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One simple trick to improve your marriage, life

Just a note in male misunderstanding. All caps for a moment: WE SHOULD NOT TRY TO FIX THINGS. For me this goes across the board from inanimate to organic, but this post is specifically about the loved ones in our lives who share with us their most intimate issues. This is going to blow your effing mind: they don't want us to fix a damn thing. Granted, there are some exceptions, like when they ask directly, "can you fix this?" And they're holding an actual physical possession you actually physically broke during a Bronco game. Other than that, and most often when it's a female, FIXING IS NOT IN ORDER.

The incident that brings me here this evening is with my wife, a perennial victim of my fixes, who was airing her grievances about her job search. All the lady wants is something part time to stoke the coffers and keep her from going nuts. In no surprise to the professional world, the woman has garnered much interest. Apparently, however, asking a company for part time is equivalent to begging for a fiscal screwing. It's amazing how little anyone wants to pay someone who can't go full time (ignore that if you're reading this during work hours.)

Yesterday I came home to a person who needed to share and vent. It's one of the main reasons we enter holy matrimony: to have partner with whom you can talk smack about anything or anyone (although you probably should limit it to everyone except that person. That's a different post I hope you don't require.) Sarah was giving me all the details of a call between her and a company's HR, when she said that, along with her references, they wanted all of her W2s from 2006 to 2011. First of all, if you need someone's tax dossier to get them in the door, you have trust issues and probably shouldn't be dealing with personnel. Secondly, if you're the husband/lover/whatever listening to this vital emotional release, don't interrupt and say, "I totally have all your W2s. They're in the filing cabinet downstairs."

It's somewhere in there where Sarah closed her eyes and shook her head. She was done talking. I wasn't (unfortunately) and rolled on like a brakeless semi about how I could get all the paperwork. And then I stopped. And Sarah looked at me. That look. You know, as if I were her 7 year old who'd just done a thing that people do when their frontal lobe hasn't fully developed. Because SHE ONLY WANTED SOMEONE TO LISTEN.

Now I know I've provided my wife with many opportunities to flash back to "for better or worse" and wonder if she's reached the lower extreme, and even though this is but one minor offense, it builds up. Especially when she knows that I know better. Listen. Don't get out your emotional tool belt and start going to work while she's talking. Listen. And it's amazing--and this could be the problem--it's amazing how simple life can be.

Not broken


Otto and Soccer | A Tribute to Awesome

So if it's possible--and I shouldn't doubt myself as that, I think, will be part of the message here--I'd like to capture one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen in my life. I know, you're preparing yourself to hear another parent piling on superlatives about one of their children's achievements, but I promise you that this is the stuff Rocky is made of. It's the shared DNA that has every human stepping out of their own meager expectations and rocking the mantle to its core. I don't have video of the event, and I have only a few eye witnesses who will vouch for the action I will describe. All of them, however, will most likely lack the conviction with which I'm about Halelujeuh into the heavens.

He's got this.
I coached Otto's soccer team. I've never played soccer or even watched much on TV. I even grew up with a distrust for soccer-centered suburban communities. Who did they think they were kidding? That's not football. Also, I assumed they were rich, which in itself is not a bad thing, but you bundle it with my background of small town suspicions and you get ungrateful elitists playing a mystery sport in the swank comfort of carpeted homes and anti-lock brakes. I had to overcome a lot to accept my coaching position. Mostly, though, it was to watch a lot of YouTube videos to figure out the rules of the game. Sarah gave me a quick tutorial (herself being a Baltimore County All Star) and, with her help, took a battery of YMCA coaching tests to become official. I was nervous, but ready. And then on the first day I spent an hour watching a clump of children chase a ball. Other coaching detail included getting them to stop picking flowers and focus on the game, as well as making sure they got to the bathroom on time.

