Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You're a Man Now Kid

It gives me no joy to write this, though it may end up being cathartic. I would have been perfectly happy plodding along, loving those who love me, and not feuding with those who don’t.  But my life now includes a grandfather who doesn’t respect me. I've suspected this was true for a while, and I just received a letter from him which leaves no doubt. And it isn't just he who respects me so little that he must send a miserable letter saying as much. Since he can't write legibly, the letter was re-written by my mom and sent by the wife of an uncle. And though this will not be a feud, I can't ignore it either. Maybe you disagree with my writing this post, but I ask you to remember that I did not ask to be in this position; I would love nothing more than to have my family's respect. But I do not have it, and it is clear that I will not get it. That is not something I can control. Basically what I’m saying is, “I didn’t start it.”  

For starters, while the above-mentioned letter did come as a surprise, its contents did not. I have written before that there is a part of my family whose opinion is that they can never be thanked enough; who may occasionally do nice things for me, but in return will demand total submission and eternal gratitude. I realized this perhaps 10 years ago, and decided that I didn’t want to submit to those rules any longer. I struggled with enormous guilt, as you may imagine, but eventually I came to realize that a child should not have to find his own guardians, nor his own food, clothes and shelter.  Yes he should be grateful when his basic needs are met, but he should not have to perform for them. 

It is one thing to be taught self-reliance; it is another thing to be forced into learning it on your own.  Ever since I can remember I have known that I was going to have to work for everything I got. I will not be inheriting any money from my parents. I have been working and/or going to school continuously since I was 12 years old. I largely put myself through college (my dad helped with community college and bought me my first computer, for which I was and am very thankful).  After college I worked my way up to management in retail, where I worked long hours for years.  And my wife and I have worked extremely hard to build her law practice. It is true that I don’t do anything for her office anymore, but it is probably also true that it wouldn’t exist in its current capacity without the many hours I put in during its infancy. This is not a sob story, and I am not asking for your sympathy.   It is important to know, though, that I have worked very hard for everything I have, and continue to work hard to keep it. 

Without question the thing that I have worked hardest on is me.  If I totaled the hours that I have spent soul-searching, striving to be a better man, and working to control my inherited mental illness, I would arrive at a number easily measured in years.  I have overcome an abusive father and parental divorce. I have overcome years of bullying, which caused me to wonder around school in a funk so severe that I quit reacting to being shoved into lockers- I quit straightening my clothes and my hair; I would simply bend down, pick up my books, and carry on.  I have overcome criminally low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Do you think the segment of my family now demanding my gratitude noticed the trouble I was in for so many years, and offered help? They did not.  To be fair, one of the uncles who has no respect for me did drive 10 miles to our house every Sunday, at 5 in the morning, to help me with my paper route after my parents divorced.  For this he had, and has, my great thanks. But would you believe that this is still a source of great dismay to some in my family?  Yes, it is their opinion that I have not thanked him enough for all that help.  Maybe so; but I have made peace with my belief that it is not a 12 year old boy’s responsibility to find his own father figure.  My mother, lost in finding her own way after the divorce, could not help. I’ll admit that I think the least her family could do for me was to help two hours a week with my paper route.

I’ve never wanted to list all the shit I’ve gone through, and I will not start now.  Many people have gone through much worse than I, and, yes, it does embarrass me to carry on in this way.  But it is without question true that I have survived hardships, and done so largely without the help of the family that is now so disgusted with me.  Some would be proud of the life I’ve lived (my dad, for one, is, and he tells me so every time we speak.  We have a good relationship these days; he is a cute grandpa to my kids.) So why is this corner of my family so disappointed in me?

They have noticed, and are angry, that I have distanced myself from them. They accuse me of thinking myself to be “too good” for them, of being selfish.  I must say that I have brought up with them some of the things I’ve written here, with poor results. They are not interested in hearing that they have made errors; that they, perhaps, let me down.     

I am a big boy and I will accept responsibility for my actions. If my actions have caused them to lose respect for me, then so be it.  So it seems that we are at a point of disagreement that cannot be reconciled. Where they see selfishness, I see someone who has worked extremely hard at being a better man.  Where they see someone who doesn’t call or visit enough, I see someone who has been busy with jobs, building a strong marriage and raising a family.  Where they see someone who doesn’t ask about their health, I see someone who has been dealing with pancreatitis since October 2006; pancreatitis so severe that I have had six surgeries and seven hospitalizations, and few visits from them. Where they see someone obsessed with money, I see someone who has not asked for money or free room and board from them since he was 18; someone who has paid for his own college and at least $20,000 in medical bills.   

Where do we go from here?  I don’t know.  Here is what I do know:  I have done plenty to earn the love and respect of every member of my family.  If I have neither, then nothing I say now is going to change that fact.  I am proud of myself, for what I have done and for what I will continue doing. And many amazing people love me.  I value my time and my energy too much to go chasing after love where I’m not going to find it.

Last night, my wife, kids and I went out for supper to celebrate the fact that my blog now has over 100 followers. I proposed a toast, “To love, family, and 100 followers!” 

My four year-old loves toasts. “Cheers,” she exclaimed, and added, “I ‘pose a toast, too.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

She paused, not sure what to say. 

“What are you happy about, honey?  Or what do you wish for?" I asked.

“I am happy you’re my daddy.”


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Break

I need a break. Badly. I sort of got one yesterday, when I went Christmas shopping at the Mall of America with only my wife and baby. The four year-old stayed home with a babysitter. Parents will understand why yesterday was something of a break; those without children will rightly wonder how going to the Mall of America on the busiest Saturday of the year, with a baby, could be considered a break.  As with everything, it is all relative, I guess.

So this morning my lovely wife, seeing the desperation in my eyes, told me to take off for a while.  I’ve been working on a political post for about a month, and need a couple of uninterrupted hours to get it done, so I decided that I would use my break to go to a coffee shop and write.

I approached my daughter, “Honey, I’m going to go out for a bit.”

“Where are you going, Daddy.”

“I’m going to go get some coffee and write.”


“Because I want to.”

“You can get coffee here.”

“I know.”

“You can write here.”

“Not really. It’s too loud and there are too many distractions.”

“Well…I’ll bring you coffee and I promise to be quiet.”

Now I pretty much knew that I wasn’t going anywhere, but I had one more sentence in me anyway, “Thanks, honey. But I’m going to go out. I’ll only be gone for a little while.”

“Okay,” she looked at her feet and whispered, “I’ll miss you.”

So… here I sit in the basement, covered with a blanket, a fire in the fireplace, the dog snoring next to me. My soul mate has the kids two floors above me, where I can barely hear them bathing.  Maybe I should have been firmer in my convictions. Maybe I should have gone out and finished that essay. And, then again, maybe not.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I had a strange conversation with Sadie, the official dopey dog of Unconventional Wisdom, this morning.

“Sadie, please stop crapping on the driveway.”

“Why would I drag my ass through the snow when there is a perfectly clear driveway I can use?”

“Because I said so?”

“Good one.”

“Because you’re a dog?”

“Keep trying.”

“Because I asked nicely?”


“Okay. I didn’t want to do this…because if you don’t, I won’t feed you.”

“The kids will. I eat better than most dogs if you only count what the baby drops.”

“Right. How about this:  Because when you crap on the driveway, I have to trudge across our whole yard to toss it into our neighbor’s yard; whereas, when you do it in your usual spot, I can fling it over with the flick of a wrist?”

“Fine. But you’ll owe me. Shall we say two nights on the couch?”

“The basement couch. And no farting.”

Old Grey-Beard

"Daddy, Santa doesn't have a grey beard, he has a white beard. You have a grey beard!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Long-Shot Movie Idea

I have an idea for a movie that I think just might work. It’s about a bunch of seniors in high school who struggle with issues like:  coming of age, sexuality, friendship, acne, parental divorce, and drug and alcohol use. I would love for it to star Zac Ephron, Vanessa Hudgens, the Jonas Brothers, and Miley Cyrus. The trouble is, I just don’t think there is a market for this kind of movie.  

Dear Tom

Dear Tom,

I heard a rumor the other day and you are the only one I know who could verify it for me (I tried Snopes, and struck out).  The rumor was this:  All the men in Mensa have huge penises and are voracious lovers. Is that true?



Dear Smitty,

I have only been a member of that august club for a couple months. As such, I do not have enough data to confirm that rumor.  Based on what I do know, though, I cannot rule it out.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thought of the Day

Sometimes I look at my daughter, born in Guatemala, and my son, born in Florida, and think, "I'm really sorry for plucking you out of the tropics and dropping you in Minnesota."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thought of the Day

Sometimes being a good dad means telling your embarrassed daughter about the time that you, too, shit in your pants, and admitting that it wasn't so long ago.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I need help with the New York Times crossword. Do you know where Green Peter Lake is?


I’d jump in the lake…if I could find it.

Dear I’d jump in the lake…if I could find it,

I think I may know this. Are you talking about Lake Havasu, by chance? I know that’s not its official name, but I’ve gone there for Spring Break a few times, and I always end up with a green peter.

I hope that helps,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby Manager

I was a lumberyard manager back in the day. I didn’t know it, but managing those clowns turned out to be great training for my job as a parent of young children.  One of my favorite tricks, when I had to ask one of the guys to do a job I knew he was going to hate, was to tell him he couldn’t go home until he got that task, and about 4 others, done.  The yard ape would always throw a fit over having so much to do. I would let him complain for a while, and wait for the horror of it to sink in. And when he was at his lowest point, I would let him off the hook, “Just kidding, just do X and you can go.”  With great relief, he would bound off and happily get the job done.

This same trick can be used to get a restless baby to go to sleep. Here’s how it works:  I start out by rocking the baby.  This hardly ever gets him to sleep. He wants nothing to do with being held, and he thrashes around, elbowing me in the face and kicking me wherever he can.  So we move to Phase 2; I put him in his crib and let him cry. Sometimes, he will cry himself to sleep. Usually, though, he’ll cry until I go get him (he’s lasted an hour before).  So I let him cry for a while; long enough that he is beyond desperate to be held. Phase 3- I go in and let him off the hook. I pick him up, and he is so damn glad to see me that he melts into my arms, and bounds happily off to sleep.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I was 9 years old when Metallica released, “Kill ‘em All”, its first album.  I started noticing Metallica t-shirts a few years after that. And I couldn’t help also noticing that people with whom I didn’t want to cross paths usually wore those t-shirts. In fact, though I had no proof, I was fairly certain that in order to be a true fan of the band, and to have permission to wear shirts sanctioned by the band, one must first eat the liver of his or her younger sibling. 

By the time they released “Metallica”, I was 17 and no longer afraid of the band nor its fans.  Sug and I were in St. Cloud, visiting a friend of his who was a year older than us, and in college, the first time I heard “Enter Sandman.”  We were at a party in the basement of a house appropriately nicknamed, The Pit. The basement was unfinished, except for the floors, which were unfortunately carpeted. The carpet, I learned, is what gave the house its nickname. It was soggy, sated with spilled beer and chew spit and who knows what else. A pit. In one corner of the basement, behind dog-kennel fencing, was the stereo. I don’t know exactly how big the speakers back there were; they were big enough, at any rate, that I was hopeful they would serve as heart defibulators, if needed. 

I was standing directly in front of those speakers, with my back against the fence, when “Enter Sandman” erupted. It felt like someone punched me in a kidney. I shit in my pants. A girl a few feet in front of me collapsed. I don’t know what happened to her but, since she was not wearing a HAZMAT suit, I assume she died within a couple days.  The lights next door flickered, plaster fell from the ceiling; the seismographs at the University sprang to life.  I regained my composure and stayed at the epicenter until the cops shut the party down.

The hearing loss I suffered as a result of that night outlasted my hangover. Still, as soon as I was able, I went out and bought that CD. 

These were my thoughts this morning when “Enter Sandman” came on the radio during our commute to preschool and as I turned it up just a bit and taught my daughter how to bang her head.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I don’t recommend having kids just so that Christmas is fun again, but if you are thinking about it you should know that it does work.  Tonight, as we bundled up and prepared to leave the Mall of America, the good mall Santa walked past us. This is one of those Santas that, if you saw him in shorts and a T-shirt at a baseball game, you would still recognize as Santa. But tonight, even though he was clearly on his way home, he was in full costume.  Our four year-old stared at him as he approached. Finally she gave him a shy, flick-of-the-wrist wave. He gave her a cheerful “hello” and complimented her smile as he breezed past us. He was out the door and out of sight before we finished getting coats and mittens on, though our daughter completed those tasks in double time.  On our way to the car I wondered aloud whether we would see Santa’s sleigh, and, if so, whether Rudolph would be in the lead tonight. The kid’s pace quickened some more, her eyes fixed on the gap on the outside of the parking ramp, searching for a glimpse.

A quick geographic note:  The Mall of America is less than a mile away from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Knowing that, you will not be surprised to learn that, when we exited the parking ramp and looked into the northern sky, (where surely Santa and his sleigh would be expected to be) we saw flashing lights, including one which was red. 

“Look, Daddy! I see Santa! And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Deer!”  

And so did I.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dear Smitty

What are you thankful for?


Still stuffed with stuffing.

Dear Still stuffed with stuffing,

I am thankful for Molson, Goldschlager, and the glorious fact that some women have a weakness for frat guys. And magnum condoms.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I am a man in my midish-30’s.   When using Play-Doh with my wife and kids, I almost always end up making a penis or a vagina or both. I make sure my kids don’t see what I’m doing, of course.  Is there something wrong with me?


Typical Guy (I hope)

Dear Typical Guy (you wish),

Yes. You do not get nearly enough sex. Tell your wife I said so.

You’re welcome,


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I just heard a joke that I'm struggling to make sense of and I thought you could probably help. Tell me if you get this: "Confucius says, 'Man who walks through airport door sideways going to Thailand.'"


Confused by Confucius

Dear Confused by Confucius,

Whoever told you the joke is too vague and, therefore, not very funny.  You need to know where in Thailand the man is going. To wit:  Confucius says, "Man who walks through airport door sideways going to Bangkok."

Have a nice day and be careful out there,


Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I am a bored stay-at-home mom and I'd like to make more friends. Top of my list is finding a gay husband. My cousin has one, but she met hers in eating disorder treatment. I don't want one with quite that much baggage.

Do you have any ideas where a mom from the conservative 'burbs could go to meet prospects?


Dear Anonymous,

I’m assuming you need a gay husband because straight men cannot be trusted around you. You must be hot. Next time send a picture with your letter.

I don’t have much experience finding gay men, but I’ve always been under the impression that they walk among us. So, I guess my advice would be to keep your eyes out for someone wearing green on Thursday (when I was in Junior High this was said to be a sure sign that one was gay).  You might also try a Bette Midler concert.


Dear Smitty,

Last Wednesday started off rough. My kids fought everything I tried to do. We needed to get to preschool early so that I could make it to a dentist appointment. On our way to the car we discovered a dead mouse on the garage floor. It took me about 10 minutes to explain to my daughter what it was and why it was where it was and why I was using a plastic bag to throw a sleeping mouse into the garbage. We ended up being a bit late dropping my daughter off at preschool and so I was a little late for my appointment. The hygienist made up the lost time by power-scraping my teeth, which caused them (not my gums) to bleed. Then, I had to fly from there to the doctor to have what I thought might be a bladder infection checked.  That’s when the fun really started.  The doctor said that men rarely get bladder infections, and that it was far more likely that my prostate was infected and swollen. I only vaguely knew what a prostate was; based on T.V. ads, I knew when I got older that I could expect trouble.  Well, I guess I’m older.

