I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer . . .

So, last week, while on my business trip, I had to run to a printing shop to pick up a last-minute poster and the radio was blasting (I mean uncomfortably loud) a song that I've probably "always" loved but never, ever think about . . . Stevie Wonder's "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer".

First released in 1971, the song is about a love lost in a very unexpected way and time . . . summer and despite the promises (either stated or implied) that the love was eternal. Wonder uses the warmth and glow of summer to contrast against the expectation that a love might fade in the chill and dropping off of fall or the desolation of winter but certainly the rise of spring and the heat of the long days would keep any love alive (like so many plants that take their place in the sun at the same time).

It is a beautiful song that has been deftly handled and covered by dozens (if not hundreds) of good, bad, and ugly musicians over the years. Want to hear some other, great versions? Sure you do:

Anywho - after I was reminded of how great the song was I was convinced that the next challenge was to find another great cover of it and I DID - by the amazing, troubled, absurdly talented Lauryn Hill. Please to enjoy!


Driving with a Stranger . . .

It seems, dearly readers, like if there is ONE thing you all really enjoy about this blog is when I share stories of my own short-minded stupidity and silly decision making. Well, friends, buckle in as I share the tale of my trip home from a recent business trip.

Let me set the scene . . . I was in sunny, humid, Orlando for four days. In that time (three nights) I slept a TOTAL of about ten hours and I ran nine miles and I worked all day and I hung out with colleagues, vendors, friends, etc. alllllll evening (in to the wee-small-hours of the morning). While not your quintessential business trip (no sex was had, etc.)  it was pretty run-of-the-mill in that I actually uttered the words "I can't WAIT to get home" as I headed off to the airport.

Of course this is where the fun begins. First thing . . . my flight was delayed two hours. Apparently the Weather Overlords had some grip with Dallas, Texas so we were not welcome to come over from Orlando right away. Fine, fine. I had a three hour layover anyway and if flights in were delayed - so were flights out. So we boarded the plane and pushed back (I had the ONLY empty seat on the plane between me and a guy who kept reading the pages of a book and then taking photos of every page as he completed it and then scribbling notes based on each page. Also - he ate about six pounds of Starburst yet weighed about eighty pounds.

So we get over Texas (the proudest state in the Union) and held there - for 45 friggin' minutes. Then, in time, touched down. I turn on my phone . . . text from the airline . . . flight home cancelled. Ugh.

I go in, stay calm, get in line for reschedule options and am told there is ONE more flight to Wichita for the night. I go to that gate. There are 43 people on stand-by for a flight with only 36 seats. Not a good sign. So I go to another line to get a flight on Saturday. 5:50 PM departure (21 hours later).

So this guy - who seems very anxious and very agitated - in front of me in line turns and asks "How far do you think it is to Wichita?" I respond back "I know it is a little less than six hours." And then he says "You want to split the cost and driving on a rental car and go tonight?" and I say "For a reason I'll never actually understand - "Sure." We go get on the shuttle to the rental place. We wait in line. We negotiate who will pay, etc. We get a car, we go to the bathroom, we change clothes, we get snacks, we get in the car. I look over and - only at this point - say "My name, by the way, is Sean."

"Oh great. Yeah. My name is (mono-syllabic name here)." Truthfully - I don't remember his name (I'm sorry, but I don't). We get in the car and away we go.

Now I should admit here - I LOVE people. I love their stories and their adventures and getting to know people and I also love observing them. This guy was really interesting. Had two phones (a new-ish Blackberry and a wicked-old flip phone). He had a very distinct speaking cadence and a great vocabulary. He had bright-orange shorts on. He fascinated me well in to Oklahoma. Home, family, friends, previous jobs, how the large-money-match-making-business works, and how out of his element Oklahoma and Kansas are (there was a lightning storm ahead that was beautiful but not all that engaging for me - he seemed to truly love it).

We drove and drove and chatted and laughed and then - shortly after Oklahoma City - he fell asleep. And I was alone in the car. I'm not saying it was unsafe for me to be driving but we're super, super f*cking lucky to be alive. It is the truth when I say that I don't know what happened to the time between 2:34 and 2:41 AM and I don't really remember crossing the Kansas state line shortly before.

But - here's where the story gets random - I got off the highway and on to the streets of Wichita and looked at the guy and said "Hey, instead of driving on to your wedding weekend this morning - do you want to crash in our guest room for a bit?"

Now - I'll admit this - if anyone offered this to me I would say "No, thanks." MORE because I would fear they were going to kill me and use my skin for a sex costume than for looking rude but I would not do it. But this guy - perhaps just overcome with the "midwestern" (High Plains-ian) hospitality he was offered said "Yes. That would be great." so I said "Great" and we pulled in the driveway and I set him up for the balance of the night.

I climbed the stairs and told SLF that we had a guest for the night. She, lovingly, mumbled "We'll talk about this in the morning." and went back to sleep.

So - three hours later - we were awake and ready for the day. We made our way downstairs expecting to be alone but, nope. We were still with guest. And he slept for a few more hours (which is fine with me) and woke up in just enough time to get on the way to return the rental car, get another one, and drive up to Hesston.

We said our "Good-byes" and he drove away. Perhaps never to be seen or heard from again (unless he does follow up and send me some ideas on how to best enjoy Yellowstone (from his old wilderness guide days)).


You Are Who You "Are" . . .

DISCLAIMER - I am not entirely sure if all the pronouns, terms, and words I use in this post are reflective of the transgendered community. If I am errant and/or offend, I apologize. 

Much like when Magic Johnson ,on November of 1991 (you feel older now than you did three seconds ago, don't you?), announced he was HIV positive many people believe that the popularity of Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black and beyond) and the recent success of the Amazon Prime show "Transparent" (for the record HBO made a wonderful movie called "Normal" with the eternally-great Jessica Lange and the always-wonderful Tom Wilkinson in 2003 that I might also suggest) and the recent decision, by Olympic hero, thrice married, and now (tragically) perhaps best known as the former husband/father/step-father to the vapid, miserable Kardashian clan Bruce Jenner to "come out" (I don't know if that is the term - but one article I read used it so . . . we'll go with it) as transgendered seems to be making the notion of what your mind tells you about sex/gender and what your body shows about sex/gender are not always aligned. 

