Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disneyland makes me cry

If you are my friend on facebook or follow me on Instagram you probably already know I am at Disneyland this week. Today's our last day and, as all vacations with kids are, it has been the best of times and the worst of times.

I have a long history with the Land. When I was younger, my family would make an annual trip to Oceanside, California and stay in a beach house. One day of that vacation would be spent in Disneyland and I loved it. As a parent now, I don't know how my parents managed to drive 8 kids 800 miles and pay for a beach house and a day at Disneyland. But we loved it.

As a teenager, I fell in with a crowd of Disney fanatics. My friend Charlotte's family were Disney Obsessees. Her dad would work on a telethon that was filmed at Disneyland and they graciously invited me to to with them each year. We would go for a week at a time, or longer, and these were the days before California Adventure so we would spend 7 full days in the one park. We rode every ride, ate at every restaurant and cart and explored every shop, side street and back alley and soaked in all the great and amazing details. The details is what Disney does best.

I know some people (my Dad) don't really love the Land. The lines are too long. The prices are too high. The rides aren't thrilling enough. But for me, it's like a giant work of art. Every moment and detail there is choreographed to elicit the most joy and fun. The music matches the area you are in. The paint colors on the walls and the colors that would have been used when they area of America was built. Even the ground and plants are different throughout the park to enhance the theme. I love it all and my oldest is starting to point things out to me. "Look Dad! Those benches look like they are made of Popsicle sticks! Dad, it smells like cookies on main street!" A future Disney nerd is born.

So whenever I am here with my kids, I get emotional. A lot. I'm that Dad. It makes me so happy to see a things that brought me so much joy and happiness as a kid do the same thing for my kids. I cried three times the first day. (Once on Star Tours, because my boys were JUST SO HAPPY.) All week long I have seen my daughter wave to and say hello to every character we pass like they are her best friends. And yesterday I watched my middle son, who has Asperger's and anxiety issues, wave his hands to be chosen to do Jedi training. He stood patiently to get his light saber and listened to his Jedi master and followed the instructions, neither of which comes easily to him. I got to see him fight Darth Maul while his little sister (who thinks most rides are "too scawy.") dueled Darth Vader. And they both won.

Charlotte's mom, Adrienne, who was the mother of all our Disney trips as teenagers told me a story once. We were off being awesome teenagers and riding rides and she was by herself and was sitting at the Plaza Inn watching the parade. That year, it was a Lion King parade and there was a segment where the performers would hand out drums and rattles to the kids in the crowd to help them make the music. Adrienne told us how touched she was as she watched all these young moms and dads reach down and help their little ones play the drums. And in the background the characters were singing "The Circle of Life." Because of course they were (it's all in the details!!)

I think of that story a lot now that I am the dad, trying to help my kids have fun and discover all the things I loved about this place when I was their age. And yes, I balk a little bit when I have to pay $7 for a corn dog (I've got a little bit of my dad in me too.) But its worth it when I hear my boys laughing at the end of Space Mountain, or see my daughter hugging Snow White, who's always been her favorite. Or see my sons holding hands as they walk down the street. And yes, all of those things have made me tear up this week. It's just what Disney does to me.

I blogged about my favorite things to eat at Disneyland last year. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

under the weather

Facebook is abuzz with three things: this crazy unheard-of snow, the Manti (T'eo) pageant, and how sick everybody is. Can we address the third topic? Here's the deal. A few people I know are sick, and everyone else is "sick." And you know who you are.

When someone tells me that they are sick I feel bad, but mostly I feel skeptical. I don't believe that someone is sick unless I see them throw up right in front of me or if they have a deep, scratchy voice (which can be faked, btw.) I think the person is just trying to pull something over on me. But then again, I was born during the Vietnam War so I'm suspicious and skeptical of everything. When someone tells me that they are sick, and I haven't witnessed vomit or heard any (credible) voice cracks or hacking, I want to ask the following ten questions:

1. Do you have diarrhea? How much and how recently?

2. Are you really sick or do you just need a hug (cause you've heard I'm super good at hugs)

3. When you told me you were "in the hospital" with the flu, was the hospital your couch? With an endless stream of Downton Abbey episodes on the TV?

4. Is this a performance? If so, I feel like you could raise the stakes. What's your objective? Who is your scene partner? What do you want from that person? Did you do a warm-up exercise?

5. Could you vomit right now? On the spot? If I snapped my fingers could you/will you vomit?

6. Are you hoping I will make you soup? Because I can open a can, but that's literally it.

7. Are you wanting to stay home from school or work? Think about this: is it worth it? Playing catch-up the next day is the worst. So many emails! So many things to sign. So many people to fire. Answer: NO. IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

8. Do you think, maybe, if you cleared your throat that you would sound normal again and not sick? Let's try!

9. When you shuffle around like you're dead, do you think you are fooling me? Does a cold cause people to suddenly become lame? Did you catch a sad case of the cripples?

10. You claim you have a fever. Oddly, you don't feel warm to me. Should we try a rectal thermometer? I HAVE ONE IN MY CAR!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Michelle Obama's Not My Momma!

A few weeks ago, my mom casually tossed out that she thought she should get bangs.

"My hair just needs a bit of something; I think that something is bangs."

I should have, at that moment, pushed her face onto a cutting board, whipped out a cleaver and with one solid chop, gave the woman bangs.  It would have alleviated today's phone call...

"SHE STOLE MY BANGS! I can NOT believe it,  SHE STOLE...MY BANGS! I WAS GOING TO GET BANGS! I can't have no Democrat Bangs! Now everyone's dying over her Bangs and THOSE ARE MY BANGS! Now what am I going to do, that woman and her Stop-Feeding-Fat-Kids bangs, she looks ridiculous.  Oh, there they are in a close up, WE SEE THEM, WE GOT IT! THE FRONT PART IS NOW SHORTER THAN THE REST! Oh here we go, the President LOVES her bangs, I am sure, I am SURE he does. I thought he hated 'bangs'!  Get it? Gun Control?! Well now what?! What am I supposed to do with this mess!  I hate my hair, it's all long and parted to one side, I was growing it out so I could cut BANGS and now I'll just look like one of her minions, scalping themselves in know, her arms have gotten fat, have you seen them? Did you notice?  I mean, the first inauguration  her arms were amazing, I'll give her that, but this go 'round, wheew, it was like a flying squirrel trying to get your attention. THAT'S why she got bangs, 'Look at my head, not my arms!' She probably walked into the Oval Office with a sleeveless shirt and Joe Biden was like, Woah, she's gonna need some bangs.' Well, I don't care. Everyone knows I was gonna get my bangs and that was way before all this "O-bang-a" garbage went down. My friend Georgia told me they would frame my face...NOW LOOK AT MY FACE! FRAMELESS! Who knows what I've got going on up there?! All this time I've been walking around smiling at people and they were thinking, "What was that?! Was that a face? Was that a painting?  Either way, that thing needs a frame!" I HATE THE DEMOCRATS! They are so selfish. Thoughtless.  You don't see Ann Romney stealing my bangs, NO! She swoops! Like any dignified woman in the public eye should. SWOOP MICHELLE, SWOOP! It's like that little girl from 'The New Girl' is running the country  It's fine for a dumb TV show but you are the Queen of America, SWOOP! I tell ya what, I am not gonna do it.  I can't. Not now. It's all too much.  What would they say at Church? Connie's gone commie, that's what they'd say. They'd all think I'd lost it. I'd be exiled. But my face would have a frame...maybe it's worth it, I mean, I can't let her win, those two have won enough, if you ask me.  Now they win the BANG race? NO ONE'S RACING YOU!  Oh would you look at that, they are showing her from the back, they are talking about her bangs and showing me the back of her head. COME ON C-N-N!  I gonna have to change over to Fox News, see what they have to say about her bangs, that'll cut her down to size...HA, CUT HER RIGHT DOWN...good heavens they are taking a poll.  FOX NEWS IS TAKING A BANG POLL!  Do I like the First Ladies new bangs? NO-I-DO-NOT!  AND IF I WASN'T ON THE PHONE WITH YOU, sweetie,  I WOULD CALL AND LET THEM KNOW!  


