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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

7 Questions With an Author: Knox McCoy


Jesus and The BacheloretteThis is my weekly series titled 7 Questions With an Author... where I pose seven questions to an author and then share their unedited answers here.

Today's author is an incredibly funny blogger/satirist named Knox McCoy, on his Twitter account he's a self-proclaimed "....retired rodeo clown...and hater of all things Malfoy and mathmatical..." - I don't know about all that, but I do know that he's got mad writing chops.

One other thing I know for sure, Knox McCoy is his real name - even though it sounds like a drinking buddy of video game hero Duke Nukem or the Texas Hold 'em partner of Doc Holliday.  Even though he has two last names (or maybe two Cowboy first names) he's still the real McCoy!!! [Editor's note: Don't judge me - I had to write that.]

Knox is also a voracious viewer of ABC's hit TV shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," which he blogs about regularly during their respective network television airings.  However, he's not some flaky reality-TV follower but a true satirist of the show's unbelievably shallow premise and its distorted societal projection. He takes the shows sketchy pablum and uses it for both profound and funny uses.

His biting, witty, sharply written Bachelor-esque commentaries, along with other musings, can be read at his blog www.knoxmccoy.com

Here's 7 Questions with An Author: Knox McCoy
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1. Tell us about your book?
It's called Jesus and The Bachelorette. A strange title? Yes. A strange concept? Yes. But not as dissimilar as you may assume. Essentially the book is about how the show tries to find love, but does it in all the wrong ways and how Christians often do the same thing in the search for God.

It's available at my blog, at Amazon for the Kindle, iBooks for the iPad and on 9/12 it will be available for the Nook.

2. What led you to write it?
I started recapping the show a year ago because I thought it was absolutely stupid, To my surprise, almost everyone else felt the same. I started thinking more deeply in those terms: something that exists for a stated purpose but it actually functions counter-intuitively to the stated goal

I wanted to consider this idea in a more broad sense, while also making fun of the show, because, I mean, people LOVE to make fun of that show.

3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
Chuck Klosterman is probably the biggest one. He writes intelligently, humorously and combines seemingly opposite ideas for resonant analogies. That is what I want to be like.

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
There's a point with any project when you sit down amid all the clutter and think, "Hmmm, this is a huge mistake." But you have to get beyond that. I think accomplished writers are people with talent, but more than that, they are people who are disciplined and determined to finish projects.

There's also the challenge of finding the time to write when you have a full-time job and a family.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write. You won't improve till you do it exhaustively. If you really want to do it at a high level or for an audience, you have to write and read without ceasing. Some ideas will crash and burn and crash again, but the skill reveals itself as you continue to hone your instincts.

Early on, I always thought that I needed to save all my good ideas for when I "made it." That's dumb. You don't "make it" until you pay your dues. I'm still paying mine.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
A dark and deep reservoir of strange ideas formed from tons of TV watching, movie watching, and music. I try to write about things that interest me in the hopes that it will strike a chord with people.

I feel like most people are pretty smart and attentive to things that interest or resonate with them, so I consider it my job to find those subjects that will capture their attention.

7. Anything that you'd like readers to know that I haven't asked?
Dennis Quaid is a terrible actor. I mean, when has that guy ever been in a movie where you were like, "Dennis Quaid just nailed it." Answer: he hasn't. If you see him in a movie, avoid it like a dead body.

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Despite Knox's knocking against Dennis Quaid, Disney's movie The Rookie starring Quaid still makes me tear up when the high school baseball team his character coaches win state and tell their coach - "It's your turn" to follow his dream and try out for a professional baseball team (sniff).

Despite our disagreement on that single cinematic moment in DQ's career, please check out Knox's website and buy several editions of Knox's new book Jesus and The Bachelorette.  Please do it...for the children.

Question: Do you have a favorite satirist (e.g Dave Barry, Jon Stewart...etc.) who's work you enjoy? If not, Knox is always looking for groupies....

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How We Treat Money and Kids the Same....


We have all heard stories about the down-and-out individual who has never caught a break in their life but wins the lottery out of the blue.  Then 12 months later the same person is broke and in a worse condition than if they had never won the cash. That same scenario plays out with inheritances or trust fund recipients who ultimately come of age.

Switching gears, we’ve also heard horrific stories of child abuse where a toddler soils their diaper and is put outside on a porch in the dead of winter to “learn a lesson” – but ultimately dies from exposure. Or the numerous reports of a crying child who gets fatally shaken in a misguided attempt by some adult to stop the cries.

The reason for these examples is that children and money have a similar attribute.

I believe that both are external amplifiers of our internal character. Let me explain.

While there might be exceptions, the vast majority of kind, loving and considerate people tend to make great parents who produce great children who echo the traits of those parents. Also, even when loving and considerate individuals have very little disposable income they tend to be very generous in their personal giving and donations.

And that generosity is magnified when they happen to come into new found wealth.

As suggested at the beginning of this article, the same holds true in the negative regarding children and money. If someone is a broken person, when they become a parent they will almost certainly break their children into a shattering mess that can last several lifetimes as the cycle of abuse gets passed on generationally.

And if someone can’t responsibly manage a few dollars they get doing a part-time job, they won’t be able to handle real wealth when it comes their way. Specifically if that person blows every dollar they get feeding an addiction when they have very little, that won’t change behaviors in a cash flow windfall. The addiction will consume everything.

This insight should come as no surprise to any of us since it’s ancient wisdom that dates back nearly two thousand years as is writtne in Luke chapter 16, verse 10:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

The use of the word trust in that passage speaks directly to internal character. And for good or bad, both money and children amplify that internal trait. It’s equally important not to confuse the two – money and children. Too many people would rather hug their money and spend their kids.

Question: Do you think there's a common link between how we treat money and kids?

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Nearly Famous Daughter....

A few weeks ago, we received a phone call from our county's department of environmental protection telling us that our oldest daughter had been recommended by her school to audition for a countywide talent search for a radio public service announcement (PSA) recording.

A short-time thereafter, our 9-year old completed a telephone audition with the county worker overseeing the PSA program who gave her the "job" on the spot. After a few weeks, our daughter visited the number one radio station (WTOP) in Washington, DC [see picture below] to record the PSA along with a boy who was also selected from the thousands of kids in the county. 

#1 Rated Radio Station in the Greater DC Metro Area

Once inside the station, they were taken to a production studio where they went through several practice recordings and several "final" records. Here's our youthful radio announcer with the woman from the county EPA.

Our Little "Paul Harvey" in Training with the
kind woman from Montgomery County DEP

The production engineer took several snippets from the recordings and edited them together into a final :30 segment that will run indefinitely on WTOP and WFED. Here's the "world premiere" of the Kid's Litter Campaign - just click on the arrow "play" button below.


To say that we're proud of this accomplishment is an understatement. It was an invaluable experience that my wife and I are glad she had. However, as a former radio reporter myself, I'm certainly steering her clear of a radio career - the long hours and low pay are too akin to serfdom in this current day and age.

Question: Have you or someone you know ever been on TV or radio? Was it a positive or negative experience for you?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today Marks 5 Years Since My Dad Died....

Today is the fifth anniversary of my dad's death. He was sitting in his garden, with his newish puppy nearby and a pocketful of dog snacks near one of the Finger Lakes in western New York where he lived. At the time, my siblings and I all lived within 30 minutes of him.

That day, I was in New York City attending some focus group sessions for work - when I received a frantic cell phone call from my brother. He was driving to dad's house to take him out to dinner. Matt found my dad keeled over out of his chair. He started administering CPR to dad while his wife dialed 911.

After the call, I immediately left the focus groups to catch an earlier flight. When I got to the airport and was getting ready to board the plane, Matt called again to say that dad had died.

It was incredibly surreal to hang up the phone and listen to the ongoing hustle and bustle of everyone else's lives continuing, while mine had come to a screeching halt at that moment. When I arrived back in Rochester, my four siblings and I began the process of mourning and planning - things like internment, funeral arrangements and obituary writing.

They were necessary boxes that needed to be checked. One of the tasks that had to be done was his eulogy.  It was agreed that I would deliver the eulogy to honor and memorialize my dad.

Below are the words that I shared at his funeral - I share them here to possibly help someone who may be going through a similar experience.

=========================================================

It feels surreal and unnatural to lose both parents within such a brief span of time – little more than two years.

I went to church and sat next to my father this past Sunday and did not expect a phone call the next day saying he was gone.


I did not expect that my parents would not live to see any of their 12 grandchildren get married. I did not expect that they would not live to see their great-grand babies. And I certainly did not expect that they would not live to see the age of 65.


Up until this past Monday when he passed, I did not expect anything less than another 15 or 25 good years to share with him.

Your Way May Be the Wrong Way....

You may never have heard of Brian "Head" Welch, former lead singer of the metal band Korn but he has one of the most compelling stories I've ever heard. In the 7-minute video snippet below, he talks about having everything - fame, riches, global success, adulation, creative drive, a daughter - with a methamphetamine addiction.

Parts of his video may disturb you or possibly change you....

 

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Psychiatric Couch: Winnie the Pooh

Pooh Bear, Tigger,
Piglet and Eeyore
I'm not a licensed psychiatrist, a practicing psychologist or a certified counselor. However, I've seen a few psychological thrillers including The Prestige, Memento and Silence of the Lambs, and I've also read an article or two in an old issue of Psychology Today at my dentist's office.

Given those credentials, I believe that I'm more than qualified to dispense clinical diagnoses for fictional characters. That's why I decided to start this new series titled The Psychiatric Couch....


The first installment is an ensemble session - The Psychiatric Couch: Winnie the Pooh.  

As a child growing up and a parent, I read virtually every iteration of Disney's dysfunctional residents of the Hundred Acre Wood. While they're obviously cute-and-cuddly on the outside, there are deep psychological issues tucked snugly within their pillowy stuffed heads.

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Pooh Bear - suffers from an acute eating disorder with honey that borderlines addiction. Pooh also exhibits episodic dementia and exhibitionist tendencies given his reluctance to wear pants.

Tigger - traditional bi-polar traits marked by extreme mood swings from irrational exuberance to periods of near despair. His narcissistic behaviors, coupled with his savior complex, wreak havoc among the other patients at Hundred Acre Wood. Tigger makes Charlie Sheen look balanced and even keeled.

Piglet - has a variety of phobias that include creaking tree branches, small streams, gusting wind and his own shadow, all of which are compounded by the fact that he chooses to live in a forest. Perhaps this suggests a self loathing that manifests as masochistic leanings.

Eeyore - major clinical depression that defines and directs his day-to-day existence. This is seemingly caused by feelings of inadequacy driven by his lack of a tail and his need to overcompensate by wearing a prosthetic one made from fabric and a nail. Apparently he tries to self medicate by consuming large quantities of wild thistles.

Owl - exhibits symptoms of megalomania that approach delusional grandeur fed by his anti-social isolationism. He also has an irrational need to stand on books to make speeches at all picnics and birthdays, which suggests a Napoleon complex that drives his over-inflated intellect.

Kanga and Roo - an enabling, oedipal relationship that smothers and stifles Roo's maturation. Even their shared name suggests deep co-dependencies.

Rabbit - obsessive-compulsive personality disorder with a side helping of neurosis. His incessant, exacting attention to his gardening and cooking provides a glimpse of what Martha Stewart might be like on a cocaine bender.

Christopher Robbin - the obvious abandonment issues this child feels (seriously he plays alone in the woods all the time) help fuel his psychotic hallucinations that his stuffed animals actually come to life, which are only magnified by the fact that he's apparently forced to wear way-too-short shorts, Keds and socks that don't stay up.

Well, I think that adequately skewers the childhood classic by Alan Alexander Milne.

Question: What fictional character would you like to see on The Psychiatric Couch?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

America's #1 Fear and Its Antidote...

If you Google the phrase "Number One Fear in America" you'll see that our top fear is not the economy, politics, Wall Street, unemployment, terrorism, the war overseas, hurricanes, earthquakes, cancer or even death.

The number one fear in our country is public speaking, complete with its dry mouth, sweaty palms and stomach butterflies. Those are physical sensations manifest the underlying fear that's common to all of us who've ever had to speak to small audience in a boardroom or a national broadcast audience.

The first 10 years of my career, I was a print/radio/television journalist. When I was a television news reporter, whether I was on the anchor desk or broadcasting remotely from the field, being able to answer questions live on camera was a necessary skill. However, being able to both think and talk on your feet in real time is a skill that constantly needs sharpening or it becomes dull. That's just about my current skill level in this regard - dull.

Additionally, since I left the media, I've had the opportunity to publicly speak several dozen times at colleges, high schools and community organizations. Similar to extemporaneously speaking, public speaking from a prepared or memorized text, requires practice to make perfect; however, my lack of practice has made we quite imperfect in this specific regard.

That's why I was THRILLED when I found out that our company will establish its own chapter of Toastmasters International.  

