Graturday (Father’s Day Edition)

Today is Father’s Day. (At least, it is in my neck of the world.) My own father was never really a big Father’s Day celebrator, so I don’t usually make a big fuss about it myself. But there are some things I’m grateful for that tie in rather nicely with Father’s Day, so…

I’m grateful that I’ve gotten the chance to be a dad, and I’m grateful that a girl as funny, kind, considerate, smart, geeky, and all around cool as my daughter Morgan chose me to be her dad. I seriously lucked out.

I’m also grateful that Morgan’s mom, Julie, and I have been able to move past the anger we had with each other and with ourselves after our marriage ended. We’ve been able to rebuild our relationship into a solid friendship, where we can joke with each other and be supportive of each other (even as we both know and openly acknowledge that we could never be–and probably should never have been–in a romantic relationship with each other).

And I’m grateful that my father, Rick, helped teach me to laugh at and be in love with life, to help out people who need help, to fight for people who are being mistreated, to support the underdog, and to live a life of public service. He shared his love for Barney Miller, St. Elsewhere, Aaron Copland, and Bob Newhart with me. I didn’t start watching Star Trek: The Next Generation until Rick told me it was good. He told me goofy jokes, encouraged me to treat myself to guilty pleasures, and got angry with me about politics. When I’m silly, indulgent, caring, passionate, romantic, and quixotic, it’s in part because of Rick.



Graturday (Extended Get Up and Go Mix)

I didn’t post a Graturday post this Saturday because I was busy having an absolutely smashing weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for, so I’m going to weave it into this tale of my adventure in…WICHITA, KS!

But first, let’s go back a few years. Through my online friend Bonnie Burton, I found out that Jane Wiedlin, guitarist, back-up singer and songwriter for the Go-Go’s, was on Twitter and was a massive science fiction nerd. I immediately started following her. Jane tweeted about Jon Stewart being her “#imaginaryboyfriend” and said she wanted to get that hashtag really going on Twitter. I tweeted at her, “Would you be my #imaginarygirlfriend?”, and much to my amazement, she replied with, “Yes! I’d be honored!” This began an exchange on Twitter in which she would often refer to me as her “imaginary boyfriend” (or “IBF”). Meanwhile, back in 1983, 13-year-old Josh was utterly astonished at how this could be happening.

Jane was a guest at the 2010 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, promoting her (sadly short-lived) comic, Lady Robotika. The first day of the con, I nervously walked up to her booth, fully expecting that she wouldn’t remember who I was at first. (Surely she gets a lot of people tweeting at her, so why would she remember li’l ol’ me?) I stood in front of her and said, “Hey, it’s my imaginary girlfriend!” She smiled and said, “Josh!”, then came out from behind the table, gave me a hug, and posed for a photo with me. She insisted Berkie and I stay and chat with her for a bit and asked us to come to her panel the next day. Which we did. In the middle of the panel, she saw me sitting in the middle of the second row, stopped what she was saying, waved to me and said, “Hi. Josh!” She then informed the entire room that I was her Twitter friend. I blushed. Berkie tweeted about me being a rockstar.

Since then, Jane and I have continued to tweet to each other, usually about nerdy stuff like Star Wars or Star Trek, sometimes about more serious stuff. I have been very grateful for Twitter for giving me the chance to interact with someone who I consider a major star, but on a level where we’re both equals, just goofy nerds becoming friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the Go-Go’s would be starting their new tour with a show on the last night of the Wichita River Festival. What with it being so close, I absolutely had to go. I never gotten to see the band perform when I was younger, and their recent tours haven’t taken them anywhere particularly close and affordable. I sent Jane a direct message on Twitter to let her know I was going, and she said, “I’ll get you some after-show backstage passes so I can say hi!” Not “so you can meet the band and bask in our glory” but “so I can say hi.” I asked 13-year-old Josh how he felt about that, and he said, “ASKJMFTHPFRTLN!!”

On Saturday morning, my daughter and I lazed around the house for a bit before getting in the car and driving down to Wichita. (Sadly, Berkie couldn’t go, due to work and other commitments.) I’m very grateful I had Morgan with me, because although she’s a 16-year-old, she’s very calm and easy-going. When we got lost in Wichita trying to find our motel (thank you, Google Maps!), Morgan merely shrugged and said we’d find our way eventually. It helped that she was using her smartphone to navigate. She makes an excellent co-pilot. I’m also very grateful for pharmaceuticals, because when we left for Wichita, I was rocking a powerful, stabbing headache and was feeling anxious about that night’s plans. I loaded up on decongestants, ibuprofen, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and was feeling much better by the time we reached Wichita.

When we finally found our motel and got checked in, I pulled out my laptop, got online, and found a message from Jane that the plans had changed. “Meet us at our hotel, in the lobby or bar, after the show.” Ummmm, OK? Like…this is my life? Meeting the guitarist from one of the biggest bands in the ’80s at her hotel after a show? It seemed so unreal.

Morgan and I got to the River Festival as Me Like Bees were finishing their set as part of the “Go-Go’s Beach Party.” (I’d never heard of Me Like Bees before, but they were quite good.) It was starting to lightly rain, but I didn’t think much of it until a woman came on stage and announced that a thunderstorm was heading in from the west and should be hitting the area in around 15 minutes. They didn’t consider the weather safe for performing or spectating, so they were asking everyone to head inside the convention center to wait out the storm. Despite this setback, the show did go on, albeit about an hour and a half later than scheduled, with rain still coming down at the beginning of the show.

It was their first show of their tour, the weather was pretty miserable, but the Go-Go’s put on a hell of a show. Yes, they played all of their big hits–“Get Up and Go,” “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “We Got the Beat,” which they mashed up with Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”–as well as classic songs from their early albums, Belinda’s “Mad About You” (my favorite of her solo songs), the song Jane sang with Sparks, “Cool Places” (with Belinda singing Russell Mael’s part), and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Jane wore a classic Star Trek dress (blue, which maybe makes her Nurse Christine Chapel?), further endearing her to me. Belinda commanded the stage effortlessly; she just radiates this sort of zen confidence. It was also a lot of fun to see the way Belinda and Jane interacted with each other on stage. There seems to be a lot of love and respect there. Meanwhile, Charlotte, Gina, and their new bassist (whose name I don’t know) solidly rocked out for the entire show. (If you’ve never seen her on drums, Gina Schock is a fucking powerhouse. Seriously.) By the end of the show, I was all pumped up on rock and roll, bouncing down the streets of Wichita.

Morgan and I walked to the hotel where the band was staying and found Jane hanging out with members of her boyfriend’s extended family who live in the area. She jumped up and greeted me with a hug and a “How are ya, buddy?” She was very nice to Morgan and introduced us to her other guests (saying proudly, “Josh and I met on the internet!). We chatted about the show, then Jane posed for picture with everyone. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Josh was screaming, “THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” But Jane is so sweet and funny and modest, it all felt completely natural to be hanging out with her. Thank you, internet, for making this experience possible!

The next morning, Morgan and I hit The Donut Whole to get some breakfast (and tasty treats to bring back to Berkie). The Donut Whole is ZOMFG AMAZING! I would spend so much time there, drinking coffee and eating donuts, if I lived in Wichita. It’s probably best for my wallet and waistline that I don’t. But damn, their donuts are tasty! Thank you, Donut Whole!

I’m so grateful to everything and everyone who contributed to this fantastic weekend I had! What a wacky, wonderful, nerdy world I live in!

Twice Bitten, Thrice Shy

I’d say it’s natural and normal to react badly to a dog bite. Who likes being bitten by a dog? But how many people get sent into a spiral of low self-esteem and insecurity from a dog bite?

We always had pets in my houses when I was growing up. My dad had an outspoken preference for dogs, but mostly had cats. My mom has always liked to have at least one dog and one cat in the house at any given time. The main dog we had at my mom’s when I was a kid was a cute and energetic but fairly neurotic Bearded Collie named Cookie.

My dad talked a lot about how bad my mother was at training and controlling dogs. He said it was because she lacked any sort of interior authority, which dogs could sense. My dad talked a lot about how weak my mother was. I loved my mother and thought she was as strong as most people could or should be, but I still internalized the idea that “can’t control dogs” = weakness, something my father would disparage and laugh about. My dad would sometimes compare me to my mother, as well as tell me (from childhood well into adulthood) that I was passive-aggressive and manipulative, which were other ways he had of saying someone was “weak.” (My father valued directness and honesty, despite the fact that he was often neither of those things.)

Dogs are not easy pets to have. They’re generally quite clever and eager to please their owners, but they need to have clear pack hierarchy established and reinforced. What might seem to me to be a common sense way of establishing order can turn out to be the opposite of what a dog needs to keep it in line. I like dogs, but I’m generally much more comfortable with cats as pets. When Berkie adopted Dicken, she read a lot on dog behavior and training. We weren’t living together at that point, so I didn’t read up on training and looked to my companion for instruction. I’ve done my best at interacting with the little guy, but I am, admittedly, inconsistent and don’t always behave the right way with him. Add to this that he is clever and eager to please but also loves to test his boundaries and can sometimes just be a little asshole. He gets cranky with me in particular, especially when he thinks I’m encroaching on his quality time with Berkie.

Last week, I got up to let him outside early in the morning. After he came back inside, we both headed up to go back to bed. He wasn’t happy about me coming back to the bedroom and started growling and barking at me–which isn’t all that unusual, but Berkie and I just tell him to shut up and get off the bed, which is usually the end of it. This time, he bit my leg, then when I grabbed him and told him no, he bit my thumb. Neither bite was bad enough to draw blood, but they both hurt and startled me. And then yesterday, he was chewing on the fluff he’d pulled out of one of his toys, and when I started taking it away from him, he bit my other thumb, hard enough to draw blood on both sides of the digit. After both bites, I pinned him down to re-establish my dominance, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t really see me as an alpha.

Which shouldn’t really be that big a deal. Berkie has nicely, patiently explained to me things I was doing wrong and things I could do to rectify the situation. I’ve done my best to listen and be open to her instruction. But there’s this strong voice in my head–a voice that sounds exactly like my dad–telling me that the dog is biting me because I can’t project any kind of authority. Because I’m just too damn weak.

I’m sure anyone reading this is thinking, “Ignore those inner voices! Forget what your dad said! He was full of shit.” And he was. I know that. But these are long-established thought patterns in my head. I wish it were as easy as just ignoring them. I wish I could just say, “Fuck it! I know I’m strong!” But I look at the bandage on my thumb and I see a big, obvious sign that I’m weak. I assume everyone who sees it knows that it means I’m weak. I look at this 20-pound mutt and I feel nervous that I’ll never dominate him. And I feel stupid for letting my father knock me down from beyond the grave.

This will pass, as all things do. But today? Today, I’m feeling like a weak-willed, cowardly crybaby.

Graturday 7

I skipped doing a Graturday post last week–I was not having the best week ever. I’m a day late with this one, but…better late than never again, right? Right!

1. I’m grateful for my friends and family who are always quick to lend me their support when I need it, even when the reasons for needing it are poorly articulated. I posted online last week about feeling horribly low, and although I didn’t really articulate what was the matter or just how low I was (for the record: extremely), I got more good wishes and emotional support than I expected. And it helped. More…well, more than I can really articulate.

2. I’m grateful for my parents and the way they raised me. Specifically, they brought me up to be friendly and gracious. I think I was that way by nature, but they definitely nurtured it and taught me good manners. Which is a big reason why, I think, I get so much support from people when I’m low.

3. I’m grateful for my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids. My nephew, August, had a birthday today, and my niece, Hazel, had one a couple of weeks ago. Both kids are delightful and very dear to me, as are their parents. Love you, Neffs!

Good Neighbors

I have car insurance through State Farm. Since my car accident, they’ve been fantastic. The two main reps I’ve worked with–one regarding the accident, one in charge of assessing my totaled car and taking care of getting me the money for the car–have been friendly, comforting, funny, and extremely helpful.

