Monday, September 30, 2013

Highly Defective

A few years ago I attended a luncheon/convention (lunchvention?) where the internationally celebrated and unreservedly bald Stephen R. Covey spoke. You may recognize him from such acclaimed work as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Roll Around in a Pile of Your Own Money.

The reason for his tour was to promote his new book, The 8th Habit. I never read it. There is something very Disney-esque about it. If there were 8 habits of highly effective people, shouldn’t that 8th habit have been included in the first book? It’s like when you buy Cinderella on DVD, and then a few months later – Oh, didn’t we tell you? Now there’s Super Deluxe Chrome Plated Forever Enchanted Cinderella. And it comes with a real pumpkin that turns into a real carriage for riding to the royal ball!

In any case, Mr. Covey, who has since passed away, was regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in leadership authority, organizational consulting, family unity, and using money for kindling. The man was universally respected, unanimously adored, and abundantly revered. When he spoke, people listened.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to attend quite a few luncheons over the years, with speakers who are considered the authority in their field, ranging from topics such as the Middle East to finance to land development to embezzlement. (Yes, he served time, and yes, he now works for the government.) And after sitting through a few of these, I began to wonder what it would be like to be sought after like these folks. To be considered the very last word on a subject.

Feeling derisory and somewhat inept, I tried to fathom a subject where people might consider me the quintessential expert. “Oh,” someone would say whilst munching on a Reuben at the country club, “you want to know everything there is to know about (X)? You’ve got to hear Ken Craig’s take on that. Insightful, witty, brilliant. The man knows more about (X) than anybody.”

This is all I could come up with:

The Subtleties of Flirting. (This is a stretch, as I am way, way out of practice. Unless you count my feeble attempts at wooing Katie by pinching her bum and changing song lyrics to make them “suggestive.”)

B-List Actors from the 80s. (I know ‘em all. This includes Lisa Welchel as Blair from Facts of Life, and Marc Price as Family Ties’ Skippy.)

Staying Awake on Road Trips (A story for another time.)

Making it Look Like You Are Shuffling Through the Pantry to Make Dinner When You Are, In Fact, Stealthily Eating Oreos Right in Front of Your Unsuspecting Kids.

Using Your DVR to Watch 1 Hour TV Episodes in 20 Minutes or Less. (Provided you are interested solely in plot – not commercials, not character development, not embarrassingly bad dialogue. And certainly not dancing celebrities.)

That’s about all I could come up with. No highly effective habits, no groundbreaking insight into world peace, no detailed explanations of how Utah is going to run out of water long before it runs out of Diet Coke. But there is a book I’m thinking of writing that Mr. Covey would never have written. I call it 7 Moderately Effective Ways to Flirt with Your Wife. Chapter 1: The Use of Alternate Song Lyrics.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Anticipating Autumn

What I love most about Fall is how different its approach feels than any other season.

With Spring, things begin to warm up slowly, there's the blossoms, and then all of a sudden it's 90 degrees and we're into Summer. Winter seems to happen abruptly as well. They're all beautiful in their own way, sure, but there's nothing better than the way Fall sneaks up on you. One day you're basking in the heat of late summer, and the next you wake up and there is a chill in the air, a feeling like something wonderful is about to happen. From that day on, you wear a jacket everywhere. You bust out your boots. The tip of your nose gets cold when you walk any farther than 25 yards. The heater kicks on.

It's that feeling that triggers all the others to burst out suddenly, almost unexpected, like fireworks on July 6th. It's the Halloween excitement. Fall TV premieres coupled with hope and anxiety. Amazement at the beauty of dying leaves. School nerves. Music that seems to fit better in crisp temperatures. The comfort that comes from crackling fires and the joy of frothy hot chocolate. Can you feel that? That's Fall.

For me, it's the season that induces anticipation like none else. And a sense of urgency. Like it's saying "You'd better get in all you hoped to, I don't know how long I'll be here. The snows of Winter are coming to take you hostage for five months."

So, I love Fall. And I know it when I feel it.

If you want to keep reading, here's a poem I wrote in 2003 about Fall:

Wishful Maple

When I die, everyone will notice. I want to make a scene. I am going to strip myself naked. Slowly. Piece by piece. Standing proud, limbs unsheathed, I'll shiver one last time and splatter red all over the yard. A timely pre-winter whisper will be my cue to come apart. When it is my time to die, the guard will drop and gravity will take over, slowly. It is possible my brilliant remains will be left on the knobby ground to rot. Or maybe, they will be swept into a crispy colorful pile, used as an itchy nap-time mattress or haunted hiding place and then cremated, autumnal ashes reaching a hundred nostalgic noses

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Your Husband Should Be Wearing This Fall

There are so many reason to love fall. But don't you think the best one is fall clothes? Sure, if you are super fit and look great in tank tops and short shorts, you probably love summer. But if you are me, and you are a little rounder and softer, you look better with a few more layers to hide how many pumpkin flavored desserts you ate the night before.