I'm going back to CNN, the least I can hope for is reasonably unbiased coverage of her bangs.  Oh, now the president is talking... Of course, of course she did, I should have gone yesterday, I had the appointment, I should have gone to the appointment but the roads were covered with ice, I wasn't gonna kill myself to get OH MY GOSH I'M GONNA KILL MYSELF, SHE'S BACK! She is photo bombing the inauguration! Either that or the camera man is getting sick of this hippy propaganda the President is schlepping and cropping her into the frame. What do you need bangs for, honey, you got CNN framing your face for you!

That's it, I can't take it any more. Good thing I Tivo'd 'Days of Our Lives'...Holy crap Sami's got bangs."

Now, I wasn't recording or anything, and I would hate to paint my mother in any other light other then a beautiful, gracious, forgiving, bangless light, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went down...word for matter what she says in the comments.  

*How long did it take me to find a picture of the President kissing his wife's bangs? Two seconds.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Non-Incriminating Evidence

Katie and I when we were dating. 

Sometimes when I really want to freak out the youth at church I tell them about when Sister Craig and I were dating, back in 1995. I weave tales about how I would sometimes, unannounced, just pop in at her apartment. And how sometimes…she wouldn't be there! AND I WOULD HAVE NO IDEA WHERE SHE WAS OR WHEN SHE WAS COMING BACK! So I would have to do something crazy like LEAVE A HANDWRITTEN NOTE, TELLING HER TO CALL ME LATER!  And then sometime, later that day, she’d hopefully get that note and call me. And MAYBE I would be at my apartment to answer my land-line phone, and MAYBE I WOULDN'T! Maybe I’d be out, and I actually wouldn't have any communication with her that entire afternoon or even that day! No communication! Like we were animals! And can you even stand the suspense of when we would see each other again?! I know!

Seriously, I sound ancient to these youth when I tell stories of living before every soul had a cell phone with texting or Find a Friend capabilities. And you know what? I totally feel archaic, too! I find my own self sitting there in a daze wondering how we lived so crippled by our lack of technology. I swear in 1995 it was like we had evolved one measly step from chimps playing with sticks. “And then to show Sister Craig I was interested in her romantically, I thumped my chest and handed her a branch that was on fire. She prayed about it, and we got married.”

Doesn't it feel as if society has so quickly adapted to all of us being absolutely accessible at all times, we can’t fathom a time when it wasn't that way? You may even find yourself thinking back on moments when you would have saved time, resources, and emotional anguish if we were all using Smart Phones and texting and apps. I've done that.

But the upside is this, my ancient friend, you also lived out your pubescent years at a time when the entire world didn't have video camera/phones on their person 24 hours a day; and then a medium to immediately distribute that video to the public. How can I know how awesome anything I did was if it wasn't immediately broadcasted and validated by the public! I know, we were animals!

But for those of us who are products from the 70s, 80s, or 90s…I think we are actually grateful for that. I know I am. My family bought a home video camera in 1984. I was 13. THIRTEEN! The only wise decision I ever made in my adolescent awkwardness (besides keeping my crush on Olivia Newton-John a secret) was to completely avoid being on camera. Sure, it was a fascinating new technology, but I knew better. In fact, the only two documented video sightings of me as a teenager is one of me yelling at my cousin to stop videotaping me, and  the other  is of me at age 16, at a ward Roadshow practice. And people, believe me, it is obnoxious! Probably because I was obnoxious at 16! I am on stage chewing a piece of gum like I’m doing it a favor and supplying more eye rolls than is legally allowed by the FCC.

Think on your own teen years, but imagine being surrounded by friends who are constantly prepared to video whatever foolishness you are prone to! Here’s a list of what you and I were spared by me being a teen of the 80s and as a result, no rogue video floating around:

*I played water polo. Nobody needs to see what that looked like. (This was before the “hip,” less-offensive Speedos you see in the Summer Olympics now.)

*Once during my sophomore year of high school I had to go up to the board to diagram a sentence in my English class. My pants caught on a broken part of a desk as I walked to the front and ripped a hole on the area of my jeans covering my bum. Not cool.  It was a YouTube moment waiting to happen…but mercifully, there was no YouTube!

*My first kiss was at a Youth Conference, on a bus, in front of millions of people. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

*My freshman year I played the clarinet. In the marching band. At football games. Nobody beat me up or gave me a wedgie. But they should have. And that would have been on Facebook for sure. (There wasn't the anti-bullying movement that you see nowadays. I guess it was an era when people figured if you were in the marching band then you had it coming. And it’s hard to argue with that logic.)

What about you? What bullets did you dodge by not having adolescent moments caught on video and distributed to the world? COMMENT! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


On the eve of Season 11 of Lifetime's Project Runway premiere I had the exciting privilege of speaking with contestant Amanda Valentine, who also happens to be my sister-in-law. And who happens to be awesome! And also happens to be very forthcoming, as this interview reveals.

Amanda was under a strict gag order from Lifetime not reveal any spoilers or plot points from the upcoming season, but it's pretty clear that I got right through that fashion firewall with my probing questions! I told Amanda that if she was uncomfortable with any of my questions, or if they were too revealing, she could use our interview safe word: "auf wiedersehen." Are you surprised to hear she never used it? Yes? Well, that's just how good I am. I am the Martin Bashir of Lifetime programming (Look out, Dance Moms!)

Anyway, in this hard hitting interview Amanda gives us the secrets of layering, alerts us to how many hot chicks are on the show, and reveals a surprising marriage!

Topher: Who is nicer: Tim Gunn or that grouchy lady from Marie Claire magazine?

Amanda: Um, Tim Gunn. But here's the thing. Surprise! I love Nina. She's so much nicer than she comes across on the show. I fell in love with her very quickly. (Note: Amanda is married to a man and so she doesn't really mean she "fell in love." It's just an expression in the fashion biz.)

Topher: So, what are some fashion trends for 40 year old men?

Amanda: Let me think about this. Seersucker everything! That's not true. I'm lying to you. I'm trying to make you look foolish. You know what I love? I long pause) I love layering. Layer hoodies under blazers! (She gave me a litany of things you could layer, but I can't type that fast.) Don't be afraid to layer! It looks smart.

Topher: Do you hate it when people on awards shows talk about "Old Hollywood Glamour?"
Amanda: Well, now that you mention it. It's not really Old Hollywood Glamour because they still do it. I mean, when a celebrity doesn't have a visual statement to make it's just easy to fall back on slicked back hair, red lips, and a slinky gown.
 (At this point in the interview we have to take a short break because Amanda claims that a "cat is molesting" her.)
Topher: Glad that's over. Next question. Did you watch Project Runway All-stars?

