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Ten Thousand Hours

One man's lengthy quest to become a great blogger

The measure of a man

Today some girl at work who is now dead to me shouted at me, as I was walking away from her desk, “What sport do the Cincinnati Bengals play?”

Now there is nothing worse than someone asking you a question so moronic as all her colleagues stare at you for the answer. Is this some sort of a joke? Am I a laughingstock right now? Her colleagues assured me that there was no trick question. I didn’t answer because I am not some trained monkey and I will not be the butt of some big prank.

Turns out she didn’t know. Everyone gave her a hard time about not knowing who the Cincinnati Bengals are and that they play in the NFL and so she tried to find the person least likely of all to know such required man-card information: me.

What, a guy can’t letter in drama in high school and still know the names of all the teams in the nfl? Really? Of all the people who she could have seen to ask, *I* was the person most likely to share her ignorance of all things masculine? I like to tell myself that she only asked me because I stood out in my lilac Façonnable shirt, which people maddeningly refer to as lavender (and even sometimes as-gasp-purple!!) and that it had nothing to do with my lack of manliness.

I am plenty manly, even if-nay, *especially* if viewership of the nfl is the key metric. I was a fan of the Denver Broncos when they were getting trounced in Super Bowl after Super Bowl, a pattern of performance that no doubt was because of those dastardly orange uniforms. (Did anyone really NOT notice that they started *winning* Super Bowls once they got rid of those atrocities?!)

Just because I have renounced all American sports in favor of a true sport, English football, the sport of the Queen herself, doesn’t mean I have left my man card at the table. No sir. Nice try, coworker whose name I now forget, nice try. Next time you want to find the leftmost point on the manliness continuum, you might want to pass right over the guy who can blow the doors off of any karaoke bar with any (any!) of George Michael’s considerable song list (that includes Wham! of *course*). Because this guy is as manly as it gets.

So if you want money from me

Tell me you just got out of jail for killing your daughter’s rapist

And I will give you money and hope I’m a sucker

Because I’d rather be a mark than have that story be true

3dayjuicefast

My wife and I had this exceptionally brilliant idea last week, now that we own a Vitamix.  We thought that we should definitely have a weekend where all we do is drink juices we make from vegetables and maybe some fruits just tossed in our blender.  So this was the weekend.

We wanted to do a three day journey of clean living, and the debate was between starting Friday or ending on Monday.  I chose ending on Monday because Mondays typically signify unrelenting hell for five days anyway and Fridays usually mean I go out to lunch at some extravagant place because I’ve braved five days of unrelenting hell.  Here’s what the website (based off of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead—a documentary you can at least find on Netflix) said:

The cleaner your diet is going into the Reboot, the faster you will get to the feel-great phase! 

My pregame meal consisted of three Moscow Mules, something that I can’t remember, and two loooooong pours of Scotch.  Which, if you had asked me on Friday night, represents the cleanest eating of all.

Then there was Saturday.  I woke up early because, despite my pounding head, I had told my wife that I would wake up with the children so that she could sleep in.  I made breakfast for my son and starved.  In fact, I starved for the whole day.  I’m starving now just remembering yesterday morning.  First juice was at around 7:30am and it was spinach, apples, carrots, celery, and cucumber.  Tasted fine but I was looking for some real food.

@spirit_fingers: First day of my three day juice fast! I just woke up and I want to quit already. #3dayjuicefast

Which is true.  I wanted to die and then quit my juice fast.

@spirit_fingers: So it turns out that all of our recreational activities revolve around food. #3dayjuicefast

Also true.  And pitiful.  We were so bored by not eating.  Our kids wake up at 630 (give or take) and go to sleep around 830 (give or take) and apparently 10 of those 14 hours are filled with either planning or eating food.  It’s humiliating but effective.

@spirit_fingers: Two hours into the #3dayjuicefast.  We have no energy so we are slouched on the couch and the kids are tearing the house apart.

True.  I think the kids were about to make the sofa into firewood but I was feeling so depleted morally and emotionally, not to mention the fact that I was too weak to lift a hand.

