Charlie found a whistle. And he was happy.

There are so many great reasons to have children.

I think this needs to be said more often, because whining about the challenges of parenting is a popular pastime in certain corners of this country.

Maybe every corner.

image

I have theories as to why this may be the case, but I’m writing a book on the subject, so you’ll have to wait and see what they are.

Regardless, one of the great things about having kids is the constant reminder about the joy of novelty and simple discovery.

Charlie found my whistle the other day, and it made his day.  

Posted in Family, Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Arrogance may be the perfect replacement to an extra hour or two of sleep

Some fascinating research seems to indicate that dwelling on how tired you are might actually make you more tired, and your perception of the quality of your sleep (regardless of reality) can impact your performance the following day.

I’ve always argued that one of the reasons that I’m able to sleep fewer hours than most people is my ability to sleep efficiently. I am asleep within a minute of closing my eyes each night, I don’t toss and turn throughout the night, and when I awake, I am instantly out of bed.

There is no wasted time in bed. I sleep, and then I leave. There is not lounging in bed in the morning. No book reading or television watching. I may only be in my bed for about four or five hours each night, but I am asleep for all of those hours.

image

Many (including my wife) think that my “efficient sleep” argument is nonsense.

It turns out that even if it’s nonsense, simply believing that it’s true may benefit me, thus making it true.

Huzzah.

Posted in Autobiography, Science | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m going to disagree with “I’m going to push back on that a little.”

“I’m going to push back on that a little.”

A phrase that seems to unfortunately be gaining in popularity, most often used by wishy-washy, namby-pamby cowards who are either:

  1. Afraid of offending the speaker.
  2. Afraid of taking the opposing position in the event that the speaker verbally obliterates that position.
  3. Incapable of an original idea of their own..

“I’m going to push back on that” allows a person to disagree without taking an actual stand.

“I’m going to push back on that” allows a person to question to opinions and ideas without have an opinion or idea of their own.

“I’m going to push back on that a little” is the passive-aggressive way of saying, “I disagree with you” or “You’re wrong” or “I think you’re full of hooey!”

So let’s just stop using that ridiculous phrase. Okay?

Take a stand, damn it. Express an actual opinion. Defend a position. Choose your hill and die upon it if necessary.

Be anything but a passive-aggressive wimp.

image

Posted in Idea, Words | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Life is good when you’re two years-old

image

Posted in Family | Leave a comment

Kolf: Golf played on ice. And yes, we’re going to play it.

A friend sent me this pen and ink drawing from circa 1620 by the artist Hendrick Avercamp and purchased by King George III.

It’s kolf. Golf on ice.

image

Which, of course, is amazing.

image

There’s actually some scholarship on the rise and fall of the kolf (and it’s sister sport, colf), which was apparently (and stupidly) replaced by billiards as the preferred winter sport.

Living in New England, our golf season typically ends in November, and it doesn’t start up again until March or April. For three to five long months, we dream about golf but are unable to play.

Enter kolf.

I sent these images to my golfing buddies, one of whom happens to live on a pond that’s perfect for kolf. He’s also an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, and he is already planning the course, which will include holes sunken into the ice and bunkers made from snow.

It will be cold, and it will be frustrating, but it will also be amazing.

I can’t wait for the pond to freeze.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Boy Scouts encourages rank advancement by making the first three ranks embarrassing and pathetic.

I’ve said many times that Boy Scouts was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The education that I received in Scouting probably contributed more to the person I am today than the entirety of my high school experience.

As a result, I don’t have too many bad things to say about the Boy Scouts. Their policies regarding homosexuality are improved but appalling, and I was never a fan of camp cuisine, but otherwise, it’s a nearly flawless organization in my experience.

But here’s something that has always amused me:

The Boy Scouts is an extreme meritocracy that uses ranks to delineate a boy’s level of achievement. The highest rank that a boy can attain is Eagle.

Before I turned eighteen and graduated out of Scouting, I had attained the second highest rank, Life. I actually had all of the requirements for Eagle (in spades), but an unfortunate set of circumstances prevented me from achieving Eagle.

I remain angry about to this day. Perhaps someday I will write about it.

But it’s the first three ranks that amuse me.

The first is Scout, designated by this patch, which is worn on the breast pocket of the uniform.

image

It is rank automatically conferred upon joining Boy Scouts, but it’s also not technically a rank. It’s a gift. A participation ribbon. So if you’re walking around with this patch, you’re a Scout without a rank.