Who doesn't love sweaters and blazers and woolly hats and corduroy and boots?? WHO, I ASK YOU?! (I don't want to know who.) Every year I start wearing all my fall clothes far too early (when the temperature drops to 82 degrees) but today in my neighborhood it was chilly and rainy and felt like the right time to bust out some fall-wear.

I know that this blog is mostly read by women (70% of you in fact!!) but if you want to know what YOU should wear, ladies, you are going to have to wait for Patrick to post about that. He's the real fashion expert here. But I'm a man and I like clothes. And I like to look put together, but not too crazy. So I'm here to tell you how to update your husband's wardrobe so all the gents at the office can tell him he's fashionable and up to date. As the gents at the office are want to say. (Read my previous fashion advice columns here and here.)

1. Chambray
From J. Crew. So so pretty.

Say it with me: "SHAM-bray." This is what we liked to call a denim shirt back in the 90s when Brandon Walsh tied one around his waist over a peach tank top. But chambray is a little bit lighter and more refined than denim. If you follow one piece of advice from this blog, make it the chambray shirt. It's a wardrobe essential. I'll admit, I have a full on Chambray addiction. I currently have 7 of them, and there is one at my store I am eyeing to add to the collection. You can dress it up with a pair of dress pants and a blazer and a tie. You can wear it with jeans as long as the tones of denim are different (wear the shirt above with dark denim.) Or put it under a sweatshirt or sweater. Go get one. Today. 

2. Camo
STAY WITH ME HERE! Maybe it's because we are a nation perpetually at war, but camo is crazy in this fall. I know what you are thinking, "But my husband only wears camo cargo shorts and I hate them!" But trust me. Camo is more refined, dressy and super wearable. If you are me, you would wear these camo skinny chinos.
Via Old Navy
Wear them with a chambray shirt (see what I did there?) or a navy blue sweater and you're good to go. If camo pants are a little too G.I. Joe for you, try a camo polo.
From Banana Republic
Or a camo skinny tie
Also Banana Republic. I need to go buy this.
If it's subtle and mixed in with the rest of your outfit, it looks current and modern, without looking like you are storming the beaches of Normandy. Just don't wear the camo all together, unless you are hiding in the woods in a really chic way.

3. Fair Isle
If the idea of camo is too terrifying to you, the second most important pattern this fall is called Fair Isle. It's named after a small island off the coast of Scotland guessed it, Fair Isle!! Its usually alternating colors in a geometric pattern like this:
God bless, J. Crew. Also, do you see what's underneath? CHAMBRAY!
Or this
Thanks, H&M
Or this
Are you kidding me, Banana Republic?

Or again, if you don't want to commit to a whole big sweater, get a cool knit tie and wear it with a white shirts and dark denim. 
Banana...are you seeing a pattern?
4. Crazy Socks
This is the bargain entry to fall fashion. Can't afford that $248 J. Crew sweater? Then get these moustache socks from Target
Or these ones from Old Navy
It's a way to add a little color and personality to your wardrobe, even if you work in a boring office. If you're in the Advanced Fashion class, roll your jeans up an inch or so so the socks pop out. Or just let them show when you are sitting in a meeting with your legs crossed.

5. Boots
Stop the presses!! Josh is declaring that boots are a fall trend!! I know, I know. But if your boots were bought when we had a Republican president, it's time to update. And if you are only going to buy one (or two) pairs of boots, here are some options:
Clarks. Via Piperlime. PS. This Ox Blood color is also SUPER on trend. For you too, ladies.

Chukkas are ankle boots with 2 or three holes for lacing and they were popular in the 40s and 50s and are popular now. I don't know why they are called chukkas, but I don't care. They are so pretty.

Or you could get something a bit more rugged and chunky, like this
Frye. Via Piper Lime. Via my heart. 
I don't even know what to say about these, other than that they probably cause world peace, cure cancer and render the wearer impervious to harm.

So that's it. Chambray, camo, fair isle, crazy socks and boots. Your man can handle that, right? You can even wear almost all of them in the same amazing fall-tastic outfit. Just don't do fair isle and camo at the same time. The gents in the office wouldn't like that. 


I love Fall a lot, but if you really break it down, I mostly like Halloween. Fall is kind of like Summer with a terminal disease. All those red leaves? It's death, right? Wind through the trees is the sound of a death rattle and those crunchy leaves under your feet are literally corpses. It's a dying time. But not Halloween. Halloween is alive. I can't start Halloween stuff soon enough. Even as I type this I'm also carving a pumpkin.

Don't let this get out, but I am seriously contemplating doing a Fall dance recital some time next week. This is very hush hush, at least until I have everything rehearsed and my costumes all picked out. I'm going to admit right now that I am not the world's greatest dancer, but I have been practicing lately every chance I can get. I am also of the belief that if you can dream it you can do it, and I am really dreaming about doing a Fall dance recital.