@spirit_fingers: So far all I’ve gotten from the #3dayjuicefast is the knowledge that I’m weak in spirit.

It’s unfortunate that “weak in spirit” only carries so much weight.  Because I am the weakEST in spirit.  I am essentially spirit-less.  All I wanted to do is curl up in the fetal position and die.  My wife gamely prepared food and activities for our kid and I wished for a meteorite.

@spirit_fingers: Wife: this is a dumb idea. #3dayjuicefast (three hours in)

And it was!  As usual, she was right.

@spirit_fingers: Disoriented.  My mouth won’t stay closed.  #3dayjuicefast (three hours in)

You might not know this, but in times of severe energy deprivation, the body is forced to prioritize.  Apparently the muscle that keeps your jaw from slacking is extremely low priority, as far as the body is concerned.

@spirit_fingers: At the farmers market.  Filled with depression.  Otherwise starving.  #3dayjuicefast

Your soul also must prioritize the things it wants to concern itself with in times of extreme duress, and all my soul could think of was how sad it was.  But also, a distant second, was the gnawing pangs of hunger, exacerbated by the bounty on display at the Irvine farmers market.

@spirit_fingers: Made it to 11:09 [note: 11:09 *am*]! This has been an unqualified success.  Even if I were to quit now. #3dayjuicefast

Thank god for honesty.  The writing was well and truly on the wall.  I am, frankly, aghast that it took me four hours to contemplate the beautiful visage of surrender.

@spirit_fingers: At this exact moment, I’m not that hungry. #3dayjuicefast #win

I had a juice at the farmers market made of beets, oranges, carrots, celery, something else, and a few other things, none of which had any real substance to them.  For about ninety seconds, I was not starving.

@spirit_fingers: Okay I’m starving.  I wish I were swimming in an ocean of nacho cheese. #3dayjuicefast

I thought about this and it’s patently absurd that I would be swimming in an ocean of nacho cheese without some sort of a conveyance, such as a tortilla chip canoe.  With ample extra material—you’re seeing where I’m going here—so that I could break some off and dip it into the nacho cheese ocean and then eat the tortilla chip with nacho cheese.  A couple of important notes: first, the cheese should be the iridescent, almost radioactive kind that comes in gallon cans and is served at movie theaters, and second, that I should have a cooler full of jalapeños and ice cold water.  And maybe Coke.  I used to prefer the smaller, crushed ice, but now I would need to have the larger ice so that it sufficiently cools the Coke but doesn’t water it down at all.

@spirit_fingers: Wife: why do you look so angry? Me: I *am* so angry. #3dayjuicefast

Stupid question.

All I could dream about, for some reason, was the hummus we had in our refrigerator.  When I opened the fridge, I saw some leftover tabbouleh and mixed it with the hummus in a blind frenzy.  Of course I added sriracha.  And I ate it with a bell pepper.  That may sound to you like the most spartan of meals but to me it felt like my life was one gigantic nerve ending, stimulated raw and firing to exhaustion with every subsequent bite.

Fortunately, my wife and I are a perfect match and she gave in pretty much immediately after.  Because I don’t know if I could have sat idly by and watched her suffer through the rest of the weekend.  It just is too much deprivation to ask of one person.

The post-mortem of the 3 Day Juice Fast:

Days Committed To: 3

Starting Weight (lbs): 208.4

Hours Before Failure: 4

Number of Tweets Complaining About Task: Between 9-11, depending on what you consider to be complaining

Ending Weight: 210.6

Important facts confirmed about self: 1

And that is how you spell success.

Therapy Dog

My therapist shows dogs.  Kerry Blue terriers.  His dog is amazing.  Very docile when he needs to be and gorgeous and of course, since the dog is a good judge of character, he likes me.

But the dog is also very flatulent.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you this: I get farted on most sessions, and more than once when the dog is in the mood.  Naturally, the first few times that smell washed over me, I couldn’t be sure of what it was.  Except that I was completely sure—i just guess I didn’t want to believe that I was going to have to spend valuable therapy time pouring out my soul and getting bathed in this dog’s stink.  My therapist acted indignant and told me that that couldn’t possibly be the case, but the dog and I knew the truth.

Trouble is brewing.

I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to how humiliating it is to be forced to sit in someone else’s stink, but it also turns out that it is a little therapeutic.  It opens my pores and my heart at the same time.  Now if I get stuck in a drafty elevator, I feel the need to share my emotions with anyone who can spare me some unconditional positive regard.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can a paragon of balanced thinking and emotional stability possibly need therapy?  But most of the time, it isn’t *real* therapy—it’s more like me sitting around asking him about the ins and outs of showing dogs.  Something I learned: these dogs have a naming protocol in which the kennel’s name is first, as in Sierra’s Perfect Ten (where Sierra is the kennel and Perfect Ten is the name of the dog).  Interesting, right?  Something else I learned: much to my chagrin, when dogs are being shown, the handler will have to set their back legs in position by hoisting them up by the balls and setting them down.  I have no idea if that’s true, or if at the time my therapist was just messing with me, but it traumatized me and I couldn’t wait for the dog to fart on me again so I could tell him all about it.

My therapist, to his credit, dropped the ruse about whether or not the dog was cropdusting me months ago.  It’s better that he did, because trust is a cornerstone of any therapeutic relationship.  And if I can’t trust him, who else will listen to me when the dog breaks wind?

I do not pretend to be better than anyone else, only better than whom I used to be.

—Anonymous  (via justicerebel)

I think this is a beautiful sentiment. If only more people actually believed it and behaved accordingly….

Ten Thousand Hours: The executioner with the public face

sabbaticalsuz:

samirsdad:

My dad was the jury foreman in the Jodi Arias murder trial.

I am betting that a good portion of you don’t know or care but there is sure a sizable piece of America and beyond that knows now who my dad is—which is to say they know his name and they know he had a chance to help execute a criminal….

And just like your limelight-seeking father, YOU can’t keep your big mouth shut about his obvious mistake either.  Nobody cares to hear your father’s whore-loving, killer-liberating & moronic opinions.  The majority wants both of you talking assholes to shut the f*ck up already.

Do you know what “liberating” means? Just clarifying, because my dad signed the jury’s verdict of murder one. I don’t see how that qualifies as liberating a killer. Just making sure no one reads your thoughtful, well-crafted post and mistakes what you wrote as truth.

review

i just noticed that (unwittingly) my last two posts were about my dad.  My bad!  here are some posts that you should find more entertaining (but if not, please don’t tell me because I will be sad):

1) On big noises coming from small places.

2) On how bathrooms should be.

3) On how I hate to be compared to anyone.

4) On near death by raccoons.

5) On partial anesthesia.

6) On Words with Friends.

7) On organization.

8) On how my singing evokes great passion.

9) On my Olympian fitness.

10) And On my lack of manliness.

Bonus: Things I learned when i attempted to be a counselor.

You want another bonus? On yoga.

On car washes and stupidity?

On my birthday!!

And if you want to know how lovable my son is, this.

There is no rhyme and there definitely is no reason.

The executioner with the public face

My dad was the jury foreman in the Jodi Arias murder trial.

I am betting that a good portion of you don’t know or care but there is sure a sizable piece of America and beyond that knows now who my dad is—which is to say they know his name and they know he had a chance to help execute a criminal. And they know that on his watch, that criminal was not sentenced to die.

That’s where it ends, of course. The knowledge of my dad. That’s all that all but a statistically negligible percentage of the universe knows about my dad. They don’t know that my dad loved his kids or loved baseball or loves cars or loves golf or loves his grandkids or any of a million things. They don’t know that above all his weaknesses, my dad is an honorable man.

And that’s okay. No one needs to know my dad. I think before this all happened, my dad would have liked to be famous. I’m not speaking for him but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case anymore.

Today I read hate mail my dad had gotten. Some person had sent him a threatening message complete with his email address, full name, and phone number (which at the very least means that this guy should retake Hate Mail 101). I also read some comments on an article online about my dad. Surreal. They say my dad was fooled by the defendant, that he was taken with her, that he hated the prosecutor. But what was most interesting to me is how many people say my dad is a media whore.

