Star Wars got better. Seriously.

I can’t believe it.

Star Wars nerds have actually won me over.

I love Star Wars but have always found the overly-indulgent, obsessive nerds a little too much to handle, but then I see this:

A legitimately brilliant, seamless improvement to the movie that started it all.

I support this. I love this. My apologies and appreciation to Star Wars nerds everywhere. I should have never doubted your dedication to the franchise and universe.

A tennis shoe is designed for tennis.

Sometimes I rail against something of great import:

Our racist, incompetent, self-described sex offender of a President who puts children in cages and refers to Neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” for example.

But sometimes I rail against something slightly smaller and only slightly less enraging. In this case, it’s the tennis shoe, or more specifically, the propensity of some people to refer to sneakers as tennis shoes.

This makes no sense.

And yes, I know that this nomenclature is slightly geographic. Certain parts of the country are more likely to refer to sneakers as tennis shoes, but that doesn’t make it right.

There is a shoe specifically designed for playing tennis. This is rightfully called a tennis shoe.

There is a shoe designed for running. This is called a running shoe.

There are shoes designed for golf, basketball, baseball, and many other sports. Each is named in accordance to its design.

But if you want to refer to the traditional, rubber-soled athletic shoe in a generic way, we have words for that, too, and it’s not tennis shoe.

Sneaker is quite common. You could also call them kicks. Some places in America even call them gym shoes. Originally they were called plimsolls from the colored, horizontal band joining the upper part of the shoe to the sole, which resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship's hull.

No one calls them plimsolls anymore, but if you did, it would make more sense than referring to your sneakers as tennis shoes.

At least you wouldn’t be identifying shoes not specifically designed for tennis as tennis shoes.

It’s really quite simple:

Tennis shoes are technically designed to be worn during a tennis match while sneakers are simple shoes with rubber shoes and a canvas or canvas-like topping designed to be worn anywhere.

Some folks may quibble with my use of the word “anywhere,” but I have wear sneakers year-round to weddings, funerals, and other traditionally former occasions because I don’t allow nonsensical clothing mores and unnecessary protocols to dictate my level of comfort and fashion preference.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to not wear sneakers to these occasions. I just think it’s wrong and stupid-headed to judge someone who does.

You know what is also kind of wrong and stupid-headed:

Calling tennis shoes that are not specifically designed for tennis as tennis shoes.

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Fight to ascribe good intentions

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I hate this phrase. I hate it so much.

I understand the sentiment:

Good intentions do not always produce good results. The law of unintended consequences often demonstrates that that despite a person or government’s most noble intent, effects that are unanticipated or unintended will often happen. Sometimes the best intentions, like in the case of leaded gasoline, can lead to disastrous result.

But what would you have done instead? Act under bad intentions, hoping the law of unintended consequences will somehow turn your bad decision into a good one?

The future is unknowable. We do our best and hope that the results are what we hope.

For this reason, I fight like hell to recognize and credit good intentions whenever possible. I prefer to judge people not upon their actions and words but on their intent. 

Yes, that person said or did something that was hurtful or destructive, but was that the person's intent? 

It doesn’t mean I won’t stand in opposition to what the person has said or done, but if their intentions are righteous, I don’t have to be angry with them as I do so.

This makes life a hell of a lot easier.

In many cases, I’m able to instantaneously forgive the person and move on.

That makes life life far simpler and much happier.

I know some people think this is a ridiculous way to be, and still others are dubious of the the veracity of this claim. Some - including people quite close to me - have occasionally (and not so occasionally) mocked me for this position, claiming that I’m acting with unfounded righteousness.

I disagree. I think I’m acting logically. Selfishly, in fact. A life without anger or bitterness is a better life. In recognizing and crediting good intentions even when the results are not positive, I’m taking care of myself. Removing drama from my life. Allowing time for joy and productivity and achievement. Ridding myself of pettiness and spite.

I’ve seen the opposite of my position, and I don’t like it. I’ve seen the desire to become the victim and assume the worst. I’ve watches people discard a person’s good intentions because the results were unexpected or unfortunate.

I think it’s stupid.

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Storyworthy in academia

Exciting news!

My book, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, is being used by professors at least half a dozen colleges and universities around the country, as well as many middle and high schools.

