99 more reasons that I love Elysha Dicks

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary.

Last year I listed 99 reasons that I love my wife.

Today I listed 99 new ones.
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1. She was not aware of the most recent royal birth until someone told her hours after it had happened

2. She does not play stupid iPhone or Facebook games

3. She asked me when Hard Knocks is starting again

4. She can navigate any mall flawlessly but almost nothing else 

5. The complete lack of jealousy in her heart  

6. The way she runs her hands through the back of my hair while I’m driving

7. She taught me the difference between knitting and sewing

8. She still gets angry when I confuse knitting and sewing

9. She threw away all my A-neck tee shirts when we began dating

10. She does not gossip

11. She has never whined about needing coffee or needing Starbucks 

12. She has never raised her voice to me or our children

13. The way she drapes her legs across me as she sleeps

14. Her macaroni-and-cheese and sloppy Joe combo

15. The way she looks in shorts

16. Her brilliant, understated, hilarious hosting of Speak Up

17. The way she’s consistently funny but doesn’t know it

18. Her brutal but effective editing of my stories for the stage

19. She knows how to fold a fitted sheet

20. Her unfounded faith in a good manicure

21. Her ability to garner hundred of responses on Facebook to the most basic and benign question

22. The mobiles that she made for our children that hang above our children’s beds and will likely hand over our grandchildren’s beds someday 

23. She doesn’t read People, US, or any of those other gossipy, trivial Hollywood, magazines

24. Her ability to find a consignment shop bargain

25. Her unwavering forgiveness of others who don’t deserve it

26. Her appreciation for my willingness to say yes to almost anything

27. She made her own handbag but never brags about it

28. Her ability to sellout all of our Speak Up storytelling events through word-of-mouth alone

29. The number of times my friends have expressed envy over my choice of wife

30. Her enrapturing read-aloud voice

31. Her unrelenting attempts to get me to try new foods

32. Convincing me to give Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me a try

33. The palpable, almost visible pride that she expresses in me

34. Her heated defense of me when I am unjustifiably maligned

35. Holding her hand while walking the streets of NYC

36. Our in-depth post-Moth StorySLAM analyses of each story

37. Her ongoing, daily, unwavering sacrifices for our children

38. Her unwarranted fear of the lawn mower

39. The way that she somehow, someway cuts our children’s fingernails (something I could never do)

40. Our ability to communicate nonverbally at almost freakish levels

41. Her adoration for her nieces and nephews

42. Her ability to get to know my large, extended family better than me

43. The way in which she meaningfully connects with people via Facebook without immersing herself into Facebook and making Facebook haters sound stupid in their inability to understand the effective use of Facebook.

44. Her choice of our daughter’s name

45. The way she looks when her hair is pulled back away from her face

46. They way she can make an old pair of sweatpants and one of my tee shirts look incredible

47. The kisses that she presses from her hand to the shower door for me and our children while she is showering

48. Her appreciation for This American Life, Radio Lab, and other somewhat nerdy audio content

49. Our near-uniform taste in television

50. Her legs

51. The wrinkle between her eyes that forms when she is confused

52. The way she taps her lips with four fingers when pondering the way to word something

53. The way in which she is able to almost instantly connect with young people in truly meaningful ways

54. The unadulterated joy that she experiences while holding a baby

55. Her complete lack of helicopter parenting

56. They way in which she is so much like her parents and so different than her parents simultaneously

57. Her remarkable courage to be herself  

58. The infinitesimal amounts of makeup that she wears  

59. The way that she has passed her love and knowledge of show tunes onto our daughter

60. The pride that I feel in knowing that I am always the man with the most beautiful woman in the room and truly believing it

61. Her unwavering demand that we get up, get out, and do something in the world when so often our daughter and I would prefer remain at home, eating cereal and living like animals

62. The way she looks in a straw hat

63. Her embracing of my macaroni-and-cheese and hot dog combination

64. The music that fills our home thanks to her

65. Her often untapped, rarely seen ability to write exceptionally well

66. Our uniform understanding that a hot dog is best without any condiments

67. The way I lie in bed every night, still in disbelief that I got to marry this woman

68. Her apparent inability to age

69. Talking to her about our perfect wedding

70. Her desire to want to know everything that happened to me during my most recent round of golf

71. “The best part of your day” tradition that she started at dinner each night

72. The love for art and creation that she has passed onto both of our children

73. The way that she has taught our daughter to identify and appreciate flowers

74. Her love for pets that make her miserable at times

75. Her unwavering belief that everything will be okay and her ability to occasionally transfer that belief to me

76. Overhearing her speak about the pride she has in my accomplishments

77. The way every wedding makes me yearn to be dancing with her

78. The smile that consumes her face when she speaks about her alma mater.

79. The Christmas traditions that she has embraced and shared with our children

80. The indescribable joy that I feel when she laughs at a line from a story that I have written or am telling

81. She can name more than half of the Supreme Court justices

82. The way she looks with her bare feet on the dashboard during long car rides

83. The way that any guest coming over for a meal is an opportunity to scan at least five cookbooks for the perfect recipe