Toastmasters is a worldwide organization that helps individuals develop their speaking, presentation, meeting organization and leadership skills. During my 20+ years in communications as both a former journalist and current public relations director, some of the most effective communicators I've met and worked with have been Toastmasters alum. 

While I've always been intrigued with Toastmasters, the timing never worked for me to join - until now.

The three areas that I'm looking most to develop are:
1. Speaking and answering questions off-the-top-of-my-head in a public forum;
2. Eliminating transitional filler such as "...um...ah....like...so..." from my speech;
3. Polish my speech writing and presentation development skills.

We had our first introductory meeting this past Tuesday and about 50 people showed up, so it should be a robust and dynamic chapter. Our next meeting will be in a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to sharing the ups and downs with you here.

Question: Does the thought of standing up and giving a speech in public scare you? Why or why not?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Success Principles: #8- chapter review

The Success Principles(TM): How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
I'm reading the latest book from best-selling author Jack Canfield, titled The Success Principles, which comprise 64 different lessons that Canfield has learned during the past three decades as as a highly-successful entrepreneur, instructor, best-selling author and keynote speaker.

My goal is to write a summary review for each chapter, until I'm finished with the book. You can access the most recent past summary here: The Success Principle #7 -Unleash the Power of Goal Setting

Chapter 8: Chunk It Down
The advice that Canfield delivers in this chapter is by far the most practical in the entire book thus far. The concept of "chunking down" that he introduces, is simply the idea of breaking large projects down into component parts and then tackling the smaller "chunks" one at a time until the entire project is complete.

He says this is a necessary strategy to avoid the feeling of overwhelm and inertia that tends to keep people in a state of inaction. It's simply easier NOT to do something when the task at hand seems so large. After you've decided what you really want and have set measurable goals with specific deadlines, the individual action steps need to be identified.
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." ~ Mark Twain, Author
Canfield offers an effective technique for getting started, the technique is called mind mapping. A mind map is simply a graphical representation in a single image of all the components of a project with connected dependencies. Here are two examples of a mind map.

 

The one above is very complex and colorful, here's a much more simple example yet just as effective.

There are a variety of formats - but the basic idea is that the goal is at the center; spokes radiate off from it; components, sub-components and tasks are the terminating point of each spoke. Additional lines can be drawn to connect events or tasks that are dependent on each other to create a web. The purpose is to visually capture all the necessary pieces of the project.

There are several mind map software programs out there, Canfield recommends www.mindjet.com. Again, I found this to be the most practical chapter thus far. The mind map concept is one that I have personally adopted on several large projects. This chapter alone was worth the price of the book.

7 Questions With an Author: Ali Bierman

Romance Killers: The Top 7 Mistakes That Doom Relationships
This is the next installment of a weekly series titled 7 Questions With an Author... where I'll pose seven questions to an author and then share their unedited answers here.

Today's author is Ali Bierman, she's a competency-based psychotherapist who helps people ferret out exactly how they operate in relationships - revealing why those partnerships fail.

With her training, clients grasp the knack of what to do to transform their patterns of behavior, leading to mastery in creating romantic relationships. She also regularly blogs over at http://www.howtohaveamazingrelationships.com/.

Here's 7 Questions with An Author: Ali Bierman
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1. Tell us about your book?
Romance Killers: Top 7 Mistakes That Doom Relationships  reveals the secrets hardly anybody knows that destroy relationships. I learned lots of not-your-ordinary facts during my 6 decades as a wife of 31 years, psychotherapist and specialized kinesiologist – lots about behaviors, habits and attitudes that miss the boat on connecting with your partner. 

Like what?

People use their competency to relate to each other. If you grew up in a home where your parents always fought then guess what? They way you know how to relate is to instigate arguments.

You cannot change what you do not know causes your patterns. I share all these learnings in the book, to help the reader make their relationships work even better.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Question of Inspiration....

My Dad: Sam
Constantino in his 20s
The average person cannot survive for more than a few minutes if they're not able to get a new breathe of air into their lungs. Interestingly, the root word for inspiration is the same as "...to breath..." which suggests a metaphorical death can also occur if inspiration or a visionary breathe is lacking in your larger life.

The focus of this short post is to ask the question, "What individual has positively inspired you the most in your life?"

Such artificially forced choices are difficult to answer since most of us have several inspirational sources. However, the one person who positively inspired me the most has to be my late father - see photo insert.

While I can't remember every playing catch or throwing a football with my dad, I recall hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations during my lifetime that he had with me about topics of faith, family, belief, religion and fatherhood. Those discussions helped shape my core values, which became more refined and focused over the years of constant sharpening with him. For that I'm truly grateful.

This coming weekend, will mark five years since he passed away - it doesn't even seem possible. Despite his death, his inspiration and "breathe" continue to move forward in me, my family, my siblings and their respective families.

So I ask you, "What individual has positively inspired you the most in your life?"

Monday, August 22, 2011

7 Ground Rules to Survive Relationship Conflict


Over the weekend I found out that an article I submitted to RELEVANT Magazine was published. My original submission was titled 7 Ground Rules to Survive Relationship Conflict but was truncated down to How to Fight Well.

Here's an excerpt from my piece:
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Anytime that two people commit to each other, there will inevitably be disagreements. For instance, it’s very likely that before “the Fall” the first marriage in Eden was truly one of wedded bliss. Yet according to the Bible account, their ultimate bliss only lasted until a squabble erupted regarding a piece of fruit that led to the couple’s blistering expulsion from paradise.


It seems from this example that even within the confines of a perfect, God-created garden—where every need was met—the seed of bickering could germinate.


The root cause for such conflict abides within each of us as we read in James 4:1-2: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” (NIV).


Whether you’re a Christian or not, individual desire doesn’t automatically die once you find your significant other, begin a serious relationship or get married. If anything, those selfish wants seem to blossom because they often cut across the wants and desires of the other person. Hence conflict ensues.


My wife and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, and prior to that we dated for another five years—that’s a grand total of 21 years' worth of relational bliss. We’ve had some “spirited disagreements” along the way, but very early on we decided to mutually accept certain rules of engagement to ensure we protected our single most valuable shared asset—our relationship.


To read the rest of the article please visit RELEVANT Magazine at the link below:
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/blog/26534-how-to-fight-well


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Does This Video Disrespect Our Veterans???

This past Friday evening my wife and I attended a preseason NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore ravens. As a lifelong Steelers fan, I've no love for the ravens - but the tickets were cheap, the seats were great and I've been Jonesing for professional football.

During the pregame ceremonies and warm-up I took a minute of video that I found extremely odd. The stadium was filling up as the public address announcer said they were going to honor each branch of the military. As a contingent from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and National Guard marched onto the field - some of them were clearly senior citizens - the stadium blared the uber-patriotic tune "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood.

Everyone clapped and cheered. It was all very touching and inspiring - but then it got weird....

There was still about 15 minutes before the game started and the soldiers marched down to one of the end zones. A handful of players came on the field for final warm-ups including the ravens field goal/place kicker, who started booting footballs over the heads of the honored veterans...



Is this really the BEST way to honor veterans who've served our country by pooching kicks over their heads?

Beating Back Worry

By nature, I'm a bit of a control freak and a Type-A personality. Others with similar traits may agree that a common companion of those personality aspects is "worry." I worry about a host of things, my pending book release, a side online business I have, certain aspects of my full-time job, my wife and girls - even this blog.

Ironically, most of the things I worry about I can't control. It's at that point when I remind myself of that fact - that I'm actually able to beat back that spirit of anxiousness, dread, overwhelm and worry that turns my insides.
 
But when those feelings wash over me (as they do most people), I turn to ancient wisdom that's stood the test of time. Here are some scriptural passages that help calm my inner maelstrom of worry when I'm prone to anxious thoughts:

Proverbs 12: 25, "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."
The most wonderful thing about being married and having kids is that I'm always able to seek and find a kind word of encouragement.

Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Personally, the greatest benefit that I receive from faith is that it provides a place to turn when I'm overwhelmed by the cares of life. I don't have all the answers, but I know where I can get inner peace during times of uncertainty.

1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
This passage offers particular comfort when I'm alone or traveling and unable to seek direct solace from my traditional network of support and family.

Luke 12:22-26, "Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes....Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?'
Within this passage, the underlined segment is what really speaks to me, because it reminds me of the fact that I have zero control over many of the circumstances and people in my life - yet I lie to myself that I do.

If I stop that lie, I can help stem the tide of worry.

Question: How do you cope with worry and the cares of this life?

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Feel Like I'm Cheating....

I've been a lifelong Steelers
fan - except for today....
I've had a lifelong love affair. Every year, my fondness and love toward the object of my affection as grown stronger - not weaker.

But I'm not going to lie, as with any relationship that endures and stands the test of time there are ups and downs, but I've always been unwavering loyalty.

Until today.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. If family folklore is to be believed,  my enduring loyalty to the Iron City footballers began when I was in Kindergarten and my mother bought me a black-and-gold Steelers knit cap topped off with a pom-pom. Regardless of how it started, the fact remains that it has faithfully endured.

Until today.

This evening, my wife and I will attend the first preseason home game of the Baltimore ravens (the lowercase "R" is a literary middle finger to the ravens) who will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs. In and of itself, there's nothing ethically or morally wrong about attending a preseason NFL game. Except for the fact that the divisional rivalry between the ravens and Steelers is perhaps the fiercest within the entire National Football League.

Given that extreme animosity between my cherished Steelers and the whorish ravens (I write whorish because I got ultra-cheap, discount tickets for seats near the field and the 50-yard line - sweet seats but whorish none the less) I wonder if I'm doing the right thing attending the ravens' game tonight?

I cajoled my wife into the excursion as a final fandango of our "Kid Freedom Week" (our daughters are still visiting their grandparents for the next 48 hours and we've got to maximize) so I'm bugging out of work earlier and we'll visit the Baltimore Inner Harbor, tour the city and then the ravens' game.

While I'm excited about the day trip, I feel a little dirty inside - like I'm cheating on my beloved Steelers.

I'm sure I'll get over it once I'm in the stands with a bratwurst in hand. Perhaps I can rationalize it as a scouting exercise to identify the ravens' weaknesses for seasonal exploitation by the Black-and-Gold???  Now that's a lie I can believe!  BTW, did you see the Steelers' dismantling of the "Dream Team" Eagles last night on FOX???

GO STEELERS!!!

Question: Have you ever had a funny or frivolous loyalty that's been called into question?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hidden Beauty of a Band-Aid

Fashion Band-Aids That
Our 7-Year Old Carries
Since last Friday, our daughters have been visiting with their grandparents in New York. Ironically, this past Monday my wife had to drive from our home in Maryland to her parents to attend a funeral of her great aunt.

My wife planned to stay at her folks with our girls Monday overnight, attend the internment service on Tuesday and drive back the same day - leaving the girls to finish the rest of their stay at Nana's and Papa's.

For the 18 hours that she was in New York, my wife packed five different pairs of footwear - including a pair of new heels for the funeral service. When you subtract her eight hours of sleep, where she's not actually wearing shoes, my wife packed five pairs of footery for approximately 10 hours time. There's ample foot fodder there for a stand alone blog but I'll tiptoe around it since I want to remain happily married.

I bring up all this ancillary information because my wife was wearing the new-ish heels at the service without nylons, so she developed a few scorchers of blisters. She shared her podiatry problems with our 7-year old who instantly reached inside her mini-Hello Kitty hand bag and produced two fashion-tinted, purple band-aids [see photo insert] and said, "Here mommy, these will help."

Kim gratefully took them and applied each to the throbbing fluid-filled bubbles on her heels to help them heal. Now the "hiddden beauty" I alluded to in the title has nothing to do with the actual fashionista color palette of the bandages, but it has everything to do with our daughter's gesture.

Ever since our daughters were old enough to walk, and subsequently fall, my wife has always been at the ready with loads of love, hugs and bandages - even when the skin was not broken.

The beauty of this gesture by our 7-year old lies in her immediate mirroring of this positive behavior. My wife and I strive to continually plant seeds of kindness, helpfulness and preparedness in the hearts of our girls. It seems that those seeds are bearing positive fruit, and in this simple story my wife directly benefited from its beauty.

Question: Is there an instance or story where you've seen a child do something beautiful? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

3 Keys to Beating My Addiction: Caffeine

Last week I decided that I wanted to stop drinking caffeinated coffee and diet soda with caffeine as well.

I realize that caffeine in moderate amounts actually has been proven to have healthful benefits for a variety of nasty disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and some types of cancer, but I still needed to stop.

The problem was, that I couldn't drink the stuff in moderation. Each day, I would practically polish off a pot of coffee by myself before heading to work during my morning reading time - leaving enough in the pot for the wife if she happened to feel like a cup that day.

At work, I would then easily have two more cups throughout the day and at least three 20 ozs. bottles of diet Coke or Pepsi.

My addiction to all things caffeine started after college with my first job as a morning radio news anchor, where I would single-handedly finish a pot between 5-9am each day. Then at each subsequent newsroom I worked at for the next 10 years, my blood caffeine level probably hovered around a 50-50 split - I may be  exaggerating on that last bit but it's safe to say I was hooked. That is until last week.

My wife and girls were visiting friends, and I had to work, so I decided it was a good time to see if I could shake the caffeinated monkey off my back.

It's been a week now, and during that stretch I've had three cups of de-caffeinated Joe - that may not sound like quitting to you but it's monumental to me. And it wasn't easy. I had pounding headaches from the base of my neck across the top of my skull for three solid days - not fun.

That symptom clearly showed I had a physical dependence on the stuff - not good.

I can only imagine what withdrawal is like for someone trying to kick harder substances or alcohol. Regardless, here are the three things I've learned that were instrumental:

1. Ritual - aside from consuming the coffee there's the ritual of making it and smelling it brew. I found that if I change the ritual, specifically walking on the treadmill while I do my morning reading, it helped break the cycle of addiction for me.

2. Association - we've had house guests and friends who have a pot of coffee brewing 24/7 with the previous pot refrigerated for cold coffee. I loved that but it fed my ready addiction - in an evening I could easily down three 32 oz. jugs of cold coffee. No more. Going forward when we have these folks over I'll have to plan in advance and gain their support of my new, under-caffeinated lifestyle.

3. Locations - despite this freedom from caffeine, I find that a week after breaking the cycle I'm leery of entering a Starbucks because the temptation might be too strong for me to resist "one innocent cup." Don't laugh, but for now I'll have to steer clear of coffee houses and shops it seems.

I'm not saying coffee is evil. I love coffee, but once I assessed my dependency on it I knew something had to change.

Question: Have you ever had to quit something that was a challenge for you to quit?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

7 Questions With an Author: Tyler Tarver

Words & Sentences: things you need to hear with your eyes (Volume 1)
Tyler Tarver's
new book
This is the first installment of a new series that I'll periodically write titled "7 Questions With an Author..." where I'll pose seven questions to an author and then share their answers here.

[NOTE: I'm fully aware that I'm breaking AP Style rules by starting the first word in the title with an actual number and not writing it out - it just looked better to me or maybe I'm a closet subversive hoping to undermine the establishment one rebellious key stroke at a time...]

I doubt this type of format has ever been done before so we're breaking new ground (actually the Q and A format happens all the time, but I'm prone to hyperbole and such).

Sometimes the authors' answers will be serious, sometimes they'll be funny - I'm not really sure what to expect. The first author to agree to this is a southern gentleman named Tyler Tarver who recently published his first book title Words and Sentences. He's a high school math teacher by day and comedic blogger/writer/video producer most of the other time.

I met Tyler via a blogging community that we both belong to that was founded by uber-blogger Bryan Allain. Given Tyler's "unique" sense of humor, I'm sure he's a student favorite.  Here's 7 Questions With an Author: Tyler Tarver.

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1. Tell us about your book?
I thought you'd never ask. It's a compilation of shorts stories, reviews, paper with words, and graphic organizers. What's a graphic organizer? It's teacherese for picture. The book is also 300 pages long exactly and firm at the touch, just like an apple or metal.

2. What led you to write it?
Money. I want to be so rich I can swim in my gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. But when you think about it, that seems kinda dangerous to hit gold at such a velocity. Maybe I'll just use the money to purchase a type of jello currency. I am only joking, I didn't write it for money, I wrote it for wealth, or to have something I can use to make my parents love me.

3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
JK Rowling is one, because she's from Britain, and I know it has to be hard to interpret what those people are actually saying. I'm also inspired greatly by the people that write logos on U-hauls, they're just so moving.

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
Time. I work a couple jobs but neither of them just let me do whatever I want. That's why I'd like for this to make me super rich so I can pursue my lifelong dream of being a lifelong dreamer. I also had to face a Sphinx in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and that was difficult.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Just do it. Wow, that's a catchy phrase I just make up. Just do it. Yeah, I think I've got something original and inspiring. I'll patent that. Just start writing and don't stop until you're eating the most expensive steak at Chili's, then you'll know you've made it.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly from my brain, that or I just copy/paste them from Wikipedia. I like to think of Ideas as small, invisible bits of information from pretty clouds that float into your cerebellum and start slapping you.  That, or I just listen to rap music.

7. Anything that you'd like readers to know that I haven't asked?
I'd like you to know that Tor Constantino is the most handsome and smartest person I've ever typed to online. He's tall and strong and welcome in all gas stations whether he's wearing a shirt or shoes or not. Also, my favorite color is green, like algae.

About Tyler Tarver:
Tyler Tarver is a math teacher but not an English teacher because that would be gross. You can check out his website tylertarver.com, subscribe to it here, check him on Twitter @tylertarver, or just buy his brand new toilet book, which he won’t shut up about, titled Words&Sentences that 4 people have said is “funnier than sliced bread.” He’s not as attractive as you, but he sure does love you.

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There you have it, the barely edited Tyler Tarver in 7 questions - this is a glimpse into the mind that's teaching our children...heaven help us. Check out his site at www.tylertarver.com.

Question: What question should I have asked that I didn't?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Top-10 List: Things That Smell Better Than They Taste

The only vegetable that's
served in Hell
Science has proven that our sense of smell plays an integral role in how things taste. Ironically, even though some things smell incredibly good - they actually taste neutral to downright awful. Here's a list of the Top-10 Things That Smell Better Than They Taste.

10. Flavored Coffees - these various caffeinated concoctions smell wonderful when blended by your favorite barrister; however, they taste terrible - a blend of cough syrup and motor oil.

9. Mushrooms - while cooking, these non-vegetables smell like steak tastes; however, one bite of these fungi instantly reminds you that they were grown in the dark, under mounds of animal poop.

8. Pumpkin Pie Filling - this unmistakable scent invokes favorite holiday memories of family and loved ones gathered around the Thanksgiving table, yet a forkful of the foul stuff triggers familiar memories of family holiday in-fighting over nibblets and gizzards.

7. Red Licorice - whether cherry or strawberry, this is the single food on the list that I'll try every couple of months to see if the taste actually measures up to the smell. Each time I do the outcome is the same - FAIL.

6. Cinnamon - again, this is one of those classic holiday spices that is used so much that it wafts through the air  almost as much as lake effect snow in downtown Buffalo. While the cinnamony smell is incredible, when the brown cinnamon powder is on its own without sugar it tastes like #2 pencil shavings - with an emphasis on #2.

5. Brussel Sprouts - this vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse that's packed with flavinoids, nutrients and a bunch of other goodness that emits an enticing aroma while cooking that elevates the senses to the heavens. But one taste of the sprouts casts the deliciously-divine smell from heavenly heights to Dante's fifth-ring of Hell reserved for those who lived angry lives. No wonder there's so much gnashing of teeth and wailing....

4. Green Tea - Re-read above and push it down to Dante's seventh-ring of Hell that's reserved for those who lived a life of violence....perhaps the green tea will calm their tortured souls.

3. Fried Dough/Fry Cakes - you can't attend a summer outdoor carnival or state fair without the strongholds of your nostrils being invaded and swarmed by the overpowering assault of fried dough - from the parking lot to the restrooms, the scent is inescapable. Yet, the taste is absolutely unpalatable. I'm sure there will be some disagreement with this one.

2. Kentucky Fried Chicken - as a family, about once a year we'll grab a couple of buckets of the Colonel's famous poultry on a lark. My favorite part of the experience entering the restaurant, purchasing the chicken parts and driving home with it so the scent permeates the confined space. I actually prefer the KFC smell in my vehicle to the "new car smell" that Delta Sonic car wash spritzes across the dashboard after a cleaning. However, the actual taste of KFC is akin to chewing on the leather, sweaty head rest of my car.

1. Movie-Theater Popcorn - is there anyone who disagrees that movie popcorn smells at least 10 times better than it actually tastes? The stuff smells like a rich delicacy reserved for mythological immortals, yet it actually tastes like the algae encrusted nuggets scrapped from the damp boot of a regular on the show Swamp People.

Question: What foods have I left off that smell better than they taste?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Congratulations to the Book Giveaway Winners!!!

Congratulations to the five winners of the week long giveaway of books from best-selling author, speaker and blogger Jon Acuff. The winners were:

Monday - Matthew Walker
Tuesday - Martha Giffen
Wednesday - Stephen Taylor
Thursday - Michael Romeo LaFlamme
Friday - Bonnie Andersen

Each of the winners will receive a complete set of books by Jon Acuff, namely:

Stuff Christians Like       Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt        Quitter

The total daily value for this prize, including the free postage to anyone in the United States, is nearly $40.

Congratulations again to all the winners and thanks to everyone else who entered - stay tuned for similar giveaways in the future!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm Humbled By This....

Best-selling author Jason Boyett
I like to read. One of the best author's I've found has written six books - and his name is Jason Boyett. Over the past few months I've exchanged emails with Jason because I'm a fan of his books and his blog Dadequate - which focuses on the humor, joys, fun and challenges of being a dad.

One of my favorite blog features of Jason's is his Friday "Meet a Dad" segment where he profiles a random dad that he knows.

Today he featured me. Check it out at this link - Meet a Dad: Tor Constantino

Additionally, his faith-based books are funny, irreverent and insightful. Here are my three favorites, each is a great read - I plan to review them in the coming months but don't wait until then to buy and enjoy them.

  Pocket Guide To The Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual For The End Of The World    Pocket Guide to the Afterlife: Heaven, Hell, and Other Ultimate Destinations (Pocket Guides (Jossey-Bass))       Pocket Guide to the Bible: A Little Book About the Big Book (Pocket Guides (Jossey-Bass))


Question: Have you ever had the chance to interact with someone you admire?
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Why Does This Guy Hate Me - Last Day of Book Giveaway!!!!

Why Does This Guy Hate Me????
 I'm a member of a great community of bloggers that supports and shares ideas about all things blogging - a super talented group.

However, a guy in that group named Chad Jones specializes in "hate" - perhaps its the Arizona heat where he lives; the fact that the Cardinals have an inconsistent pass rush or not enough fiber in his diet - all I know is the man is cranky (an excellent writer) but cranky.

For some reason (perhaps cuz I asked him to) he turned his weekly hateful rant my way. Check out his post today over at www.randomlychad.com.

 But before you go, today is the LAST day of the Jon Acuff book giveaway where you can get a chance to win a complete library of Acuff's books valued at more than $40 for FREE.

Follow the steps below.....

============================================
**LAST CHANCE**  Win an Entire Jon Acuff Library - 3 books.

Congratulations to Thursday's Winner: Michael Romeo LaFlamme (@MRomeoLaf).

Today is the LAST AND FINAL day of this contest!!!!.

To enter do the following:
1.) comment on today's post
2.) "Share" it on Facebook OR "Tweet" it on Twitter - for Twitter please add the hashtag #torcon

Enter once-a-day; today's winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow - TODAY IS THE LAST DAY - DON'T MISS OUT.

Good luck!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

3 Reasons People Aren't Listening to You

Today I'm honored to have my writing featured on the wonderful blog belonging to Alise Wright  http://www.alise-write.com.  Alise has graciously afforded me the chance to share some thoughts with her readers. To get a sense of what Alise (pronounced uh-LEASE) is all about click HERE.

Here's an excerpt of the guest post I wrote for her today:

Sociologists estimate that we are bombarded with more than 5,000 different types of messages every day in the form of news, advertisements, email, social media and plain old conversations. We simply are not equipped to process all that input and a lot of it is simply ignored.

Even meaningful one-on-one conversations with great news can suffer this same fate. At some point, we all experience a situation where we want to share information with someone who doesn’t want to listen. It happens to all of us. It even happens to God......

If you'd like to read the entire piece please swing by Alise's site at http://www.alise-write.com after 8am when it goes live, but before you do that be sure to try and win a complete Jon Acuff library here. This contest runs for today and tomorrow - details are below.

============================================================
**LOOK**  Win an Entire Jon Acuff Library - 3 books.

Congratulations to Wednesday's Winner: Stephen Taylor (@steve40004).

Don't be discouraged if you didn't win - the contest runs every day this week.
 
To enter do the following:
1.) comment on today's post
2.) "Share" it on Facebook OR "Tweet" it on Twitter - for Twitter please add the hashtag #torcon

Enter once-a-day; today's winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow; this giveaway runs each day through Friday.

Good luck!!!



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: Stuff Christians Like - by Jon Acuff

Stuff Christians LikeI discovered author, speaker, blogger Jon Acuff in reverse. I came upon his most recent book Quitter while perusing some of the finance and debt reduction publications by Dave Ramsey, whom Acuff currently works for. Quitter is a semi-professional autobiography that chronicles the author's journey from his day job as an online copywriter to his dream job as a best-selling author and speaker.

When I read it, I thought the book was inspired and would likely strike a nerve that many Americans feel about their general malaise regarding their day jobs. That fact continues to be borne out by the book's strong-sales rank on Amazon and best-selling status on the Wall Street Journal list.

