February 11, 2008

Well I’m heavenly blessed and worldly wise

I am 36 and a half years old. I must say I like being 36. It seems to be a good age for me because while I’m not too old to have any quality of life issues, I’m old enough to finally feel like I know what I’m doing. My sense of self has come into a clearer focus than ever before. And while I truly believe life is one long lesson to teach you about yourself, for the first time I feel like I’d end up with a passing grade on the Test of Life.

Part of this positive sense of self has been reinforced as I start my new job as the unquestioned leader. And while I firmly believe that you don’t need to be the boss to be a leader, this is the first time that I’ve actually been both. It’s really caused me to be introspective because I want to give those who work for me my best. I want to help them grow like my mentors did with me. In order to do that, I need to know myself and feel connected to that solid core, residing deep within my chest, that never sways – even when the rest of my world is filled with chaos and change.

As I begin to learn about myself, I thought it would be important to pass some of the wisdom I have learned along to Swee’Pea and TheMonk. Perhaps this will help them someday when they are trying to find their true self. Perhaps it will help them learn more about me and who I am and how I came to be who they see in their teens and into adulthood. So, below you will find some of my thoughts on life and how to be the best you can be.

Who you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying
This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of the power of character. You cannot shout from the rooftops about how great you are when those around you would sing a far more humbling tune. Your voice will not be heard if people do not recognize you as someone who is honest, forthright, earnest and humble. You cannot be a leader just by your words, your actions must come first and the words can only follow.

You must do the things you think you cannot do. - Eleanor Roosevelt
Fear is the single most debilitating thing in life. How many lives would be different if fear was not present? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? The thing to remember about fear is that it is only an illusion that seems real but is really just a visceral reaction to a stimulus. Those butterflies in your stomach or that tightness in your chest is an involuntary reaction that your body creates. How your mind interprets that reaction is entirely up to you. In other words, butterflies can be interpreted by fear of failure or, just as easily, excitement at the prospect of success. You choose. But I guarantee the moment you confront your fear, the fear becomes insignificant. From that bogey monster in the closet that you are sure is there until you get the nerve to turn on the light to that thing you can’t stand to face at work that goes away the minute you address it, the fear is never as big as what you make it out to be. Do not be held back by fear. Use fear to become the person you know you want to be.

A goal without a plan is just a wish
Everything you want, desire or even do should begin with a vision. Vision is important because it forces you to slow down to clarify what it is you really want. Those without vision give up. They don’t know what they are running after and give up because it’s so hard to catch what you don’t know you’re chasing. Write down your goals. Cut out photos from a magazine and paste it to a board to represent all that you want. Think big. If you shoot for the stars, you may miss but still hit the moon. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Find your path and keep moving along it with all of the passion you can muster. And, most of all, don’t hang around people who don’t share your vision.

It’s not my business what you think of me.
Too many times we worry about what other people think. Too many times we give up our power to someone else who, in all likelihood, is also worried about what you might think. I have learned to push aside that voice that worries about what others think. Instead, I say to myself, “Your perception of me is your business. Not mine.” I know who I am. I know the good person that emanates from my insides and I refuse to let you or anyone else keep me from being me.

Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Love really does make the world go ’round. Learning to freely love is a gift that comes with a sense of peace and belonging. Putting aside the possibility of hurt and risking pure, passionate, heart-on-a-sleeve love is something that will take you far. Love who you are with. Love who you are. Love those who make it especially difficult to love. Hate tears down, but love builds back up. Find what you love. Find who you love and then love those things with all of your heart. Most importantly, love yourself – unconditionally. Then, you will know peace.

The title of this post is from an 80′s song. Can you name it?

November 28, 2006

Things I’ve learned

Sometimes, when I’m out in my day to day life I inadvertently stumble upon little nuggets of wisdom that will be useful to pass along to my children. Often times, I forget what that little nugget was by the time I get back home to document it. This time, however, not only have I made the effort, I have succeeded. Here are some of the things I have noticed recently that TheMonk and Swee’Pea will need to know…

- Always, always, always do the right thing. Even if it kills you inside to admit you were wrong or not doing what is right will help you in the short run, it will certainly haunt you in the long run. I only wish I learned this earlier. It would have saved me a lot of grief.