Yesterday one of those professors posted a photo of the books on the college bookstore shelf.

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As a teacher, author, and storyteller, this was an exciting photo to see. I’m thrilled that my book will be used by students who are learning to write and tell stories.

But I’m not going to lie. Thinking that a future homework assignment might be generated from something I wrote is also a little distressing. I’ve already asked the editor of my upcoming middle grade novel, Cardboard Knight, to include a note on the cover that reads:

“Teachers are forbidden to ask any student to write a report about this book.”

A book report is an excellent way to make a kid hate a book. I know. It happened to me many times.

Also, if Storyworthy is going to be used as a textbook, shouldn’t it also cost $900?

I feel like I’m missing out on some serious profits.

Elysha knew.

Here’s a crazy thing:

Apparently I make noise while listening to stories.

Elysha and I were driving home from a storytelling show recently. After each show, we run through the stories, discussing what we liked and perhaps didn’t like about each one. At one point, she said, “I know you didn’t like the ending of that story.”

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I heard you,” she said. “You make these sounds when listening to stories. I’ve learned to decipher them.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yes” she said. “In fact, I know that you didn’t like the ending of so-and-so’s story, but then, at the last second, you changed your mind and loved it.”

I hit the brakes on the car. I couldn’t believe it. That was exactly how I had felt about the story. I hated the ending, but then, in the last three or four sentences, the storyteller flipped it and made it work beautifully.

“You can tell all that just by listening to me listening to a story?”

“Yup,” she said.

I was both elated that my wife knew me so well and absolutely terrified about what other possible unintentional auditory information I have been divulging on a daily basis.

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Charlie supports the separation of church and state

It’s Mother’s Day.

Elysha, the kids, and I are eating an excellent brunch at Big Daddy’s, a diner on the upper west side.

We’re in the city to visit Elysha’s parents and her grandmother, who is a few blocks north at Mount Sinai, recovering from a recently broken hip.

Elysha hands Charlie a dollar bill to play an arcade game. It’s a version of the claw machine, filled with rubber ducks, except that everyone who plays wins. You just keep grabbing until you have a rubber duck between the claw’s teeth.

It’s great except that it’s establishing some seriously unrealistic expectations for the future.

Charlie looks at the dollar bill, sees the words, “In God We Trust,” and asks her why there is a reference to God on our money.

Elysha explains that it’s simply the way our money was designed.

Charlie, age 6, smacks his palm against his forehead, sighs, and say, “I don’t even believe in God. Do you?”

He apparently supports the separation of church and state. Also, I guess he’s an atheist. And Jewish.

My children will never cease to amaze me.

Speak Up Storytelling: Ted Olds

On episode #49 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from a linguist who tries to get me out of hot water, and we learn about a new and unique way of recording Homework for Life.  

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how to dig deeper into story ideas to allow an otherwise surface level story say more.

Next we listen to Ted Old's high stakes story about a fourth grade multiplication contest.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The escalation of stakes 

  2. Brevity in storytelling 

  3. Choosing when and what to describe

  4. The advantages of keeping your story "in the moment"

  5. The disadvantages of adjectives

  6. Making your story about something bigger than the story itself

Next, we answer questions about our future employment options and Moth StorySLAM advice.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Checking in on our relationship...

Back in 2011, researchers from Rice University and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln analyzed data collected from more than 5,000 couples in order to identify similarities among spouses and how much these elements played a role in the success or failure of a couple.

They found that some similarities play enormous role in the success of a marriage, while others play almost no role at all.

On a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 means perfectly matched, physical traits (body shape, weight and height) only score between 0.1 and 0.2 among spouse pairs. Personality traits, such as extroversion or impulsivity, are also weak and fall within the 0 to 0.2 range. 

However, researchers found that spouses’ strongest similarities were in church attendance and political attitudes, outweighing personality and physical appearance by wide margins, and that these were key indicators of a successful marriage.  

Simply put, opposites don’t attract. Couples with more similarities tend to fair much better than those that don’t.  

As a reluctant atheist, I have always felt that I married into the perfect religion, since (as a Jewish friend once said) Jews are just agnostics with complex backstories.

This isn’t far from the truth when it comes to Elysha.