Amanda: You know? I didn't.

Topher: Maybe it's pointless to ask this. But do you think it's in Georgina Chapman's contract that she's introduced to the designers every week as "the beautiful Georgina Chapman?"

Amanda: Completely. Let it be known that her husband owns Lifetime television.

Topher: Ababababa-what?

Amanda: Harvey Weinstein!

Topher: vomit vomit vomit terror face vomit

Amanda: That's for real!
Topher: Ok. Moving on. Who do you hate on the show? Who should we love and hate?
Amanda: You will love Joe. You're going to hate Richard. I'm gonna say it.
Topher: Let's get personal. Do you remember how we met?

(Amanda clearly doesn't remember. She throws a few half hearted memories out, but I see right through it. I know a hawk from a handsaw! I'm no dummy. I remind her that we met when she was fourteen and I was visiting Lincoln, Nebraska. She had made me a poster.) 

Amanda: Did I draw a picture of Nebraska?
Topher: Yes! It said "Welcome to the Heartland."
Amanda: I'm sure I did. That's very me.
Topher: So we can prepare for it, what is the ugliest thing you will be making on the show?

Amanda: OK, let  me think. The ugliest thing I make is a frilly patterned dress. That's all I can say because I can't describe the challenge. It's so ugly.
Topher: How do you propose getting more straight men to watch Project Runway?

Amanda: There's some serious babes on this season. There's Brooklyn hipster babes, Brazilian sultry babes, Portland edgy babes....and there's me! And Heidi Klum wears very tight and sheer clothes.
Topher: Hm. Super sexist.
Amanda: Yep!
Topher: Can you wear white after Labor Day if it’s just underpants?

Amanda: No. You can’t wear underpants after Labor Day.

Topher: Whenever someone Skypes with a friend from home on Project Runway, it’s a huge clue that that person is going home that week. We all know it. Do the producers think we’re stupid?

Amanda: Well, see, that's hard for us to notice because they're filming everything. They're filming us from 6:30 in the morning to midnight. It's all how it's edited. Even now we don't know how it's going to be edited.
Topher: That's scary. How do you deal with the stress of that?
Amanda: I'm not dealing with it. Mostly I don't sleep. It's actually a little nerve-wracking. I'm trying to quickly develop a very thick skin. I've already cried three times about what strangers said about me on the internet. I will never trash talk the Kardashians again because I know how they feel.
(At this point we have to take another break because my kids are fighting super loud about "who took all the hot water.")
Topher: Sorry. Domestic drama. Do you ever run around Mood Fabrics all out of breath and exasperated because you can’t find the zippers and you’re running out of time? And maybe you don’t have enough money for all the yards of fabric you need? What does that feel like?
Amanda: One time I was at the register and time was up and I ran out of money. I had to borrow a bunch from other designers.

Topher: So that's a real thing?

Amanda: Yes! Tim said on Season Ten that nobody shared with each other. None of the designers shared. He loved us much more. We're all nice and buddies still, even thought there's going to be lots of trash talking on the show, I'm sure. (Amanda goes on to talk about how she's part of a clique of hot, mean girls. That story is way better in person. I'm not that great of a interviewer, you guys. All this typing and listening! No thanks.)

Topher: On a scale from 1-10, how interested would you be in seeing me do a lip-sync of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' Bout You?"
Amanda: You know what? 8.5.

Topher: Thanks, Pandy! I'm already way ahead of you. So, any last words for our readers?

Amanda: I do it for you guys. I really do. I'm thinkin' bout you.

(at the conclusion of the interview, let the record show that my fourteen year old son Miles asked me "what's the name of your blog again?")

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

15 Books For Your 15 Year Old Boy

I've always been a big reader. In fact, my first job was at the Provo Public Library. I was a page (really!) that meant that I was the guy that pushed the cart around and re-shelved the books. I loved it, and I worked there until I left on my LDS mission. I was upstairs in the adult department for about a year and then moved downstairs to the children's library. We would frequently get frantic mothers coming in saying "My son will ONLY read Goosebump books. How do I get him to read something better?" And our answer was always the same, "Leave your son alone. He's reading. Just let him read."

And I firmly believe that. If you kid only wants to read books about weather (we went through that phase) or graphic novels or Goosebumps (Ermagerd!!) then leave him alone and just let him read! Reading is the key. And if he gets to read what he wants, then he enjoys it. And then he reads more. And then he reads new and different kinds of books. But if you try and force him to read "something else" (i.e. the books you like) then reading becomes a chore, and he doesn't want to do it and then he stops reading.

I get it. My son Jonah reads a lot but will get obsessed with series and read those and only those (He's 8 and right now is really into Andrew Lost.) For Christmas I gave him The BFGBig Red and Danny the Champion of the World which were three of my favorite books when I was a kid. And he has completely ignored them. Every once in a while I ask about them casually, but I don't push. He's reading. Leave him alone and just let him read.

But if you have a tween/teen boy who is looking for something to read, here are 15 of my favorites that would be good for boys (or girls!) who are 13-17. Let me know if the comments what I missed.

(Disclaimer: while I would feel comfortable letting my kdis read these books when they are old enough, some of them have grown up themes about sex, violence, mean people, monsters, etc. If you are sensitve to those things, do your research before letting your kids read and decide what's right for you and your family. i.e. Don't send me angry emails if you or your kids are offended.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Sight of the Hind

So I'm at lunch with a friend and we are sort of newish friends, like 3 years in September, and we get to talking about our lives and even about when we were younger and she hits me up with this doozy of a tale.  It's wild and funny and heartbreaking and dramatic and terrifying...okay, I'll just tell you, but like a quick version cause I've got stuff to do...or at least I should.

Picture it 1993, Terry Hatcher was Louis Lane and the Proclaimers were walking 500 miles and my friend...let's call her, Tea Cup was fresh out of high school.  Her high school boy friend was serving an LDS Mission somewhere far away and somehow, quite by accident, she fell in love with his younger brother, then after a few months, and severely by accident, she found herself in the family way.  So that's all fine, but before she finds out the big news she goes to the doctor and it's 1993 and things are still done with sticks and guessing, and so they send her and her mother, who's not super happy to be there, but is waiting to find out the results before she settles on a level of fury, off with the prognosis, "Not Pregnant...but we will run one more test, it's this new thing with your blood, sometimes it knows."

So, Tea Cup is off somewhere, making out with her still-in-high-school boyfriend (oh, yeah, he's just starting his senior year) and back at home...the phone rings.  It's 1993, so phones were attached to walls with spirally chords.


"Yes, may I speak to Tea Cup please?"

"She's not home right now. Can I help you with something?"

"Yes, this is Shasta from Dr. Picture Frame's office, would you let her know that her pregnancy test came back and it was positive."


"I'm sorry could you say that again."

That's right, in 1993 Doctors offices could leave test results with any 'Chip Clip' that picks up a this case, Tea Cup's Father.

So the whole thing blows apart, right.  Mom's crying, Dad is screaming and throwing fur covered ottomans, while over at the new Senior's house, there's also crying and holy water being splashed on the demon.  Every single person's world has just flipped upside down:
The mother of that boy.
The father of Tea Cup.
Tea Cup.
The Senior.
The mother of Tea Cup.
The Father of the Senior.
Not to mention the missionary one year into his two year mission, he's got a bit of a surprise waiting for him back at's not his girlfriend. It's his new sister-in-law.

It really does blow everyone wide open. It's really is a defining moment for all of them, and they push and shove and dig their way through it as best they can (not one of them does it perfect but they do all try) because underneath this whole mess that two teenagers made, is two families love.  Love for a daughter.  Love for a father and a son.  For a mother and the other mother.  All of them expecting one thing and getting another.  All of them going through carefully planed lives and one day, one night, one phone call changed every single thing. But you can't say it was devastating, because, eventually it all became about a different love, a little girl. And then a new mother's love, and a young (young) fathers love, and then the powerful, fierce love of a grandparent. All of them, reluctantly at first, but then effortlessly, brought back together.

And now it's 2013, and that baby is 20. And Tea Cup and the Senior are two unremarkably married suburbanites, with two other kids, with far less tremulous births.  They have a Mini Van and a savings account and are funny and nice and once gave me a washing machine, cause they are the kind of people who find out you don't have a washing machine so they give you the one they have in their garage.  And 1993 did not define them and also it did. Because then they were parents and husband and wife (not in that order...well, not technically in that order) and they started out a new less planed life, and only after 20 years of soccer practice and cake walks can you see that one major earth shattering moment is ever only that.

One moment.

*All the names have been changed to things on my desk.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Audition for Juror #1

So, please don’t be jealous, but just recently my county needed me, and – that’s right – I answered the call. Recognizing I was highly sought after, and quick to respond to the cry of justice, I carefully tore along the calculated, perforated lines of my jury duty summons. 

No sooner had I read through the form letter when I noticed that this letter contained both blue AND red ink! Clearly, this was of utmost importance. I called Katie over and sat her down on the couch. I wasn't entirely sure of how I was going to explain this to her. I mean, after 17 years of marriage, I’m sure she thought she knew everything there was to know about me. But how could she know that my sense of justice and mercy was so acute, that our nation’s court system (well, our county’s court system, but I digress) was not only hanging by a thread – but a thread that I held in the palm of my hand?

Thankfully, she was supportive. In fact, she almost acted like it wasn't a big deal. She kind of brushed it off and went back to making dinner. SO BRAVE, my little Katie.

As you can imagine, I had a lot of preparing to do. I quickly went to Barnes & Noble and bought all the Grisham they had. (I was going to just go to the county library for the books, but – call me a conspiracy theorist – county library, county court? I’m sure they are in cahoots. Just seemed better to avoid the situation. That is exactly how they trip you up.)

I also rented the critically acclaimed Pauley Shore film, Jury Duty, and studied the process, so as to not miss a single nuance. I couldn't follow it initially; but after the third viewing, I began piecing it together. Brilliant.
I then decided to make an iPod mix of court room music. But all I could think of was the theme music from Law & Order. So I just looped it and carry it with me wherever I go. I walk with more purpose, now. But not necessarily a quicker walk, because then my iPod earpiece keeps falling out.

And finally, I began using lines from courtroom dramas, and other such trash talk. And this has really helped. For example, when I drive up to the ATM and it says it’s “Out of Order,” I scream, “No, YOU’RE out of order! This whole BANK is out of order!” And sometimes, at my day job, somebody will ask, “Is this the best you can do, honestly?” And I have to answer, “You can’t HANDLE my honesty!” And then, just for good measure, when my kids promise me good behavior so that I will do some favor for them, I say, “Your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

And, well, thanks to all my preparation, I have actually been invited to “call backs” (courtroom/theater speak) for this very high profile case. I wish I could tell you about it; but my ability to keep secrets is probably another reason my county sought me out as they did. And I can’t turn my back on them now. They need me. Plus this may be my only opportunity to ever do my Samuel L. Jackson’s, “Yes they deserve to die, and I hope they burn in he@#!” 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Eyes Don't Have It

This means you're old.
That's it. I knew it was coming. I just didn't know it would hurt this much.

I'm old.

I'm so old that, when I visit pages about trifocals, my AdChoices are about the AARP, hard tack candy, and funeral homes.

I'm so old that, when I come to a heavy door, young women open it for me.

I'm so old that, when I hear loud rock music coming from a car, I wonder how long it's been since the driver has smoked pot.

I'm so old that my co-workers thought a picture of my dad from 1957 was a picture of me when I was younger.

I'm so old that band from my 20s, like Smashing Pumpkins, are considered classic rock. And I didn't even flinch writing that last sentence.

My eyes have stopped working, is my point. The prescription I wear is only 9 months old and it's not working any more. When I have them on, I can see far away great. When I take them off, I see up close great. The problem is, on or off, I can't see well from 1-3 feet from my face. I spend much of my day doing this:

Property of NBC

So thanks to Ben Franklin, I won't have to live the rest of my life blind. Just embarrassed. My pride has taken a significant hit. I still listen to current, lesser-known bands. I still wear current, lesser-known brands. I still splice current, lesser-known strands ... sorry.

I don't feel my age most of the time but I guess my body has decided to take its first steps into my twilight years.

I can fight it to a degree. So I will. I'll continue to stay up on certain trends. I'll keep eating better than I used to, and moving more than I want to. I'll probably buy a Dodge Challenger. (It can't all be healthy.)

The future is really bright, I know. It's just that, sometimes, I can't see it very well.

How about you? What are your plans for fighting Father Time?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Hair Experience

My son at Stag. Wood panelling! Old leather chairs!

Back when I was young, I used to have awesome hair. I grew up with 7 brothers and sisters and so for economic reasons, my mom would always cut our hair. And she did a great job (I even had some awesome spikes down my part in 1987. Those were the days.) And she continued to cut my hair through high school and into college. Sure, I would occasionally go to a barber shop or something, but getting my hair cut was purely utilitarian.

Then when I was in college a friend suggested I go to her stylist, Heidi. I remember the haircut was $18 which seemed so extravagant to me, but I was young and dumb and liked to pay for things with credit cards, so I decided to go. Heidi was amazing. The salon was hip and cool. She brought me a Diet Coke to drink. We chatted about funny and interesting things. And when I left I remember feeling like I was walking on air. I looked in my cars rear view mirror at my new $18 haircut and thought Dang! Heidi is the goddess of scissors! I look good! I loved Heidi. And sent many of my friends to her. And we called her Heidi Let Her Light So Shine. As in "Do you have an appointment with Heidi Let Her Light So Shine today?" And while Heidi was an amazing stylist, I think what I was really in love with was the experience. I loved that she had a can of soda waiting for me. I loved that we talked about interesting things. I loved all the other fabulous people at the salon getting fabulous cuts.

Time went on and my hair got thinner and I continued to find stylists where I could have awesome experiences. Just before I got married I was going to Shep Studios in Provo, which I loved. Shep even met me early and cut my hair on my wedding day. He didn't charge me and cut it a little longer so I didn't look like some rube he had just gotten his hair cut that day. That's classy, folks.

But then I had a wife. And a budget. And big credit card bills that suddenly seemed important to pay off. And while the price that I was paying for a cut had gradually gotten higher and higher, my hair I had had gotten thinner and thinner. And it just didn't seem practical. So I started going to those cheap places. Like Amazing Sam's and Magic cuts! (Names have been changed.) And I would pay my $15 and get my hair buzzed and listen to the kids screaming in the background and the stylist would chew gum and stare off into space while she pushed the clippers around. I'd lost the experience. And it made me sad. In fact I blogged about my sad, stylist free life almost a year ago.