I don't know a lot about the idea of having a man's body with the mindset of a woman but I do know, on a much, much smaller scale, what it is like to not feel at home with your own body. There are two times that I've felt this way in my adult life. At my heaviest (over 535 pounds) and my lightest (196 pounds). I can also, honestly, tell you that I felt like my mind and "self" didn't match my oversized body for most of my childhood/adolescence.

Now I know that there is a big difference between feeling like you are not your body (you are not, for the record - it is just a casing) but I do know that I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to go through life (Bruce Jenner first told his first wife he wanted to live as a woman in 1972 - 43 YEARS AGO) wanting to be something that culture, society, and conventional wisdom was opposed to accepting.

So while everyone is noting what a "hero" Jenner is (I disagree with the masses on this one - a guy who doesn't have to go to work every day, is financially comfortable, and lives a life of relative (self-chosen) reclusiveness telling the world he is not who they presumed him to be is very different than Don the plumber telling his client with the backed-up-toilet he wants to be Donna) I was far, far more touched by something that happened to me on a plane the other day.

There was a young person (14 or 15) on the plane who had the physical features of a boy but was wearing a dress and a cardigan sweater and had hair and makeup similar to what you might expect on a girl. Here is the BEST part - here is where the bravery in the world can be found - the kid was completely comfortable in their own skin. Just sitting there, reading a book and eating Combos while (nearly) every person who shuffled like so-much-cattle to the rows behind them took casual glances and, in a few cases, long stares at them. Kudos to you kid . . . and more kudos to the father of said teen who sat, arms crossed, just glaring back at all those who saw his child as spectacle (for the record there were parents letting their annoying toddlers and tweens fly back in friggin' Disney Princess Dresses, light-up mouse ears, and Harry Potter regalia so this kid was far from the most attention-worthy young person in the fuselage) with a look that implied "I dare you to turn to look at your travel companion or to cast a look of aspersion." 

I thought about what that juxtaposition meant within the teen and their family (Do they have siblings? What do they think? Was there a formal moment when they announced to the family they were not going to live life by the proverbial cookie cutter design? What was the initial reaction?) and then I thought about what Bruce Jenner's wives, kids, and family thought. Or what Magic Johnson's family thought when he announced he had contracted HIV. Then I realized that those opinions are probably the only ones that really matter. That we should, as a society, be "aware" of this phenomenon (if that is the right word) but not so quick to presume we have any right to an opinion (good or bad) until it his home for us. 

I don't know much about anything but I know that whatever happens with my child and whomever she turns out to be - I've got her back . . . unless she wants to fly in Harry Potter gear.


Work Trip . . .

I'm traveling this week for work. Long, full, fun days ahead so - no more blog posts for the week. Sunday Funday will be the next you hear from me (in this forum). We'll resume the normal stuff on Monday.


Be a Good Person . . .

Last week a woman who's entire life's claim to fame, to date, has been as a little-known reporter for the ESPN network (her employer, you might know, is a famous for defending and empowering domestic abusers, sports that shorten the lives of those who play it, games that can lead to crippling debt for those with neither the skill nor resources to bet on them, and racists - for context) lost her dark, selfish mind on a stranger who works the night shift at an impound lot for a towing company.

Here is the video of this young woman (who I can only imagine makes her parents cringe this much every time they see her talking on camera) doing her best/worst . . .

Does she seem frazzled to you? Does she seem overwhelmed? Does she even seem stressed? Not to me (I should clarify here I'm no expert at reading people's emotions). She seems - aside from anger - well in her normal mind and state and, frankly, she seems free and loose with the words.

We get it. You graduated from college. We get it. You get to stand on camera and talk about stuff (games) that don't actually matter at all to anyone. We get it. You presume that the woman on the other side of the glass is dumb - based on the context of her being in a booth and taking your money and her, by your presumption, having some extra pounds on her and maybe not the best teeth you've ever seen. The company this woman works for has a reputation for over-towing and being over-zealous on top of it? By all means, Britt, let her have it.

No, no. NOT really.

I have made no secret - on this blog, in my real life, in other forums, about my quick temper, my forked and fast tongue (armed with a vast vocabulary that I usually abandon to just say "f*ck" over and over and over again with a noun or other word in between). I have also made no bones about the fact that I "get away with" living that way (it is NOT okay, it is NOT becoming, and it is something that will eventually come back to haunt me on a very deep level) is because I can and DO admit when I have gone too far (or even when people perceive I have gone too far) and I will genuinely and honestly apologize and attempt to make it right.

I don't do THIS:

And I don't make excuses. I admit that I'm a shithead and I apologize. I TRY to be a good person about it. More importantly - the biggest issue I have with the above (despite it being trite, cliche, empty, and as self-centered as the things she said on camera) is that it is a mismatch for the offense. IF she was sincere and genuine she would slum her way (crawling skin and all) back to Arlington, VA and she would seek out the employee and she would look her in the eye and apologize for being so unacceptably rude to a fellow human who was just trying to do their job while you and friends enjoyed dinner at a fancy restaurant and your car got towed.

I don't know what path my daughter's life will take but I hope that she steers clear of this sort of controversy. The type this reporter experienced and the type I live in.


Parenting Decisions . . .

I was running errands Saturday and listening to KMUW (as I almost always do on Saturdays) and This American Life came on with a (repeat) episode titled "Call for Help" and an opening segment looking at the controversial decision of  two parents, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who chose to take their house boat on a cross-Pacific adventure with their three-year-old and about-one-year-old, only to realize while way, way out to sea that a minor leak and equipment/boat damage and a sick infant were going to require an emergency rescue.

