For Alistair, On Your Birthday…

Hey Buddy,

You’re three now. That means lots of things, not the least of which is your continued education regarding toilet hygiene…gotta perfect the potty, dude.

But for your dad here it also means you’re getting too big pretty fast. I’m impressed by your brains…only 3 year old I know who loves puzzles and games like you do. And while I’m not impressed by your temper, we’ll eventually learn to harness that for the good of the world.

But even though you’re only three, I want to clue you into some truths that I think you should know, and that even adults often forget. Ready?

You’re beautiful and broken. Like we all are. You don’t need a trophy for just existing, but know that I’m proud of you every time you really try, especially when you try stuff you’re not good at and keep with it. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to be present. And you never deserve better than anyone else, but you never deserve to put up with crap, either. Love others and love yourself and get out on the field. Got it?

Speaking of sports metaphors: the world needs compassionate people more than it needs athletes. Not that you can’t be both, but if you asked me today what I hope for you it would be, more than anything, that you are kind. This broken world needs healers, not winners. Because when you heal, everyone wins.

Also: you get to be yourself, buddy. Other than respectful and kind and loving, I want you to let your creative self run wild in this world. I’m not always gonna love your hair color, but good on you for using it while you have it (a mistake I made).

But don’t get all worked up about your looks. Love your body, but don’t worship it…no one else is.

Don’t let your ego run away with your heart.

Don’t let your brains run away with your sense of humor.

Crude jokes don’t make you funny.

Sit beside people sitting by themselves. They often make the best friends.

The only person you can make fun of is yourself. Everyone else is off limits. And don’t make friends with people who make fun of others…eventually they will make fun of you.

Feel the feels, but don’t always let your emotions plot the journey. Center yourself, big guy, in a love that is bigger than yourself, in a peace that permeates all things.

Addiction runs in the family, so guard yourself on excesses. The world will not help you here…it will always push you toward more of most everything. But none of it will make you better, only blurrier or bigger or badder or madder.

Pray with your shoes on. Be willing to be the answer to people’s prayers, and be willing to do the work to get to the places where the need is great.

Vote your heart and your conscience. Don’t fall for Party traps and false dichotomies. Pay attention to how the candidates look after the least of these in society. And if no one is looking after them, you should…and then run for office.

Oh: and any candidate who claims to be “Christian” is probably just after a vote. Be wary of people who fly that flag too high.

Half-priced hang-gliding lessons aren’t worth the savings. Just remember that.

Give your life away continually to things that are deserving of it: good causes, loving people, a life of service, a partner or family.

But then again, don’t think that you need to get married and have kids to live a full life. Plenty of things in this world deserve our hearts, so don’t fold to the status quo of societal pressures.

Oh, that reminds me: the status isn’t quo. Make that your mantra.

Today you’re three. Tomorrow you’re thirty. I know how this works. So I’m going to start telling you all this now in the hopes that you might learn it all early.

And always remember: I am glad you exist.



Cold Coffee Confidential

Making homemade cold coffee is easy peasy lemon squeezy. There are only a few reasons I can think of for why you wouldn’t.

1) You hate saving money ($3.50+ for over-iced, burnt-flavored water)

2) You hate cold coffee (in which case we can’t be friends)

3) You’re intimidated and don’t know where to start.

For reasons 1 and 2, I can’t help you, and you are possibly beyond help. But if you suffer from that last one…I got you, buddy.

Cold coffee is just a few steps (and 26 hours) away. That’s the only downside: you need some lead time. But all good things require some lead time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, your garden doesn’t just pop up in a week, and your dreams don’t just come true in the snap of your fingers…if they do, dream bigger.

Alright, here are the esssential steps:

1) Grab yourself a large container. If you have little Hobbits in the house like we do, best to make it kid resistant (aka it bounces not breaks).

2) Get 6 cups of cold water. Not hot water, cold water. Hot water has already gone through some heating elements which changes the flavor…you don’t want that.

Ignore the bag on the table.

3) Pour water in the container, and scoop 5(ish) heaping tablespoons of ground coffee in there. Add more or less depending on the roast and how you like your coffee. And pro-tip: I always suggest you grind your own coffee, hot or cold.  It just tastes better.

Notice the pinky finger position…critical to a spill-proof pour.

4) Make sure the grounds get wet. Really wet. Like, no-hope-floats wet. Stir it, shake it, get it mixed.

Note to self: return those library books.