But I am happy to report, the experience is back. It's called Stag Barbershop and it only costs $10 for a haircut. You get your haircut by Jim, who is an old fashioned barber. He'll talk if you want to talk and is super friendly, but if you just want to sit and try to ignore the Fox News that is always blaring in the background, you can do that too. All the other clientele are at least 50. After your hair cut ends you get a straight razor neck shave with hot lather. And they finish it off with some aftershave lotion that smells like triumph and leather and your grandpa being rubbed into your neck where it burns oh so good.

It's one of those places that if it was owned by 27 year olds with moustaches and deep-vee neck t-shirts and scarves, they would charge $40 a hair cut but leave everything else the same (except maybe the Fox News.) It's not ironically retro. It's just straight up retro. And I don't get a free diet coke. And I have to sometimes listen to Hannity talk about how Obama is after our guns. But it's an experience. And I'll pay for that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

finally - answers!

You know how, every once in a while, something comes along that completely inspires you? And it comes from the least likely of places? Something so immense and internal and soul shaking that you almost take it as a sign? A special message from the Heavens? Something you were meant to hear at just that time and just that moment? And it answers all your hardest questions? That happened to me on Saturday.

Like many of you, I am trying to lose weight. I have about 10 pounds to go, but I seem to have hit a wall. I could never put a finger on why I can't make it past this last 10 lb obstacle. Until Saturday morning, when I was watching TV and an infomercial came on for something called The Food Lovers Diet Plan. They were interviewing these people and one by one they presented their testimonials. And every word rang true, you guys. It was like they were speaking for me. These people can't lose weight because they really really love food!

I'm sorry, but you guys don't know how it is. I LOVE FOOD. You don't know. I love the way food tastes, and I like crunching it and feeling it go into my stomach. I like it when it's salty (hello, pizza!) and I like it when it's sweet (chocolate mousse, anyone?) and I like it always and whenever. And these people were talking about how they love food too, and I just realized I'm part of an exclusive and special little community of people who love to eat.

None of you would fall into this category. You guys just don't love food like me and my friends on the commercial. COUNT YOURSELVES LUCKY! You probably won't have to struggle with weight the way we do. We love food! We are food lovers. We are stricken with this malady of gluttonous desire that we may never shake. You guys merely put food-like substances in your mouths, swallow it down, and get on with your day. You don't even think about what food looks or tastes like because you don't care. Oh, man, I wish that were me! I actually love, love food.

I am the sort of person who has to eat, like, three times a day. And it better fill me up...or look out! I sometimes even like to snack in between those meals. Can you even imagine? Probably not. It's a vicious cycle for me and my Food Lovers Diet Plan friends - we eat, and then a few short hours again....we're hungry! We have to have more and more. Because food tastes so good to us. We're not like the rest of civilization, who basically eat air and chew small morsels of ice chips.

I just want to let everyone involved with the Food Lovers Diet Plan know that they have reached someone who thought he was beyond help. Someone who never thought he would meet another human being who loved chewing, and tasting, and masticating as much as he did. But now I know I'm not alone. I'm special! I love to taste food! Look at me! Look how special I am with my special needs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quit Washing Your Dishes

Here's the deal, I just loaded my whole dishwasher and did not turn on my sink.  Blam-O.  And you know what? My dishes will be fresh and clean in the morning. For reals.  I don't know why you do it?  What makes you... (I'll say "Rinse" but I mean "Fully Wash") your dishes before you put them into the machine whose entire purpose in life is to...wash...your...dishes.

Do you do this with your clothes? "Hang on sweetie, let me just fill this tub with water and soap and crack out the wash board and just prep these clothes for the Washer. Oh, and then I'll line dry them for a few days before I pop them into the Dryer."  COME ON!

Do you do it with your Lawn Mower?  "Oh, give me a sec, babe, I just need to grab some scissors and get on my hands and knees and give the grass a quick trim before I start the mower."  HONESTLY!

 Do you do it with your Blow Dryer?  "Sorry, kids, Mommy just needs to jump in the car and get to the freeway so she can stick her head out the open window and get my hair dry before I dry my hair."  YOU'RE KILLING ME!  (actually, letting your hair air dry will do wonders for it health wise, and if you must blow dry, you should not run a brush through it while your hair is wet, it tangles and pulls out much easier at this point.  You should aim the dryer downward and hold above your head, letting gravity and the warm air straighten your hair, then when the hair is 95% dry, you can lightly brush out (starting from the ends first then work your way to the scalp) and finally smooth and polish with a round brush, preferably one with a ceramic shaft to heat the hair from the inside out, that way you can use the blow dryer to give it cool shot right at the end for maximum effect.) I mean, I don't think you even give your dishwasher a chance.

I bet when you were young, and your mom made you do the dishes, she had you spit polishing every glass that went into that 1960's, avocado green with feux wood paneling, free standing box your grandma passed down when she sold the house you summered in all your young life and moved to a home that would, eventually, gobble up the last of your inheritance.  Well, tootsie, them days is done.  Your dishwasher can do it!  Just listen to the fine people at the CBS Early Show.  I am not making this crap up!  "Your machine needs the dirt and grime to work properly."  That's what the lady says!

So the next time your dumb husband is caught just throwing all the dishes in without rinsing, instead of correcting him and making a fool of yourself, you should think, "I married myself a freaking genius! Now if only he would blog about his energy, water, time, and money saving ideas..."

Way ahead of you, babe.


Monday, January 14, 2013

My Back in a Saddle Again

Not my actual back. 

You've heard me tell the story about how I almost died at our stake Youth Conference because a pack of negligent teenagers dropped me during a “faith fall” object lesson, right? Out of a tree? 1988? You can read about it here. (Also, I may or may not have just spoiled the ending for you.)

Well, that special event in my life has resulted in some creative methods for treating back pain over the years. Since 1988, I have undergone treatment from a series of chiropractors. Now, I am aware that there exists some skepticism surrounding this industry, but I have personally found success and relief through chiropractic care. There isn't that much controversy to me. I hurt, I get treated, I feel better.

However, like any profession, not all chiropractors are created equal.

Case in point: Dr. Arthur Fonzerelli. (Names have been changed.) (Because I can’t remember his name.) Dr. Fonzerelli was probably in his late 50s, and when it came to his nose, he had a bit of an Ichabod Crane thing going on. He had thin hair on top, but it was still black.

Dr. Fonzi was the uncle of a girl I was dating in college, and his office happened to be in a neighboring town to our little university. It was 1993, and my back had recently been misbehaving. I was complaining about it to Danielle, the girl I was dating (name has not been changed, because I remember her name), and she suggested I go see her uncle, The Fonz. During this same time period I was also complaining that Sally Field was completely miscast as Robin William’s wife in Mrs. Doubtfire, but Danielle said there was nothing she could do about that. Nice attitude. I believe that is what later led to our breakup. 

Anyway, though initially reluctant, I finally paid a visit to the Doc, and surrendered a piece of my dignity that I can never retrieve. I visited his office exactly three times, and each appointment was more bizarre and unsettling than the one before.

