What I Learned From Michael Scott

With Christmas being over and taxes coming up, I figured it was time for a laugh. Sarabeth and I are currently watching The Office literally for the 4th or 5th time. Saturdays are our most stressful day of the week, so that’s the night we turn on the next episode and let go of all our worries and every time we have a really good laugh (it’s good therapy).

So below I have listed some things that we’ve learned from Michael Scott over the years, and perhaps you can list a few more…

goodbye_michael_scott

Don’t promise an entire class of kids that you’ll pay their college tuition until you have the funds to do so.

Don’t write an age-sensitive joke in a woman’s “bird-day” card.

Don’t conduct a meeting on obesity dressed in a fat suit.

If you’re going to fake-fire someone, make sure you have the punch-line right. (“You’ve been X’d, punk!”)

You can’t declare bankruptcy by yelling it.

Giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dead bird does nothing.

Clear it with your boss before you announce in front of the whole company what branch is closing down.

If you’re trying to catch the ice cream man, make sure you open the screen door first.

Don’t hold a roast in honor of yourself. It actually might hurt your feelings.

It is, in fact, a “dog-eat-dog world,” not a “doggie-dog world.”

Abraham Lincoln never said, “I will attack you with the north.” (Though it has long been our favorite Lincolnian saying in our house.)

If you’re going to a job fair to represent a paper company, you might want to have some paper with you.

Don’t hold the pizza delivery guy hostage just so you can get your discount.

Watch out for indoor ponds.

Just because someone says, “What’s up-dog?” doesn’t mean the joke’s over.

Feel free to add your own favorite Office moments.

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Baby A’s First Steps

So she’s walking now.IMG_1864

Sarabeth and I were lucky enough to be together when “Baby A.” took her first step a few nights ago. And now it’s official. She’s a walker, and the days of crawling are behind her.

I came home from work last night and guess who just hobbled up to me all the way from the living room, through the dining room, and into the entryway to give me a big hug? Okay, it wasn’t a hug more than an attempt to snatch my glasses off my face, but you get the idea.

I’ve been wondering though, where are those feet going to take her? I thought of all the professions that she might take up, and then I stopped abruptly because then I thought about her feet carrying her down the wedding aisle… and I can’t quite go there yet. I’m still just trying to get her to say “Daddy,” because she’s got “Momma” pretty much down pat.

IMG_1858Oh, and more good news. We go to court in a couple of weeks to change her goal to be permanently adopted by us! Even as I write this, I’m getting real soppy and can hardly see the computer. I mean, I’ve always known that she’ll be ours the moment I saw her, but to actually make it official… our lives would be completely incomplete without her – temper tantrums and sleepless nights (for Sarabeth) and all!

At any rate, I hope her feet take her far and wide and to places that will bring her much happiness in this life. But I’m just so glad that her first couple of million steps will be made under our roof.

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Why I Wake Up at 4:00 A.M.

 

earlybird1I get up at 4 in the morning to work.

Not to go to work, which starts at 6.

I get up at 4 in the morning to work on what I don’t have time to work on the rest of the day.

People are always saying, “I don’t have time to accomplish my dreams, or do what I want to do.” They’re saying this as they’re flopped in front of the TV mindlessly tuned in to The Bachelor or Game of Thrones.

“I hate my job,” people say as they sleep in as late as they can without being late to their day job.

I say, Get up at 4 (and earlier if the alarm hasn’t gone off yet and I’m awake). Freedom didn’t come freely or easily, so why should your independence, or your dream job, or your money?

I get up at 4 because I believe, with all my heart, that if I work hard enough and sacrifice enough sleep, that my dream job will come true. So I get up at 4 in the morning and write, and write, and write.

At least, at the end of the day, I can say, “I got to do what I wanted today.”

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Marriage: A Beginning, Not An End

funny-marriageIt seems marriage has become the topic of ridicule and mockery. The prestige and honor of marriage has been replaced by the glamor and dazzle of bachelorhood and promiscuity. Not that this is anything new.

But honestly, when is the last time you’ve heard a good word spoken about marriage? When is the last time you’ve spoken honorably about your spouse?

Think about it. We spend the whole first part of our lives searching for our significant other – someone to spend the rest of our lives with. And then, when we find that person, we grow tired, and spend our time wanting out.

(The Man in the Box is a great book for those who feel this way.)

I, myself, often forget that marriage takes work. I take for granted that I don’t have to stress over who I’m going to take out on Friday night (not that that was often), or figure out some clever way to score a girl’s phone number (I got numbers to Bill’s Plumbing and Domino’s quite often).

Then I met Sarabeth. I achieved the Big Yes. When I said “I do,” I was 25.

If I live to be a hundred, I’ve still got 75% of my life to live.

We get this idea in our heads that marriage is the end-all goal, when in fact, things are just beginning!

I love Disney movies. But they repeatedly got one thing wrong with their classic princess movies:

Marriage is once upon a time. Not happily ever after.

Happily ever after is years of commitment and devotion and love in the wake of an elderly couple still holding hands … not the first kiss after slaying the dragon.

The dragon invades our marriages in the form of finances, late oil checks, dirty diapers, dirty kitchens, morning breath, unseemly hair, burnt food, the Hallmark channel, etc.

So, a reminder to married people and to myself: let’s begin to treat marriage as the midst of a journey we’re trekking through, each bounding toward a certain goal, warding off the dragons together.IMG_1180

To those of you not yet married, start ingraining it into your heads that marriage is the start of a new life, not some early retirement.

I’m thankful to be married to my wife. Her corrections sometimes sting, and my attitude toward her often needs to be checked. But with her help, I am growing and learning, and without a doubt, I am a much better person today because of her than I was eight or ten years ago. (I dress better, too!)

And no matter what, I know she loves me, and I love her, and we never have to worry about who we’re going to spend Friday night with.

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On Writing: Curing the Creative Rut

giphyYou writers and creative-types – you’ve been there. It’s a hellish place, for sure. A chasm of fear, doubt, agony, frustration…

While everyone else around you seems to be excelling in their craft, accolades are given to everyone but you, your neighbors hit the jackpot…

Come on, I’m not the only one. You’ve surely been there, right?

Idea-less.

A hellish place for sure. It’s worse than that moment you’re about to start the first sentence on a blank page.

It’s worse than having to wait 119 days until Jurassic World finally opens.

You know how I find my ideas when I at this point? It’s embarrassing, and no one has ever seen me do it, except Sarabeth when I thought I was alone, or my little girl who just thinks it’s hilarious. 1tumblr_lgp6q5NhE21qcjtu8o1_500

I dance.

I talk out loud.

I sing.

I act.

And I’ve yelled.

It’s humbling, but true. I imagine myself standing before the heads of Universal Studios or Disney and I’ve got five minutes (I’m generous) to pitch them my idea.

So I yell, I act, I pitch like a storyboard artist convincing the director that my idea is the only thing that will work. I talk aloud about something that I believe in.

I might not yet have an idea to believe in, but I believe that I will find one.

I encourage you to give this a try. Crank up some Fun. or Owl City, or Delta Rae on the ipad and dance.

ac-slater-dance-o

Yes. Just start dancing. Let your body go. Just release the stress of everyday life. The last thing you want weighing you down when you’re trying to be creative is the rock-hard facts of  life that your readers are looking to escape from.

numa-numa-kid-oSo… escape.

Dance.

And talk.

And then ask yourself later, What did I talk about? Anything interesting? Jot it down.

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No TV For My Daughter

GA4051_2iwatch-tvIt may sound like a miracle, or even undoable or impossible, but our daughter is almost 13 months old and she has never once watched TV.

I work for a cable company and, let me tell you, it’s true what they say about TV being Picture 6the surrogate parent for children. If I get calls from customers and the cable’ s out while the kids are home there is going to be hell to pay and innocent people will be slaughtered throughout the world and nations will collapse until I get that TV back on.

Why? Because, let’s just get it out there – no one wants to actually spend time with their kids.

Let me disclose here that I am by no means a perfect parent in this regard (but my wife on the other hand…well, let’s just say that without her convictions and strength as a mother, I wouldn’t be writing this post).

We didn’t employ any fancy tricks or adopt some rigorous legalism to abide by. Simply put, we don’t think it’s necessary for a baby or toddler to watch TV. Whether or not it does any harm, what good could it possibly do?

Below are a few reasons why our little girl doesn’t watch TV.

1. The TV is not a babysitter or a go-to

Just as our little girl wouldn’t want to be replaced, we as her parents don’t want to be replaced by anyone or anything. We want to instill in her that we care deeply for her and that if she has problems, her parents – not the TV – are going to help fix things.

funny-reading-book-vs-watching-TV2. TV should not be our primary source of information

Call us old-fashioned, but we don’t believe you can learn everything there is to learn from the boob-tube. Books are where it’s at. That’s where you get all your knowledge and information and build your verbal and writing skills. The Internet, too, can be a source of education, if employed properly, but let’s be honest, the computer’s more fun for games, just as TV is served much better as an entertainment outlet. Let apples be apples and oranges be oranges.

3. I don’t want to watch Playhouse Disney or Spongebob SquarepantsClassicSpongeBob

Let’s be honest. No adult wants to watch those mindless fart-joke happy cartoons day in and day out. If the TV is going to be on, it’s going to be what Mommy and Daddy want to watch, because we’re the ones that pay the cable bill. This also is a great accountability paradigm because it forces us to cut back exponentially on shows that are damaging or inappropriate.

4. What’s wrong with family time?

Now, out of the whole household, I struggle with this one the most. I’m an introvert to a fault and I’m not of the mushy-huggy lovey-dovey persuasion, and would much rather spend my time advancing my career as an author, which can be just as bad as flopping down in front of the TV when my kid wants me to play with her, or my wife wants me to pay attention to her. But I think there’s definitely something to be said for old-fahioned family time, and the TV doesn’t have to be a part of it, at least not all the time.

Now, none of this is to say that we’re never going to let our kids watch TV. But we’re setting the ground rules now that the TV is not the ultimate go-to, that there are other ways to learn about the world, there are better forms of entertainment than cheap cartoons, and that we can, indeed, exist without cable in our lives and actually enjoy each other’s company.

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These Great Affects (Teen Book), Chapter 2 Continued

Most love stories are about two people who are completely different from one another. How different can you get than one being alive and the other being…well, not?…

Click here for Chapter 1

Click here for Chapter 2.1

Selected pieces from Chapter 2 continued…

I couldn’t stop myself. I swiped at the phone he was still holding up and knocked it onto the wet grass, now lost in the falling current. I began to storm off a second time but stopped when he threw another punch my way. “So first you ruin my car, then you try to break my phone. What are you, determined to completely destroy me?”

“ I’m not the one who tried to run you over with my car!” I yelled, my temper getting the better of me now. “In fact, speaking of phones…”—I dug into my wet jeans pocket for my own—“I’m calling the cops. You should never be allowed to drive again.”

I began swiping at the screen on my phone so I could dial 9-1-1, but it wasn’t coming on. It was drenched, so obviously broken. When I looked up in frustration, the guy was already digging around the flooded grass for his phone. It only took him a moment to find it and pull it out of the water.

“Here. Use mine,” he said, handing the sopping devise to me. “It’s waterproofed. Password is Elle Fanning, one word, no spaces.”

I glared hard at him before snatching it out of his hand, which I think almost made him laugh. “Elle Fanning, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. Big crush. It’s hopeless. But if you’re going to call the cops, you might want to step out of the water. I doubt they’ll be able to hear you if you’re standing right in it.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the torrential downpour.

At that moment I was struck by two simultaneous thoughts pulling me in two different directions. One was, What a hopeless jerk. And the other was, This guy is kind of cute. I was appalled at my own shallowness, but I gave in anyway. I stretched my arm out, offering his phone back.

“Why don’t you hold on to that for me for a while,” he insisted. “Your phone’s dead, so I’ll let you borrow mine.”

“I’ll get mine fixed, eventually,” I said, hating that the edge was dulling in my voice. “Besides, you need to call your parents so they can pick you up.”

“You think I’m in a hurry to tell them about this?” he waved his hand in the air as if shooing a fly. “I’ll be taking my time walking home so I can put together a well-rehearsed confession.”

“You’d rather tell them in person?” I asked, surprised.

“Why not? If I tell them over the phone, it’ll take away from the Affect.”

“The affect?” I asked, a little intrigued.

“Yeah. The Affect. That’s what I call the moments that you can capitalize on for future use to affect certain emotions. Sure, it’s gonna suck when I tell my parents that I crashed my car, but years from now, when I tell my kids about today, which I inevitably will because, let’s face it, this day will be pretty hard to forget. So when I tell about today, I want to be able to describe the looks on my parent’s faces. That’s the effect you can’t get over the phone; that’s the Affect that will make the story worth telling.”

“Wow.” I literally did not know how to follow up with that. “That’s gutsy.”

“Gotta do it for the kids,” he said with a smile that kind of affected my breathing.

“I do think your kids’ll be pretty impressed about the totaled car and the flooded street.”

“That’s certainly a good aside, but I was thinking the big Affect could be meeting their mother and talking to her in the falling sewer water.” I think by that point the mascara had leaked down far enough to reach my mouth because I think I choked on some. Thankfully the guy saved me from having to respond. “Anyway, I better get home so I can keep my story going to tell our kids. You’ve got my number. Gimme a call sometime.”

“Wait,” I managed, as he began to walk away, my voice more hoarse than it had ever been. “I have your phone, how would I call you?”

He held out my phone. He must have somehow gotten it from me while he was wooing me and I was being too taken to notice. “I’m gonna get this fixed for you. I expect to get a text or something from you. You know your number.”

He walked away toward his house and I didn’t bother to stop him this time except to say, “Mock bird 60. No spaces.” He raised my phone as though in salute and smiled, then continued on his way.

And that’s how I met my first love who would not live long enough to tell our story to anyone.

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