This morning I was sitting in church watching a guy surf Facebook on his iPad during a sermon on personal integrity. Let me start by saying that I’m the last person who should judge anyone. There was a least one occasion in my checkered worshiping past when the minister shouted out from the pulpit in an attempt to wake my sleeping carcass. Anyone who makes it to a church service has started down a road of betterment that I can’t criticize. To that gentleman checking out the status of people he never speaks to, or isn’t sure he remembers, I can only say “Thanks for coming out today.” God doesn’t really need to friend people and his status remains God for all of eternity. He doesn’t post pictures of his activities, because God knows the race of two-legged Weebles He created to stare at social media night and day can pretty much go outdoors if they want to see how the earth came out.
It’s very hard to be truly present when worshiping while doing anything else. Maybe there are religions out there where you can reflect on your chosen deity and still fold laundry, but I haven’t found one. The times have changed and maybe churches will add an Angry Birds service later in the day for those who need to kill egg stealing pigs and reflect on the unfathomable nature of God at the same time. I am a simpleton, a throwback to earlier times. There is nothing I can do during a church service, save for listen to the inspired wisdom of scripture and confess my shortcomings as a human. Multitasking is a modern myth. In the end, I’m only able to breath and to focus on a God who is not only bigger than me, but the universe.
One of the great, unifying places in Western Civilization is the public restroom. It doesn’t matter if you are standing with feet firmly planted atop the fiscal cliff watching everyone else in the country go over the edge. Eventually you meet up in line at a public bathroom with those same people. The common design of every public men’s room in America obviously originated from the mind of someone with severe inadequacy. The urinals are generally placed strategically at a height to ensure maximum splash potential. For women, the old adage reminds them not to wear white after Labor Day. You don’t normally see men in white at any time of the year, because we’ll inevitably end up in a public splashing room sometime during the day. For the most part, men are the forgotten gender when it comes to public restroom amenities. Oh, sure, some restaurants and arenas that boast both fanciness and schmancy-ness place television sets or Lucite encased newspapers on the walls directly over the urinal (to entertain our belly buttons, apparently). These same places don’t tend to give us extras like paper towels. Or soap. If we’re lucky, the genius restroom gods assign us hair dryers attached to the walls. This makes sense, I suppose. Floor level urinals and hair dryers that only a three-year old could fit under. Sometimes, the designers see fit to install a changing table on the wall. Every man knows that if he is a loving parent, he mustn’t put his child on this device. For one, there are usually dirty diapers still in the thing. The other issue is the more than likely outcome of having one’s beloved offspring dumped onto a men’s room floor by a broken, diaper filled changing table. There is yet another issue. We don’t actually change babies. Sometimes we pretend to and then bring the dirty child back to his or her mother (Which leads to the conclusion that women are sneaking into men’s rooms and leaving diapers).
One of the strangely considerate items found in lots of public places is the unisex restroom. I’ve noticed that it’s often located smack dab between the men’s and women’s rooms. In case we find ourselves at a crossroads one day and out of confusion need a third option. “I’m feeling uni today. Maybe I’ll try that middle bathroom. I wonder if they have paper towels?” The secret of the unisex bathrooms is that they have cleaner changing tables and sometimes a couch. All in the name of comforting the confused. I could just enjoy the bathroom sofa and let the dryer breezes waft over me. At least until somebody asks what in the world happened to my white pants.
The life of an aspiring writer is filled with webs of complex doubt. Questions arise throughout the process of committing cyber ink to pixellated page. My biggest question as a neophyte author is
Where will today’s inspiration come from? Do I have enough ideas in the tank to put together something enjoyable?
The thing that I do each day is let life act as its own source of inspiration. Each and every situation in life becomes material for this blog and the novel I’m working on. I keep scraps of paper within reach all of the time. Most of them would appear incomprehensible to anyone else. Papers filled with nonsense words, circled phrases unrelated to anything outside of my own mind. Most days there is a single word that relates to everything I’m writing. Today the word was inspiration. What kind of things inspire and fire my imagination? I wondered this throughout the day, as I have over the past few days. Many times, especially during the 15° days of January, inspiration seems in short supply. The rhetoric of shortsightedness fills the airwaves and it’s hard to find that one act of altruistic goodness that inspires and enlightens. Each day I live with good humor and optimism and look at life for things to write about. I live the long-sighted life. Writing is my aspiration today. A hobby, but one I can look forward to growing in for many years. Instant success has eluded me, but long-term bliss is captured and contained in my pocket as I walk along the road of life. Inspiration for writing is always a conversation away. One moment I have nothing to write about, and the next the events of the day have made me laugh until I can’t help but pour the words out onto paper. I may not have anything in the tank today, but I know that with enough faith and cheer the words will come naturally. They always do.