I guess what really got me thinking about it is that I saw a billboard for Thriller, which is a Halloween dance concert put on by Darryl Yeager and the Odyssey dance troupe at Kingsbury Hall. My sister-in-law Lindsay used to do it. She was a zombie and some kind of skeleton. I've seen the show, and I really like it. That's not to say I don't have some critiques! I'm going to admit right now that I am not the world's greatest choreographer, but I think it would be better if they let me choreograph a few numbers - you know, for diversity.

Anyway, like that's going to happen. So I thought I could do a Thriller type Halloween dance concert of my own, in my own space (Probably on my back porch. Other suggestions?) Except mine wouldn't be called Thriller, it would be called Thrills! And the dancing would have a lot more diversity and different types of costumes. Here are some of the numbers I've come up with so far:

1. La Bamba. In Mexico they like to celebrate the day of the dead, so this song is perfect. I'm going to make some calacas, which are like paper mache heads on sticks. Watch out! I may shake a calacas at you while I'm dancing!

2. The Monster Mash. This is going to be an audience favorite, I bet. It was a graveyard smash! Except I'm going to play a really slowed down version, so it's gloomier. It's going to be really acoustic. Sort of unplugged. I'll be pretty tired after La Bamba, so this will be a chance for me to do some modern work. Kind of Martha Graham. Lots of breathing and crying (I hope!)

3. Bad Moon Rising/Scientology tribute. (I'm still working on this one. It's very stylized, but has a message. It's inspired by this Scientology book I read and couldn't stop thinking about. More details later.)

4. Put Your Records On, by Corrine Bailey Rae. Technically this isn't a Halloween song, but it sure is scary how romantic it is! This will be a slow dance for the audience to join in. Partners only, and NO BEAR HUGGING.

5. The Jurassic Park theme song. I don't want to ruin this for you, but it involves dinosaurs, dinosaurs, and more dinosaurs! Also, me dressed up like Jeff Goldblum.

6. Thriller. This is my final number. If I dance all night I won't have time to put out the treats! (Apples and caramel dip.) Instead of just doing the same moves that Michael Jackson did, I'm going to be doing some Brazilian capoeira (which is like a martial arts/dance mix.) I need some back-up dancers - volunteers? You will have to wear prosthetic arms and drop them at certain points in the number. Can anyone crawl out of a manhole? (Just wondering.)

OK. When I've finalized everything I will send out an invitation to people I know, and not to people who lurk and read other people's blogs and steal their ideas. And please don't come to Thrills! if you are just going to make fun of me. By that time I will have worked very hard. I wouldn't make fun of you at your dance recital. Oh, that's right. You probably don't even dare to have your own dance recital!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time To Fall

So it's happened; that snap of cool wafting down the mountains, breathing the leaves up before they fall. Every year I am surprised by this time of year.  I feels like summer could go forever if it wanted, its like a best friend that stays too long, you still love it, but your home is calling, your soups, your sweaters and so you slowly begin your break up with summer, everything you once found charming now grates on you, the heat, the late nights, the riff-raff that hangs out in the park behind your house, all of it bores you, you've out grown summer and you begin to get whiffs of a crackling new scent that lulls you from your former love and into the barked branch arms of another where you watch from your window as the first gold leaf, much like this sentence, mazes lazily down your sidewalk dancing in and out of fresh school shoes whipping past your front door on their way to a new teacher and other new shoes.

I love the evocation of fall:

'First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month, school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school.'

'Yet this train's whistle! The wails of a lifetime were gathered in it from other nights in other slumbering years; the howl of moon-dreamed dogs, the seep of river-cold winds through January porch screens which stopped the blood, a thousand fire sirens weeping or worse! the outgone shreds of breath, the protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead, their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!'


'Watching the boys vanish away, Charles Halloway suppressed a sudden urge to run with them, make the pack. He knew what the wind was doing to them, where it was taking them, to all the secret places that were never so secret again in life.' 

All those quotes came from 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' by Ray Bradbury, and it's that last one that kills me. I am right at the beginning seeing my children run off to the secret places that will never be so secret again. I love seeing what they are seeing for the first time. Daisy, tonight in our after dinner walk said, "The air smells like fire."  And we both breathed deep and she was right, and in the best way.

Where ever you are, I hope the season whispers it coming tonight and tugs you into flannel sheets or morning knitted socks and warm spiced food made from roots and gourds eaten over laughter with family reminiscing...or at the very least, I hope your air smells like fire.   

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Sentimental Season

We are on the springboard for my favorite time of year. And by “time of year” I mean “October through December.” Each month and holiday its own, but knitted together in this cornucopia of tastes, tints, and textures. 

