🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Spice-Lovin’ Tree Shrew 🌶️
Mark The Freaking Elf 🧝
I spent the morning in a hotel conference room down in STL learning from a man named Jeff Glover about 21 ways to get 21 listing of homes to sell. Glover is a big fish in the real estate industry. He runs a massive real estate team outside Detroit, Michigan. I had some key takeaways that will help me be a better real estate marketing guy. But I think the biggest thing I walked away with is confirmation that all this stuff I’ve done since I started with The Allen Brake Team in August is spot-on and that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to successful marketing.
I say that because after the conference, I realized I was right near one of my old employers. When I walked out of that place for the last time back in January 2020, I was in many ways a broken man professionally — and personally. Through a variety of circumstances, I’d allowed myself to believe I was nothing when it came to creativity and marketing. That was a huge blow to me because I had spent my entire life thinking I was this wildly creative person, a guy who had developed a marketing process to get results. I’d done it in newspapers, increasing revenue and profitability by double digits annually for a small weekly paper while the rest of the industry collapsed. I’d done it with electric cooperatives, writing the book on how to use social media during the crisis of a major storm outage.
And then I came to that employer. By the time I was chewed up and spit out, I thought I had nothing to offer. It took me about 10 months for me to realize that, at best, my brand of creativity simply wasn’t what that particular audience needed (though I’d debate that today) and, at worst, that the people running that marketing department wouldn’t be able to recognize an inspirational, creative idea if it bit them in the ass.
I limped into my next gig following the worst of the pandemic and the Thing That I Cannot Confirm Exists That Paid Me A Lot Of Money To Sit At Home And Do Puzzles and Bake Bread and Play X-Box not knowing who the hell I really was. Put in a position to run the marketing department for Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, I figured I had not very much to lose and a whole lot to prove.
So I proved it. And I’m proud of that.
I say that here not out of ego or arrogance but because the journey from the day I walked out of that place to today has been long, painful and, ultimately, extremely rewarding.
So after the conference, I drove through the parking lot of my former employer. I saw a familiar face returning from lunch. I recognized a few cars of people who hadn’t been able to see a damn thing in me or understand what I could have done for them. I noticed the spot where I’d parked my car on that last day with the tense meeting that resulted in my freedom and kicked off my redemption. I realized at that moment how different the person was who was traveling through that parking lot compared to the one who was there a few Januarys ago.
I understand the redemptive power of forgiveness. I know I should let that shit go. I know I should simply take solace in the fact that what I knew I could do there is working so well here and worked so well at Shriners, too. That should be all I need to write those folks off and move on.
But yeah, if I had to admit it, there’s still a part of me that hopes that department goes belly-up and that those who were so cold and callous to me get to experience a dose of their own medicine one day.
What can I say? I’m fallible when it comes to forgiveness.
Anyone else’s mind go to really bad places when they start to feel sick these days? I have what I’m pretty sure is just a cold. I’m also three injections to the plus side when it comes to the vaccine. But as I feel whatever it is clogging my ears and giving me the sniffles, a part of me thinks it’s the big one, Elizabeth. Ahhhh, these unprecedented times …
📚 Let’s Learn Something Together 📓🖊️
Did you know there are only two known animals on the planet that like spicy foods? It’s true.
We’re one of them. The other, if you believe a study by Chinese researchers, is the tree shrew. They have a mutation in their ion channel receptor TRPV1 — which, while I don’t have a clue what that is, sounds pretty badass — that makes it less sensitive to the chemicals that make chili peppers taste “hot.”
And if you’re wondering what the hell a tree shrew looks like, here … you’re welcome.
Wifey Poo and I have had a deal since the time Boy The Elder was just Boy The Only: I talk to the kids about sex; she tells them about Santa. This worked fine with BTE. Yet here we are, with Boy The Younger 12 years old, and we’re not quite sure exactly what he believes when it comes to Jolly Old Saint Nick.
When Wifey Poo finally got around to smartening up BTE, we learned he’d been well aware of the greater truth of Christmas for at least a year. But BTY? He’s got such an innocence about him that it’s quite possible, even in the midst of friends and family who I’m sure have made comments, he could still be thinking a fat man in a flying sleigh is coming in a few weeks.
And that’s not the problem. Hey, if he wants to believe that, great. Childhood innocence doesn’t last for ever.
The problem is Mark.
Mark is our Elf on a Shelf. For years now, Wifey Poo and I have been moving that damn thing around during the month of December in the various houses in which we’ve lived. Moving actually helps. It gives you new staging points.
For a while, this was my job. And being the creative sort that I am, I set up some elaborate displays. But now? Well, Wifey Poo and I are having a standoff. Since she won’t tell the boy about Santa, moving Mark is on her. At least, that’s what I say. The reality is that she and I often go to bed before BTY because we’re old, and I’m the only one who gets up before he does. So tonight we learned how to send a pre-scheduled text message so she can ding me with a reminder at 6 a.m. every day to move the damn elf.
Curses to whoever invented that stupid thing.
The ‘What Did You Say?’ of the Day
May the person who invented the open-workspace workplace suffer from months of agonizing boils in sensitive places. Trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach in any workplace ignores the obvious reality that, hey, get this — people are different! I understand it’s hard to cater to every individual’s needs, but to not take the time to get to know those individuals whom you hired because you thought they’d be great (!!!!) and find a way to provide them their optimal work environment is a huge sign you’re a manager and not a leader.
High Five ✋
Today’s official endorsement goes to Chris Stapleton’s “Whiskey and You.” I’m a weirdo who truly feels music more than he hears it, and this one got me tonight.
One’s the devil
One keeps driving me insane
At times I wonder
If they ain’t both the same
One’s a liar
That helps to hide me from my pain
And one’s the long gone bitter truth
That’s the difference between whiskey and you
In Other Writing …
Here’s a working world truth: Just about anyone can become a manager, but only a small percentage of people can be effective leaders. Stick around a company long enough or apply for the right positions and show an ounce of charisma, and you’ll probably get an opportunity to be a manager. Suddenly, you’ll have actual…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- Wifey Poo and I have a date on Saturday. Bumper cars on ice at Forest Park in the STL!
- I’m on elf duty, apparently.
- Next week’s D&D game is gonna be LIT.
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The one-and-only competitive footrace I have ever won came during Field Day 1980 at Pound Ridge Elementary School in suburban New York. I was in kindergarten, on the green team, and was a part of the 50-meter dash. I remember being most fascinated that day by the starters’ pistol, wondering if it contained real bullets…Keep reading
I’m all about lists. I love making them. I love crossing things off on them. And it really annoys me when things I wanted to get done on a list don’t get done. I came into today with a lot of things left on my weekend to-do list. Rather than end the day annoyed, I…Keep reading
Our boys are not “stuff” kids. We learned this early on, when Boy The Elder was but a wee little lad and we did what normal first-time parents do: Buy him a ton of what I call KidShit for Christmas. The KidShit went largely untouched. BTE, we learned, was more of an “experiences” kid. He…Keep reading
Tonight was date night for me and Wifey Poo. We swung by Stone Summit Steak & Seafood for a drink — she, a fruity white wine; me, a Woodford Reserve, neat — and then went to see Dear Evan Hansen. I’d wanted to catch it back when it was on the stage and never had.…Keep reading
One of the interesting truths about this whole “living” thing is that we make so many important decisions before we know what the hell we’re doing. For example, I chose my career path the same year I got my driver’s license. I had absolutely no concept of a mortgage and office politics and exactly how…Keep reading
I have seen in person how protective a mother grizzly bear can be of her cubs. The Fam was on a two-week Alaska vacation between my seventh- and eighth-grade years, a trip on which my voice changed and I enjoyed the company of twin 14-year-old sisters from Alabama, which is a story for another day.…Keep reading
I spent the morning in my office at work ensconced in my gray shirt-jack. If you don’t know what a shirt-jack is, that’s OK. I didn’t either until I found it on Amazon a few years ago while searching for something that wasn’t quite a sweatshirt but not quite a jacket to wear around the…Keep reading
Today was all about my father-in-law, Marvin. FIL died in November following complications from heart surgery and COVID. Wifey Poo and the sisters-in-law organized an ice cream social and issued an open invitation to the family and FIL’s friends. When we set the date for late September, the thought was that we’d be past the…Keep reading
The term “hot as balls” definitely applied to today, though I don’t know exactly what it means. It was parents weekend at Mizzou, so we traveled yesterday evening to see Boy The Elder and attend a football game today in which the Tigers took on the mighty Southeast Missouri State Somethingorothers. The game itself was…Keep reading
Me this morning, in GIF form: Folks, I try. I really do. But I’m worn thin. I got up and decided before starting a work-from-home day that I would attach the TV I just brought over from Old House to the new stand I bought. Easy-peasy. Hooked the wires up and turned it on. And…Keep reading
In high school, I was friends with a girl named Denise. She and I were both free-spirited creative types who liked to write. For a time, we served as co-presidents of the formed-by-us creative writing club, and we even went on a date (that didn’t work out too well). Denise was and is a no-bullshit…Keep reading
Today was a work-from-home day, filled with the excitement of having my new office location set up. Well, sort of set up. For the past month, I have been relegated to the basement because what is to be my Mancave was jam-packed with the detritus from New Home’s previous occupants, my in-laws. But over the…Keep reading
The score was 54-0 when I decided I would coach Boy The Younger’s basketball team the next season. After all, there wasn’t much room for me to do any worse. Still, this was a bold decision, considering the entirety of my team basketball experience came in one 3-4 season as a high school freshman on…Keep reading
My “awake” part of this 24-hour spin on Mother Earth’s axis began in the wee hours of the morning when I came to consciousness screaming — scaring the crap out of Wifey Poo in the process — because evidently calf cramps are a thing for middle aged men. How Do You Cheer in Cross Country?…Keep reading
I’m what you call an ambivert. This doesn’t mean I eat both plants and animals, though I do. Rather, it means — among other things — that I’m somewhere in the middle between an introvert and an extrovert. Sometimes I refuel by getting away from people and enjoying my solitude. Sometimes I refuel by soaking…Keep reading
I spent a half-hour today renewing my hatred for Robert Gaskins. Don’t know who Robert Gaskins is? I wish I didn’t, too. Robert Gaskins is the principle inventor of PowerPoint. He sold his little tool of the devil to Microsoft in 1987. QAnon Crazies love to point the finger at Bill Gates and say he’s…Keep reading
I stopped at the cleaners on my way home from work to pick up a pair of khaki pants that had an unfortunate run-in with honey a few weeks back. As I stepped through the door, a middle-aged woman named Karen (I’m assuming, anyway) was finishing up berating the lone employee. It had something to…Keep reading
You’re a Wizard, Harry When the Great Awakening of Societal Selfishness began in 2020, Wifey-Poo, Boy The Younger and I began reading the Harry Potter books out loud to help pass quarantine time in a way that didn’t involve baking bread or killing each other. It took more than a year, but we finished the…Keep reading
Kitchen Completed It is laughable even to me that I find myself, at age 47, really good at organizing stuff. I am the grizzled aging man with more salt than pepper in his beard who at a different stage of life had to bulldoze a path through dirty clothes, random school stuff and assorted other…Keep reading
Sometimes Things Be That Way There are some days that, when night falls and you take stock of all that happened, you just say — or at least think — “Well good goddamn. What the fuck was that all about?” Today has been such a day. I look back at the waking hours and realize…Keep reading
I’ll Drink to That Since my departure from newspapers in 2009, I’ve worked for very conservative not-for-profit organizations. An electric cooperative. A Lutheran benefits provider. A pediatric orthopedic hospital. None ever encouraged me to post photos on our social media of employees drinking during the workday. But that happened to me today following our champagne-tasting…Keep reading
An Impressive K Boy the Younger got shelled on the pitcher’s mound last night. As a former pitcher myself, I know these things sometime happen. No one squared up on any pitch he threw. They just hit it where his guys weren’t. And this should happen to him. He’s playing up an age group and…Keep reading
I Parent Like China It pleased me a great deal to share with Boy The Younger this morning that the rules he lives under are similar to those imposed on kids by the Chinese government. Our Communist Owners recently banned whippersnappers younger than 18 from playing online video games on school nights and allow them…Keep reading
Dying Less I think we can all agree that it’s not exactly a good thing to stop breathing more than 53 times an hour while we’re sleeping, yes? OK, good. There’s at least one thing that isn’t divisive in this country right now. When I had my first sleep study in February, I was not…Keep reading
Believing in Myself So here’s the thing: I have amazing intuition. Believe what you want about humans having only five senses. We don’t. We have more. And for me, one of my strongest senses is my gut feelings about what to do and not to do. I’ve had this ability since I was a small…Keep reading
Road Show Coming to you live from somewhere in the Ozarks, where I’m hoping not to hear banjos and have some inbred redneck hillbilly make me squeal for him. Wifey-Poo and I are in the middle of a weekend getaway. It has been a long while since we’ve had an extended period of time to…Keep reading
And the Thunder Rolls My desk at my new office faces out to a busy street – Manchester Avenue – and has a floor-to-ceiling window. I’m absolutely loving it. At my previous job, my desk was tucked away in a corner behind a cube. I called it “My Hovel.” It was a good place to…Keep reading
Namaste, yo I found myself tonight in a state somewhere between awake and asleep, lying on a yoga mat with 40 pounds of sandbags on my shoulders and chest in a dimly lit studio as soft music tinged by rain sounds caressed my ears. I love this state, and I’ve only found it through meditation…Keep reading
Sell This House Our house hit the market today, which is to say the Great Gods of Google allowed for it to be found by Realtors and anyone else who happens to have a larger-than-average nosy bone. Our Realtor said we could share it with our friends and family. I was trying to think of…Keep reading
Stages of Life Over the years, I’ve found tremendous comfort in the stability of my in-law family, especially with my sisters-in-law and, as time has progressed, their husbands. My own family is pocked by constant drama. It took me a long time to recognize exactly how not-typical my own family is and to realize that…Keep reading
Wakey Wakey My day started off with a bag-full of my blood being drained, filled with ozone and then dripped back into my while I listened to a cancer patient banter about QAnon insanity as if it were gospel with the nurse in charge of my treatment. How was your morning? So Long, Sonny Boy…Keep reading
Interesting Things You Say to Your Spouse “Please don’t get killed by anyone using a sharp object. I don’t want to go to prison for the rest of my life.” This sentence that I said to Wifey-Poo this morning makes sense if you have a spouse who loves murder podcasts and TV shows. My hands…Keep reading
Welcome to the World of Real Estate Starting a new job today was a welcome relief from the drudgery of moving. After getting my ass kicked yesterday in the Great Fridge Swap, I welcomed the opportunity to use my brain instead of whatever physical power I might have left. This is the first time I’m…Keep reading