Charlie can kiss all he wants. He just doesn't want to.

I’m telling Charlie about mine and Elysha’s first kiss when I see him grimace.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “You don’t need to kiss anyone unless you want to, and besides, you’re way too young to be kissing someone anyway.”

“Dad,” he says, sounding exasperated. “I’m old enough to kiss girls. I could kiss girls if I wanted to. I just don’t want to.”

So there you have it. My six year-old son is apparently plenty old enough to kiss a girl if he’s so inclined.

After a brief conversation about consent (to which he rolled is eyes and said, “Of course”), I ran to my computer to record our interaction word-for word.

If he gets married someday, I have my first bit of material for my speech.

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Speak Up Storytelling #33: Bobbi Klau

On episode #33 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we thank our listeners, including American military personnel from around the world who have been reaching out to us this week, as well as those listeners kind enough to rate and review Speak Up Storytelling during this past week.

We went over 100 reviews and rating this week!

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how a simple but powerful statement from a stranger can be enough material for a story. 

Next we listen to Bobbi Klau's story about the search for the perfect gift. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Pacing, both as it related to authenticity and the ability of the audience to follow a story

  2. The power of humor at the top of a story, particularly when it demonstrates honesty, authenticity, and self-deprecation to your audience

  3. Telling stories in scenes

  4. Strategically humorous moments in stories vs. a joke placed within a story

  5. Kurt Vonnegut's philosophy on short stories

  6. The hazards of cultural references

  7. Avoiding the de-activating of your audience's imagination when you need to provide your audience with information

Next, we answer a question about the difference between stories that end in a moment of emotional resonance vs. a light-hearted observation or decision and a question about the role of EQ vs. logic in storytelling.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

Wire Tap with Jonathan Goldstein: https://bit.ly/2W5pZbz

"Deformed Cow and the Moonlight Deer": https://bit.ly/2Do8OKS

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:

  • Workplace lunch clubs

Matt:

Patriots playoff presumptions

As a Patriots season ticket holder, I am sent playoff tickets with the rest of my season tickets every year.

This always includes a ticket to the AFC championship game, which is unfortunately being played today in Kansas City, which makes this ticket null and void and make me very sad.

Had the Patriots made a tackle on the last play in Miami a month ago, I would be heading to Gillette Stadium today.

It kills me.

Still, I’ve had the good fortunate to attend the last two AFC championship games, 5 of the last 8 AFC championship games, and 7 of the last 15.

I’m not sure if every NFL team sends playoff tickets to their season ticket holders in the summer, and some might say it’s fairly presumptuous to do so, except that the Patriots have made the playoffs in 20 of the last 25 seasons and 18 of the last 19 seasons.

They’re made it to the AFC championship game for a record 8 straight seasons.

Presumptuous? Maybe. But certainly backed by history.

Snoop Dog thanked Snoop Dog.

Snoop Dog took recently some heat for his Hollywood Walk of Fame acceptance speech.

He thanked the Walk of Fame committee, his collaborators and mentors, his family and friends, his competitors, and his fans.

Then he thanked himself.

“I want to thank me,” he said. He thanked himself for believing in himself, for working tirelessly, for never quitting, for trying to do more right than wrong, and for always being himself.

Some folks didn’t like that part of his speech. Thanking yourself struck some people as a little too self-congratulatory. Perhaps a little arrogant.

But I loved it. I get it.

Sometimes I look back on parts of my life and don’t know how I did it.

I put myself through college while managing a McDonald’s restaurant full time and working part-time in the college’s writing center. I was Treasurer of the Student Senate, President of the National Honor Society, and a columnist for the school paper. I was an Academic All-American and won the statewide college debate competition two years in a row.

I attended two colleges simultaneously (including an all-woman’s college) and earned two separate degrees.

And I launched my DJ company at the same time.

I have no idea how I did it.

And I don’t think I could do it again. I don’t think the current version of myself would have a shot in hell of surviving those five years and accomplishing so much.