You’re pathetic.

The first rank that you can earn is Tenderfoot. It actually requires that you demonstrate many useful skills, show measurable improvement in specific levels of  physical fitness, and learn many meaningful things related to first aid, wilderness survival, and more. Most of the requirements would never be taught in a traditional classroom but are at least as valuable.

For that effort, you become a Tenderfoot. A wimp. A wuss. A pushover. Unadventurous. A boy with tender feet.  

image

The second rank is Second Class. It’s requirements are even more demanding. Learn how to use a compass and a knife. Build fires. Cook food outdoors using fire and propane. Learn invaluable first aid skills. Demonstrate knowledge of indigenous plants and animals. Demonstrate your ability to swim. Earn and save money.

It’s a lot. It’s impressive. It’s invaluable.

For that, you become Second Class. Quite literally a second class citizen.

And frankly, a much lamer patch than the Tenderfoot. A reminder of the Scout motto, in case you’ve forgotten. A bit of rope that almost looks like a noose. No eagle or stars or red, white and blue shield.

Just a banner with a noose.

image

Finally you achieve a rank that does not make you sound like a loser:

 First Class. It’s not easy to earn, but once you do, you can proclaim your rank with pride.

Of course, the patch for First Class is simply a combination of Tenderfoot and Second Class patches, so even though you have put those embarrassing days behind you, a reminder of them lives on your breast pocket until you make the next leap to Star then Life and finally Eagle. 

image

Posted in Autobiography, Critic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pineapples once were popular party accessories. And not for eating.

Did you know that pineapples were such a status symbol in 18th century England that you could rent one for the evening to take to a party?

image

This is also the reason there are pineapples atop some many trophies, such as Wimbledon men’s singles trophy.

image

People in 18th century England were very stupid.

Posted in Food and Drink, History/Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My friends are dullards by comparison.

When I see something like this, it makes me feel bad that my friends and I don’t possess similarly witty repartee.

Why can’t my friends be more like Winston Churchill or George Bernard Shaw? Is that asking too much? 

image

Posted in Autobiography, Recommended Reading/Viewing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tiny windows hurt my heart.

The first snowfall of the year took place on November 29. It was enough snow for my kids to run outside and build a snowman.

Other than lifting the middle section atop the bottom section, Clara built the snowman herself, and she and Charlie affixed the eyes, nose, mouth, and other parts completely on their own.

image image 

I felt this odd, elastic-like feeling of both pride and sadness as I watched them finish it off.

My girl is old enough to build a snowman almost completely on her own. Hooray for her.

And…

My girl is old enough to build a snowman almost completely on her own.
She doesn’t need me anymore.

I felt like I was being pulled in both directions simultaneously, because I was. It turns out that the window in which  your child needs your help with snowmen is tiny. Yesterday she wasn’t big enough to help at all, and today she almost doesn’t need me anymore.

image image  image image

Happily, I live in New England, where the weather changes by the minute. Just two days later, our snowman looked like this:

image

One day later, he was gone completely.

Snow will fall again, I’m sure, and with it will be more opportunities to help my children build snowmen while they still need me.

Posted in Family, Parenting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I have 15 jobs. So you probably require my services in one way or another.

As the New Year approaches and the endless possibilities of the coming year loom on the horizon, I always like to take a moment and reset my current occupational status, in the event that you or someone you know will require my services in 2015.

While occupations like teacher and writer seem like fairly obvious inclusions on the list, there are also several less obvious jobs on the list that may seem a little silly at first, but let me assure you that they are not.

Many people thought it was silly back in 1997 when my friend and I decided to become wedding DJs, even though we had no experience, equipment, or knowledge of the wedding industry whatsoever. We simply declared ourselves wedding DJs, bought a pile of equipment that we didn’t know how to use, and began the search for clients.

Nineteen years and more than 400 weddings later, we’re still in business.

The same could be said about my decision to become a minister in 2002. Or a life coach back in 2010. Or a professional best man in 2011. Or last year’s declaration that I was a public speaking coach. Or last week’s announcement that I am now a presentation consultant.

All of these positions have either become profitable ventures or at least received interest from potential clients.

The lesson: If you want to do something, just start doing it.  

