Quite possibly the worst person in the world

In the unfortunate event that you are suffering with a despicable person in your life - colleague, family member, neighbor, boss, clergy person - I offer you my condolences and some potential solace. 

This is a question posed to Dear Prudence (Mallory Ortberg), Slate's advice columnist. After reading this person's question, you may feel a little better about the rotten person in your life.  

It's hard for anyone to compare to the awfulness of this person. 

___________________________________

Q. Daughter’s friend being in wedding: My 27-year-old daughter and her best friend, Katie, have been best friends since they were 4. Katie practically grew up in our house and is like a daughter to me. My daughter recently got engaged to her fiancé and announced that Katie would be the maid of honor (Katie’s boyfriend is also a good friend of my future son-in-law). The problem is that Katie walks with a pretty severe limp due to a birth defect (not an underlying medical issue). She has no problem wearing high heels and has already been fitted for the dress, but I still think it will look unsightly if she’s in the wedding procession limping ahead of my daughter. I mentioned this to my daughter and suggested that maybe Katie could take video or hand out programs (while sitting) so she doesn’t ruin the aesthetic aspect of the wedding. My daughter is no longer speaking to me (we were never that close), but this is her big wedding and I want it to be perfect. All of the other bridesmaids will look gorgeous walking down the aisle with my daughter. Is it wrong to have her friend sit out?

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Share your failures with the world

One of the more surprising reasons that people take my storytelling workshops is for dating.  

Men (so far it's only been men) realize that what they say on a first date does not yield them a second date. Something is going wrong. So they arrive to my workshop hoping to improve their ability to engage, entertain, and amuse.

This makes sense. When Elysha was asked by someone how she first fell in love with me, she surprisingly didn't say my rugged good looks or muscular physique. She told the person that it was my stories.

As friends and colleagues, Elysha and I went to dinner one night while waiting for a school talent show to begin, and over the course of the meal, she discovered that when you ask me a question, I often respond with a story. By the end of that night, she had learned that I was different from anyone she had ever met, and that I could tell a good story.  

I managed to marry the perfect woman thanks to storytelling, and this was long before I ever took a stage and started performing. 

So when people look to storytelling to help them find love, I understand. It makes sense. 

What I've learned in talking to these people is that most don't realize is that stories of your failures are almost always better than stories of your successes. So many of the men who come to my workshops believe that the best way to impress a woman is by demonstrating strength and self confidence by projecting an image of high achievement and success.

"I'm an amazing person, and I did an amazing thing, and it turned out amazing."

Not a good story, but an excellent way to identify a douchebag. 

So many people are repulsed by the idea of talking about a moment of embarrassment or failure. Rather than telling stories of disappointment or ruination, they talk about their recent business successes. They name-drop their Ivy League credentials. They find a way to mention their recent sculling victory or the trellis in the backyard that they built with their own two hands.  

All lovely things and worthy of mention at some point, but unless you flunked out of your Ivy League school or recently capsized your boat, these are not the ways to connect to another human being. Your Yale law degree or your sculling trophy will not endear yourself to anyone. These are not the things that make a person laugh and wonder.

They also fail to project strength and self confidence. In fact, they do the opposite. Listing your greatest hits is an excellent way to demonstrate uncertainty, fear, and low self esteem. 

Think about the President. He is constantly engaged in self congratulation. Does anyone really believe that Trump is a supremely confident man? Would a person with a shred of inner fortitude insist on lying about the size of his inauguration crowd or his Electoral victory? Would a person who believed in himself stage a moment wherein each of his Cabinet members publicly praised him while the TV cameras were rolling? Would a confident person tweet about his net worth or retweet the praise of random Americans? 

What people don't realize is that sharing your mistakes, your blunders, your failures, and your moments of embarrassment is the best way of demonstrating supreme confidence. Telling a person about the time you spectacularly failed to achieve a goal is far more interesting and relatable than sharing your latest business deal.  

You know who understands this? Elon Musk, founder and majority owner of SpaceX. 

