maybe "rants" isn't the right word. these are simple thoughts about my life. some may be more colorful than others. some language may be offensive, but it depends on your definition of offensive. consider this your warning ;)

29 March 2014

PBDC Day 28/31: Nostalgia

I love country music. Sugarland is my favorite, and I'm also a big fan of Blake, Miranda, Brad, The Band Perry, you get it. But I didn't always feel that way. It wasn't really until Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)."

I was raised on plenty of Motown and other classic oldies. (Sidenote: "oldies" as in from the 60s and 70s. I was listening to an "oldies" station the other day and heard some early 90s U2. #gettingold) My childhood in the late 80s and through the 90s established musical memories with plenty of rap and R&B: Tupac, Boyz II Men, Jodeci (and the K-Ci and JoJo), Bone, Busta Rhymes, and of course, Janet (Ms. Jackson if you're nasty). There was also a good bit of 3 Doors Down, Creed, Blink 182, Reel Big Fish, and other non rap and R&B artists.

During my lunch break, I may or may not have had a 3 minute dance party in my car when this started:
I met him once. early 2000s at the NEX in Norfolk. Yeah, in Virginia while I was in the Navy. He was promoting his newly-released album Active Duty and happened to be doing an album signing on base. I found it interesting that he and I both had roots in Oakland, California, but I met him on the east coast.

Just earlier this week at work I heard a remix of Justin Timberlake with E-40. Yep, E Feezy Fonzarelli from the V-A-L-L-E-J-O, H-I double L side. It through me off a little bit, hearing the distinct voice of E-40, but it also made a little homesick for the Bay Area.

As an added level of California love, I heard the above Hammer track after getting some awesome Mexican food for lunch.
Don't get me wrong, Chipotle hits the spot every once in a while, but when I want real Mexican food, I have a higher standard. Growing up in northern California, going to college in southern California, and even getting treated to a few places in Texas along the way, Mexican food is soul warming.

And I can't wait to come back to the Bay next month, even if it's only for a few days.

27 March 2014

PBDC Day 27/31: Something I Made

Orange marmalade. Soy butter. Wheat bread. I took a picture of this not yet assembled sandwich this morning when I made it in case I didn't find anything better to take a picture of for the day.

And then this happened.
Duolingo, I know you're just using words I've already learned, but damn, this hit a major chord in a minor key. In the direct (and possibly most generally interpreted) manner, this sentence says that said soldier has no immediate family. Immediate family to mean nuclear family, parents and/or siblings. Or if they have their own family, a spouse, pets, and/or children. In that case, it's a heartfelt tug for the soldier who is "alone" with no one to write to, get letters from, or greet him/her at the airport or pier upon their return.

But once become a soldier, sailor, airman, reservist, member of the National Guard, Coastie, whatever you may call it, you are part of a family. Perhaps it becomes your second family. Your family away from home. Or even the only family you have. In any case, the soldier serves with brothers and sisters in arms, to protect the flag and everything the stars and bars represent.

And whether you believe in the military, the wars soldiers are sent to, or "stories" you may hear (but veterans and active duty can call experiences and simply "their life") are real things that they go through with, alongside, and in no way without their enlisted and commissioned family.

Just like "home" can be a feeling, "family" is as close, extended, expansive, and diverse as you make it.

That being said, Duolingo presented me with a gruesome pebble of a lie that snuck into my boot right before my division left the compartment to do drills on the grinder. It was that last pallet of supplies on the pier that left me with a splinter in the palm of my hand as I tossed it on top of the others before we untied and sailed off. It was that one local that had way more than any of us in the bar did that night that bumped into me and spilled the "one for the road" shot just before we piled into the duty van to head back to the boat that final night in port.

And so, I really didn't get to truly satisfy the prompt of the day until now. My writing a blog about the picture for Something I Made was somewhat of a prophecy or prediction. But now that I'm here at the end of this post, I can now present something I made.

26 March 2014

PBDC Day 26/31: I Am Here

I'm playing the "artistic license" card on this one by not taking a photo to encapsulate the day. That, and I couldn't find the right composition to convey what I want to say. However, if you want the literal depiction...
Thanks to my wife for indulging me, because yes, when she took that photo I could honestly say, "I am here." And I also enjoy the illusion of my own beheading as my hooded head blends into the black night, despite seeing my full form in my shadow.

Thinking about it, I guess I did take a photo of where I was earlier this morning.
Shocker, I was at work, at the ON where we had an awesome one day sale for tee hoodies for the whole fam. (If you're reading this, the Old Navy nearest you is probably closed and the sale pictured above is no longer valid. Just saying.) If you missed out, sorry you missed out. But if you snagged a tee hoodie, or six, or for your entire family...high five!

But back to my stance on not denoting one photo as my Photo a Day submission for today...

I am here.

In no way am I attempting to say I'm an omnipotent being (nor is this a coded confession that I'm impotent). What I'm saying is that I am here at all times.

"I am here," is more than a declaration of my location.

"I am here," is a reminder to pay attention to your life, your environment, and to respect the time of those you have requested their time (or those that have requested yours).


In acting classes I've taken, and many rehearsals and performances, there are reminders among the cast members to be present in each performance. In each scene, and in every moment. Don't just recite lines by rote. Don't walk to certain parts of the stage to "hit your mark." Understand your character, your world, and your story and fuse them all together to connect with your scene partners and be present together to create a piece of art.

If you aren't, the audience can tell. They can always tell. And when they know, you'll know. And it isn't pretty. The glow of smartphone screens illuminate their faces from their cupped hands. Their elbows leave their knees and they lean back in their chairs to count the lamps hanging from the overhead. You hear the rustle of programs and purses as they fumble for something to keep their attention.

And all is lost. The magic is gone. The story is decapitated. And the art is deflated.

This also applies to any vocation which involves customer interaction. Before we go on, let's broaden the perspective on "customer." Typically, when we hear "customer" we think "paying customer" at a retail location, food service, clothing, sporting event...anywhere someone would be looking for something at a place of business at which they'll be exchanging a product for currency. Support departments also have customers. Human Resources, IT, Accounting, management, their customers are the employees, but sometimes this gets lost because there's no direct exchange of money for the services received.

Starting with the traditional sense of the word "customer," let's take the situation of being on the sales floor and interacting with a customer. (For a specific, real life example, check out Far Away from Day 10 this month.) If I'm present while working with my customer, I can pay attention to her, engage her in conversation, take in information from verbal and non-verbal cues, and provide her with an excellent shopping experience. If I'm not, I can miss what she's telling me, make ill-informed suggestions, and ultimately, frustrate her instead of helping her.

What entails not being present? Thinking about off-the-clock topics while you should be engaged with customers. Wondering if you forgot to lock your car, an argument you had with your partner the night before, a math test you think you just bombed before coming to work, anything that is not work-related that distracts you and prevents you from fully investing yourself to your work.

In college, when we showed up to rehearsals and performances, we would sign into a Call Sheet to let our stage manager know we have officially arrived. At a couple different jobs I've had, present employment included, we punch in on an electronic time clock. In a basketball game, you check into the scorer's table and wait for the next in bound to step onto the floor. All of these examples are exact moments in which you remind yourself you are stepping onto the playing field and clocking in. Literally. This is the moment you are given to mentally step through the threshold and lock in.

You're on the sales floor, you're engaging with customers, you're helping people out, and maybe you run into a challenging situation: an angry customer, an off-putting interaction, we've all had them. If a deep breath and a quick count to three doesn't do the trick, maybe you need to step off the floor for a moment and head to the break room out of sight of the customers to regain your composure. In a position of customer service, you're putting on a show for the customers whether they are buying anything that day or not. Lock it in. You're getting paid for it. It's your job.

Think about everything else on your break, on your lunch, or after work. If you can't leave it at the door when you come in, maybe you shouldn't be there, or maybe you need to try to control your mood a bit more so you can be present when it's crunch time.

For an extreme example, say an EMT arrives at a crash scene and three compressions into a CPR cycle,  she remembers her father starts chemo that day.


To apply it to retail, maybe you're helping someone in the fitting room and you come back with an incorrect size, and what you guessed, since you blanked when you got to the dressed on the floor and just grabbed one, was way off and she just ended up leaving because you struck a chord of body image insecurity.

In the theatre? You flashback to the fight you had last night and start spouting off what you should have said when you should be telling young Juliet how a family vendetta means nothing to you.

So yes. I am here. Try it out. Maybe saying it in your head when you clock in, step onto the sales floor, or wipe your feet on the non-skid pad before stepping onto the court at the start of the 4th quarter. A little focus goes a long way.

25 March 2014

PBDC Day 25/31: Soft

It snowed again today. It's March 25th, five days into meteorological Spring. It snowed for the better part of the day, but none of it really stuck. A nasty wind decided to come play today so most of what happened was a sideways snow. Blech.

So I decided against taking the easy route and writing another snow/ice-related post to join the ranks of:

Oh, you get it. California kid gets a long, snowy winter and he has to blog about every couple weeks.

But this was waiting for me when I got home.
Go ahead, yell like Brad Pitt in a field with Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey...


I had been waiting for this since the Season 2 premiere of Hannibal when I ordered it. It's finally here.

My fan-art Will Graham zip-up hoodie from Shirt Punch. That's what was in the box. Will Graham's head.

And yes, it's as soft as the show is awesome.

24 March 2014

PBDC Day 24/31: One of a Kind

This is my class ring.

Here's a look from the other side.
California State University, Long Beach. Class of 2011. Bachelor's of Arts in Theatre Arts-Performance, with an emphasis in Directing.

I couldn't tell you why I've wanted a class ring since high school, but I have. I think it's tied to me being a first-generation American in my family and hearing about how letterman jackets and class rings are often handed down as mementos of family tradition, but I'm unsure if that's exactly it. Well, high school came and went, without the letterman or class ring to show for it. After confirming my acceptance to Long Beach State, I knew that I would definitely be leaving college with two items-a diploma and a class ring.

I don't ever remember being a fan of yellow gold, and I've never really been attracted to the traditional sunburst design of class rings that remind of me of mafia dons and high-ranking clergy. So I opted for the rectangle-cut, shiny, smooth onyx (also because my birthstone isn't the appealing of colors) with basic engraving on the side. There were plenty of other graduates that year who were conferred B.A.'s in Theatre Arts, and as to make it unequivocally mine, I had my name engraved on the inside. (Added incentive, it may not take as long as this guy's ring did to get back to him.)

I didn't go to college right after high school. I spent more than four years working towards my degree. And I paid for college primarily with my own military service through the GI Bill. So yeah, my class ring is a tangible reminder of success through my own path. There are many like it, but this one is mine. #riflemanscreed #usmc #oneflagoneteam

23 March 2014

PBDC 23/31: I'm Loving

When it came time to pick which foreign language path I was to traverse in high school, I chose French. Living in California, this was in the minority opinion with such a high Spanish-speaking population. But, I did get an opportunity to use my developing bilingual skills while still in high school. I believe it was the summer of '98, and I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to join my church youth group on a trip to Italy.