So here is a list of my 14 current occupations and an explanation of my services. I hope I can be of service to you in 2015. 
______________________

Teacher. Sorry. I’ve got a job teaching already, and I love it.

But in about four years, a partner and I plan on opening a one-room schoolhouse for students grades K-5, so if you’re looking for a school for your child at that time (or looking to donate money to build the school), contact me.

Writer: In addition to writing novels, I’ve also written a memoir, a book of essays, a rock opera, a tween musical, and a screenplay. I’m also the humor columnist for Seasons magazine.

image image image image image 

I’m always looking for additional writing gigs, in particular a regular opinion column and/or advice column, so if you have a writing job in need of a good writer, contact me.

Wedding DJ: My partner and I are entering our 19th year in the business. We’ve have entertained at more than 400 weddings in that time. We’ve cut back on our business in recent years, ceasing to advertise or even maintain a respectable website. Almost all of our business these days comes through client or venue referrals, as we prefer.

If you’re getting married and need a DJ, contact me. 

Storyteller and public speaker: I deliver keynote addresses, inspirational speeches, and talks on a variety of subjects including education, writing, storytelling, productivity, and more. I’m represented by Macmillan Speakers Bureau.

I’m also a professional storyteller who has performed at more than 60 storytelling events in the last three years and has hosted story slams for literary festivals, colleges, and more. I’m a 15-time Moth StorySLAM champion and GrandSLAM champions whose stories have appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life.

If you need someone to entertain, inspire, inform, or emcee, contact me.  

Founder and producer of Speak Up: My wife and I produce a storytelling show called Speak Up. We are based in Hartford at Real Art Ways with additional shows at venues throughout the region, including local schools and The Mount in Lenox, MA.

image

If you have an audience that would be interested in storytelling, or you’re a storyteller looking to pitch a story for one of our shows, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com.

Minister: In the past ten years, I’ve married 13 couples and conducted baby naming ceremonies and baptisms. I’ll be marrying two more couples in 2015.

If you’re getting married and are in need of a minister, contact me. 

Life coach: In the past four years, I’ve worked with four different clients, assisting them in everything from goal setting to productivity to personal relationships to career development.

If you’re looking to make changes in your life and become a happier and more successful person, contact me.  

Tutor: I tutor students in grade K-12 on everything from general academics to college essay writing.

If you’re the parent of a student in need of academic support, either regularly or occasionally, contact me.

Storytelling and public speaking coach: For the past two years, I’ve been teaching storytelling workshops and coaching storytellers on an individual basis. People often take my workshops in hopes of performing in storytelling shows and competing in story slams, but they also take these workshops to improve job performance, enhance communication skills, and get their friends and family to finally listen to them.

My real mission is to eliminate the scourge of PowerPoint from this planet, one story at a time.

If you’d like to improve your storytelling, public speaking, and/or communication skills, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com and get on our mailing list. 

Writing camp coordinator and instructor: Last year my wife and I launched Writer’s Abroad, a four week long summer writing camp for students ages 11-16. We had an outstanding inaugural season and plan on an even better second year in 2015.

If you are the parent of a child ages 11-16 who loves to write and/or could benefit from four weeks of intensive writing instruction designed to improve skills and inspire writers, this camp may be for you. Contact me.

Presentation consultant: Since posting about this position a week ago, I have heard from two people who have expressed interest in hiring me for their fairly new companies at some point in the future. I may also have the opportunity to take on a partner in this business.

If you are a person who delivers content via meetings, presentations, workshops, etc. and would like to improve your communication skills, contact me.

Professional Best Man: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, four grooms and two reality television producers have inquired about hiring me for their weddings and television shows that are wedding related. Geographical constraints forced me to reject all their offers thus far. I am still awaiting my first gig.

Productivity consultant: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2013, I’ve had one inquiry about my services.

If you would like to become a more productive person in your personal or professional life and are willing to make changes in order to achieve this goal, contact me.

image

Professional double date companion: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you’re dating someone for the first time or have been on several dates and need that important second or third opinion on the person in question, contact me.

Professional gravesite visitor: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you have a gravesite in Connecticut in need of visiting, contact me.

Posted in Autobiography, Books, DJ, Idea, Moth, Rock Opera, Screenwriting, SOMETHING MISSING, Speak Up, Storytelling, Teaching, UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO, Writers Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment