What I Gave Up for Lent

IMG_4977Lent began on Wednesday, February the 14th, Valentine’s day, but I didn’t really think about it given that I’m not Catholic and not a big fan of giving up things that I like, so I didn’t, but the next day at work, one of my coworkers, who also isn’t Catholic by the way, was talking about giving up something for lent. I was listening from the drive thru, set back in the corner away from everybody else, but I wasn’t participating in the conversation, mainly because of my previous stance on not giving up things I enjoy. Two of my coworkers decided they were going to give up all drinks except for water for the next month and a half, and another said she was going to give up drinking alcohol, and as much I wanted to avoid the conversation, it turned to me, and they asked if I was going to give up something for Lent. I decided I would since everyone else was doing it, because, you know, peer pressure, so I started contemplating what would be a good sacrifice I could make for the Easter season.

Since I was going to be giving something up, I wanted it to be something that would take a little bit of effort, because I could easily say that I’m going to give up cutting off my legs with a chainsaw and then cruise until Easter, but that would kind of defeat the purpose, but I wasn’t just going to mail it in, not on the Lord’s holiday. I chose to give up caffeine, which considering than water, I normally drink coffee and tea, was going to be a pretty big sacrifice. That night, I met my wife for dinner after work at a Mexican restaurant, and without thinking ordered unsweetened iced tea, because they have incredible tea there, and drank several glasses of it, so my Lenten season didn’t get off to the greatest start. I didn’t even realize what I’d done until I got to work the next day and was asked how I did without caffeine, but I vowed to try harder, and that’s exactly what I did.

I bought some caffeine free diet soda, and caffeine free tea, and discovered, that it actually wasn’t half bad, although I swear I could tell a difference in taste, but I suppose it could have been a placebo effect. When I went to the movies, instead of getting a giant soda, I got water, and even though it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as sipping on ice cold diet coke, at least I was sticking to what I’d committed to. Of all the people at work that had given up something for lent, with the exception of that first night at El Porton, I was the only one who had strictly stuck to it for a whole month, but then one day, I was craving a soda, and that’s when everything was starting to unravel. I was at sonic and I really wanted a diet dr. pepper with vanilla and lime, but I know that there was caffeine in it. I could have gone home where I had a bottle of the caffeine free stuff, but I decided, against my better judgement to order it anyway. It was delicious, but things haven’t been the same.

I haven’t even been thinking about avoiding caffeine the last week, drinking diet Pepsi and regular iced tea, completely ignoring the sacrifice I was supposed to be making. I’m not thrilled that I didn’t stick it out until the end, but what really bothers me is now that I’m drinking caffeine again, I’m having a lot of trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning for at least an hour before I’m able to doze off. That’s why I’m going to give up caffeine indefinitely. I’m going to completely cut it out of my life because apparently it has a massive effect on the way I sleep, and I’m tired of waking up and being tired. Since I didn’t stick to it initially I’m not expecting the Easter Bunny to leave me a basket full of candy and toys, but since I’m making the commitment to renew the no caffeine lifestyle, maybe he’ll leave me a Reese’s egg or two.


The Bucket List

There are things that I want to do in life that I think about from time to time, and occasionally I will do one of these things, like write a blog, but oftentimes these things will be forgotten and remain undone because I don’t have a list, but all of that is about to change. That’s right, I’m making  a bucket list, so I will have a documented account of everything that I want to do before I die and can cross things off as I do them, a visual record that I can reference to prove to myself that I’m actually making progress on accomplishing the things that I want to in life. So even if it feels like I’m wasting my life, that I’m not doing anything of significance or importance, at least I’ll have the list to prove otherwise. I can carry it around with me and shove it in the face of all my doubters, shouting, “See, I am doing something with my life!” While that might seem pathetic, having a meltdown in public is actually on the bucket list, so what do you have to say about me and my awesome list now?

So aside from having a public meltdown, which I know, sounds glamorous, there are some other things that I’ve dreamed about doing for a long time that finally have a home on my bucket list, like swimming with sharks. It would be so cool to be out in the middle of the ocean surrounded by one of the fiercest creatures in the ocean and have been the driving inspiration behind countless nautically themed movies. Perhaps, although there is a place for this invigoratingly risky activity on the list, admittedly it should probably be penciled in at the very bottom, because it will likely be the last thing that I ever do. That’s just planning ahead.

I’ve always loved travel, and I love food, so it only makes sense that I would combine the two for the ultimate bucket list item. I want to take a road trip through all forty-nine states, Hawaii the lone exclusion since you can’t drive there, and stop at a gas station in each state and eat a hot dog. I’ve only ever eaten one gas station hot dog in my life, and that was in Florida, and not only was it one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten, but it made me very sick, so naturally I’d want to repeat the experience forty-nine times over on a road trip. I just think it would be a great way to see the country and a fun study to write about the nastiest hot dog in the country. The good thing about eating a gas station hot dog is you know you are near a gas station bathroom in case you get sick, and we all know how notoriously clean those public restrooms are.

