Archives for category: Today I’m Grateful

Three years ago my step father, Frank, passed away from complications of ALS. The disease robbed him of his speech, his ability to eat, and the use of his arms before it eventually took his life. I’m still not very comfortable talking about how cruel ALS proved to be when it struck my family.

As the #alsicebucketchallenge grows exponentially it seems necessary pin down how I feel about this social media madness. I feel annoyed that my newsfeed is overrun with these posts. I feel embarrassed for all the people that drop the bucket on their heads. I feel a pull at my chest each time I hear or read those letters “ALS”.

That’s where I get stuck. That pull at my chest. ALS feels like a swear word. I don’t like saying. I don’t like hearing. It doesn’t sound like any other disease to me. It sounds hopeless. People forget when they post these laughing and shrieking and even stoic declarations of support that real people have ALS. Friends and family members of ALS victims see these posts.

This man doesn’t know ALS will take him before he turns 60: Frank

On the other side, as I’m sure Frank would argue, this has generated a tremendous amount of money and support for the cause. For all the pulls at my chest and all the annoyances, that’s certainly worth something.

If you’ve been challenged or you’d just like to donate to a good cause let me suggest donating to the Robert J. Packard Center at John’s Hopkins University. Their focus is research over awareness and that research is damn impressive. 

Who says silliness can’t benefit a good cause?



Seventeen years ago a generation of cicadas crawled from an underground slumber in the Iowa soil and screamed for months. They flew about like tiny drunk pilots, slamming into humans and agriculture alike. They ruined a summer’s worth of outdoor picnics. Then – goal accomplished, I assume –  they mated, laid their eggs deep into the ground, and died.

Their babies have arrived. I assure you they scream just as passionately as their forefathers.

The poodle met a few of these new cicadas this weekend. Like most living creatures, they baffled her. She batted them about. Sniffed and snorted. Eventually she took a bite out of one and the screaming stopped. Here, I have photographic proof of the poor bastard:

CicadaHe’s kind of beautiful. Now that he’s quiet.

The poodle feels no shame. She seemed rather pleased with herself and the conquering of an invading army – or at least one enemy soldier. Here she is immediately post-kill:

HappyPoodleMy sweet little happy killer.


Growing up, I was one of those Midwestern kids who said I liked all kinds of music, except country of course. Anything but gross, stereotypical, tractor-lovin country. Then I grew up, apparently used my sense of hearing for the first time, and realized how naïve I had been. Country is awesome. Well, some country is awesome. Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Johnny-Fucking-Cash.

Recently I came across this slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s song, Jolene:

It’s haunting. It’s heartbreaking. It’s lovely. Then again, so is the original:

Jolene tells a better story than half the books I’ve read recently. Our dear narrator, Dolly, doesn’t have the bravado one would expect of this genre. She’s been bested. She’s humbled.  “Please don’t take him, even though you can.” She’s fighting for her man by begging the green-eyed, auburn locked, adulterer to have pity on her. She isn’t condemning the other woman. She isn’t threatening her. She begs. That narrative kills me every time!

That is all.

My wife and I got married because we love each other. We got married because that seemed like the next step in life. We got married because we could. (Thank you Iowa and Minnesota) Like a good modern couple the cohabitating, dog adopting, and mortgage came before the marriage. The wedding felt like a mere formality. An excuse to have a party. We didn’t think it would change much.

But it did. It changed something huge and intangible.

We aren’t dating any more. She isn’t my girlfriend. We are married. She is my spouse. She is my wife. These are words society at large understands. We don’t have to explain that our partnership is deep and true and real, these words do it for us.

Also being married got us a post on A Bicycle Built for Two. That’s kinda fun.

I love this girl.


An article about an eight year-old girl not being feminine enough is making the rounds of the internet this morning. Give the masses a little time to get outraged and we’ll see if it actually “goes viral”. Here’s a link to Huffington Post’s coverage if you haven’t seen it.

My first thought wasn’t, “how dare they”. Rather, I thought, “hey, that little tomboy looks me at that age”. She might have been my sister or cousin or tomboy best friend. The resemblance is uncanny:


Left: Me circa 1992. Right: Sunnie rockin’ a sweet Steeler t-shirt today.

As an eight year old I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin – a little chubby, a little nerdy – but I was not yet burdened by the paralyzing self-consciousness of adolescence. Dressing however I wanted eased that awkwardness. A haircut from the boy’s section of the stylist’s handbook. A favorite pair of stonewashed overalls rocked least once a week – despite a distinct lack of farm work. Spandex shorts and Mickey Mouse t-shirts worn with abandon. I was one comfortable kid.

To add to the similarities between Sunnie and I, all of this happened at a parochial school.

Even those uptight Catholic school administrators back in the day knew a tomboy was just a tomboy. They didn’t read into it. I wish this southern Christian school could do the same. Don’t make this girl’s haircut and clothing choices something more than they are. It’s hard enough being a kid. Navigating social landmines of the playground, learning to multiply, studying geography, deciding if you really like the Steelers or you just like that t-shirt. This kid doesn’t need a group of adults telling her that she is doing it all wrong.

Let’s try having a little goddamn compassion.

This little girl could grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businesswoman, a soldier, a fashion designer, a professional poker player. She could be gay or straight or trans. We don’t know. I doubt she knows. Maybe in twenty years this little girl will look like a larger version of her current self – a short haired, sports lovin’ lady. Maybe she’ll be a goddamn swimsuit model. Maybe she’ll be both.

Right now, she is just a kid.

My tomboy phase never really ended but finding comfort there allowed me to become who I am today. I am most comfortable in jeans and a hoodie with my hair pulled back. This utilitarian style just make sense to me. On the other hand, I’ve also grown to enjoy getting gussied up:


Playing dress up isn’t just for kids.

In this day we can take what we want from each gender’s stereotype and make it our own. A dress today. Jeans tomorrow. Awesomeness forever. Even if some people are still catching up to this idea it sounds like Sunnie’s grandparents are already telling her this.

Hopefully their (our?) positivity can outweigh the school’s bigotry. Hopefully.

With students away on spring break the campus where I work is blissfully still. Halls quiet. Bathrooms clean. No line at the coffee shop. No need to dodge the ear-budded crowd who can’t look up from their phones and iPods even for a moment.

This also meant Woodstock the therapy chicken had some free time:


Yes, we have a therapy chicken. Woodstock is a part of the University’s “Pet Away Worry and Stress” (PAWS) program. She and a room full of patient dogs (who are mostly plotting ways to eat the aforementioned chicken) hangout here on campus for a few hours every Wednesday afternoon. The concept of this program melts my heart. Student who rarely look up at the world around them need this connection, a sweet, calm chicken and some lovelorn pups. A moment to step outside themselves.

The wife and I dutifully listened as Woodstock’s lookalike handler explained all things therapy chicken:


I’m listening in that picture, really, but I’m also wondering if the twinsies look is intentional. Did the lady choose the chicken because they have the same hair color? Did the chicken choose the lady? Is her hair permed to match Woodstock’s glorious fluff? Maybe it’s all natural. Maybe their pairing is fate. I pet Woodstock like I’m told, gently and down her back. We don’t know each other well enough for a head-rub. Then we’re on our way.

Not a bad way to end the work day.

The wife and I made the Wall Street Journal’s Life and Culture section today. Seriously. Featured image and everything. Here’s the link:

Jewelers Woo Engaged Same-Sex Couples – WSJ


Our story opens the article:


Close enough.

As far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve been quoted. Mentioned maybe but never quoted. It’s an odd feeling. The words attributed to me don’t ring false but I can’t help raising an eyebrow. Is that exactly what I said? Does this story, this little blurb of my life, really represent me? Does it accurately represent my marriage? Not really.

This article doesn’t show much about us. Barely a glimpse really. You can’t see the grit that makes up our daily life: the mortgage and walking the dog and making dinner and shoveling snow at six in the morning. These few sentences don’t show the love that drew us together, the marriage that’s simply awesome.

But that’s ok.

In this anecdote, we’re an example of the new normal. We sit on that fence between normal and unknown. Like any engaged couple we needed to buy wedding rings. Unlike that other couple (that straight couple), we also needed to explain ourselves. Fine. Hopefully what we did in that store, and with this article, is have that mildly uncomfortable conversation for other couples. Hopefully we took one for the team.

That’s love.

As the blog title shows, I have a common name.

This amazing website tells me I have the 19th most common name among registered American voters. As such, I’ve never had the specific, silly joy of experiencing a Starbucks fail.

Until today:


Elzbat? Elizbarf?

My goodness I must have had marbles in my mouth when I ordered that.

A few years ago I lost touch with a friend (pictured below) under unclear circumstances.


She was mad at me? I was mad at her? Someone’s boyfriend didn’t like someone’s girlfriend? The weather here is too volatile? I honestly don’t know. Whatever the cause, we no longer speak. Ever. Not even the idle online chat we once frequented. When we briefly ended up in the same city last year, we made eye contact across a crowded convention center and she fled in the opposite direction.

Yes, it’s that bad and I can’t say why.

Then, this year, I gave into the Candy Crush lure. (Stay with me.) Not long after I connected the game to facebook, I got a notification. “Your friend has sent you a life. Accept?” After the reaction at the convention center I’d expected this friend to cut that last tie, to unfriend me on facebook, but she never did. Instead she sent me a life. A digital olive branch?

Now I’m trying not to read too much into this. It’s just a game. She didn’t actually reach out to me. She didn’t say hello to me at that convention center. She didn’t explain her disappearance from my life. She did, however, see my name with a bit of kindness. Enough kindness (or lack of repulsion) to agree to send me the life.

Maybe that’s a start.

Comedian, Laurie Kilmartin, is currently live-tweeting her father’s death. As vulgar as it might sound in concept, in practice it seems pretty amazing:


I can relate to this kind of gallows humor – a dark kind of humor that touches at a place of discomfort and recognition all at once. It’s uncomfortable because it’s familiar. Viscerally true. Humor doesn’t cover the grief. Humor allows one to sneak up on a difficult emotion before it has a chance to hide again.

I’m not on Twitter but projects like this make me think I should be. See more of Laurie Kilmartin’s wonderful madness here. But be warned:


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