Category Archives: Humor

Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

My costume this year is Garth from SNL’s Garth and Kat (see below).

Last night, driving home from last-minute Halloween costume shopping (I know, I said I wasn’t going to do that, but hey the costume is good), my wife asked me when Halloween changed from being a holiday (or pagan ritual) where you dressed up as something scary to a holiday where you can dress up as anything—wearing as much or as little as you like. I didn’t have the answer. However, her question got me thinking of Halloweens of old.

I’d Rather Be Silly Than Scary

As long as I can remember, with the exception of maybe a homemade tiger outfit my mom made me when I was a wee lad, I’ve never dressed up as anything frightening. Grotesque, bloody, or repulsive outfits are not my thing. Some of you like scary. You love the horror movies that make you feel like Satan is breathing down your neck or a murderer will tie you up and throw you in his/her van as you’re walking to your car. I do not. I prefer Casper, The Burbs, Hocus Pocus, Zombie Land, Nightmare Before Christmas—essentially I prefer kid or comedy Halloween.

My Costumes Are Proof

So, rather than dress up like Freddie, Jason, or a guy who recently got run over, I dress up in costumes that make me laugh, even if no one else thinks they’re funny. One year I thought I’d make a killing dressing up as a “weird hippie.” Clearly I lacked originality, but hey, I was in the fourth grade, I didn’t know that. Since I didn’t have hippie clothes or money to buy any, I raided my older brother’s closet and found his off-white, color-striped bell bottoms. He wouldn’t know I wore them, right? I’d just slip them back in his closet at the end of the night. If I would have known then that the next time I brought them home they would be covered in poo, I wouldn’t have taken them.

I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

As I said before, I was in the 4th grade when it happened. I wish I could say it was the last time I soiled my pants, but alas, two years living in Mexico and a dairy intolerance would make that statement a lie. It was Halloween night and I was happy as a weird hippie could be trick or treating in the neighborhoods within a couple mile radius of my parents’ house. Everyone was opening their doors, candy was being tossed about like a drug lord’s money, and crazy kids were snatching it up without hesitation and slipping it into their plastic buckets or pillow cases.

All was well and then it happened. My stomach started to growl a vicious growl, a growl so low and rumbly it could only mean one thing: if I didn’t get to a bathroom soon, I was going to mess my pants.

I hurried to the next house. The owner opened the door, candy bucket in hand, waiting for me to say the three magic words. But trick or treat never left my mouth, instead a rushed, perhaps overly excited, “Can I use your bathroom?” passed through my lips. The large man in the dumb orange shirt that had This Is My Halloween Costume written on the front gawked as if he’d never heard such a request. I recomposed and said, “please,” but to no success. He just handed me a peanut butter taffy and said, “I don’t think so.”

I rushed to several more houses and asked the same question to the same results. Somehow, every decent person in the world was willing to open their door and hand out candy to strangers, but no one would let me use their bathroom—candy cost money, letting me go to the bathroom cost nothing and I’d even flush a couple of times during the download so it didn’t stink. No argument prevailed. I had but one course left: run the mile or so to my parents’ house. Which, if you have any experience in nearly pooping your pants, you know is a near impossibility.

I made it to the field 100 yards from my house and had to stop running. I shuffled forward a few feet but it was of no use. My stomach won the race and my clenched buttocks unclenched. The next thing I knew I was in my parents’ laundry room throwing out my socks.

Despite The Mess, Halloween Was Still A Success

My brother came home before I could scrape the pants and properly wash them. He was mad and relentlessly mocked me. But that’s okay. Moments later, changed into my PJs, I was sitting Native American style in a circle with my siblings. I was once more a participating member in our annual candy trading session. The delicious sweets overshadowed the accident and I made some good trades. After all that had happened, the night was not a waste (no pun intended). And it only took a few years for my brother to stop calling me poopy hippie.

As messy as that Halloween was, it is cemented (perhaps not the best word to use here) in my memory as one of my favorite Hallow’s Eve memories. It was hilarious.