The study, published in the Journal of Politics, lists traits they found similar in spouses, rating them from super-alike to not alike.

Eight years ago, when the report first published, I went through the list to determine how Elysha and I rated on these scales, and we did well. Apparently I set a reminder way back then to review the list in 2019, because one popped up on my calendar this week.

I guess I thought it was worth updating the list to see how we stand today. Maybe I was worried that things would change. I get a lot of reminders from the past version of me, and I’m never quite sure what I’m trying to say to my future self.

Happily, this turned out well.

Here are the results:

  1. Church attendance: Alike   

  2. Political attitudes: Super alike    

  3. Drinking frequency: Somewhat alike

  4. Education: Super alike  

  5. Height: Alike

  6. Smoking frequency: Super alike

  7. Sleep length: Not alike 

The only one of these to change in the last eight years is drinking frequency, going from alike to somewhat alike. While Elysha will have a glass of wine with dinner, particularly when we’re out with friends, I can’t remember the last time I drank alcohol.

Our politics, thanks in part to the racist old horny burger goblin who literally steals children from poor people in the White House, have probably become even more similar in the last two years. Galvanized, in fact.

Here is a selection of specific issues and attitudes that couples had similar views on, again rated from super-alike to not alike:

  1. School prayer: Super alike

  2. Abortion: Alike

  3. Gay rights: Super alike

  4. X-rated movies: Huh?

  5. Death penalty: Super alike 

  6. Divorce: Super alike

  7. Women's liberation: Alike

  8. Nuclear power: Not alike  

  9. Astrology: Super alike 

  10. Willingness to take a dangerous drug: Super alike 

  11. Modern art: Somewhat alike

  12. Censorship: Super alike 

  13. Belief that it's better to follow the rules: Not alike 

  14. Liking to intimidate other people: Somewhat alike 

  15. Having been "fresh" to their parents as a child: Not alike

In these categories, “modern art” went from alike to somewhat alike. Elysha loves modern art. I don’t like it better or worse than any other period. I’m surprised I felt differently eight years ago.

Maybe I was just trying to impress Elysha.

“Liking to intimidate other people” also changed, going from not alike to somewhat alike. Elysha has no desire to ever intimidate other people. I still find it very useful, but I’m more nuanced today. I don’t immediately turn to intimidation but instead consider my options first.

I’m maturing, perhaps. Or simply becoming more methodical and ruthless.

Lots of changes have taken place since I first wrote about this survey.

Charlie was born.
I began telling stories for The Moth. Performing on stages around the world.
We launched Speak Up.
I published two more novels and a book of nonfiction.
I started teaching storytelling and public speaking around the world.
Both of our children went off to elementary school.
We lost our dear pets, Kaleigh and Owen, and adopted two new cats from Egypt.
Elysha learned to play the ukulele. She gardens, now. No longer kills plants indiscriminately.
The Patriots won three more Super Bowls.
We’ve made new friends. Watched with heavy hearts as others have moved away.
We launched a podcast.
Elysha went back to work as a kindergarten teacher.

While the last eight years have brought us so many changes, the important things have changed very little. Based upon this study, we are destined to remain in wedded bliss.

Unless I screw something up.

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Not going to the racist's house is a reasonable choice

The Red Sox, World Series champions last year, were invited to visit the White House this week. About one-third of the team, including the manager, did not attend. The team split along racial lines, with almost exclusively white athletes making the trip.

This is nothing new for the Trump Presidency. While past Presidents have welcomed and been visited by all championship teams, half of the 20 championship teams during the Trump administration were either not invited when they made it clear they wouldn’t attend or declined the invitation completely.

The ceremonies for the other half were often marred by the absence of notable players, the presence of players who looked unhappy, teams that appeared to be embarrassed about the trip, and the growing habit of serving fast food to world-class athletes.

Yesterday, I listened to former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira on the Michael Kay Show explain that a division like this can permanently damage a team. He questioned the Hispanic and African American players who refused to attend the ceremony, advising players to keep politics out of the game for the good of the team.

I was on a treadmill at the gym at the time, but still, I yelled at the screen. “Maybe they just didn’t want to go to the racist’s house!”

The woman to my right looked in my direction. I offered an apologetic smile.

But it’s true.

