Friday, April 30, 2010

Thought of the Day

Dear Red Hat Society ladies,

It is perfectly acceptable for you to go out with your friends and have a good time, giggle even, without the costume.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Conversation Between Three-Year Olds With Adult Vocabulary, Part II

"I'm thirsty."

"Would you like something to drink?"

"You think?"

"Smart ass."

"Yes, I would like something to drink."

"Okay, follow me. I pretty much have this fridge to myself. What's your poison?"

"Juice. Grape if you got it. Berry would be fine, too. Straight. If I catch you watering it down, I'm going to cut off your arm."

"Jesus! Settle down. Do you want a cup?"

"A cup?! A cup?! Do I look like I'm two? You know what? Why don't you get me a cup, and then a diaper, too! Unbelievable!"

"Okay. God. Settle down!"

"You're right. I'm sorry. I didn't sleep great last night. My parents kept me up all night. No idea what they were doing, but it was loud I'll tell you that. Then I got this teacher giving me shit. She's okay, I guess, but a little over-the-top so early in the morning, you know what I mean? Just doing some art and singing some silly songs; ain't like we're in med school."


“Oh, it’s okay. I love cats!,” she said to the growling and hissing cat whom she had just cornered and picked up.

“No you don’t," I said. "You love cat sweatshirts. If you loved cats you would respect that cat’s clear wish to be set down.”

Today's Thought: You know what is not a deep question? "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" The short answer is, "yes." The long answer is, "yes it does."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More on "You Don't Matter...Much" And introducing...Thought of the Day

There is more good news about having only a relatively few people rooting for you. I didn't include it in the previous post and have taken some heat from readers who felt sorry for me because, feeling as I do, they feared it must be hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. I should have made this more clear: if few people are cheering for me that's fine - because no one is cheering against me. They rest of the world simply does not care how I fare and that is fine with me. I have every intention of trying to be a wild success. Why wouldn't I? Even if that only pleases myself and a few other people, that's fine with me.

Thought of the Day: Do you know who says, "It's a free country!" Someone trying to justify selfish behavior. You never hear it said in the context of beauty. Like, "Well, it's a free country. It's not against the law to pick up litter while enjoying a walk in the park." It is a free country, more or less, which means that you are free to act like a decent human being, if you want.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ironic...or Just a Pisser?

He had a sort of premonition, a vague thought that he was going to die on his way home from work today. He was not a spiritual man and not prone to believing such nonsense. And besides, thoughts like these had popped into his head before and had amounted to nothing. The feeling passed quickly and he set his mind back to his work. Later he was walking to the bathroom and passed two women talking to each other. He didn’t know what they were discussing; he only caught one phrase as he went by. It was “dead man walking.” He laughed to himself and thought, perhaps, a superstitious man would not go home tonight. He was not a superstitious man, however, and when the time came he packed up his things. On the way to his car he noticed how perfect the day was. The sky was completely clear of clouds, the sun shining bright. He smiled and got in his car and started it. The radio began playing and he recognized the song immediately. It was “Highway to Hell.” For the first time all day he felt a twinge of discomfort. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he told himself, and he backed out of his parking spot. Nothing happened. He proceeded on to the Interstate and across a bridge where before this he had narrowly escaped getting in an accident. He drove without incident to the country road that would take him home. It was a hilly road with many blind curves. It would have been a dangerous road if it was more heavily traveled but, in fact, it was neither. He began to relax; he would go slowly around the corners and take great care cresting the hills. He would be home in ten minutes. He laughed at himself for feeling even that twinge of discomfort. He made his way carefully past all potential obstacles and came to the final stretch of road. It was downhill and utterly straight. He could see a full mile of the road ahead. There were no cars in sight. He sped up so that he might celebrate his confidence. He taunted his premonition; he knew that the conversation and song were simple coincidences. He pushed the accelerator down some more. His stomach rose and tingled. The car responded impressively. He had never gone so fast in this car and was now thanking “fate” for inspiring him to see what this car could do. What a rush! The stop sign was coming up fast - unusually fast, he realized, as he pressed the brakes. Still, he knew he had enough road left to stop completely. He stole a glance at the tall grass that was still whizzing past his window. He wanted to feel the speed at which he was traveling. A bit of stress seemed to leave him and cling to each blade of grass he passed. He felt as light as a child. He looked back at the road after only a couple seconds. It had been a couple of seconds in which, while he was looking at the grass on his left, a cow had come out from the grass on his right. He saw it immediately but knew he was going too fast to stop in time. He veered sharply to the right and his car sailed across the ditch and collided with an old oak tree. The tree shuddered but did not give way. It had seen worse than this. Neither the car nor its driver ever had, though. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Procrastinator's Journal

June 5

April is a hard month for me. Another holiday season is done and the Christmas lights come down. And I have to start thinking about filing an income tax extension. I'm going to start writing in here more often, but now I have to go dig last fall's leaves out of the gutter.

