How To Make It Weird: Big Slick KC Edition

“Okay, but first—what is Big Slick KC?”

Next month, Rob Riggle and Paul Rudd and a bunch of other celebrities are set to take part in the annual Big Slick KC Celebrity Weekend fundraiser. They raise a lot of money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Children’s Mercy is a great institution. But it’s also where our daughter Charlotte spent her brief life. This year, I selfishly wanted to donate the excess money from our GoFundMe for Charlotte to Children’s Mercy via Big Slick. Because celebrities. But we didn’t get all of our bills before most of the really awesome (and semi-affordable) stuff sold out.

Oh well.

But this year, they’re holding an Omaze campaign to join the celebrities on the field during the celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium. And you can receive extra entries by donating money.  But another perk is that local brand Charlie Hustle usually designs a version of this shirt exclusively for Big Slick KC, and this campaign is the only way to receive them this year.

“Okay, that’s not awkward. How did you make it awkward?”

At work today, a woman came in wearing one of the Big Slick tees. But I couldn’t remember if it was from this year or from years past. So when she came to the register to check out, I asked.

She sounded really excited when she responded, which means she’s either working at Children’s Mercy, for Big Slick, or just a fan

“Oh, no. It’s from a few years ago. The ones this year are black with green, maybe? But you can get this year’s by going to Omaze.com and entering—”

I tried to cut her off as politely as I could, because I’ve already entered the contest. I just wanted to know if the shirt would look like hers because, well, last year’s wasn’t my favorite color. And I could’ve left it there, but I felt the need to explain myself.

Big Slick KC 2017 t-shirt by Charlie Hustle

The shirt in question. (Image via Omaze)

“Yeah,” I said, “I was curious because I’m thinking about getting one. My little girl was at Children’s Mercy this year and we have a lot of excess money from our crowdfunding account that we can donate.”

“Oh, cool. Is everything okay now?”

“No.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She immediately looked away.

That poor lady. All she wanted to do was come to the store and buy some clothes and maybe enjoy the weather, and I had to saddle her with an awkward conversation about her t-shirt and my daughter and how not okay things are. She smiled apologetically, left, and I immediately burst into laughter. I used my walkie-talkie to joke with Landon about it, because that’s really all I could do at the moment: joke about making it weird. I went on about my day, but a part of me felt awful.

Hopefully her next conversation with a sales clerk isn’t as awkward as the one we had.

Posted by Doug in Retail Therapy
‘Thank You’ Cards and Notes and Things

‘Thank You’ Cards and Notes and Things

Let’s get something out of the way: I am really, really bad at writing “thank you” notes.

I have always been bad at it. Whether it was my high school graduation or the aftermath of our wedding–sorry, Cousin Pam!–I am lacking in consistency. It’s a personal failing, and if we’re being honest, I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever improve. I have tried. I have generally failed. Stamps are hard, my handwriting sucks, etc.

But also, with that in mind, there are some things that I need to thank people for.

Over the past few months, 105 people–give or take a few–have given us $7000 to help cope with medical expenses. Some of our friends have sent us gift cards, whether to cover incidental expenses arising from more or less spending all our free time down at Children’s Mercy while Charlotte was there or simply to enjoy a meal that wasn’t cafeteria food (which was okay for a day or two but after two weeks was not). We tried to keep a list. Spoiler alert: we did not keep a very good list. And then in our efforts to try and keep our house cleaner, we threw away some envelopes with return addresses on them. Oops.

So this is my attempt at a sort of mea culpa.

Jimmy Fallon Writing Thank you Notes

For family members and friends who took their own money and placed it into our care, we thank you for your generosity. For the church community who helped mold me into the person I am now, who did their best to shepherd me and raise me up–and who also collected items and money and things and shared Charlotte’s story and fundraiser page and prayed for her and us without ceasing–thank you.

For my friends from high school who threw together money and treated Erin and me out to dinner at Outback and Chili’s and Olive Garden and Subway–you have no idea how good that steak and cheeseburger and fettuccine Alfredo and chicken and bacon ranch club tasted.

For the people who offered to make octopuses for my little girl to cuddle with, I just want to say thanks. There were a lot of offers. A lot. If you had been able to send them, we would’ve had to get a second isolet for them because they wouldn’t fit in Charlotte’s.

