Friday, November 28, 2014

When Johnny Met Ricky.

If you've ever wondered how Ric and I met, how a judge later described it, and what any of that has to do with our Christmas each year, this is the blog for you.

First, the backstory and a confession. When I go out and have a few cocktails, I may or may not definitely collect things. Nothing of value, really, more like trinkets. I see a cool coaster on the bar, I take it. On one occasion, I even came home with a tambourine. (I had to take that back the next morning. Have you ever tried to walk quietly into a bar while carrying a tambourine? Can't be done.)

Anyway, the point is, I have been known to gather souvenirs on my nights out. And that is a significant part of this story.

December, 1996. The guy I was seeing was invited out to a birthday party, so I went along as a very disinterested "Plus One." The party was at the Inn At The Park hotel, upstairs at their rooftop bar. I was enjoying my second third whatever beer and found myself standing directly in front of one of their dozen decorated Christmas trees.

And then it happened. Something shiny caught my eye and I knew I had to have it. It was an ornament. Nothing special about it, really. It was one of those styrofoam balls wrapped in thread. It was cheap, already fraying, and not likely to survive to see another year.

Obviously, I had to have it. I did the oh-so-sneaky look around to make sure no one was watching, and then I made my move. I reached out quickly, grabbed the ornament, and tugged.

That's the moment all the lights on the bottom half of the tree went out. Yep, apparently there was a short in the wire, and my yanking on the tree was enough to power down everything from the middle down.

So, what do you do when something like that happens to you? If you're like me, you instantly scan the crowd to see if anyone saw you do it.

I scanned right. No one. I scanned left. Nothing.

Wait. Scan left again. Yep, that guy is staring right at me. And he definitely saw.

I gave my best shoulder-shrug-meh-whatcha-gonna-do look and said, "I guess that's God telling me not to steal that ornament, right?"

He gave an equally casual shrug and said, "Maybe. Or it's the Devil saying take all you want from the bottom half."

I processed what he said and made a command decision. First, I reached forward and yanked that ornament right off the tree. Second, I took a step closer to him and introduced myself.

And that's the first time I ever spoke to Ric.

That ornament is still hanging in there, pardon the pun. In fact, it's the very first ornament that Ric and I put on our tree every single Christmas. Here it is this year:

P.S. The judge I mentioned? Years later, Ric and I were out having drinks and the conversation turned to everyone's "how did you meet?" story. I shared ours, and the gentleman sitting next to me said, "fun, petty larceny becomes true love." I laughed. He laughed. We all laughed. Then when he got up to use the restroom, the bartender leaned over and said, "it's funny because he's a retired State Supreme Court Judge. Oops. Fortunately, the statute of limitations is on my side.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Not About Ferguson. (Rant Warning)

  • If you think African-Americans are lawless thugs, you are mistaken.
  • If you think white Americans don't care about minorities, you are mistaken.
  • If you think racism is a thing of the past, you are mistaken.
  • If you think that only minorities are working to end racism, you are mistaken.
  • If you think police officers are racist pigs, you are mistaken.
  • If you think police departments are color-blind, you are mistaken.

The truth is much more complicated. This nation is full of racists and anti-racist activists. But more than anything, it's full of people who can only form opinions of racism based on their personal experiences. And therein lies the problem.

As a white man of a certain age in America, I experience life in a way different than that of people of color. I don't ask to be treated differently, nor do I expect it. And most often, I'm completely oblivious to it. That doesn't mean it isn't happening.

To my black friends, I say, don't be pissed at me because of it. Don't blame me for it. And don't assume that it's something I'm happy about. More than likely, I don't even notice it.

To my white friends, I say, acknowledge it. Admit it's out there. Try to understand how it must feel for people of color to be treated differently every single day of their lives.

(But, that's not me! I'm not racist. I treat people as equals and expect them to treat me the same way in return.)

Good for you. I do the same. But this world is bigger than just you and me. It's also full of racist idiots that make every day life more difficult for the rest of us.

But together, we can make things better. It starts with treating each other with respect. From there, it's all about communication and perspective.

First up, let's put an end to the "Look at them! That's not me!" cycle of bullshit. Oh, wait. You've never heard of that? Well, that's because I just made up that title. But you'll recognize it when I describe it.

Look at them!
  1. I support People A.
  2. I create/find/share a negative image/story about someone from People B.
  3. I attack all People B and accuse them of the negative thing.
That's not me!
  1. I am someone from People A.
  2. I see a negative image/story about someone from People A.
  3. I deny that I support that negative thing and deny that anyone from People A would do such a thing.
See how that works? It's how I get to judge everyone I don't like as the worst thing possible, yet deny that me or anyone like me is bad at all.

It's bullshit, people. Yes, there are black men who are criminals. Yes, there are racists in the GOP. Yes, there are lazy women on welfare. Yes, there are white men selling meth and Hispanics in the country illegally and single moms with multiple kids by multiple fathers and men who hate and degrade women and women who lie about being sexually assaulted and on and on.