- Never pass gas in an empty elevator. You never know who will get in right as you get off. (Passing gas in a full elevator is perfectly okay, however, as long as you start looking at the person next to you like he did it.)

- Don’t worry about what other people think. Only concentrate on doing what is right. Too many people spend too much wasted time worrying about what others think. Trust me, 10 years from now, no one will remember that you walked around all day with your fly unzipped but they’ll remember if you were unkind.

- Don’t drink milk that’s more than six or seven days past it’s due date. Trust me on this.

- Always be kind to the receptionist. They are the gate keeper to many business opportunities.

- Never wear plaid with stripes. In fact, unless you’re a scottish terrier, never wear plaid.

- Never stop exercising. Once you stop, it’s so much harder to start again.

- Never pet your cat after eating buttered popcorn. Neither you, nor the cat, will be particularly happy.

- Change the oil in your car regularly.

- Love with all of your heart! Not just a little bit! Don’t save it for later! Give it all you’ve got now! Yes, you might get hurt but, oh what a fantastic feeling it is to love with abandon.

- Take risks. Not “run with scissors” risks but rather the kind that if you just stretch beyond your comfort zone, you’ll acheive great things. Taking risks is necessary. And don’t worry, your Daddy will be here to catch you if you fall.

Oh, and always call your mother.

June 23, 2006

Life Lesson: Changing Diapers

TheMonk and Bri,

In my continuing quest to educate you (see my other life lessons here) on all-things-important I have come to realize just how important changing diapers can be. Now, I understand that you have a long ways to go before you actually change a diaper (unless you’d like to start today. Your mother and I wouldn’t mind) but you can never be too prepared. So, here it goes.

First, you have a choice between cloth diapers and disposable diapers. In the long run, cloth diapers are cheaper and more friendly towards the environment but disposables are, well, easy. And, if you have twins (a real possibility for you Bri) then disposables are the only way to go, in my opinion, if you want to stay sane. In fact, I’m actually amazed that there are still people out there that use cloth diapers. But, hey if that’s your thing, more power to you.

So, for the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you picked disposable diapers. Now, my biggest advice when choosing diapers is not to be a cheap bastard (although you might have to fight some genetic tendencies passed down by your old man). Spend the few extra pennies on a good box of Huggies or Pampers. The generic diapers seem to have a few paper towels stuffed in the crotch and that’s about it. Huggies and Pampers actually seem to put some absorbant gel into their diapers. This is important because no baby (or adult, for that matter) looks cute with urine running down their leg. Your mommy and daddy actually use two diapers (Well, we don’t. You use them. We just buy them). We use Huggies during the day (mainly because they work and Costco sells them in bulk) and Pampers Baby Dry during the night. This is a heavy-duty diaper that seems to do a better job of absorbing the copious amounts of fluids you two seem to deposit into it each night. This is important because it’s already been well-documented how hard it is to change the sheets on a crib. Trust me, no one wants to do this at 3:00 a.m. while listening to a screaming baby.

Okay, now that we’ve settled on the diaper, we have to talk about the approach. Everyone seems to have their own way of approaching the change. Coming at the baby directly head-on is probably the best approach but when changing tables are being used, it’s often best to change from the side. This can be done with the baby pointing to your left or to your right – it’s a matter of preference (your mother is left-handed and I’m right-handed and we both point the baby to the left. Not sure why). Once you are positioned, it’s best to get all of the implements needed before you whip the soiled diaper off first. No one wants a geyser or a gusher coming at them when they’re ill-prepared. (TheMonk, I’m not admitting to anything but let’s just say boys don’t like it when they shoot themselves in the face with their own gun). This is where setup becomes extremely important. You must have the new diaper ready to go. Have your baby wipes ready to go and if you’re using a diaper cream, have that ready to go as well. It’s also helpful to have an absorbant cloth diaper nearby just in case someone decides to fire a shot off the starboard bow.

