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Perhaps the best apology in the history of the second grade. Largely because it incorporates a haiku. This was sent to my daughter, Grace, from her classmate, Owen, after he very publicly proclaimed that she has “buck teeth”.

Actual text reads thusly:

To Grace:

I’m very sorry for what I said about you having buck teeth. I know this will never happen again. Here is a haiku to show that I care.

I’m very sorry.
I’ll hope that you’ll forgive me.
This is how I care.  

Your friend, 
Owen

Owen was immediately forgiven, and Grace now keeps the note in her jewelry box. Excellent work, Owen.

Second Grade Apology Haiku

I love Twitter. I really do. But if you tweet on the regular, you cannot escape the gigantic amount of bullshit floating around the twitter-webs. There are many kinds. Luckily, I have found a number of tweeps that are pretty down-to-Earth, no bullshit kind of people. I like them. A lot.

So why are some people so bullshitty? They are afraid of losing friends, losing potential business, losing *GASP* followers. Every single social media expert on the planet has warned them about “damaging their personal brand”. So, they are told to keep it nice, and polite, and well, kind of boring. I’m guilty of it too. I routinely ignore things that I might otherwise respond to because I hesitate for a second and think, “Is that going to be hurtful? Will they read too much into it? Will they be terribly offended?” Then I usually just leave it be.

Even “THAT GUY”. You all known him (or her). Yeah, I have even ignored THAT GUY when what I really wanted to say was, “You irritate every single person on Twitter. Are you okay with that, or do you want to dial it back some?” We all have a THAT GUY in our streams.

NOTE:

If you don’t have a THAT GUY in your stream, it may be you. You’re welcome.

*sigh*

Twitter is one of the very first places I go for feedback, recommendations, fast, real, information. If everyone is just being nice, where does that get me? I will love you MORE for being real! Be funny! Be angry! Be YOU! (Just don’t be douche-y.)

So, in honor of the real, genuine, AWESOME conversations happening all over the interwebs, I will be taking a shotgun to my personal brand once a week.

For one night a week, Monday night to be exact, I will provide honest, uncensored “no bullshit” feedback on a particular topic. Maybe I’ll pick it. Maybe I’ll let someone else pick it. I don’t know. Whatever I feel like. I get to make the rules.

This isn’t to say that I won’t offer up my opinions, unsolicited or otherwise, during the week. This will be more direct question/answer forum.

So there it is, no bullshit.

Oh, and thanks to @TheGlenn and @TeeCycleTim. This is 100% all your fault. 😉

On the recommendation of a fellow Milwaukee beer snob, I recently read Andrew Wagner’s post, My beef with “beer snobs”, on onmilwaukee.com. The following is my response.

Whoa, brah. Dial it back a second. Don’t confuse the term “beer snob” with the term “douche bag”.

As many of my 13 readers know, I am somewhat of an authority on douchebaggery. After all, my mission in life is to stamp out douche-y behavior whenever I encounter it. What Wagner describes in his post is clearly super-douche behavior.

And I totally agree with him.

Why does anyone care what kind of beverage anyone else drinks anyway? How totally weird is that? (Very.) When someone walks into a bar and acts like a know-it-all asshat, it’s clearly done in an attempt to look special, or wicked-awesome, or… something. Sadly, it’s pretty lame and douche-y. THAT is not a beer snob. THAT is just a plain old douche bag. (Related: It’s totally ok to want to kick those people in the nards. I’m not encouraging you to do that. I’m just saying, it’s ok to feel like you want to. We all do.)

I am a self-proclaimed beer snob. I enjoy craft beer. I enjoy the amazing aromas and flavors that have been created by people who imagined a new combination of malts, hops, yeasts and spices and just said, “Fuck it, let’s give it a go then…” I enjoy beer in the same way I enjoy great food. Most real beer snobs do. We bear the title with a lot of love for delicious brew and a little bit of humor. We don’t really take ourselves that seriously, we just like beer.

