Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall Willis once posted a beautiful poem that I’m always reminded of this time of year. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience that I tell each year around Christmas. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments.

That said, my sincere thanks to all of you for sharing the magic in your own way, every day…
_______________________________________________________________

imageHe looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and what’s-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Ten years ago, love overlooked the fact I drove a mini van

imageTen years ago tonight, I had my first date.

I was 40.

It’s not that I hadn’t been on other dates in my life. It’s just that, from the very first moment we took each other’s hands, none of the others seemed to matter anymore — Because nothing compared to this one.

The best one.

The last one I’ll ever want.

Both of us were recently divorced after long, unhappy marriages. We both had two children at home. And both of us had joined a dating website a month earlier within a few days of each other. Fate, it seemed, had already set things into motion.

10 years and one pair of wedding rings later, I’m still thanking fate each and every day.

But especially for this night, when the amazing woman I now call my wife was able to overlook the fact that her date drove a mini van.

Here’s how it all started…

[Insert gauzy time-travel sequence and harp music here]

Continue reading

Need advice on having a vasectomy? Don’t ask a man

Hammer and eggs There’s a scene in the movie “Jaws” where the Mayor of Amity Island explains how yelling the word “BARRACUDA” won’t get much reaction on a crowded beach. “But if you yell ‘SHARK’ you’ll have a panic on your hands…”

Keeping that in mind, you’ll have some idea of the reaction you get from most men if you change “shark” to “vasectomy.”

This was the first word out of my radio this morning, and yes, it caught my attention immediately. I had mine 10 years ago after weeks of campaigning from my ex-wife, who had a degree in social work. Because of this, she was trained on how to approach sensitive subject matter. That’s why I was allowed to discover, with no pressure from her whatsoever, that my new place mat at the dinner table was actually a medical brochure titled:

So, You Want To Have a Vasectomy?  
Continue reading

Eight years ago tomorrow, I was exactly where I was meant to be

imageEight years ago tomorrow, I stood at the altar, watching as my wife crossed the courtyard toward the church. I remember smiling so much my cheeks hurt; I remember the pride and appreciation I felt knowing I was about to be her husband; and I remember a momentary breeze lifting a strand of hair away from her face, like God’s finger gently brushing it aside as she entered the chapel.

As with any rare occasion when we don’t enter a room together, our eyes found each other immediately. So much was said to each other during that long walk to the altar, not in words, but spoken between our two hearts — in a language we had been fluent in from the moment we met.

Oct. 28, 2006:
My search for a red rose after making the hour-long drive to Salem for our first date had put me behind. Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been on a real date in nearly 20 years, had lost 23 pounds since my divorce several months earlier, and was driving a Plymouth Voyager mini-van, I technically had four strikes against me already. Plus, after several weeks of chatting together on Match.com and long evening phone calls, she had finally posted her profile picture. When I saw it, I realized I wasn’t only in danger of striking out before our date even started:

Heck, I was batting out of my league. Continue reading

That time I decided to quit writing

image Over the weekend, I had the chance to work with some young writers, one of whom asked me the proverbial question, “Did you always want to be a writer?”

I smiled, nodded my head and replied, “Oh, hell no.”

After an awkward silence, I went on to explain that I had been writing stories since I could chew a pencil eraser. And while it has always been a part of me, it wasn’t until making the conscious decision to give it up for a while that I truly understood the importance of writing in my life — and how, without it, I wasn’t completely me. However, without that experience, I would still be thinking of writing as a pursuit rather than what it really is:

Something that finds you. 

I quit writing  back in 2006. For almost a year. It had nothing to do with the typical kind of frustrations every writer faces, such as not having a readership or being told it’s time to “get serious” with your life by family, friends or every publisher on the West coast. It wasn’t the result of drug addiction or alcohol abuse, although I did find myself addicted to watching Grey’s Anatomy, which made me WANT to drink.  Continue reading

Today’s my day to #BeReal

imageAs I mentioned last week, I have the privilege of being today’s guest at Hasty Dawn’s amazing blog #BeReal, which is all about sharing a part of yourself honestly.

Some posts are so true that they’re hard to read.

Others help you realize you’re not alone.

