The Restroom Cottage

I go to extremes to avoid letting my wife know I have bowel movements.

First, I’m unsure I can explain how difficult it was to type that sentence out, knowing that I will eventually post it for tens of people to read. In my effort to conquer my self-conscious tendencies, it seems that sharing this story will be cathartic for me and entertaining for those who read it.

A classic win-win.

Here we go.

Before I tell you the story leading to my writing this, I must explain what I mean when I say that I go to extremes to avoid letting my wife know I poop. 

When we are home, and I need to use the bathroom, I will go to the bathroom where I believe my wife will have no reason to enter. No matter what I choose, she will come looking for me, stand outside the door, and say, “Tim?”

The panic that rises within me is illogical. I respond with a rushed, “I’m in the bathroom,” as I contemplate what I will do if the door knob starts to move.

I prefer this situation to when she is in a silly mood and jiggles the door knob unannounced. My panic maxes out when she does this, and I say, “Someone’s in here!”

I say this to my wife in my home. 

I don’t say, “I’m in here.” I say “someone” as though I could preserve some imaginary anonymity in my home with my wife.

I know couples that openly talk about what goes on in the bathroom. I know couples that use the bathroom while their partner is in the bathroom.

We will use the bathroom in front of each other for number one but for the other one?! I cannot think of many things I would rather do less. 

The story I am here to tell you occurred while we were on vacation for a wedding in Tennessee in April. 

Before we get to that, let me provide more context for how anxious this makes me.

If you think how I handle a normal bodily function in my home is ridiculous, let me tell you about being on vacation in a hotel room with one bathroom.

If my wife is asleep, I will lock the door, turn on the faucet, turn on the shower, and hope for the best. 

If awake, she will tell me I am ridiculous for wanting to retreat to the lobby to use the public restroom and force me to use the bathroom in our hotel room. Since she is a loving wife, she will throw in headphones (I wait until I am as confident as possible that noise is coming through them), or she will leave the room and walk down the hallway.

Stop judging me.

I know this behavior is absurd, but you must understand the absurdity to appreciate the dire situation I encountered when we went to the Gone With The Wind museum in Marietta, GA. 

When we traveled to Tennessee, we flew into Atlanta and drove to Chattanooga. Before traveling, we decided to stop in Marietta for lunch and check out the museum. 

I had to use the bathroom when we arrived at the museum. 

I was delighted to see a sign outside the museum that read, “Restroom Cottage.”

That sounds quaint and private, I thought. 

I told my wife I needed to go to the bathroom and told her I would meet her inside the museum. 

There was no one else around as I entered the bathroom. It appeared the restroom cottage might have just been opened for the season as the doors to both the men’s and women’s restrooms were propped open. They were not the most outstanding facilities I’ve used, but the privacy was all I really cared about. There were three stalls, and I chose the one with cleanest looking toilet seat. 

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized I had made a rookie mistake. 

I reached for toilet paper. However, not only was there no toilet paper, there wasn’t even a toilet paper dispenser. I kept my cool. Since no one else was around, I would just do the waddle of shame (that’s what I call it when I need toilet paper that is not within arm’s reach). 

Time was of the essence as I made my way to the next stall—no toilet paper.

The last stall? No toilet paper. 

I looked to the sink and saw a tissue dispenser in between the two sinks. Empty. 

I looked to my final option, the paper towel dispenser. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. 

I waddled to the paper towels with my pants and underwear down around my mid-thigh, hence the waddle. It wasn’t until I grabbed the first paper towel and heard the creak of the main door to the Restroom Cottage that I remembered the entrance to the men’s room was propped open.

I turned to see my wife standing at the door wide-eyed, asking, “What is happening?”

I am not lying when I tell you I would have rather seen the face of any other person in the world. 

I stood, frozen with fear, looking like Porky Pig in front of the sinks.

“There isn’t any toilet paper,” I said.

“Do you want me to check the women’s bathroom?” she asked.

I quickly calculated that if toilet paper were in there, she would need to get closer to bring it to me—hard pass.

“I’ll just use paper towels,” I said. 

She told me I was ridiculous, but luckily there wasn’t toilet paper in the women’s restroom either. 

I came out to my wife laughing, and she laughed all the way to the museum entrance. 

My, err, shitty situation taught me a valuable lesson that day, and for that, I am thankful.



Unlocking Happiness

The year 2022 was a complete disaster for me.

To say I was struggling with my mental health would be an understatement.

The misconception clouded my thoughts that losing weight would solve everything. I spent so much time consumed with how I looked I forgot about caring for that thing between my ears.