After discovering that book, I started reading his blog at www.jonacuff.com, when wonder-of-wonders I further discovered that this guy is a writing juggernaut who writes for two distinct blogs everyday. The first is Quitter-focused, the second is faith-based with a satirical twist and can be accessed at www.stuffchristianslike.net.

Ironically, it's this second site that launched Acuff to publishing success, allowing him to ultimately quit his former day job.

Acuff's first book Stuff Christians Like was titled after his blog and contains dozens of the best posts from that site as well as about 70 new posts specific to the book. While the book is irreverent at times, and always satirical about "unique" practices in American Christian churches (e.g. the use of bald eagles during service, prayer circle etiquette, losing the will to clap during worship...etc.), it is always respectful of the faith.

The greatest strength of this book is that it doesn't treat faith as a sacrosanct, cold-hearted issue of life and death but rather as a rollicking lifelong adventure that pleases God most when we take Him seriously but not  necessarily ourselves.  This is the book I envision that observational comedian Jerry Seinfeld would have written - that is if Seinfeld was not Jewish.

Despite the hilarity and honesty, Stuff Christians Like may be an acquired taste for some. Unfortunately many claimed Christians, will find it easier to chastise Acuff's satire because it's simultaneously self-effacing yet transparent about the selective application of God's word in many Christian hearts and churches.  

Regardless, his writing is crisp, ironic and entertaining. The highest praise I could give this book is that you don't have to be a Christian to like Stuff Christians Like.

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**LOOK**  Win an Entire Jon Acuff Library - 3 books.


Congratulations to Tuesday's Winner: Martha Giffen (@marthagiffen). 

Don't be discouraged if you didn't win - the contest runs every day this week.
  
To enter do the following:
1.) comment on today's post
2.) "Share" it on Facebook OR "Tweet" it on Twitter - for Twitter please add the hashtag #torcon

Enter once-a-day; today's winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow; this giveaway runs each day this week.

Good luck!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Top-10 Phrases From My Mom

My mom in her 20s
Last night I saw that one of my sisters had a collection of our mother's photos posted up on a Facebook page. The photo insert to the left, was always one of my favorites of my mom when I was growing up.

Our parents raised five children and would have celebrated their 45th anniversary last month had they both been alive. My father died of a heart attack in August 2006 and my mother died in a single-car crash in January 2004.

Even though I'm a grown 42-year old man with a family of my own, there are times when I miss them. I learned a lot from them both. 

Some of the biggest lessons I learned from them dealt with faith, love, family as well as dealing with their premature deaths. However, I also learned a lot of little lessons in every day interactions and sayings - particularly from my mother. Though her sayings were legion, here are some of the more memorable ones for me.

Top 10 Phrases Heard From My Mom

10. Make sure to change your underpants.
9. Is your homework done?
8. Did you leave the toilet up?
7. Don't cry, it's going to be alright.
6. Don't run with the scissors.
5. Don't cut your sister's hair with those scissors!!!
4. Close the refrigerator door, we're not air conditioning the house.
3. Go get me the stick!
2. Put your coat on, it's cold out there.
1. I love you, too!

Question: What were some of the phrases your mom was known for???

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**LOOK**  Win an Entire Jon Acuff Library - 3 books.


Congratulations to Monday's Winner: Matthew Walker (@ghostdontwalk). 

Don't be discouraged if you didn't win - the contest runs every day this week.
  
To enter do the following:
1.) comment on today's post
2.) "Share" it on Facebook OR "Tweet" it on Twitter - for Twitter please add the hashtag #torcon

Enter once-a-day; today's winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow; this giveaway runs each day this week.

Good luck!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Most Important Lesson I've Learned this Summer

My daughter and I fighting the current
This summer, my family went on vacation at the beautiful Deep Creek Lake in western, Maryland where we rented a lakefront home with close friends of ours.

One of our collective excursions was to visit the lakeside state park that had a sandy beachfront and offered rentals for a variety of watercraft including: canoes, paddle boards as well as single and two-person kayaks.

Our family rented a two-person kayak - I took turns with each of my daughters out on the water for a :30 minute stretch. [Note: see the photo insert of me and our eldest].

This was our first time kayaking mind you. While each mini-expedition was both thrilling and exhilarating - they were also revelatory.

By that, here are some truths I observed on the water that day:
  1. Water-related activities are serious and require full attention of the participants. You must constantly be monitoring for those who are sharing the water with you who might be reckless, careless, mindless or impaired. They are a constant threat that requires vigilance.
  2. You must continually paddle against the wind-driven and tributary-fed current of the lake. Otherwise the tide will carry you someplace you don't want to go or crash your craft (with all its passengers) into the rocky shore line.
  3. Paddling against the ever-surging current is difficult and tiring work, but it's absolutely necessary to keep moving forward in the direction you want to go.
  4. Parents must do virtually all the paddling on behalf of their younger kids, because children simply lack the strength and coordination to effectively navigate the current themselves.
While those might be obvious observations to anyone who's dug a paddle into choppy waters, the parallels to my spiritual walk were powerful. I couldn't help but compare the watery current I struggled against to our swelling and surging secular culture. Likewise, the paddle, life jacket and kayak easily symbolize various elements of my Christian worldview.

Without going into a tedious lecture, those metaphors breathed new meaning and insight into the role that I must play as a parent against the unrelenting darkness of this world that presses forward on our kids in an effort to steal their childhood and innocence.

For instance, growing up I never had to deal with easily-accessible Internet porn, Sexting or mobile email photos of random body parts - that's everyday stuff now for pre-teens and teens alike.

I'm not being a prude, I'm merely being a protector and defender of innocence in the lives of my own kids because once it's lost - like Milton's Paradise - it cannot be regained. That's an important reminder for every parent who cares about their kids and the most important lesson I've learned this summer.

So, I'll just keep paddling as long as I can.

Question: What fight are you fighting on behalf of your kids? In hindsight, what fight do you wish your parents would have fought for you?

==========================================================
**LOOK**  Win an Entire Jon Acuff Library - 3 books

To enter do the following:
1.) comment on today's post
2.) "Share" it on Facebook OR "Tweet" it on Twitter

Enter once-a-day; today's winner will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow; this giveaway runs each day this week. 

Good luck!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book GiveAway: Entire Jon Acuff Library Each Day!!!

If you've read this blog for the past few months, you've witnessed my metamorphosis into a full-fledged fan of best-selling author, blogger and speaker Jon Acuff.

During the past three years, Acuff has published the following three books: his first was Stuff Christians Like; followed by Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt; with his most recent Wall Street Journal best-seller titled Quitter.

I've read each of these titles within the past two months, and I liked them so much that I want to share them with the readers of my blog.

