Twenty-Seven Ways You Can Die

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love hearing a good sob story. Like stories about when you found out Santa isn’t real, or pathetic reasons you got fired from your job. Or how you found out that everyone will die. Here’s my story.

I was maybe six or so. I remember my family and I took a trip to some historical park. I don’t remember where. Over the years I’ve accepted that we drove up from Southern California to Washington State. I don’t remember that trip if it ever happened, but I remember being behind the backseat of whatever station wagon we were driving through whatever historical park we were visiting.

The following moment was so surreal that all else faded from memory.

I just remember my mom, dad, and sister were in the car. And maybe my grandparents.

The historical park (or wherever we were)  had several bronze statues of historical figures. You know, those eleven-foot statues set up on brick cylinders? I remember looking up at one of them (probably of Thomas Jefferson, or some colonial figure because he had the ruffles and the tricorne hat) and wondering how a statue is made.

I was curious enough to ask about it in the back of the car. “How do they make those statues?” I asked. “Who are they?”

“They’re of famous people who’ve died,” came the response from the front.

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain the difference between what parents say and what children hear. Observe:

Parent says: “Don’t touch that glass doll.” Child hears: “Touch any other glass doll.”

Parent says: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it will fall over and kill you.” Child hears: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it’s going to make a mess and there might be blood!”

So when my parents said that those statues were of famous people who died, I heard, “When you die, you get turned into a statue.”

Immediately I imagined being encased in an iron cast for all eternity. Then I asked the next fatal question: “How did they die?”

The answer: “Some got sick, some got old, some died in wars.”

(At this point, I need to remind you that I didn’t know yet that death was inevitable. I thought those were just really unlucky bastards who struck out big time. Like, don’t go to war, duh. Go to the doctor, duh.)

Then I said, “That’s sad.” I didn’t mean it was sad that they died. I meant that it was sad that they were encased in an iron shell, tormented by eternal stillness and stiff muscles for all eternity like Han Solo.

Then someone said: “It’ll happen to everyone sooner or later.”

At this point, the violins I was hearing were interrupted with a scratchy record and my eyes popped open. “What?” I asked.

“Well, everyone dies.” I wished adults really did sound like the Peanuts grown-ups so I didn’t have to hear that.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone.”

“You mean, you’re doing to die, Dad?”

“Yup.”

“And you, Mom?”

“Yup.”

I asked everyone by name if they were going to die. And then I asked the inevitable: “Am going to die?”

“Someday. But not for a long, long time.”

I didn’t care that it wasn’t going to be for a long time. All I cared about was that one day I was going to be turned into one of those statues, helpless as I watched people walk past in droves pointing at me, birds pooping on me, being left out in the cold every night.

So the violins started back up in my head and I burst out in tears. That’s pretty much all I remember from that whole trip.

You know what I did next?

After my family told me everything would be okay and that people don’t turn into statues when they die (unless you’re in Narnia), I then started counting all the possible ways people could die.

Sickness. Old age. Getting hit by a car. Flying into a window (because my knowledge of death was limited to dogs, squirrels, and birds apparently). I also included drowning and holding your breath too long for the fun of it and stubbing your toe so bad that you die.

I came up with about twenty-seven ways a person could die. And these were twenty-seven things I tried to avoid doing from then on out.

You know what I should have done instead? I should have thought about all the different ways to live.

Twenty-seven years later I guess I still have time to change my thinking. You know, before I turn into a statue. So here’s my new list:

Ways to Live:

Breaking the Adult Shell

I marvel at how open kids can be. My two-year-old son, for instance, will just go up to anyone at the park and hug them. The awkwardness never simmers. And my almost three-year-old daughter will become best friends with anyone that has hair the same length as her and smiles.

When you’re a parent, you often reflect on your own childhood and marvel at how different you once were. I know I do.

I remember the first day of third grade, I sat across from this kid named Arty. We just kept staring at each other the whole class and kept seeing who would break and laugh first. We were inseparable that whole year and I blame him for not learning my long division.

Now, as an adult, I avoid eye-contact as much as possible with the guy that sits across from me at work.