Several years ago, I ran a gimmick blog post in which my then 8-year old daughter Anna and I watched the Academy Awards red carpet pre-show and made commentary. Anna is older and wiser now, but still manages to render an opinion on most subjects. I sat down with her to watch the Super Bowl (i.e., the big copyrighted sports telecast not to be mentioned by name) and see if she had anything to offer. There were parts that made her put aside Harry Potter long enough to pay attention.
Anna on the first drive of the game: ‘Dad? What’s a quarterback? Do you have to put quarters into his back?”
“Yeah. This one looks like he needs a lot more quarters.”
On Audi’s “Bravery” spot: ” Wow! Do you think they really punched that guy in the face?”
“I think the black eye is just painted on. People can’t really just punch each other.”
“Oh. It would have been more real if they had.”
Regarding Oreo’s cream vs. cookie ad in which the actors burn down a library: “What’s the difference. It’s just a cookie.”
Anna’s first impression of Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco: “He looks like Simon Cowell.”
On the lack of progress writing this post: “Any farther? Yeah. I didn’t think so.”
On Beyoncé: “Oohh that’s flaming. What the heck? Where is she? Too much fire. She needs to dress more appropriately. Where’s her kid?”
(then, mercifully, Anna went off to brush her teeth and missed much of Beyoncé’s um, light show. She returned for the Destiny’s Child reunion to ask “What is this? A freak show, or something?” Even Anna, the skeptical pre-teenager, had to admit that Beyoncé is extremely pretty.)
Anna, amid much protest, went to bed just ahead of the first half. Someday, I’ll go over what makes up a first down with her (again) and try to steer her away from the suffering of a being a Lions fan for life. Maybe, before she’s too old to appreciate, the Lions will go to a Super Bowl and we won’t have to worry about the commercials. Thanks to the miracles of medical science, maybe I’ll be alive when that happens in Super Bowl CCCIV. That will be a lights out game.
Yesterday I posted (yet another) knee jerk reaction to a genuinely soul sucking tragedy. Most of the time I wear my heart not so much on my sleeve, but definitely in plain sight. I love people and have felt an outpouring of empathy toward strangers this past year as horror after horror has unfolded. That said, I also love being an American. I’m a patriotic, loyal homer. The country that gave me a chance to be something (or other) still has a lot to be proud of. Here are some of the people, places and genuinely unique blessings of living in the good old U.S. of A:
Despite a cold, Mostly Teachable maintains it’s level (sic) of cheerful sarcasm and infantile humor through the first Podcast of June ’12. Thanks for listening, Mostly Teachable loves you (blog love is still a crime in 38 states, so check the books on that one).
Grace is kind of a zen savant. She sits stock still, focused on some distant point, trying to figure out it’s deeper meaning. She’s can’t form the words for fried chicken, but she’s laser focused on the good smelling food that occupies my plate. Grace is our addle brained, ancient beagle. She is definitely my dog in that she’s perpetually nervous, smelly, and runs around in circles most of the time, grunting all the while. My daughter named her Grace, and I realized the first time that I chased her off the kitchen counter that the name is fitting. It is but for grace that she has made it this far in life.
There has been an undercurrent of gossip during the last few days about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s late dog Seamus and a 12 hour car trip he took on the roof of the family vehicle in 1983. Conventional wisdom would say that the stories are being kept alive by opponents, but this is the kind of story that bites back because it’s true and terrible. Seamus was ill in his carrier and Romney has defended his decision to keep the animal up there by pointing out that the car was too crowded. This becomes less political and more human failing the more that it comes up.
A few years ago I got called about a blog mentioning Grace’s penchant for sitting under the dryer vent in back of the house. My defense was that I get a good smelling dog and she has a warm zen moment in the lavender breeze. It’s the same as Seamus, though. We really do have to consider the animal’s needs before our own, because they can’t do it themselves. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but my doctor hasn’t mentioned heart defect. I’m just developing the heart of a smelly old soul dog. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lanny-davis/-romneys-dog-on-car-roof-_b_1202883.html
I have more dreams about proper hygiene than I used to. Maybe it’s approaching middle age, or just the fact that I no longer flip burgers for a living, but I’ve started to have night terrors about social ills such as bad breath and perspiration. The days of being a teenager and only worrying about grooming as it related to meeting girls have long since passed. Those were the days when I owned an economy sized can of Right Guard. Wonderful stuff, Right Guard was. I received a can upon graduating the fifth grade and it lasted through my Junior year in college. There was no issue of not using the Right Guard. The can was just enormous. Some of the worst days of my teens were when I mistook my mom’s can of Aquanet for the Right Guard and shellacked myself with hairspray. No wonder my grades were so bad. Some days I couldn’t raise my hand because my arm was hairsprayed to my side. We knew nothing of climate change in the 80’s. There’s still a hole in the ozone layer over my childhood home that scientists have linked to my giant can of aerosol deodorant. The ozone was so depleted that we choose not to have a lemonade stand as kids. We just walked outside with bacon and let it cook for all of our neighbors.
Now I have dreams about being a stinky sort of person. I wear Wilhelmina mints around my neck at night so that I can ward off bad breath. What a weird thing to start dreaming about. I used to dream about cars, and women. Sometimes women and cars. Dreams these days are of hygiene-ville, where I’m looking around for my lost can of Old Spice. It isn’t easy being an adult, but it sure smells better.
Most humans are the descendants of other people. Not all humans. Some obviously came from torrid relationships between cans of mushroom soup and turkey basters. I have a father. One in fact, who turned 64 years old on Wednesday. I can’t even imagine that my old man is that…old. I still picture him as a 30-year-old, 135 pound dynamo of stubborn will. A little bald-headed dervish hopping fences and chasing down neighborhood kids who’d stomped his flowers. He looks about the same, save for a few more worry lines and the changes in his eyes. As long as Dad’s grinning with his weird, toothy smile, I figure he’s alright. Dad’s on his own planet and I tell people he might outlive us all. He might.
Dad was left blind by Scarlet Fever at 12 days old. I only bring this up because it forms starting blocks in his life from which he sprinted away. If there is one thing that I take from Dad’s life it is to get up each day and make a living no matter what. He worked within the limitations of his disabilities and did what he had to do. There is almost a sense of shrug with my father when it comes to accomplishing tasks. He just wills himself to do them and completes the tasks. At 18, he somehow got drafted into the service and took a bus across Michigan to the induction center in Detroit. Obviously Dad was 4F, but he lived up to his responsibility. After marrying my mom, dad inexplicably got into photography school and graduated. He ended up working at an ad agency. Looking at his portfolio over the years, I see that he obviously had talent and worked with the faculties that were at his disposal. In order to make a living, however, he ended up down other career paths. Dad just worked at whatever supported the family. In fact, he still does. Like his own father, Dad has a unique sense of doing the things that interest him and exploring whatever creative outlet sparks his interest at the moment. Like many extraordinarily grandiose men, Dad and Grandpa tended to lead lives of acceptable ordinariness. They dreamed in visions tempered by the white-hot fires of need and immediacy. I don’t hold it against them, but in fact see things their way. I dream and I pine for all that could be, all that might be. In the end, however, caring for my family comes first. So, I appreciate my dad for himself, but also for raising us to know the difference between want and need, right and right now. I’ll take him out for a burger tomorrow and at some point he’ll get that weird smile on his face. It’s his planet to dream and scheme on, and the rest of us are just living here.
In marriage, many statements that begin with “we” are precious. “We’re going to have a baby!” is a welcome sort of moment of we-ness in a couple’s life. “We get the keys on Friday.” was one of those good, moments for team Andy and Lori when we bought our house. “We” sometimes leads to those details in life that make my brain shut down and shrivel away, though. I got in trouble tonight, in fact, because I said the dreaded anti-we phrase to my wife:
What’s this we stuff?
When confronted with the “you know, we should…” ideas from anyone, my mind tunes out. I go to a lonely forest, where there is no “we.” In the lonely, empty path down the center of my mind, I leave behind all of the stimuli forced on me about the meaning of couplehood. The relationship of a true, loving couple apparently has a lot to do with cleaning the basement and finding mystery smells in the sink drain. “We should clean the basement” is code for “Go clean the basement, devil man.” I’d rather travel down the empty path, but it isn’t to be. I’ll end up in the basement, attempting to clean, or reading old Mad magazines. Part of the “We” relationship is knowing when to give in to it. You don’t get the good moments, the one’s where you’re both laughing at the world’s stupidity, unless you give a little back to the couple fund. The we bank has to be filled for the lean times. So, I’ll help out. Sometimes, out of the blue, “we” actually means what it says and we end up accomplishing tasks together as a couple. We’ll knock out the Saturday morning house fix-up jobs, and then I’ll use the fine art of distraction to get us out of work and to Taco Bell. We love each other and we love our time when “we” means “we’re together and that’s what matters.” Of course, Lori and I love crappy tacos, even more.