SpaceX, a company whose sole mission is to commercialize space flight, recently published a video of their spectacular string of failures while attempting to land an orbital rocket booster. A company that hopes to send human beings to Mars and needs other companies to trust them with their multi-million dollar satellites produced a video showing the many ways that their rocket boosters exploded during reentry and landing.

Were they worried that this video might undermine confidence in their ability launch hardware and people into space in the future?

Of course not.

On the contrary, their willingness to share their failures demonstrates the confidence they have in their future.    

Want to connect with another human being in a deep and meaningful way?

Tell them a story.

Want to project strength and confidence?

Tell a story about your own orbital rocket booster disasters. Talk about the time you went up in flames. 

Our dream-come-true comes to an end. A new chapter begins today.

Today my wife returns to work after eight years as a stay-at-home mom.

For a couple years when Clara was in preschool, Elysha worked part-time as a reading tutor in the school where I work and where she once worked, but for all intents and purposes, she has been home, raising Clara and then Charlie, ever since they were born. 

A few weeks ago, Charlie finally entered kindergarten. It was time for her to re-enter the workforce.

About a week after Charlie started school, Elysha was hired to work as a teaching assistant in my school district. Her goal is to become a kindergarten teacher (after more than a decade teaching grades 3 and 5), so she's hoping that a year spent in a kindergarten classroom with an experienced kindergarten teacher will serve her well.

A paid internship of sorts. 

It's been a glorious eight years, for both Elysha and me. Though I have often felt envious of my wife for being able to stay home with the kids, I'll always view these years as some of the proudest of my life. Thanks to my tireless work in my many careers, as well as my publishing success and our launch of Speak Up, we have managed to give our children a full time parent during these exceptionally formative years.

It wasn't easy. We made enormous sacrifices. We traveled almost nowhere. Most of our furniture is hand-me-down. Wardrobes declined. Our dreams of home decor were put on hold. We incurred debt that we will now have to eliminate. 

But what we received in return for these sacrifices have been more than worth it. Our kids are so well prepared for the challenges ahead of them. They are happy and kind and so filled with curiosity. And as a husband, it's felt so good about being able to make these past eight years possible for Elysha. 

We honestly never thought it possible. Sometimes I didn't think it would continue to be possible. Every time, we found a way.  

Elysha did not waste a moment of this time with our kids. Our children know every museum in Connecticut like the back of their hands. They can describe every library and bookstore with incredible precision. They are experts on the playground architecture of Connecticut. They have picked every kind of fruit possible, pet every species of farm animal, and attended every outdoor concert available to them. They have sipped hot chocolate and eaten scones in the finest coffee shops in the greater Hartford area. They are masters of the playdate. Their lives are filled with friends both young and old.  

All of this is thanks to Elysha. The best mom. The best wife. Soon to be the best teacher once again. 

I know this time is bittersweet for my wife. I know this is an incredibly difficult chapter of her life to close.

Our babies are no longer babies.  

But I also know that Elysha is excited about the school where she will be teaching. She's thrilled with the teacher who she will be joining. She can't wait to meet the children who she will be helping. 

It's hard to end a dream-come-true, and in many ways, that is what these part eight years have been for us. A seemingly impossible dream come true. 

For me, the dream-come-true has been Elysha. The smiles, the laughter, the joy, and the love that she has brought to Clara and Charlie. They are good and happy and kind because of the time that they have spent together. 

Today will be beautiful and bittersweet for my wife. I understand. But Clara and Charlie and I will forever be grateful to her for all that she has given to us over the past eight years.

There has never been a better mom. Those kindergarteners have no idea how lucky they are.   

A Columbian tradition that I will make my own

I received an email from a mother and son from Columbia, who just finished reading Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. She explained that it's a tradition in her country to sign the last page and date it when finished reading a book. 

She sent me a photo of the last page. 

I love this idea. What a perfect way to record a moment for posterity. What a treat for readers to land on the last page and have a record of anyone who has read the book previously.