5) Seal it up and put it in a safe place…like on your counter. Don’t overthink it, you Enneagram type 1’s.

6) Wait 24 hours and be productive with your life.

7) After 24 hours, grab yourself a pitcher and a small wired sieve and pour it through, catching those grounds. Pro-tip: coffee grounds can be reused in tons of ways. If you’re like, “What kind of wire-sieve are you talking abou?” just look below and take a gander at ours.  And if you’re like, “Uhm, that’s a strainer, Brown,” well you can keep your opinion to yourself. 

Also: if you’re pretentious you can use cheese cloth (lookin’ at you, Ina…just joking, I love you and all your Hamptons awesomeness).

You say strainer, I say sieve.

8) Stick the filtered cold coffee in the fridge for at least two hours to chill through. If you were really smart you would have made some coffee ice cubes with yesterday’s hot coffee. Did you think of that? Never too late, friend. 

9) Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

It’s as easy as that folks. And really, it doesn’t take 9 steps, I’m just imagining you’re a simpleton. Which actually, I appreciate in directions. Please always assume I’m dumber than I am because you’ll be correct half the time.

Got a good recipe? A better one? Share it below. We beg, borrow, and steal in this life.

And when it comes to the kitchen, just remember what my Dad always said, 

“If you can read, you can cook.”

So get (cold coffee) cookin’!


-6 cups water

-5(ish) heaping tablespoons of coffee grounds

-Time (26 hours)

“What to Say When Your Kid is Worried They’re Different” or “Pirate Talk”

This morning, my four-year old Finn wasn’t sure if he wanted to dress up like a pirate for Pirate Day at summer camp.  Wardrobe decisions must be tough for four year olds because we went back and forth on this all morning.  He needs to take some cues from these folks.

Finally, we decided to dress like a pirate, and though we’re confused as to why pirate pants aren’t cuffed (“Why do my pants have holes and rips in them?”), it was a general success.

As we pulled in to the parking lot at summer camp, up pipes a voice from the backseat:

“Dad, am I different?”

“What do you mean, buddy?” I asked.

“Am I different?” he says.

“Well, do you want to be different?  Daddy is different in lots of ways…” I said, trying to throw myself under the same bus he’s worried about being under.

After thinking it through he said, “Yes. I want to be dressed like a pirate.

Finny Pirate

That’s different.”

“Yes, that is different,” I affirmed.

“But I’m still the same me on the inside.  I’m still me, right?” he said with a mixture of confidence and questioning.

“Yes, buddy. You’ll always be you.”

At which point two-year old Al screams, “I DON’T WANT TO BE A PIRATE!”

“…you don’t have to be, buddy.  We can all just be ourselves here.”

I’d say our first discussion on being different and finding identity in the world went pretty well…

Running to Soft Rock

imagesI’ve started running again.  It is predictably unpleasant.

I know some people like running.  Some get a “runner’s high.”  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that.  Mostly I just imagine people who run long distances are already high on something…

Some people put a lot of thought into their running.  They have special shoes, special shorts, and a special playlist to keep them motivated.  It usually takes me so long to get up the energy to actually go run that everything else about it is an afterthought.  I wear mesh shorts. I wear my neon green Nike shoes (and socks if I remember them in my gym bag).  And I put Pandora on my iPhone.

This last week when I walked into the cardio room, I set my eyes on the treadmill without anyone nearby.  If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I kind of sweat (read: sweat cascades down my arms and chest like Queensland Falls).  The movement of my arms makes the sweat fling off my elbows.  I think it’s gross and it’s my sweat.  I try not to run near people.

But, of course, the moment I step onto the treadmill, the dude who still wears friendship bracelets gets on the treadmill next to me.

Note: he was wearing the friendship bracelet on his ankle.  I am unclear how far down the friendship totem pole you have to be to get the handmade bracelet you made for your friend relegated to the foot, but I digress…

Anyway, I had no other option, so it was going to be me and Friendship Bracelet running in tandem tonight.

I set my iPhone to play my “Classic Rock” Pandora channel.  I love it.  CCR, KISS, the Stones, Hendrix.  They all danced in my ears for the first mile.

Well, sort of.  It always takes a minute or two for my iPhone to find the signal in the gerbil cage that is the cardio room at the gym.  So they danced for about 3/4 of a mile.  That first quarter the only thing that danced was my hand waiving the phone in the air trying to get a signal like I was helping to land a plane.