Maybe the manager, Alex Cora, a Puerto Rican, didn’t want to visit a man who has been blatantly and unequivocally lying about the amount of hurricane relief that has been provided to the island.

Maybe the African American players didn’t want to visit the man who refers to African nations as “shithole countries.”

Maybe the immigrant players didn’t want to break bread with a man who separated families on the border, put migrant children in cages, and lost track of those children when it came time for reunification.

Maybe all of the players of color didn’t want to shake hands with the man who declared that white supremacists are “very fine people.” The man who white supremacists think of as one of their own.

Hell, maybe some of those players didn’t want to spend time with a self-admitted sex offender.

And maybe… just maybe the white players should’ve felt the same.

Yes, this racial division might do damage to the Red Sox team, but why isn’t Teixeira suggesting that the white players on the team instead support the players of color? Why can’t the answer be “Don’t visit the racist” instead of “Keep politics out of baseball.”

This is not an issue of politics. This is not a normal Presidency. This is a President who repeatedly demonstrates his disdain for people of color through both words and actions. This is not an argument over the size of government, marginal tax rates, universal healthcare, or even abortion. This is an objectively racist man. If players of color don’t want to visit the racist’s house, they shouldn’t be criticized by anyone. Instead, they should be supported by their teammates,

The Red Sox sent the white Sox to the White House this week. The white Sox should’ve stayed home.

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Just the right words

Stephen Colbert once described Donald Trump using this perfect set of words:

“The President is a racist old horny burger goblin who literally steals children from poor people.”

The stealing children from poor people - in case you didn’t make the connection - is a reference to the child separation policy at the border, which resulted in children locked in cages and the government’s inability to reunite some families because the administration didn’t keep track of the children closely enough.

The horny claim is probably referencing the affairs and his illegal hush money paid to porn stars, but it could also be referencing the Access Hollywood audio in which he admits to the sexual assault of multiple women. Or perhaps Colbert was referencing the time when Trump was speaking about owning beauty pageants, admitted to going backstage to see women as young as 15 years-old completely naked and said, “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that,”

Or perhaps he was referencing all of it.

That incompetence and indecency, combined with the “very fine” Neo-Nazis of Charlottesville, should’ve been more than enough for the Republican base to stop supporting Trump.

But hey… he cut the marginal tax rate on corporations and the wealthy (resulting in a skyrocketing, recording setting national debt), and he managed to get a man credibly accused of sexual assault on the Supreme Court, so Republicans can look past the fact that he’s “a racist old horny burger goblin who literally steals children from poor people” because they got two things they wanted.

The ends, after all, justify the means. Right?

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Fertilizer is tasty today.

I’m a person with a slightly limited palate.

I don’t like green, leafy vegetables. I despise mayonnaise and tartar sauce and pickles and relish. I’m not a fan of Indian or Thai and Chinese, though I can probably find something to eat on the menu if pressed.

I think sushi is ridiculous.

People are fond of criticizing my food preferences. Sometimes I think food shaming is the last great bastion of socially acceptable bigotry. Race, sexual orientation, physical appearance, and socioeconomic status are off the table when it comes to insulting someone, and rightfully so.

But carry a bottle of Diet Coke around for a day and see how many people who will feel it completely acceptable to criticize, scoff, badger, belittle, and castigate your beverage of choice.

I have a lot to say about the realm of food preference, beginning with the idea that if given the choice, I would enjoy all the foods. Folks who brag about their expansive palate and criticize others for their limited palates somehow believe that they are personally responsible for the foods they enjoy. They seem to think that they have willed their taste buds and olfactory system into enjoying the bounty of foods that they like so much.

They take credit for their food preferences. They judge others for not enjoying as many foods.

What a bunch of morons.

There are a lot of reasons why these morons are morons, but the point I always like to open with is this:

I don’t like lobster. I don’t hate lobster, but I don’t enjoy it enough to warrant the expense and effort required to pry a small amount of meat from a deceased crustacean. Also, any food that is often entirely submerged in butter before eating can’t be all that great.

But if you like lobster and consider it a delicacy, consider this:

You’re eating fertilizer.

When European settlers landed in North America, they wrote that lobsters were so plentiful that they would pile up on the shores of Massachusetts in heaps. You couldn’t walk on the beach without stepping over them.