I'm doing it. I'm going to teach my kids to do it. I think you should, too.  

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Mystery machine

The Scooby Doo gang was pretty presumptuous to name their van The Mystery Machine.

I realize that they encountered an uncanny and irrational number of criminals trying to cover up crimes by using the ghost story and costume, but still, did they really expect it to continue week after week?

Who could assume that after encountering a fake Yeti on a ski trip and a two-million-year-old caveman while out fishing, similar encounters would happen again and again and again? 

It seems fairly irrational. 

For 41 episodes in the first iteration of the show and hundreds more thereafter.  

Presumptuous, I say. 

Also (and this might be nitpicking), but if you own a van, why the hell is everyone always sitting in the front seat?

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Teaching is full of unexpected surprises

One billion years ago, I taught a third grader named Kaity to multiply. 

Last night, as Elysha and I were leaving for a Moth StorySLAM in Somerville, I asked Kaity, now an adult and frequent babysitter to our children, to help my third grade daughter with her multiplication homework. 

It was surreal. 

No one ever told me that so many of my former students would remain in my life as they have, and I could never predicted that when I was teaching Kaity to multiply all those years ago, I was also investing in my daughter's future.

Being a teacher is full of surprises. 

When we arrived at The Moth a couple hours later, we discovered that four of my former storytelling students were at the show, their names already in the bag, hoping to tell their stories. For all but one, it was their first time at The Moth.

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I wasn't called to the stage last night, but three of my four students were called. They all performed brilliantly, and one of them, Tom Ouimet, won the slam!   

It was quite a night for a storytelling teacher, listening to stories that I had helped to develop, told on stage so well by storytellers who I've spent lots of time with honing their craft.

As a teacher, you can never know where the lessons you teach might take root and grow. And it's impossible to predict where the fruits of that labor will flourish. 

It would've been nice to take the stage and perform last night, but as a teacher, I found a far greater reward than the applause of a audience and the opportunity to come out on top.

TEDx Pomfret: It's Not the Curriculum

Last year I spoke at a TEDx conference in Pomfret, CT on the subject of education. Specifically, I spoke about what is important and what is not when it comes to teaching children and young adults.  

I have yet to watch the video. I'm highly self critical of my own performances and will need some time to watch closely, take notes, tear myself down, and nitpick every single mistake, as tiny as it may be.

But friends and colleagues have watched and approve, and the video has been used in a few school districts as part of professional development, so here it is.

I hope it's not terrible.

A serious commitment to golf

I've played golf in the rain many times. 

I've once played golf in the snow. 

To be fair, it wasn't snowing when we started the round, and the forecast hadn't called for snow. But it was definitely cold enough for snow. 

But this photograph of golfers in California playing as wildfires burn in the distance is both unbelievable and most impressive. 

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An untimely poop and a blocked toilet lead to magic.

I grew up next door to my grandparents. They owned a small house at the top of a hill on a sprawling piece of farm and forest.

My childhood home was at the bottom on the hill.

As a boy, I saw the two properties as one. One enormous adventure-land to explore.  

On Saturday, we attended our annual family picnic at the former home of my grandparents. My great uncle - the last resident of my grandparent's home - passed away earlier this year, so it's likely that the house and the land will eventually be sold, bringing an end to the seven generations of family members who have lived on that property.

It's sad to see a place with so much history and heart be lost.  

Every time I visit my grandparent's home, I look down upon my own childhood home, lost in my mother and stepfather's divorce. Just before the home was sold to the current residents about six years ago, my high school sweetheart, Laura, a real estate agent at the time, took me through the house for one final tour. At the time, the house looked almost exactly like I had remembered it.

I thought for sure that I would never see the inside of my childhood home again.

Enter Charlie's poop.

In the midst of the picnic, Charlie had to poop. As is customary, he waited until the last moment and was in full panic mode as I carried him to the single functioning bathroom in my grandparent's home. 

The door was closed. Someone was inside.

Charlie screamed in agony as I loudly assured him that whoever was behind the door would quickly vacate the premises. 

After a protracted length of time, the door finally open and the occupant said, "I'm sorry. It was clogged when I walked in."

The toilet was overflowing. It was a disaster. I attempted to plunge it with no success as Charlie wailed. Finally, I grabbed Charlie and ran to the stairs, trying to remember if there was a bathroom on the second floor. I started up the first step with Charlie in my arms, forgetting that the doorways are short in my grandparent's house, and I smashed Charlie's head into the door jam, causing him to wail even louder.

I didn't know what to do. I was panicked. I called for Elysha.  

It turns out that Elysha knew exactly what to do. She grabbed Charlie from my arms and said, "We're going to your old house."

The current residents of my childhood home were hosting a birthday party for their teenage daughter in the backyard. We walked down the hill and over to the couple who we presumed were the owners. "I need help," Elysha said and explained the situation.

"Of course," the woman said, rising to lead us to the bathroom.

"It's okay," I said. "I grew up in this house. I know where the bathroom is."

So once again, I found myself inside my childhood home. Charlie was sitting on the same toilet I had sat on thousands of times during my fourteen years in the house. Much work had been done on the interior of the house. It looked better than it ever had when I was a child, but the layout was the same.

I could still see my childhood beneath the new countertops, stained floors, and tiled backsplash. The memories were still there, alive and well. 

I spent an hour in the house with the new owners, swapping stories. Talking about the neighborhood and my many relatives on the street. Answering questions to mysteries they had yet to solve about the house. 

Yes, our washer and dryer were in the kitchen. Right beside the refrigerator. It didn't seem strange at the time, but boy does it seem odd now.

Yes, my father converted the garage into stables. Horses lived where cars were once parked. 

Yes, this pile of stones was once a flower bed that my mother loved. 

Yes, those were the names of me and my siblings, written beneath the wallpaper in the bathroom.

Yes, I lived in that unheated disaster of a room in the basement. 

No, those chalk drawings on the basement walls weren't done by me. They were done by my aunts - both now deceased - who lived in the house before I did. 

The owners couldn't have been more gracious, and I was so pleased to show Charlie my childhood home. It was good to see the house being so well taken care of, too. It looks better than it ever has before. It's sad that our family no longer lives on that beautiful piece of property, but it's good to see good people living in the space where I have so many memories.

It was so happy to see it again. So happy to step back into the past for a little while. 

All thanks to an untimely poop and a blocked up toilet.  

My favorite billboard

The billboard is up on Southern Boulevard, which is one of the only streets that links directly to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

With Hurricane Irma now battering Florida, my thoughts are with everyone whose lives and property are at risk from this cataclysmic storm.  

My thoughts are also with this particular billboard. Envisioning how angry Donald Trump must be knowing how close it sits to his property and how visible it must be to every guest driving up to his resort warms my heart.

I'd hate to learn that it was lost in the storm. 

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I am not talented.

I don't believe in talent. I believe in hard work. 

In speaking to a writer recently about her struggles to get published, I said, "Maybe you should write another book. Not everyone publishes the first thing they write."

"You did," she snapped.

While it's true that I managed to publish the first novel I wrote, Something Missing, the road to publication was not so easy.

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I began writing in November of 1988, and since then, I have written every single day of my life without exception.

In high school, I started a business writing papers for my classmates. I wrote for the school newspaper. I started a shortly lived magazine in the spirit of Mad. I wrote political satire. Short stories. Poems. Letters to girls. Lots and lots of letters to girls.  

After high school, I began writing a blog on a bulletin board system: a small scale, localized precursor to the Internet. During that time, I filled journals with stories, memoir, poems, and rants. I wrote hundreds of letters every year to friends around the country and next door. I wrote monthly newsletters for all of my friends. I wrote Dungeons & Dragons adventures. Short plays. Parodies of songs and movies. Comedy bits.   

When I was homeless and without a phone or address, I wrote letters to keep in touch with friends. I wrote long accounts of my life for my attorney, who was defending me against a charges for a crime I did not commit. I wrote long, sad pieces of memoir about how hopeless and alone I felt.   