Let me explain to you how the media works. I am a media whore. I want nothing more than an open mic, a bully pulpit, a captive audience. But no one cares what I have to say, and therefore the media doesn’t care.

But the world (maybe even you, if you are honest) wants to hear about Jodi Arias. Everything, every lurid detail about her. So when my dad showed up at his own home after the mistrial was declared, the major media were there waiting for him. They spent the night in his home. He chose to speak, but if you all didn’t care, no one would have even had a clue who my dad is. It’s poor form to consume media and at the same time complain about its availability.

One last thing, and then I’ll be done, because thinking about how my dad is suffering makes my heart hurt. A jury gets impaneled once or twice in a generation to oversee a trial like this. That means there are one or maybe two people per generation that know what my dad has just gone through. I would love to hear what their thoughts are. I’m sure my dad would like to decompress with them over cocktails. What that group alone would know, though, is that when you are a juror, you are bound by law to be impartial. What you see and what you are *mandated* to consider and not consider is different from what Nancy Grace’s viewership gets to see. They are allowed to foam at the mouth for five months with bloodlust, knowing from day one that the defendant is guilty as sin. But a juror is told to leave emotion and sensationalism at the door so that the defendant can have a fair trial.

You might say, “But Jodi Arias is a psychopath. She doesn’t deserve anything but the hot end of a gun.” You’re allowed to think that. But I hope for your sake that if you’re ever put on trial for something, you have jurors like my dad to hear you out.

I looked at my four year old son today as he was about to fall asleep. He gave me a dreamy, half conscious smile. Genuine, because four year olds always are. I told him I loved him. He said back to me, “I love you, dad.”

At that moment I realized that if I make it to the end of my life and my son can be proud of me, then I will die happy to my very bones.

So here’s my open letter to my dad:

Dad: I love you. And I am proud today, and I am proudest today, that you are my dad.

Leadership

My dad used to drone on and on about how a family had to have a leader.  At the time, there was a lot of talk about how a man needed to be a pillar of the family and even though everything was 50/50, someone had to be on the hook for the final decision, blah blah blah.  That always stuck in my craw, mainly because I looked at it as a religious anachronism and bordering on (if not completely) misogynistic.  (Aside: A family does need leadership (obv) but from both parents (obv) and my dad was a great leader for our family, for all intents and purposes.  This is not a critique on him at all.)  As I became a husband, I learned how laughable the thought of a man actually forcing any kind of decision on his wife was.  (Just kidding, angel pie.)  Except seriously.  And when I became a father, I learned how utterly preposterous the notion of leading children to anything is.

I say this because I am the father of a three and a half year old son and a nine month old daughter, and if you think that there’s any way on earth that I can tell either of them what to do, you have no bleeding clue what you’re talking about.  I tell Samir to stop doing (…) and it doesn’t even matter what noun comes after “doing” because he is ignoring me completely if he’s still even within earshot.  It’s maddening.  Correction: it WAS maddening until we got the Elf on the Shelf.

If I have the timeline right, the elf on the shelf is not something that anyone my age without kids will remember.  When I was little, it was enough to just tell your kids to mellow out or you’d whip them with a belt.  Now, since we can’t beat our children, we have to resort to cunning and subterfuge to lead them away from temptation.  The Elf on the Shelf was created by some brilliant woman who created not only the perfect prop to manipulate kids at Christmastime, but also a way to monetize that so that she can retire on a sandy beach with mai tais and hire three nannies to take all the sting out of parenting.

There’s a big book that tells the story of a magical elf (doll included, pick its sex) who comes to spy on children in plain view and take notes on the goings on in their world.  At night, by way of “magic”, the elf returns to Santa to debrief him on all the debits and credits in each child’s moral ledger.  Then the elf returns every morning IN A NEW SPOT to monitor what they do for the next day.  You cannot touch the elf or else her magic will disappear (natch).  I have no idea why the elf can’t just use Magic to beam itself from the north pole back into its same spot but I guess that’s the shaft you get when you rely on Magic for transportation.

