It’s a Choice

The conversation was overheard. A young woman complaining about her life. Her personal life, her professional life. Nothing was turning out the way she had hoped.

To some extent, we can all empathize a little. There is not a single person I know whose life has followed the precise plan they laid out for themselves when they were younger. If everyone’s life turned out exactly the way we dreamed, we would have a lot more movie stars and professional athletes in this world. If my life had taken the path I planned in high school, I would now be a wealthy architect living in a mansion of my own design. Obviously, that did not happen.

I found myself listening to this individual lay out her life’s grievances to an older lady when the solution to her problems hit me. I felt as it lit up above my head like a light bulb in a cartoon.

She groaned comparing her life to others, “I talk to these people who work there and they love their job. I wish I loved my job.”

Before I had the chance to stop myself, I blurted, “Then do it.”

Hopefully, she didn’t hear me. Or if she did, maybe she did not realize I was talking to her. Either way, the answer to her desire was so painfully obvious to me, I could not resist vocalizing it. If you want to love your job, then love your job.

Love is a funny thing. We often think of it in two senses - something we feel and something we do. It’s more than that though. Love is also something we chose. If you want to love something then you must make the choice to love it.

Let’s look at it from another perspective. I do not love playing basketball. I am short, uncoordinated, and have bad aim from the free throw line. When I do play, I get sweaty and my back hurts and I would rather be playing NBA Jam on the X-Box. I do not love basketball but I wish I could dunk. Spud Webb is only an inch taller than me and he could do it. I can’t even touch the rim. Dream all I want but I will never be able to make a slam dunk without assistance. Even if I chose to do it, it will never happen. But I could love basketball if I chose to do so. I do not have to be able to play the game to love the sport, I would only have to decide to love it, then do it.

This is why the girl’s dilemma wishing she loved her job seemed to me like it had an easy solution. If you want to love your job then choose to love your job. That is a choice only you can make. If you do not choose to love your job, you are going to end up an unhappy employee - perpetually disgruntled.

But, but, but ... I can hear your objections. I provide an easy answer. In theory, it makes sense. However, we live in the real world and simple answers are not always easily enacted. Some jobs suck. Some are miserable mindless tasks. Some supervisors are cruel micromanagers. How can you possibly choose to love something like that? How can you just love something you do not like?

I cannot tell you how, all I know is that it’s possible. There are people who I love dearly and can’t stand to be in their company. I don’t like to exercise yet I love how it makes me feel. I love eating salad even though I hate the way it tastes.

And I love my job. I do not always enjoy my job but I still love it. I love it because I am good at it and my unique set of skills seems perfectly suited for it. Because there are a couple hundred people depend on me and I have a boss who trusts me. Because it pays the bills and puts food on my table. Because it allows me to support my children financially and emotionally. Because it gives me the freedom to leave work when I have a sick kid or meetings with a teacher.

Most of all, I love my job because a long time ago, that is what I chose to do.

Do you wish you loved your job? Then do it. It’s a choice.


An Odd Boycott

This whole Keurig thing is weird. First, some background in case you haven't been able to keep up with the relentless news cycle.

It started when Roy Moore, a former Alabama judge who has been twice removed from judicial office for ethics violations and ignoring court orders, was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor when he was in his thirties. In other words, he allegedly sexually assaulted a fourteen year old girl.

Next came the defenders. Those engaged with the "if it's true" argument, or the flat denials that a good "Christian" man like Moore would ever do something like that and the accusers are all liars. There were those who proposed the claims are a conspiracy theory concocted by the "fake news" media determined to destroy the Trump presidency. We also had many conservative pundits engaged in whataboutism, trying to distract from the multiple accusations against Roy Moor by saying "Yeah, well what about this other person who also did bad things," as if we can't talk about Moore's sexual misdeeds because of Bill Clinton's predatory behavior.

To a degree, those defenses are to be expected. What is unusual is the lengths many of Moore's supporters have gone to justify the accusations as inconsequential. These excuses were varied and bizarre. Some said it was normal for grown men to date teenagers back in the 70's. Or that it was OK because Mary, mother of Jesus was only a teenager when she married Joseph. Or the claim that child molestation is similar to stealing a lawn mower and shouldn't disqualify someone if it happened forty years ago. My favorite is that it doesn’t matter what Moore did because the Democrats are worse. Even Moore's own defense is that he doesn't remember but he didn't date any minors without their mom's permission.

Of those pundits who supported and defended Roy Moore was FOX News personality, Sean Hannity. Hannity supports Moore and invited the mired candidate onto the show to defend himself. Hannity even tried to discredit the accusers and paint Roy Moore as a victim. In response, Hannity lost a few advertising sponsors. Some brands place morals over money and do not wish to be associated with a source of revenue that appears to be supportive of an alleged pedophile.

Keurig was one of the brands to quit advertising on Hannity's show. This angered Hannity's fans who furiously typed their Twitter rants, elevating "#boycottkeurig" to a trending topic. Which brings me back to where we started. This whole Keurig thing is weird.