When I finally made it to college, I studied creative writing. I wrote for the school newspaper and their online magazines. I wrote short stories, speeches, short films, and several failed, unfinished novels. 

In 2004 I took a blogging class at Trinity College and have written a blog post every single day since. For six years, I wrote a daily post to my children on a separate blog.

I've written children's books. A book of poetry. Personal narrative of every length. In addition to the four books I've published and the three that will publish next year, I have two unpublished novels, a unpublished memoir, an unpublished book of poetry, several unpublished picture books, and an unpublished book of personal essays. 

I have been writing a lot for a long, long time. 

I published Something Missing in 2009, 21 years after I committed myself to the craft of writing. I practiced writing on a relentless, daily basis for more than two decades before someone finally paid me money for my work. 

Am I talented? 

If I were talented, would it have taken me two decades of practice before reaching my goal?

My former editor bristles at my assertion that everyone can be a writer, and with enough hard work and practice, perhaps a published writer, too. 

Friends and former colleagues think I'm foolish to believe that anyone is capable of writing good, meaningful, important stuff.

I remind them of how it took my two decades of constant, relentless practice before I was able to write things worthy of publication.

I don't believe in talent.

I believe in my ability to keep my ass in a chair longer than most people.
I believe in my desperate, unwavering dream to be a published author.    
I believe in my refusal to give up. 
I believe in the power of practice, repetition, study, and failure.
I believe in grit, tenacity, determination, and persistence. 

The path to success can often seem short and simple. But when viewed through the longer lens of time, talent will almost always give way to hard work. 

If you can't publish your first novel, write another. And another. And another. 

Or quit and fail. 

The choice is simple. The path is not. 

A sad, retired, perhaps unstable man

My friend, Rob, retired last year.

Like my previously retired friends, Rob has attempted to rub it in with photographs of his endless vacation. 

But unlike my previously retired friends, who send me photos of picturesque golf courses and idyllic swimming holes, Rob is not nearly as good at hurting me as the rest.

Look at the photos he sent on the first day of school.

These are scary.

Cloudy, solitary beaches. 
A dead tree. 
An empty boardwalk.
A buzzard?

I'm worried about Rob. He seems a little mentally unsteady. Unimaginably sad. Perhaps filled with longing and regret. Unstable.  

When I attempted to taunt Rob about the ineffectiveness of these photos, his reply was this:

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It's worse than I thought. 

My son thinks I'm a golfing god

I haven't beaten one of my golfing buddies in well over a year. I've been drastically altering my grip and swing, but I'm also just not as good as the guys who I play with. They hit the ball farther and more consistently than me.  

I managed to squeak out a tie against one of them this summer, which almost felt like a victory.

But I'm getting better. Hitting the ball farther. More consistently. Understanding all that was lacking from my game. Still, beating any one of them is probably a ways off. 

It's fine. I love golf. My father-in-law gave up the game years ago when he realized that he was never going to break 100. I understand his desire to be competitive, but even if I never beat a single person again for the rest of my life, I'd still play the game. 

But it sure would be nice to win again. 

As the summer drew to a close, Elysha and I took the kids to mini golf. 

The one thing I can do on a golf course is putt. A three-putt is a rarity for me, and when I'm reading the greens well, I can sink long putts.

Sadly, the expression "Drive for show, putt for dough" doesn't apply when you hit your driver as far as your friends hit their pitching wedges. 

An exaggeration, but only slightly.   

On the nineteenth hole of mini golf, I sunk the miracle putt to win a free game. As the buzzer sounded, my children went wild. My son told everyone in the vicinity that I had won a free game, and he kept telling them until we finally walked away. 

Honestly, it wasn't luck. It was a straight putt that needed to be struck just hard enough to leap over two troughs and land in the hole without going past. I judged the distance carefully and swung. 

It dropped. 

Two weeks later and Charlie still talks about that putt. My free game. My miracle shot. 

I'd still rather beat one of my friends occasionally. I'd like to be a competitive factor as we make our way into the final hole. But if that can't happen, Charlie's belief that I am an amazing golfer is a solid consolation prize. 

Time to break the law on behalf of Harriet Tubman

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a Yale graduate and former Goldman Sachs investment banker whose Daddy is also a Yale graduate and and former Goldman Sachs banker (Steve is clearly blazing his own trail in this world), indicated last week that the Treasury Department could abandon plans to replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The redesign had been finalized under President Obama.

Steve is also currently under investigation by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for taking a government jet to Fort Knox the day of the solar eclipse, perhaps to witness the eclipse from a more favorable position.

Steve is also married to Louise Linton, the fashion-obsessed occasional actress who made headlines two weeks ago after criticizing a woman on Instagram for having less money than she has. 

Linton grew up in a Scottish castle and derives all of her wealth from her family and her husband's fortune.  

She apologized for her elitist comments weeks later in the pages of Washington Life alongside photos of her posing in expensive ball gowns in various locations at her and Mnuchin's Washington mansion.

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There are clearly the type of people who Harriett Tubman would have adored. 

In regards to the change in the $20 bill, Mnuchin said, “It’s not something that I’m focused on at the moment. The issues of why we change it will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes.”

So screw Harriet Tubman. To hell with the idea of allowing our daughters or children of color to see someone like them on a piece of currency. If our money is secure with old, white men on it, then old, white men it shall be! 

It's also sad that Mnuchin can't apparently focus on more than one thing, or even delegate this matter to a staffer. After all, it's a simple change of face on a bill. We've changed the appearance of our money appears many, many times in just my lifetime. It's not exactly unprecedented. It shouldn't be too hard.

But fear not. We may have a solution. 

Josh Malina, who played a vice president’s chief of staff on the NBC political drama "The West Wing," encouraged his more than 240,000 Twitter followers to write the famous abolitionist’s name on $20 bills over the face of Andrew Jackson. 

This may technically violate federal law, but it's still a fantastic idea, and one that I think Harriet Tubman would have loved. If a white man is going to once again stand between Tubman and the recognition she deserves, the least we can do is break the law on her behalf, the same way she did for the hundreds of slaves who she illegally ushered to freedom. 

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How do you juggle so many balls at once? The answer is simple.

During a recent interview, a reporter cited my multitude of careers.

"You publish novels. Write columns and musicals. Perform on stage. Produce storytelling shows. DJ weddings. Minister. And you teach elementary school! Plus I know there's more that I'm forgetting. How do you juggle so many balls at one time?"

I've been asked this question before. It always surprises me, because the answer seems so obvious. 

I don't juggle anything.

Yes, it's true. I do lots of things. I have lots of balls in play. But I don't juggle them. I pick one up. Spend some time with it. Deal with it. But then I put that ball down and pick up another one. Deal with it. Put it down. I don't juggle. I handle one ball at a time.

Only a lunatic would try to write a novel while ministering a wedding and teaching long division to fifth graders.

This analogy has seemed to provide some clarity for people, and for others, maybe even a little hope. Someone who read that interview recently wrote to me and said. "It seems a lot easier to chase my side-hustle knowing I don't have to be thinking about both careers at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but taking that juggling analogy off the table helps a lot."

I have always advised people to be working on your next career. Allocate a small percentage of your time and effort to your next job. Your dream scenario. The business you might someday launch. The creative endeavor that you've imagined since you were a child. 

But don't juggle. Never juggle. Simply do one thing, and then stop and do the other thing. 

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Shortcomings and Flaws: 2017

Years ago a reader accused me of being materialistic after I wrote about my lack of a favorite number, specifically criticizing me for saying that when it comes to my salary, my favorite number is the largest number possible.

After refuting the charges of materialism, I acknowledged that I had plenty of other shortcomings and offered to list them in order to appease my angry reader. Then I did. Then I added to the list when friends suggested that I had forgotten a few.

Nice friends. Huh?

So began an annual tradition of posting my list of shortcomings and flaws, starting first in 2011, and continuing in 2012201320142015, and 2016.  

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Here is the revised list for 2017. I’ve added three items (the last two) and removed four.
The total number now stands at 36. 

The four that I removed, after careful consultation with several parties (including Elysha) are: 

  • I have difficulty being agreeable even when the outcome means nothing to me but a great deal to someone else.
  • I often lack tact, particularly in circumstances in which tact is especially important.
  • I cannot load a dishwasher effectively.
  • Field of Dreams makes me cry every time without fail.

This last one still applies but after much rebuke from readers is no longer considered a shortcoming or flaw. 

A couple suggestions offered to me that were not added to the list:

  • I can seem unapproachable at times (perhaps because I'm so busy). 
  • I use the word "despicable" too often. 

I questioned many people about seeming unapproachable and could not find any agreement. In fact, it was stressed to me that I am very approachable, and with the number of times I am brought into someone's confidence, I think this is true.

Yes, I use despicable often, but Trump is in office, and it's exceedingly fitting. I don't see it as a shortcoming or flaw. 

If you have a suggestion for a flaw or shortcoming that you do not see on the list, please feel free to submit it for review.

Matthew Dicks’s List of Shortcomings and Flaws

1. I have a limited, albeit expanding palate (though I would like to stress that this is not by choice).

2. I am a below average golfer.

3. It is hard for me to sympathize with adults with difficulties that I do not understand, do not think are worthy of sympathy, and/or are suffering with difficulties that I would have avoided entirely.

4. I have difficulty putting myself in another person’s shoes. Rather than attempting understand the person, I envision myself within their context and point out what I would have done instead.

5. When it comes to argument and debate, I often lack restraint. I will use everything in my arsenal in order to win, even if this means hurting the other person’s feelings in the process.

6. I do many things for the sake of spite.

7. I have an unreasonable fear of needles.

8. I become angry and petulant when told what to wear.

9. Bees kill me dead.

10. I become sullen and inconsolable when the New England Patriots lose a football game.

11. I lack adequate compassion and empathy for adults who are not  resourceful or are easily overwhelmed.

12. I can form strong opinions about things that I possess a limited knowledge of and are inconsequential to me.

13. I am unable to make the simplest of household or automobile repairs.

14. I would rarely change the sheets on my bed if not for my wife.

15. I eat ice cream too quickly.

16. I procrastinate when it comes to tasks that require the use of the telephone.

17. I am uncomfortable and ineffective at haggling for a better price.

18. I am exceptionally hard on myself when I fail to reach a goal or meet a deadline.

19. I take little pleasure in walking.

20. Sharing food in restaurants annoys me.

21. I drink too much Diet Coke.

22. My hatred for meetings of almost any kind cause me to be unproductive, inattentive, and obstructionist.

23. Disorganization and clutter negatively impacts my mood, particularly when I cannot control the clutter myself.

24. I am overly critical of my fellow storytellers, applying my own rules and standards to their performances.

25. I think less of people who nap.

26. I lack patience when it comes to assisting people with technology.

27. I am easily annoyed by the earnestness of adults.

28. I don't spend enough time with my best friend.

29. I have a difficult time respecting someone's accomplishments if they benefited from economic privilege in their life.

30. I believe that there are right and wrong ways of parenting. 

31. I love saying, "I told you so" so freaking much.

32. I wear my wireless headphones way too much.

33. I consistently screw up my wife's laundry regardless of how careful I think I am.  

34. My blog entries contain far too many typos, despite my loathing of typos. 

35. I leave my credit card at restaurants far too often.

36. I don't ride my bicycle - alone and with my kids - nearly enough.

Trump's "real" job numbers

On the wake of a less than stellar jobs report, Trump has been touting his "million jobs created" in the first half of 2017.

One million jobs sounds great. But look at the first half of 2017 job creation in comparison to previous years:

2013: 1.12 million

2014: 1.50 million

2015: 1.39 million

2016: 1.24 million

2017: 1.07 million

One million Americans finding work is fantastic. But it's also the fewest number of new jobs created during the first half of the year in five years, so a little perspective, please.

Admittedly not Trump's forte.

Also, thank you President Obama. 

obama job growth.jpg

Resolution update: August 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Not even close to death in August.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I remain stuck at six pounds lost. The summer is so full of good food. 

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done.   

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu. I believe that yoga can do wonders for me. Improve my golf game and my quality of life.

It's just so boring.

Still, my friend has a routine for me. I'm going to learn it and do it. Maybe with headphones.  

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

DONE!
This was a pain in the ass, by the way, because my room at Kripalu was on the fourth floor, which meant a lot of stairs many times during the day.  

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in has been moved back to October. I'm closing in on the finish line.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I still working on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked them. Eventually. They may be better as a series of graphic novels.    

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

DONE!

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

11. Write a musical.

DONE!
I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day," but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun.  

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

I'm currently looking for my next behavior. Ideas anyone?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 43 subscribers in August (and 230 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1514.  

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I wrote one letter to my father in August. Three in all so far.      

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I am willing to hire someone to take the content of the blog and convert it to book format, but I have yet to find that person. 

Recommendations?

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

DONE!

My favorite thing learned in August is this:

Amazon was originally named "cadabre" from abracadabra until it was mistaken as "cadaver." He also considered relentless.com, which still redirects to Amazon.

STORYTELLING

20. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

DONE!
We produced a show at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT, in August. We also produced showcases at the University of Connecticut Law School and Kripalu Institute for Yoga and Health as a part of our bootcamps. bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 12. 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

DONE!
I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April.

Here is the recording. It's actually been used by principals in at least two schools as a part of their professional development. 

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. One has rejected my pitch. I await the other.  

22. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in August at The Bell House in Brooklyn in August, bringing my yearly total to 13. I did not get chosen to perform that night. 

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

DONE!
I won two Moth StorySLAMs in Boston and one in New York. My win total now stands at 31.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I am unavailable to compete in the Moth GrandSLAM in September, making it the third time that I am forced to pass on competing this year because of scheduling.

Hoping for one more shot before the end of the year.

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. Obviously 50 episodes will be impossible this year, but if I successfully launch the podcast, I will be satisfied. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I attended the open mic at Sea Tea Comedy Theater in August, not realizing how many comics regularly perform during these open mic nights. Elysha and I arrived about an hour late, and there were 19 comics already on the list. I will need to return next month and perform to complete this goal. 

27. Write a one-person show.

DONE!
The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

I'm going to begin the process of booking a theater for a formal performance now.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make. So far I have done nothing.

30. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

The search for a location continues.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

I defended an attack on the Melania/Donald Trump marriage based upon their age difference. 

You can imagine how hard that was for me.

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

DONE! 
Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter). This included a locker room at the gym, a locker room at Kripalu, and two different locker rooms at golf clubs.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

DONE!
Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I tweeted a comment on the ugliness of Donald Trump. My reference was meant to describe his heart and soul, but it was misconstrued as a comment on physical appearance. 

I'll need to be more careful about my choice of words. 

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

I surprised Elysha with cards hidden around the house while I was away in August

Three surprises so far in 2017.  I currently have two surprises in the works for her. I'm so excited about one of them!

36. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

Our windows were cleaned yesterday, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

One of my anniversary presents is her promise to get the Apple TV working, which would complete this goal.  

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I shot a 47 for nine holes last Monday morning, but it was an executive course. I was 11 over for the round.

Later, I snuck onto a public course and played a par-3 three times AND BIRDIED THE HOLE EVERY TIME.  

I've got my swing back, thanks to my friend, Andrew, and his excellent coaching. I think I have a real shot at topping my best score this fall.

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. This annoys me so much. I love to play poker. How have I failed to get a game going? 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend a Moth StorySLAM with me again.

He declined.   

41. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

DONE!