That being said, anyone who knows me knows that I am a champion of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Tall Boy. *genuflects* I like it. In fact, I can dig the original recipe Schlitz too. I don’t enjoy Budweiser or Miller Lite, however, I do find a shorty High Life acceptable (meh) as a bloody mary chaser. (It is the champagne of beers, after all.)

So Andrew, I’d like to buy you a Schlitz. I’d like to have a few laughs over a few brews and show you what real beer snobs are like. I think you’ll like us when you get to know us, and there are advantages to having beer snobs for friends — we’ve always got cold beer in the fridge. 😉

A simple formula for living a good life. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

Try not to be a douchebag.

It’s simple. But apparently, it’s hard for some people to put into practice. I would like to offer some help.

So I got to thinking. I’m not a giant douche. My siblings aren’t douchey. Maybe my parents did something right. I’ve got kids. I’d like them to grow up to be decent human beings, and it’s a total bonus if they don’t spend their childhood as tiny little jerks. I started thinking about some of the things my parents did to help prepare my brothers, sisters, and me for this big bad world, and to help us navigate our way through life without being complete d-bags. The following is a partial list of some of Paul and Shirley’s best exercises in anti-douchbaggery conditioning. Enjoy.

The Yellow Notebook.

At the age of 12, each of my father’s children was given a page in The Yellow Notebook. Need a loan? Car needs fixing? Your prom dress costs what?! No problem kid. We will loan you the money and create a new entry in The Yellow Notebook. My Dad kept a 4X6, yellow, side spiral bound, Mead notebook as a ledger of all six accounts at The Bank of My Father. He kept meticulous records, and payment terms were carefully negotiated. I am happy to say that all six children have paid off their Yellow Book loans. A number of lessons learned: live within your means–life is easier that way, some types of debt are worth it, others aren’t (it hurts more to pay back a loan for something later deemed “stupid” or “lame” or “should of thought about that before I willingly surrendered my next 5 paychecks”), and maybe the best lesson of all… appreciate the interest free loan program while you can.

The Consequences, Double Spaced.

If you screwed up in my house, your punishment came in three steps. Step One: My mother offered a verbal lashing worthy of an Olympic category. Step Two: You will wait. You will be stripped of all rights and privileges for several days while your consequences are determined. There is nothing in our family tree about right to a speedy trial. Step Three: Your consequences are presented to you, in Dad’s office. You will be handed a typed, double-spaced copy of your consequences to read along and keep for your reference, so there will be no confusion moving forward. If your behavior moving forward is contrary to the expectations outlined in the consequences, you will apply the said consequences to a period of time no less than one academic quarter. SOOOOO, what did we learn here, boys and girls?

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS. CONSEQUENCES ARE REAL, USUALLY IMMEDIATE, AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO BE A DOUCHEY KID, YOUR LIFE’S JUST GONNA STAY SHITTY LONGER.

Saturday Morning Chores – First Come, First Served.

Simple. Every Saturday morning the weekly chores (different from the daily chores) were posted on the kitchen board. First one up-and-at-em picks first, and so on down the line. Laziest kid gets crappiest chore. No one leaves the house on Saturday until your assigned chore is completed and approved by mom. Lesson learned: Responsibilities come before play time AND if you get your ass out of bed at a reasonable hour, you can vacuum the carpets instead of cleaning the toilets.

So, You’re Too Sick For School, Huh?

An absence during any school week means you clearly need to rest in the house for the weekend. If you are really sick, then obviously, it’s the best and healthiest decision for you. If you are a big fat faker and want to cut class, your weekend is hosed. What’s it worth to you?

This Is Not A Democracy.

I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Let Me Take You Down a Notch. (a little humility is good for you)

We teased a lot in my house, all in fun, never nasty or bullyish, always from a place of love. If any one of the eight of us started acting a little too big for our britches, the rest of our clan was there to make sure no one took it so far as to forget that humility, and open mind and heart are an important part of your character, and that being hot shit and thinking you’re hot shit are two different things. That being said, we were also incredibly supportive of each other’s true accomplishments. Bragging rights, when deserved, were respected.