The Hannifans who protested Keurig did so by smashing their Keurig machines. Their own Keurig machines. Machines already bought and paid for.

Like this.
Image courtesy of Business Insider.

This last week, through the protests and news articles, in social media and on late night talk shows, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Some people value pedophilia more than coffee. These people are objecting to a company taking a moral stand against someone accused of sexually assaulting teenagers. They would rather vote for a man who (allegedly) hurt kids, than have a functioning coffee maker in their home. They support the creeper more than the percolator.

2. Some people don’t know how to protest. I can guarantee Keurig will not be financially harmed people by breaking stuff they already purchased. The company already made their money. When this controversy passes, after people forget why they were all butt hurt and start craving single serving freshly brewed java, they’re going to go out and buy themselves a new Keurig.

3. We as a nation still can’t talk about the things we really need to talk about. We live in a culture where male dominated behavior has normalized abuse. We need to change that. We need to quit using the “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” as excuses. We need to raise our boys to be better men. We need to listen to the women in our lives, treat them as equals, and respect their boundaries. We need to hear the stories of those saying “Me too.” As long as we don’t talk about this, this will continue to plague our world.

We need to draw a line in the sand clear enough to be seen from Mars. Unwanted sexual advances are not acceptable. Forced sexual contact is wrong. Anyone in the public sphere facing accusations of harassment, assault, or rape should either admit their wrongs or prove their innocence. And simple denial is not evidence, especially in the wake of multiple accusers and corroborating witnesses. If guilty, these public figures should step away from the public eye and face the repercussions of their actions.

I don’t care who you are, what political party you belong to, if you’re an actor or comedian, a politician or journalist. You have no quarter with me. Because I don’t want to live in a world where you can do it because you’re a star.


Stranger Me Too

She was my first middle school crush. I saw her for the first time on the first day of sixth grade as I was walking out of the cafeteria. She was opening her locker on the far side of the courtyard and I was hooked. It didn't take long to discover a few facts about her. Everyone knew something; she was the most popular girl in school.

I was like Preston in Can't Hardly Wait, pining for Amanda - the prom queen who doesn't even know he exists. Unlike the plucky Ethan Embry character, us geeky guys don't usually get the girl. Real life is more like Pretty in Pink where the cute girl chooses the rich and athletic dude over the lovable nerd. I was Duckie. If adolescence has a lesson to teach, it is how boys like me don't stand a chance with girls like her.

So, I did the most logical thing any socially awkward sixth grader would do, which of course is completely illogical. I went out the girl's locker partner instead. I never dated the girl. We only shared one conversation, forced by a teacher as a part of a class project. Today, I'm certain that she has no recollection of me lingering in her memories of growing up. Twenty years passed since graduation day and I doubt she would recognize me if we passed each other on the street.

This history of mine is what moved me so deeply in the final episode of Stranger Things 2. The kids all gathered in the Hawkins Middle School gymnasium for the winter dance. One by one, the core team of boys went their separate ways in pursuit of romance. The writing and direction transported me 25 years back in time to when I was the same age as the boys in Stranger Things, remembering my scrawny awkwardness, and they placed me in the shoes of Gaten Matarazzo's portrayal of Dustin Henderson.

image courtesy of Netflix

As Dustin searched for a girl willing to dance with him, I remembered all those painful memories of being a weird outcast struggling to figure out where I belonged. The first group of girls ignored him, then laughed at him. The second group sneered and walked away as soon as they saw him coming. All of the heartbreak and despair on that young actor’s face was so familiar to the younger version of me.

I remembered the times my female classmates laughed at me and avoided me. I remembered every word whispered behind my back as if I couldn't hear them. I remember being the only kid not invited to the parties. I never felt like I deserved a girl's attention or that they owed me anything. Instead, I spent most of my formative years wondering what was wrong with me. As a dejected Dustin sat on the sidelines, I suddenly identified with this character. I sat there and thought, "holy crap, he is me."

Gracefully, Stranger Things 2 doesn’t end with the rejected Dustin, moping, alone, and in tears. Rather than ending the night humiliated, an older girl stepped in and offered hope. In the TV show, Dustin’s friend Mike had an older sister. She was serving punch as a chaperone when she observed the girls rejecting Dustin. She saw his sadness and offered some compassion. She walked over to where Dustin sat and asked him to dance. After encouraging him to step in a little closer, she gave him the best pep talk a girl could ever give a boy: that he is her favorite.

My life was also given a breath of hope from an older girl. In sixth grade, I became infatuated with a girl who didn’t know I existed. I was a geek at the bottom of our school’s social totem pole and she lived in the upper echelon where only the cool kids thrived. She was an unrequited crush through most of our junior high years and into high school. I learned a lot about her, but there was one fact I didn’t know until later: she was the younger sister.

We both had older siblings. They graduated together five years ahead of us. Not only were they classmates, they were also friends. In my awkward years of not fitting in with kids my own age, I often found myself hanging out with my brother and his crew.

