Monthly Archives: July 2015

Jan Smithers is what?!?!?!?!

Bailey or Jennifer?

Straight American males of my age know exactly what this means and the majority will pick Bailey. Bailey is Bailey Quarters, the promotions manager on WKRP in Cincinnati played by Jan Smithers. Jennifer is Jennifer Marlowe, the receptionist, played by Loni Anderson.

While Anderson got the posters and cultural references and the privilege (?) of sleeping with Burt Reynolds, almost everyone I knew thought Bailey was significantly hotter (just like Mary Ann is hotter than Ginger and Lily is hotter than Robin–though that last one’s pretty close).

So today, when I saw a picture of Jan Smithers on my Facebook feed, I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you! My first reaction, was “Wow, she’s looking kind of rough.”

I had the same reaction when I saw Maria Shriver on television last night.

This just in…it’s 2015, not 1985. Maria Shriver is 60. Jan Smithers is 66. And honestly, if they saw me, they’d say the same thing, except for my name. “I don’t know who that is, but he’s looking kind of rough. Dude, more hair would be your friend. It would cover things up.”

Okay, they don’t have to be mean about it.

This isn’t a post about political correctness. It’s not a post about how men shouldn’t objectify beauty. The simple fact is, women are attractive sometimes and men are visually oriented. But time goes by and people don’t–and shouldn’t–always look like they’re 30.

As much as I dig Tony Horton and wish I could spend time with his workouts, aging isn’t for idiots. It’s something that happens. And while it’s good and important to be active and fit, aging’s a part of life, just like ear hair and forgetting where you put the car keys.

Expecting otherwise is silly and self-defeating.

It’s not fair

This morning, I read a Facebook post from a woman whose posts are routinely uplifting. She’s typically smiling and happy in the pictures. Even her post about having maggots all over her garbage can–and not having anyone around to drag it out to the curb–was endearing.

Oh, and a while back, her daughter died.

No one does something so bad as to deserve their child dying. No one does something so bad as to deserve being ravaged by cancer. No one does something so bad as to deserve being stuck (or perceived as stuck) in an abusive relationship.

The crap that happens in life is often disproportionate to whatever bad things that person might have done.

In plain, non-Vulcan English*, it’s not fair. (*–Bonus points if you can pick out the specific Star Trek reference without using Google.) (Or any other search engine.)

You can’t say those words–it’s not fair–without sounding like a nine-year-old kid who didn’t get his way. They reek of spoiled petulance, of someone without scars on their face complaining because they’re inconvenienced.

And yet, if anyone has the right to say those words, it’s that woman. It’s the family of a woman I know who recently ended a year-long downward spiral as brain cancer rotted her from the inside out. And they probably said it. Maybe not in public, or on a Facebook post, but it’s human nature.

When the crap is flowing hard down multiple hills and you’re at the bottom of all of them, you get to say it’s not fair. You have to say it’s not fair.

It’s not fair when you’re sick or diseased and you didn’t do anything to make it happen. It’s not fair when other people punch you in the face with impunity. A lot of things aren’t fair.

That unfairness is a part of you. You think it’s a weakness? Make it a strength. Use it.

You can’t use if if you deny it. You can’t make it a strength if you’re using it as a club to beat yourself with.

I don’t know the secret to keeping my humanity when really, really bad things happen. But this is one of ways to get there, I expect.

The problem with the Goodell standard for offended people

“If one person is offended, we have to listen,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the name of the nation’s capital’s NFL team.

Slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck is, one would assume, a person and based on what this person finds offensive, Commissioner Goodell must seek an audience with Dr. Seck to discussion the logo on the side of the New Orleans Saints helmets, the fleur de lis.

Although Dr. Seck is on record as saying that the fleur de lis has been embraced by the city of New Orleans as a symbol of unity, he also says, “As an African I find it painful, and I think people whose ancestors were enslaved here may feel it even harder than I do as an African.”

This isn’t a mainstream story. It’s likely to die off as the nation comes to terms with what to do about confederate flags (my opinion: government offices, no; private land, not desireable, but certainly legal). And to be honest, I had to go looking for find a source for this story that wasn’t a conservative blog or news site trying to stir up trouble.

