Friday, January 23, 2015

How ridiculous people help us love the annoying ones

© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Usually, I have the gym sauna all to myself. But not always.

There was the woman last month sprawled on her back across the lower bench. After 15 minutes and no movement, I assumed she was dead, but it turned out she was only taking a 175-degree nap. Then there was the blonde from a few weeks back. She walked in and out again in roughly 48 seconds.

If you can't stand the heat....

Otherwise, I tend to hit the sauna at the non-peak hours, apparently, because I've come to think of it as my hiding place. No one would think to look for me in there. And, even if they did, the stifling heat would deter them from coming in to get me.

Recently, while racing to the sauna where I could sweat in peace and relieve stress from my day, I walked in on a woman in dress mode and shouting her apologies before I'd hardly realized what the shouting was about.

Not knowing what else to do, I took a seat in the corner and focused on the ceiling.

I never got her name, mostly because she didn't stop talking long enough for me to ask. Instead, while switching from one layer of clothing to another in a series so complex I couldn't keep up, she told me about her home in Chicago, her mother with dementia, her views on public decency, and her pastor's sermon she could repeat in graphic detail about God's plan for sex.

After I got over the shock and embarrassment, I found it quite educational.

In between tying her splashy moo moo over a satiny slip of some kind and lacing up her all purpose sneakers, she recanted conversations she's had with a centenarian she visits after church on Sundays. She told me about the house where her mother has lived for 44 years. She tsk tsked through a conversation she'd had recently with a few young women who needed set straight.

When necessary, she would tuck a layer of fabric around her right breast, which mysteriously could never get enough fabric.

I came to the sauna to be alone. I came because it's where I'm always alone. After a day where someone had managed to press one of only three buttons I actually possess (my political buttons are totally separate from this total and are, therefore, exempt from all rules whether real or implied), all I wanted was to be away from all humans currently on planet earth, as well as any soon-to-visit alien species in this galaxy or beyond.

People are stressful. People are difficult. I didn't want to be around people.

As this woman talked - and tucked - I couldn't help but laugh. And be shocked. And laugh again because she amused me so greatly. She was charming and real, odd but personal, and if I didn't want to like people at that moment, God shouldn't have put me in a sauna with her.

When she left, wheeling her suitcase of various attire stuffed inside, she threw a blessing in my direction and then suggested I take a turn in the hot tub while fully attired in my workout clothes.

Once alone again, I thought about people. Yeah. Them. People.

I thought and I surmised and I scrunched my face and then I sweated through the scrunching and I considered all the ways people are terrible sometimes.

But, then again, sometimes I am, too.

People can be rude and inconsiderate, obnoxious and just seriously annoying, and that's not even getting into the deeper, darker layers of humanity where we turn cruel and even evil.

People suck. But, as my sauna friend showed me, sometimes, they also shine in the most unexpected of places. And for that reason alone, I left the sauna.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why shutting up may save the world

The world is plagued with problems. Talking may be the worst.

I've been reminded of this lately, like when my renters promised to pay for the carpet they damaged and then boot scootin boogied out without a dime. Or when a certain President in a certain country delivered a State of the Union speech with promises everyone has certainly heard before.

Yes we have. 

Talk is cheap, they say. And they say it a lot. We seem to think talk is the answer to all that ails us. Take kidnapped girls in Nigeria, for example. Last year a hashtage was the only way to save them. Celebrities, politicians, everyone galloped into Twitter to save the day. This year, we don't talk about them much. It might be because, last we heard, they were sold into sex slavery to Islamic terrorists. 

Maybe talk isn't cheap at all. In many cases, it's unimaginably costly.

In business, especially advertising, talk is constant. And repetitive. There's often greater commitment to the number of times a thing is said more than the relevance of the thing said. I see this often. Whenever a client or individual approaches me for content marketing advice, the first two questions I can count on hearing is:

- What sites should I be on?
- How often should I be posting?

The "what" of that post comes later, if at all. And, to me, that's the only question that really matters. But, heck. What do I know? Analytic charts just don't excite me as, apparently, they should. I don't care if 10,000 people heard nothing. I care that one heard something.

In all this talk, the poetry of action is getting lost. It's hard to accept how far we've committed to "meetings" and "committees" and "discussion" and "brainstorming" as our value base until our toilet gets clogged. When plumbers start talking at our pipes instead of clearing them, I'll be going up to the spirit in the sky.

We need less talk. More doing. Less blabber. More brawn. Less discussion. More motion. And on that note, I'll shut up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Resistance is NOT futile

Originally posted at

In 1963, a loaf of bread was 22 cents. Buy a pound of chicken for 29 cents and, with your loaf, you could feed your entire family for less than the cost of one small burger on the McDonald’s dollar menu of today. In fact, these were the days when a dollar could actually take you places, right after you spent it buying three gallons of gasoline.

It was a different world. A world with different rules.

In 1963, rotary phones went to push button dial. We learned French cuisine with Julia Child. And everybody, absolutely everyone, had Peter, Paul and Mary’s song about a dragon stuck in their head.

It was a different world. A world with different rules.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that year. He told us about it for 17-minutes while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Our 35 President had dreams, too, but they ended in November when a gun went off in Dealey Plaza.

It was a different world. A world with different rules.

While Leslie Gore insisted you didn’t own her and the Beatles finally arrived in America, there was a woman in Dallas, Texas who chose that year as the year she had had enough.

She was a business woman. A sales woman. A lady with a head for entrepreneurship and the flawless skin to prove it. And in 1963, she quit.
“Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.” – Mary Kay Ash 

Like a salmon. Exactly like a salmon. 


Mary Kay Ash lived in a world where women in the workplace were more anomaly than normality. The female gender was rushing into work, but rushing with 60 percent less pay than men.

Even in 1963, the year of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the year of evolution, the year “equality” became a dinner table discussion, Mary Kay found herself once again passed up for a promotion in favor of a man, a man she had trained, a man now earning twice her salary.

It was the last time, the very last time, she would play by anyone else’s rules.

Instead, she retired. At age 45, she walked out and decided to reshuffle the deck.
“You can have anything in this world you want, if you want it badly enough and you’re willing to pay the price.” – Mary Kay Ash 


New player. New game. New rules. 

Inside Mary Kay’s head was 25 years of direct-selling business experience. She had made an art form out of hosting home parties and selling housewares. Her skills were so remarkable, in fact, she had been hired away from her employer Stanley Home Products in 1952 to work for World Gifts.

And, yet, promotion after promotion passed her by.

When she left World Gifts over a decade later, she decided to put all those years of experience, all those lessons, all those business ideas and selling ideas and techniques down on paper. She made two lists: the good business practices she had witnessed in companies and the business practices that needed changed.

She had intended to write a book. Instead, she launched a global cosmetics company.

“No” isn’t the final word. 


Mary Kay knew business could be different, women could be successful, a company could make their customers feel important, and you could do it all by incorporating the Golden Rule. She knew this to be true. Her world, however revolutionary it was in 1963, was still telling her “no.” She didn’t accept that as the final answer. She rebelled. She took her savings of $5,000 and said, in essence, ‘watch me prove you wrong.’

And, to this day, Mary Kay, Inc. does. Every year. To the tune of $3.5 billion in wholesale sales worldwide.

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” – Mary Kay Ash

It’s called ‘herd mentality’ for a reason.  


The world in 2015 may be as revolutionary as revolutions come. Protests are becoming commonplace. World leaders are marching in the streets. And, yes, you can feed your entire nontraditional family on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.

Still, even in today’s progressive world, if you have a dream, a new idea, an unconventional method to your madness, then you have obstacles. Different is never easily made the norm. Even when different is better, faster, more streamlined, more economical, or just makes more common sense. If what you dream to do or to be is against the tide, then expect a current. And get prepared to practice your breaststroke.

Quitting is only one of many options. 


Here’s the good news: salmon do eventually reach their destination and so did Mary Kay. Her resistance paid off. Her ideas were validated, her work rewarded. Then, instead of a promotion with a salary, she became a CEO and one of histories most successful and recognizable female entrepreneurs.

Not bad for a day’s work.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Celebrating Labor Day in January

Not that this will ever benefit me in life, but, when possible, I like to rock me some knee pads.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This Season Matters

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” - Dr. Seuss

Originally posted at


Now You See It

Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Criss Angel levitated at will. And Penn ran an 18-wheeler over Teller without giving the little guy a single scar.
Their breathtaking talent is part fanciful, part unnerving. The “ah” leaves us gasping for an explanation. Why? Because we know an explanation exists. The greatest magicians of all time, the ones who can shock us even when we expect to be shocked, all have a card up their sleeve. Or a bird. Or a scarf.
It isn’t magic. It’s an illusion. David Copperfield didn’t remove the 225-ton Statue of Liberty. He hid it behind drapes while, simultaneously, moving his audience on a slow-rotating platform to change their view. Criss Angel freed a leg from an angle the audience couldn’t see in order to lift himself, seemingly, into the air. And that 18-wheeler? It was real. It was also counter-balanced with weights on the opposite side so Teller could lie under the wheels without the weight.
They are tricks. They are not magic.


Now You Don’t 

We learn Santa doesn’t exist about the same time a front tooth or two does its own disappearing act. That’s often the first moment our belief in the unexplainable begins fizzling out until it goes completely flat. If Santa isn’t real, if something that glorious doesn’t exist, maybe nothing fantastical exists at all.
Magic disappears like a palmed coin. The next time someone asks us to believe – in anything – we pause. And that pause is the beginning of a lifelong suspicion.
Once we reach our fully-grown selves, we’ve dismissed all fables, all fairy tales, and even many dreams. Life is life, we conclude. It has hard edges and dark days. It’s not a flight through fantasy land with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. It’s a war with both feet on the ground. And we’re tasked with making the best of it.


Presto Chango 

That’s all true. Mostly. Life does have hard edges and dark days, heavy burdens and weighty decisions. We trudge. We stumble. We fall, too, and nothing but determination will get us back up again.
And there’s nothing magical about life. It’s just an illusion. It begins. It goes. It ends. We travel from birth to the grave knowing what you see is what you get.
Except for that pesky, magical story about God coming to Earth.


What Matters

The holiday season often means stress, crowds, too many social events, or too few, too much to buy, or not enough money for anything, disappointments and expectations, and time with family, which can be good, bad or a mixture of both. It can be a time when the curtain is drawn back and it’s just a little man with an amplifier and a smoke machine back there.
So why is the season important? Why bother celebrating at all? Shauna Niequist in Bittersweet said it best:
“This season matters. Christmas is a time when God’s presence is more palpable than any other time of year. It’s also a time when what we’ve lost is more present to us, when the pain or the loneliness or the fear are more present than any other time. It’s a glorious, beautiful time and also one in which the smallest kindnesses can transform us. It’s worth more than pushing and rushing and perfecting your decorations or your homemade cookies.”
It’s time, even in the small moments, to once again believe in magic. It’s a time when we seek out the positive stories among the tragedies, when we long to once more dream our dreams, when our childhood memories are strongest and we, one more time, remember what it felt like to be convinced of the immortal among us.
It’s fanciful. It’s fantastical. It’s the Word come to Earth in the flesh, and that was only the beginning of the ‘ah’ that followed Him.
Because of Jesus, Christmas means there are possibilities in the impossible and hope instead of hopelessness. He is why we can dream and wish and wait expectantly to be shocked, with no trickery or illusion attached. His story has no trap doors, no sleight of hand. He’s real. He’s stunning. If He wants to shock a studio audience, He doesn’t need a rotating platform.
Merry Christmas. May the season enchant you with mystery, and romance you with adventure.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dear God, thank you for all the hard times.

Originally posted at

William Bradford had a job no one would want.  It paid little, as in nothing, and required much. The work environment was hazardous.  The people disorganized.  The supplies low.  Overtime came with the position but perks did not.
Who was William Bradford?  He was a pilgrim.  When you think of Thanksgiving, the buckled shoes, the big hat, you’re thinking specifically about William Bradford.  He cut the turkey, so to speak.
But a meal is not his story.

White or dark meat


Bradford led a life of danger, sacrifice, and experiment.  His journey hard.  His life a story not for the faint of heart but strong in spirit.  And it’s never been more relevant than at this very moment in your life.
Here’s why.
On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail with Bradford on board.  And that’s where our story begins, too.  It was the beginning of a great experiment.  There were 102 souls on board, 40 of which were Pilgrims, led by Bradford, fleeing for a place to worship God without threat of imprisonment or death.
They were seeking freedom.  What they found was a wilderness.

Turkey with all the trimmings


Only half of the Pilgrims survived the first winter.  Bradford’s wife not among them.  They not only had to stay alive, they had to create a new civilization.  The elements weren’t in their favor.
The famous Thanksgiving meal did eventually happen.  And there may have even been a turkey. Probably fish.  Historians say no pie, since they didn’t have butter or an oven.  But pumpkin probably made a showing, the guts of it hallowed out and filled again with milk, honey and spices before roasting the gourdes to make custard.
It was a meal of thanks to God.  A meal of bounty shared with their new neighbors.  And it was a moment to reflect on the work God had done so far and all the work left to do.

Pass the Potatoes

Celebrating Thanksgiving is a tradition for most.  We know the story of the pilgrims and the Indians, the meal and a prayer.  We nod at the idea of two cultures eating harmoniously.  Then we turn on the football game or take a nap.
The most shocking aspect of the historic meal, however, isn’t the meal.  It isn’t even the English pilgrims and native Indians sitting down to feast.  Maybe the most shocking part of the whole story is the fact anyone gave thanks at all.  Anyone, including, or even especially, William Bradford.

An Extra Side of Gravy


Bradford had never had an easy life.  As a young child, he was orphaned.  His developmental years were spent being tossed from relative to relative.  Before he was old enough to vote, at least in this country, he was exiled from his own country.
In the Netherlands, he barely survived as a textile worker.  Even there, Separatists weren’t free from harassment, many of them attacked with rocks and their tracts destroyed.  By 30, he would be on a boat with his wife, forced to leave his four-year-old son behind, and set sail in hopes of living free to worship God.  His wife wouldn’t survive the year.  He would barely survive himself.
Yet, on that historic Thanksgiving day, Bradford would sit with his community and give a heartfelt thanks to God for all He had done.  He would thank God for his blessings.  Let’s repeat that: He would thank God.

Who Wants Pie?


Bradford is described by some historians as having incredible stamina and vision.  He was versatile, detail driven, and gifted in managing people.  These are the personality traits credited for the Mayflower Compact.  For helping him shift the failing collectivist form of governance into the free market commerce system.  For leading to the successful colony and the Great Puritan Migration.  For serving him well as he served the colony for 36 years as governor.
He wasn’t born with these attributes.  He developed them.
Most likely, his constantly shifting childhood taught him how to adapt to unstable environments.  Maybe always being the outsider in the house honed his people skills.  Being alone so early in life may have been what drew him so fervently to a more relational, more intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.  And maybe all his struggles, all that he had survived already, taught him that the hard times are the necessary part of the journey.
They teach what is unknown.  They burn away what is idle.  They sharpen the soft spots.  They make us capable of sailing across the ocean, if that’s what life requires, to populate a nation not yet formed.
Struggles give us tools.  And then they give us the skills, the perseverance, and the wisdom to use those tools.
So this Thanksgiving, as you give thanks for all the visible blessings in your life, consider saying thanks for the more hidden treasures – the ones that only look like struggles.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4: Live blogging...sort of

Election night is why I started drinking. Since I have no wine in the house, I'm just guzzling water straight from the hose.


McConnell takes Kentucky. Maybe Grimes will tell us who she voted for now.


Cotton takes Arkansas from the Democrats. But he's an Iraq War Veteran. Never bet against a veteran. They've got skills.


Brown falling to Shaheen in New Hampshire. I'm sure she's a lovely person, even if she did coordinate with the IRS to target Conservative groups, like the memo released yesterday shows. Still, lovely I'm sure. If you can get past that whole nasty, illegal stuff.


Republicans pick up three! Bwahahahahaha


And then there were four. Colorado Senate goes red. I guess pot really is good for you.


The fifth goes in Montana. We need six for the win, people. SIX.


And the Senate goes red. Six have been taken, ladies and gentlemen.


Joni takes her sassy haircut and her skills in pig castration (you read that right) to Iowa. Perdue takes Georgia. Walker stays in Wisconsin. Roberts remains in Kansas. And Florida rejected Repubican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Crist for Scott. Republicans didn't just win the Senate, they possessed it. Now, I'm exhausted. And my neighbors would probably appreciate it if I tuned out the returns and stopped my shouting so they could get some rest. Thanks for tuning in to my unprompted, not requested, political live blogging.