But these people are the exception, not the rule. Most black men are law-abiding citizens. Most GOP voters are not racist. Most women on welfare are stuck in a cycle of poverty they would do anything to get out of. Most white men don't sell meth and most Hispanics in this country are here legally (as citizens or lawful guests) and most men treat women with respect and most women are truthful when they say they have been the victims of sexual assault and on and on.

There are some really terrible people in this world. And there are extremists on both sides of nearly every single issue. And they are the reasons we can't have intelligent, rational discussions anymore. Because we look at the worst of the other side, decide "they" are all like that, and stop listening.

We have to be better than that. And we have to start from our points of commonality, not our points of difference.

Regardless of skin color, people want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want their children housed, fed, and protected. They want well-equipped schools and competent teachers who are respected by their school boards and administration. People want to feel like law enforcement is there to protect them, not to attack or harass them.

And people want a chance to work hard and get ahead in this life. They want a fair shot at earning their way in this world. They want a better life for their children.

And what exactly is the point of this long-winded rant? And how does it relate to Ferguson?

The point is, my friends are an incredibly diverse group of people. And that means that sometimes, one of us will say or do something that offends the other one. And when it happens, I'd like to think we can assume the best of each other, talk out the misunderstanding, and either resolve it or agree to disagree... all with respect. I would like it if we can skip altogether the extremist, bigoted nonsense that otherwise derails every conversation these days.

And it relates to Ferguson because I'm tired of watching otherwise compassionate, intelligent, rational people suddenly become hateful, angry jackasses who see anyone the least bit different as "them" and some sort of enemy. This story will continue to influence conversations about race and equality, and that's okay. But it doesn't have to become a permanent divide.

We're all in this together, friends. Let's spend less time finding reasons to be mad and judgmental and more time being the best people we can be.

P.S. Thanks for sticking with me through this entire rant. I really didn't know what all I wanted to say. But I do feel better getting all of this out of my head and down into words.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Intersex - It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does.

(You wake up thinking you're going to write a blog about one thing and *bam*, something on social media takes center stage and derails that blog completely. Fine. I'll post that later. This is more important, I think.)

So a big, splashy story that will play out all across social media today is that  a woman who dated Michael Phelps for a time was "born a boy." Cue the drama and the "did he know?!" and "dude, that's any guy's biggest nightmare!" and "Phelps banged a gay dude!"

None of that is correct, by the way. And though I realize I am just one person posting facts in a sea of drama, I'm still going to give it my best shot.

The lady in question was born intersex, meaning she was born with both male and female genitalia. She had a penis but no testicles, ovaries but no uterus. It's unusual, obviously, but it happens. People are born with all kinds of physical abnormalities, but anything involving sexual identification makes people even more uncomfortable.

According to this woman, she was forcibly non-consensually assigned a boy's gender at birth but felt like a girl all of her life. She says, "I was born intersex and named David Roy Fitch at birth. By the time I could walk and talk I made it clear I was a girl and dressed as one. In my early teens I was medically diagnosed and went on testosterone blockers, at 15 estrogen enhancers."

There is a lot unknown here about her relationship with Michael Phelps... or if she even had a relationship with him. She may just be making all that up to make herself infamous. I don't know, and honestly, I don't really care.

So why am I posting this? Because what I do know is that there are other people out there who were born intersex, made or had made for them choices about who they were, and have lived with those choices. And I can only imagine how those people must feel each time they see a headline that mocks this woman, insults her as a freak, or implies that anyone who would be involved with them should feel shame or embarrassment.

Decent people wouldn't mock someone because they were born deaf, or blind, or had some other physical difference that would adversely impact their life yet was able to be corrected through surgery and/or medication treatments. So why is it okay to shame someone because their physical difference at birth involved their reproductive system?

We're better than that. Let's act like it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Needed A Win.

I needed a win, and today, I got it.

I've shared already that I've been really struggling. My training has been terrible, my eating has been out of control, and my overall attitude about it all has sucked. But I've been here before and I know what it takes to turn things around.

I had the same sort of plan for the month of October, but I let the stress and drama of my life kick all of that to the curb. But it's only failure if I stop trying, right? So here I am, the Eternal Optimist, still fighting to find my groove again.

I have a big plan that I'll post about this weekend, but I've already started back with my running schedule. Monday was a three-mile run to kick the cobwebs off, and today I had a five-miler scheduled.

Unfortunately, this was me when my alarm went off at 5:45am. I was a big ol' pile of NOPE NOPE NOPE. And my mind scrambled to find any excuse to not get dressed and head out for my run.

"Your big plan hasn't officially kicked off, so it doesn't matter if you skip today's run."
"You should run tomorrow, instead. That makes more sense, really."
"Such a busy day ahead, you're better off sleeping in."

Fortunately, I knew better. So I posted this selfie to Facebook and made a comment about having to get up to run. I did it because I knew that once I made a public commitment, I would see it through.

And I did. In fact, I did more than just get my miles in. I ran the five miles 40 seconds ahead of my per mile pace AND I had all negative splits. The more I ran, the faster I went. And when I was on my last mile and I started to tire, I kept repeating my mantra:

"Five miles. All negative splits. Because I'm awesome."

