucky giving - if the masses are to be believed - a bad name to Kentuckians (I looked that up), and Christians (she self-identified), and civil servants (that is her occupation), and women (I'll get to that), and hypocrites (I'll get to that, too), and super-long-haired people everywhere (look at that mane, folks) named Kim Davis that has made a "wee" bit of news these last few weeks.

It seems that Ms. Davis has found herself professionally stuck between the a rock/the law (she is a county clerk) and a hard place/her religion. This was not something Ms. Davis anticipated.

When she won election to get her job - the Supreme Court had not, yet, been so on-the-nose as to rule that all in this country have a right to marry (gay or straight, or four times for some heterosexuals) that they Justice Anthony Kennedy (in the greatest poetry of our time) said "no longer may this liberty be denied." She was still blissfully on the side of history when her career as a public servant started.

Then things changed and she did the only thing she felt she could do - she stopped issuing any and all marriage licenses as a way to protect her religious beliefs. And it took three full months for this decision to catch up with her.

I don't have a lot of trouble with Ms. Davis, in the way most Americans seem to. I'm all for religious freedom. I appreciate that G-d is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and that he/she/it/they doesn't/don't fit everyone to begin with. I'm all for finding or changing religions - Ms. Davis did it. I did it. I'm all for ending a marriage that doesn't work. Ms. Davis did it (three times). I did it (once). I'm fine with her being a Christian (most of my favorite people in this world love them some Jesus) and I'm not even opposed to evangelical Christians (when they aren't on my front porch and/or trying to save my eternal soul). I don't even mind the glaring hypocrisies in how Ms. Davis is trying to juggle her personal and professional lives.

I really only have ONE problem with Kim Davis . . . it is that she thinks her personal convictions and religious beliefs are relevant to her job and the laws of the land and - in this fairly unique instance - how her personal beliefs trump the decision of the Supreme Court and the direct order from a judge to resume issuing not only some but all marriage licenses. This is the one thing I struggle with when it comes to this woman.

Let's be clear - Kim Davis is being used as a pawn and puppet and is being taken advantage of in many ways and on all sides. The Christian Right is using her: A handful of notable evangelicals and ultra-conservatives are claiming her to be a hero and many are using her jailing for contempt of the court as bait for a "Christian Persecution" angle. They (clumping them all in to one group) are also providing her questionable, at best, legal counsel and are letting her believe that she has the law on her side. Kim Davis does not represent or speak for all Christians. She doesn't even represent the very small percentage of Christians to share her same views on how to practice Christianity.

People say that Kim Davis is bad for women in power. Absurd. I don't know anyone that has said "This is why women can't have nice things or top drawers full of rubber stamps and ink pads." Her relationship history or her children or even her gender are irrelevant. If you don't agree with that - YOU are bad for women in the workplace.

At the same time, the gay rights community (and the vast majority of us who just see gay people as, well, people) are jumping on her as the poster child for the problem. The average American with no skin in the game just wants to point out her own personal failures in marriage, love, etc. and mock her for her marriage record and recent finding/accepting of G-d.

But here's why I believe all that to be wrong. Kim Davis is not important her. Her personal beliefs or morals or when and if she contradicts herself or those morals and beliefs. She is bad for hypocrites, "they" say. How? Because she just recently found Jesus and wants to live in his image (as she sees him)? That's not hypocrisy. That actually helps her case - she has seen the evils of x, y, and z. She's WRONG to apply that to this but she could make the argument. Sorry, hypocrites. You don't get off the hook for Kim Davis.

ALL of this stuff is irrelevant, people. What brand of religion she practices and the length of her hair or her frumpy-grumpy persona are not important. She will, like so many people before her have proven, nothing more than a footnote on this chapter of American evolution when it is all said and done.