“It sounds like a prostate infection. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to do a rectal exam.”


“Yes. We’ll do a urine analysis, too, but I expect it to be clear- your bladder is most likely fine. We need to do a rectal exam in order to feel if your prostate is swollen. I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.”

But he did not seem sorry. I can’t be sure, because I couldn’t see through my tears, but I think he shoved his whole arm up my ass. He claimed that he could feel that my prostate was swollen, but I think what he felt was one of my lungs.  He gave me an antibiotic, and that seems to be helping, but I have an overwhelming urge to sue him anyway. Do you think I should?


I’ll Never Be The Same.

Dear I’ll Never Be The Same,

I’ve taken several pre-law courses (actually the same one several times) and I promise that you don’t have a case. This is especially true because it sounds like your doctor took no joy in the exam either. I bet he truly was sorry. It would be easy to make a gay joke here, but I am not going to. I think it’s safe to say that that is as unsexy a situation as you will find- a gay doctor would not enjoy it either, I’m sure. You didn’t say, so I have to guess that your symptom was a burning sensation while urinating. I want to offer you my congratulations… when that happens to me, the last thing I think of is a bladder infection. In fact, depending on the type of burning, I can usually figure out myself which STD is flaring up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Perhaps you've seen this e-mail. I saw it today for the first time, and was amazed with the results.

> 1) Pick your favorite number between 1-9
> 2) Multiply by 3 then
> 3) Add 3
> 4) Then again Multiply by 3 (I'll wait while you get the
> calculator....)
> 5) You'll get a 2 or 3 digit number....
> 6) Add the digits together
> Now Scroll down............With that number, see who your ROLE MODEL
> is from the list below:
1. Einstein
2. Oprah Winfrey
3. Werner Pieters
4. Bill Clinton
5. Bill Gates
6. Gandhi
7. Ronald Reagan
8. Your Father
9. Smitty
10.John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

9 Sentences

Several weeks ago, I asked my Facebook followers to submit sentences to be incorporated into a post. This is what they came up with:

1) There once was a man from Nantucket.

2) Beans, beans the magical fruit.

3) I’m Michelle Bachmann and I approve this message.

4) I stayed awake the last four days awaiting the next edition of “Unconventional Wisdom.”

5) When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot of things…now that I’m older, I’m thinking maybe everyone else really knows all the things.

6) On this night of a thousand dreams, I lie here and think, “What I wouldn’t give for a good night’s sleep.”

7) It was at that very moment that I knew I was a lesbian.

8) Most of us have a lot of faith in people, despite our experience.

9) Bird skeletons are characterized by thin, hollow boners.

First, I would like to apologize- especially to the kind reader who is so intense that [he] stayed awake the last four nights (it has now been much longer) awaiting the next edition of “Unconventional Wisdom.”  It feels odd for me to apologize for not posting, but believe it or not, there are people out there who look forward to reading this blog, so: I am sorry it has been so long since my last post. We’ve been sick in my house, and writing simply has not been in the cards.  This post in particular was not one I could write while sick- it is optimistic, and I wasn’t feeling that way for a spell.

Okay. Now at first blush, these sentences may not seem to have much in common. But they do. And, you may be surprised to learn that they also contain the meaning of life!

And here is the meaning of life, as told to Kurt Vonnegut by his son, Mark:

“We are all here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is.”

Don’t let the simplicity of that statement fool you- the best part of every religion I know of can be found in it.  Yes, that quote is plenty deep; but the answer to the questions, “Why are we here? What is the point of life?” need not be. You are here because a man and a woman copulated. And you remain here because some prehistoric corner of your brain has kept your lungs breathing and your heart beating more or less continuously ever since. 

And that is it.  So you might as well laugh, and be kind, and help your friends get through this thing, whatever it is. And look up at the stars!

My grandpa loves to help us through this thing by making us laugh. As much a part of Thanksgiving dinner at his home as turkey was this exchange he’d have with his sister:

“Bean, beans the magical fruit. Did I ever tell you guys about the time Margie shit in her pants on the bus?

“Pat! I did not. I…”

“We had no money in those days, so Margie had nothing more than a can of beans for lunch one day.  Then she hopped on the bus, and headed to work. Before long, she needed to fart. She looked around to make sure it was safe. There was no one around when the bus got to the next stop. She timed her fart for the noisy opening of the doors. Except she didn’t fart, she shit in her pants! And she didn’t notice that a man had gotten on at the stop. There were no open seats, so he came and sat right next to Margie here!”

And, of course, by the time he got to the end, everyone would be crying and choking; thoroughly helped, for a while at least. (I have no idea if that actually happened to poor Margie- I know for sure that her reaction to it, the same year after year, kept the joke alive.)

Most of us have a lot of faith in people, despite our experience.  Sure, there are plenty of assholes running around, but we share the planet with many, many more people who are simply decent. People who are walking around, smiling to themselves, thinking of a joke, “There once was a man from Nantucket…” or her first kiss, “It was at that very moment that I knew I was a lesbian.”  You would not know it, but the lady who was distracted, rude even, and who did not smile at you in the check-out lane, may have simply been tired, having spent the whole previous night thinking, “On this night of a thousand dreams, I lie here and think, ‘What I wouldn’t give for a good night’s sleep.’”   Wouldn’t you show her sympathy if you knew that? Would you still demand to speak to her manager? Wouldn’t you smile, and help her through this thing? I bet you would.

My friend, Jon, has been helping me get through this for over twenty years. We are all grown up now, but he can still very easily make me giggle. Sometimes, he doesn’t have to do anything; hearing from him brings back happy memories. To wit:  We were driving on the freeway when Jon said, “Get off the road you clowns.” I looked over expecting to find bad driving. What did I see?  A car full of clowns. That memory has helped me get through a lot of this. And he keeps on giving. He was recently kind enough to share this, from a test he wrote for a biology class he teaches; see if you can spot the typo: Bird skeletons are characterized by thin, hollow boners.  Thanks for your help, Jon.

Since we are not very far removed from election season, I will leave you with this, something I very much would like to hear my neighbors to the north United States Representative say:
When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot of things…now that I’m older, I’m thinking maybe everyone else really knows all the things.  

----I’m Michelle Bachmann and I approve this message.---

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dream Weaver

Ever since college, I have had a recurring dream which begins with me entering finals week and in which I remember that I have been enrolled in a course that I forgot about until the last week. The final test is the first class of that course that I attend (I had a few in real life where that was practically true, including one in which I set the curve. My recent qualification for Mensa probably helps explain this; having a roommate who was a religious class attender and copious note taker helps even more, though). Anyway, this is not a happy dream.

Last night I had a dream in which I realized that I had a baby that I had forgotten about. One day, I remembered her, and rushed downstairs to check on her (about 9 months late, but hey, I was doing my best). She was fine, miraculously. I was horrified at the thought of her down in the basement, alone, for nine months, while I and the other two kids went about our daily business. It turned out that my wife had been taking care of her at night, which, in my dream at least, explained the baby's good heath.

This morning it crossed my mind that there was more truth in that dream than I'd care to admit. I am not always the most attentive parent during the day. I usually disappear to the basement after supper.  I know for certain that there are stay-at-home parents who do much more with their kids than I do, whose kids watch less T.V.  Still, I don't feel guilty. I do enough, I am also certain of that.

A couple days ago, the baby was crying so hard that he was having trouble breathing. Nothing I did helped. Eventually my daughter walked over to us, and patted him on the back. She bent down and said soothingly, "It's okay, it's okay. We're all here. Daddy's here, I'm here, mommy will be here soon. You will be okay, Baby Brother."  If I have taught her nothing else, I have taught her enough.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sometimes It is Fun to Change at the YMCA

There is a doctor in town who should be a veterinarian.  I know many people, myself included, who have had terrible experiences with him. More than once, I have fantasized about strangling him with his stethoscope. But, I am happy to report, that will no longer be necessary.  Last week he walked into the locker room at the Y while I was changing. I said nothing, of course, because that's the way I roll. I just turned my back to him. As he was changing, though, I became more brave. It really is true that it is impossible to be intimidated by a naked person. I turned to face him. Tension filled the room- a duel was imminent. Each of us stood there and quickly sized up the other. I fought the urge to giggle. And when our eyes did finally meet, it was over. He looked away, a beaten, lesser (by a lot) man.

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Will Never Get Old

Setting:  Parking garage of Children's Hospital. Mom and dad are unloading baby and stuff, preparing to go in for baby's MRI.

Me:  Are we going to bring in our coffee?
Wife:  I wasn't planning on it.
Me: Okay. Us Mensans don't need attitude. A simple "yes" or "no" works just fine.


just got a lot cooler.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

11 Words

I asked followers of Unconventional Wisdom's Facebook page to write one word in the comment section of a post. The following are the words they submitted:


I intended to use the list for writing practice, to see if I could write a post featuring each word. Here is what I came up with:

October 24, 2010

Some random words:  Dude, loquacious, hola, word, one, conventional, decency, boob, neologism, skrote, tired.

There.  I think I’m really growing as a writer. Don’t you?


Let’s try again:

“Hey, SKROTE, what’s up?”

“DUDE, I could tell you in ONE WORD: TIRED.”

“LOQUACIOUS today, huh?”

“I was out too late last night, went to a movie.”

“What did you see?”

“Something About Mary.”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard about that one. I can’t remember what it’s called either.”

“Something About Mary.”

“Yeah, that’s all I can remember too. Hmm. Mary. It’s definitely something about Mary. HOLA, Mary?  No. Oh well, it’s too early to think. It’ll come to us.”


“Were there any BOOBs in the movie?”

“Brett Favre.”

“Oh, that’s right, forgot he was in that. Where’s the DECENCY?”

“He’s not the CONVENTIONAL choice, that’s for sure. Maybe he’s related to the director.”

“Oh, you think a bit of NEOLOGISM was in play?”

“You mean nepotism. NEOLOGISM is when you coin a new word or phrase.”

“Oh.  Well, don’t I have a ballsack on my face! How embarrassing.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Piss Me Off

“I tell ya:  The boys over at DirecTV sometimes make it hard to do business with them.  Every time I call customer service, I want to strangle the person, and then poke him or her in the eyes.”    

“You should write a letter,” Stacy told me.

“Can’t. My days of writing letters of complaint are over. In fact, I’ve only written one.  I was eight years old when the Suits at CBS decided to play hardball with Bo and Luke. They brought in Coy and Vance, who were supposed to be cousins of Bo, Luke, Daisy, and each other. First of all, Coy and Vance were assholes. But I also had trouble buying more Duke cousins. I mean, really. You mean to tell me that Jesse had four nephews and one niece, none of whom were siblings, who didn’t have anywhere else to go?  Sorry. That means that he had at least five siblings who had one child he/she couldn’t take care of. Anyway, I was not happy about it, so my mom finally put me in front of a sheet of paper and told me to write a letter to CBS. I went after them pretty hard, as I recall; I told them they were dumb and so were Coy and Vance.  I don’t remember specifics, but whatever I wrote worked, because Bo and Luke were back before that season was over. I was glad, but it was always in the back of my mind that Coy and Vance were out there somewhere, licking their chops, waiting for a chance to go back to the farm and freeload off of poor Uncle Jesse. Even with Bo and Luke back, the show never really recovered. But I don’t think I could ever hope to top the success I had with that letter, so I retired. Unbeaten. Me 1, stupid suits 0. ”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Which One of These People Doesn't Belong?

“Nationally, 75% of the people who take this test, pass it,” the proctor of the Mensa admission test told the eight of us.   We were gathered in a low-ceilinged, poorly lit room in the basement of a county library to see if we were as smart as we thought we were. “In Minnesota, we are about 10% better than that,” the proctor boasted. 

“Okay,” I told myself, “So about 82.5%, or roughly 6.5, of us should pass. That means that little guy isn’t going to make it. He has to be the half. Who’s the other one? I crunched those numbers pretty quickly, that’s a good sign. I thought ‘quickly’ instead of ‘quick’, that’s good. Also, I’m pretty proud of the half a person joke I came up with. Gotta remember that.”

The questions on the test Mensa gives are not necessarily hard, but the test is timed, and there isn’t much time.  That is how the test measures intelligence- one must be smart enough, for example, to look at the multiple choice answers of a complex math problem before spending a lot of time on it. Often, one doesn’t need to solve the problem; one simply needs to figure out which of the 4 choices it must be, i.e. a question may ask, “What number is 3 less than 3/5 of 75% of 200.” We could figure it out, but it’ll take some time. Maybe if we look at the answers first, two of them will be over 200, and thus automatically disqualified, and one may be 12- way too low. The answer is the only remaining choice, whatever the number is.

The proctor explained that, in order to qualify to become members of Mensa, we would need to score at least 80% on this test, putting us in the 98th percentile nationally. 

“Now, you may be asking, ‘How can 75% of the people who take this test be in the top 2%’?  Well, because this is a self-selecting crowd. And, I shouldn’t need to tell the people in this room what that means,” he quipped. It was the first of many “We‘re all pretty smart” jokes we heard that day.  “If I have to ask where to put my name, should I just leave?” “My wife sent me here. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Either she wants me to prove to myself that I am smart, or she wants to prove to me that I’m not as smart as I think I am.”  “I can’t bend a spoon simply by thinking about it. Is that okay?”  “My mind is not a steel trap, but it is a dense plastic polymer, so I feel pretty good.” (Those last two were mine. I couldn’t resist.) And so on.

The test was divided into two parts, with a 15-minute break in the middle.  I quit smoking a long time ago, so I never really know what to do with breaks anymore. I figured I would use the bathroom, and amble around the library for whatever time I had left. Luckily, I wasn’t married to that idea. This helped me remain calm when I accidentally dribbled urine on my shorts. Most of my 15-minute break, then, was spent directing the air dryer at my shorts, drying them enough that I could leave the bathroom standing tall. I returned to the test room in time to catch the end of a conversation, which I gathered involved everyone talking about what it was like to be so smart. I was glad I had pissed on myself. I sat in my seat and half listened, half looked around to find the person who was not going to make the grade. I was aware of the poker saying which states that, “If you look around the table, and can’t find the sucker, the sucker is you.”  Soon, the voice of the woman next to me cut through my mounting anxiety.   She began carrying on about how, whereas she knew plenty of people who could be fooled, she was not one of them. And she complained that there was only one person in her life who she could talk to. Everyone else was just too dumb. Later, someone mentioned humor, and my neighbor damn near fell out of her chair. “I know! I have the best sense of humor of anyone I know. About 10 years ago, I was waiting for a bus at a bus stop. There were two other women there, they were sisters, and they were, ahh, um, not white. Anyway, it comes out that they were 11 months apart. So I said, ‘Okay. So you’re Irish twins.’ And they were like, ‘Do we look Irish?’ They totally didn’t get the joke!”

Lady, you didn’t have to stumble over your “not white” comment. As soon as you paused, we knew where you were going. And nobody is too smart to hold a conversation. That doesn’t even make sense. And if you are still bragging about that joke 10 years later, well…

My stress gone, my search over, I settled in for the second half of the test, certain that I would pass.

p.s. I don’t know whether I did or not. I’ll find out in a couple weeks.

Makes Sense

If you love David Sedaris, you will love this book, by David Sedaris.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I am a woman in my late twenties. I am going to school, doing an internship and working. I am single. I don’t mind that, but I sometimes wonder if I should. Is it getting too late for me to get on with life?


Should I be working on a boyfriend, or my grades?

Dear S.I.B.W.O.A.B.O.M.G.  (note: if the abbreviation of your name is this long, your signature is too damn long.)

I don’t like to tell people my age, nothing good can come of it. Really the only time it comes up is when I’m trying to score, and I can’t help but wonder how many times I would’ve missed out on fun with a lady who thought I was too young, or too old, if it weren’t my habit to dodge that question- it can only be a deal breaker.  That being said, I will tell you that I am a fifth-year senior, by which I mean that I have now been a senior for five years. Anyway, you have left out some vital information, i.e. your looks. If you are ugly, I’d drop out now and commit myself full-time to finding a man who would have me. Be prepared- it could take a while.  If you’re good looking, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. (Still, I don’t endorse working a lot on grades, either.)  I just read about a couple who “celebrated” 60 years of marriage! That was not a misprint.  60 goddamn years, can you believe that?  They could have waited 30 years, and still been married too fricking long! So, don’t worry. Have some fun.  There is PLENTY (TOO MUCH!!) time to settle down, and begin dying.


p.s.  If you are good looking, write back with your number.  I have a feeling about you…can’t quite put my finger on it (but I’d like to try!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Smitty

Dear Smitty,

I just re-read a funny blog post and it got me wondering:  Do you have a funny vulva story?

-Softball Tosser

Dear Softball Tosser,

Thank you for thinking about me! As luck would have it, I do have a vulva story. Let's do it:  Before transferring to this school, I went to a community college. Many were the day that I would drive to school only to sit at a table in the student center. The table at which I sat was full of characters, of course, men and women, which is why I spent so much time there. Perhaps the strongest character was Mor-mor. He is one of the funniest sonsofbitches that I have ever known- it is impossible to spend two minutes with him and not laugh. And he is plenty smart, but there were some words he did not know, I learned. Anyway, for reasons that I can no longer explain, we men of the table took to calling women "Vulvas." We were too classy to call them that in front of them, but when no woman was present, "Vulva" was our "code" word. And Mor-mor really thought it was our code word; he didn't know it was an actual word, which is why he stood up one day and asked loudly, in front of the women at our table, and who knows how many more, "Well, boys, should we go look for some Vulvas?" 

You can imagine the chorus of outrage and hoots and hollers that met poor Mor-mor, who stood there stunned, "Who told them our word!?" 

It's No Fun to Change at the YMCA

I joined the local YMCA last week. This is the first time I have been a YMCA member; before this I have always gone to the behemoth clubs of suburbia.  So far, I really like it. But there are drawbacks to going to the same health club as many of the people with whom I regularly do business.  For example, I have no interest in walking into the locker room and being confronted with my grocer’s meat department, the town jeweler’s family jewels, the bait and tackle shop owner’s fishing rod, the coffee shop guy’s swizzle stick, the sporting goods guy’s balls, the auto mechanic’s dipstick, the plumber’s snake, the electrician’s wire, the banker’s roll of quarters, McJunk, the Humane Society manager’s newt, the baker’s rolling pin, a teacher’s ruler, a retirement home resident’s anything, the hardware store owner’s tool, the garden supply store man’s bag of seeds, nor my doctor’s penis and scrotum, if you catch my drift.  And I’m afraid I may someday run into the town schmoozer in the locker room.

“Hey Tom, how’s it hangin’? Never mind, I guess I can see for myself! Ha ha! Hey Bob, how’s things at the bank? Good? Good. Nice penis, by the way. Lookin’ good.  What do you do, wax that thing? Whatever works, huh? Good, good. Jimmy, you sonofabitch! What’s new, buddy?  Whoa, that thing angry today?  Yikes! Might I suggest a towel? Tom, where are you going?” 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dear Birth Parents

Dear Birth Parents*,

I am sorry that, in order for us to experience this joy, you have to feel so much pain. I am ashamed to admit that, until our son was born, I never knew how painful placing him would be for you.  I always assumed that you would want to be as involved in his life as was possible- as we would “allow” you to be.  I can’t imagine how I missed this- my excuse is no excuse at all: I was being selfish. Still, it never occurred to me that you would need to sever all contact with us so that you could begin to heal.  I understand now that seeing him, or hearing from us, rips open your wounds, and undoes whatever healing you have managed.

Maybe someday you will be able to handle more contact. In the meantime, I hope you know that we consider you family. We know that we are not the only people whose help our son will need to be happy and successful in this sometimes cruel world. You will never be kept a secret in our home. You will always be, at the very least, the first two people who loved our son, and the people who endured horrible pain, and showed incredible bravery, in making the decision you made. It certainly takes a village to raise a child, and the two of you are the founders of the village that will raise ours.

With love,

The adoptive parents.

*In our case, both birth parents were involved in the adoption process. They are a beautiful, loving, young couple.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Princess Story

A few thoughts on Disney Princesses:

--If Cinderella was a new movie, would reviewers say, “This story will remind you of a small college’s basketball team winning a couple games in the March Madness tournament”?

--It saddens me that, even as recently as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, the “Princess” dreams of little more than finding a good husband.

--That being said, it is true that, when my daughter, wife, and I had breakfast with the Princesses at Disney World last November, Princess Jasmine took a pretty uncomfortable liking to yours truly.  My daughter was three, and pretty shy, but she certainly knew the Princesses, and we decided not to let her miss the opportunity to meet them.  The breakfast involves massively over-paying for below average food in a huge, ornately decorated dining room in Cinderella’s castle.  Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Mulan, and Jasmine weave their way through the room, each stopping at every table for photos. Our daughter loved watching them from afar, but got nervous when one would come to our table. She wanted to sit on my knee for the pictures. The Princesses were pros; they would stand next to her, maybe place a hand on her shoulder, and flash their perfect smiles.  Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I saw pretty early on that Jasmine was beautiful, and, as in the movie, wearing a top that didn’t cover much. My daughter may have been nervously anticipating Jasmine’s arrival at our table, but I was sort of looking forward to it. When the big moment came, Jasmine smiled and said hello and whatnot to my daughter but, when photo time came, she walked around our backs, stood by my side and put her arm around Daddy!  For whatever reason, that is the only photo in which I am blushing. Must have been warm.  Later, when asked who her favorite Princess was, my daughter responded, “Cinderella. But, Jasmine loved on Daddy.” Indeed, and by the end of the trip our exchange and become so much more in my mind, “Did you see her?” I would ask my wife, “Jasmine couldn’t keep her hands off me!  I get it, of course. Who can, ya know? But they are supposed to be professionals. And that’s a family place! Hitting on me while I have my daughter on my knee and my wife snaps a photo? That’s a bit much.”    

A month after returning home from that trip, we attended a Disney on Ice performance, which included most of the Princesses, including Jasmine.  We had front row seats; I knew it was just a matter of time before Jasmine saw me, “I hope this doesn’t get awkward,” I had said to Stacy while we dressed for the show.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

The show was nearly over when Jasmine skated right towards me. She swooped along the boards, waving at everyone. She looked right at me…and acted as though she had never seen me before in her life! I was still looking for words on the drive home, “Can you believe it?  That is a fine how-do-you-do.  One day she can’t keep her hands off me, the next she doesn’t even know me! Jasmine is a hussy, plain and simple.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanks, Chris

Remember kids:  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue so that, in 2010, it would be sofas and loveseats with zero percent financing until 2012 (for qualified buyers) for you!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

No Bread For You

Who doesn't love making up his/her own words to songs?  I've been doing it most of my life, but I have never topped Rinji, and I never will. This was his take on "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, 17 or so years ago:

They sit at the bar,
and put bread in my jar...
But I wish they'd use money instead.

What's your personal best?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Story of Us

I would love to tell you about all the sex my wife and I have. Unfortunately, I can’t get into specifics-- my mother-in-law is a reader of my blog. If you really need to know, I’m sure you could ask our neighbors. Anyway, all that you really need to know is that we have two kids. Wait…they’re adopted. Never mind that. We have sex, okay? But it hasn’t always been like that between us. We were nothing more than friends for the first 5 years of our relationship. We were engaged to be married before we had ever even kissed.