For Those Of You Who Like Scary More Than Silly, Check This Out:

If you have a little money and a bit of time and you love the frightening aspect of Halloween, you should probably visit these seven terrifying haunted attractions around the world:

http://www.priorityonejets.com/blog/just-tell-make-believe-7-terrifying-haunted-attractions-around-world/

Happy Halloween! Have any scary or embarrassing memories of October 31st? I bet you can’t top mine.

 

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Yes, I’m A Fan Of Harry Potter

English: Coat of arms of Hogwarts school of wi...

Rinda surprised me with a gift: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cook Book. So awesome. I had admired it a number of times at Barnes and Noble and had even expressed desires to drink Butterbeer, eat Cauldron Cakes, and devour Pumpkin Pasties (not those kind of pasties)—now I can.

The gift wasn’t for a special occasion, but as it’s connected (even if unofficially) to the Harry Potter world, it’s a perfect Fall, Halloween, and early Christmas gift. My wife knows her man. (Now I need to stop sucking at surprising her… maybe this was a hint).

The cook book has paragraphs explaining where in the series the food was mentioned or consumed, and even goes over the history of the cuisine. I cannot express how excited I am to try the many desserts, the fruit and meat pies, the treacle tart!

Harry Potter Is Important To me

Few pieces of fiction have meant as much to me as Harry Potter. I know, you’re thinking, really? And my answer is… really.

There’s something about the friendship, magic, humor, history, school (Hogwarts), food!, the combined efforts to fight evil in Harry Potter (and so much more) that makes it a fun, but also important, and even invaluable read.

Don’t Disregard Fiction

I can’t help but get annoyed when someone disregards the series because “it’s for kids,” or “I don’t read fiction.” If it’s for kids, good, we’re all children, read it and learn something. If you don’t read fiction, start. The human imagination, its ability to perceive the imperceivable, to assign meaning, to find value, to appreciate life’s wonders, is one of our great abilities; don’t put it on the shelf or use it sparingly, only with “true” stories. Truth does not require a historical document. Sometimes all it needs is a reconciliation between understanding and experience, something that can occur, and often does occur, vicariously.

With Food I Can Transcend

To be honest, I won’t mind if cooking and eating dishes from Harry Potter brings me one step further into the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. I wish it were a real world. What a dream it would be to disapparate and turn up in The Burrow; to have Mrs. Weasley invite me to sit down to dinner and dessert with her family and her guests (she always has guests); to finish a bounteous meal and then just sit together in the front room, too full to speak, with only Celestina Warbeck’s “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love” playing on the wireless to interrupt our stupor.

Yeah, I’m a fan.

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Trains, Buses, and Occasionally an Automobile

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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.

Dancing

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.”

Hamming

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

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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.)

An LTT Sandwhich — Hold the Bread

Life is tricky. It likes to throw curve balls. Which, when I come to think of it, is impressive — I can’t throw curve balls. And, just like in baseball, each pitch can end in a multitude of ways: a strike, a home run, a black eye. The important thing to know is that the batter (the liver of life) has a hand in how it ends. That’s not to say the LOL (liver of life) has complete control, but they have a say in the matter.

With practice and experience, confidence can grow. Adapting to the pitches as they come, switching up your stance, tightening up your grip, keeping both eyes on the ball, and getting the timing just right, can all help. When a LOL is active, doing something, making decisions, and not stepping back from the plate, much good can come, even if the pitch is thrown, the bat is swung, and the ball explodes in the catcher’s mitt.

I recently read that, and excuse the horrendous paraphrase, suffering is not caused by unfortunate events in life but by our response to those events. People, in controlling their thoughts, their attitudes, can shape their existence. I know, I know, this is all fine and good until the car breaks down, the bank account flashes zero, and your neighbor’s kid throws a watermelon through your kitchen window; but bear with me. If you will, allow me a moment of your time — you’re already here, might as well stay — to share a recent experience my wife and I had. One that is neither too awesome or too funny — it’s just everyday, regular — so of course, it’s the kind of experience that matters most.