Speed is of the essence here. This is not the time to play goo-goo eyes with the baby (at least not before the exchange to a new diaper has been made). Get in and get out. If the diaper is filled with toxic waste, speed is definitely key. If you suspect that toxic waste might have eminated from your baby’s butt, having several baby wipes already pulled from their container is helpful in getting in and out. This is important because let’s just say poop has a tendency to rise up the back and the next thing you know you’re wiping the kid’s entire back wondering how anything can migrate quite like that.

And here’s what separates the pro from the amateur: Don’t gag. You will see some things that no human was ever meant to see. You will smell things that will be burned into your mind forever. Show no fear. This is not a time to be wimpy. You have a job to do so do it!

After removing soiled diaper, wrap it up quick. You might be tempted to look at consistency or color but nothing good can come of this. You’ll spend the entire night wondering how those carrots can just pass on through looking the same way coming out as they did coming in. Trust me, just wrap that baby up and dispose of it quickly into a well-sealed diaper receptacle.

Apply any ointments you might need (but not baby powder!) and then pull the new diaper on quick. The velcro straps go in the back. This might seem obvious but you too will have to switch it around – even after doing hundreds of diaper changes. Once the new diaper is securely fastened you can breathe a sigh of relief. Put clothes back on (or new clothes if the previous clothes were soiled in any way) and get ready to go about your day.

Wash your hands. Please, wash your hands. And, if you’re doing hundreds of changings, a nice hand moisturizer works wonders for overwashed hands.

Okay, that’s it. Now, go change the world!


January 25, 2006

Life Lesson: Fighting

I was having a conversation with some co-workers today when the subject of fighting came up. It reminded me that I have been in exactly three fights in my life – none after the eighth grade. All three fights were brief and, as best I can recall, I walked away from all three without any major injuries. The three fights are not worth going into great detail but I will say this: I was provoked in all three.

Before I dispense my vast knowledge on how best to handle a fight, I want to make it clear to both of you, TheMonk and Swee’Pea, that I will not tolerate any bullying by either of you. If I ever hear that you actually started a fight, you will spend so much time in your room that they’ll erect a plaque in your honor. Am I understood? Good.

First, the best way to handle a fight is to actually avoid the fight. When being provoked into a fight, 99% of the time you can use wit and intellect to avoid a physical fight while still standing up to the antagonist. I have found that a quick, humorous insult directed at the loser in front of you will often confuse the imbecile enough to allow you time to keep on moving (after all, these bullies always seemed to be a few cans shy of a six pack). I would refer to this method as the “jab and run” way to avoid a fight.

Speaking of running, both of you have been blessed with a genetic pool that should make you as fast as lightning (It should be noted, that while I was a pretty decent sprinter and I won my share of races, your mother is the true athletic stud in this family. After all, she was a high school state champion in the Long Jump and the 300 meter hurdles.). Therefore, I want to say to you that there is no shame in running. In fact, I am very fond of the saying, “I’m a runner, not a fighter.” (What, you’re not familiar with that saying?) So, when the opportunity presents itself to get the hell outta Dodge, do it. Sure, people might start calling you Forrest Gump, but that won’t last past high school. I promise.

Having said this, there may come a time where you are cornered and have nowhere to run. Maybe you’re in a crowded room or maybe the smart-ass comments you made earlier have only pissed off your opponent even more (sorry about that). If this happens, I have one piece of advice to give you:

Fight like you’re a frickin’ lunatic.

The one thing I have noticed is that no one really knows how to handle “crazy” when it presents them in the face. And when I say crazy I mean you have to present an arm-flailing, loud-shrieking, crazy-eyed looking, tongue-wiggling, body-hopping, leg-kicking, ankle-biting, hair-pulling, crotch-grabbing, face-scratching, eye-gouging, mouth-drooling appearance. Trust me. That person will not want anything to do with you. Besides, there are no rules when it comes to protecting yourself. Fight dirty if that’s what it takes to get out of there. And, as a bonus, word will spread pretty quickly that no one should mess with that Crazy TheMonk or the Lunatic Bri.

