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How come it seems like anytime a company says they’ll be there between 8 a.m. and noon they always show up when you least expect them? I was waiting on a package today, and I was here for all but 15 minutes of the “approximate time,” and of course they came during that 15 minutes. Luckily for me, I set it as a non-signature drop-off, but what if I hadn’t?

Why do all these companies have such large windows of time for these kinds of drop-offs or stop-bys? It’s like the cable company saying they have a 4 or 6-hour window that their representative “should be by,” when we all know that if they do show up they will probably be at one end of another of that window (and usually at the tail end, if not over the time allotted).

I guess I just don’t get it. I mean, in this world of technology, advanced metrics, and all that jazz, how come we can’t be very specific with our times? If your GPS says it is 35 minutes to the town I’m in, and you know you’re going there that day, why not give me, let’s say, an hour or a 2 hour window instead of the 4 hour behemoth? That seems far too old school in this new school age. Or maybe I’m just ahead of my time. But I don’t think so.

And, aside from that, the company knows around the time they’ll be in your neighborhood. They know if they’ll be hitting your town at the beginning, the middle, or the end of their route. So even if they don’t give you a very exact time, at least give you the ballpark figure. “We’ll be there in the morning. We start our route at 8, and you are 3rd on our list.” How hard is that? You can even program in your route and the computer will do the rest.

It’s just so difficult for me to believe that these companies aren’t just resting on their supposed laurels, that they aren’t still giving these wide-open swaths of time just to toy with us, the consumer. Whether it’s the cable guy, the UPS guy, or whoever else is coming to offer a service, it all seems a bit shady to me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Sam

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15 is Crystal

wedding-like-pictures-002.jpgHas it really been 15 years already? I don’t believe it. Well, the mirror believes it for me though. When I look back at pictures from our honeymoon I see this youngster, svelte (some would have said painfully skinny), ready to take on the world. It’s been 15 years, and a lot of change later, and I still feel like that youngster ready to take on the world. Well, I feel like that inside. The aches and pains of my body on a daily basis beg to differ with me that the feeling is overall.

But my bride? She’s how she’s always been. I remember when we met, some sixteen and a half years ago, online, getting that first picture she sent my way, and wanting to see more. Then when we met in person, knowing that that wry smile was for me, because she saw something in me. She’s always seen something in me, often things I haven’t seen myself. She still sees something in me. She’s really everything I could have ever wanted or needed in another person.

And 15 years ago… we knit our lives together, not as one, but as two individuals who knew the bond was strong enough to last. Thank god we were right. At least here we are, standing shoulder to hip (that’s not a short joke, I promise) all these years later. I think of all the trials and tribulations we’ve had over the course of these 15 years, but I also think of how we overcame each and every one. Not that they were easy — far from it — but that we were able to assault them and put them in our rear view mirrors after a fashion. That’s startling to me.

But time hasn’t mellowed us. It’s sharpened and blurred our edges at the same time…

My previous record for longest relationship before I met Heidi was three and a half years. I think we got that beat. I know before I met her I couldn’t even imagine what 15 years would look like. Heck, I couldn’t imagine what five would look like, to be honest. But to be equally as honest, sometimes these 15 years don’t feel like they’ve taken all that long to pass. The only times I really fathom how long it’s been is when I look at our children — 12 and 9 respectively — and I am humbled.

Time has no challengers.

But time hasn’t mellowed us. It’s sharpened and blurred our edges at the same time, making us more ourselves, helping us retain our individual selves while becoming more of a cohesive couple. Because that’s where it all began after all. First it was us, individually. Then it was us together. Then it was us, together, being parents. And 15 years passed, but it still is what it was. We are still individuals struggling together through this thing called life. We are still a couple that works hard on making sure we keep the connection strong.

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So when it was time to figure out what I wanted to get my wife of 15 years it should have been easy, right? Well, not quite. You see, 15 years means 15 anniversaries, and 15 birthdays, and numerous Mother’s Days — you see where I’m going. I’ve been really original some years, and really cliche during others, but I’ve always had some ideas. This year, though, as our anniversary approached, I had one big gift and no more thoughts in my head. Everything else I could think of I’ve already done for her, and I’ve never been one to recycle.

What do I do when I am out of ideas? Luckily for me, wedding anniversaries come with a guide. Each year has a special connection. Like year 1 was paper. That was pretty cheap, I must say. But year 15, when I looked it up, proved to be crystal. Yikes. And it doesn’t go back from here. But when I thought about it, really thought about it, crystal makes absolute sense when it comes to Heidi. She is as tough as they come, but she often also wears her heart on her sleeve. Crystal is tougher than it seems, but it’s see through, which makes it look fragile.

My wife is the single strongest person I know, and after all this time I’m still working hard to show her just how much I appreciate her every single day, not just on our anniversary. Yet, here it is, the special day, and I’m ready for it. Because 15 is crystal, and I will not disappoint. Now, if I could just get up from this chair.

Sam

Day 3: I promise to be fair to those who are not fair to me.

It’s easy to be fair to those who treat me well. In fact, I don’t even think about it when that’s the case. But how about those who don’t treat me so fairly? What about those who are always looking to do me some injustice? It’s hard to look at them objectively, even for me, because if they don’t give me that respect then why should I give it to them?

I’m generally a fair person, or I like to think of myself that way, so it hurts me when others aren’t fair to me. But I can’t let those hurt feelings turn me into a person just like them because it’s a slippery slope. It’s easy to go from someone who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, who treasures difference, to someone who lets negativity change his worldview.

“Do unto others…” That’s the golden rule, right? Well, I would like to amend it to say “Do unto others, even when they don’t do unto you.” Perhaps it’s the difficulty of this kind of venture that appeals to me in the first place. It’s like doing what’s right even when no one’s watching, or especially when no one’s watching. Because I want to be able to look myself in the eye in the morning.

I’d like to think that breeding a culture of fairness might change the minds of those who are looking for every advantage over you, whether it’s fair or not. I’d like to think that being fair in everything would be a trait that others would want to espouse when they see it in me. But I’m realistic. I can change what I can change, and that’s the way I approach those who approach me differently.

That is my promise.

Sam

Stranger Danger

strangerdangerMy mom told me everything I needed to know about strangers when I was little.

“Don’t get into their cars, no matter who they say they are, or what they promise you,” she said to me, hands on my shoulders, looking me straight in the eyes. “That’s how they get you, and you don’t want to get got, do you?” she asked, but I knew it wasn’t a question. It never was a question. I nodded my head. I didn’t want to get got.

So… if strangers are so bad, how come it’s the people we know who do the most damage to us? You’ve probably heard the horrendous statistics that get trotted out every once in a while to prove that people we know are more dangerous. You’ve undoubtedly read the startling anecdotes of those who were horribly mistreated by those who claimed to love them. It happens all the time.

And yet we still teach our children that strangers are the bad ones. It’s easy to say, of course. It was easy for my mom to say, and it’s easy for me to say too. Because if we don’t know someone they might have it out for us. They might also be boy scouts who really just want us to have our choice of free ice cream from the back of their windowless vans. Everyone knows windowless vans are cheaper than ones with windows.

The problem is that anyone might have it out for us. You know how life goes. We end up places we never dreamed, with people we never knew before. Remember that all those friends you made were once strangers. If you hadn’t ever talked to them you wouldn’t have these amazingly three-dimensional souls you would give your lives for in a heartbeat. Well, that you would give your lives for if it was absolutely necessary anyway, if you couldn’t offer something else as an alternative.

Strangers aren’t the problem, although my mom, and your mom, and your Aunt Sally couldn’t have possibly known that back in the day. We are taught to fear the unknown, but isn’t it also “better the devil that you know,” and all that? There’s this carefully constructed dichotomy that keeps us in constant fear of those we haven’t known for XYZ years, but that also makes us wary when people we know do things that are out of character for them. It keeps us on edge, at least these days, because the world is full of crazy. That’s what the kids say these days. The world is full of crazy.

When you’re a kid, strangers are perceived as people with giant lollypops who hang out at the street corner across from your school, not Uncle Ted, even though you’ve never met Uncle Ted before. These days strangers can be people who Facebook message you because you’re “friends of friends.” Don’t ever assume that just because someone is Facebook friends with someone you know that you can trust them. Not everyone has a stringent screening process, and/or cares enough to keep those who they don’t know standing at the gate.

It’s a new world these days where “full of crazy” could be so subtle you could miss it if you happen to blink one day. It’s a time when everyone is suspect because no one is suspect, when life can throw you curveballs and you’d be hard pressed to distinguish them ahead of time from the fastballs that always rain down on you. I know I’ve been hit more than once by a few of both persuasions masquerading as just another experience, but they turn sour quickly. Or maybe they were sour all along and I just didn’t realize it because I was too busy giving others the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe I should have listened to my mother a bit closer all those years ago. Because, now, as an adult, I realize there are way too many strangers in my life. There are way too many people who I don’t know, but who I assume I do. There are far too few who I can honestly say I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I would give my life for. You know, if there was no alternative available. Stranger danger? Well, that’s tricky, but so is trusting people in the first place.