I looked over at Friendship Bracelet to see if he was paying attention to my waving, but thankfully he was engrossed in untangling his earbuds.  This was the second time I pitied him (the first was for wearing that bracelet)…nothing tangles quite like earbuds.  It’s hard enough to run, but try running while doing a puzzle.  That’s what those first few moments of starting the treadmill before the earbuds are untangled are like.  It’s like Sudoku for your fingers.

Anyway, Classic Rock comes on, I’m jamming, I’m sweating, all is well.

But see, when I get to running I also get to being bored.  Which is generally my biggest issue with running: it’s boring.

So, at about the first mile, I take my phone and go to my Pandora station options.  I won’t be going for George Winston.  I won’t be going for Lady Gaga, either…though that station is always tempting. No; we’re going to test ourselves tonight.

I boldly turn to my “Soft Rock” station.

I know what you’re thinking.  “You have a Soft Rock station on Pandora?”  Frankly, yes.  I have an eclectic taste in music.  And I happen to have a knack for memorizing lyrics. I also tend to like things that are schmaltzy…because I think that’s funny.  And because I like touching things that aren’t too cutesy.  I don’t care for those motivational kitten posters, but that McDonald’s add at Christmastime where Ronald convinces the young kid not to run away from home?  Man…there’s a story there…

See?  Yeah, that’s me.  In that sense I fit the demographic box for the Soft Rock/Easy Listening audience.

I do not fit the Soft Rock/Easy Listening demographic in the sense that I am not my mother.

So at mile 1.3 I start my journey with the sounds of Bertie Higgins and Key Largo, smiling my butt off as I mouth (a little too dramatically) “Here’s lookin’ at you kid…”  And in that moment I didn’t feel my wobbly legs or my taxed lungs, but was whisked away to Key Largo where I nestled my toes in the sand and breathed the easy, salty air of tropical Florida.

And then I recall doing air drums. Lots of air drums. To Dan Seals and John Ford Coley’s I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.  If you listen to that song (and you should…watch the video for the mustaches alone…) you’ll notice that there aren’t a whole lot of drums.  But the ones that are there…oh the ones that are there…they deserve air drums.  Friendship Bracelet didn’t seem to care.

And I don’t remember which artist was next or how many songs later it happened, but at about mile two old-school Michael Bolton came on.  I’m talking mullet-in-the-back-nothing-on-top-button-up-shirt-with-a-bejeweled-stud-instead-of-a-tie Bolton.  And he started asking this question about how people can be lovers if they can’t be friends.  And I think it’s a really good question.  And although I know he means it as a hypothetical, I think it deserves an answer.  And for about four minutes my mind wandered through the relationship woes of a couple who can’t start over because the fighting never ends.

A fascinating psychological journey through the heart and soul of love.

And I know there were others in the mix, but I want to take you to the end of this run right now because blog posts should be less and not more, and the ending is really the apogee of the post.

Because all of a sudden Rod Stewart’s Forever Young came on. The unplugged version.

And I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, there was a version that was plugged in?”

Yes. The original.  No more questions.

Anyway, we’re waiting on baby number two and have this great little 21 month old at home who cracks me up every day and as Stewart’s words fall like a benediction upon my ears all I can think of is my little guy with cornsilk hair who will not be forever young and this new little one about to be born.

And I know we hit three miles because the treadmill stopped (why ever run more than three miles?).  But that’s the only way I knew we hit that mile marker because by this point I was openly weeping while running and couldn’t even see the treadmill dashboard anymore.

I didn’t wait around for Friendship Bracelet to grab me a tissue.  I wiped off my machine and ran like Napoleon Dynamite to the lockerroom.

And may you, dear reader, be dignified and true and remain ever young.

And may you also never dare to listen to Soft Rock while running.  It’s not worth the (emotional) pain.

How To Guide: “How Do You Become a Scooter Rider a Scooter in Chicago?”

Do not call this your “whip.” Ever. It is not.

In this series I’ll take a look at the “how to’s” of things you always wondered but never verbalized.

Five steps to riding a scooter in Chicago

1. Become a d-bag.

*While it may be true that not all scooter riders in Chicago are d-bags, this is the best way to ensure that you will qualify to ride a scooter here.  There are non-d-bag riders; for sure.  But they’re few and far between. *

**It should also be noted that, if you don’t know what a “d-bag” is, rest assured it’s something you don’t want to be.  But you might be, so…**

2. Buy a scooter in a “retro” color (like Seafoam Green)

*It should be noted that most riders that choose traditional colors are not d-bags*

**It should also be noted that it is not always true that most riders that choose traditional colors are not d-bags**

3. Buy an obnoxiously large helmet…much too large for your head.

*This helps with shifting weight, allowing you to go around corners on your scooter that has as much umph as a rototiller*

4. Buy a satchel

*It will carry your dignity for you.  All the scooter riders have them.*

5. Sell your scooter for cash to pay for rent because no one will hire you when you drive to the job interview on a scooter.