Yesterday morning, I got a call from someone with Toyota Financial Services. “We heard you were in a car accident. We’re really sorry. But your car payment is late, and if we don’t receive a payment by tomorrow, it could be turned over to collections.” I explained that State Farm paid off the rest of my lien and I’d signed paperwork the day before turning ownership of the wrecked car over to State Farm. “Well, I see that State Farm called us, but we don’t have any paperwork and haven’t received any money.” I told him that was all very strange, since State Farm had called about the lien on Tuesday and, like I said before, the paperwork had been signed on Wednesday. I was really in no mood to deal with this kind of runaround, so when he again threatened that I could be turned over to collections if I didn’t make a payment by the end of the week, I said, “Whatever,” and hung up.

A bit worried, I called Christy, the State Farm rep in charge of assessing my totaled car, and told her about the Toyota Financial call. She assured me that she had sent a check to them on Tuesday and they should be getting the paperwork ASAP. “I’m not going to tell you not to make a payment,” she said, “But…” I said I wouldn’t stress out about it and just trust that it would all come together. “OK,” she said, “I’ll talk to you later.” After we hung up, I thought, I really hope I don’t talk to you later, because I really don’t want to have another totaled car assessed any time soon.

About half an hour later, Christy called back to tell me that she had called Toyota Financial to straighten everything out. They had the check from State Farm, they had the paperwork, the car was officially not mine, and I didn’t have to worry about making a payment.

“You rock!” I said.

She laughed and said, “OK, well, take care. I’ll talk to you later.” There was a brief pause. “I don’t know why I keep saying that. I really hope I don’t have to talk to you later.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” I told her. “You’re just being nice.”

“I’m just a polite person,” she said. “But you’re had a decision reached on this, so…I’m breaking up with you now.”

I started cracking up and came close to telling her, “I love you!” Instead, I just thanked her and told her to have a great day.

I’m so happy I’m with State Farm.


Graturday 6

I had a bad day yesterday, starting with a stomachache that woke me up in the middle of the night and ending with a migraine later in the day. I avoided being online as much as possible, so I’m late with this week’s post of gratitude. But here goes…

1. I’m grateful to have a physician who listens to me, is patient (ha!) with me, is stern with me when I need it, and is willing to look at all kinds of solutions to my health issues.

2. I’m grateful that my migraines, as bad as they are, aren’t as bad as they could be. I have friends who experience migraines much worse than mine, so even though it’s difficult to be thankful when it feels like there’s an ice pick going through my eye to my brain, in the end, I’m relieved.

3. I’m grateful for Google Maps. It was raining the other day when I got off work, and I really didn’t want to drive on K-10 in the rain again (especially after sundown), so I went on Google Maps and found an alternate, non-highway route. It took longer to get home, but it was a nicer drive overall. I can remember the days before online maps, but it’s hard to imagine going back to that now.

Graturday 5

This has been a pretty ragged week. I was in a car accident on Tuesday, which not only threw off my writing mojo (I obviously haven’t blogged at all this week, but I also haven’t worked on any poetry or fiction) but will potentially do some heavy damage to my bank account. It’s looking like my car is┬átotaled, which is something I really didn’t need right now. So it’s more important than ever for me to focus on the good and be thankful for what I have.

1. I’m grateful that none of the three vehicles involved in the accident had any passengers, just drivers. The chance for injury would have been much greater with more people involved.

2. I’m grateful that none of the drivers were seriously injured. No ambulances were needed, all three drivers were able to drive away from the scene of the accident (even if not all of the cars could), and all I’ve had since the accident was a very mild concussion (pressure headache and a couple instances of minor dizziness) that faded after a couple of days.

3. I’m grateful that everyone I’ve had to deal with regarding the accident–the two company that got my car from the scene of the accident, all of the State Farm reps I’ve dealt with, and the mechanic at the body shop where my car was towed to–have been friendly, funny, compassionate, and helpful.

All in all, this situation could have been much worse than it turned out. Phew!