It’s tough when you look in the mirror at 38 and realize you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Then your kids run into the room, and you remember you are grown up.

I hallucinated I would be in a world without self-conscious thoughts when I lost weight. 

I now know that my brain shifted the focus rather than ridding me of intrusive self-conscious thoughts. 

Good news? I no longer say mean and hurtful things to myself when I look in the mirror.

Bad news? You don’t need a mirror to tell yourself that you are a failure, behind the rest of the world, and/or destined for a life unfulfilled when you’re driving home from work.

You may be familiar with the following cycle. 

  1. Something inconvenient happens during your day. 
  2. You search for something or someone to blame. (I start with myself, but if that doesn’t fit or make sense, I blame the expanding infinite universe for having it out for me.)
  3. The hopelessness creeps in, and you get sad. 
  4. Your mood affects your family’s mood, so no one is happy now. 
  5. Dissociate in whatever way possible.
  6. Go to sleep.
  7. Repeat.

I envy you if this cycle is not familiar because, let me tell you, it is awful. 

I felt lost. Then one day, while scrolling through TikTok (see step #5 in the list above), I came across a video referencing a TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal titled How to Make Stress Your Friend. 

Fourteen minutes and 28 seconds later, I felt something unlock in my brain. I looked in the mirror and said, “Well, that unlocked something….”

Regardless of your relationship with stress, watch the aforementioned TED Talk. If it resonates with you, I recommend reading her book, The Upside of Stress

If you’ve read anything on this site, you know anxiety or stress has played an enormous role in my life. It is something that I have carried with me, like a bag of rock salt in a Baby Bjorn.

Any hint of stress or anxiety would lead me to obsess over how to make it disappear. I tried breathing exercises, meditating (not sure I’ll ever understand how to do that), or removing myself from the situation if I could. 

None of it would work. 

The stress and anxiety would remain.

Next, I would feel guilty and broken because I could not manage my stress. 

The stress of work and parenting two children led me to multiple panic attacks in 2022. I hid under the desk of a cubicle at work twice until the tears and shaking hands stopped. My wife found me in the shower sobbing uncontrollably once (not the other two times, though). There were a couple of times legitimate reasons for a breakdown (at least I thought so), but the other times it came out of nowhere. 

I am linear in my view of the world. For example, I can cook good food with a recipe. However, if you were to hand me all the right ingredients and let me go, I would be flooded with anxiety and terrified of using too much or not enough of every component. 

In life, there are recipe writers and recipe followers.

I have lived my life as both simultaneously. I constructed a recipe by observing others live their lives and have followed that recipe without question.

I have concluded that my recipe is shit. I don’t like the recipe and am no longer interested in sweating in the kitchen trying to make it. 

My 38th year will be the year I break free from that recipe. I am going to have fun in the kitchen of life.

I have no interest in living a life overcome with stress, anxiety, and sadness. I’ve given it a chance, and it turns out that it is not for me. 

If I can lose 77 pounds and shift the way I view stress to make life happier and more manageable, I can come up with a way to make a living that involves doing things I love with inspiring people I love.

I admire those that enjoy networking and looking for avenues to advance their career. I can’t do it. I can’t write resumes for jobs I am less than enthused about. I can’t pretend to find people fascinating, insightful, or intelligent when they are not, just because it might help me get an interview for a job I will not enjoy. And I am running out of patience dealing with people who make six-figure salaries that can’t think themselves out of a wet paper bag. At the same time, far more capable people are being passed over for arbitrary reasons.

To begin with, I am renewing my commitment to writing here. I appreciate everyone who reads the stories I write here. I appreciate your kind words, ‘likes,’ and shares. 

From now on, I will make the rules for how my life moves forward. Well, as long as my wife approves. 


P.S. Writing this was difficult. Talking about mental health is complex. I have been more honest about it lately. Those I have spoken with about my mental health have been open, thoughtful, and can (usually) relate. You’re not alone. You deserve happiness. Talk to someone; it helps. If you think you don’t have anyone, I’m easy to find. 

Steering into the Skid: My Journey to Officiating My Best Friend’s Wedding

On November 6, 2022, I received a text from one of my best friends on this planet: “Are you around tonight?”

This is an odd text to get from a friend who lives 433 miles away, but he clarified that he wanted to FaceTime. Since he was engaged, I knew he would ask me to play a role in his wedding. 

I figured I would be an usher or a groomsman. 

“So, we wanted to ask you if you would officiate our wedding?”

Has your heart ever started beating so hard that you can feel it in your ears? 