We threw up our Halloween decorations on Saturday. Too early, you say? Well, I just checked with myself, and guess what we decided - we don't care! We ate candy corn, ready spooky stories to each other, and hung up a substantial amount of Halloween and autumn decor. 

Not our actual house. Or decorations. 

The practice of holiday decorations is something I brought to our marriage, but something Katie perfected. It started in October 1995, when we'd been married less than two months and were still in college. Realizing we had nothing hanging up in our one-room basement apartment, I made photocopies at work of crappy cut-outs of traditional Halloween characters, laminated them, brought them home, and hung them up all over our little abode. 

Kind of like this, but even less so. 

When Katie asked why I was crap-ifying our apartment, I explained. 

My mom, who raised 7 kids, was all about the holidays. Her selflessness was boundless to begin with; but the way she celebrated this time of year was unparalleled. And she had an abundance of holiday decorations. She was also all about the food - pumpkin flavored things, breads, soups, baked goods, candy, etc. But I always loved coming home from school and feeling the seasons and holidays all over the walls and tables and surfaces of our home. And I wanted to continue that. 

And Katie was happy to participate. Her first act, as Producer of Holiday Decor, was to remove the sad, desperate attempt to call laminated paper a "decoration." Over the lats 18 years we have purchased or handmade or received some pretty cool autumn decorations. I love that Katie embraced something that was significant to me. I love that my kids get kiddy when we pull out holiday decorations and the day is filled with laughter, a Halloween iPod mix our family made together, and the kids start every other sentence with, "Remember that one Halloween when...." 

I love that I associate these things with my mom. I think I always will. She just had a birthday (Happy 69th, Mom!), and I think when this time of year rolls around, she's at her youngest. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

When happiness can come rushing in to meet the sadness

Louis CK is one of the most foul, offensive, brilliant, and insightful comedians of all time. Some of you may remember a great bit of his from a talk show a few years back about how impatient we get with technology even though it has to go to space and back. It's great to look inward at the ridiculousness connected to our need for instant gratification.

Today I saw this post on Gawker with Louis CK on Conan and it hit me hard. In a good way. The content is visceral and does have some cusses (the worst bleeped out) but it's worth hearing. For me, anyway.

As with most of his interviews, there's moments of getting off track (because great comedians will take and run with good moment) but at the heart of this funny stuff there are some great insights about just being and allowing yourself to feel the bad and the good of each day instead of shutting any moment of silence or sadness down with a quick check of our device.

I got thinking, you know, The Book of Mormon touches on a similar topic when, in 2 Nephi 2:11, it reads: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so ... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad."

In order to learn what goodness or happiness is, what holiness truly is, we need to know that the opposite exists and that it sucks.

This clip below got to me especially because yesterday I learned that one of my cousins died. She was 21, beautiful, talented, and troubled. And so sweet whenever we talked. I'll miss seeing her around and checking in with each other about life. Her family is really suffering right now, understandably. I've been thinking a lot about that, about her, about my kids, and about these moments in life.

Over the last 18 hours or so, I've been allowing myself to feel when it would have been so easy for me to tune into distractions. By not ignoring the raw painful emotions, I find that I'm more truly happy when the good times inevitably come back around.

Anyway, you can pretty much skip to :53 but I've added some of the best bits below this so you can just read them if you want. Here you go:

Some selected moments:

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. ... And sometimes when you things clear away, you're not watching anything, you're in your car, and you start going, 'oh no, here it comes. That I'm alone.' It's starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it...

That's why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they're killing, everybody's murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don't want to be alone for a second because it's so hard."

Then he talks about driving in his car listening to a Bruce Springsteen song ("Jungleland") that made him really sad:

"And I go, 'oh, I'm getting sad, gotta get the phone and write "hi" to like 50 people'...then I said, 'you know what, don't. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.'

And I let it come, and I just started to feel 'oh my God,'and I pulled over and I just cried l ... I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You're lucky to live sad moments.

And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness."

So, try to have a great weekend but also try not to forget to be present in whatever you happen to be feeling or doing. You're alive. And I'm so happy and thankful for that.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Was So Wrong

I love the new Fall TV season like I love pumpkin, deep-fried things in burritos, and Instagram. But I've been really underwhelmed by this seasons offerings. Literally the only thing I was looking forward to seeing was Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Some of the shows looked SO, SO bad. Like, did you see the trailer for Sleepy Hollow?
I mean, how many headless puns can you make in four minutes? And who on earth was asking for a weird re-imagining of Sleepy Hollow with funny cops?

But then I heard buzz that it was actually good. And I am totally powerless in the face of buzz. If something is supposed to be good and I am not watching it makes me crazy. So I decided to give it a go on Hulu

And it was awesome...