At the end of the day–and I have said this before–what I’m thankful for, more than anything else, is that my village is so big and loving and remembers the things I am inclined to forget. That it compensates for my stupid mouth and thoughtless words and shows that compassion is a universal truth; from Chicago to Los Angeles to New Hampshire to Florida to my little old beloved hometown. A patchwork, zig-zag set of compassionate ley lines setting up a support structure, without which I’m not sure we would’ve been able to survive.

And on this Sunday morning, thinking about things, I just thought i should take a few moments, sit down, and write out at least one massive note of thanks.

Posted by Doug in Charlotte James, Stuff
Easter Weekend, 2017

Easter Weekend, 2017

It’s Easter Weekend. Easter Sunday, actually. And while many of my friends are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ today, I’m a little more quiet in my contemplation. A little more reserved. Because, quite frankly, Good Friday stung a lot more than in previous years past. Today, too.

Let’s be honest. Good Friday never really gave me that much pause, not even when I was in the throes of my most fervent churchgoing and praising and worshiping. It was important, of course, and it was something to mourn. But the Promise of the Resurrection always took a lot of the sting out of it. It seemed so wrong to get so sad about something that you knew would be rectified in a matter of forty-eight hours.

Even without that context, however, Fridays aren’t so good anymore.

It’s a lot harder to view the weekend with as much enthusiasm when two out of its three days are marked with bittersweet anniversaries. Sunday mornings are birthdays, ticking past on the calendar. First we’ll have weeks. Then, eventually, months. February 26, 2018 will be raw, unfiltered hurt and anger and sadness all blended up by hand mixer of time and poured out onto my head, heaped upon me like hot coals.

But Fridays? Oh, God. Fridays are even worse.

How many weeks has it been? I catch myself asking on Friday mornings, doing quick mental math. When does it transition over to months? Four weeks? The same date number on the calendar next to a different set of letters? Is mid-morning always going to carry with it these bright flareups of grief? Should I change my computer’s background picture so that I’m not constantly encouraged to touch my screen, which I know is really, really bad for a computer that’s already on the cusp of needing replaced. And then, of course, the metaphysical: will I get to see Charlotte again?

There are always questions, and a frantic look around for someone to answer them.

I hesitate to call any Friday good anymore, even with the promise of Christ’s death and Resurrection. Even though some part of me still clings to that hope. And that hope comes, as most things do, with the tiniest sliver of human reservation; an admittedly bizarre sense of parental envy, as insane as that sounds. Excruciating and awful as it was, God sent His Son to die but remained secure in the knowledge They would be together again.

I watched my daughter slip away without 100% knowing the same to be true. And regardless of what everyone says–either today at Easter dinner or in the months and years to come–I’ll believe it when I see it.

And that’s the part that stings more than anything. No ten thousand angels crying. Just me and Erin, our parents. Some friends. When I think about that Friday, my personal Via Dolorosa was a thirty minute drive down I-35 in the “Bible-black predawn,” to steal a phrase from Wilco’s “I am trying to break your heart.” Racing against time to hopefully get to the hospital before it was too late.


Even so, I do what I can. If we associated every day of the week with something terrible, we would never get anything done. We’d never be able to enjoy any day. And that’s a real disservice to others. That’s a betrayal of their memory. Because if there’s anything my time with Charlotte has encouraged, it’s a real mindfulness to be present. To say yes to things. To actually live. After all, that’s what the Resurrection is for, right? The promise of life? Why not take it and use it for something worthwhile?

And that, I think, is where I’ll leave it for now. Life is short. Hug your littles. Call your parents. Do the thing. It’s what we’re really here for, after all.

Posted by Doug in Charlotte James, Stuff
I really like the book I wrote last year…

I really like the book I wrote last year…

So much so that I’m going to put it on the shelf and leave it alone. In fact, I find myself wondering if I’ll actually ever open it again.

Maybe that makes absolutely no sense. And you know what? I get that.

In Between Days sits squarely in the YA genre. It’s likely not the best thing I’ll ever write, but I’m proud of it, and I hope people enjoy it. But it’s definitively a story I was comfortable writing. With the exception of writing a couple of teenage girl characters, everything on those pages sat pretty squarely in my wheelhouse. Lots of guys who like music, drinking, and movies.

My second book? The one I finished in August last year and then didn’t touch again until a few days ago? That of the constant Instagram posts and humblebrags and daily word counts? It was totally the exact opposite. Lots of themes I didn’t really even have to deal with. Yeah, there are crushes and high school dances and awkward romance, but there’s some other stuff, too. Coming out of the closet. Writing from the perspective of not just a girl, but one who may find herself falling in love with another girl. Trying to figure out all of that and high school.

So why am I not moving forward on the project?


Quite frankly, I’m not the person to tell the story.

I’m not gay, and I’m not a girl, and even though I grew up in the same setting, it’s not my story. There’s a pretty hefty subsection of discussion what and when it’s okay to write; displacing someone else to tell a story that’s not yours to tell does a massive disservice to other writers; it’s why people bristle at white writers telling stories that, by all rights, belong to people of color. Ditto for sexuality; that’s not to say you can’t write characters who aren’t like you, but you owe it to them to get it right. There’s a responsibility. No representation is bad, but bad representation is worse, they say. Your missed opportunity could do real and lasting damage to others by virtue of painting an inaccurate picture or willfully dismissing their concerns. It’s why sensitivity readers are a thing–I’d planned to employ them on this book, once it finally got through a couple of drafts.

So even though I’m proud of the story, more or less, and I think it’s better and stronger than the one told in In Between Days, I’m setting it aside. Because maybe there’s a girl (or boy, I guess) sitting in southern Indiana right now, looking across the street at a new neighbor or at their best friend and wishing with all their heart that the two of them will be able to go to prom together without terrible church kids telling them they can’t and have the same experience as all the other straight kids.

And they deserve to tell their own story. With their own happy ending.

 

Posted by Doug in Writing
I’m not going to apologize for telling Trump voters they hate teachers and other thoughts.

I’m not going to apologize for telling Trump voters they hate teachers and other thoughts.

Earlier today I told Trump voters they should spit in public school teachers’ faces in regards to Trump’s education secretary Betsy DeVos, and people didn’t care for that. Like they really didn’t care for it, and they let me know. That’s cool. I didn’t really get a chance to respond because I was working–I have two jobs, and one of them doesn’t give me much time for social media while I’m on the clock–but now I’m home, and I’ve sat down at a computer with an actual keyboard.
So here are some things:

1. I’m a writer. My whole aim is to use language to elicit an emotional response.

Maybe it resonates, as some people have said. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way, I spent five years and a whole lot of money learning how to do it well. Now, you may disagree as to how effective I am at it. Some people have said I’m really good, and others have told me I’m trash. I can handle that. Looking at different site analytics–for both this site and for hello pollywog, I can tell you that I don’t have the broad audience I’d really like to have. I’d like to change that.
But enough people have told me that I’m good at what I do, so I’m gonna keep doing it until it’s time to go to the prison camps.
 

2. In regards to Betsy DeVos: I am friends with a lot of teachers.

That happens when you spend four years training to become one. Now, you might argue that since I spectacularly flamed out of Evansville’s teacher training program, I don’t know anything about the act of teaching. Maybe that’s valid. But a lot of my friends did not. And I have other friends who learned how to teach from other schools. And the one thing they all have in common? A deep aversion to what Betsy DeVos has done in Michigan and will likely do in school districts across the country.
 

3. If my daughter wants to protest, you can bet I’ll drive her there.

I want a teenage daughter who puts my teenage political apathy to shame. I want a daughter who is engaged and passionate and articulate and intelligent about the issues that are important to her. If she wants a pussy hat, she’ll get a pussy hat. If she wants to make signs and march with other women, I’ll gladly let her lead the way. If she wants to write “fuck the patriarchy” on a piece of poster board, I will give her my credit card so she can buy as many colors of markers as she deems necessary.

4. My wife is incredible.

She’s a lovely apolitical woman who–if you’re Facebook friends with her, you can attest to this–doesn’t start shit, which is an enviable thing. If I could be more like her, I’d probably be lot nicer of a person. I should follow her example more often.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go write more things that people might not read.
Posted by Doug in Rant, Stuff