Monthly Archives: September 2013

Halloween Decorations = The Secret To Happiness

I once wrote a post that essentially said, life is more exciting, even happier, if you have something to look forward to. Traditions, even the smallest ones, play a large role in setting the stage for joyous experiences.

The Difference Between Grown Ups And Kids

Busy adults push events and moments out of their minds until they crash down upon them; but not kids, kids are pros at anticipation. If they know a summer trip to the lake is around the corner, they’ll prepare physically and emotionally—swim trunks and plastic boats will be carefully set aside and memories of water fights and sunburns will splash around in their mind.

Remember, One Secret To Happiness Is Remembering

I believe the secret to happiness (of all sorts) comes down to remembering. So, have something worth remembering and remember it! Halloween is a little over a month away. Many adults, even those that don’t get excited for Hallow’s Eve, might say, “look, with all the stores, magazines, and advertisements attacking me with orange and black, it’s near impossible to forget Halloween!” Touche. But not forgetting and remembering are two different things.

I know my birthday is in January. I don’t forget that. I do, however, forget to remember what my birthday used to mean… means. When I take the time to remember, my birthday becomes so much more fun and well, meaningful.

Halloween may be silly, but do you remember how exciting it was for you as a kid? Your parents let you play dress up in the streets, you got to knock on random doors, and for some reason, they all handed out free candy. AWESOME! And let’s not forget the activities at school, the parties, the hayrides, etc.!

What if you no longer trick or treat? What if you have no children candy beggars to take around the neighborhood? It’s still Halloween, October, fall! You’re not dead. Eat some candy, bake some apples, make a pumpkin pie, tell ghost stories, watch Halloween movies, throw a party, have a Halloween themed dance or talent show—even if it’s just with a few friends. And for crying out loud, wear a costume, one that you’ve been thinking about for at least a couple of weeks. I admit, I am the worst at this. I always end up throwing a leather jacket on and saying I’m a greaser. Lame. Not this year.

Skull salt and pepper shakers on top of an awesome table-cloth. Good purchases Rinda!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate

If you can’t get in the mood for Halloween, if you just can’t get excited, decorate, decorate, decorate! Everyone knows that decorations are great for pumping kids up, but they can be great for big people too. Throw some fun decs around your house and you’ll soon see how it helps you—even Ebeneezer Scrooge—feel festive. And throw them up early! For example, there’s no reason that Birthday decorations should only be set up the day of a birthday. If you want a kid (or an adult) to get really excited for his/her birthday, talk about it months before, set up decorations the week of, and then do something super special the day of. Your child’s (or weird roommate’s) eyes will glow.

It’s the same with Halloween. Fill your house with celebration, pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, Monster Mash on repeat, the scent of pie and candy, etc. Do that, and your dreams of a happy, exciting Halloween just may come true.

*If all you can do is stay at home and be grouchy, don’t be one of those houses that shuts all their lights out. Hand out some candy, good candy, not peanut butter taffy, and watch how excited the kids get when you drop it into their plastic pumpkin or ratty pillow case.

Now, tell me something AWESOME you’re doing this Halloween so I can copy you!

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Trains, Buses, and Occasionally an Automobile


It’s early. The sun has yet to rise; its rays are barely a threat on the backside of the mountains. I ride smoothly, gently rocking back and forth. I’m surrounded by lights—on the street, in the windows of small homes, on the tops of buildings, on the cars whizzing by. I’m writing this on my way to work. Only the train conductor’s voice, calling out the next stop in an English accent, interrupts my thoughts.

Public Transportation

It’s been six months since I first rode public transportation to work. If I were to drive, it would take 50 minutes. On train and then bus it takes a little over an hour and a half. I know, it seems silly, but it’s really not, not if you understand my hate of monotonous driving, not if you recognize that for me, the extra time riding is productive time, time to imagine, time to do the work I love.

I write. I read. I research. I sit quietly, thinking. There are no car horns to interrupt me, no row of brake lights to frustrate me. Just the comfortable 2nd floor of a flying train. Strangers surround me. Most of them sleep, some nibble at a bagel or sip some coffee, some tap away (way too loud) on their keyboards. Others drift into the pages of their novel and slowly float away.

I pass six stops before reaching mine. When I get off, all good feelings leave me. I have to get on the bus. Trains are smooth, poetic, romantic. Buses are the devil’s chariot—if you go to hell, you’ll probably be taken there on a bus. And somehow, always, a fellow bus traveler, a tiny cute lady, always sits next to me, and she always smells like body odor and Fritos.

Bus. Train. Bus. Train. Home. Only sometimes do I drive.

What’s something you like to do during your commute? Tell me in the comments below!