It was Wednesday. The meeting was over and I’d just stepped outside when my phone rang. It was Rinda. She wanted me to go to the store and pick up a few things: peppered turkey, a head of lettuce, yeast packets, and dough enhancer (whatever the H that is). She was making wheat bread and it was to be used for sandwiches. I’m a fan of homemade bread and sandwiches, so I complied.

I hate to do this, but I am going to stick with the baseball metaphor as a way to highlight the balls, strikes, and hits of our experience.

I was at the store. Everything I needed was in the cart except for the dough enhancer. Again, what is dough enhancer? I’m smart enough to assume that it enhances dough, and thanks to the disturbing infomercials and early morning radio ads you hear about other types of enhancements, I could gather that it improves bread’s ability to rise; but still, what was it? A powder? a liquid? Two stones you clap together while spinning in an office chair? Already having lost my pride due to the mental link I made between dough enhancer and other enhancers, I had no problem reaching out for help — I asked the nearest old woman (the official makers of homemade bread, right?) if she knew what or where dough enhancer was. She did not. I let Rinda know my excursion to find the world’s first dough enhancer was a failure, she understood. BALL 1.

At home, Rinda started the bread, but not before she realized she had somewhere to be in an hour or two; meaning I was left in charge of part of the preparation process. If I could have, I would have declined: it’s always best to be as far removed from the success or failure of a new recipe as  possible — both outcomes can be disastrous. That did not stop Rinda from repeating and then, again, repeating my tasks: put a hot, moist towel over the dough; put the dough in the oven; let it rise; after so much time, pull it out; knead it; let it rise some more.

When, in response to her request, I repeated the steps in a high voice, while doing a silly dance, Rinda was not amused. I’ve said it before, but my wife does not think I’m funny. Good thing I think I’m funny, or life and dough making would be a lot more boring. BALL 2.

Rinda left, leaving me to my silly dance and dough duty; and that, of course, is when strike one came hard and fast. I did exactly as I was told and it was now the dough’s turn to do its part. Most of you are laughing at me now. Don’t worry I am laughing at me now, too. This was not my first dough rodeo: I should have remembered that dough is like unto a 15-year-old — difficult, non-responsive, and unable to do what it’s supposed to without a lot of convincing. Needless to say, the dough did not rise, the first time or the second time.

Where are you dough enhancer? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me, why can’t I hear the music play? STRIKE ONE.

Rinda came home. The dough was in its pan, ready to go in the oven. Cooked, cooled, and it stood an inch and a half high. Rinda did not laugh at my Jesus bread joke. STRIKE TWO.

Slicing the bread the regular way was not an option — unless we wanted bread the width of ketchup packets — so we cut it lengthwise, crafting as many normal-looking slices as possible. HIT 1. The ball sailed out of the stadium; but wait, no, it was kissing the line between homer and foul. The bread was so heavy and so coarse, that the gallon of water we each drank to swallow it, was not enough to wash it down. FOUL BALL.

Rinda still wanted sandwiches. We had no bread and, due to slow work conditions, not much money for bread either. So, we got creative. I wish what followed was a sure sign of our culinary genius, but, no, it was a result of ruined bread and poorness.

In came the Lettuce, Turkey, and Tomato sandwich, hold the bread:

Add a cute baby and we had a serious HOME RUN. With this simple experience — recognizing that it does not represent a huge trial or triumph — we were bombarded with all types of pitches. It took balls, fouls, and strikes for us to finally hit a home run. In the end, the home run had nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with making the best out of a situation. Oh, and guess what, I’m positive we will make LTTs again; this time, on purpose.

LTT SANDWICH:

INGREDIENTS: Head of lettuce, peppered turkey, provolone cheese, tomato, onion, mustard, mayonnaise.

Break off 2 large pieces of lettuce. Spread mustard and mayonnaise on the lettuce. Add turkey. Top with cheese. Add chopped onion. Add tomato. Wrap the two pieces of lettuce together. Eat while humming a tune from the 80’s.

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: See above: recipe repetition using a high voice and silly dance & Jesus bread joke.

