Do You Believe?

Can you remember the time when you truly believed in Santa Claus?

When you knew beyond a doubt that the stories were true, that he actually flew from house to house delivering presents?

I know I can.

Growing up, Santa always came on Christmas Eve. There was no sleeping and waiting for Christmas morning. No waking up and running down stairs to see if he came again that year.

Wait. Before you start to judge, or think that I didn’t get to experience the magic…

I will argue that I experienced more magic than most.

Most of my Christmas Eve’s run together, as they do for most of us. But I have one. One night that, to this day, makes me stop and wonder for just a moment if Santa could actually be real.

I must have been about 5 years old. Come to think of it, it’s probably the first Christmas that I remember.

When I look back, there was every reason for me to have the veil lifted on the entire Santa Claus “thing.” Because not only am I the baby in my family… I am also a mistake. Sorry, my mom hates that… I was an unplanned surprise that happened to turn out as the most funny, gifted, handsome, and tallest son in my family.

Anyway, my siblings must have had every opportunity to spoil the magic. But, they didn’t. For that, I am grateful.

(Side note: my siblings are awesome, I have always felt included despite being a decade behind.)

On this particular Christmas Eve, we were at another family’s home overlooking the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York.

I don’t remember the evening or what we had for dinner. I don’t remember what I did to keep myself occupied without another person my age in the house.

What I do remember is it being late. I remember the snow making the night a little brighter. I remember everyone happy and laughing. And,  I remember the sleigh bells.

Out of no where there were sleigh bells. Faint, but there they were. Outside the house (on the roof?), the undeniable sound of sleigh bells.

It’s really him!

Before we know the truth, there is always a piece of us that is skeptical. The story is far fetched, that is obvious even to a five year-old. But, we search for every excuse to believe. We choose to believe in the unbelievable because it is much more exciting than knowing your parents bought, wrapped, and placed your presents under the tree.

Remember, this is before the all of the Santa tracker apps and websites. Sleigh bells outside were my tracker. Sleigh bells outside.

He is here. He is actually here delivering presents!

Of course, everybody at the party took the opportunity to feed into my excitement.

“Do you hear that, Timmy?”

“It sounds like he is headed for your house.”

“If you hurry home, maybe you can catch him.”

We got in the Aerostar van and started our way home. I can’t imagine I was tolerable. The van could not go fast enough.

We finally got home.

I ran to the front door. I ran through the house to the living room.What I found was nothing short of a miracle to my young eyes.

Four neat piles were set up in different areas of the living room. One for my sister, two for each of my brothers and, most importantly, one for me.

I can’t remember any of my presents, except for one. It was a Gonzo timtalksgonzostuffed animal from The Muppets (I must have liked him?). He was sitting on the arm of the black sofa, placed so deliberately… so carefully that I knew it could only have been Santa that placed my toys in that pile.

But, it wasn’t about the presents. Not that night.

Leading away from the fireplace were snowy, wet boot prints.

On the coffee table sat a half drank mug of milk and an empty plate that was previously adorned with cookies.

Proof.

I had proof beyond a reasonable doubt that not only was Santa real, but he had visited my house and delivered my presents.

Obviously, one of my parents had left the party early to put on this ruse but that was lost on me.

I believed.

As I write this, I can feel a part of me that still believes (thanks to this 4th glass of red wine). There is a part of me that still isn’t quite convinced that it wasn’t Santa.

I love that feeling.

We all love that feeling.

With all of the non-sense that clouds up our lives on a day to day basis, I think it is important that we all remember these simple pleasures.

Yes, there are terrorists in the world that want to kill us.

Yes, Donald Trump exists.

Yes, we have issues that we believe in and want to convince the rest of the world that our opinion is the right one.

Yes, we (most of us) go to jobs that drive us crazy and make us want to give up.

But, in sixteen short days it will be Christmas Eve. And, for millions of kids around the world, the magic is starting to build as they wait and hope for Santa’s visit.

Yes, that is amazing.

Yes, we should all do what we can to encourage that belief in magic.

And, no, of course Santa isn’t real.

Of course, he doesn’t have flying reindeer.

And no, it’s not possible for him to visit kids all over the world.

But… Maybe, just maybe…

Cheers to believing.

Why am I So Awkward? 2: Return of the Awkward

People really seem to enjoy hearing about my awkward adventures back in May, so I decided it may be a good idea to delve a little deeper into this issue. For your laughs and for my own self discovery.