The colonists referred to lobsters as the “cockroaches of the sea.”

Both Europeans and Native Americans despised lobsters so much that they were commonly used as fertilizer and fish bait. When not being used to grow crops and catch better fish, they were fed to prisoners, apprentices, and slaves as a way of saving money.

Contracts at the time actually stipulated that servants could only be served lobster twice a week.

Americans hated lobster.

American opinion on lobster did not change for more than 250 years. Then, in the mid-1800’s, the ability to preserve food in cans, combined with the railroad, allowed Americans in the midwest to purchase canned lobster for the first time. Since it was coming from far away (and thus exotic) and was exceedingly cheap (because it was plentiful), it quickly became the most popular canned food available.

As tourists from the midwest made their way east to the New England shoreline on vacation, they began asking for fresh lobster. New Englanders saw an opportunity and began serving lobster as a New England delicacy. Then, as lobster became more and more scarce and prices increased, Americans even on the east coast began to view lobster as something special.

Scarcity and price changed the way Americas felt about the taste of lobster.

When lobster was cheap and easily available, human begins despised it as a food source. Native Americans occupied New England for tens of thousands of years and never stopped hating lobster. Europeans despised lobster for more than 250 years before eventually changing their opinion when the economics and availability of lobster changed.

I was only when lobster became exotic, expensive, and scarce that it became a delicacy.

If you like lobster, you like it because of when you were born. Had you been born in 1635, you would hate lobster as much as the colonists and Native Americans did at the time

But you were born after 1900, when technology and scarcity - not taste - changed the way Americans felt about lobster.

You enjoy lobster because of your birthday. Nothing more.

Taste is impacted by many things. Biology, culture, economics, and the mass media all play a role in deciding what you will enjoy and what you will not. Taste is also dictated by where you were born, how you were raised, and your brain chemistry.

Had I been born in Thailand, I would like Thai food. Had I been born in India, I would like Indian food. I’m not a moron. I’m willing to acknowledge these basic truths.

I don’t hate Thai food because it’s yucky and stupid. I don’t like Thai food because of a host of factors, including my place of birth, the way I was raised, and my biology.

So please don’t walk through life thinking you’re special because you have an expansive palate.

More important, please don’t think less of someone who doesn’t enjoy as many foods as you.

Your palate has little to do with you and the choices you make and more to do with a host of factors that you probably can’t begin to comprehend.

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A tribute to Chris Farley (and me)

I have no intention of ever dying, but in the very unlikely event that I do, I expect my friends to sing a song at least as funny and poignant as Adam Sandler’s song was on Saturday night about his friend, the late, great Chris Farley.

It was incredible.

You might want to work now, just in case.

And feel free to perform it on national TV, even before I’m dead. Why wait?

Speak Up Storytelling: Kat Koppett

On episode #48 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from listeners who are using Homework for Life in new and interesting ways. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how identifying your weirdness and asking yourself, "Why do you do the things that you do?" can often lead to new storytelling ideas. 

Next we listen to Kat Koppett's story about a big decision involving a stripper pole, a broken popcorn popper, and an Obama impersonator.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The power of contrast in storytelling 

  2. The pros and cons of constantly dissecting stories

  3. The advantages of clearly defined stakes

  4. Being in the moment during the telling of a story

  5. The BAbC and CABC formats of storytelling 

  6. How changing the order of information being presented can really make or break a scene

Next, we answer questions about privacy issues in storytelling and what makes a great host. Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Dare To Be Human: https://www.daretobehumanpodcast.com

MOPCO Improv Theater: https://www.mopco.org

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Can you judge a person by the quality of their spouse?

In the midst of a conversation about spouses, a friend asked, “Can you judge the quality of a person by their choice of spouse.”

My instant response was, “No. Of course not. That would presume that what you see in a person should be the same as what the world sees that person That wouldn’t be fair.”

Then I thought some more and added, “I also know some very fine people with some not-so-great spouses. And ex-spouses. Sometimes people make mistakes. Or people change. Or people settle. Or people have yet to figure themselves out. They can still be amazing people. So no. Still no.”

Then I added, “That doesn’t mean that someone’s spouse can’t make them awful to hang around when their spouse is also present, but that’s not their fault. It’s their awful spouse.”