And that emergency rescue, while successful, would lead to a whole different level of hurt and turmoil for the family at sea. Apparently when you require a military aircraft and a Coast Guard vessel traveling some 2,000 miles to rescue you on your vacation - people (taxpayers or otherwise) get salty and your parenting is called in question.

Let me be clear about this - I don't remember this happening (it was in 2013 - that was an eternity ago for my brain and memory) but I am pretty sure that if I was aware of it at the time I called them dumb asses and made it clear that they deserved whatever pain they were suffering and their decision making was a nightmare. No, no . . . not because of the infant and the toddler but because to put a family on a 36' boat to head around a major portion of the EARTH is just a really, really stupid and horrible idea. Parenting decisions and judging them are not typically my thing.

But the point of this story is that, while listening to the program, I remembered that when our daughter was just five months old we lived in Connecticut, not far from New York City, and I really, really wanted to take her in to "the city" for the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. Yes. I knew she would have no idea of what was going on and would never remember it but I also wanted her to have the experience of it and - selfishly - I wanted to take some pictures (seriously). Her mother was having NONE of it.

There were lobs from the expense (minimal in the scheme of living in that part of the world) to the danger of it (there are hundreds of thousands of kids on the island of Manhattan at all times and there are many, many more that come in just for things like this) and the police presence to safeguard idiot tourists (like the family Amore) balloons for thse sorts of moments. We argued. A few times. I let it go. A year later we had relocated and went to the Mayor's tree lighting here in Wichita . . . I'm not complaining - just contextualizing. Experience and opportunity lost.

When I listened to the piece about these parents on Saturday I found a few things notable.

  1. How well prepared they otherwise were for this trip. He is a certified captain who can (and has) been in charge of commercial boats and has enough training to qualify him for high-levels of high-seas adventure.
  2. How thorough they were before just saying "Well, we need help and we're getting it." They really did, by their accounts, try everything short of it including mapping out how long it might take to get to their destination (three weeks, minimum) and how well the boat would make it (it probably would have made it).
  3. How much they lost. The boat was their home. It was their everything and everything they owned was on it when they left it to sink (the penalty of being rescued, I suppose).
  4. How much they had agreed on this decision and how little concern or worry they had, going in to it, that they might eventually raise the ire of a nation of critics and sofa pundits when they left port to start the trip.
I don't know a lot about parenting - I'm doing my best and think I'm doing fine. I know less about marriage. I know, probably, even less about consensus and deliberation, and true agreement between two people. But I know that if you're going to set sail with two little kids on a tiny-assed boat you'd better be pretty good at all of the above. Even if the world will later judge you for it. 


Sunday Funday . . .

I LOVE the "High Maintenance" series (a bike pot dealer and his random, random clients) on Vimeo but this one might be my favorite. A great example of the complexities of the series . . . not just all fun and games. The scene birdwatching in the park scene is just amazing "Step off my balls, Ruth."

High Maintenance // Brad Pitts from Janky Clown Productions on Vimeo.


Furious 7 . . .

So I have been putting off writing and sharing my thoughts on Furious 7, the latest chapter in (The) Fast & (The) Furious franchise. From the looks of the box office receipts (nearly a BILLION DOLLARS in ticket sales, worldwide, in 10 days I can safely presume most of you have seen the movie but very few of you have EXPERIENCED the movie the way I did.

WHY do I think I have a premium on "experiencing" these films? Well, like any mother who carried a baby in her womb for nine, long months, I am part of these movies and they are part of me. No, no. I'm seriously. Deadly serious. You see for all the anger and rage I have over "blockbuster" movies and how sequels are killing the world and creativity and how special effects in movies are destroying the actual imagination of the world and blah, blah, blah (I am directing that at myself, in scorn) I can honestly say that I have truly loved EVERY chapter of this franchise.

And I'm not alone - since the series started FOURTEEN YEARS AGO - the idea of a gang of hard-driving street criminals and their law enforcement frienemies (I'm bringing that term back, dammit.) has captured billions of dollars in revenue, millions and millions of eyeballs and the shock and awe of other franchises that keep trying to figure out how they keep raising the absurdity bar for these movies without the slightest hint of revolution from the fans.

Why? Because the film franchise, its cast, its crew, and its directors are committed to each other and the fans as much as the fans are committed to the franchise. And I don't mean this as hyperbole. It is well documented that these actors enjoy working together and they really are, as the recurring theme of the films (family is everything) a group that believes in family being about more than just blood and genetics. It is about heart and love.

Let's be clear - the Fast & Furious movies are absurd. They are truly ridiculous and they just keep getting more and more fantastically removed from reality (they dropped cars out of a plane and they were then guided, by GPS, to a mountain pass below and when they landed - safely - they got into a gun fight with an armored bus . . . and the crowd went NUTS for it). There is nothing wonderful about the script (there are a dozen one-liners per film that make me audibly grunt "F*ck yeah!") and the acting is not exactly award-caliber. Yet . . . the dude abides. The films keep getting made. The fans return.

I have mixed thoughts on what might happen next. I really think the franchise has sort of run its course. The characters are now "old" (they intentionally introduced a cast member in this installment who is easily 15 years younger than the average age of the rest of the cast) and I don't care how much you love cars and fighting crime at some point you say "Nah. I'm good." - even Bruce Wayne hung up his own tights in the end.

More over I thought the ending of this movie - where the narrative was broken and the "fourth wall" of visual media knocked down - and the open, loving tribute paid to Paul Walker (who died, in real life, while the movie was being made) and his character was so spot on (I wept - literally - you can ask Special Lady Friend) and wonderful that it really, in my opinion, is how the whole thing should end.

Do some spin-offs, maybe break the group apart and see what sticks (the world needs more "Hobbs" (and his cute daddy-daughter dynamic)) but I think they should leave this one alone.

Of course I say this full-and-well-knowing that, come the spring of 2017 IF they are offering an eight installment . . . I'm there. With bells on. Me and these movies . . . we are family.


Hillary . . .