And that's why I had this big, goofy grin on my face when I finally finished.

I really, really needed this today. I needed to know that I still have the spark, the fire to push myself. My legs were getting sore, but I knew that it was my mind that really wanted to stop. So I opted to run with my heart, instead, and that was enough to get through to the end.

Thanks, friends, for being part of my run today. It's a much better feeling to be able to share my success with you than to have to admit that I gave up.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Ragnar Moves Me." Let it move you to vote!

Please click through and vote for our story!

I took a chance on my first Ragnar, and my life was forever changed.

Fourteen relays later, I've been in a documentary (From Fat To Finish Line)...

run events all across the country...

and joined this family of ‪#‎KiltyPleasures‬ runners.

Definitely, ‪#‎RagnarMovesMe‬.

Click here to vote:

Monday, November 10, 2014

When You Thank Me And Call Me A Hero...

I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1985 until 1989. To quote Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But all these years later, I am even more proud of my service and more honored to have worn the uniform.

For the last thirteen years, though, the Marines who stepped forward to serve have lived a very different experience than mine. They are combat veterans, warriors on the front lines. And as a nation, we are grateful to them and want them to know it.

But there's a problem with that. Two, actually.

First, no one who serves in the Marine Corps expects to be thanked. It's an honor and a privilege to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and we don't do it to earn your gratitude. So on this day of all days, the 239th Birthday of the greatest fighting force this world has ever known, I offer a couple of suggestions to help show your appreciation for your Marines.

Instead of saying, "thank you for your service," say, "Thanks, Marines." Yes, even though I am standing in front of you as one person, I represent every Marine. And I understand that you are saying thanks through me to the entire United States Marine Corps. And I will say "you're welcome," shake your hand, and go about my way.

Or, you can say "Semper Fi, Marine," and I will know that you are showing respect for the very foundation of the Marine Corps, the promise to be Always Faithful.

And once a year, on November 10th, you can say the best thing ever. You can wish me a Happy Birthday. And on behalf of legends like Chesty Puller and John Basilone and on behalf of modern day warriors like Kyle Carpenter and Jason Dunham, I will say thank you.

But don't thank me for serving. Wearing the title is thanks enough.

Second - and this is the bigger point I want to make - civilians often toss around the word "hero," using it to describe everyone from the teenager who stopped to help change your flat tire to the NFL quarterback who managed a long pass to win a game. And we all understand how you are using the term. But it really isn't all that heroic to play football, you know?

It's the same when you call every serviceman and woman "hero." You mean well, but we actually feel like it takes away from those of us who have truly served heroically. Yes, every single Marine who has worn the uniform and served honorably was in a position to be a hero. They might have been called to sacrifice themselves to protect and defend someone else. And Marines being Marines, they would most likely have answered that call.

But they didn't. I didn't. I was never in a situation where I had to be willing to lay down my life to protect another.

I wasn't a hero. And that's okay. Because being a hero means more than just being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, it means actually being in that moment and seeing it through.

I can tell that I'm rambling now, and it's because I'm passionate about this message and I am trying to say so much all at once. Today is an emotional day for many reasons, and I'm struggling to put my thoughts into coherent words.

So, here's a simple recap:

  1. Don't thank me for my service. Just offer a nod and a smile and I'll happily return it. Or thank the Corps and I'll accept that on their behalf.
  2. Don't call me a hero. Save that honor for those who are truly the best of us. They deserve it.

Happy Birthday, Marines. And Godspeed and farewell to those of us gone too soon. We will stand together again some day.

P.S. If you forget, or otherwise don't know better, and you thank me for my service, I'll still say you're welcome. Because I understand what you are trying to say and I appreciate that. So please don't read this blog entry as me justifying being an asshole to someone else who says "thanks" or "you guys are all heroes." There's no call for that, either.

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps. You are timeless and true.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Taylor Swift's New Song, "Goodbye, Spotify"

This is Spotify. It's a commercial music streaming service.

And this is Taylor Swift. She's a country-turned-pop singer.

This week, Swift's record company pulled her songs from the online music service. And today, a Facebook friend made this joke:

Not sure why, but that really struck me as amusing. And then I decided to write the song myself. And here it is. Why, you ask? Because sometimes, a silly idea can be the difference between a bad day and a good day. And now, this is a good day. Thanks, Nick, for the idea.

Goodbye, Spotify

You're full of yourself thinking you are dreamy
Always online and totally streamy
Millions of songs at your fingertips
But you won't hear a single word from my lips

You spun me around and think you know me
Well here's a note, you can blow me
I'm out of here and good to go
Taking my tunes and hitting the road

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh

Your World Wide Web is a web of deceit
I trusted you but you're just a cheat
Promised me you'd make me rich
But you stole my tunes, made me your bitch

Newsflash, I'm a mega-star
Number One hits burning up the charts
Now I'll leave you with this one last thought
Think again, this "bitch" just can't be bought 

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh