So Many Words!

HP2

Managed the whole Harry Potter series without spoilers (well, there was one, but I recovered)!

For many years I entertained the notion of New Year’s resolutions. Of course if your heart isn’t in it, your chances of success are practically nil right out of the gate. And sure enough, those empty promises to work out, eat better, climb a mountain, or be a better person all together have most often crumbled faster than it took to think them up. However, in 2015 there was a breakthrough!

At some point early in my life I learned how to read, and yet I put this skill on the shelf in favor of less brain tingling activities like naps. So many glorious naps.

After years of having my brain lie dormant, and at risk of being fully lobotomized by the world of TV and the Internet, I decided to challenge myself. Knowing I had the ability to read, but having not read an actual book for an embarrassing amount of time, I resolved to read one book a month for the entire year.

To those who make reading a regular habit, this isn’t a lofty goal. But for someone who specializes in rarely extends beyond 140 characters at a time, this would be a stretch.

It has been twelve months since making that resolution and I am proud to say that it is the first resolution in my feeble memory that I was able to accomplish. In twelve months I managed to read a total of fifteen books! Some were excellent, some were pretty good, another one or two were ‘eh’. But the point is that I made it happen, and I plan to have it continue into 2016!

Sure, it wasn’t the loftiest or most selfless goal ever dreamed up. But you know, it was something I wanted to do and I got it done. Now if only it were that easy to resolve to make a million dollars!

Book list from 2015:

‘Tis the Season for Believing Anything

It’s the holiday season and, in the spirit of giving, many folks are looking to do some good with their extra cash while also scoring a cool last minute tax deduction. Certainly that last bit isn’t the reason for a donation to a worthy cause, but it’s a nice added perk.

Anyhoo, with so many choices out there and so much info flying at you this time of year, it’s easy to just simplify wherever possible. After all, there are bigger things to worry about. With so many meals to prepare, gifts to buy, decorations to hang, and those mischievous elves hopping from shelf to shelf wreaking havoc in your home, who has time to research charitable causes? So, rather than do the most basic independent research to help make informed decisions, why not simply accept misinformation as gospel and perpetuate the inaccuracies until the end of time?

Writing it that way makes it sound insane! And yet here we are, another year coming to a close and we’re once again seeing the same recycled nonsense about nonprofits that wasn’t even correct when it first started circulating years ago. As an employee of one of the nonprofits always rounded up in this lunacy, I have the pleasure of answering the same questions about this stuff hundreds of times every single year. For funsies, sometimes I ponder the kind of work I could be getting done if I wasn’t constantly addressing the same rumors over and over again (things like reciting all the numbers of Pi, and paddleboarding around the world backwards come to mind).

[CHALLENGE: I’m not telling you which nonprofit I work for. Instead, take it as a challenge to do the two clicks worth of research it will take you to figure out on your own. If you can manage that, there is hope for you yet!]

So here’s what I’m gonna do for the American public this holiday season. I’m going to do [most of] the research for you! The graphic below is one of those most commonly thrown at us on a very regular basis, often with aggressive comments like “explain yourself”, “you suck” or “[insert grammatically deficient rant here]”. Below the graphic I’ll go box by box with links to the correct info; links which you yourself could find with just the slightest bit of Googling. Additionally, I will possibly throw in some snark. After all, I want to help you out but I also want to do something that’s fun for me. This has also been done by Snopes, but nobody seems interested in scrolling down on their page.

I don’t know about you, but I’m expecting nothing but a good time! Here we go!!

donate1

So that covers that. Here’s another variation of this common misinformation that you may see circulating among a number of others…

donate2

This is NOT an attempt to guide you towards one charity over another or influence your decision in any way. ALL of the above-mentioned charities along with countless others provide much needed programs and resources for our communities and are deserving and in need of your support!

I simply encourage everyone to do the simple research necessary to be properly informed. There are plenty of resources available to help, from Charity Navigator, Give.org, and any number of charity watchdog groups. And don’t overlook one of the most detailed pieces of financial info available for nonprofits – their IRS 990 form, which is often available on their website in the interests of transparency.

Ultimately give with your heart. If the mission of an organization speaks to you, and you trust that they will do the good you expect, by all means give your money, your time, your whatever. Just don’t believe everything you read online, and for God’s sake STOP proliferating misinformation. Oh, but of course believe this blog. Definitely believe this blog. D’oh!

factcheck

Why Can’t I…

  1. …write a book?
  2. …write a script?
  3. …write a blog once a week?
  4. …exercise more often?
  5. …start a business?
  6. …save more money?
  7. …live a little?

The answer to these and many more of life’s mysteries is simply ‘laziness’! That’s it. There is no other explanation. It’s not that I “can’t” do it, it’s that I “won’t” do it. It takes very little effort to get up off of your ass and make things happen rather than sit and wonder why things don’t happen. My mom used to like saying something to the effect of, “life isn’t going to stop by your bedroom window to check in on you, you’ve got to go out and live it.”

So, by way of this short and sweet little blog entry, I’ve written a few things down so that I may hold myself accountable. I will now try to get a start on making some shit happen.

Good day!

Sharknado 3 – Jumping the Twitter Shark

sharknado

Because ‘Merica!

When it comes to social media, self promotion is the name of the game! And when you’re not cool enough on your own merit, you try to latch onto something super cool in hopes of riding that wave into Awesometown! Such was the intent when I sat through the steaming pile of amazing that is/was Sharknado 3 last night.

Honestly, we did some cool Sharknado-related stuff for work, so I was more than happy to see this through and watch how it all played out.

However, I found myself at a distinct disadvantage being both on the West Coast where this cinematic travesty was already old news AND I started the movie an hour late on my DVR. Regardless of the fact that everyone had long since tuned out, I proceeded with my very own not-so-live-tweet of the events. And since I answer to no one but myself on this blog thing, I will now take you through the series of events. Here’s what you missed out on:

Sharknado is a gift for all of us…

This was a personal fave…

I thought this was funny. I guess WWE fans do not watch Sharknado…

Hammerhead just dropped some knowledge…

Then this happened…

And fin…

And so that’s it. My latest exercise in talking to myself about ridiculous things. Happy Thursday, y’all!

BONUS NARCISSISM!

Sunday Naps

If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of self-proclaimed “experts” out there. That, and there really is an insane amount of porn in the world. But that’s neither here nor there.

There are a ton of blogs out there written by people passing themselves off as experts in their respective fields. Speaking from my own personal perspective, I really think blogs are more a product of these Cliff Clavinesque experts being inevitably tuned out by their friends but they still have an insatiable need to make words!

So here I am. And since I have such a narrow range of skills and/or knowledge, I shall focus on a field in which I have long been considered an expert: naps.

For many years I have honed these skills to the point where it is considered by many to be an art form, and the world is my canvas. With that, here are some of my more notable masterpieces. May you draw guidance and inspiration. If my efforts may help even one person find a peaceful slumber on this Sunday afternoon, we’ll call it a successful day.

1. The Anywhere Nap

nap_publicThis is a fairly standard napping style and one of my better-known “go-to’s”. This particular nap took place at a hammock display at the California State Fair. Large crowds, public place, carnival rides and cotton candy? No match for the desire to nap.

 

 

2. The Dog Nap

nap_dogAnother popular form of nap. This often occurs when one or more of these tiny animals which I have accumulated over the years comes into contact with me and uses their super powers to render me unconscious for as long as the beast(s) choose.

3. The Ugly Nap

nap_uglyMost appropriately used when one just doesn’t give a single ‘F’ about when or where they sleep, nor are they at all concerned about how they look while doing it.

 

4. The Baby Nap

nap_babyVery similar to the Dog Nap. While holding a baby that is calm and collected, the last thing you want to do is risk disrupting the peaceful tranquility of the moment. What is more peaceful than a nap? It’s the least you can do to help that child get the rest it needs. Knowing of your generous contribution to their well being will only help you down the road, particularly if this adequately napped-up child ever becomes wealthy and you need a loan.

 

5. The Uke Nap

nap_ukeWhen there’s nobody around to sing you to sleep, sometimes you need to handle things yourself.

 

 

 

6. The Snow Nap

nap_snowHike to the hilltops of the Sierras, have a nice picnic lunch, then cool off with a nice refreshing snow nap before you hike back down.

(NOTE: This is NOT recommended if you are lost in the wilderness as you will most likely die.)

 

7. The Beach Nap

nap_beachThe soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shore, the cool sea breeze blowing through your hair, and the threat of being buried alive by crazed youths! The setting is tough to beat and it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to doze off, filling your lungs with that sweet sweet sand.

 

8. The Turtle Nap

nap_turtleSometimes you venture offshore to escape the chaos and general slobbery of the beach-going public. When headed out to sea, you need a trustworthy seafaring creature to get you where you need to go. Though sturdy animals, the jarring travel patterns of dolphins and eating habits of sharks leave something to be desired in the ways of comfort. But a turtle provides exactly what you need to enjoy the calm waters and a relaxed pace.

9. The Totally Plutonic Bro Nap

nap_broThere’s no shame in it. I make no apologies. Good naps are good naps!

 

 

 

10. The Napmare

nap_nightmareSometimes naps don’t work out the way we want them to. There you are, peacefully wasting the day away staring at the back of your eyelids when BAM!! Something terrifying happens that wakes you up and any thought you had of rest and relaxation is instantly replaced by your heart exploding.

 

Why Red Cross…

Staring down train cars and tracks washed out by Colorado flooding, September 2013.

Staring down train cars and tracks washed out by Colorado flooding, September 2013.

I joined the ranks of the American Red Cross about two and a half years ago following a less than ideal “vacation” to New York City and an accidental visit with a really moody storm we called Sandy. Left without power, hot water, and really anything in the way of food for five additional unplanned days, my wife and I had it so much easier than most.

Still, our circumstances did pose their challenges. It was during those days where I first really noticed so many strangers banding together to help each other out. Those with power in their homes and businesses ran extension cords out to the sidewalks so people could charge their phones. Restaurants welcomed the masses in for relief from the storm. At one point I found an outlet in a restaurant ceiling where I let my dying phone dangle like a Christmas ornament for hours until it was revived.

I never encountered the Red Cross while I was there as we just weren’t in the areas of greatest need. But I knew they were out there and all around. Witnessing such an outpouring of support from every corner of the city, there was no doubt in my mind that I would pursue that sort of humanitarian endeavor when I returned home.

Eventually, my feet hit the ground of my sunny California and I was off to become a volunteer. I was familiar with a lot of the work of the Red Cross thanks to my job in emergency management, so that seemed like a great place to start. And as luck would have it, there just so happened to be a staff position available. Not really looking for a job at the time but never one to question the universe, I threw my hat in the ring and actually ended up getting hired!

Fast forward two and a half years of the greatest work years of my life and you have one of the strongest, lifelong supporters of the Red Cross. I say “one of” because there is no doubt of the competition for “biggest fan” among our thousands of volunteers and supporters across the country and around the world.

Being a part of this mission has been life changing, and here are just a few examples of why:

Colorado Floods – 2013

My first deployment. My hometown of Sacramento is prone to flooding when we’re not trying to imitate a desert, so I’ve seen some local disasters in my time. Colorado was the first time I got up close and personal with communities ravaged by a disaster. Communities ripped from their foundations and floated down stream like rudderless boats. Water lines from creeks you could typically step over reached well higher than my six foot frame. Historic amounts of rain water cascaded down the Rocky Mountains with such force, it turned trees into toothpicks, crumpled paved roads into mud, leveled homes and took lives. The devastation was unreal.

The Red Cross was there. From the first raindrops and flood watches, Red Cross volunteers were ready to look after their neighbors. As the situation worsened, more volunteers with compassion in their hearts and expert training, swooped in from all corners of the country to bring relief to this flooded state. The hours for everyone were long, the work was unceasing, and yet no one seemed to tire. No one seemed to complain. There was simply a passion and a drive to get out there and help those who needed it in any way we could.

What probably struck me the most and what I would quickly find is quite commonplace is 1.) disaster-affected community members wanting to help others despite their own circumstances and turning to the Red Cross to help them do so, and 2.) the number of volunteers who want to extend their stay and continue the work! Disaster deployments are typically two weeks straight working 12-14 hours a day.

I was inspired that the desire to help could so easily trump the grueling pace and exhaustion – so many put their own lives on hold to help get the lives of others back on track. I’ll never forget it.

California Wildfires – 2014

Right in my own backyard, wildfires raged all year long. Literally, from January 1 it seemed we were responding to a wildfire (in addition to our rising rate of home fires) nearly every day. In fact, when May hit, that was exactly what was happening in our region. Over the course of the next six months, as our most famous quote from the time stated, “there was only an 18-hour period where our Red Cross volunteers didn’t have at least one wildfire evacuation shelter open.”

The ongoing drought, the wind, the heat combined with accidents, carelessness, and outright criminal behavior brought about a wildfire onslaught we felt would never end. And yet, despite the countless hours needed to shelter and feed endangered communities, the Red Cross volunteers never wavered. When and where there was a need, they were there without fail. When ordered to get some rest after unbroken days and weeks on the job, they resisted, ultimately relented, and were right back to work the second their mandated rest period was over.

Once again community members turned to the Red Cross as a means to help their neighbors. In fact, during the Boles Fire in Weed, California, one woman approached me in a parking lot as I got out of a Red Cross vehicle and asked how she might volunteer. After providing some direction for her she informed me that she lost her own home to the fire only the day before. After losing HER OWN HOUSE, she wanted to volunteer and help others because she saw the great work we were doing and wanted to get involved. How powerful is that?!

Oso Mudslide – 2014

Unimaginable. Without warning, a small mountain community in Washington is erased by a catastrophic mudslide. Dozens are missing or injured. First responders and volunteers are part of the stricken community. They are now searching for their friends, family, and neighbors, some of whom were seen only minutes before tragedy struck. Time to go to work!

Red Cross shelters were established in the towns of Arlington and Darrington, two towns connected by a single roadway that no longer existed. They served as a refuge for residents who have lost their homes or can’t return. They are a point where first responders can provide updates to the community. And they were points where the heart of the Red Cross shined so bright.

Beyond shelter, beyond food and water, beyond beds and blankets – all of which are staples of Red Cross disaster relief – the compassion and care every volunteer committed to these devastated communities was awe-inspiring. Volunteers welcomed shocked residents and heartbroken family members with their gentle spirit and did whatever it took to provide comfort and care. Many tears were shed and hugs were shared over a hurt that can never be forgotten.

Despite the daunting gravity of the disaster, never once did a volunteer hesitate to jump in and be the helping hand to lift the heavy emotional burden, if only for a moment. In life’s worst moments, we see the best of humanity rise up.

Christmas Eve Apartment Fire – 2013

I have responded to a number of home fires, and all of them stand out for one reason or another. This one struck me in a rather unique way.

It’s Christmas Eve morning and it’s freezing, as it often is at that time of year. There’s no snow on the ground because, well, California. An early morning fire that started in a maintenance area has destroyed four apartment units. For these families, Christmas is effectively over. Trees, presents, and any other surprises have tragically gone up in smoke. Fortunately, everyone got out safely.

When I got on the scene, our Disaster Action Team volunteers were already working diligently to assist the residents and had been for some time. It was a busy scene. Fire crews and equipment scattered all around, news media scurrying about looking for a shot and the story, the displaced residents scrambling to salvage whatever they could from their homes, and a collection of neighbors watching the show unfold outside their front doors.

As more time passed, the media packed up their cameras and moved on. With the fire out and safety restored, the fire department stored their gear and headed to their next call. Neighbors soon retreated into their heated apartments, and the scene fell eerily calm. The only sounds were those of our volunteers speaking with the residents working to get them a warm place to spend their Christmas Eve and guide them through the next steps of recovery.

There were no friends or family rushing to the rescue of these people. They didn’t have insurance. The apartment managers were not swift to respond. I looked around and realized that without our Red Cross volunteers and those who support disaster relief, four families would have been left with absolutely nothing, no place to go, and no clue how to begin the process of moving forward – all on Christmas!

Every single day, whatever the need, wherever the need, no matter what, the Red Cross is standing by and ready to help. If that call doesn’t come, we’re still sitting by the phone. If the call comes in but no help is needed, we’ll still show up just in case. And when we start hearing words like “historic” and “unprecedented” as we have so often for the last several weeks out of Texas, rest assured we have volunteers around the country ready to get to work and touch lives. Thanks to their compassion and dedication, and to all those supporting the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross throughout the year, they’re able to do just that!

It’s a little wordy, sure, but there are very few things that are this close to my heart. Anyone can play armchair quarterback (and they certainly do), but it’s quite another thing to get in the game and see how things really happen. The support matters. Despite what any detractors may claim, the support has very real and meaningful impact. The work is complex, challenging, and so often thankless, but no matter the obstacle the objective is to ALWAYS do whatever it takes to meet the needs of residents, communities, and countries touched by tragedy. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it countless times. To see the Red Cross in action is one of the great joys of my life and I am honored to be even a small part of such wonderful work.

Despite misguided criticisms and ludicrous claims, you’ll find no millionaires here. What you will find is a staff working for the mission, not the paycheck, alongside thousands of dedicated volunteers – all committed to delivering help and hope to those in need every single day. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, the cheapest I’ve ever worked, and the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

That’s why.

THANK YOU, RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORTERS, FOR GIVING SO MUCH OF YOURSELVES IN SERVICE TO OTHERS!!

Kids

My daughter is 11 years old. Combine that with a personality that’s stronger than Schwarzenegger in his prime and what you’ve got is a damn nightmare. Oh sure, kids are the sweetest little miracles. They’re so much fun, and so adorable, and you just want to hug them until the end of time.

Barf!

Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my kid more than life itself. I would jump in front of any manner of terribly grisly injury and/or death to protect her from harm. She is my life and I am proud to be her parent. Now, that in no way means she isn’t a psychotic mess from time to time. That doesn’t mean my little pre-adolescent angel doesn’t summon enough attitude to make this non-jogger go running just to get out of the house until she’s in college.

You yahoos out there bragging about your perfect little kids and your life straight out of a storybook may be fooling your gullible, childless friends, but the hell if they’re fooling me. Raising kids is hard. And for a good chunk of time, it sucks. But if you do it right, they’ll recognize your efforts eventually and let you live in their mansion when they’re a wealthy marine biologist/pianist/singer/actress.

As tough as it may be, stand your ground, stay involved and stay the course. There’s no better retirement plan than raising good kids. At least that’s what I keep telling myself! The last thing I need is to die in one of those crooked retirement homes.