Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

A Toast to My First Real Month as a Father of Three

Within minutes of walking through the door from Rhode Island, I watched in amazement as my two-year-old daughter pulled up her shirt and attempted to breastfeed one of her dolls.  Right then, I knew my life was about to become crazier than ever. 

For those unfamiliar, I was training with the military in Rhode Island from January to late March.  Naval Justice School involved me waking up at 9am on Saturdays, popping leftover pizza in the microwave, and watching college hoops all weekend.  IT WAS BASICALLY SLAVERY!!!  

Meanwhile, Jackie was home caring for our newborn son, as well as herding our toddlers 24/7.  I’m sure you’re probably wondering what she, as a temporarily single stay-at-home mom, was doing all day…


Must be nice
(courtesy of parentsociety.com)

Transitioning from the bachelor lifestyle in Rhode Island back to a father of three at home was about as brutal for me as, well, an episode of The Bachelor.  For instance, recently I introduced baby Brody to the bottle for the first time.  This experience began with me assuring my wife that “it’s cool, I got this” and ended with me screaming “JACKIE!  THIS ISNT WORKING!!!” ***

*** These days everyone seems to have a shirt that says “Keep Calm.”  Well, I want a shirt for occasions like this that says “MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO KEEP CALM!!!”

To make matters worse, Brody already has to deal with all that comes with being the youngest of three.   Indeed, Riley loves smothering him with open-mouth kisses, and Jimmy just loves smothering him.   Thankfully, he only cries when (a) he’s hungry, (b) he’s gassy, or (c) he sees Jimmy coming. 

And while Brody may not communicate often, his older brother sure does… 

First off, if Jimmy hears anything outside, he points to the sky and assures me it’s an “air-pane” (although half the time it’s actually our neighbor’s lawnmower).  When I get up with Jimmy early in the morning, he will continually ask for “Wiley” until she wakes up.  And finally, he thinks “no” is the proper answer to every question asked.  Watch:

Me: “Can I change your diaper?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You wanna go to bed?”  Jimmy: “No!”

Nothing abnormal so far, but wait…

Me: “You want ice cream?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You want chocolate cake?”  Jimmy: “No!” 

Clearly he has no idea what he’s missing… 

As for “Wiley,” well, she calls her mom “Jackie” (we’re working on this…), and her crib is something you would see on the show Hoarders.  She loves Greek yogurt more than John Stamos, and she eats her Oreos cream first – the way we do it in America!   


Future Oikos spokeswoman

Furthermore, let me just say I can only read “The Nose Book” to Riley so many times before it DRIVES. ME. CRAZY!  Fortunately, I have a solution called the “Three Reads Rule.”  It goes like this: I will read any book she wants three times, and then I will physically throw that book as far as I can across the room.  If Riley goes and gets it (which she usually does), then I will read it another three times.  Every now and then, though, she finds something else to do… and it’s glorious. 

Don’t judge.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bath time.  See, you would think that because I am now a Naval Officer, I would have some ability to control my little sailors while they’re in the water.  But you would be dead wrong.   Despite my orders not to do so, those kids genuinely love drinking bath water – especially when it’s flavored with bubbles.  Indeed, they wait until they think I’m not looking, and then they chug.  Come to think of it, they drink like Sailors! 

And now for a few words in remembrance of my last phone.   See, our kids love phones, and there are ample toddler-friendly apps for smartphones that tend to make dinnertime much more enjoyable.  However, this all comes at a steep cost.  Indeed, last week the date on my phone was June 3, 1981, and shortly thereafter it died forever.  So, if you want to know the kind of wear-and-tear two curious toddlers will put on your smartphone, then simply drop it in the nearest toilet bowl for an hour and see how it goes. 


The cell phone in Jimmy’s hands is doomed…

PS: on a related note, if I haven’t talked to you in years but randomly “like” your Facebook post about how “awful” Verizon’s customer service is, then odds are it was Riley messing with my new phone.  Besides, I have far more insulting things to say about Verizon. 

Anyway.  We recently celebrated Jimmy and Riley’s second birthday – two years old!  When Jackie was pregnant, experienced parents would encourage us to “enjoy every moment” because it’s over “before you know it.”  And although I certainly do not “enjoy every moment” of fatherhood, I try to make myself aware of those special moments that are bigger than they originally seem…

The other night Riley was crying in her crib for a solid hour and a half, refusing to sleep.   So, I reluctantly marched up to her room and sang Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” until she fell asleep in my arms.  For about 30 minutes, I sat on the rocking chair and thought about how much more incredible Jackie and my journey has been since these kids came along for the ride.  This is how parenting apparently works – constant chaos sprinkled with the occasional realization that you would have it no other way. 

I’m thankful God has given me a gassy-but-happy baby, a daughter that loves “The Nose Book,” and a son that thinks your lawnmower is an “air-pane.” 

So grab a glass of bath water and let’s toast to a crazy month with Brody, Jimmy… and “Wiley” too.  Cheers! 


***In Loving Memory of Jim’s Droid (2011-2013)*** 

How I Darn Near Missed the Birth of our Newborn Son

In the military, if you show up on time, then you’re late.  Well, on February 28, 2013, my day began as typical Thursday at Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.  But one frantic phone call, one delayed flight, two car rides, 420 miles and 10 chewed up fingernails later, I arrived at Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, VA for the birth of our third child with just 10 minutes to spare.  Right on time.

I started getting text messages from my wife at 4:30am letting me know she couldn’t sleep and wanted to talk.  At that ungentlemanly hour, I don’t remember calling her back, but my call history says I did.   Truth is, I was tired that morning because I had labored hard the day before.  Little did I know my wife was in labor…

At 5:20am, I headed out to “Pain Before Breakfast” – Naval Justice School’s “super fun” weekly five mile run around Newport in the freezing cold.  After the run, I got back and immediately headed to class, and still hadn’t really talked to Jackie.  I figured if something was really wrong I would know about it.  Right?    

So.  Back at school, I sneak out during class to check up on Jackie, and the conversation goes like this:

Me: You alright? 

Jackie: Yea, whoa, uhh

(10 second pause…)



Contractions can be such a conversation killer…

I had planned on going home that afternoon anyway, but after a few of these conversations I realized I had to get back immediately.  And shortly thereafter, I left class with perhaps the greatest excuse I have ever had: the birth of my child. 

On the way up to Providence Airport, I started thinking about my odds of making it for the delivery – something that was incredibly important to me.  They weren’t good, and a call from Jackie telling me to “hurry up” made them even worse.  It was at this point that I finally realized she was in labor, nearly seven hours after that whole process had begun. 

Upon arrival I parked, raced inside, and started working my magic to get on an earlier flight.  You could tell I was in a hurry cuz I parked in the garage instead of saving $3/day by parking in another county.  I told the airline reps that my wife was in labor and I needed to get back ASAP (and I may or may not have fumbled with my military ID for bonus sympathy points…).  I got the following responses:

– Southwest: “We don’t have a better flight.  If I were you, I’d go talk to the other airlines.” 

– United:  “We have an earlier flight, but it’s full.  Try US Air.” 

– US Air: “We have a flight, but it’s only 20 minutes earlier and it will cost you $450 to get on it.”  

Uhh, what’s behind door number four? 

Bottom line was: I was stuck on my flight.  And when I got to the gate, I discovered my flight was delayed by 30 minutes.  And two hours later when I finally land in Baltimore, the stewardess tells us there’s a plane in our gate, which means more delays.  My unborn child, in the meantime, is not delaying.

As soon as they opened the doors to the plane, I raced to the front.  One lady, with a tone of disappointment and speaking on behalf of everyone around her, shouts “hey you’re not the only one with places to go!”  Opportunistically, I paused, calmly looked her straight in the eye, and said: “my wife is in labor right now and I’m trying to get to the delivery room… now where are you going?” 

Got em!        

So anyway, I’m at BWI airport, which is a solid hour and change from the hospital without traffic (and there’s always traffic).  I get a call from Jackie’s phone.  It’s her friend Kristen, calling to tell me that the doctor needed to perform a C-section in 30 minutes.   There was no hope: I wasn’t gonna make it on time.  At this point I just prayed that Jackie and our baby would be ok. 

Jackie’s dad picked me up and we headed down a route that those in the Washington, D.C. area avoid with everything they can: 95 to 495 to Route 66.  At rush hour, it’s like being sentenced to three separate deaths.  Kill me. 

I started letting my family know that the baby was about to be born and that I wasn’t gonna make it.  But after a while, I noticed traffic was surprisingly not that bad.  I braced for the inevitable sea of red brake lights that epitomize the DC beltway, but it didn’t come.  Weird, I thought. 

Then, a glimmer of hope: a text message from Jackie’s phone.  “How far away?”  She had been trying to stall this delivery with all her might.  I was easily 35 minutes away, but I told her I would be there “20 minutes max.”  So yea, I lied about how far away I was.  BUT MY WIFE DOES IT TO ME ALL THE TIME!   

At some point I got word that the doctor was “no kidding” gonna deliver this child in 20 minutes, and that Jackie had already headed back to the OR (yea, thats right, I say “OR” instead of “Operating Room” cuz I’ve seen a few episodes of Greys Anatomy…).  My driver pulled some James Bond stuff (while obeying ALL local traffic laws, of course…) and got me to the hospital 10 minutes later.  When we pulled up, I sprinted through the lobby without applying hand sanitizer.  There was no time to disinfect! 

I got to room 313 on the 3rd Floor, where Jackie’s friend Kristen briefed me on what was going on.  With just under 10 minutes til go-time, I changed into what can best be described as an albino clown costume, and headed over to the OR myself.  

Lets do this thing!

Lets do this thing!

As I waited to go in, an air of panic suddenly began to fill the hallway.  Jackie’s doctor needed to come IMMEDIATELY.  Apparently the baby’s heart rate had dropped way below normal levels.  “Heart rate 56” some nurse declared.  When I was at one of the appointments, this baby’s heart rate was in the 180s, so at that point I knew that things weren’t going well. 

I was escorted into the OR and grabbed the hand of a tearful mother in fear of the worst.  At that moment I realized why God had parted the Red Sea for me that day – so I could be there with Jackie at that very moment.  I told her it would be ok and that she was doing great.  I then prayed that things would actually be ok.

It took a while, but eventually they pulled our baby out.  I didn’t even know if it was a boy or girl, and at this point, all I noticed was that it wasn’t making any noise, and it looked kinda blue.  Time stopped while I begged this baby to cry.  “Please just cry!”  I tell ya, 5 seconds never went by so slowly. 

And then it happened: a big wail.  And boy, what a relief it was that the baby was ok.  And speaking of boy, a quick glance “down there” and I realized I was the father of another son.  Nice!  His temporary name was “Boy.” 

It's a dude, trust me.

It’s a dude, trust me.

For about nine months, Jackie and I had been calling this baby “Pat” because I wanted to be surprised by the sex.  Jackie, who hates surprises, was shocked that I never wanted to know.    It was killing her that she had a secret and couldn’t tell it to me – which naturally I loved.    

So I’m standing there filming everything at this delivery and out of nowhere some nurse hands me this creepy set of scissors.  She then gives me the green light to cut the slimy, odd-looking “umbilical cord” poking out of my son’s belly.  A few reiterations of “no, it’s ok” later, and I had earned myself the look of death from the nurse in Operating Room 2.  It got a little awkward in there, I’m not gonna lie… 

From here, they took the baby and me (but not Jackie) to another room in Labor and Delivery, where, in theory, parents get to enjoy the first precious moments of a child’s life.  But that’s not actually what happens… 

See, almost any father will tell you that their primary concern while the baby takes its first breaths of fresh air is maximizing the potential of social media, email, text message, and other forms of electronic communication.  In other words, this is not a Kodak moment – it’s a Smartphone moment.  

So I’m firing away pics and posts and at some point Jackie gets wheeled in.  We immediately begin negotiating names.  This too was awkward because nurses were hovering over us and pretending not to listen in on our conversation.   I wanted the boy’s name to be “Brody.”  I mean sure, that’s the name of a terrorist on the show Homeland, but he’s actually a really nice and sensitive terrorist…      

Here’s the simple truth: Jackie wanted “Brady,” but I can’t stand the New England Patriots.  So we agreed on Brody.   And I think it’s the perfect name for him.   Thus far, nicknames include: Bro, Bro-ham, Brode Master, Sergeant Brody, and Brodo Baggins.  Please help me add to this list – it will only make our “Bromance” that much stronger.    

After two days in the hospital, we came home and introduced Jimmy and Riley to their new younger brother.  They were excited, and Riley wasted no time initiating her brother in the family hierarchy. 

"I'll take this"

“I’ll take this”

Now I’m back at Naval Justice School, where I am constantly thinking about my still-recovering wife and always-crazy children.  Thankfully, she’s surrounded by awesome people who have been preparing meals, cleaning our house, and chasing our toddlers everywhere.  Heck, perhaps Jimmy and Riley had me trained to chase down our newest child from Naval Justice School to Fair Oaks Hospital in just a few hours. 

To think:  ten minutes later, and I would have missed it. 

Would have missed this too...

Would have missed this too…

You Can’t Handle the Truth: Life at Naval Justice School

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jim Howland, reporting for duty. Kind of.

Well folks, the Navy has sent me back to Newport, RI to get my knowledge on at Naval Justice School – ten weeks of learning all the fun stuff that comes with being a military lawyer. More on that in a bit…

I left January 22, and I assure you I was in a glass cage of emotion. Leaving Jackie and the kids was incredibly hard for me – in fact, there may or may not have been tears as I hugged Jimmy and Riley goodbye. What?

Anyway, my sadness quickly turned into anger as I paid toll after toll after painful freaking toll heading north on Interstate 95. $6 to get out of Maryland. $13 to get through Delaware. The farther north I went, the more I shelled out. At one point, I actually considered this a violation of my Constitutional right to travel.

And this, my friends, is why people hate lawyers.

Eventually, in a moment of golden irony, I hit the New York City skyline right as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ rendition of “Empire State of Mind” came on the radio. In retrospect, this was probably not a coincidence. Either way, the volume went up and so did my whiteness factor. What can I say? Big lights will inspire me.

Fortunately, I arrived at Naval Station Newport safe and sound. And pretty much broke.

So. First day of class, and there I am. Hopelessly lost in a room of about 25 Naval Officers and 35 Marines. I knew two of them. It took very little time for me to notice a stark contrast between the Marines and the Sailors. Allow me to expand a bit…

First, Marines just talk differently. They say “rah” all the time, regardless of the appropriateness. They all have crazy stories from Officer Candidate School and The Basic School, and they are not afraid to share them. During the first few months of college I would meet people who went to the same high school and always wanted to talk about how awesome their experience was. Well, that’s kind of how it feels when I’m around these guys. Fortunately, their stories are hilarious.

A few other things: they dip, they curse, and they are not your normal lawyers. In fact, they all hate it here, and would much rather be in the forest somewhere with their faces painted and a rifle in their hands. Oorah?

Anyway. Class begins at Zero Seven Thirty and goes until Seventeen Hundred. To clarify: we do absolutely nothing at Zero Dark Thirty, and the only thing being fired at us is PowerPoint Slides. But I assure you what we do is dangerous.

Here’s what we’ve learned how to do thus far:

-write wills (well, technically a computer program actually writes it);
-write letters (with fancy letterhead!); and
-write…more letters.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme.

We’ve also had a riveting debate over whether the Navy Correspondence Manual should require two spaces after a period, or just one. I for one am a fan of two spaces, but I tread carefully because this debate gets personal.

You may be thinking: when are we gonna learn how to bust “Code Reds” out of Guantanamo Bay? Well, we haven’t had that class yet. But I did spot a Code Red Mountain Dew at the Commissary. So that’s exciting.

On Thursday mornings, we partake in a fun little activity called “Pain Before Breakfast.” This is a five mile run at five thirty in the morning. Five. Freaking. Thirty. Of course, attending Pain Before Breakfast is entirely voluntary – kind of the same way you “voluntarily” get in the car when a mob boss pulls up and asks you to join him. And in case my Executive Officer happens to read this, I would like to go on record as saying I absolutely love Pain Before Breakfast and look forward to it every week. Smile.

Fortunately, Pain Before Breakfast is not the only way I strive to exercise – I’m also on the basketball team. For a good laugh, watch me play basketball. Seriously it’s hilarious.

As for Newport, it’s beautiful, but it’s cold. If the low temps don’t make you miserable, the wind will. Sometimes I drive literally across the street because, trust me, it’s worth it. I brought my golf clubs with me thinking I might be able to get out and play. Those poor clubs have been sentenced to solitary confinement in my trunk for the next seven weeks.

And speaking of confinement, I call Jackie (now 36 weeks pregnant) at night to check in on her and see how she’s hanging in there. Here’s how our nice little conversations go…

Me: so how was your day?
Jackie: it was fine. JIMMY, PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW!
Me: Nice. What are you getting into tonight?

Good talk.

And as much as I miss the kids, I do not miss getting up with them at night. No chance. Eight hours of sleep is a glorious perk of my time here, and I know that when I come home we will have a newborn. Here’s another perk: I have a maid. And she’s awesome: she is a mother of two who works 5 days a week, and then goes to school at night because she wants to become a teacher. God bless ‘Murrica!

So that’s Naval Justice School. I’m just doing my part to kill the terrorists one legal ethics opinion at a time. More to come.

Code Red. Oorah. Over.

The Old “Remember? We Talked About This…” Response

My wife and I have been married for over five years now.  And since my wife reads this blog, I would just like to highlight that they have been THE FIVE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE!  From day one, we’ve always known that communication is extremely important, and now that we have kids that scream, laugh, poop, bathe, eat, get sick, and need someone to put their boots on, it’s more important than ever.  Fortunately I’ve learned a thing or two about marital communication.   

 For instance:

– “Hey when’s dinner?” is not the first thing I should say when I walk through the door.  And it’s best if I don’t say this ever. 

– Telling my wife to “chill” or “relax” is a very bad idea.  Very very bad.  

– In a similar vein, repeatedly asking my wife “what’s the matter with you?” “are you tired?” or “is something wrong?” will earn me the following response: “I’M FINE!” (and that’s a lie). 

– When my wife tells me about how someone hurt her feelings, it’s not my invitation to fix the problem.  Usually, “I can’t believe she said that” is the most supportive comment I can make.   

– Referring to my wife as “MA’AM!” in the middle of an altercation makes said altercation much worse.  

– When my wife says “I’m done talking about this,” it’s usually not true at all.  Typically, this means we’re just getting started.

– “Would you mind if I check the scores real quick?” means I will be watching college football for the next three hours.  My wife is catching on to this…

– And most importantly, tone is everything.  Compare “would you like me to give the kids a bath?” with “SHEESH DO YOU WANT ME TO JUST GIVE THE KIDS A BATH OR SOMETHING?!?!”

There are many more.  But the important thing is that I’m learning how to navigate myself through many of these marital mazes – for the most part.  But there’s one blaring exception; a verbal trap for which I have yet to find an escape.  It’s the old “Remember? We talked about this….” response.  As in, “remember?  We talked about you fixing the bathroom sink this weekend…” 

Let’s break this down a little bit farther, shall we? 

First, the “Remember?” aspect of this phrase is not actually a question at all – it’s a courtesy.  Indeed, my wife knows darn well I don’t remember.  I never remember.  My conversational memory has a shelf life of about 20 minutes – and often much less.  You could literally tell me all your plans for the weekend, and I still might follow up with “that’s cool, so what are you up to this weekend?”  Are you serious??? 

I’m no physician, but I’ll go ahead and diagnose myself with a bad case of selective memory.  For instance, I can tell you off the top of my head that Tony Romo went to Eastern Illinois University, and that RGIII ran a 4.33 at the 2012 NFL scouting combine.  I remember that George Newton is the name of the dad in the movie “Beethoven,” and that my first diorama was a depiction of the explorer Sir Francis Drake.  I even remember the quadratic formula!  How awesome is my memory???

And yet, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me when my wife’s weekly bible study begins, and rely heavily on Microsoft Outlook to remember her birthday.  I’m not even close when it comes to guessing my children’s weight, and our family doctor’s name is Dr… I forget.  And the garbage goes out on…Tuesday? 

As you can see, my memory is great with regards to information that could easily be found on Wikipedia, and terrible when it comes to stuff I learn through day-to-day conversation.  So when my wife asks me if I remember a particular discussion, odds are I’m already in trouble.   

And then there’s the dagger: “we talked about this.”  Somehow my wife and I have tons of conversations about all kinds of relevant things – all of which go right over my head.  Attending a Father’s Day luncheon with my wife’s family? We talked about it.  Replacing the burnt out light bulbs? We talked about it.  Watching someone else’s kids next Saturday?  You get the idea.  Apparently we talked about all of this. 

So naturally, “remember, we talked about this” is a functional conversation ender.  I’m left with three entirely undesirable options:   

1. Claim that I do remember the conversation.  This one is dangerous because it requires me to provide details, and I never remember the details.  Where did we talk about this?  When did we talk about this?  What color shirt was I wearing?  These are the kinds of things that one must know when disputing the specifics of an interaction, and there’s pretty much zero percent chance of that happening.  If I take this approach, odds are I’m bluffing: I don’t actually remember a thing. 

2. Concede that I do not remember the conversation.  If I don’t remember the conversation, then I have absolutely no street cred when it comes to disputing its details.  Watch:

Me: “I don’t remember talking about that!”

My wife: “Well we did.”    

Me:  “Oh.”  

3. Insist the conversation never happened.  This is the route I usually take, but it’s ultimately a dead end because proving that a conversation never happened is ridiculously hard.  Furthermore, my wife is either insanely good at remembering details, or else she’s a ridiculously good bluffer.  Watch:

Me: “We never talked about this!”

My wife:  “Yes we did. You were sitting on the couch messing around on your tablet.  It was last Saturday, right after dinner.”

Me: (Hangs head cuz it’s probably true).  Checkmate. 

At least I’m not alone:

True story: as I am writing this this very post, my wife calls me and tells me we’re babysitting my niece tomorrow night.  Why?  Because my brother-in-law has his office Christmas party, and we agreed that we would watch her a few weeks ago.  You know what’s coming: 

“Remember? We talked about this…”  

Oh right.  Of course we did.    

A pic from a photoshoot my wife planned.  I'm sure we talked about it though...

A pic from a photoshoot my wife planned. I’m sure we talked about it though…


A Naughty and Nice List of Popular Christmas Songs

My wife thinks pretty much all Christmas music is great… which is pretty much 100% false.  Look, I hate to come across as a scrooge (especially after my last post), but my kids need to know that some of the most popular Yuletide carols are incurably cheesy, outdated, or downright confusing. 

As a newly licensed attorney, I’ve done them a service and put some of the biggest Christmas hits on trial.  And I do solemnly affirm that what you are about to read is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…you know…the  truth. 

Frosty the Snowman (every single version)

This one is no contest.  Indeed, there are certain Christmas songs that are terrible to me no matter who sings them.  When it comes to Frosty the Snowman, you could give Alicia Keys a piano and a full year to make this song easier to swallow and it still would go down about as well as a Cinnamon Challenge.  Which leaves me with one question: does anyone (besides my wife) actually like this song?  Be honest…    

Verdict: Naughty (and jury recommends the death penalty)

The Twelve Days of Christmas

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” – ok, just stop right there.  See, to me this song is the Christmas equivalent of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” only more annoying because usually people who sing “99 Bottles” quit at about 97.  This song goes on for 12 grueling days, while my tolerance for it lasts about as long as I can hang with Crest Whitening Strips (which is like 3 days).  By the Fourth Day of Christmas? I might actually ask that you switch it back to Frosty the Snowman… 

Verdict: Naughty on all 12 counts

Feliz Navidad (by that Puerto Rican guy who sings it) 

Quick: name every single Christmas song sung in Spanish off the top of your head.  Ha, knew it.  This is the only one.  And I’ve only ever heard one version of it, too.  But the dude who sings this song sounds so genuinely happy to be wishing the listener a Merry Christmas from the bottom of his heart that it’s hard not to rock out to this one.  It’s a classic. 

Verdict: Simpatico (which means nice)  

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (any version) 

That “all the reindeer” just looooooved Rudolph after one foggy Christmas Eve is likely false.  In reality, Rudolph’s hero status probably lasted a few days (at most) until the in-crowd reindeer got jealous and started asking questions like “who does this Rudolph guy think he is?” I mean, did everyone at Hogwartz love Harry Potter just because he had special abilities?  Heck no, and in fact he spent his entire childhood fighting off haters because of them.  Which is why I might buy it if “some” of the reindeer loved Rudolph after his epic Christmas Eve performance, but I refuse to believe “all” of them did. 

Proposed alternative ending: on the very last Christmas Eve of Rudolph’s eligibilty to guide the sleigh, Vixen starts a slow-clap “Rudy” chant that the entire North Pole gets into, which prompts a reluctant Santa to put him in with the rest of the squad.  Later, awesome orchestra music plays in the background as Rudolph is carried off the football field snow.  Why not?    

Verdict: Hung Jury

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas (any version):

First off, the concept of a “white Christmas” is totally overrated.  Christmas is the 2nd busiest travel time of the year, so one person’s enjoyable White Christmas is another person’s cancelled flight – thanks a lot.  Second, snowstorms are awesome when they trigger school cancellations and telework policies.  Christmas Day?  We already have that one off, so any Nor’easter on that arrives with Santa is a wasted snow-day as far as I’m concerned.  Instead, why not dream of a “White Tuesday, January 23”, and roll MLK Day into a nice four-day weekend? 

Verdict: Naughty

Walkin In a Winter Wonderland (any version):

Speaking of lyrics, these ones are downright confusing. First off, I don’t know who Parson Brown is, so I would have a hard time pretending that a snowman resembles him.  Secondly, as a kid I always thought they were saying “later on, welcome spider” (vice “we’ll conspire”).  Naturally, I had questions about why a spider would be featured in a Christmas song, but didn’t think too much of it because other random animals (i.e. the bluebird, the new bird, etc.) make cameo appearances in this one as well.   

Verdict: Naughty

Little Drummer Boy:

This song is usually good when the right person sings it (can we say Justin Bieber featuring Busta Rhymes???).  My only issue here is the notion that some ox and some lamb actually “kept time.”  I’ve always wanted to know: how exactly did they keep time, and why was it even necessary?  I mean, did Mary and Josph put this Drummer Boy on the clock or something? 

One last question (well, two): if keeping time was such an important task (which I presume it was because it’s mentioned in this song), then why would it be delegated to an ox and a lamb when there were three perfectly qualified Wise Men standing right there?  Could this have been Bethlehem’s version of a quarterback controversy?  Clearly I can’t get past this!  

Verdict: Mistrial

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree (you’ll know which one I’m talking about in a second…)

There’s only one version of this song that I kind of like, and it’s the version featured in Home Alone that plays when Kevin McCallister tricks the evil Wet Bandits into thinking his family is celebrating Christmas at home (they were actually in France).   Big props for the life-size cutout of Michael Jordan featured in this scene. 

Note: and speaking of life-size cutouts, am I to presume that these were the evolutionary precursor to the Fathead?  I mean, that would make sense…

Verdict: (Kind of) Nice

All I Want For Christmas Is You (by, you guessed it, Mariah Carey)

A friend once told me he and one of his buddies listened to “All For You” by Janet Jackson on repeat for the entire duration of a road trip through the Midwest just to see if they could do it.  And because I’m a huge fan of awesomely terrible ideas, I hereby create the “All I Want For Christmas Is You” Challenge. To win, you must drive the longest distance in a car listening to nothing but this Mariah Carey gem on repeat.  Winner gets the special edition DVD of Love Actually!

Verdict: Nice the first few times, Naughty the next 1,582 times..

The Christmas Shoes (the one from that Lifetime movie…)

The only reason this song is on this list is because Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas Movie season is now upon us.  Having endured some of these movies myself, I note that while most of them have predictably happy endings, the movie “The Christmas Shoes” ends about as merrily as does “Titanic.”  Now, I’m not saying that any grown man would get emotional during either movie, but if you happen to head out of the room during the scene where the boy gives his dying mother the Christmas shoes he spent the whole movie trying to acquire, it might be for the best.  Of course, I made it through this scene with no problem.  I’m just saying that in case you happen to have that issue…

Verdict: Naughty (and this writer keeps his man-card)

O Holy Night!

Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? In my opinion, no song represents the true spirit of Christmas more than this one.  And like “Amazing Grace,” it’s one that will move me regardless of whether I’m having a great day or just watched a strand of lights on the top of the house go dark. Our church pastor does a pretty sweet rendition every year at our Christmas Eve service, but I challenge anyone to find a more awesome version than the one by David Phelps.   And if you do end up watching this video, PLEASE tell me you spy the amazing mustache-mullet combo in the background as an added bonus.   (Skip to about 1:30)

Verdict: O so nice!   

Well, that about wraps up my list (and yes, I’ve checked it twice).  Perhaps we’ll have to wait and see how some of these songs do on appeal.  In the meantime, I want to assure my kids that it’s ok to enjoy lots of seasonal music this time of year.  It’s just that if they’re going to listen to Christmas music, then those songs had better be good… for goodness sake. 

Definitely not dreaming of a white Christmas...

Definitely not dreaming of a white Christmas…

It’s Official: I’m Becoming a Grumpy Old Man

When I was about 10 years old, I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game with my late grandfather, Ray Howland.  And while I don’t remember a thing about the actual game, I do remember a group of guys about two sections over trying desperately to get a “wave” going  (you know, the kind where everyone stands up and shouts when it comes your way…). Naturally, this was far more worthy of my attention than the game.  And to their credit, these guys eventually got a wave going all the way around the stadium.  A resounding win for the drunks in Section 314. 

Because I watched this wave develop, I felt unusually invested.  I was especially proud to stand up and shout each time it went by.  But my grandfather just sat there unfazed.  “Why aren’t you standing up?”  I asked with an accusatory tone.  His response, uttered on a day which will forever live in infamy, was as follows:  “I hate the wave. It’s obnoxious.”

If you’re wondering how I took this, well, here’s a clue: he might as well have told Tinkerbell he didn’t believe in fairies.  I mean seriously, who doesnt love the wave? 

Well, this whole interaction became even more impactful to me about four years ago at a baseball game I went to with my own father.  Wouldn’t you know it, another wave got started.  And wouldn’t you know it, my dad echoed the very sentiments of his father before him:  the wave is “distracting” to those “actually watching the game.”  I couldn’t believe it.  Et tu? 

Whatever my grandfather had, my dad now had as well.  And I knew it was only a matter of time before I got it as well.  Or, as a famous king once declared: “Simba, you must take your place in the Circle of Life.”

 Well, this weekend marked my 10 year high school reunion.  The event itself was incredible.  Indeed, I went to an awesome high school and graduated with a group of people that I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of my life.  Mandatory “Go Warhawks!”    

But the occasion provided me with an opportunity to contrast “High School Me” with “Current Me”.  And upon reflection, I feel I am heading in the direction of my forefathers a bit faster than I originally hoped.  Which is why I now present to you several observations about how I’ve changed since high school, and why I fear my love for the “wave” may expire in the coming years.  Here goes nothing.  

— I drink diet soda now – something I promised myself I would never do.  But, diet soda has fewer calories (true) and the same great taste (false).  So there. 

— I am truly bothered when lights are left on unnecessarily in the house, or when the heat is going and the door is left open.  My wife recently caught me asking her (in an annoyed voice) why it was necessary that we have “every single light in the house on at once.”  Coming soon: “this is why we can’t have nice things,” and “if you keep it up I’m turning this car around.”   

— A lot of popular music just doesn’t make sense to me.  I was in the car recently flipping through radio stations and stumbled upon a catchy song in which I could have promised you the guy was saying “Open Condom Style.”  How inappropriate!  (Google assures me it’s actually: “Oppan Gagnam Style”).   And “party rock is in the house tonight?”   What does that even mean?

— Speaking of music, I kind of actually like the song “Call Me Maybe.”  This is something I would never have admitted in high school.  And since I’m making confessions:  I always secretly enjoyed listening to the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and 98 Degrees.  Oh yea, and I shed a tear at the end of “Titanic.” Conscience cleared. 

— I was baptized and became a follower of Jesus Christ.  This is something that I won’t joke about because it’s a pretty big deal.  The changes in my life this has sparked are too numerous to list on this blog, but here’s a subtle one:  I’ve noticed that substituting the word “blessed” for the word “lucky” gives me instant Christianity street cred (something I’m always looking for). 

       Ex1: “I am so lucky blessed to have finally found my keys.” 

       Ex2: “I am so lucky blessed that the Redskins covered the spread against the Giants.”*** 

***Obligatory disclaimer: I don’t gamble.  Oh wait dang it, I forgot about my fantasy football leagues.  So I guess I do kind of gamble…

— I watch shows that would embarrass the high school version me.  Food Network,  HGTV, you name it.  “Is this woman gonna finish icing those cupcakes before time runs out? The suspense is killing me!”  In fairness, getting my wife to watch college basketball with me is something I have had to earn.  I do this by banking hours of TLC, Army Wives, and Christmas movies, and then cashing them in when my Indiana Hoosiers are on.  That’s my story and I’m stickin to it. 

— When it rains, I almost instinctively declare that “the grass could really use it.”  Enough said. 

— I have hit the point in my life where the cost of going to the movies is a deal-breaker – something that never mattered in high school.  “12.50 for a movie?!?!” When I was a kid, we walked to school uphill both ways in the snow.  And movies were only $6.   

— I am genuinely excited for my friends when they post things on Facebook like “(insert baby name) just went pee-pee in the potty!” And while most people think Daylight Savings Time is awesome cuz it gives them an extra hour in the fall, I know that it throws everything off with the kid’s sleeping schedule.  Basically, it’s evil! 

— Per family tradition, I leave early from concerts and sporting events to ensure that I won’t get stuck in traffic.  This is a classic old man operation.  So while you’re enjoying the second song of Tim McGraw’s encore, don’t be surprised if you see me whispering “we’re gonna be stuck here for hours” to myself while I frantically scan the parking lot.  Yup. 

— In 2002, my precious little sister (10 years younger) watched Barney.  Now she’s in a sorority.  Plus, I recently talked to a college student who had never seen a single episode of “Saved By The Bell.”  So yea, I’m getting old. 

— Lastly: I’m a Republican now.  If anyone by chance has the ability to time-travel back to 2002, please do not tell this to the high school version of me.  It would devastate a big-time Al Gore fan.

There are many more examples of my old-manhood.  But there’s hope for me, isn’t there?  I mean, I still rock out to Michael Jackson.  I still love wearing awesomely tacky American Flag clothes.  AND I STILL LOVE THE “WAVE”! 

Well, one thing’s for sure: I am going to cling on to 29 years old with all my might.  Because 30 brings a whole new level of “you’re getting old” that I’m not sure I’m ready for.  Heck before I know it, I’ll be RSVP’ing to my 30 year high school reunion, and by then my case of “Grumpy Old Manhood” will be fully incurable. 

One of the symptoms?  Explaining to my grandchildren that the “wave” is quite distracting to people trying to watch the game.  Can’t wait.


Chronicle of a Conservative Beatdown

“I don’t normally post about politics, but…”  Whoa there.  Dangerous first words.  Typically when I see this on Facebook, its followed by some irrational, vomit-inducing political rant that I wish I had never seen.  Well, I’m about to make the same mistake.  But its election night, darn it.  And my team is about to get their butts kicked.  Again.  How can that be???

I had an early indication that Romney would lose when I showed up at Greenbrier West Elementary School at 6am to help pass out those annoying sample ballots they shove in your face before you go in to vote.  Yea, that was me. 

Anyway, I show up at the polling place and I note a stark contrast in campaign swag: the Republicans are giving out left-over Halloween candy, and the Dems are giving out Starbucks and donuts.  Early evidence of a strong Democratic ground game. 

Before I go any further, I note that I consider myself a fairly reasonable conservative Republican with occasional moderate tendencies.  For instance, I can’t stand where this country is headed, but at the same time I don’t think it’s anyone’s business that the President plays golf on the weekends (in fact I think its cool).  And I could not care less what President Obama’s law school transcript looks like.  Seriously people. 

And then there’s my wife.  Her political views range from extreme Republican to borderline fascism.  Like, when I say I think global warming is legit, I’m dismissed as a “FREAKING LIBERAL!” and the conversation abruptly ends.  So yea, as much as I love her, we don’t talk politics very often.

Anyway.  I’m volunteering at the polls and some clown walks up and starts planting Obama yard signs all over the place.  Part of me wants to tell him how ridiculous he looks thinking this will make any difference whatsoever in the outcome of the election, but then I realize that I am here handing out flyers that will also probably have no impact whatsoever on the outcome of this election.  So it’s fair game. 

Then he looks at me and says “DOES GOP STAND FOR GREED OVER THE PEOPLE?!?!”  Note: this is how political nerds trash-talk.  In a moment of vulnerability, I smiled and said nothing.  Sweet comeback.  This exchange is yet another indication of a strong Obama ground game. 

As I continue to hand out sample ballots, I am gently reminded by the election official that I am standing closer than 40 feet to the door of the polling place – a big time no-no. If I were a Black Panther, Fox News would be all up in my grill right now.  But fortunately the networks took it easy on me.  Phew.

After my shift (6am – 8:30am), I vote and head to work.  And with all the Facebook posts about the election, my productivity levels reached March Madness status. Yep, I was glued to my smartphone. 

And here’s a statistical breakdown of what I saw:

–          % of people who told me I need to exercise my right to vote: like, 100. 

–          # of sappy posts about democracy: like, 80. 

–          # of “the world is gonna end no matter who gets elected” posts: 19.

–          # of “this is why I voted for my candidate” rants: too many to count. 

And yet I couldn’t get enough of this stuff.  I had spent a whole year “unfriending” hyper-chatty liberals and “ignoring” people who insist on debating abortion and gay marriage on Facebook for this very day.  I take a moment to thank God and Mark Zuckerberg for the “unfollow” feature right about now. 

Note:  I know conservatives are quite vocal on Facebook too.  This is a double-standard I’m strangely ok with.

Anyway, here’s how my work day went:  Check CNN, check Fox News, check Facebook, work for a few minutes, check MSNBC, check Facebook.  And then repeat a million times.  

Heading home, I get the same sick feeling in my stomach that I got the day ObamaCare was passed.  Oh man.  This is really happening. 

Knowing I was in for a crazy night (and that Jackie would be at Bible study for a few hours), I invited my mother-in-law to come watch the coverage with me.  Noone wants to die alone. 

So it’s me, the kids (obligatory mention of the fact that they are super cute), and my mother-in-law watching the coverage on CNN and drinking heavily – adults, wine; babies, milk.  CNN’s John King is indicating that it’s not looking good for Romney.  I hate hearing it, so I flip to Fox News, where I know they will be telling me what I really want to hear: Romney still has a chance.  Phew.  I’m safe here. 

Let me take this opportunity to say I’m glad I have a few years before I have to explain the Electoral College to my kids.***

*** That, and the offside penalty in soccer. 

But for now, I know how the Electoral College works, and I see that it’s working against Romney.  So even though it means absolutely nothing, I take irrational solace in the fact that Romney just won the state of Alabama.  I’m getting desperate here.

At this point it’s about 9pm, and small communities in CO, VA, FL and OH are getting some serious face time.  A friend points out that FoxNews has called Indiana for Romney, but CNN has not.  This is why conservatives like me keep coming back to Fox.  In their suspicious “Fair and Balanced” way, they comfort us.

Back to CNN, where John King is furiously pressing buttons on his fancy electronic map.  He wants to tell us Obama won Florida, but he won’t quite do it.  He wants to tell me Obama is gonna win Ohio, but he won’t quite do it.  I feel like I’m playing Mortal Combat and have reached that point where the fight is lost, and all that’s left to do is brace for my opponent’s awesome finishing move. Now just FINISH HIM!

Back to Facebook, where my liberal friends are launching their gitty posts, and my fellow conservatives are strangely silent.  Kick me.  I need to avert my eyes from my Newsfeed before I start a Facebook genocide of all my liberal friends. ***

*** Note: perhaps this is what it felt like for my liberal fraternity brothers when I woke them up chanting “GOP!” after the 2004 election was called at about 3am.  Come to think of it, yea, I probably deserve this. 

So after consuming several hours of election coverage (and several glasses of wine), I call it a night.  If this were a Monday Night Football game and my Fantasy outcome were still undecided, I would not be heading upstairs.  But this election stings the nostrils, and I can’t take it anymore.  The networks hadnt called yet, so I did: you win, Obama.  You apparently always do. 

Like it or not, the race for 2016 starts now.  And I hope the next Election Day doesn’t hurt as much as this one did. 

But if it does, rest assured I’ll be sticking with Fox News… where the coverage is Fair, Balanced, and Comforting to a wounded conservative.   


I feel you bro


My First Five Weeks In The Military…


Apparently this means get ready to do pushups.  It’s “zero four thirty” and I have lots to learn today in sunny Newport, RI.  Indeed, we’re just getting started…


A few questions go through my mind: am I getting yelled at by a woman or a man?  How the heck did I get here?  And most importantly: am I wearing underwear? 

Back to reality: now we’re doing something called 6-90s.  It’s where you lie on your back with your feet 6 inches above the ground, and raise them to a 90 degree angle.  And repeat.  Wait, is this a p90x move?!?! 

It was Day Three.  I think.  Allow me to walk you through the remainder of our average day:

After the abrupt wake-ups, we would go outside to “PT” (which means physical training) for an hour.  This involved running or calisthenics, or some combination of the two.  We also did an insane amount of stretching.  Like, for every minute we worked out, we probably spent two minutes stretching.  This was weird.  I mean, who actually stretches these days? 

Then we ate: 15 minutes, no talking.  And no “skylarking” (looking around) either!  Ahh, you gotta love military words.   Here’s a few more: bulkhead (wall), ladder well (stairs), and Roger that (which according to Urban Dictionary means “I understand”).  Roger that?

Then came an hour of marching.  This was pure comedy. 

At a philosophical level, marching in the Navy makes absolutely no sense.  I mean, sailors work on ships – a place with very little marching room.  Add to that the fact that I am in a class of “staff corps” officers (doctors, lawyers, nurses, nuclear reactors, etc).  What you get is some sloppy marching. 

“Right face!”  “About face!”  “Center face!”  All this means something to those who have marched before.  I was new to all of it.  And I sucked at it…

Then came a period of time known as “hygiene.” As in, “you have three-five minutes for hygiene.”  Here was where we would make our beds (a brutal chore for someone who hates making the bed), shower, get the uniform on, and be ready to go.  The men’s bathroom was like a scene out of Top Gun… only with far fewer 6 pack abs, and no time to air dry. 

Then we sat through PowerPoint presentations.  All. Day. Long. No caffeine, and very few breaks.  I wasn’t ready for this.  Sleeping was not allowed (and strictly enforced), and we would be tested on all of this.  I missed law school!

We also had a drill instructor.  He was then one who whipped us into shape and taught us what we needed to know.  Importantly, he was the one who determined how long we would have to stand at attention.  In case you’ve never done it, standing at attention is really uncomfortable after a while. 

Note: If you are a Marine or Navy Seal or something like that, please don’t judge me.

In the evenings we would eat again.  Same rules: no skylarking, no talking, and 15 minutes to eat – I was usually done in 5.  I would spend the next 10 minutes trying to avoid eye contact with my friends – something that would always cause me to start laughing.  Oh, and another mealtime rule I forgot to mention: no laughing. 

Then we would march for another hour.  I’ve said my peace about Navy marching.  So anyway…

Then we would head into our “House” (think dorms) and clean, do laundry, study, or workout.  Don’t tell my wife this, but I actually got good at handling my own laundry.  Now shh!!!

Then, our company (54 officers) sang songs together before bed.  We recited the classics: Sailor’s Creed, Anchors Aweigh, and the Marine’s Hymn.  We sounded terrible, but we would improve as time went on. 

And that about wraps up the average day for five weeks.  Not boot camp, not summer camp, but somewhere right in between.  Before I move on, allow me once more to emphasize how BRUTAL the PowerPoints were – and I work for a consulting firm!  Ok, now I’m done… 

Some of the highlights included:

–          Going aboard the USS Michael Murphy – the newest destroyer in the Navy.  That ship alone could take out most countries.  One word comes to mind: ‘Merica!

–          Learning how to make a flotation device out of navy trousers.  Look out Bear Grylls!

–          Going out on the town in my summer white uniform and being thanked for my service – of three weeks!

–          Pushup contests.

–          Letters from home.

–          Helping save a fake ship (the USS Buttercup – a very manly vessel) from sinking

–          Singing “Tearin Up My Heart” to a crowd of locals on Karaoke night

–          Raising the flag in uniform

–          Spending close to $2,000 on my uniform (no discount double-check!)

–          Getting the shortest haircut of probably my entire life

–          Being required to say things like “Kill!” all the time. **

**  To demonstrate how much fun I had saying “kill,” I will be using the word as often as possible throughout the remainder of this post.   Get ready…

Of course, I had it easy compared to Jackie, who was at home with the babies – two born, one unborn.  Closing out the first trimester of her pregnancy with two stubborn 16-month olds was undoubtedly exhausting.  Bottom line: my wife is amazing (cheap brownie points I know, but I will take them).  Kill!

Fortunately, Jackie, her mom, and the kids came up for my graduation.  I went to see the babies at the hotel room and my worst fear came true: they didn’t recognize me.  In fact, they were scared of me.  Perhaps this was because my hair was short, my boots made me stand about 2 inches taller, and I was wearing my Navy fatigues.  Still, it was a punch in the gut. 

It took them a few minutes to recognize me, and then all became right with the world…

I needed this

 It was so awesome to see them.  It was also an ice cold glass of water to the face: welcome back to being dad!  Indeed, at the graduation reception while most of my friends were drinking and socializing, Jackie and I chased the babies around the ballroom.  The entire time.  “Nice to meet you – oh, Riley, no, no, no, come back!” I must have had this conversation six times. 


Even better: Jimmy ran up to the Commanding Officer of Naval Training Command, Captain Kemper, and hit him in the back of the leg.  Yep, that’s my son scarfing down meatballs and hitting the Commanding Officer. 

Note: one day, he’ll wonder why he didn’t get into the Naval Academy…

The night before graduation we were allowed to sleep off base so long as we were back at 0430.  I slept with Jackie, my mother in law, and the babies in the hotel room and got a full 45 minutes of sleep.  But it was worth it to see them again.  At least that’s what I kept telling myself…

The next night I was home, sleeping in my very own “rack” (where hospital corners aren’t required).  From here, I wait to get my bar exam results, at which time I will begin fulfilling my four year commitment to the Navy JAG Corps.  I’m thankful to God for getting me where I am today; excited about the adventures in store; and honored to begin my military career.  As they say: Anchors Aweigh!  

And oh yea… KILL!!!


Jimmy’s doing a little “PT” of his own!


























How I Survived the Virginia Bar Exam

“Your time begins now.” 

And it began.  The test I had anticipated taking since high school. The test I had been studying for day and night for two agonizing months.   The anticipation was now over, and the most important test of my life had begun.  

I suppose some background about the exam will help:

First, the cost of the VA bar exam seriously makes you feel like youre paying off the mob.  I mean, they make you pay $400 to take the test, another $500 for a “character evaluation” (where they basically just harass you about every speeding ticket you have ever gotten), and then another $150 to take the test on the laptop.  But wait, there’s more:  $3,200 for bar prep classes, and a solid month off of work.  It’s robbery. 

A few other things about the test: its two days long, you have to wear a suit and tie, and it’s in Roanoke, VA.  So…yea. 

Anyway, the doors to the test opened at 8:00am, and when I got there just before 8, the place was packed.  Law students are so predictable.  They file us into the building like cattle and next thing I know I’m in a room the size of a huge airplane hangar with about 1,200 other students.  I set up my computer, went to the bathroom, sat in my seat waiting for the test to begin, and then headed back to the bathroom.  I probably went to the bathroom a solid 8 times. 

Finally, some guy stands up at the podium and tells us to take our seats.  And he certainly doesn’t lighten the mood… 

“If you leave the testing room, you will be disqualified.  If you don’t fill in the bubbles to your identification sheet correctly, you will be disqualified….”  One rule they are particularly sensitive about: cell phones.  They make it very clear that they are bad, bad, bad.  If you have one, youre dead. 

I started praying, but at this point I’m feeling very nervous.  Like, Tom Hanks in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan nervous.***

*** Only, I’m taking the bar exam and he was storming the beach at Normandy.  But other than that…

You get three hours to answer five essays.  A break for lunch, then the process repeats in the afternoon.  That’s Day One.  There is very little downtime.  And so when the proctor tells us that our time has begun, I get right to it. 

About an hour and a half into the exam, something happens.  Some dude is making sounds.  Weird sounds.  He’s a row away.  His hands lock up, and the sounds get louder.  I’m no doctor, but my diagnosis was immediate: THIS DUDE IS HAVING A FREAKING SEIZURE!   

Slowly, he leans over in his chair and falls face first into the ground.  Blood splatters all over the place, and his face turns blue.  Then his eyes shut.  I’m preparing myself for the reality that I might watch this guy die right in front of me.  Right in the middle of the bar exam. 

I screamed out: “SOMEONE CALL 911!”  It then dawned on me that I just asked 1,200 people WITHOUT cell phones to make a phone call.  How heroic of me. 

Shortly thereafter, some guy runs up.  He’s a fellow test-taker, but he’s also apparently a doctor.  He takes control of the situation.   I look around and see over a thousand people continuing to work on their exam, and I’m standing here helplessly watching this guy and trying to think of ways to be helpful. 

About 10 minutes later, paramedics arrived.  Realizing there was nothing I could do at this point, and knowing that the clock was ticking, I sat back down. 

I had never figured I would have to mentally shift from watching someone have a terrible seizure to diving into personal jurisdiction under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  But there I was, plugging away and trying my best to tune out the medics while they do their thing.  I knew he was going to be ok when I heard…

Paramedic: “do you know where you are?”

Guy Who Just Had A Seizure: “THE TEST!”

Anyway, I scrambled through the remaining hour or so.  I was short on time, but I derived some serious Bar Exam skills from one of my favorite shows: Chopped. 

See, on Chopped, the biggest mistake contestants make is that they try to make the perfect dish, and end up not getting mandatory ingredients on the plate – a total dagger.  Rather, to win Chopped, often you just need to get something on the plate, even if it’s terrible.  So when I was typing total nonsense into my keyboard, I had to just keep telling myself to “get it on the plate.”  And heck yea I did. 

When we came back for round two, the test proctor started going through his panic-inducing rules again, but this time I was prepared – I stared at a picture of the kids until the test began.   Much better. 

A few hours later, I walked out of that test feeling fairly confident.  A cold beer and some chips did wonders.  The hard part was over, and I slept like a dog that night. 

Day Two is what’s referred to as “The Multistate.”  It’s a 200 question multiple choice test covering some of the basics of the law: evidence, constitutional law, criminal law, property, contracts, and a few more.  By now, the mood is much less tense.  I was cracking bar exam jokes.  They were funny?   

Oh, and good news: apparently the guy with the seizure was out of the hospital. 

I ripped through the first half of the test with no problem.  I guess after you take a test and watch someone have a seizure, then any other subsequent test it bound to seem anticlimactic.  But anticlimactic is good. 

One thing I will say is that on several occasions I found myself using the same letter choice four times in a row.  And nothing drives a test-taker insane quite like filling in the same bubble three or four times consecutively – especially when it’s the letter “D.”  It’s cruel and unusual. 

The second half of the test was tough.  Not only because I was doing some serious guessing, but also because I was counting down the number of questions I would have to answer as a law student.  20, 10, 5, 1.  Done.  Eyoooo!

Overall, the experience was one I will never forget.  I’m not sure if I passed, and won’t know til October.  But the important thing is that I survived – something I wasn’t so sure about for a while there. 

So here’s to hoping that what I put on the plate won’t get me, well, Chopped. Cheers!

Fact: Quitting Coffee Is Pretty Much The Worst Thing Ever

I’m a well-documented coffee addict.  Indeed, it’s my opinion that no baby registry is complete without a year’s worth of caffeine products.  But in the words of one of my favorite 80s jams, “here I go again on my own!” Yep, I’ve gone and quit one of the things I love most.  I must be crazy.    

Why did I quit?  I was hoping you would ask…

I started drinking coffee when I got out of college.  It began with one cup per day.  Then it became two cups.  But I limited myself to two cups a day… until law school began, at which point I began having a third cup before class. 

Note: can you blame me?  I mean, you try sitting through lectures on rules of evidence and corporate takeovers with nothing but your can-do attitude.   

So there I was: three cups a day.  Max!  But… the occasional all-night legal writing project added a fourth cup to the mix.  I’m no dietician, but that’s a lot of caffeine in a day.  To make it worse, coffee became a must…especially in the morning.  My addiction manifested itself at church, where I began bringing a coffee mug and sneaking an occasional sip or two when nobody was looking (I couldn’t wait until after the service when coffee was both provided and socially-acceptable).  Other coffee addicts would occasionally look at me as if to say “don’t be ashamed, I’m doing it too…”  We were the coffee-at-church pioneers. 

And speaking of coffee mugs, let me also note that two “cups” eventually became two mugs.  And I assure you, a mug is about twice as big as a cup.  Fortunately as a general rule, a “cup” of coffee is still a cup regardless of the size of the drinking apparatus used.  In other words, a cup is a cup, and a gallon of coffee is still a cup.  This all makes sense to coffee drinkers…

Note: it also makes sense to soda addicts.  For this reason, a 64 ounce mug from 7/11 is a “soda” the same way a 12 ounce can is a “soda.”  Either way, the addict takes comfort in knowing that they have only consumed one soda that day. How disciplined!   

And when I really needed to get going, I’d buy a venti (which means “large” in French or Spanish or something) coffee from Starbucks.  Ahh Starbucks coffee.  It’s feel-good speed.  Starbucks dumps about twice as much caffeine in their coffee as anyone else and then has the audacity to disperse all kinds of information about how “coffee is actually good for you and contains lots of valuable nutrients.”  We coffee drinkers love thinking that our addiction just happens to be healthy… 

Note: it’s kinda like those studies which show that “chocolate is actually good for your health.”  Who funds these studies?  Probably Hershey’s.  But go ahead and munch away at that 500 calorie chocolate bar…it’s good for your, uhh, heart.         

Anyway.  For years, I assured myself that I wasn’t a coffee “addict” because I “could totally quit if I wanted to…” But in six years, I had not gone a day without coffee.  Not one single day. 

I have absolutely no actual knowledge of whether or not it’s true, but I’m convinced coffee makes your hands tremble at an early age.  And I know it stains your teeth.  It’s also really expensive, and it makes you feel like a total loser when you have to walk out in the cold and grab coffee by yourself because everyone else at work has “already had theirs”.  Oh yea, and it’s addictive. 

I realized I had become far too addicted one morning when I was late for work.  My mug was cold, and I had barely touched it, but I nonetheless chugged the entire thing right there.  It was gross. But, coffee had become a box I checked off twice each morning just to make it through, and chugging it like an anxious frat boy was what I had come to.  (Insert “Frank-the-Tank” chant). 

So with all that stuff in mind, I had decided it was time to quit.  I had considered quitting coffee before, but then my wife bought me a “Keurig,” which is basically a machine that makes great coffee in a matter of seconds, and leaves no mess.  The Keurig single-handedly delayed my plan to quit drinking coffee by about a year.  But man I love that machine.  (Lustful sigh…)  

I decided I would go cold turkey – not even bothering with the “phase out” approach.  I also decided to quit drinking soda because I figured it would become a crutch, and I honestly believe coffee is much better for me than soda.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think Mountain Dew is the key to staying young.  For those of us approaching 30, Mountain Dew is more like the key to staying awake… and then getting a kidney stone.  (Man-I’m-getting-old sigh…). 

So anyway.  One night I just told myself I wouldn’t have any more coffee.  Of course, Jimmy got sick that next morning and had me up before 5am.  But I stuck to the plan and went in to work sans caffeine.  And it…SUCKED!!!

Yea, quitting coffee is terrible.  I had the worst headache of my life for a solid day.  In fact, I even broke down and “did the Dew” that afternoon.   I also took some Tylenol or Advil (I always get them confused) that night, and drank a TON of water.  The day went by VERY SLOWLY, and that night, class was miserable.  I cannot emphasize this enough: quitting coffee is pretty much the worst thing ever.    

The next morning, things were a little better, but the day dragged on, and when I got home from work, I took a three hour nap.  I pretty much never take naps, but this one was glorious.  I still fought the headaches, but they weren’t nearly as bad. 

Day three and four were on a weekend, and I was able to sleep a little bit more than usual.  Still, I craved the taste of some coffee goodness.  I settled for orange juice, which is nowhere near as satisfying as “the good stuff.”  I also tried decaf coffee, which felt like supplementing cocaine with Pixy Stix. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pixy Stix…

Well, it’s been exactly one month, and I have been coffee and soda-free.  And even though I still very much crave coffee, it genuinely feels good to not to be such a slave to it anymore.  I am sleeping better, and feeling better.  My breath, I’m sure, is much better.  Still, my energy level isn’t quite where it used to be.  That I have not blogged once since I quit coffee is probably no coincidence…

Will I be back?  Well, if we have twins again then the answer is 100% yes.  And given that I’m about to become a lawyer (where coffee flows like scotch), the odds are stacked against me.  But I’m gonna stay strong.  Indeed, I can do all things with coffee in Christ who gives me strength. 

And if I really need my fix? I will be sure to limit myself to just one mug of coffee… I mean, cup.  Cheers. 

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