Just… well… you still shouldn’t get into windowless vans.

Sam

Day 1: I promise to say yes to opportunities this week.

Remember that movie Yes Man, with Jim Carrey? It’s a poor man’s Liar Liar, where Carrey does yeoman’s work as a lawyer who cannot tell a lie. Well, in Yes Man he is a bank associate who cannot say anything other than “yes” to anyone who asks him a questin. That means he gets in all sorts of trouble, from giving loans to people who have no business getting loans, to giving all his money to transients. It’s kind of funny in a sort of hokey way, but I like it for some reason. Because even though it’s silly there is a moral to it.

Too often I say “no” to things, and to people. Opportunities come and go, and probably half of the time I say no, but these are generally opportunities that are good for me. Why don’t I say yes more often? If I truly think about it, it’s usually not the opportunities themselves that get me hamstrung. It’s usually the doubt that I have in myself and in my own capabilities. I need to change that way of thinking. I need to be more like a real life Yes Man, but without giving all my money to transients.

So, this week my first promise to myself is to say yes to those opportunities that are good for me, to the ones that I would usually decline because of the doubt in my own mind. We hold ourselves back way too often when we are qualified for doing whatever it is that is asked of us. I know I do. But not this week. That is my first promise. Hold me to it.

Sam

wp-1525652296590.jpgMy uncle used to swing me onto his shoulders and fly me around the sidewalk like I was an airplane. It wasn’t piggyback for us. It was real aeronautics, complete with propeller sound effects and a touchdown landing when we were done. I remember giggling for days over something so silly, my imagination ran wild with so many possibilities for our next game, it would carry me through for weeks. Which was, coincidentally, how long it would be until I saw my uncle again.

I think back on it, and realize I was craving a father figure back then, someone who would lift me onto his shoulders every day and give me the love and affection I needed. Don’t get me wrong. My dad was at all the “big” things, like my baptism, and my high school graduation, but those were the only things he really attended. He wasn’t there when I was crying after skinning my knee playing ball in the street. He wasn’t there when I wanted someone to talk to about all the feelings I had during puberty. He just wasn’t there.

And it was easy to blame him because my uncle was so cool. He was the man I would have picked out if someone had asked what my version of a father would look like, even

wp-1525652049158..jpgthough he had no biological kids of his own. At times I even hoped that he would be around more, not that my dad would, because my uncle was undeniably cool. That was back in the days when cool was good, and everything else was bad. Cool meant he was awesome in an ’80s kind of way, which was the kind of way I needed.

My uncle bought me my first bike when I was ten, or nine, or whatever age it was. I fell down so many times I would forget I was supposed to be up on it, riding against the wind. But he was there with me, to help me balance even when I felt unbalanced, to get me back up on the horse when there wasn’t a horse to be seen. My uncle stayed there until I got it right, until I was riding around like I hadn’t a care in the world, and I loved him for it. Then he was gone, and I missed him again.

You see, I was a boy, and growing up it was hard to explain these kinds of boy ideas and feelings with my mom. My dad was hardly around, but he was more a stern disciplinarian anyway, and I felt like he was inaccessible in a way that my uncle never was. If my dad was a part of speech he would be a preposition — before, after, or apart. And my uncle was a verb — always active. I wanted to be just like him, to carry with me even just a small part of his essence, so that one day I would be cool too.

IMG95201805059511012093495HDR.jpgWell, that day was yesterday. I don’t even know how to describe my feelings while writing this. Maybe I’m cool, and maybe I’m not. I’m not sure how the adjective would apply these days, in this world of hashtags and virtuality. But I am sure of one thing — I am past the age now that my uncle was when he watched me graduate from high school, when he patted me on the back and told me he was proud of me. And yesterday, my nephew graduated from college. I clapped him on the back and told him I was proud of him. I’m sure it meant just as much to him as my uncle telling me the same thing so long ago meant for me.

As I stood there on that immaculate lawn, watching the boy I saw come into this world enter into adulthood, it was so surreal. He was the boy I helped learn how to read, the boy who spent his summers with us, the boy I put on my own shoulders and pretended he was an airplane. He was the boy who didn’t know if he was going to make it through 20180505_101905.jpgschool, the boy who I gave emotional and mental support to for all of those years. But he was more than that. He was a man, and I was just so proud of him for reaching that destination, for getting done with this one stage of his life, ready to move on to what awaits in the wide world.