First visit. He asked a lot of questions, gathered information, and took some x-rays. He did a pretty flaccid adjustment (I’m not sure that’s the correct industry term for it) that was fairly benign, and told me I could leave.  Not an efficacious treatment, but harmless enough. He was so soft spoken and uncle-y, I just kind of went with the flow and lowered my expectations of actually feeling better while simultaneously taking comfort in the fact that Danielle would be happy with me for being obedient and doing what she told me to do, and maybe I would be rewarded with some smooching. (But probably not.)

Second visit. At the beginning of the visit he said, “So, would you say there’s been about 20% improvement since your last visit?” I started laughing, because I thought he was making a funny.  I removed my shirt and turned to find him standing there with his clip board, pencil poised to write down my answer. He was serious. Not wanting him to feel bad, but feeling no different than before the first visit, I pretended to contemplate my percentage of wellness and kind of mumbled back, “Erm…. uh…. hmmhmm…two…(waving my hand back and forth)….maybe…I’d say two...percent …better?”  He wrote it down.

“I think we’re going to try something more aggressive,” he said. “Like…addressing my back pain?” I wanted to ask. He led me into an adjoining room and had me sit/hunch forward over a bench, while he strapped some electrodes onto my lower back.

“We’re going to try electrotherapy,” he casually said.
“Okay,” I responded with some trepidation.
“You’re going to feel some currents through your back. It’s going to be uncomfortable. I’m going to turn up the intensity with this dial, and you tell me when you can’t stand it anymore.”
“TIME OUT,” I said. “I don’t like to play games like this.”
“You’ll be just fine,” and he started to turn it up.

I tried to be my bravest for as long as I could. “Mercy!” I said.
“Okay,” he answered. “I’m going to leave it there for 10 minutes.”
“What the WHAT?!”

And he left the room. I had never felt this variation of pain before, and it was intense! I felt like something was alive and kicking in me, and I was going to give birth to it – through my CHEST! Currents were having a rave inside my body and I could only anticipate death and my corpse detonating, leaving parts of me covering the entire room. The good news is, if I am ever hit by lightening, it’ll be a walk in the park.  Shoot, I might even enjoy it.

And imagine my surprise, when I actually did feel better when he turned the machine off! Kind of like how your face feels better once somebody stops hitting it with a car. Or how silence sounds so nice when Nickleback is the alternative.  I went home, exhausted and confused.

Third and final visit. I walked into his office, and he asked me to strip down to what the Fashion World terms “tighty-whities.” Not totally unusual; easy access to my back and all. He asked me again, “Where would you say, percentage-wise, your improvement is at? 20%?”

I stood there with the same incredulous expression as the visit before, but this time, much more vulnerable, as I looked like I was an underwear model. Well, I looked like I was modeling underwear. (I’ve never, on my best day, looked like an underwear model.) I mumbled the same response as the prior visit. “Wha-…. uhrm….yeeeaahhh…two…(waving my hand back and forth)….maybe…I’d say two percent?”

“We’re going to try something different today (oh, good!), so…follow me.”

My relief was short lived, as I started following him from our private patient room…out the door…into the hallway. I found myself standing in the public domain...with only my underwear on.  I could see the waiting room.  And they could see me.  Like one of those dreams. But despite the ethereal music of Enya that permeated the office, this was indeed no dream.

Yep, if you were sitting in the right (or wrong) spot in the waiting room, you had a comprehensive view of more Ken Craig than most people care to see. I've never seen more raised eyebrows in my life, as people shook their heads, covered children's eyes, and kept a careful distance between them and me.

We stopped in the middle of the hallway, at some adjusting apparatus there. Yes! In the middle of the hallway! Did somebody leave it there accidentally? Was this really the best place for this thing?

“Go ahead and lie down on this,” he said.

And, as if under some form of hypnosis, I did what he asked. No sooner was I horizontal, but clamps snapped over my wrists and ankles, strapping me to the table and rendering me unable to stand back up, get off the table, and flee from his office out into the streets; cold and exposed, but safe.

He pulled a lever and the table jolted into a vertical position. Now I was standing, in my skivvies, strapped to a table. This equipment could not have been legal. I’m not even sure it was 20th century machinery. Then, the straw that broke me: Dr. Fonz put his hand on my lower back, and started rapidly pushing my torso forward. Push, release. Push, release. I suddenly looked like I was doing my best Elvis impression. In my underwear. In the hallway. In a torture device.

That was it for me.

I started talking very fast, in a half-panicked voice, like a kid trying to sell a lie to his parents. “Yep. Yep, I’d say I can definitely feel a twenty percent improvement. Twenty or maybe even 25!”

Push, release. Push, release.

“What did Danielle say to you? Did she tell you I didn't like Mrs. Doubtfire? Did that personally offend you?”

Push, release. Push, release.

Finally, after what felt like 18 years, he stopped, unstrapped me, and we went back to his office. I put my clothes on while he filled out paper work. He then said, “I’m not sure what else will help you.” He seemed so defeated. I almost felt bad for him. I probably would have continued to see him just to make him feel better, except that his practices terrified me. Who knows what he would have tried next?! “If you jump out of this plane without a parachute, I really think the landing will give you a twenty percent improvement.  Here, hand me your pants before you jump….”

You’d think this single experience would have steered me clear of chiropractic doctors, but the truth is I’ve had exceptional care from the chiropractors I've met since then. The only real fallout from my adventure with Dr. Fonza-crazy is that to this day, I can’t listen to Enya without instinctively and subconsciously dancing like Elvis.  And I have no tolerance for Mrs Doubtfire, but that was a pre-existing condition.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stincoln Lincoln

So the Oscar noms are out. Shrug. I used to get so excited for them. And I'm still excited when great lesser known or attended films get recognized. Mostly when I looked at the nominations this time, I saw only one thing:


Sorry. I'll explain. I didn't hate LINCOLN. I thought it was beautifully shot, mostly well-acted, and had an inspirational first scene and last 15 minutes. It was still good enough to fall right in the middle of the pack of movies I saw this year. But it was boring.

Here's the scene breakdown in my mind when I recall my viewing experience of LINCOLN (spoilers):

Soldiers take turns telling Lincoln how awesome he is. Boy are white and black soldiers different! Every Union soldier memorized the Gettysburg address.
Discussion about the Civil War that includes 3-7 old white men.
Lincoln argues with a harpy that resembles Sally Field.
Discussion about the 13th Amendment that includes 3-7 old white men.
Lincoln argues with a banshee that resembles Sally Field.
Lincoln rides a horse slowly through carnage (pictured).
Argument about the 13th Amendment between a whole gaggle of old white guys.
Discussion about the questionable tactics to get votes that includes 3-7 old white men.
Lincoln argues with a hound that resembles Sally Field.
Discussion about the state and federal law that includes 3-7 old white men and a melted wax figure that resembles Tommy Lee Jones.
Lincoln argues with a troll that resembles Sally Field.
Argument about the 13th Amendment between a whole coven of old white guys.
Lincoln has some sons and one of them resents his neglect even though he's passing a really important amendment.
It passed! The 13th Amendment passed!
Nope! Not that theater! We hear of Lincolns assassination second hand. We feel really bad for his son but then a little relieved he was seeing something else.
Lincoln is dead.