So, that’s it. I guess I should mention that your first thing you should do about a bully is to tell an adult. But sometimes, you gotta defend yourself. Just remember, a lot of crazy will get you home in one piece.

December 22, 2005

Life Lesson: The Holiday Card

Okay kids, listen up. This is a serious topic. I just want to pass along my accumulated wisdom to my children who will read this someday and marvel at what a genius they had for a father. But I digress. The topic is Holiday cards. Gather ’round and learn…

To all those poor people who are actually organized enough to get their Christmas/Holiday cards mailed out the Friday after Thanksgiving, it happens every year. Inevitably, they get a card or three from someone to who they did not send a card. Now, while they may be organized and feeling smug about their ability to wish others a Happy Holidays Merry Christmas Happy Chanukah Happy Kwanza Happy Ramadan Happy Solstice Happy Festivus Happy Holidays, they are now in the situation that if they do not send a card to this person who was kind enough to send a card to them, they risk looking rude.

I have a better idea. Send Happy New Years cards. This is a great idea for many reasons. First, it allows you one less stressful thing to get done before December 25th. Second, and most importantly, it allows you to see who sends you a card so you don’t leave anyone off of your list. Now, you can address cards during the slow period between Christmas and New Years and still get your card in everyone’s mailbox by the first week of January. And you’ll even include a card to your cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s brother who sent you a card two days before Christmas.

TheMonk and Swee’Pea, remember to put your parents on your list because you won’t be getting a card from us until January 5th.

December 6, 2005

Life Lesson: Choosing a Christmas Tree

I’ll make this short.

Find a family or a guy really obsessed with finding the “perfect” tree. Follow them around as they look at trees. Don’t pay too close attention ’cause it doesn’t really matter what they do until it comes time to make a decision. As they finally narrow their choice down to two, get ready to pounce. As soon as they make their selection grab the other tree.

You now have the second-best tree on the lot and you didn’t have to go through a hundred trees to get it.

Oh, and have them cut an inch off the bottom for better water absorption while you’re still at the lot. Waiting to do it at home because you don’t want to wait in line only to find your little hand saw is pathetically inadequate to do the job so you end up using a jig saw and carving little one inch by one inch squares is just wrong (Not that I would know anything about that).

November 23, 2005

Life Lesson: Family Holiday Dinner

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I thought this would be an appropriate time to once again pass along the accumulated wisdom of my many years. Yes, today we are going to talk about the Family Holiday Dinner. Pay attention kids because these little tidbits could be the difference between dreading and perhaps even enjoying the holidays.

When to Arrive
Timing is everything. Arriving at the correct time is crucial. If you arrive too early, all of your coping mechanisms may be exhuasted before dinner is even served. Then you’re left hitting the hard cider and telling Aunt Ethel what a fox she was when she was younger. Arriving too late, however, is a waste of time. If you’re gonna get all dressed up and do this, you might as well make it worth your while. So, when do you arrive? One and half to two hours prior to dinner being served is good. This will give you enough time to say hello to cousins you didn’t know you had and to dole out all of your good, “this is why my life is so great” stories you have been planning in your head. And it’s short enough of time so you won’t start in on those “Hey, I ran naked in college” stories.*

What to Bring
Unless you’re hosting the party (and c’mon, whose foolish enough to do that?), you have to bring something. If you’re good, call ahead and ask Grandmother what you can bring. Hopefully she’ll let you off easy and you can bring dessert. If calling Grandmother is out of the question because then she’ll ask why you’re not dating that nice girl Claire anymore (even though you’re now married to Jane), just bring one of the following: a nice flower arrangement to match the holiday or a very nice bottle of wine. The wine will be especially nice to have when the day turns rough and you need a good drink (“Hey Grandmother, why don’t we enjoy that wine I brought you.”).

What to Wear
This falls under the category of “Know your audience.” Now, I happen to know your immediate family and casual wear with a nice sweater will do nicely. Shoes are a must, I’m afraid. However, there’s no telling what kind of family each of you will marry into. So, if your mother-in-law sends you a jacket made from the deer skin your father-in-law bagged last winter, you might want to wear that jacket – along with any other dead, skinned animals you can find. Oh, and shoes, I’m assuming, would be optional.