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Old Year, New Day, Tomorrow

Sadly our tree no longer leans awkwardly against the wall of our front room, its lopsided behind scratching the wall (my 4th grade teacher had the same problem with her buttocks). Rinda removed the few ornaments we own one by one and lowered them safely into their plastic catacombs. The hand-sewn stars she made, the stockings, and the bent paper clips used to hang the ornaments, all found a new home in a now empty, puppy-themed, holiday popcorn barrel.

With the last of the popcorn garland plucked from the tree, the needles swept up, and the tree flying through the air, its dead bristles preparing to shatter on the frozen ground of the backyard, I stood still in the hollow room. Rinda broke the silence with a silent hint and stacked the storage cases by the door. Before I hauled them out to the garage for their year long slumber, I chose to say a few words in Elvish (okay, okay, I said them in English, but with a British accent):

“Christmas is over; the goose that got fat is now eaten; the poor man bought booze with the penny that some stranger dropped in his hat and punched the woman that tried to give him a half-penny (what does one do with a half-penny?). Christmas is over but Christmas is not past; I shall walk with Ebeneezer and Charles who gave him speech, and ‘honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The spirit of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach'”

I shall live in the Past, the Present, and the Future — not the past, the present, and the future — important stuff gets capitalized, right? — like Abraham Lincoln or the Transcontinental Railroad. I choose to live importantly or make life important.

Allow me a brief return trip to the Past or the year formerly known as 2011:

I turned 26. I started working full-time from home, meaning, I got to be around my family 24/7. We rented our first house. Rinda and I had our second anniversary (I know, we are babies; but, it is still a wonderful accomplishment). McKay, my second nephew, was born. One of my biggest dreams came true when Claire was born: I became a father. My niece Abigail was born (within her first few months of life, my Abi-Gal endured 2 open heart surgeries — she is doing swimmingly.) The TV show I worked on was cancelled. I created content for and was part of a very strange sketch comedy group (thanks Chris and Jeremy). We shot the comedy webseries I wrote and co-directed, starring: Flavor Flav, Danny Trejo, Jon Gries; and YouTube celebs: GloZell Green, Miranda Sings, Antoine Dodson, Wheezy Waiter and Donnivin Jordan. We spent Thanksgiving with Rinda’s family and Christmas/New Years with my family.

Let me share some Christmas memories that, if remembered, will help make my New Year dreams a reality:

Above you see evidence of our Home Alone marathon (we watched 1 and 2 back to back), ate name brand pizza (Little Neros) from the film, and drank Fuller’s classic Pepsi. We also had an awesome Home Alone trivia game and a dance party around a mini Christmas tree, in honor of Kevin McCallister, the little guy.

Below, on the left, you see evidence of our Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange. Each of us had a gag gift and would pass it clockwise when the word “the” was said in the classic story. By the end of the game, you’re stuck with what ever gift lands in your lap — I got glasses that double as straws — joy to the world. Below, on the right, is evidence of our Ginger Bread house contest. Rinda and I gave up when our doorway collapsed. We promise to finish next year.

Present:

I’m worried as I look for more steady work. I have several projects lined up but nothing solidified. I am working really hard to make connections and find new opportunities. Somehow I know everything will work out. I have my family.

Future:

I’m applying the lessons I learned from Kevin McCallister to my New Year.

1.) Don’t forget what is most important: family. If you do forget, change; remind your self and those you love that they are number 1.

2.) Protect what you have: family, home, freedom,”I could go on forever baby.” If you don’t protect it, you will lose it. If setting booby traps is necessary, do it.

3.) Be kind; to everyone. Family, friends, teachers, co-workers, bird ladies with poop on their clothes.

4.) Listen. (I won’t say anymore…that’s the way listening goes).

Happy New Year!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I gave Rinda the option to take down and throw our real Christmas tree out the backdoor in to the backyard or feed Claire (which I was doing when I gave her the options). I think she chose the tree in spite.

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Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life

The father of my childhood friend was a genius. He never used words like saxicolous, I never saw his SAT scores or overheard a neighbor talk about his IQ, but I knew, even at the age of seven, that he was brilliant. Today, my opinion of him remains the same; the only thing that has changed is my reason for believing he was so smart.

