🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Small World ⚾
Buckle up. It’s story time. Today I made a reservation for Ruth’s Chris steakhouse on Sunday for me, Wifey Poo and Boys The Elder and Younger. The Core Four is getting dressed up.
Keep in mind, we are not Ruth’s Chris people. It’s not that we don’t love good steak, but $50 hunks of meat are not a part of the budget Wifey Poo and I creatively stretch every month to pay for things such as our boy’s education, basic clothing and the electric bill. It’s not that we’re poor; we’re not. But we’re certainly not “Let’s hit Ruth’s Chris on a Sunday because we don’t feel like cooking” people.
Rather, the reservation comes because, today, I stopped relying on other people’s promises (a completely different kind of OPP than Naughty By Nature sang about) and created a brighter future for the C4 myself.
The story begins …
I’ve been living on OPP — first from Shriners Children’s, which promised me that if I, indeed, did what I had told them in my interviews I would do, I would be rewarded, and lately by The Best Dang Real Estate Team on Either Side of the Mississippi. The amorphous promises of the former didn’t materialize despite my success, and so I took a position with the latter, whose promises were much more defined.
Here’s where math comes into our story, and I hate math, so take all these numbers with a grain of salt. They’re probably wrong. And Wifey Poo will let me know about it.
For simplicity’s sake and because I don’t feel like talking about my actual salary, let’s just say Shriners paid me $100 a year with vague notions of making $100 + ?. I was fine with the ? for awhile, but then Bossman came calling with from the real estate world and offered $100 + unlimited ? based on the success of the team. The projected first-quarter 2022 ?, when I looked at their forecast, was $100 + $40, a pretty damn good percentage for one quarter (about 40%, if my math is correct).
“Even if their forecasts are off by half, $100 + $20 is still better than $100 + nothing. And that’s just for one quarter! And surely their projections have to be at least half-accurate.”
Then I set about doing my thing. And I did it well. Yet there are many things great marketing can’t do. It can’t change a culture overnight. It can’t bring strength to people who need to hold others accountable if there’s going to be real change and growth. And it can’t change the forces of the free market.
So when the first quarter ended, there was no $100 + $40. There was no $100 + 20. There was no $100 + $1. There was $100. Period. Full stop.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Not “full” stop. Stop, but promises. And I believed them because I believed (and still believe) in the Bossman. He’s a great real estate guy. He knows his stuff.
So I got back to work doing my thing. The mission had been clear from the start, and we’d agreed upon our strategy — build brand awareness and build a lead generating machine. I had done both. Brand awareness isn’t built overnight, and it’s not built in a quarter, yet we were making progress. A lot of progress. Search Engine Optimization is an art and a science, and my work was artistically effective. It was working.
Let’s jump out of the math and rewind to December 2021. Me and Bosslady went to lunch, and there I told her that my 25th anniversary was coming up and I really wanted to take Wifey Poo to Alaska in the summer of 2022 to celebrate. “We’ll make that happen,” she said. It wasn’t quite a promise, but you can give it promise-adjacent authority when it comes from the Bosslady.
When the first quarter ended with $100 + nothing, Bosslady was kind enough to give me and Wifey Poo a gift card for Ruth’s Chris, and said, “I know it’s not Alaska, but we’ll get there.”
So I asked: Can I please have a look as the second quarter goes on into the second quarter numbers so I can track what’s happening and make plans for my family?
I can’t stress this enough: $100 wasn’t enough to make the budget work. I have a kid in college. I have a family to support. And I needed to have at least an idea of what was coming.
As all of this was happening, I revived my side business and picked up some marketing work to make ends meet. I love creating. In many ways, this side gig is my hobby, not another job.
I waited to see the numbers.
And then I was told those numbers were visible only to “leadership,” which, based on what I had been asked to contribute far and above my role as marketing dude, I had pretty much considered I was. In fact, the Director of Operations had told me I was. Yet when I asked for transparency, I wasn’t.
Do you see what I saw?
So I let Bossman know: Yes, I wanted to be with the team for the rest of my career. But I had a family to think about. And I was told about what was coming, what was going to happen, what was just over the horizon.
Yet I had reached a point where I couldn’t just accept the promises of someone who wouldn’t give me visibility into the foundation for those promises. So I polished up my resume, and I let the LinkedIn algorithm know I was available should anyone want to talk to me about what I have done and what I can do.
Sam is a former first-round draft pick in this here country’s women’s professional soccer league. She had a good career doing that, then coached collegiate women’s soccer — and now she works as a recruiter. She sent me a message about a new opportunity — one that paid, going back into the math world, $100 + $50 or $60 as a base, with bonus and profit sharing opportunities. $100 + $50 or $60 is a gamechanger for my family, so I listened.
Over the past week, I’ve had three interviews with the company, and today they offered me a position for $100 + $60. Five more vacation days than what I’m getting. Three more holidays.
Five minutes after saying “I do” to them, I turned in my resignation, effective in two weeks, giving Bossman the first shot at securing my creative services as a side gig at various levels and for various prices. He and his wife/Bosslady are considering their options over the weekend. If they don’t sign on, I have good relationships with other Realtors in the area. I’ll be fine.
And so it came to pass that I made the Ruth’s Chris reservation. We’ll dine on the generosity of Bossman and Bosslady. It’s not Alaska. But it’ll taste good. Irony sometimes does.
And so I texted the C4 to let them know of the reservation. And I told them who’d be paying for the first large chunk of our meal. I told my boys: “Yes, the irony will taste good on Sunday. But I say this as a lesson to you. It’s OK to trust people and believe in people. Be careful whom you trust and believe. And make sure you hold people accountable for their promises. And know this: People can promise you a lot of things. But ultimately YOU make your future. Don’t ever put it heavily in another person’s hands for very long.”
This is the lesson I take from the past 17 months or so. I think it’s a good sign of growth that I can look back at my younger self and think “Damn, he was an idiot.” I was.
But I’m not anymore.
And then I left for the office for the day. I can do what I do from anywhere, so I did what I do from a sculpture park. It was a gorgeous day. I smoked a cigar to celebrate. I took a lunch break and read my book (Stephen King’s Later, which I highly recommend.). It feels good to be me right now, and that hasn’t been a thing until very recently.
It’s a small world. Over the course of my time talking with Samantha The Recruiter, I got to know that her fiance is a member of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. What the hell is that, you ask? It’s the Double-A affiliate of the Anaheim Angels, and that team name is freaking awesome. So I was telling Boy The Elder about this.
“Her fiance is Braxton Martinez,” says I.
“I know Braxton Martinez!” says BTE.
It seems as if, when Braxton was playing independent baseball while trying to catch on with a team affiliated with MLB, he played for the now-defunct River City Rascals, based right here in my section of Missourah. One day when BTE was 16 or so, he, his brother and his cousins went to a Rascals game with his grandparents. That night, Braxton went off and hit some big homers. After the game, my crew went up to the railing to get autographs.
BTE disappeared down to his bedroom and returned a few minutes later with an autographed ball. I texted a pic to Sam. Yup. It was her Braxton’s signature.
In Other Writing …
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. So Far Away, Staind, from the 2003 album, 14 Shades of Grey Line of Significance Now that we’re here it’s so far away/And I feel like I can face the day, and I can forgive/And I’m not ashamed…Keep reading
I can tell you that I haven’t felt the lyrics of a song as much as I’m feeling these today.
Now that we’re here
It’s so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we’re here it’s so far away
And I feel like I can face the day, and I can forgive
And I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- A new job awaits.
- I want to know what it feels like to comfortably meet my expenses with income. It’s been awhile.
- Wifey Poo and I have a breakfast date tomorrow.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Karen in Control ⌚Karting 🏎️What podcast? 🎧 In the winter of 1993, I went to a comedy club with a friend and, in the spur of the moment, decided to be one of those who came forward to join the fun and be hypnotized. This was decidedly out of character for…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Little League Flap ⚾Grandpa Joe 🤦Psychedelics 🍄 Boys are interesting creatures who aren’t easily understood. One of the many, many weird things boys do is mercilessly make fun of their best friends. My closest friends in middle school and early in high school were affectionately nicknamed Goon, Tree Frog, Butt and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!” An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading