Monkey See, Monkey Do

October 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Photo credit: mugur from

About a year ago, I started to eat more spicy food again. I went through a phase in college where there wasn’t very much that was too hot, but that phase went to the wayside. It came back when I realized that crushed red peppers were great on pizza and pasta. And then jalapenos. I’m slowly working my way up to habaneros. I’ll get there one day.

It’s been funny to watch my son lately. He asked for just a sprinkle of daddy’s peppers on his spaghetti. And he liked that, until he got a bit with some concentrated heat. Then, he saw me use regular black pepper in tomato soup. That was much more in his range.

Now, he’s killing things with black pepper. I mean, more black pepper than should be used on anything, ever, and he’s pouring it on. You know, like dad. Cause, “We both like hot spicy food.”

This habit won’t hurt him in the long run. Unless he turns into certain of his uncles, who can’t find anything hot enough on the face of the planet. And that’s mostly emotional damage.

But, if he follows daddy as closely on other things as he has tried to on this pepper thing, I might be in trouble. I’m all the example he has, and that’s kind of weighty.

Categories: life

Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday

October 8, 2012 1 comment

Photo credit: mensatic from

Last night my son said,

Mommy, do you know how I wish the week went? Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday.

It was cute.

His rationale was solid, too: Wednesday is library day, plus he gets to see his friends at church. Saturday is an unusual day because daddy doesn’t have to work (most of the time) and fun things happen. Sunday is another opportunity to see his friends at church, plus daddy doesn’t work, plus, well, it’s good.

As sweet as his desire for “only the good days” is, I feel a certain amount of responsibility as his dad to try to help him love the regular days, too. Tuesday is maybe not as much fun as Saturday, but it’s not a bad day.

I realize too that part of his attitude is received from me. I generally treat weekdays like some sort of affliction to be warded off by garlic, wooden stakes, and Team-Jacob. Or, in real life, coffee, persistence, and sugar.

I don’t want him to be like that because I don’t really want me to be like that. As I learned from my Papa in a wedding speech a long time ago, contentment is a great thing. I want that for my son. Even on Tuesday.

Categories: life

Everything you know, you learn from your siblings (ode to my wife)

October 5, 2012 1 comment

I watched my little girl try to play the other night. All the older kids at this particular church function were gone, being occupied. So, it was Grace and other kids around her age who were left to the quiet, watchful eyes of their parents.

Grace took this opportunity to try to play with a friend. It was adorable. It was cute. And she borrowed all her moves from her big brother. “Hmm… there’s a girl who’s littler than me. I can hold her hand… hmm, she’s squirmy. I can bring a book to share. She could drink my water. We can fight over puzzle pieces.”

Of course, beyond the cuteness factor, the big surprise to me was watching her mimic her big brother. I knew that what we did with our first child was important, but I don’t think I was cognizant of the trickle-down effect it would have.

It makes me all the more glad that my boy loves his little sister, and tries (most of the time) to play nicely with her. He’s lighting the way for her. And it’s working.

It was a good reminder, too, that while I’m working away in my office, my wife oversees countless interactions that set standards of behavior, reinforce good habits and correct bad, and generally teach our children how to love. What a huge, never-ending, all-encompassing job!

Categories: life

On Productivity / Obsessing with Success

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

My RSS reader seems to be overrun these days by posts about how to succeed, how to be more productive, how to get more out of life, how to turn into a zombie working killer robot. Not the last one maybe, but the first few, definitely.

And it makes me wonder: is this new, or is this the same old challenge mankind has always faced, just with new terminology applied to it?

I think it’s at least partially a reflection of the philosophy of our times: we measure our value based on what we produce, and – by proxy – what we get for what we produce.

In a widget factory, of course, it’s easy to see what you produced. You start the day with no widgets in front of you. At the end of the day you have a large pile of widgets in front of you.

Maybe it’s not a fluke that many (most… all?) of these productivity / success posts come from people who are engaged in work that is hard to quantify. I know that there’s a certain satisfaction for me in doing work that is noticeable. I’m thinking of cutting the grass. It’s one of those obvious before/after type of jobs. The yard goes from unkempt to well-kept. It’s a good feeling, and it’s immediate.

When you’re building marketing plans or developing a business or trying to be a Web 2.0 (are we still on web 2.0?) entrepreneur, those results are much harder to quantify. And it may be that’s why we have this glut of success defining, productivity encouraging content.


Here’s the dangerous part: or we’re just a lazy bunch of wannabes. For every success story, there are plenty more people who decide to run their own “information” business, and then promptly spend months on Reddit, Digg, Fark, you name it, while their business never develops.

I’m just saying – that’s a possibility.

Categories: Business

Like it for the sake of liking it

October 3, 2012 1 comment

Russ Ramsey’s Rabbit Room posts about Stryper have really stuck with me. The basic gist is, we’re culturally very into irony. It’s not as cool to love a thing for its own sake as it is to be a fan of it for the humor you find in it. It’s probably not cool to love a thing for its own sake at all.

We’re good at that for a lot of reasons. There’s a drive to be a part of the crowd, and there’s an equal (maybe greater) drive to be smarter than the crowd. I see it in myself with things like Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me, Maybe and Mumford and Sons.

In the case of Call Me, Maybe, it’s about the catchiest song since Forget You by Ceelo Green (another song that you’re too cool to like). It’s so catchy that my four-year-old rapidly declared it “my favorite song!” It’s that kind of infectious.

So of course, I must be too cool to like it. I mean, I’m not into shallow stuff like that. I like obscure stuff. Clearly. Look at my beard.

It’s gotten even worse in me. Mumford and Sons is a band that fits well within the gristmill of the type of music I genuinely enjoy listening to (somewhere between The Swell Season, Great Big Sea, and Dashboard Confessional, I guess?). But I’m a little hesitant to like them. They’re a little too much of a bandwagon, you know? I mean, I don’t want to look like I’m following the crowd.

And it’s oh so much posturing and trying to be cool. I’m 29-going-30. Who am I worried about looking cool with?

Do you know the primary reason people follow the crowd? Awareness. If Mumford and Sons hadn’t become somewhat a bandwagon to hop on, I wouldn’t know who they were. That should have nothing to do with liking them.

Here’s what I want to tell myself (about 10 years ago, ideally):

Like the things that you like. Life is too short to not listen to music you like, to not read books that you like, to not be yourself. Your inability to enjoy a thing just for its own sake is robbery. But you’re robbing yourself. Stop it!

Categories: Uncategorized

At Walmart

October 2, 2012 1 comment

I made a quick stop at Walmart yesterday on my way home. I was zooming through the aisles. My approach to Walmart is roughly this: how little time can I spend here? Still too much, but at least it keeps me moving.

The end of the Juice aisle happens to face the little girls clothes. What I saw there made me stop and smile: A big, tough old grandpa (a little reminiscent of my Papa, actually), holding the smallest, brightest pink sweater that I’ve ever laid eyes on.  He wasn’t just holding it, though. He was evaluating it. You know, is it pink enough? Is it cute enough? Is it the right size for my granddaughter?

This was a guy who, by virtue of where I live and my judgement-bias, likely worked all his life in a mine or around heavy equipment. But whatever tough-guy attitudes he might have, they all went out the window. For that moment, he was going to be the grandpa that bought the best pink sweater he could find.  I loved it.

And then I pushed the cart as fast as I could to the bread aisle, checked out, and got back in the car. 5:42.

A new record.

Categories: life

Hoodies and Slippers

October 1, 2012 1 comment

There’s something about the fall: it’s beautiful outside, the sun starts to rise a little bit later in the morning. You stumble outside to try to beat the trash man with that last bag of garbage and you freeze your butt off.

Right, it’s cold. (See what I did there?) Allow me to extoll, therefore, the hoodie and the slippers. A combination of college-chic and old-man-chic, a well-selected hoodie and slippers combo not only helps you to beat the freeze, it also makes you look like a 30-year-old trying to look like a 20-year-old. Until your slippers are spotted. And then, the nursing home questions come.

Just kidding.

Seriously though, there’s nothing wrong with staying functionally warm. Slippers and a hoodie, I tells ya, and your race against the garbage guy will … well, it’ll still feel awful. But your feet will be warm.

Categories: life