If you go back to my very early days of loving politics . . . you go back to the early days of me loving the Clintons. Technically you can look at Mario Cuomo and the failed effort of Mike Dukakis but stuff got "real" when the Clintons turned it on in 1992.

They were YOUNG and the people they worked with and the campaign team they built were youngER. It was exciting. Politics felt accessible and real and they were, if nothing else, liberals. Much of the next decade-to-dozen years of my political interests were also fueled by the Clintons and my growing, raging liberalism.

Then something weird happened - Bill became an elder statesman and Hillary became a hawk. They got older. They got more curmudgeonly. They got more centrist in many ways. By 2008, Hillary was not the most liberal candidate in the pack and was not even that much more liberal than some of her foes across the proverbial aisle and that drove me nuts.

Since her loss in 2008 I feel like she spent four years as a Secretary of State and then just got grumpy. And that is okay. She was part of a  young, upstart political couple in 1992. 23 years later, she's part of an elder couple of political statespeople - who are grandparents.

I get it. It is what it is but then - then - OH  BABY - she dropped this video on YouTube (like allllll the cool kids are doing these days) on Sunday and it got REAL again . . .

LOOK at the content of that video. Schools/education? Job creation? Gay marriage? Equality in every sense of the word? Protection of the lower and middle class? Social engagement on every level? Volunteerism? Retirement protection?

Ladies and gentlemen - Hillary Clinton is back to being a liberal. She's back. And my excitement for her is back, too. I don't know what the next 18 months will bring but - if all we get is a flash of a return to liberalism in American politics, I'm happy. I can dream of politics again. Like when I was young.


Pledge KMUW . . .

At least once every six months, I openly, publicly renew my obsession with and undying love for KMUW.

If you're new to this blog, have been hit on the head by a large, heavy, blunt object, or any other reason prevents you from knowing what KMUW means to me - let me be clear.

It is a lifeline-ish. If your zip code doesn't start with 672--, you may not know this but Kansas is a really "traditional" place. It is a state of hard work, mind-your-own-business approaches, and no premium is put on art or culture. We don't openly debate things and we believe in the status quo. This is not criticism - it is observation. To clarify . . . we are decidedly NOT "simple" but we (unlike every other place I've ever lived) don't often give in to the fluffy parts of life that fill the heart and head with happiness.

But KMUW . . . KMUW has all the happiness and all the triggers. I - cliche aside - start and end my day with KMUW. Morning Edition anchor Kate Clause('s voice) has spent more time with the naked version of me than any other woman I've ever known. My daughter's favorite bath time partner (before recently transitioning to ten minute showers) was Jedd Beaudoin's "Strange Currency". I listen to so much of "my" public radio that local anchor and film critic Fletcher Powell sounds like (equally) world-renowned Ari Shapiro and reporter and music host Carla Eckels sounds 9,000 times happier to be in Wichita than Elanor Beardsley sounds from the City of Friggin' Lights (Paris - for those who don't like the pet names for world capitals) and these things make me happy.

I used to think that the syndicated programs ("Morning Edition", "All Things Considered", "Marketplace" and "Fresh Air" Mo - Fr and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.", "The Splendid Table", "Ask Me Another" (a new obsession, for me) and my favorite brought-in show on KMUW, "Snap Judgement" on the weekends) were the best part but, honestly - no more.

The more I think about it, the NEWS and COMMENTARY and occasional longer-format special program are second-to-none and why I love the station.

The crazy bastards in charge at KMUW gives precious "morning drive time" (a premium for commercial radio stations to sell to muffler shops and dog groomers) to the origins and roots of WORDS (Lael Ewy's "OnWords"), and my friend Zack Gingrich-Gaylord recently wrapped up a series on graffiti (a distinctly VISUAL art form that he made work by sound alone) and, with The New American Songbook, has started a series on something decidedly audible - hip hop. Yes. HIP. HOP.

Restaurant reviews, TWO movie reviewers, book reviews, art reviews, theater reviews, and the hilarious, unhinged (I fear (smile)) Richard Crowson talking all-things absurd about living in the Sunflower State are all things you can find the station giving time to throughout the day - all done by local people.

As for news . . . since Aileen LeBlanc (with her wonderful saddle shoes and scarves) arrived here the quality of the news has gone through the proverbial roof. We now REGULARLY hear Aileen, Carla Eckels and Sean Sandefur on the NATIONAL (not just local) newscasts for NPR and Abigail Wilson and Deborah Shaar are doing wonderful work too and coverage of Topeka happenings round out the mix of what makes the news department at KMUW far better than any other media outlet in town (in my never-humble opinion).

Long story long - KMUW is great. AND you should listen to it and you should contribute to it. NOW IS THE TIME!

Now - some sad news - I'm NOT doing my typical mini "drive" (I have done Seandraising and/or Donasean each drive for three years now and - while they have been successful - the last round was not great and I am going to take a drive off) BUT I am going to harass people I know and love (and who I know love KMUW) to give and give generously this drive. You can wait for me to come to you or you can go to them.

Please, dear readers, are going to get the first dose of that. Here! Click on this link. Look at ALL the goodies and embrace the strategy of monthly, on-going giving and do what you can (consider $20/month is less than a dollar a day . . . less than a daily soda or coffee QuikTrip and WAY less than Starbucks).

Help KMUW. Help you. Help Kansas embrace its happy, touchy feelies.


So Did the Fat Lady . . .

I'm finally watching Season 4 of "Louie" (which means Season 5 must now be available to you with cable - kudos) and, I've gotta' say, the show just keeps getting better and better. There is something about how comfortable Louis C.K. is with being UNCOMFORTABLE (and/or making you uncomfortable) that just resonates with me.

There is a fantastic episode where Louie's (C.K.'s alter-ego) daughter decides she is "dreaming" and just jumps off a subway train as the doors are closing leaving Louie and his older daughter distraught to get back and, when he does, he lays in to the younger, scared daughter like you cannot imagine and it is so real and honest and wonderful.