August 2

I've been meaning to write this for a couple weeks now. I fell off the roof when I was cleaning the gutters in June. I couldn't see my doctor when I wanted to because it was Fourth of July weekend. Leg's broke.

December 26

Put the lights up today. Pretty scary going up the ladder again but you have to don't you? 'Tis the season. Gotta pay my taxes!

February 25

Happy New Year!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What am I doing?

It does not take courage to sit down and write. But I will tell you that it has taken me a long time to do it. I have long considered myself a writer and it is my dream to do it professionally. This blog has earned some money because you have given in to my begging, and I am more grateful than you know. I have even written, half-jokingly, that this blog has made me a professional writer. Technically it has, but you have to be pretty desperate to see it that way. Still, it does represent a first step, which conventional wisdom tells us is the hardest one. Ironically, I cannot disagree with that. It is hard for me to write something intended to be read by more than one person. Probably because once I have made my writing public - once I admit that I want to be a writer, I risk being told that it is no good and has no hope of being good and that I should quit. That would suck. Also hard is being honest about people I know to be readers. But all that is getting easier. And so here I am, after years of being told by some of you that I should write, and of taking anti-depressants and months of counseling, writing and making money doing it. And I am not done yet, with your help. And that is why I have been so damn proud lately about such a silly thing as this. As always, thank you for your time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Baby's Smile

One of the things no one told me before we adopted a newborn was that they start smiling only just before you tape their mouths shut with duct tape. Before the first smile, they give you nothing - and take a lot. I knew this, I guess, in an academic sense. But there is no way of knowing the extent to which this drains a person until you are all in. I cannot speak for a biological parent, but I suspect that the same is true. There is no strong bond at first. I have now adopted two babies, an eight-month old and a newborn, and both experiences were the same in that fact. There was no question that each was my child and that, from the time I first saw them and ending only when I could no longer move, I would die protecting them. But I don't know if I would say I loved them at first. I felt more like a babysitter. And when I did think of myself as their father, I dreamt of all the things we would do someday; all the things I would teach them, the games we would play, the fun we would have. As much as I can't wait to teach them everything I know, it occurred to me that teaching them how to drink out of a bottle wasn't a gratifying experience for me. Before we adopted our first child, our agency required that we attend a two-day seminar on the process of adoption. Someday, maybe, I will go into a seminar expecting it to be a positive experience. But, I doubt it. Every time I go to one, I'm surprised when I learn something (shame on me). The adoption seminar taught us plenty, but by far the most helpful thing they told us was not to expect a Hallmark moment when we met our child. And we did not get a Hallmark moment, with either child, but especially in Guatemala, where not only was seeing her mom and me not comforting to my daughter it was one of the things which started her screaming. When you are dreaming about becoming a parent this is not what you have in mind. But eventually the screaming became crying and then she calmed down and warmed to us and we to her. We began bonding by listening to Spanish voices on the T.V. together. And in the years since we have had too many Hallmark moments to remember. Still, I have to take the long view as a parent. I am not interested in teaching them things they are going to learn themselves, or from teachers, soon enough. I don't care if my children are among the first in their age group to hold a pencil correctly. I hope they write great things when they pick one up. And so this isn't a very interesting stretch of child development for my taste and it can be a struggle to get motivated for the daily grind. But everyday there is a moment, a smile and a coo for me or for each other or for their mother, when I say to myself, "Yeah, this is a good life."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Conversation Between Three-Year Olds With Adult Vocabulary

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Can I use that shovel?"


"Really? You invited me to play in your sandbox and now you won't let me use your shovel?"


"I hate you."

"Shove it up your ass!"

"You know what? You smell like you shit your pants. Your sandbox is half the size of mine. The sand clumps and we have no access to water. I have seen sheds nicer than any castle you have ever built. And don't even get me started on your 'moats'! Calling them 'ditches' would be generous! Your are a selfish pig and I am going home."

"Here. You can use this rake. I don't like it anyway."

--Adult "Charlie Brown" voices--

"You may use my shovel, if you'd like."