It used to be that a new kid moved in next door and you’d go over and introduce yourself with a ball and glove. I just ran into our new neighbor for the first time last weekend and simply smiled and nodded. He’d been there for about a month.

Getting old means losing your edge. If you’re like me, it means getting bitter and growing more and more insecure. My shy and acne-infested high school self was Bruno Mars compared to who I’ve grown up to be.

My best friend of sixteen years has the same issue. So he came up with the idea of challenging each other to do out-of-the-box things every day. Ask a stranger for money, buy our wives flowers, fart in an elevator and own up to it, whatever.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s an attempt to make us a feel a little more alive than our adulthood wants us to be. It’s an attempt to not be crushed by conformity. To not lose the luster of trying new things or be found ball-less when a challenge presents itself.

Last week I was challenged to give the Thanksgiving prayer. Not being one to pray, it was awkward and never-ending. The end result was that I sincerely hoped that “our bellies will be filled with this food.” It worked, but the prayer was a complete mess.

I used to love talking in public and sharing stories, but the fact that I almost lost my lunch when I was given that challenge just shows how much I’ve lost myself.

So that’s our challenge: To push each other to do things we would have done in high school but are too wimpy to do now. What do you do to keep yourself spry and spontaneous? What kinds of challenges would you issue your friends?

Click here for a coupla great books for your Christmas shopping budget. 

A Politically Incorrect Thanksgiving Poem

bdd608709dd9bc24751b9ec32cee41a3

This Thanksgiving falls sixteen days after the presidential nomination.

Some rejoice the results while others bemoan the abomination.

 

Verbal shots will be taken and friends will fall prey

to the slander and abuse that will take place on this day.

 

No longer will just the blood of turkeys be spilled

but those of our family and friends as our bellies are filled.

 

Instead of giving thanks around the table this year

Americans one and all will incite loathing and fear.

 

“You tree-hugging liberal skank,” some will abhor.

And on the table’s opposite: “You racist republican whore.”

 

They’ll start off as groans and hard-to-hear mumbles

as the potatoes boil they’ll become audible grumbles.

 

Eye-rolls will turn into daggers shot hard

as all await the first to play the dreaded Trump card.

 

The stuffing will be dished with fingers stiff and pointing

mocking the cabinet Trump is appointing.

 

But let’s not forget those who voted for a party third

They’ll be blending in while cutting and also flipping the bird.

 

Whispers will give way to talk then raise to loud shouting

and the expletives will become part of the verbal spouting.

 

“You voted for that blood-spilling, lying bitch?”

“Do you not value me as a woman, or do you have a brain-glitch?”

 

On it will go no one having the time of their lives

“Pass me the garlic, the onions, and chives!”

 

Phones will be passed in lieu of toasty gravy,

sharing videos of Hillary bashing the NAVY.

 

More videos: Hillary bowing toward Mecca!

More videos: Trump groping my friend Miss Rebecca!

 

Trump has too much hair! Hillary’s eyebrows too bushy!

Hillary’s just reaching for power! Trumps grabbing…well, he’s pushy.

 

Some will say, “Throw Hillary in jail!”

Others say it’s to Trump we should heil.

 

Hillary loves terrorists! Trump loves Putin!

(My face is bloating, do these yams have gluten?)

 

All the while there’s a corpse on our table who had a shot at more life

But today’s president did not pardon this bird from the knife.

 

I ask you, how is that fair and how do we fare?

We still bicker and fight though we still get to breathe air.

 

So when you look at that turkey and slice its gullet

think back to a time of Game Boys and mullets.

 

When you were a kid at the Thanksgiving table,

the peace was so nice it was almost a fable.

 

Don’t judge your gay neighbors or steal your uncle’s guns.

Just laugh with your friends and have fun

(and don’t forget to grab some buns).

 

Happy Thanksgiving Americans one and all.

This Thanksgiving There Will Be Blood

rclxxe56i

This Thanksgiving falls sixteen days after the presidential nomination.

Some rejoice the results while others bemoan the abomination.

 

Verbal shots will be taken and friends will fall prey

to the slander and abuse that will take place on this day.

 

No longer will just the blood of turkeys be spilled

but those of our family and friends as our bellies are filled.

 

Instead of giving thanks around the table this year

Americans one and all will incite loathing and fear.

 

“You tree-hugging liberal skank,” some will abhor.

And on the table’s opposite: “You racist republican whore.”

 

They’ll start off as groans and hard-to-hear mumbles

as the potatoes boil they’ll become audible grumbles.

 

Eye-rolls will turn into daggers shot hard

as all await the first to play the dreaded Trump card.

 

The stuffing will be dished with fingers stiff and pointing

mocking the cabinet Trump is appointing.

 

But let’s not forget those who voted for a party third

They’ll be blending in while cutting and also flipping the bird.

 

Whispers will give way to talk then raise to loud shouting

and the expletives will become part of the verbal spouting.

 

“You voted for that blood-spilling, lying bitch?”

“Do you not value me as a woman, or do you have a brain-glitch?”

 

On it will go no one having the time of their lives

“Pass me the garlic, the onions, and chives!”

 

Phones will be passed in lieu of toasty gravy,

sharing videos of Hillary bashing the NAVY.

 

More videos: Hillary bowing toward Mecca!

More videos: Trump groping my friend Miss Rebecca!

 

Trump has too much hair! Hillary’s eyebrows too bushy!

Hillary’s just reaching for power! Trumps grabbing…well, he’s pushy.

 

Some will say, “Throw Hillary in jail!”

Others say it’s to Trump we should heil.

 

Hillary loves terrorists! Trump loves Putin!

(My face is bloating, do these yams have gluten?)

 

All the while there’s a corpse on our table who had a shot at more life

But today’s president did not pardon this bird from the knife.

 

I ask you, how is that fair and how do we fare?

We still bicker and fight though we still get to breathe air.

 

So when you look at that turkey and slice its gullet

think back to a time of Game Boys and mullets.

 

When you were a kid at the Thanksgiving table,

the peace was so nice it was almost a fable.

 

Don’t judge your gay neighbors or steal your uncle’s guns.

Just laugh with your friends and have fun

(and don’t forget to grab some buns).

 

Happy Thanksgiving Americans one and all.

 

Is It Worth Being a Conformist?

When did we start to conform?

I’ve been trying to rally local foster parents to bring change to the foster program, but the response is usually, “It is what it is.” “There are laws in place for a reason.” “It’ll never change.” (All this despite a poll I did where basically everyone polled was unhappy with the system.)

Are we not civilians of a free and democratic country? When did we just get so complacent that we forgot that we can enact change (even small changes) in our surroundings? When did we go from authority-challenging kids to hands-in-the-pockets-heads-down yes-people?

I’ll tell you when it was for me.

When I took on a mortgage and had kids.

Those aren’t bad things. I don’t regret them. But I regret conforming.

As a teenage I used to often cry in private because one of my biggest fears was being just another face in the crowd. Oh, the thought of that seriously kept me up at night. I didn’t want to be One of Them.

And now I am.

I put on my slacks, hug my wife and kids goodbye, and drive to work each day. My music selection is as chipper as can be because I know I will be spending the next 8+ hours conforming, submitting, and dare I say it? selling out. Making people happy whom, quite frankly, I don’t give a crap about.

Working hard to please men and women who get paid higher salaries and complain that they’re bored all day at work.

Why?

Because I need to pay the mortgage and make sure my kids have Juicy Juice in the fridge.

So my question is this. We’ve got to do what we do at work to pay the bills. That’s fine. But once you clock out, are you still conforming?  Or are you figuring out each day how to live a little? How to have fun? To be spontaneous?

Make sure, when you clock out for the weekend at the end of today, you also mentally clock out. Once you get back in your car, you don’t belong to anyone anymore. The rules you follow are not rules at all (be good, stay quiet, blend in).

Do something this weekend to challenge yourself, to push yourself. Even if it’s embarrassing.

Clock out and un-conform.

 

 

Why Our Playground-Parenting Would Likely Tick You Off

90-degree-spiral-tube-slideOur oldest kids are about to turn two and three. With the weather being on its last stitch of niceness here in Louisville, Sarabeth and I decided to take them for one last hurrah at one of our neighborhood playgrounds.

Our oldest, Kat, is extremely agile and surprisingly skilled. Like, more coordinated than I was at seven. She’s also courageous and is a risk-taker.

Sometimes it’s hard to watch her climb to the top of the big kids’ skyscraper playground and keeping up with the toughest of them, but I’m not going to stop her. It’s my job as a parent to encourage growth and challenge – not hold her back.

At this particular playground we were at this last weekend, Kat got the whacky idea to climb on top – not inside of it, but up on top of the tube. So we let her, much to the chagrin of a couple of other parents whose older kids quickly followed suit.

I stood next to Kat as she attempted it the first time. She got a quarter of the way up, paused, said “no,” and I helped her down. The next time she tried it, she got a little further. I rooted her on the whole time while Sarabeth watched approvingly.

Why do we allow our kids to be such dangerous, risk-taking, rebel-rousing rule-breakers?

A couple of reasons: First off, there’s no rule that says she can’t climb on top of the tube slide. We were proud of her for thinking outside the box and discovering not only a new way to have fun, but to push herself.

Another reason: She was not hurting anybody. Sure, she inspired other kids to throw off their shoes and scurry up the top side of the tube slide, but you should have seen their exultant faces when they reached the top (even while their parents were yelling at them to climb down – I wanted to ask them why).

Also, what’s up with our obsession of obeying rules? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I’m coming closer and closer to the opinion that our obsession to conform is actually what’s killing us inside. More on this in a later post. Much more.

But back to my daughter climbing up the top of the tube slide. I was teaching my youngest to hang on to the zip slide all by himself (successfully), when I heard Sarabeth call me. She pointed to the highest point of the playground, and there, on just her third attempt, my daughter sat high and proud.

My little girl on top of her own personal Everest. All because she found a better and slightly more challenging way to play. She refused to conform. And I encourage that in almost every way.

How My Birthday Made Everyone Sad

How do you announce to your coworkers that it’s your birthday without sounding self-important? Well, I had my chance to yesterday, but it kind of backfired.

Normally, I don’t go around my workplace announcing it’s my birthday. But I had to this morning because some other guy was going to get all the attention. In our group chat, someone randomly said: “It’s Andrew’s birthday!”

I scratched my head wondering who in the world I would have said that to.

Before I could type in something funny like, “Hold your applause, please,” this OTHER Andrew chimed in and said, “Aw, thanks!”

Of course, I can’t let him be a birthday hog. I had received a birthday card from my parents earlier in the week saying “Happy 38th birthday, Andy!” It was a nice card, but there was just one thing wrong. It was about five years too early. I’m only turning 33. (I don’t blame them for putting the wrong age, at least I look good for 38! … Plus, half the time, I get my own kids’ ages wrong.)

So in an effort to subtly suggest it’s my birthday too, I wrote in the group chat: “I got a card from my mom in the mail saying I’m five years older than I am.”

I waited for the overflow of birthday wishes and virtual hugs. But instead, I got this response:

“I wish had a mom.”

And hence followed a long string of people sharing their sad birthday stories like, “My family forgot my birthday one year. They didn’t even remember it a week later when they called me.”

“My dog died on my birthday.”

“My divorce was finalized on my birthday.”

And so on.

The ultimate birthday burn.

these-great-affects-cover-2So after that little catastrophe, I think I’ll stay quiet about my birthday today and focus instead on my book release, These Great Affects, which comes out today on Amazon! If you want to talk about being sad (or truly wish me a happy birthday), then this is the book for you. It’s a teen book about a girl who falls in love with a guy after he dies…

What do you do when you fall in love too late? That’s what happens to fifteen-year-old Adelle Hitchens in this emotionally-charged YA novel. She and Trill Vikus take an almost instant liking to each other, love is about to blossom, and chances are about to be taken. But when Trill dies in a freak accident, Adelle is forced to believe that love just isn’t for her. Until Trill comes back as a ghost, and thinking they’ve been given a second chance with each other, they fall in love, even though they know there’s no way things can turn out they way they so desperately want.

The book opens up with an original short story by upcoming Endever author R. Tim Morris.

So wish me a super happy birthday and buy These Great Affects today, share it with your friends and family, and help make this book a success! Click here to purchase. 

Also available from Endever: A Deathly Compromise, by Coral Rivera.