Family Dinner

Crucial. Nothing in life is more important than our family. No matter how busy we get, we always have time to sit and eat a meal together. It is a regular thread that re-connects us every day. We will eat together, we will pray together, and that’s a tie that binds. Family dinner is a tradition in each of my siblings’ households today.

Does all that sound totally wacky and scary? It wasn’t. Here’s the secret. (Come closer.) In addition to the anti-douchebaggery conditioning, or collecting our paper route paychecks, my parents provided a loving, hilarious, generous, supportive and amazing family environment. All friends and neighbors were welcome in my parent’s home, and they loved coming back again and again. My parents sacrificed a lot to make sure that we had a remarkable childhood, and would grow into adults fully equipped with the tools we needed to achieve our goals — with a wicked sense of humor firmly in place.

My siblings are my best friends, I have my parents to thank for that, I think. My parents were strict, but I never, ever wondered if they loved me. My parents always believed in me. My parents sacrificed for me. My parents are a huge part of who I am today. I’m far from perfect. I’ve been known to dish out my share of jackassery. I’m trying not to screw up my own kids. I’m always afraid that I will. I’m lucky that I still have them around to help me raise their grandkids.

I love my mom and dad. I owe them everything. It is a debt I cannot pay. It’s not something that can fit in a yellow notebook.

Paul & Shirley Engagement Photo

Paul & Shirley Engagement Photo

Paul & Shirley Today

Paul & Shirley Today

I enjoy a good mustache. I know I’m not alone in this. You all know it. A really bad ‘stache is really, really funny. If a particular mustachioed gentleman is a giant douche, I blame it on the mustache. If a circus ringmaster has no mustache, he loses all cred. A hard-ass, Harley riding, roadhouse regular m’erf’er without a mustache? Harder to spot than a purple unicorn. Femme-stache, nuff said. The mustache is more than facial hair preference. It’s a way of life. And it’s funny.

Okay, so recently, I have found myself in a mustache dilemma that isn’t so funny. For many ladies, especially us dark haired girls, taking care of our unwanted facial hair is a right of passage. At some point, usually in our teens, we realize that our eyebrows are a little unruly, or that dainty peach fuzz above our lip is looking more like a 15 year old boy’s than a 17 year old girl’s. We begin the life long ritual of waxing, plucking, or (good gawd) laser removal. It’s life, no biggie. I have two girls, I thought I’d be ready for the day that one of them came to me with concerns about their little Latina ‘staches and Brooke Shields brows. I just always figured this was a Jr. High kind of conversation.

Grace is six years old. Last week she complained that she has, “A little mustache.” She looked oh-so-forlorn and continued, “ …and I really don’t like it.” So. Yeah. Wasn’t ready for the Kindergartener to lay that one on me. (And believe me, what this kid’s got is nothing! Sheeesh!) So, where did this come from? How is she so self-aware at age 6? I was a complete idiot at 6. My mother had to remind me to comb my hair before running out the door to catch the morning bus. I couldn’t have cared less about matching clothes or wearing glasses. I was a happy 6 year old idiot, and life was good.

Now, the concerns I began having at 15 are troubling my kid at 6. What do I do? Do I let her foray into this grown up world of vanity and excessive grooming? Hell no. For a few reasons:

  1. Dealing with your own physical uniqueness is part of growing up. This is how we are made. All little 6 year old Latina beauties should have tiny baby ‘staches and wicked-awesome eyebrows. It’s beautiful.
  2. If we teach our kids at an early age that if they don’t like something about themselves they should hurry up and change it, what kind of message are we sending? (Hint: A crappy one.)
  3. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if my mother hadn’t taught me to settle for the Shopko clearance plastic glasses, (it’s what we could afford and it served it’s purpose – I could see the chalkboard), home perms at the kitchen table, and last year’s hand-me-downs. I wasn’t a cool kid. I wasn’t a pretty, best dressed, most popular kid. BUT. I was a decent kid, a good friend, and an honor student. I learned early that there is more to a person than the way they look. My best friends from age 12 are my best friends today. Score one for the mustache.
  4. Today, more than ever, I want my girls to love themselves, love the bodies God gave them, and be proud of their uniqueness. I want them to have a strong sense of self worth, a strong sense of heritage, and the confidence to become whatever the heck they want.

I’m here today say that the mustache might help my save my kids’ childhood. I’m learning new respect for the mustache. And this is my plan:

In a show of solidarity to my mamitas lindas, I am going to put my facial hair grooming regimen on an indefinite hiatus. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to take this opportunity to show my girls that you can be beautiful and different, and, well, hairy — all at the same time.

Frida KahloSo, if you run into me in the coming months and I am rockin’ a wicked peach fuzz, or you happen to notice that my unibrow seems to be creeping into my hairline…give me some props, make sure my kids hear you. Show us some hairy-ass love.

And if you think I’m nuts, and judge me for my new, au naturel look, don’t worry, I’ll chalk it up to mustache envy.

Later Gators.

Yep. That’s really what he said. My beautiful, thoughtful, romantic husband’s honest-to-goodness first words upon first view of the Grand Canyon. Holy balls. I tried to think of what I would’ve said, had I not been laughing so hard. I guess maybe there isn’t anything to say. To quote Nicole Krauss, “Maybe there just aren’t words for everything.” On that thought, after Augie’s first verbal reaction, our immediate reactions were identical:

The Santiagos just shut up for a minute.

(For those of you that know us, you realize that both of us not talking is nothing less than a miracle.) It is awesome in the truest sense of the word. It’s a word so terribly overused today. “My playstation is awesome dude.” “That chocolate cake was awesome.” “You’re so awesome man.” You get the idea. We forget the real potential of that adjective until we witness something that is honestly something in which to stand in awe. The vistas and points and trails and history of this place are awesome, inspiring, sacred, and even when you are standing right there on the South rim, somewhat unbelievable. I could try to go on and on here and make you understand the beauty and serenity of this place, but it wouldn’t do it justice anyway. I will say this: go there, you’ll see.

The trip was great. Here we were, heading to the Grand Canyon to see some dear friends exchange vows atop the beautiful Shoshone Point. We flew into Phoenix, hopped into our rented convertible and headed North through the desert in search of adventure, lots of laughter, much anticipated romance, and this big crazy hole in the ground where we would meet up with some of our favorite people on Earth. Our road trip was just the beginning of our adventure, but it was good old-fashioned road trippin’ fun. We had beautiful scenery, lots of sun block, excellent tunes and each other.

We arrived at the canyon around four and after checking in decided to stroll a few blocks from our hotel room door to see this big “holy balls” looking hole. Wow. (But we’ve already covered that.) Next, we decided to stroll along the rim to see if we might bump into anyone. Lo and behold, sitting outside the steak house that Augie had his heart set on was the bride to be! We were so lucky to run into them and we had a lovely dinner before checking out their way cool Prius Hybrid rental car. This thing actually turns on with a power button (like a computer for real), loved it. Very cool. They had much to do so we decided to hike down (a short way) into the canyon to see it in the moonlight. Beautiful. Scary at times, but beautiful.

The next day Augie and I rose early to begin our hike down to the 3 mile rest house along Bright Angel trail. We thought seeing the canyon from the top was amazing, hiking the trail that the Indians built to get down to the water was equally indescribable. What I will describe though, is the feeling in your legs when you reach the top. Holy shit is that a work out. It felt good in that “I hope I packed the ibuprofen” kind of way. We were so excited when we reached the top we gave Gracie a shout out with a big “We dill it!”