"I would love to. Thank you! You're all right, you know that?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You Don't Matter...Much

You've just been told that you don't matter...much. Now I've got even more bad news. I'm going to ask you to make a list. Ready? Make a list, on paper if you want, of the people in your life who's own lives would be terribly sad if you were to disappear tonight. These should be people who would miss you for more than, say, a week. They should also be people who you care deeply about so that we can exclude stalkers and the like. It's important to be honest. Managers, for example, may be tempted to think (some I've known would even insist) that their employees would be on the list. They wouldn't. I don't care who you are, there is someone who could do your job just as well. I can think of a few examples of people for whom this is not true, but the fact that we can name just about all of them- everyone in the history of mankind who has had such a huge impact that the world is different because they were in it- I think proves my point. (Years ago, while I was working in a lumberyard, I helped a guy load his truck with enough vinyl siding to side his garage. It took a long time and we were having a pretty good conversation. Eventually, he brought up a pyramid scheme he was involved in. He told me how much money I could make. All I had to do was sign up a bunch of people to work under me and I could sit back and watch the money roll in. He could tell I was skeptical so he named the people in the state of Minnesota who had made millions with this company. I told him that if he knew, off the top of his head, the names of everyone in the whole state who had made a lot of money, then that wasn't a very good sign.I could have added, but didn't, that, based on the condition of his truck and the fact that he was unable or unwilling to pay someone else to side his garage, it didn't look like he was making much money.) Anyhoo. You've got your list. And it's short. First of all, if you have at least one person on your list, congratulations! I recommend, if not now, then very soon, that you tell them you love them and thank them for loving you, too. (Maybe not literally, since it's possible you don't even call your feelings regarding some of these people "love". Your kids, yes, but certain friends? Who knows. It doesn't matter. Tell them you appreciate them. Or admire them. Say something nice to them, anyway). Now, though I didn't say as much, you may be thinking that I belittled you, or your work, when I wrote that anyone could do it. The fact is that you are doing it and I hope you are doing it well and continue to do so, if that's what you like. While you are doing it, it does matter that you do it well, probably. But, if you disappeared tonight, after a minute, a week, probably no more than a month, things would be humming along again. Moving along at the speed of business, as though you never existed. Some people, upon learning that this is how I feel, have been outraged, of course, and then have accused me of being depressed or, at least, very depressing. Isn't it depressing to think that you don't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things, that the world will go humming along after you are gone? It is not. It is liberating.

If you are such a small part of such a huge machine, then your troubles, which are only a part of you, are so small as to be almost meaningless. Do you really want all of your decisions to be huge, life and death, deals? No? Well, good news. They aren't. So now you don't have to act like they are. I have found it helps to view my life, not through my own eyes, but from above. That way I don't take myself so seriously. If someone cuts you off in traffic, and you're viewing your life, through your eyes, with your ego, then you get all riled up. Your heart races, your palms sweat. Maybe you swear and yell and kick and scream. Or worse. And for what? What changes? The event still happens and the person still goes on his/her way and you on yours. Except now, not only did you get cut off, but you've had your heart race and your palms sweat. You've been all riled up. You'll be crabby when you get home. Of all those bad things, only one, the least severe by the way, was done by someone else. Everything else you've done to yourself. When we're using our egos we feel like it's important to have our grievences aired. You cut me off. And, I matter. I'm a big deal. If you had cut someone else off, that wouldn't matter but now I'm mad and that's not fair because I didn't do anything wrong. Now I must tell you that I'm mad because what's the point of being mad if I'm not going to tell the person I'm mad at about it? But really, of course, the whole excercise is ridiculous. And that becomes perfectly clear if you watch the scene from above. You are not mad that the car cut someone off, you are mad because it cut you off. Which means that the event isn't the maddening thing. If you were watching from above, you would see one car cut in front of another and think, "whoa, that was close. Well, shit happens." See, it doesn't matter. If you can't get past feeling like everything that you do, and that everything done to you, matters, then you will surely be unhappy. Follow the road rage incident to its logical conclusion: You get cut off in traffic which makes you mad because you demand to be treated better than that which you prove by treating yourself poorly. Sorry, you lose. You want to win? Get over it. Be good to yourself and the people on your list and don't worry about anyone, or anything, else.

Now this brings up a few complications. When I write, "don't worry about anyone else", I mean it. It's entirely possible that there are a few people in your family, for example, who are not on your list. Maybe you don't love your mother. Some have it coming, that is no secret. No problem. You've got your list. That's good enough for you. But you still have to be good to your mother don't you? Shouldn't you be concerned with her opinion? No. Get over the fact that you are supposed to love her. If you don't, you don't. You don't have to make a big deal out of telling her, in fact it's probably better if you don't. Just don't worry about whether you are pleasing her. Just get on with your life and with pleasing yourself and those on your list. (Liberating yourself from your family will be a future post. I think you'll agree that it's worth at least $17 all by itself.I will say this: after reading the post you will agree with me that the liberation process is very much like space flight, as I understand it.)

