November 25, 2009

Live Like You Were Dying?

Posted in Just Darn Clever, Top 6 at 11:37 am by Andrew

Their son died when he was 10.
His wife was killed when their daughters were only 4 and 7.
He lost his parents when he was 15.

We’ve all read heart-breaking stories about people losing loved ones under tragic circumstances. For those of us lucky enough to have been spared such anguish thus far in our lives, these stories really hit us in the gut.

It’s difficult to imagine the pain of losing a child or a spouse. And the general theme of such stories is to live in the now…to appreciate what you have…to not sweat the small stuff…to cherish every moment with your family.

And I think we all walk away with those sentiments. It’s such a cliché, but they really do “put things in perspective.” For awhile.

But for how long? We may walk over and give our kids a hug. We may have a great family dinner that night. We may listen more intently as our children describe their day that evening. But do you wake up the next morning and your first thought is to appreciate the small things?

My answer is certainly “no.” And honestly, how could we? It’s just not realistic to live every moment as if it were your last. It makes for a great country song – and every time I hear it, I’m moved practically to tears. So the emotion isn’t lost on me. In fact, even a Folgers commercial this morning choked me up.

But I’m also a realist, and I believe in another saying: “Life is for the living.” Life is broad, challenging and exhilerating. Sure, it includes the times your heart clogs your throat, watching your daughter sing a song in the kindergarten show, seeing your son hit a triple, and witnessing each of them walk down the aisle.

But life also includes doing the laundry, the dishes and changing the litter box. It includes getting frustrated when the kids don’t do what you say, fail to leave for school on time and lie to you about the cookies. That’s life.

So how do we reconcile these two realities? How can we cherish our son’s first date yet stress when he misses curfew? Here’s my answer – those are not opposing realities. They’re one reality…called life.

We need to stop feeling guilty for living, engaging and enduring all the minutiae that life includes. We can’t look adoringly at our children every moment. When the kids break the window, we can’t simply appreciate that they’re cancer-free.

Life isn’t black and white; it’s gray. Black is over-reacting to life’s troubles. White is being thankful for every minute of life. Gray? Gray is showing up 10 minutes late to the school concert because you can’t find your son’s black pants, being moved to tears by his trombone solo, cleaning the cat vomit from the carpet when you get home, and kissing your kids goodnight in bed. Blend together the good and the bad, and it comes out gray. A beautiful shade of gray.

So go ahead, shed a tear the first time your son doesn’t kiss you good-bye before school. Treat that indiscernible finger-painting as a masterpiece. Pull your hair out when your daughter yet again loses her car keys. Life happens, and there’s nothing wrong with reacting to it. Be glad you’re not dying; you can start living like you’re dying when you’re actually dying.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my family and our health. I’m thankful for all the wonderful moments we have together. I appreciate that I have room to grow, to become a better parent and a better spouse.

I can’t wait to sit down with my family tomorrow, surrounded by a true feast, though I’m fully aware of the kitchen stress that must first be endured. That’s fine. I’ll take it.

Life is good, warts and all.

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November 5, 2009

The Pink Movement – A Girl’s Only Hope!

Posted in Fun w/Photos, Top 6 tagged , , at 9:47 am by Andrew

Surely you’ve seen it in the sporting goods aisles — the pink baseballs, pink gloves, pink cleats, and pink soccer balls.

pink baseball glovepink soccer cleatspink-soccer-ball

This pink movement has existed in the sports world for several years, and it’s not limited to the basics of baseball and soccer. Even masculine pursuits like boxing, archery and shooting have gone pink.

pink boxing glovespink bowpink BB gun

Granted, it’s easy to scoff at these pink sporting goods, but a second look reveals a very serious issue. Indeed, there’s nothing funny about gender fairness. And by the third or fourth look, you’ll realize this may be the greatest challenge facing our generation. We owe it to our daughters to embrace the pink movement!

How else can we wean girls from their sedentary lifestyles? How else can we draw their attention from easy-bake ovens and doll collections? How else can we teach these fragile beings to run…to throw…to not squint in the sun?

HOW?

Let’s pink their world. You think that’s funny? There’s nothing funny about the fairer sex, dammit. And if we need to spike their drinks by coloring everything pink, by God, I’ll do it!

I’m not alone on this. In addition to the heroes in the sporting goods industry, people aroundpink calculator the world are picking up this pink cross. For example, we all know girls are intimidated by math…even scared of numbers. Fear not, Virginia, there is a pink calculator awaiting your dainty fingertips. Even textbook publishers now offer math books printed with pink ink. 

Religious leaders are seeing the pink light as well.pink crucifix For centuries, girls have been confused by faith, seeking spiritual guidance but finding only confusion. Let’s ease their pain — buy your daughter a pink crucifix, for the love of God!

Clearly, this movement is bigger than pink soccer balls. Consider these heart-warming stories:

  • Harvard and Yale now print diplomas for girls on pink paper, making it easier for these beautiful creatures to transition into the real world.
  • Some communities are paving their streets with pink asphalt so that girls will feel more comfortable driving. Yes Nancy…there’s a path for you in this world, and we’ve made it pink so you don’t get lost.
  • Cities are printing pink ballots so that women aren’t forced to merely copy their husbands’ votes.

This big pink snowball is gaining speed, but our work’s not done. Giant trees stand in our way, and they must be chopped down. That’s not just a snappy metaphor — girls need an obvious, clear cut, downhill path if they’re going to get anywhere…and they need pink road signs. I call upon my fellow patriots to address the following:

The true energy crisis in America is how confused our little ladies are at the gas pump…so many buttons…such odd shapes and figures. It’s time for pink gas pumps, Mr. Exxon. And it wouldn’t hurt to tint the gas, either.

Men, how many times have you come to the aid of a bewildered damsel at the airport, explaining what a “terminal” is or helping them find their seat on the aisle? Airlines must do their part with pink tickets, pink seats…pink airplanes!

Sadly, even the world of laundry — the one refuge where a woman should feel at ease — is rife with questions. Are top loaders only for shirts? Do dryer sheets come fitted or flat? For God’s sake Maytag, throw these ladies a pink bone and deliver some pink appliances!

These are formidable challenges, but aren’t our women worth it? So the next time you’re in Target, realize that the pink soccer ball on the shelf is actually an angel sent by God. Embrace it, buy it and hand it to a poor girl in the parking lot.

She’ll kick it all the way to the Promised Land.

September 23, 2009

One Man’s Flagpole

Posted in Fun w/Photos, Top 6 tagged , , at 10:21 am by Andrew

There’s a house in my part of town with a flagpole in the yard. No big deal, right? Yet every time I drive by, I’m struck by the sight. Dumbstruck, even. And despite having seen this flagpole dozens of times, I always have the same reaction…

Flag Pole

Really? Who flies a windsock from a flagpole? Seriously?

I’m no expert on flag etiquette, but I do have a few things in my history that should qualify me to pass judgement on this one:

  1. I have a healthy sense of patriotism.
  2. My sons are Cub Scouts.
  3. I’m not a total lummox.

So with those qualifications on my resume, I can say with some certainty that flagpoles are designed to fly…oh…I don’t know…flags!

Every time I drive by the house, I have to fight the urge to knock on the door and quiz the owner. I’d love to meet Mr. and Mrs. Windsock, sit on their porch, share a glass of RC Cola, and discuss their views on America…and lawn art. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this breach of common sense.

In fact, to ease my odd need for closure on this one, I’ve created a few scenarios under which we could all understand the need to…fly a windsock from a flagpole. They are:

Scenario #1: Mr. Windsock originally had a homemade wind chime hanging from the flagpole — a beautiful design that featured his late mother’s best silverware encircling her cast iron skillet. But he said “it made such a racket that it scared away all those squirrels I like to feed…and occasionally shoot at.” So up went the windsock.

Scenario #2: Mrs. Windsock enjoyed membership in the “Decorative Flag of the Month” Club. She looked forward to flying new beauties each month – the groundhog with sunglasses in February, the bunny rabbit in knee socks in April, and her favorite…the polar bear wearing the Christmas sweater with deer on it. Precious! But when the economy tanked, the Windsock family was forced to cut back on such indulgences. So up went the windsock.

Scenario #3: For years…a good 10-12…Mr. Windsock’s favorite shirt was a stunning, red, white and blue rugby. A beautifully designed “flag shirt,” complete with stars and stripes. He wore it to every festival, church picnic, and of course, weddings. It stole the show at the 4th of July parade and Labor Day softball tournament. But one fateful day, the shirt took a direct shot from a mustard-catsup-relish bomb dropped from Mr. Windsock’s brat. Try as she might, Mrs. Windsock could not erase that stain. So with sadness in his heart, Mr. Windsock retired that flag shirt in a ceremony befitting the service it had provided him for a decade plus — he burned it in the backyard at sunrise. To ease his pain, like buying a new puppy after your long-time pet has passed, Mrs. Windsock bought her husband a new symbol of patriotism – a fluttering, vinyl, conical flag-like homage to America. And up went the windsock.

What I’ve demonstrated here is that we all need to ease up before passing judgement. Whether it’s a windsock on a flagpole, a lawn ornament collection of plastic raccoons, or even Astroturf in place of a yard, there’s bound to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for all manner of lawn art.

And if I ever do have the pleasure of making acquaintance with Mr. and Mrs. Windsock, I will share their story with all of you. Until then, I can only pause and nod whenever I pass the Windsock Pole. Godspeed America!

September 11, 2009

Whose Muse?

Posted in Just Darn Clever, Parenting, Top 6 tagged , , at 10:35 am by Andrew

I was listening to an interview with a musician talking about his new album. He answered the usual questions about inspiration, muse, etc., and the musician said something along these lines: “When I started writing songs for this album, I wasn’t sure what direction I’d go, but I had enough courage to let the inspiration take me where it wanted.”

OK, so my first instinct, like yours, was to ridicule such talk. “Courage to let the inspiration take me”? Isn’t that just artsy speak for “I wasn’t very motivated”?

