The Thing We’re Finally Talking About

This is a piece I wrote last spring, but I believe it may be more relevant now than it was when it was first published on The Good Men Project.


More so than any other time in my life, racism is at the forefront of the national conversation. I was born in 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. By the time I became self-aware in the early seventies, things had calmed down some, and throughout my formative years, racism as a societal topic was less prominent.

I have been giving this topic a lot of thought recently and three specific snapshots from my life come to mind. I do not have answers. My goal is simply to keep the conversation out where we can seek solutions together.

I am a 48-year-old white male, who grew up in an upper-middle-class household. My ancestry is 50% Swedish (mother’s side) and 50% Armenian (father’s side.) Both sides of my family immigrated to the USA in the late 19th century. […]

let it go

You don’t know… so let it go

In the short story The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant tells the story of a woman of modest means who borrows an expensive necklace from a friend. She wears it to a grand occasion, but then loses it on her way home. Not wanting to admit her irresponsibility to her friend, she borrows a huge sum of money to replace it.

It takes her ten years to pay off the debt, and in that time the experience ages her to the point where she is hardly recognizable as the same person. Not long after her decade of strife she learns the necklace she lost was a fake, worth only one-twentieth of the debt she had assumed.

It is a downer of a story, but I was reminded of it while thinking about another story. This one I actually witnessed first hand. The names have been changed to maintain some level of anonymity but I assure you this happened exactly as I am about to tell you. […]

Best

Fiona Knows Best

About five years ago, my friend Fiona moved to South Dakota. She and I became friends working together on a local TV show almost a decade before, and we would get together maybe once a year for lunch, that was at least until she moved. Fiona is one of those people who you don’t see often, but when you do you’re able to pick up right were you left off, as if no time had passed at all.

Two years ago, I was driving back to Rochester from a day in Buffalo and my phone rang. It was Fiona, and she said, “Hey Steve. I have this new philosophy about far away friends. Whenever I think about them I don’t wait, I just pick up the phone and call or text them. I was thinking about you a few minutes ago so here I am giving you a call. How are you?”

We chatted for fifteen minutes, about nothing in particular, and went on with our lives… 1,500 miles apart.

[…]

neighborhood

Sourdough Starter

As many of you know, my family recently moved from Upstate NY to Charlotte, NC. One of the hardest things for us to leave was our amazing neighborhood. Sure the houses were nice and the streets were well maintained, but people are what make up a neighborhood, and what we left was simply the best there is.

I am not a baker. That said, I do know a little bit about making bread, and the history of the practice. As you scan the shelves at you local grocery store and marvel at the variety of choices before you, it is important to understand how bread today is very different than it was 100 years ago, and all the time before that. […]

Be Prepared

I am an Eagle Scout. There, I said it, and at 48 years old I’m finally over the feeling that admitting said accomplishment might result in some kind of machismo-rooted mockery, or worse… a wedgie.

As most people know the motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared.” Certainly the Boy Scouts have no exclusive claim to the idea of preparedness, but I will give them full credit for instilling the idea in me. I wrote about this idea (sort of) in my book The Penny Collector in a chapter called Hoard In Moderation. If you’d like to read that chapter (and you haven’t bought my book – shame on you), comment below and I’ll send you a PDF.

Last week I was reminded of two stories of preparedness constructed and executed by two exceedingly smart and beautiful women… my wife and my mother. […]

To A Mouse

Robert Burns, the eponymous Scottish poet, penned a verse oft quoted in modern times, but few know the origin.

The line to which I refer is from a poem called To A Mouse,

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew

In colloquial use, the word “schemes” is typically replaced with “plans,” but the result is the same… […]

waffles

Waffles Are For Breakfast

The other day I dropped my eleventh-grader off to take the PSAT. As we drove the mile and a half to the high school, I blurted out the one thing I remember from my SAT prep course thirty years ago. “Scan-Discard-Select-Move On.”

In addition to all the content we covered, this was the lion’s share of the strategy I was taught, to conquer this all-important measure of my seventeen-year-old brain.

After exclaiming the one thing I remembered from three decades past, my daughter (as is often the case) looked at me like the alien creature she believes me to be. However after wiping the sour look off her face she asked, “tell me more about that.” […]

honeydew

Honeydew Terrorist

I recognize the title is odd, but I assure you the story I am about to tell involves both a honeydew melon and terrorism. Last week I saw an article about the Ozark Mountains Turkey Trot Festival.

This reminded me of (and was no doubt the inspiration for) the very best episode of a 1970s-1980s TV sitcom called WKRP in Cincinnati. The episode to which I refer, originally aired on October 30 (my brother Doug’s birthday) 1978. IMDB.com describes the episode as:

Feeling left out by all the recent changes, Mr. Carlson decides to launch his own Thanksgiving promotion. With the aid of Herb and Les, the Big Guy turns a routine turkey give-away into a comic catastrophe.

What ends up happening is this. In an attempt to make an annual turkey giveaway more exciting, the station owner arranges to drop turkeys from a helicopter flying 2,000 feet above a shopping mall. If you’re not familiar with the show or the episode, the clip is just below. […]

photobomb

Inventor of the Photobomb

My son Lawrence is an accomplished photobomber. If you’re taking a picture and Lawrence is anywhere in the vicinity, you can be sure he’s going to find his way into your pic.

According to Urbandictionary.com:

photobomb

(verb)- to drop in a photo unexpectedly…to hop in a picture right before it is taken.

Sarah: hey why is jimmy in the background of our prom picture?
Ryan: idk, he must have photobombed it at the last second.

A few years back, we attended a mass given by our new bishop at my sons’ school. My daughter Charlotte really wanted to get a picture with the new bishop, so after mass, she and her friend Erin waited in a long line.

Since the bishop was the first new one in the diocese in more than three decades, everyone seemed interested in meeting him, so Charlotte and Erin had to be very patient. When their time came, they shook hands with the bishop and then asked for the photo op. I had been waiting off to the side, camera at the ready. […]

minus

n minus one

There is a concept in business strategy known as “n-minus-one.” Simply put, the idea is you should always staff your company, office, or team with every needed resource, minus one.

For example, let’s say you run an accounting firm. You land a new contract and the analysis of the engagement calls for a team of twelve accountants and auditors. The n-minus-one concept says the team will actually be more successful if you implement a team of eleven.

It may be counter-intuitive, but I have found this to be not only true, but also applicable in situations well beyond the workplace.

Some business gurus believe the secret behind n-minus-one is how the remaining team members are required to hustle just a little more to get the job done. The resulting momentum and frantic energy will drive the eleven accountants to do the work of twelve. While hustle and momentum may have something to do with it, I believe n-minus-one works for another reason entirely… flexibility and the room to maneuver. […]

inactivity

Inactivity Timeout

This post was originally published in March of 2015 as part of a series called 500 Words To Save The World. Given the political maelstrom in which we find ourselves in 2016, it struck me as worth re-issuing. As the Irish statesman Edmund Burke aptly said,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Do whatever you must to avoid being one fitting his description.


One day I received an email from my library informing me that my card was about to expire, however if I had used it within the last year it would automatically be renewed, no further action necessary. By simply using something, I was permitted to keep using it. […]

Stranger

Stranger Things

I know I am not alone in this. As the last weeks of summer have begun to give way to the beginning of the school year, I have been glued to Netflix, watching the oddly compelling story on Stranger Things.

If you have not watched any of this eight-episode Netflix original I will not ruin it for you here. However, if you spent any time as a kid in the 1970s or 1980s, loved Stand By Me, or The Goonies, or Close Encounters… you will absolutely flip for Stranger Things. […]

Dreams

Only In My Dreams

Friday morning as I was making breakfast for my kids, my daughter was doing her daily “flip around” the major cable new channels.

My daughter Charlotte may be the best-informed sixteen-year-old in America. She makes a point of watching all the different news channels with their respective “leanings,” so she can get a clear picture of what each side is saying about the other. She does not take any one source of information on faith but instead requires multiple points of reference before deciding her own truth.

Back when there were still more than a dozen candidates for president, she read all of their most recent books… all of them. However, what I’m going to talk about today has nothing to do with politics. […]

drop

Every Drop

I am writing this on day seven of an eight-day vacation with my bride of seventeen-plus years, and my three sons, aged 15, 14 and 12. We have enjoyed amazing adventures and wonderful family moments, but as is the case in all families… there are limits to how much togetherness one can truly tolerate. Lucky for us this vacation appears to be just the right length.

From the day they are born, all children test boundaries. When our first child was born in 2000, my Father (who at that point had 30+ years of experience as a pediatrician) offered us only one piece of parenting advice. Holding our day-old daughter in his arms, he looked up thoughtfully and said,

“Make no mistake about it… you start raising your teenagers, today.”

As our oldest grew, and we added to our family at a brisk pace, and the sage words of my Father echoed in my ears every time I was tempted to give in to the boundary testing antics of our four children. […]

Go

How Pokémon Go Can Win The White House

As I sit and watch the political ping-pong, zing across the inter-webs like so many Sneetches, I have done my level best to stay out of the fray. If the experience of my forty-seven years has taught me anything, it is that another’s point of view has never been swayed by a single pithy comment, image of Willy Wonka or rapier-like jab.

Go

This has never been an effective persuasion tool.

No matter how smart you think you are, and no matter how clever your delivery; odds are at least one-third of the universe thinks you (and your opinions) are equivalent to the hind-end of some slovenly livestock. […]