subtitle

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 ;)

28 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 28/28: Up

I love seeing the sun rise. As I ready myself for March, having the long winter we've been experiencing here in Indiana, seeing the sun, even for just a few minutes is a sign of warmth to come. The sun coming up symbolizes so many things: new beginnings, a reminder of how the world operates in cycles, you've been at the strip club too long, the list goes on.

Typically, I view the sunrise in a positive light, accepting it as day greeting me with warmth, illumination, and a brand new start. Lately, because of the clouds, there have been plenty of mornings where the sunrise has been blocked from view, but I know it's still there.

I also enjoy a nice sunset. This next picture I captured just over a month ago as I leaving work. Enjoying a break in the clouds as the sun shared some warmth in the frigid Indiana air, I felt a sense of relief with the vision of an oasis of seasons warmer.
Whenever I look up at the sky, even at night when I see if I can find my favorite constellation, Orion, I take a couple of deep breaths and think for a few moments to bask in the concept of how large our world and universe really is. And most times, I smile about it because the perspective helps me refocus myself and realize that there are things I can directly affect and things I cannot.

Perspective is a wonderful thing, and as I got home today after work I paused for second to capture my view when I walk into our building.
Just a simple set of stairs, leading up to our second floor apartment. Here are the same stairs after completing the journey up one flight.
The latter of the two stairs photos I like more, and I think it's because of the red front door, appealing to the eye, inviting me to adventures of the day. But the first photo, the one looking up, it literally lifts me off the ground to a place where my wife and I call home. 

And when I think about that, us living on the second floor of our building, it shows me that where we live is literally separated from the ground we walk, drive, work, and spend most of our days. When we are home, we are somewhat isolated and above much of what goes on (but not in a condescending, "we're above you" in regards to social class manner). I mean that in regards to safety and security. As I take the stairs up to The Farm (as we like to call it), I am granted a physical indication that what happens at home is completely separate from any stressors in the outside world. Together, at home, we can rise above all the garbage and negativity and hate to create a safe place for ourselves where we alone can forge our identity as a married couple.

Perspective really is everything. How you look at things in your everyday life can truly alter how you view your own life. From a new pair of shoes (Day 21: Tiny), to pocket-sized tokens (Day 15: In My Hand), or even the music you allow yourself to be swallowed by (Day 12: Can't Go Without), these last 28 days, 28 photos, and 28 blogs have become a journey in finding my voice.

I absolutely love being able to find positivity, motivation, and encouragement in things that are shared by everyone, things that I am surrounded by every day. And furthermore, I am so thankful that I am able to share this message and these stories with anyone that feels curious enough to peer inside my soul for a blog post here and there.

But what I love the most about writing is that, as my friend Angela and I like to put it, as writers, we are gods of our literary worlds. When a writer shares their imagination on paper, or a screen, or a couple of napkins, or on the walls of a subway station, they bring you on a journey that you had no idea was even there before you saw it.

And the most accessible example of how creative writers can be is at the top of this blog, because both of the pictures I shared are of sunsets. But if you take a picture of a sunrise or sunset and show it to someone who has no perspective of the environment in which the photo resides, they leave it up to you to provide context, either in a caption or a well crafted introduction.

But I really do love sunrises.

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 27/28: In Love With

The first school play I was ever in was in the fifth grade, and it was a class play (meaning everyone in the class was in it). It had an educational theme to it, being set in a classroom and pertaining to much of the curriculum that year--states and capitals. Despite my enthusiasm for the production, I was not given the opportunity for a lead role since my teacher did not believe I could focus enough to learn all the lines. So I had one of the smallest roles in the show, a boy named Jimmy Johnson (maybe that's really why I don't like the Lowe's 48 #NASCAR #StandWithSmoke), and my first line in the play was, "I'll say!"

When I was in high school I landed my first lead role-with the church theatre group-and I later found out that I wasn't cast based on talent, but because I was the only male that fit the lead's character description. With my high school drama program I was cast in my first musical, Little Shop of Horrors, and although I felt my nerdiness made me a lock for the lead of Seymour, I was cast to appear onstage as an unnamed supporting role ("Wino) in the opening number, but then sat in the orchestra pit to be the voice of the plant, Audrey II. At five feet, two inches tall, and about 120 pounds soaking wet, most audiences didn't believe that such a little guy supplied the booming voice for the alien plant--but I did. Well.

Through my time at Diablo Valley College I was blessed with an array of works to perform with: Shakespeare's MacBeth, Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid, an original Greek work by Nicole Hess-Diestler and Zach Diestler called Iphigenia at Aulis. There were numerous scene studies, or Brown Bags as we'd call them, where I was given great opportunities to delve into pieces by John Patrick Shanley (Frankie and Johnny), Emily Mann (The Execution of Justice), David Rabe (Hurlyburly). And there were even a couple of musicals, Bat Boy, a contemporary rock musical, and Some Enchanted Evening, a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue.

At Cal State Long Beach I played a cholo (Los Lobos de la Noche), an Indian boy (A Chance, an original piece by Chetan Sanathara), a Shakespearean father (Gentlemen Redux), and a gay man (Our Lady of 121st Street).

With the shows that I have been fortunate enough to be in, I've been challenged and stretched and corraled and set free. And even with my tattoos (which are something many of my theatre classmates considered to be taboo or too cumbersome to have to work around), I didn't have to cover them up in as nearly many shows as I was asked to show them off. Actually, for my role in Los Lobos they actually added more tattoos. And through all of this: Shakespeare, Greek, Moliere, cholo, Indian, gay, original pieces, I never had to be naked onstage. In a piece I directed, The Big Funk, by Shanley, one of my actors had to be naked, and I mean fully naked, no socks, dance belts, or nothing, but I myself had never been naked on stage.

Being naked is a scary thing for many people. Taking a shower or bath is probably the one thing that most people can be comfortable doing naked. Yes, I omitted sex, because 1. you don't have to be completely naked (#socks #shirts) and 2. being this intimate with someone doesn't necessarily mean you're absolutely comfortable with being naked.

So that leaves showertime as the singular occasion of being comfortable with nakedness.

I write quite a bit about positivity, especially in regards to loving one's self, and although it probably won't come as a surprise, I feel it to be a strong gesture to say it explicitly. I'm not always happy with my body.

In more bathrooms than not, stepping out of the shower usually places me face to face with the mirror above the sink. Nothing like starting your day with a vigorously hot shower, reviving you from your slumber, only to be slapped in the face by, well, your face...above your naked body. This is typically not the best feeling. 

But recently, I've been better about accepting my awesomeness and being happy with who I am. How much better? I took a picture of myself after I got out of the shower today.
With my hair messy and still a little bit wet, unkempt eyebrows center stage, I took a picture of myself at a time when I would normally not want anyone to see me. But today I do. Because I love who I am and I'm in love with myself. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that is in reply to, "If you don't love yourself, why should anyone else be?"

I'm a pretty hairless guy. Have you ever seen me with a mustache? Or a goatee with some sweet chops to frame it? Nope. And my hairless back (which I'm not complaining about) pictured above is right in line with my unmanly (by stereotypical standards) hairless chest.

This commercial was a nice reminder that every style is ok. Thanks, Genesis. #CallMe


The tattooed cat is out of the bag, and my upper back tattoos are now for everyone to see in all its bloggy glory. Kanjis for "wisdom" (Connecticut) and "loyalty" (Virginia), an anchor-inspired Sagittarius symbol (NorCal), and a modification of the Alexander Pope quotation, "To err is human, to forgive divine." (Montana).

I used to think that tattoos helped to draw attention away from parts of my body that I did not wish to show off (especially in my beach bum days when all I wore was a hat and a pair of board shorts), but I have since then refocused my appreciation for my ink as I became a curator of my own gallery. The tattoos on my skin are like patches on a cruise jacket-symbolizing deployments, missions, and battle groups.

Being on stage naked was something that many of us talked about in school, mostly in a fearful light. Just thinking about all those people and making eye contact with them afterwards knowing that they saw you in such an adulterated manner without reciprocation. But with live theatre, after the moment it's gone. With photography, that moment is frozen in time forever. 

But what good is a moment unless it's shared with others. So I wanted to share it with everyone (thanks to body positioning and framing a tasteful shot).

I am in love with myself. That's the healthiest, most fulfilling love anyone can have, and everyone should.


27 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 26/28: Peaceful

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Three days left in February. Three blogs left to successfully conquer the challenge. Well, if you're reading this, two.

A couple of ball returns up from the bottom of the picture, lie the weapons of choice for the bowlers that had just left. At this point in the afternoon, the only other folks in the alley were a couple of employees. Here's a better look.
Peaceful indeed, especially when compared to what you would hear on any given league night.

Here's the view up Lane 12.
Ten pins, arranged in their triangular formation, standing at attention at the end of an oiled lane waiting to be thrown into chaos by the next person that steps up to the line.

It's an interesting feeling, being alone in a venue that is normally full of crashes, loud music, jeers, and cheers. It reminds me of the adage, "Be like a duck--calm above the water, furiously paddling underneath."

Most posts you get the Paddle-Cam (that sounds naughtier than intended) with DVD commentary, but today, it's just an aerial shot.

The duck looks fine today.

But bowling, man, that was something else. I can't even remember the last time I went bowling, but to put things in perspective, it's the first time my wife and I had gone bowling together. We hadn't even before we were married. So yeah, it's a been at least a few years.

In addition to being conservative with anything shoulder-related, it was just one of those things that would happen so rarely. But it did today. And for 99 cents a game we just had at it. Eight games each. And I'm kind of paying for it now. My thumb is mildly cramping as I'm typing this, and my right oblique makes me wish I wasn't laughing so much, but that's what I get for watching The Tonight Show. Tough night, huh? ;)

But all things considered, date day with a bowling adventure in the middle and The Lego Movie after dinner was pretty good. Speaking of, well done, Lego team. A very enjoyable ride through a great message and plenty of awesome childhood references. (Note: add "movie reviews" to Things To Blog About list."

Having days off in the middle of the week occasionally throws me off, but hey, I'll take days off in the middle of the week, because that means I still have a job. #ThankfulThought

25 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 25/28: Shiny

A lonely, empty, kid-sized Batmobile sat on its motorized pedestal in front of the planter covered in dingy snow. The blue sky and shadows are deceiving, as the daytime saw a high in the mid-20s this fourth week of February. The cold weather keeps many potential customers at home, and without the crowds, there are no young heroes sitting behind the wheel of this sleek, shiny ride.

Later on in the afternoon I saw this gentlemen and his shiny car.
In a Target parking lot, he walked up to the driver's side, inspected the front of the car, walked towards the back to check out the rear bumper, tossed his bag in the back seat, and lit his cigarette. Why he didn't check out the passenger side is beyond me, but he stayed outside while he puffed away in the frigidly windy parking lot.

I wasn't sure if it was his personal car, or a work car that he was in charge of, but by the way he checked out the sides and smoked his cigarette outside, it looks like he didn't want anything to blemish the luxury car. So, like anyone else would, chose the least precarious when he departed...
Oh, wait. He actually put his car in plenty of scratch danger weaving through as many stray carts as possible. Awkward.
Arnold, the ferret/raccoon hybrid on my dashboard was just as perplexed.

I don't really have a segue, so this will have to do.

Shifting gears (you like that? with the cars and all...)

Shiny. I couldn't find a picture to properly launch me into what I had already intended on sharing today. It's funny because I laugh at it now, but it really is a sadly in appropriate story.

Several months ago, let's say last summer, I was at an Italian deli on my lunch break from Old Navy. While I was finishing up, a group of four individuals walked in. Two males, probably late 20s, in jeans, camo t-shirts, and ball caps, a young girl, possibly one of the males' daughters, probably around 6 or 7 years old, and an older woman, who appeared to be the girl's grandmother.

When I was getting up to toss my napkin and grinder wrapper in the trash, the two men had gone up to the counter to place their order, leaving the girl and grandmother at the table. Passing them on my way out, I smiled and said hello. The grandmother smiled and said hello, and the girl blurted out what I heard to be, "Whatchu lookin at, shiny guy?"

As I walked out I laughed thinking, "Shiny guy? That's a first." And then it hit me. She was saying, "Whatchu lookin at, Chinese guy?" And I immediately became a little nauseous and sad for her.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to get all Sen. Melvin on you and say there isn't any racism in America, Indiana, or anywhere. I know better. What makes me sad is that someone that young has already been injected with behaviors and stereotypes that are probably commonplace at home, school, or both.

How we talk to and around children is more important than many realize. I wrote a post on this topic last month, in regards to body image and how we greet children. See Minding the Gaps and Burning Bridges here.

I have no answer for the masses. I will only have answers for my (hopefully) eventual children, and those I have a role in helping nurture. It isn't the most appealing or fun of roles, but it's an important one for the future.

I came across this video earlier today via Upworthy. About baby showers, and how this is the best time to dash gender molds.



I want an open field for my child's life. I don't want to pigeonhole them or write their future for them. I want to help them learn and discover so that they can then decide what they're passionate about to change the world.

I'm getting pretty close. Each year it reveals itself a little more. Between NaNoWriMo and this Photo Blog Challenge it looks even clearer.

I hope you've been enjoying it as much as I have been.

Three more to go...at least for February. ;)

24 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 24/28: In Between

You can thank me later, but I refrained from taking a picture of myself in bed. #TheSheets

And as I sat in the break room at work today I found my victim for today.

Symmetrical sandwich art, ah thankyouverymuch.

Turkey pastrami, colby jack cheese, and mustard on wheat. Pretty simple. Awesomely delicious. Filling and satisfying.

I like sandwiches. Hot or cold. Sliced bread, rolls, subs, you name it, I'm down. I'm a simple guy when it comes to many things. I'll enjoy the occasional grinder, everything on it Eat Fresh masterpiece from Subway, or Freaky Fast JJs sub, but most days I'm cool with the made at home simpleton like the one above.

It's easily identifiable, clear, and straightforward.

Far from what Anderson Cooper got from Republican Senator Melvin on AC360 tonight.

Short intro: Arizona. Senate Bill 1062 (#SB1062).

The Arizona State Legislature passed the bill last Thursday, February 20th. Governor Jan Brewer's desk met it this morning. She has until March 1st to sign it through or veto it. Sen. Melvin calls it a "religious freedom bill." Anderson Cooper (and many of the protestors) are calling it out as a bill that legally allows business owners to discriminate because of sexual orientation.

Melvin goes on to juke and jive around Cooper's questions in cringe-worthy fashion. See the full interview here.

Yes, I'm disgusted at the view that Senator Melvin has in support of this "religious freedom" bill, but as Cooper goes on to state in the clip, it isn't about having the same views, but moreso just being able to state your view and own that shit.

For me? I support equality. Gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, any of them. Discrimination is discrimination whatever or whomever you believe in.

If you're leaving someone out you're discriminating.

If you pick someone to be on your team because they're better than another, that's discrimination. If you  prefer Coke over Pepsi, that's discrimination.

If you don't like gays, blacks, Jews, Asians, Muslims, then by all means, that's on you. But when you start dancing the line like a bullshit politician who has openly stated he's running for governor, or any president or world leader, or CEO, or professor, or coach, or professional athlete, then  you're a coward. You're a classless, spineless bitch.

Own your shit. Stand up for what you believe in and tell the world that you would rather deny people that have no negative affect on your lifestyle privileges than support equal rights.

In a tweet from three weeks ago, Ricky Gervais shared, "Same sex marriage isn't gay privilege, it's equal rights. Privilege would be something like gay people not paying taxes. Like churches don't"

All these folks who are going to end up on the losing side of historical progress are throwing out "traditional marriage" and "Bible this" and "Bible that".

You know what we could use some more of from these suits that we Americans have elected? Some Phil Robertson. Back in December I wrote this post about his controversial statements.

Ducking questions pisses me off (#seewhatididthere). Own your boy's bill, Senator Melvin, Own your views. Own the fact that there is discrimination in Arizona just like there is in any other state.

I was raised in the East Bay Area in northern California. I've lived in South Carolina, Virginia, and now Indiana. I went to college in southern California. Discrimination is everywhere. In the first year that I moved back to NorCal after I got out of the Navy, I experienced more racism and discrimination in the "oh-so-diverse" state of California than I did the entire six years I spent in Illinois, South Carolina, and Virginia.

People talk about how diverse California is, and how it's not possibly nearly as racist as the deep South.  I'll give you the first one--California is diverse, but that doesn't mean everyone gets along. Chinatown. Japantown. Koreatown, Little Italy, projects, affluent neighborhoods, you think they all talk to each other? We may not have as many train tracks, but you know when you've crossed into another territory. Don't kid yourself with that shit.

So there. A little heated tonight, but that's because we're in a time where the bullshit just doesn't cut it anymore. There are no clear divisions like in my awesome turkey pastrami sandwich. The in between won't hack it for intelligent, rational folks. Pick a side. On anything. Everything. Just have an answer and own it.

Own. That. Shit.

23 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 23/28: Crisp

With six days left in the month, I almost tapped out. On the first of the month (cue: Bone Thugs) I challenged myself to take the Instagram-inspired Photo A Day challenge to the next level and write a corresponding blog for each photo. Today's prompt eluded for the majority of the day, and as I made myself breakfast for dinner, I desperately missed having bacon, which is always wonderful, but would have been perfect in its crispy glory. Bacon already received a solid shout out this month in the post from Day 18: Still. So I took a picture of my breakfast dinner.
I guess the outside of the turkey and cheese omelet is a little crisp, but I still missed my bacon.

Although the food was filling, this post won't be nearly as successful. But still, instead of tapping out on today's photo and blog, I wanted to keep with the photo/blog routine. 28 Days isn't just a Sandra Bullock movie, or the first two thirds of a horror movie (more on that...wait for it...Later). It's an attainable goal that I wanted to...scratch that...will achieve. Tonight's post will mean that I've taken photos and written blogs for each of the 23 days of the month so far. And that's not even my only current streak.

In my journey to learn Spanish (for the first time, mind you, I took French in high school), I just passed...well, I'll just show you.
I didn't even write every day during NaNoWriMo this past year. I still won, but because I had a couple of monster days (one >8K, another >11K). Doing this every day, with no days off is a different type of work out for me, but I'm really enjoying.

So there's my victory of the day. I did not tap out simply because I didn't have something crisp to shoot. Just like I didn't puff a cigarette at the bar last weekend when I was out drinking (I quit over fourteen months ago).

And tomorrow, I'll do it again.

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 22/28: I See

Last night I watched Good Will Hunting. Not on television, but on a DVD, uncensored and uninterrupted by commercials. It wasn't the first time seeing the film, and it certainly won't be the last, now that I own a copy I can watch at will. (See what I did there?) As I was watching the relationship between Will and Sean develop in the therapy sessions, I said to myself, "This movie is like Fight Club." Anyone worth their weight in homemade soap from the Paper Street Soap Company would immediately recognize the ridiculousness of that last thought. Allow me to expound. Even if you don't, it's my blog, so I will.

The first time I saw Fight Club (I had not read the book yet) it was 2001 and I was living in an apartment in South Carolina. I spent more nights sleeping on the couch downstairs because that's where the TV was. One day I woke up to a particularly interesting movie with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, so I continued to watch. Unsure of how much I had missed, I tried to piece together what I could as the film went on. Needless to say, it was a mess trying to catch up. Here and there I would catch it on TV, but again would miss parts here and there. Finally, around the fourth or fifth time I had caught it flipping through channels, I finally saw it from start to finish. And to use a cliché (that I've heard many use, but I myself do not identify with) it's like the first time I heard the Beatles. The more I watched Fight Club the more I understood a little bit more of myself. Each time I watched I noticed a little bit more about the movie, Tyler Durden, and Norton's character.

2001 was full of turning points. I got my first apartment. I learned to drive. I got my driver's license. My paternal grandfather died. I graduated from  the Navy's Nuclear Pipeline. September 11th. My first love dashed any penciled in future I had in mind and wrote us into friendzoned cells with walls thicker than the Great Wall of China. I got drunk for the first time. I started casually dating (or at least attempted to).

Fight Club became to me a sort of fireworks display when my life's sky went black. It showed me that I could still be the same nice, friendly, fun-loving kid I was in high school, but still have the stereotypical sailor side that I was finding on my own. Marlon was The Narrator and Petty Officer Deleon was Tyler Durden.

Going back to Good Will Hunting, as I was watching the young punk of a genius feign and jab at the MIT graduate from Southie, I had a pleasant sense of déja vu. As I had mentioned earlier, this was not the first time I had seen GWH, but something about this time made it click differently. Maybe it was the way Will knew exactly what to say to all the other therapists in their pre-therapy screenings. Or the way he rationalizes not working for the NSA. Or maybe it's how Sean, serene and wise to most, instills fear in the tough kid from a broken past with a single-handed choke hold against the window. Whatever it was, whether it was the theme of therapy, acknowledging the truth, pushing away others, or welcoming someone into your life so much they have no choice but to see the truth, that movie rocks me like when Fight Club's Narrator realizes the gun is in his hand.

And then I realized I have a gross obsession with stories involving drastic personality dichotomies because I feel I can relate to them.

Fight Club--Narrator and Tyler Durden
Good Will Hunting--Will Hunting and Sean Maguire
The Silence of the Lambs--Dr. Lecter and Agent Starling
Hannibal (TV series)--Dr. Lecter and Will Graham

While the rest of my Facebook feed has been filled with Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and [insert Netflix series here], I'm like, "Hannibal! Hannibal! Hannibal!" Honestly though, I'm not generally one to follow a television series. I'll watch sports and movies if I have control of the remote. But with the magic of DVR during the show's first series, I dove headfirst into the most brilliant show I've ever chose to sink my teeth into. Everything in show amazes me. The acting by Hugh Dancy (Graham) and Mads Mikkelsen (Lecter) in addition to the strong ensemble around them, the writing, the scoring, the images, plotlines, and progressions...EVERYTHING.

They didn't pay me to write this, but who am I kidding, here's a Season One Recap if you didn't watch or if you wish to enjoy the quick trip down memory lane.

With today's photo, I showcase how I'll be able to do my own Season One Recap
When I saw the prompt for the day, my Fannibal mind immediately thought of Hobbs telling Graham to see. See the clip "See" for a turning point in Will's relationship with his psychiatrist, friend, and antagonist, Hannibal Lecter.

I know I'm one in seven billion. And more times than not it's fantastic. But there are times when I wish I was easier to relate to. To console. To connect with. To help. Sometimes I think I'm as complicated as The Narrator, or Will Hunting, or Sean Maguire, or Will Graham, or Hannibal Lecter. Or David Dunn. Or David Webb.

But then I see.

I see myself like Water.
I see myself on my own Two feet.
I see my Mind.

And more importantly. I like what I see. Well, to be more specific. I love what I see now. What I see now is very Different from what I saw nine years ago.

So yes, I see.

21 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 21/28: Tiny

I bought a pair of shoes today. Not the most riveting of activities in the grand scheme of things, but for me it's kind of a big deal. Growing up with a less than athletic background, there was never really a need for expensive shoes. I've always been curious as to why sneakerheads are the way they are: what was their first pair that really turned them on to shoes of a certain style/fit, why they like the shoes they do, you know, questions about why they love what they love and what they love.

The nicest pair of shoes I had ever bought myself were a pair of high-gloss shoes to go with my dress uniforms in the Navy. I was stationed in Goose Creek, South Carolina, attending nuke school, and the very afternoon I bought them after class, I wore into the school house with my civvies (aka "civilian" or regular, non-uniform clothes). I had on a pair of black warm-up pants and a sweet Cartoon Network t-shirt with Droopy Dog on it I had found at a Goodwill not too long before. Those were some sweet, shiny kicks, and I wanted to show them off.

Other than that, it's a pair of slip-on sneakers from Payless or Target that I'll wear everyday until there's a hole in its soul. In the last three or four years, I was reintroduced to Crocs and have since then bought a few pairs including my recent favorite, the black and white Hank Haney golf shoe, best worn with mustache socks. (Sidenote: I don't play golf, well, mini-golf, yes, but outdoor, hundreds of yards golf, no.)


Now that I spend so much of my time at work on my feet, comfortable shoes have become more important, and so I've come to the realization which is often shared as a cliche, "I'm not getting any younger."

Last weekend I tried on Nikes for the first time. Yes, in my life. I've just never considered purchasing such an expensive pair of shoes, and with no athletic need for them, they never made it into my department store fashion shows. With the help of a couple of footwear-proficient co-workers, I made my way through several pairs of Nikes, Asics, Adidas(es), and even a pair of Brooks. Trying on the Nikes (and being pleasantly surprised with the comfort of them) I found out that, because they run narrow, I would require a wide shoe if I were to go with the Swoosh. I'm 32 years old, and I've never bought a pair of wide shoes in my life. Maybe that would explain why I've never swooned over shoes like sneakerheads I know do--I may have been wearing an improper fit.

I have tiny feet. Not freakishly tiny, but they're pretty small. I'm typically an 8 1/2 but have worn 8s and 9s in the last few years since every shoe manufacturer is a little different. As I went shoe-store hopping, most stores didn't carry 8.5 in mens (apparently only people with big feet buy running shoes). Yesterday I found out that I fit into a Women's 9, and with so many shoes being colored in gender-neutral patterns, you wouldn't know if I had on a pair of women's shoes unless I told you. 

(Sidebar: in the mid 2000s, I bought a pair of plaid slip-ons and loved them. After a few months of wearing them, I was stopped one-day by a classmate and they said, "Are you wearing girls shoes?" to which I replied, "They're my shoes, so no. They're Rocket Dogs, I've never heard of them, but they were comfortable, so I bought them.")

I must admit, the thought of purchasing women's shoes was a little weird, but I quickly put myself in check and realized that there's nothing wrong or incorrect about that at all. After all, it's about wearing something that is comfortable, and that you love it, right? Like with clothes. Working in retail I see this all the time, customers more worried about the size of the clothes--the number or letters that no one will ever see--rather than how they actually fit you. Clothes are made in different sizes for a reason, friends. Don't limit yourself to a label of a convention that has been established for categorization. Wear what is comfortable, that you want to wear, that speaks to your personality. I was just about to say that I would get back to this topic (of clothes sizes and obsessing over them), and that made me realize I should really make a list of all these topics that I'm "getting back to" because I'm certain I say that in more blogs than not.

I digress.

Shoes sizes. 8 1/2 in men's, maybe a 9 in women's, looking for comfortable shoes, opening the wallet a little to get a better quality of shoe because..."I'm not getting any younger."

On an adventure of exploration on my day off today, I came across a mall in Joliet, Illinois and met this pretty lady:
She, along with the other residents of the Furry Babies store, are all relatively tiny, and as much as I wanted to take all of them home, I know that wasn't going to happen. But what I did find that I did take home, was a new pair of shoes. Following my own advice of looking for what speaks to me, and then trying them on to see if they fit well, I tried on a couple pairs that screamed at me. (Shout out to KB!)

As with many other stores, they didn't have any 8 1/2s, so the guy brought out 8s and 9s. Trying on the 9s, I came to the same result that I do with most shoes: the shoe itself is comfortable, the width is there, but I'm left with more than an inch of extra space in front of my toes. No bueno. So I try the 8s. And then I ran/skipped/galloped up and down one side of the store. It was a little bit magical, and the employees (and a couple customers) were giving me some interesting looks although they recognized what I was doing.

The gray/white pair was my initial draw, but then I saw and tried on the blue pair. Like John Michael Montgomery said, "she had ruby red lips, blond hair, blue eyes..." 

Sold.

A bold choice, but a sweet one, if I do say so myself. 

Yes, I fell victim to the very thoughts I mentioned earlier, obsessing about the fact that I bought half a size smaller than what I'm used to, but they made these shoes in all sizes so that people with all different sizes of feet can enjoy them.

By no means do I feel like I've joined the ranks of self-proclaimed sneaker heads, but ask me again in a few years. Maybe then I'll tell you about the pair of blue Reebok ZQuicks that I bought in Illinois for my tiny feet.

Tiny as they may seem, I still stand on them every day. So put that in your metaphorical pipe and smoke it. 

20 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 20/28: The Written Word

"I don't have a bible in my apartment." That was my thought when I read the prompt for today. And then I told my Catholic guilt to pack it up and kick rocks. A three-word prompt of "the written word" can certainly be interpreted as a suggestion for religious text, but that's the thing, it can be interpreted as such.

Yes, I acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between "written" and "printed," but this execution of artistic license fits right in with my point. If you haven't noticed, the label on the container is read "Lavender hand soap," and the contents are a neon pink.

"So they reused the container and bought different soap."

Excellent deduction, my dear Watson. Bloody good job.

Words are wonderful things. I have a few tattooed on my body (yes, implying more than one), and if you had not heard already, you can visit the latest one in the post from Day 9: Under.

Within these words, are letters (at least, in English and a few others, but I'm not a linguist so I won't get into a discussion about characters and glyphs and the like). And these letters can be interpreted and molded to a degree as well.

The URL for this blog is dailyownx4.blogspot.com, and I'll let you in on a little secret. The first cluster of letters, "dailyownx4" can help you remember how to pronounce my last name--Deleon.

Daily-like daily newspaper, daily vitamins, daily workout.
Own-as in I own this town, you just got owned, and Jane and John own a house.

The "x4" was added since "dailyown" was unavailable when I registered for my Gmail account, and it's a reference to the different disciplines I've been privileged enough to train in: acting, directing, music, and singing. Those were the four I thought of at first. I occasionally change it up depending on how I'm feeling about a particular skill set, bundling acting/directing into one label of "theatre" and adding "dancing" into the mix. In more recent past, "writer" has replaced "dancer," but the concept still applies.

Fun fact: One of my recruiters shared a story with me about how the number four is the most important number in the world, and since I have yet to find it refuted in the last 15 years, I'm sticking with it. We can chat about this at a later time.

But yes, I read dailyownx4 as "Deleon times four."

That being said, I want to address my given name, Deleon. I've seen it written a few different ways, a couple of which I have used myself.

  • de Leon
  • De Leon
  • deLeon
  • DeLeon


I've been informed by my elders that the traditional form of "de Leon" is the preferred form. I don't mean any disrespect to the de Leon line by my letter regrouping resulting in "Deleon." I have a perfectly good reason of why I've interpreted it this way (there's that "i" word again...)

When I enlisted in the Navy, my paperwork listed my name in all caps as MARLON DE LEON. I don't have a legal middle name, but I can get to that later. That being said, quite a bit of my papers had been lost early on in my in-processing to basic training, and eventually we had discovered the issue. Someone had thought that "DE" was my middle name, and that my last name was "LEON," so they filed my paperwork under "L" instead of "D" as I had informed the petty officer at the desk (who, of course, was not pleased with my "failure to recognize" my own name and was then holding up the process).

On our uniforms, last names are embroidered on each piece, in all caps, without spaces, labeling me "DELEON."

I used to sign my name "de Leon," but having written my name altogether (aka without the space) for several years, and only capitalizing the "D" with it at the head of my surname, I molded it into what it is today--Deleon.

Every once in a while, someone will write/type my name with a space in it, or automatically go for the lowercase "d" and uppercase "L," but if I have the opportunity to edit how it appears, I go with my preference.

So there's a little trivia about me. I'll share the story of my middle name at another time, but I'm seriously considering making "Danger" my middle name,

19 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 19/28: Help

A police car on the side of freeway is an unofficial invitation to peer into someone else's trouble. A traffic jam caused by a major wreck may leave you temporarily stranded in your vehicle, but you probably have your cell phone to keep you busy...in your fully-operational vehicle, while you sit in a relatively healthy state not worrying about fatal injuries hoping the ambulance gets there on time. (Just something to think about when you're stuck in a jam and you can't see what's ahead.)

And sometimes, the flashing lights align for some coincidental art.
On one hand, you drove here to see a show, some entertainment, and there's a good chance there will be some sort of explosion or fiery spectacle involved. On the other, you know that the emergency vehicles are there because they're responding to an actual incident, but your curiosity has invited you to a show before the show.

Help is versatile beast. You can search for it, and it can arrive unannounced. It can be shared by many, but it can also be personalized. Help can come into your life in long and short durations, as friendships, mentorships, or flash experiences.

And for many, it can be one of the scariest things to ask for. It can be interpreted as a sign of weakness, an indication of a lack of knowledge, or an admission of vulnerability.

Sometimes, it's still difficult to ask for help, but over time I've learned to look at a call for help as an instance of awareness and desire for growth.

That's really what it is. A desire for growth. When you've hit a wall or have arrived at an incline so steep that you cannot grip enough to climb higher. When you need that bump, that helping hand, the boost to help you break through.

That's why I've asked for help before, and that's why I continue to. When turning to the bottle became an addiction. When couch time is the only option I could think of. When I refused to leave my house and take on the world again. When I was so far back in my cave that I thought of love to be such a waste of time.

Growing up as a first-generation American to Filipino parents, there was a lot of talk of pride and reputation and having to work four times as hard as white people, or women, or anyone else, and because of this, asking for help was something shunned because it was regarded as a sign of weakness.

The other day I shared an article from the Huffington Post commenting that we can't afford to be naive. I strongly believe that. Through education and honest, mature conversation, we can all learn more and better arm ourselves to take on the struggles and situations that we are faced with. Through honesty we learn more about each other and ourselves, reinforcing (or in some cases establishing) a sense of cohesion.

...

This is not a passive aggressive cry for help. This is me throwing in the towel for the blog of the day, because for reasons I have yet to sort, my mind is all over the place.

In an attempt to learn from this experience...

Having taken photos and written a blog for each one for every day so far this month, I'm patting myself on the back for sticking it the Photo and Blog a Day Challenge I imposed on myself. When this much writing happens, with very little planning and an array of prompts, there will definitely good days and bad days. Today is one of those bad days. (Or, as I learned in my Duolingo app the other day, Hoy no es mi dio.)

Like NaNoWriMo shared in the last few hours of November as we all approached the midnight deadline, "write all the crap. just write."

And so, even though it's rough, I'm 19 for 19 in the month February. 

Here's to a new day tomorrow.

18 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 18/28: Still

Bacon is wonderful thing. It's highly celebrated and often coveted. Not desired, or wanted, or thought about, but coveted. It's that strong in modern society. Almost to the point of necessity.

American Olympian and gold medal winner Sage Kotsenburg loves bacon to much he wanted his medal to be made of bacon. See here to find out if he got his wish.

In college I knew a faculty member and a manager in the campus bookstore that have little shrines of bacon, and their love for the crispy, salty treat is so well-known that many bring them gifts of porky happiness.

There are websites like bacontoday.com and ilovebacon.com that are far from a shortage of delicious praises.

There's also Kevin Bacon. And Francis Bacon.

And so if you haven't realized by now, bacon gets around. But like any other celebrity, it works hard for its fame. She works hard for the money.

Bacon sweats. Not to the oldies, though. But bacon sweats when she's put to work. And like you when you work out, sweating is not pretty, but if you sweat it out enough, you become a wonderful piece of art that is...I say again...coveted by many. What if you collected that sweat? Here's what collected bacon sweat looks like.

Like I said, it isn't pretty. There are specks of bacon that got lost in the workout. But there is plenty of bacon sweat. (Note the healthy options  in the background, mocking me and my fatty, crispy, salty treat I had with breakfast.) Here's another look at it.

I don't know if everyone does this, but I learned when I was younger to pour off bacon grease (and other used cooking oils) into a scrap jar or a bowl like this. Pouring it into the drain is asking for a clog, and pouring it into the garbage while still hot is also requesting a nasty mess. So glass bowl it is.

Here is said bowl nearly twelve hours later after I returned home from work.
(It seems that our friends the bananas are tired of living in the background, so I had one for a post-work snack.)

Back to our regularly scheduled program. Notice the difference. That's the same bowl of bacon sweat. Now opaque. What was a swirly translucent bowl of hot bacon sweat and specks of crispy goodness is now a bowl of oily cement, trapping the bacon freckles like Han Solo in carbonite. Quite a change. Much easier to dispose of, and less dangerous than its earlier form that could scald and scar.

You can agree when I say it drastically changed, yes? I would hope so, because it did. And how did it change? It didn't do that much, and I didn't do anything to it but leave it alone.

It changed by being still.

Yes, I know the physics of how it changed, and we can talk about laws of thermodynamics, and heat leaving the oil and yada, yada, yada. But, in a raw observation and understanding of what was before and what is now, it changed with zero coercion.

Shifting gears.

Extremes are interesting. X-games. Insanity. P90X. Crossfit. Veganism. Atkins. Heavy metal. Overdosing. Binge drinking. There's just something about pushing yourself to extremes that drives people. And I'm not here to promote or berate any of these, but seriously though, everything in moderation.

How much would you change by being still?

Think monks. Think meditation. Think shutting up and listening. Watching. Learning. Absorbing. Can it make you safer? Can it make you malleable instead of volatile and dangerous?

Yes it can.

So now that I've turned a philosophical corner out of one of Americans' favorite treats, give it thought next time it's sizzling on the stove. Maybe it isn't that you aren't doing enough. Perhaps you're doing too much.

17 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 17/28: On My Mind

Facebook, you never cease to amaze me. It's like  you know I'm doing this Photo and Blog a Day Challenge. Oh, wait. If you can tell when people are about to get in a relationship, and you share all my posts for me, you definitely do know.

 But do you really want to know what's on my mind? And even if you do, does everyone else? That's the interesting thing about social media, it allows us to stay "connected" but it simultaneously enables us to remain distant. Status posts let us know what's going on in our Facebook friends' lives without actually interacting with them. Twitter lets us toss 140 character post it notes on a perpetual conveyer belt for anyone to look at at any time. Instagram gives us the ability to share things we see, or want others to see. Blogs, like my own, gives writers a plot of land in the electronic fields to sow our own creative seeds.

And when is the last time someone asked you that question? The answer is, probably the last time you greeted someone. At work, at school, in a restaurant, it happens all the time. We just brush it off though.

A: How's it going?

B: Fine. You?

A: Good.

And we've moved on.

How about this situation? Have you pictured this? Because I have. Several times.

A: How's it going?

B: Sucks. I don't know what I'm doing. I like my classes, but I'm scared about what kind of job to even look for when I graduate. I'm kind of looking for jobs now, but I've been spending more time going out and trying to get drunk and laid to distract me from my frustration with my Philosophy teacher who is boring as hell.

A: (eyes wide, jaw-dropped)


B: And then my mom calls me to tell me I never call her, and that dad works all the time because he's trying to pay for my loans that are paying for the education that I don't know what I'm going to do with. Are you hungry? I really want pizza, but I'm too busy trying not to get fat.

A: OKAY STOP! I DIDN'T REALLY WANT TO KNOW.

So why do we ask? Why do you say what you say? Do you care how they're doing when you ask? Would you even know how to listen?

What's interesting is that people are probably more honest with their Facebook statuses than they are with people they see every day. Maybe you aren't. But maybe you spend more time talking to your bartender, co-worker, or sister more than you do your husband, mother, or manager. Are you speaking up for yourself? Do you listen to others when they need an ear?

I'm not throwing the first stone. But I will offer two ears (or eyes if you want to email/text/chat me) if you need it. That's what I think of whenever there is news of a suicide, or an quiet death alone (accidental or natural). Were they just so alone that they checked out? Did they ask for help, but no one answered because they thought they had it all already?

Asking for help is really difficult. Almost as difficult as saying "no." (Or vice versa, we're all different.) One thing I've noticed is that most people do ask for help-just not in the form of a question. Yes, there are signs. For everything. Positive and negative. But are you listening? Are you seeing?

That's what's on my mind, Facebook. And I'm about to answer your question by sharing this blog in my status. But I guess by the time you read this, I already have. I think I just caused a glitch in the matrix.

What's on your mind? What's in your wallet? (Don't sue me Capital One.)

16 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 16/28: Different

Little. Yellow. Different.

Those of us above a certain age may recognize those words as a slogan from a late 80s commercial for Nuprin. (Travel back in time here.) I can't decide if I'm amazed, weirded out, or slightly brainwashed, but that is what I thought of when I read the photo prompt for today.

There is some irony in the fact that I remember a commercial for ibuprofen years before I joined the Navy, injured my shoulders, and began a ridiculous regimen that occasionally surpassed several thousand milligrams of the painkiller per day. It's like this marketing bug stuck with me almost knowing I would have a long-term relationship with the medication.

Fortunately, it has been quite a while since I've had to turn to prescription strength ibuprofen, and I'd like to think that my reconstructive surgery in 2011 has helped that, but that still doesn't drive me in a direction for the day's photography.

Thinking to myself that I need to take a picture of something different was like trying to isolate my favorite droplet of water in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia Beach. So I shifted my perspective and thought that, instead of taking a picture of something different, I should take today's picture differently.

With my trusty pocket pal, the Samsung Galaxy SII, I went for the special effects.
Deciding what to snap was easy. Selfies have been a hot topic of discussion in the last year or so. With Obama getting the cold shoulder from the FLOTUS at the Mandela memorial, to the horrible trend of funeral selfies, and extreme selfies, shooting my own just felt right.

Here's one with flash.
The filter? Negative.

I don't look at myself in a negative light as often as I used to twelve, fifteen years ago, but I can say with confidence that now, even in a negative light, I like what I see. I see the highlight of light in the corners of my mouth and I think about how my braces in my sophomore and junior years of high school helped me literally mold the smile I have today. I notice the frames that frame my eyes, and think about how grateful I am to see.

(sidebar: I just searched my blog for what I thought was a post about me getting my eyeglasses in the sixth grade, but to no avail. What I thought was a blog post was a section from my unfinished NaNoWriMo book Juliet's Window.)

I see my hair and I think that, nearly ten years after separating from the military, I still prefer to keep it pretty short. If it gets long enough to touch the inside of my earlobe, it freaks me out. I see my clean shaven face, and I think of all the bartenders and servers that look at my when they card me, telling my I've got a baby face.

Spring semester, 2006, I dove into my first acting class at DVC, Beginning Acting with Beth McBrien. On this particular day she led us through an exercise that had everything to do with seeing yourself. Scanning. In the Arena Theatre, we all got out of our seats and partnered up with someone else in the class. Standing less than two feet from Mario, someone that became one of my closest friends while at DVC, we took turns scanning.

I went first, speaking what I saw. Truthfully, honestly, and openly. I see two eyes. I see brown hair. I see a nose, I see you smiling. I see you blinking. It goes on for several minutes. Observing and speaking about it has never been difficult for me. I'm observant and I like to speak my mind truthfully. But then it was time to switch. And as he looked at me, I stood there, on the stage of the Arena Theatre, surrounded by the other pairs in the class, and was scanned. He spoke what he saw, and I stood there silently. I tried to smile through it. I probably started laughing at one point. But as he continued to look and kept commenting and observing and telling me exactly what he saw, I couldn't take it. I ran up the stairs into the hallway and the flood gates opened. In a ball, sitting on the cement in the cool hallway, I was a complete mess. At first I couldn't understand what had caused this emotional outburst. We were just participating in a simple beginning acting class exercise. I kept my head down, but as my classmates walked out at the end of class, they all knew I had been sobbing. Not crying. Not weeping. Sobbing.

After everyone had left, Beth had came outside, and she had invited me back inside to talk. I had told her I had no idea why this exercise had such a drastic affect on me, and without prodding, she assured me that if something as "simple" as scanning could evoke such a high level of emotion, I held in my person such a powerful fuel that actors covet. Later on, I realized what this exercise reminded me of--hearing what someone saw in me in such a brutal truth. But it wasn't in a classroom, and it wasn't in the name of art. It took me a while to be ok with scanning, but once I got past being so defensive (usually with laughter, which was--well, still is--a defense mechanism) I learned that the simple act of seeing, observing, and sharing in a truthful, honest manner, is the most direct connection you can share with someone. Over time I learned that that doesn't just apply in theatre. Sure, theatrical acting was the focus, but it's also an integral piece of professional acting (because, let's face it, even though we aren't all thespians, we're all acting to some extent on the stage we call the workplace), as well as social interacting (you don't talk to grandma the way you talk to your favorite bartender...or maybe you do).

So yeah. I see myself. I see myself in a different light because I've acknowledged that I see myself. And a lot of that has to do with what other people see. Not to say that how I feel about myself is based entirely on how people view me, there's a balance in consideration or ignoring those views, but how I see myself has so much to do with awareness. And what I do with that awareness has helped me see myself in a positive light, whether or not the filter through which I'm being viewed is negative.

So thank you, Beth McBrien, my partner Mario, and beginning acting class for detonating the first blast in the years of sedimentary insecurities. Thank you, art, for allowing me to see myself in a way that will go beyond the theatre doors. And thank you, childhood experience, for rooting yourself so deep within myself that a simple harmless act of someone telling me that I have brown eyes and freckles on my skin could force me to run out a classroom that simply encouraged us to embrace art within ourselves.

If it were not for all this, I would be exactly the same as I was years ago. Heavily guarded. But I'm not. I'm much smarter, or rather, aware, of who I am. And I love that I'm different.

15 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 15/28: In My Hand

I'm not going to lie. I thought (for a period of  time longer than I wish to admit) of how I could take a picture of my phone in my hand. With my phone. Without making it a bathroom selfie. I did think of the pictures from posts on Day 1: Light, Day 8: Frozen, and Day 12: Can't Go Without, but I felt reusing photos went against the unwritten rules since the Photo A Day challenge is to encourage you to take new photos everyday.

I wanted to take a photo using the sky as the background, but I waited too long and the sun washed it out:

Looking at the picture again it reminds me of the turtles in the EAC in Finding Nemo. Like it's eating a Pac-Man dot.

So I came back inside and threw this bad boy together
My class ring I normally wear with the stone facing up, but I turned it around to join the Squadron 8 shark in today's composition.

What you see in today's photo is a command coin from SUBRON Eight. Submarine Squadron Eight, out in Norfolk, Virginia. Here's the flip side of it:
If this is your first time to my blog, I served in the US Navy from '99-'04, and my last year was with Squadron Eight as a Commodore's Assistant/unofficial yeoman.

We had a little get together before I had separated in September of 2004, and as Master Chief Bobby Allen shook my hand, I received what he had been palming on the way over. As a young sailor receiving a command coin from the Master Chief of Squadron Eight on his way out of the Navy that he would not be able to retire from (I was being discharged for medical reasons), this was a great honor, and wonderful token to take with me. For years I kept inside a nice wooden display case, alongside a coin from the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle team I had helped out while I was still stationed on the Rickover, but when I moved to Indiana, I decided to start carrying it in my pocket again.

I like reminders. Some I have tattooed on my body (see Day 9: Under for the latest one), others I wear, like my class ring, a symbol of the milestone I accomplished in education and art, and others, like the Squadron 8 coin, I carry with me. I started carrying it with me because moving here has been difficult, and I've been through challenging situations before: boot camp, deployments, involuntary medical separation from a Navy I gave myself wholeheartedly to, so as long as I remembered that I can make it through, and that I've been through worse, I keep going.

Maybe "reminders" isn't the best choice of words. "Affirmations" is more fitting, and although I'm not at the point that this little girl is at (see here for affirmation awesomeness), I bring with me reminders and affirmations that I can succeed, I have succeeded, and that I can continue to.

It may not be as easily recognizable as a gold medal, but that's the great think about tokens, reminders, and affirmations--they are better if they are personal and individualized.

So thank you Master Chief Allen, Senior Chief Baisley, Petty Officer Hilton, Captain Tanaka, Commander Ekker, and Commodore Connor for welcoming me into Squadron Eight and appreciating me as a young sailor on my way out. As you can see, it hasn't been forgotten.

14 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 14/28: Sweet

The year was 2009. It was mid-October, and I had been living in Long Beach for just over a month. Without cable in Apt 8, I knew I had to find somewhere to watch The Game. (For a fun story about the aforementioned Apt 8, check out the post from Day 3: Metal.) Kickoff was at high noon, but that was Eastern Time, so living on the west coast meant I was waking up early on Saturday, October, 17, to ensure I had a seat in front of a television before 9am.

The Prospector was only a couple blocks down 7th Street, and so I took the relatively early morning stroll in my gray hoodie with "OKLAHOMA" in crimson embroidery across the front. I had called the day before to see how early they opened, and since they were also a restaurant, they opened early for breakfast. Around 830 in the morning, I walked in, and like a scene out of an old western, the regulars at the bar, all turned to see what the barkeep behind the counter could already see. Identifying me by my OU gear, he asked, "You the one that called about the game?" And with a cheerful "Yup," (well, cheerful for 830am on a Saturday), I staked my claim at an open seat in the middle of the bartop, and awaited kickoff.

Smelling bacon and eggs all around me, I made the smart call to order some breakfast before getting into full game mode despite the early (on the west coast) kickoff. Thankfully, because The Prospector is a restaurant and a bar, I wasn't completely out of place ordering a beer that early in the morning. I did, in my defense, wait until after kickoff to do so.

Here's where it starts to get cloudy. There was a bottle behind the bar that caught my eye. Hound Dog Sweet Tea Vodka, I think it was. Well, I definitely know it was sweet tea vodka, but the brand is up for debate. Having spent a few years on the east coast, sweet tea was a bullseye of a remedy for homesickness. The bartender gave me my first shot for free, because he thought I should try it first, but looking back, I definitely think he knew what he was doing.

Somewhere during halftime I called my friends Tara and Lainey, and after 30 more minutes of game clock, the Texas Longhorns claim another victory in the Red River Rivalry, 16-13. This UT squad would eventually go on to win the Big 12 (with a victory over the Cornhuskers) but would lose to the Crimson Tide in the BCS Championship.

Even so, the Red River Shootout is the one game in the season we definitely want to win. Boomer Sooner.

A couple months later, Hound Dog's cousin, Seagram would accompany me to a cast party after the closing of Songs of the Siren, The Greeks Remixed. Another awesome time after an awesome run. In a collaboration of original plays based on Greek myths, a narrator role was written specifically for me--one of the greatest, if not the greatest, acting compliment I received in college.

Every once in a while, I'd find a drink with sweet tea vodka as an ingredient, and I would decide by thinking, "Is it a sweet tea moment?"

Tonight, it was.
 (Despite the irony of the first sweet tea vodka story...) I present the Texas Iced Tea from Cheddar's. A last second decision by my wife and I launched us into what could be a long evening of waiting. Valentine's Day on a Friday night, and we're heading out for dinner. Walking up to the door, a couple was passing us heading back to their car warning us of the hour and forty-five minute wait. Recognizing that there would be a substantial wait just about everywhere else we could go, we went inside and put our name in anyway. The hostess had said it the wait time was estimated at 1:15, so that was already an improvement from the defeated patrons' warning. As we sat inside, face to face with other mildly impatient couples and somewhat large groups, we watched other couples and families come inside, many of them leaving after hearing the estimated wait time.

Before we knew it, the restaurant pager was buzzing, and the red LEDs in the dark plastic case where doing a little dance. "Bingo!" I said as I looked at my watch and walked towards the hostess stand.

Twenty minutes. Exactly. As I gave (who I assumed to be) the manager a high five she said, "I'm not always this good," (to which I thought, "thatswhatshesaid" but that's neither here nor there).

Valentine's Day dinner with my wife. A delicious meal. A refreshingly wonderful drink. And another story of awesomeness with the liberating libation, sweet tea vodka.

drink responsibly. ;)

13 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 13/28: Water



"Be water, my friend." -Bruce Lee

I've had quite a relationship with water in my three decades on this Earth (which is covered mostly water, by the way).

1. Lived on both coasts.
2. Joined the Navy.
3. Stationed on and deployed with a submarine (Hooyah, Rickover!)
4. I love the beach (fitting with #1).
5. I love pool parties.
6. I drink a lot of water.
7. I really enjoy taking a shower.
8. I passed my swim qual in Navy boot camp.
9. I successfully completed a month-long swimming unit in high school.
10. I can't swim.
11. One of my biggest fears is drowning.

Ok, so maybe #10 and #11 aren't exactly in support of my overall positive relationship with dihydrogen monoxide, but hey, you take the good with the bad, right? You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, so they say.

But yes, water and I get along more times than not. A lot of people do. Brad Paisley even wrote a song about it. And not in a metaphorical, subliminal way, either. Here's the video for the song entitled, "Water," shocker, right?

If you've been following my blogging journey, you've noticed there have been a few posts about snow.
Snow.
More snow.
Snowflakes.

I wanted to flip it up today, so I give you...ice.

Driving around seeing all the icicles on houses has been so intriguing, awe inspiring, and scary. A few days ago, a co-worker had told me that the icicles on the back of the building had been growing, so during my lunch today, I drove around to check em out for myself
Whoa, right? Here are a few more.


And although the logical part of my brain can piece together exactly how this happens, I couldn't help but stare at them and be amazed.

Water. Like Bruce Lee said, it can take the form of any vessel that it fills. But what if there is no vessel? Then it flows as freely as it can...until it freezes. And then it flows again when it thaws...until it freezes it again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Applying that to ourselves, we can flow into the vessels that we fill. Households, schools, jobs, religions, communities, and so on. But when there is no vessel, where do we go? When do we freeze? When do we stay liquid? Do we become dirty by picking up filth from our environment? Or even when it is added to us?

We can filter things out, thaw, freeze, flow, and spread. We can lose droplets in cracks and grow in collaboration with others.

These icicles back here are like people. These moderately scary, but wholly awesome ice sculptures persuaded by the construction of these buildings are like each of us. We flow, we grow, we freeze, we flow, we spread, we mix, we nourish, evaporate, and flow once again.

It's as simple as Master Bruce said, "Be water, my friend."

12 February 2014

Photo and Blog a Day Challenge-Day 12/28: Can't Go Without

This prompt caught my eye when I started the challenge, and now that the day is here, it hasn't become any clearer. As most days have been, the search for an enticing subject starts early in the morning. What became of the awareness exercise evolved into an introspection in regards to materialism.

So I asked myself throughout the day, "Can I go without this? Not necessarily forever, but even for a extended period of time?"

A toilet. A shower. Breakfast. A car. Warm clothes. Shoes. My reusable water bottle.

Toilets are relatively new in the grand scheme of things. As are showers and plumbing in general.

Breakfast. Yeah, I can just wait until lunch.

I've gone without a car before and got around with public transportation and the good graces of friends with cars.

Warm clothes aren't as important in warmer climates. Likewise with shoes.

My orange water bottle that I've had for a while? Sure, it's great for the environment to reuse it instead of buying bottled water all the time, but is it an absolute necessity? Having forgotten it at home, work, or in my car on several occasions, I can say that it isn't.

When I got back in my luxury of car (not to be confused with "luxury car), what I wanted to capture for "Can't Go Without" was music to my ears. Literally. It was music to my ears.
Even though these next few points aren't at the bottom of the page...a few footnotes:
1. Ignore the fact that my hand/wrist looks disproportionate to my tiny excuses for fingers.
2. Yes I still buy and listen to CDs. (For those of you who are confused, CD stands for Compact Disc.)
3. These two CDs are currently the only two in my car.
4. The Matchbox Twenty album, North, is what's playing in the background (that you can't hear).
5. The track playing is Track 12: Sleeping at the Wheel, my current favorite song, and possibly my new favorite MB20 song. (Definitely top 3)

So yes, my entry for "Can't Go Without" is music. I cannot go without music. The two albums pictured above, are from my two favorite bands. North, from Matchbox Twenty, and Live on the Inside, from Sugarland.

I appreciate all genres of music, but MB20 has been the one band since I first heard them in 1996 that has always provided a soundtrack for my life. From the first singles, "Real World" and "3AM," and the song "Busted," off Yourself or Someone Like You, to "If You're Gone" and "Rest Stop" (Mad Season), to "Bright Lights" (More Than You Think You Are), and now "Sleeping at the Wheel" and "Parade" on the latest volume of MB20 musicology, North, I've been swimming in rocking riffs, floating upon wispy words, and nodding my head in agreement like they know my life.

And Sugarland. Oh, Sugarland. Every album has its songs that have lifted me through times that without music, I don't know how I would have fared. "Just Might (Make Me Believe)," "Want To," "Fall Into Me," and "Love" are just a few. ("Just Might" literally got me through a two and a half day stint in the hospital, including the ER and ICU, but that's a story for another time.)

I could honestly go on about just about every song on each of these bands albums and how they specifically helped me through different parts of my life (and how some continue to help, even years later in completely different situations).

So music, you are it. Aside from the obvious physiological needs, and aside from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Music is my #1 Can't Go Without.

What's yours?