And that is where I get grumpy with Ms. Davis. She confuses herself as a warrior for her personal choices as though those decisions are relevant. She forgets that she chose to be a Christian and she chose to run for public office and she chose to ask the people to trust her to honor and uphold the law and the order and letter of it. She forgot that making the latter choice meant the prior choice is irrelevant because Kim Davis is not a warrior - she is a servant of the people and a servant of Christ (a she sees it) but only one is relevant for her to do her job and do it well.

Kim Davis is bad for one group of people - civil servants. She undermines every cop, fireperson, judge, clerk, family counselor, DMV gatekeeper, and dog catcher who's ever left their personal baggage at the door and just done their job. She is - for me - as bad as white cops who shoot unarmed people because their black skin made them scary. She is the judge who doesn't recuse himself when he has a personal, even indirect dog in the hunt, and she's the water meter reader who fudges the numbers in favor of her friends. The whole point of being a civil SERVANT is that you are there to serve society and the people who either elected or empowered you. They, collectively, pay your salary. They, collectively, put their trust in you. Your opinions don't matter. Your personal agenda is moot.

Church and state people . . . church. and. state.


All Apologies . . .

It is, once again, that "magical" time of year where we Jews start racking our brains for all the stupid, hurtful, malicious, insensitive, and sinful (no - not like a dark, dark chocolate bar with sea salt accents but actually violating of commandments) things that we've done in the year 5775 and start trying to make it right.

Let me back up - for those who don't know - the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah / "Head of the Year"and Yom Kippur / "The Day of Atonement/Judgement") are biggest days of our year . . . and they span less than ten total days. The belief is as such . . . at Rosh Hashanah our names are found in the books of the righteous (not very likely, statistically) or the wicked (not very likely, statistically) or we're left somewhere in the middle and we have the span from the end of Rosh Hashanah to the sunset start of Yom Kippur to make things right from the last year and ensure another year of opportunity to become righteous. It is simple and beautiful and important.

So I've been, like a diligent Jew, making an actual list (literally - on paper) of the people I know I need to get in touch with to make things right. And I truly intend to do it. I'm going to call some of the people, I'll be reaching out, by text or email to ask for an in-person conversation with some people and, for others, I'll be simply emailing my sincere apologies and hoping they will respond.

I'm taking a tiered approach for a reason. I know, first and foremost, that these things are awkward and uncomfortable and I know there are obstacles (some are geographic, some are maybe people not being ready to hear from me or talk something through, some are people that I don't know the best way to approach to have an honest conversation). NONE of my tepid outreach is, in any way, a minimization of that person, the harm(s) I feel I've done them, or how much I want to make it right. If I didn't want to put real energy in to it - I wouldn't bother at all.

But for all 17 people currently on the list (there are others likely to emerge) I am ready to apologize and ask for forgiveness. But there is a catch to this . . . I've lived pretty well this last year (5775 - going back to last September) and most of my ducks are in a proverbial row but the year before that . . . before I was converted and my life was back on track . . . I lived "out loud" and hurt some good people along the way. So I'll be taking some liberties to try and make things whole with those people, too.

So how am I going about this? There are, I figure, four basic elements to a good apology:

  1. Is the incident truly over - Is it time to start healing and repairing and whatever?
  2. Am I ready to apologize and face my part in the blame/responsibility/outcome?
  3. Can I clearly articulate what I'm sorry for without making it about me or my woes?
  4. Do I know what I want to get out of the apology (forgiveness, another chance, my favorite sweater back)? 
For all the people on my list - I can answer all four and I believe that I can get forgiveness from almost all of them. Certainly everyone has a different take on it and my own approach and want/need to do it are not entirely in line with my faith or the scholars of it. Here's a terrific podcast from Tablet Magazine (with my mental/writer/good Jew crush Marjorie Ingall - and her five part apology process - included) on the subject of laying out a good apology and how to approach the subject and how Jewish text and custom instructs:

In the meantime (and probably for the time it took you to listen to that - or not) I'll keep working on my list AND trying to get a jump start on the apologies and how to best handle them the right way. I can do my homework and I can apologize but I cannot force the person to accept my apology nor, more importantly, give me their forgiveness. I need to allow time for them to process and - hopefully - be given enough time to move forward.