But all of them offer a perspective and insight into the author that, many times, offers a new perspective into ourselves. A lot of you may be surprised to know there was a period in my life where my humor was, more than anything, a reflection of my unhappiness. It had become my coping mechanism. And I needed to find a way to embrace it as part of my identitiy in a way that was healthy and real, or risk losing myself to it.

Fortuately, I was blessed with someone who helped me find the way.

Click on the hot link (now I want sausage) and join me over at Hasty’s for my chance to #BeReal …

Monday, Hasty Dawn is giving me the chance to #BeReal

imageI’ve been a fan and follower of Hasty Dawn’s terrific #BeReal blog series for quite a while, marveling at the honesty and insight shared by folks revealing their truths in the hopes of helping others — either through offering perspective or inspiration. Sometimes, it’s just good to know you aren’t the first or last person to tread a particular piece of painful territory. Monday, I have the privilege of being a guest at #BeReal with my own moment of truth — and the difference between embracing humor as a part of my identity or slowly being smothered by it.

Here’s a short preview…

As a humor columnist, I get paid to be a truth-stretcher. An embellisher. A chronicler of life blown out of proportion. And I get to do it without living in Washington D.C. It’s a skill my mother will tell you I began honing at a young age — usually as a way of getting out of trouble. Again, it’s a wonder I didn’t go into politics.

However, I decided to use my skills for the greater good by becoming a writer instead.

Early in my career, I was in a very unhappy marriage. It lasted 15 years because I got good at not being real. Often, I wrote about my married life in a humorous way by portraying myself as the bungling husband always falling short of his smarter, more capable wife. It kept the peace and also gave me an escape. But while it generated laughter for readers, it also generated an identity that I grew increasingly uncomfortable with. My ex-wife, who was a successful business woman, would introduce me to clients at parties or dinners as “the silly guy they’ve read in the newspaper.”

They expected me to be the same silly guy. Always.  Continue reading

Falling into a tuba is no excuse for missing your high school reunion

image Welcome to the first-ever post of Post Traumatic Monday! Regular readers of this blog will notice this new, one-time feature is almost exactly like my Post Traumatic Sunday posts, except, in this case, it’s a day late. Other than that, they’re pretty much the same. However, I do have an excuse for yesterday’s missing assignment, which is… my dog ate my blog? Actually, I really do have a good excuse, which I will explain later this week. Before we get started, I should explain to those visiting for the first time that these weekly posts were written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how:

With humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each day to laugh for the right reasons. It’s good to laugh with you now — for all the right reasons…

* * * * * * * *

When it comes to receiving unsolicited material in the mail, few things are more frightening than an invitation to your 20th high school reunion.

Except maybe a voodoo doll made from your own clothes and hair. Continue reading

Gone in 60 Minutes (Or why I won’t be cast in a Fast & Furious movie)

image Welcome to Post Traumatic Sundays, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how:

With humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each day to laugh for the right reasons. It’s good to laugh with you now — for all the right reasons…

* * * * * * * *

They say it takes a car thief less than a minute to break into a vehicle, hot wire it, and be on their way. So, when I locked my keys in the car in the grocery store parking lot, I thought, “Hey, if Nick Cage or Vin Diesel can do it, so can I.”

True, I had no “Slim Jim,” or any other special car theft device to work with, at least not until I remembered the coat hanger that holds the bumper in place. With a little twisting and unraveling, the wire came off and I had my thieves’ tool. Continue reading

Create lasting memories with traumatic family portraits

image Welcome to Post Traumatic Sundays, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. What these posts aren’t about is venting or vindictiveness.

So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how:

With humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each and every day to laugh for the right reasons. It’s good to laugh with you for the right reasons as well…

* * * * * * * *

Every year around this time, we have our family photo taken. This used to mean packing up the kids and going to a portrait studio, where we could always count on a trained professional to eventually hurl a stuffed animal at us and demand we leave — but not before making us look through our entire package of portrait options. We, of course, never actually purchased any of those packages because they all had the same sequence of photos:

My daughter sticking her tongue out.
My son picking his nose.
Me putting both kids in a Vulcan death grip.
My wife yelling into my ear.

All of this captured in front of a snowy backdrop and available in 8×10, 5×7 and wallet-sized prints. Continue reading