Anyway, what did you think of this year's Oscar darling?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Problem with New Years Resolutions: A Parents Manifesto

Are these slurpee drinking hoodlums killing creativity?
Like all of you, I started this new year off with a list of resolutions. I don't know what it is about this time of year that makes us, collectively as humanity, want to reboot our lives and start over. But we do it, even though we know by about January 10th, half of those resolutions will have fallen by the wayside.

I won't bore you with my resolutions - they were probably the same as yours. And they have gone OK. Some better than others. I think the real problem is that as a parent it feels impossible to make any positive changes in your life because all of your positivity and power for change gets funneled into helping your kids. And then when they are in bed all your change energy has been used up and you just want to sit on the couch and eat pretzel sticks dipped into cookie butter and watch Nashville. Amirite?

I read an awesome book this year called The Family Fang (and is currently available for Kindle for $2.99 - so why don't you just go buy it already?) Its basically the story of a family of performance artists. The parents, Caleb and Camille, use their children in their elaborate performance art pieces. But now the kids are grown up and are dealing with what growing up as a public spectacle meant. One of the themes that runs through the book is something that a friend of Caleb and Camille tells them when they have kids -- "Kids kill art." He thinks that once they have children, their art will suffer.

So, is that true? True life example: One of my resolutions is about writing more. And every day I say to myself, "Today is the day! When my wife goes to the gym and the kids are in bed I am going to sit down and bang out 1000 words in my novel!" And then my wife heads the the gym, and I (finally) get the kids to bed and either I had to scream and yell to get anyone to brush their teeth and I am too grumpy to write or I am just tired and there is a new episode of the Biggest Loser on and so I just watch that instead.

When I was in college and taking creative writing classes, I did a lot of writing. I wrote short stories and poetry like it was going out of style (my poetry probably was.) And it was great. And despite all of my best efforts to write more (I'm pretty sure it was my 2012 resolution too.) my production has slowed to a trickle.

So, whats a creative parent to do? I know there are people who read this blog who are painters or writers or videographers or photographers or print makers or whatever. So how do you find the time and the energy to stay creative when your children take everything you've got.  Parents of older kids: does it get better? Or do I just need to power through and find ways to be creative now?

Even this blog post (which is hardly high art) has taken me an hour to write because I am dealing with a toddler with the flu who just called me down to the bedroom screaming like she was dying because Mikey Mouse's blanket fell off. Now where did I put that cookie butter?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


My friends are always telling me what a great storyteller I am. I don't see it, but they always say that. So I guess they must be right. Storytelling is an art; either you got it or you don't! According to my friends, I got it! (I still don't see what you guys are talking about!) Anyway. Here are some of my favorite stories. They aren't much, but you might enjoy them.

One time I was at this big banquet where I was nominated for an award. I didn't think I was going to win, which is a good thing because when I sat down in my chair my tuxedo pants caught on a sliver of wood which ripped a giant hole in the seat of my pants! Wow. Embarrassing! I bet you can guess what happened next: I won the award! And then I had to stand up in front of all of those people with a giant rip in the seat of my pants. I walked up to the platform to accept the award, and I was really sheepish. But I realized as I was walking up that my suit coat was long enough to cover the rip. Saved by a suit coat! What a great story.

One time I was walking on BYU campus - this is when I was an undergrad there - and I saw an old mission companion walking toward me. I panicked because I couldn't remember his first time. I always thought it was so lame to call people by their last names after your mission. But I couldn't remember his first name! What was I going to do? Suddenly, at the last minute I remembered: Brian. Whew!

A few years ago Lisa kept asking me to paint one of the kids rooms in our house. She was tired of the old color, and she wanted me to redo it. She had picked out a color she really liked at Home Depot. Well, as fate would have it, she went out of town for a weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect time to repaint the room and surprise her. So I did just that! When Lisa got home it turns out that I had painted the room the wrong color! Egg on my face! But Lisa just cocked her head, squinted, and said "Well, that color is close enough. I can live with it." I love that story.

Yesterday I was driving to work and I came to a four-way stop. Another lady got to the stop at the same time as me. I waved at her and said "Go on!" But she waved back at me, as if to say "No, you first." So I nodded my head and waved my arms to indicate that she should go. But she did the same thing at the same time! It was crazy. So I so "Go! Go!" in a really positive and encouraging way. And wouldn't you know it - she did that, too! Finally she just went. It was hilarious!

One time I was in a social gathering where no one really knew each other. So we played a getting-to-know-you game where we all sat in a circle and one by one everyone admitted something they had never done. I knew immediately what I was going to say: I have never seen Jurassic Park! It's a slam dunk, and it's true. But guess what - the person right before my turn admitted that he had never seen Jurassic Park! Which really threw me for a loop! So I had to think quick. I admitted that I had never seen High School Musical. No one acted like it was that big of a deal. I still think Jurassic Park is more impressive. But it got me through my turn, and I felt like people were able to know a little bit more about me.

If you have any questions about these stories or if you would like to hear them in person (they are GREAT LIVE) please don't hesitate to ask. I don't think I'm that great at telling stories, but my friends would beg to differ!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nowhere To Go From Here

Here's the thing, there is this lady at my work who eats for lunch, like, a blue berry and a dash of oats, every day, all day long she is digesting grain and veggies and fruit.  So here's the rub, she comes to work after New Years and we start talking about our resolutions and she goes in to this whole monologe about how she is going to be...kind.  Her 2013 is going to be focused on being a good person, she looks in on the elderly woman next door already, but now she wants to do more.  She wants to be open to new ideas and new people and let this year be the one where she connects with people, and I thought, "Oh, it's cause you have nowhere else to go."  I mean, her trouble is, she eats too well.  That's what New Years is for, we all commit for another year to eat better, but when a person genuinely eats well already, the only next step is to better themselves for thanks.

I promise this year to eat nothing but the bottom of the pyramid and never eat anything that tastes good and always leave the table hungry and get so super skinny that people ask me if I'm feeling well.


Ditto for next year.

Sure beats making a commitment to being genuine, friendly, interested, thoughtful and of good's like, if you can't do it, why make the goal. Pull yourself together.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Sugar Free January

Several years back Katie came up with the horrifying clever idea of dubbing the first month of the year “Sugar Free January.”  Basically, the theory is that since December is such a month of caloric debauchery and habitual treat-munching, January should be a cleansing month.

I’m not going to lie to you. January has never been my favorite month, and it is even less so now. We are currently in a fight, January and I. 

I mean, in theory I agreed with Katie. And when I say “in theory,” what I mean is that I don’t really agree with her at all. What she is essentially saying was, “Since December is a month of happiness, how about January be a month of NO happiness?”

As a public service announcement, I thought I would chronicle my experience thus far this year.  I call it My Descent Into Madness: the Autobiography of Ken Craig’s January

January 1: 9:00 a.m. Woke up feeling fantastic. Enjoyed an egg and toast for breakfast. Actually kind of looking forward to the detoxification and purging sugar from my body. A new healthier, happier me. 

January 1: 9:15 a.m. Ransacked house looking for sugar. Checked pantry, fridge, 72-hour kits – even searched hard-to-reach areas for possible overlooked plastic eggs filed with Easter candy from 9 months ago. 

January 2: Wept. Like a baby. Felt moody all day. Punished one of my children for “not being funny enough at the dinner table” and sent him to bed. Lethargic. Unshaven. Kicked the dog.

January 3: Realized I don’t own a dog. Wrote apology note to neighbors for kicking their dog. Tied note to brick and threw it through their window. 

January 4: Ate entire jar of Sweet Pickles. Contacted lawyer for "false advertising" claim… Wondering where I can locate some Sugar Beets. 

January 5: Promised Katie the Sugar Nazi if she let me eat a bowl of ice cream I’d watch  Downton Abbey with her. Nothing doin’. 

January 6: Packed a hobo sack, flung it over my shoulder, started whistling “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and told Katie I was hitchhiking to The Big Rock Candy Mountain. She tried to convince me there was no such place. (As if I’m going to fall for that Sugar Nazi propaganda!) 

January 7: Came back home, listless. I think my body is imploding. Bones weakening. Organs leaking vital fluids. Heart slowing. Breathing shallow. Darkness closing in. Slight headache. 

January 7: While hallucinating, tried to eat plastic cupcake in daughter’s toy kitchen. Once hallucinations stopped, tried once more to eat cupcake. Found bag of Ruffles potato chips instead. Ate entire bag. And also the chips. 

January 7: Realized this is just going to be one long month of zero happiness. Katie told me to pour myself a big heaping bowl of “Shut the Heck Up.”  Poured myself a bowl of unsalted almonds instead. That's what happens when you're living under a Sugar Nazi regime!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Delicate Etiquette: Can Manners of the 1880s Help Us in 2013?

A few years ago I came across a post on The Art of Manliness that listed etiquette from a book called "Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms" published in 1880. (Read AoM's full post here.)

The article lists examples of things a gentleman in 1880 was to do or not to do. Below I have listed a few of my favorites with personal commentary in italics where possible:

  • Never exaggerate. Oops. I always exaggerate about everything.
  • Never laugh at the misfortunes of others. What am I supposed to do when I have lunch with friends?
  • Never send a present, hoping for one in return. This is why I don't send presents.
  • Never speak much of your own performances. Instead, ask people how you did.
  • Never make yourself the hero of your own story. It's more fun to be the anti-hero.
  • Never question a child about family matters. Especially my children. They know too much.
  • Never present a gift saying that it is of no use to yourself. "Happy birthday! I couldn't use it but here's a healthy self-image."
  • Never call attention to the features or form of anyone present. True, have you read "Wonder"?
  • Never associate with bad company. Have good company, or none. Poison or Warrant is, however, just fine.
  • Never look over the shoulder of another who is reading or writing. Seriously makes me want to murder.
  • Never appear to notice a scar, deformity, or defect of anyone present. Aka, don't take your kids anywhere in public.
  • Never punish your child for a fault to which you are addicted yourself. How am I supposed to know what they're addicted to ... hang on, Josh just tagged me on Instagram.
  • Never, when traveling abroad, be over boastful in praise of your own country. U-S-A, U-S-A!
  • Never attempt to draw the attention of the company constantly upon yourself. Have you ever been in a room full of actors?
  • Never enter a room noisily; never fail to close the door after you, and never slam it. That rules out French farce.
  • Never will a gentleman allude to conquests which he may have made with ladies. Fine. I'll stop talking about that time Amelia and I climbed Mt. Everest while fighting a gang of snow leopards.
  • Never fail to offer the easiest and best seat in the room to an invalid, an elderly person, or a lady. It's still a problem ... watch.
  • Never give all your pleasant words and smile to strangers. The kindest words and the sweetest smiles should be reserved for home. Home should be our heaven. Amen.
In all seriousness, it's a new year. Maybe we can resolve to try a few of these and see what happens? Which old-timey customs, etiquette and rules would you like to see more abundantly revived in 2013? What are you guilty of? Let us know in the comments.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Confessions: I Lie Sometimes

With the start of the new year, I feel like I need to get a few things off my chest. You see, it turns out I am a bit of a liar. Not a big one. I don't cheat on my taxes or tell people that I am 5'3". But there are a few things that I feel like I should come clean about.

It all started when I was at work the other day. I have an enormously powerful sweet tooth, so when I packed my lunch I had filled a little Tupperware with fresh berries and Cool Whip. (I'm all for actual whipped cream, but there is something delightful about that sweet, room-temperature, stable, vegetable-oil foam.) Berries and Cool Whip is not actually all that bad for you (if you are just looking at calories) so some berries mixed with the Whip isn't too unhealthy of a snack. But when one of my other manager walked into the break room and asked what I was eating I instinctively said "Yogurt and raspberries." Because suddenly I felt sheepish about eating a big bowl of cool whip. I don't know why - it just came out without thought. It made me think about what other little lies I told for the sake of making myself seem more cool or worldly. So in the spirit of disclosure, here they are:

1. When people ask what I studied in college I say "English, with a creative writing emphasis." I guess it sounds more bourgeois and interesting than just English. Well, I had no creative writing emphasis. I just was a straight up English major. I did take some creative writing classes. Most of the time I didn't even do anything creative. I just turned in stuff I had written for other creative writing classes. That was sort of my MO in college. So, no, I didn't sit in hip cafes and write amazing poems and compelling short stories. I just read (or pretended to read) lots of books.

2. I read a lot of Young Adult novels. I do it because I love young adult novels. I think they are clever and well written and have great stories and characters. And if you are an adult male reading Harry Potter you are good. But if you are a 30 year old and you are reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, then it seems a little weird. (Great book, BTW. My review here.) So when people ask what kind of books I like reading and I say Young Adult, I usually follow it up with "I am writing a Young Adult novel, so I like to see what is going on in the genre." That is kind of true. I am "writing" a young adult novel (I have about 4 pages so far.) But that isn't why I read young adult novels. I don't get myself - I am not at all ashamed to admit that I watch America's Next Top Model but I get embarrassed when I tell people I am reading Delirium (also a great read.) So there you have it. I am a YA reader.

3. I didn't like Battlestar Gallactaca. There I said it. Sci-Fi. Critically acclaimed. Cult following. It seems tailor maid for me. But I couldn't get into it. I'm sorry. But if someone professes their love for BSG I just smile and say "Yeah!" like I am totally in on the joke. I sort of feel the same way about Dr. Who. It's kind of required if you are a geek like me to LOVE Dr. Who, but until about a year ago I didn't know a Tardis from a Dalek. I do enjoy Dr. Who, but I have watched about a total of 10 episodes in my life. (I'm working my way through the first season on Netflix. It's one of my resolutions.)

4. I like Country Music. I like to pretend I just like alt-country, what with my Mumford and Sons and my Civil Wars. But sometimes I also listen to Reba and Brad Paisley. They make me happy.

5. I'm not excited about the Arrested Development relaunch on Netflix. Again, I understand as a young, 30 something person, I am supposed to think Arrested Development was the greatest thing since Jesus. And I did love it and laugh heartily at Bob Loblaw. But I believe in letting shows that are canceled die in dignity. Sure I was sad to see AD go, but it made room for Community and Parks and Recreation and New Girl which have all made me laugh just as much. It's like how I was bummed when Buffy the Vampire Slayer got canceled, but then I found Veronica Mars and I was OK. There is a season for everything - a time to be a hit, and a time to be canceled. And when a show gets canceled and everyone  starts talking about making it a movie and moving it to a new network it makes me nervous. Just let it go. I'm sure this AD relaunch will be hilarious and delightful, but I am wary.

5. I'm really 5'3. I wear really tall shoes.

There. I feel better.
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