13 Years Of Marriage, Tips And Thank You

The old adage “show don’t tell” is true about more than just writing books. In the crumbling basilicas that constitute modern marriage, it feels a bit counter intuitive to husband-brag since it’s no indication of merit or happiness...and in fact tends to be evidence towards the opposite.  

But if there is one day of the year you’re allowed to be sappy, it’s your anniversary, right?  So here’s me putting it out there: Jim is my rock, the better half and if I’m the family’s entertainment, he’s the king smiling benevolently from the head table. I know they say not to get married as young as we did (19 and 22), and perhaps our pocketbooks would be a bit more lined if we had taken the more culturally normal route, but from the comfortable perch of my 30’s I can’t help but think we really lucked out.  


I also hope we’re less than a quarter of the way through our total number of anniversaries, but since 13 is such a nice unpropitious number… here are my unconventional top tips.  Ask me again in 13 years and I’ll probably be advocating striped socks knit from horny goat weed, and marriage counseling from a Jedi.

1. Get your husband a motorcycle.  

On a scale between Pararescue Officer in Afghanistan and Midwestern Dental Hygienist, motorcycles are just enough over on the dangerous side to be provocative.  Every time Jim is more than ten minutes late, I’m sure he’s dead on the side of the road somewhere.  It makes for some very heartfelt homecomings in what could otherwise be your standard corporate guy coming home to his stressed out wife.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be swept off your feet every day by a bearded man wearing black leather and big boots.


2. Go to bed angry

I’m pretty sure the whole “Never Go To Bed Angry” marriage advice was made up by a vindictive woman as a way of tormenting worn out men.   By all means “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” but take that to mean, “deal with thyself” instead of dredging up every little thing wrong with your marriage at 11 pm.   Take a chill pill, realize you may in fact be perpetuating the problem and deal with it the next day if it’s still bothering you in the morning.


3. Don’t go on dates

...Or “date” your spouse or have weekly “date nights” or whatever the new soup du jour is (unless it’s one of those pay by the hour motels which would be far more worthwhile for the parents of small lock picking experts). Jim would probably disagree with me on this one, as he’s a big fan of dragging me out of the house for some one on one time, and maybe he’s right...but honestly the best “dates” are mindset adjustments and you can be anywhere for those.  Be fun, be attractive. Live, laugh and tease.  If however you find yourself on a date in a semi comatose state of exhaustion, I like The Book Of Questions or Battle of the Sexes as a way to resist the urge to full phone zombie.  

Do those three things and I promise you’ll have a long and fortuitous marriage….no money back guarantee.  ;-)

As I sit here though and reminisce about what we were doing 13 years ago (me chasing coyotes at 6am, Jim sleeping in and eating omelettes), I realize I made a huge mistake.  At 19 I was too young and ignorant to realize what monumental amounts of work and effort go into weddings.  For awhile I went through a stage of thinking weddings with all the foppery and accoutrements were a bunch of materialistic ridiculousness, but I’ve come full circle.  It’s not only beautiful and timeless, it’s also a testament to the sheer magnitude of biological and sociological proof of the importance of marriage.  

So thank you to the people who spent hours moving chairs, setting up tables and navigating logistics, and to the friends and sisters who stayed up into the wee hours weaving hemp necklaces and folding programs. Gratefulness to the mothers who coordinated vast amounts of family and food, and to cousins who captured visions and turned water, shears and stems into creations of beauty.   It makes me catch my breath to think how much work, love, time and sacrifice went into this day 13 years ago, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  Truly. Thank you.  Hopefully I’ve returned the favor or will return the favor someday. :)  Cheers!

Texas Vacation Ramblings

I don’t always mean to, but I open my my mouth and *good natured* trash talk comes out when it comes to Texas and Texans (even though I’m descended from Texans so I really should be nicer to my grandparents/great grandparents).  But after spending a week there on vacation I’m loathe to admit Texas really is legit and their pride is not too terribly misplaced.  

But pretend I didn’t just type that…

It all started with Jim...or maybe Kevin (I’m not sure, but testosterone was definitely involved since no female thinks traveling across the country or hosting a big family is “vacation”).   I had no room to talk though since my summer was a magical unicorn of ease and fun with the two older kids in Ohio and an array of friends visiting, so if the powers that be wanted to conjoin two families in 106 degree Texas August for a week of seven little boys, one princess and an imminently due pregnant lady well then… there was nothing to do but load up the car and make it happen.  

Trepidations aside, I highly recommend it (although I wasn’t on the hosting side, so maybe you shouldn’t ask me).   I think every voter should be required to drive across the country.  There is nothing that gives more perspective than potato chips, red bull and an audio book at 85 mph as you speed through an Arizona desert and imagine wagon ruts and lizard flesh roasting over a fire of oxen dung.  Seriously.  

I know fancy credit cards with their flight points for shiny cylinder things that hurtle through the sky are the in-style way of traveling in the 21st century, but really I think I prefer going in a car.  Flying is stressful with kids.   Besides the offering up your firstborn to pay for it, and trying to smuggle your skinny toddler in with a fake birth certificate as a “lap child” (I kid, I kid),  you spend a tremendous amount of time a) getting ready to get to the airport on time b) getting to the airport four hours early for fear the regular two isn’t enough when you have to account for a child possibly smuggling in a weapon or setting off an alarm c) watching your children lick every international germ off of every square inch of the airport as you wait an extra few hours for your delayed flight d) the flight itself where you’re busy bribing your seatmates with alcohol and ear plugs.  When all's said and done, you have spent at least 24 hours getting to a destination that took only a few hours of actual air time.   

Which is why I prefer to hurtle down the interstate in a traveling circus tent of cray cray.   In the same 24 hour chunk you can a) let your children be as noisy as they want and you can play audio books at a decibel usually reserved for Grateful Dead concerts.  b) throwing food and toys at your fellow seatmates is not only allowed but encouraged for feeding an entertainment purposes. c) you have ample opportunities to be the pilot which means someone else has to deal with the unruly passengers.  d) The United States really is beautiful.  

As a side note: I have perfected the “don’t-arrive-sick-at-your-destination” game.  Don’t let anyone use the restroom.  Ever.   I’ll admit this plan works better when you have only penises in the car, but I’m sure it can be modified to work with girls too.   My hypothesis is this:  Your immune system works best against local germs...the ones within a biological being’s biome.  When you leave the evolutionary safety of your environment you expose yourself to all sorts of gas station viruses your body has no defense against.  Everyone knows it is structurally impossible to keep small children from touching things which is how you arrive at your destination with a lineup of small petri dishes growing all kinds of interesting germs.   I prefer the canine way of watering rocks and bushes at deserted but strategic intervals.  No one comes into contact with foreign organisms and at least your start out your vacation in good health (all bets are off after that, but that’s ok because what’s a vacation with kids without at least a little puke, right?)  

Texas was and is its own environmental biome of bigness, beauty and toughness...dampened only slightly over the years by obesity and air conditioning (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). To the rest of the world the United States may seem like one country, but Texas is its own country within a country (despite all of the Californians moving to Dallas...again, sorry!).  But I’m a bit extra fond of the place because of the people who live there.  

Also, I think I’ve eaten more beef in the last week than I have in the last three months together.   

Why Outrageous Election Memes Are Actually Good

Science magazine recently published a fascinating article about an enormous battle in the bronze age. It caught my wandering eye of Saruman because we doubt and do the parental “mmhmmm dear” when it comes to what the ancients wrote about themselves (I’m pretty sure Ancient Egypt’s “NFL” was called “WCETB” or “Who Can Exaggerate The Best”) so finding physical evidence to validate such claims is kind of a big deal. But what does this have to do with Trump vs. Hillary? It’s that people have been fighting for a very long time.  

To parents I'm sure this is obvious. This morning I optimistically checked the tide chart and threw everyone in the car for a spontaneous tide pool hike. I error intentionally on the side of not thinking through the ramifications of such actions so that I don’t talk myself out of it, but suffice it to say I was paying the consequences (willingly) when three hours later I ended up back at home with four soggy kids and a vehicle that’s slowly turning into its own ocean eco-system of sand, seaweed and something that smells suspiciously like rotting crab. Give it a few more weeks and our Mazda will be in contention for the world's smallest pacific island. As such, it is hard for me to differentiate one super special, one-of-a-kind, one-rock-to-rule-them-all from another. In the mayhem I misguidedly shut down one of my sweet angel children multiple times thinking he was asking for ice cream when he was really asking for anti-theft protection. His brothers capitalized on my distraction, joined forces and claimed power of the one true rock to rule them all.  

...And that’s how I ended up with my own Bronze Age battle on my back porch. You can’t shut someone down consistently without frustrations building up like a pressure cooker.

There are no perfect sides. Every opinion this side of heaven is a pie graph of partly true and partly flawed. I’m not even sure it’s a bad thing that we usually see the insanity of another person’s political opinions but not our own. Human brains can’t help but try to fix things, build things, and improve on things, so disagreeing is the biological chisel in the toolbox of modern thinking.  

But if it helps... next time you feel your blood pressure rising as you research other countries to move to if either one of the political candidates becomes president… remember that this is how history sorts itself out. Don’t try to shut down, police or parent the rhetoric war going on right now because discourse (even if it’s Nazi/Doltist/Fascist/Marxist/Imbecilic etc) is better than World War II. Ideas have to go through the gauntlet and stand on their own merit.  Embrace it! It’s a good thing and join it if your conscience dictates.  

...at the very least it might give future historians something to do.


ComiCon Here I Come

Living in the real world is tough cannolis.  Particularly if (like me) you were raised looking longingly at the world through a filter of T.H. White and Orson Scott Card.  While everyone else was out getting first kisses and going to Audio Adrenaline concerts with the youth group, I was changing, diapers, sewing long skirts out of fabric plastered with giant cherries and getting lost in every Star Wars fan book I could get a hold of (no shame!).   

Thus, it was with enormous awe and gravity that I finally procured Willy Wonka’s golden tickets and got to go to ComicCon for the first time last  year.  It would be a fateful homecoming.   I would finally be among the fellow outcasts of society, the type of people who can answer the question “What is Bilbo Baggin’s mother's name” instantly and with a straight face.   Turns out though, ComicCon is so huge and popular that it’s more like specialists in the medical field.   I only speak maybe two, three dialects of nerd, and there are at least seventy-seven...not counting Dr. Who which has at least three separate dialects within the dialect.   Also, the sheer awesomeness is a little overwhelming.  I mean, where else can you go and see Darth Vader and Sherlock Holmes standoff?  Especially when Darth Vader really is 6’ 8” and Sherlock is Benedict Cumberbatch’s doppelganger.  Last year there were zombies everywhere...almost tied with the number of naked Cersei’s with their Septa Unellas and shame bells.  (any bets one what the popular GOT costume will be this year?)  

I go again this Saturday and I can’t wait.  In some ways it's like those 4th of July parades as a kid where they throw out free candy...instead at ComicCon they throw out free books! And comics! ...and pretty much everything in between!  Besides meeting all of my favorite authors, I’m pretty sure nothing can top last year of getting to meet Jamie Fraser and Jonathan Randall right before tap dancing as an X-man in Xavier’s school of dance...but hey, I’m willing to take whatever comes my way.  I’m just thrilled I get to go again. 




How To Read More Books When You Have A Million Kids

...or just four kids.  

If there is one thing I think all moms universally long for (besides babies who sleep through the night and a cyberoptic forehead readout that tells you the optimal way to raise your particular child) it’s that we all wish we had more time to read.

My mom used to find me hiding under a giant pile of laundry or stuffed between the beds feverishly trying to consume a book on the down low. After oh so gently fussing at me, she would say something along the lines of, “Just wait until you have your own kids…”.     Well... Cough Cough.  She seriously underestimated my ability to get sucked into a new book.  And since necessity is the mother of invention, consider this a trade secret swap because you can never have too many ways to sneak books into your life.  Here are a few tried and true strategies.  


Read in the car

Buckle everyone in and then read 5 min before you pull out of the driveway, and another 5...er...10 min in the grocery store parking lot.  


Make Tacos for dinner

Or something else that can be mindlessly done on auto pilot. I have found flipping tortillas is the most mutually beneficial dinner strategy.  You can easily do that and brown ground beef while also flipping pages.  


Get an Audible account

This one is boring, but effective.   Everyone has mental “muscles” with some working better than others.  For the sake of evenness I try to exercise the auditory ones because they don’t work as well as my visual processing ones, but it’s difficult.  Still, laundry becomes so much more interesting when you’re listening to Diana Gabaldon's reader say “Sassenach”.  


Lay on the floor

Debut as a human jungle gym.  Kids usually just want to be around you, they don’t always need you to follow them around describing things like an interactive preschool app “Yes, ball...roll ball….good roll ball”  (although let's be real, we all sound like therapists these days thanks to Daniel Tiger).  Sometimes the most serviceable solution to buy yourself a chapter is to lay on the floor and let your spine become a deck and your feet a rudder as you’re tossed to and fro on a sea of fishy crackers.  While the wee pirates sail on grand adventures, you can consume a few precious pages.   