*Full circle*


…it should be noted that I kind of want a scooter.

My Kid Doesn’t Respect My DVD’s: Living with a One Year Old

We live with a bundle of cells that is now quite mobile.  And apparently he has an opinion about how we’ve structured our household items.escient-fireball se-d1-80-dvd-mess

He generally thinks they are organized improperly.

For instance, recently he’s taken to organizing our DVD’s.

I’ve taken to being irritated about it.

You might say everyone is in their respective camps…

What’s that?  “Who has DVD’s anymore?” you ask?

I do.  They’re going to make a come back, you know.  Like records.  And as soon as you all figure out that cable companies are actually stealing your life (and your brain), and that they’re sucking information about your habits and preferences and then selling them back to you in the form of fliers in your mail, spam in your inbox, and “ads” in your news feed, you’ll go back to DVD’s, too.

Because the only person who can tell if I’ve watched one of our DVD’s is my wife.

Usually because it’s either a) not put back in the box and still in the DVD player (we have one of those, too, although you have to blow in it to get it to run…like a Nintendo Entertainment System…but whatev, it works) or b) it’s stacked on top of another DVD in a different box that was closer in proximity to the empty case at the time it was removed from the DVD player.

But, see, that’s my organizing system.

And now we have this little bundle of cells called Finn crawling around and rearranging everything, including my DVD’s.

And it’s super frustrating for both of us.  For him it’s frustrating because they don’t open like books…so when one doesn’t open, he goes to the next one expecting a different result.  One day life will teach him a valuable lesson about repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results (can’t remember what you call that, but there’s a word for it), but until then…

I just lost my train of thought.

Anyway, he’ll learn he shouldn’t do that one day.

It’s frustrating for me because I’m now going out of my mind cleaning up DVD cases every two damn minutes.

It’s probably why I’m always losing my train of thought these days.  I’m sleep deprived because I’m constantly cleaning up DVD’s.

It has gotten so bad that I’m not even that pissed that one DVD series is mixed into a different one (and that they’re not even remotely in the same genre).  Normally that would be irritating.  But I don’t even find that so irritating anymore.

I’m just generally pissed that they’re all over the floor.

Again. Perpetually.

Having a kid means constantly living in the movie Groundhog’s Day. I continually step on things over and over and over again.  Especially toys.

But it’s always the same toy: that damn tambourine.  And no matter how far I kick it, it somehow migrates back to right in the middle of the hallway outside of his room.

It hides in the dark, playing it’s own little version of The Most Dangerous Game.

(My toes are the prey…)

And that of course wakes him up, which means I have to go into his room and pat his diaper for ten minutes (which, ironically, makes the same noise as like when you wave a pom pom, kinda like you’re cheering him to sleep: “Yay, quiet!  Soooo quiet!”).

And then after ten minutes I sneak back out and step back on that blasted tambourine…and, well, crap.

I’m not a neat freak.  Anyone who has seen my office knows this.  But even I don’t think a valid organizational method is “all on the floor.”

And, yes, I know he’s not thinking like that.  His major mental task for the day seems to be finding new crevices to hide cheerios in (seriously, every time I lift him out of the high chair it’s like a deluge of food comes cascading onto the floor in some “miracle of abundance” demonstration).

But still…if we’re naming things he’s good at, in no particular order:


-staring closely at buttons and zippers

-eating and going to the bathroom

-letting us know he’s unhappy/happy/tired/hurt/excited/confused by screaming

Things he’s not good at:

-organizing DVD’s

-picking up toys

-prying off the tops of non-domestic beer bottles

-brushing his own teeth (though he does like to have it done)

I’d go through my own list of talents/growing edges, but this blog has gone on long enough.  Suffice to say, the kid sucks at organizing things.

Especially DVD’s.

And that’s disheartening because, well, they’ll be his one day and he needs to know that The Office does not belong in the West Wing rack (though I can see how he could be confused about that…offices are confusing).


Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Buttheads…

They were buttheads.auntiebuttheads_Large

Really; no two ways about it.

I was lifting, minding my own business, and they were chatting.  Just out of high school maybe?  Maybe rounding out their senior year?

Doesn’t matter.  What matters is what they talked about.  Well, actually, that didn’t matter much, either.  You’ll see why.

BH 1: (arm curls) You know, I want to go to our High School reunion to see just how far Jake didn’t go.

BH 2: (mirroring arm curls) Yeah, people change their senior year, you know.

BH 1: They do change…

BH 2: I was a late bloomer, that’s for sure.

BH 1: What are you drinking this weekend?

BH 2: Well, I had a 24 pack but I drank it all last night.

<I’m going to pause at this moment to let that last line sink in.  Because when he said that I looked over at him and snickered…and got noticed for eavesdropping.  But, really, this kid drank a 24 pack last night? Yeah right.  My thigh is bigger than his waist. Obviously the lie of someone who has NEVER drank 24 beers in a night…Ok. Back to the programming>

BH 1: Yeah. I got a six pack at home.

BH 2: What you drinking?

BH 1: Bud Lite.

BH 2: Yeah, I like that.  Or some Corona.  With lime and salt.  The good stuff.

<Again…the labeling of Corona as “the good stuff” deserves a pause>

BH 1: I like Heineken.  That stuff is strong.  Heineken, though…that’ll make you sleepy, you know?  I drink that and I’m all like “Man, I need a nap…”

<At this point I wanted to interject and tell the BH’s that actually it’s not Heineken, but rather just alcohol, and over consumption, that makes one tired.  And, really, they shouldn’t be drinking at their age anyway because, well, it didn’t appear that they were chock full in the braincell department as it was, and thinning the herd wasn’t doing them any favors.  But I just kept quiet.  Lifting quietly so as to hear the continuing idiocy.>

BH 2: Heineken is no good, man.  You gotta try Platinum.  That stuff is great.

<Oh Lord…>

BH 1: (Switching to bench press)Yeah.  Say, what’re you gonna do now, man?  I’m gonna do manual labor.

BH 2: I don’t know.  I might be a physical therapist.  Or maybe business.  You know, ’cause I’m really persuasive.

BH 1: You are, man.  You like to kiss ass.

BH 2: To get ahead you have to, man.  I’m good at it.

BH 1: Yeah, you are…

BH 2: You know?  I can bull with the best of them, too.  I can sell water to a well.  I can sell ice to an Eskimo…

<And this all is to be lauded?  At this point I resolved myself never to let Finn, at least to the best of my ability, think being shrewd is better than being noble. Seriously.  Oh, and to let him know about the dangers of underage drinking.  And that Corona is not “the good stuff.”>

BH 1: Yeah, you’re going to be a yuppie.

BH 2: You know it.  Can’t wait. (Switch bench presser and spotter)

<Actually, we should take a moment of silence in reverence for something absolutely original.  No one has ever said, “You know it. I can’t wait” in reference to their future as a yuppie.  Usually, when it dawns on you that you’re a yuppie, you start to grow a mustache and pledge allegiance to PBR as an attempt to claw your way into hipsterhoood.>

BH 2: You know what else?  I can get girls to do anything for me.  It’s like a super power or something.

<Good Lord…>

BH 1: I feel bad doing that, man.

<Ah! A bright spot>

BH 1: Unless I’m drunk.

<Ruined it>

BH 1: Then I’m all sorts of smooth talking and can do it.

BH 2: You know how many girls I have bringing me food?  Like Amy brings me food every day.  Every. Day.

BH 1: Amy?  She’s the ugly one, right?


BH 2: Naw; she’s not so bad, dawg.

<Do not say “dawg.”  You cannot say “dawg” with any sort of credibility, future-mr-yuppie.>

BH 1: Whatever man.  Alright, I’m done.  You?

BH 2: Yeah. Cool.

Butthead 1 and Butthead 2 went to parts unknown.  Probably to sweet talk some not-so-bad girl into buying them burritos.

Here’s what I learned about our friends:

They’re too young to be drinking, do not drink honorable beer, think being a “good businessman” means swindling people and kissing butt, want to see how far their classmates fall, and use women for food.

Oh, and they can each curl 30lbs and bench 120lbs.

…and the one is a “late bloomer.”

Fascinating, really.  Like watching hamsters in the wild: they’re as useless as when they’re caged.


Mamas (and Papas): Don’t let your babies grow up to be buttheads.