Did you watch? It was fantastic. Here's the premise: (and if you were a history major, please take your dumb pills before reading the next few sentences.) Ichabod Crane, and English man living in colonial America, has decided he sides with the Americans during the revolutionary war. He is tasked by General George Washington to kill a man with a brand on his hand, which he does by chopping of his head (no spoilers - this all happens in the first 3 minutes.) He is also injured in the fight and wakes up more than 200 years in the future. And the man with the brand on his hand is there too, but he doesn't have a head. Pretty simple. But then the mythology starts to go crazy. There are witches, secret covens, demons from another realm and the Apocalypse. My friend Kacy describes it as "re-imagined Ichabod Crane in present day participating in supernatural cop-buddy X-Files procedural that foretells of the apocalypse National Treasure-style and takes place kind of on a Hell Mouth."

Tom Mison, who you've probably never heard of unless you are a Brit, plays Ichabod Crane and is funny with the an appropriately level of British snark, but is also appropriately heroic enough to be a leading man. And Nicole Beharie plays Abby Mills, a police officer who believes Ichabod's story of a 200 year nap, immortal headless men, and conspiracies. She's got personality and is interesting without being too plucky or sassy. The pilot is insane in the best way. At one point, the Headless Horseman is shooting a sawed-off shotgun at two police officers. There are more twists and turns in the pilot than...something incredibly twisty and turny. A rigatoni noodle? Lombard Street? I don't know...

We shall see. Next week will tell us if it either going to be a fun, slightly campy version of Lost, with a rich mythology and a "must see TV feel." Or it could become totally ridiculous and unwatchable. Did you watch? What did you think? I'm praying for a keeper. My fall TV schedule is looking pretty bare, so I need a hit here. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We have been talking about an important thing in our family: journaling! Nobody in my family likes to journal except Lisa, who just likes to show off how fancy her handwriting is. But we're trying to get the kids to write in journals so that 25 years from now they will see how ridiculously obsessed they were with Pokeman and Minecraft once upon a time, and hopefully apologize to us.

The kids seemed genuinely interested when I told them that I kept a journal spanning my 5th to 6th grade years, and they wanted to see it. I searched everywhere for it, but no avail. The good news, however, is that in my search for that journal I found my 2nd grade journal, which I forgot I ever even had! So it was a lucky strike. Anyway, I read my 2nd grade journal with them, and, as it happens, it's really entertaining. I wanted to share some of the entries with you.

Before I do that, you should know that three things apply to this journal:

1. About 65% of the words are spelled wrong. Someone should have beat me for my spelling.
2. All the posts are basically one sentence long.
3. About 65% of the posts end with the phrase "it was fun." I bet you dollars to donuts that not everything we did in 2nd grade was fun, but you wouldn't know that from my journal! 

Anyway. Here it is. A year in the life:

Aug. 29: Today is the first day of school. I have a nice teacher and nice people.

Sept. 4: Today we went in the gym and did exercises. It was great fun. PS. It really made us strong.

Sept. 10: Today

Sept. 16: Today we danced to The Monster Mash (editor's note: a little too early for a Halloween song?)

Sept. 18: Today we got some weeds and berries and glued them on a paper.

Sept.20: Today I learned a disco dance. It was fun.

Oct. 8: Today was Phaedra's un-birthday and Columbus Day and we had a substitute.

Oct. 18: Today we went walking on a field trip. We looked at houses. (wow- super lazy teacher!)

Nov. 7: Today we had a fire drill but it was just a practice. 

Dec. 12: Today we saw the handicapped children do the play "The Littlest Angel."

Jan. 16: Today we

Jan. 24: NO TIME

Jan 25: Today I saw a bird's nest. I tried to get it down but I couldn't.

Jan 30: Today a girl named Anna picked in a hat. It said sun, but I was on snow. (This might be my favorite. What the?)

Feb. 1: Today we listened to Shannon's scary story. It was scary.

Feb 11: Today our record player popped and Tracy got hurt. We had a popcorn party and a treat. It was fun. (I remember the record player incident. She got shocked because she was playing with the cord and the outlet.)

Feb 20: Today Miss Virgin changed her name to Miss Stoddard. It hailed, too. (We could not figure out why Miss Virgin would legally change her name! It was weird.)

March 18: Today I got a star on my chart because I ate all my lunch.

March 26: Today we got paper mache and newspaper  and dipped in it and put it on a balloon and let it dry.

April 22: Today it was VERY WINDY! Last night it was windy, too. Like a tornado! When I was walking to school it sounded loud!

April 23: Today we read that Charlie got a golden ticket.

May 6: Today I got bit by a bird!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sit. Stay. Love.

There are a few things that I have that are better than yours.  My wife is better than yours.  My kids are better than yours. My book club is better than yours. But the first thing I ever got that was better than yours was my dog, Scout.

Scout came to me the same year my wife (who's better than yours) came to me.  But he came first.  He was my first real sidekick.  We have been best friends ever since.  Though, once he and my wife met I became a solid third wheel in my own house.

I have always had a dog.  And I've always had an amazing dog, well, I guess there were a few less than amazing, but for the most part they have been amazing. 