So I often look back at that time in my life and feel enormous gratitude for the younger version of me who somehow accomplished things that the current version of me could not dream of doing. It almost seems like another person did those things. Someone far more capable than I could ever dream of being. I’m eternally thankful for that younger version of myself for pushing aside all the distractions and temptations and doing the work required to make today possible.

I think that’s how Snoop Dog felt. He was thankful for that former version of himself for doing the things that might be impossible to imagine doing again today.

When you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, I think you earn the right to feel gratitude for that former version of you who made today possible. And if you’re fortunate enough to have earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you have every right to stand on that sidewalk and thank yourself.

To hell with anyone who might be offended. They won’t ever understand the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that was required to earn that star.

14 “safe” changes I’d make if I could travel back in time

Time travel is a dangerous piece of business.

I have argued that the greatest super power - without question - would be the ability to travel in time. That said, I have also argued that I would prefer that this power only send our time-traveling hero forward in time, in order to see the disasters that loom ahead and perhaps prevent them, rather than travel back in time and potentially unravel everything that has already happened. 

With that in mind, I thought about my own past.

I am supremely happy with where I am today and would never risk the existence of my wife and children in order to change something in the past, but if I could go back in time and change something, I wondered what I might change that would not risk my present state of being. 

So I made a list. It's short, because large scale changes could alter my entire future. Though I would like to avoid being arrested and tried for a crime I did not commit or the armed robbery that has led to a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder, those experiences helped me to land where I am today. I had to be careful and choose only those moments that are worth changing but would also not alter the course of my life to any great degree. 

Keeping these parameters in mind, here is my list of things I would change in my past if given the opportunity:  

  1. Complete my Eagle Scout service project earlier - before a car accident interfered with my dream of becoming an Eagle Scout.

  2. Take more photographs.

  3. Ask more girls to dance whenever possible.

  4. Listen to audiobooks sooner rather than thinking of them as "not real reading."

  5. Don’t turn down that possible threesome opportunity I had when I was 19 years old.

  6. Begin playing golf by taking actual lessons and not the occasional advice of friends who clearly did not have my best interests at heart.

  7. Visit my mother more often before her death.

  8. Punch Glenn Bacon in the face after he threw a music stand at my head in eleventh grade.

  9. Visit with Laura - my high school girlfriend - more often before her death.

  10. Complete my Master’s program both slowly and efficiently rather than quickly and expensively.

  11. Attend my grandfather's funeral.

  12. Increase the cost of my DJ services much earlier in my company's career.

  13. Don't call Pirate - our dog - back across the street and into the path of a speeding pickup truck while waiting to be picked up for Sunday school.

  14. Make that investment in Citigroup in 2008 that I talked about constantly but failed to execute.

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Three commercials. Five minutes. Many, many laughs and perhaps a little inspiration, too.

I offer you three commercials today, each less than two minutes long that will absolutely, positively brighten your day.

The first is a commercial for Aviation Gin which features Ryan Reynolds, who owns part of the company. It’s a hilarious spot that brilliantly mocks pretentiousness and is further enhanced by Ryan Reynolds’ willingness to make fun of himself.

The next is an ad for a roller skating rink in Reno, Nevada. Here’s the very important thing to know about this commercial:

It’s real. This is not a spoof. Someone made this commercial and aired it on television with the hopes of drawing in more customers.

It’s unbelievably hilarious in a slightly terrifying way.

The last, which you’ve probably seen already, is Gillette’s brilliant and hopeful “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.”

Here’s all you need to know about this one:

Right-wing, hyper-masculine, small-minded, frightened little man babies are still railing about this ad online more than a week after its release.

It’s that good.

Karen Pence is a bigot, but this is not news.

Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, is going back to work. The second lady will be teaching art at a Christian school in northern Virginia that bans gay and transgender students, faculty, and parents.

The school also forbids faculty members from cohabitation prior to marriage.

This decision has caused a bit of an uproar. After all, the Vice President’s wife is now working at a school that promotes bigotry.

Selects students based upon a bigoted criteria.

Actively excludes children from the school because of their sexual orientation.

It’s disgusting.

By banning gay and transgender students, parents, and faulty from their campus, the school is effectively judging them as unworthy.

Thus the uproar.

Kara Brooks, Pence's communications director, said the attention paid to the school's agreement is "absurd."

"Mrs. Pence has returned to the school where she previously taught for 12 years. It's absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school's religious beliefs, are under attack," Brooks said.

I kind of agree.

While it is terrible and disgraceful and disgusting for the second lady of the United States to be teaching in a school that openly promotes bigotry, it’s not exactly news that Mike and Karen Pence are bigots.

Spokesperson Kara Brooks is right. Why the uproar? This is something we’ve known for a long time.

Yes, it’s despicable that any teacher would refuse to teach a student based upon personal bigotry, but it’s not surprising when the person is a bigot.

Karen and Mike Pence are bigots, no different than the racists who defended segregation decades ago, and ultimately, they will be judged by history in the same way that we judge the likes of George Wallace and Bull Connor and Jesse Helms today.

History will aptly characterize them as bigots who deemed their sexual orientation to be the only correct and acceptable sexual orientation. They will be recorded in the history books as small-minded, hate-filled cretins who attempted through words, deeds, and legislation to deny basic human rights to Americans who were different than them.

Disgraceful and disgusting? Yes.

But newsworthy?

I don’t think so. Just a little more confirmation that our country is being run by despicable, immoral, and unjust people.

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Kids get mad at "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Our kids love music.

Much of this is thanks to Elysha. As much as I love music, she loves it even more.

But it’s also in large part the result to hours of Spotify playlists playing in the car, the music playing often in our home, the endless conversations about music, and our before-bed ritual of climbing onto our bed as a family and listening to a final song to end the day.

As a result of all of this, Clara and Charlie care deeply about music and already have a great deal of background knowledge about music and the artists who make it.

This is almost always a good thing.

But yesterday morning, I was playing a playlist that featured Queen songs when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on. Clara was in the front of the house, playing with toys, and Charlie was in the back of the house, doing the same. But about a minute into the song, both of them converged in the middle of the house, where I was working, to listen more closely to the song.

“What is this?” Charlie asked. “It makes no sense.”

“Is he okay?” Clara asked. “And why is he singing about Galileo? Does he even know who Galileo is? I don’t think he knows anything about Galileo?”

“What is this?” Charlie repeated, becoming more irritated by the second.

I tried to explain “Bohemian Rhapsody” to my children, but how do you explain “Bohemian Rhapsody” to anyone?

I tried to tell them that it’s a combination of hard rock, an opera, a ballad, and probably some other stuff that I’m not hearing or have forgotten. I told them that I think it’s a song about a man who is waiting to be executed for murder, but that might not be right at all.

I said, “It’s not supposed to make perfect sense.”

“No kidding,” Charlie said and stormed off.

Clara listened until the song was done. Then she turned to me. “Do you like that song, Daddy?”

“Yes,” I said. “A lot.”

“Okay,” she said and walked away. Unimpressed. Back to her toys.

I can’t help but wonder what Freddy Mercury would think all these years later if he knew how angry and befuddled my children became upon hearing his song.

I also can’t help but wonder how I reacted when I heard the song for the first time.

Maybe I was annoyed, too. Maybe it’’s the eventual, inevitable transformation of annoyance and befuddlement to acceptance and love that makes us love that song so much. Rather than a simple song with a simple message, “Bohemian Rhapsody” demands something from you, and as a result, it leaves its mark on your heart and soul.

I look forward to watching my kids fall in love with it like I have.

7 bits of parenting advice that I stand by without reservation

Oddly, I am often asked for parenting advice.

I say oddly because I’m hardly an expert, but I suspect that two decades of teaching and two relatively well adjusted children have caused some folks to think I know something about how to raise kids.

I often refrain from offering parenting advice on a public scale because every time I suggest a course of action, some parent whose current course of action deviates from my own feels offended by my suggestion and outraged by my presumptuousness.