Then there is this scene (give it a view - it is like 7:00 of your life and a few profanities) which might be one of the best scenes in the history of improvised/semi-scripted television (delivered, it seems, in one or maybe two takes (that sun is low in the sky for too many takes)) that closes episode three (called "So Did the Fat Lady" - you will see why) wherein a moderately heavy woman schools a moderately obese man on the double standards and painful reality of life and love when you're overweight.

I don't entirely know if I agree with Sarah Baker (who plays Vanessa - the actress in the scene) that life is that much harder for a "fat girl" than a "bald man" or a "person with one limb" or whatever other physical difference can sometimes shock an otherwise would-be pursuer but the way she delivers the line and the way Louie reacts is about as real and honest and wholly convincing as one might imagine.

Sidebar - NO man has ever, ever said "no" to "screwing on a big can of peaches."


Soul Mates . . .

Rest in peace, lovers.
At my first wedding, my then-new-wife and I danced to one of my favorite songs ever . . . Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" (yep, I just linked you to a clip from The Queen Latifah Show). The song is about a life that is improved by love and a person saved for the grace of a soulmate he didn't expect.

I should clarify that I do NOT believe in soulmates. It is a beautiful gesture but - come on already. The point is that HE believes in them and, on one's wedding day, it is maybe customary for you to believe to but that is NOT the point. The point is that deep in the third verse there is this . . .

"Next door there's an old man who lived to his 90s then, one day, passed away in his sleep. And his wife she stayed for a couple of days then passed away."

Now THIS is something we can all get beyond - the crushing, heartache and loss of losing your life partner. Enter the story of a Kentucky couple, both deep in the throws of Alzheimers who had not been together in years (separate nursing homes) and yet - they died within just a few minutes of each other. What a beautiful notion, right?

Love and co-dependence have so many, nuanced layers and I think I'm more okay with the idea that there are those who don't want to live without the person that, for so long, was the core of their life. Not because they CANNOT but because they don't want to.

Consider Brandi Carlile's "I Belong to You"

Carlile chooses to "belong" to her lover in the sense that she wants to have a singular identity including gathering and giving her partner all her yesterday's and then vowing "I'm going to die the exact same day as you . . . and I ain't scared because I'm never going to miss you."

The narrator is so in love and tied to her partner that she doesn't want to live without them because of, well, the pain of missing and longing. She COULD do it - but why?

I don't love many people in this world. I struggle at real, impactful, and meaningful relationships and bonds. It is my own thing and it is a curse and burden that not only I carry but anyone silly enough to care for me has to carry, too because - well - I'm never going to promise to die the same exact day as anyone (except MAYBE the Fast & Furious franchise).

Not because I don't want to love. Not because I don't want to need and desire and covet and feel urges to fold my life in to someone else's. Truth be told there are tons of people in this world, including CHIEF AMONG THEM a very, very special one who lays next to me every night, that I would love to say was my soulmate. That I would want, very much, to vow to die on the same day as them, that I would be able to see my life inside theirs and theirs inside mine.

Alas - I worry that the "couple of days" that I stayed past her or anyone else would be just enough to remind me that the garbage has to get to the curb, there is a "to-do" list on my desk at work and the dog needs to be fed and let out to poop. The pain, however overwhelming, has to be considered against all the other things and obligations in my life.

One more thing about "The Luckiest" . . . the song is not exactly ruined for me. As the lyrics also point out (begin) - "I don't get many things right the first time, in fact, I am told that a lot. Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls that brought me here."

So, yeah, there is hope for another day and another love and to maybe - at the end of the long, long journey - the proverbial "luckiest". There is always a chance that, in time, I will become open enough to fit in the safe nook of my lover's arm and the ample cleavage of her bosom (jussayin). There is always that hope. There is always that chance. Viva la chance.


Mind Matters . . .

As I mentioned a month ago, I've recently become OBSESSED with archery. And while I've, admittedly, only gone out three total times for some "practice" (that is what a dedicated person would call it, right)? I've spent a minimum of ten or eleven HOURS doing research and looking in to the latest sport that - for me (like running, riding a bike, and kayaking before it) - will likely rattle in my brain and maybe become part of my daily life but never actually be there for "sport". It will be the latest co-opting of something otherwise competitive and assertive that I make about being calm, still, and alone . . . if only in my mind.

So what have I learned? It can be super, super complicated. There are, by my counts, eight official "types" of bows and at least six "types" of arrows. There are hundreds and hundreds of manufacturers or everything from the parts of the bow (there are between one and six pieces, depending on your want/need for customization) to the strings and cables that provide the tension, to the tips, shafts, feathers, and end "thingies" (technical term) that couples the arrow with the string.

And that is just the beginning . . . the length of the bow can and will vary based on your shooting strategy (target practice, hunting, type of prey (let's be clear - I'll only EVER shoot at targets), your height, your arm length/reach/pull length, your relative strength, the arrow length you prefer (which is, of course, based on a few hundred variables and goals and strategies), and the distance you plan to shoot (which, again, is based on lots of other factors and considerations).

The point of all this . . . it is super, super confusing. Like so many things in my ever-naive life that I thought I could just engage with (like marriage, parenting, Judaism, marketing, math, and grocery shopping before it) it is almost too much and too overwhelming once you get that toe in the water and realize your body's momentum is about to get the whole of you wet.

Yet - here I am - still obsessed and maybe enjoying the research and learning as much (or maybe even more) than I might ever enjoy the "sport". But I need to get a bow that is a better match than my daughter's tiny, tiny one and her short, short arrows. This much has been verified.


Places I Want to Go . . .

I like traveling. Sorta. I actually have a lot of anxiety about, you know, not sleeping in my own bed and not following my normal schedule, and having to either pack everything I own or being without everything I own so the traveling is fine . . . the not being "here" is the issue.

I digress . . . what was I saying - oh - yeah - I want to go places. I'm GOING to go places. Here is a list of ten places I put on my 18-month "to see" list (with indication of when I intend to see them).

Mile End Deli - Brooklyn and/or Manhattan, New York

A non-Kosher Jewish deli modeled after Montreal delis but in New York City (first Brooklyn, then Manhattan). Sounds great, right? RIGHT. And that is why I shall eat there when I visit friends in New York in June.

Wrigley Field - Chicago, Illinois

As much as I hate sports, I love icons of sport. I like the old stuff and the legends and, frankly, I've been to a LOT of baseball games and parks. Both Yankee Stadiums. Both Sheas (or Citi - whatever). Both Vets (or whatever they call the new one in Philly), Camden Yard, RFK, Fenway (several times), etc. Yet Wrigley eludes me. I want to go this season. Maybe.

Prairie Lights Bookstore - Iowa City, Iowa

I love bookstores - especially independent ones (see my love affair with Watermark here in Wichita). Libraries are great but they smell like old people and you can covet and gain things but you have to give them back . . . from a book store the things you fall in love with are yours forever. This place is said to be one of the great independent bookstores. So great OBAMA has been there. I'm going to go in July when Special Lady Friend and I go see The Weepies.

Chihuly Garden and Glass - Seattle, Washington

I love glass art so, so much. I love Chiuly so, so much. I love gardens - eh - a little bit. I want to go to Seattle to visit my friend Walker and his son JW and I want to see Chihuly. Let's make a plan for this time in 2016.

Thorncrown Chapel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I have recently picked up two more/new obsessions - one is archery, the other is architecture SPECIFICALLY sanctuary/religious architecture. This place, which I first remember hearing about via social media years ago, looks amazing. A wee modern for my taste but it seems to have just enough old and rustic around it to keep it simple. Keep it faithful. I think we'll do a weekend trip this fall - the leaves are probably beautiful.

Yosemite National Park - Yosemite Village, California

I have this grand fantasy that the National Parks are something every American should do yet I've only been to the one we call "The National Mall" in Washington, DC (I think Gettysburg might be one too, technically). We Americans need to go to more parks, more often. I'm taking the kid and SLF (if she wants to go) for a vacation in the next year. We're doing to go to Yosemite. Seems like a good choice, right?

Bocce Courts at Francis Ford Coppola Winery - Geyserville, California

I love bocce. I love the Coppolas (I've actually met a handful of them - long story). I love Coppola wine (or did, once upon a time . . . I've lost the taste for adult grape juice but, at one point, Sophie Blanc de Blancs was my favorite thing in a flute). I think combining them all together would be wonderful. I am hoping we can go for a trip in the late-Spring of 2016.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse - Boulder, Colorado

I love tea and I love experiences. I'm told this is the one GREAT tea experience in these United States - and Boulder also has the greatest kite store ever (where I have been - Into the Wind). I can't wait to check both out this winter (presuming we can find a snow-free window to make the trip).

Nicholas Joseph Custom Tailors - Chicago, Illinois

Know what's fancy? Bespoke suits. Know what's stupid expensive? Bespoke suits. Know what I really, really want to own? A (singular) bespoke suit. I would like to go and have the experience sometime early next year - IF I hit my weight loss goals. I figure if I spend a moderate fortune on some clothes it might motivate me to keep the weight lower than the price tag.

Tulip Time - Holland, Michigan

Nope. This is NOT Holland (the country). It is HOLLAND (the Michigan town). We're going to check out America's largest tulip festival in early-May of 2016 (we would go this year but I have a half marathon that conflicts on the calendar).


Taxes . . .

The first time I had to do "my own" taxes was 1998. I was 22. I had certainly worked before then (I got my first job as a 16-year-old kid running the "Handicraft" area of my Boy Scout camp (that's right - I taught basketry, woodcarving, leathercraft, and metalcraft for two summers)) but my parents would always do my taxes for me (I feel like they really just laughed at my W-2s and kept on claiming me as a dependent) but 1998 was the year I really became empowered to be my own person.

So it is early February 1999 (so really 1999 was the first time I had to do my own taxes but it was the 1998 filing so . . . I don't know . . . what year is it now?) and the World Wide Web was new and wonderful and exciting and I used H&R Block and a nearly-maxed-out credit card to file all two of my tax documents and when the site told me I was getting a few hundred back from DC and a few hundred from the federal government, I freaked. And hired someone to do my taxes for me. It seemed too good to be true - yet the eventual filing (which I paid another $100 (plus filing fees, etc.)) was the same exact amount of refunds from both layers of "The Man".

So - fast forward 16 years and it is 2015 and I STILL have yet to do and file my own taxes.

I don't know why I still pay someone. The sites/apps/software has become so powerful and intuitive that it practically does it for you and I don't exactly have a complicated tax life (a W2, some student loan interest, a few non-profit and charitable donations, some child-care expenses, etc.) but I still pay someone to do it?

WHY? (I'm so glad you finally asked.) Because I like the simple protection of knowing that for $150 or so - I have some protection from liability if I lie about how many bags of clothing I donated to the DAV or if I accidentally forget to acknowledge my W2 altogether. I truly believe that taxes, like oncology, are best left to professionals who are dedicated and capable and experienced and licensed and insured.

Anywho - I'll find out later today what my "fate" is (happy thoughts on refunds - The Sean has a very small, very important, very important purchase he's saving away for).


The Whole Fetus . . .

The Gov. felt SO good about this signing he didn't invite the press and he
held it at Cedar Crest surrounding by five people mopey enough to want to
have their faces tied to this farce and two oversized photos of two will-be
people who could care less about these six in the middle protecting them.
I try (really, I do) to not get too political on this blog. I mean I am open about my politics and positions on politics and social issues but I try not to drive you all away with my soapbox crap but today, right here in the GREAT state of Kansas our Governor (perhaps worried that Indiana was stealing his thunder as the most conservative and reality-obtuse state in the Union) signed a ban that makes my head spin.