Those are only a couple of items on the bucket list, but it is far from finished. I’ll be sure to continue sharing my hopes and dreams with you from time to time here on the blog and any progress I make on the crossing those things off the list. If you have a bucket list or have done something that completely changed your life that you think I should try, unless it’s something dumb like having a positive attitude, feel free to share your experiences. I’m definitely open to expanding my bucket list.

Training Day, Part 2

IMG_4959All of my days are basically the same, at least during the week. I have the same morning routine, then I drive the same route to work where I spend the next five hours performing the same menial tasks day in and day out before taking a lunch break, eating the same sandwich and drinking from the same water bottle before dragging myself back inside for three more hours of doing the same things I was doing before my break. Long ago I’ve accepted my fate, that I’ll sputter along in this monotonous routine until one day, the sweet release of death will finally wash over me, but today, today was different. As rare as a blue moon, there comes a time when I’m released from my routine and have to attend a training class to better equip me to return to the cycle of monotony with new insights so I can perform my job more effectively, so instead of driving my usual route to the bank, my path deviated towards the main branch of my employer where I was given security clearance and a badge, which when swiped, leads me up to the fourth floor of the building to the training room, where I arrived promptly at eight o’clock this morning. There was only one person seated at the U-shaped tables, because as it turned out, the class didn’t start until 8:30. There’s thirty minutes of sleep I’ll never get back.

I passed the time on my phone, draining my battery in the most effective way I know how, by playing Candy Crush. It may be perceived as antisocial that I didn’t engage in conversation with the other early bird, and while I’m completely in favor of ignoring other people by pretending to be busy on the phone, she was on her phone when I entered, so that one’s not really on me. When the class finally began, the instructor taught us everything I needed to know to perform in my new job role, the one with all of the additional responsibilities heaped on me without a pay raise that I was forced into at the beginning of the year, so while it was very informative and useful information, it would have been nice to know a couple of months ago. At least now I’m equipped with the tools I need to actually do my job and won’t be so thoroughly confused about what to say to the customers I’m assigned to call every day at work.

Even though the training was laughably late and won’t do anything to help me meet my goals for this quarter that ends in ten days, I am glad to have a better understanding of my new job role and am more confident about it now than I was before today. I’ve felt unsure about my the changes being made at the bank and my role in the middle of it all, but the training provided me with a spark of ambition that maybe I can actually do this after all. The goals were always clear cut, but now that I have a roadmap to reference on how to actually achieve them, I’m feeling more optimistic going forward. Hopefully I’ll keep that hope alive, and who knows, maybe I’ll actually be able to meet my goals for the next quarter. I’m looking forward to the clean slate that April brings, a fresh start which I can attack with new knowledge and gusto that will propel me to be the best financial relationship specialist that I can be.

Why Memphis Will Win the NCAA Tournament

The Memphis Tigers are going to win the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s right, the same Memphis Tigers that got beaten by South Florida and East Carolina, two of the worst teams in the country this year, are not only going to the big dance, but will in fact, win it all. You might think that I’ve lost my mind or am just speaking as a crazed fan, but I know exactly what I’m saying and believe it to wholeheartedly be the truth. It would have been less of a stretch, albeit still very unlikely, had I said it when they were on their four game winning streak at the end of the season, but no, it was the loss to South Florida, the utter beat down on our home court that got set the wheels in motion for the Tigers to win the national championship. How can I be so confident? Because, it’s just too perfect.

Just think about it for a second. Wouldn’t this make the perfect movie? At the end of last year’s disappointing season, the several of the best players on the team transferred to other schools, leaving the Memphis roster pretty bare without much hope for this year. Over the course of the offseason, the coach eventually filled in his roster with players, the majority of whom, he recruited from Junior Colleges. So here you have a rag-tag group of basketball players, the majority of whom weren’t good enough to play division one basketball a couple of years ago, thrust onto the big stage with the high expectations of Memphis basketball fans on their shoulders.

Nobody believed in these kids, nobody but a man named Tubby Smith, a former national championship winning coach who has taken five different teams to the NCAA tournament. The championship he won was twenty years ago and while the narrative is overplayed and outdated, it was still something to hold onto, a little glimmer of hope when the hire was made two years ago, that maybe Tubby would come in and be the great winning coach that he once was, but last year came and went, and that little spark of hope was extinguished. During the later part of this season, talks have picked up about wanting former Memphis Tiger and NBA great, Penny Hardaway to replace Tubby, but through it all, the University has stood by their coach unwavering in their support, until after the bad loss to South Florida at home.

The president of the University, who had been steadfast in his support of the current basketball coach, released a statement regarding Tubby’s future, saying they would reevaluate the situation at the end of the season, which by all indications, means there’s likely to be a coaching change, otherwise he could have just put a stop to that talk like they did all year by voicing support for Tubby, except now it seems like they don’t. After that the Penny rumors were reignited and the way everyone in the media is talking, it’s more likely than not that Penny will be the next head coach at the University of Memphis, so Tubby is as good as gone. Knowing that his tenure as the head basketball coach of the Tigers is coming to a close, then what does he have to play for? His honor of course, which perfectly fits the cliché mold that is so common in sports movies.

The Tigers are going to rally around their coach and play their hearts out and Tubby is going to be moved into getting his old fire back and become once again the great coach that he once was. Throw in the fact that the best player on the team got hurt at the very end of the season, and you have the perfect story for a movie. It’s going to be beautiful and sappy and inspiring and the movie is going to be a huge success, and since I’m the first one to voice the idea and say that a 2018 championship for Memphis is happening, then it’s only fair that I get to write and direct the movie, or at the very least get to play one of the white kids at the end of the bench that never gets to play but is very enthusiastic in support of his team. It’s going to be the Hoosiers of this generation, only it’s not going to be super boring. You heard it here first. Tubby’s Tigers, coming to a theater near you

Happy Birthday to the Blog!

August 31st will always be a special day for me. I can’t believe it’s been a year already, but I guess it’s true what they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And it has been fun, for the most part. Sure there were times when it seemed like the process was more work than play, a monotonous chore rather than an exciting endeavor like I had hoped it would be when it was first conceived, but that’s life, full of ups and downs, good times and bad, and the most important thing is how you end up. Of course the long journey is really only just beginning, so I have no idea how things will turn out in the end, but at the end of the first year, I’m very happy with what has been accomplished, although I’m nowhere near satisfied, and truth be told, I don’t know if I ever will be. Over the last twelve months the blog has gotten over ten thousand page views, 10,287 to be exact, something that seemed incredibly unlikely once upon a time when I wasn’t even cracking double digit page views on any given day. At times it was discouraging, after having particularly good weeks to have a massive falloff the next, but still I kept writing, and eventually things bounced back. I have mixed emotions every day when I write the blog, ranging emotions that pull me back and forth and leave my mind in a constant state of turmoil. Usually while I’m writing, the thought pops into my head, questioning why anybody would want to read this any way, and then when I post it and see the subsequent views it receives I wonder why more people aren’t reading it, a complete contradiction to my first line of thinking. Then finally, third, after the new blog post has had time to marinate overnight, I wake up feeling excited and humbled that anybody would take time out of their day to read what I write. It’s that which keeps me going, the thought that there are people in the world who actually enjoy reading my words, that and the desire to fulfill my dream of being a writer, to finish the book that has lived in my head for years and have an audience that wants to read it upon its completion.

From getting talked about on ESPN radio, to a book review being read and acknowledged by a well known author, the blog really has had some unexpected surprises, little things that seem to happen out of nowhere that give me a boost of encouragement and the belief that maybe I can actually do this after all. Even and especially when I share personal stories, when there is no lightheartedness or joking around, the outpouring of support from everyone is incredible and encouraging, something I am so very thankful for. To all my readers out there, thank you so much for everything, for sticking with me through the first year of this journey. Hopefully it will be the first of many, but even if it ends today, I am happy knowing that we made it through a whole year of writing a blog every single day. I often have the ambition but lack the follow through to actually accomplish what I set out to do, but this thing was different, and I look forward to continuing to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do this. I’m hoping year two can be much bigger than year one, so if you like what I’m writing, please share it with your friends, via social media, email, or even printing it out and tacking it to a bulletin board if that’s how you roll, that way more readers can be reached. I never would have gotten this far without you, and it’s ultimately up to you, the readers as how to far I will actually be able to go, so if you wouldn’t mind putting in a good word for me I would really appreciate it. I think it’s only fitting that we end today’s blog with a song, so if you’re completely alone, or just don’t care what people think, please join me in singing.

Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Dear Blah Blah Blog!
Happy Birthday to You!

A Forgotten Song Bringing Up Old Memories

Music has the power to bring back memories that have long been forgotten, taking you back to the exact moment and bringing back feelings in an instant that were first experienced more than a decade before, which is why I found myself about to break down crying when a random song came on my car radio. The other day I was headed to the grocery store with my wife. it was after work and I was feeling good as we cruised down the road listening to the music playing on one of the local alternative stations, and then the song switched, a light strumming of a guitar and a rush of emotion coming back to me. Before any words were even sung I felt my eyes began to tear up. It had been more than ten years since I’d heard this song, but I was immediately taken back to that dark movie theater in Little Rock where I received the bad news. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad was visiting me from Memphis. I was in the tenth grade, sixteen years old at the time and we were at a movie that I’d already seen, “Stranger than Fiction”, and I had enjoyed it so much the first time that I was more than happy to see it again. Truth be told, it might very well be in my top ten favorite movies of all time, but since that day I think I’ve only watched it on one or two other occasions, unable and unwilling to bring back the sad memories that this particular movie conjures up for me.

There’s a scene in the movie when Will Farrell first kisses Maggie Gyllenhaal on the couch in her apartment, a turning point, the optimistic beginning of a relationship between the lonely IRS agent and the local bakery owner. A song starts playing by Reckless Eric called “Whole Wide World” and it’s a beautiful moment set to the tune of a perfect song. It was in this moment, during the kiss while the song was playing that I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket and I pulled it out in the dark movie theater to check the message. It was from my mom and contained some of the most devastating news that I have received to this day; Coach Brady was dead.

Coach Brady was without question one of the greatest teachers that I ever had, teaching me math both my eighth and ninth grade years, a subject that was my least favorite throughout my entire scholarly career, but for those two years it was my favorite class, solely because of the teacher. He had a knack for storytelling and on those lucky days he would breeze through the lessons, imparting the necessary knowledge that the job required then for the rest of the class would tell us stories from his life that would oftentimes make me laugh so hard that it hurt. It didn’t matter what particular story he would tell us, he would make the classroom shake with laughter as naturally as another teacher might assign homework, which is why I relished the fact that I could make him laugh too and would do so as often as I got the chance. Coach Brady was the first teacher that I ever felt really thought I was funny and appreciated that fact, which gave me the confidence and courage to be more outspoken. He made me want to share my sense of humor with others, which is something to this day that I consider one of my best attributes, and for that I will be forever grateful. I wish things would have happened differently, that he would have gotten better and I never would have received that horrible news, but things don’t always turn out the way that we would like. Although I only knew him for a couple of short years, Coach Brady left me something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life, and even though he is gone, he will never be forgotten.

Being Uncle Sam

Late in December of 2006, I sat at my grandparents breakfast nook in their kitchen, their acres of land laid out before me, completely covered in a blanket of frost. I had their newspaper spread out on the table in front of me, and I was perusing the job advertisements for some reason. The previous summer I had worked as a little league baseball umpire, but given the fact that I walked away from that job in the half hour break between the double header, there was no chance that I’d be rehired, not that I really wanted to do that anyway which is why I found myself on that cold December morning, looking for a job in the local newspaper. I looked for a while but being a sixteen year old kid, I didn’t really seem to qualified to become a certified nurse or a truck driver making seventeen cents per mile, but then, just as I was about to give up hope, I saw an advertisement offering “good pay” to dress up and dance on the side of the road, which naturally the performer in me couldn’t resist, so I called and got the job, sight unseen, which probably should have raised a red flag for me, but back then was a simpler less cynical time for me, excitement at having gotten the job was the only emotion I felt.

I was told to wear gym shorts and a white t-shirt to report to work, so I did as I was instructed and arrived at Liberty Tax Services abut ten minutes before I actually had to be there, because you know, I”m a real go-getter. I was shown to the little bathroom that doubled as the changing room and was handed my costume. The pants baggy, the beard was itchy, and the hat was too big and kept falling down in front of my eyes, which is not something you want to happen as you’re dancing around next to a busy street with cars careening past, but all of the negatives aside, I could have passed for Uncle Sam’s twin, you know the guy pointing his finger at you and saying to join the army. Apparently the tax place thought he was a good mascot for them, along with Lady Liberty, but since there was already somebody assigned to play her, I was stuck with Sam.

I stepped out of the bathroom, one hand holding up my pants and the other holding up the hat, the picture of idiocy, but my bosses told me I looked great, and sent me out into the cold winter day, but not before explaining to me that this was just a try out, and that if I did well, then I would be able to actually work there and get paid. I thought it was a little unfair to just be finding this out now, but I was determined to make a great impression so I could get the job, so that day I marched up and down the sidewalk, making elaborate gestures with my hands and arms and pointing at the little tax place. I was the best worker they’d ever had, each car pulling into the parking lot surely a result of my stellar performance. At the end of the long day I was tired, but invigorated, knowing that there was absolutely no way that they wouldn’t be giving me the job, and I was right. The next day I went back, only this time with nothing to work for, I didn’t feel all that excited or put much effort into the job, standing there on the sidewalk and occasionally waving at cars, knowing deep down that it didn’t matter what I was doing; they would either stop if they needed to stop, or they would keep going if they didn’t, I was just the idiot on the side of the road that didn’t factor into their decision making process whatsoever.