I met Stacy early in my first year at Hamline University. It was her first year there, too- each of us did our time at community college before making the University leap. I lived in an apartment (a precursor to the Bullpen) in Champlin, and she lived with her parents in Hastings.  We had similar schedules that first semester; we both smoked, and really had nowhere to go during breaks. The upshot is this:  we saw a lot of each other for a couple of weeks. Eventually, we began chatting and became friends. We were both psychology majors. We took classes together, worked on projects together. By the end of our junior year, she had convinced me to join her in the psychology department’s Senior Honors Seminar.  We were together a lot senior year, nearly inseparable.  But, as I said, we were simply friends. I was engaged to the woman I would later marry, and Stacy had a serious boyfriend, who lived with her and her parents, and whom she would later marry.  I am not blind now, and I wasn’t then- I knew she was hot. But I am as faithful a person as you’re likely to meet and so is she. We never even came close to flirting. Anyway, we graduated and, that summer, I got married. Stacy and her boyfriend were not only guests; he was our photographer (did a great job, too).  The following summer, Stacy and he got married, and I was the videographer (did a so-so job, to be honest).

Now I am going to tell you the secret to a long and happy marriage. What I am about to tell you is so simple many people don’t even think of it. But it is the only thing you need to know. Here it is:  If you want to have a long and happy marriage, do NOT marry the wrong person. There you go, you may thank me later.  How do I know this? Because I married the wrong person first, and so did Stacy, and we met with predictable results.  By the time I shot that so-so video of Stacy’s wedding, my marriage was in trouble. You can read about that here, if you want. I moved back to my mother’s basement about a month after Stacy’s wedding. I was mostly drunk for a year or so, but in my sober moments I did some clear thinking about what had gone wrong. That is when I realized that simple truth I told you about earlier. I had married the wrong person; I knew it when I married her, simply didn’t have the guts to acknowledge it, nor to do anything about it- to walk away. And it occurred to me that I knew the right person.

While I was oscillating between drinking myself silly and sober realizations, Stacy was slogging through law school. She knew, before long, that she was married to a clown. But she was too busy with school to deal with it.  We didn’t talk much in those years. For one, she was busy, and I was, too- working, sleeping or drinking. But also, I was more and more certain that she and I should be married, and I didn’t want to talk to her, lest I would blurt that out, while she was still married to the clown.  We talked only when one of us moved and changed phone numbers. One day she called me at work.

“Blah, blah, blah…I’m leaving the clown. If you need to call me, call my mom’s house. I’ll be there a while.”

“Whoa. What? Really! I mean, really? That’s too bad.”  Wink. “Well, I’ve been there. If you ever need to talk about it.”  Please, please need to talk about it.

Well she did need to talk about it. We drove to the North Shore of Lake Superior, my favorite peaceful place. I was as content as I had ever been.  To get to my favorite boulder, we had to step across some smaller rocks. As Stacy prepared to hop from one rock to another, I offered my hand. I am not kidding when I tell you that the second she took it, I felt like I was home. God that felt good! But we weren’t even really on a date, and I was careful not to say anything that would scare her away. After a couple weeks of that- seeing each other 3 or 4 nights a week, but not really dating, certainly not touching, we decided to go to the state fair. I hatched a plan.

“We’re going to want to get there early,” I explained, “and we live so far apart. Maybe you should stay at the Bullpen the night before. Then we can all ride together.” (We were going with Sug and his girlfriend, Local H).

She walked right into the trap. “Okay.”

 My plan was as simple has my mind:  I would go to my room while she brushed her teeth. And when she came out of the bathroom, she would either go to the couch, as a friend would, or come in my room. That way I wouldn’t have to ask what the hell it was we were doing, and risk saying I wanted more than friendship if she didn’t; she'd have to make the first move! Bedtime came. She showed me her bravery- she used the Bullpen bathroom. I climbed into bed. She finished in the bathroom, walked out, stood in the bedroom doorway…and came in. (I was recently bragging about the genius of my plan while Stacy and I were relating this story to friends. She jumped in and said, “I thought you were going to be a gentleman and offer me the bed while you slept on the couch." Oops. Never thought of that.) I had a king size bed, and I stayed far to one side. We chatted a bit.

And then I finally said, “I have to tell you something. I love you. I have loved you for a long time. And, what’s more, I would marry you tomorrow, if you would say ‘yes’”.

“I love you, too. I think we could have a good marriage.”

And so we were engaged, and had never so much as hugged.  

Poets and writers superior to me have put into words how I felt in the months following that night. I won’t even try. But there was something not quite right- we lived 50 miles apart, and I worked long, odd hours. I wanted to see her every second of every day, but had to settle for a night a week. I was able to spend every other weekend with her, at her mom’s. That was nice, but far too short. One night, a cold, Minnesota winter night, we talked about warm places. I said that I loved San Antonio, that it was a reasonable drive.  One thing led to another, I got out of work for a couple days (she still hadn’t found a job), and we set off south. It was a whirlwind 5 days, the better part of 4 of which we spent in the car. But it was fantastic to spend that time together. We arrived back at Stacy’s mom’s house late in the evening. I stayed a while, hating the thought of leaving. Eventually, though, I had to. I said goodbye, and headed towards the Bullpen. We had talked about me moving in with Stacy and her mom in two months, when the Bullpen lease was up. Each block I drove that night I got more miserable.  I’ve been miserable long enough. I don’t want to be anymore.”  I was on the edge of Hastings, a few miles from Stacy, when I turned around.

I could see Stacy sitting on the couch, watching T.V. with her mom when I pulled into the driveway. She saw the lights, and jerked her head to look outside. She was already smiling when she saw it was me. Her smile broadened and she ran for the door.

“What’s going on?” She asked nervously. She knew.

“I can’t leave. I’ll figure out something with work. Maybe work fewer days, longer hours. But the Bullpen isn’t home anymore. Wherever you are is. I don’t want to spend another night away from you.”

 And I haven’t.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thought of the Day

One thing that babies and dogs have in common, a thing I really like about them, is that you can say whatever you want to them, as long as you say it nicely.

"Little baby, you're so sweet. Yes you are. But if you don't stop crying soon, I'm going to throw you in the fucking snowbank. Coochie, coochie, coo."

"Come here puppy. There's a bad doggie. Yes, thank you for shitting on the rug. Bad girl! Aren't you ugly.  Please don't shit in the house again, you skanky slut."

What kind of doctor are you?

There is nothing funny about taking your baby to a pediatric neurologist. Nothing funny, that is, except the part when the doctor, a little, old, Chinese woman, acts out her diagnosis that your son, due to his big head, will always be “loosy goosy.”

Our son is adopted, so we don’t know if big heads run in his family. If he was our biological child, I guess we could have said, “Oh yeah, Uncle Kev has a huge head. I’ve never seen the hat that fit him. And there are some great-uncles, too.” But, since we cannot explain why his head is in the 99th percentile, his doctor thought he should see a specialist, to rule out possibly serious problems like hydrocephalus (water on the brain). 

The neurologist gave him a thorough examination, which included crawling around on the floor with him, alternately cooing like a grandmother and clicking and clacking like a Kalahari Bushman.  She told us his head was asymmetric, with one cheek bigger than the other, and his right ear longer than his left. She also diagnosed him with torticollis, a condition in which the muscle on one side of his neck is shorter than the one on the other side, as a result of his position in the womb. The cooing, clicking, clacking, grandma doctor told us not to worry- she was confident, based on her rolling around on the floor with him, that his range-of-motion was good, and that his neck would loosen up over time. 

But his ample bean is another matter. Is it a harmless personal trait, or something more serious? An upcoming MRI should answer that.  The crawling, cooing, clicking, clacking, grandma doctor is pretty confident that our son simply has a big head, “He has a big head. The question is: why?  I am happy with his development. Sometimes babies with big heads have limited motor skills. But this one is just loosy goosy.”