Sunday Funday . . .

I really don't miss much about my days of smoking the wacky-tabacky (now a distant, hazy memory at best) but there are days that I wish I could have had My Morning Jacket in those days.


Running Without Means . . .

I don't often blog about my running. Mainly because there is nothing to really report but I, dear reader, have a DOOZY of a story to share with you. This is not my GREATEST running story (this one is) but I had an experience Tuesday morning that I shan't soon forget.

Picture it . . . It's about 5:40 AM. I'm 1.5 miles in to my run. Slow and steady. I'm in downtown Wichita on Central. It is a wee more humid than I'd like but good temperatures and smooth, calm air. I see a woman ahead of me on the sidewalk. She's not running or walking (which would be odd in-and-of itself since it is typically a ghost town down there at that hour) but she's, instead, just sorta standing around eating a bag of Cheetos.

We make eye contact. I give her the once over (not in the pervy, sexual way I might typically ogle a woman while sweating and running in the pre-dawn hours of the morning (I kid . . . sorta)) but in that "Let's see what we have here and if it is a threat or not" way. This woman looks a LOT like the women pictured above (to be clear she was not one of them nor one of them her). She seems slightly uncomfortable in her own skin. I make some presumptions and we exchange a quick "Hello."

I keep running past the big, beautiful Catholic cathedral and the still newish YMCA and the old county courthouse and I turned around at City Hall and the new county courthouse and started east, again, on Central. I ran by the Lord's Diner and some of the homeless centers and housing environments. Don't get me wrong - Wichita is amazing and we need, as a city, resources for those in need but it is, admittedly, not the greatest stretch of road for your feel good feelings.

So I am coming back out of downtown in to the northern extreme of Old Town and I ran under the railroad tracks past the stinky dairy. I get more east and I see, ahead, the woman. She, like me, is now on the opposite side of the street.

She's sitting on a barrier protecting the inventory of a used car lot. She looks at me again and smiles. I run with headphones. Three reasons - it helps with pace, it prevents me from looking accessible, and it entertains me. Anywho she makes a gesture that implies she wants to chat. I, with implied and presumed dread, remove my left earphone and give that eyebrow raise that implies, with dread, a half-hearted "I'm listening."

She says the following (direct quote) . . . "I'll suck your d*ck for ten bucks."

And my lungs, already fatigued, gasp harder. The sweat on my brow runs cold. The burn in my legs urges me to go harder and faster. My generally quick wit fails me. I'm a very large, sweaty, out of breath, balding man with dri-wick clothing and reflective socks on. I'm what any rational person would declare "undesirable" at this moment in time. So I realize this isn't really about me or some carnal desire for me that must be quenched.

I get sad. I maintain eye contact. I make a conscious decision to not let my body language react and I say, hand to the powers above, the ONLY thing that came to mind . . .

"I'm sorry. I don't run with cash or my ATM card."

And I ran the whollllle way home.


52 Weeks of Sport . . .

I know that many people think of him exclusively in the context of his movies (and their declining critical and box office success) but I really, really like Kevin Smith.

Not ONLY is he a fellow schlubber that also struggles with the balance of unrepentant self confidence and inescapable self doubt but he's very bright, very funny, and very engaging. He is also the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Smodcast.

One of a few dozen podcasts on his network of podcasts, this one is the weekly one that (I think) started it all and every episode, co-hosted by Scott Mosier. I find it hilarious. It is, generally, just random, random things including - this week - a challenge for Scott to name 52 sports he would play for a week out of a year if there was a gun to his head. Full disclosure the discussion started by the request to prioritize curling as a sport and ended with Scott having to defend why he would shoot a pet bunny before a bear (I told you it was random)).

The key takeaway was . . . if I (hater of all sports) had a gun to my head could I come up with 52 sports I would play and in what order would I partake. The results (which I've tweaked several times over the last several days) are below.
  1. Mini Golf. Straight up my favorite sport ever.
  2. Bocce. A close second favorite and one that I'm fairly good at.
  3. Olympic Recurve Archery. All day, errrryday.
  4. Running. I hate it and but I do it near daily so it would be disingenuous to not burn a week in the run down (no pun intended) doing it.
  5. Croquet. All white clothing, out of respect. 
  6. Pickleball. The latest sensation that is sweeping the nation.
  7. Kayaking. I love to do it. I just hate the snakes and physics of getting in and out of the boat.
  8. Biking. Seems obvious, right?
  9. Walking. If running counts . . . WALKING counts.
  10. Air Hockey. If this much fun is wrong, I don't wanna be right.
  11. Foosball. Don't go over the bars, man. That's cheating.
  12. Bowling (Ten-Pin). The classic including pizza and mozzarella sticks and soda by the pitcher.
  13. Bowling (Candlepin). I've only ever seen or played it in New England but it is big there . . . and FUN.
  14. Shotput. I wouldn't be GOOD at it but I'd enjoy this week.
  15. Boxing. Same thing. I'd be exhausted and get black eyes just trying to put my gloves on but I would enjoy the experience. Sparring only. No ACTUAL violence. 
  16. Hiking. If running and walking count - their cousin (walking up and down hills) counts.
  17. Darts. What could possibly go wrong?
  18. Billiards. Eight ball, corner pocket, and other things I can't actually pull off. 
  19. Pinball. Worked for Tommy.
  20. Shuffleboard. Sticking with our bar games theme . . . more closing it out. 
  21. Curling. Scott Mosier would want it this way.
  22. Ultimate Frisbee. I don't know about "ultimate," Brewster. 
  23. Juggling. Tossing balls. In the air. With both hands.
  24. Driving Range Golf. No need to put it in the hole - just get some air under it.
  25. Batting Cage Baseball. Slow pitch, baby. SLOW pitch.
  26. Tennis. I always used to love it for stress relief.
  27. Racquetball. Moving at high speed until someone loses their eye. At best. 
  28. TV Tag. The best of ALL the tags. The ONLY one you need. The ONLY one you should play.
  29. Watermelon Seed Spitting. Because why NOT?
  30. Yachting. Seems super complicated and not even all that much fun but - let's give it a shot.
  31. Canoeing. Quiet. Calm. But . . . those snakes. Still with the snakes.
  32. Badminton. Shuttlecock. At the speed of fun.
  33. Yoga. Many would argue it is therapy vs. sport but - I sweat a lot while trying it so . . . sport.
  34. Luge. Sledding only way, way faster and much more hostile.
  35. Jenga. Not even kidding. Totally a sport - mental strategy, physical stability, etc.
  36. Swimming. I'm totes buoyant. 
  37. Kickball. So much fun, fun, fun. It has been far too long since I last played.
  38. Dodgeball. Same ball, different strategy.
  39. Volleyball. It is like great, great backyard fun only without the actual fun.
  40. Connect Four. It's a sport. Trust me.
  41. Disc Golf. Seems fun . . . not at all. But, hey, I'm DEEP in to the year and looking for options.
  42. Soccer. Yes, yes. The beautiful game. Good for running and fun.
  43. High Diving. Gravity is the only fight I'll never pick. Forget platform diving - HIGH diving.
  44. Snorkeling. It is like swimming with a better view and a breathing tube.
  45. Cricket. The rest of the world may be wrong about soccer (futbol) but I have a good feeling about cricket. Let's give it a shot.
  46. H-O-R-S-E. I can't get down with actual basketball but trick shots and - dare to dream  -NERF hoop at that? I'm in. Through the legs, over the back, under the rain gutter, nothing but net. While blindfolded.
  47. Boogie Boarding. Because boogie. 
  48. Ping Pong. I enjoy table tennis but I can't play for a full week without a, well, gun to my head.
  49. Line Dancing. If you can win a competition, it is a sport. And I'm truly running out of options.
  50. Softball. I'm an overweight, middle-aged man. Get me a knee brace and put me in, coach.
  51. Lacrosse. I'm a white, middle-class male who went to college at a private school in New England. Let's have some sticked fun.
  52. Speed Stacks. Because it looks fun. 
So. What are you playing with that gun to your head?