In the summer before my senior year, I joined my brother, the girl’s older sister, and a few other mutual friends at a carnival. I was the youngest in the group, the only one still in high school; most everyone else was 20 or 21. It was such an enjoyable night and for one of those rare moments of my teenaged life, I didn’t feel judged by anyone.

During that night, I made a few discoveries about the older sister. She was cuter. But more than that, she was also kinder. She didn’t act as pretentious. And she talked to me – not because she had to but because she wanted to. Much like Mike’s older sister with Dustin, this older sister treated me with dignity. She saw me as a human being.

I’ve always been grateful to my older brother for allowing me to join in many of his adventures. More than that, I am thankful for his choice in friends, how they never treated me like an obligatory tag along. I am in their debt for accepting me as a friend and equal. Thanks to the older sister, when my last year of high school started, I walked onto campus for the first time not giving a damn what the girl thought of me. Her opinion no longer mattered.

Here's to all the Dustin Hendersons of the world. Hang in there. Someone, somewhere will tell us that we are their favorite. Believe me, it’s worth the wait.


Other than Papa John's

Once upon a time, I was a big fan of Papa John's. Then they closed all of their Inland Northwest locations. I was disappointed because I craved their garlic butter dipping sauce set inside each box of pizza. Confession: when we ordered dinner from Papa John's, I snagged the garlic butter cup before anyone else could get to it and refused to share.

They were gone though. And I moved on. There are plenty of other pizza restaurants in Coeur d'Alene. Seriously. We have more pizza joints than coffee shops. Still, the loss was reinforced during football season as Papa John's ads played during the commercial break of every Seahawks game, just rubbing garlic butter in the wound. Taunting me with the thing I cannot have.

Imagine my joy when they returned. A new store opened in Hayden. They're back. Then I had some. Unfortunately, the only item in my order that had any appeasing flavor was the garlic butter dipping sauce. The rest of it tasted like a junior high home economics experiment cooked by a bunch of football players forced to take the class against their will. So much for better ingredients.

This last week, John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of Papa John's, made a bold statement about his struggling business, feeble sales, and plummeting stock prices. He blamed the NFL. On a conference call with investors, Schnatter said, "Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership. The NFL has hurt Papa John's shareholders."

The NFL is not the cause of Papa John's decline. In the same period of time Papa John's profits have been sinking, Dominoes and Pizza Hut have both seen increase in sales and stock prices. When I meet friends for pizza, more often than not, we go to the Hut. So what is really hurting Papa John's?

I'll agree with Schnatter, leadership does start at the top, which is why his blame is misplaced. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Perhaps Schnatter's leadership is to blame for Papa John's slump. Perhaps Papa John's dire financial situation is the fault of Papa's business practices. I won't be eating their food any more.

I love pizza, perhaps a bit too much. When there's a craving, well ... There are plenty of other pizza restaurants in Coeur d'Alene.

In a world where every other pizza chain is cheaper and tastes better than Papa John's, I'm not worried about a lack of pizza options. In fact, there are easily a dozen other options in my home town that I prefer above Papa John's. Here are five.

1. MOD Pizza: MOD is like the Subway of pizzerias. Only, better than Subway. Pick your size, sauce, toppings, and they throw it in a wood fire oven to cook while you get your drinks. It's quick, affordable, and delicious. This is my favorite place to get pizza in Cd'A.

2. Tomato Street: Sure, they do more than pizza, but when it comes to pizzas and calzones, Tomato Street gives you the most bang for your buck. Average prices with abundantly generous serving sizes. Leftovers will be likely. And you can color on their tablecloths.

3. Fire Artisan Pizza: This and the neighboring restaurant, Crafted, are two of the trendiest (and most hipster) spots in town, and their prices reflect it. Fire's pizzas are more expensive than Papa John's but their flavor is far superior. They make pizzas you won't find anywhere else. My favorite is the Camino - chicken, bacon, and red onions on chipotle BBQ sauce with fresh cilantro and habenero sea salt. Simply divine.

4. Northwest Pizza Company: Locally owned with prices similar to Papa John's, NW Pizza has great variety, superb ingredients, and a friendly staff. They also have an old school pizza diner feel that reminds me of eating at Godfathers or Alfy's as a kid.

5. Little Caesars: Let's be honest. This is not good pizza, this is cheap pizza. This is pizza on a budget. It's hot, fresh, and ready when you show up and you don't need to call ahead. Their flavor is similar to Papa John's but for one third the price. However, their crazy bread deserves some bragging rights. I'd take their bread sticks any day over most other pizza chains. Despite having pizza crusts that taste like cardboard, Little Caesars can't be beat when you're in a hurry or short on funds.

It doesn't end there. The list of places I'd rather get a pizza from before I spend any money on Papa John's is a long one. Papa Murphy's, Capone's Pub and Grill, Bullman's Wood Fired Pizza, Olive Garden. Heck, I'd take MacKenzie River Pizza and I haven't eaten there since my 30th birthday. Even frozen pizza from the grocery store is preferable above Papa John's.

Now I'm hungry. Who's up for pizza?