Vine Time

This is how Claire travels. She uses her super-hero powers to defy fear and gravity. (Hover over the image and click the speaker icon in the top left corner for sound.)

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I’m Creating A Ham

As a parent I’m interested in helping my child discover and develop talents and skills. Rather than force my own interests on her—her existing in the same space as me is influence enough—I do my best to notice and point out things she does well or shows interest in.


For example, from a young age Claire has loved to dance, more so than most little ones. So I made a point to encourage her dancing. I took the time to compliment her on her moves—even if it was nothing more than an over excited head bob. Today, she still loves to dance, and I love to dance with her. Her focus and ability to remember the little moves I’ve taught her is quite impressive. Where there’s music, she’ll be the first and last person dancing. I love it when she says, “daddy, I wanna dance wit you.”


But dancing is not all she loves or does well. She is also a ham. My two-year-old daughter is constantly doing and saying things that are hilarious. Trouble is, and true to our family heritage, she’s doing most of it intentionally, so she knows (or thinks) she’s funny. I’m partially to blame. I see humor as a very important talent—it helps us find joy, companionship (my wife certainly wasn’t smitten by my looks when we met), it’s fun!, it serves as a stress reliever and a coping mechanism… “I could go on forever baby” (name that movie reference).

So, if Claire is good at “being funny,” why not encourage her sense of humor. When she does something that cracks me up I honestly tell her, “that was funny Claire,” or “you’re funny,” and she knows and appreciates what I mean. She is now stopping me to say, “daddy, watch” right before she makes a funny face, body movement, or strange voice. She is being a comedian (I’m sure future school teachers are just going to LOVE me).

Vine Time With Daddy

Another thing she loves is “daddy time.” Every so often, when Rinda is busy or tired, I’ll take Claire out on a daddy-daughter date. This could be dinner, shopping, a simple walk around downtown, or just hanging out at home. She loves it. In fact, sometimes we’ll all be walking out the door and Claire will push Rinda back inside and say, “seeya in a bit mommy, I going with daddy.”

So, knowing that she loves being funny and doing stuff with Dad, I decided to start making short six second videos using Vine. Claire and I act and Rinda films and directs. Claire loves watching back the videos and repeating her lines. It’s really silly and really fun, and here is the evidence:

(Hover over the image and click the speaker icon in the top left corner for sound.)

Did you like the videos? We plan on making more, so keep an eye on the channel. Do you have fun activities you like to do with your child or family member (nephew, niece, etc.)? Tell me in the comments below or else… JK, but seriously, tell me.

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I Believe In Comedy


Photo by Chris Duce

I believe in comedy. I know it exists, and despite the Grown Ups 2s of the world, I know it can be funny and eye-opening.

Those who know me well have probably heard me say that the problem with my family is we all think we’re funny. If all of us were funny, all of the time, this wouldn’t be a problem, but some of us are funny only some of the time, and the rest of the time we are content amusing only ourselves. For example, I like telling jokes but I love telling “jokes.”

Recently (the last couple of years) I have started to do a lot more standup comedy shows. The real gems in my performance history have been: headlining at my family reunion talent show in front of an audience of 20-30 people, and playing a three-minute set before a rock cover band at a patriotic, 40th birthday party where maybe eight people listened and two laughed.

Not all my shows have been tragic. I did perform some shows in front of hundreds and much laughter was present, and I did have the opportunity to perform standup in Hollywood at a small improv gathering, and that, too, went well.

Presently Joking

Lately I have been telling jokes at open mic night at the local comedy club. Open mic is the lion’s den of comedy. Most of the audience is fellow, wannabe comedians who are not funny, and most of them are happy to repress their laughs so the others don’t seem too funny.

My last week’s performance was a true bomb. I opened with a joke that a majority of the audience found racist (which was hilarious as it was not my intent, but still, very distracting) and I forgot (or failed to recognize) something important: you can’t just tell jokes.

For me, comedy is not the jokes. They’re, of course, an important part of the comedy, but more, it’s who is this person telling me these jokes (or things—they don’t have to be jokes) and why is he/she telling me them. I care much more about character. Point of view is far more interesting than witty, ironic comments about depression and online dating. Characters invite us into their story, their life. Jokes help us understand character. (Just to be clear, you, being yourself, is still a character.)

Rinda says it’s alienating, but I care much more about people getting a feel for who my character is than I do telling a killer, perfectly set up joke. I think people connect with the joke teller, not the joke. *In Rinda’s defense, I often tell terrible jokes that can be alienating if you don’t “get” the character. So the challenge is: make sure people “get” my character.