I am clinically dog person...that means I'm allergic to cats. But I think it's indisputable that dogs are a thousand times better than cats, despite my allergies.   

A dog rounds out a family.  Daisy and Scout have had tremulous relationship, but with the introduction of Milo to our family the two have become...allies, sort of a, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of thing. 

So the reason I'm going off on my amazing dog is because I think you should have an amazing dog yourself.  Here's the deal, my store is hosting a Dog Adoption in Salt Lake.  We've partnered with this amazing animal shelter, Friends of Animals Utah, that was founded in 1990 by a group of generous volunteers determined to find homes for animals in need. Over the decades, our objective has remained the same: to place animals into permanent, caring homes and advance the humane treatment of animals through education.

So if it's time for you to grow the amount legs in you family by four, come on up to Anthropologie at City Creek this Saturday between 10:00 and 1:00 and find yourself your forever sidekick.

Come on over and Sit. Stay. Love.

Or, just love.

Monday, September 16, 2013

20 Years Later

In 1993 my friend Eric D. Snider founded The Garrens Comedy Troupe. In 1993 my roommate/former mission companion/best friend, Lincoln Hoppe, forced me to audition with him for The Garrens. In 1993, I watched my future wife, Katie Fillmore, audition and join The Garrens. In all began.

You know how you have that friend who you just don't get to see very often? You are separated by distance and the busyness of life, and it all gets in the way of what you really want to do - which is design a neighborhood where you get to live next door to each other. But when you DO get together, everything picks up as if no time has passed. There is no awkward small talk. It all just clicks.

Well, imagine having 25 of those friends. And that's what this weekend was. Even with those Garrens who I never had the privilege of working with - because they came in the later years after I was gone - it was like we had this experience we all pulled from that connected us. It was like...whatever the opposite of "serving in Vietnam together" is.

We had The Garrens 20th Anniversary Reunion Show on Saturday night, and it was spectacular! We all came together Friday night for dinner at BYU's Skyroom. Garrens alumni came from Florida, New York, South Carolina, Washington DC, Oregon, California, and Salt Lake City. The stories, tributes, and memories brought back all the feelings. I remembered how wonderful those years were - the creative energy and the people who I got to be creative with. The life-influencing friendships that abounded. I remembered how coming together to put on shows felt like coming into a shared living room. It was familial. It was a safe place. There was encouragement, acceptance, and hilarity. It became a part of my being.

It was my privilege to pay the final tribute to Eric on Friday night, at the dinner. As I stood in front of a group made up of some of my favorite people, I wished I had the time to pay tribute to each of them, individually. It felt like there was so much to say. But it also felt like there were not words to articulate all those feelings and sum up all those experiences and define their influence in my life. I love these people. And to go will just make this sound suuuuuper sappy. (Too late?)

Thank you to everyone who has been part of The Garrens! Thank you to everyone who worked countless hours to bring this show to light on Saturday! Thank you to those who traveled, sacrificed, and brought their all! Thank you to everyone who came to the show and celebrated with us! Some of you traveled from out of state - you crazy, wonderful people! Thank you! And our apologies to those who didn't get in because the almost 900-seat theater was SOLD OUT! YEAH!!!

Winter 1993

Fall 1993

Winter 1994

Fall 1994

Fall 1995

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our house is a very, very fine house

All I can see in this photo is our spotty dead lawn.
If you know anything about me and my family and our lives in the last six years, you know that our hate for our last house is well documented. I won't go into it here (you can read more here) but I mention it only because anything I could say that I hate about our current house is nothing compared to the mold demons, plumbing gremlins, and other supernatural forces we battled for four and half years at 710 E 3950 N in Provo. We would have probably burned it down to cleanse it if we hadn't finally found a buyer.

You might even say it would be blaspheme to even mention that I am in any way dissatisfied with our current home of two years. Because I love our house.

But. We have a little roof leak that only acts up in the winter. I'd like to fix that. I'd love to have the 6 ft tall window replaced. The heat cracked it because I left the 1000 degree BBQ grill next to it for too long (read: at all). Little annoyances compared to the old house.

But. Seriously. I hate our yard.

Here's a confession. It's probably my fault. Maybe when we moved in, if I had the money to fix the automatic sprinkler system, I could have salvaged the sparsely seeded lawn. I could have used a hose to water, weeded more frequently, fertilized, nurtured, aerated, and so on. But I didn't. When we moved in the lawn was dead. And the following spring I got really excited for a month to resurrect it. I tried the standard things and, for a second, they worked. But, sweet Odin's raven, I could not get the sprinklers to work the right way or on time. And I didn't have the energy to come home from work every day and move the hose around like some hose-mover person. So, by July it was dead. It's been dead by July every year.

It is the ugliest yard in five square miles.

