Booty Call

I hardly ever just tell a story for the story’s sake, but this one was so hilarious I can’t help recounting it here. Indeed, my daughter still tells random strangers this story when we’re in line at the grocery store and there’s more than one person in line ahead of us. I’ve told her before to leave it alone, but try debating with a seven-year old when she’s got her mind set on something. Anyway, here’s the story of the infamous booty call.

This was back when I was teaching regularly, and back when I had one of those regular phones, no touchscreen, just buttons, and no safety function or screen saver. In fact, the screen was so small and the phone so large that I had to squint to see the display (and there were no texting features). Okay, so this was in the stone age. I know you were thinking it. But you know you had one of those phones too, back when they were “state of the art.” So, I often had several items in my pockets in those days: my wallet, my car keys, a small notebook (for scribbling ideas that came to me during the day), and my phone. I would alternate which items would go in which of my pants pockets. On the day in question, I decided to slip my phone into my back pocket.

Then I started hearing this weird sound, like someone had a radio on mute, so I tried to figure out where it was coming from.

Well, I taught all morning, and didn’t get a break until around 10:30. By then I had sat down at my desk, gotten up to teach, sat down again for “office hours,” and finally got to the staff breakroom to decompress on my off period. Then I started hearing this weird sound, like someone had a radio on mute, so I tried to figure out where it was coming from. It sounded oddly familiar but I couldn’t place it, and the more I walked around looking for it, it seemed to sound like it was the same distance away from me. I was just flummoxed, and my break was quickly coming to an end. Strange, indeed. So I went back to class, and the muted music followed me as well. I was starting to think I was dealing with ghosts or something.

I got back to class, the music didn’t stop, and so I just started teaching over the sound, thinking I could drown it out. No such luck, as a student had her hand up almost right away. I called on her, and she said, “Your phone’s ringing.” I felt so incredibly dumb right then as it dawned on me. I mean, I hardly ever put my phone in my back pocket, and no one ever really called me on it, so I didn’t even guess it was my phone. Not for one second. I was so embarrassed that I walked directly out of the room while the students snickered after me. If I could have gotten red, I would have right then. Thank god for my skin tone. Once I got out into the hallway, I accosted another teacher, and had her watch my class for a minute while I went to figure out why someone was calling my phone.

Turns out it was my wife, and it also turns out that I had 10 messages from her in my voice mailbox as well.

Turns out it was my wife, and it also turns out that I had 10 messages from her in my voice mailbox as well. Expecting some huge emergency, my hands were shaking as I stood in the breakroom and I called her back at the house. I needn’t have worried, though, because as soon as she picked up, she said, “It’s about time!” in that exasperated voice she gets. But I know if she’s exasperated it must not be too serious. It’s when she gets that high-pitched voice that I know I should be worried. I audibly exhaled. Then she said, “you had our phone tied up for about an hour, so I got worried,” and it was my turn to be confused. She continued. “You called us, but we couldn’t make out what you were saying. It was all garbled up, so I clicked off. When I went to pick up the phone to make another call, you were still there, and it was still garbled. For about an hour the phone was tied up. Finally it clicked off, and I tried calling you back.” By then I could see where she was going with the story.

My butt had dialed them. It must have been when I sat down one of those time, the speed dial called them. So she had been listening to me teaching, heading to the breakroom, and going back to class. Who knows what all I had said to associates, colleagues, and students along the way. I even stopped by the bathroom. Oops. So, to this day, my daughter tells people in line at the grocery stores how, “Daddy’s butt called us. It was so funny, because your butt’s not supposed to use the phone.” And I will always discreetly turn away, so as to hide the offending part of me that called when it shouldn’t have. My own personal booty call.

Sam

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Hey Jealousy

It’s more than just the title of a Gin Blossoms song from the early ’90s. It makes people go from mild-mannered to schizo in a span of mere seconds, or over the course of relentless weeks, months, or even years. It kills relationships more often than anything else. Yeah, sure. You were growing apart before it, but nothing sounds the death knell like the big ‘J’. And no, I’m not talking about Jesus. I’m talking about Jealousy.

It is one of the basic human emotions that we tend to take for granted. It’s like love, hate, and gratitude, and it’s as universal as getting a haircut. No one likes it, though. It’s the red headed stepchild of the emotions world, but why? Is it because jealousy makes us doubt ourselves, doubt the people we love, or doubt intentions? Maybe it’s all of the above, or something altogether different. Regardless, it is a monster we must learn to slay before we can move on and trust again.

Too often, people don’t recognize the feeling when they have it. They can see it in others, but when it comes to themselves they are as blind as bats.

It starts with a hello. You see, the Gin Blossoms had something right there. In order to confront anything, we first have to admit that it’s an issue, and familiarize ourselves with what it is, and why it makes us feel the way we do. Too often, people don’t even recognize the feeling when they have it. They can see it in others, but when it comes to themselves they are as blind as bats. So we learn to use our sonar and it shows us more than we ever dreamt was going on in our heads and hearts.