It was cute and fun until our first game. We played a team that started two six year olds with pituitary problems. They brutalized us. Some people complain that nowadays we don't keep score anymore. I'm no longer one of them. Our rival was mostly boys, competitive little retches, as compared to mine, all girls and Otto, who are some of the sweetest people I've ever met. But maybe they could have held off on hugging one another until they actually scored a goal. And maybe don't braid each other's hair in the middle of the game. On the field in the middle of the game. With the undying lovefest, I thought Otto would be a standout. I figured he was going to run out there and crush some spirits with his buzz-cut intensity and little brother angst. He didn't. He ran and hustled, but fell down a lot. Often he fell down just to fall down. Sometimes he'd stare into space and, in what I have to admit were disappointing moments for his father, my middle-boy beast with the six-chambered heart would ask to sit on the sidelines. I let it go. I wasn't about to be the Great Santini to a five year old in a game I barely understood.

The Ewy boys, Otto (l) and Quin (in his rec center basketball jersey), worked well together against the wall of blue.
The season wore on, painfully. The parents asked if we could switch kids from the other team. Every game we played the same opponent, and every game we were crushed. So I recruited. I got Otto's big brother Quin to play a couple of quarters before he left for his 1st/2nd grade contest. Other kids had their six-year-old siblings show up. We  got more competitive, but every game I wanted to make sure our original six got to play together. I was bent on seeing them improve--I was bent on them actually scoring a goal.

It would happen, and it would come in the storm of confidence and childhood awakenings that would have the trash-talking spawn on the other team (the Cheetahs) complain that the game was unfair. For once we were competing. The score we didn't keep was tied. The Silver Surfers were on the verge of victory.

Here's the thing, I had seen Otto improve throughout the summer season. Games one and two he fell down a lot; by game four he was starting to show some interest in competing. This was game seven; our final game of weary parents and waning hope. One father wondered if the experience would discourage his daughter from the game for life (he could thank me later for gas and equipment savings.) With the help of Quin and two other six year olds, we were on the verge of dominating, but when one of the better Cheetahs went down with an injury, I pulled the big kids and let my original team have a shot. I wanted the unit--the flower pickers and the sky gazers, the potty breakers and the junior entomologist doting on a ladybug midfield, mid action--to prove that they could play. I'm happy to report what I'm about to report.

I've not seen the heart that I saw on these kids. One was so small that she could barely get enough leverage to move a soccer ball. We're talking hip height here. But they all lined up for the final quarter kickoff. My three six-year-old stars watched from the sideline. My Surfers were back in their accustomed position of having the much larger Cheetahs swarm towards their goal. I'd see this first hand not just as a coach, but as a referee. I did both, and I didn't mind it, as my team could use all the help they could get...and you know how hometown refs work. So it was from the center field where I saw it go down. Where I saw the reason my youngest son would bust out dance moves I didn't even know he knew. Dance moves that would paralyze an older soul.

The Cheetahs kicked off. Their big kid, the one with the mohawk (there's always one,) blasted the ball right into Otto. He kept his feet, gathered the ball and kicked it back. It what was really more of a retribution kick instead of well-planned pass to a teammate. The ball launched right back at the mohawk. But this is where Otto woke up. This is that moment you remember as a kid; that time you realized that your aunt was your mom's sister. It's the first time you snap your fingers, or whistle or, as I remember so clearly, discover that yesterday wasn't an actual day of the week, but a generic term for the day before today.

I'm not sure who needed who more.
Luckily, Otto's awakening was more exciting. His was a hammer. A reckoning. A kid realizing on the run that he had as much right to that ball as the cocky mohawk. Otto pursued the ball. He followed up. Something that you don't hear referees shouting at players, "follow the ball...follow the ball!" And he did. He followed pert near through the bigger kid, pushing him aside and kicking the ball out ahead. It was here where we all realized what could happen. I stopped to get clear visual. Sarah stood up. Chloe's parents perked up as did Hallie's and Kiana's. Otto had a one-on-one break to the goal. We rarely had the ball on their side of the field. We rarely had the ball, period. With Mohawk stunned still, his teammate was left to defend alone. Typically, even this was more formidable than my Surfers could contend with. But not today. The defender stepped in and Otto kicked the ball round him. And then...sweet god I wish I had a camera. I wish I could loop this moment over and over--pull it down on the big screen whenever Otto is feeling down or reeling from a beating by his big brother. The whole field stopped in a modern movie special effect. It was the Matrix and my son had dodged bullets. It's weird when you see your kid do something so cool. I'm a doubting jerk for feeling surprised, but this is a kid I thought had given up. I thought he'd rather be in the shade playing with his baby sister. That, however, was before he knew how good he could be.

With all of the parents, both those of the Surfers and the Cheetahs rapt and wrapped in the silence of a vacuum venue, we paused. We weren't so much watching a kid with a ball but all of us as giant kids with our own proverbial scoring opportunity. With an unlikely juke glancing the bigger boy to the side, Otto was free to the goal. In a flash I reminded myself not to get cocky. Kindergartners are liabilities with dull scissors. Could this really happen, I asked myself. And it did. With his left foot he kicked it in. Otto scored a goal. The underdogs pulled the tarp off their talents. The little guys, the nice kids, those who got to appreciate bugs and flowers for much of the season and still go out on top. The crowd went wild. I mean somewhere around twenty parents shrieked life into the suburbs. Otto went nuts. It was weird and awesome. He flexed and walked like a tiny Hulk. His dark eyes some other place. And then he danced something like an Irish folk dance and an end zone celebration before wriggling into the skip walk of a happy deer. He finished with some wild agreeing with no one in particular. "YES!" he shouted. If yesterday's Otto had fallen down, today's Otto was standing over him and giving a glimpse of his alpha future. The crowd continued to cheer and his teammates relished a valid reason to hug.

Sarah and I can't stop talking about it. Otto is proud but understated. Maybe it is because I was the ref and had to suppress my excitement that I find you here in this space trying to bring my son's achievement to life on paper. On this website of tiny pixels swallowed by the whale of the web. Maybe it's because kids hear enough about how great they are but it's us who need a reminder. The writer in me wants to capture it in words because the parent in me didn't get it on camera. Or maybe it's that it was awesome. It was so damn awesome.

And now kindergarten should be a breeze.


wrote a subtle thing for the boys while I'm out of town...

Let me tell you about two boys, Bartle-O and Bartle-Q,
they look so much alike
it’s hard to tell who is who.

They have the same hair, eyes and nose,
and it’s even said
they have very similar looking toes.

They both are funny, handsome and always polite,
like at the table,
where they make meals a delight.

Many times even their parents get it wrong,
calling out Bartle-O
when it’s Bartle-Q they needed all along.

Or when they’re looking for Bartle-O,
yet find Bartle-Q,
it gets crazy and no one knows what to do.

But there are subtle things that can be found:
like Bartle-Q is taller,
and weighs more by one ounce and a pound.

Bartle-O is the junior of about two years,
and cuts his hair real close
(having overcome his barbershop fears.)

Bartle-Q and Bartle-O are always keen to compete,
and often when they do,
it starts a battle of who’s the one to beat.

Bartle-O will run and catch Bartle-Q,
and then the brothers
bicker until they’re blue.

And it makes their parents crazy (as you might agree,)
that these two wonderful boys
can’t get through the day quarrel free!

But one day it dawned on Bartle-Q: 
is the best friend he ever knew.

And it jarred him with tingles to his brain,
that racing Bartle-O
would make him faster than a train!

And Bartle-O got giddy in a flash,
that an older brother
just might teach him reading and math!

Each brother, it turns out, could make the other bigger, 
and together they could help out their sister, 
(who’s still but a nipper.)

So now the boys share their space with great glee,
and it’s said…
they’re more alike than you and I can see.

Because while Bartle-Q and Bartle-O look so much the same,
it’s something else,
like their brains, that’s their real claim to fame.



Robin Williams made me do it

It was a hard day, and I say that selfishly, if not even sadistically. I say it because the death of Robin Williams ripped a bandage off a wound I've been trying to hide. I know I need to get back on the stage. I know I need to be funny. I need to. As of late I've cowered, and in that weakness have emerged only to be bitter and tired. It's the face of aging on the inside that's the ugliest. I've hidden behind menial chores and mopping floors. I vacuum, I mop and I swear that I want to sell the house and move. Move where? Move to where the hiding might hide you some more? 

Listen, when you know you can do something, and when you know you can do something that people might enjoy, then do it. I know death and I know suicide. That's where the morbid, selfish, sadist side of me thinks of those who've killed themselves (or tried) and, because of their deed, I keep my dying only a fantasy. Sometimes it's after a great gig when I feel I should go out on top, and others it's just bad. It's bad. It is bad. I won't kill myself because I have Sarah. And I have kids. And even though kids can grow up without a father, I know that one of these children will one day deal with depression, and I want to be there. I want them to know that when they feel it--when they feel the tread wearing off on the long hot journey that is that sadness, that they can call. They can call day or night and I'll be there to tell them it's OK. They're not alone. Now lets go outside and have your heart remind your head about living again. It could be (in a theory I'm coming up with right now) that your brain spends day and night telling your body to live, but every now and again it needs some feedback from below: "You're not alone; I'm alive and intend to stay that way."

It's a mystery how our heads are part of our bodies and yet we still talk to it in the third person. I talk to myself in the third person, like even though I'm me I don't have control over the outcome of what I do. I feel the negative thoughts; the bullet relieving the pressure on the brain, and I rejoice in how easy it would be. I would never chide anyone for thinking about it, or use some terrible cliche about a temporary problem and a permanent solution. For a moment, go with me into that place that kills people. Take the best day you've ever had. Take the elation and electricity of say, a basketball player "in the zone," and that's where you are winning at whatever you do. Take all those chemicals and all those internal accolades and happy tears, and then turn them around. Make inverse the cheers and turn bitter the euphoria. Squeeze the celebration out of every gut and leave yourself empty and retching on the crosswalk of expectations. Everyone's disappointed. Turn off the electricity and shrink the elation, and then stand over the sad and shriveled relic before letting it breathe relief in its last breath. You're not even you anymore. You're not killing yourself; you're killing whatever spiteful piece of shit you've dehumanized and demonized in countless bad days of self-flagellation. Suicide becomes a necessary homicide. A mercy kill.

And I've imagined that last clip of horror when you realize it's not.

That's helped.That sadistic son of a bitch in me. 

But I can't kill it. I won't. The band aid ripped off tonight tells me that I've got to be done crying in my car. I've got to balance the good and the bad. I've got to make the demons work for me. They're there, and they won't go away, but somehow, some way, they make us artists. They make us lovers. They burn magma out of us until we can shape it in our hands and put it on display. They make us want to make others feel good. That makes us feel good. And for the win--and for Robin and countless others--I'll do what I'm supposed to do. As I am me, and that dude has a lot of work to do before he goes.


Because YOU WILL take two minutes to watch my baby crawl

Watching this kid and I'm really not sure the last time I worked as hard a baby does to get somewhere. You can use it as an inspirational video. Upworthy should post it.

Eliot is now officially an all-terrain vehicle, often showcasing her best efforts around danger or the dog. Here's her first musical montage:

And now our comfortable little life has been shattered. To think that we once wanted our firstborn to crawl as early as possible.

Huge ordeal overcoming the Ewy head size.


Living on the edge (of a bathtub): Life at 40

What is it to be 40. Nothing, I guess. Nothing that would have you cling to the edge of life hoping that your heart doesn't attack you. It's just what it is, which is the most annoying answer to anything: it is what it is. Unless you're naked and on the back porch. I'm in the suburbs and so naked and so gassy. Naked farts are the best. So free range, raw and intestinal. Nothing recirculates and mixes with denim and guilt. They just rush out and remind you that they are what they are. It's best to be by yourself.

I don't always drink alone and naked. It's really dark and I can't see any trace of our back neighbor; the new girl who moved in and then broke it off with her boyfriend. I hope she's not up, in the dark and reflecting only to have me punctuate (funktuate?) her meditations with this dinner burrito. It's fantastic for me, though. And it's a nice place and time to stare at the silhouettes of trees and power lines and remember growing up in a place where I could walk out the back door and get lost. And I did frequently. I'd walk and walk and at every turn be certain I knew where I was, only to realize I had no idea. One time my dad was working on the roof and he could see me in the woods taking wrong turns and missing the house by about 100 yards, only to end up at the bottom of the driveway and completely surprised about where I'd arrived. As I walked up the road, thirsty, sun burned and carrying a battery-powered boom box blasting Run DMC, he asked me if I'd gotten lost. "No," I told him, certain to turn down the music he hated. It's the same thing that has guys turn down the car radio when they need to think. I just wanted to look less vulnerable to poor decisions, so quieting the rap music seemed the best way to present myself as such.