84. The way that she puts our daughter’s hair in pigtails

85. Her ability to plan for almost every in-car contingency in order to keep our children quiet and happy

86. Her ability to operate, manipulate, and repair computer technology without ever asking for assistance from me

87. The way in which we divide and conquer when it comes to so many of our household responsibilities

88. Her willingness to allow me to continue living even after I wash an item of clothing on an incorrect setting

89. Her remarkably calm, quick thinking in an emergency

90. The way that she makes each day that she has at home with our children meaningful and special

91. The way she looks in a bathing suit and a pair of sunglasses

92. The way that ordering a drink and ice cream are almost identically complicated processes for her

93. Her calm, measured, reasonable approach to handling our daughter’s peanut allergy

94. The way she sends me photographs of our children at precisely the moment that I am missing them most

95. The way that none of my performances are nearly as rewarding when she is not in the audience 

96. Her unwillingness to over-complicate things and her desire for simplicity whenever possible

97. Her willingness to listen and seriously consider my crazy ideas before dismissing them

98. The way I get to simply be me, in a way I have never been me before, now that I am with her.

99. Our wedding vows, both hers and mine, which I read often.  

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The amazing, astounding Abercrombie adults

There are people standing inside Abercrombie & Fitch stores throughout America at this very moment.

They have found their way into its chilled, cologne infused, overly sonorous interior because they want to be there.

They choose to be there.

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I’m not talking about teenage girl fingering a pile of stretchy jeans or the teenage boy standing beside a rack of long sleeve tee-shirts, imagining what the teenage girl would look like without her stretchy jeans.

I’m talking adults. Hard boiled men and women who pay their own phone bills and know how to cook a steak. 

These men and woman are wandering the interior of Abercrombie & Fitch stores at this very moment because they appreciate and desire the wares that the purveyor of the store has to offer.

They have come seeking tee shirts with corporate labels emblazoned across  chests that will simultaneously endorse a corporation that produces the clothing in sweatshops around the world while also pronouncing something of import about the wearer: 

“I purchase clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch because I like it. Know this.”

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Perhaps they didn’t hear the CEO of this company declare his sole allegiance to attractive customers by stating that “a lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids.”

Maybe they missed the lawsuit won by a woman with the prosthetic limb who was required to work in the stockroom because she “did not fit the brand’s All-American image.”

It’s possible that they didn’t notice that the teenage models featured in their clothing ads aren’t actually wearing any clothing. 

With blinders firmly affixed, they exchange money earned from hours spent in crammed in cubicles and broiling over short-order grills for the opportunity to broadcast to the world that they willingly spent a portion of their precious Sunday afternoon and a portion of their even more precious paycheck in an Abercrombie & Fitch store.

The world never ceases to amaze me.

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I worry that George R.R. Martin will die before finishing his Song of Fire and Ice series, and yes, that’s not a nice thing to think.

George R.R. Martin is the author of the popular Song of Fire and Ice series which you may know better as Game of Thrones.

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He’s currently writing the sixth of that was originally going to be seven books in the series, though he recently hinted that there may be an eighth.

Martin is 65 years-old. He’s not exactly the picture of health.

It took him six years to write the most recent book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, and it has taken him 15 years to write the five books written so far.

At this pace, he will complete the final two books by the time he is 72 years-old, and if there really is an eighth book planned, he will be close to 80 when he finally wraps the series.

For these reasons, I have decided to wait to read the books, fearing his demise before the series is complete.

This is not an entirely unfounded position. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (which you should all read immediately) was nearly cut short when King was hit by a van and nearly killed in 1999 with three books to go.

When I first heard about the accident, my first thoughts went to The Dark Tower’s Roland and his ka-tet. As saddened as I was to hear about King’s death (it was originally announced that King had died in the accident), I was equally distraught over the idea that Roland’s journey to The Dark Tower would never be realized.  

Perhaps fearful that he may never finish the series if he didn’t work quickly,  King promptly completed the final three books in the series  in 2004 (publishing one in 2003 and two in 2004).

Then he added a book for good measure in 2012.

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So yes, I worry about Martin’s ability to complete his masterpiece. He’s not a young man, and he seems to require about five years to finish a book. I was nearly left hanging in the midst of a masterpiece once before. I don’t want that to happen again.

Apparently I am not alone in this sentiment. Others have expressed this concern openly and often. Martin recently addressed the many people who have expressed concerns over his ability to complete the series before his demise:

“I find that question pretty offensive, when people start speculating about my death and my health. So f**k you to those people.”

He added a middle finger for good measure.

I deserve the rebuke. He’s right. It’s not exactly polite to speculate about an author’s longevity. If I were him, I’d be angry, too.