Spontaneously declare a 15 min “Super Secret Book Club”.  

Solemnly inform your kids they need to clean their rooms, empty the trash and wash the dishes.  Then freeze, cock your head like you’re listening to some invisible messenger and say “I’m getting an incoming order from the Interplanetary Secret Reading Order and they need us to drop everything right now and read for fifteen minutes….hmmm...can we? should we?  Perhaps we have no choice but to put off chores and attend this very important super secret club meeting.”  Reluctantly set the timer for another fifteen minutes afterwards when everyone clamors they’re not quite ready to go clean yet.  


Of course all of that assumes you haven’t been banned from your local library and have a healthy relationship with Amazon.   Ahem.  But what say you?  What are you reading and how/where do you read it?  


3 Logical Fallacies And Why They're Good

There is literally no one less qualified to talk about this than me, but since that’s actually kind of the point… I’ll carry on and hope Aristotle doesn’t roll over in his grave.

A long time ago someone observed the way humans argue about things (the kind that wasn't entirely comprised of stabbing them or something). This person waxed eloquent with a pen for a very long time and dubbed it "Rhetoric" i.e. "How to convince someone Trump is Hitler by saying "I can't even....<emoticon> <emoticon>" (I kid, I kid, that's obviously only one example). 

There are two sorts of Rhetoric, external and internal.  External is boring, so moving on…

Internal Rhetoric is where it’s at. It’s the Rembrandt of persuasion, the beauty of The Colbert Report and pretty much the gas station that fuels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (my exact age can probably be deduced Sherlock Holmes style from that sentence). Under this internal rhetoric is a whole bunch of important stuff like charisma and logic but zooming way in there is fallacy (which sounds vaguely dirty and probably has some etymological correlation). Fallacies get a bad rap these days and it’s such a bummer. Instead of thinking of fallacies as bad logic (which it is), think of it as shortcut to winning! Logic is like bringing a knife to a gunfight...you can only use knives if everyone else is.     

For your perusal, here are the three best ones to use during this election season. All sides, including my own bastardized side use it, so I’ll try to be fair. 

Ad Hominem

The two presidential candidates aren’t even the guiltiest of this and you see it mostly in comment threads when things get heated. I think the reason is actually biological. When someone encounters views they consider dangerous the first instinct is to do the philosophical version of curling up in the fetal position and yelling “LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS!”. If you feel your chest start to tighten up and your blood start to pound in your ears as you can’t believe the rubbish someone is posting this is a warning sign you might be about to launch an ad hominem attack.  


Correlation does not imply causation

This is a personal favorite and I find myself using it all of the time. In my defense I think humans are infinitely suspicious creatures and it’s second nature to see connecting strands. Often times those connecting strands might even be correct! I vote everyone puts their correlative/causation opinions in a big jar and bury them in a time capsule. In twenty years take them all out and see which ones Father Time has fulfilled with missing pieces and see if there is a pattern on who had the more right correlations. I think this is what Solomon would do.  



Straw man fallacies are more of a team sport. It typically happens when you’ve split a concept into two sides (Vaccines are bad/good...public school is bad/good…immigration is bad/good). This sets the stage for the strawman catapult which is a projectile you launch into the enemy camp with the word “seems” loaded on it. Anytime you see someone say “it seems like…” you can rest soothingly in the knowledge you’re about to get taken out by a strawman attack. Related to this is calling a position “hate” or arguing for “love”. Both are abstract concepts with a multitude of interpretations, but they carry strong emotional weight so it’s an easy way to take the opposing side down.  And it’s understandable, humans like to win. If we didn’t, we would have died out a long time ago. No one wants to be on the losing side, and no one wants to look foolish so we all hope we’ve picked, if not the winning side, then at least the righteous side.  


Of course the number of fallacies are like stars in the sky, and this list barely scratches the surface, but knowledge is power and all that. My rule of thumb is this: If the person is waving the white flag of reason, then by all means bench the fallacies and discourse accordingly. But if the battle lines are drawn and everyone has shown up with rhetoric, then it’s not only a waste, it’s counterproductive to use anything dialectic, so let it go and let your fallacies fly.