Who to Avoid
Let’s face it. We all have a black sheep or two in the family. Now, I’m writing this assuming that neither of you are the black sheep in our family. In fact, let me just take this moment to beg of you, “PLEASE DO NOT BECOME THE BLACK SHEEP!” Okay, that’s done. Now where was I? Oh, yeah. Who to avoid. Well, for starters, avoid anyone that drinks entirely way too much. While that person might be mildly entertaining, you could end up looking guilty by association. Now, I was going to recommend you ignore your parents as well but then I remembered that I am your parent. So, don’t do that. At least take the time to tell me how your therapy is going.

What to Drink
Drink whatever you want. How much you drink is an entirely different matter. However, if your grandmother still wants to talk about Claire and your own mother keeps fixing your collar or wiping your face with her napkin, you have my permission to request that wine. But do not drink too much. Bad things happen after the third fourth fifth sixth drink. For instance, you could get into a fight with some guy who insults your sibling after having too much to drink. TheMonk, you might end up getting kicked in the groin by this loser whereas you’ll have to go to the hospital where Swee’Pea will get hijacked/kidnapped by a different thug as she arrives at the hospital.* I’m just saying, drinking too much could leave to some almost mythical-like events. Stranger things (perhaps) have happened.

Topics of Discussion
Oh, man. What can we discuss? While these people are family, it never pays to talk about stuff that’s too personal. In fact, it might get a little crowded with all of the elephants roaming the room but that’s just the way we like it. You might have to quickly get caught up on all of the family gossip, if you haven’t been paying attention, just so you’ll know what to avoid. I’m not going to tell you who that person is in our family but come talk to me later and I’ll tell you.

Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend’s Family

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, one day you’ll choose to eat at someone else’s dysfunctional family rather than ours. I know, hormones does funny things to a person. Now, it goes without saying that you will do anything and everything that the family asks of you. In fact, TheMonk, if the father of your girlfriend is worth anything, he will take advantage of this. Get ready to blow leaves, shovel snow, clean the attic, whatever. (Bri, I can’t wait for you to bring some pencil neck geek nice young man home.) Oh, and when your grandmother sends you chocolates to celebrate the holidays, don’t leave the box on your bed when you go to midnight mass so that the dog of the family you are trying to impress eats it and almost dies.* Killing the beloved family pet will rarely endear you to a family.

Well, that should cover the basics. Have a happy holidays and may your family always put the FUN in dysfunctional.

*All scenarios and examples in this post could be fictional. Any resemblance to my family’s actual Holiday Dinners is most likely coincidental.

November 18, 2005

Life Lesson: Grocery Shopping

In an effort to slowly pass my vast knowledge on all things irrelevant to my kids, I have decided I will start putting down these little nuggets of wisdom for TheMonk and Swee’Pea to have at their fingertips in their adult years. Never let it be said I wasn’t looking out for my kids.

So, our first lesson is the art of grocery shopping. Because I don’t want my children to rely on Carl’s Jr. (“If it wasn’t for us, some guys would starve”) for their nutritional needs, I have put together a little primer, if you will, on how to get the most out of your grocery shopping experience. Kids, pay attention.

Buy in Bulk
Now, at first glance, you may ask yourself “Why do I possibly need 42 rolls of toilet paper?” The answer to this, kids, is we will always have a butt to wipe (and judging by your diapers, you’ll have more of a need than others) and the more you buy, the cheaper that roll becomes. Of course, storing these rolls of toilet paper may become a challenge but just think of all the things you can do with a roll of toilet paper. For example, instead of those annoying little spring things that keep doors from putting holes in your walls, just slip a roll of TP behind each door in the house. Now you’re not only frugal, you’re resourceful! And, if you’re buying bulk in diapers, you can save as much as 10 cents per diaper. Over the course of a year, that could be $250 to $300 in savings! That’s 250 to 300 more lottery tickets, boys and girls! Anyway, buy in bulk. Simple economics. Buy more, pay less.