“Loosy goosy?”

“Right.” She stands up to demonstrate. Her hips gyrate, her arms flail. You’ve seen this move, even though you were not in that room. Can you guess where? She stood in the middle of the room, gyrating and flailing exactly like those windsock humanoids you see at car dealerships and the like. “Loosy goosy. And he probably always will be a little loosy goosy as a consequence of his big head.”

“Thanks, doc.  One last question: Will you be reading the results of the MRI, or will Dr. Seuss?”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Think of the Children

I gave my wife a break this morning. The baby was sleeping, so I took our daughter to Target, where we bought a few books and, in keeping with my routine, covered all the facings of douche bag authors with copies of “Poker Face:  The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga.” My daughter didn’t want to tag along at first, but I bribed her by promising that we would listen to mommy music in the car. A month ago, her favorite singers were Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the rest of the Disney Princess stable. These days she prefers Katy Perry, Pink, and the Black Eyed Peas. There are times when I wonder if this isn’t good- maybe my four year-old girl shouldn’t sing some of these songs. It is important to note that when Katy Perry sings of melting popsicles, my daughter takes her literally, and when she hears that Katy Perry is drinking Gin and Juice, it is the juice that piques her interest.  So I decide its okay. My job as a parent is to hold back the flood, like a great dam, letting the world trickle towards my kids at a rate they can handle.  It is not my job to pretend that there is not a boiling ocean of water on the other side of the dam. For some time, at least, my wife and I will be our kids’ greatest influences. Hopefully, in addition to everything else they hear, from us they will learn to:

Be kind - Don’t be soft, but be gentle. Don’t crawl over anyone on your way up, but don’t stop crawling up either.

Be patient - you know what you need to do. Do it and good things will happen.

Be quiet - if you’re great, people will know it; if you’re not, keep it to yourself.

Be happy - this is not easy. It takes some courage, oddly, simply to be happy.

Be the Serenity Prayer.

Be honest - just in case there is a God who is watching.

Love yourself.

Love someone else.

Be silly - and if you have kids someday, let them listen to music that makes them happy. There are many, many ills that can be cured by a kid giggling and dancing in the backseat.

 Oh…and don’t be preachy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How Lucky is my Wife?

We discovered today, on our basement end table, a substance that is almost certainly mouse shit. Now Stacy is seeing it everywhere. She's on the floor with the baby and spots a small, black speck, "OOOOO! Is that mouse poop?"

"Oh c'mon," I implore, "not every small, black speck you see is mouse shit. That is exactly what the bat shit on our porch looked like. It's important to remember that all small rodents' shit looks the same.That there could be anything."

Dear Smitty: Reader Appreciation Edition

Dear Smitty: I've got issues. Issue 1: I've got a husband. Issue 2: I've got 3 kids. Issue 3: I stay home with 3 kids. Issue 4: I've got lumps and bumps I never had before...see Issue 2. Issue 5: Everyone constantly needs something from me, be it food, beverage, an ass wiping, a tummy deflation, cleanish clothes, a roll in the hay (see issue 1). Issue 6: I’m kind of sick of all of it and when I see my single friends, I’m almost overcome with jealousy. Any advice?


Every tired mom, everywhere

Dear Every tired mom, everywhere,

This is a tough one for Smitty. On the one hand, I don’t like to waste my time on married women, for obvious reasons. Oh sure, I could help you alright, but society, and most husbands, have trouble with the help I have to offer, and I’m getting too old to be jumping out of bedroom windows. On the other hand, I do get a ton of letters from desperate mothers (and fathers) and so I have thought some about this. What I’ve come up with is admittedly imperfect, but it goes something like this: No one is as happy as they seem. No one (not even Smitty). No doubt some of your single friends have looked fondly at your life once or twice. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am NOT saying that marriage is for me. But, if I’m being honest, there are times when I see families having a nice moment and think, FLEETINGLY, “That looks nice.” That’s all I got. I will leave you with another letter I just received. It was about you.

p.s. If none of that helps, there is one more thing you can do: Quit seeing your single friends.

Dear Smitty,

I am a dad who stays at home with two kids. I am tired all the time. I write some, but I have energy for little else. I have a friend who is a stay-at-home mom- she has kids almost exactly the same age as mine (her son was, in fact, born the same day as mine), AND another one in the middle. I am a writer largely because of her. Reading her blog made me realize I should start one, too. And she always has a business or something going. She has a good marriage, it seems, and I know for certain that she has good, active kids. And that is not all- she has been training for months to run a marathon, which she will run, and almost certainly finish, tomorrow! In my healthiest days, days when my time was mostly my own, I couldn’t run 26 feet without stopping for air. How she has done all this is beyond me. Here’s my problem: How do I tell her how much I admire her without pissing off her husband, who, I should add, is a war veteran?


Secret admirer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where is the Line?

My friend, Shannon, and I recently discussed  "The Line." You know, the line you do not cross if you are married, or the person on the other side of the line is married. As you may have guessed, Shannon is a woman. But she thinks a lot like me, her sense of humor is almost exactly like mine (for this reason I have made her an honorary "Bull"- she is the first "Cow".  Yes, I have the authority to add "Bulls.")  Here's the deal:  I amuse myself by acting like I would do things that I never would. When relating a story to my wife, I always try to add a "tough guy" comment. For example, I will say, "So the checkout lady asked if I had forgotten about the pop on the bottom of my cart, and I said, 'Yes, but I have not forgotten my fists! Pow!'" And that is how I feel when I talk about sex with women friends. I will only do it when I know that they know I'm full of shit, that I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage. As I told Shannon:  "Words, by and large, cannot offend me. As I think back on it, the only thing my first wife said to another person that bothered me was 'I love you.' And then, too, she let him put his penis in her vagina, and who knows where else, and that is where I draw the line."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Of Mice and Lying Men

“This CANNOT be happening.”

My wife sat up in bed, blankets pulled up to her nose, alert, watching for movement. We had both been drifting off to sleep when we were awoken by the cat thundering around upstairs. I woke up just in time to see her chase something behind a bookcase.

“Oh…it IS happening. I promise you this: This is for real.”

Earlier that night, our cat had shown extreme interest in something behind a stack of boxes in my wife’s closet. I joked that it was a mouse. Stacy ran out of the closet. I looked around a bit but found nothing. But I am not the kind of husband who wastes an opportunity like that. I moved stuff around, made some noises, said, “Oh, Aha…I see.” I heard my wife nervously ask, “What?” But instead of answering, I bent over, put my hands near the ground, and pretended to chase something out of the closet, towards her.

“EEEEEEK!” And she was gone.

Some years ago, as I sat at the table eating cereal, Stacy discovered a mouse in the silverware drawer. Until that day, I didn’t know that some women do, in fact, jump up on chairs and scream when they see a mouse.


“What? Calm down. What happened?”

“Mouse. Mouse. There’s a…oh god! A mouse in the spoons!”

I looked down at my cereal bowl, at my spoon. Great. Well, is there protein in mouse shit? I hope so.

We feed our cat a packet of food twice a day and, in case she wants to graze, we keep a dish of dry food out at all times. Usually we need to fill her dry food once a week, but in the weeks leading up to the mouse discovery she had been going through it a lot quicker. It was now clear that, in addition to not keeping our house mouse-free, she was feeding them. “Help yourselves, boys. They’ll come with more if you empty that bowl. Here let me hold the door for you.”

Back in bed, I looked with fondness at our cat, perched like a hunter, the very picture of patience, doing her job, prepared to keep us safe, or at least mouse-free.

“Just kidding,” I reassured my wife, “False alarm. The cat’s just playing with a toy. Go back to bed.”

UPDATE: They Have (Primative) Feelings, Too.