But that’s kind of the point. The Goodell standard says that only one person has to be offended to take the offense seriously and start a dialog. PETA is on record as being offended by the name of Green Bay’s NFL team. And now, it’s possible descendants of slaves could be offended by the image being worn by the New Orleans Saints.

Among the things that have also offended at least one person: the Bible, Harry Potter, yoga pants, the word thug, Barbie, the word bitch, the NBC peacock (complete with rainbow colors [since forever] to support gay rights), Game of Thrones, public prayer by athletes, people offended by public prayer by athletes, the war on Christmas, the war on the war on Christmas, the war on the war on the war on Christmas, a picture of a fit person with anything close to the words what’s your excuse, the concept of plus-sized, the concept of obesity, Saving Private Ryan, anything written by EL James (for a plethora of reasons), the TV show Friends, gay wedding cakes, ISIS cakes, and rainbow Oreos.

The list is actually much larger, but I don’t want to do more research.

The point isn’t that no one should be offended by anything ever. It’s that we set the bar too low for taking offense seriously and self-righteous pinheads like Commissioner Goodell (who seems to have more problem with team names than with professional athletes assaulting civilians) don’t help by pretending any offense taken by any person for any reason is worthy of serious discussion.

You cannot have a free society when allow for the possibility that any person can potentially have veto power just by saying they’re offended. Pretending you can isn’t progressive or enlightened, it’s foolish.

If you go back a few years, there was an uproar over a song by Tori Amos that included the lyrics, What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. If you’re a Christian and that offends you, you may have been absent at Sunday school the day they said that Jesus gave up his godhood to come down here and be with us and face all the same crap we face.

But hey, better that you–and everyone else–be made comfortable, than have to consider ideas that might take you outside your comfort zone.

I’ve lived to see the sun break through the dawn…

About a week ago, I met with a guy from my church. The last couple months have been a little bumpy, as you may have read, and there comes a time when it’s bigger than one person’s ability to handle. My church is awesome in that they hooked me up with someone who helped me see things a little better.

When we met, I described what’s happened. *When I got done, he thought about it a second, then he nodded slightly and said, “From an earthly standpoint, you’ve done an incredible job. You’ve thought things through and your head is in a good place. You’ve overcome an enormous amount and done a better job than a lot of people could do.”

* — It wasn’t exactly this way, but this is basically what happened.

You can’t live a worthwhile life without periodically auditing yourself. And there’s plenty about this year that I look back at and wince about.

But when I look back at what I was at the beginning of the year, that guy had no clue how deep his reserves were. He had no clue how much he could take and how many days he could get up and do it again even though the string of days seemed endless. He had no idea how tough and stubborn and talented and blessed he was.

It’s entirely possible that the new guy, the one he’s evolved into, doesn’t fully understand yet.

But that guy has done some incredible things this year. He’s overcome some really difficult circumstances and he’s a better man for it.

That’s not self-aggrandizement. That’s not bravado or conceit. It’s not the same look-at-me that seems to dominate sports highlights.

It’s not something to be screamed or illuminated with a search light. But it is something to be counted and recognized.

Most people don’t realize how deep their well of perseverance really is. They don’t understand how much they can get through. They don’t tally their own depth of talent and will, and they don’t fully account for the people they can rely on. And they don’t realize how much that’s multiplied when they make it bigger than themselves.

No brow-beating or Bible-thumping, but if you believe the whole God thing and you believe in a loving Father seeking relationship, you have to count Him as part of what you can rely on. He may not–and often doesn’t–eliminate the problems. But he won’t make you face them alone.

I’ve been tested and I passed. That’s an accomplishment. I recognize my strength, the strength of my people, and the strength of the one who created me.

It’s a lesson I’ve ignored for too much of my life–and I suspect I’m not alone in that.


It’s ironic. A while back, when I was learning that what I have is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, I watched an episode of Castle called Kill Shot and drew strength from it.

We went to New York to deliver training this week, the last piece of the puzzle in delivering a project we’ve worked on for a year and a half. The flights ran more or less on time. Nothing flooded at the hotel room. My luggage made it there and back in one piece. I was able to do what I needed to do. It went well.

And now it’s over.

The man who started that project doesn’t exist any more. The man who completed a work out in February and almost threw up. He’s gone, too. I especially miss him. I miss his eagerness to take on what comes up, but I don’t miss is doubt at his own fortitude. And I’m learning not to miss his feeling that his worth is based almost entirely on his performance.

Kill Shot came around in the rotation again Thursday night. I watched it this morning. This time, I saw and appreciated now was the people around Beckett–the character going through the main struggle. The looks of concern. The way they covered for her when her best wasn’t good enough because she wasn’t able to deliver it.

I understood her need to push the emotion down the road because the job required it. And I understood that it wasn’t the job requiring it. It was her. It was her strength and determination to push through the challenge, to measure herself by her performance.

And when the damaged goods scene came around, I understood it from Esposito’s viewpoint. Of all the characters, he was the only one who had been in her shoes and who understood where she was.

I understood what he meant when he said, “That’s okay. You think it’s a weakness? Make it a strength. It’s a part of you. So use it.” I understood because I was watching his character follow his own advice. He used his strength to help her do what she needed to do.

I don’t know if God decided to give me this. I don’t have the tools. But I have it–in a very mild form. And I understand that I will never be the same because of it.

I understand love in a new way. I understand my wife giving me the room to figure this out. I understand my partner at work covering for me because I wasn’t up to the job, in spite of trying harder than I ever had before. I understand the concerns of two people from my church who helped me see this in a new way.

And I understand that it wasn’t the mortgage that drove me to finish this. I understand it was ego and stubbornness and dedication and the other half of the love that covered for my mistakes.


And I understand that I was never alone in this for a single second, because God.

Insert standard disclaimers here–I’m not beating anyone over the head with anything. But nobody does it alone. The people who helped get me through were there because God allows the hard things so we can find each other and help each other.

I don’t believe that because I had a crappy day once and someone smiled at me at the checkout. I believe it because I’ve been through something enormously difficult and I made it out the other side.


Being blue is better than being over it

It doesn’t take a lot to make me wax philosophical. Today’s inspiration is a song lyric from a song by Panic! At the Disco called Hallelujah.

Aside from the wonderful sampling of Chicago’s Questions 67 and 68 at the beginning, the song is about how life can start after the bad things happen. In this case, the bad things are self-inflicted. In this case, the protagonist was caught “under the covers with second-hand lovers.” But sometimes the bad things aren’t of your own doing. And in this case, it’s the hook that got me.

Being blue’s better than being over it (0ver it)

On first hearing the song, that lyric stymied me. What the hell does that mean? How can being blue be better than being over it? Being blue sucks. No one likes to be blue. By definition it’s the second-worst thing there is.

The worst thing would be to be over it. Being over it has multiple meanings. Maybe you’ve processed the thing that’s wrong, learned the lessons, let the wounds heal and now you’re ready to move on.

Or maybe you’re just over it. In that case, being over it is created by building walls–a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate.

As the great Dread Pirate Roberts once said, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

As P!nk once said, “Just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die.”

Living allows the possibility of being blue. The only way to avoid it is to give up, to protect yourself at all costs. And then you miss everything.

Life sucks. It’s part of the job description. But the freedom you allow yourself that lets in the hurt is the same freedom the lets in wonder and magic and magnificence.

For myself, I spent too long being afraid to get hurt–and as a result, being too afraid to live. I’ve been a sinner and stopped at that point, dwelled on my hurt and failure. No more. It’s time to stand up and sing Hallelujah. No one wants you when you have no heart and being blue is better than being over it.

On being The Goat

Little roller up along first…behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!

As a Mets fan, those words are magic for me. That’s the moment when another year of disappointment magically turned to victory. That’s the moment when the number 1986 took on a special meaning to me. It’s a moment about undeserved second chances and victory. It’s special enough that I didn’t have to Google Vin Scully’s call (above).

For a Red Sox fan, that’s the moment Bill Buckner got the same middle name as Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone and Denny Galehouse. It’s the same middle name England’s Laura Bassett may have today across the pond.