Then I thought about my wife - Elysha - and quickly added, “Wait. Actually, yes. Maybe you can. You definitely can judge the quality of a person by their choice of spouse. In fact, you should. I hope you will.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if that equation balances as well for Elysha as it does for me.

I live with a stranger named Clara

The kids have just completed a screen-free week, thanks to the Newington school district’s initiative that encouraged kids to put away their devices and turn off their televisions for a full week.

To their credit, the school also hosted several events throughout the week like board game night and a nature hike as alternatives for families and to encourage them to find new ways to entertain themselves.

Happily, my children completed screen-free week without too much trouble. I’m sure they missed their tablets and TV, but they never complained. Instead, they filled the house with the Hamilton soundtrack (though they’ve never seen the musical) and spent lots and lots of time reading, playing with toys, drawing, and doing jigsaw puzzles.

It was really kind of lovely.

My favorite moment from the week took place on Wednesday morning. Clara - an early riser - was assembling a “Jigsaw Puzzler Museum” on the dining room table while simultaneously dancing to songs from Hamilton. When “You’ll Be Back,” King George’s song expressing his belief that the American colonists will crawl back to the British Empire once their rebellion is squashed, Clara started shouting back at the song.

“Yeah, right!” she said. “Forget it!” “Give me a break!” “Not true!”

It was hilarious.

Thus ensued a discussion about why she would’ve been a patriot in Hamilton’s day and why the loyalists had it all wrong.

A little later, she was working on a puzzle of the 50 states beside me. She said, “Look, Daddy, the thirteen colonies.”

Rather than filling in the full map, she had only filled in the territory that existed at the time of American independence. Kind of neat. A new way to approach the puzzle.

A few minutes later, she said, “Look, Daddy, the states of the Civil War.”

Once again, she had filled in only the states that faced off in 1861 during the Civil War.

I was impressed. I didn’t know that she possessed this knowledge.

A few minutes later, she said, “Look, Dad. The states of the Mexican —American War.”

“What?” I said. I had to pull up a map to confirm this one, but she was right.

Then, “Look, Daddy, the states of the Louisiana Purchase.”

I couldn’t believe it. She was right again.

Apparently her class is engaged in a map study in school, and even though she can’t put her clothing into the hamper on a consistent basis and leaves food wrappers in Elysha’s car almost daily, she can remember maps with an eerie degree of accuracy.

Little did I know.

It’s weird when your children start to become people who possess facets that you don’t know anything about.

There was a time when everything Clara knew came from myself or Elysha.

Then there was a time when even though other people were teaching her things, I still knew everything she knew.

Now she’s just a person in my house, in possession of skills and facts and opinions that I’m not aware of at all until I find myself sitting beside her before sunrise on a Wednesday morning, listening to her shout back at King George while filling in a map of the Louisiana Purchase.

It’s pretty amazing.

Attendance weirdos

When I was growing up, teachers would take attendance by calling your name.

Students would either raise their hand when their name was called or audibly respond to indicate that they had arrived safely.

When responding audibly, the vast majority of us would use the word “Here!”

On rare occasions, you’d might find yourself in a classroom with a student who instead responded with the word, “Present!”

I always thought the kids who responded with the word “Present!” had something wrong with them,

I still do.

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Resolution update: April 2019

Each month I review the progress of my yearly goals and report on that progress as a means of holding myself accountable.

Here are the results for April.
__________________________________

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still standing.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I didn’t lose any pounds in April. I didn’t gain any pounds in April.

I’ve lost 8 pounds in total.

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, six days a week.

Done! Along with bananas, grapes, apples, and pears, I also ate carrots, onion, and asparagus.

Reminder: potatoes in any form count as a vegetable.

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

Done.

5. Do burpees three days a week.

I did 3-5 burpees per day, 4-5 times each week in April.

Also burpees are stupid and ridiculous. This was a terrible idea.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2019.

Still waiting for a go-ahead from my editor regarding my next book. This is the problem with being two books ahead. No one is in a rush for your 2022 novel.

I’ve started writing anyway.

7. Write/complete at least five new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

No progress.

8. Write a memoir.

I restarted again. I’ve written about 5,000 words that I think I like.

9. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

10. Write a musical.

No progress.

11. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I submitted a piece to the NY Times Modern Love column in April.

One down. Four to go.

12. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

13. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

No progress. Also, I need three behaviors to attempt.

Thoughts?

14. Increase my storytelling newsletter subscriber base to 3,000.

58 new subscribers in April for a total of 615 new subscribers in 2019. My list now stands at 2,725 subscribers.

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here:

15. Write at least six letters to my father.

None written in April. None written this year.

16. Write 100 letters in 2019.

One more letter written in April. Six overall. Killing it.

17. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

A kind, generous, and amazing human being has begun work on this project.

I am thrilled.

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 10 Speak Up storytelling events.

Two shows produced in April:

  • A Speak Up show at the CT Historical Society on April 27

  • A Speak Up- Voices of Hope collaboration on April 14

A total of 6 shows produced so far in 2019.

19. Begin selling Speak Up merchandise at our events and/or online.

Speak Up merchandise will be sold at our live podcast recording of Speak Up Storytelling on May 18.

We’re very excited.

20. Pitch myself to at least 5 upcoming TEDx events with the hopes of being accepted by one.

Done! I’ve pitched myself to five TEDx conferences so far, and I’ve been nominated now for a sixth.

One has expressed interest. Four have now passed. I await word from the one in which I was nominated.

21. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended two Moth StorySLAMs in April, bringing my total to seven events so far.

22. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I finished in second place in both of my Moth StorySLAM in NYC in April.

Both by one-tenth of a point.

Two wins so far in 2019.

23. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I finished in second place by a tenth of a point in a Moth GrandSLAM in January.

I finished in fourth place in my Moth GrandSLAM in March, but I think I might’ve told my best story ever.

I’ll now need to win a NYC GrandSLAM now to complete this goal.

24. Produce at least 40 episodes of our new podcast Speak Up Storytelling. 

Four new shows released in April. A total of 16 so far. We haven’t missed a week in 2019.

Listen to our latest here or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

25. Perform stand up at least four times in 2019. 

I’ve hit a bit of a snag in terms of this goal. The open mic night where I’d been performing was shut down thanks to stupid people behaving in stupid ways. I have an opportunity to perform in a local comedy showcase, which I will do, but I was in need of another open mic.

Thanks to you, dear readers, I have found a stage.

26. Develop and teach a Storytelling Master Class, in which participants have an opportunity to tell at least two stories over the course of the day  or tell a story and then retell it based on feedback.

Done! Scheduled for June 1. Enroll today!

27. Pitch at least three stories to This American Life.

No progress.

28. Pitch myself to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast at least three times.

I wrote to Marc early in January, asking for him to consider me as a guest.

No response yet.

If you know Marc Maron, or know someone who knows Marc or know someone who knows Marc’s producer or booker, please let me know. I know that Marc and I would have an amazing conversation, and it’s currently my biggest dream to get on his show.

NEW PROJECTS

29. Host a fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt, which would allow us to relieve the medical debt of struggling Americans for pennies on the dollar.

No progress.

30. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress.

31. Print, hang, and/or display at least 25 prints, photos, or portraits in our home.

No progress.

32. Renovate our first floor bathroom.

Final design decisions have been made. Work will commence very soon.

33. Organize our second floor bathroom.

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

34. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2019.

I made no meals in April.

Four down. Eight to go.

35. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress.

36. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2019.

I rode my bike with Charlie one time April for a total of four rides.

37. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2019 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done! I did not comment on physical appearance with the exception of my wife and children in April.

Once again done with ease.

38. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2019.

Two surprises in April:

  • I purchased a a Pusheen cross-stitch kit and gave it to her on a day she was giving surprises to the kids.

  • I hired a landscaper to install a garden plot in our backyard, which she came home and found two weeks ago.

Four surprises accomplished so far.

39. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress.

40. Clean the basement. 

Incremental progress. Every week I throw away or organize a few items. It’s still going to require a full day at some point and perhaps a trip to the dump or even a dumpster.

41. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played my first round of golf of 2019 last weekend. I played poorly.

42. Play poker at least six times in 2019.

A game was scheduled and canceled in April. A game is now scheduled for May.

43. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Bengi and I spent a Sunday morning walking the track in his town back in March.

One down. Six to go.

44. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.