There was another sighting today of the near-human males who run through these parts. Below is a picture. If you look closely, you can see the supra orbital ridge, smaller than an ape's but larger than a human's, which is common to their species.

We Are Not Heathens

I love this photo. Every time I see it, I will be reminded of the first time I pushed my son on a swing, and of the time I tried to teach my daughter to go potty outside, and of the first time I have ever ran across a park with a baby and pee-soaked panties and shorts in one hand, baby carrier in the other, next to a four year-old girl, naked from the waist down, except for sandals.

"Daddy, I have to pee."

"Okay, let's go."

The bathroom at this park is among my favorites. It is huge and always clean- as bathrooms go, this is a safe one in which to set down baby in his carrier and a pleasant enough place to stand around and wait for a kid to go potty.  We were going to be the only people in there; the park was empty but for us.



"Oh, nothing. How bad do you have to go? The bathroom is locked."

"I don't have to go."

This didn't surprise me. She always wants to go to the bathroom when we're in public. She is something of a bathroom critic. She loves to check them out and, if we are alone, direct me where to stand, what to do, what NOT to touch, and, if neccessary, what not to smell.  "Okay, daddy, put baby brother there. You stand here. Don't touch that daddy potty. It's dirty. I'm going in that room. You wait, okay daddy? It's stinky in here, close your nose."

"Are you sure? We could run home, go potty, and come right back to the park."

"I don't have to go."


Ten minutes later, the pee-pee shuffle is impossible to miss. We are not going to make it home. Okay, think fast dad. We're alone. There are good trees here for her to lean against. And, it doesn't matter anyway. She is going to pee. And soon.

"Okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to go potty outside! Won't that be fun!"


"Yes. Well, sort of. Over by that tree."

"I love that tree, daddy!"

"I know you do sweetie. That's perfect."

"Now. Here's what you do. Pull down your shorts. And bend down. I'll hold your shoulders. Okay, bend your knees. No! More! Bend your knees more. MORE! Uh oh. Well it's okay, honey. We'll practice more, on our neighbors deck. Allright, well, let's go home and change. Pull up your shorts, honey."

"No, daddy. They're all wet.  Eew, my shoes are wet, too."

"Yeah, I see that."

I could probably get her to pull those shorts up. But it'll be a fight. Will someone show up before I win it? The park is empty now. I think we could make the truck.

"Fine. We're going to run to the truck. Put on your shoes, at least."

"NO. They're all wet."

"Honey, here, give me your panties and shorts. Thank you. Now, We Morgans are not heathens!"

Now, as we ran across the park, were my gym shorts, pockets weighed down with keys and wallet and phone and hands too full to pull them up, creeping towards the ground with every step? Boy that would be a memory.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Who Do I Think I Am?

Medication allows me to function with depression, but it will never make me thrive. That I will have to do on my own. I've always had the notion that I would be a writer someday. I have a recurring dream in which I am in New York, doing the morning show circuit, talking about something I've written. There are two parts of the dream that never change: I always do the Today show; and I always leave the NBC studios in a Town Car, which is stocked with spicy peanuts and freshly brewed iced tea.  But, there was a long stretch during which my depression was being managed, and I was not writing. I would write here and there, and I always thought about it but, like with exercise, if you don't do it most days, you are not "writing". Going for a walk once a month is not going to change your health (disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This may not be true. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine). I finally took the step I knew had to be the next one - I went to a psychologist.

The first psychologist I saw asked me, "What would you need to be doing to feel successful?"


"Okay. Next time I see you, I want for you to have written something."

Right. Fuck you.

This women is employed!  I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. There are probably people for whom she is a good match. I am not one of those people. It took awhile, but eventually I made an appointment with another psychologist. She fixed me up in a few short months. We talked some about writing, enough that she knew that's what I wanted to do, but mostly she worked on getting me to acknowledge my strengths.

One time, after I had seen her long enough that I trusted that she really knew me, and would know that I wasn't bragging, I said to her, "I don't know. I mean, I guess I think I'm too smart for any job I've ever had, including staying at home with my kids."

"Well, yeah. Of course you are. And it's not bragging to say that. I know you don't want to sound cocky, but there's nothing wrong with knowing what you are capable of. You're smart, have a sharp wit. You see things not everyone sees. That's just what you are, that's your strength, your skill; what you have to offer. And everyone who knows you, knows that. You were the last to find out."

I started this blog shortly after that, because I allowed myself to believe her. She created a monster. A monster that is focused on the Today show and the Town Car. A monster who is willing to be patient, but would love to not have to be.

A couple of days ago a fellow blogger who also dreams of bigger things told me about a blog written by a single dad. The blog is followed by thousands of people- read by who knows how many more. And it is only a few months old. A couple of the posts have gone viral (dear mother-in-law, that means they have spread across the Internet like a virus, but in a good way: they've become hugely popular overnight). It is a funny blog, those viral posts are good: one implores people to be "real", to be unashamed of their imperfections, because everyone has them; the other is about adoption, about things not to say to an adoptive parent, which he is. But it is not that good. I mean, it is not hundreds of times better than mine. So what gives? What can I learn from his blog?

First, he does a much better job of promoting his writing, and of asking others to do the same. Secondly, I have to admit that my writing may not lend itself to mass appeal. I've inferred many times that people should not be ashamed of who they are, that we should drop pretenses and deal with each other on a real, human level. But I've never simply said exactly that. Inference doesn't resonate, apparently.  And, of course, I, too, am an adoptive father. I could list all the things you could say that could offend an adoptive parent:  How much did your child cost?  Where is his "real" father/mother? blah, blah, blah. In his blog, the single dad argues that adoptive parents are not buying their kids. We are simply paying placement fees, agency fees, legal fees, etc in the same way that biological parents pay doctor and hospital bills. People seem to like those kinds of blogs. But I'm not going to write that adoption is just like birth. Adoption is different. A biological child is probably going to come anyway, with or without doctors and hospitals. Adoptive parents are paying fees and getting a baby. That's not bad; we're not in an alley somewhere giving a woman money and leaving with her baby. It's just the way it is. 

Because I have adopted I have stories that biological parents do not. I will never forget sitting with my wife on a bed in a hotel room in Guatemala, dressed up, waiting for the phone to ring.


"Mr. Morgan?", asked the woman.

"Yes,"  My breathing stopped.

"My name is Carla. I am downstairs with your baby."

"We'll be right down." I gulped.

I will always remember the look on my wife's face when I put the phone down. She stood up. I hugged her; one last hug before our lovely duet changed forever.

"Let's go get our daughter."

The hotel lobby was open all the way to the ceiling, 10 floors up. The hotel's elevators were glass so that one could see the lobby below from them. When we stepped in on the seventh floor, I fumbled to press the button for the lobby, and hustled to the back to join my wife, who was already looking down at the couches below. I stood next to her and saw our daughter immediately, could see she was wearing the yellow headband she had worn in several of the pictures we had been sent. It was a priceless moment, of course, but it was not free, and couldn't be.

The business about being offended when people say "real parent" is, to me, kind of silly. I can't imagine people mean harm when they say it; it is simply awkward wording from someone who doesn't know the term "biological parent." I will say that if I were the type to take offense, the thing that would bother me is being told that I am lucky I have good kids. Every parent is lucky when their child is born healthy. After that, it's hard work, plain and simple. Yes, I have mellow kids. Is anyone who knows me surprised by that? But, those things don't offend me. I, and more importantly my kids, know who their "real" parents are. What other people think is a reflection on them, not on us. When my daughter says, "Thank you for being my daddy, daddy," she is talking to me.

I will probably continue to use my writing to encourage people to lighten up. Instead of telling my readers how to avoid causing offense, I will encourage you to not take offense when people say regrettable things. Still, I may try to sprinkle in what I hope may be more popular posts. There is a Town Car waiting.

Sorry for the rant. But what are you going to do? Wait for a better post and then recommend my blog to your friends and family?  Fine, do it. See if I care.