Yesterday I posted a bit of verbal nonsense about what its like to find ways to kindle (and rekindle) romance in the midst of marriage. My wife didn’t really let me off the hook. She hasn’t heard the podcast yet (shhh). Date nights are a wonderful, cherished occasion rarely enjoyed during our workaday lives. The times we get to go out and have a laugh (or three) are a relief and a reminder of the days when we were going out. In those days, I either cut out early for home, or pretended that I didn’t notice her father’s quizzical looks if I was still hanging out when he was going off to bed. Nowadays, Lori and I both enjoy our laughs, check on our daughter and then fall asleep, because the sheer excitement of being alone together wears us out.
This week, I helped put together nearly 400 date night kits. Despite my caveman ways (“I’m a simple caveman. I don’t understand your modern romance), I try to help out with encouraging and helping local married couples. We put in three suggested dates, along with a lot of incentives to try local restaurants. The idea seems both absurd and novel at the same time. Many couples, when they find out what’s included in the date night boxes, ask why they need any such motivation. The argument we get is that they’re already married, so there really isn’t any need for our box of goodies. What gets forgotten in the business of being married, and the business of raising kids while working, is that we need to make time to date our spouses. After all, we didn’t marry each other and forfeit our souls. Sometimes, it takes a box full of funny sounding, old-fashioned suggestions to remind us that being alone with our marriage partners was (and is) fun. We live and breathe every moment in support of our families, yet often forget to communicate with our own partners. I’m a little proud of having worked on the date night kits. We distributed, by the Grace of God, nearly 300 of them today. Older couples told us things like “We’ve been married 45 years, and it’s been a long time since we dated.” Which is exactly the point. The idea of the date isn’t just time alone. It’s about time alone together.
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This is podcast episode 19(ish). In this week’s episode, I goof on all things Valentine’s day including gift buying, romance and sex. This podcast also snapshots a little bit more about depression. For information on “stuff” heard on the podcast, please feel free to ask away. Also, check out our car and travel friendly i-tunes podcast (which is absolutely free).
One of the wonderful things my wife did when we got married was that she made me stop dating. Okay, I honestly wanted to stop. I love Lori more than any other person on earth. Thank God for not having to go through the sham ritual of courtship anymore, though. I was never any good at relationships. Or personal interaction. Or speaking to people without gibbering and flapping my arms. Flirting was impossible. I just never got it. Maybe it was because everything I tried to say came out in 452 word bursts. Some people have a gift for nonchalant flirtation, some only manage to catch fire from zipper friction, because they wear cheap pants. I don’t flirt. There are times when I make the vain attempt at speaking casually and end up paying for it (and having to purchase new pants when the old ones burn up).
I went for a haircut. This is always a mistake, because hair stylists often are the best at making therapeutic small talk. They know nearly everything, because they’ve heard nearly every story conceivable. Once in the chair, I began to babble about how my hair always ends up looking like that of Sopranos tough guy Pauly Walnuts. The side wings just say I should put on a jogging suit and a Members Only jacket. The patient stylist asked me lots of questions about myself and I babbled. And babbled some more. The problem, I noticed after returning home, was that one side of my head is cut differently than the other. This always happens when I try to be funny and light. The rule before each trip out of the house should be: “continue to be a jerk, Andrew.” This is not my first brush with small talk induced failure. A few years before meeting Lori, I tried to practice being fun and flirty at a blood drive. When asked to choose between an older, veteran Red Cross associate to draw my blood, or a cute girl, I went for small talk and jokes. Unfortunately, practice outweighs pretty. I have veins that show like the Mississippi River on a map, but she missed on a half-dozen attempts. Signaling for the seasoned vet and another guy my age, nurse vampire had the three of them sit on my arm in an attempt to get blood from the part of my ulna the needle was bent and wedged into. My arm should hurt as much as it did that night every time that I think about trying to be friendly. It’s good to be married to a beautiful woman who doesn’t pay attention to my dumb attempts at small talk. Hopefully, she won’t ask about my weird haircut.