We had a considerable layover in Paris, and I got to order everyone's food. Somewhere in between a fractured request for a tuna sandwich and more sodas, this is what happened (in French, but in English, for your enjoyment):

Pierre (or whatever his name was): I don't mean to be rude, but why is the Asian speaking French and not the white people?

Me: Because we're from California, and more students take Spanish classes than French. I'm the only one in the group that is taking French.

Pierre: Interesting. Well, thank you for learning our language.

I didn't do much with French after high school, with the exception of a random phrase here or there whenever speaking a foreign language comes up in conversation. J'aime les pommes de terre. (I like potatoes.)

Just over a couple months ago I heard about Duolingo. It's a free app that sets you up with bite-sized lessons in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. I haven't yet cracked any lessons in French, because I chose to start down the path of Espanol since I now have reasons for it to be useful--customer service at work.
I haven't yet used it at work but I have found it wonderfully simple to find a few minutes each day to squeeze in a little Spanish homework. Go ahead, say it, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," but I'm not one to consider myself old, and learning is learning whatever your age is. Je suis un ananas. (I am a pineapple.)

It's fun more days than not, and the biggest challenge has been learning in a different style than what I've normally preferred, but it's still awesome. I've learned more than a few words, and have been able to successfully string together sentences instead of just regurgitating phrases I've memorized.

Yo no leo los diarios. (I don't read  newspapers.)

¿Tu bebes cervezas? (Do you drink beer?)

El sombrero azul es para mi abuela. (The blue hat is for my grandma.)

I don't think this is all part of me having "school withdrawals" or subconsciously regretting not going into grad school after finally achieving B.A. status, I think it's just my desire to want to always be learning something. Anyone that says that don't need to learn anything else is essentially saying they know everything, or at least everything they need to know. Either way, that's not my preferred attitude, and I hope I never get to where I'm thinking that myself.

Bonjour, Je m'appelle Marlon. (Hello, my name is Marlon.)

Yo no duermo en una cuna. (I don't sleep in a crib.)

Merci, et bonsoir.

Gracias, y buenas noches.

22 March 2014

PBDC Day 22/31: Morning

Each morning, when I wake up, regardless of what time it is, I open the blinds at the balcony door. Most days, it let's the sunlight in, but on those days when I've woken up before the sun has risen, I still open them.

I do this because I was on a submarine.

Yes, I've been out for almost ten years, but what I experienced and learned while in the US Navy (not to be confused with Old Navy, which I'm still happy to be with), applies to my life every single day and helps me to appreciate what's around me.

Let's just be out with it: There are no windows on submarines. Yeah, I know the Yellow Submarine, Nemo's Adventure at Disneyland, blazi, blazi, blah. But on actual functioning, deploying, diving, Silent Service submarines there are no windows or portholes to "watch the fish swim by" or "look to see where you are."

There are so many things that I appreciate so much more after having served aboard a submarine than before, one of which is natural light. Think of all those times you turned on a lamp out of habit instead of opening the blinds or drawing the curtains? If given a choice, I go with sunlight every time. It just feels better. Really.

Those days when you walk outside and literally stop for a couple seconds to feel the sun warm your face? When's the last time you did that in a hallway under fluorescent lights or LED lamps? That's right, you didn't.

I fully recognize that there are billions of people who will never experience the privilege (or sentence) of serving aboard a vessel devoid of windows and natural light like the USS Hyman G Rickover, SSN-709, but that doesn't mean you can't appreciate things many still take for granted.

Like that coffee maker on your counter, or that toaster. Or that water heater, oven, or dishwasher. Or those windows in your apartment that you live in by yourself with out hundreds of other people in the room with you. Or fresh vegetables and fruit.

I'm very proud to have served in the Navy, but also a little bit ashamed that it took me such a drastic lifestyle change to appreciate things I was privileged to have as a child, and still today. Like I said, you don't need to serve in the military to appreciate certain things (like those who served in the military), you just have to open your eyes are really see. Open your mind and really feel.

Open your heart and really live.

21 March 2014

PBDC 21/31: Full

I used to be mildly afraid of frying bacon because hot oil splatter freaks me out. But for the treat that you are rewarded with after the struggle, it's more worth it to leave with a couple of "bacon kisses" than to not have bacon.

With my bacon this particular morning I had some leftover rice and quinoa from the dinner feast the night before.

What started as a jar of apricot preserves, a packet of onion soup mix, and russian dressing...
 Got mixed together...
And was poured over these chicken breasts in the crock pot...
To give me this a few hours later.
(Right about now would be an awesome time for Smell-O-Vision).

Tossed in a bowl with rice and quinoa gave me this:
And between my wife and I, we may or may not have devoured all of the chicken because IT WAS AMAZING.

In recap:
1 1/2 cups of apricot preserves:
1 packet onion soup mix
1 1/2 cup of russian dressing
6 six chicken breasts

Mix the preserves, soup mix, and dressing all together. Pour over all the chicken you've set in the crock pot. 1 hour on High, 3-4 on Low. Devour in happiness. Share if you're feeling generous.

20 March 2014

PBDC Day 19/31: Cropped

This is the first picture I posted of Paula and I together. Yes, I already named her. I had only met her a few hours before, when I had walked in the building of our apartment. She was on a stand by the mailboxes, and as I saw my upstairs neighbor coming down I asked if it was his. Turns out he was moving and was going to put her out with a sign that he held up to show me, "FREE TO A GOOD HOME."

Shoot. Done. I don't know if he named her, but I named her after her dad, Paul.

