Sunday, June 24, 2012

What I packed for London...

So I'm in a 747 on my way to the UK right now. The trip is technically for work, but let's be honest -- we all know there will be a lot of nonsense like castle visiting, Shakespeare watching, and Big Ben finding (it's tall enough to see even when you're lost, right?). We'll even get to see if I can drive on the left side of the road (stay tuned for results).

I know, it's really not fair, and I should be ashamed of myself. But, assuming all goes well on the flight, I will be visiting my brothers and sisters in the UK (the ones we used to call Redcoats), and I'd like your support. Even if it comes as veiled jealousy and hatred.

The worst part really is that I can't bring my sweet wife Melody. She's wanted to go to England since she was a little girl, but it didn't work out this time. She's due in August, so rather than risk having a baby with dual citizenship and an ongoing internal strife about the correct way to spell favorite/favourite, she stayed home. But we will come back someday, that is for sure.

I'll try to post more details about the trip during the week. But for this initial post, I wanted to show you what I ended up packing for the trip. It took some thought, but I think I finally nailed it.

Norton's Anthology

Believe it or not, this was one of my favorite textbooks in college. I figured if I flash this puppy around town, I can get instant street cred. "Yeah, I know Wordsworth and Marlowe. Now how about a few extra chips with the fish?"

My Book

Look, you never know when I might meet an Oxford Professor or Cambridge Press rep looking for the next great British novel. I want to be ready with samples when/if the time comes. (By the way, that's just a "fake" copy of the book, no need to freak out just yet. August will come soon enough, friends).

Running Shoes

Two words: Olympic Marathon. The Olympics are coming in just a month to...guess where? London. You think one of the top three American runners can't get a hangnail on their big toe or pull a hamstring or get e-coli? I will be there to fill in on a moment's notice, wearing my red, white, and blue. I wouldn't be able to finish with the other guys, but you can bet I would still jog around the stadium with a flag draped around my shoulders -- even if it was at 11:00 PM.

Okay, quick interruption here. The flight attendant just came by and asked if we had any "rubbish." Ahh, I love it.


I'm just not going to take any chances with the bland food I keep hearing about. I'm going to keep this bad boy in a holster, and the joke will be on you, British chefs. As one of our chefs says -- BAM! (I think he's American, anyway).


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Yep, the biggest thing I packed was a suitcase full of excitement. This is a dream come true for me. I can't wait to meet the lovely people, see the historic sites, do a little brilliant work for some fantastic clients, and simply soak it all in.

This is my first visit, but it won't be the last. I'm thinking of this as laying the groundwork to come back and really enjoy it with Melody by my side. 

Until then, I hope what I packed will get me through the week.

Cheerio then!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Luis Freakin' Bermudez

This is a story about triumph. About overcoming trials. But in junior high, those things don’t matter much.

So there I was, on the chopping block for the 7th grade basketball team. It was down to me and Luis Bermudez for the final spot, and I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

In the morning, the crisp computer printout on the gym door betrayed me. They must have misspelled my name. It had the same number of letters as my name, but it looked eerily different. Luis Bermudez. I didn’t make the team. Ugh.

Cut. Thrown aside. Cast out. I could already picture the rest of the team (the ones whose names were spelled correctly) running around the courtyard in their new warm-ups. Girls following, swooning.

And then there's me, left without a team and I probably forgot to finish my math assignment, too. I heard it all from well-intentioned family members and friends: “Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team.” “Basketball is lame, anyway.” “Well, Luis is a pretty good player…”

I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted to bury my head under the pillow and listen to Richard Marx all afternoon. I know, that could have been disastrous. But keep reading.

Instead, I decided to find another potential venue for disappointment. Wrestling. I threw on my sweats and walked into the dance room, but it didn’t smell like ballerinas. It was a wall of B.O. A thick wall. But I kept pushing through and officially joined the team (no tryouts, all were welcome).

I learned how to do a single leg takedown, a half-nelson, and an Olympic headlock. And how to wear stretchy pants/shorts. And you know what? I had a great time. I learned a ton. I even took 2nd place in the end-of-year tournament. Take that, basketball guys.

I wrestled through my sophomore year of high school and managed to get out before I ever got cauliflower ear. It was a great experience, and I feel like it was the right path for me. But there’s no way I would have known that in 7th grade…unless Luis Bermudez made the basketbal team and I didn't.

In a way, all of us have our own Luis Bermudez’s. For some, shyness may be their Luis Bermudez. For others, a lack of education. For me, Luis Bermudez happened to be a tall kid who was a better rebounder. (And just to be clear, Luis is a good guy. No hard feelings). 

But everything happens for a reason. More recently, I got “cut” from 3 construction jobs before I figured out that I should be writing for a living. Even though being rejected from the construction industry hurt, I finally learned that it wasn’t where I belong. I belong where I am now, and I love it.

So what are you going to do when you face challenges or rejection? Take it from me, there’s something waiting for you that is much better than mulling around listening to soft rock from the 80’s. Go out there and find it. 

Oh yeah, and hold on to the nights.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Going Somewhere...

I love flying. Airports. Parking shuttles. Overpriced breakfast. All of it. I love flying.

Maybe it's because I was raised on an Air Force base, but few other things get me as excited as flying. But really, flying isn't something that should be so much fun. Other than a free cup of soda, there really aren't a ton of redeeming qualities of flying. Here's a list of reasons why flying shouldn't be one of my favorite things.
  • Security. No matter how many times you fly, there's no stress-free way to get through security (unless you're one of those hipsters who travels with just an iPad). For the rest of us, our minds are racing a million miles an hour. Laptop in this container. Shoes in this one. I think I have a hole in my sock. Toothpaste in a small plastic bag. Belt in another container. If I bend over there will be issues.  Does deodorant count as a liquid? Do my feet have to be exactly on those little footprints? Stress.   
  • Long waits. Ugh. These aren't fun at all. There are only so many hours one can sit in a vinyl chair before madness sets in. And if the wait is on the actual plane, we all go mad together. 
  • Cramped Quarters. I'd rather crouch behind the plate during a baseball game for 5 hours than sit in the middle seat on a coast to coast flight. Knees locked. Shoulders sore from clinching together. Neck cramp from trying to read the article about Princess Kate in the People magazine belonging to the woman in the aisle seat.
  • In-Flight "Entertainment." Remember that movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs? Exactly. I wouldn't remember it either, except it was showing on an international flight I was on once. Maybe they could take some of the extra bag fees they gouge us with and purchase an "A" list movie from Amazon.  
So why is flying one of my favorite things? It's the fact that I'm going somewhere. Boston. Salt Lake City. San Diego. Home. I'm going somewhere, and I just happen to get to ride in a big metal cylinder 30,000 feet above the ground. There's excitement and anticipation and hope. That's what I love about flying.

And life isn't really any different. There are a lot of unpleasant things about life. Sickness. Disappointment. Heartache. The MVD. But when it comes down to it, life can still be enjoyable if we're going somewhere. Where are we going? It doesn't matter. A Little League game. Summer vacation. A dream career. A happy marriage. Heaven.

The point is, we are all going somewhere. There should be excitement and anticipation and hope. And when we remember that, we can deal with the other stuff. There may be delays, layovers, or even cancelled flights. But we'll get there. We will.

So where are you going? I hope you enjoy the flight.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cutting the Cable

I had the chance to spend the past couple of days at a resort/water park in Phoenix with the family, all courtesy of a team outing for work. So much fun!

When we got back to the hotel at night, we all took turns rinsing the chlorine out of our hair, getting dressed, and screaming frantically when our two-year-old tried to open the $15.00 bag of Chips Ahoy from the mini bar. And one-by-one, we filtered into the front room to watch TV.

You see, we got rid of cable/Direct TV a couple years ago. It was more of a "let's save some money" move than a "we hate TV" move. So anyway, we've been on a solid regimen of Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox for awhile. And for us, it works great. But every once in awhile I think I miss it. When the D-Backs play, when the Sun Devils play, and when there's a Hallmark Christmas movie.

But on Thursday night, with "free" cable and a host of channels, this is what we watched: 
  • 5 minutes of a show about selling someone else's junk (it doesn't matter which one, they are all the same)
  • 3 minutes of some radical environmentalists about to freeze as they are stranded near some iceberg
  • 7 minutes (one half inning) of a college softball game between two schools my kids would never go to

And then Melody suggested going to bed. At 10:00 PM. On vacation. And nobody really fought it. Going to sleep, as boring as that is, was the better alternative.

Cable had officially lost its luster for our family. Now, I'm not saying I wouldn't like to watch the Food Network every once in awhile or actually see what the D-Backs look like instead of listening to them on the radio, but I'm really convinced that I don't need or want cable. If there's a good show, I can wait and watch it on demand.

Writing this blog post made me remember when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. We had cable, and we even had the Disney Channel. While I was waiting to leave for school, I watched "You and Me, Kid" every day. You remember that classic, right? Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "Each show lasted approximately 30 minutes and was dedicated to building interactive skills between parents and their toddler children." Check it out:

Yeah, I know. When I was 8 years old I watched a show about parents and toddlers talking and dancing together. FOR APPROXIMATELY 30 MINUTES! I could have been out in the front yard, on the playground in our neighborhood, or better yet, in the kitchen with my Mom "building interactive skills." But because we had cable, I was sucked into that darn show.

Hopefully the "on-demand" era will be better for us all -- no more sitting around watching whatever is thrown at us. Now's our chance to seek out what we want, and not settle for anything else. As for me, I'm going to seek out more actual interactive skills with my kids, instead of watching shows about interaction. 

Maybe we can start by selling some of our junk, or getting stranded on a lake in the White Mountains, or playing a game of softball in the park. That sounds great to me.