My friend’s dad did the shopping for his family, but it was more than buying eggs. He had a rotation. Every time he went to the grocery store, he’d take one of his three sons. That son was his personal assistant and the official family cereal-chooser. When my friend told me he could choose any cereal (that he wasn’t limited to Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Rice Krispies) and that, when they were in the check-out lane, his dad would always lean down and encourage him to select any snack, I about lost it. Who was this man and did he teach courses on genius fathering?

A dad that let his son choose whatever cereal he wanted and candy — images of Butterfingers, Sweetarts, and Big League Chew electrified my being  — had to be the next Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Uncle, or at least the long lost brother of the Ninja Turtles. He was giving and awesome  — gawesome. I knew he was the wisest of men; he got us little guys; he won over his sons (and me) with sugar cereal and gawesomeness.

Today, I still admire my friend’s dad. I look back and still conclude that he was brilliant, giving, and awesome — I won’t combine all three — but, what I realize now is that, his smarts had nothing to do with grocery stores, bubble gum, or even sugar cereal.

Starting a family and becoming a father has let me in on a secret. Because of his father, my friend had something to look forward to every month. Isn’t the magic behind traditions, holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, and movie releases found in the excitement that comes with looking forward? I respond with a loud, boisterous, and reassuring YES.

Some might be thinking, “big deal.” Well, I am thinking, “What a discovery!”

Want to know why last year’s birthday wasn’t nearly as exciting as your tenth birthday? I don’t know about other people, but these years, with a few exceptions where rude people remind me I’ll be turning ___ in so many months, I hardly even think about my birthday until the month before. Unlike my worry-free younger years, life distracts me until it’s basically too late. I know this isn’t the case for everyone; there are plenty of individuals who still get giddy at the thought of a birthday six months away (and I applaud them), but why?

My childhood birthday was awesome because I looked forward to it. I looked forward to much more than a day; I looked forward to the the events of the day (and I knew them well). Birthdays in my family included, but were not limited to, going to a dollar movie with all my sibs, ordering 5 Buck Pizza and buying generic grape, orange, and root beer soda.  It included a cake or lemon meringue pie (for me) with candles on top, and usually some small, but ever so exciting, toy. It may not sound that great to some but it was heaven on earth to me. I loved birthdays. If my next birthday followed my childhood birthday agenda to a tee, I would be thrilled.

So what does it all mean?

The idea for this post came after Rinda and I had a great conversation about easy ways to make life wonderful. We concluded that starting and maintaining family traditions was key. Rinda’s family is pro when it comes to getting excited about traditions. The amazing thing is, their traditions are simple but make things so much more enjoyable. For example, whenever they go to the beach they always order “the best” calamari from the same dumpy old bar; when they go to Disneyland, they can’t leave without eating “the best” sour cherries and churros in the world — they get more excited about the food than the rides. Brilliant.

Rinda and I want Claire’s life to be simple but ever so exciting. How can we help make that a reality? We have challenged ourselves to start and maintain a simple family tradition for every month of the year. These traditions will be planned, marked on the calendar, and spoken of regularly. As the years go by, more traditions can join the table.

This last Christmas was incredible for many reasons. My whole family (with the exception of Christian, that jerk) was present, we had a schedule of events and we did them! Most exciting — and I promise I will post about all of this in detail — were the returning traditions: our annual Home Alone movie watching Marathon (1 and 2 back to back with Little Nero’s Pizza, throwback Pepsi, and ice cream sundaes), our Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange, and the Christmas Eve cracker and cheese fest.

See what I mean? Simple things to look forward to = an exciting life to live.

Traditions can start today. You can call making a new, homemade Christmas ornament each year a tradition, even if Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Merle, from the Highlands of Scotland, never did it. I give the world my permission to do so.

Start traditions. Start living. Find ways to look forward to life.

What are some of your simple or not-so simple traditions? What do you look forward to? Please share in the COMMENTS!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: Rinda wanted records (vinyl) for Christmas. I bought her two. To trick her on Christmas day, I also bought a calendar that looks like a record when wrapped. When she was opening it, I told her to be careful, it could break; she was thinking “this is definitely a record,” she was wrong; it was a calendar jam-packed with pictures of wolves in their natural habitat.

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Holiday Throw Up – A Life Lesson

If you are spending Christmas at the dwelling of or with parents, in-laws, relatives or strangers, here are a few things to remember:

1.) Ask how old the left overs in the fridge are BEFORE you eat them.

2.) If you get sick, do it near a clean bathroom and preferably near one that has a comfy rug on the floor.

3.) If you are sick and vomit is close to or already launching out of your mouth, make sure the bathroom light is on.

I guess it’s important to ask how old the chili in your parent’s fridge is before you dive in. Now, when I say “dive in,” I don’t really mean dive in — I never would have fit in the Tupperware and the chili was far too shallow.

A little background.

Tuesday was a good day. Rinda and I slept well on the two twin mattresses that were pushed together to form a king size bed in my younger brother’s bedroom (he got the couch). Little Claire slept soundly in her pack-n-play. The Christmas decorations were inviting, the food abundant, and the family fun to be around.

Because I was still determined to make healthier life decisions and since I celebrated the end of my diet with a steak ranchero plate from a favorite Mexican restaurant the day before, I was more than willing to join my wife, mom, two sisters, and brother-in-law in an early morning workout session.

My sister, a workout guru, muted the sound on her Jillian Michael’s DVD, blasted her bad radio music, and we got started. It was to be a 45 minute workout and I was worried about my stamina from the very beginning. I’m not one of those men who says things like, “I could plow through this workout session blindfolded, in ten feet of water, both hands tied behind my back and wearing Uncle Arthur’s army boots.” I made it through 30 of the 45 minutes. I knew I was out of shape when I, on my back and barely able to breathe, looked over and saw my mother still high kicking and punching the air.

*Since then, I have plowed through multiple workouts (pat me on the back next time you see me), but back to the story.

After a healthy breakfast and a few hours of work, I found myself again in the kitchen, eating a quick-lunch before Rinda and I left for a day of errand running. My quick-lunch was the last bit of some left over chili and a hand full of oven fries. All was well, I was ready to go, and then it hit. Suddenly, I felt like I’d been reading in a moving car for months, all while an unknown neighbor kid was swatting the back of my head. I tried drinking Sprite, lying down, and a standing long jump, but nothing worked.

WARNING: TMBI (too much barf information) to follow!

Before I knew it, I was sprinting to the bathroom. Even with the light off, the first projectile was a direct hit. I heard the impact and felt the splash (despite popular opinion, there are times in life when having a beard is a bad idea, vomiting is one of those times). In a desperate attempt to stop barfing in the dark and let there be light, I lunged for the switch — bad move — the urge hit me mid-way to the light switch and the second missile exited halfway back to the target, showering the wall with a  mix of chili, fries, and bile. The result was a modern art display worthy of any dark coffee shop/gallery that uses bird stencils or old records to decorate the wall behind the cash register.

I emptied my gut and slouched to the floor before calling for Rinda (interesting that there comes a time in life when mom is no longer the barfer’s relief). Rinda stood in the doorway with Claire and comforted me as best she could.The biggest comfort was little Claire smiling and laughing for her dying father. I wanted so badly to reach out and hold her; knowing that she loved me unconditionally and wanted to be near me, even in this state, was a ray of light in a cloud-filled sky.

I don’t know why, but it made me think about my role as a father and it made me sad. For a moment, food poisoning was going to keep me from caring for Claire, and I didn’t like that. What else in life (both in and out of my control) could prevent me from being the father I needed to be to this little creature who depends so heavily on me?

After spending the following two hours on the floor, wanting to die, dry heaving, and wanting to die some more, I arose victorious.

Today I feel healthy and I am glad I can hold my daughter. I want to always be able to provide my daughter with the best care — that requires that I make wise decisions in all areas of my life.

Who would have thought a holiday vomit session would have taught me such a lesson?

Life. Weird old, good old, life.

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I got sick and was vomiting when we should have been running errands. Rinda did NOT think it was funny at all; it stressed her out.

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