I had been wanting to learn how to play the guitar for years, but never got around to getting one. With the opportunity for a free one, I have no excuse now. Thanks to my violin background and a online tuner, I was able to get her back to good and figure out steps and half steps to play scales on each of the strings.

I'm nowhere near the level of joining jam sessions, but this is damn exciting.

Here's a full body shot of my new friend
...which, technically, this was the first picture of Paula and I, but when I posted it to IG, I cropped out my feet to make the shot all about her in the square frame.

There it is. Cropped. Check.


PBDC Day 18/31: Five Years Ago

 In February of 2009, a bunch of rowdy theatre kids from Diablo Valley College and a few faculty and staff members traveled by caravan from Pleasant Hill, California to CSU Fullerton in Fullerton, California to present their production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train at KCACTF XLI.

Growing up in California, we didn't see much snow, so when we drove over the Grapevine and saw some of this mysterious ground cover, we knew it was going to be quite a weekend.
Back when Facebook Notes were still a thing, I wrote a Note after we returned. I have since then imported it to this blog for easy access. Enjoy:

The Morning After

It's...not crazy, or amazing, or weird, but it's...____________ to realize that this amazing experience was only five years ago. I still lived in northern California. I had not received my acceptance letter to Long Beach, and actually at that point when the picture was taken, I had not yet met the adjudicator who would see the play I directed, share with me that she is adjunct faculty at The Beach, or knew for certain if I would be attending a university.

Man, how time flies.

PBDC Day 17/31: Today's Weather

I'm lying to you. This isn't today's weather. Today is Thursday, March 20th, and I'm showing you a picture from Monday the 17th. But when I took it qualified as "today's weather." Having seen so many gray skies in the last five months, seeing the sun on a blue background was quite a treat. In this particular shot, there's barely a trace of winter on the ground, but over my left shoulder...

And there it is. Winter grasping for a few final breaths in Indiana.

Today is technically the first day of Spring, so we really aren't that far behind. It just feels like it since snow came early and hit us pretty hard.

Team Old Navy and the MDA Muscle Walk

On April 26th, a group of us from Old Navy in Mishawaka will be participating in the MDA Muscle Walk at Bethel College.

As of right now, there are four others besides myself who are officially registered for the team:

  • Katie Andrews
  • Kristin Blazi
  • Bridgett Bradberry
  • Paige Tomchak

If you're in the Mishawaka area and would like to join our team (whether you're an Old Navy employee or not), click the link below


Before I wrote this post, I donated $6, not just because it's a good cause, but because I wouldn't ask people to do something I wouldn't do myself. And I thought about it in terms of food.

  • Lunch combo at a fast food place: $6-$7
  • Med espresso drink: $3-$5
  • Vending machine snack: $0.50-$1.00

So before you tell me you can't donate anything, think about the last time you grabbed a latte on the way to work, or a candy bar from the vending machine. Even if it's just a dollar.

According to this article, the average adult Facebook user has around 250 Facebook friends.

So, if you say I'm average, if each friend donated ONE DOLLAR, then I would exceed my goal of $100 by another $150.

So think about it. Can you spare a dollar? And if you can or cannot, can you share this post so that others can? Click on this cool guy below, he'll take you to the MDA page and lead you through it.

If you can donate more, that would be awesome, and I would get absolutely nothing out of it besides the satisfaction of knowing that I know people that like helping other people they've never even met!

Thanks in advance!

16 March 2014

PBDC Catch-Up: Days 14, 15, and 16

Day 16/31: Beautifully Ordinary

A bright moon. Open blinds. Shadows. Lamps in the parking lot. These are all common things that, individually, are often overlooked and taken for granted. Seeing the moon on a clear night isn't anything new to most folks. And the temporary stripes that are painted on my bathroom wall but the street lights and blinds aren't much of a surprise either. But for whatever reason, this specific composition aligns for a moment that smacks you in the face and makes you stop for a second.

I tweeted the other day that I realized why I enjoy writing these blog posts and taking these pictures.

Ironically, after Day 13, my streak of consecutive daily blogs ended at 41 posts. What interested me the most is that I didn't beat myself up after missing Day 14. Or Day 15. And just like that, I'm back today with Day 16's post.

"Beautifully Ordinary" is an interesting phrase. "Beautiful" comes to mind first, and when thinking of things that I would consider beautiful, "ordinary" is far from what I envision. "Ordinary" initially speaks to me as "boring," but then I realized that it didn't need to have a negative connotation. It can just as easily mean to be something common and simple.

Like my blog.
Just a collection of entries over the course of several years. And each post begins with the same simple start as any other.
I'm no celebrity, high-powered journalist, or internet icon, but just as easily as anyone else can, I can share my voice for all to hear. Subjecting it to a fate that I have no control over once I click on "Publish." And because of this shot in the dark into thin air, what starts as a simple thought in my head becomes a piece of art I hang on the walls of my online gallery. That is when it becomes beautifully ordinary.

And now for some catch up...

Day 14/31: Care

Not that you asked why I missed Days 14 and 15, but I did because hanging out with friends is much more fulfilling than continuing a streak of blogs that no one but myself asked for.

It's no secret, I want a dog. This past Friday I met a new canine companion, and like most dogs I've met, she wanted nothing else than to be scratched and petted. She didn't care who did, just that she was getting some love. Most dogs I've met in my adult life don't discriminate. They just love being loved. I think that's the primary reason I want a dog.
Just look how relaxed she is with two people she just met. Open to new friends that know how to speak her language. Sure, I may have ended up with some slobber on my shirt, but it was totally worth it. Having a furry friend snuggle up to you while you have dinner with friends was the cherry on top.

If only more people could care as openly as animals (not just dogs) can.

Day 15/31: Evening
For the first time in over a year my wife and I were privileged to have back to back nights of dinner with friends. It was the first time we had guests in our apartment, and we had our own kick back movie night.
I really do enjoy writing these blogs about my past adventures, insightful anecdotes, and commentary on current events, but hangout out with some cool folks is always a better choice.

As Spring begins to emerge and the temperature rises around these parts (there's still a bit of snow on the ground, albeit much less than recent weeks), I look forward to going for walks, baseball games, barbecues, and lazy days by the pool. As that happens, my evening blogging routine may become more sparse, but in that case, for good reason. If anything, hanging out with more folks means more hugs. And I love hugs, if you missed Day 11/31: Something Good.

13 March 2014

PBDC Day 13/31: Fresh

I love iced tea. I know, not your most riveting of admissions, but it's true. There truly isn't anything like good sweet tea, especially when you've had it in the South. Iced green tea is another favorite of mine. But today, the tea spotlight goes to traditional black tea.

There's a place I know...

Take two.

"Ah, Salaam and good evening worthy friends." -Yet another Robin Williams reference in my blog. If you don't get it, watch this clip. *Roll Clip*

But back to the tea. This place has the best iced tea of anywhere I've been to since I've moved to Indiana. It isn't a coffee shop, or a snack shack, or my apartment. It's just good. It's made well, it isn't over-brewed, it doesn't taste like an aluminum arm, like I said, it's just good. It tastes the way traditional black tea should taste (at least as far as my amateur taste buds know).

It doesn't stop there.

You get hot pita bread while you wait for your order.
Whenever I come here I think about trying something new, but I usually end up ordering the same base with a new protein each time. This time I ordered Jasmine's Favorite Rice with lamb.


Everything I've eaten here has freaking rocked. You ever eat something so good that whenever you take a bite you shake your head in disbelief? That's what this place is every time.

Aladdin's Eatery.

Shout out to the crew in Mishawaka where I get to partake of this culinary awesomeness.

Additional points go to their social media in they're on top of it.
I know it doesn't really speak to the quality of their food, but it does show their level of attention to what folks are saying.

(Sidenote: Shout out to @HannibalCafe!)

That's it for today. Aladdin's Eatery serves it up fresh. But in a different way, these guys are fresh too.
#tbt #tmnt #oldschoolversion #jacket

12 March 2014

PBDC Day 12/31: Partial

Monday and Tuesday were the first consecutive days of 50+ degree weather in way too long to remember. Probably no more recent than Christmas week. Into Tuesday afternoon we started getting storm warning notifications for anywhere from four to nine inches of snow, freezing sleet, strong winds, thunder, or any combination of the aforementioned meteorological afflictions. This morning there was quite an accumulation of snow on my windshield.
And it was gross snow. Not like the powder we graciously received for the majority of the winter, or the ice that frosted over quickly, it was wet and chunky like angry bleu cheese or a mixture of bread crumbs in a bowl with just enough egg in it to make it clump together but not really stick to anything. The roads were a slushy, bumpy mess, and it was not pretty in any way.

By noon the snow had stopped and the sun had come out in full force. Not to say it warmed up, it barely squeaked into the 20s at best, but at least the roads were cleared out enough where you didn't have to fear for your life. Leaving work this afternoon I noticed that my car was adorned by a double-decker icicle mustache, thanks to the snow that started higher up and warmed up enough to flow with gravity before refreezing.

Despite the sun's presence in the now cleared sky, the winds had already painted Mishawaka with the pasty snow, sticking it to every inch of tree, bush, building, and traffic light that got in its way. Seeing traffic lights partially blocked out was definitely a first. I have no picture for those since I don't touch my phone while I'm driving.

I did, however, see the most unique ice form I've seen all winter. Imagine a snow-covered pole. Now melt it just enough to where it starts sliding off the pole, but not where it falls apart. Add wind. Include a sign on the pole that catches the partial-sleeve of snow and prevents it from falling to the ground. And now freeze it in a position that would catch the eye of someone looking for cool things to capture on camera.

I give you, The Twisted Partial-Sleeve:
And a couple other pictures to get the full effect
Cool, right? Natural art on a man-made canvas with a sweet blue background. Looking at it again, it looks like a water slide. Or one of those twisty tube slides at a playground. I've walked past this pole numerous times, but for some reason it caught my eye today, and I'm glad it did.

So it might have been the ugliest snow storm of the winter this morning, but even so, I'm partial to living in an area with four seasons. That way you really start to notice more as things are always changing, and if you don't keep your eyes open, you may never see them again.

11 March 2014

PBDC Day 11/31: Something Good


A friend of mine shared an image on his Facebook page that stated something to the effect of, "1 song has the power to reignite 1000 memories." So true. So very true.

While searching through different versions before going with the one used above, there were so many comments of attributing That 70s Show to their introduction to this song. Stuff like that makes me cringe, but I try to stay open. Television shows often make references to past events and memorable media, the most recent example coming from my wife, who, before a couple nights ago had never seen Dead Poets Society, but had heard about it in a reference in HIMYM, and from other instances when I had brought it up having seen it before.

Professor Keating has found his way back into the minds of a new generation of students thanks to this iPad commerical:


Sidenote: Robin Williams is freaking amazing.

Music is wonderful. Movies are fantastic. But today's prompt doesn't ask for things that are wonderful or fantastic, it urges to look for something good. And when I got home from work today I knew what I wanted to capture.
It was a hug from my wife when I got home. Yes, she did know I was taking this picture when I did, and I gave her a full-on hug, focused on her aside from the one in the shot.

I love hugs. I always have as far back as I can remember. I want to say at one point in high school (or somewhere) I was voted (perhaps unofficially) as one of the Best Huggers. Being shorter than most of my friends and classmates throughout grade school, hugs were fantastic (but sometimes dangerous if the group hug gets a little out of control). They're simple, readily available, and one size fits all. But for myself, going back to little kid-sized Marlon, hugs from my much taller friends were great. I felt safe. I felt protected. Well, actually there's no reason to make that past tense. When it comes to a good hug, I feel safe. I feel protected. I feel cared for and loved.

It's a simple act that you can pretty much share with anyone who's open to it. It isn't overly aggressive, and it isn't linked to romantic exclusivity like a kiss or sex. Still, some aren't comfortable with hugs, and that's ok, but I am. I love hugs. Handshakes are professional. Hugs are friendly.

Have you hugged someone today? Why not?

Hugs are definitely something good.

10 March 2014

PBDC Day 10/31: Far Away

I love my job. I really do. There are aspects that are more challenging than others, and of those there are some that aren't directly business-related. They're challenging on a personal level. Like most folks I know, I didn't have the greatest self-esteem in high school. My self-image, at least in regards to physicality, was not very positive. In grade school I was always more comfortable around the girls. I was neither athletic nor aggressive, so those quiet ones that played off to the side by the swings with their hand games and jump ropes were definitely the ones I felt more comfortable around.

In the Navy I had the pleasure of serving aboard a submarine. That sounds more generic than I intended. I had the pleasure of serving aboard the USS Hyman G. Rickover, SSN-709 out of Norfolk, Virginia. This boat, like many submarines, had a crew without a single woman as a part of the team (or a married woman for that matter). Being in a male-dominated environment was new to me, especially being raised in a house under matriarchal rule.

The gender-role-imploding shell shock I experienced was amplified after I was discharged when I began a period of time where most of my time was spent in bars, mostly for work but also because it was a bar. I'm not proud to admit it, but in this period of time between the first time I got my heart demolished after boot camp and around when my time spent in bars was being phased out by time in the theatre, I didn't respect women as much as I could have.

I was surrounded by plenty of negative influences, but remained in contact with enough people who were grounded and just flat out nice that I finally made my way into the clear.

College helped me back onto my professional, respectful feet, and realizing how off the deep end I was as a single sailor, a traveling Army contractor, a bartender, and a karaoke DJ, it became clearer that I was finally heading in the right direction.

Once I started at Old Navy I discovered a great opportunity for improvement in my interpersonal communication: how I communicate with women in regards to their physical appearance. From a traditional background (some may call it "old-fashioned") I was raised to never ask a woman her age, weight, or anything that may require her to divulge information about her body shape, size, or general opinion about her self-image.

Today I broke through a wall.

Two woman were in the fitting room area while I was at work today, the slimmer one, "Jane" we'll call her, with a couple pairs of shoes in her hand as moral support for "Jenny," the other, as she was looking for new jeans. Approaching them to help them out, Jenny was blunt in her request, asking if she could "possibly find jeans to fit this"--at which point she turned around and lifted her sweater to show her butt (still clothed of course). She said she had lost some weight recently and had no idea as to even what size she would start with.

I admitted that I felt like guessing her size would be as awkward and possibly as offensive as guessing someone's age, but she said I couldn't offend her if I tried. Luckily, she told me that the men's jeans she was wearing were a 32 or 34, and she had no way of knowing this, but having tried on some women's pants the other day (Day 7: Fly) I knew exactly what size a 34" waist would translate to being that was my size.

I told her that I wore a 34" waist and that perhaps a 12 would be best. She cringed at the number, and without hesitation I replied, "people won't be commenting on what number they think your jeans are, they'll notice if they fit you or not." To which her friend Jane turned to me and thanked me for my encouraging words and a good point. But it's really true. Take a wedding dress for example. Say you purchase a 12, but you need it altered as the wedding gets closer, or for an extreme example, you need a new one in a size or two larger or smaller. Guests at the wedding won't be sitting out there saying, "OMG she used to be a 12, but now she's in a 16," they'll be focusing on how good you look in whatever size dress you wear. (However, if your "friends" are guessing your size and criticizing that, then maybe you need to rethink your circle of friends.)

Over the next 20 minutes or so, I brought Jenny different shirts to go with a couple of pairs of jeans I was able to strategically suggest, and without realizing it until later this evening, I got over my apprehension for constructive criticism in the fitting room and was able to help Jenny go home with some new jeans that she didn't think she would find.

My point is this--we obsess over numbers. 14, 16, 2, 0, oh, the unattainable 0, or 6, whatever you were before. Or another example, benching 150 vs 120, running a mile in 9 minutes vs 8:30, or eating four slices of pizza versus 3.

Who's holding you to a certain size? The fashion industry? Magazines? Musicians and actors who have personal trainers and spend more time working out than you do working to pay your bills? So, I ask you again, who are you trying to impress by attaining a certain size? Who's putting that pressure on you?


One of the many things I've come to realize in the last seventeen months I've been with Old Navy is something very simple and in plain sight for everyone to see...

Clothes are made in multiple sizes for a reason. And that reason is that people come in multiple sizes.

Stop obsessing about what size you wear and pay attention to how it fits you. I don't care if you could fit into an 8 in high school, you aren't in high school any more. Or maybe you had a 30 inch waist a few years back and now you're a 36.


I know I'm just one guy. One man. One person at an Old Navy in Indiana, but hopefully more than a few people will read this.

This scale is in my bathroom at home. I don't use it often, and whenever I do I think to myself exactly what I was saying above, "Why am I targeting a specific weight when I could be focusing on just being healthy and being comfortable with myself?"

Well, today I've broken through a wall that will help me provide better customer service to Jennies in the future. And maybe I'll mention to a few more when I notice a cringe or hear a groan whenever a size comes up. I know it isn't in my job description to help someone feel better about themselves, but it is in my job description to provide excellent customer service. If I can do that by ensuring they leave with a new outfit that they love and that she feels great in, then yes, I'll keep providing great customer service.

The numbers of sizes and measurements are there to help us find what we can use. They aren't there to trap us or make us feel bad about ourselves. I took a big step today with this, and it may only be one step, but it's a step. Maybe I can help alter the perspective of a few people here and there. Or maybe just one. I wish I could see a time when there people stop obsessing over their sizes, but that day seems so far away.

09 March 2014

PBDC Day 9/31: 10AM

Daylight Savings Time is just one of those things that a enough guys thought was a good idea. Similar to how being 18 means you're responsible enough to vote. Or the drinking age of 21. Or my favorite seemingly random bonus that gets unlocked at the age of 25--car insurance dropping. Now that one was awesome.

I get it, spring forward, fall back, let's squeeze more productivity out of daylight hours, and all that jazz. The only instance I really remember DST having an affect on my day was in the fall a few years back when I was still in the Navy. We were out at our regular bar and instead of closing at 2AM we set the clocks back an hour just like we're supposed to and the bar roared like it was New Year's Eve. Other than that, I really only hear about it by people complaining about "Oh, I lost an hour of sleep," or if someone's confused about "losing" or "gaining" an hour.

Whether you call it losing an hour of sleep or gaining an hour of sunlight, I got to take a little trip this morning when my wife took us to brunch to a place I'll never get tired of.
If you've lived in a state east of the Rockies there's a good chance you've played this wonderfully frustrating peg game at the table while you're waiting for your order that probably has grits, biscuits and gravy, fried apples, or fried okra, or all of the above.

If you don't know where I'm talking about, it's Cracker Barrel. Yup, that Cracker Barrel with the oversized checkers on the table by the rocking chairs outside and the Old Country Store inside with all the classic toys and treats you don't find in many other places.  The westernmost Cracker Barrel I've been to was in Utah, almost five years ago to the day now that I think about it. I was introduced to the down home goodness in South Carolina, and I was glad to see her again when I moved to Virginia. California isn't privy to these country delicacies, as it is one of eight states that isn't home to the national chain. And to complete the shunning of the west coast, there are none in Oregon or Washington either.

And boy was brunch awesome. I done stuffed myself with so much gravy-covered awesome that I took a nap when I got home.
This is my view at 1PM Eastern Time, and so that would make it 10AM back home in California. If I was back in the bay area right now I'd probably be with a pair of the coolest twins I've ever met, Mando and Mandy.

Alex, myself, Candy, and Mandy circa 2006

Banks, me, Mer, and Mando before the KCACTF closing in '09

Having lived in a few different states, calculating time zone differences has just been something I've learned to work around since I was seventeen in boot camp in Illinois (Central Time). Now living in Indiana (Eastern Time) state but staying in contact with family back in California (Pacific Time), thinking about time zones has happened a lot. I try to be conscientious when I text people because I know not everyone turns off their ringers when they go to sleep. (Note: I do, if you're looking for a captive audience in my voicemail when you're ragin in Vegas. I'll enjoy the hilarity the next morning.)

But anyway, it's Mando and Mandy's birthdays today and if I was in the bay, I'd be partying with them because if there's any crew that knows how to party, it's theirs. 

Happy Birthday, Mandy and Mando. Play some beer pong for me and pour some out for the Familia. Church! (Or as Meredith shared recently: Sooth!)

08 March 2014

PBDC Day 8/31: In the Corner

Initial thought: REM. That's me in the corner/That's me in the spot/Light/Losing my religion

The theatre-related response: In my own little corner/In my own little chair -Cinderella

The chick-flick loving side's response: "No one puts Baby in the corner." Also see, "I carried a watermelon?"

The "How Can I Tie My Whole Day Together" response:

Our first snow was back in early November. It's now the second Saturday in March, and we were still getting new snow this morning. I got some new shoes last month (Day 21/28: Tiny) and this morning was the first time I cursed them. But it really wasn't their fault. They're great shoes, and I love em, but they aren't impervious to wintry effects on the ground. There has probably been snow on the ground on approximately 97% of the days in the last four months. Thinking today was no different, I walk outside like I do every day I go to work, and my first step outside on the snowy ground, my sweet kicks are suddenly at chest level and I'm on my ass. Ok, it's winter. I get it. So I get up, look around, and brush the fresh powder of my ass. I take my next step and I've got a panoramic view of the sunrise sky and have an impromptu trust fall exercise with the Earth, and the Earth was definitely there for me. After the first fall, I was glad no one was around, but after the second, I wished someone was there to enjoy the show. Luckily, I know how to just take a fall to avoid any injury by trying to catch myself.

I carefully made it to my car and made it to work safely, assuring myself and my bruised pride that, although I had a couple of spills to "start" my day, they were merely an opportunity to hurdle some minor adversities and not an early indication of a rough day ahead. Once at work, I discovered the printer had once again taken a day off, and I was faced with hand writing a few forms/tables that are templates which are filled in each morning for the work day. With a couple of other curve balls that I'll leave out, I'll just say that as the morning developed (and the pain started setting in from the two spills)...

I began to feel like I was painted into a corner.

But the day turned out alright, and my decision to look at each individual hurdle as just that, an individual hurdle, helped me keep my spirits up and my smile genuine throughout the day.

Back at home, still without a photo I could relate to the prompt, I kept my eyes open in the apartment for something I could artistically interpret for today's subject.

And's official response.

Behind my Long Beach State jacket, against the wall on the left is a blue case. Smaller than a guitar, but small enough to wear on your back. There are actually two straps on the back to wear them on your back, but at this angle you can't see them.

It's my violin case. Same one I've had since high school. Yes, high school, that thing I graduated from last millennium back in 1999. If you didn't know, I can play the violin, but honestly, I've barely played in the last few years.  I played in a couple shows I was in in college, but other than that, it would just come with me from apartment to apartment without seeing the sun that much.

To put things in perspective, my wife has never heard me play. Well, she's heard me fiddle around once when we were working on a community production together in 2011, but she hasn't heard me really buckle down and play. I mean really play. Like close my eyes and read the music that's burned into my mind while I walk around and sway like a hula girl on a dashboard of a dusty El Camino across gravelly roads of New Mexico.

I keep it for the same reason I keep the plays I mentioned in this month's Day 1: Yellow.

I do intend to start playing again, but part of me wants to keep this very violin in case a sweet child o' mine wants to play the violin. I like envisioning sentimental future situations like that.

Maybe writing about it is the just what I needed for myself to brush the dust off the case and let the old girl get some fresh air. I actually think about that a lot. Not playing my violin, but about how me writing this blog is just as much for all of you as it is for me. That I've now typed it all out and shared a thought for all to see where I can look back to it, or you could hold me to it in the future. I've seen some folks share blogs like that. Sharing their bucket lists and 30B430 lists so that we can enjoy the journey together, and really just to say it aloud to the world to make it more real instead of just having it float around in your head, hidden from everyone.

That's really the main reason I did NaNoWriMo last year. Because I needed something, someone to get me to tell the story that's been in my head for years. And since then I've been able to just let it flow and write it out.

I'm anything but painted into a corner, my friends. I'm just getting started.

07 March 2014

PBDC Day 7/31: Fly

Today was a struggle to find something more compelling than the picture of a crotch. With the end of winter still more than a few days away, I might have more success hatching a bird of my own than waiting to see one fly overhead.

And then I put some funk on it, got a little groovy, and took today's prompt back in time.
Go ahead, you can say it. These pants are pretty fly. Don't think so? We think so. And we mean business.

No, my work didn't pay me to write this blog, but in a way they did. 

If you haven't seen Old Navy's new commercial for the Pixie Pants with Amy Poehler, check it out below.

These Pixie Pants are designed for women, and as one of the store leaders, it's one of my responsibilities to ensure our team knows about the products we're selling. The easiest way to learn about the product is to try it on. It's also in my style of leadership to motivate and encourage my team members.

In my theatre education as a director, it was a challenge for me to encourage and motivate my actors for the production we were in together. I would often question them and them push them, but I told myself I wouldn't ask them to do anything or go anywhere (emotionally) that I wouldn't do myself.

And so I brought that to the ON.

I want the team to learn about the Pixie Pants. I need them to try them on so they can honestly speak to them when talking to customers. And today, two guys from other stores happened to be in the house as well, and so, in our love for Old Navy, in the spirit of team motivation, awesomeness, and just generally having a good time, we rocked the Charlie's Angels pose in these fly trousers.

I'm not going to lie, they were crazy comfortable, and probably the most comfortable pair of pants (that weren't sweat pants) I've ever worn. They were soft and stretchy and they scream "LOOK AT ME I'M AWESOME!"

And then I felt like a jerk.

"If these weren't women's pants, I'd totally own a pair." I thought to myself. Well, not really to myself, as the two other guys echoed my opinion. (I strategically placed graphics over their faces to grant a courtesy of secrecy, and because this is my blog and not theirs...)

And who said men can't wear these pants? No and everyone at the same time.

Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls play softball, boys play hardball. (But softballs are still pretty hard.) Societal standards, gender roles, and lines drawn in the sand. Watch this video:

Now think about the last time you thought something along the lines of "that's for a girl/boy" or "that would be weird if I wore that."

I like to say that I do what I want, but in the grand scheme of things I really don't. Sometimes, but kind of not really. I'm being more than moderately wishy washy today, and if you've never seen this side of me, "Hello, nice to meet you. I'm a human just like everyone else."

But back to the pants. They're fly as all hell. The patterns are rockin, they scream springtime fashion party, and they're seriously the most comfortable pants (save sweats) I've ever tried on.

And if you hadn't already asked the question, no, this isn't the first time I've worn something that is generally categorized as women's clothing. My first lead role in theatre came with a set of tights. And in college, I was in a play that gave me tights, heels, and a ponytail. Here's a picture of myself as the young Thomas Diaforus from Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid.
So thanks, Old Navy, for encouraging us to try something new.

Do something different this month. Something that you know for a fact will get you a weird look from people, but you want to do because you want to learn something. Because you want to try something out that harms no one. That's really all we did today. We tried on pants, got a few weird looks, made some co-workers laugh, and at the end of the day, no one got hurt, and we all had a good time. Sounds like a win to me.

Before I go, I want to share one last photo. One of just me, because I wanted to show myself I could have a picture of myself in these sweet pants without anyone else to lean on. So I asked my coworker, KChaz to take a picture of me like I was shooting an album cover. Enjoy.

I'm pretty fly for a brown guy.