For example, fellas, your girlfriend has lunch with her ex, who also happens to work with her. In fact, that was how they met and got together in the first place. The problem is that she didn’t tell you about it, but he mentioned it on his Facebook wall, and you saw it over her shoulder last night. Do you…

A) confront her about it, all angry and shaking?

B) send him a nasty Facebook message telling him where he can go?

C) completely ignore it on the outside while steaming on the inside, and letting it build up?

D) bring it up in a rational manner with your girlfriend, and talk out your fears?

If you said C then you are in the majority, and that is the major problem with jealousy. We let it eat us up inside, we stew on our own juices and let them corrode our relationships from the inside out, while our partners know absolutely nothing about it. Until we finally blow, and by then it’s too late. Maybe she just didn’t want you to blow the lunch out of proportion if you knew, but you’ll never hear her reasoning if you choose C, or it will be too late even if you do.

You see, the things we create in our own heads to explain things are so much wilder usually than what is really happening. Our imaginations are both wonderful and scary in where they can go and how fast. By the way, if you

Others have their own agendas, but your fears over your relationship are between you and your significant other.

answered A or B, those were also wrong choices. If you’re angry and shaking, odds are you’re not really listening to whatever she has to say. Which makes the conversation pointless. And if you bring the ex into it, that only complicates matters. It’s not him you should be concerned about. Others have their own agendas, but your fears over your relationship are between you and your significant other.

The solution is communication, like with most other issues you can have in a relationship, but remember to be nice about it. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Or at least I think so.

Sam

The Further Sayings of Theodicus

“Fears are theoretical manifestations of inner turmoil made real.”

“The world needs both evil and good to exist, and it is often difficult to tell the difference between the two.”

“If you have any doubts about a pending decision, wait a while longer. Never jump into something with half your heart.”

“The smartest man is he who knows the value of silence.”

“History is made up of lost moments, which, if found, can save our future.”

“A wise man walks the widest path.”

“Children are the purest parts of ourselves, for a moment.”

“Words are more powerful than hands. They can hurt you in many more ways.”

“A looking glass reflects only what is projected upon it.”

“The path to perfection is littered with failure.”

Sam

No. You Don’t Love Them “The Same.”

Kids are pretty slick when they wish to be, or when you haven’t been looking and then you suddenly turn around to face them again. My children are no exception, but for some reason they seem to be craftier than most, particularly the older they get. “Daddy, how come I can’t eat two cookies, but I just saw you eat three?” “Daddy, what did that man on TV mean when he held up his middle finger?” “Daddy, how are boys and girls different?” And then there’s that ultimate question that kids everywhere have asked their parents for years, and that parents have often answered the same way. The question is pretty slick, and the answer given is always a lie, even if the parents don’t realize it’s a lie. “Daddy, who do you love more?” “I love you both THE SAME.”

“As parents, we do show favoritism, and kids can see it. I think they see it even more than we do.”

No. You don’t love them THE SAME. That would imply that they are the same, and we both know that’s untrue. People are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. So why do parents always use this as their standard response? Because, simply put, they don’t want to take the time to give a real response, and they are put on the spot. But the biggest reason is that they don’t want their children to see them show any favoritism. That’s also the funniest reason, too, because as parents, we DO show favoritism, and kids can see it. I think they see it even more than we do. Let’s say you want to play a game with your kids, and it’s a game of partners. Which one do you pick? Do you pick the kid who tries really hard but is horrible at games, or the one who doesn’t do much but wins most games because she’s good at strategy?

It reminds me of gym class, when we would play a game. Let’s say it’s kickball. There are two captains chosen (I was never one of those), and they alternatively picked players for their teams. You always knew how it would go too, with the big, tough, athletic kids going first, and the nerds (like me) going last. In fact, I was hardly ever actually picked. I was the kid that was leftover, and the teacher would say, “And Jordan picks YOU,” like he had some kind of choice. Jordan would be scowling because he knew I could mess up his chances for victory, and I would be sighing because I agreed with him. What truly sucked, though, is that I’m incredibly competitive, and if I had been given some solid reinforcement that I COULD do it, that I COULD help the team, I probably would have done just that. Instead, I would hang my head, try to stay out of the way of the ball, and hope I might sprain my ankle so I could miss gym and the embarrassment that would follow from each time we would have to pick.

And too many parents are just like that. They choose time and again, and those choices are registered by their children, filed away for future reference, even when those parents don’t even know they’re doing it. The only way to get past that is to truly ask yourself the question your child asked you. Who do you love more? And why? If you break it down, and truly analyze it in your head, you can adjust and recognize all of the amazing traits in your other children. That’s the only way you can even hope to even scales that can never be even. You still can’t love them the same, but you can love them equally different. Think about that for a second. Equally different.