How many years ago was that? I wondered in my moonlit nudity. Holy shit, I offer myself a response. 29? And then I do that thing where I try and place a major event in each year since then. I want to make sure I've lived.

At 40 you do get the distinct pleasure of being reminded of mortality. It's not so much the ten thousand days behind you, but that it's only a handful of years to fifty. Jesus, that's old.

It's old to be old, unless you're youthful. Someone at work asked the difference between young and youthful. Looking around the room at the fresh faces I felt neither. Just wait until they know I drink naked in tight neighborhoods. The upside is that I was reminded that it's the thought. It's the awareness that makes it count. I still think I'm 19 until I look in the mirror. Sweet god what is that? It's like George Costanza was raped by Mr. Clean. I'm the bastard child of so many strange biological turns. Physiological changes. I had to trim my chest hair so it wouldn't tickle my chin. What kind of animal has to do that? And yes, my ear hair are like goat pubes. I know this doesn't mean much, though...right?

So out goes the thought muscle flexing across time...and I'm pretty certain I couldn't have it any better. I've done the math. I've been hit hard every time someone mentions a year, a number, a memory. We watched a documentary tonight about an old bus. An old, used school bus left to be ridden by Guatemalans trying to get to shitty jobs. The bus was a '95. Sweet god, I may not even be as useful as that bus. I have some help, though. I've been in a midlife crisis since that bus was a baby. It's the curse of too much thinking. Yes, it's all in your head.

You can't hide from truth or thoughts, but you can turn lemon into Pledge and clean the place up. You can do ill-advised 40-year-old guy fist pumps at little victories that would have your dragon-slaying ancestors run their sword upon you for mercy's sake. You can punch convention in the sack and fart naked on your patio. It's OK, I should add, to doubt everything and hate everything and think terrible thoughts as long as you realize that the only thing that truly matter is what you make of it. Yah, that old horse still whinnies, but only during those dark moments when you let yourself out to pasture.

In 1983 a drunk guy locked me in the bathroom and yelled at me for a long time. I don't know exactly how long, but it had everybody at the party concerned and standing in line outside the door saying gentle things to Jeff, the drunk guy. "Jeff," would say the owner of the house, "can you just let Jared out and we'll make you some coffee." I sat on the edge of the bathtub with this guys mustache about five inches from my face. He was in his early twenties and was renowned for drinking and behavioral issues. Only moments before I'd been wrestling with he and his buddy, Johnny, when I'd accidentally kicked Johnny in the nuts. It was fun and games. I was a kid.

About an hour later I went to pee and Jeff burst in behind me. I peed on my hand, I recall. I remember this because I could see the sink on just the other side of Jeff's red and spouting head. He shouted at me about the disappointment of life and I looked past him wanting to wash my hands. He kept insisting on shaking my hand and, at the time, I didn't realize the victory of wiping urine on my assailant.

Jeff, though, told me about living. He told me it wasn't all fun and games. He told me it was painful and serious and that I couldn't just kick some guy in the nuts and laugh about it. I told him it was an accident and if it were really that bad my dad would have kicked my ass. Even Johnny had taken it well. I see it now: escaping their playful grasp and trying to run up the stairs. Johnny grabbed me and I kicked. I turned around in time to see he and his cowboy jeans crumple by the wood stove.

"It's not just fucking around and hurting people, Jared," Jeff illustrated for me with quivering lips so close that I could see the individual hairs on his face. That was awkward so I looked down. "You need to listen to me..."

"'re scaring him and you're scaring us," came the pleasant tone of his mother. I think she'd had to talk to him before like this. I think she'd hoped for something different from Jeff, and he knew that. He'd heard in it everything she said.