There are plenty of you that probably think this is a bunch of crap. Well, I don’t give a damn. Just kidding. I do. (See what I did there?) I want to hear what your thoughts are on the issue. Whether you’re a joke teller, a joke lover, both, or neither, what do you think? Do you even care about who the person is and why he/she is telling the joke? Why?

Tell me in the comments.

Oh, and remember how I told you my wife doesn’t think I’m funny? Well, she still doesn’t. And, as evidenced by the video below, neither does my daughter. (Hover over the image and click the speaker icon in the top left corner for sound.)

My Daughter Headbutted Me In The Face. It’s Fall!

With every season change my allergies do what my two year old daughter does when she throws a tantrum: go crazy. To give some perspective on what crazy means, here’s a sweet little story.

One time Claire was upset, quite upset. I think it was because we wouldn’t let her use markers. So, as many two year olds do, she was yelling and flailing her arms, hitting anything within her reach—table lamps, books, almost a cactus. After a failed attempt to quiet and calm her with words, I held her arms by her side and, as softly as I could muster, told her she needed to stop throwing a fit and relax. I even gave her the option of coloring with crayons or color pencils. So, logically, she headbutted me in the face, which was upsetting, but at the same time hilarious. Where did she learn to headbutt? Or did she just think, my arms are incapacitated, so, well, I guess I better slam my head into dad’s forehead to free them. It worked.

Anyways, that’s what my allergies are like. With every season change they headbutt me in the face. My eyes become raw, red, puffy, watery, my nose fluctuates between runny and stuffed, and my head feels like a mouth at a marshmallow eating contest. It’s great! Strangely enough, there is something great, or at least nice, about it. My allergies, reacting to whatever change is happening in the air and the world around me, warn me that new things are coming. Right now my senses are going haywire to let me know that fall is around the corner, and that makes me happy.

Words cannot describe how much I love the fall. (I just thought about the phrase, “words cannot describe.” It’s actually quite an adequate, even elegant way of describing something, because let’s face it, so much of what’s wonderful in our human experience is indescribable. Side note finished).

Fall, Finally

We’ve been gone a lot. Saturday was the first weekend back to routine in our little city. We woke up around 7:15—which is sleeping in for us—Rinda made yummy pancakes, we got ready, and then walked out the door, on our way to the farmer’s market.

What a fantastic place to celebrate the arrival (or soon arrival) of fall: fresh looking and smelling produce (many perfectly at home in the fall color scheme), pet owners walking (showing off) their various breeds of dog, delicious pastries, and colorful, happy people. It was heaven.

But the cherry on top came shortly after we had the absolute pleasure of marching around the farmer’s market with a jazz band, made up almost entirely of old men, as they played “When The Saints Go Marching in.” After that, we were on our way out, making our last lap (the market is set up in a circle around a downtown park) when we were stopped by these succulent words yelled by a vendor: “Handpressed apple cider. A variety of 5 full apples in each glass!” If these words are not fall on the ears, I don’t know what is. We quickly bought two, and the brownish gold liquid disappeared just as rapidly. It was fall on the tongue, and finally, fall in my being.

I’ll drink to that.

I was in such a good mood that I didn’t even think to say “we can’t afford it” when Rinda mentioned wanting to buy a bouquet of flowers. She bought them and they were beautiful.

What a day.

Rinda, Claire, flowers, and if you look closely, an empty cider cup.

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A Summertime Walk With My Two-Year-Old Daughter


If it’s summertime and you decide to go for a walk, try and go with a child. That way the pacing is perfect and the realizations are lovely.

Our Walk, My Awakening

Sidewalks melt like abandoned popsicles into rivers of pavement and lakes of grass, all while my daughter Claire skips ahead, happy not to be tethered to her stroller, and completely uncaring that the path she errantly travels has no known destination.

I would do well to learn from her example. She travels slowly and stops to investigate every sound and scent that meets her inexperienced senses. The airplanes and birds that fly overhead don’t go unnoticed, the flowers we pass don’t go unseen or unsmelled.

She’s the perfect travel companion—not anxious for an agenda but excited for adventure. Her only concern is that we keep moving forward.

I hover close behind, watching her watch the world and doing my very best to see it like she sees it. It’s beautiful, she’s beautiful, and I’m happy to think she’s mine, to love and to shape (I just hope I don’t corrupt her natural greatness). I get to watch her grow and luckily, I get to re-experience this madness that we call life through her eyes—what a blessing.

Goodbye Summer

*This post is obviously late in coming, but, I guess the saying is true, better late than never. Rather than forget the realizations I had when this walk took place, I thought I’d put them down on paper (or internet) as a way to remember, and as a way to say goodbye to summer.

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