That night was filled with more fun as we all gathered for the welcome dinner at the Maswik Lodge. The food was great; the friends (old and new) were even better. Augie and I truly feel that we made several new friends at this wedding, which is fitting, because Shan, Charlotte and Jess tend to bring good things into my life, whether they know it or not, it just seems to happen that way.

The Big Day!

Let me begin by saying that although all of my girlfriends were beautiful brides, to see Shannon in a gown that was “made for her” against the purple, pink, and orange shadows of the canyon really took my breath away. She was glowing, really. The fantastic four was a sight to see on top of that canyon, three beautiful ladies and their very handsome man. I love them all very much and could not have been happier for them at that moment. Their harpist played their song. People cried through their huge smiles. Mom cried, Dad cried, Shannon cried and I think that Tom even got Jeremy to well up a little! (Excellent work Tom! – Tee Hee.) A champagne toast and a few hours to play atop Shoshone Point. Fantastic. Just Fantastic.

After a major photo shoot, we caravanned back to Thunderbird Lodge to party the night away in a banquet hall that overlooked the canyon. Brian taught me how to don a hiking pack during the ride back from the point. Brian is one of those guys that just knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. Anyway, even the ride back was fun. A delicious dinner followed by a huge piece of wedding cake, good vibes, good friends, a great couple of newlyweds…what a night. Augie and I will not soon forget the day that Shannon and Jeremy stood at such great heights and said “We’ll Stay”. I’m totally bawling again just thinking of it.

The next morning we awoke to a light knock on the door. There stood the beautiful Mrs. McCumber, who, with all she had going on this busy weekend, came to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day and hand deliver a sweet card. Dammit I love that gal. Then it was off to breakfast with the Strands to start the day. From there we hit the road to get back on Route 66 through Flagstaff and eventually into the Sedona red rock country. We drove the Oak Creek Canyon route and stopped at the tiny little deli stuck right in the rock for lunch. We drove up the winding roads into Jerome, but I was so freaked out that I couldn’t let go of the armrest to take any pictures up there. We headed into Phoenix around 3:30 and opted for soaking our feet and ordering room service (my pick for my Mother’s Day dinner). It was great. We sat in front of a wall of windows in our room on the 21st floor and watched the sun set into the mountains as we sipped Shiraz and devoured chocolate cake.

As we set off for the airport the next morning, I was now desperately missing the girls. I did very well all weekend, but now my willpower was shaky and the tears were welling. I started counting down the hours, minutes, miles, and beverage carts until I could wrap my arms around Gracie and smell Nora’s head. When we pulled up at the house I dropped the bags on the sidewalk and sprinted into the house. The look on Gracie’s face was precious and the feeling I got when she jumped into my arms was, well, “sometimes there just aren’t words for everything.”

Congratulations McCumbers.

© Sara

P.S.

Every time I type “McCumber”, my spell check wants to change it to “Cucumber”. I am finding this rather amusing right now, so…

Congratulations Cucumbers.