2015 Objectives (Update 8) . . .

"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). 15.23 finished. I'm still behind schedule but - that is life. September should allow me more reading time (I have a trip coming up and have the High Holy Days to fill).
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 20.1 miles/week (605.8 total miles - My legs, ankles, and feet are feeling better and I had a strong August.)
  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. Still struggling with weight but we're getting serious about diet here at home.
  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 am registering for a math course. Will keep you posted.
  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 going to quit soda. Again. I'm going to stop with processed/refined sugars. Again. I'm going to start eating more diverse foods and more conservatively. 
  10. Food Diversity. This one is getting better, too. 


Spaghetti Drama (He Said) . . .

And now, 24-hours later, comes MY side of the story that was written (and not edited since) several months ago. I didn't have the courage to post it until we were joking about this one evening last week and decided it would be fun to share our "sides" to this same story.

It is implied/presumed that THIS version is the RIGHT version of the story (I kid, I kid). But . . . seriously.

 Here we go . . .

Anyone who KNOWS me knows that I'm a very particular person with lots of quirks and oddities and a lot, lot, lot of anxiety that is never, ever expressed in normal, healthy, constructive ways. More likely four letter expletives and overly-grand hand gestures and body contortions - ALL bark, ZERO bite (lest any of you fear the relatively safety of the women and pets I live with). So it might come as NO surprise that the days and hours before a half marathon might be rough on me, mentally, and those around me, in every way.

And by hours I mean the week leading-up-to. At least. Forget the day before. Forget the 16 or 14 hours prior to. Forget when FOOD (my real love - mwah, mwah, mwah) is involved. But somehow, the other night, I found myself at the intersection of anxious, confused, and frustrated and at odds with one of my favorite people in the world. What happened? Dinner.

We had the kiddo this weekend and I was trying to prepare for my race. There were no long runs on Saturday or any other distractions (that I would take the bait on) to reel me in. I was just trying, instead, to avoid any and all interactions with my fellow humans while somehow bending the space/time continuum and getting this stupid race over. But - try as I might - I do not (YET) have the powers to make that happen so we did a lot of just sitting around and walking on eggshells. One more inevitable thing happened . . . we had to eat dinner.

SLF, always the wonderful person, took the initiative to get the party started. And she asked a very open-ended question "Does anyone have any thoughts on dinner?" Now, for me, I take that as "Does anyone have any cravings, wants, or desires?" NOT "Does anyone want to run through a comprehensive list of the foods that can and will not eat on the off chance I decide to prepare said meal?" So I shouted back "Nah, follow your heart." The kid, true to form, just ignored the question.

Fast forward about fifteen minutes and the our house equivalent to the chuck wagon triangle bell rang and we headed toward the kitchen. To my great horror two things awaited me:
  1. SLF made the completely cliche choice (and I love her for it) of going PASTA for dinner the night before the race. Carb-loading. Ha. Bless her heart. FYI - NOT true, NOT helpful, don't be that guy/gal when running.
  2. She not only made pasta (still laughing at her expense) but she made it even better by teasing it out to one of the handful of foods that, should she asked for a comprehensive list of all the foods they will not eat, would have made the list. TOPPED the list, no less.
Let me clarify - as a high schooler I was in the Boy Scouts (earned my Eagle Scout and some palms but sent it all back because, well, homophobic organizations are not something I want to be part of) and we would have "Spaghetti Dinners" for fundraisers. You know the type . . . all you can eat with low-grade, cheap ingredients, white sandwich bread and margarine on the tables, and salad that consisted of iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing, and over-eating for all. Delicious. Perfection.