Mock if we must, but problem is, it works. The artist lobby has succeeded in convincing the rest of us that art and artists are other-worldly. A strand of copper wire may be a strand of copper wire, but place a tag in front of it with the words “Modern Rage,” and suddenly it’s art. Deeply moving, emotionally complex art.

So I realized my attitude was all wrong. Rather than ceding to artists the exclusive rights to “following their muse,” the rest of us need to change course and find our own inner artists. Indeed, it’s time to saddle-up the muse and ride him wherever he takes you.

Next time you fill out that monthly sales report for your boss, “let your spirit lead you” as you artfully create numbers based not in fact (or revenue), but in spirit. It’s not about how much you sold…how much do you feel you could have sold?

When the police pull you over for doing 40 in a 30…just say “I was following my muse, officer, and she was doing at least 50.”

Perhaps those examples are too rogue for your taste…too modern artsy, and you’re more of the subtle impressionist school. Hey, that’s cool. There’s a muse for that too, and you’re less likely to get fired or a speeding ticket. Try these muse-infused efforts:

  • Next time you mow the lawn, instead of the boring back-and-forth or shrinking perimeter (you know that one), spend a few moments channeling the yard gods. Have some courage, and soon you’ll be artfully guiding your lawnmower through some free-form swaths that reflect the oppression of the working class in emerging post-revolutionary Mexico. Your neighbors will be amazed.
  • Stuck in a rut with your kid’s lunches? Still making that boring ham and mayonnaise or PB&J? Or worse, Capri Sun and Pop-Tarts? Be brave and run with the culinary spirits, people. You’ll be cranking out cashew-encrusted bologna with seared raisinets. Or pan-fried seasonal gummy-bears in a kool-aid reduction. Teachers will be so impressed, you’ll become a guest lecturer in art class.

 So yes, it’s time we all show some courage and follow our muse. Place your faith in the spirits and let them guide you to new levels of delusionment…I mean, enlightenment. That’s what I did. In the beginning of this piece, I didn’t know what to write…where to go with it…what to say. But I trusted my muse, I got out of the way, and enjoyed the journey with my inner word nymphs. And look where they took me?

Nowhere.

July 31, 2009

Obama’s Beer Garden Summit

Posted in Fun w/Photos, Top 6 tagged , , , at 9:48 am by Andrew

I give Obama a lot of credit for his handling of his mishandling of Gates-Gate. He clearly dropped the ball when he described the policeman’s actions as “stupidly.” But instead of avoiding the problem and simply invading a country, as some presidents might do, he followed up and convened the Obama Beer Garden Summit. Well played.

[Tangent: Am I wrong, or has the media not labeled this situation “Gates-Gate”? Seems like an obvious term, given everyone’s penchant to tag “gate” on the end of everything. Now it’s finally clever…and no one uses it! Oh well…another DwyerTime original.]

Anyway, the photos from the beer summit provide unlimited material for comedians and the clever, and I can’t wait to see what Saturday Night Live eventually comes up with. Should be classic.

So, I have the photo here, and I want to point out a few things…

Obama Beer Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, wouldn’t it be hysterical if Biden’s mug was nearly empty while everyone else’s went practically untouched? You can imagine Joe downing his brew and then plowing through the mixed nuts while waiting for his next beer. Patient no more, Biden flags down the butler and says “Hey, beer me.” The server then has to inform the VP, that, “Uhmm, I’m sorry sir, but the President gave us strict orders that you were on a one beer limit.” Biden responds with a “Son of a… OK, then at least bring me more of these mixed nutties.”

You can also see in the photo that Officer Crowley is in mid-drink. Word is this is when he directed at Gates one of those “[cough]loser” barbs under his breath. Gates missed it, thankfully, but Biden saw it and was all “Yeeeah Buuooy!” and rewarded Sullivan with a high-five.

Apart from the important racial tolerance talk, Obama was proud to make headway on another front. The President has long been jealous of the First Lady’s power over the fashion world, what with the surge in popularity of women showing off their guns in sleeveless dresses, even during formal state dinners. So while Michelle is boosting J. Crew, Barack is showing his own sway — his patio table is a huge hit, and across the country people are buying up the same model…just $29 at Wal-Mart.

Seriously, wouldn’t you expect a nicer patio table at the White House? Something in a teak or a classic glass/wrought iron combo? This table looks like a Rubbermaid model they assembled that morning. And the chairs…they’re classic low-riders for solo-sunning — not appropriate for chatting tableside with friends. Biden nearly busted his gut every time he had to curl himself up to the nuts.

It’s also interesting that Obama and Biden shed their coats and rolled up their sleeves (just two folds, of course), while guests Gates and Crowley remained formal. Not surprising, I guess, because even though you’re drinking beer with the Leader of the Free World, you’re still his wingman, not his equal. I also give credit for everyone dodging the classic white-collar mistake — having your dress pants exceed your sock coverage and exposing the calf. That’s bush-league, and these four gentlemen stayed classy, America.

The only trouble during the summit was when Biden leaned too far back in his chair, flipping over backward and kicking the table in the process. Servants quickly uprighted him and all was good.

So again, I give Obama tons of credit for handling things with deft and cool. It’s only a matter of time before we see Barack on the cover of Mens’ Health…again.

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