Okay, so not so much on fire as on my lawn. We are finally replacing our roof. I’m excited to be done with the “Is it going to make it through one more winter?” game Augie and I have been playing, but also started to hyperventilate (just a little) when I went to the bank today to draw out the duckets. Wow. Well, that is home ownership. I’ve said it to many a friends after they purchased their first home, “Welcome to the life of neverending home improvements.” (Okay, what I think I actually said was, “Welcome to the poor house.”) I will admit that the improvements you make by choice can be very fun, but those big ones that you just gotta deal with (roofs, gutters, new furnaces, crapped out water heaters…) are a bit of a bummer, because although you know these things are super important to your everyday living situation,(the roof seems worth it on a rainy day, no?) it isn’t as fun as painting your den red or getting pretty new kitchen cabinets. Oh well, the roof is getting done. Soon we’ll move on to repainting the puke yellow trim to a nice hunter green and then I’ll be camping in the yard so I can stare at my “new” house. I will also be camping in the yard because I will most likely have let out our rooms for rent due to the cost of replacing our roof. Other than the crazy loud bangs of tearing off and replacing shingles, things are pretty quiet around here. Gracie and I have been hanging out, watching “the guys” (as she calls them) fix our house. We make them sandwiches and they wave at Gracie through the window. We all have a job to do. This month has been quite busy (hence lack of time to blog). It’s been good, fun busy stuff. Baptism for Nora. Bridal shower and bachelorette party for Shan (too fun!). Augie has been working long hours lately, couple that with a few comedy club outings, birthday parties, a paintballing bachelor party (yay Jerm!) and Opening Day and his dance card filled up quickly. Nora is growing like a weed and no kidding, she was wearing a 9 month sleeper last night (she’s just shy of 5 months). Gracie has found her singing voice for real and is in constant serenade mode. I love it! We have made a big promise to each other to spend as much of our weekend time just strolling around and hitting as many playgrounds in a weekend as we can. No rest for the weary though, just a couple weeks until we head out to the Grand Canyon for Shan and Jerm’s big day. We are so very excited. Wonderful friends, awesome backdrop, real love. We’re stoked. We’re leaving the muchachas to Nana and Aunt Jennie’s care, so they will be partying like little tiny baby rock stars. I have promised myself that I will take deep breaths, try to focus on having a great time and really being the moment for this very special occasion. Leaving them is the hardest thing for me to do, but it’s healthy for all of us to do it. (I’ll be repeating this to myself the entire flight.) Anyway, my excitement and joy for my friends will be more than enough to keep me from calling Nana every hour. Also, I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon (other than from an airplane window), so how cool is that? So that’s generally the last couple of weeks recap. I have to get moving now, Gracie has just decided to put her tights on by herself and is hopping towards me in one leg of them.

© Sara 2006

I like to buy things from IKEA because their selection is typically affordable and generally fits in my smallish type of home. I hate to buy things from IKEA because I typically hate being around a thousand people that generally get on my f#%king nerves. Jennie and I did the IKEA run today and I was reminded of how much I really hate people. I just do. Don’t get me wrong, I love many people (individually), but I also hate many people (all together in a big f#%king idiot mob). Okay, sorry, I’m not myself right now. I just spent way too much time inching my way through three floors of Scandinavian particle board. Oh, and about 73 thousand other people. Alright, it’s really not “people” I hate, it’s the crowds I hate. So in all fairness, I am sorry “Mrs. Man Hands” for not helping you at the self-checkout. (okay, but with those mitts, you should have been golden.) I apologize, “Skinny Girl who bumped into my sister and didn’t say she was sorry”, for shooting you that rude glance/eye roll. (Hey, I get cranky when I haven’t eaten too – and I figure you’re probably still going on the Diet Coke and half of a crouton you decided not to purge on Thursday.) Forgive me, “Ladies with matching black velour track suits” for not answering your question about which line to stand in for the manager’s lunch special. (I realize you may have just overshot Great America and didn’t expect to be making such complex lunching decisions.) And finally, “Woman with lots of money and no brains who brought your 2 week old (if that) newborn to IKEA” – I’m actually not sorry for quietly ridiculing your poor judgment in bringing a tiny newborn to a place like IKEA, but I am sorry that your kid’s brand-spankin-new immune system had to be exposed to 73 thousand germs. I am also sorry that every time I saw you, that poor, tiny baby was crying. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I do actually hate you… I’m not usually this surly, which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about. After the birth of each of my girls I was (am currently being) overtaken by a severe case of “post-partum can’t f#%king stop swearing syndrome”. I can’t stop it. I manage to censor myself around Gracie, but dammit, I’m out of control. I’ve tried to substitute, but sometimes you just have to say it. Out loud. With feeling. You might even need to yell it. It just, well, fuck, you know what I mean.

© Sara 2006

Stick around. It’s going to get wacky.