You see, Laura Bassett scored a goal in the last minute to lead Japan to a 2-1 win over England in the World Cup semi-final. Laura Bassett plays for England. She was trying to kick a ball out of bound and inadvertently kicked it into her own goal. In other words, she essentially lost the match for England. That’s what people will remember. Just like Bill Buckner’s error. She’s (drum roll) The Goat.

What they won’t remember is that England had a lot of opportunities they didn’t capitalize on–resulting in the 1-1 score late in the match. What they won’t remember is that Bassett didn’t put the ball in a position where it was appropriate to try to kick it out of bounds. What they won’t remember is that Bassett was part of a team that is one of the top four in the world.

They won’t remember the thousands of hours she spent becoming one of the best soccer players in the world. Or the victories she helped manufacture to put England into a position to be playing to advance to the World Cup final. They won’t remember Bassett being hugged by a teammate after the loss.

They’ll just remember the loss.

Sports is cruel. It’s a way for everyday people like you and me to be part of a bigger cause. The Wilpons aren’t just cheap for not putting the Mets in position to win, they’re evil and stupid and horrible. When Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers to LA, he was hated as much as Hitler and Stalin.

Bill Buckner’s error was 29 years and three World Championships ago and Red Sox fans of a certain age still treat his name as a curse word.

It’s understandable. But it’s also unfair.

I’ve never blown something quite this big, but I have blown things. I’ve let people down in key situations. I’ve been inconsolable because of things I’ve messed up. I’ve wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the dirt down over me.

And if you’re honest about it, so have you.

Sports demands that we remember goats as goats. Laura Bassett basically allowed Japan to advance to the final. But there’s no way you can look at the picture of Buckner leaving the field alone or Bassett buried in her grief without feeling some level of empathy.

On being The Man (or The Woman)

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was The Man. Like most people who are The Man, he didn’t consider himself The Man. It’s hard to be The Man when you’re imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp–that part of the point of the whole enterprise. The people confined to those camps weren’t people to the Nazis.

To say concentration camp prisoners were dehumanized is both literally true and understatement. Toward the beginning of his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl says emphatically that he wasn’t The Man. We’re talking survival in a game rigged to cause you to eventually fail. It’s hard to stay pure in that circumstance.

If you’ve never read Frankl’s book, you should–in particular, the first half, where Frankl describes his experience in the concentration camp. Put yourself in that situation. You’re treated like you aren’t even alive. You’re an inanimate object to be discarded when you wear out. And your experience didn’t have an expiration date–it was functionally your life until you died.

Frankl describes giving up as a gradual process, where people were beaten down by the endless dismal existence, if you can call it that, until they couldn’t take it any more. It’s easy to be beaten down until you lose hope. And understandable. And forgivable. Everyone gets tired.

Man’s search for 80s shorts

There’s an episode of Magnum, PI where a prisoner of the Vietnamese had a picture of his daughter as a little girl. The episode is set in 1987, so he’d have been a prisoner at least 12 years. Every day he took that picture out and looked at it. He promised he’d come home and that promise kept him going–gave him hope. Sure it’s cheesy. Magnum isn’t exactly high art. But it illustrates the need for something bigger.

Our struggles are significant. But they aren’t what Viktor Frankl went through. I don’t say this to shame anyone. If you’re struggling, that’s real. If you’re weary and trudging along on reserves you didn’t know you had, you’re a boss. You deserve empathy and you deserve a rest.

But you might not get it. It’s not fair. It sucks. But it’s real. That’s when comparison is helpful. Viktor Frankl found a way–he found a meaning. That’s the challenge. Find something bigger, whether it’s your spouse or kids, or just the bottle of Dom you’ll have when wherever there is. Find a way for it to strengthen you, rather than hollowing you out.

It’s harder than freaking hell. It’s not fair. It’ll buckle your knees and make you embarrassed by what you perceive as weakness. Sometimes strength is simply the process of taking one more step when you think you’re a pathetic mess. The only way to be dignified when you’re buried in a pile of shit is to keep working until you get out of the shit.

If today’s a day when the shit seems like it’ll smother you, I’m right with you, brother (or sister). But you aren’t shit and you deserve to not be part of shit pile. Let’s keep working at getting out.