“I checked his tushy and there was no poop anywhere.”

I was sitting at my computer in the dining room, writing my next great American novel. My five year-old daughter, Clara, and my two year-old son, Charlie, were upstairs playing. My wife was shopping.

From the top of the stairs came Clara’s little voice. Tentative at first and then more confident.

Clara: “Dad, I could use some help.”

Me: “Yeah? With what?”

Clara: “Well, I thought that Charlie might want to try to use the potty even though he’s never used it before, so I took off his pants and his diaper, and then I got him to sit on the potty, and I told him to pee and poop. And while I was telling him, I needed to pee and poop, so I sat on the big potty and peed and pooped but Charlie didn’t. I checked his tushy and there was no poop anywhere. So then I put his diaper back on but I don’t think it’s on right, so maybe you could come check for me, please?”

First, I typed up everything I had heard, as best as I could remember. It was too priceless to risk forgetting.

When I found Charlie, his diaper was strapped to his thigh. His pants were around his ankles. He was only wearing one shoe. It was on the wrong foot.

Big sisters are the best.

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Why it’s glorious to be a Patriots fan

Since 1993, the New England Patriots have had two starting quarterbacks: Perennial Pro Bowler Drew Bledsoe and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.

There was a season when backup quarterback Matt Cassel was forced to play when Tom Brady was injured, but there was no question that Brady would be the starting quarterback once he was healthy.

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For 21 years, or the majority of my adult life, this franchise has been in the capable hands of just two quarterbacks.

By comparison the Cleveland Browns have had 18 starting quarterbacks since 1993, and that includes three years when they weren’t even a team. The Washington Redskins have had three starting quarterbacks this season.

In that same 21 year period of time, the Patriots have had just three head coaches: Future Hall of Fame inductees Pete Carroll, Bill Parcells, and Bill Belichick.

By comparison, the Cleveland Browns have had nine head coaches in that same period of time, beginning with Bill Belichick. The Raiders have had an even dozen.

Parcells took the Patriots to the playoffs during every year of his tenure with the team, including a Super Bowl in 1996, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.

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I put a shoe through my friend’s living room wall that night.

Carroll was the least successful of the three coaches, but still, he won the AFC East in his first year as head coach and took the team to the playoffs in two of his three seasons. Carroll has gone on to win a Super Bowl and a national championship at the college level.

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Under Belichick, the Patriots have gone to five Super Bowls, winning three and coming damn close on two others. The Patriots have been to the playoffs in 12 of his 14 seasons, missing during his first year as head coach and in 2008 when Tom Brady missed all but one game due to injury. Still, the team went 11-5 that year.  

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The leadership and stability of the New England Patriots has been astounding. It’s no wonder that since 1993, they have the most wins of any NFL franchise. They have also been to the playoffs more often than any other team, made it to more Super Bowls than any other team, and won more championships than any other team.

It’s been a good 20 years. I’ve rarely missed a game and have spent many afternoons and evening in the stadium, watching them from the nosebleeds.

It’s good to be a Patriots fan.

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Seasons Magazine: My latest column on how real men don’t use snow blowers

The winter edition of Seasons magazine is now available for your reading pleasure.

If you don’t subscribe to Seasons, the magazine can also be read online, including my column, “The Last Word,” which can be found on the last page of the magazine.

For the winter edition, I write about how real men don’t use snow blowers and my unique means of clearing my driveway of snow in the winter.

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The girl rejected her mother’s culinary advances, but the boy could not resist

My daughter shows little interest in cooking with her mother. Perhaps, like me, she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to spend time cooking meals when there are other people willing to do it for you.

Even if you’re not married to an excellent chef like me, there are always restaurants, fast food, take out, and Hot Pockets.

What more could a person need? 

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Happily, my son loves helping my wife in the kitchen. He can be found there almost every afternoon, standing on his stool alongside Elysha, simultaneously helping and hindering the cooking process.

“Help me, Mommy!” he shouts, which is his two year-old version of “Let me help you, Mommy!”

This week, among their other culinary delights, he helped his mother make barbecue chicken.

Yesterday, he appeared on the television show Better Connecticut baking gingerbread cookies in a cooking class at the local grocery store. Maybe someday he will become a famous chef and appear on the Today show, being rushed through a cooking process that should take twice as long so they can hit the scheduled commercial break.

I guess this is why you have more than one child. When the first one lets you down, you roll the dice on another, and sometimes they come up sevens.

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Everyone is completely overwhelmed, except I kind of think that they aren’t and should reconsider their position.

It seems as if I hear someone say that they are overwhelmed or someone they know is overwhelmed or a certain segment of the population is overwhelmed almost every day.

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I don’t get it.

The average American watches 34 hours of television a week. Spends almost two hours a day on social media. Spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook alone.

They spend countless hours playing the latest version of Angry Birds or Words with Friends or Candy Crush and even more time complaining and gossiping.

These do not seem like the statistics of an overwhelmed population.

I’m not saying that people don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m merely suggesting that they aren’t actually overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, allow me suggest a little less Law & Order. Fewer Angry Birds. A little less Facebook.

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I guess I really, really, really love my wife.

I had a dream that I was living in some alternate reality. I wasn’t married to Elysha or anyone else.

I was standing by a stove, looking at a serving dish, and I realized that I would never feel as good about that serving dish without Elysha in my life. That serving dish would always been a dull, lifeless representation of itself if I wasn’t with my wife. 

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Then I looked around the kitchen and saw that everything in the room was as dull and lifeless as the serving dish. A second later, my mind saw beyond the kitchen and I knew that the most beautiful objects and the most majestic vistas on the planet would never shine for me again because Elysha was not with me.

Then my eyes returned to that serving dish. That simple, ceramic serving dish, sitting on the counter beside the stove, that I knew could be so much more if Elysha was standing with me. Beside me.

I have a lot of nightmares. Post traumatic stress will do that do you. But I have never felt more hopeless and sad in a dream before.

Posted in Autobiography, Family | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Santa Claus spent the day at an abomination of a grocery store, and he was BRILLIANT.

My wife and kids ran into Santa Claus at Stew Leonard’s last week. Stew Leonard’s, if you’re not familiar, is an abomination of a grocery store built to make the shopping experience as least efficient and least productive as possible. It attempts to capture some of the feel of an open market, filled with small, specialty shops (which is completely unnecessary) but instead feels more like a bastardized amusement park ride.

I went to this store once and nearly lost my mind. But my kids love it, probably because the only thing less efficient and less productive than Stew Leonard’s is small children.

But Santa was there that day, and it’s always nice to see Santa, and even nicer when it’s unexpected. Even if you’re trapped in an abomination.  

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Clara, my five year-old daughter, sat on Santa’s lap. Santa listened to her requests, and he told her that she needs to work harder at cleaning her toys.

“Did you tell him what to say?” I asked Elysha.

“No,” she said. “Apparently all five year olds can’t pick up their toys.”

I loved this Santa – maybe the Santa – both for scolding my daughter about the thing she needs to work at the most and for making me feel a little bit better about having a daughter who can’t seem to pick up a damn thing without being told to do so.

Santa’s the best. 

My younger son, Charlie, refused to sit on Santa’s lap. He was nervous. Probably didn’t want to be told to clean up his toys, too.

Actually, he’s already better at cleaning up than his big sister. Maybe Santa would’ve told him to stop wailing after waking up from a nap.

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Michael Lewis wants women to rule Wall Street. I would like to take his thesis about a million steps further.

Michael Lewis has Eight Things I Wish for Wall Street. Blogger Jason Kottke highlighted #2 on his blog: 

2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street.

I like this one a lot, but I like #3 even better:

3. Women will henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions.

Men are more prone to financial risk-taking, and overconfidence, and so will be banned from even secondary roles on Wall Street trading desks — though they will be permitted to do whatever damage they would like in their private investment accounts. Trading is a bit like pornography: Women may like it, but they don’t like it nearly as much as men, and they certainly don’t like it in ways that create difficulties for society. Put them in charge of all financial decision-making and the decisions will be more boring, but more sociable. Of course, this raises a practical question: How will our society find enough women older than 35, with no special intellectual ability, to fill all of Wall Street’s trading jobs? Well …

I would like to take it one step further. Or a million steps further. 