Make a List
This goes along with the old adage “never shop while hungry.” Believe me, if you don’t have a list you’ll walk out of the grocery store with two cans of Spam, a box of Twinkies and a bag of Teriyaki beef jerkey that you’ll have to explain to your significant other. Believe me, make a list and stick to it.

Beware of Bananas
When buying bananas you should always stick to the B = (t-1) equation where B=bananas and t=amount you think you’ll eat. Always buy one less banana than you think you will eat. Inevitably that last banana will rot on your kitchen counter and while your kitchen may smell like banana bread for a few days, the site of a blackened, petrified banana is never a pretty sight.

Know Your Meats

Rump roast, Chuck roast, Top Round roast, Beef Loin Tri Tip roast… Let’s just say there are a lot of cuts of meat. When your significant other asks you to pick up a roast on the way home, how the heck is one supposed to pick the right roast? Now, you can do what your father has been known to do (pick up one of each and let your Mommy decide) or you can learn your cuts of meat. You decide.

Buy Generic

Don’t get sucked into the marketing of a product. The box of cereal with the Sugar-Pushing Leprechaun does not taste any better than the bag marked “Marshmallow Treaties”. In fact it will give your kids the same sugar rush at half the cost. There are some exceptions to this. For example, don’t ever buy beer that is marked “BEER”. There are just some lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Don't buy generic beer

Old Stuff in Front, Fresh Stuff in Back

When it comes to perishable items never choose anything that’s directly in front of you. That’s where the store clerks put the items they wouldn’t eat on an episode of Fear Factor. They’re hoping you’ll bring that tomato that was picked last April home to serve to your unsuspecting family. Dig around in the back of the pile for the freshest fruit/vegetable. The same goes for dairy products. You might have to remove 8 to 10 cartons of milk that expire in the next 4 days to get to the milk that expires in two weeks and the stock clerk might give you dirty looks as you pile cartons on the floor around you, but do it anyway. Or ask the clerk if he’d like to come over for some home-made ice cream next week.

Express Checkout – An Oxymoron

Finally, once you have gathered all of your items on the list (of course, you stopped in the frozen food aisle last, right?) you head to the front of the store to pay. Choosing the right checkout line is the single most crucial decision you will make while shopping. The wrong experience at the checkout can ruin an entire outing. Here are some things to look for:

  • Avoid the Express checkout. Why? Well first, what the hell are you doing in the grocery store when you only need ten items or less? You didn’t use a list (see above) last time did you? Well, too bad. Just eat your Spam and forget about setting foot in a grocery store when you only need a few items. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, little old ladies go through the express line. They buy their food one day at a time because they never know when they will die. And all that extra food in their pantry would just be a waste, wouldn’t it? Old ladies don’t use cash and they don’t use ATM cards. No, they use the written check or a sock full of pennies. Either way, you’re not getting home anytime soon.
  • Choose the line with the current issue of Cosmo. Swee’Pea, you’ll enjoy perusing it while you wait. TheMonk, you can stare at the hot chick in the gold lame’ bikini. Time will fly by for both.
  • Choose a line with a mother with kids. Trust me, that mother wants to get out of the store faster than anyone. She will also have bought many of the same items so the checkout goes quicker. Before you know it, she’ll have her cards swiped, pushing her grocery cart in hand, one kid on her hip and talking on her cell phone to set up her next play date with little Oscar. Don’t, on the other hand, get in line with anyone who looks like they don’t regularly shop (anyone in a business suit or a college student, for example) as they will inevitably forget something or ask if the store takes American Express.
  • And don’t you hold up the line, either. Never, ever, ever leave the line to go get something. If you were dumb enough not to get it in the cart the first time around, don’t compound your stupidity by making everyone wait. Didn’t get the beef sirloin you needed? Well, that bag of teriyaki beef jerkey will come in handy now, won’t it? Also, pay with your Debit Card. Don’t pay cash and don’t ever write a check. There’s just no excuse for that kind of behavior.
  • Well, that’s about it on the Grocery Shopping Experience. I hope this little primer will serve you well over your many years. Of course, you could always skip the whole store and order your groceries on-line. But then, you know you’re getting last April’s tomatoes.

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