“Show them love for who they are, not for who you wish they were, or for who their siblings are.”

Now, before you think I’m some horrible ogre, I’ll give you another example that should resonate. Think about your circle of friends. Each of them have talents, skills, likes, and dislikes that are individual to them. And you enjoy each of them for something different that they give you and that you give them. You can’t possibly love them the same, but you appreciate each of them for the connections you have. Equally different connections that have become amazing friendships that will stand the test of time. The difference between your friends and your children is that you chose your friends, but your children come from you, and learn from you. That makes it even more imperative that you break down your relationships with each of them to maximize the amount of joy you get from them and that they get from you. Show them love for who they are, not for who you wish they were, or for who their siblings are.

So, then, that still leaves you with a question that needs answering. “Daddy, who do you love more?” “I love you both equally different.” Then, try explaining it. They may tune you out, but at least you’re giving it some real thought.

Sam

On Parenting and Parenthood

The Tevin Campbell Syndrome

Do you remember when the new building went in downtown and you were overjoyed? It was 50 stories high, easily the tallest building you had ever seen in person. And you had gone down to watch the men working (they sometimes whistled at you), knowing that someday you would be able to go inside. Then someday came and you saw how spacious the lobby was. All the men and women hustled in and out of its doors, and you were one of them. You felt special. But then a year passed, and the building wasn’t quite as special anymore. You weren’t sure why until you saw that they were about to start construction next door. And it happened all over again. Your adrenaline got pumping, your hopes sparked, and before you knew it, there was now an 80 story building that had you enthralled. And the poor 50 story building, as grand as it had seemed, just faded in comparison, disappearing from your view. This is what I call the Tevin Campbell syndrome.

For a brief period of time, he was one of the biggest R&B acts in the world, but he never lived up to the increased expectations.

I’m sure you don’t even remember at this point who Tevin Campbell is, unless you’re a Generation Xer like me, but he was the seeming heir apparent to Michael Jackson in the 1990s. He was even being produced by Michael’s former producer, Quincy Jones, and had people writing for him the likes of Prince and Diane Warren. And he was good too. He had a soulful voice that could also sing pop at the flip of a switch. With slick producing, and a boy-next-door look, Tevin Campbell took us for a ride that included such hits as “Round and Round,” “Can We Talk,” “I’m Ready,” “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do,” and “Always in My Heart.” For a brief period of time, he was one of the biggest R&B acts in the world, but he never lived up to the increased expectations. We checked out the lobby, and it was wonderful, but a larger building was built that dwarfed him in comparison, through no fault of his own. That larger building was called Usher, and the neo-soul revolution.

And it’s happened time and again throughout the course of history. This was just one example of someone or something not maintaining position because of a rival who comes out of nowhere and takes over. I’ve often wondered how the ones who lost out feel after they’ve been replaced. Imagine you’re the top lawyer in your firm. Your billable hours are higher than everyone else’s, you win 90% of your cases, and you have a great record when it comes to settling out of court for huge amounts of money. You’ve been the top lawyer at your firm for five years, you’ve settled into the role, and you like lording it up over others. However, a new associate comes along who has more drive, more charisma, and better settlement rates. She also wins 95% of her cases that make it to court, and before you can blink, she’s been made partner and you’re still sitting on the sidelines. Through no fault of your own, you lost out.

There’s always something bigger and better out there. It’s inevitable.

You see, there’s always something bigger and better out there. It’s inevitable. Some of us go our entire lives being big fish in a little pond, so we think the world owes us something, or we simply take it for granted, like Tevin Campbell. The expectations were overwhelming, and life took a different turn for him, as it does for us sometimes. The trick is how we deal with those twists and turns, how we adjust to the person who comes along who is a bigger fish in our pond. Do we decide we’re now worthless? I hope not, because we’re not. We’re still just as incredible as we always were, even if others don’t see it because our sun has been blocked by a cloud. We need to, like Tevin Campbell, channel our energies into what makes us happy, despite the odds, or the other people who come along to steal the spotlight. Did you know that we can do a lot more from behind the scenes?

Sam

Where You Belong: A Poem

I saw you today
In my periphery
An echo of the shadow
of a sigh
Escaped my throat
So amazed

I saw you today
Walking swiftly past
With that tell-tale smile
That you used to reserve for me
Polished up for the day

I saw you today
Arm in arm with her
The one who knew you better
Even when I thought I did

And I wish I could capture you
on film
I wish I could make you stay
Frozen in time and space
To serve my selfish needs
But you needed to fly
To soar
To reach for the stars

And while I understand
I need you to know
That I’ll never stop
loving you

I saw you today
In my periphery
The echo of a shadow
of a sigh
That will always exist
inside me
Where you belong.

Sam

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