I believe that the world would be a far better place if women were in charge. Therefore, I would support the immediate replacement of all male members of the House of Representatives and the Senate with women. 

I’d do the same with every state governor, and if I could, every mayor as well.

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I would also support the immediate replacement of the all of the male CEOs of all of the Fortune 500 companies with women.

I routinely charge my female students with the task of charging forward and taking over the world. I tell them that I will be disappointed if women are not ruling this country, if not the world, by the time I am a spry 100 years old. 

I suspect that Michael Lewis would agree.

Posted in History/Politics, Idea | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another demanded apology that will likely go unanswered and is pathetic and stupid either way.

Cleveland Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt demanding justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford before Sunday’s today’s game against the Bengals.

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Failing to learn from the ridiculousness of the St. Louis police union’s recent demand for an apology (which they never received), the Cleveland police issued the following statement:

It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.

Once again, another example of on of the eight lowest forms of human communication: The demanded apology. The adult version of “Take it back!” A form of passive-aggressive punishment that typically results in the petty, meaningless satisfaction in knowing that you made someone say something that they would rather not have said, with no guarantee of sincerity. 

Like the St. Louis police union, I suspect that the Cleveland police will not be receiving an apology anytime soon, which makes the demanded apology even more pathetic.

Person or organization who will somehow feel better if another person is forced to make an insincere apology: “You’re mean. Apologize!”

Person who probably did nothing wrong: “No!”

End of dialogue.

When are people going to learn?

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Just when I start to become a cynical, entitled, unappreciative jerk face, Jenny Slate comes along and sets me straight.

My heart still skips a beat every time I see one of my novels on a shelf in a bookstore or a library. I’m so glad.

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Never take good fortune for granted. Never allow something that once thrilled you to become commonplace.

Remember your roots.

If only I could take my own advice.

I was listening to Jenny Slate on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and she was describing the moment when she was hired to work at Saturday Night Live. For Slate, this was a childhood dream come true. She began to cry as she told the story on the podcast and quickly apologized, explaining that she doesn’t cry often.

“It’s a beautiful story,” she said. “And sometimes I forget that.”

I loved that moment so much.

It was a reminder to never let your dream-come-true moment become anything less than that. Remember how precious and rare these moments are.

Over the course of this past weekend, I heard from readers in Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, France, Australia, and Italy. They contacted me via email, Twitter, and Facebook. Some had questions about the book. Others offered kind words. One is a student of foreign languages at a Russian university. His class is reading my book this semester, and he needed some help with a class assignment.  

My most recent novel, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, has been translated into more than 20 languages, so I hear from international readers often. I probably average a couple a day.

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When I saw the pile of emails on Sunday morning, I groaned. I rolled my eyes. It would take at least 30 minutes to reply to them all. I’d be answering questions that I’ve answered a million times and thanking people who I will never meet. Instead of writing, I would be corresponding.

Then I remembered Jenny Slate and how incredibly lucky I am. How this pile of email from around the world represents by own dream come true. How my dream-come-true story is also beautiful, and sometimes I forget it,

Five years ago, I just wanted to publish a book. Receiving mail from readers around the world would’ve been a pipe dream. How quickly I had forgotten.

I answered each one with joy in my heart. Truly.

As I did, I thought about my agent, Taryn Fagerness, who is my partner and friend in this dream. She’s the one responsible for sending my books around the world. Far better books than mine receive far less international  attention, and this is because I have Taryn and those other authors do not.

I thought about my wife, Elysha, who was the first person to tell me to write Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. I had no desire to write that book. I thought it was a stupid idea. I thought it would go nowhere. Thank goodness she is smarter than me. 

And I thought about Jenny Slate. I thought about how important it is to remember how fortunate I am. And I thought about what a jerk I was for being annoyed about the emails that I had to answer.

Hopefully the next time I start acting like an entitled jerk face, I have someone like Jenny Slate to remind me how lucky I am and how beautiful my story has been.

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