The deal with the elf on the shelf is that your child is required to name it.  This sucks when you have a three year old whose capacity for creativity with names is simultaneously microscopic and unbound by societal norms.  When we told Samir to name the elf, he said, “Let’s name it A-M-I-L.”  My wife looked crestfallen that he chose such a nonsensical name and made him choose again.  The book suggests such nonsense as Sparkle and Floggin or some stupidity, and of course Samir picked Sparkle because that makes total sense, an elf named Sparkle.

And the kicker of all of this is that while i could literally threaten to box my child and ship him to siberia and it would have no discernible effect on his behavior, at the *slightest* mention of Sparkle’s name, tears start welling up and Samir immediately falls in line.  I would like to tell you that it’s a positive thing that we now have some meaningful tool that we can now use to convince our child to behave, at least sporadically, but in reality it is a little distressing that the scion of moral authority in our home is a pretend elf who was probably made by some machine in a far away country and can’t even teleport to the same spot every night.

There is nothing honorable about yelling at the top of your lungs that “Sparkle is watching what you’re doing!” or “I am going to tell Sparkle about all of this!” but the truth is that when you have a three year old, you take what you can get, and if that means that you have to forfeit your fatherly mandate to a toy and a lie, then so be it.  At least something is getting through.

He doesn’t get it from me

My son is tough as nails.

Today, my wife told me a story about how Samir fell on the sidewalk in front of the other kids.  And I know the look he gives—his eyes well a bit but he holds it together and gets up and hurries off as if nothing ever happened.  Well I have fallen before on the sidewalk and it hurts like a son of a bitch.  In fact, I don’t even think I learned how to ride a bike until I was like 18 because when I was learning and my dad let go of the bike to let me balance on my own, I crashed to the pavement and got up and just walked back to the house without even looking back.  So I am a pansy.  Which means he doesn’t get his toughness from me.

My wife, on the other hand, has birthed two humans.  The more recent time, she got into a wreck, totalled the car, gave birth by c-section the same day, and was up and walking around within a week and never once used narcotic pain medication after leaving the hospital.  In fact, she didn’t even use any painkillers but once or twice.  So I think we’ve solved the mystery of where the family toughness comes from.

He got a large dose of stubbornness, too, and I think it comes from the same source.  We were at the park with him and some friends the other day and he grabbed one of our picnic forks and started trying to break it.  Have you ever tried to break a piece of plasticware?  Some are very flexible and will almost bend in half before breaking, if they even snap at all.  But this fork was the more brittle variety, and if you’ve ever tried to break one you will know that they don’t snap in half ever.  They break in a minimum of three pieces—one for each hand and then a shard breaks from the middle, they’re that brittle.  And when Samir started trying to break it, I sensed danger (because, to reiterate, I’m a pansy BUT I’m okay with that because it is the sort of evolutionary trait that has ensured that my genetic code has lasted for millennia) and told him to be careful and just hand us the fork.  But he is a stubborn mule, even for a three year old, and so he hurried up and strained harder to quickly break the fork before my buddy could get it from him.  And so naturally the fork broke into three pieces and I know that when these things break into shards in your hands, it hurts like hell.  But Samir just dropped the fork after it was broken and kind of looked at me vacantly, like he does when he’s mastering his emotions.  And he just rubbed his hands on his jeans, as if to dry them off, and then walked away.

I told our friends that I was ninety-nine percent sure that he just hurt himself and they didn’t believe me, because to anyone who doesn’t live with the kid, it would have seemed like nothing happened.  But we looked at his hand and it was totally bleeding!  And he didn’t even cry or complain once.

The truth of the matter is that—of course—that makes me proud in a “my three year old son is already more of a man than I am” sort of way, but it is really infuriating too.  Because it’s okay for him to act like he’s hurt if he is actually, legitimately hurt, but I know that the only reason he didn’t even so much as say ouch is because he didn’t want to admit I was right.

And that, he gets from his mom.