She also pleaded that he not hurt me. "Don't hurt him, Jeff," she said in a way that makes me hate the name Jeff. Why would that be an issue? Has he hurt people before? And you sound as if--on the other side of a door and a chasm of marred maternity--you're threatening him? I'm here, on the edge of Jerry and Dorothy's recently remodeled bathtub, and very much in striking range of the emotionally unhinged, and your going to prod the beast? She'd let a little reality into the room. Squeezed a balloon and ripped up the air a bit. I tensed.

Jeff paced back and forth. I watched him, waiting to be clubbed. But he had no plan. He could only walk awayThis is where it all went down, the North Park KOA. It's a lovely place that features the best soft serve ice cream on the planet and is currently up for sale. and lean against the wall, staring away from me and realizing his misfortune. Eventually, he would punch that wall and break his hand. The crashing noise had the adults kick in the door. I was still on the side of the bathtub and Jeff was a fucking mess. The invading forces grabbed me and asked if I were OK. They tussled my hair and offered me soda. I didn't want to make too much of a scene, like a celebratory touchdown dance while my assailant was being cornered and berated. In honesty, I think I just wanted to get back to the TV. They had a satellite dish the size of a moon crater and channels that came in crystal clear.

I would say 40 is a lot like that. There's a lot of negativity being yelled right in your face. The creepy mustache of life is inches away and making you feel like your about to end up in a very poor place. Your internal Jeff is about to have his way with you when you realize you're a grown up and you can just walk out of the room. You can turn the channel. You can turn the time stuck at a stoplight, in traffic, into an asset instead of ashes. No one is going to kick in the door and save you from the shit, because after you've grown up everyone assumes you'll be able to figure it out. That's kind of a neat trick. Everyone thinks you're more capable than you think you are.

I've often thought about what I'd say to that kid on the edge of the tub. I've had violent fantasies where I destroy Jeff; choke him to the floor, set him at ease. But that kid doesn't need to see that. I think it's about taking it easy. Reminding the boy that it is easy. Chew your food. Floss. Jeff is right, life can suck, you just can't get sucked in.


Crikey people. I don't want to ramble, lecture or be a d!ck. 

But our open window for public comment on Net Neutrality is closing. I hope you've commented. I hope you dropped a quick line to because a larger precedent is being set. It's one that says that we don't care. We'll let our shared portal to information, wonder, curiosity and success slip away because we can't be bothered to do anything about it. The evidence is clear: we have a Congress that doesn't do anything but can still get re-elected, and a president who appoints a cable lobbyist as the head of the FCC. We let all of that go down and signs point to our letting it happen again and again. Who knows? With our communication compromised for the benefit of so very few, we may not have to worry about being vexed by another important issue ever again. They'll take care of all that for us. 

(please watch this and stop me from going on like a cheesy yet impassioned speech from an 80s movie)
The Internet and the World Wide Web are so powerful that in just two decades they've changed the way we live. Or wait. Maybe it's the power of those who provide the content and the structure: The youtuber, the Wiki maker, the blogger, the startup company, the developer, the Netflix writer, the Tweeter, the Facebooker, the Tumblr, the inventor, and the casual commenter. In the open and free market that has been the WWW, we have pulsed life into the billions of pages. Yes, Comcast and Verizon might provide your service, but only rarely do they make the content. As far as I can tell their biggest role has been charging the most for some of the slowest service in the first world. They've created a false scarcity on your voice. But maybe they're right. 

(well, then watch this so you can be done and so can i.)
It hasn't even been a battle yet. Chairman Tom Wheeler has slithered between meanings of "open," a "free Internet," and Net Neutrality in becoming all-too Orwellian in his quest to end Net Neutrality. Some shameful and inaccurate talking points have been shoved into whisper campaigns that have gone nowhere. Even Wheeler's aides say it's a bad idea to give service providers mafia-style shakedown powers on which websites get a chance to succeed. Yet we still might let him do it. We shouldn't. Those are our voices, ya hear? Unless we just don't care to use them anymore. 

Yes, I've commented. Here's the what flaccid danger looks like.
Thank you. Now comment and then get back to your Facebook rants, illegal downloads and cat videos totally guilt free.