I asked them, “Did everyone else say no?” I was partly kidding, as this couple has friends and family surrounding them who are much more qualified than myself. They assured me that I was their first choice. 

I kept them on FaceTime and brought my phone downstairs so they could share with my wife what they had asked of me. Her face was instantly covered in shock and worry. 

At the time, I was struggling with my mental health. Navigating my stress and anxiety while trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up at thirty-eight started to take a toll. My wife’s concern was not for my ability to handle the actual officiating. Instead, she was worried the added stress would be too much. 

Everything in my body agreed with her. I had a choice to make. Steer into the skid and become their officiant, or take the coward’s route and let them know it was too much for me.

I grabbed my computer and started writing. The words began to pour out. My fingers had trouble keeping up with the pace of the ideas. As I wrote, I realized that I was smiling. 

It was the happiest I had felt in months. 

I spent the remaining 186 days writing, re-writing, outlining, and rehearsing a wedding ceremony from start to finish. 

It felt incredible. Working on something for two people I care about was cathartic. The writing felt fun and easy again.

You should know that the wedding would be in Cabo San Lucas, on the beach. I arrived in Mexico feeling confident the ceremony would be terrific. 

We rehearsed briefly with the resort’s wedding coordinator the night before the wedding. She let me know that I would be holding the microphone. 

I did not rehearse this way. I felt the anxiety rise, but I kept it under control.

The following morning, the day of the wedding, I grabbed a water bottle to use as a microphone to rehearse. 

I made it 3 sentences in before I began to cry.

I thought, that was weird. 

I had read the words hundreds of times over the past few months, and not one time did I get emotional.

I shook it off and started over. I lost it again 3 paragraphs in. 

Uh-oh, I’ve got a problem. 

Every attempt led me to tears, so I decided to steer into the skid and let myself cry for thirty minutes on our hotel balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

My wife walked out to find me sobbing. Something that she has done quite a bit over the past year or so. She was relieved to find out that my tears were mostly happy tears. She assured me that if I did get emotional, it wouldn’t ruin the wedding. I believed her, but I didn’t think anyone, let alone the Bride and Groom, would want to see me ugly crying on the beach. 

I dressed and went to the best man’s room to take photos before the ceremony. It was the most wind we had during our entire stay. I glanced at the folder in my hand with the wedding as the whole inside and thought, this will make things interesting. 

Fortunately (for me), the groom was experiencing the pre-wedding jitters, which helped keep my mind occupied. 

We got to the beach, and I found a spot to give myself one last read-through. The wind had its way with the pages inside my officiant binder. This meant I would be battling my pages while holding a binder and the microphone.

I did not rehearse this. 

As it turned out, the wind was my savior. It forced me to focus on something other than my emotions. The wind also did a fine job of hiding my shaking legs. 

You may be wondering, how did it go?

I did a good job. 

Of course, there are things that I would change if I had to do it again. 

When the ceremony was finished, the wedding guests had nothing but lovely things to say to me. Their kind words mean more to me than any of them know. 

When I’m old and looking back on life, November 6, 2022, will be a day that changed my life for the better. It led me to May 11, 2023, one of the best days of my life.

Remember when the path of life takes an unexpected turn to hang on and enjoy the ride. Hold your judgment until the moment passes. In hindsight, things we think are good or lousy flip-flops. 

Embrace the anxiety. You never know when the wind that wrecks your hair will end up being the thing that saves the day. 


The Danger of Trying to Engineer Your Child’s Identity: A Personal Reflection

In my sophomore year of college, I took a Human Sexuality course at the University of Minnesota. The credits counted toward my major in Psychology, and learning about sexuality seemed like a pleasant way for me to spend my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. 

The course was most of what you’d expect. Freud, Kinsey, stereotypes in the world today (2005), etc. Then came the day that we discussed sexual orientation and gender identity. 

I confess that, at the time, my understanding of gender identity was inadequate and small-minded. Growing up in rural Minnesota limited my exposure to people outside of straight, cisgender, conservative-leaning people. 

The professor had split that day’s class into two sections. The first half was a lecture, and the second half split the class into small groups with discussion items. 

When the professor reached the point in their lecture regarding the difference between sexuality and gender identity, the hand of a cisgender male shot up. If you’re picturing a stereotypical early 2000s frat boy, you’re on the right page. 

“Why would a guy change to a girl if he’s into girls? That doesn’t make sense,” he said when the professor took his question. 

Before the professor could answer, another hand shot up. There was another student in the class that was transgender. She was in the process of transitioning to a female. She had recently begun receiving hormone therapy. 

The professor allowed her to respond to the question—a professional move.

I cannot remember precisely what she said, so I’ll paraphrase. She explained how she had been attracted to females as far back as she can remember. She also explained how as far back as she can remember, she felt as though she was trapped inside a body that she didn’t belong in. 

Her explanation was far more in-depth, and I remember feeling like a moron when she finished. I felt this way because she spoke for a few minutes in a calm, concise manner. She was thoughtful and understanding of the lack of understanding the vast majority of the class had. I think about her often and admire how she knew exactly who she was at twenty, while I am still trying to figure that out as a thirty-eight-year-old father.

Up to that point, my general idea was that I didn’t have an opinion about transgender people. I didn’t understand identifying as another gender and figured I never would. However, it didn’t bother me, so I kept to myself.

I find this matter of thinking to be that of a coward. It’s why I felt the need to write this. 

As fate would have it, that same student was in my small group for the discussion. I learned more in the second half of that single class than any other class I took in college. I walked out feeling like I had grown as a person. It felt fantastic.

Do you know what I didn’t do? 

I didn’t walk out questioning my gender. I didn’t walk out questioning my sexuality. I wasn’t confused about who I was all of a sudden. 

The same way that growing up in Brainerd, MN, didn’t turn me into a hunting, fishing, country music-loving conservative. 

Those things were never interesting because that’s not who I am. I don’t fault the people I grew up with that enjoy those things. I don’t think they need to be changed. They are/were my friends. People I spent a lot of time with, and I am a better person for it. I’m not confident they view me in that light these days, which is fine. 

Despite what people want you to believe, nature almost always wins in the battle of nature vs. nurture. 

I came across a video of Dr. Russel A. Barkley speaking about ADHD, and I believe this quote to be one of the most poignant views on parenting that I have come across.

“You are a shepherd, not an engineer. You do not get to design your child. Most of the things that will affect your child and help him turn into the person he will be are out of your control, so stop trying to control them, for you will only fail.”

Dr. Russell A. Barkley – ADHD-30 Essential Ideas everyone needs to know

For years, politicians have used things to rile up their base—abortion, same-sex marriage, vaccines, etc. I’d guess that privately, some politicians do not believe in the agenda they are pushing. Instead, they think that it will earn them votes. They are always prepared with the next hot-button issue that will fire up their constituents. 

All they need is an opportunity.

This is where Dr. Barkley’s quote is pertinent. We are in the middle of a parenting generation convinced that they are the engineers of their children.

These parents believe they are the way they are because of something their parents did or didn’t do. This leads them to think outside factors can determine who their kids will become at a base level. Music, books, video games, movies, and drag shows will change nothing regarding their child’s sexuality or gender identity. 

Preparedness met opportunity as it often does, resulting in a mass of ignorant and fearful parents who think these outside forces will somehow burrow into their children’s genetics and start changing things. The result is dangerous legislation that will harm people who need help, understanding, and compassion. 

You couldn’t affect your child’s sexuality or gender identity any more than you could make them the first chair cellist for the New York Philharmonic.

If you look inward, you’ll realize that no one can change your gender identity. If you trace it back on the timeline of your life, you’ll realize that no one could have changed it in your twenties, teens, or prior. Now imagine that people forced you to be something other than the wonderful person you have always been. Imagine the torture of going to middle school and being forced to dress and behave as something you are not at the most self-conscious time of your life. Those days are hard enough, even when you’re allowed to express yourself freely.

Here’s a thought experiment: If you’re best friend came out to you as transgender, how would you react? What would you say to them? Would it change the future of your relationship?

If that would be the end of your relationship, you are the problem.

It’s okay to be confused or fearful of something we don’t understand. 

What is not okay is trying to exterminate the things we don’t understand simply because we do not understand them. 

Those who refer to Disney World as the happiest place on Earth have yet to go to a drag show. 

Try it. Be a brave American, google Drag Brunch, pick a day, and go. Worst case? You’ll have breakfast. In the best case, you’ll have breakfast, cocktails, and a fantastic time and leave more open-minded than when you walked in. Then maybe you’ll start to educate yourself, find out that there is nothing to be scared of, and you’ll be happier without the unnecessary anger inside you.

Oh, the humanity!

Or, you can live and let live. You can buy more guns and pretend you’re John Wick ignoring the fact that one of the more dangerous things we do today is drop our kids off at school while the rest of us drink mimosas at a drag brunch having a great time. 

Be a shepherd. Provide a safe place for the flock. It feels much better to love and tend to others than to hate and neglect them.