For the unaware: Kansas, today, became the first state in the country to enact a ban (effective July 1, 2015) on fetal "dismemberment" in the second trimester (specifically 21.6 weeks or after) of pregnancy. WHY does this ban make my head spin?

Because Kansas . . . for as much as the National Right to Life Committee, who wrote the bill and have lobbied to get it considered/activated (I don't know the word) in a handful of states (oh, yes, don't fool yourself into thinking our fair Governor or the legislature he (and his backers) use as so many puppets actually cared enough about this issue to write the language on this) wants you to believe this is a MAJOR move toward protecting the sanctity of life (which is offensive to those, like me, who favor a woman's right to choose a safe, medical-professional-administered, abortion in many (but not all, admittedly) situations) this is a fraud of a law.

WHY (I keep indignantly shouting it but never answer it)? Because Kansas, my fellow Sunflower Staters, already bans "most" abortions after 22 weeks. And there is nothing in this move that changes the criteria for pregnancies considered "most" or "exceptions" to the law.

What the measure DOES do is restricts how the abortion can be administered (I am not good with the words on this one, forgive me) by restricting the ability of a doctor - who is a trained, licensed, medical professional by the nature of the term "doctor" - to in any way "alter the fetus". Why does that matter? Simple . . . as graphic and unsettling as it may be a fetus at 21.4 or 21.5 weeks might be too big to be removed in tact. So a woman who has made a horribly difficult decision now has to risk additional physical harm and trauma or go forward with the pregnancy.

Now I know, I know - abortion is murder. So many abortion fearers with their photos and Sharpie-drawn protest signs about what Jesus wants, etc. have tried/failed (at least on me) to make that point a million times. And there was a woman in the grocery market talking about how "If anyone saw the torture that little baby (fetus) goes through they would be against abortion, too." The irony (in the mis-informed American sense of the word) being that she was waiting for her steaks at the butcher counter. Yep. The woman who was about to take home meat prepared in what is essentially a death factory where fire-strength hoses wash down the blood at the end of every shift and actual chain saws help speed production, is sure that if anyone "knew" what went on they would change their mind. Enjoy your steak, dummie.

So, yeah, we're real trail-blazers here in Kansas. We've got MOUNTAINS of real trouble (budget, schools, infrastructure, warming planet, etc. etc. etc.) but our Governor and his minions under the dome can and WILL drop everything to trim nine days from the window a woman can make her own decisions and, in trimming the window, protect a life, or two (for the record just 9% of abortions here take place in the second trimester) - until it escapes the womb "whole" . . . THEN it is on its own (unless it is born filthy rich).

Good job, Governor Brownback. We're super proud of you today.


2015 Objectives (Update 3) . . .

"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) 8.2 finished
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 20.9 miles/week (271 total miles)
  3. Finish a half marathon in under three hours (as many tries at it takes). First attempt is 05/03/15.
  4. Lose 100 Pounds. That's right. Get. Less. Fat. 27 pounds down (Sadly that is only FOUR POUNDS in March).
  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 14% year-to-date (we are buying things for the house so my expenses are up but few are wasteful). 
  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. 
  8. Reduce social media time by 25% (10 minutes/day or less). Logging an average of just over 12 minutes/day (not including blogging, or efforts for work and/or my congregation). Down two more minutes in March and getting better (less) all the time.


10 LEAST Favorite Songs of All Time . . .

So . . . yesterday I posted my five favorite holiday songs of all time and I took a little heat for that. Apparently no one can believe I actually enjoy anything in this world - much less holiday music. So, to confirm your suspicions I present, here, my ten least-favorite songs of all time.

A few clarifications/criteria. I tried to cover a good swath of the musical world (I dislike thousands of songs so I didn't want to get stuck on any one genre or era or whatever). I skipped over several genres of music - country, heavy metal, electronica/dubstep, Tejano, etc. If I don't even like the genre, I can't pick on any one part of its canon. I did not bother to go back and attack TOO MANY one hit wonders or big, mega hits. That's not fair. Certainly a lot of songs (Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit") just do not age well but that doesn't mean we can pretend we never liked them. Yes. I do attack some big, major "hits" . . . because they sucked then and they SUCK now.

"Over and Over" by Nelly and Tim McGraw

Lemme get this straight? Someone walked up to Tim McGraw - the man behind "Don't Take the Girl" (a song that has made me cry every time I've listened to it for 21 straight years) and said "There is a dude famous for a Band-Aid on his cheek who wants to do a duet." and he said "Yep. Sure. Let's raise my street cred with the rapper." Dreadful.

"Chevy Van" by Sammy Johns

If there is any rape-ier song out there (other than that dreadful "Blurred Lines" crap that is straight up about raping a woman and being okay with that), I don't want to know it. The minute you tell me you're taking a girl for a ride in your van - I'm calling in an Amber Alert. Seriously. Absolute crap. Absolute. Absolute. Absolute crap.

"Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac

Know what I love about Fleetwood Mac? NOTHING. Know what I like about this song? EVEN LESS. I get that the members of the group are (were - let's be more clear) pretty talented and they did their thing but do you think they even enjoy this song? I picture them lunging for the radio dial when it comes on in the car. Seriously.

"Let's Get It Started" by Black Eyed Peas

Oh. I see . . . a woman in her mid-40s wants to pretend she's in her early 20s and there are a variety of other dudes that just sort of moan and grunt over the beat? This song was HUGE. It was in everything. It was much, much loved. It probably made all two to 19 members (I can never figure it out - mainly because the group has had a rotating cast of members over the years - not because all black people and American Indians look alike). If you like this song - shame on you. Seriously.

"Here We Are" by Gloria Estefan 

Where was the Miami Sound Machine when this woman NEEDED them? Because someone should have stepped in and refused to allow this to happen. Has anyone ever said "This song really reminds me of my relationship, my life, and how I feel about my status in both?" If so - come see me - you need a hug. And/or a ride in Sammy Johns' shady van.