I, always more in love with food than myself, ate the pasta and meat sauce until I got actually, physically ill. Never again. Literally. This was probably 1990/1991 and I - nearly 25 years later - had not done the same. I'm okay with lasagnas (no more with the meat) or other pasta dishes with meat but long strands of pasta with meat sauce and sprinkle cheese . . . sweating just typing about it.

Now THIS is where my anxiety and the night before a race and my love for SLF all overlap and I get overwhelmed, mentally. So I do the only thing that I THINK will go over smooth as silk . . . I decline dinner. I say I want nothing. I decline the meal. I try to remove myself. 

This, for those of you looking to have more mature, open, emotionally available relationships in your life, is NOT the only safe answer. Turns out there is no safe answer. I realize, immediately, that I'm in trouble. I really can't figure out why or how but it is obvious that I am. SLF does the thing she always does when she's annoyed (similar to dogs that have knocked over the trash only without guilt - but RAGE - as her motivator) . . . she gets really quiet and avoids eye contact. I feel bad. I feel for her. I want her to know she's appreciated (since I failed to let her know I didn't want her to cook for me/us at all).

So there is grumbling and counter-grumbling done and I decide that I should be a bigger person (or try to catch up with the person she is) and I fill a bowl with pasta and meat sauce and endeavor upon eating my race prep dinner. This sounds selfless but presume the aforementioned profanities and body tosses are in the mix. I look 12. I feel 11. I'm embarrassed for all three of us. For a solid hour I poke with my fork and chew and swallow - every bite making me sweaty and angstful and queasy. I truly want to vomit but, because of a surgery years ago vomiting is not easy for me. It hurts. A LOT. 

So I wait for the proverbial coast to clear . . . SLF offers to put the munchkin to bed (if only to get away from me for a few minutes) and I run to the first floor bathroom and indulge my urges to give my pasta back to the Great Powers of the World. And it is horrible and my eyes are watering and my body hurts and I have all the sweating and aching. I come out of the bathroom and - boom - there is SLF pretending like sound doesn't carry in our house like guns on gangsters. 

We ignore each other for a few more hours and we decided to go to bed (I think I said I was going and she essentially followed - silently (like in gangster movies when the guy begs for his life and the enforcer just gestures with his gun to move it along)). We're still not talking. NO reason to (again - I'm not sure why she's so angry but I feel guilty so I'm not pressing the issue). We end up in bed. Our queen sized bed. We're maybe six inches apart from each other (at our most bulbous) and I want to talk with her and apologize (and find out why she is so angry) but I'm aware that I have a half marathon in a few hours and these things are uncertain (how long to resolve, what is said, etc.) and I just threw up and I'm realizing that I've had no real food in hours and hours and hours. 

I text her (yep - I'm THAT GUY) a good night wish and some other crap and I hear her phone beep and I hear her look at it and I hear her put her phone back down with a pissy sigh. Oh love. Aren't you grand?

I get up the next morning. I eat a protein bar. I get a banana. I head out. I wait in the chute. I run 13.1 miles and there - at the finish line - are the two most important women in my life and they are all smiles and congratulatory messaging and hugs. I do the thing I always do at the finish line of a race . . . sob and bawl the ugly tears. It seemed like things were vaguely better. But cool, none-the-less. We headed off to a celebratory lunch and I explained my long, sordid history with pasta and meat sauce.

Then, about 48 hours later, it was back to normal. Life was good. For now (gulp).

I love this woman. I love that she loves me. I love that she wanted to make me dinner. I love that, come October, she won't even bother. I love all that. And if that is the only good to come out of this - we all win.