And it was real for both of us. While he was no longer that boy, neither was I. I wasn’t just the fun uncle who helped him fly. I wasn’t just the one who took him to the Baseball Hall of Fame, or the one who told him he could when he didn’t think it was possible. I was my own uncle, just twenty years removed, giving him the best of what was in me, just as I had always gotten the best of my uncle. I hope he sees that, after all this time. I hope he realizes that I’ve always had his best intentions at heart. I know he saw the tears in my eyes, tears of joy at him realizing this step of his journey.

Because he is now a man, as I became one so long ago, and I know he needed me as that figure to look up to for so long. But he doesn’t need me for that anymore. I will always be there for him, but I was serious. He is his own man now, just as I arrived at that stage before him, and just as my uncle was there for me then, I am here for him now. I am my own uncle, but not because my nephew is me all over again. He isn’t. I am my own uncle because I see now from the other side of the glass, and while it’s surreal, it’s only natural.

As natural as can be.

Sam

“Love is a choice. It is the expectation of reciprocity. It is the possibility of a future, with a house, a picket fence, well-spoken kids, and a little dog. Love is the hope that it will be enough to build a life on, in the absence of anything else. Even when we know it can never be enough.” ~Anonymous

LOVE Bulb Sign

A friend and I had a conversation yesterday about love, how it can be the most devastating emotion in the startlingly long list of emotions that human beings can feel. She believes love is a choice, that we decide who we will love, when we will love, and how we will love. She thinks that when love leaves it is also a choice, that someone at some point decided to no longer love, to leave the space open that used to be filled.

I simply can’t get on board with that. For me, we don’t choose love. It chooses us. Think about all the times when a couple seemed perfect on the outside. They checked all the boxes that each other had down on paper. Yes, I also curl up on Friday nights in front of the fire with a good puzzle. Yes, I enjoy talking about long walks on the beach, but I would never in a million years actually do it. You too? Cool. We are meant to be together. This is love.

But we can’t just say “This is love,” and expect it to be so. We can’t think that just because someone fits our paradigm of what we think love should be, that we can make ourselves fall in love with them. It just doesn’t work that way, no more than saying that the best swimmer will win all of her races. It’s because emotion cannot be neatly put into boxes, and for every person who is drawn to someone similar to themselves, there is another one, equally pulled toward someone opposite. That’s the glory of love, but the devastating nature of the beast as well.

Because we don’t choose love. It chooses us. Love is not always neat and clean. It doesn’t always make things nice and tidy for us. It destroys as much as it builds and connects. Love is not something we can convince ourselves of just because everything else seems to work out perfectly. We either feel it or we don’t. Of course many of us have convinced ourselves that, with time, we can grow to love someone. But it doesn’t work that way. Love decides when, and where, and why. Only love. Never us.

That’s why love isn’t always reciprocated, because it isn’t something that can suddenly dawn on us. “Oh yes, I love you now, after you’ve chased me across several states.” Sure, we can convince ourselves it’s love, but real love doesn’t take convincing. Real love just is, and it is never a choice. We choose to give ourselves over to it or to pretend it doesn’t exist, but we don’t choose to either feel it or not. That’s not something even the most emotionally strong people can accomplish. Because love is more powerful than anything we can possibly imagine.

Yet love can’t keep us together. Because there are so many other reasons for people to be together and to stay together. Because there are so many other extenuating factors that determine the longevity of relationships. We are all human, and we make mistakes. We all have other defining factors to us than just loving another person. If it were as simple as “Love conquers all,” we would be living in a perfect world, a delusional world, but still a perfect world. And we all know that’s not possible.

So, no, we don’t choose love, but we do choose whether or not to let it guide us. We do choose whether or not we want to cultivate that love, whether or not we want to give it a seat at the table. And once we agree to its terms we can’t just let it sit there. Because love is fungible, malleable, able to be shaped or crafted to our needs, but also able to change with time, just like everything else. So when love chooses us, we have to first accept it for what it is, then we must commit to it, no matter what. As we all know, time is stronger than love, so we need to ride both like a tandem bike, to give our attention to growing that love over time.

And I understand where my friend is coming from. It’s a wonderful sentiment, that we can choose who we love, that we can choose when we love, and how we love. But it’s just not very realistic, in my opinion. It seems like a fairy tale to me, because I’ve seen so much that dissuades me from that notion. I just know that when love chose me, I let it wrap me up in its warm embrace, and then I went to work making sure that it would last for all time.

Sam

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