"She Bangs" by Ricky Martin

Know when this song lost me? When he chirped - "Changing signs like a Gemini." That is just BAD lyrics. The "sign" of a Gemini doesn't change, the personality does. Hack crap, Ricky. HACK crap.

"All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You" by Heart

HAND. TO. G-D. The 13 year old version of me (or whatever age I was when I got this party started) heard this song and immediately said "Oh, man. This poor guy. He is just being misused by this woman and he might really love her and want to have and raise a child with her." I've hated the song ever since.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana

Presented without content because this one is so beloved by an entire generation (if not multiple) that I can never explain it or get through the critique without being accused of un-Americanism. Long story avoided . . . it is whiny, it is detached and too inside itself, it is not great.

"This Used to be My Playground" by Madonna

I feel like Madonna's whole career has really been her trying to get up the nerve to publicly stating she was abused as a child. No song before or after makes me feel this more strongly (despite dozens, for me, being proof points). Child abuse is horrible. So is this song. And most of her others.

"You're Having my Baby" by Paul Anka and Odia Coates

If Paul Anka was here right now . . . alllllllllllllllllll these years later . . . I would kick him in the nuts and pray that he couldn't father a child OR make a song with Odia Coates (or the voice she represents). Does making a baby with someone really equate to a token of love? What ever happened to good, old-fashioned boudoir photography and a tugger on the drive home? That is a weird, weird love affair.

"Crazy In Love" by Beyonce

I can't. I just, simply can't.


Top Five Favorite Holiday Songs . . .

I would be a liar if I told you that everything is fine and well at home these days. No, no. The kid is fine. The house is fine. This is about things between Special Lady Friend and me.

It seems I missed a very crucial discussion point and consideration when she and I were deciding to merge lives . . . I never bothered to vet her taste in Holiday music.

And that, it turns out, is a horrible mistake because now I'm stuck sharing high speed Internet with a woman who openly (and I am quoting) "loves" Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" . . . not familiar with it? Yes. You are. It is that song about the guy that bumps in to his old high school "fling" and they share a six pack in the parking lot and laugh until they cry . . . cue saxaphone solo anddddddddddddddd . . . scene.

Now I'm not packing up my toothbrush and chino collection just yet but I did challenge her to improve herself in the approximately eight months between now and next Christmas (her holiday) and to find some better holiday tunes to openly adore.

I even helped her out with a few suggestions we can ALLLLLL agree on (and or challenge) . . .

"Where are You Christmas?" by Faith Hill

Let's be clear - this song is super, super cheesy and all that one could easily hate about the holiday season but it is beautiful while covered in cheese and a light dusting of snow because - at its core - it is about boiling back all the crap and getting it to the core of Christmas . . . the toys the Grinch returned to the village at the bottom of the mountain.

"Celebrate Me Home" by Kenny Loggins

Family. By blood, friends, or union and resolve. They are the best part of the "holiday season" and the only thing that has us come "home" at all (it certainly isn't the wallpaper in your childhood bedroom).

"Last Christmas" by Wham

Stop laughing. Forget that this song was made in a very, very specific moment in musical history (the 80s pop window) and forget that this song has been covered a million times (including some that are actually better than the original). This song is about the regret that comes along with the holidays and with love in general. There is also a hint that this song - like so much of the holiday music genre - is really about the end of a year and the hope for the year to come. Nothing wrong with looking ahead. As long as it is past the 80s.

"River" by Joni Mitchell 

Oh, Joni. So full of regret. So full of sadness. So damned good. I have loved this song for a very, very long time (Robert Downey Jr. - during his stint on Ally McBeal covered it and did it justice) but the original with its regret and longing and wistfulness and the idea of the song's core theme really being the cold feeling of isolation - if on a frozen river skating away or stuck somewhere that stays "pretty green".

"Joyful Joyful (We Adore Thee)/Ode to Joy" by Henry J. van Dyke, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven

The greatest long-term collaboration in the history of music. Let's be clear . . . LVB never intended to have chorale lyrics set over his inspiring "Ode to Joy" but - in the spirit of Christmas co-opting anything it wants . . . here we are. But at least this is solid. For my money there is truly NOTHING better than that moment at the end of the concert or the Christmas Eve service when the talented orchestra or for-crap pianist is sung over by either the hack audience or the moderately-skilled choir and this comes out. NEVER bad. NEVER disappointing. Always wonderful.


Pennies . . .

The most interesting part about the one-cent coin (aka the "penny" (as made/issued by the US Mint)) is that the ONLY reason it still exists is nostalgia, ego, and emotional ties to the little, metallic beauty.

Don't believe me? It is totally true. I mean sure, sure - there are actual logistical reasons (the ability to price to the - well - penny, the costs associated with removing them from circulation and replacing them with nickels (much more expensive to produce), and the inevitable next debate . . . getting rid of the aforementioned nickel) but MOST of it is about emotion. "We" don't want to get rid of the penny.

Pennies are wishes in fountains. Pennies are, when in pair, the approximated, "two cents" value of your thoughts (wanted or not). Pennies are our last bastion of common courtesy on the counter of convenience stores. Pennies are the first money our parents gave us. Pennies are (maybe) the first coin we almost choked to death on shortly after. Pennies are, well, PENNIES!

And, in the spirit of how we build logic, rules, and objective facts, factoids, talking and proof points around our subjective heart's desire, I have to say that pennies are just one small (in size, value, and relative weight) example of how we romanticize what we want to make it into something that we need.

There is NOTHING about the penny we would not move past. Quickly. We can have nickel trays near cash registers. We can offer people a "dime for your thoughts" or "my tarnished nickel" (when sharing thoughts). We can easily choke to death on the nickels our parents give us as children. It wouldn't even take a generation to forget it.

The best part? Unlike the other things in our life that we really, really don't need (Lena Dunham's "humor", bad relationships, self doubt, horrible jobs, M*A*S*H reruns, etc.) we would still be able to hold on to the penny - it would be as useless as it is now but you could keep one, two, or pockets full.