"Wah. Just be more like Chris Clark. Haven't you seen his lawn?" I have. I love it. It feels like silken strands of heaven when you touch it. He works hard to keep it that way. But I'm pretty sure his sprinklers work and if they didn't he'd probably know how to fix them. So, while I'd love to have his yard, I need to take baby steps. First, learn to fix the sprinklers, second, fix them, third, tear out all the grass and re-sod, fourth, water and care for the lawn into celestial glory.

We have plans for the yard. We'll get there. But it's probably more fitting that we fix the leak and the crack first. Until then, it will sit there, dead, and spraying thistle and dandelion seeds onto everyone else's yards. Sorry, Edgemont!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We Can't Have Nice Things: My Thrift Store Fail

When Amy and I bought our house 2 years ago, we were in love. It's a lovely 70s split level which, believe it or not, is exactly what we were looking for. (Utah houses have so much square footage eaten up in basements, that are haunted and that no one wants to spend any time in. The split level gives you the chance to actually have basements with windows.)

Anyway, as we started picking decor for the home, we spent a lot of time shopping in vintage and consignment shops. I'm a big believer that the interior of your house should match the exterior and match the place you live in. Nothing drives me crazier that faux-Tuscan villas in Kearns, Utah and Travertine marble bathrooms in Traverse Mountain. Our house was an East Salt Lake split level brick home built in 1969 and I want it to feel like a modern version of that when you walk inside.

Our house has a big loft type room up a few steps from the kitchen which is an office/ library/ TV room/ computer room. It's really big, so we have tried to divide the space up a bit but it can handle some big furniture. So when our favorite vintage store called us to say that they had a peacock blue and green 15 foot sectional, we knew we had to have it. And I love it.
 When we bought it I notice there were a couple of spot where the fabric was wearing a bit thin, but it was a great price and I figured it looked great after being in someones house for the last 40 years, surely we could get another 10 years or so of use out of it and then reupholster it somewhere down the road.

Wrong. We've had the sofa for about a year and my darling children have destroyed it. Why are kids incapable of just sitting on a couch to watch TV? Why must they be doing back flips over the couch and pacing back and forth on top of it and putting the cushions all over the room?? Isn't a cushion more comfortable on the couch? I think the sofa has doubled in weight since we bought it due to the amount of gold fish crackers squished into the cracks. And the cushion now looks like this:
Here's the armrest, close up:
What have those little upholstery monsters done?

I've tried to fix it. I've tried to add stitch-witch where things were fraying and I've ironed patches inside the cushion. But to no avail. And to recover a 15 foot sofa would probably only cost about $5000, plus the cost of fabric, so that's sort of out of the question. So currently the cushion is wrapped in a big purple blanket to protect it from further damage until we can sort out a permanent solution. A friend of mine who is a designer gave us some great ideas on how to make it work without covering the whole sofa, but it's still going to take some money, which there just isn't extra of right now.

And that's what I always wonder when I see those blogs about those amazing houses (usually in Sweden) where the kids wear scarves and play lovingly with carved wooden horses. How do those houses look like that and have children in them at the same time? Somehow those houses always seem have a giant glass sculpture in the middle of the dining room table and all I can think is how that thing would be broken in 10 minutes in my house.

So, we'll probably never be featured in one of those blogs about people who have it all and have amazing houses and smart, well-behaved, wooden-horse playing kids. My kids would break the legs off that wooden horse and then leave it out in the rain where it would become swollen and waterlogged. And if you want to take photos of our amazing 40 year old sofa, you'll have to brush off the pretzel crumbs and crop out the tears holes. But wait until you see our Mediterranean Grotto with all marble tiles. It's amazing.

some problems

We moved into our house ten years ago, and it's home now. We keep flirting with buying some amazing mid-century thing somewhere and making it really 60's chic, but there aren't any on the market. Plus, we like our neighborhood and I'm super attached to my yard. When we bought the house it was going to be just a stepping stone to something more awesome and bloggy, but then Lady Life told us that we were Brady Bunch bound in our 1970's split level, and we have accepted this. We have grown where we were planted. Our desert has blossomed as a rose. And we like it now. We love it. Except I wish it was bigger and the kitchen didn't suck so bad.

My wife Lisa, who is the same exact age as our house, has done a beautiful job making a silk's purse out of a sow's ear. The house in no way resembles the orange shag-carpeted poopstorm we inherited in 2003, but it's been a methodical, step-by-step process done mostly by us, our mechanic Mike Sappington, and a lot of tears. Tears and blaming. Why can't she sow curtains? Why can't I build new shelves? Why do we pay people to fix things for us? (Answer: BECAUSE IT'S WORTH IT)

So we're in a good place with our house. But there are a few things that are so horrible and awesome that they bear documentation. Here are three:

 1. Starry, Starry Night! When we did our initial walk through of the house I immediately noticed these sparkly popcorn ceilings. These would be the first to go, I swore. Hey ho! They are like the last to go. We tell ourselves that they are retro and cool again, but that's mostly if you think that asbestos is cool and retro. Truthfully, I don't even notice the popcorn ceilings anymore, and that's a problem: every person who walks into our house does. And they are horrified. Please don't tell me that these are easy to fix. I don't want to spray them with a water bottle and walk along with a scraper. I don't have time and my arms will fall asleep and it's going to be cancer fumes everywhere. No thank you!