I can’t explain where these… let’s call them tics, come from. I live most of my life doing everything I can to accommodate everybody that I come in contact with, and, everything I can to accommodate these people with out being an inconvenience to everyone else in the world.

It’s exhausting.

Just thinking about this makes my chest tighten.

My brain forms associations quickly when I am experiencing all of the symptoms of what I consider to be an awkward situation. I have become so familiar with the symptoms, that I am like a idiot superhero trying to save the world from them.

This is what I have decided anyway…

Let’s go through some examples, shall we? Continue reading

My Lie

Have you ever lied about something for so long that you actually forgot the truth?

I just realized that I have.

Fall 1994. Third Grade.

I love when memories are so vivid that you see them through the eyes of the chubby little person that you were when they happened…

It’s an overcast, fall day that threatens rain all day but never delivers. A breeze that carries just the smallest sent of winter. The noise of kids screaming and running all over the playground.

If I could travel back in time to that day, I would be so disappointed in the size and scale of the playground at Riverside Elementary. But, as it exists in my memory, it is huge.

The kickball diamond in the far corner overlooking the Mississippi River is the size of a major league baseball diamond.

Fresh wood chips that were spread over the summer for the school year.

The new playground equipment is state of the art. It’s got an awesome spiral slide that makes all the hair on your body stick up with static.

A cool zip line track that seemed to glide forever and 2 different sets of monkey bars (which I could never play on since I paired my weak upper body strength with my overweight adolescent body).

Then, there is the silver slide, the “big slide” that towers over the rest of the playground. It’s made out of metal, which means that the speed of the slide varied depending on the weather conditions.

On this particular day, the slide was a little sticky. Perfect conditions for tag.

Our games of tag always revolved around the slide. It had two ladders going to the top that led to dual slides that made a V.

This gave two options of escape from the kid who was “it” and, with the slide being sticky meant that you could control your speed.

I raced to the top of the slide and began my descent.

This is where my lie has erased my memory. Something happened on my ride that resulted with me laying face down on the ground. Continue reading

Drinking for the USA

Where am I? 

I open my eyes as wide as I can but there is only darkness.

What the hell did I do?

If you have ever woken up like this, you know how terrifyingly confusing it is. Laying there, trying to piece together what is dream and what is drunken reality.

This story took place much more recently than I care to admit.

That being said, I’ll admit that this story takes place December 27, 2013. I remember the date because it was the same evening that my beloved Gopher football team broke my heart yet again with a loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.

A few years ago, me and a couple of friends came up with an idea while “geeking” out and playing FIFA soccer on Xbox.

We decided that we would create the Minneapolis World Cup.

AnFOuxDCIAEDbVp

Yeah, we took it serious.

This involved everyone picking a country to represent in a video game tournament. What’s more, we all were to bring a food and beverage from our home country. Being the red-blooded American that I am, I chose to represent the United States. Some may claim that I chose to rep the US because it was easy pickings for the food and drink. Those people would be correct, but it sounds better to claim that I am a patriot.

The second Minneapolis World Cup was held on the evening of 12/27/2013.

Why does any of this matter?

The food that I brought for the United States was buffalo chicken dip in a crock pot (my wife made it). But more importantly, the drink that I brought for the United States was an alcoholic, apple pie shot concoction. Believe me when I tell you, it was delicious. That was the problem.

See, when the Gophers lose (well, especially when the Gophers lose) I tend to over indulge in alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain.

After the football game finished, it was time to start the futbol tournament.

I should point out that this tournament was being held in the home of a friend’s sister, whom I did not know.

We had three televisions set up in her basement so that we could get through the entire tournament quickly.

If you were to walk in on this event you would find three games being played at the same time. You would hear profanity laced trash talk from the competitors and spectators. You would see people passing out shots with alcohol from their home country. And, this is the best part, you would periodically here national anthems for each country represented.

I am hoping that we do this again.

Anyway.

My apple pie shots were so delicious, that I forgot that it was supposed to be shots and not drinks. Shortly into the Minneapolis World Cup my motor skills and hand-eye coordination began to fade as I continued to over indulge in the drink of my country.

I should have learned my lesson at the first Minneapolis World Cup. But, I’m a slow learner…

After the loss that ended the tournament for me, my memory gets fuzzy (very fuzzy). MY last clear memory I was something like –

I just need to lay down and rest my eyes for a little bit.

I had a couple of things working against me on this night (as usual).

  1. The previous year, I drank too much apple pie ‘drank’ and left the Minneapolis World Cup early without telling anyone by having my wife come pick me up like an 8 year-old scared at a sleep over.
  2. We were in a strange house that nobody was familiar with.