Parents can be pretty prickly when it comes to their parenting.

But I was recently asked by a few people - including a few readers of my “Ask the Teacher” Slate column - for my thoughts on parenting. While I have many, many suggestions, I offer seven that I can stand by and defend without reservation.

The rest will have to wait for a day when I am better prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of thin-skinned, exceedingly outraged mothers and fathers.

7 Deep Thoughts on Parenting

  1. Don’t assume that your journey with your children will be anything like another parent’s journey with their children. These are human beings. They contain multitudes. You can’t begin to predict the future path of another parent, so don’t even try. If a parent asks for advice, fine. But unsolicited warnings of doom and gloom are presumptuous, ridiculous, and mean.

  2. If you’re going to complain about parenting to the parents of children younger than your own, you must adhere to a 6:1 ratio - six positive comments about parenting for every one negative comment.

  3. Don’t say even one negative thing to parents expecting a baby for the first time. They deserve to be allowed to bask in the joy of expectant parental bliss, goddamn it. Keep your mouth shut. Besides, things may go swimmingly for them. Your journey may have sucked, but it doesn’t mean their journey will.

  4. Don’t become emotionally attached to the terrible behavior of your children. They are human beings, wholly separate from yourself and filled with flaws and foibles completely unrelated to you and how you’ve raised them. Your daughter’s rage-filled restaurant tantrum is not a reflection on you as a parent or person. It’s merely an example of your daughter’s selfishness and stupidity at the moment. In fact, it’s incredibly self-centered and completely ridiculous to think that every bad decision that your child makes has anything to do with you. So stop feeling like a failure every time your kid acts like a jerk. Stop being embarrassed or humiliated when your child acts like a fool in public. It’s your child who should be embarrassed, Not you.

  5. Parenting can be exceptionally hard at times because nothing good in this world ever comes easy. It’s hard because it’s also the best thing you may ever do. So stop complaining so much, damn it. Did you really think it would be a cake walk? Besides, you’re constantly posting moments of beauty and bliss on Facebook and Instagram, so it can’t be all that bad.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with allowing you child to occasionally stare at a screen for an hour or two so you can relax or get something done. You’ve been bringing that kid to parks and libraries and museums and karate class and birthday parties for years. A screen isn’t going to undo all the good that you’ve already done. Besides, you deserve an hour or two of guilt-free peace and quiet every once in a while, and it’ll make you and your child happier in the process.

  7. Diapers are easy. It’s car seats that suck.

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Speak Up Storytelling #32: Tom Reed Swale

On episode #32 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about new workshop dates and links, a surprising email from a merchant marine, and a girl crush on Elysha. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about finding and collecting stories while visiting familiar locations from our lives and how some of them could be great stories to tell. 

Next we listen to Tom Reed Swale's story about love on a college campus.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The power of self deprecating humor

  2. The best places to start stories

  3. Enhancing the power of surprise in a story

  4. Capturing mood and tone through vocal inflection 

  5. The hazards of cultural references

  6. Avoiding the de-activation of your audience's imagination

Next, we answer questions about telling stories that cast people in a negative light and the possibility of two people sharing a stage to tell a story.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

Peter Aguero and Sara Peter's TED Talk:
https://bit.ly/2Ciqgir

She Held My Hand:
https://bit.ly/2TPb5o6

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt

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Hurting children because you are stupid

Elysha bought me a new Quip toothbrush. I am very excited. If you don’t have a Quip or don’t know what a Quip toothbrush is, find out.

It’s fantastic.

While I’m thinking about how clean my teeth are going to be, consider this:

In 2013, the city council of Windsor, Ontario voted 8-3 to stop putting fluoride in the city water supply.

Libertarians argued that they should be able to decide what they put in their bodies.

Far stupider people argued that fluoride is bad for you in the same way vaccines are supposedly bad for children.

So the fluoride was removed, and between the years of 2011 and 2017, the percentage of children with tooth decay or requiring urgent dental care increased by a staggering 51 percent.

Then, in 2018, with far less fanfare, that same Windsor City Council voted to reintroduce water fluoridation by a vote of 8-3.

Good news, unless of course you were unfortunate enough to be growing up during the six years that fluoride was absent from the water. In your case, you have more cavities and tooth disease thanks to libertarians. dumbass conspiracy theorists, and do-nothing politicians.

It’s one thing to hold back progress because your conservative values cause you to like things just the way they are. It’s usually done to preserve the dominance of the white patriarchy, but not always. Sometimes conservative values are far less sinister than the ones on display in today’s world.

But it’s entirely another thing when bigots, religious zealots, anti-vaxxers, and other dimwits try to force society back two or three steps.

That’s the worst. Eroding progress is disgraceful and must be stopped at all costs.

Also, go get yourself a Quip toothbrush. It’s fantastic.

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I have a new job. And two simple strategies that helped me land it.

Despite Elysha’s best attempts, I have a new job.

As of Friday, I’m now a Notary Public for the State of Connecticut.

Admittedly there won’t be much work in this new role. Need a document notarized?

I’m your man. But that doesn’t exactly happen all that often.

I became interested in becoming a notary public about three years ago when I learned that my friend’s mother held the position. I wondered what was required to do the same, so I went online and found an explanation of the process, which included reading and studying the fairly lengthy manual, completing a fairly lengthy application, passing a test, and gathering signatures and statements of fitness from friends and colleagues.

Thus I began my journey.

I mention this because it’s a good example of two important strategies that I use to make more efficient use of my time and get more done:

Incrementalism

This is the process by which large project can be completed over a long period of time if you’re willing to commit to an incremental approach to its completion.

The perfect example of this is cleaning out a closet or a basement. So many people see these tasks as “all or nothing.” Either you commit a full day to getting the job done or it doesn’t get done at all.

This may sound ridiculous, but it’s how most people think about large, complex, time consuming tasks. Rather than committing to putting away one item of clothing a day or removing three items a week from the basement, people allow these problems to become worse while they wait to find a full day to tackle the problem.

Not only is it foolish to give away a day of your life to a project like this, but it often means the project never gets done.

I hear would-be authors tell me that they can only work on their novel if they have a solid hour or two or three to work. This is also foolish. If you’re a real writer and want to be published someday, you’ll recognize that 10 minutes is enough to write a few sentences or revise a paragraph or edit a page.

I tell these writers that there were men in the trenches of World War I, wearing gas masks, dodging bullets, and writing. They did not wait for an hour or two or three to work. They wrote whenever they could, and so can you.

I write in large chunks of time but more often in slivers of time. Five minutes here. Half an hour there. Whatever I can find. It’s how I’ve written and published five books and have three more on the way.

I took the same approach to the process of becoming a notary. It wasn’t a pressing demand, so I simply created a folder on my desktop with all of the materials required to become a notary, and when I found myself with a few extra minutes, I opened the folder and continued with the work. It took three years to complete, but I didn’t surrender a 4-6 hour chunk of time when I could’ve been doing something with my family and friends, and eventually accomplished the goal.

Segmentation:

This is the process by which I carve our times in my life to work on specific tasks, often utilizing time that people ignore to do so.

For example, when it comes to crafting stories, I do most of this work in the shower and while driving. Since I do this work orally and don’t ever write anything down, I have committed myself to working on new stories every single time I shower and whenever I’m driving for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Why do I always have a new story? Because I’m always showering and driving.

A storyteller once said that he can’t imagine where I find the time to continually craft new stories, and I explained that I didn’t have to find any time. I just inserted storytelling into time that was otherwise being wasted.

I took the same approach to completing my work to become a notary. I only worked on this project when I found myself waiting for a meeting to start. Either I was a little early or (more likely) the meeting was starting late. In either case, I opened my notary folder and went to work.

Three years later, after working in 5-10 minute segments of time, I was finished.

These are two of many, many strategies that I use to accomplish my goals, but I like to think that they are both easy to implement and highly effective.

Look at your life. Do you have a large, seemingly overwhelming project to tackle? Has it been staring you in the face for what seems like forever?

See if incrementalism and segmentation can help.

And remember, if you need something notarized, I’m your man. Despite Elysha’s wishes, I have me a new job.

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The ongoing lies of the Trump administration regarding the border wall paint a clear picture

Here’s an important rule to live by:

If the case being made is supported by lies, then the argument is invalid and the case isn’t real.

Case in point:

Trump is claiming that there is an emergency at our southern border. Put aside the fact that four days before Christmas, Trump said exactly the opposite when he tweeted this:

The tweet alone should bring the idea of an emergency on the border to a screeching halt.

If there is a real emergency on our southern border, there would be cold, hard facts to support this claim.

Here is what we have heard so far:

A week ago, Trump claimed that “some” of the former United States Presidents had spoken to him in support of the wall, expressing regret that they had not built it themselves.

Every living President has refuted this claim.

Then, prior to Trump’s address to the nation on Tuesday night, Vice President Mike Pence went on multiple television networks and said that 17,000 individuals with criminal histories had been apprehended on our southern border in 2018.

Except this was not true. Not even close.

The 17,000 individuals referenced by Pence constituted every single person stopped at every possible point of entry in the United States for every possible reason.

Not only those on the southern border, and no only those with criminal histories. If you were stopped on the border because of a problem with your passport or an undeclared jar of strawberry jam, you were included in that number.

So Pence was lying.

In total, 362,000 people were apprehended by Border Patrol, but of those:

Only 6,259 had criminal convictions on their records.

Of those, fewer than 800 had been convicted of violent crimes or crimes involving firearms.

A lot fewer than Pence’s number.

On Sunday morning, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders claimed that 4,000 known or suspected terrorists attempted to enter the United States last year and that our southern border is the easiest means of entry.

But Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pointed out that none of those 4,000 terrorists or suspected terrorists attempted to enter through the southern border.

All fo them were apprehended at airports. Every single one.

But even this proved not to be entirely true, because of the 4,000 apprehended, only 6 were actually detained.

In fact a vast majority of undocumented immigrants arrive to the US via airplanes, and the rate of illegal immigration on our southern border (and throughout the country) has been declining for years.

Then Trump spoke to the nation on Tuesday night and told Americans that:

  1. Border security officials have requested a wall.

  2. The Democrats have requested that the wall be constructed of steel rather than concrete.

Neither one of these are even close to being true.

The truth is that not a single member of Congress who represents a district on the border supports the wall, including Republican William Hurd, a former CIA agent who campaigned against the wall and won.

Yesterday, Trump claimed that he never promised that Mexico would directly pay for the wall, even though campaign video footage and documents still on the Trump campaign website record Trump saying that Mexico would make a “one time payment of ten to twenty billion dollars” to pay for the wall.

All of this is important because Trump and his administration are lying again and again to the American people in order to defend a wall on the southern border that less than a third of Americans support.

Blatant, bold-faced lies.

And not only is Trump willing to lie to the American people, but folks like Mike Pence and Sarah Sanders are willing to appear on national television and do the same.

A racist President who launched his Presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists, and some good people, I suppose” is attempting to save face by demanding a wall that Americans don’t want and Mexico refuses to pay for by shutting down the government and causing hardship to millions of Americans who are either out of work or lacking basic government services.

This is a man who questioned why we accept immigrants from “shit hole” African nations and why we don’t accept more immigrants from places like Norway.

Trump’s wall is an attempt to stop immigration at the border because the people crossing that border are not white. It’s the act of a racist who wants to preserve the white majority status by preventing Mexicans and Africans and anyone else whose skin is brown from entering our country.

But he has no facts to support his cause. No data to defend his arguments. So he lies. His administration lies. They make up and manipulate numbers in hopes of stoking fear and resentment while damaging the lives of millions of Americans who are suffering during a government shut down.

It’s an amoral act of an administration that cares nothing for the American people.

The lies are the proof.

Dad is clearly an idiot

Clara, age 9, came down stairs on Saturday morning, popped open her Chromebook, and started pecking away.

I waited a few minutes, but when she failed to acknowledge my existence, I finally asked what she was doing.

“Just doing a little research on tsunamis.”

“Oh,” I said. “You woke up thinking about tidal waves?”

“Yes, but don’t call them tidal waves anymore, Dad. They have nothing to do with tides. I’m sure I’ve told you that before.

Because this is exactly what I want in the pre-dawn hours of a Saturday morning.

Pre-teen intellectual irritation.

Eric Trump blocked me on Twitter

As you may know, I joined The Knight Foundation’s lawsuit against Donald Trump back in 2017 when he blocked me on Twitter.

On August 28, 2018, the court sided with me and my fellow plaintiffs, and Donald Trump was forced to unblock me, allowing me to see his tweets and respond to them again.

A glorious day for me. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Since then, I’ve been once again free to express my opinions to Trump via Twitter, which I do often because it both amuses me and makes me feel good. On a few occasions, it has also prompted my fellow Americans to express their appreciation for my running commentary.

One man recently wrote: “I read all of the tweets you send to Trump. Thank you. I’m not a writer so I’m not always sure what to say to him but I like knowing that you’re saying it for me.”

Sweet. Right?

This past week, I discovered that Eric Trump, Donald’s middle son, has now blocked me on Twitter, which is weird since I don’t ever tweet or even read Eric Trump’s tweets.

I follow Donald Trump Jr. and occasionally have choice words for him (since he may have committed treason in Trump Tower in 2016 and has definitely and publicly changed his story about that meeting at least half a dozen times), and I even have occasional words for his daughter, Ivanka, but Eric Trump has always struck me as the slightly less evil, definitely less intelligent, relatively benign Trump child.

He didn’t attend the meeting in Trump Tower that day.

He doesn’t traffic in the alt-right movement like his brother. At least not publicly.

He doesn’t defend his father’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, and stupidity online daily.

He says little of importance, so I’ve never wasted my time with him.

And yet he blocked me.

I only noticed the block because a journalist recently cited one of his tweets, which was hidden from me on my feed. When that happens, it’s an indication that either the tweet has been deleted or you are blocked from seeing that person’s tweets.

I was blocked.

There’s nothing I can do about getting Eric Trump to unblock me. While feckless and complicit Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner work for the government, Eric and his brother do not. Instead, they pretend to be running the Trump Organization, so blocking me is perfectly within his rights.

Even though I’ve never tweeted at him or about him.

My guess about what happened is this:

I was spouting off at his dad on Twitter and he saw my comment, thought it deadly accurate, and blocked me rather than being exposed to future truth about his father’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, narcissism, and incompetence.

That’s understandable. Discovering that our parents are just human beings (or in Eric Trump’s case, despicable and vile human beings), as flawed as we are (or in Eric Trump’s case, more flawed than most human beings) is never easy.

Poor little Eric Trump. I hope I haven’t upset him too much.

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Silver linings can be quite lovely

Storytellers often tell me that they don’t want to tell a specific story because even though the moment was a bad one for them, it was nothing compared to the suffering that others experience on a daily basis.

“Hogwash,” I say.

If we allowed this to be the standard for telling a story, only the people suffering the most on this Earth would have the right to tell their stories. If you’re not starving or falsely imprisoned or being burned at the stake, you don’t get to tell the story about your terrible, no good, very bad day.

Pain and suffering should never be ignored or denied simply because you know of someone in a far worse state. Problems should not be discarded simply because others suffer far worse problems than you.

Our suffering is real, regardless of how it compares to the suffering of another person. Our problems are real, regardless of how they compare to the problems of others. We have a right to those stories.

Admittedly, it might be a good idea to avoid describing your problems and your suffering as the worst on the planet. And acknowledging some perspective might be a good idea, too. But you get to tell these stories because they are real and authentic and true. You own these stories. You need not worry that your suffering hasn’t been great enough and your problems haven’t been large enough to warrant a story.

Sometimes telling them will also make you feel a little better.

That said, I do find great value in learning about the suffering of others, not to mitigate or negate our own suffering or make our problems seem petty and stupid, but to teach us to also count our blessings. Recognize the great fortune we enjoy. Find our silver linings.

You can only live your life, and pain is pain, regardless of the degree. But being able to see that along with our pain and suffering, we are also blessed with great fortune is a way to perhaps feel a little better about our existence.

Find some balance.

Discover some slivers of light in our sometimes (or oftentimes) dark world.

This brilliantly and fascinating little video, entitled Styrofoam, might offer a little bit of that.

Speak Up Storytelling #31: David Ring

On episode #31 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about two emails received related to Homework for Life, including a sample of Homework for Life from the 1800's!

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the value of waiting to tell a story, the possibility that you are in the midst of a story, and the way that some stories can stretch across decades. 

Next we listen to David Ring's story about a trial, a possible death penalty, and a hit ordered on his life.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. A great first sentence

  2. The way that choices about description and leaning description in a certain direction can help tell the story

  3. The power of contrast in description

  4. "Nonfiction" in storytelling

  5. The appropriate absence of humor in storytelling

  6. The elimination of "I remember..." from stories

Next, we answer questions about using Homework for Life to recapture recorded memories and the differences between personal narrative storytelling and the telling of folktales, fables, fiction, or informational text. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

13 was not a good number in 1989. It's especially bad in 2019.

Total women in the U.S. House of Representatives:

1989:
16 Democrats
13 Republicans

2019:
89 Democrats
13 Republicans

There are terrible and embarrassing numbers, of course.

First, and most egregious: Only 23 percent of the House members are women. This Congress may have a record number of female members, but in a country where more than half of the population is female, this is a ridiculous number. A stupid number. An indicator of how much progress is still needed.

Also disturbing:

It’s almost as if there are members of the Republican party who really don’t think a woman’s place is in Congress. In 30 years, the anemic number of Republican women in the House has stayed the same. It seems as some at least a majority of Republicans favor men over women when it comes to national leadership.

They seem to specifically favor white men, too. Of the 55 African American members of the House of Representatives, just one is a Republican.

It would seem that Republicans believe that white men make the best leaders.

But that can’t be. It must be some kind of statistical anomaly. Some odd effect of gerrymandering.

After all, what kind of troglodytic moron would ever think that women or African Americans don’t deserve a place in Congress?

Or Muslims? Or members of the LGBTQ community?

The Republican party doesn’t have any of them, either, but again, it must be some kind of statistical anomaly. An unintended consequence of where African Americans tend to live.

And women, too. It would appear that even women are not evenly distributed across the country, and a vast majority of them settle in Democratic districts.

In fact, based upon Congressional representation, there must be entire swaths of our country populated primary by white, straight men.

Not a woman to be found.

Otherwise we’d have to assume that a majority of Republicans don’t want to vote for women. And African Americans. And members of the LGBTQ community. Also Muslims and Native Americans.

We might even assume that a lot of them are sexist, racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic.

In short, bigots.

But this can’t be. If given the opportunity, I’m sure the Republican party would happily elect an openly bisexual man or a Muslim woman. I’m sure they would flock to the polls to elect a plurality of women or many, many more African Americans.

Right?

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Things I Do #13: I turn on the passenger seat heater in my car on especially cold days

When it’s frigid outside and the interior of my car is exceptionally cold, I turn on the passenger seat heater in addition to my own seat heater and the regular heater, thinking that the minuscule amount of heat emitted from the warm, empty seat beside me will help warm up the interior, and therefore me, faster.

It’s ridiculous, I know. Stupid, too. There’s no way that small amount of heat makes any real difference at all. Nevertheless, it makes me feel better.

I like knowing that I’m doing all I can to get warm.