2. Cutboard Island! Dude, don't get me started on the kitchen. And seriously don't get Lisa started on it. This is the cutting board - the original 1974 cutting board - which has never once been used by us a cutting board and has since fallen into a horrible depression right above the dishwasher. Sometimes if we have guests in the kitchen I sit on this thing. Not to hide it; there is no hiding it. But because it's springy and centrally located for conversation! But be careful! A spider lives in there and crawls out all the time. For reals. As you can see, I painted it gray a few years ago to at least match our walls. But now it just looks like the sewage treatment plant. Bon Appetit!


3.  Clatter Clatter. This pots 'n pans cupboard has almost singlehandedly ended my marriage. Several times. It's not an anomaly either. All of our cupboards look like variations of this. There used to be a center shelf but it broke. And I've tried to fix it but I can't. I've tried! I painted it white, but now it's all scuffed and horrible, and the inner wood doesn't match. But the real tragedy is how we have to lump all of our pots and crap in there and hope that they don't fall over and open the cupboard door. For real, you have to hurry and shut the door before all the pans roll back out. Lisa hates this cupboard. She hates me whenever she uses it, which is daily. It's been a thing.

So there you go, fat cats! We don't have those fancy RC Willey granite counter tops or IKEA kitchen cabinets, and we have death in our ceilings. So what? Our home is filled with love! And spiders.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Part Time Authors vs Pintrest

This week we are taking on the idea that everyone online lives in amazing houses where the edges of everything is fuzzy. Yeah, it's not and we should all stop feeling bad that our houses don't look like this:

And our bathrooms don't look like this:

And our tree houses don't look like this:

It's all too much pressure! So in an effort to expose truth of how we really live, let me introduce you to my new floor.

This year we bought our dream house...literally, it was built in 1956 and they were thinking of us when they built it.  A ghost lady (who first lived in the house) lead us to our home and we are all still waiting to see if she is going to be our families spiritual guide or kill us. But the house needed new floors in the kitchen and dinning room and we knew KNEW KNEW what we wanted and what we wanted was...white.  Bright, clean, modern, it was the perfect thing to update our new 57 year old kitchen.

We stresses about what kind of floor we were going to do for weeks...and I mean we stayed up late, we went to store after store, we trolled Pintrest where we found no less then 3,000 floors we wanted but how to make our own?!

We ended up finding these two tiles that we loved.  One was real white and has a linen texture and the other a warm grey smooth like cement.  We then studied tile patterns for weeks, all I knew was that I wanted timeless and not trendy.

After WEEKS of installing the subfloor then the tile then the grout this is how it shook out:

There it is...and that floor is permanent!  We made sure of that when we cemented down the subfloor straight on to the wood slats of foundation of the house. So after months of thinking we were doing a hounds tooth pattern, because hounds tooth is timeless, we knocked out a chevron floor that is going to be dated in three weeks.  Lucky for us, this floor will last 50 years and chevron is going to be back in a big way in 50 years.

Also...the white...

My friend Brittany begged us not to do white tile floors.  She implored!  When she lived in Germany she had had white tile floors and they were the bane of her existence. But she also had a big ol' dog...we have a little one, so we thought we'd be fine.

We were not.  This lovely floor gets filthy just looking at it.  Turns out, two toddlers and a small dog living in the muddy mountains quickly out dirties some big German dog.  She was right...there it is, in black and white, Brittany-was-right.

Here is a shot of our floor this morning*: My wife will kill me for not tidying up before I put this picture up, but this is in the name of reality so this is what you get...sorry honey.

Now, those are not shadows on the floor's filth of one kind or another, who knows really.  And I will say that this is the only real plus side of our floors, if we couldn't constantly see the crap the was collecting on our floor then we probably wouldn't clean then as often, which only means we would still have gross floors we just wouldn't see them.  So when we clean them, there is a empowering sense that these floors are ah real clean!

So there you have it.  Not real sexy, in fact it's the opposite, we wanted Pintrest floors and we got Livingston floors.  But we did do them ourselves and we worked hard and they are better then the ripped up linoleum we replaced.  But please, don't call them chevron...they are hound tooth.   

*Please note the door missing off the corner cabinet.  When we painted the interior of the cabinet (Pintrest told us we were suppose to) I some how took out that rotating shelf. When I went to put it back, I can't get the door back on because the shelves are now screwed into the wrong place.  Yeah, THAT'S REALITY...put that in your pipe and Pintrest it! 

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