Where am I? What the hell did I do?

Darkness and silence.

My first order of business? I patted myself down.

Thank goodness… I’m not naked.

Score one for the good ol’ US of A.

I managed to get to my knees still unable to see anything.

Where’s my phone?

I checked my pockets. No phone. I started to run my hands over the carpet hoping to find my phone laying next to me.

Success!

I clicked the button to illuminated my phone and get a sense of where I was.

What the fuck?

The blue glow of my phone’s home screen had now lit up the room that was actually not a room at all but it was, in fact, I walk-in closet. The rods in the closet were relatively empty and there were a couple of pairs of old shoes.

This must be a guest bedroom. Why am I in a closet? Did I come in here on my own? What time is it?

I turned to the blue glow of the phone toward my face.

4:10 AM.

Shit.

Everyone must be asleep.

At this point, I had no idea how big the bedroom was that the door of this closet led to. Nor, did I know who would be in the bedroom.

Slowly and quietly I opened the door. Still on my knees, I listed for the rhythmic breathing of someone sleeping. Nothing.

Again, I used my cell phone to scan the room. It is a big bedroom, with an empty bed.

Why didn’t I lay in the bed?

I moved to the bedroom door.

Everyone must be in the living room.

The last time I was in the living room, it had 3 TVs, scattered red solo cups and beer cans, and about 15 people talking and laughing.

I slowly opened the door and scanned the room.

No people. No TVs. No cups or cans.

What the fuck? Where is everyone?

I started to make my way up the stairs. I stopped quickly when I remembered three things.

  1. My friend’s sister is a nurse. She was working the night shift. I don’t know if she is home.
  2. There is a dog somewhere in this house that is certain to hear my shuffling around. If it barks and wakes up people who I don’t know, this will officially be the most awkward situation I have ever been in (assuming that the cops aren’t called because of break in).
  3. I need to find my crock pot.

I continued up the stairs to the door that opened to the kitchen. The windows and sliding glass door allowed for the orange glow of winter to aid my eyes in adjusting to the dark.

On the counter in front me sat the crock pot.

Like Indiana Jones, I slowly and carefully lifted the crock pot from the counter, wadding the cord in my left hand.

I made my way to the front door with each step taking about 5-10 seconds.

About halfway to the door, the floor let out a small groan under the weight of my foot. I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs as I froze. Then, from somewhere in the house came a muffled dog bark

Decision time.

  1. Wait and continue slowly making my way to the door.
  2. Run to the door, throw on my shoes and haul ass to my car.

If you are a frequent visitor of my blog you know that I would select option 2 every single time. And that is what I did.

I shut the door as I heard the dog making its way toward me. With the heels of my shoes folded under my foot, I ran through the snowy yard to my car. I started it and drove a few blocks with the crock pot in my lap.

Once I was a safe distance away, I stopped and put the crock pot in the passenger seat.

I was wide awake with the adrenaline pumping through my entire body.

Everyone left. Know one called or looked for me. What the hell?

Later, I found out that since I made my Houdini like escape from the previous Minneapolis World Cup, everyone just assumed that I did it again.

I didn’t. I wandered into a closet and passed out.

But, hey, I was 28. I was just a kid. I have grown up a lot since then.

Cheers.

My Heart Attack

When left to my own devices, my brain wanders the hallway of worst case scenarios. This happens at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Unless there is something specific for me to worry about, my mind always opens the door that contains thoughts about death. My death… My wife’s death… My family… you get the point, no one is off-limits.

This in itself is a story for another day, however, it is important that you know this little bit about me for today’s story.

The first apartment that my wife and I lived in the year leading up to our wedding was a whopping 825 sq. ft. But, hey, it was new and it was ours.

The apartment complex had a “gym” that was just as small. This didn’t bother me because I had weight to lose for our upcoming wedding day and no one else seemed to use the facilities. It was like my own private gym.

The gym contained the following: an all in one workout machine, a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical, a sit-up bench, a TV and a water cooler.

It should be known that we moved into this apartment the summer I graduated from college or, as I have come to refer to them, the worst three months of my life. My summer was spent sending resumes, going to interviews and getting rejected repeatedly. To say that I lived an inactive lifestyle would be the understatement of the century. Depressed and feeling like a loser led to a lot of weight gain.

With our wedding day approaching fast, I decided to buck up and start getting in shape. I needed something to do since I had yet to find a job. Continue reading