But when you want to stick it to someone like me, there are four words even more satisfying than simple vulgarity:

“I told you so.”

Finish the books, George. Make me look like a fool for ever doubting you.

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Productivity tip #8: A succinct and accurate description of my work flow

In the past month, three people have asked me to describe my work flow.

I wasn’t sure what to say at first (because I honestly still don’t understand the question), but I’ve settled on an answer:

My work flow? I’m busy getting things done while others are pondering their work flow.

Nothing is ever as complicated as people make out to be.

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No one talks baby off the hill

For about 15 minutes, my daughter had no interest in my cousin’s wedding. While the bride and groom danced, she opted to sit on the side of a hill and pout, as five year-old children are wont to do from time to time.

Then this little boy went over to her and chatted with her for about five minutes.

A minute later, she happily rejoined us.

I have no idea what he said. But I watched him like a hawk for the rest of the night.

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The exuberance of elderly warriors

One of the students in my writing camp introduced me to this beautiful, amazing, perfect video.

I can’t recommend this enough.

Sigur Rós – Hoppípolla from sigur rós on Vimeo.

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Serious geography geek material

I am a geography geek. When I was eight years-old, I was given an atlas and a globe for my birthday. I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, this was also was the first and only birthday party that I ever hosted for friends, so the three boys who attended my party stared in disbelief as I opened these gifts.

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I later used my knowledge (and some free maps that I ordered from AAA) to help a friend plan an unsanctioned hitchhiking trip to visit his uncle in Ohio.

Thankfully that friend never made the trip, though the incident led to the plot of my second novel, Unexpectedly Milo.

If you are a geography geek or just generally curious about the world, I have two truly outstanding videos to share with you today.

The first brilliantly explains the American empire, with its many islands scattered throughout the world.

The second describes the surprising and bizarre border between the United States and Canada.

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The boys at the Big Swim Meet had no idea how fleeting boyhood is. Once gone, you will long for it forever.

This bit of newspaper was printed circa 1930. It describes the “Big Swimming Meet” at Yawgoog Scout Reservation, the same place where I would spend my summers half a century later.

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As a boy, I also participated in swimming meets as the paper describes. Every Saturday afternoon, troops would gather at the waterfront to compete against each other in events not unlike the ones described in this clipping.

Like the boys who finished last in the competition so long ago, I also camped at Tuocs for a time.

Amongst the many events in which I competed was The Marathon Swim. One Scout from each troop competed in a sprint through water and over floating docks. It was the final event of every swim meet, and the honor of competing was given to the troop’s strongest swimmer. I won the event three years in a row and was awarded a “Mr. Marathon Swim” certificate from my grizzled Scoutmaster that I still have this day. It’s a small, handwritten, fairly generic certificate, but at the time, it meant a great deal to me.

Good times. Sadly, good times now lost forever.

I look at a newspaper clipping like this, and photos like these, taken at Yawgoog in the 1960s, and think about all of these boys, now old men if they’re lucky and dead if they’re not, and feel a deep sadness for all that has been lost.

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For all that they have lost. For all that I have lost.

Old photographs like these remind me of the inexorable grinding away of our lives by the specter of time. I see the smiling faces of boys in this singular moment of their lives, with the unadulterated joy of boyhood mixing with the promise of so many summers ahead, and I think about how fleeting boyhood truly is.

It’s one of the most special times in a boy’s life, and it’s over in the wink of an eye.

For the boys of Tuocs, Frontier and Musketeer campsites, that Big Swimming Meet was everything to them on that day. It was a moment that many thought would never be forgotten. It was simplicity, comradery, competition, and laughter. It was a time before the demands of life, the pressures of romantic love, the weight of regret, and the sadness of loss began chipping away at their innocent spirits.

Yawgoog was a blessing for me and so many boys because it removed us from the real world for a short time and brought us back to simpler days. No homework. No part time job.  No parents. No girls.

Just wind and water, dirt and stone, and boyhood friends, living amongst the trees and clouds in a quiet, enduring peace.

Those boyhood days are so fleeting.

I find myself wanting to reach into the photograph, reach back through time to the boys at the Big Swimming Meet, and warn them of how quickly adulthood will seize them by the throats and thrust new pressures and responsibilities upon them. I want to tell them to breathe in the air, squint into the sunshine, dip their toes into the pond water, and mark their moment in the sun in some way that will make it last forever. For them and for us who will follow. 

I want to tell them to remember. Remember hard. I want to tell them that there will be days, long after the Big Swimming Meet is finished and their time at Yawgoog has come to an end, when they will long for that happiness and simplicity again, if only for a day.

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Someone ruined cookies, too.

Yesterday is was bastardized ice cream. Now someone has gone and ruined cookies, too.

Actually, I don’t think these qualify as cookies anymore.

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Vegetable ice cream is wrong.

Look. Some artisanal jackass managed to find a way to ruin ice cream.

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