So every day this week, beginning Monday 8/8 through Friday 8/12, I'm going to be giving away a Jon Acuff Library comprising of one of each of his three books.
[NOTE: see photo insert above].

Here's how it'll work:
  • There will be a single winner each day, selected at random from eligible contestants.
  • To be an eligible contestant, each would-be-winner must do at least 2-of-the-3 steps below
  1. Comment on my blog post for that day; 
  2. "Share" the blog post to Facebook by clicking on the Facebook "f" or "Share on Facebook" link at the bottom of the post;  OR
  3. "Tweet" the post to Twitter by clicking on the "t" button at the bottom of the post.
  • Once you complete 2-of-the-3 steps you're automatically entered into the drawing for that day.
  • Contestants can only enter once each day, but if they don't win - they can enter each day until they do.
  • Once you win, you cannot enter and win again.
  • I'll announce each winner as part of the next day's blog post.

The total daily value for this prize, including the free postage to anyone in the United States, is nearly $40. I know it's not Wheel of Fortune coinage, but it's better than a punji spike to the eye.

So don't miss out, the fun runs all week!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Funny Friday Video: NASCAR Prayer Put to Song

Fridays are a great time to loosen up here at The Daily ReTORt and share a laugh heading into the weekend. Personally, I could use a laugh myself.

Even though we're still on vacation, I've shared some challenging trials and tribulations we've experienced this week - Our Humorless Children and My Toothpaste Fiasco respectively - which neccesitate a dose of humor.

In that regard, here's a funny video from some folks who never disappoint in the business of funny - The Gregory Brothers. This particular video is a "songified" version of a genuine prayer delivered as part of the pre-race festivities delivered by Pastor Joe Nelms at a recent NASCAR event.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Single-Worst-Vacation Failing...(thus far)

Dental disease might be better than this toothpaste!
Our lake vacation thus far has been perfect. The weather, activities, fellowship, kids, fun - one of the best ever - except for one thing.

The toothpaste.

My wife single-handedly completed the herculean task of buying and packing foodstuffs to keep our family feed for seven days.  My task as trusted sidekick was toiletries.  The day we were leaving for the trip I thought I had nailed my sidekick responsibilities, getting everything we needed.

However, during the drive here, The Wife innocently began listing the sundries I was supposed to secure for the health and well being of our family. She’d ask – I’d counter in the affirmative. It was exhilarating, like dueling banjoes or something. That is until the topic of toothpaste came up.

I had no recollection of purchasing, packaging or pilfering any kind of tooth cleansing paste.

However, ever the optimist, I assured her we’d be fine. I was confident that there would be some kind of complimentary trial tube on each of our pillows, freshly aglitter with pixie dust from the Tooth Fairy herself.

Needless to say upon arrival, we found that neither the Tooth Fairy nor actual house owners had anticipated my failure to buy toothpaste. Apparently, when you pay a boatload of clams to rent someone’s beautiful lakefront home – the toothpaste is not included.

So once the car was unpacked I headed back out to the closest grocery store in this bucolic resort-town. To my horror, the only toothpaste this particular establishment carries is the brand pictured in the photo insert, which cost more than seven dollars.

Now, I completely understand the idea of a “resort-town markup” but that amount made me consider the possible virtues of trench mouth if we collectively agreed as a family to a week of non-brushing. But I knew my wife wouldn’t go for that so I bought it.

I’m sure that Arm & Hammer products are wonderful, they’ve been around for more than 100 plus years - so they’re doing something right, but this particular toothpaste has three fatal flaws:

1. The over-the-top, gritty texture of the paste is akin to brushing your teeth with the rock-encrusted boot of a longshoreman.

2. The baking soda’s bitter base has a “touch of mint” – which makes you think that the aforementioned shoreman’s boot also had affixed to it an ant-covered glob of “ABC” spearmint gum.

3. Lastly, the tube does not have a flip-top cap, it has an old school screw-off cap. Apparently the product design department at Arm & Hammer is run by Archimedes.

My apologies for this belabored post on such a "non issue," but it’s the only thing I could do to forestall having to brush my teeth this morning. I simply can’t wait to re-experience that non-fresh, gravelly mouth sensation all over again.

Question: What’s the most memorable thing you’ve forgotten while packing for any day-trip or longer stretch of travel?



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Urgent Comedy Help Needed - Stat!!!

I've come to a sobering realization during our vacation - kids are NOT funny. Don't get me wrong, some of the funniest things I've ever heard have been spoken by our two daughters - unintentionally, spoken - which makes all the difference.

What I mean, is that when kids are NOT trying to be funny, they are natural crack-ups; however, when they intentionally try to tell a joke it's worse than watching CarrotTop doing mime. Here are recent examples:

We're vacationing with another family by an idyllic lake in Maryland. Yesterday, we were all kayaking at a beach within a state park. Our youngest (age 7) was standing behind me as I took off my shirt and put on my required life jacket. In response to the strategically placed tufts of hair on my back she nonchalantly stated to all who could hear, "Daddy, your back looks like a Jack-O-Lantern" : FUNNY

[Note: this child has never seen Steve Carrell's Man-O-Lantern from the movie 40-Year Old Virgin - see photo insert].

Now that kind of unintentional comedy is funny. What's not been funny are the knock-knock jokes, never-ending jokes and non-jokes we're forced to suffer through at dinner. For example, the classic non-knock-knock joke goes "knock, knock//who's there//me//me who//me boo boo boo lah lah do." : NOT FUNNY

That joke, along with dozens of other ill-conceived, overly forced attempts at humor, are foisted upon the adults in an unrelenting stream of unfunny over dinner. As such, humor is maimed and impaired - digestion suffers accordingly.

In an attempt to salvage our remaining vacation dinners, please share your FUNNIEST knock-knock joke and/or short setup joke (no more than three sentences) ASAP so we can school our kids accordingly in the art of funny.

Our fractured funny bones thank you!!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Share Your Favorite Vacation Memory

Deep Creek Lake - Photo Credit: Cred Calhoun
This week we're vacationing with some dear friends whom we've known for more than 20 years. We've rented a lake house and have had a great time boating, tubing, swimming, hiking and all the other water-related activities associated with lake life.

While this is the first time we've ever vacationed with another family, our kids play well together and there's an aura of ease that surrounds the other parents, which makes everything very relaxing - this certainly won't be our last tandem vacation I'm sure. For now, we still have several days ahead of us to create enduring memories for our families and kiddos.

With that, what is your favorite vacation memory as a child or adult? If you've never taken time off, please share what your ideal vacation would be?