Okay. So you don't matter...much. In the big picture you are nothing. But in the small picture, your list, your are more important than you ever realized. The people on your list need you like they need no one else. The President of the United States can't do as much for those people as you can. How do you like that? And so in the "...much" part of not mattering you will find your universe. You are the sun around which all those worlds revolve. And, I hope you agree that that is not depressing at all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Do you know how you can tell if a Public Relations person is lying? He/she is talking.

That old joke is funny, of course, because it is true. Good PR people get paid ridiculously well because lying (they call it spinning - another lie) well, and in a way that seems as if it could possibly be true or, more likely, in a way that lets the public believe what it wants to believe, is not easy. Lying can only be done well by highly trained (and soulless) people. They, or their clients, lie early (this is called "getting out in front of the story") and they stick with it. And I think that is what separates them from you and me. When someone calls them on their lies, they know that they must lie again. See, they knew this would happen, so they saved some of their best lies for this stage of the campaign. They can double-down on their lies in front of who knows how many people and not buckle, snicker or even smile. They can coach their clients (famous people, corporations and politicians mostly) to do the same.

"You must apologize for having the affair. We'll call a press conference. Don't sleep the night before. You'll look terrible. Terribly sorry that is!"

"Okay. But I'm not sorry. She was hot. I'm sorry I got caught."

"I know that and the public knows that now too, but if we tell them enough times that you are sorry, they will start to believe it. Then, when some asshole says, 'Wait a minute, aren't you just sorry you got caught?' You'll say, 'I'm glad you asked me that. You see, I was going to come public with this anyway. I was ashamed to be doing this to my fans/the American people/my sponsors and my family. And now that everyone knows, I feel better and my family and I can begin to heal.' "

"Wow. That's great! Write that down so I don't forget."

"I already did. I just copied it out of one of my college textbooks."

There is a recent example of a celebrity who did "everything wrong" from a PR point of view. Tiger Woods. When his scandal broke, he disappeared. All the "experts" were on the news shows saying that Tiger must apologize and he must do it soon. He must get out in front of this, they said; every day that goes by without a statement from him, things get worse.

I'm going to guess that none of these people were personal friends of Tiger's so they didn't know if he actually was sorry. That didn't matter to them. There was a way to handle "disasters" like this and Tiger was not doing it. He has since apologized, of course, and it was widely panned as being insincere. And it probably was. But since he didn't seem to be following the advice of a PR person, I'm tempted to believe him.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Customer Service

We are not owed good customer service. It is not an inalienable right. It is a creation of advertisers who want us to feel good and loved and respected. Here is the reality: there are stores which sell products. Most of them put the products on shelves where we can easily find them and then display the price at which they are willing to part ways with said product. If we think the price is fair, we will take it to a place in the store where there is a system for taking our money. After we have handed over the money, the product is ours, and we are free to leave. It is as simple as that. The store is not required to sell products that we need, to make sure they have in stock everything they sell, to have its representatives smile at us or even to have representatives at all. Their advertisers (whom the companies have hired because these special kind of people went to school for years, and were further trained, to learn the art of causing the public to believe things that are not true and to see things that are not there) have led us to believe that we are guests, royalty even. And, of course, that we are always right. (We rarely are.) Obviously the companies have calculated that it pays to convince us that we are owed good customer service even though they clearly risk upsetting us when they do not deliver it. After all, they have advertisers to smooth it all over.

Tomorrow's topic: PR people- why their appearance on a scene always signifies that whatever bad thing is supposed to have happen did indeed happen because if it didn't they wouldn't be there. Any old schlub could go in front of a camera and tell the truth.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Think about it...

Parenting magazines are a croc. Sure you can find some fun crafts to do, I suppose. And who doesn't need a good recipe for Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas? But the advice must be taken with a grain of salt, or rather, as is my preference, not at all. Experts on child development offer great ways, for example, to get your child to sleep alone, in their own bed, in the dark, surrounded by monsters. I wonder if it isn't worth asking, "why would I want to put my child through that?" I have no doubt I could train my kids to not bother me when they are scared, but I won't. It is easy for me to say that their fears are ridiculous and that they should ignore them. It is also wrong. Bad things can, and do, happen. Am I not lying to my kid when I promise her that they won't? Won't she realize that? The answer is yes and that is how you train your kid not to bother you when she is scared. You do it by giving her every reason to believe that you are not to be trusted with her fears.

I understand that my daughter needs to learn how to deal with, and overcome, fear. I am skeptical that it needs to happen before she is two years old, though. Plus, and here is the selfish part, it is the best feeling there is when your kid climbs into bed in the middle of the night, nudges in close to you and falls blissfully to sleep.